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  • It's time for Thousand Roads' yearly one-shot contest! This year we're focusing on the theme of partnership between humans and Pokémon. You have all February to craft an entry--see more details here!

SGMijumaru

Hero in their dreams
Location
London
Pronouns
They/them, She/her,
I really tried, here. But honestly, there really isn't much I can say that hasn't already been said, I feel. Here goes, still...

This one is difficult for me. It’s a story based on my favourite main series game, doing the good old job of pushing the concept of its narrative to new heights with a mature take on Team Plasma and N’s story. It’s only natural that for something I so personally favour I would be extra judgemental on, but the real difficulty here comes from the fact that this is so well written and already has many comments to begin with.

So I’ll disclaimer now and say that anything I have to say here is super nit-picky and entirely down to personal taste rather than open-ended reviewer style. After all, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? The POV is well explored, the dialogue is basically flawless, the action is prominent, the descriptions are flavoured, the characters are generally well portrayed. There is nothing that outright sticks out as a major problem or point of interest worth writing about.

I say this after reading three chapters, so of course I don’t have the full story yet to make a total judgement on. But this is definitely something I can see myself finishing, where obvious questions I have may be answered. The big question I can’t say much on is why the story has decided to start with its climax and work entirely backwards, but I assume with the way details are given, the ‘ending’ will intrigue me enough to see why.

There is a fear I have with the decision to work backwards like this, and that’s down to the way the story is delivering certain information, though. Its style, the way it’s so intricately playing around with unique ideas, runs a dangerous risk that if not for being well written, I would maybe have put the book down on. For every unique aspect the story wants to play with, it seems to want to play with a dozen more, and all at the cost of making itself more convoluted than it actually needs to be.

My main examples of this were in part ii, ‘notorious’. Why is the chapter even named that? Anyway, that part has some pretty lengthy and wordy lines (not often a problem in itself, really) that almost seem to be trying to be vague for the sake of being vague, when if they just dropped the fanciness and revealed important points from the get go, things would be much smoother and enjoyable quicker.

It takes a whole seven paragraphs to reveal that the perspective is a Rotom camera, and nearly half of the part to reveal that one of the combatants is Ghetsis – and we don’t really even get a hint that it’s Ghetsis outside of an assumption based on his dialogue, because his description is basically non-existent. And for the special effect of being unique, it doesn’t bring anything to the table except vague portrayal that had me confused whether the battle taking place was relevant or not.

The thing is, I’d have been interested and gripped if I knew that it was Ghetsis from the start. I also wouldn’t have felt so confused on the perspective if I knew the character’s descriptive voice was this Rotom camera. The content barely needs to be changed in my opinion, as what’s there is gold. It just needs to be clearer and quicker. I basically spent a good while questioning why so much emphasis and work was going on this one battle, and at one point even skipped down a few paragraphs to see whether it was just there for effect or not, only to of course realise that main characters were involved. It wasn’t some big reveal that wowed me, it just made me go ‘why didn’t you just tell us that in the first place?’

This problem is made every bit worse due to the fact that this is a battle we’re watching. Nicknames unusual species, and attack descriptions are getting tossed back and forth like we should know what they are immediately, and that had me having to slow down and reread a few lines to properly envision what I was reading. Again, had I known from the start, I would have been fine. It happens quite a bit throughout everything I read, where I just felt the added effect of this unusual style overshot its mark this way.

The other issue of note I had a comment on is Alder’s reaction to what was happening. His dialogue is fine, flawless, even, but his physical reactions are where I began to have issues. In the games and the anime, Alder is shown to be very cheerful, mature, confident, and experienced with everything he says and takes part in. Even when he is defeated in the original games, he is shocked, but in control of how to act and what to say. He’s even able to acknowledge it as a learning experience.

So to have him here, literally watching his Volcarona get torn to shreds, it’s bizarre to me that he wouldn’t instantly return it to its pokéball. And let’s say in theory that he is simply too shocked, why would he still leave it out after the attack? And then proceed to send in more Pokémon to meet the same fate? And then when all is said and done, be rendered so speechless and immobile?

Even within the boundaries of a fan fiction portrayal, it’s tough to imagine a champion trainer like Alder would react that way. In hindsight, it just seems a bit too plot convenient and out of character. His inability to argue with Ghetsis’ logic is great and totally believable, it’s the lack of action towards supporting his Pokémon that makes zero sense to me.

All that said, the dialogue and narrative in general carried me through so far without any major complaints that stood out to me. I can’t stress how little of an issue everything I’ve said really is – this review makes it seem like they’re big, jarring problems, but they really are little more than iffy personal preferences. I feel like me having these issues in the first place is me just missing a major point in the way the story is told or something, and that reaching the end is going to resolve it all anyway.
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
It’s long overdue for me to share my thoughts on this fic!
To be honest, I don’t consider myself a professional by any means, and I don’t really feel qualified to give constructive criticism, especially for a story that is already so MARVELOUSLY written. But I’m happy to share what specific things stick out to me!

First: the fact that this is all written in second person. I usually don’t like to read second person, because I feel that it’s rarely done well, but this...this is masterfully done. Everything is so clearly written and described so that I know what each character looks like without you needing to spell it out. Every character’s inner thoughts are unique from one another, so even though it’s all second person POV, you really get a sense of seeing things through different sets of eyes with each chapter.
The first chapter is especially stunning with how you illustrated the scenery and slowly pulled the reader’s eyes around the room. And...the entire scene is frozen in time/in slow motion so that you have time to take it all in, even thought a million things are happening at once? How?? How did you do that?? What sorcery are you using??

I’ll see if I can go through and pick out a few of my favorite lines here and there - there are so many good ones! I really loved chapter 6 (I think? The one with the bisharp) and the themes included in it. It was so emotionally raw and the garden scene was just...*chefs kiss* beautiful. It genuinely made me tear up a bit and I found myself really feeling for both characters in that scene. The ending was sweet and hopeful, makes me think that even though everything is messed up and depressing, maybe there really is a way for people and Pokémon to peacefully coexist.

I also REALLY enjoyed klingklang’s chapter. The way their thinking works, literally like a machine, is so clearly displayed in the writing. And I found their horror of “soft ones” highly entertaining, haha! It’s so fun to see the world through so many perspectives and to realize what might be normal to a human is totally foreign to many Pokémon.
I honestly can’t think of any suggestions for improvement yet - I’ll have to read through again with that specifically in mind. So I’m sorry if this review isn’t as helpful as most! I mostly just wanted to gush over your writing and this story, because it’s so unique and gorgeous and one-of-a-kind and I needed you to know how much I love it. :D
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
I really tried, here. But honestly, there really isn't much I can say that hasn't already been said, I feel. Here goes, still...
ahhhh I'm sorry for taking so long to respond here! bit of a hectic week irl but I'm really glad to have done this review exchange with you! Apprciate the time that you've spent writing your thoughts out here.

After all, what can I say that hasn’t already been said?
Ironically not finding the words to be able to say what needs to be said is the theme of this story, haha. I think you did a better job of saying the hard truths than most of the cast did low bar but I really think you did great lol.

Re: backwards storytelling: it's a bit tricky to justify to people at this point--I feel like for some people it clicks or it doesn't, and I respect that! It was a stylistic choice that I expected to cause some friction, since it forces me to take conventional story structure and just yeet it. Big picture reasons:
1) I didn't really see a benefit in telling the story of BW as if it was going to surprise anyone. Everyone knows that Hilda will win eight badges, fight N five times, summon the dragon, save the world or die trying, etc. Game retellings fascinate me when they add bits of character and depth that weren't in the games, but it's not like there's much tension coming from the plot ...
2) ... which dovetailed into where I really wanted to draw suspense from--why anyone was doing anything. What motivated people to get where they are now and do what they're doing? I think especially in the modern day we're used to looking at things as single, unique tragedies, but they're not. We got to this point, and people got us here. This is a story about why/who/how, not what, so the exact chronology of the what made less sense.
3) Tipping my hand a bit on the people who inspire me to write stories like this, but a relevant quote that sums up this story's general philosophy in a much more eloquent way than I could say. Text sourced from a recent podcast on and quote attributed to the late John Lewis, US Congressman and civil rights activist:
Suffering puts us and those around us in touch with our consciences. It opens and touches our hearts, makes us feel compassion where we need to and guilt if we must… One method of practicing this approach when faced with a hateful, angry, aggressive even despicable person is to imagine that person, actually visualize him or her as an infant, as a baby. If you can see this full grown attacker who faces you as a pure innocent child that he or she once was, it is not hard to find compassion in your heart. Then it wasn’t just a tactic. It was a way of life. It was embracing the Biblical proscription that one must love one’s enemies. And it’s the hardest thing in the world to carry out.
This, the MLK museum that is his childhood home and a quiet monument to how he became the man we know , this section in Slaughterhouse Five about war in reverse--I find that looking at the small events that motivate big ones sheds so much light on what we see today.

---

is it convoluted? yes lol, absolutely; I think you're spot-on there. If I have to spend more than three sentences explaining why I did something I'm probably in too deep. And I really appreciate you taking the time to outline which parts specifically tripped you up, since even though I've picked an unorthodox format my goal is still to tell a clear story.

My main examples of this were in part ii, ‘notorious’. Why is the chapter even named that?
easy questions first--notoriety is about being famous for doing bad things. This chapter is about Ghetsis temporarily seizing control of Unova on public television, so literally becoming famous by doing a pretty bad thing. But I also wanted to examine why we think things are bad, who gets to ascribe "badness" and "fame" to others, and the means through which reputation is established--in less vague words, Alder in this chapter is quite famous and has done bad things, but certainly hasn't achieved notoriety.

It takes a whole seven paragraphs to reveal that the perspective is a Rotom camera, and nearly half of the part to reveal that one of the combatants is Ghetsis – and we don’t really even get a hint that it’s Ghetsis outside of an assumption based on his dialogue, because his description is basically non-existent. And for the special effect of being unique, it doesn’t bring anything to the table except vague portrayal that had me confused whether the battle taking place was relevant or not.
I think that's fair! Especially re: rotom reveal--I always struggle with when to tip my hand on the pokemon narrators. On some level I always wrestle with why it even matters what species they are. But especially since this is the first real POV switch in the story I see why that would be rough, so I can drop that one earlier.

Ghetsis script-flipping is a bit harder. 1) I don't think Wave knows or really cares who N or Ghetsis is, or what the differences between them are; they are both called by their last name (Harmonia) in League Matches and 2) I sorta wanted this to feel like it could've been N's fight vs Alder, which does happen in canon + I was hoping people would expect to be the climax. Ghetsis has such a canon reputation for being a shit-eating bastard that I think if I opened acknowledging that it was him, people would read his early dialogue as being disingenuous. B/W plot fascinates me because it's a story about defeating bad people instead of bad ideas--we beat up Team Plasma and Ghetsis but never meaningfully combat the underlying issues they were angry about. Does it matter who presents an idea? Should it?

The other issue of note I had a comment on is Alder’s reaction to what was happening. His dialogue is fine, flawless, even, but his physical reactions are where I began to have issues. In the games and the anime, Alder is shown to be very cheerful, mature, confident, and experienced with everything he says and takes part in. Even when he is defeated in the original games, he is shocked, but in control of how to act and what to say. He’s even able to acknowledge it as a learning experience.
ahhhh yeah rip I stopped watching the anime loooooong before the BW anime. In the games he strikes me as a distant and absent figure--like, he'll show up to cheer you on! Go fight Team Plasma, small child! But he doesn't do much himself until N literally takes the fight to him. Ghetsis has like two lines of game dialouge with Alder in Relic Castle:
"What's this? Champion Alder, even though illness took the Pokémon that had been your partner for many years, and you haven't had a serious battle in all that time... Even you, who ordered the Elite Four to protect the Pokémon League and left to wander the Unova region alone... Even a Champion like you now wants to protect a world where Pokémon and people live together?
And it's pretty much just Ghetsis mocking Alder for blanking in the face of seeing his pokemon die and expressing general surprise that Alder would even show up to thwart N's plan to literally end the world--I didn't really get an image of an Alder who's good in the face of tragedy or pressure. I figure this battle is far from his standard wheelhouse of stressful situations as well--like, teachers are supposed to be good at wrangling kids and staying calm, but would we fault them for not being able to perform tasks during a school shooting?

But all that being said I've been wrestling with Alder's interpretation here and I know a lot of people don't like his incarnation here haha. I'll ponder on this one for a bit but I'm not sure what changes I'll make right away.

All that said, the dialogue and narrative in general carried me through so far without any major complaints that stood out to me. I can’t stress how little of an issue everything I’ve said really is – this review makes it seem like they’re big, jarring problems, but they really are little more than iffy personal preferences. I feel like me having these issues in the first place is me just missing a major point in the way the story is told or something, and that reaching the end is going to resolve it all anyway.
haha, idts! The beauty of fanfic is that I can edit sections that give people problems haha, and you've given me a lot to think about! Thanks for stopping by.

---

It’s long overdue for me to share my thoughts on this fic!
To be honest, I don’t consider myself a professional by any means, and I don’t really feel qualified to give constructive criticism, especially for a story that is already so MARVELOUSLY written. But I’m happy to share what specific things stick out to me!
omg hi! I thought your review was really helpful haha :) I always feel funny reading reviews where people are like "idk what to say" because that's me too, all the time, lol. I'm really glad you stopped in!

POV--lol I took so many big risks with this one and I'm glad it payed off for you! It's my first time writing second person and there's definitely been a learning curve haha. It's a really versatile tool but whew it's a tricky one.

I'm really really glad you enjoyed bish and klinklang! I feel like those two are really cool designs and they don't really get much love in the corners of the fandom that I've read so far. My steel-type frens were probably the most indulgent ones where I just talked about my hobbies lol--oh look gardening is fun, math is cool--and it's heartwarming to see how those landed so positively. And I do think there's hope for these guys ... maybe ... somewhere. this fic started as wish fulfillment i swear

thank you for this review!! it's really sweet and I'm really glad you took the time to write it <3 <3
+ i thought it was helpful ok pls thank you have a lovely day
 
xiii. nightmare

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
so, bit of an awkward story here; the quality of this chapter + my uncertainty of some of the others that came before (after?) it is what inspired me to take a hiatus in the first place. It has not been changed since the first posting (yet), since I realized that there were actually bigger editing fish to fry in this story. sad. weekly updates were ambitious and past me clearly had no grasp of what it means to operate in the apocalypse.

but! if you did read this chapter when it was first posted, wanted your EoE fix for the week, and understandably don't want to read a repost, I have instead been looking at those bigger editing fish to fry, and you can see that in the completely scrapped and rewritten chapter x. nudum for your entertainment, featuring pretty much none of the same content and hopefully none of the same issues. Silver linings?

send help god please 2020 needs to calm tf down so I can just to back to writing fanfic in chronological order

---



xiii. nightmare

※​

That night her dreams are muddled. There’s a male human you’ve seen before, his figure big and hulking like Teppy after he evolved into an emboar. The human’s face is in shadow but his eyes blaze red, so bright it pierces through the murky dark, and he’s angry and he’s frustrated and it’s always something new. Will he yell this time, or will he explain how he feels in other ways? His fists were loud the last time you saw him.

“Dad, please!” And she’s looking at him, her neck craning up as he towers over her like a mountain.

You don’t wait to find out which way he wants to respond. 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.

She turns over in her sleep, sighs a little. You can hear her outside of the pink haze, but you can’t see her.

He’s with you now, trapped in your shared nightmares. All that matters is making sure he doesn’t reach her. He howls in anger. Fueled by her imagination, he seems to grow another thirty feet and charges towards you. You’re scared. But you can take it. You have to. For her.

※​

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.

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.

Right now, she’s sitting cross-legged on a bench in the pokécenter, sipping at a plastic cup half full of lemonade and paging through her pokédex with her free hand. “Look at this, Munny! It says right here that when you evolve, you’ll look like this!” Her finger jabs at the picture of the musharna on the screen. “Isn’t that amazing?”

You squint at the screen and try to hide your disappointment when it’s just a picture you already recognize. You’ve seen a musharna before. Your mother was a musharna, and your father too. Before Bianca showed up, they and your littermates were the only beings in the entire world who had ever touched you, cuddled close to you. During the day, when you all rested, you would gather close and close your eyes and hum softly before sleep. You remember the feel of your father’s leathery skin as he curled protectively around you, wisps of your mother’s smoke tracing gently into your dreams.

“Oh, it looks like you lose your flowers when you evolve. That’s sad. I like those.” She’s pinched the screen and flicked her fingers apart so you can both zoom in on the musharna’s half-and-half markings.

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.}

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.

The split isn’t perfect, of course. 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.

You’re hopeful. Flowers are nice, but perhaps a new pattern will help you make sense of where you’re supposed to be.

“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.

“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. You resume looking back at your paws.

Your Bianca’s already on her feet. “Sure thing! We’re always down for a practice match. Isn’t that right, Munny?”

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—

“Alright, Munny. Let’s show him how it’s done!”

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.

You can think about your bad vision later. You follow your Bianca outside. This is good. If you’re close to a pokécenter, then it won’t matter so much if …

“Maxis, you’re up.”

Ah, yes, now that you’re outside in the harsh sunlight and you aren’t looking at pokédex articles that are directly in front of your face, this gets a little harder. You see the brown smudge of a trainer, and the shorter, greener smudge that’s probably his pokémon. His simisage? Is that what her Cheren had mentioned? You remember he had his pansage at some point.

“Alright, start off with a Psybeam!”

Okay, here goes. You contort your face, and then release a charge of psychic energy, as much as you safely think you can. The green smudge moves out of the way—you can hear him screech in pain just a little as the attack clips his tail—and you try to track him, but by now his trainer is already shouting, “Get in close for a Bite!”

His simisage transitions to all four legs and starts scampering across the ground, growing bigger and bigger in your vision until it’s close enough for you to make out all the features and confirm that, yes, it certainly is his simisage—and then it’s sinking its teeth into the top of your back. Pain blooms across your body and you scream out in alarm, shaking back and forth, trying to dislodge it. You float up into the air, straining against the weight, and it finally gives up and drops back to the ground.

You look back nervously. Your Bianca is too far away for you to see her face, but she probably isn’t happy with your showing on that one. You pant heavily; your back burns, something hot and wet is running down your skin—

“Alright, Munny! We can still do this!” Right! You can! You have to. You puff up your body as big as it’ll go. His simisage doesn’t seem intimidated in the slightest, and is waiting patiently for its next command. You wish you could do that. Waiting patiently. But sometimes you’re anxious and doubtful, which is bad, because who could ever doubt your Bianca when she says—

“They can’t hit us when they’re asleep! Use Hypnosis, Munny!”

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 and you do trust your Bianca, of course, but—

“Dodge with Acrobatics, and then use Seed Bomb,” says her Cheren calmly.

You scrunch your eyes tight and begin generating pulses of mesmerizing, swirling energy, but his simisage is already jumping high into the air, and it’s around then that you process that Seed Bomb sounds like it might hurt a bit, and by that point the clusters of green energy that sprouted up around your feet are detonating.

The last thing you remember is your Bianca crying out in dismay, and then a horrible banging sound blots out the rest of your hearing, and then your vision, and then everything else.

※​

You have the strangest sensation, floating through the ether—a bolt of energy strikes you, and adrenaline surges through your veins. 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.

You flinch, waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the electricity to come surging in, but … there’s nothing.

“Hey there. That should do the trick.”

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—

You catch yourself a foot later and swivel around to see a blob of pink hair. Blue eyes, maybe? Green? You don’t want to be rude and hover closer to get a better look at her. The hair draws you in the most; it’s bright, fiery, poofs around her like a protective wreath of dream smoke.

“Hey, hey there. Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you.” She’s tilting her head back and forth like an enormous pidove, but she doesn’t get any closer—scrutinizing you from a distance. You like that. “How are you feeling?”

{Very good, thank you,} you chirp back politely. {Where am I?}

She giggles a little, and says, “I’m glad! You were in pretty rough shape, but you’re safe now.”

You wait expectantly, but she doesn’t say anything else. Where are you? Who is she?

Oh. Oh no. {My trainer,} you say, floating closer to her now. She seems friendly enough. You get close enough that you can see the pattern of her own flower-spots on her cheeks, freckled bits of brown. {Is she okay?} No, you’re so stupid! 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?}

Her eyebrows bunch up. Blue. Her eyes are blue. They’re a nice color, like the sky—“Oh, don’t panic! Are you still hurt?” She starts rifling through her backpack, which hangs loosely off of one shoulder. “I used my last potions on a herdier already and we can’t really go to a pokécenter, but I have some berries that’ll do the trick.”

You shake your head. {My trainer.} You vibrate up and down for emphasis, cycle a flash through all your flower for emphasis. {Trainer.}

“I’m sorry,” the girl says. “I don’t know what you’re asking for. I, hmmm, one sec.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her x-transceiver. Good! She can call your Bianca, and then this whole mistake can be settled before anyone gets mad. She types something on the screen, and then puts the device away.

{Call my Bianca,} you chirp.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and it really sounds like she means it. “I don’t know what you’re saying. But I have a friend who can translate for us. He’ll call me back and then we can figure out what’s up.”

You suppose that’s a start.

“You want to rest? Go anywhere? We’ve got a little time, and I don’t want you to get bored or anything.”

You? Oh. She’s talking to you. You look around nervously. Your Bianca’s done most of the sightseeing in Castelia—a lot of the places she wants to go aren’t pokéfriendly after all, not her fault—and besides, with your bad vision? What’s even the point? You chirp back something half-heartedly, hope she’ll read into it and pick something out for both of you to do.

“Hmm. Okay. Do you want to go somewhere in the main city, or maybe by the docks?” The smudge of her face fiddles nervously with her hair. “Actually, scratch that. Do you want to go downtown? 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.

“The docks?”

What’s a dock? Um. No chirps. That’s a strange word. Dock. You know that audino sometimes work for humans called doctors, but you’re feeling quite fine—

“Oh, sorry, the ocean. There’s a nice lookout of the ocean.”

Ah. That does sound nice. One chirp.

She beams. “That’s a great idea. I know a really nice spot where we can watch the ships come in; my mom used to take me there all the time as a kid.” She hoists her backpack up and swings it over her back with practiced ease. You can’t help but balk at how comically large it looks on her, the way it almost engulfs her shoulders like a tirtouga shell. What in the world does she have in there? Your Bianca’s bag is much smaller. The Rhea motions with her head. “Come on, follow me!”

Unwittingly, your eyes flit over to the pokéball—she isn’t going to recall you? What if she walks too fast?—and then you hover after her.

※​

You like the ocean. It’s big, wide, sparkling. The color is reassuring, almost like a night sky. 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.

“I grew up down the street from here,” the girl is saying. “My mom used to take me and my little brother here on the weekends all the time. Free entertainment, you know?”

You don’t know, but you chirp politely.

The girl looks up in alarm suddenly, and she’s quick to stand at attention. Her back is as straight as the lamppoles dotting the pier. “My Lord N!” Her voice is higher-pitched than before. Almost a squeak. You like her. “I didn’t mean for you to come out this way. I apologize for interrupting; I thought you were going to call.”

He waves a hand. “Don’t worry about it, Rhea. I was in the area anyway. How are you?”

Her voice is rapid-fire now. Official. Low, serious. “The extraction went fine. Tourmaline covered my tracks. Best to keep her out of the eastern boroughs for a few days, and obviously we’ll have to scramble the tags on the pokéball if we want to take her back to a center, but no trackers.”

Something about her statement brings a smile to his face—at first you think it’s the strange words like boroughs or scramble or trackers but—“How’s Tourm doing? Is she happy?”

Despite herself, the Rhea smiles. “Yeah. She’s a liepard now—that doesn’t help the fur problem much—but I think she likes the new form a lot.”

“If both of you think you have some time, I’d love to say hello after this.”

The Rhea chews her lip. Calculating something, you think, and then she says, “We should probably go north of here. I was planning to be out of here by sundown.”

They’re talking in some strange code. Why do they have so many schedules? Your Bianca came and went as she pleased, and was much happier for it.

“I understand. I’m heading north as well. Could you give us a moment?”

“Of course, Lord N,” she says, and then strolls purposefully down the pier.

That leaves, well, just you.

“Hello,” the new human says. He’s a smudge of green and white on the horizon, and if not for the accessories he’s chosen to wear, you’d think he were a tree. 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. “My name is N. Do you have a name?”

Well that’s an interesting question to open up with. No one’s asked you that before. {Munny.}

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. “Rhea over there tells me you’ve been very agitated. I wanted to ask you why. Are you hurt? Are you satisfied with how she’s taking care of you?”

{No, I’m fine, actually.} You normally wouldn’t push confrontation, but luckily you actually are fine, so this is a good day for everyone. {Oh—I was wondering what she did to make me feel better?}

“What she did?” he asks. “What do you mean?”

{It’s just that normally only audino can heal pokémon,} you explain patiently for him. {Humans can’t heal pokémon. She must be very special. Touched by the Moon.}

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.

“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.}

“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.

“Anyway, I wanted to ask you about your trainer,” the N says.

{Oh yes.} A pang of guilt. You feel bad for forgetting, but there’s just been so much to keep track of today. {I wanted to know. Where is my Bianca? Can I return to her?}

“That’s,” N says, and sighs heavily, “what I wanted to ask you about.” He traces a pattern in the bench with his index finger, over and over again, and then all of a sudden he looks you squarely in the eyes. His eyes. They’re the color you see behind your eyelids right before you fall into slumber. “Rhea’s been watching your trainer for a while. She says that your trainer battles with you until you faint a lot.”

Oh, that. Yes, it’s quite embarrassing. You don’t really know the numbers but you’re quite sure that, of Bianca’s team, you’re the one who’s knocked out the most. Even Mienny, who’s the newest and the youngest.

You look up at N, but he’s fallen silent. Is he waiting for you to respond? That’s weird. You’re not used to that. It’s weird talking to someone who expects you to talk back. {I know,} you say glumly. {I’m trying to get stronger, really, I am! Then my Bianca can do better and I won’t faint as much.}

The N sighs. You don’t think you gave the right answer. Oh no. Is he mad? No, he’s smiling now, a small one that doesn’t reach his eyes. “Do you think your trainer should be allowed to do that? It hurts you a lot.”

{She heals me up right after!} Okay, not right after. Sometimes not for a while, and your bones ache and your mist is more of a wisp, but that’s not her fault either! She tries her best, and it’s not like you could do any better anyway. {And it makes her happy, so I’m happy as well.}

He builds a mountain out of his fingers and rests them under his chin. He thinks for a long time. He’s not like you; you can tell that every word is weighed carefully in advance before it even has the time to approach his lips. “Rhea is in a group with me. Our goal is to make sure that pokémon don’t get hurt. If you want, we could put you somewhere else. Wherever you’d like. You wouldn’t have to battle any more.”

Your flowers flash a bright pink before you can control yourself and tamp them back down. {I … I wouldn’t have to battle?}

“Not unless you want to.”

Oh, moon and stars. That would be such a relief. You wouldn’t have to think about how you’re too slow, or how your attacks aren’t strong enough, or how it hurts when you aren’t tough enough to tank a blow. You wouldn’t have to feel bad about letting everyone down, and—best of all, you wouldn’t have to feel guilty for when you did get stronger, and you made other pokémon hurt instead of you. Your flowers are practically glowing now, bright like the reflections of the sun on this ocean. {That’s … that would be lovely. Can I really?}

The N nods. Doesn’t say anything else. He smiles. Seems happy you’re happy.

And then.

In a very small, very polite voice: {But will my Bianca be mad at me?}

He fidgets with his fingers nervously. You’re suddenly struck by how long they are. He absently twirls a set of gold bracelets around and around on his wrist, where they make a gentle clacking sound. “You wouldn’t be returning to Bianca. You would go somewhere else.”

{Somewhere else?} The lights stop flashing through your flowers, and suddenly you feel dim, deflated. That future of you not fighting suddenly vanishes until it’s nothing more than wisps of dream smoke. {Where?}

“Wherever you’d like,” the N says quietly, still twirling the bracelets.

{Can’t I go back to her?} This doesn’t seem fair.

“If you do, you’ll probably have to battle again. She is a trainer, Munny. You are a pokémon. That’s part of what she does.”

{Oh.} Yes, he’s quite right. You were stupid for thinking otherwise.

“You don’t have to answer right away. I want you to think it over first.”

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 …

You both sit in silence for some time. The waves wash in, and then they wash out.

Finally, he shakes his head, almost like he’s flicking water out of his mane or something, and he clears his throat. “Whether you decide to go back to Bianca or not is entirely up to you,” the N says, but you can’t shake the feeling that he doesn’t think this is fine, that you’ve somehow made the wrong choice already. “You’re allowed to do whatever you’d like. You can stay with us and we can talk about where you’d like to go from here.” There’s a long pause. When you don’t say anything, he adds, “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.}

There’s. Another long bit of silence. He seems upset somehow, and you don’t know what you did to cause it. “Before I leave, though, do you mind if I trouble you for one more question?”

You wait expectantly, but he doesn’t ask the question. Oh. Right. {No, go ahead.}

{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. {She gives her dreams to you. Is it just her nightmares, or do you get to share the happy ones as well?}

You’re so stunned at the sound of his human voice speaking your language that you don’t even know how to respond to him, let alone think over the words that he’s saying. You hover perfectly still, the munna equivalent of a blue screen, and by the time you can scrape together some words, the N is standing up; the Rhea is back.

“Thank you, Rhea, for escorting her to her trainer,” the N says. “And thank you for your time, Munny.”

You can’t tell properly from this distance, but the Rhea’s face is contorted in fire. “I can’t just take her back; she’s only going to get hurt again.”

“It’s her choice, Rhea,” the N says quietly, casting a look over his shoulder towards you. He doesn’t sound convinced. Not like your Bianca, who always knew what was best. “We can’t force her to stay; that’d be just as bad.”

“Just as bad as forcing her to faint again?”

That shuts the N up for a second, and you can see him cycle through his open mouth and closed mouth positions without any words coming out. His head hangs so that his mane hides his face. “Could you please tell her, Munny? Tell her what you told me.”

{She can’t understand me, can she?} You almost hope not. You’re not used to this many people asking your opinion, and your words aren’t nearly as good.

“Not the actual words. But, it’s like you said. Rhea is a very nice human. She’ll understand the meaning behind it.”

You float closer to Rhea, so close you can almost see the way the light reflects off of her eyes, far too close for a respectful munna but just close enough for a respectful human. {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!}

There’s a long silence.

The smoke swirls tighter, condenses in the image of her clutching you to her stomach. In the mist, you’re completely pink, touched by the Moon. With her you know exactly who you are supposed to be.

You look at both humans, nervous. {Did I do okay?}

The Rhea is crying. The N’s mane and hat are in the way, but it looks like he might be as well.

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.

※​

Your Bianca sniffles, even thirty minutes after you’ve reunited with her and the trouble is all cleared up. You try to cheer her up, but it doesn’t work.

“Oh, Munny,” she says, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her shirt. “The girl who found you said some horrible things. She said that I was a bad trainer for letting this happen to you, for letting you get hurt. She said if I really cared so much about learning about all of you, I should just do that instead. Imagine! Me, the researcher?” Another sniff. “I’m not a bad trainer! Right?”

No! You nuzzle her fiercely. She is a good person. You know she won’t understand that, but you hope that, like the Rhea, she gets the meaning behind your words.

She laughs weakly, but it’s more of a sob. “Oh, thank you, Munny.” She hugs you tight, so close it’s hard to breathe. “I know you can’t be mad at me, but everything she said just made me feel so bad, and …” She trails off. “Oh, I just feel so horrible.”

You want to cry too. Your heart breaks for your dear Bianca, who doesn’t deserve to feel bad. After all, it wasn’t her fault that any of this happened, and you both know it! You chirp at her reassuringly, but it doesn’t seem to help. 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. The Rhea doesn’t have a potion to make your Bianca’s pain go away, and that doesn’t strike you as fair.

Your Bianca needn’t worry. You’ll get stronger. You’ll think less about your parents, of your home at the dreamyard, of the Moon that’s outside of her orbit. You’ll stop losing so much. Then it won’t matter. If you don’t faint then no one can be mad at you for making them feel bad, right?

That night, as you all settle in for sleep in the pokécenter, you think about what the N asked you, about the answer you never gave. Your Bianca asked you if you could eat her bad dreams for her, true. And you’d never dream of taking the good ones from her; that simply wouldn’t be fair. She worked hard for those. She gets to keep them.

That night, she dreams again of her father, hulking and monstrous, and you take it from her. You take it all. Her dreams are dark and scattered, fragmented like shards of broken glass. They hurt to touch, but you lovingly scoop them all up anyway, just like every other time she’s asked you to protect her. In the morning she wakes up rosy-eyed and refreshed, and you curl a little closer in your cloud of pink smoke. Sad. For a moment you can’t shake the image of how the Rhea and the N cried for you on the docks. For a moment you have the feeling that you’re sleeping and you can’t wake up.

But you have to wake up. It’s a new day, and your Bianca is waiting. The Moon is set.

It’s not her fault. She gave you her nightmares, but she never asked you to give her your love.

※​
 
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Dragonfree

Ace Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
Silly human. You weren’t cut yesterday. You were raised for strategy, not just war. Recognizing deception is the first thing you learned, when you were just a pawn. But you stand in the corner, ramrod straight, and keep your gaze trained on the wall, in case the idea of your not-knowing makes her feel better.
Your blades and helm, which were the reason Trainer admired you in the first place, meant he could not harm you like he hurt the others. If he tried his fists would bounce off, or even bleed. But Trainer was smart in all the ways that didn’t matter. He hit Samson when you did not obey, and the conkeldurr was soft even though he pretended not to be.
Love this, how the narrator takes pride in their intelligence, and Timothy hurting others to get to them is smart in the ways that didn't matter.

The opening with this kind of bureaucracy over releasing them going on is nicely grounded and feels very real. Mina's background distress is well conveyed, and how the narrator actually cares a bit for her, enough to not want to make her feel worse.

Surprising to see a Conkeldurr, a fully-evolved Fighting-type that one would imagine could easily stand up for itself, as the primary abuse victim here - but I imagine that's the point, and that he'd been abused since long before he was a Conkeldurr, learned not to fight back before he could.

It hadn’t taken much. You just needed someone who would listen. The audino at the pokécenter could recognize the bruising on Samson’s ribcage, and she could understand both of you even though you shaped the words differently. She’d asked him where it came from, and he stiffened and said nothing; she’d asked you where it came from, and you told her. And she’d signalled her nurse, and the nurse had told the police, and—
Nice to see these support systems existing within the worldbuilding. Like a lot of abuse victims, it was just difficult for Samson to ask for help himself.

You listen as whoever’s inside of the phone explains the situation to Mina. The last human in the phone told her the same thing. Does she think that she’ll get a new answer just because it’s a different day?

“I’ve spoken to the seismitoad sanctuary, and they do have the capacity to rehabilitate the palpitoad before reacclimating it to the wild. The wild conkeldurr crew by Nacrene is typically very accommodating to releases, but we would need to screen it and ensure that it wouldn’t cause any issues with the current crew—technical moves, over-aggression, and so forth. Simple stuff.” The man in the phone pauses, and then says in a stiffer voice, “We cannot coordinate release of a bisharp.”
This confused me a little because I'd been assuming the narrator couldn't hear the voice on the other end of the phone, and "You listen as whoever's inside of the phone explains..." sounds like it's just summarizing them hearing unintelligible babble - I assumed the quote in the paragraph following it was Mina speaking, not the person on the other side.

At first you hadn’t told anyone because you didn’t think there was anyone to tell. Who would listen to a pawn who thought their Queen was unworthy? And then, after your evolution, all of that inability was overshadowed by a simple, selfish reason. You’d waited so long, even though acting would’ve helped Samson, would’ve helped Anri. When you’d finally been victorious over Skyla’s team and the energy coursed through your veins, twisting your body into a new shape, you felt nothing but dread. In that moment you knew there was no longer a place to return to, no escape. Promotion was a great gift, in many ways, but you were not worthy of it. A Queen with no pawns is a useless piece. A Queen who is used as a pawn is even worse. Now that you are a Queen with no file, you will only ever be a human’s pawn.
Interesting cultural reasoning! I like how they just always call their Bisharp leaders Queens.

You wonder if Trainer had their permission when he crept into the forest and snatched you from your file. Probably not. Trainer broke many human rules, from what you can gather. But not a single person who mattered ever asked him until it was too late, and now you’re here, staring resolutely at the wall and pretending not to notice that Mina is methodically shredding the bright blue squares of paper in front of her with a tight-lipped expression.
A clear systemic flaw here - when these rules are broken there's just nobody really paying attention to enforce them. Wonder if gyms shouldn't be checking on these things, since we know he battled Skyla - but then again I can believe perhaps they're supposed to but don't really. Systems like that fail all the time.

“Ma’am, my job is to help pokémon reintegrate into the wild. Legally, there is nothing I can do. If you want a resource to help your son, I can direct you to some adoption or rehoming agencies.”
Like how this person's job is to help the Pokémon, but Mina at this point just wants to help her son. Even then they still give in and help her help the son.

A woman arrives the next day with a kind smile and an intake form. She’s here from the Pinwheel Forest Seismitoad Sanctuary. She’ll leave a card if Mina needs to call again. She makes pleasant smalltalk while Mina fills out the form on the clipboard, but she doesn’t come in any further than the entryway. She takes Anri’s pokéball and leaves.

A courier arrives later that afternoon to take Samson to be evaluated by the wildlife reserve near Nacrene. He doesn’t know that, though—the pokéball is carefully wrapped up in a padded box and sealed away.

You don’t get to say goodbye to either of them.
Jeez, even when releasing Pokémon into the wild nobody cares to actually talk to them about it or treat them like people.

Maybe knowing what Samson thinks about all this would’ve been better. Because then you wouldn’t have to stay restless the rest of the evening, running through a million scenarios in your head, a million that you’ll never see become reality. Samson forgives you. Samson hates you. Anri stares blankly and doesn’t understand how you could betray the one who loved him with fists. Anri joins you.
Oof.

Trainer was a bad pretender at being a Queen. You do not even consider acknowledging him as your Queen. Were he a pawn in your file, had he presumed to claim the rank for himself, he would’ve been removed from the board immediately. Such is the way. But he isn’t a pawn. He’s a human. The rules are different for them. If you remove him his kind will remove you immediately, you and anyone else they think was involved. Samson and Anri, who never wanted to be part of this. They wouldn’t have been able to defend themselves.
Huh, would humans assume they were involved? There's so little general respect for Pokémon's personhood and capacity for complex thought in this world that it's kind of hard to picture the humans actually reasoning like a Pokémon acting out might have had a premeditated plan with accomplices.

You don’t want to think of your file, which won’t take you back. You don’t want to think of Trainer, who you won’t take back.
Nice contrast.

Side note, but it's a bit surprising to me that they'd refer to their group as a file rather than a rank, given that files are the vertical columns on the chessboard, while the pawns are laid out horizontally. I generally dig the chess terminology and how it flavors the POV, but this seems slightly off.

The wanderer’s ending made you sad for reasons you couldn’t explain at the time, not that anyone had asked. He seemed unhappy as a wanderer, but he truly didn’t seem any happier as a king. He wandered across the entire earth to find himself a destiny that fit, but in the end the gift of his blood called louder.

Trainer cheered at the ending. It was a good ending, apparently.

But it didn’t seem fair. He was a wanderer but he was not lost, not until he decided he was.
I'm not sure if I'm just being slow but I'm having a hard time understanding what they're getting at here. After some thought I guess what they mean is that the wanderer never wanted to be king, and was searching for some different destiny altogether, but ended up ascending to the throne anyway just because his great-grandfather had been king - and the ending that the abusive trainer liked was him just becoming king, while the narrator would have wanted an ending where they didn't have to? But the way you describe the plot doesn't quite seem to support this interpretation, I feel; there's no suggestion the wanderer was looking for some other destiny than being king, only that he was hesitant to become king (or at least hesitant to do anything about the pain and hurt that he found) out of fear that he'd become consumed like his ancestor. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting the narrator's take? I only even landed on this one after sitting there thinking about it for a bit. Again, maybe this is just me failing to see the obvious, but for me it seemed hard to make out what point is being made here.

Mina talks to the phone over the next few days. You watch her from different corners of the room. Try to distract yourself in a way that doesn’t involve rubbing your blades together, since the one time you’d done that her eyes had widened in fear and she’d reached for your pokéball.
Huh, if she has the narrator's Pokéball, why have they been outside it this whole time? From the sound of it Anri and Samson were just kept in their balls, so I was assuming without really thinking about it that something prevented her from putting the narrator in a ball, but if that's not the case I'm curious why she let them stay out in particular, especially when it seems like she's generally pretty unnerved by them.

Sometimes the phone calls and she doesn’t tell it anything. She lets it scream quietly in the corner and leaves the person inside without anyone to talk to. You feel bad for the phone. It’s frustrating to shout for help and have no one listen.
Aww. This kind of seems to show a lower level of understanding of the phone than suggested earlier, though - like, they earlier heard someone from a wildlife rehabilitation organization speaking on the phone, so surely they'd understand that not everyone on the phone is shouting for help?

The stubborn ferocity with which she avoids the conflict before her reminds you of the wandering king.
This seems to hint they think the wanderer shouldn't have avoided conflict, but doesn't that suggest they should have wanted him to become king and accept his responsibility? Still just kind of confused by this.

The battlefield morphs. Your file is around you. You, kneeling, tell Alapin that you do not wish to be Queen; that you will accede to her rule. You will not challenge her, if she would only let you rejoin the ranks as a pawn. She looks at you haughtily, her yellow eyes glinting at you through the slits in her helm.

{What,} the Queen asks you stonily, {am I supposed to do with a sword that no longer wants to fight?}
Interesting how the Pawniard/Bisharp have a much stricter culture going on, a plain requirement that you must fight or you're nothing.

{Let me help,} you say, but from the way she flinches, you can guess that your voice only sounds like a guttural, screeching sound, like trying to slide a rusted sword out of a sheath. She looks up in alarm as you get closer, but you kneel down and drag your blade across the dirt, parting a furrow that’s two inches wide and as long as you are tall.

It feels nice to cut the earth. The ground does not feel pain; it does not recoil from you; it does not cry. In your file it was a bad idea, a fast way for the blades to grow dull. Cutting softer materials would let you stay sharp.

You look up. Mina is staring at you blankly, the shovel still limply in her hand.

{For you,} you say as slowly as you can, gesturing with your blade, which is crusted with a thin film of dirt. {For your seedlings.}

That’s how this works, right? You only really know the concept. Seeds are buried and become trees. There is some wizardry there, surely. Trainer never picked up a grass-type so that’s really all you know about it.
Oh, this is so good. Let them be a gardener.

She isn’t looking at you for your response, thankfully. The words are rushing out instead, in a voice that’s ragged and hoarse. “They put his face all over the news. Everywhere. I’ve had friends and family calling for days—have you seen the news? Did you see what Timmy did? Did you know? But he went off on his own and did these horrible things to all of you, and everyone’s asking how he could do such a thing, how he could become an abuser. I don’t even answer the phone anymore; someone put my number on the internet and everyone’s been calling nonstop to tell me what a piece of shit we both are. And he’s going to be locked up for years at best; my own child; did I know.”
Great gutpunch. I love the exploration of Mina's situation going on in the background of this chapter.

It doesn’t seem fair. You think they all crossed the lines. They think it was only Trainer. She’ll adopt you out. Your next trainer will make you fight, make you hurt. They just won’t inflict the pain themselves. A good Queen is always on the battlefield. She is usually protected; it is usually acceptable to risk others on her behalf; she faces the same risk. She never attacks her own pawns. The battle is discipline enough.
Seems kind of funny to first equivocate and say the trainer hitting Pokémon is no different than when they get hurt in battle, but then go right on to say it is different when it's Pawniard fighting for their Queen, treating it as meaningful that she never attacks her own pawns. What is the standard here? Does the narrator believe that the primary distinction between fighting that's okay and not okay is based on whether the one commanding the fighting is also taking part themselves?

I've got to admit I was kind of rooting for them to realize Pawniard society is just as bad/worse. They don't want to fight at all, and the Pawniard would unequivocally reject them (and possibly kill them, given the implications of "removing from the board") for that. Once again, surely, surely the real crucial issue here should be whether people want or choose to fight or not.

“I’m sorry, for what he did to you. I don’t know if it means anything coming from me.” She swallows heavily. “I didn’t know, but I think I knew. He wasn’t good for a journey, but he wanted it so, so badly, and he kept saying how he was ready. So I let him. That was the wrong choice. I’m sorry.”
This is so good. Human beings just do these things and it's messy and complicated.

You think of the wanderer, who tried for so long to run from his destiny only for the White Dragon to alight one night and reforge him. It was the sad but bitter truth that the world needed a king, not a wanderer, to save it from that war. But no one ever asked him what he wanted, not even the Great Dragon.
Right, I get it better now. I don't think it was entirely straightforward earlier.

“Do you want a trainer?”

You run your blade through the dirt again. The furrow grows.

Mina looks at you, a set of three wrinkles squiggling across her forehead to mirror the one you’ve carved into the dirt. “I guess I wouldn’t want to fight either, not if—” She swallows heavily. “Yeah.”

You lean back.

Mina looks at the trough you’ve made. “Is this for my garden?”

You tap the shovel. Point at her bloodied hand. Nod.

A smile creases her face. The first one you’ve seen from her so far.

“Could you—if you don’t mind—could you make it a little wider?”

So you do.

Something changes in her face. You aren’t sure what. She’s already soft, lacking in armor as she is, but she’s suddenly softer still.
Ooohh, good chills.

The anger from before has slipped out of her voice; you imagine her burying it with each seed, piling great mounds of damp earth on it and hoping that when it next resurfaces, she’ll be able to find it beautiful instead.
Beautiful line.

In general I love the little explanations about the gardening as the Bisharp learns - that little grounding detail that makes it real.

Something tells you this wasn’t actually about the garden.
Lovely repetition! You're so good at landing these punches!

You aren’t sure if you remember the wanderer-king’s story very well. Maybe the dragon did ask him what he wanted. But no one asked the sword. No one ever had asked the sword.

You don’t make a sound. Her cup of leaves slowly dwindles while you think about the plants you helped outside, about how they don’t need to be reforged to be rooted anew.
Such a good ending! brb crying actual tears about this gardening Bisharp. I love them and they deserve to be happy.

This was great, and feels almost like a standalone - could definitely work great posted on its own as a one-shot. Mina's character and what she's going through and the whole end where they manage to connect and Bisharp just works the garden with her really make it; the chess-heavy POV and discussion of abuse and the whole awkward, uncaring 'rehoming' system are fun and interesting, but this lovely element of genuine complex humanity and connection is just sublime, and especially rewarding after several chapters of humans persistently just failing to notice and understand what Pokémon want to communicate to them at all. Look at the good that can happen when people just care and listen.

I've found it kind of odd throughout the story so far how surprisingly little attention's been paid to the question of what the Pokémon want in all this, compared to just about everything else about it, but with this ending you do finally really come down to that - to no one asking what the Pokémon want - and that's very satisfying. No one asked them about fighting as a Pawniard either. People need to have agency, choices in who they want to be and what they choose to do, and they need to be given the help and support they need to be able to self-actualize and not be treated as damaged goods. Even damaged leaves need the sun.

Beautiful chapter, plz update.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
Love this, how the narrator takes pride in their intelligence, and Timothy hurting others to get to them is smart in the ways that didn't matter.

The opening with this kind of bureaucracy over releasing them going on is nicely grounded and feels very real. Mina's background distress is well conveyed, and how the narrator actually cares a bit for her, enough to not want to make her feel worse.
ahhhh sorry for the late response! welcome to the story of gardening bish, a very good friend.

Surprising to see a Conkeldurr, a fully-evolved Fighting-type that one would imagine could easily stand up for itself, as the primary abuse victim here - but I imagine that's the point, and that he'd been abused since long before he was a Conkeldurr, learned not to fight back before he could.
Mmmm, yeah, I think there are a lot of ways that people can end up oppressed by those who wouldn't be able to control them otherwise--and this was definitely what I wanted to imply here. Glad it got through! This chapter is a lot about how systems that protect people and people who (arguably) shouldn't need protecting end up falling through the cracks in all sorts of ways.

This confused me a little because I'd been assuming the narrator couldn't hear the voice on the other end of the phone, and "You listen as whoever's inside of the phone explains..." sounds like it's just summarizing them hearing unintelligible babble - I assumed the quote in the paragraph following it was Mina speaking, not the person on the other side.
I had her put the phone on speaker at some point because I too got torn up on this--how much time do I want to spend eavesdropping on someone else's phone chats?--but I can make that one a bit more clear.


Huh, would humans assume they were involved? There's so little general respect for Pokémon's personhood and capacity for complex thought in this world that it's kind of hard to picture the humans actually reasoning like a Pokémon acting out might have had a premeditated plan with accomplices.
Oh, that's an interesting question. In my head, I think it'd be comparable to how irl we put down animals that attack humans without considering if it's premeditated or anything--the projected lack of agency/thought probably makes it easier to do that, since it becomes more like writing them off as senseless killers rather than considering that maybe this was caused/considered.

Side note, but it's a bit surprising to me that they'd refer to their group as a file rather than a rank, given that files are the vertical columns on the chessboard, while the pawns are laid out horizontally. I generally dig the chess terminology and how it flavors the POV, but this seems slightly off.
That's an excellent point! I think I flipped them in my head years ago and never unfixed it; I really liked the double pun of file/filing sharp things, you're right that rank makes way more sense! Will change.

I'm not sure if I'm just being slow but I'm having a hard time understanding what they're getting at here. After some thought I guess what they mean is that the wanderer never wanted to be king, and was searching for some different destiny altogether, but ended up ascending to the throne anyway just because his great-grandfather had been king - and the ending that the abusive trainer liked was him just becoming king, while the narrator would have wanted an ending where they didn't have to? But the way you describe the plot doesn't quite seem to support this interpretation, I feel; there's no suggestion the wanderer was looking for some other destiny than being king, only that he was hesitant to become king (or at least hesitant to do anything about the pain and hurt that he found) out of fear that he'd become consumed like his ancestor. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting the narrator's take? I only even landed on this one after sitting there thinking about it for a bit. Again, maybe this is just me failing to see the obvious, but for me it seemed hard to make out what point is being made here.
This is fair! I don't think it's very clear in the first iteration, but I'm also not sure if I wanted it to be--this chapter is about bish making the realization that they might be happier finding a path that they want, rather than the one that others have thrust upon them. But they don't really have access to stories/voices that help them get there (until arguably the garden), so they're projecting pretty hard on not-Aragorn here (who arguably is fine with his destiny by the end).

Huh, if she has the narrator's Pokéball, why have they been outside it this whole time? From the sound of it Anri and Samson were just kept in their balls, so I was assuming without really thinking about it that something prevented her from putting the narrator in a ball, but if that's not the case I'm curious why she let them stay out in particular, especially when it seems like she's generally pretty unnerved by them.
This one I have no answer for yet :( been trying to theorycraft some stuff but ... nothing I'm quite ready to commit to yet! I'll hit my head against this for a bit longer I feel.

Interesting how the Pawniard/Bisharp have a much stricter culture going on, a plain requirement that you must fight or you're nothing.
I'm always fascinated by the interpretation of canon that pokemon love/are better suited for/need battle, since I don't think it results in a satisfying answer, so I wanted to play with it here.

Seems kind of funny to first equivocate and say the trainer hitting Pokémon is no different than when they get hurt in battle, but then go right on to say it is different when it's Pawniard fighting for their Queen, treating it as meaningful that she never attacks her own pawns. What is the standard here? Does the narrator believe that the primary distinction between fighting that's okay and not okay is based on whether the one commanding the fighting is also taking part themselves?

I've got to admit I was kind of rooting for them to realize Pawniard society is just as bad/worse. They don't want to fight at all, and the Pawniard would unequivocally reject them (and possibly kill them, given the implications of "removing from the board") for that. Once again, surely, surely the real crucial issue here should be whether people want or choose to fight or not.
I think it's both--bisharp thinks attacking your own is bad, but commanding others to take on risk that you wouldn't take on yourself is also bad.

But yes! Also tying back into my hotter takes--just because a certain species of pokemon may come from a culture that's more pro-violence than human culture is doesn't mean humans should assume that pokemon are okay with violence. I don't think it'd be super realistic to get them to recant their entire pawniard society in the span of one chapter, but I do think they end up enjoying gardening much more <3

Such a good ending! brb crying actual tears about this gardening Bisharp. I love them and they deserve to be happy.
they! are probably the happiest ending in this story haha and I'm glad for them <3

And I'm really glad that this landed. I think your commentary on communication/agency/helping each other is absolutely what I wanted to communicate in this chapter! It's true--so much of this fic could be solved immediately if the right people spoke and the right people listened, and while I do end this story with N splitting people I don't think it's really a fair ending--chapters like this one are for looking at the AU where people worked together to achieve an ending that lets everyone win. I'm so glad you enjoyed!
 
xiv. nocturne

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk

xiv. nocturne

※​

You were born from the earth nine hundred and twelve thousand, eight hundred fifty-four nights ago. Human hands pulled you from deep, deep underground and gave you a body to contain your breath.

Practiced hands gave you form. You were wet clay, shaped. Widespread wings to engulf the sky. Enormous eye to survey, to watch and guard.

Careful hands gave you color. Gold you were, for the fields of wheat. Blue, for the endless sky. Green you were, for the towering trees. Black, for the glimmering night.

Calloused hands gave you fire. From the kiln you received warmth, and from that warmth your skin grew strong enough to withstand any impact.

But gentle were the hands that gave you life. An obsidian knife flashed across an open palm, calling blood to rise above skin. It was smeared on the tips of your wings, across the edges of your being, and in that moment the pact was complete: red you were, for the human that shared your life. From the moment that the blood touched your skin, you were one life, one pain.

And so the two of you were one, human and pokémon. He gave you some of his red and in return you protected the red he kept within him, until, one day—the roar of dragons split open the skies, cleaving day and night. Lancing thunder struck down the towering forests. A raging inferno devoured the plains of wheat. Blue, black, green, and gold faded from you, and when the fighting eclipsed all else and reached your home, they took your red as well and cast him deep into the earth.

The land and his flesh were blown away. Without the humans and their hands, the earth withered and rotted into the brown of the desert sands. But you remained, your skin a multicolored farce of what the land used to be. The events of that day were sad. But far worse was when the sun rose and fell around you, crafting a tragedy two thousand years in the making until only the dunes remained, dotted here and there with crumbling relics, a lone spire.

Only the dunes remained, and you, to watch the sands dance.

※​

You call upon the zen ones sometimes. The ancient darma stand guard over the remains, guarding the castle you once served even as it sinks further into the sands.

When they were solidified into stone, they were given no eyes, no ears, no movement. Unlike you, they received no red when they were chiseled out of the earth’s loving embrace, and so they stand solemn guardian, unable to move or feel. Their burden is to witness, and to those who are worthy, speak.

Where you were once two and now one, they were once five and always five, the last living things to remember your era. You return to the entrance of the ruins once each sun, to remember. They are five specks of green in the desert, like the forests you once knew.

{Greetings,} you say, hovering over to them.

{Greetings, loresinger,} says Four. {Were the sands kind to you?}

You dip low, your own sort of nod of affirmation. {The sands were kind. I hope they were for you as well.}

{They were, and we have known nothing else. Tell us something new, loresinger,} says Two. {Tell us what you have heard this year.}

And there is so much, and yet at the same time there is so little. It feels like you are living in a halcyon period. You’ve seen it happen before. First the air settles, then the clouds roll in, and then the rain pours down. For a few serene hours, the maractus wander across the moonlit dunes, the spines of the desert greedily gathering all the moisture they will see for an untold number of moons.

{Yes, loresinger,} says Five. {What news do you have of the world?}

Tonight the winds are still, but one day soon they will pick up. With them will come a sandstorm so great that you fear this entire world will be consumed. You have seen it. And yet, despite that, the people are calm, unaware of what lies just beyond the horizon. And so you find yourself saying: {I have nothing new to share. The sands were quiet this year.}

Three is unsatisfied with that. You sense that much. Even if they no longer have the movement to convey it, it lies in their voice. {Nothing new?} Three says scornfully. {Then give us something old, loresinger. You who have seen so much.}

Something old. Unbidden, the memory springs to you, an echo of the sandstorm rising on the horizon. What you think of is more than old; it’s ancient, and yet it’s the same story that you’ve heard wander across a thousand nights. A story whispered into your clay as soft hands stretched your wings, gave you shape, gave you flight. There is beauty in what precedes the storm in these parts. You imagine the calm before the rain, the way the winds crescendo and then fall silent to listen for just an instant before the downpour begins. After all, you are the loresinger. What better tale to tell on a halcyon night than this one?

{Very well,} you say, echoing words you have not heard aloud for two thousand years. {Listen carefully my friends, as I tell you of the gift of Stormdancer.}

※​

This world was born into chaos. A great storm raged in the skies and battered the plains below. Harsh winters gave way to blazing summers. The earth froze, and it burned, and it shuddered. In the storm was only violence: ice, fire, and thunder roared in equal parts.

Amidst that chaos, a great dragon was born. And she looked at the world, and she wept for it. In the flames, her tears seared off into the sun; in the cold, they froze; in the storms, they washed away. And even though she saw that it was futile, even though there was nothing she could do, she wept. From her tears rose a great ocean, which grew so vast that it absorbed the lightning, quenched the fire, halted the glaciers. The dragon then swallowed the ocean inside of herself, and the battle raged within her chest, so that through her, the land grew peaceful once more.

For many suns, the great dragon roamed the earth she had tamed, alone. Where lesser beings may have only seen a barren wasteland, she saw an avenue for great beauty. With her wings she created the first wind; with her talons she scraped furrows that sprouted into forests; with her tail she swept mountains and valleys. Within her, a battle raged—the storm of ice, fire, and thunder that she had calmed could never truly be at peace—but without, the earth flourished.

The land that she had watered gave way to life, and the dragon witnessed this with both awe and pride. Soon, her children crawled across every corner of the earth, and yet she feared they would not be strong enough to face the troubles ahead, should the land lapse into chaos again. For the Dragonmother sensed that one day her body would fail her, and the primordial storm would break free once more. She knew her children needed to be prepared.

So to all living creatures, the Dragonmother gave out great gifts. To one she gave her ember; to another, her spark; to a third, her frost. She set some to be the guardians of the winds, others to be the guardians of earth. Piece by piece the Dragonmother gave out more and more, until she was diminished. From her rose hundreds of species of pokémon, who travelled far and wide across the lands.

This the Dragonmother watched, and she smiled, and she prepared to rest.

But as she folded her wings around herself and prepared to enter the eternal slumber, she heard a voice crying out. Unlike the rest of her children, who had grown mighty, this one was feeble and pitiful. When she had doled out her gifts, it had been forgotten, and so, like a seedling in the shadow of a red rock, it could not grow strong.

With doleful, rheumy eyes, the Dragonmother turned to her youngest child. Human looked back at her, toothless and fangless, with no weapons to call its own. It begged her for help, even as the rest of its siblings raged around it with their newfound strength and the stormclouds gathered overhead. Weakly, Human called out again, a pathetic cry that was consumed by even the faint sounds of the Dragonmother’s labored breaths.

Mother. Please.

{My sweet child, I am so sorry. I am diminished,} said the Dragonmother sadly.

And it was true. Her scales had lost their luster; her limbs had leeched off their strength. The battle of ice and fire and thunder had sapped her dry. But the Dragonmother could not bear to leave any of her children to suffer, and so in her last moments, she called close her oldest daughter.

{Stormdancer,} she said quietly, her breath growing short even as her words became ever more urgent. {To your youngest sibling, I beg that you show compassion and mercy. Teach them your strength. Lend out your gift, so that they may be like you.}

Stormdancer nodded solemnly, and with this final mandate, the Dragonmother gave up the last of her breath and turned to stone. The earth rumbled, and then unnaturally dark clouds gathered overhead, seething and more violent than any sky any living creature had ever seen. It was as the Dragonmother had feared: without her to contain it, the primordial storm was free once more.

And so Stormdancer turned to Human, who sobbed and clutched tightly to their mother’s stony form.

“Forgive me, dear sibling,” said Stormdancer, bowing low. “This is all I know how to give.”

The starry river stretched above her in a silver ribbon; below, the clouds swirled and rumbled with the terrible storm that the Dragonmother had set free at last.

But Stormdancer pirouetted once, and then wove her limbs into a twisting spiral, danced so gracefully and sang a melody so sweet and pure that the entire earth fell quiet to listen. The clouds themselves hushed. Stormdancer sang for Human and paid the oncoming storm no heed.

Like their mother before them, Human witnessed. The beauty of her performance drove Human to weep bitter tears, which fell instead of the raindrops and darkened their stony mother below.

When Stormdancer was done, Human was speechless for one day and one night, drenched in the downpour that finally came, that Human endured. Finally, Human said, “Your music was beautiful, Stormdancer. But how can I learn from this? I cannot move like you; my limbs will never be as graceful as yours. How can I learn your gift?”

“My sweet sibling.” Stormdancer smiled. “Listen to yourself. You already have.”

“What do you mean?”

“Come back to me on this day each year, and I will sing for you my aria, and so share with you my gift of Voice. When I sing, the world has no choice but to stop and listen.” Stormdancer swept out one leg and curtsied deep. “The same holds true for you now, dear sibling. When you speak, all creatures in this world will listen. This is the gift we share.”

※​

By the time you finish your story, the winds have fallen completely silent. A rarity for this deep in the desert.

Four speaks up first. {Thank you, loresinger. That was a good offering.}

{A good offering,} Two repeats solemnly.

{It was only mine to share.} Unbidden, the words of the old traditions fall from you, like spare feathers. {May you pass it along.}

“I always heard there was a different ending,” says a voice, and you and the zen ones all turn to see a human emerging across the moonlit dunes, casting a sharp shadow on the fuzziness of the sand.

{A different ending?} Three asks.

“Yes, one that a hydreigon told me.”

{Aha, and my friend the King of Unova told me you’re full of shit,} says Five, which sends a few titters echoing amongst the zen ones. {A dragon, telling stories to a human. Imagine that.}

But One isn’t so easily stirred to humor. {Besides, what would you know of these matters?} they scoff.

“It was just a story I heard once,” repeats the voice, walking up to you and then folding himself so he sits cross-legged in the circle of the zen ones. “Forgive me, my friend. But your words do not fall on deaf ears. When you speak, I have no choice but to stop and listen.”

{Oho!} Three chortles. {You are a feisty one indeed. Look at this human, my brethren. One gifted with a voice, deigning to speak to the voiceless. See how he claims to know the secrets of dragons and tells us a new ending to our own story. You humans are all the same, trying to put words into our mouths while claiming to listen. But we are of the sands, foolish boy, and we will not sit quietly while you reshape our history to us.} One laughs whole-heartedly alongside, and Five chuckles, but Two and Four are silent. Curious. Like you. He heard your story, but it’s more than that—he speaks like someone who understands what it means.

“I apologize for intruding upon your sands,” says the human. Around his neck he wears a strange symbol: a black orb with rings of blue. It shimmers with the reflection of the milky stars stretching above. “If you want me to leave, tell me, and I will immediately go.”

{Do so, paleskin!} shouts Three, gleeful. {We Darmanitan have guarded this place from your kind for centuries, and we shall do so for centuries more. Your soft words cannot delude us. You may have a human voice, but when you speak we will not listen.}

You tense, expecting fire. The human carries no pocketspheres at his waist; he has no servants to whom to issue commands. He is gifted with voice but he has yet to use it to make others into his weapons. How will he fight them off?

“I understand,” he says instead. “Thank you for your letting me share your company.” He unfolds once more, extending long, gangly legs like those of a zebstrika, and he bows low. “May the sands be kind.”

{For you as well,} replies Three, almost without realizing, and before any of them can say anything else, the human pads away into the silent night.

{May the sands be kind,} you say quickly to the zen ones, the words almost coming out in a jumbled mess, and even as the chorus of “for you as well” rings behind you, you’re already fluttering up behind the human, your shadow twining with his on the smooth dunes as he retraces his steps.

From behind, you can see the corner of his lips tilt up into a smile. “Hello. It’s nice to meet you.”

{You are not like other humans.}

He exhales quietly, his breath cold in the desert night. “I get that a lot.”

He keeps walking with a single-minded determination, one foot in front of the other. Around you, the sand is untouched, windswept, indented only by a single pair of footsteps trailing towards the desert ruins, and the half-trail that loops back the way it came.

{Where are you going?}

“Truly? I don’t know yet. Forward, I suppose.”

There’s the soft whisper of his footsteps in the sand, and nothing more.

{Are you angry that the zen ones dismissed you?} you ask at last.

He squares his hands in the pockets of his pants, hunches his shoulders against the wind—but the night is calm. There’s nothing to guard against. “A little,” he admits. “But I don’t know if anger is the right word. It isn’t their fault. They aren’t wrong to scorn me.” He pauses. “Putting words into our mouths while claiming to listen.” And this time, there’s no mistaking the tinge of bitterness that colors his words. “Pokémon never tell lies. The darmanitan can see it, even if I no longer know myself.”

This human reminds you of the stone carvings your old human once made of the Dragonmother, her chest a writhing mass, the edges of her body sharp and jagged from the chaos she can’t contain. {Can see what?}

He doesn’t answer your question, not at first. Instead, he stops and whirls to look at you, takes in your entire form. He’s not angry, he’s not awed, he’s not greedy. Over the years a hundred humans have looked at you rising above the sands, but few of them ever saw you as an equal. The stars glisten in the shine of his eyes; there’s liquid there, enough for a reflection. “When I was a child, I heard the same legend as the one you just told now. He called it Meloetta and the Nocturne Lament, and it was a story of music so powerful that it had the ability to change hearts and minds alike. She was the true bridge between humans and pokémon, able to switch readily between her fighting and her words. When humans called to her, she gave them her voice, and turned to her dancing instead. But the dragon who told me this story had a different ending. Would you permit me to share it?”

You bob up and down expectantly. But when he doesn’t take that as affirmation, you quickly chime in, {Of course.}

He nods, and then, with a quiet storyteller’s voice, he speaks. “For years, the human returned to Meloetta on the longest night of the year, when winter was at its peak and the world was at its coldest. And on that night, Meloetta would perform her relic song, a final vestige of an older time.” He tilts his hand toward the silhouette of the ruins on the horizon, speckled with the five zen ones. “They named her venue the Relic Castle, for the gift of her song. Eventually, humanity prospered, and soon it wasn’t just one human, or two—an entire generation gathered for her. They were always silent when they watched her, and at the beginning of her performance they only greeted her with the sounds of their hands, but when she was finished, they could all Speak, and they sang their praises with their lips and shared her gift amongst themselves.

“But one day, a war broke out between two nations. Seeking to hit his enemies where they would suffer the most, and wanting to end the war quickly before it would cause any more harm to his people, the king of one of the nations gathered his armies and found where Meloetta rested before the winter solstice. He sought to steal her gift for himself and his people, so that it could no longer be turned against him. And so he commanded his people to creep up on Meloetta as she slept, and they surrounded her, and they tore out her throat.

“They made a fatal mistake, for they could not kill their sister so easily. But even as they clutched their prize in their hands, even as she lay bleeding in the dirt, Meloetta looked at the one who had gathered all the others to his side, and she chose not to strike them down where they stood. Instead, with the last of her strength, with her voice stolen from her, she rasped her final gift.” The human looks at you, and he looks past you, and he looks through you. And when he speaks again you can hear the power leave his voice. He’s quiet. Hesitant, almost, when he says, {Our mother gave out many gifts, but remember this, dear sibling: she gave gifts of strength, not power. You must never forget that. Strength allows you to endure pain. Power lets you inflict pain on others. Now that you have my gift of blood, you must learn the difference, or else lose yourself.}

He falls silent.

{You can speak like us,} you say at last. It’s the easier thing to address.

The human stops walking for a second, and turns back to look at you. His hair blows in the wind. You haven’t seen many human smiles, but this is certainly sadness in the shape of one. {The dialect of sand is my native tongue.}

The only sound is your wingbeats, and even that is dampened on the massive expanse of sand. It feels wrong to fill the moments after Stormdancer’s song with anything but silence.

This is a strange human indeed. He has Stormdancer’s gift, but he speaks, and he listens. But what drove him this far into the desert? What does he seek?

And what has he found?

Strangers to the desert may not understand what makes it so strange, not at first glance. The sands shift with time. Imperfections are buried. If you do not know where to look, you will lose yourself.

This human looks everywhere but forward.

{Why does understanding our tongue make you sad?} you ask finally. If you must break the silence you may as well do it with a question. {It is a great gift. Many humans would be jealous.}

{Do you think they would? I find that many humans already think they have this gift. They listen and think this precludes them from understanding.}

You don’t quite know how to answer that.

The human continues: {When I set out, everything seemed so simple, so black and white. But the more I speak to humans and pokémon, the more I realize they are both afraid to change. My voice cannot convince them. I wonder if a better human might be able to do more; or perhaps if a pokémon with the power of Voice might’ve been a better messenger than a human with the ability to listen.}

{Messenger for what?}

{Why do you live this deep in the desert?} he asks, and at first you cannot understand how his question answers your own.

But—oh. {The ruins were my home. They bring me solace.}

The human nods. {Do you fear what lies beyond the dunes? Do you know it?}

{Many who cross these sands bring tales of the lands beyond.} All creatures fear the unknown. Even you, who had the fear tempered out of you thousands of suns ago. {But they are foreign to me, yes.}

{Sigilyph haven’t been forged since before the Great War,} the human says, and it takes you a moment to realize he’s referring to you. {And … I don’t know entirely why your people fell, but I think it was in a great battle. Humans are asking pokémon to fight once more, and this time they’re asking all the pokémon.}

You’ve heard of this story a few times. Humans created pocketspheres for this fight, you know. And throughout the centuries you’ve seen enough of these fights that they no longer seem surprising to you, even if each one feels uniquely tragic. {Is there another war?}

{Of sorts.} The human looks distinctly uncomfortable when he adds, {But this time, it doesn’t look like a war. Humans don’t treat it like one.}

{A war that you don’t treat like a war?} You struggle to puzzle through what he’s saying; there are gaps in his words, sentences he doesn’t realize he wants you to fill in. {But are you not …}

{I am one who plays at having the gift of Voice, yes,} the human says. There is no mistaking the bitterness in his voice this time.

You are, admittedly, curious. And no one who has crossed the sands has ever been able to answer this question for you. {This spectacle, this war that does not behave like a war. Why do they make us fight in it?}

He exhales sharply through his nose. {I don’t know.}

The negative response does not disappoint you. You have pondered this question for a hundred years, and you will likely do so for a hundred more. Even still, it takes you nearly a hundred steps to mull his response over.

Perhaps, despite himself, he adds, {They think that is your purpose.}

Your purpose.

You were forged for a war. You know that much. They painted you with their colors, but they shaped you with their hands. And the shape they gave for you was one for violence. You had eyes, to take in the battle. Wings, to fly above. A great magic, sealed within you, to unleash in rippling waves on the unprepared.

But the war came and went, and all those who started it went as well, but you stayed. Without the war, what purpose would your Red have given you?

There is no knowing that answer. You could guess, perhaps. Your Red was a quiet type. He might’ve been content to stretch out in the sun, to share more stories with you, to unpick Stormdancer’s end.

{I have heard your ending before,} you tell this human at last. {It was a sad one, then and now.}

{As a child I thought it was a pokémon who sought to steal Meloetta’s gift,} he admits, sounding almost ashamed. {But as I grew older I realized it could have only been a human.}

You were shaped with many purposes, but the one you wanted most of all was a mouth. They forced you for a purpose, but that purpose was not to speak.

If you could steal his Voice, would you? Wouldn’t anyone?

While you consider, his mind goes in a different direction. He blinks against the stinging wind. {Do you think she knew?} he asks quietly.

{Knew?}

{When she was the first to invoke the nocturne lament. Do you think she knew what it would come to mean?} The questions tumble out, all the ones you haven’t pondered since you first heard this story. This human is so young, and yet they spill from him with the force of having been pent-up for centuries. This strange one carries the sandstorm inside of him. {Stormdancer gave her greatest gift to help those who would never understand the true weight of her sacrifice, what it would one day cost her to share her Voice with those who envied her gift. And she helped a lot of people, yes, but do you think she knew how much it would hurt her?} You watch. He swallows nervously. Looks off into the distance. {And if she knew, do you think she would’ve done it anyway? Or would she have held her tongue, and simply watched the human suffer?}

You can sense the second question buried beneath his words, archaic and imposing, a relic in the sands. He is one with the gift of voice. Should he share his words with those who would sooner tear out his throat than hear his wish?

He is quiet for a long while. As are you.

You feel rather than hear a tremor run through the sands, something stirring deep below, a rumbling so ancient and powerful that it could only have one source—

What he asks is a pure ideal. If there is such thing as sacrifice, if a gift can be given with the understanding that nothing will come out of it. And it is in understanding this gift that you know what answer you can give him, even if you know it will take him time and more time to understand it.

You know. Gentle hands shaped you, once. Gave you form. Drenched you in red. They gave you a great gift, and you gave them one in return. But neither of you ever asked or took, only gave.

{We have our two endings to the story,} you tell him quietly. {In mine, Stormdancer sang for the humans, as she did in yours. But her ending was much the same. As she sang, her Voice poured out of her and into Human; the light faded, and her magic left her. On her final pirouette, she no longer had her voice; by the time Human asked its question of her, she could only dance. From that moment on, she was still Stormdancer, but a part of her was diminished, just like her mother. Without her Voice, she faded from our world and was swallowed by time.

{But which is truth? I have seen two thousand years and I could not tell you which is which.} You look at him and his sad smile. {I prefer to think she knew, and gave of herself anyway. Stormdancer had two gifts, after all. From her the humans received their voice, and with it the power to be heard by all. But to pokémon she gave the nocturne lament, and with it the strength to see things through to their bitter end, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Her words carry great power—across all of Unova, no matter what language we speak, every pokémon can recognize the nocturne lament, and we know what it calls us to do, and what will become of those who steel the courage to invoke it.}

Your singular eye blinks once. You think of the day that you first heard the dragons roar. You survived. You stayed. You were forged for a war, but it wasn’t duty that held you there. You remained for your Red, and you remained every day after that.

The human nods, but he doesn’t look convinced. {That was the mistake the king made. Stormdancer’s magic was not in her throat, but in her voice,} he replies softly.

The tremor stills. Unaware, perhaps, the human does as well.

Perhaps unintentionally, he has betrayed his thoughts. He cannot fathom a world in which Stormdancer would choose to give of herself; the only one he could believe in is the one in which her gift was taken from her.

So you tell him what you learned then, what kept you going even after your red vanished into the desert sands. {When you love someone more than you love yourself, you give it power over you. Whether Stormandancer sang until her voice grew ragged and her gift flowed out of her, or whether the humans one day crept up and stole her song for themselves—I think she knew what her fate would be. The truth is she did not care what it would cost her, and not caring destroyed her. That was the price she paid for us to receive of her gifts.}

The green-haired human goes completely motionless, and it is when he stands still that you sense it fully: a sandstorm rages within him, so great that he will consume the whole world, forge it anew. His hands are practiced, calloused, careful, gentle—he will shape this world, surely.

He is young, though, and it will take him time. He is too wrapped up in questions of purpose, of being. If Stormdancer meant to do this. If you were meant for war. If he is meant for a destiny beyond his comprehension.

There is a reassurance to be found in decisions made beyond your control. You know why he would prefer the ending where Stormdancer’s voice was stolen alongside her choice. It is simpler sometimes to imagine that the world that shaped you is stronger than you, that the form you are forged into must determine your life.

After the war, you became the loresinger. You decided it for yourself, without your Red, because that was who you wanted to be.

So you ask him a question to see which one he will offer in response, a tradition from long ago. {The dragon who told you of Stormdancer. What did he tell you happened to the Dragonmother when she rose from her stony slumber?}

{She was sundered by a pair of selfish humans,} he answers immediately. {Two irreconcilable creatures arose from her stony form, and they have never touched since.}

Ah. He does not understand the full weight of Stormdancer’s burden. So you say, {Like you, I have heard a different ending. Again, I do not know which is truth and which is imagination. Would you permit me to share it?}

{Of course.}

{The Dragonmother was lonely. When she next awoke, she saw that all of her children had grown away from her, and she walked the world without equal. The earth’s children love their mother, but she has strength that cannot be matched: where she wanted companions, they saw only a goddess. She chose to divide herself into two, so that there would always be one in the world to understand her. One became two so that two could be like one.}

He looks at you for a very long moment, and when he speaks again, it is the question you wanted him to ask all this time, with his Voice: “Why are you telling me this?”

There are some each generation who are destined to be torches, to light themselves on fire so that the rest of the world can see light. Your Red was one, and you sense that this one may be as well.

But here is the beauty of a person who is born to be a torch: most pass light on to others, but there was first one that had to be dipped into the fire.

You look at him, and imagine a voice pouring from the mouth no one saw fit to give you. {Because Stormdancer inherited more from our mother than just her Voice. She took our mother’s burden: to be understood by the world you must give it some of yourself. To shape the world you must accept its contradictions.}

He blinks against the cold wind, and then says, “Do you think that’s why she did it?”

Easier to answer his question with another. {I wonder which you think is most important. Does it matter why Stormdancer’s voice was lost? Or when, or how, or by whom? Or for her, does it merely matter that she no longer has it?} You have seen wars, and death, and time. They will shake you no longer; ever since your Red died, they ceased to hold power over you. Here in the desert, the sands of time became a blur. But you know, as this one is beginning to learn, that the most important questions, the ones that lived through the suns, were always the ones that began with why. These were the questions that became the lore. These were the questions that led you to sing.

This time, he does shiver in the cold wind, in the storm that brews around him. He is strong enough to endure it, to change this land, and yet you know: it will change him as well. That is what the winds always do, even to the tallest rock. “It is a question with no answer,” he says slowly. “When the Dragonmother returned, she found that no matter how she saw herself, the world would revere her regardless.”

He is close, but far.

It was in thinking of the Dragonmother that you saw who you wanted to be. She was unsatisfied with herself, how she fit her purpose—so she changed. So you changed as well. Perhaps she was afraid, in that moment before she decided who she wanted to be. Perhaps she didn’t hesitate. You certainly did.

{But did that stop her from doing what needed to be done?}

This time, the question makes him flinch. “No.”

{Stormdancer’s gift to pokémon,} you explain to him calmly, {has a specific power, even over us. I wonder—does it bind you as well?}

A slight nod. “I have learned many tongues, but in none of them can I say her words.”

You come to a halt in front of him. This child would wander for miles into a desert to find a better ending than the one he was told, but it never occurred to him to tell one of his own. He will find that such answers do not come easily. But if he gets nothing else out of this, he must understand this. {Then you are likewise bound.} When he does not respond to your unspoken question, you give it voice, gently prodding, { Until you understand her burden—and truly understand it—you will find that her words die on your lips. Do you know her burden?}

“The world only changes through sacrifice,” he replies, but you see that in him the words are inert; they do not spark his torch into flame. “There was an imbalance that left humans weaker; in correcting it and offering mercy, Meloetta had to lose her own gift. And Meloetta knew that, or she discovered it, on the night that she gave humans Voice. And the Dragonmother saw that as well, in swallowing the storm to keep it from harming others. You must embrace the imperfections of the world if you want to shield others from them.”

{You do not sound convinced,} you observe.

This draws a tiny smile, strangely enough. Humans. You never know what brings them joy. “I’m not.”

That is fair, you decide. There’s only so much to be learned from a single night of stories, only so much room for a mind to change. The two of you walk a bit further. The zen ones and their domain receded into the night long ago.

“In our stories, Stormdancer and the Dragonmother both got to choose the nature of their sacrifice,” he says at last, refusing to look you in the eye. “And both of them chose to give of themselves. But … if the change I seek requires someone else to sacrifice in my stead—would you still call that sacrifice at all? Would that still be worth the change?”

If you could’ve died in your Rred’s place, you would have, without question. But that choice was never offered, and instead your red chose to die for you, and leave you to endure the sands alone. {I suppose that sacrifice’s worth,} you say levelly, {depends on if you can believe in it.}

Legends say that the Twin Gods draw strength from conviction—but you have always found it such a distinctly odd, distinctly mortal idea that this would be unique. All things draw strength from conviction; all things matter only as much as people think they do. Once you live enough suns and see what sinks, what stays, this simple fact becomes undoubtable.

“You think belief is that powerful?”

Without you noticing, the sands have shifted, and now he is the one asking you questions, and you the one giving words to the answers you hold within.

{In her generosity, Stormdancer was swallowed by time. History is unkind to the voiceless. But across the sands I have heard many stories of Stormdancer and the Dragonmother, from many who wander.} He may be the first human in many suns to trade stories with you, but he is certainly not the first person. {For some, Stormdancer is a great ocean spirit, who at the change of the tides switches skins between a man and an enormous turtle and ferried many people away from the first flood. For others, she is the trickster, who took pity on a human child and taught them how to lie. For others still, she is the bravest of their clan, marked with the stripes of the storm to symbolize how they stand apart from the rest.}

When your Red passed, for a while you had no purpose. Only he could command you to rest. Without him, what could you be instead?

The desert winds revealed the answer to your own question of purpose, as they always did. Like a fossil slowly shaking free from layers of sandstone, you came to see the sun again. You are the loresinger. You know the stories, and you pass them to others, so that those who live on in you will live on in others as well.

Stormdancer’s gift to you was a personal one, even if she didn’t know she was giving it: she reminds you that a word is only as important as those who will listen. You were not made to speak, but that does not mean you cannot find your voice on your own, that you cannot recount the voices of others.

{For me, she is the muse,} you continue. {But which is more important: who she truly was, or who we believed she is?}

You cross the desert sands with him, waiting for him to return your question with one of his own. Night turns to day, and still you receive no response.

No matter. You have the time.

※​

 
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HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
OH BOY A NEW CHAPTER HERE WE GO


“Yes, one that my friend a hydreigon told me.”

this is just a nitpick, really: it should be “Yes, one that my friend, a hydreigon, told me.”

For one gifted with voice, he seems to have no weapons with which to use it.

Oh, ouch. This is N’s struggle in a nutshell here; he has a voice, he can hear what others can’t, but he struggles to know how to make people listen. He is “weaponless” in more ways than just his lack of owning a team.

Careful hands gave you color. Gold you were, for the fields of wheat. Blue you were, for the endless sky. Green you were, for the towering trees. Black you were, for the glimmering night

I’ve always been a sucker for telling a story through the use of color, and you do this SO WELL all throughout this chapter. It’s not over the top the point that it feels like you’re forcing it, it feels natural, and...the best way I can describe it is I feel like I’m reading a painting?? I LOVE IT.

“Forgive me, dear sibling,” said Stormdancer, bowing low. “This is all I know how to give.”

Oh! So THIS is the story behind that phrase. It’s beautiful! I don’t think I can properly put into words how much I love all of this lore and how gorgeously written it is.

You haven’t seen many human smiles, but this is certainly sadness in the shape of one.


My HEART, I just want to give N a HUG. Also I really like this sentence, so sad and creatively descriptive.
But to pokémon she gave the nocturne lament, and with it the strength to see things through to their bitter end, to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Oooh. Is this where the idea of kafara was born? The idea of protecting those who cannot protect themselves? I love seeing how all the lore connects!

As always, a beautiful chapter!!
 

Dragonfree

Ace Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
Dragons are not like humans, nor are they like other pokémon. There is a reason that there are so few dragon tamers in the world. A dragon cannot be beaten into submission any more than a fire can be asked to stop burning. Tie a lillipup to a stick as a puppy and it will spend its entire life thinking it is too weak to break free, even as it grows bigger. An adult stoutland trained young will be an obsequious servant its entire life. But a dragon knows no defeat. If you tie a hatchling to a stick, he will resent you. When he grows large enough, he will feed your limbs to his children.
Huh. Is this just his arrogance or are dragons actually Just Different? Why?

It is for these reasons that you cannot help but wonder about the child when he seeks you out time and time again, seeking your opinion, your appraisal, your approval. You’ve heard the rumors about him, too. Lord N. The freak without a human heart.

You know why the humans have to see the two of you like this. What reason would a pokémon have to fight for someone like Ghetsis? What reason would a human like N have to willingly seek to correct the imbalance that favors them so heavily? No, better to think that in his chest beats a different organ altogether, one that would never pity you, one that has no sympathy for the children of fire and thunder.
I'm not sure I follow this. People believe he's a freak without a human heart, that there's no way a human would want to separate humans and Pokémon etc., so it's like he has a Pokémon heart instead (or something else), an inhuman heart that does make him feel the desire to separate humans and Pokémon for Pokémon's sake etc. Right? That's what's being implied here? That makes sense to me.

But then Zahhak talks about how the heart they believe N has would never pity Zahhak and has no sympathy for the children of fire and thunder. Isn't that literally the opposite? If they believe he has a heart that doesn't sympathize with Pokémon, how does that serve as an explanation of anything for them? I'm very confused.

N does not understand why humans raise dragons. He seeks you for counsel. He is a fool for many reasons, but you think this is the one that makes him the biggest fool of all.

The door to N’s chambers cracks open. You occupy his room while he’s away, not for any particular reason. You could have your own chamber of the castle, furnished to your liking—but it would be empty. You are a dragon. You have no need for human comforts, least of all this one, but—
I enjoy this suggestion that Zahhak is not as above it all as he insists.

It’s hard not to avoid sounding mocking, so you don’t try.
Think you've got an extra negative in here.

{Or maybe this time you could pass out some flyers? Have a slam poetry night about liberation?}
Kind of surprised a dragon, who prides himself in being a dragon and doesn't seem particularly interested in the ins and outs of human society, would even know about something as specific as slam poetry nights.

You do know. Of course you do. But it makes you feel better to make him say it. {Which part makes you uncomfortable, N? That I’ve been injured despite being at the forefront of the movement that’s supposed to prevent that? That you use the weakness of your own flesh as an excuse not to put your body on the line alongside me?}
It's not really an excuse, though, is it. N literally is not physically strong enough to help anyone at all in a fight with Pokémon. Does Zahhak actually think N should be physically participating somehow?

You wonder what he sees when he looks at sees you
Seems to be a typo.

N’s voice is soft, quiet. It almost sounds injured. “But he’s hurting you. How can you stand a man like that?”
In what sense is Ghetsis hurting him, though, if Zahhak himself relishes fighting...? Seems like a weirdly academic distinction; Ghetsis is apparently neither actually himself physically hurting him nor compelling him to fight battles he doesn't want to. What sense is left?

{What?} Left head forms into an expression of mock surprise. Right head mouths your words for you; they leave your real mouth in a low hiss.
I enjoy the mental image of Zahhak essentially putting on a puppet show.

And N is the same. He waits, quietly, for your fire subside. You see the anguish on his face; every sentence you’ve said has been another claw ripping apart his chest, but he can take a hit even when he can’t bring himself to land one. And then he speaks. “I haven’t found an army. There are some, but most pokémon … do not think the way you’ve described. And most of them cannot put a name to the source of their anger, let alone fight back.”
I'm not sure this is the world you've been portraying in the story so far, though. Only Vaselva might actually fit the description of not understanding humans as the source of her problem. Wave was convinced pretty easily; Carnel and Amara both tried to run away from their trainers; the Bisharp certainly had no love for their trainer. I think this'd be a lot more convincing if we'd actually seen more of what N is describing.

(Typo in "for your fire subside", by the way.)

{So then you’re wrong, aren’t you?}
I mean, this honestly isn't a ridiculous question. If the actual vast majority of Pokémon don't actually want to be helped, what right do they have to decide to 'liberate' them anyway? Isn't it a bit backwards for the Pokémon liberation movement to be led by a couple of humans and this one Hydreigon because most Pokémon just don't know what's best for them?

{You humans are so funny. You rage against your indoor jobs, yearn for re-enacting your wild days by touring us across our own country. But if you hated your desks so much, why don’t you leave?}

“Zahhak,” N says. “I’ve tried saying things like that. And they don’t listen, they tell me it’s not the same—”

You know it’s not the same, not to humans. Of course it isn’t. Their own suffering is so great and magnificent that it could never be equated with something as trivial as your own.
I mean... in this analogy, would most humans want some Pokémon to decide to liberate them from their desk jobs through violent revolution, despite themselves not wishing for anything of the sort? Probably not. (I know I don't want anyone to stage a violent revolution on my behalf, thanks, no matter how I might complain about my job.) If we actually accept these situations as analogous, I think that's an argument against what Zahhak wants? (Arguably Pokémon are being harmed much more than people working office jobs, which might justify taking action for the former that you wouldn't for the latter - but if you assert that it is basically comparable, I have a hard time seeing "liberate them regardless of what they think" as a defensible response.)

But instead, they proceed like the human response to this is universally to deny that it's analogous, and I guess assert that it would be right to forcibly liberate them from their desk jobs, but not to liberate Pokémon from battling, because they feel like they suffer more in their desk jobs than Pokémon do battling? That just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

He has to understand. You’ve been involved in this for much longer than he has—you were both born into it, but Ghetsis made you fight the day you hatched. N got his books and his lessons; you learned your use a different way. You tried words once, like he did. There’s no path to victory there, not with people who cannot listen.
Huh. So despite Zahhak's insistence that he relishes and chooses this, Ghetsis raised him from the egg? (I was seriously getting the impression Zahhak was way older than Ghetsis up to this point, particularly from the way he describes being a dragon and Ghetsis being "old for a human", and talks about humans razing his town, and that he once lived in the lands to the north? What was all that about?) Everything he's said reads... pretty differently if that's the case.

{No. That isn’t what I meant either.} You tilt your neck so that you can look down on him better. {Our claim is that pokémon battling is inherently abusive, that there is no consent without voice. They do not want to accept that, because it would involve destroying the norms they have come to love. But they cannot refute that we feel pain, that battling hurts us—so instead they make new rules to become clan chief. A little pain is acceptable, they say, so we must prove that pokémon hate humans, that their pain has boiled over to the point that the damage is irreparable. But I guarantee, even if you did find a hateful pokémon, they would merely tell you that you haven’t found enough, that the subset you created wasn’t a good sample. And even if you did find many, they would merely tell you that real trainers aren’t abusive, that it isn’t their fault that there are a few bad eggs, that they’ll join your side next time, at the next big offense—anything and everything in their power to make sure that you’re too busy running around on keldeo hunts trying to get their approval, too busy to force them to understand that a system that allows for these tragedies is rotten to the core.}
Hmm, who are they here, though? I guess this is a drawback of the backwards storytelling, where we've yet to see N actually engage with humans making an argument that's anything like this.

{Wrong. For us to succeed you must change their hearts. Words can be ignored, and swept aside time and time again. Actions cannot. They will write us as the villains in their history books regardless. I intend to win. Then I will care not what history says of me, for I and anyone with eyes will recognize what is right.}
What's Zahhak actually hoping to do here? What is a win, for him? I'm not entirely clear on what his plan is. It doesn't really sound like he's assuming N will get a legendary dragon to literally remake the world. Is he assuming he and Ghetsis will just take over the League by force and... then what? They'll abolish Pokémon training by law, and kill everyone who doesn't like it? I wish it were clearer what he's actually arguing in favor of.

“Words are all I have.” He tilts his jaw up towards you, the first and last human to look you in the eyes and defy you, a dragon. “There is nothing to be gained by burning the world to liberate the ashes from the trees.”
Strong line.

As the human’s fire reflected in her eyes, and as she mirrored it in her maw, Sagaris echoed the nocturne lament, the mantra of martyrs, passed down to her across history: Forgive me, dear siblings. This is all I know how to give.

You wonder if N feels the way you do now, the same way Sagaris surely must have felt in those final hours. Her actions ultimately did not spare her clan from certain destruction, but she bled out not knowing that. Today she reminds people everywhere what it means to carry the blood of dragons in your veins.
Another strong bit.

N looks up with his emotions frozen across his face, stares at you so guiltily it’s like if he looks too long you’ll shatter.
An evocative description but I'm not sure what it means. Why does N looking guilty make Zahhak feel like he'll shatter? Or does he feel like N looks so guilty because N feels if he looks at Zahhak too long he'll shatter? Just kind of confused.

The room suddenly feels heavy and still. You lean down and press the cool, dry scales of your snout against N’s forehead. He flinches back, and then he squeezes his eyes tight and throws his arms around your head, buries his forehead into your scales, runs his soft palms against your scarred jaw. He’s warm. So warm.

If you could both just stay here forever. If Dragonspiral Tower didn’t beckon, echoes of a lost song in the back of both your minds. If the world didn’t demand to be right again.

You close your eyes as well, and in that moment you can pretend you’re both smaller again. He’s just a snot-nosed child, chubby and doddling along on unsteady legs, pulling your unscarred tail, asking for stories. The little freak and his freakish handler, both of you too blind to see how everyone stared. If you don’t open your eyes ever again you can stay like this forever.

Perhaps he truly is the best one to call to the heart of the White Dragon after all, if he could so easily find his way into yours.
This is good and sweet.

There is a long silence. N exhales heavily into the ridge between your nostrils. His breath is warm on your scales. You can almost pretend there’s a fire there. Almost, little hatchling.

What he gives you isn’t an answer, not really, but it feels like one all the same.

{Forgive me, dear sibling,} he says, in the dialect of dragons. It makes your heart stop to hear him invoke it, twists a tiny pang of fear that’s altogether different from how you normally feel when he adopts your tongue. He is small for a dragon, after all. Too small to share your tongue and your fate.

But the tragedy of the nocturne lament was not in the words, but in the choosing of them. In understanding the insignificance of your sacrifice and making it anyway. If he can stomach even a little of that burden, perhaps there is hope after all.

He chanted the nocturne lament like a prayer. The words rolled off his lips so quickly that he almost doesn’t notice they’re there, not until you return the other half to him, make it a promise the two of you share:

{This is all I know how to give.}
Hits hard. You always do a lovely job with these setups to make your endings hit.

This one was interesting, and I enjoyed seeing N and Zahhak's relationship, especially towards the end. But I'm kind of back to feeling like I inhabit an entirely different moral universe from the characters, haha. To me, the notion of liberating people who don't want to be liberated is on pretty shaky ethical ground and warrants a lot of examination, but neither N nor Zahhak seem to wonder about that at all; it's only posed as an entirely rhetorical question, brushed off on the basis that... humans don't rise up against their jobs even though they suffer in them.

It makes me especially uncomfortable to learn that apparently the main actual Pokémon behind this movement was... raised by Ghetsis. So it's not that he's a Pokémon who came to these conclusions on his own and formed an uneasy alliance with Ghetsis to achieve the revolution he already wanted; he was raised from birth by a human who indoctrinated him to believe this. I guess it's Ghetsis who told him the story of Sagaris too? Zahhak maintains that if you tie a dragon to a stick he'll resent you and feed your limbs to his children, but it kind of seems like Ghetsis did tie him to a stick, and he just decided actually the stick was great and exactly what he would have wanted anyway.

So I'm kind of coming away from this chapter feeling a lot worse about the entire liberation movement. The entire thing was, it seems, started and orchestrated by a human, who goes on to fight for the cause by making a Pokémon he raised murder a bunch of other Pokémon, while apparently most Pokémon don't want to be liberated at all, even peacefully? That's... dubious.

Despite this, as I mentioned, I don't really think the chapters so far have entirely borne out how this chapter describes Pokémon's feelings on the matter. Most of the Pokémon we've seen truly and uncomplicatedly just don't want to be with their trainers at all; I can't imagine why Wave or Carnel or Tourmaline or Amara or Bisharp would say no to N's peaceful liberation proposal. Are they just a tiny minority? If they are, is N really right here? If not, why hasn't N been finding all the Pokémon with their experiences, gotten them to join his cause? Why does the movement seem to sprout entirely from Ghetsis and two people that he raised from birth to agree with him?

Taken at face value here, I find Zahhak deeply tragic; he's unshakably convinced that he's immune to propaganda because he's a dragon, but yet coincidentally has ended up with the view that the human who raised him is right about everything and that Zahhak suffering and losing limbs and murdering for his sake and his cause is good and right. And maybe that is what you were going for? I'm genuinely not sure. N's lines wanting to free him from Ghetsis hit really differently if Zahhak's just blind to how he's been indoctrinated while N can see it and just wants to rescue him (but he still chooses not to just liberate him anyway, because Zahhak doesn't want him to!).

All in all, complicated feelings on this one, but you continue to deliver those good emotional punches. I'm interested to see who N's been talking to prior to this and what sorts of Pokémon he's encountered.
 

Dragonfree

Ace Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
I keep forgetting to respond to some of your responses, where you've asked for clarifications or I had further questions etc.; going to do so now before I get to the chapter. Sorry about the delay!

kintsugi; ch1 said:
I'm really sorry, I think my brain is dead--could you rephrase this one? I'm sure there's something weird but I can't pick up on where it's tripping you up.
If you never doubt that you could fall short, that means you were always conscious that you might fail. The other half of the sentence, however, says that he never considered what might happen if he failed. These are opposite things.

I think what you actually meant to write here was something like saying that he never once imagined that on his quest he could fall short (rather than "doubted"). But I could be wrong about what you were going for.

kintsugi; ch2 said:
It's pretty shitty to have someone hold you hostage and then talk on your behalf about what they're saying is best for you, yeah.
kintsugi; ch2 said:
Might be me being cynical here + a lot of current events leaking in to my own writing, so I get why this might not be convincing but--in my country it's a lot easier to get away with literally murdering people if you're a cop and can claim the "valid" reasons of self-defense or something than you can if you're a regular person. Laws can be written in a way that favor the people who enforce/make them, and wildly against the people who don't. And I think we're a lot more likely to internally justify people doing bad things if we agree with the person doing the bad things. Ghetsis is aware of this. I, uh, have many modern day examples that I am currently living with that I can cite if you're down, but I also understand why this isn't really a fun reality to think about, since I fucking hate that it's real for me as well.
I'm... kind of confused by these remarks; they don't seem to relate to what I was talking about?

This is how I'm reading this bit of the chapter: Ghetsis is having the referee held hostage so that he won't be punished for flagrantly breaking the rules in this fight. As in, he's got two Plasma members in the referee's box threatening to kill the referee (or whatever) if he cards Ghetsis, so that Ghetsis can go to town with the brutality and not worry about consequences. He goes on to sarcastically wonder about how oh, boy, why hasn't he gotten any cards yet? Truly a mystery!, rubbing in and drawing attention to the fact that obviously he has in fact been breaking the rules but nobody's going to stop him right now. Right? Did I just completely misinterpret what I was reading? Your response seems to be about how cops get away with committing heinous crimes, which I totally agree with and it's deplorable, but I can't see how that relates to this situation? Who's the cop in this analogy? (Maybe you thought I was talking about why Alder got away with shit? Which, yeah, absolutely, I buy that 100% as something that would happen; I have no problem with that element of the worldbuilding.) If I've misunderstood you completely, please clarify.

kintsugi; ch4 said:
She does think that N wouldn't accept her with open arms since she keeps screwing up his plans, yeah.
But does she think the new world N wants to create will only make things better for some Pokémon, ones that N chooses, rather than all of them? This was kind of part of the "I'm not sure what Amara is actually picturing as N's end goal here" concern.

kintsugi; ch5 said:
Oh, that's an interesting question. In my head, I think it'd be comparable to how irl we put down animals that attack humans without considering if it's premeditated or anything--the projected lack of agency/thought probably makes it easier to do that, since it becomes more like writing them off as senseless killers rather than considering that maybe this was caused/considered.
That's not what I was balking at, though (that fits in with this world) - I was questioning the bit where Bisharp is concerned they'll assume Timothy's other Pokémon were also involved and put them down too. Doing that, assuming there were accomplices, seems to require believing Pokémon have enough agency to be planning and premeditating things, no? If a dog in the real world bit a child people wouldn't assume the owner's other dogs were "also involved" and put them down too, right?

Anyway, chapter seven!

Lucky was always the strongest, the boldest. You’d chase after him, but where he leapt, you hesitated. Where he was fearless enough to stick his nose into anything, you were always afraid of the consequences.
I'm so worried about what happened to Lucky.

Some people think Take Down would be excessive here. You’ve heard other humans yell at Sam, and most of the pokemon don’t bother talking to anyone on the force, but some of them aim their words at you. Traitor. Violent. Criminal.

The last one confuses you the most. You protect them from criminals. You aren’t the criminal. If anything, they are. Some people would think Take Down would be excessive. Some people haven’t had to fight the same battles you have.

You dash in. The gas stings at your eyes and at the open gash on your flank where you’d gotten hit by the sharp edge of a brick earlier. The thick fur on your body protects the rest. The girl stands perfectly still as you approach. No, a full Take Down definitely seems like too much. You don’t want to be excessively violent.
It reads a little funny to me here that Ace (I'm going to go with calling him Ace here, since he himself seems to prefer that name to Clover) spends a couple of paragraphs brushing off the idea that Take Down is excessive and then deciding it is anyway, without the sense that he's actually changing his mind about something he'd firmly believed? Like, he seems to very casually come to the conclusion that nah, it's too much, and that he doesn't want to be excessively violent, given he's literally just asserted that Take Down is fully warranted and not excessive at all and if you'd fought his battles you'd understand (the emphasis on the word excessive, after that's literally the word he used previously to say it's not that at all, compounds that feeling). Assuming you're going for him ostensibly believing this but kind of having second thoughts in the moment as some measure of compassion wins over, I would've assumed his thought process would reflect that more. As it is the third paragraph here sounds identical to how I'd expect it to sound if Ace were just in general genuinely determined to be mindful of not using excessive force.

You bowl through her knees. She hits the ground. You drag her back to Sam and she doesn’t resist.
The sparse narration here, with absolutely no mention of her pain or reactions or anything, really makes this more unsettling.

You don’t forget a face. You’ve seen her before. You and Sam have picked her up a few times on patrol already. He needn’t have worried. She wasn’t going to be a threat. She never is. She even told you that once, when you took her down to the station.
Telling, isn't it, how Ace knew the whole time she wasn't a threat and wouldn't be, and yet still maintained Take Down absolutely wouldn't be excessive, only maybe, maybe he could go for the knees as a small mercy.

“I know.”

His retort is immediate. “Don’t get mouthy with me, young lady.”
God, it's so enraging just to read this.

“Oh, hell,” says the girl suddenly. Her hands are twisted into an uncomfortable knot that pins her cuffed wrists up by her shoulder. “It’s you.”
I like the brief mention of this extra casual cruelty, of her being restrained in a bad position.

“You’re the guy who started attacking Br—uh, one of our palpitoad. You’re the dewott trainer, right?”

He glares back. Dark eyes. Dark hair. Slim jaw, but he’s still growing into his shoulders, you think. You haven’t seen him before. “Haven’t you talked enough today?”
Cheren...?

I really enjoy the way Rhea is just familiar with the whole process (and the fact she knew exactly the right thing to do when the police arrived, only for the police to of course employ unnecessary violence anyway). Lots of character and just sad worldbuilding in that.

It’s probably facetious, but something about her tone stings a little. People like her expect you to hate your job, to hate your human. Sam has done so much for you. And in return he’s letting you do so much for everyone else.

They don’t get it. There are so many long, hot, grueling days that never turn violent. You endure shouts and glares for all of it. At the end of one of those days, Sam had returned to the emptiness of the patrol car, and he’d began to speak in low, angry spurts. These people want you to be ashamed, he’d said. They want you to be scared to go out in the morning and do your job. They wanted to yell at you and hate you and at the end of the day they wanted to come back to you for help, because they needed you.

You’d listened closely, your ears perked up. Sam didn’t normally trust you with his confidence. He saved that for his buddies during coffee breaks. You’d felt so honored that day. Finally one of the team.
Awww. Sweet and horrible and tragic. Ace deserves better. (I appreciate the glimpse of how Sam feels here, too; he's obviously pretty terrible, but human.)

You fill in the rest of the blanks on your own. People like her want you to be sweet and subservient like a good little pokémon; they want you patiently waiting for a brave strong human to come and save you from a life you’ve chosen for yourself. She doesn’t want you to be happy to be here, because your happiness would make her wrong.
Hmm, where's he getting them wanting him to be sweet and subservient from, though? Seems kind of a weird thing to take away from their message - the bit about being rankled by the notion of a human saving him from what he considers his chosen path makes sense (and I'm tickled to see it here after my commentary on last chapter), but surely no part of what the liberation movement is proposing sounds like sweetness and subservience? If it does I'd really like to see a bit more explanation of what that is and why he perceives it that way.

This wasn’t really what you had in mind when you started training, but you’re glad you’re helping somehow. Pokémon don’t get to pick what they want to do in this world. You’ll do the best with the hand you were given. Eventually people like her will understand that, even if they can’t see now.
I'm having a bit of a difficult time with him simultaneously maintaining that this is a path he chose for himself and that Pokémon don't get to pick what they want to do in this world (and therefore the people who think Pokémon should get to pick what they want to do in this world are bad I guess?). I'm guessing it's not meant to be a self-consistent worldview exactly, but the contradiction is just so open and explicit here that I have a hard time reconciling it.

“I don’t imprison my pokémon.” Cheren rolls his eyes again.
...says Cheren, who will go on to pay no attention to Carnel obviously wanting to leave. Sighhh.

“And if they want to go back to their trainers, Rhea? Then what?” Cheren’s voice is starting to get high-pitched, agitated.

But Rhea’s still calm. Quieter, even. “Then I take them back.”

“Even to an abusive trainer? That seems wrong, Rhea.”

“It is. Every second of it feels wrong. But I respect their choice, even if I don’t agree. What else could I do?”
Ah, good to see this clarified. At least at this point in time they really are just trying to make sure every Pokémon gets to make a choice. (Raises some questions re the previous chapter, though - Rhea sounds like most of the Pokémon she liberates don't want to go back, and like a lot of Pokémon are joining their movement. Maybe I just misunderstood what Zahhak/N were implying.)

“But it’s much more reassuring to think that abuse is just intentionally tying your pokémon to a stick and kicking it until it cries, so the media runs with that. Uplifting montage, before and after pics, everyone gets to condemn the dumb shit who punches his conkeldurr. That was the most recent one, right?”
Nice nod to the Bisharp chapter.

“No. I’m just asking you to examine the paradox of condoning battling while condemning humans who instigate the abuse directly when, to a pokémon, both are the same.”
But they really aren't! The distinction isn't whether it's a human or Pokémon that does the hitting, it's the context! A trainer telling one of their Pokémon to hit another to punish them or to take out anger would still be abuse (would that not be prosecuted as Pokémon abuse in this world?); trainers instructing their Pokémon in a battle is, ostensibly, a sport that they're willing participants in. It's just the same as how normally when one human punches another it's assault, but it's not when it's within the context of a boxing match that they choose to partake in. Even if there's a problematic system behind the boxing, even if someone became a boxer because they couldn't hold a regular job and felt like boxing was all they were good for, that's bad but it's obviously not the same thing as being assaulted in the street, much less being abused since childhood by an authority figure.

Obviously the fic's world posits that Pokémon are ultimately not the free and willing participants that humans like to imagine they are, which is a legitimate and interesting thing to posit. But it kind of frustrates me that even characters who are passionate activists for Pokémon liberation that we're meant to sympathize with (as best I can tell) never quite seem to regard this as the important issue at hand, and instead keep talking about things like this notion that the only difference between a battle and abuse is whether it's a human doing the punching. I think that's just kind of a weird strawman argument; it's strange to me that Rhea would make it here when she was just earlier so on point talking about choice and consent, and it's even stranger to me that that argument would stump Cheren, who was just earlier maintaining that his Pokémon do want to stay with him (so presumably he would also maintain they totally do want to battle for him, right?).

You can’t help turning a glare on Rhea, not that she notices. She’s not the one in danger, not like Sam. She speaks too boldly for someone who gets to sit comfortably on the sidelines. She gets to go home to an easy sleep; she isn’t like Sam, constantly risking his life each day, struggling to find peace at night. She picks up a megaphone and declares which abuses are more important than others, which crimes count and which don’t—and she’ll keep doing that until someone stops her.

She’s a criminal, after all. With her pretty words and her stupid signs. Of course she’s good at lying. You don’t hate her for it; it’s not her fault either. She just got told a lot of things and didn’t think long enough to question them. She’ll grow up one day.
I like this thought process, though; this feels pretty genuine as a dismissal that feels convincing to Ace despite not having any real substance.

Rhea sighs. Waits for some sass from Cheren. Doesn’t get it. Maybe he’s given up on fighting her, maybe he realizes they’re both two unmovable objects. “I get that you don’t want to see me and my friends protesting on the streets. I get that that’s why you lashed out today. But the truth is that I don’t want to be there either. I want to be at the mall with my classmates, or planting a garden, or doing whatever else kids my age are supposed to do on weekends. But some people don’t have that choice, so I’m right there with them.” She pauses. Slumps for the first time in this whole conversation. “I keep going until I find someone who will listen. It doesn’t have to be you. I honestly don’t expect it to be you. It’s too hard to break out from the bottom. But I care what people think because people are the only way we’re going to fix this. Maybe it’s the judge who will hear my case again. Maybe it’s the cop who will walk us to the station. Maybe it’s someone who will watch the footage on the news tonight.” She casually flicks her head in your direction. “Maybe it’s you, Herdier.” Her voice levels again. She squares her shoulders against the metal of the van. “I will keep doing this until I find someone who will listen. I believe in something, same as everyone else.”
I like this. I like her. I just really, really wish she had actually tried to confront Cheren about whether his Pokémon actually want to battle, and why it's wrong to make them if they don't. That's what this should all be about and they're just not saying it and I don't understand why.

That evening you watch Sam process the cases. Cheren gets released with a warning—something about how he’d actually been acting on Clay’s orders, Juniper was calling the department furious that they were detaining one of her pet trainers. He must be a good kid, to have all these people vouching for him.
Oof, Ace please. (Would he actually refer to them as her "pet trainers" if he thinks of it simply as a lot of people vouching for him, though?)

You wish you’d had a chance to talk to the liepard. Did she see Rhea as her older sister?
Really like this as a question for him to ask himself.

But Lucky was brave when you were not. You watched him leap in and save the day. The garbodor broke his leg. Mother was so proud, so worried, when you both returned, covered in muck. You’d asked him, later, why he had done it. Why he’d taken that risk.

He’d answered so readily it must’ve been obvious. {I had to protect you.} He shoved his snout playfully against your own and added, {That’s what brothers are for.}
oh no here come the feels

It doesn't sound like there was actually any need for either of them to attack - the Garbodor doesn't seem to have been attacking them at all, based on the description. So this is a pretty twisted image of bravery and protecting others that they have, isn't it - but lines up sadly well with how the police often operate. The Garbodor is there, it's an undesirable, so by existing it's a threat and that justifies the use of force against it. This is only very lightly implied here so I'm not 100% sure if that's what you were going for here but I really like it.

It's also interesting that it distinctly sounds like it really was Ace's own free choice to join the police force. He just loved the look of them and idolized qualities he felt he saw in them and enthusiastically volunteered until they took him. No sign of pressure or coercion or lack of options of any kind. This makes the line he had earlier about how Pokémon can't really choose their lot in life weirder - it's true in the overall sense, but as far as we can tell, from his own POV it really does make perfect sense for him to feel like there's nothing wrong and this is the path he chose for himself and, like, maybe it's sometimes harder than he expected but it's still what he chose, instead of talking about how Pokémon must work with the cards they are dealt.

They’d left Rhea in the van. That had been hours ago. The inside of the van is dark and warm, and there hadn’t been any water left there. You hope that Rhea’s had time to think, just like you had. Maybe this time she’ll figure out that she’s wrong.
Yiiiiikes

Sam nods. “The scan showed that its previous owner was a Natural Harmonia Gropius. Do you know where he is now? If he can vouch for you then that would be sufficient.”
Insidious.

N. He wants N. All of them want N. That’s the other name you’ve heard pop up at their evening conversations, when they’re taking off their vests and their uniforms and dressing up in their human clothes again.
I like him regarding their police uniforms as not human clothes.

“The liepard. Her name is Tourmaline. She likes being scratched between the ears. And yogurt. Sometimes she’ll be aloof around strangers but if they talk to her she’ll usually come around. She hates being in her pokéball.” Rhea bites her lip. “Um. She doesn’t like fighting too much but if she has to, she prefers ranged attacks.”
Heartbreaking little details, especially the fact Rhea knows realistically Tourmaline will be adopted by a trainer and will be battling even though she doesn't like it so she should at least specify the kind of battling she prefers, so maybe it can be a slightly better kind of battling.

She had so many words for Cheren and none for you, not until she needed you. She finally talks to you when there’s no other humans who will listen. You’re just a last resort. She doesn’t actually care what you think. And frankly, you don’t care what she thinks. She spends her time playing tricks with words, trying to make good people feel bad for doing the right thing. She can yell or plead or curse as much as she wants but she’ll never make you feel bad for the choices you made.
Ouch. But still kind of valid. Rhea did try a couple times to involve Ace in the conversation, but not all that hard.

Two barks for yes and one for no is kind of surprising to me; I'm not sure if it's intentionally the opposite to the expected way, explaining Rhea understanding him the other way around, or if this is actually a convention that I'm ignorant of.

For a moment, you think about the liepard. Her little sister. In three days she’ll go to an adoption center. Sometime soon after that, someone new will let her out and she’ll find her human gone. Maybe that’s for the best. She’ll be able to choose her own path now, just like you did.
God, that's so backwards. She can choose her own path by... being forcibly hauled off by someone else. Which doesn't resemble any part of Ace's backstory, so I'm not 100% sure why he thinks of it as "just like you did", but.

Rhea is still staring at you with a smile in her eyes. Caught up in this delusion that you’ll actually pass on her words. Maybe, if you tried, you could make her understand. Whine a bit or swing your head from side to side, the way Sam does when he wants to say no without words. No. She’s not worth the effort. She’s not a good listener.
Once again an instance of a Pokémon choosing not to make much of an effort to make itself understood to a human who doesn't do so immediately. Perhaps that's a bit of a theme here.

I'm a bit surprised the thing about Lucky doesn't really go anywhere. I guess Lucky is kind of why Ace joins the police force, but it doesn't sound like Lucky himself actually joined the police - I would've expected that to come up at some point if he had. So is it just that Ace felt he had to prove himself to live up to who Lucky was? What pressures did he experience to make him feel that way? Where's Lucky now? I don't know, it feels a little incomplete to me. When the chapter opened talking about Lucky I was convinced he and his fate was going to be key to understanding this character, but it didn't really end up that way.

I thought the depiction of police brutality and the movement worked really well here. All these insidious, unnecessary cruelties that Ace just doesn't think anything of because they're normal and Well She Should Have Not Been A Criminal; the whole defensive POV of feeling like they're doing a dangerous, thankless job and getting called scum for it, while engaging in exactly the behaviour that earns them the dirty looks. The characterization of Rhea is great, largely in the details, the sense of how she's had to get used to this, the strength of her convictions and what she wants to achieve. She's really sympathetic and I care about her (and it's a tragic gutpunch that in N's new world, she will never see Tourmaline again), and the depiction of Team Plasma here with her as their representative is really good and truly feels like people on the right side of history.

But I'm still kind of weirded out by the way the activists in this story tend to frame their position on battling, not around the actual great injustice that Pokémon are being forced and coerced into fighting, but around various other strange, weasely reasoning that takes the Pokémon's agency completely out of the equation. Every time they get to the topic of battling in particular, the characters seem to shift to arguments that battling is just definitionally bad regardless of whether everyone involved is enthusiastically consenting or not. For me this creates a really weird dissonance - I completely agree that in the world you've portrayed a lot of Pokémon are being coerced into fighting and that this is wrong, but the characters fighting against this within that world are persistently doing it using reasoning that's bizarre and alienating to me. In review responses you've seemed to agree that it really all comes down to consent, so I must admit I'm just kind of confused.
 
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xv. na-šāyad

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
hi hi! this week has been a bit distracting! will respond to reviews + do some edits tomorrow/ish. thank you all for sticking with me so far!

---


xv. na-šāyad

※​

Your father told you this once—if you wanted to get strong enough to make something worth anything, you would need a human. That’s simply the way it is. You can stay in the forest a little while longer if you’d like, but every young timburr needs a human to work alongside. That was how he had achieved the form of conkeldurr, and so had his father, and his father’s father before him. Pokémon needed humans to unlock their true potential.

You remember looking up at his fists, each one big enough to cup your entire head. Thick tendons twined around the well-used muscles of his arms. He had grown strong. His human had gotten him there. One day, you would too. And that day is today.

So! Your father guides you to the shallower parts of the forest, and you watch the trainers go by.

{This one would be nice,} he notes, pointing.

Your nose crinkles. This human is old, hunched over. She has a piece of timber of her own, a tiny one, that she uses to guide her as she walks. It’s a respectable effort, you can’t help but think. There’s a weariness in her shoulders that reminds you of your own grandmother.

But … if you wanted your grandmother, you could just ask her. You shake your head.

Your father is silent while the two of you watch three more trainers go past. Finally, he rumbles, {This one looks kind.}

This one has green hair, the tail of a purrloin fluttering down his neck like a bright ribbon. He and the purrloin seem engaged in a deep conversation.

But he wanders slowly down the path. Far too slowly.

{He looks lost,} you remark.

Your father tilts his head; his knuckles shift on the surface of his beam. {That is a fair assessment.}

By afternoon, you see the one you want. A young human boy—a timber of his own in his hand, which he uses to swat the grasses out of the way.

{I want this one,} you tell your father.

{That one?} He pauses and considers carefully. {He does not look kind. See how he hits the forest, because he does not believe it would hit him back.}

You turn back. The human looks young, which you respect; he will understand what it means to want to prove himself.

{I want this one,} you repeat.

Your father nods. {Very well. I respect your choice.} Another pause. Then, he holds his hand up, and says in a low voice, {Return to me when you are this tall, and teach me what you have learned.}

{I will,} you promise.

You don’t look back. Instead, you run in front of him, and allow him to catch you without a fight. And just like that, you’ve made it. You finally got yourself a human partner. You hope you’ve got a good one.

You blink as the red light fades from your eyes. This must be a human settlement. There are other humans milling around. Towards the back of a room, an audino and a human clothed in pink are hurrying back and forth between a strange machine and a counter. There’s another human standing at a table with an array of objects in front of him (her? it? you’re so bad at figuring out with the humans), shouting numbers.

And! There’s your human in front of you! It’s finally your turn to prove yourself. You will help him do a great many things. When you watched him from afar you only got the details—he has black hair, and he’s shorter than you imagined humans would be, probably because of his age. Up close, his hands are uncalloused—they remind you of yours when you were younger, still too young to practice swinging a proper bough.

You straighten your back. Chin up. You have to impress! {Hello! My name is Samson!}

“I’m Tim,” says your new human. “Your name is Charlie.”

That isn’t quite a pronunciation you’ve heard before. {Samson,} you repeat. A little slower, for emphasis.

“I’m trying to beat Lenora,” Tim explains. He doesn’t quite talk as slowly as you’d like, so it’s a little hard to figure out what he’s saying. Who’s Lenora? “Her herdier is really tough. Pushed my tympole’s shit in last time. So you’re my secret weapon, got it?”

You tilt your head a little. That one is a little hard to parse. Secret? Weapon? You glance down at the bough in your hands. It was the biggest one you could carry, and even so, you struggle with its weight. Your father could lift it with one hand. When you can do the same, you’ll be ready.

But it’s not a secret. Never a secret. Your bough is a symbol for all the world to see. You hold it high, even though your limbs shake a little, and proclaim your agreement. {I will help you, with all the strength I have.}

“Well, not secret. Maybe if I walk up with you she’ll just forfeit.” But he’s already turning away. “Come on, my gym match is scheduled in fifteen minutes. We gotta hurry. If Pinwheel Forest wasn’t such a damn maze I wouldn’t be late.”

You hurry after him. The city is interesting. It’s your first time in a human city; your father always told you to stay away from this city until you were older. You take in every detail that you can so that you can explain it all back to him and tell him what you’ve learned. There are many more sights and sounds than you’ve seen in the forest. Mostly humans on the path, which is wider than any path you’ve ever seen. They’ve got a strange ground-covering here that’s simultaneously smooth and rough on your feet. The most amazing thing about this place are the sounds—people chattering everywhere. You can’t quite catch the human conversation passing by you (they speak quite fast), but there’s a pair of pidove overhead discussing the wind patterns, a purrloin calling out mockingly to a lillipup as she turns tail and climbs nimbly up a gutter.

It’s a nice town that he lives in, you remark to him. Very good architecture. The craftsmen is impeccable, and—he’s already ahead of you. You hurry to catch up.

The gym is the building that’s important to your human, you gather, and you approach it at his side. At first, you think that it’s just the strange designs on the sides of the building extending into the decorations on the ground, but as you get closer, you see that they aren’t decorations at all—they’re people! They seem to be lying on the ground, humans and pokémon alike, scattered all around the entrance to the gym. You can’t help but stare.

“C’mon, Charlie,” Tim says. You’re too short for him to reach his hand, but he grabs the top of your beam and drags you forward.

You almost stumble in shock—he doesn’t realize the disrespect, you have to tell yourself quickly. He doesn’t understand what’s being said when he lifts your load as if you aren’t strong enough to carry it yourself. {I’m strong enough,} you reassure him, and raise your bough out of his reach.

In front of the one closest to you is a sign. Your father taught you how to read human when you were young, swapped his cement for a stick that was dwarfed by his enormous hands and carved each letter into the soft dirt after a spring rain washed over the forest. It was slow work, but deeply important, he’d said. If you ever wanted to work for a human, help them shape great things, you would have to understand their drawings as well as their voices.

This was what your family did, he’d told you. You had big hands and strong arms to shape and build. He’d put together many a home for humans and pokémon alike, and finally, when the time had come—he and his human both put away their tools and put themselves towards raising families instead of buildings. His human still comes to visit sometimes, a burly man whose hair has turned grey.

You struggle to remember the lessons your father gave you. It’s a little hard, but luckily the font on the sign is clear. You’re fortunate that it’s written in such big, blocky letters.

THE EARTH’S CHILDREN SHARE ONE BODY,

You almost forget that Tim’s there at all. You stop short again. Behind the sign, there’s a human sprawled out on the ground next to her venipede, who’s lying on his back, legs straight up in the air. If they were curled you would’ve thought he was dead for sure. You peer closer. The venipede is hard to tell, since the carapace is so still, but the human has a rise and fall in her chest.

{Are you hurt?} you ask. {Do you need help?}

“Charlie,” Tim says, a bit more sharply this time. “Ignore them. They’re faking to get attention. Plasma’s always up to no good.”

Plasma?

But you keep walking. Your first gym awaits. This is where you get to prove yourself! You will become stronger, so strong that you can carry the whole world on your shoulders. Like your father, and his father before him.

The next sign almost catches you by surprise.

FOR WE WERE ALL SHAPED FROM THE SAME CLAY.

Oh! It’s a continuation of the first sentence. They’re all saying something together. That’s nice of them. This sign is in front of a boy, younger than Tim, who’s lying facedown with his limbs sprawled in a tangled heap around them. Beside him is a pidove, who isn’t doing quite as good of a job at acting as the venipede—you can definitely see her blink a few times.

But it doesn’t answer your question. Why are they acting?

Tim’s shouting at you, and you have to tear your eyes away from them again. Why are they all lying on the ground like this? You barely register what he’s saying, but you catch the last bit “—seriously, if you keep this up, I’ll recall you.”

Oh, that’s no good. You want to be on your own two feet when you enter the gym. How weak would you be if you had to be carried into your own trial? You hurry after him, but you peer over your shoulder.

WHEN THIS LIFE WE SHARE CAUSES WOUNDS TO ONE,

Wounds? You ponder the wording absently. Strange choice of words. Perhaps the translation is different in human.

Oh! Maybe it’s a performance of sorts. There were some in the forest who enjoyed playing pretend, but you were always interested in other things. You glance back at the pidove, who blinks as she stares at you with wide eyes. If it’s a performance, she’s not doing a really good job.

You pass by the pokémon and human pair by the next sign, and the blocky letters make themselves clear to you before you can stop yourself. Tim wouldn’t want you to read. He’s certainly trying not to. His hood is up over his eyes and he’s got his head down, hands in his pockets, everything.

THAT HURT ACROSS THE WHOLE BODY IS KNOWN.

You’ll be quick about it, you decide. {What is this?}

The pokémon by this sign is also a pidove. {It’s a faint-in,} she trills nervously.

{A what?} At first you aren’t sure if you heard correctly.

{A faint-in,} the pidove repeats again, which answers one of your questions but not the other. {It’s a protest against gyms.}

Against gyms? You look at Tim nervously, and then at the timber in your own hands. Why protest? You have a million questions now, but you can’t let Tim see that you’re slowing down, or else he’ll yell again.

Is that? Blood?

No, you realize as you get closer. You can’t smell the iron, only chemicals. It’s just red paint, splattered around on the grass where the human is lying. Next to him is the small form of a herdier. You almost mistook it for something else; the red paint changed his coloration so much that you can barely see the navy and tan beneath.

“Pretentious jackasses,” Tim mutters under his breath as you pass by the pidove and his owner. “Always sticking their noses everywhere.” He glares at the human nearest to him, who is lying on his side and curled in a fetal position, and calls in a louder voice, “It’s illegal to be out here, dipshit. I’ll call the cops.”

“The grounds outside of a gym are public property, which are legal and protected grounds for protest,” the boy recites, without opening his eyes, and then falls silent again.

Tim mutters something foul under his breath and makes a motion with his foot as if to kick, but seems to catch himself instead. He wrenches at your bough again. “Come on. They aren’t going to scare us with a little fake blood.”

You’re still confused about that bit, actually. {Why is there fake blood?} you ask, but he doesn’t answer.

There’s some at the next sign too, and this time both the human and the purrloin next to him have covered themselves in it.

YOU, WHO CLOSES YOUR HEART TO YOUR BROTHER’S PAIN—

You have to be quick about it now. But you’re ready this time! {Why are you protesting gyms?}

The purrloin’s ears prick up. The rest of her does not move, but she whispers, {Because they make us hurt.}

Hurt? That can’t be true. You think of your father and his human, how the human comes to visit and they sit and watch the river and the trees. Tim wouldn’t do that to you, not without good reason. You fumble over your next question, and it costs you precious time—you’re almost to the doors of the gym now. {The gyms make you hurt?} you manage to stammer out.

The purrloin’s answer is quiet, but as steady as concrete. {The trainers do.}

{Why? How do they make you hurt?}

Tim wrenches open the door to the gym.

Almost imperceptibly, the purrloin flicks her tail towards the last sign.

YOU ARE UNWORTHY OF THE NAME OF MAN.

The door slams shut behind you.

※​

Lenora is taller than Tim.

That’s the first thing you notice about her. What had Tim said about her? She was a book person. Not a traveler, not a builder. He’d said it disparagingly, but you weren’t sure what that meant or where the shame came from. Your father was all three—he had his books, his travel, and his building. But from his general disdain for her you’d expected someone weak, inexperienced—but she seems confident, imposing. You haven’t seen many humans before, but it looks like her forearms are more corded than Tim’s.

This is good, you decide. You can’t prove yourself to an unworthy opponent.

“Back so soon?” she asks, one hand on her hip. An easy smile is stretched across her face. She flicks her chin in your direction. “Hope you trained that timburr, kid. You aren’t the first to go to Pinwheel Forest and come back with the first fighting-type that showed up.”

He doesn’t answer her taunts. Instead, he rolls his eyes and says, “One versus one?”

She raises an eyebrow, and then snorts derisively. “Two versus two.”

Something about the room changes. Lights seem to swivel down out of nowhere, and when you look down you realize that you’ve been standing with Tim in the middle of a large, perfectly rectangular patch of dirt. There’s a line across the middle, lines snaking down the sides. Tim moves back, and you turn to follow him, but he hisses, “Charlie, stay put.” Oh. Okay. So you do, and tilt your head around to look at the rest of the room. It has nice construction. The lighting hits it in all the right ways; the wooden beams in the ceiling lost their scent of pine long ago, but they stand strong.

“Challenger Burr vs Gym Leader Lenora shall commence!” shouts a voice, and you squint up in surprise to see a third human standing nearly directly between you and Lenora, a strange silvery device held up to his face. “Both sides shall use two pokémon. Standard knockout rules apply. The challenger is to send first.”

You glance back. Tim’s the challenger, and you’re the send. You know how this works. You’ll spar, and you’ve been practicing for this, and you’re strong enough! Soon they’ll all see.

Tim’s got his hands folded across his chest, a smirk carved into his cheeks and the wrinkles between his eyes. “I’m ready. Your move, Lenora.”

You spin back forward to look at Lenora. “Petra,” she says curtly, and tosses something into the air. You watch it arc into a blur of red and white, and a watchog emerges, tail flicking urgently like it’s keeping time. Her stripes glow yellow once, alongside her eyes, and then she falls perfectly still, ears cocked.

{Hi, Petra,} you say nervously. {Nice to meet you.}

The watchog tilts her head. Her fur is the same color as the paint the protestors were using outside. {First time?} she asks quietly.

{How’d you know?}

“Stop them in their tracks. Hypnosis, Petra!”

Petra leaps into all fours and begins darting around you in tight circles. {What other pokémon does your trainer have?}

You’re so surprised you answer on reflex. {Me. And a tympole. I think. But Tim says they’re not good at fighting. I haven’t met them.}

{Oh, that one again. Back so soon,} says the watchog, her eyes fixed not on you but on Tim behind you. She almost sounds sad. {Listen. That tympole is terrified and you can’t take two of us alone. I’ll go easy on you. Mig and Lenora will not. Save your strength.} The yellow rings of fur around her body begin to glow again, and your eyes are inexplicably drawn to the way that the light chases down her body from stripe to stripe. {Look away. My attack will stop in five seconds. Look away, and then do whatever your trainer tells you. You’ll be okay. You can do this.}

“Dodge it, Charlie, and then use Low Sweep!” Tim shouts.

You don’t run forward right away. Instead, you stare at your branch and count to five. The translation of his command is something you’ve never heard before, but it’s easy enough to understand. You’ve just … never done it to an unarmed person before. This watchog is small. Her limbs could not carry a weapon. You’ve only ever sparred with those who carry boughs. She cannot deflect. What will she do instead?

“Come on, Charlie!”

When you look up, she’s done flashing. You walk up to her slowly. You’re supposed to attack now. It’s your turn.

{Hurry,} Petra says urgently. {Lenora isn’t going to hold back. Neither should you. I’ll be fine. I can take it.} She’s standing still, front paws raised, stance wide and easy to disrupt. It’s inviting, almost.

You swing your bough experimentally. You’re almost not used to hitting a living target; you haven’t sparred anyone but your father, and even then, you weren’t trying to hit very hard.

She’s not your father. Her muscles have not grown rigid like stone. Instead, the air leaves her body in a whumph, and you feel something crack. She was lighter than you’d expected. Petra arcs through the air and hits the ground. There’s another crunch when she makes impact with the floor of the gym, and then it’s quiet.

You can’t help it. You scream. {Someone help her!} You look up at Lenora, who’s still got her arms folded across her chest. You look over your shoulder. There’s Tim, who’s cheering you on. {She’s hurt!} You run over to Petra, who’s limp on the gym floor. {Hey! Are you okay?}

“Lenora’s watchog is down. Eight, seven, six—”

{Petra?!}

There’s no blood, real or fake. Or maybe the fur covers up the color. She doesn’t answer.

“Petra, come on! Get up!”

“Charlie, finish it off!”

You can’t you can’t you can’t

“Three, two, one! Knockout!”

You don’t have to. There’s a flash of red light, and she dematerializes.

“Migaloo! Your turn! Hit ‘em hard with Retaliate!”

Lenora holds out a pokéball in front of her, and her second pokémon emerges. You recognize her as a herdier. Like Petra before her, she’s perfectly still when she appears on the battlefield, but unlike Petra, you can see it already—beneath the tawny fur of her legs are tensed muscles; the navy fur running down her back bristles—she’s ready to fight. Uneasily, you plant your bough into the ground. Petra said she wouldn’t hesitate. But even though you know you’re supposed to be preparing, you can’t shake the image of her crumpled in a heap from your eyelids; it’s like it’s built there in wood and iron and stone. Dimly you hear Tim shouting at you, but you can’t make out the words. You square your shoulders, spread your feet a little further apart. It’s hard. The dirt here is firm, too solid for you to plant your bough. You won’t get a good—

There isn’t another warning. You and Tim aren’t ready. Migaloo leaps into the air, each leap clearing five feet at a time, and in an instant she’s removed the space within you and slams into you head-on.

You and your bough go flying back, but Migaloo was smart: she hit you in the head, not your feet, so your momentum sends you straight down instead of arcing up.

There isn’t time. You hit the ground so hard your vision sparks black and white. There’s pain first in your back, and then in your head, and then all over as each part of your body hits the ground in turn. But what worries you most of all is the way that your bough tumbles out of your hands. No! You can’t let it fall, not here, not when you have to prove yourself.

“Charlie! Get up!” Tim commands.

You’re staring straight up at the fluorescent lights of the gym. They wash over your vision, but there’s patches in it; something really, really hurts in the back of your head, where neck and skull meet. Why does it hurt so badly?

“Charlie!”

Your father, standing strong above you. The corded muscles of his arms stretched taught like stone as he helps you pick out a bough that’s too heavy for you to carry, watches you with pride in his eyes as you struggle against it anyway. This is the way in your family. You have to get up.

“We can’t lose here, Charlie! Come on!”

You have to get up!

“Take Down, Mig!”

You blink. The world is cut in half. A second later you realize it’s because one eye is swollen shut from where you took the herdier’s impact head-on. You can’t see her running towards you, but you can hear her footsteps. You square your shoulders, and then roll to your feet just in time to get a half-split image of her bounding towards you, teeth bared.

Plant your feet. Swing your bough. If you win, the pain won’t stop, but at least there won’t be more of it. Right?

You bat the herdier out of the way. Migaloo goes flying, but you don’t make the same mistake twice. Tim doesn’t need to tell you to follow up quickly. You’re already running up towards where you know she’ll land. By the time she hits the ground with a bone-cracking thud, you’re swinging your bough down again and again and again—

“And that’s a knockout!” says the man with his echoing voice. “Herdier is unable to battle!”

You blink. Your breath comes to you slowly along with your senses. Migaloo’s sprawled out on the ground like the other herdier you saw outside. Still no blood on her, you notice absently, but then—you rub the back of your head from where she slammed you into the ground and it comes back wet, sticky.

You hesitate. Your voice sticks in the back of your throat. You limp heavily on your bough and try to get closer. But not too close, in case it’s a trick. {Are you,} you begin, and then stop. The signs outside. What the purrloin told you. You feel pain all over, but how much of it is for you and how much of it is for her? {I’m sorry,} you say instead. But your words aren’t magic. They can’t heal her or bring her back to consciousness.

Tim’s shouting behind you, exuberant. “Great job, Charlie! We did awesome.”

You. There’s.

You feel sick.

{I don’t want this. I want to go home.} You try to keep your voice firm, but you can’t keep the tears out. You. You don’t want to do this any more. You want to go back to your father, the forest. You’ll get stronger a different way, find a different kind of strength—what this human wants to teach you isn’t what you want to learn.

But he’s chattering something to Lenora, not even looking in your direction as he holds something red up and points it at you, and your world dissolves.

The gym is gone. The people in front of it are gone. You’re grateful that you don’t have to see them on the way out. You think the purrloin would probably stare daggers at you and your bruises, at the real blood on your face that doesn’t look anything like the fake blood on hers.

In this strange intermediary space, you don’t feel your own body, your own pain. You just float. It’s peaceful, in a way.

You don’t feel your own pain, your hands have no form, but you can’t unfeel the sensation of the impacts—when Petra had crumpled under your bough, when Mig slammed into your head, when you smashed her into the ground in retaliation. Those feel as real as anything.

※​

When you materialize again you’re screaming.

{Hey, hey, calm down,} one of the audino is saying, a matrix of pink energy already fizzling in her hands. {Everyone gets hurt in battles from time to time. You’re going to be okay.}

She presses her hands to the back of your head, and the pain tapers off and then numbs. You reach up to touch it—for a moment you’re convinced that she’s simply removed your neck entirely—but you feel the muscle and skin before she brushes your hand out of the way. {I’m almost done, sweetie,} she says gently, and leaves you to stare at the red crust on your fingertips.

{Is Petra okay?}

{Petra?} She’s dabbing something on the back of your neck now, and even through the numb you can feel the cold liquid dripping down your back. {Is she one of your teammates? I’m sure they’re all fine.}

{No, Petra was …} You struggle to remember. Your mind is going in too many directions at once; like a splintered branch, most of it is going the right way, but there are too many details to keep track of. {She was with Lenora. She got hurt pretty badly. I hurt her pretty badly. I hit her with my bough and she wasn’t ready.}

The audino pauses. {Oh, you’re asking about one of your opponents?} One of the curly feelers beneath her ears wraps around your right arm, and she places both of her hands on your shoulders and looks at you. {Was this your first battle?}

You nod tearfully.

She squeezes your shoulders tightly. {Petra’s going to be fine, just like you are, okay? There’s nothing to worry about.}

{I hurt her,} you confess again, since she must’ve missed it the first time. What would your father say? And then the way that you hit Migaloo again and again, hoping that if you hit her hard enough she’d just do what you wanted and stop hitting you back—

{Shhhhh, sweetie,} the audino says, and for a moment you can almost feel the manufactured calm radiating from her feelers before it’s washed away by your roiling panic. {You feel all better now, right? And I’m sure that they’ve taken Petra to get looked at and she’s feeling just fine too. It’s going to be okay. You’re both going to be fine.}

You reach up to the back of your neck, and the skin there is unbroken, unbloodied. She must’ve wiped it away when you weren’t paying attention. You’re fine. You’re both going to be fine.

{I can pass a message on so my human talks to your trainer,} she says in her soothing, reassuring voice. Has she always talked this slowly? {She’ll make sure he knows that you’re new to this, and ease you into things better. How does that sound?}

That sounds like a good idea. You nod.

{Okay, I’ll do that, and I’ll try to see if Petra’s here as well, okay? You’ll be okay, sweetie.} You can tell she’s distracted; her eyes are already darting around the room. Why? {I have some other patients I need to look at, but I’ll come back and check on you in a little bit, okay? Just sit tight for now.}

Another nod. What else would you do anyway?

And then she’s already sweeping away, muttering under her breath, just a child how could they possibly—

The door swings shut behind her, and you’re left to hug your bough and scoot closer to the wall. The wall. You desperately look at it to distract yourself, does it have nice architecture, who do you think built it? But it’s white, and the paint is fresh and covers up any clue you possibly could’ve gleaned from it.

{First battle?} a voice asks from behind you, and you turn around to see a small blitzle, roughly your height. The bright purple bandage around her front leg clashes brilliantly with her stripes.

{How does everyone know that?}

She shakes the white fur of her mane out in irritation. You can tell she’s itching to put weight on her injured foot by the way she rocks back and forth. {You act very new to this.}

{Is there a different way I’m supposed to ask?}

She snorts but doesn’t answer your question.

{I’m Samson,} you say in a small voice.

{I’m Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains.}

The blitzle doesn’t seem to like to talk to strangers, but you want to know. Your father had never mentioned anything like this when he reminisced about his human. Was he just covering up the truth? {So you’ve battled before.}

{Loads of times,} Amara says confidently. {I’m my trainer’s best battler. I’ve helped her win two badges already.}

Wow. That sounds impressive, but you struggle to put into context what a badge even means. {Do … do battles always end up violent?}

{Not if you’re good.}

Her answers for you are short, curt, convinced. She says them with the same practiced air that your father used when he taught you, and there’s something vaguely reassuring in her enunciation—she surely knows these truths deep down if they surface so easily now.

If she knows so much, maybe she can answer the question the purrloin from before didn’t have time to explain. {Why do they make us hurt each other?}

{We’re fighting for them,} she says simply. {They are too fragile to do it alone, so we help. That’s our duty.}

{We’re fighting for them,} she says simply. {They are too fragile to do it alone, so we help. That’s our duty. And that's what we all want, right? A duty.}

That does make sense. Your father spoke with pride about how he learned to lift blocks of concrete, and enormous steal beams, how one day with enough practice you’d be the same way. A human could never do that alone, not without help from someone very strong. But you think of Petra sprawled out on the ground, and Migaloo, and all of the humans and pokémon sprawled out around the gym. {Do you … are you proud of your duty, then?}

{To protect my trainer? My partner? Am I proud?} Amara bows her head, her mane sparking fiercely. {More than anything.}

※​

Crack.

The first thing you register is something warm and wet dripping out of your nose. The pain comes shortly after, and then lastly there’s Tim, your trainer, your partner, solidifying in your vision. He’s breathing heavily and the hand he used to strike you is clenched into a fist.

“Embarrass me like that again,” he says coldly, “and losing will be the least of your problems.”

※​

Chapter title + poem used in this chapter are roughly translated from "Bani Adam".
 
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Dragonfree

Ace Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
“That … was a hard fight. I expect that the ones ahead will be even harder on you. If anyone wants to leave after that, please. Let me know now or at any time, or don’t let me know at all, just—don’t feel like you have to stay. I will leave you outside of your pokéballs for as often as I possibly can, and if you do not return, I won’t ask why. It’ll be your choice.”
Ooh, is this N. Are we going to see Carnel again.

The POV here is a lot of fun; very alien, especially with them being so unnerved when flesh creatures contort themselves into different shapes. Gathering this is Klink.

“I would be a shameful friend if I tried to guilt you after all you’ve done for me,” the human says. His voice is very quiet. It almost doesn’t make it through the gentle klink of Leader’s teeth on Follower’s. “If anything, I should accompany you for some time, and follow the route you chart for me. Would you like me to walk with you back to the joltik colony, Peal?”
Love this bit of N going a bit above and beyond, because of course he would.

{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.}
Carnel! Best rock!

It’s a bit nostalgic, going back to the cave. The thunderlegs chirps out joyously and runs back to his brood, and they all squeal out, a yellow sea parting to welcome him home. Just before he vanishes into the fuzzy depths, he bolts back over to the two of you, his blue eyes pinned only on the flesh.
I am living for this cute Joltik content

“Thank you, too,” replies the human. He looks at a loss for a moment, and then presses his open palm to his lips before blowing something off of his hand and onto the thunderlegs.

Strange. He did not seem dusty. His feet, perhaps, but certainly not his hand.
D'aww.

When they sweep out, you look around, and you realize the stonesinger is gone too. The flesh either hasn’t noticed or is pretending not to. You aren’t sure. 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.
Huh. Don't think I'm actually picking up on why/how Carnel left here. I'm sure you're implying something here and I'm just too tired to get it right now.

I'm kind of curious why N is battling Hilda at all here - I'd been figuring any fighting he was doing would be with Pokémon that do feel up to it if any, but if not it's somewhat odd to think either that N would just decide to have a battle with her even though the Pokémon don't really want to or that she would 1) somehow force him into a battle, but 2) still leave N to be on his way after she beats him. I can just about picture Hilda just trying to get her Pokémon to physically stop N at all costs and him calling on his friends to defend him, but if that were the case I would've expected once she wins the battle she would restrain him and call the cops, or whatever she's going for? I imagine we'll get more insight into this later.

N chews on his lip. Horrifying. If he trying to subsume it? You look away until he finishes. “I don’t think Hilda grew up happy. Her—the people, the people she expected to protect her failed to do so. She grew up believing that strength gets you what you want, and what she wants now is to make sure no one else has to suffer like she did. If she can climb to the top of Unova, she can make sure that only pokémon who want to battle will do so, that the humans already in power will understand their wrongdoings and right their wrongs.”
Interesting. So Hilda does want to fix the world. Does N just think she won't be able to do it, even with a legendary's help?

Though of course we've seen Hilda and how she doesn't really listen to what her Pokémon want either, so perhaps any solution driven by her willpower would inevitably be incomplete and meaningless.

{Hmmm, we did not mean that. The geartrain has a different equivalence. That equivalence is called biggear problem,} you tell the human. {Do not confuse with biggear problem.} 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.
Love this. I'm a fan of languages and how sometimes the same word means multiple things and you don't even really think about it until you talk to someone who speaks another language that carves reality at different joints.

{Questions are part of optimal design.} Half a rotation more. He is patient. So are you. {Geartrain solves problems that gearling cannot. Many gears together solve many problems. We can reach a greater solution.} Hmmm. {There are two types of problems. First: easy to solve and check. Second: solving is hard; checking, easy. To solve well you must differentiate. This is the most optimal design.}
I see Klink believe that P != NP

Oh no. No, that’s not what you meant at all. Leader stops abruptly. Follower, shocked, grinds to a halt—it’s not like you had a choice in that.

He flinches back. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Grind grind grind. Follower needs to get back in line. No. Leader needs to lead correctly, not disappoint the soft ones with poor logic. No. Both need to reconsider.
This POV is so good.

So, so tickled by the fully in-character Klink explanation of algorithmic complexity as an intuitive concept for them.

Hmm. Flesh does not understand this very well, but the geartrain made this connection long ago, understood what it was that ruled Unova. The Vast White and The Deep Black. What you know the world is and what you wish it could be. Yin and yang. They are like you. One is Leader and one is Follower. When the mesh is good it is sometimes difficult to tell which is which.
Ooh, very good! Such a Klink way of thinking about them.

That is when you decide. He and you do not share a shape. He is flesh and you are not. You are already complete with Follower and Leader. And yet. You will follow him to the ends of the earth, until he finds a way to solve the world.

{This one will stay with you.}

Something in his face goes slack with surprise.

The answer to his question is so abstract that all of the gearling in your cave could try it and not find an answer and yet—the answer that you have given, and you alone, seems sufficient.

That solution seems inoptimal, but it also seems correct.

You get the feeling that he’s a lonely type, even for a human. Humans are lonely by nature, even if they don’t want to be. They don’t get to hold close to one another like the gearling do. Every interaction for them seems to be sparse, sacred, precious. It’s probably why they talk so much. They have to make it count. But you don’t get why they’re so lonely but still push strangers away, people who want to help.

“You don’t have to. Please, Spur. Don’t feel like you have to.”
There's that emotional punch. Oh, N. You are so pure.

There is an easy answer to the biggear pairing problem, one you never thought about until you saw this human and his flesh: if you cannot find a gear that will match you, then you will break the rules and forge your own.
Good chills!

Really enjoyed this one all around. The POV is just fantastic; Spur has such a great entirely different way of thinking about everything and I love that you made a Pokémon slowly and haltingly explaining math to N absolutely gripping. I wasn't sure I was going to finish this chapter tonight but oh hey there's the end.

Also, N is just so lovely here and cares so much. He's having this whole emotional journey and it's all described as weird and grotesque flesh movements because eugh why are they so soft and deform themselves and it's great. I'm really fond of the way this conversation plays out, N mistaking Spur's exact point a couple times and Spur having to explain better - it really shows how hard N is listening, really trying to understand what Spur is going for and make sure he's got it right. Communicating between their different ways of thinking is weird and hard but they take the time to communicate anyway and come to a real understanding as a result.

I may not be super-coherent here, I really need to be getting to bed, but all in all this was a great chapter and I enjoyed it a lot.
 

Dragonfree

Ace Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
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.
This confuses me a bit. First you call the sounds of the Pokémon in the Pokémon Center "chatter"... but then you say the good thing about gyms is the only hisses of pain are your own, which is odd both since "chatter" doesn't sound at all like it refers to hisses of pain, and also why would gyms of all places be his go-to example of something not involving hisses of pain?

“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—”
Fascinating! Hilda seems to be concerned for N while he's oblivious to the humans seeing him who might be tipping off the police. Really looking forward to seeing more of their interactions.

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.
Still here for all Joltik and Carnel content.

“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.
This is lovely.

“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.”
N continues to be good.

“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.
I bet this is all very bizarre to her.

“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.
Hilda! How does this not pique your curiosity! I guess she kind of figures N's just weird and can't really talk to Pokémon at all because Pokémon don't talk, and that all this is just some kind of attempt on his behalf to make her feel bad for not treating her Pokémon up to his lofty standards - but still! Literally just look at them talking to each other!

{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.}
Oof.

{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.}
Aww, Zara is very cute.

{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.
Huh, Genesect, I assume? It must be incredibly disconcerting to be stuck with people none of whom speak a language you can speak at all.

{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.}
So precious.

{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.}
Hmm, this didn't read entirely naturally to me - kinda feels like the author stepping in to turn the subject to battling. It's always a bit hard to do these sorts of transitions but I think this one could be smoother.

{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.}
:(

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

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:
Delightful! Zara is so pure.

I like how there's a recurring theme of stories that Pokémon tell each other, or at least find some inspiration in.

It's kind of interesting that there's a legend involving Tirtouga and a human with a ship, seeing as Tirtouga are supposedly long extinct and revived from fossils, but the ship seems to place it at like, a few thousand years old at the absolute maximum. Are Tirtouga not extinct here at all, or just super recently extinct? (Assuming this is an actual legend N heard from some other Pokémon, anyway, and not just a story he made up.)

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.}
More Pokémon with dragon legends! Love the worldbuilding of these little mentions.

The main pointed, and Zaratan laboriously turned towards the underwater treetops.
Typo!

{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.
Like the shift to using Zara's name over TR-62 after this story, where the name gains meaning for Reylin. And the connection to the Defeatist ability is neat!

{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.}
This, though, strikes me as a pretty funny thing for Zara to say. We've previously established, and are about to mention again, that he's really naïvely excited about battling and kind of dismayed N's not letting him yet and envious of Reylin getting to battle - so why is he delivering this wise, knowing line about how avoiding inconsequential fights is strength, with a completely straight face? I'd buy it if he followed it with "...That's what my human says, anyway," or something, but it feels strangely out of character for him to just be taking this entirely at face value here.

“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.”
What... does this mean, though, they literally can't talk to her normally? (And of course, Hilda doesn't listen to her Pokémon at all, but even that aside, it seems kind of funny for her to say this given she can't understand any of them.)

“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.”
Ah, there we go. I actually like this, that it hits a sore spot and she immediately thinks N's bullshitting and trying to get under her skin and there's no way one of her Pokémon just said that. Just very tragically human. (And intriguing! I look forward to learning more about the stuff referenced here.)

“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.}
It's a nasty situation, having exactly one person who can relay what you say, and the party you want to communicate with doesn't trust them.

Of course, Hilda's just angry, and she wants this to be nonsense coming from N and probably ultimately from a scumbag like Ghetsis, not from one of her Pokémon that she likes to think are her new family that actually cares about her. She's bad at treating them as people but she does love them in the sort of way people love their pets, and clearly relies on them for emotional support; it's got to sting to hear one of them say something like that.

This was a very interesting one. I'm starting to find Hilda pretty interesting as she's getting a bit more depth and we're starting to get a clearer sense of how she thinks - I've found her pretty unsympathetic so far but this last outburst is a good example of when I start liking a character more when they do an extremely unlikable thing only I feel like I understand why they're doing it.

Zara is incredibly sweet. I didn't find Reylin quite as compelling here, which is a bit of a shame; he had some good bits but I didn't feel like I got as good a sense of his personality or his feelings. We're told, abstractly, that he doesn't like fighting, that he assumes battles are already lost when he could continue, but I kind of wish we got to actually see that from his point of view, experience how it makes him feel, rather than just being told vaguely after the fact that he doesn't like it - even if it were only in the form of brief flashes of memories. Similarly, we're told that he's lonely, but I don't entirely feel like he seems all that lonely for most of the chapter - apart from one brief paragraph on meeting Zara again, he doesn't even seem all that enthusiastic for someone who hasn't gotten to talk to anyone in months/years! Yes, it brings back some painful memories, but when it's the first conversation of any kind you've been able to have in a long, long time? The only conversation you're going to be able to have for who knows how long?

I also think you could have made his reasons for staying (for now) stronger - it's there, but I feel like him asking Hilda why she didn't just leave her family could be a real gutpunch but doesn't entirely have a lot of impact as is. If anything, it feels kind of odd, since Reylin himself is staying with Hilda even though he doesn't like it. What you're going for, I assume, is that Reylin thinks of himself and people like Zara/Zaratan/Hilda as just fundamentally and irreconcilably different - he can't leave, but obviously people like them would and it's inconceivable that they wouldn't. But I don't think you quite establish that way of thinking strongly enough over the course of the chapter to make it 100% convincing, to me. (And - is there really nothing else he'd want to ask Hilda before that? Like, "Hey, do you think maybe I can do fewer battles?")

Really digging that we're getting more N at this stage of the fic and seeing more of him and Hilda and getting more of the core conflicts here. I wonder how different the experience of this story would be if one actually read it backwards, in chronological order.
 

OldschoolJohto

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Responding to previous chapters first, then the new one!

General thoughts on the Inari revision: overall, better! I like that we get a little more on Hilda, Rhea, and Tourmaline. It makes sense that Inari’s brother isn’t dead, just invisible and gone. The yogurt scene was cute. ❤️ Though I worry about Tourm ingesting tear gas. :c

You were born from the earth nine hundred and twelve thousand, eight hundred fifty-four nights ago.
Strong opening! I knew who our speaker was pretty quickly.

From the moment that the blood touched your skin, you were one life, one pain.
It’s interesting how important this relationship was to them and how little we know about “Red.” Since N talks about it directly and sigilyph-fren speculates about their new purpose NOW, it would be nice to get an indication of what they thought their purpose was before.

But you remained, your skin a multicolored farse of what the land used to be.
Oh no sadness.this plays into the loresinger identity well, though: they keep the records.

The sun rose and fell around you, burying a tragedy two thousand years in the making until only the dunes remained,
The wording here is a little odd. Is it that the burying took 2k years or that there was 2k years of lead up before the humans died?

guarding the castle you once served
Again, wondering what their role was.

Three is unsatisfied with that. You sense that much. Even if they no longer have the movement to convey it, it lies in their voice. {Nothing new?} Three says scornfully. {Then give us something old, loresinger. You who have seen so much.}
I liked the dynamic here. They remind me of The Labyrinth a little. (Jim Henson, not Del Torro.)

The dragon then swallowed the ocean inside of herself, and the battle raged within her chest, so that through her, the land grew peaceful once more.
I liked this reimagining of the original dragon myth.

With her wings she tamed the wind
In the other lines, she’s creating more than taming. This one feels especially strange since she already tamed the storm by eating them.

Where she had once wept, creatures emerged. The land that she had watered gave way to life, and the dragon witnessed this with both awe and pride.
The pacing in that first sentence is funky—makes it feel like life is emerging twice.

like a seedling in the shadow of a red rock, it could not grow strong.
Don’t underestimate—

the Dragonmother gave up the last of her breath and turned to stone.
I was momentarily confused because I wasn’t sure if this unleashed the storm of not. Might be nice to get more about how the planet with Life responded differently to the unleashed storms from planet with just the dragon mom.

Forgive me, dear sibling,” said Stormdancer, bowing low. “This is all I know how to give.”
Every time I see these words, it gives me a little chill. AND I forget where they’re from and start wondering if it’s a reference to TS Elliot somehow. Then I remember. You’re quoting yourself and I’ve read it, lol.

The clouds themselves hushed, but she sang for Human and paid the oncoming storm no heed.
I don’t think these two ideas are in opposition!

When you speak, all creatures in this world will listen. This is the gift we share.”
I like how this parallels the zoroark myth.

He who plays at having a voice, speaking to the voiceless, claiming to know the secrets of dragons and telling us a new ending to our own story. You humans are all the same, trying to put words into our mouths.
Oooof.

“If you want me to leave, tell me, and I will immediately go.”
Still modeling good consent. Good job, bb.

For one gifted with voice, he seems to have no weapons with which to use it.
This could be teased out more. It’s not that he has no weapons, it’s that he hasn’t used his voice to force others to be his weapons.

and sinks up to his ankles, an offering to the desert.
Is it an offering if he’s not stuck? What does the desert get to keep in this scenario? Maybe if something has fallen from his pocket or her lost a shoe.

an unseen wind
Isn’t being normally unseen? Maybe an imagined wind?

The stars glisten in the shine of his eyes; there’s liquid there, enough for a reflection.


Hesitant, almost, when he says, {Our mother gave out many gifts, but remember this, dear sibling: she gave gifts of strength, not power. You must never forget that. Strength allows you to endure pain. Power lets you inflict pain on others. Now that you have my gift of blood, you must learn the difference, or else lose yourself.}
A good lesson and a good distinction. Reminds me of conversations about race and power the roommates and I had after the election. Sometimes it’s hard to see what power you urge until you do harm with it. :-/

I’m also noticing—the humans wouldn’t have heard or understood this final message, would they?

You haven’t seen many human smiles, but this is certainly sadness in the shape of one. {The dialect of sand is my native tongue.}


Do you think they would? I find that this gift of mine is a power, not a strength. In being able to speak your tongue, I cannot help but hear, but I cannot help here.}
💔

everything seemed so simple, so black and white.
Ha!

My voice cannot convince them. I wonder if a better human might be able to do more; or perhaps if a pokémon with the power of Voice might’ve been a better messenger than a human with the ability to listen.}
This is real. It also feels like an attempt to escape destiny.

And … I don’t know why you were made, but I think it was to fight.
Why does he think this?

But this time, humans are the ones who are making them suffer.
I’m not sure what the dysfunction was. What came before? Just the elements?

You would make them suffer?}
This could be teased apart more, too. Latch onto that “we.”

The questions tumble out, all the ones you haven’t pondered since you first heard this story. They spill from him with the force of having been pent-up for centuries, and yet this human is so young. This strange one carries the sandstorm inside of him. It matches your clay exterior well. {When she was the first to invoke the nocturne lament.
I think his first sentence of dialogue wants to come at the top of the paragraph.

What he asks is a pure ideal.
I like this switcheroo—he had to become a hero of truth.

One is the truth, and one is what we wish it could be. I have seen two thousand years and I could not tell you which is which.}
I’m not sold on this. Would anyone wish Z’s version were true?

But neither of you ever asked or took, only gave.
❤️ This makes me think again that they weren’t necessarily created to fight.

The human nods, but he doesn’t look convinced. {That was the mistake the king made. Stormdancer’s magic was not in her throat, but in her voice,} he replies softly.

You think of the day that you first heard the dragons roar. You survived. You stayed.

The tremor stills. Unaware, perhaps, the human does as well.
Lots happening in these few lines. So I get that his conviction in an ideal faded, so Zek has gone quiet. But I’m not sure why his conviction is slipping here. It also seems like Siggy knows what this is, and it’s strange that they don’t react.

Whether Stormandancer sang each year until her voice grew ragged and her gift flowed out of her and into the humans,
I didn’t get this from the first version of the story that Sig told! It cuts off before this.

She chose to divide herself into two, so that there would always be one in the world to understand her. One became two so that two could be like one.}


Because Stormdancer inherited more from our mother than just her Voice: she took our mother’s burden. To be understood by the world you must give it some of yourself.}
I think the colon should come after burden instead of after voice.

But the most important questions, the ones that lived through the suns, were always the ones that began with why.
But at the beginning of this paragraph, they’re dismissing his why question.

He is strong enough to endure it, to change this land,
What does it mean that he’s strong enough to change the Iand?

That is what the winds always do, even to the tallest rock.
Oof, yes.

If this desperate child who has turned to a legend that grew still thousands of years ago gets nothing else out of this, he must understand this.
This one is hard for me to parse.

If you want to change the world, you must sacrifice,” he replies, but you see that in him the words are inert; they do not spark his torch into flame. “Meloetta knew that, or she discovered it, on the night that she gave humans Voice. And the Dragonmother saw that as well, in your story, where she chose to give up her whole form so that she would no longer be without equal.”
Ah is this a new addition? Much clearer for sure. And I don’t think it’s inaccurate: it’s one thing to intellectualize and another to internalize.

That is fair, you decide. There’s only so much to be learned from a single night of stories, only so much room for a mind to change.
S E E D S

Legends say that the Twin Gods draw strength from conviction—but you have always found it such a distinctly odd, distinctly mortal idea that this would be unique. All things draw strength from conviction; all things matter only as much as people think they do. Once you live enough suns and see what sinks, what stays, this simple fact becomes undoubtable.
I like this! Reminds me of Cynthia talking to Chris a little.
 

OldschoolJohto

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
New chapter!

I remember you talking about this one (Charlie!) so it was fun to see it come to life.

Up close, his hands are uncalloused—they remind you of yours when you were younger, still too young to practice swinging his bough.
Oh, I love this. He thinks he’s unpracticed.

I’m Tim,” says your new human. “Your name is Charlie.”

That isn’t quite a pronunciation you’ve heard before. {Samson,} you repeat. A little slower, for emphasis.
“That’s a new one!” 🙃

He doesn’t quite
Lots of quite!

it makes you struggle. Your father could lift it with one hand. When you can do the same, you’ll be ready.
I’m not sure about “makes you struggle.” Maybe even "You struggle with its weight.” But I love this expansion of their lore and how becoming physically strong becomes almost like a measure of time.

but there’s a pair of pidove overhead discussing the wind patterns, a purrloin calling out mockingly to a lillipup as she turns tail and climbs nimbly up a gutter
I liked these details!

It’s a nice town that he lives in, you remark to him. Very good architecture. The craftsmen is impeccable, and—he’s already ahead of you. You hurry to catch up.
Aww baby. This also implies these babies are building towns somewhere in the forest.

His human still comes to visit sometimes, a burly man whose hair has turned grey.
Aww that’s sweet. I wondered why dad was in the forest!

Oh! It’s a continuation of the first sentence. They’re all saying something together. That’s nice of them.
🙃

The pokémon by this sign is also a pidove. {It’s a faint-in,} she trills nervously.

{A what?} At first you aren’t sure if you heard correctly.

{A faint-in,} the pidove repeats again, which answers one of your questions but not the other. {It’s a protest against gyms.}
I love the idea of this protest.

Is that? Blood?

No, you get closer. It’s just red paint, splattered around on the grass where the human is lying.
Would be nice to add a sensory detail here—smells wrong, chemical. Not blood.

how the human comes to visit and they sit and watch the river and the trees.


This is good, you decide. You can’t prove yourself to an unworthy opponent.
I love how timburr values shine through here.

She raises an eyebrow, and then snorts derisively. “Two versus two.”
Lenora can’t be cowed, and this isn’t a negotiation.

{First time?} she asks quietly.

{How’d you know?}
Babyyy.

it’s like it’s built there in wood and iron and stone.
I’m not sure about built. Maybe something like ... you try to push the image away, but it’s as unyielding as iron or stone.

each step carrying her five feet forward,
Sounds like she has five paws.

Still no blood on her, you notice absently, but then—you rub the back of your head from where she slammed you into the ground and it comes back wet, sticky.
🙃 Found it.

what this human wants to teach you isn’t what you want to learn.
I thought it was smart that this battle ends in victory and victory feels bad.

The wall. You desperately look at it to distract yourself, does it have nice architecture, who do you think built it? But it’s white, and the paint is fresh and covers up any clue you possibly could’ve gleaned from it.
I loved this moment. Sensible way got him to try to self-soothe. (Though what does he know about who builds things?)

We’re fighting for them,} she says simply. {They are too fragile to do it alone, so we help. That’s our duty. And that's what we all want, right? A duty.}
🙃

I wanted more reaction from Samson here.

Crack.

The first thing you register is something warm and wet dripping out of your nose. The pain comes shortly after, and then lastly there’s Tim, your trainer, your partner, solidifying in your vision. He’s breathing heavily and the hand he used to strike you is clenched into a fist.

“Embarrass me like that again,” he says coldly, “and losing will be the least of your problems.”
This came abruptly! I think it would’ve been more effective to see the nurse lecturing Tim. He’s all contrite and Samson is feeling a little better, like maybe this will turn out okay. And then when they’re alone—JK.
 
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Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Myth chapter! Really lovely language in this one throughout. It's exciting to get an origin story for why all pokemon can understand humans, which I know is a world-building issue that's been a struggle. And I love that we're digging more into the nocturne lament. It's been one of the most poignant and haunting concepts you've introduced in the story. I'm still trying to wrap my head a bit around what it means, especially with the new info in this chapter. Zahhak explained it as the moment of facing your fate. When N is able to invoke the words when he decides to summon Reshiram, that also seems to fit--making a decision, and accepting that the decision will have consequences that are yours to bear. The idea of shouldering burdens comes up strongly in this chapter. But I struggled a bit to connect the myth behind the nocturne lament, either version, to the invocations we've seen so far. In version 1 there doesn't seem to be any moment of facing fate, shouldering a burden by the Stormdancer. Her sharing of the gift of voice isn't even framed as a sacrifice, because the gift is shared, she doesn't lose it. And, she retains her gift at dance. In the second version, Meloetta makes a choice not to retaliate, but that seems a little different from a choice to give her voice or to face an enemy beyond her power in the way Sagaris does. I was a bit confused as to what you were trying to do with these two versions in terms of drawing contrasts. They didn't really seem like alternate, contradictory stories--felt like one was just the bloody postscript to the other. I didn't really buy one being truth and one being ideals.

This narrator is a little bit absent, but I didn't mind that much, since it's clearly a chapter about myths and stories and the narrator defines themselves as a story-teller. One place I thought a bit more character could have been drawn out was in the narrator's transition from being a sentry to a lore-singer. It seems like they were made for a pretty different purpose than the one they fulfill now. In particular, I'm interested in the idea of the narrator being created by humans without a mouth and their thought that anyone would be tempted to kill to gain Voice. Felt like those elements could come together to provide more commentary on the myths than they do at the moment. It seems like the narrator posits the destroyed kingdom as a more ideal time. We get a portrayal of human/pokemon harmony. But that was also a harmony without voice. So what sets the two eras apart?

Most of my substantive thoughts ended up in the line-by-lines this time, so without further ado:

Human hands pulled you from deep, deep underground and gave you a body to contain your breath.
I was a little bit confused as to whether the narrator is supposed to have had consciousness pre being given form and life.

Practiced hands gave you form. You were wet clay, shaped. Widespread wings to engulf the sky. Enormous eye to survey, to watch and guard.
Interesting that Sigilyph is made without a mouth, when they identify as "lore-singer." I wonder how they sing.

Gold you were, for the fields of wheat. Blue you were, for the endless sky. Green you were, for the towering trees. Black you were, for the glimmering night.
Pretty! Think this might be more snappy if you cut at least one of the "you were."

Ie. "Gold you were, for the fields of wheat. Blue you were, for the endless sky. Green you were, for the towering trees. Black, for the glimmering night."
or
"Gold you were, for the fields of wheat. Blue, for the endless sky. Green you were, for the towering trees. Black, for the glimmering night."

from that warmth your skin grew strong, to withstand any impact.
strong enough to withstand any impact, maybe?

The land and his flesh were blown away. Without the humans and their hands, the earth withered and rotted into the brown of the desert sands. But you remained, your skin a multicolored farse of what the land used to be.
This feels like a reversal of the creation myth, where the humans bring order to the world, and the dragons destroy it. Seems like in that era at least, the dichotomy is less humans vs pokemon.

*farce

so they lost themselves in the river of time
Wasn't quite sure what this means. That they're immortal?

This year is a halcyon, when the desert winds grow hushed on a rare night. You’ve seen it happen before. First the air settles, then the clouds roll in, and then the rain pours down. For a few serene hours, the maractus wander across the moonlit dunes, the spines of the desert greedily gathering all the moisture they will see for an untold number of moons.
Typo "a halcyon." Confused that you go from describing a year to a night?

This sounds very serene. Almost too serene, maybe? Don't big rainstorms in deserts cause flash floods and all sorts of chaos?

The wind is picking up. With it will come a sandstorm so great that you fear this entire world will be consumed. You have seen it.
I wasn't sure if this is supposed to be metaphorical or not?

You are older than the desert spines. You know what follows the rain in these parts.
You know what follows the rain in these parts, but more than that, you know what comes before.
These bits weren't really landing for me. What comes before rain and after rain is pretty much not-rain. If this is tying into the myth, the connection wasn't coming through for me.

After all, you are the loresinger.
I would have been interested in exploring this more. As I said earlier, it's a bit odd that the loresinger wasn't given a mouth! And nothing in their original purpose that the narrator described mentioned lore-singing. So does their purpose change after the fall of their people? What was that shift like and what did it mean?

And she looked at the world, and she wept for it. In the flames, her tears seared off into the sun; in the cold, they froze; in the storms, they washed away. And even though she saw that it was futile, even though there was nothing she could do, she wept. From her tears rose a great ocean, which grew so vast that it absorbed the lightning, quenched the fire, halted the glaciers. The dragon then swallowed the ocean inside of herself, and the battle raged within her chest, so that through her, the land grew peaceful once more.
Lovely creation myth writing.I love the focus on the transmutation of the tears. It has the anthropomorphic quality that's so typical of creation stories, where aspects take on their own progenitive force. Love the verb choice with "seared off into the sun."

With her wings she tamed the wind; with her talons she scraped furrows that sprouted into forests; with her forearms she raised mountains.
The forearms threw me a bit.

With doleful, rheumy eyes, the Dragonmother turned to her youngest child. Human looked back at her, toothless and fangless, with no weapons to call its own.
Ooh yes, I love giving of gifts myths. Strong Watershipdown feels.

Weakly, Human called out, a pathetic cry that was consumed by even the faint sounds of the Dragonmother’s labored breaths.
Called out again, maybe?

“Forgive me, dear sibling,” said Stormdancer, bowing low. “This is all I know how to give.”
! This is very different from all the invocations of the nocturne lament we've seen before. It's a gift that's not even a sacrifice because the gift is shared. Much less focused on conflict and individual fate.

But Stormdancer pirouetted once, and then wove her limbs into a blinding tangle, danced so gracefully
Tangle doesn't evoke graceful dancing to me. Suggests the limbs are colliding, not in sync.

“My sweet sibling.” Stormdancer smiled. “Listen to yourself. You already have.”

“What do you mean?”

“Come back to me on this day each year, and I will sing for you my aria, and so share with you my gift of Voice. When I sing, the world has no choice but to stop and listen.” Stormdancer swept out one leg and curtsied deep. “The same holds true for you now, dear sibling. When you speak, all creatures in this world will listen. This is the gift we share.”
I was a bit confused, considering later bits of the chapter, whether as of this moment humans have Voice or not. Because if they do, why do they have to come back each year?

When they were solidified into stone, they were given no eyes, no ears, no movement.
the zen ones all turn
I thought they couldn't move?

“Yes, one that my friend a hydreigon told me.”

{Aha, and my friend the King of Unova told me you’re full of shit,} says Five
Heh, cute. Though "my friend a hydreigon" isn't really a kosher construction.

then mutter darkly, {Not that you can hear me to understand.}

“It was just a story I heard once,” repeats the voice, walking up to you and then folding himself so he sits cross-legged in the circle of the zen ones. “Forgive me, my friend. But your words do not fall on deaf ears. When you speak, I have no choice but to stop and listen.”

{Oho!} Three chortles. {You are a feisty one indeed. Look at this human, my brethren. He who plays at having a voice, speaking to the voiceless, claiming to know the secrets of dragons and telling us a new ending to our own story. You humans are all the same, trying to put words into our mouths. But we are of the sands, foolish boy, and we will not sit quietly while you reshape our history to us.} One laughs whole-heartedly alongside, and Five chuckles, but Two and Four are silent. Curious. Like you. He heard your story, but it’s more than that—he speaks like someone who understands what it means.
I was confused by this exchange. The fact that he knows what story the narrator was telling already proves he can understand them, right?

I was also confused by "plays at having a voice." I thought the take-away from the origin story is that all humans have Voice and that's why pokemon can understand them, but not vice versa. If N's playing at anything here, it's listening, not speaking, isn't it?

{We Darmanitan have guarded this place from your kind for centuries, and we shall do so for centuries more. Your soft words cannot delude us. You may have a human voice, but when you speak we will not listen.}
I don't fully get from the history we're given why the Darmanitan guard this place specifically from humans. Or is that not what's being implied? It seems like the war that destroyed the civilization here was a mixed humans + pokemon vs other humans + pokemon war, so I'm not sure why this place would be guarded from humans in particular. Or does this have to do with N being a paleskin?

He unfolds once more, extending long, gangly legs like those of a zebstrika, and he bows low. “May the sands be kind.”

{For you as well,} replies Three, almost without realizing, and before any of them can say anything else, the human pads away into the silent night.
Love N's manners. Also the whole elaborate desert courtesies they all abide by. The reflexive nature of three's completing the courtesy really makes this culture feel alive. I also love all the different ways you describe N's body language depending on who our narrator is. He feels so consistent, and yet each POV sees him a way that feels new as well.

{You are not like other humans.}

Whatever he was expecting you to say, it certainly wasn’t that. He exhales quietly, his breath cold in the desert night. “I get that a lot.”
It's a bit weird to have N not expecting that paired with "I get that a lot." If he gets that a lot, why is it that last thing he expected to hear here?

There’s the soft hiss of his footsteps in the sand, and he almost loses his balance as he steps too far and sinks up to his ankles, an offering to the desert.
Had trouble with footsteps on thick sand being described as a hiss.

He who plays at having a voice.” And this time, there’s no mistaking the tinge of bitterness that colors his words. “Pokémon never tell lies. The darmanitan can see it, even if I no longer know myself.”
Wasn't following this. I guess I'm still confused by the idea that N plays at having a voice. Maybe he doesn't have a voice in human contexts, but that's not something the darmanitan would know.

This human reminds you of the stone carvings your old human once made of the Dragonmother, of a serpent devouring her tail, always worrying away at herself, always gnawing. Never satisfied. {Can see what?}
Hm, I get that as a description of N, but it doesn't really seem to align with the Dragonmother of the myth? She's being eaten up by the storm inside her, not actively gnawing at herself. What destroys her is the magnitude of the chaos she's trying to tame. And I feel like that's appropriate to analogize with N, that he's being torn up by the magnitude of the injustice he's trying to rectify.

He’s not angry, he’s not awed, he’s not greedy. Over the years a hundred humans have looked at you rising above the sands, but few of them ever saw you as an equal.
And how does the narrator feel about that? I feel like the implication is their red saw them as an equal, since they shared blood. Did they interact at all with other humans in that era?

But one day, a war broke out between two nations. Seeking to hit his enemies where they would suffer the most, and wanting to end the war quickly before it would cause any more harm to his people, the king of one of the nations gathered his armies and found where Meloetta rested before the winter solstice. He sought to steal her gift for himself and his people, so that it could no longer be turned against him. And so he commanded his people to creep up on Meloetta as she slept, and they surrounded her, and they tore out her throat.
I didn't really follow this explanation ie why the king would think stealing her gift would win the war. I think because I don't quite understand how Meloetta's gift is functioning in this version? People have to go see her to get it, or else they don't have it? What does it do for them? Wouldn't killing her deprive their side as well as the other side? Tearing out her throat sounds like destroying her voice, not stealing it.

{Our mother gave out many gifts, but remember this, dear sibling: she gave gifts of strength, not power. You must never forget that. Strength allows you to endure pain. Power lets you inflict pain on others. Now that you have my gift of blood, you must learn the difference, or else lose yourself.}
Ooh, very interesting distinction to draw. Remembering that N says in the prologue, "There is strength beyond pure power."

This fic definitely shows a divide in humans having power and pokemon having strength. It's a dilemma that defines Zahhak, I think. He's definitely embracing the idea of power. In the Adler battle, he's making the choice along with Ghetsis to cause pain. But having both concepts of strength and power rooted in pain in and of itself implies an outlook that's either perpetuation or mitigation. It's deeply pessimistic.

hesitating to break the silence but having no other choice.
Why having no other choice?

{Do you think they would? I find that this gift of mine is a power, not a strength. In being able to speak your tongue, I cannot help but hear, but I cannot help here.}
I feel like speaking and listening is being conflated a bit. N's gift is that he can understand pokemon, not that he can speak to them, since technically everyone can? So his gift is a power here not a strength because he can't help? I can see why it might not be a strength, because it's not helping him endure pain but bringing him more. But how is his listening inflicting pain on others?

or perhaps if a pokémon with the power of Voice might’ve been a better messenger than a human with the ability to listen.}
Ah yes, this really seems like the crux of it. And it's sort of the project of eoe, to tell this story through pokemon with voice.

I kind of wanted to hear more of N's thoughts on this.

And … I don’t know why you were made, but I think it was to fight. Humans are asking pokémon to fight once more, and this time they’re asking all the pokémon.}

You’ve heard of this story a few times. Humans created pocketspheres for this fight, you know. And throughout the centuries you’ve seen enough of these fights that they no longer seem surprising to you, even if each one feels uniquely tragic. {Is there another war?}

{Of sorts.} The human looks distinctly uncomfortable when he adds, {But this time, humans are the ones who are making them suffer. We have found a way to capture pokémon and compel them to fight. Even now I’m unsure how we did it.}

{You would make them suffer?} You forget not to sound surprised, rude as it is—your thoughts are too wrapped up in your Red, who would never dream of doing such a thing. {But are you not …}
This exchange raised some questions for me. I find it weird that N assumes the narrator was made to fight without bothering to ask, especially since it sounds like the narrator wasn't? I couldn't quite get a handle on the narrator's relationship/knowledge of pokemon battling throughout history. And I think I wanted more interrogation of N's conflation of war and the situation of pokemon training. Wars aren't just about fighting, they're about dying. The narrator's red died in that war. What N's dealing with is different from a war in pretty material ways, and I feel like some interrogation of that, or push back from the narrator would be appropriate.

And no one who has crossed the sands has ever been able to answer this question for you. {Why do they make us fight?}

He exhales sharply through his nose. {I don’t know.}

The negative response does not disappoint you. You have pondered this question for a hundred years, and you will likely do so for a hundred more.
This confused me because the earlier exchange makes it sound like the narrator didn't really know much about or think much about pokemon training.

{As a child I thought it was a pokémon who sought to steal Meloetta’s gift,} he admits, sounding almost ashamed. {But as I grew older I realized it could have only been a human.}

You aren’t sure if he’s right about that. If you could steal his Voice, would you? Wouldn’t anyone?
! This was the first moment where I really felt like the narrator was a character, rather than a narrative tool to convey myths. Would love to have the tension here explored more. What would it mean for the narrator to have Voice? What would they do with it? What do they think would be different?

The questions tumble out, all the ones you haven’t pondered since you first heard this story. They spill from him with the force of having been pent-up for centuries, and yet this human is so young.
This description really resonates--I think it's so often the case when a teacher or someone older tells a troubling story, the person they've told it to reacts with an intensity that's sort of dulled for the one who's sat with the story so long. Though I would almost reverse the second sentence--I think the intensity of the emotion isn't surprising in someone young or new to an issue; it would be more surprising in someone not new to an issue, because people grow inured.

This strange one carries the sandstorm inside of him. It matches your clay exterior well.
Didn't quite follow how it matches the narrator's clay exterior.

{When she was the first to invoke the nocturne lament. Do you think she knew what it would come to mean? Stormdancer gave all of herself to help those who would never understand the true weight of her sacrifice, what it would one day cost her to share her Voice with those who envied her gift. And she helped a lot of people, yes, but do you think she knew how much it would hurt her?} You watch. He swallows nervously. Looks off into the distance. {And if she knew, do you think she would’ve done it anyway? Or would she have held her tongue, and simply watched the world suffer?}
I thought Meloetta shared the gift of voice, but retained her ability to dance. So it's not all of herself she's giving up?

I get that N's projecting here, but at least in the first myth, if she hadn't shared her voice, it wouldn't be the world suffering, just humans suffering because they have no gifts?

Also, is Meloetta's final gift the nocturne lament? Which is a gift to pokemon?

He is one with the gift of voice. Should he share his words with those who would sooner tear out his throat than hear his wish?
This strikes me as odd because again, it seems like from this that all humans have the gift of voice, and N's gift is listening.

What he asks is a pure ideal. If there is such thing as sacrifice, if a gift can be given with the understanding that nothing will come out of it.
Love this. Though . . . you had me forgetting that N's supposed to be the truth hero here!

{We have our two endings to the story,} you tell him quietly. {One is the truth, and one is what we wish it could be. I have seen two thousand years and I could not tell you which is which.} You look at him and his sad smile. {I prefer the ending where she knew, and gave of herself anyway. Stormdancer had two gifts, after all. From her the humans received their voice, and with it the power to be heard by all. But to pokémon she gave the nocturne lament, and with it the strength to see things through to their bitter end, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Her words carry great power—across all of Unova, no matter what language we speak, every pokémon can recognize the nocturne lament, and we know what it calls us to do, and what will become of those who steel the courage to invoke it.} Your singular eye blinks once.
I like this analysis, but to me it doesn't square with the two versions. The first version doesn't really seem like an alternate ending, just an incomplete one? The second one continues off from where the first ends, right?

Which one is the ending she knows and chooses to give? In the first version, there's no indication she knows. And in the second there's no indications she chooses to give.

The idea of the nocturne lament as the parallel gift to pokemon is quite sad, since it's a gift that can only come at the end.

{When you love someone more than you love yourself, you give it power over you. Whether Stormandancer sang each year until her voice grew ragged and her gift flowed out of her and into the humans, or whether the humans one day crept up and stole her song for themselves—I think she knew what her fate would be. The truth is she did not care what it would cost her, and not caring destroyed her. That was the price she paid for us to receive of her gifts.}
Ah, this states the different endings more clearly. So is version 1 where she knows and chooses to give?

it is when he stands still that you sense it fully: a sandstorm rages within him, so great that he will consume the whole world, forge it anew. His hands are practiced, calloused, careful, gentle—he will shape this world, surely.
Two really different images of N as forger and shaper. The first seems more in the mode of the Dragonmother, a pure bolt of creation. The second seems to be in the image of the narrator's own creators.

{She was sundered by a pair of selfish humans,} he answers immediately. {Two irreconcilable creatures arose from her stony form, and they have never touched since.}
{The Dragonmother was lonely. When she next awoke, she saw that all of her children had grown away from her, and she walked the world without equal. The earth’s children love their mother, but she has strength that cannot be matched: where she wanted companions, they saw only a goddess. She chose to divide herself into two, so that there would always be one in the world to understand her. One became two so that two could be like one.}
Ah, lovely. These endings feel more properly alternates to me, in that they're both on the topic of loneliness, but describe the same act in a vastly different way.

But here is the beauty of a person who is born to be a torch: they are the ultimately the only ones who can choose to set themself aflame.
Hm, I get that as it applies to N, but that's not really how torches work, so it doesn't quite land for me.

{Because Stormdancer inherited more from our mother than just her Voice: she took our mother’s burden. To be understood by the world you must give it some of yourself.}

He blinks against the cold wind, and then says, “Do you think that’s why she did it?”
I'd also characterize the Dragonmother as shaping by the world by accepting its contradictions.

{Stormdancer’s gift to pokémon,} you explain to him calmly, {has a specific power, even over us. I wonder—does it bind you as well?}

A slight nod. “I have learned many tongues, but in none of them can I say her words.”

You come to a halt in front of him. If this desperate child who has turned to a legend that grew still thousands of years ago gets nothing else out of this, he must understand this. {Then you are likewise bound. Until you understand her burden—and truly understand it—you will find that her words die on your lips.} When he does not respond to your unspoken question, you give it voice, gently prodding, {Do you know her burden?}
Ooh, so the nocturne lament can't be invoked until you truly understand it? No wonder Zahhak freaked out so much at the end of his chapter when he heard N speak the words! Though it's interesting that he speaks them and then still fails to summon Reshiram.

“If you want to change the world, you must sacrifice,” he replies, but you see that in him the words are inert; they do not spark his torch into flame. “Meloetta knew that, or she discovered it, on the night that she gave humans Voice. And the Dragonmother saw that as well, in your story, where she chose to give up her whole form so that she would no longer be without equal.”

{You do not sound convinced,} you observe.

This draws a tiny smile, strangely enough. Humans. You never know what brings them joy. “I’m not.”

That is fair, you decide. There’s only so much to be learned from a single night of stories, only so much room for a mind to change. The two of you walk a bit further. The zen ones and their domain receded into the night long ago.

“In our stories, Stormdancer and the Dragonmother both got to choose the nature of their sacrifice,” he says at last, refusing to look you in the eye. “And both of them chose to give of themselves. But … if the change I seek requires someone else to sacrifice in my stead—would you still call that sacrifice at all? Would that still be worth the change?”

If you could’ve died in your red’s place, you would have, without question. But that choice was never offered, and instead your sacrifice came in the thousands of suns that followed, as you endured the sands alone and lived on. {I suppose that sacrifice’s worth,} you say levelly, {depends on if you can believe in it.}
I like this early reprisal of N saying that sacrifice is required but not being willing to accept it. I quibble a bit with his literary analysis. Not sure there's any indication in the Meloetta story that she wanted to change the world. In both stories, her motivation seems to be protection. Or maybe mercy. And the story of the Dragonmother splitting herself doesn't really seem to me to be about changing the world. The origin story of the Dragonmother fits the mold better--she is definitely trying to change the world in that one, and she does so by sacrificing herself to the extent that shouldering the contradictions of the world will eventually be too much for her.

I do agree with N's objection here--sacrificing yourself seems fundamentally different from sacrificing others. The narrator's internal monologue is inapt here--the more on-point question might be, if saving the kingdom required the narrator sacrificing their red, would they do that? It's odd to me that their thoughts go to sacrificing themself, since that's exactly the problem N's articulating--it's not about him sacrificing himself. It's about him sacrificing others. So after that [{I suppose that sacrifice’s worth,} you say levelly, {depends on if you can believe in it.}] didn't land emotionally for me.

{In her generosity, Stormdancer was swallowed by time. History is unkind to the voiceless. But across the sands I have heard many stories of Stormdancer and the Dragonmother, from many who travel these sands.} He may be the first human in many suns to trade stories with you, but he is certainly not the first person. {For some, Stormdancer is a great ocean spirit, who at the change of the tides switches skins between a man and an enormous turtle and ferried many people away from the first flood. For others, she is the trickster, who took pity on a human child and taught them how to lie. For others still, she is the bravest of their clan, marked with the stripes of the storm to symbolize how they stand apart from the rest.}

When your red passed, for a while you had no purpose. Only he could command you to rest. Without him, what could you be instead?

The desert winds revealed the answer to your own question of purpose, as they always did. Like a fossil slowly shaking free from layers of sandstone, you came to see the sun again. You are the loresinger. You know the stories, and you pass them to others, so that those who live on in you will live on in others as well.

{For me, she is the muse,} you continue. {But which is more important: who she truly was, or who we believed she is?}

You cross the desert sands with him, waiting for him to return your question with one of his own. Night turns to day, and still you receive no response.

No matter. You have the time.
Hm, I like all this about all the different pokemon conceptualizing this figure in different ways, but I feel like the thread of the chapter makes a bit of an odd turn in these closing paragraphs away from the questions of sacrifice, gift, burden and inevitability, to this newer question of truth vs belief, which feels a little destablizing to the truth vs ideals dichotomy. How do they interact?
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
I was not expecting the chapter to cut off where it did! It didn't quite feel complete to me. For one thing, I was pretty heavily expecting that we were going to get a twist in the backstory. Like, it doesn't make much sense to me that Samson's father would tell his kid he's ready for a trainer without them having done any real battles in preparation. And, I wasn't even sure if his father really intended for him to take up with a trainer, or to end up with a builder like he did. So I expected to learn that Samson had run off to prove himself for some reason, and that that was why we have someone the audino considers to still be a kid in this situation. Lacking that, I found the set-up unrealistic. I would have also liked to get more details about Samson's home and background. I wasn't sure whether he and his father lived isolated, or whether they lived in a community.

I loved the concept of the faint-in and how you used the poem, the way Samson is kind of navigating these two parallel worlds as he walks with his trainer and speaks to the other pokemon. This action makes sense for early Plasma--though, I thought earlier chapters mentioned it being new that pokemon were protesting out with them? I guess there's a different perception when pokemon are involved in a faint-in vs a rally. I was kind of curious what Lenora thought of it, but I don't see an obvious way that could have come up in this POV, unless Tim mentioned it before the battle, and he seems unlikely to do so.

Amara's guest appearance surprised me! I was glad to see her, though I felt like the conversation was a bit brief, and didn't really further my understanding of Amara. The two of them are talking at cross-purposes. Amara talks about protecting her trainer. Feels like the natural question is from what? Since protection is very much not the vision Samson has coming into this. He's thinking partnership and creation, making things bigger than yourselves, becoming strong in a way you couldn't do on your own. So I kind of wanted more of a clash between these different conceptions of justifying a pokemon's relationship to a trainer.

Carrying on the themes from the previous chapter, strength and its relationship to pain is really being interrogated here. Samson was signing up to get strong, not to inflict pain on others. I think to really get into this, though, more needs to be drawn out about the pain of the gyms and the pain Samson suffers directly at Tim's hands. The bisharp chapter sets up a lot these questions, but this chapter cuts off rather than dig into them more. I'm not sure where ending on Tim's abuse leaves us. I feel like the whole argument of the bisharp chapter was that Tim's physical abuse shouldn't be the definition of what it means for a trainer to inflict pain on a pokemon. But by ending the way this does, it feels like that's what's being emphasized. The question you seem to be wanting to ask this chapter is "Why do they make us hurt each other?" But ending with Tim brings the question to "Why do they hurt us?" And the difference there feels significant.


na-šāyad
Love this title.

Thick tendons twined around the well-used muscles of his arms. He had grown strong. His human had gotten him there. One day, you would too. And that day is today.

So! You wait your turn, and when you see a young human boy wandering through the forest, you run in front of him, and allow him to catch you without a fight. And just like that, you’ve made it. You finally got yourself a human partner. You hope you’ve got a good one.
Why is today that day? I'm curious whether this is something decided by Samson, or his father. It feels a little unceremonious as stated, like he looked at the calendar and oh! Today's the day. Did he have to pass any test to be deemed ready? Or is he doing this behind his dad's back? I'm also surprised that he wouldn't put up a fight. The idea of pokemon testing a human's strength/worthiness through battle is a pretty engrained one in the fandom. What does Samson think a good human is? How would he (or his father) define that?

That isn’t quite a pronunciation you’ve heard before.
Is there an emoji for laughing and wincing at the same time?

Pushed my tympole’s shit in last time.
I am not sure what this means and not sure I want to know.

You glance down at the bough in your hands. It was the biggest one you could carry, and even so, it makes you struggle. Your father could lift it with one hand. When you can do the same, you’ll be ready.
Ooh, I like this insight into their culture/evolution.

But it’s not a secret. Never a secret. Your bough is a symbol for all the world to see. You hold it high, even though your limbs shake a little, and proclaim your agreement. {I will help you, with all the strength I have.}
In light of the last chapter, feels significant that he's promising strength. When what Tim wants from him is power.

It’s a nice town that he lives in, you remark to him. Very good architecture. The craftsmen is impeccable, and—he’s already ahead of you. You hurry to catch up.
Of course a timburr would care about that! Makes me curious what his home looks like. I get the impression that timburr and conkedurr like building, what does their own architecture look like? Is it based on human norms or something different?

You almost stumble in shock—he doesn’t realize the disrespect, you have to tell yourself quickly. He doesn’t understand what’s being said when he lifts your load as if you aren’t strong enough to carry it yourself. {I’m strong enough,} you reassure him, and raise your bough out of his reach.
Another nice cultural misunderstanding.

He’d put together many a home for humans and pokémon alike, and finally, when the time had come—he and his human both put away their tools and put themselves towards raising families instead of buildings. His human still comes to visit sometimes, a burly man whose hair has turned grey.
Aw! Sounds like Dad's human was a builder. I'm kind of surprised, based on that fact that Dad and Human are still in touch, that Samson's method of apprenticing with a human would be to get captured by a random one. Couldn't he get apprenticed to a builder in a more direct way? Learning this made me think that getting captured by Tim was something Samson did unilaterally, because I don't see his dad realistically endorsing that strategy?

THE EARTH’S CHILDREN SHARE ONE BODY,

You almost forget that Tim’s there at all. You stop short again. Behind the sign, there’s a human sprawled out on the ground next to her venipede, who’s lying on his back, legs straight up in the air. If they were curled you would’ve thought he was dead for sure. You peer closer. The venipede is hard to tell, since the carapace is so still, but the human has a rise and fall in her chest.
Oh! Love this glimpse at what early Plasma is up to. Bet Zahhak has all sorts of disparaging things to say about it.

How weak would you be if you had to be carried into your own trial?
"Carried" is fascinating word choice here, since I'm not sure Tim could actually carry Samson without the help of a pokeball.

He’s certainly trying not to. His hood is up over his eyes and he’s got his head down, hands in his pockets, everything.
I can feel how hard Tim's not looking here.

The pokémon by this sign is also a pidove. {It’s a faint-in,} she trills nervously.
Amazing.

The purrloin’s answer is quiet, but as steady as concrete. {The trainers do.}

{Why? Why do they make us hurt?}

Tim wrenches open the door to the gym.

Almost imperceptibly, the purrloin flicks her tail towards the last sign.

YOU ARE UNWORTHY OF THE NAME OF MAN.

The door slams shut behind you.
Like how ominous this feels. I'm not sure about "Why do they make us hurt?" Samson seems to switch from you to us too quickly here, considering he hasn't been hurt yet. Feels like this question would take on more weight later if he doesn't use "we" at the beginning. I also wonder whether he'd be asking "why" accepting the premise, or "how".

Lenora is taller than Tim.

That’s the first thing you notice about her. What had Tim said about her? She was a book person. Not a traveler, not a builder. You’d expected someone short, someone bookish—but she seems confident, imposing. You haven’t seen many humans before, but it looks like her forearms are more corded than Tim’s.

This is good, you decide. You can’t prove yourself to an unworthy opponent.
yay I love Lenora being badass. (Not sure what stereotypes timburr would have about bookishness. His father taught him to read, so he has an example of reading not being opposed to physical strength.)

the wooden beams in the ceiling lost their scent of pine long ago, but they stand strong.
Aw, love that he notices the beams. Feels a bit like Carnel noticing the rocks, that same sense of pseudo-personification,

She almost sounds sad. {Listen. That tympole is terrified and you can’t take two of us alone. I’ll go easy on you. Mig and Lenora will not. Save your strength.} The yellow rings of fur around her body begin to glow again, and your eyes are inexplicably drawn to the way that the light chases down her body from stripe to stripe. {Look away. My attack will stop in five seconds. Look away, and then do whatever your trainer tells you. You’ll be okay. You can do this.}
She's so kind!

You swing your bough experimentally. You’re almost not used to hitting a living target; you haven’t sparred anyone but your father, and even then, you weren’t trying to hit very hard.

She’s not your father. Her muscles have not grown rigid like stone.
Seems v odd his father would give him the a-okay to hook up with a trainer without any battle practice.

you feel something hard buckle beneath you.
Found this hard to parse.

you can’t shake the image of her crumpled in a heap from your eyelids; it’s like it’s built there in wood and iron and stone.
Ooh, I like that description. The solidity and endurance of the moment in his mind.

If you win, the pain will stop. She’ll stop hurting you. Right?
This read kind of oddly to me. Even if he's only sparred with his dad, he must have gotten bruised before, and so he must know that winning doesn't mean insta pain stop. And obviously, if he wins, he's won?

You think the purrloin would probably stare daggers at you and your bruises, at the real blood on your face that doesn’t look anything like the fake blood on hers.
Really like the sense of judgement and shame he feels here.

You don’t feel your own pain, your hands have no form, but you can’t unfeel the sensation of the impacts—when Petra had crumpled under your bough, when Mig slammed into your head, when you smashed her into the ground in retaliation.
This exploration of what instant healing doesn't reach is really strong.

She presses her hands to the back of your head, and the pain tapers off and then numbs. You reach up to touch it—for a moment you’re convinced that she’s simply removed your neck entirely—but you feel the muscle and skin before she brushes your hand out of the way. {I’m almost done, sweetie,} she says gently, and leaves you to stare at the red crust on your fingertips.
Oof, this felt uncomfortable to read.

like a splintered branch, most of it is going the right way, but there are too many details to keep track of.
Huh, I'm not sure how "doing the right way" relates to a splintered branch?

just a child how could they possibly—
Samson ran away from home theory increasing.

{I’m Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains.}
! Was not expecting to see Amara here!

{Do … do battles always end up violent?}

{Not if you’re good.}
Oh, that's interesting. I'm curious what Amara's definition of violence is here. Sounds like it means sloppy. But there's definitely some truth in that a pokemon experienced at fighting probably knows how to not make permanent injuries.

If she knows so much, maybe she can answer the question the purrloin from before didn’t have time to explain. {Why do they make us hurt each other?}

{We’re fighting for them,} she says simply. {They are too fragile to do it alone, so we help. That’s our duty. And that's what we all want, right? A duty.}
This felt like it came too fast. The question of "Why do they make us hurt each other" is one Samson had an answer to going in, right? Becoming strong. So I kind of need to see that answer get obliterated first. And the frame of "them" making "us" hurt isn't one I'm sure he would land on after the experience during the battle, per say.

Crack.

The first thing you register is something warm and wet dripping out of your nose. The pain comes shortly after, and then lastly there’s Tim, your trainer, your partner, solidifying in your vision. He’s breathing heavily and the hand he used to strike you is clenched into a fist.

“Embarrass me like that again,” he says coldly, “and losing will be the least of your problems.”
! Really powerful segment, but wait, is this the end?
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
irl has been kicking my ass but I am! finally! able to breathe a little. thank you all so much for the support and insightful comments!

this is just a nitpick, really: it should be “Yes, one that my friend, a hydreigon, told me.”
Oh yes, that's absolutely true! i can grammar good

Oh, ouch. This is N’s struggle in a nutshell here; he has a voice, he can hear what others can’t, but he struggles to know how to make people listen. He is “weaponless” in more ways than just his lack of owning a team.
!! yes!! this is finally the chapter where I get to be like, look, see, I swear all the comments about being Voiceless aren't just elaborate metaphor, I want to build this somewhere, it's going ...

Oh! So THIS is the story behind that phrase. It’s beautiful! I don’t think I can properly put into words how much I love all of this lore and how gorgeously written it is.
Thank you! This story has like 0.25 plot twists since I put all of my cards on the table chapter 0, and I've been really nervous about how this one would go off.

Oooh. Is this where the idea of kafara was born? The idea of protecting those who cannot protect themselves? I love seeing how all the lore connects!
Yeah! I struggled for a while with finding a way to have a climax for a story told backwards--what can you reveal that's somehow meaningful to everyone moving forward/back but that isn't already obvious from the beginning? I became interested in things that everyone understands that no one really knows--this idea that the legend of Meloetta and the imbalance that she created is deeply ingrained in Unova, but the bits that people end up carrying with them are all different.

I'm really glad you enjoyed! Your reviews are always a treat.

also wow Dragonfree you are writing entire theses here and I'm just playing with duplo blocks! <3 I've said it before but I'm genuinely flattered that I've inspired this much response. Splitting these up by post.

Huh. Is this just his arrogance or are dragons actually Just Different? Why?
Mostly arrogance. I struggled with how clearly I wanted to convey this--things like how Zahhak still sleeps in N's room--but he's deeply conflicted and what he says doesn't always match what he means. I wanted to play with this idea of pokemon self-dividing, oh, it's okay if they suffer but not when I do it--and then still presenting a character who works towards a common goal for them anyway.

But then Zahhak talks about how the heart they believe N has would never pity Zahhak and has no sympathy for the children of fire and thunder. Isn't that literally the opposite? If they believe he has a heart that doesn't sympathize with Pokémon, how does that serve as an explanation of anything for them? I'm very confused.
oh yeah! You're very right to be lol; that line ... doesn't make much sense. Rephrased it--I'm pretty sure I changed my mind midsentence for if I wanted to use the positive or negative and then didn't go back to see the beginning. Your first read was correct!

Think you've got an extra negative in here.
also very true

Kind of surprised a dragon, who prides himself in being a dragon and doesn't seem particularly interested in the ins and outs of human society, would even know about something as specific as slam poetry nights.
I sort of wanted to untangle the idea that Plasma has multiple forms of action, some of which are externally disruptive (i.e. the protests) and some of which are internally constructive (in my head open mic slam poetry night was just a place for pokemon to share creative exploits and find worth in something that wasn't battling). I think Zahhak would at least know about them by way of N, even if Zahhak thinks that the external actions are much more necessary. Does that seem fair? I can try to explain this more explicitly in the chapter but I have to figure out somewhere calm to put it haha.

It's not really an excuse, though, is it. N literally is not physically strong enough to help anyone at all in a fight with Pokémon. Does Zahhak actually think N should be physically participating somehow?
Mmm, I think the word 'excuse' is definitely unfair for both N and Zahhak to feel guilty over, but they do feel that guilt? N struggles deeply with the idea that being born a human somehow means he has a lower expectation of pain + a gentler life. Zahhak ... rubs salt in that wound.

Seems to be a typo.
fixed!

In what sense is Ghetsis hurting him, though, if Zahhak himself relishes fighting...? Seems like a weirdly academic distinction; Ghetsis is apparently neither actually himself physically hurting him nor compelling him to fight battles he doesn't want to. What sense is left?
I'm not sure if N is making a definitive statement on whether or not it's ethical for Ghetsis to fight with Zahhak here. And you're correct; Zahhak technically does choose to be here (and the question over whether or not Zahhak/Ghetsis represent good pokemon/human partnership is a different can of worms); N just deeply struggles with the idea that some people are expected to fight/suffer while others do not.

I enjoy the mental image of Zahhak essentially putting on a puppet show.
ahahaha same

I'm not sure this is the world you've been portraying in the story so far, though. Only Vaselva might actually fit the description of not understanding humans as the source of her problem. Wave was convinced pretty easily; Carnel and Amara both tried to run away from their trainers; the Bisharp certainly had no love for their trainer. I think this'd be a lot more convincing if we'd actually seen more of what N is describing.
That's fair. What I wanted to get across is that there's a line between feeling upset and being able to direct that anger into getting what you want, but I think you're right that the issue so far hasn't been putting a name to that frustration. Tweaked that line a bit.

I mean, this honestly isn't a ridiculous question. If the actual vast majority of Pokémon don't actually want to be helped, what right do they have to decide to 'liberate' them anyway? Isn't it a bit backwards for the Pokémon liberation movement to be led by a couple of humans and this one Hydreigon because most Pokémon just don't know what's best for them?
I'm not sure if a vast majority of pokemon don't want to be helped though. There's a gap in what Zahhak asks (there is no army of pokemon rising up?) and the social status of pokemon being correct as stands. Like you mention earlier, a lot of the narrators in the story aren't happy with what they have, and in their chapters they do convey why they aren't actively fighting for liberation, but that doesn't mean they're wrong to be unhappy or that they don't want help.

I mean... in this analogy, would most humans want some Pokémon to decide to liberate them from their desk jobs through violent revolution, despite themselves not wishing for anything of the sort? Probably not. (I know I don't want anyone to stage a violent revolution on my behalf, thanks, no matter how I might complain about my job.) If we actually accept these situations as analogous, I think that's an argument against what Zahhak wants? (Arguably Pokémon are being harmed much more than people working office jobs, which might justify taking action for the former that you wouldn't for the latter - but if you assert that it is basically comparable, I have a hard time seeing "liberate them regardless of what they think" as a defensible response.)
I think it depends on how you see a desk job tbh? I'm more than fortunate to be in a job that I love, but I've been in jobs where I've absolutely dreaded going to work--and although there was technically nothing stopping me from walking out the door, the need to feed myself, pay rent, have health insurance (lol sad employer-based healthcare sounds) was unfortunately greater than my discomfort. I wanted to poke at the "if pokemon hated training so much they could just leave" argument with similar logic--technically any of the pokemon narrators so far could probably yeet their trainers into the void, but what basic necessities do they risk losing with that?

but that's mostly semantics tbh, and the larger counterpoint here would probably be--do humans need to own pokemon? I don't think everyone needs to be liberated from their desk jobs via violent revolution because most people working at desk jobs are citizens, and at the very least have rights outside of their desk jobs and are recognized as individual people. In this society, pokemon do not have those basic rights. Ethics of battling aside, there's a movement to liberate pokemon because currently their humans can decide who they get to talk to, what they get to do, and even when they get to physically exist.

But instead, they proceed like the human response to this is universally to deny that it's analogous, and I guess assert that it would be right to forcibly liberate them from their desk jobs, but not to liberate Pokémon from battling, because they feel like they suffer more in their desk jobs than Pokémon do battling? That just doesn't make any sense to me at all.
This is totally fair though. I struggle to generate a diverse dialogue between pro/anti liberation here because I'm really not sure what the anti-liberation rhetoric even would be. I'll tweak a bit.

Huh. So despite Zahhak's insistence that he relishes and chooses this, Ghetsis raised him from the egg? (I was seriously getting the impression Zahhak was way older than Ghetsis up to this point, particularly from the way he describes being a dragon and Ghetsis being "old for a human", and talks about humans razing his town, and that he once lived in the lands to the north? What was all that about?) Everything he's said reads... pretty differently if that's the case.
oh big yike, this was supposed to have been cut out in edit rounds because it was too melodramatic to make sense. Mostly because I think dragons grow very slowly, so a hydreigon would be quite old, but also for the points you bring up later about how it's strange to have Ghetsis raise him from an egg.

What's Zahhak actually hoping to do here? What is a win, for him? I'm not entirely clear on what his plan is. It doesn't really sound like he's assuming N will get a legendary dragon to literally remake the world. Is he assuming he and Ghetsis will just take over the League by force and... then what? They'll abolish Pokémon training by law, and kill everyone who doesn't like it? I wish it were clearer what he's actually arguing in favor of.
Ghetsis' long-term plan prior to N failing to awaken Reshiram is basically the canon one--bank on the prestige and power that comes with being one of the legendary dragon's chosen comes with, have N beat the league and take advantage of the political/public power that comes with being champion, and then N outlaws training/pushes that as his main platform with a god supporting him. Ghetsis and Zahhak only go to the league post-Reshiram fail + N sort of sinks off the map for a while; it was never really their original plan.

An evocative description but I'm not sure what it means. Why does N looking guilty make Zahhak feel like he'll shatter? Or does he feel like N looks so guilty because N feels if he looks at Zahhak too long he'll shatter? Just kind of confused.
Fair! The latter, but I can clean up that phrasing.

This one was interesting, and I enjoyed seeing N and Zahhak's relationship, especially towards the end. But I'm kind of back to feeling like I inhabit an entirely different moral universe from the characters, haha. To me, the notion of liberating people who don't want to be liberated is on pretty shaky ethical ground and warrants a lot of examination, but neither N nor Zahhak seem to wonder about that at all; it's only posed as an entirely rhetorical question, brushed off on the basis that... humans don't rise up against their jobs even though they suffer in them.
I think that's fair! The moral universe of this entire setting is pretty fucked lol. I wonder if it really boils down to how I'm pitching liberation/the goals of Plasma--this is really the chapter where I need to set those up more clearly, so I can tweak the presentation of those ideas a bit more.

I think (and I could be wrong) the main arguments for why it's ethical to oppose liberating an oppressed people historically are:
1A) They're happy with how it is, because
1B) they do not want the alternative
And then the secondary arguments for why it's unethical for you specifically to be the one to liberate an oppressed people are:
2A) You are an outsider to the society and as such do not adequately understand the struggles of the oppressed people, and/or
2B) you stand to benefit somehow (primary examples I can think of are economically, politically, but not limited to those), because
2C) you are co-opting their struggle for your own purposes

I don't know if I've created a cast of narrators that fulfill 1A and 1B. Most of the narrators fail both, and I think all of them fail 1A. The second tier is harder to quantify--what is adequate, what is somehow, why am I dramatically underequipped to study this question?--but I don't really think Plasma/Zahhak/Ghetsis/N fulfill those criterion either. The primary fight isn't with trying to tell pokemon they know what's best for them; it's with trying to get humans to treat pokemon like people instead of objects.

But the line is muddy! Lol. I'm at the point in my life where I'm leery of people rolling into different areas and trying to spread their freedom and better ways of life, so I see why this could set off alarm bells? The line between a revolution and a shitshow is a really narrow one unfortunately, but I did want to pose an example of a compelling cause for revolution.

It makes me especially uncomfortable to learn that apparently the main actual Pokémon behind this movement was... raised by Ghetsis. So it's not that he's a Pokémon who came to these conclusions on his own and formed an uneasy alliance with Ghetsis to achieve the revolution he already wanted; he was raised from birth by a human who indoctrinated him to believe this. I guess it's Ghetsis who told him the story of Sagaris too? Zahhak maintains that if you tie a dragon to a stick he'll resent you and feed your limbs to his children, but it kind of seems like Ghetsis did tie him to a stick, and he just decided actually the stick was great and exactly what he would have wanted anyway.
Definitely agree here, and I'd had small!Zahhak in an earlier draft and then retconned that out since I did want to have a narrator reach this conclusion without a human's help--didn't mean to leave that one line in there!

Despite this, as I mentioned, I don't really think the chapters so far have entirely borne out how this chapter describes Pokémon's feelings on the matter. Most of the Pokémon we've seen truly and uncomplicatedly just don't want to be with their trainers at all; I can't imagine why Wave or Carnel or Tourmaline or Amara or Bisharp would say no to N's peaceful liberation proposal. Are they just a tiny minority? If they are, is N really right here? If not, why hasn't N been finding all the Pokémon with their experiences, gotten them to join his cause? Why does the movement seem to sprout entirely from Ghetsis and two people that he raised from birth to agree with him?
I think it's the line between wanting something and having the conviction/tools to go through and get it. The peaceful liberation proposal is, like you say, one that most pokemon want. It's also one that most humans are against, so if that peaceful liberation is to go through, someone will have to fight for it. That someone will likely have to be pokemon, and that fight will likely be long and painful--and ultimately, it's unfair because it really shouldn't be pokemon's jobs to fight for their own liberation.

I think these are really fair points and I've addressed/edited for the ones that I'm immediately able. Zahhak as a character is very muddy, and questions about his agency and what he ultimately wants are equally so. I'm glad you enjoyed, and thank you again for the engaging thoughts here.

I keep forgetting to respond to some of your responses, where you've asked for clarifications or I had further questions etc.; going to do so now before I get to the chapter. Sorry about the delay!
omg bless you. I always feel bad with these responses because it's like, how do I respond? Is responding with more reading the better play? Am I even responding with the right things? I'm not sure! Thank you for taking the time to double-double respond.

If you never doubt that you could fall short, that means you were always conscious that you might fail. The other half of the sentence, however, says that he never considered what might happen if he failed. These are opposite things.
oh, yup, I see where that sentence went wrong now. Thank you for clarifying! Fixed that.

This is how I'm reading this bit of the chapter: Ghetsis is having the referee held hostage so that he won't be punished for flagrantly breaking the rules in this fight. As in, he's got two Plasma members in the referee's box threatening to kill the referee (or whatever) if he cards Ghetsis, so that Ghetsis can go to town with the brutality and not worry about consequences. He goes on to sarcastically wonder about how oh, boy, why hasn't he gotten any cards yet? Truly a mystery!, rubbing in and drawing attention to the fact that obviously he has in fact been breaking the rules but nobody's going to stop him right now. Right? Did I just completely misinterpret what I was reading? Your response seems to be about how cops get away with committing heinous crimes, which I totally agree with and it's deplorable, but I can't see how that relates to this situation? Who's the cop in this analogy? (Maybe you thought I was talking about why Alder got away with shit? Which, yeah, absolutely, I buy that 100% as something that would happen; I have no problem with that element of the worldbuilding.) If I've misunderstood you completely, please clarify.
ooh, appreciate the clarification here; I think I see where we might've been talking past one another! My bad entirely; for all the reading I do I'm sometimes horrible at it. The point I wanted to make was that Ghetsis wouldn't stop if he got red cards. The referee's power is to politely ask trainers to stop if the ref thinks they've gone too far, but it's toothless af and is truly not a good failsafe when it comes to bodily harm. The main point Ghetsis wants to make here is that what he's done is cardable given the rest of the league's record--but everyone is reacting differently when he intentionally tries to get cards vs when Alder got them accidentally. And he's totally a dick about it with the sarcasm bits you mention, but the main point there is--it's absurd that the league has to rely on card systems for quantify how much pain is too much pain, especially for highly visible cases like what Alder's done/what he's doing. Does that make more sense? I tweaked the dialogue a bit to aim it more at that last point.

But does she think the new world N wants to create will only make things better for some Pokémon, ones that N chooses, rather than all of them? This was kind of part of the "I'm not sure what Amara is actually picturing as N's end goal here" concern.
Ooh, fair question! I can clarify that in the text--for the moment she thinks he talks good game but doesn't have the plan to back it up; she's distrustful of him because he has to have some ulterior motive.

That's not what I was balking at, though (that fits in with this world) - I was questioning the bit where Bisharp is concerned they'll assume Timothy's other Pokémon were also involved and put them down too. Doing that, assuming there were accomplices, seems to require believing Pokémon have enough agency to be planning and premeditating things, no? If a dog in the real world bit a child people wouldn't assume the owner's other dogs were "also involved" and put them down too, right?
This makes a lot of sense too! I see now where I misread the first one. I kicked this around a bit to see if there was a way to quickly justify Bisharp feeling this way in-universe, but I think you're right and that's a weird leap, so I took it out.

It reads a little funny to me here that Ace (I'm going to go with calling him Ace here, since he himself seems to prefer that name to Clover) spends a couple of paragraphs brushing off the idea that Take Down is excessive and then deciding it is anyway, without the sense that he's actually changing his mind about something he'd firmly believed? Like, he seems to very casually come to the conclusion that nah, it's too much, and that he doesn't want to be excessively violent, given he's literally just asserted that Take Down is fully warranted and not excessive at all and if you'd fought his battles you'd understand (the emphasis on the word excessive, after that's literally the word he used previously to say it's not that at all, compounds that feeling). Assuming you're going for him ostensibly believing this but kind of having second thoughts in the moment as some measure of compassion wins over, I would've assumed his thought process would reflect that more. As it is the third paragraph here sounds identical to how I'd expect it to sound if Ace were just in general genuinely determined to be mindful of not using excessive force.
I tend to do this thing in my writing where I have narrators be like, I'd do A! But then if I did A that'd be bad, so I'll do not-A. But ... blah blah blah and the end result is very muddled and they pick A and no one actually knows why. This is probably my worst one yet though, lol. I took out a few of the contradictions/inner debates here since I agree; on reread it really doesn't make sense.

The sparse narration here, with absolutely no mention of her pain or reactions or anything, really makes this more unsettling.

Telling, isn't it, how Ace knew the whole time she wasn't a threat and wouldn't be, and yet still maintained Take Down absolutely wouldn't be excessive, only maybe, maybe he could go for the knees as a small mercy.

God, it's so enraging just to read this.
Haha, glad these got across!

I really enjoy the way Rhea is just familiar with the whole process (and the fact she knew exactly the right thing to do when the police arrived, only for the police to of course employ unnecessary violence anyway). Lots of character and just sad worldbuilding in that.
It's genuinely rough! You can do everything right and still lose.

Hmm, where's he getting them wanting him to be sweet and subservient from, though? Seems kind of a weird thing to take away from their message - the bit about being rankled by the notion of a human saving him from what he considers his chosen path makes sense (and I'm tickled to see it here after my commentary on last chapter), but surely no part of what the liberation movement is proposing sounds like sweetness and subservience? If it does I'd really like to see a bit more explanation of what that is and why he perceives it that way.
I struggled with getting this one across--I don't think Ace has the best understanding of what Plasma wants. He gets most of his information from when he's allowed to work the streets and whatever Sam/the police talk about, so he's got a pretty twisted view here.

I'm having a bit of a difficult time with him simultaneously maintaining that this is a path he chose for himself and that Pokémon don't get to pick what they want to do in this world (and therefore the people who think Pokémon should get to pick what they want to do in this world are bad I guess?). I'm guessing it's not meant to be a self-consistent worldview exactly, but the contradiction is just so open and explicit here that I have a hard time reconciling it.
Oh that's a great point! I do think this chapter is a lot stronger if Ace believes that all pokemon get choice; I think a few other narrators are leaking in for that sentence. Edited that one out entirely.

...says Cheren, who will go on to pay no attention to Carnel obviously wanting to leave. Sighhh.
</3

Ah, good to see this clarified. At least at this point in time they really are just trying to make sure every Pokémon gets to make a choice. (Raises some questions re the previous chapter, though - Rhea sounds like most of the Pokémon she liberates don't want to go back, and like a lot of Pokémon are joining their movement. Maybe I just misunderstood what Zahhak/N were implying.)
I think you're mostly right! A lot don't want to go back to their humans but don't have the energy to join Plasma--lots of narrators like Bisharp who would prefer to just grow old under a tree.

But they really aren't! The distinction isn't whether it's a human or Pokémon that does the hitting, it's the context! A trainer telling one of their Pokémon to hit another to punish them or to take out anger would still be abuse (would that not be prosecuted as Pokémon abuse in this world?); trainers instructing their Pokémon in a battle is, ostensibly, a sport that they're willing participants in. It's just the same as how normally when one human punches another it's assault, but it's not when it's within the context of a boxing match that they choose to partake in. Even if there's a problematic system behind the boxing, even if someone became a boxer because they couldn't hold a regular job and felt like boxing was all they were good for, that's bad but it's obviously not the same thing as being assaulted in the street, much less being abused since childhood by an authority figure.

Obviously the fic's world posits that Pokémon are ultimately not the free and willing participants that humans like to imagine they are, which is a legitimate and interesting thing to posit. But it kind of frustrates me that even characters who are passionate activists for Pokémon liberation that we're meant to sympathize with (as best I can tell) never quite seem to regard this as the important issue at hand, and instead keep talking about things like this notion that the only difference between a battle and abuse is whether it's a human doing the punching. I think that's just kind of a weird strawman argument; it's strange to me that Rhea would make it here when she was just earlier so on point talking about choice and consent, and it's even stranger to me that that argument would stump Cheren, who was just earlier maintaining that his Pokémon do want to stay with him (so presumably he would also maintain they totally do want to battle for him, right?).
The context is definitely important! I don't think Rhea's parallel is perfect here either; she's pretty young--but to assume that most pokemon want to battle, you have to have seen a vast majority of pokemon who actually and actively want to battle. Rhea has seen a mixed bag; some pokemon have consented and some definitely haven't--for her the line becomes: what percentage of non-consenting pokemon is small enough to justify the system as-is, and when does it get high enough that it has to be rethought?

I did struggle to write convincing Cheren counter-arguments, so I think I'll tweak his response a bit in light of the context question you've asked here, and also because Cheren adamantly insisting that his pokemon do want to be there is ... ouch, oh no, lol.

I like this. I like her. I just really, really wish she had actually tried to confront Cheren about whether his Pokémon actually want to battle, and why it's wrong to make them if they don't. That's what this should all be about and they're just not saying it and I don't understand why.
I struggled with this one--she's trying to play it cool but she just got taken out by a police dog, she's under arrest and her friends might be too, and this guy was attacking her friends in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest. She's not stringing together a comprehensive argument, but writing this also frustrates me since, absolutely, there's a different situation where this conversation could've gone better for everyone.

Oof, Ace please. (Would he actually refer to them as her "pet trainers" if he thinks of it simply as a lot of people vouching for him, though?)
Very true! That's probably too condescending for him haha.

It doesn't sound like there was actually any need for either of them to attack - the Garbodor doesn't seem to have been attacking them at all, based on the description. So this is a pretty twisted image of bravery and protecting others that they have, isn't it - but lines up sadly well with how the police often operate. The Garbodor is there, it's an undesirable, so by existing it's a threat and that justifies the use of force against it. This is only very lightly implied here so I'm not 100% sure if that's what you were going for here but I really like it.
That's mostly what I wanted to go for actually! Sad sounds about how quickly we other those who don't look like us.

Two barks for yes and one for no is kind of surprising to me; I'm not sure if it's intentionally the opposite to the expected way, explaining Rhea understanding him the other way around, or if this is actually a convention that I'm ignorant of.
Nope, that's me messing up lol. In later chapters it's revealed that Plasma does two for yes since they don't want to assume consent on a potential mistranslation (and the two would be more intentional), which is why Rhea misunderstands here, but he should bark twice for no!

God, that's so backwards. She can choose her own path by... being forcibly hauled off by someone else. Which doesn't resemble any part of Ace's backstory, so I'm not 100% sure why he thinks of it as "just like you did", but.
noooo they're just helping her!
Ace doesn't think that the situations are identical, just that the ability to choose is (and he's wrong there too).

Once again an instance of a Pokémon choosing not to make much of an effort to make itself understood to a human who doesn't do so immediately. Perhaps that's a bit of a theme here.
This wasn't directly intentional actually! I was more aiming for broader themes of where communication fails, how messages don't get across, what stories actually get told--but it is interesting to see it distilled like this.

I'm a bit surprised the thing about Lucky doesn't really go anywhere. I guess Lucky is kind of why Ace joins the police force, but it doesn't sound like Lucky himself actually joined the police - I would've expected that to come up at some point if he had. So is it just that Ace felt he had to prove himself to live up to who Lucky was? What pressures did he experience to make him feel that way? Where's Lucky now? I don't know, it feels a little incomplete to me. When the chapter opened talking about Lucky I was convinced he and his fate was going to be key to understanding this character, but it didn't really end up that way.
Ooh, that's also a great point. I didn't really have a specific plan for Lucky; I mostly wanted a parallel to Amara or Vaselva, of being taken from your family vs willingly leaving. I'm not immediately sure how to resolve this one in the chapter, but I'll back-burner since this is a really good question--there's probably something horrible and tragic I can work in with the reverse chronology lol.

I thought the depiction of police brutality and the movement worked really well here. All these insidious, unnecessary cruelties that Ace just doesn't think anything of because they're normal and Well She Should Have Not Been A Criminal; the whole defensive POV of feeling like they're doing a dangerous, thankless job and getting called scum for it, while engaging in exactly the behaviour that earns them the dirty looks. The characterization of Rhea is great, largely in the details, the sense of how she's had to get used to this, the strength of her convictions and what she wants to achieve. She's really sympathetic and I care about her (and it's a tragic gutpunch that in N's new world, she will never see Tourmaline again), and the depiction of Team Plasma here with her as their representative is really good and truly feels like people on the right side of history.
I'm glad these bits landed though! I admittedly thought I was going to face a rough time for making the police too evil, but then real life ended up one-upping me a bit.

But I'm still kind of weirded out by the way the activists in this story tend to frame their position on battling, not around the actual great injustice that Pokémon are being forced and coerced into fighting, but around various other strange, weasely reasoning that takes the Pokémon's agency completely out of the equation. Every time they get to the topic of battling in particular, the characters seem to shift to arguments that battling is just definitionally bad regardless of whether everyone involved is enthusiastically consenting or not. For me this creates a really weird dissonance - I completely agree that in the world you've portrayed a lot of Pokémon are being coerced into fighting and that this is wrong, but the characters fighting against this within that world are persistently doing it using reasoning that's bizarre and alienating to me. In review responses you've seemed to agree that it really all comes down to consent, so I must admit I'm just kind of confused.
This one is tricky for me to write cleanly into the story. I think I've also logic'ed myself into a few different corners of what I need to argue in this fic vs what I think people will come in already being able to accept, and then accidentally leaking those onto what the characters in the fic try to argue instead. What I wanted to boil it down to is: Plasma exists as a movement to dismantle the training system because they think the training system is forcing too many pokemon to fight that don't want to; their broader goals would be pokemon citizenship, giving pokemon the same rights as humans, etc. A new league could later be rebuilt if it guarantees that the new system will not have any instance in which non-consenting pokemon are compelled to fight.

But I think on paper no human in this universe is going to be like, "oh yeah, I'm totally in favor of forcing pokemon to fight even if they don't want to". A human's answer to "do you know if your pokemon like fighting? do you really know?" is almost always "of course mine do; I'm not part of the problem", and in this universe Plasma's had that conversation and it hasn't gotten anywhere. If Cheren was asked if his pokemon want to fight for him, either in this chapter or when he has both Carnel and Tourmaline, his answer would be yes--the question of consent is the the most central one but it's also the one that humans literally cannot answer correctly, either broadly or on a per-pokemon basis.

So when it comes to addressing humans and trying to get humans to join the movement, I don't know if there's a reason for Plasma to focus on the consent specifically when talking to humans--both because they don't believe trainers can answer that question on behalf of their pokemon, and because they've seen plenty of evidence of trainers answering that question confidently and incorrectly. And Plasma also thinks it's dangerous to perpetuate the notion that humans really get the final say in what a pokemon's consent means, so a lot of the rhetoric intentionally skews instead towards pointing out the underlying unfairness that arises when you don't treat pokemon like people.

Does that seem like a fair explanation? I also don't want to be that asshole author who paywalls all the logical reasoning behind unreliable narrators making bad decisions, so while I don't have an immediate solution, I'm down to edit some of the chapters to try to make this more clear.

Love this bit of N going a bit above and beyond, because of course he would.
N supports his friends!

Huh. Don't think I'm actually picking up on why/how Carnel left here. I'm sure you're implying something here and I'm just too tired to get it right now.
N feels guilty that his pokemon might be compelled to stay with him, so he never keeps them in pokeballs and tells them that if they decide to leave, they don't have to ask him; they can just go. Carnel trails behind to look at one of the Chargestone Cave rocks and then Cheren captures him, so N assumes Carnel wanted to leave and doesn't look for him--the detail about Carnel wandering off got buried a bit in his chapter but I might tweak it to make it more explicit.

I'm kind of curious why N is battling Hilda at all here - I'd been figuring any fighting he was doing would be with Pokémon that do feel up to it if any, but if not it's somewhat odd to think either that N would just decide to have a battle with her even though the Pokémon don't really want to or that she would 1) somehow force him into a battle, but 2) still leave N to be on his way after she beats him. I can just about picture Hilda just trying to get her Pokémon to physically stop N at all costs and him calling on his friends to defend him, but if that were the case I would've expected once she wins the battle she would restrain him and call the cops, or whatever she's going for? I imagine we'll get more insight into this later.
Haha, rip, I never got why N challenges you in the games either ... I sort of cheated on this one and it's actually Hilda initiating most of their fights.

Interesting. So Hilda does want to fix the world. Does N just think she won't be able to do it, even with a legendary's help?
Mostly this! She definitely wants to change things, but N doesn't think it's enough, and they do have fundamental disagreements on what that change would look like. And tbf N's not sure if he's able to do it either.

Love this. I'm a fan of languages and how sometimes the same word means multiple things and you don't even really think about it until you talk to someone who speaks another language that carves reality at different joints.
I'm glad! I'm not nearly as trilingual as I should be but I also love these little quirks.

I see Klink believe that P != NP

This POV is so good.

So, so tickled by the fully in-character Klink explanation of algorithmic complexity as an intuitive concept for them.
I'm so, so pleased that this landed for someone who actually codes for a living. This chapter started off as a shitpost based on how N's always talking about "the formula that would change the world" and all those bits of his dialogue reads like someone cut up the table of contents of a math textbook, and then I doubled down on the pun of well, P vs NP differs by the letter N, and somehow it spiraled into gears giving a lecture on math. I'm glad it passed as a good explanation! I was actually a bit afraid that I was going to make an embarrassingly incorrect lesson here haha.

Also, N is just so lovely here and cares so much. He's having this whole emotional journey and it's all described as weird and grotesque flesh movements because eugh why are they so soft and deform themselves and it's great. I'm really fond of the way this conversation plays out, N mistaking Spur's exact point a couple times and Spur having to explain better - it really shows how hard N is listening, really trying to understand what Spur is going for and make sure he's got it right. Communicating between their different ways of thinking is weird and hard but they take the time to communicate anyway and come to a real understanding as a result.
This too! I really enjoyed writing the chapters with N for pretty much all the reasons you have here--everyone gets to communicate, everyone can take the time to understand, and ultimately everyone actually gets what they want.

This confuses me a bit. First you call the sounds of the Pokémon in the Pokémon Center "chatter"... but then you say the good thing about gyms is the only hisses of pain are your own, which is odd both since "chatter" doesn't sound at all like it refers to hisses of pain, and also why would gyms of all places be his go-to example of something not involving hisses of pain?
Chatter's definitely not the best word here. I cleaned that section up a bit.

Still here for all Joltik and Carnel content.
they are some of my favorite characters lol

I bet this is all very bizarre to her.
It definitely is! Hilda's got a pretty rough hand tbh.

Hilda! How does this not pique your curiosity! I guess she kind of figures N's just weird and can't really talk to Pokémon at all because Pokémon don't talk, and that all this is just some kind of attempt on his behalf to make her feel bad for not treating her Pokémon up to his lofty standards - but still! Literally just look at them talking to each other!
I think she believes N can talk to pokemon (he does know a lot of stuff that he couldn't have otherwise), but the things he says do keep pinning her in unfortunate situations where she keeps feeling like she's being painted as the villain.

Huh, Genesect, I assume? It must be incredibly disconcerting to be stuck with people none of whom speak a language you can speak at all.
Genesect! And yeah, rip, Genesect probably has no one to understand them at all, oof.

Hmm, this didn't read entirely naturally to me - kinda feels like the author stepping in to turn the subject to battling. It's always a bit hard to do these sorts of transitions but I think this one could be smoother.
That's fair! Tweaking a bit.

I like how there's a recurring theme of stories that Pokémon tell each other, or at least find some inspiration in.

It's kind of interesting that there's a legend involving Tirtouga and a human with a ship, seeing as Tirtouga are supposedly long extinct and revived from fossils, but the ship seems to place it at like, a few thousand years old at the absolute maximum. Are Tirtouga not extinct here at all, or just super recently extinct? (Assuming this is an actual legend N heard from some other Pokémon, anyway, and not just a story he made up.)
Ooh, excellent question! The lore here is sort of weird timeline-wise since it's this bad mash of our world and also canon--in this canon they trace sapient life (pokemon or human) back about ten thousand years, so tirtouga are probably closer to 5k years old/extinct. Writing this out I see that this is probably a very condensed timeline for fossilization to occur, especially since fossils are by definition 10k+, but I think this would be more holocene and less cretaceous as far as epochs go.

... the science is probably all wrong there, but I'm also not sure if I have a definitive headcanon for how evolution would happen if animals were magic.

I like how there's a recurring theme of stories that Pokémon tell each other, or at least find some inspiration in.
More Pokémon with dragon legends! Love the worldbuilding of these little mentions.
Yeah! I couldn't write a fic about communication without at least a billion nods to stories lol.

This, though, strikes me as a pretty funny thing for Zara to say. We've previously established, and are about to mention again, that he's really naïvely excited about battling and kind of dismayed N's not letting him yet and envious of Reylin getting to battle - so why is he delivering this wise, knowing line about how avoiding inconsequential fights is strength, with a completely straight face? I'd buy it if he followed it with "...That's what my human says, anyway," or something, but it feels strangely out of character for him to just be taking this entirely at face value here.
also fair! I'll tweak this

What... does this mean, though, they literally can't talk to her normally? (And of course, Hilda doesn't listen to her Pokémon at all, but even that aside, it seems kind of funny for her to say this given she can't understand any of them.)
Great point; I can rewrite this bit too.

Ah, there we go. I actually like this, that it hits a sore spot and she immediately thinks N's bullshitting and trying to get under her skin and there's no way one of her Pokémon just said that. Just very tragically human. (And intriguing! I look forward to learning more about the stuff referenced here.)


It's a nasty situation, having exactly one person who can relay what you say, and the party you want to communicate with doesn't trust them.

Of course, Hilda's just angry, and she wants this to be nonsense coming from N and probably ultimately from a scumbag like Ghetsis, not from one of her Pokémon that she likes to think are her new family that actually cares about her. She's bad at treating them as people but she does love them in the sort of way people love their pets, and clearly relies on them for emotional support; it's got to sting to hear one of them say something like that.
It's big and messy and rough! I'm glad this moment landed.

This was a very interesting one. I'm starting to find Hilda pretty interesting as she's getting a bit more depth and we're starting to get a clearer sense of how she thinks - I've found her pretty unsympathetic so far but this last outburst is a good example of when I start liking a character more when they do an extremely unlikable thing only I feel like I understand why they're doing it.
<3 ! This too! I struggled with how and when I want to coax Hilda's character out and admittedly that balance has yet to be struck in some places but I think it's much more interesting when she's a hero even if she's not a protagonist.

Zara is incredibly sweet. I didn't find Reylin quite as compelling here, which is a bit of a shame; he had some good bits but I didn't feel like I got as good a sense of his personality or his feelings. We're told, abstractly, that he doesn't like fighting, that he assumes battles are already lost when he could continue, but I kind of wish we got to actually see that from his point of view, experience how it makes him feel, rather than just being told vaguely after the fact that he doesn't like it - even if it were only in the form of brief flashes of memories. Similarly, we're told that he's lonely, but I don't entirely feel like he seems all that lonely for most of the chapter - apart from one brief paragraph on meeting Zara again, he doesn't even seem all that enthusiastic for someone who hasn't gotten to talk to anyone in months/years! Yes, it brings back some painful memories, but when it's the first conversation of any kind you've been able to have in a long, long time? The only conversation you're going to be able to have for who knows how long?
This is also true! Reylin wasn't a narrator who stuck out to me as particularly strong/with an obvious thematic route I wanted to go with, so I think he does get buried in this a bit! I'm not quite sure where I'll do it yet but it's on my mind.

To answer this + your paragraph below--I wanted this chapter to be about facing your problems vs running away. The Zaratan legend inspires Zara to do the former; Reylin sees that Hilda doesn't run away either, but what he really wants to understand is where some people become brave enough to make that plunge. And like he can't really ask Zaratan, but he can at least ask Hilda haha. But I do think the transition there is rough, and could be solved with the bit above about giving Reylin more of a presence in this chapter! Just not entirely sure what direction I want for it quite yet.

As always, thank you so much for this level of feedback across this + all the other chapters. I'm super grateful for all the thoughts you have in this + the patience you have in responding; it really helps me dial in the story I want to tell vs the story as it's coming across to people, and I really appreciate it!

General thoughts on the Inari revision: overall, better! I like that we get a little more on Hilda, Rhea, and Tourmaline. It makes sense that Inari’s brother isn’t dead, just invisible and gone. The yogurt scene was cute. ❤ Though I worry about Tourm ingesting tear gas. :c
never not editing :')

It’s interesting how important this relationship was to them and how little we know about “Red.” Since N talks about it directly and sigilyph-fren speculates about their new purpose NOW, it would be nice to get an indication of what they thought their purpose was before.
oooh, that's an excellent point. Gonna edit to expand their role when I figure out how ...

The wording here is a little odd. Is it that the burying took 2k years or that there was 2k years of lead up before the humans died?
The former! I wanted the tragedy to be the burying itself, not just that these people were brutally wiped out but also that they were forgotten--this seemed like the greater tragedy to a loresinger

Did general tweaks for phrasing! Bless.

Don’t underestimate—
i'm actually the master bamboozler here and this is a TS Eliot reference and no one called me out on it until now

Every time I see these words, it gives me a little chill. AND I forget where they’re from and start wondering if it’s a reference to TS Elliot somehow. Then I remember. You’re quoting yourself and I’ve read it, lol.
bark bark

Is it an offering if he’s not stuck? What does the desert get to keep in this scenario? Maybe if something has fallen from his pocket or her lost a shoe.
I was thinking nom nom trapinch, but I see now that this makes no sense

A good lesson and a good distinction. Reminds me of conversations about race and power the roommates and I had after the election. Sometimes it’s hard to see what power you urge until you do harm with it. :-/

I’m also noticing—the humans wouldn’t have heard or understood this final message, would they?
</3
Humans wouldn't have understood this, no. But someone else did.
tbh I should just state that one outright

This is real. It also feels like an attempt to escape destiny.
It's probably both! big sad.

Why does he think this?
History books probably mention sigilyph in some capacity, but I realize I don't want to go into the dichotomy so I'm going to tweak around this.

I’m not sold on this. Would anyone wish Z’s version were true?
An excellent point! I think I got too high on my truth/ideals metaphor.

Lots happening in these few lines. So I get that his conviction in an ideal faded, so Zek has gone quiet. But I’m not sure why his conviction is slipping here. It also seems like Siggy knows what this is, and it’s strange that they don’t react.
Great point! It's that N continues to look at the story where the king stole her voice--he cannot believe in the (idyllic) version where Meloetta chooses to help others at the cost of herself.

I didn’t get this from the first version of the story that Sig told! It cuts off before this.
Fair! And it shouldn't. It felt like a bit of a dampener to tell the darmanitan but I've finagled this a bit.

But at the beginning of this paragraph, they’re dismissing his why question.
"why kint should not have written a living version of the socratic method: a thesis"

What does it mean that he’s strong enough to change the Iand?
I wanted a callback to Stormdancer but I'm probably going to rephrase this once I figure out how.

Ah is this a new addition? Much clearer for sure. And I don’t think it’s inaccurate: it’s one thing to intellectualize and another to internalize.
never! not! editing!

I like this! Reminds me of Cynthia talking to Chris a little.

we've gone full ouroboros tbh

I remember you talking about this one (Charlie!) so it was fun to see it come to life.
hahaha sad name sounds

Oh, I love this. He thinks he’s unpracticed.
it's okay u will get callouses too!!

I’m not sure about “makes you struggle.” Maybe even "You struggle with its weight.” But I love this expansion of their lore and how becoming physically strong becomes almost like a measure of time.
mmm good line fixes as always! Made those + the others.
The bough thing is actually a cool bit of dex lore! And it utterly doesn't explain how like, all of these processed logs just keep appearing and disappearing, but okay,,,

I liked these details!
I stole my scene-setting from you tbh

Would be nice to add a sensory detail here—smells wrong, chemical. Not blood.
oof excellent idea

I thought it was smart that this battle ends in victory and victory feels bad.
what do you mean they're healed and they got the badge it's all fine

I wanted more reaction from Samson here.

This came abruptly! I think it would’ve been more effective to see the nurse lecturing Tim. He’s all contrite and Samson is feeling a little better, like maybe this will turn out okay. And then when they’re alone—JK.
Mmmm, I wanted it to be sudden, to yank the rug out from under the "maybe this isn't so bad" train, but at the same time I'm pretty sure I yanked that rug out a while ago. Will probably reintroduce some cut material into this one.

Myth chapter! Really lovely language in this one throughout. It's exciting to get an origin story for why all pokemon can understand humans, which I know is a world-building issue that's been a struggle. And I love that we're digging more into the nocturne lament. It's been one of the most poignant and haunting concepts you've introduced in the story. I'm still trying to wrap my head a bit around what it means, especially with the new info in this chapter. Zahhak explained it as the moment of facing your fate. When N is able to invoke the words when he decides to summon Reshiram, that also seems to fit--making a decision, and accepting that the decision will have consequences that are yours to bear. The idea of shouldering burdens comes up strongly in this chapter. But I struggled a bit to connect the myth behind the nocturne lament, either version, to the invocations we've seen so far. In version 1 there doesn't seem to be any moment of facing fate, shouldering a burden by the Stormdancer. Her sharing of the gift of voice isn't even framed as a sacrifice, because the gift is shared, she doesn't lose it. And, she retains her gift at dance. In the second version, Meloetta makes a choice not to retaliate, but that seems a little different from a choice to give her voice or to face an enemy beyond her power in the way Sagaris does. I was a bit confused as to what you were trying to do with these two versions in terms of drawing contrasts. They didn't really seem like alternate, contradictory stories--felt like one was just the bloody postscript to the other. I didn't really buy one being truth and one being ideals.
Mmmm, I think I had an extra paragraph at some point that fell out of version 1--that's the one where Stormdancer chooses to sing for humans until her voice runs out and she loses it to give to them. The truth/ideals thing was ... a bit of a reach probably, and doesn't really fit, I agree.

I wanted the part of both stories where she invokes it to be the big moment of facing fate--the moment where Meloetta chooses to share her voice is the moment that damns her in either story. I think some cleanup is in order though.

This narrator is a little bit absent, but I didn't mind that much, since it's clearly a chapter about myths and stories and the narrator defines themselves as a story-teller. One place I thought a bit more character could have been drawn out was in the narrator's transition from being a sentry to a lore-singer. It seems like they were made for a pretty different purpose than the one they fulfill now. In particular, I'm interested in the idea of the narrator being created by humans without a mouth and their thought that anyone would be tempted to kill to gain Voice. Felt like those elements could come together to provide more commentary on the myths than they do at the moment. It seems like the narrator posits the destroyed kingdom as a more ideal time. We get a portrayal of human/pokemon harmony. But that was also a harmony without voice. So what sets the two eras apart?
Funny story, I actually have always considered the squiggly lines on the stomach as a mouth ... and I realize now that that's not really right at all, but that the interpretation of no-mouth is much more interesting for what I created here. I will probably retcon this in somehow.

Most of my substantive thoughts ended up in the line-by-lines this time, so without further ado:
I used pretty much all of these; thank you for your wisdom lol.

This feels like a reversal of the creation myth, where the humans bring order to the world, and the dragons destroy it. Seems like in that era at least, the dichotomy is less humans vs pokemon.
This wasn't entirely intentional! But it is kind of cool haha.

I legitimately have never spelled this word correctly my entire life.

This sounds very serene. Almost too serene, maybe? Don't big rainstorms in deserts cause flash floods and all sorts of chaos?
I ... need to do some research on this and draw up some maps for deserts w/ mountain borders vs deserts without them. This will be awkward when I am wrong.

I would have been interested in exploring this more. As I said earlier, it's a bit odd that the loresinger wasn't given a mouth! And nothing in their original purpose that the narrator described mentioned lore-singing. So does their purpose change after the fall of their people? What was that shift like and what did it mean?
Yeah, I think a general patch for this one will be coaxing the narrator backstory back out in a subtle way--story of my life!

Ooh yes, I love giving of gifts myths. Strong Watershipdown feels.
next chapter: the gummis and scarves

I was a bit confused, considering later bits of the chapter, whether as of this moment humans have Voice or not. Because if they do, why do they have to come back each year?
subscription services: ruining lives since 10,000 B.C.E.
In this moment they do, but they renewed it each year. I need to make this more clear internally before I figure out how I want to tell it.

I thought they couldn't move?
ah FUCK

I don't fully get from the history we're given why the Darmanitan guard this place specifically from humans. Or is that not what's being implied? It seems like the war that destroyed the civilization here was a mixed humans + pokemon vs other humans + pokemon war, so I'm not sure why this place would be guarded from humans in particular. Or does this have to do with N being a paleskin?
the paleskin bit, yeah. Adding this to the patch notes for when I add back in the narrator a bit better.

Love N's manners. Also the whole elaborate desert courtesies they all abide by. The reflexive nature of three's completing the courtesy really makes this culture feel alive. I also love all the different ways you describe N's body language depending on who our narrator is. He feels so consistent, and yet each POV sees him a way that feels new as well.
<3!

Hm, I get that as a description of N, but it doesn't really seem to align with the Dragonmother of the myth? She's being eaten up by the storm inside her, not actively gnawing at herself. What destroys her is the magnitude of the chaos she's trying to tame. And I feel like that's appropriate to analogize with N, that he's being torn up by the magnitude of the injustice he's trying to rectify.
Mmmm, also fair! And a really good image.

I didn't really follow this explanation ie why the king would think stealing her gift would win the war. I think because I don't quite understand how Meloetta's gift is functioning in this version? People have to go see her to get it, or else they don't have it? What does it do for them? Wouldn't killing her deprive their side as well as the other side? Tearing out her throat sounds like destroying her voice, not stealing it.
* sad golden goose sounds *
I'll clean this up though; just haven't entirely sold myself on how I want to do that.

Ooh, very interesting distinction to draw. Remembering that N says in the prologue, "There is strength beyond pure power."

This fic definitely shows a divide in humans having power and pokemon having strength. It's a dilemma that defines Zahhak, I think. He's definitely embracing the idea of power. In the Adler battle, he's making the choice along with Ghetsis to cause pain. But having both concepts of strength and power rooted in pain in and of itself implies an outlook that's either perpetuation or mitigation. It's deeply pessimistic.
This is probably one of the weird themes that worked its way downward instead of upward--all my frustrations from "battling is how pokemon get strong", and it's like no, that's one way, and also, is being able to smash your enemies really strength?

"it's deeply pessimistic" is ... yeah, the back half of this fic

I feel like speaking and listening is being conflated a bit. N's gift is that he can understand pokemon, not that he can speak to them, since technically everyone can? So his gift is a power here not a strength because he can't help? I can see why it might not be a strength, because it's not helping him endure pain but bringing him more. But how is his listening inflicting pain on others?
I think I ate too many metaphors here. Gently cleaning this section!

! This was the first moment where I really felt like the narrator was a character, rather than a narrative tool to convey myths. Would love to have the tension here explored more. What would it mean for the narrator to have Voice? What would they do with it? What do they think would be different?
I have a lot of Ideas for this one now that I know how mouths are shaped.

This strikes me as odd because again, it seems like from this that all humans have the gift of voice, and N's gift is listening.
it is late and apparently this post is currently 12k words so I'm pretty sure my reading comprehension is shot; I don't quite know which part you think went wrong here?

Love this. Though . . . you had me forgetting that N's supposed to be the truth hero here!
toeing that line since ch0, hell yeah

Ah, lovely. These endings feel more properly alternates to me, in that they're both on the topic of loneliness, but describe the same act in a vastly different way.
alt title for this chapter: hey i heard u liek mythz

I'd also characterize the Dragonmother as shaping by the world by accepting its contradictions.
I really like this!

Ooh, so the nocturne lament can't be invoked until you truly understand it? No wonder Zahhak freaked out so much at the end of his chapter when he heard N speak the words! Though it's interesting that he speaks them and then still fails to summon Reshiram.
I may have been sniffing too much of my own lore glue here, but neither of them are actually able to say the full thing in that chapter--they split it between them, and the bits that they're each able to say are the bits they actually understand.

I like this early reprisal of N saying that sacrifice is required but not being willing to accept it. I quibble a bit with his literary analysis. Not sure there's any indication in the Meloetta story that she wanted to change the world. In both stories, her motivation seems to be protection. Or maybe mercy. And the story of the Dragonmother splitting herself doesn't really seem to me to be about changing the world. The origin story of the Dragonmother fits the mold better--she is definitely trying to change the world in that one, and she does so by sacrificing herself to the extent that shouldering the contradictions of the world will eventually be too much for her.
love the use of quibble here. it is a good verb but these are also fair quibbles--rephrased

I do agree with N's objection here--sacrificing yourself seems fundamentally different from sacrificing others. The narrator's internal monologue is inapt here--the more on-point question might be, if saving the kingdom required the narrator sacrificing their red, would they do that? It's odd to me that their thoughts go to sacrificing themself, since that's exactly the problem N's articulating--it's not about him sacrificing himself. It's about him sacrificing others. So after that [{I suppose that sacrifice’s worth,} you say levelly, {depends on if you can believe in it.}] didn't land emotionally for me.
Oh, I actually wanted a different direction--the narrator also has to grapple with the idea of someone else sacrificing on their behalf, since that's what happened with their red.

Hm, I like all this about all the different pokemon conceptualizing this figure in different ways, but I feel like the thread of the chapter makes a bit of an odd turn in these closing paragraphs away from the questions of sacrifice, gift, burden and inevitability, to this newer question of truth vs belief, which feels a little destablizing to the truth vs ideals dichotomy. How do they interact?
I think I smudged the line between belief and ideals--for me they're largely the same? But I can see why this might be a harder sell than that; gonna do some tweaks here as well.

I was not expecting the chapter to cut off where it did! It didn't quite feel complete to me. For one thing, I was pretty heavily expecting that we were going to get a twist in the backstory. Like, it doesn't make much sense to me that Samson's father would tell his kid he's ready for a trainer without them having done any real battles in preparation. And, I wasn't even sure if his father really intended for him to take up with a trainer, or to end up with a builder like he did. So I expected to learn that Samson had run off to prove himself for some reason, and that that was why we have someone the audino considers to still be a kid in this situation. Lacking that, I found the set-up unrealistic. I would have also liked to get more details about Samson's home and background. I wasn't sure whether he and his father lived isolated, or whether they lived in a community.
I had some scenes here that I ended up cutting that were basically to this effect--I initially wanted the ending to be like, oh shit, things aren't fine; looking back on it though, I don't think I ever could've really sold anyone that things were fine and as a result it just feels incomplete. Digging those guys back to see where they can go back in!

I loved the concept of the faint-in and how you used the poem, the way Samson is kind of navigating these two parallel worlds as he walks with his trainer and speaks to the other pokemon. This action makes sense for early Plasma--though, I thought earlier chapters mentioned it being new that pokemon were protesting out with them? I guess there's a different perception when pokemon are involved in a faint-in vs a rally. I was kind of curious what Lenora thought of it, but I don't see an obvious way that could have come up in this POV, unless Tim mentioned it before the battle, and he seems unlikely to do so.
Woes of retconnning; that bit's gone now :') The perception is different but I agree with your assessment--I don't really have the narrators or the space to untangle that when I approach it here, so I ended up cutting it from that chapter last week lol.

Amara's guest appearance surprised me! I was glad to see her, though I felt like the conversation was a bit brief, and didn't really further my understanding of Amara. The two of them are talking at cross-purposes. Amara talks about protecting her trainer. Feels like the natural question is from what? Since protection is very much not the vision Samson has coming into this. He's thinking partnership and creation, making things bigger than yourselves, becoming strong in a way you couldn't do on your own. So I kind of wanted more of a clash between these different conceptions of justifying a pokemon's relationship to a trainer.
Yeah! I think I want to expand this bit of the chapter a bit still; been struggling with exactly what I'd have it say.

Carrying on the themes from the previous chapter, strength and its relationship to pain is really being interrogated here. Samson was signing up to get strong, not to inflict pain on others. I think to really get into this, though, more needs to be drawn out about the pain of the gyms and the pain Samson suffers directly at Tim's hands. The bisharp chapter sets up a lot these questions, but this chapter cuts off rather than dig into them more. I'm not sure where ending on Tim's abuse leaves us. I feel like the whole argument of the bisharp chapter was that Tim's physical abuse shouldn't be the definition of what it means for a trainer to inflict pain on a pokemon. But by ending the way this does, it feels like that's what's being emphasized. The question you seem to be wanting to ask this chapter is "Why do they make us hurt each other?" But ending with Tim brings the question to "Why do they hurt us?" And the difference there feels significant.
I like this assessment too--for me these early chapters are just generally depressing to conceptualize/brainstorm around since it's like, oh good, we've learned a valuable lesson! Time to not use it! But I think that's a good dichotomy to look at, and something I want to expand on towards the end of this.

Love this title.
bothering my friends for poetry translations wasn't on my 2020 bingo card but hey it's all worth it

Why is today that day? I'm curious whether this is something decided by Samson, or his father. It feels a little unceremonious as stated, like he looked at the calendar and oh! Today's the day. Did he have to pass any test to be deemed ready? Or is he doing this behind his dad's back? I'm also surprised that he wouldn't put up a fight. The idea of pokemon testing a human's strength/worthiness through battle is a pretty engrained one in the fandom. What does Samson think a good human is? How would he (or his father) define that?
legit the original draft of this was rushing downstairs for pancakes and then running out the door to get his starter trainer but i thought that was a bit too on the nose/absurdist

Is there an emoji for laughing and wincing at the same time?
:')

Of course a timburr would care about that! Makes me curious what his home looks like. I get the impression that timburr and conkedurr like building, what does their own architecture look like? Is it based on human norms or something different?
oh god that's a great question. and if I answer in too much detail I'll tip how little I know about cultural influence on architecture. I think shorter, more windows, very minimalist furnishing but very elaborate construction.

Aw! Sounds like Dad's human was a builder. I'm kind of surprised, based on that fact that Dad and Human are still in touch, that Samson's method of apprenticing with a human would be to get captured by a random one. Couldn't he get apprenticed to a builder in a more direct way? Learning this made me think that getting captured by Tim was something Samson did unilaterally, because I don't see his dad realistically endorsing that strategy?
I'm so torn because I really wanted to just write a chapter about the absurd fanfic trope of a parent pokemon just yeeting their kid to the first trainer they see, but also realistically that's the farla in me talking and that structure doesn't hold up in a story that pretends to have a serious world.

Oh! Love this glimpse at what early Plasma is up to. Bet Zahhak has all sorts of disparaging things to say about it.
we've come so far from punch-in's

Like how ominous this feels. I'm not sure about "Why do they make us hurt?" Samson seems to switch from you to us too quickly here, considering he hasn't been hurt yet. Feels like this question would take on more weight later if he doesn't use "we" at the beginning. I also wonder whether he'd be asking "why" accepting the premise, or "how".
mmm, I agree

yay I love Lenora being badass. (Not sure what stereotypes timburr would have about bookishness. His father taught him to read, so he has an example of reading not being opposed to physical strength.)
I really love how most of my edits just become "think about timburr opinions on libraries" and I'm here for it.

This read kind of oddly to me. Even if he's only sparred with his dad, he must have gotten bruised before, and so he must know that winning doesn't mean insta pain stop. And obviously, if he wins, he's won?
Mmm, good distinction here.

Really like the sense of judgement and shame he feels here.

This exploration of what instant healing doesn't reach is really strong.
I'm always here to ruin victories.

Huh, I'm not sure how "doing the right way" relates to a splintered branch?
In my head it's like, most of it is pointing in one direction but the ends all point in weird ways. This ... is a bad metaphor though. Not sure what I want to replace it with quite yet.

Thank you for the insight on these--small edits have been made; the larger ones are still baking while i fix this fucking ferris wheel, but I really admire how succinctly you can outline the areas that didn't quite work + how you offer ways to improve them
 
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HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
I know I’ve reviewed a newer chapter than this one but I somehow missed this one!


“Mistralton PD! This is unlawful assembly!” someone shouts into a metal cone. “Please return to your homes!” And it’s when you hear that please that you realize Kobo might be right after all, if they think this is what a request looks like. What else would they think, these humans who have forgotten how it feels to hunt another? You should’ve known better; of course humans would be the only people cruel enough to do this to themselves.

oooh this is SO. GOOD. And heartbreakingly accurate. I love it and I hate it at the same time.

The humans aren’t using you. You were angry long before anyone told you that you were allowed to be.

Another good one. But I can’t help but wonder what Inari’s actual stance is toward humans throughout this chapter? She seems to flip-flop quite a bit, one minute she seems to believe she is wrong about humans, and the next she is more convinced of their monstrosity than ever. Perhaps my reading comprehension is lacking, or maybe this was intentional and I’m just not getting it, haha


“That’s not what I meant,” Hilda’s saying while you calculate the angle of her backpack from here, trying to gauge the type of illusion that’ll cover enough of it while you go through the side pockets. “There’s a way to do this without being a bad person, you know? Good people can demonstrate good training.”


Hmmm this is a point I’d like to see get explored more! So far we are hearing a lot about how the traditional training system is cruel and not beneficial to Pokémon, but do ALL trained Pokémon really feel this way? It seems that even Hilda’s Serperior has her doubts, and she is the most conditioned for training out of all the perspectives we have seen so far. Are there any trained Pokémon out there that don’t have any doubts and are happy with the system? Also, Hilda mentions here that there must be a way to be a trainer without being a bad person or being complicit in something harmful. I’d be interested to see this thought process explored more!


Up close, you see the details you would’ve gotten wrong in his face the first time—his jawline is softer than you imagined; his smiles don’t quite reach his eyes.


Oh. Ouch. 😭

another great chapter, as always! Sorry this review isn’t as in depth as some of the others - irl things have been insane for me lately, so this was a quick one on my part. But you’re doing a fantastic job and I’m loving every update!
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
Some sentence level nitpicks regarding chapter x, nudum. I wrote this a while ago and forgot to post it, so some of these might be fixed already.

{You’re almost out when the gas finally gets in your lungs, sends it festering and burning deep, deep in your chest.}

What is the "it" referring to? 🤔

{A roar erupts and you pull up short}

It said he pulled up short in the previous sentence as well, so I think part of either sentence needs to be edited.

{You don’t know the geography around here. Another mistake.}

I don't know if that's a mistake as much as it is a gap in knowledge

{his attack fizzles out immediately.}

I am not so sure about this wording

{Rhea flops back, her half-eaten food sandwich forgotten in its wrapper beside her}

Oh sick, that's my favorite kind of sandwich

{and then the sky is split apart by enormous metal creatures that don’t move as they fly overhead.}

If they are flying, they must be moving. Maybe "metal creatures that fly without flapping their wings" or something.

{Humans learned a skill that pokémon never did: they lied with their words, not just their faces. Your false face can never fool your own eyes, but spoken lies can reach your ears, and through there, your heart. This was Mitama’s revenge, although she did not know it at the time: humans crafted lies so strong that they fooled even themselves.}

A lot of this was repeated from an earlier paragraph, and I'm not really getting why it needs to be here.

{delicately undoing the side pockets as quietly as you can}

I feel like you could cut either "delicately" or "as quietly as you can"

Overall I feel kind of lost on this chapter. I think I'm missing too much context from the games. Very unfortunate XP
 
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