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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!

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
I know I’ve reviewed a newer chapter than this one but I somehow missed this one!
10000% no worries--these last chapters have been super heavily revised after posting, so honestly the continuity is a little batshit right now!

oooh this is SO. GOOD. And heartbreakingly accurate. I love it and I hate it at the same time.
I realized pretty early that a conversation about civil rights was never going to be separate from a conversation with policing </3

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
Nooo, this is really true haha. I'm still workshopping this chapter + a few that follow (pardon my dust; the construction zone runs until the other chapter you reviewed lol), but the lack of a coherent through-line is something I'm struggling with! I think you're right that Inari flip-flopping on humans too hard during this chapter is contributing to the confusion though ... something I'll look at in the rewrite.

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!
I dunno tbh! The training system as I've created it makes messy imo--if you see yourself as a person, can you ever not doubt a system that sees you as property? I think a few of the previous narrators buy in with a little less doubt (Lucky/police herdier chapter come to mind), and several more are open to the of partnering with humans (albeit with severe doubts to how they are currently partnered). I think there's also an upcoming chapter (depending on where you're caught up) that I'm trying to toneshift into a more positive partnership as well.

The Hilda question is arguably an even messier one, honestly--can you ethically participate in an unethical system? I think it's certainly reassuring to tell yourself that you could, but unless you're meaningfully combatting the issues that make training unethical, aren't you also complicit? But then on the flip side--what tools does Hilda even have for combatting these issues?

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!
noooo you're fine haha! I'm still trying to catch up with Wes and Rui :((( life's been crazy for everyone this year, and I'm so glad to hear from you!

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.
Hi love! Sometimes I think about how you got the pure version of part 1 (everything before this chapter) with the nice edits and the coherent themes, and then you get thrown straight into this mess, and I feel very bad.

What is the "it" referring to? 🤔
It's supposed to be the gas but I agree, that sentence is a little lost.

I don't know if that's a mistake as much as it is a gap in knowledge
The mistake is meant to be coming in here with that gap of knowledge, but I agree, a lot is wrong here.

{Rhea flops back, her half-eaten food sandwich forgotten in its wrapper beside her}
Oh sick, that's my favorite kind of sandwich
😂
I went back and forth on whether or not zoroark would know what sandwiches are, and then naturally after much thought and introspection I landed here.

If they are flying, they must be moving. Maybe "metal creatures that fly without flapping their wings" or something.
oh yes this is a good one!

Overall I feel kind of lost on this chapter. I think I'm missing too much context from the games. Very unfortunate XP
You're quite kind as always--I can honestly say I don't think the game context would help you much; this chapter is lost all on its own. Still trucking. The next few chapters are the same. Honestly, if you want to just skip to the remastered version in four months, I'll note that I'm finally done revising + finally doing the FFN crossposting once I'm actually satisfied with the writing in the back half lol.
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
really glad to have rolled this for catnip, because i read a bit of this a while ago and was waiting to read more until i left a review, but hadn't gotten around to it... this was just the push i needed! i've read some of this before, so i probably won't do a lot of speculation until later on—sorry about that! once i catch up to where i'd read up to before, i'll start reviewing the chapters one by one.

---

o. end
On the edges of the throne room are the first casualties of this fight: a pair of Corinthian stone columns—fractured from the sheer heat of a stray fire attack, based on the scorch marks and soot.
i found the dash immediately following the colon here a little clunky. i think that dash could just as well be a comma and it would probably read more smoothly that way to me.
The human’s face is smeared with dust, but her eyes brim with dark flame.
really like this line, it's very vivid.
Even when still, his feathers blur through brick red, leafy green, sky blue.
the structure of this sentence kind of confused me; i was expecting you to describe something through which the feathers were blurring, so when you went on to list colors instead i had to re-read the sentence to re-interpret the context. it might be clearer if you adjusted it to something like: "Even when still, the colors of his feathers blurred through: brick red, leafy green, and sky blue." or something. also, archeops rights! 😁

i appreciate how you refer to ungendered pokémon as "they" rather than "it"—i often have the impulse to use "it" even for pokémon whose gender is known. the use of "they" makes them feel much more human.

Every yin had a yang; at the center of each darkness was a drop of light, but between them there was and would always be a line. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make the line stop existing.
tense change here?

Behind the ancient dragon, time speeds up again. The archeops twists out of the way as the serperior crashes down. The trainer screams another command, but she’s too slow, too late. You have your answer.
i'd actually written a line about "it might be good to specify that time is speeding up" pertaining to about when reshiram was released, and had to erase it after seeing that you do clarify it here instead. it's hard to imagine reshiram being released, roaring, and giving their dialogue all in slow motion.

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

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

The rest of the story plays out backwards.
very strong couple lines to end on here.

i really enjoy this introduction. the ebb and flow of time you describe feels very cinematic, and you waste no time establishing the scene of a hard-fought battle before throwing the dragons into the mix. the chapter doesn't overstay its welcome at all; you get in, do what you need to do, and immediately set the stage for the rest of the story. your prose is excellent to read as always. really good stuff overall, not much more to say.

---

i. nominal
You only saw her falter once: six days ago, when you lost Amara.
this is such a small thing, but this name is very close to "amaura," and i spent an embarrassing amount of time wondering why she had one of those until you clarify amara was a zebstrika later on.
There’s no stray of his hands toward his belt, no glint of anger in his eyes.
i found "There's no stray" a little confusing. maybe "His hands don't stray toward his belt, and there's no glint of anger in his eyes."
“Relic Castle. This isn’t the first time I’ve been up here, but I’ve never come this far underground. Do you know the legends of this amphitheater, Hilda?” he asks. He’s almost conversational about it, almost pleasant, but you sense thorns beneath the roses.

Something’s changed since you last saw him. He never had thorns before.
loooove this.
The crumbled walls of Relic Castle form a cup of sorts, and this far underground, everything is unnaturally silent.
unNatural, you might say...
Your moments with your mother are limited and fuzzy and precious
should this be *were limited?
But what you remember most of all is curling up alongside her neck, her scales warm in the sun, her ruby eyes soft as she whispered the name she had given you.

You see it in N as well, the way he puffs up his leaf-hair, in the quavering of his stance: here is someone who would much rather stretch out in the sun than command a battlefield.
this is a really interesting way or portraying how/why pokémon relate to N, i like it a lot.
“Three hundred years ago humans discovered the land beyond Twist Mountain. At the time it was the nesting ground for wild haxorus, and was known to the native peoples as the Valley of the Dragons.”
hmm, it was discovered by humans but already known to the natives? it's not unrealistic that someone would say something like this but i'd expect N in particular to be a bit more sensitive.

i enjoy that vaselva is kind of the go-between here. N has trouble communicating with and even relating to other humans, and that contributes to his downfall in canon. maybe the player's pokémon attempt to communicate with N in the games, but i don't remember anything like that, and it's kind of curious now that i think about it. i like that you have vaselva here as the bridge between them—in sync with hilda's ideals, capable of communicating with N in terms he understands—yet her argument still isn't sufficient to dissuade N. it works really well.
Your chest swelled a little with pride when she’d told you that. You, so young, and yet you were to be given your own thing to defend! You never wanted to fight, but you would do it for her, you decided.
omg, aw, this is really cute.
N’s looking at you again, and the mask of his face is melting.
"the mask of his face" is a little awkward imo—i think it would suffice just to say "his mask is melting." the cofagrigus simile was recent enough that i don't think you need to re-clarify.
“I’m hardly younger than you,” Hilda shoots back. “You don’t need to condescend me.”

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

There’s a long silence.
classic.
“Yes. You’re right.” He looks back at Hilda, and then at the stone in his hands. “There is no in-between.”
cut to pokémon black and white title card
But here, tonight, with your trainer, who tried to trade her thorns for roses on the same night that N finally found his flame.
hmm, i like this call back to the roses and thorns metaphor, but i think it would hit harder if it came full-circle with N. perhaps "But here, tonight, with your trainer, who tried to trade her thorns for roses on the same night that N had traded his roses for thorns."
You were the ideal that pokémon and humans could one day change, to live together in harmony without anyone having to be inconvenienced in the meantime, and I was the truth that humans would always make pokémon suffer, that battling is barbaric and wrong.
1607910677116.png

“And I heard your cry, Hilda. From halfway across Unova, I felt the strength of your conviction, the conviction that woke a god and drove them to defend the defenseless alongside you.”
super cool line.
The room rockets from the cold of the subterranean chamber to lukewarm, and then as hot as the sands above, and then warmer still, to a blazing inferno.
didn't you just say the room was hot a few lines ago?

this chapter sits nicely between the action-packed introduction and the action-packed battle that comes up next between ghetsis and alder. the reverse flow of this story makes this chapter in particular very interesting imo—it's the last standoff between hilda and N, and by now they're seasoned and experienced, their positions already fully formed. the argument is more of a formality than anything else; they're both already armed with legendary dragons and know they'll have to fight to determine whose world will become (or remain) reality. the previous chapter shows us that the two of them eventually came to blows, but this chapter illuminates just what they come to blows over—it'll be interesting seeing the next few chapters show us the why.

hilda's comparative silence doesn't bode well for the outcome of the battle. she doesn't seem very sure of herself, certainly not as much as N is anyway. what with the state of hilda's team in chapter 0, i find myself curious how—if?—hilda manages to turn things around. valselva suggests that their roles are sort of reversed here compared to earlier on, so i'm excited to see what the swapped dynamic looks like, with an empassioned hilda and a subdued N.

as usual, your prose is a pleasure to read, your dialogue is snappy, and you give just the right amount of detail. your poetic prose is a ton of fun, although by now i'm beginning to detect a pattern that the language sometimes gets away from you a little and results in some slightly awkwardly-formed sentences or phrases... but that's super minor stuff and it's never pulled me out of the story so far.

---

ii. notorious

Alder certainly leans into the manufactured suspense a bit harder than you think is respectful
i love that wave has these thoughts, lol.
The challenger’s pokémon twists into action, blurring into a blender that’s barely more than flashes teeth.
not sure i'm catching the meaning of "blurring into a blender" here.
His battling style leaves … much to be desired as far as collateral damage.
i initially read this as a complaint that he's not inflicting enough collateral damage, haha. not sure how i'd adjust that but it was definitely a moment of 😧 before i figured out what you mean there.
He hones in on a single word in Alder’s sentence, closes around it like a beartic’s jaws around a basculin. You see his brow furrow. “Safe?” His hand twitches. A signal? Alder doesn’t seem to notice it, but you grab a shot just in case it’ll be useful for the post-match. “You think what we’re doing is safe?” He gestures to the field of fire around them, where patches of flames still burn impotently amongst the rubble.

“I knew the risk, and so did you. Our pokémon weren’t going to get hurt.”
uh oh. probably not the right thing to say there, alder...
“Win or lose, the League will not fall today,” Alder says. “I understand your frustration, but change takes time.”
i found this line surprising. does alder understand his frustration? up until now, he'd kind of seemed like a conservative type to me—pokémon training is good, they like it and it makes them strong, you're just being silly.
Across from him, Alder is anything but. When he finally gathers his senses and rips his gaze from Ghibli, he manages to snarl, “Harmonia, what the hell—”
hmm... i kind of expected more of a reaction here. i read your response to mijumaru and while i can see what you're going for with your portrayal of alder here, i think that mostly explains his choice to continue on with the battle, or his choice not to withdraw his volcarona, but no so much his imo weak reaction here. alder seems to me like a character who represents trust in tradition and reliance on decorum—i'd expected a much stronger reaction from him upon seeing that tradition and decorum broken here.

btw, if ripping off a pokémon's limbs is only a yellow card, what the hell do you have to do for a red card? hahaha.

Statistically he carries one extra Full Restore for emergencies, but otherwise—his team isn’t getting up any time soon.
"statistically" seems like an odd word choice here. i'd probably just cut the adverb entirely.
Ghetsis motions with his hand, almost lazily, and the hydreigon lurches forward on six tattered wings that leave bloody trails in the sky, black streaks across your frames.
this is an awesome piece of imagery.
You can almost feel Markus’s unease, even though emotion doesn’t get picked up on the radio. Instead what you get is the sharp intake of breath, the unintentional curse that’s ripped out of his mouth. But you don’t get to look away, even though Markus has surely averted his eyes.
i think the first sentence here is mostly redundant—we also feel his unease by the description you provide. no need to say he's uneasy explicitly imo.
... and there’s a belated cracking sound as the hydreigon withdraws and lets his opponent fall bonelessly to the ground.
"bonelessly" makes it sound like the bouffalant is, well, boneless, which i don't think is what you mean here. not sure what you do though.
When the fire clears, there’s a steely husk that glows cherry-red.
wowie. that's vivid.
“T-that’s a hell of a Fire Blast; I can’t even recognize where that would be coming from, and—oh! It looks like Shauntal’s chandelure has found a way through the barrier?” Markus, to his credit, almost makes it sound like this is just a regular match. It’s a good act. So good you can’t tell if he’s acting at all.
haha, crazy that they'll send in an additional trainer before alder just takes the L. really underscores how the rules apply to thee but not to me here. ghetsis's breaking of the rules is horrible; double-teaming him in a battle alder has pointedly not ended despite having the power to is totally fine.
Fifteen years ago Alder defeated Maevis and received in return the crown of Champion.
hmmm, curious about this maevis character—wonder if they'll come up again!
With the new Champion came a whole new wave of reforms—more lax laws for gym licensing, relaxation of punishments on possession of Class C pokémon without proper permits, blanket defunding of conservation efforts for endangered species.
interesting. so i guess in your canon the champion is the de facto head of state, huh? i have a feeling that'll be relevant again. it's an interesting interpretation imo, i wonder where you'll take it.
It’s a good camera angle, you can’t help but note distantly. You tilt up a little so that Ghetsis looks a little more intimidating.
omg. wave...
“Hear me, Unova! I am Ghetsis, your new C

Champion! What I could not take with words I will take with force. Release your pokémon, and join me in my new era where pokémon are liberated from humans!”
accidental return here?
He’s so casual how can he be so casual there are pokémon here that are going to die
this doesn't feel right coming from the guy that just adjusted his camera to give ghetsis a more flattering angle, haha.
You can’t help but focus on how her flanks are heaving, blood mixing in with the black and white stripes that run down her sides.
love this mental image, it's very stark.
Whatever brief burst of energy Markus got back from Hilda’s arrival has dissipated immediately; the tense, terse air is back.
terse seems like a weird word to apply to air, to me at least.
The one eye he has left is furious and wide, and yet—you can see it perfectly—there’s no madness in there. This isn’t a madman. This is someone who knows exactly what he’s doing.
this is a great description, very chilling.
You can see him trying, but the simple fact is that his body simply isn’t equipped to have this much strain.
"have" doesn't seem like the right verb here to me. "handle" perhaps?
But you notice that he hasn’t gotten up, he’s done nothing to put himself between the child and the flames, he hasn’t even given Ghetsis the one thing he wanted and relinquished the throne. No. He’s still prone on the ground, too weak from his own injuries, which seem so paltry compared to the abuse heaped on Hilda’s pokémon, but they still have to keep fighting—
man. fucking alder. interesting that wave seems to be siding pretty unequivocally with ghetsis here. not all pokémon feel this way, as evidenced by vaselva's attitude in the previous chapter. could it be that only pokémon who themselves battle feel like battling is okay? does that suggest that they're just brainwashed?
Zekrom snarls in response, and then casts a bloody gaze around the room. Takes it all in. You see the skin above the fangs curl back instinctively at the sight of the downed pokémon on both sides, and then finally, the gaze settles back upon Hilda. {You called to me, Hero of Ideals. I heard in your call the purest future I have ever felt dreamed in thousands of years. You have been tested. I find you worthy. But explain to me. Why does the future you envision require this?}

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

“Fusion Bolt,” she says in a shaking voice, pointing towards hydreigon with a shaking finger. There is ash streaked in her hair and her face is stained with sweat.
oh man. i love the juxtaposition between wave's and hydreigon's reverence and hilda's naive attempts to command a god. vaselva's frantic pleading is great too.
The humans shy back. That’s when you decide for sure that Ghetsis isn’t a human. Maybe he’s a machine like you, maybe not—but when instinctively all of the other humans crouch away from the incoming disaster, Ghetsis is the only one to reach forwards, along with you, and his bisharp, and even Hilda’s serperior.
oof. vaselva said a similar thing of N... i hope there's more comparison between ghetsis and N like this going forward, it's something i haven't thought much about. i sort of perceived ghetsis as a con artist but it seems like his anger is genuine here—i'm excited to see how that interpretation plays out.

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

It isn’t right. It isn’t right that Ghetsis, who called the shots, gets to walk off to trial, while the blood of his hydreigon slowly goes cold and seeps into the dirt.
1607910677116.png, reprise

i actually forgot how much i liked this chapter. i usually don't care much for battle sequences, but you thread it so intimately with the narrative that it hardly feels like pokémon battle at all; it's sort of just their ideological battle given flesh. i appreciate the opinionated narrative here, too. it's certainly a unique one, as wave doesn't seem to be a pokémon who personally battles, but as someone who has seen countless battles fought by reckless trainers like alder, their perspective is a valuable one that adds interesting layers to the complex issue. i will say that the last leg of the battle, where everyone more or less gangs up on ghetsis, sort of dragged on to me. it wasn't tiring or anything but i definitely feel it could have been trimmed, as it was starting to fall into "just a pokémon battle" territory rather than the excellently written parallel with the rhetoric that the rest of the chapter does so well.

i find it interesting that you diverge from canon on this point, with ghetsis challenging alder rather than N. this definitely feels like an integral scene and it absolutely couldn't have happened with seNsitive N in his place, but i do wonder whether this signals other divergences from canon later (earlier?) on in the story. guess we'll see!

---

on the whole this is a wonderful fic so far and, i know i've said it a million times, but your prose is a joy to read. the fic starts out with these larger-than-life conflicts that sort of descalate in scale with time... i'm very curious about how this fic ends. does it come full circle or do we stop at the beginning? i think the way you've structured the fic is smart—as you say, the big ideological debate that pervades the plot isn't a surprise to anyone with knowledge of the games' plot, so it makes sense to set up those major stakes early on and then tell us the story of just how they came to be. my favorite bits (at least as far as i've read) are still to come, but these first few chapters establish a very strong and exciting base. i trust that the unusual structure will pay off, and am excited to see exactly how it does. looking forward to reading more!
 

Equitial

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. espurr
  2. inkay
Prologue

The prologue certainly sets up a mood, with Pokémon wounded, their trainers standing around them. I can’t quite tell yet if the time freezing actually happened or was a plot device, but either way I like it.

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

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

I don’t know much about what this story will be like; only that’s it’s about N. From the prologue, this seems like it will be a dark, reflective fic, with themes about free will and the power of choice. It’s been a while since I read an N-fic, so I’m interested to continue.

The rest of the story plays out backwards.

Also, this story is going to be told backward? 👀 Verrrrrrrry interesting.

Chapter 1

(Heck yeah, backwards.)

Anyway, ouch. This story is already off to a strong start.

The fact that this chapter is from the POV of a Pokémon immediately stuck out to me. I wasn’t expecting this, but it didn’t take me long to see what a great choice this was. Vaselva has a strong voice, and a deep outlook and backstory. I enjoyed her in this chapter.

Her backstory :(. I like how Vaselva says one thing to N, but her story says another. Being taken from her family for battle was subtly, heartwrenchingly conveyed. I hope I can see more of her relationship with Hilda later, but I suppose we’re already at the end of her character development. Vaselva seems to be clinging to a sunk cost fallacy; she’s lost everything, so she has to protect what she was given instead. I feel internal doubt that she’s not quite willing to admit though. It makes me wonder, if Hilda did find the right words, how it would have all turned out and what Vaselva would have done. But again, the story is already done.

Obviously, humans do not see Pokémon as their equals and even if the humans aren’t killing babies anymore, most still refuse to fix any harm. But, Vaselva does want to remain with Hilda. Even if I think the circumstances that brought her to her trainer were wrong, would N have the right to separate them? My favorite moment in this chapter was this:

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

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

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

Is there an inbetween to be found, or is one even possible? I still find this story mysterious, and I don’t feel like I how much figured out. Definitely interested and want to keep going.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
ALrighty, gonna try and squeak in a review right before blitz for this week ends. Read 'chapters' 1 and 2.

Let's begin. The prose was fascinating. You chose to write in a sort of semi-second person, which is an interesting choice. It works very well for a story told in an unusual way. The descriptions were very good as well, vivid, and sad. They evoke some solid mental imagery.

N's language and way of speaking are cool to read, cause he has a very 'high' and 'wordy' kind of way of speaking. Kind of Shakespearean maybe.

Having the story seemingly play out in reverse is interesting, to say the least. You found a way to tell it that was pretty much easy to follow despite the plot unfolding backward. I found myself most interested in the story, even if I knew the gist of the end result. Because it wasn't about the end of the plot, but the how and why.

The fight between Alder and Ghetsis/Harmonia being told through the eyes of a Rotom was unique. I enjoyed reading it, although there were one or two parts that became kind of hard to follow, either because the viewpoint or the seemingly sudden interruption of many radio waves. There were a couple times I wasn't sure who or what was speaking, but maybe I'm not supposed to know or it doesn't matter? Alternatively, its certainly possible I misread. But if you wanted to communicate urgency and chaos you did a good job.

There is some glaring factors from a worldbuilding perspective that really make no sense to me. This story seems to lean towards N being right and pokemon are slaves/forced to fight/abused. At least, the story seems to lean that way but maybe it will change, so feel free to pay this no mind. But what doesn't compute or make sense if pokemon are abused, is they have no reason to do it. If Ghetsis is right, then why fight at all? They could very easily kill humans, pokemon seem much much stronger than humans in this version of the pokemon world.

It doesn't make sense to me why Pokemon don't just choose not to fight. They don't have to listen to their trainers at all. While I could sympathize somewhat with Valseva who I guess grew up with her mother? Neither her nor her mother seem to have any reason why they couldn't leave if they wanted to. For hundreds of years pokemon have fought alongside humans in a sport that apparently gets bloody regularly. But they're shown here to have intelligence levels equal to or above humans. They can speak and reason. But can't reason enough to make their own choices as a whole? As a species?

I also call foul on Ghetsis. How can he call himself better when he's simply using or asking pokemon to fight for a cause he wants. It's certainly not the pokemon controlling him and telling him to free him and his people. If so, a psychic or Hydreigon himself would simply lead the revolt. There's no reason they couldn't, given their intelligence level being more than high enough. But this to seems mostly like another human, asking pokemon or convincing them to fight for cause the human wants. Of course, the seeming hypocrisy of Ghetsis isn't a criticism, but more like an observation. Villains do tend to be hypocritical so it's fair enough that he may be that way.

That said, given the context of this particular iteration of the pokemon world, I can see his point? It's just, as I said above, I cannot for the life of me see why intelligent sapient beings like pokemon choose to comply. Hundreds of them could leave en masse or wipe out humanity if they wanted, tbh.

That said, Alder seems like a huge ****. He could have just recalled his pokemon it seems, instead of letting that happen. Ghetsis was clearly trying to maim yet after losing Volcarona he also sends out boufalant? Jerk.

Anyways, it also serves Ghetsis right. Too bad he didn't die. That is the one part I definitely see sympathy in, as Rotom observes. it's hardly fair that Hydreigon should die. He's just being used as a tool as well, it seems. No different than how N in the games was a tool as well.

I did find myself quite sympathetic to many pokemon in this story and didn't find myself caring much for humans, even Alder or N. Ghetsis just seems like a gross villain to me, and Hilda is nice. But Valseva aside, who seems to stay out of obligation, I don't see why most pokemon stick around now, given how battles seem more harmful here than good. Then again, it seems the whole point of this story to address these things, so I'm intrigued to say the least.

All things said, this story raises some fascinating points within the bounds of this take on the pokemon world. The prose, characterization and writing style are all very unique and interesting. Everything is pretty dang solid. The real intrigue for me here is the story direction and themes. Very very intriguing.

Feel free to ignore anything here that may be answered later in the story of course. These are just my two cents based on the first bit. I know and expect stories take time to develop their themes! Def gonna read more sometime.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
So after yesterday's review I had to come back for more. If anything, I was curious to see what direction this unusual story would tell. I'll be reviewing uh... the next two parts? So... Three and Four. I don't actually have much in the way of 'critique' as much as observations and reactions and thoughts.

First off, really interesting chapter, from this Boldore that Cheren has captured. I really enjoyed how you don't say its a Boldore, but you show and describe him through context clues. I also really feel like I'm able to get in the mind of each viewpoint character you choose. They all have differing and unique perspectives of their own.

You have a really nice tone and way of hinting at aspects of things like lore of language for pokemon, and how they operate. I enjoyed seeing how Boldore has his little quirks of how he speaks, compared to the Dewott(?) and Simisage. And Liepard. Also the detailing of how we slowly come to understand that Liepard seemingly belonged to Team Plasma. Good job weaving the story together and not info dumping or revealing too much! I think you reveal just the right amount of info.

Some line by lines.

{My name is Tourmaline,} says Tourmaline, looking firmly at you. {Cheren calls me what he wants. He will call you what he wants as well. Best decide now which one you want to keep.}
Well that's rude. I mean, I don't have to speak English but even I could tell if a sapient animal didn't like a name. Or if I met someone from another country and just declared their name to be whatever I chose. Cheren is on the **** list.

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

Maxis is squinting heavily out of one eye. Ico looks like he’s about to faint, just standing there. You can’t recognize what caused his wounds, but they are deep, still-oozing gouges all up and down his legs. The scaly armor’s been chipped away in some places, and he can barely stand. You sidle over to him, prop yourself so that he can rest the weight of his body against your right leg.
Ok but humans in this version of the pokeworld suck. I mean how can they just stand there with their (supposed) friends and companions injured, bloodied, bones broken and call it good? In this specific context, pokemon battling is evil to me, if it simply results in such bodily harm.

Also I still really wonder how Pokemon as a collective have let it get this far? It'd be easy enough to kill a trainer.

{None of us want to be here,} she repeats, and it’s when she changes it to us that you realize what she wants you to understand: the two of you weren’t the first ones to ask a human for your freedom
But I still don't get why pokemon as a collective bother asking. Even stemming as far back as ancient times, I don't get why this goes on. Humans don't seem to have much in the way of real leverage over these thinking, sapient, reasoning beings.

You've certainly painted a good picture of why certain specific pokemon choose or stay like this. But so far it seems a vast majority hate this so... how did it get here? Pokemon are clearly the superior species. It's not quite like dogs or cats or horses of our earth. They can't breathe fire and shoot lightning. But pokemon are much smarter than our animals, and way way stronger, as the text has mentioned.

Do not bring them into battle with you; they will only get hurt.}
Such a sad line... I really enjoy Liepard's character. So bitter yet also holds her own beliefs and loyalties. I wonder what she would do if they ever found her old trainer. Very good characterizations, using dialogue to reveal character and letting the interactions between Boldore and Liepard to advance plot and theme.

Part 4

This part was also quite interesting. Amara the Zebstrika, who seems dedicated at first, but has doubts. I really enjoyed seeing the perspective of her, raised in a herd with her father/herdmates. The stories and legends they were raised on.

Then the conversation with Valseva. Definitely some fascinating takes on this discourse. Valseva who is loyal but honestly I guess why wouldn't she be, as she was raised like this I suppose. I can kinda sympathize with why she chooses not to leave. You really do do a good job presenting varying characters of all kinds and making them very distinct.

It’s a small number, one that’s quite close to the number of times the batteries in her headlamp have run out.
Well THIS is a jarringly revealing quote. Very poignant, a good way of saying something without telling the audience. Also wtf is wrong with Hilda here jeez. Adding her to the garbage humans list.

Well, not complete garbage, but just, 'meh' humans. At least she seems to have a better reason???

The flash of metal catches your attention. His pokéball. He’s grabbed his pokéball.

“Reylin?” Hilda asks, but too slow. The archeops rockets towards N. He grabs N’s shirt in his beak, uses his talons to shove the pokéball into the N’s hands. Reylin shouts something urgently in a language you can’t understand, but you see a faint flicker of understanding in the human’s eyes.
BE FREE REYLIN, BE FREE!!!

At least Hilda doesn’t pretend to be a hero.

Great chapter ending quote. You're really good at ending chapters tbh.

What does it really mean to be a hero? N doesn't quite call himself one. Ghetsis definitely masquerades as one but he's full of garbage. N kinda acts like one, but is he? It's worse to pretend to be something you're not than to just be something, imo. Gotta say, I see Amara's point. At least as far as getting annoyed with N.

Also uh. Humans suck in this world tbh. Where's a nice psychic type to lead a revolution when you want one? I mean, heck, why haven't legendaries wiped out humanity yet, crikey. Even in other regions. Goodness knows how they tolerate these humans, can't see why they would. In this world, I don't see pokemon reaping any real benefits? Of course, who knows what further reading may reveal??

I still take question with why or how humans remain or even got into power in a world like this, it just doesn't compute with me. I also wonder, if battles are so violent, how do pokemon get stronger? Like, if a bone can break, then no matter how strong you get, or more powerful you grow, the exact same amount of force will break a bone? So really, a pokemon can't get stronger, right? Just an observation, makes me curious to say the least.

Most intrigued still by this tale you're spinning. You raise some big big beeg questions thematically, very much looking forward to see where this goes. shall read more sometime.
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
i really wanted to cover two chapters with this review, but ended up a bit busier today than expected—sorry about that. will try my best to leave another asap!

iii. nuestro

i tried reading eoe once and my progress was interrupted when school got busy very suddenly. i only got partway through this chapter, but loved what i read, so i've been really looking forward to wrapping back around to it and finishing it up!

first off, i love, love, love carnel. his perspective is woven into every layer of the narration—the things he notices in the environment, the way he perceives others, the anecdotes and turns of speech and maxims. it all just felt so cohesive and brilliantly done. in my last review i commented that i thought your language got a way from you a little from time to time, but i didn't find that to be the case at all in this chapter. the prose is consistently polished and beautiful, and your metaphors are just fantastic. i frequently found myself pausing to admire your prose and that's not something i experience very often at all, even in published fiction. i feel like this type of prose walks a fine line between improving the narration and distracting from it, but in this case i felt like your language strictly augmented the reading experience. really nice stuff all around, i had a total blast reading this chapter.

ok. that's enough gushing about your prose for now. 😁

the different pokémon dialects thing was interesting, not sure i've seen that idea before. i wonder if it'll be relevant later, or if it was mostly just to emphasize the themes of miscommunication in this chapter. it reminded me a little bit of the magnetons in parliament of steel, particularly in the bits with carnel and ico.

some fascinating stuff plot-wise, too. i wonder who tourmaline's original trainer was, and am curious whether it's relevant or if we'll find out at all. someone from plasma, perhaps? i really enjoy your portrayal of cheren. in canon he's very methodical and motivated, which (to me at least) came off as strictly positive traits, but you do a great job as making him feel like a kinda shitty person without significantly warping his personality. just a matter of perspective in the end i guess! it seems like pokémon in this setting have radically different views on the subject of training depending on their personal histories. thinking about vaselva, it occurs to me that she was bred to be distributed to a trainer and had virtually never known anything different—i wonder if tourmaline's and carnel's perspectives are more or less universal among pokémon who were caught in the wild? whatever the case, it really does force you to carefully assess N's point of view. is it possible to be a trainer who's good to their pokémon and also good at battling? hilda seems to be such an example, but it's hard to say as we've only really seen into the mind of vaselva, who's different from most for the reason i just described. i suppose we'll see! i really wonder who i'll be siding with by the end of the fic.

ultimately i hope we see carnel again, he was a lot of fun. sorry if this review isn't super helpful, mostly i just had a really great time with this chapter!

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

Your gaze is drawn first to the human. He’s taller than you—but then again, most humans are. You think. You haven’t really seen that many, just the one that was yours. You can’t really see all the way up to his face, so you look at his shoes instead.
there's a lot of sentences starting with "you" here. not egregious but just enough to make it someone disruptive.

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

Right?
seems odd to me that he's panicking now, after politely asking about his situation just a moment ago. just a delayed response, maybe?

The fuzziness of her body is splattered with rings of gold, like the one that you had when you were a younger rock.
haha, aw. this is a cute thing to notice. i would've never thought of this.

There’s something infecting Tourmaline’s voice now. It reminds you of rot.
oof, very vivid. your language is always very nice but i'm especially liking it in this chapter.

You aren’t really sure what any of that means—except—you probably will miss the migration.
lol, love how single-minded carnel is.

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

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

You won’t throw it. That would be rude. How could you? The rock came here for a reason. Clearly it does not want to be thrown, not if it dragged itself here and buried itself in six inches of mud.
hahaha. not sure if you've read the stormlight archive, but if you have, this reminds me very much of the stick scene.

{My cave,} you say. A big pause, so it can sink in for him better, since he seems a little slow.
oh my god hahaha. i love his personality so much

All of the little pebbles rattle in excitement when their brother comes back.
this pantomiming is so cute and i can picture it so vividly.
It sparks like a webspinner, but it has stark colors, like veins in stone. Black and white.
1608501535886.png

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

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

Oh. Oh no.

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

“Great work, Monolith! I knew you could do it!”
lmfao. poor, poor carnel. suffering from success.

Cheren shouts back, “Yeah, I just picked it up in Chargestone Cave. He’s got some power. Where’s your archeops? I thought we could let our rock types duke it out.”
"he's got some power" seems a little stiff to me.

Something dazzles across your vision, like flashes of gold veins in stone.
lots of good rock-related similes in this chapter, but i think this one stands out as my favorite.

You know the feeling of always being two steps behind. But what did he really do here that exhibited weakness? What did she do that was strength? They never fought. Cheren could’ve been the Earthmother herself and it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the fight, not when he kept all of his strength on the sidelines.
hmmm. initially i wondered if he actually believed this, but it makes enough sense given his previous trainer just let him do whatever and didn’t care much for strategizing.

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

{None of us want to be here,} she repeats, and it’s when she changes it to us that you realize what she wants you to understand: the two of you weren’t the first ones to ask a human for your freedom.
ouch. that's so grim. i know it isn't true, because vaselva seemed happy to fight for hilda, but it's probably still true for many, if not most...

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

To ignore this thought is to push yourself up the mountain. Each time you do it, the more impossible it becomes.
i love this bit so much. some really awesome writing. curious how you came up with this.
 

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
Here I am. Back again.

This time I'm not doing a 11 chapter review because that almost killed me last time, so you'll have to make do with two :P

Anyway, I actually don't have toooo much to say about these two except that you're still masterfully juggling all of the themes I mentioned in my last reivew. I love how you're constantly tackling the same ideas but you're doing it through different points of view, in a way that each character's upbringing and culture informs their opinion on what's happening.

Similarly, I liked these two chapters because they focused on two things I'd been looking forward to. Number 1 is N's and Hilda's meeting in Nimbasa, which has been teased for a few chapters now, and Number 2 is Bianca, who I've been wondering about since I was curious how you'll play her. Even in the games Bianca is a character whose story can uh...be taken to a lot of places, so I was kind of wondering how you'll highlight her character here.

Along those lines, I also liked the focus that both of these chapters put on humans interpreting pokemon and their cultures wrong. It ties back into what I said last time, how people are so focused on their own lives and desires that they can't connect with others. It comes through in a really interesting way because it also affects the way in which those perceptions hinders the individual anyway. Hilda is a trainer with a lot of talent, a genuine desire to help and a lot to give...but, even if she tries hard to prove the contrary, she's constantly beating herself up because of that feeling that she has to prove she belongs there that she ends up closing herself off. I do agree that both Hilda and N are empathetic, but while N wears his heart on his sleeve and gets hurt and bears it, Hilda gets hurt and tries to build a shell around herself to lick her wounds.

And well, I already told you this through discord but I really liked your interpretation of the solosis line and the munna line. They feel abstract, like they're species external to humanity, beyond our understanding. I think that's also something that goes into what their chapters are about, because they're so far off from what humans could even intend to comprehend, people tend to just assume or make up stuff about them. They're so alien that it's easy to make our own conclusions.

Bianca as a character is...interesting, she strikes me as a sort of valley-girl type, which is ironic considering she's technically a hillbilly based on where she lives in Unova. However, I do think you capture the character she's supposed to represent in the games and ground it just enough in that her ditziness and air-headedness comes off more as a girl that feels so insecure about herself that she doesn't actually believe she can do or be anything, which in turn causes her pokemon to think that if they fail then they're failing her because they're not helping her feel better. I feel bad for her but at the same time I have to recognize how selfish it is, and yet, as per usual with your stories, it's very real.

Well, that's more on the general side and since I didn't have a lot of chapters to do this time, you get line by lines! That also help me expand on speciic points.

The comet has a name, given to it by humans who studied it greedily with their telescopes and their logic. When it traced across the sky they pinned it down with numbers, tried to study it and give reason to its orbit, to determine why it would cross into your horizons only to dip away into the void once more.

It's an interesting way of looking at astronomy and astrology. Also kind of a twist on the whole theme of truth, in that, you know, maybe trying to find the truth in everything isn't the best thing either? Like maybe life loses some of its magic if you figure it all out.

“There’s nothing to worry about, Mom. Nimbasa is fine.”

“I was worried before you started. Training isn’t made for people like us. You’re gambling your best years away, and for what? If it’s money you want, Matt says he’d be happy to hire you for the summer at his shop.”

“Dad’s been talking to you about this again, hasn’t he?”

I can relate to this so hard from when I moved, tho it was aunts instead of my mom. Either way, it was nice to get a bit more detail on Hilda's relationship with her family. It sounds like her parents haven't done a good job of helping her feel like she can achieve anything. But I like this interpretation! Also she has a dad, which is surprising in pokemon.

For a while you weren’t sure what you saw in her. You wanted that flash of insight to overtake you again, for the threads that align the universe to cast everything into clarity once more.

But every now and then, there will be just a hint, a glimmer. A shadow crosses her face and you see determination cross it, and that’s when you know you’ve made the right choice.

See, this is what I mean. We've seen it a lot throughout the story, Hilda has that hidden potential, something worthy of a Queen and of someone that can bodn with Zekrom. But her ideals and her own confidence are so shaky that it feels like she never actually fully embodies that potential.

Her parents don’t believe in her optimism. From what you gather they don’t believe in anything at all—not themselves, not their daughter. Battling just isn’t for people like them, people meant to lead quiet lives that don’t break the mold.

*takes in air* SOMEBODY-

With this many people around, it’s easy to send you out. Hilda was quick to learn this lesson: you do not do well in small groups of people. Their thoughts and their threads spin around your mind, each one screaming for its place. All of them seek things, and you can see where they end. Once, Hilda left you alone near Amara, and came back to find you had buried yourself in a pile of leaves to drown out the raging imperfection of her too-short, frayed thread—this one will be cut soon.

Ooooh, foreshadowing, or I guess beforeshadowing. It's a really neat concept though, that members of its line are so interconnected with fate and destiny that they can even see into the future in patches, I do wonder if he ever tried to tell Amara what he saw but...based on what we learn it doesn't seem like his species is one that believes with interfering with destiny.

She is bothered. You reach out tentatively with a tendril of psychic power and latch onto the reason—she will cry to the blitzle, whisper about how they need to get stronger. Impending fear in her voice as she talks strategies tries to figure out how she can catapult her team to greatness before Juniper decides she’s a lost cause. The image is close by—tomorrow perhaps, or maybe even this evening—so it feels fresh and real before you, even as inexperienced with sight as you are.

Does she feel like people will think that way about her because they actively have? or is that just her own insecurities? Because from what I've seen, Hilda doesn't seem to be doing half bad at all and anyone that says the contrary is just dumb (?)

He seeks the vast white, a truth so blinding and white that it will eclipse all the evil of the world. But what he fails to understand is that in times like these you need the darkness as well, for the stars to trace their way back to you.

Thies bookends pretty well with the opening line about how humans learning the truth about everything can instead take away meaning from it.

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.

Well...this is kind of what I expected, and yet not (?) Based on a later line it kind of feels like maybe it's not as bad but I won't hold my guesses. Either way, it was a pretty shocking chapter opener.

“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.”

Bianca stop, don't read weird blogs you find on the internet, they're never true. I do like that dig at those though, and the fact that, again, there's so many things people don't understand that they kind of just make their own conclusions.

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.

Have I mentioned how cute Munny is? I don't know, her POV is just so...innocent and kind and cute and I wanna protect her and wish to tell her she's doing just fine :c

Also Cheren is still an asshole. I like how you play with the whole childhood trio aspect here, it seems like they're friends but only because they grew up together and set out together. Aside from that it's more like they just put up with Cheren and his antics.

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?}

Munny, I feel like we have different perceptions on who your trainer is here. This was still sad,t hough.

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?”

Another thing I liked about these two chapters, since we're still going back in time, is that you can see how N was more...indecisive, something we see him fix later on. But here you can tell why other members of Team Plasma might've been frustrated with him and his kind of wishy-washy attitude. It's nice, and it's great that his decisions are all based on consent, but no one's ever gonna take him seriously if he always gives them an out. I'm not saying he has to force Munny, but it kind of feels like he doesn't try hard enough.

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.

Capitalism, am I right? But again,this tells us a lot about Bianca's own self-worth and how that influences her pokemon. It's not that Bianca is a bad person, it's just that she has her flaws and issues and, whether willingly or not, projects those to her pokemon as well.

{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.}

BIANCA WTF at least tell me it's cause the Pokemon Center is far away.

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?}

:C this is big sad right there. Munny deserves love.

“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.”

This is also something else that shows where N is at right now. He still doesn't have a clear view of what his truth trully means yet.

{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?}

Well shit. That last line actually floored me when I read it. It's also something that made me love Black in the manga though because there he actually does the opposite of what Bianca does here.

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

:C you shouldn't have to ask though.
 

kintsugi

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

hi hi hi!!! welcome to my silly child. he angy.
i found the dash immediately following the colon here a little clunky. i think that dash could just as well be a comma and it would probably read more smoothly that way to me.
rip can you tell I've workshopped the shit out of this sentence and still idk how to put it! fixed the rest of your line edit callouts; some of those phrasing choices were ... choices lol

i appreciate how you refer to ungendered pokémon as "they" rather than "it"—i often have the impulse to use "it" even for pokémon whose gender is known. the use of "they" makes them feel much more human.
N totally would! It's good practice for me too tbh.

i'd actually written a line about "it might be good to specify that time is speeding up" pertaining to about when reshiram was released, and had to erase it after seeing that you do clarify it here instead. it's hard to imagine reshiram being released, roaring, and giving their dialogue all in slow motion.
iSSssSSSsSSS thIiiiIIIiIIissssSSSss wHAaaaaaaAaAt yoUUUUuuuUUUUuUUUUuuu waAAaaAAaaAAAnt?????????

this is such a small thing, but this name is very close to "amaura," and i spent an embarrassing amount of time wondering why she had one of those until you clarify amara was a zebstrika later on.
oh rip! shows how much Kalos I've played.

hmm, it was discovered by humans but already known to the natives? it's not unrealistic that someone would say something like this but i'd expect N in particular to be a bit more sensitive.
it should be tbh! This comes up later. :(

i enjoy that vaselva is kind of the go-between here. N has trouble communicating with and even relating to other humans, and that contributes to his downfall in canon. maybe the player's pokémon attempt to communicate with N in the games, but i don't remember anything like that, and it's kind of curious now that i think about it. i like that you have vaselva here as the bridge between them—in sync with hilda's ideals, capable of communicating with N in terms he understands—yet her argument still isn't sufficient to dissuade N. it works really well.
</3 I really wanted more convos between N and your pokemon tbh--seems like he'd definitely focus more on them than you.

you gave me MEMES!!!! i love them

foRmuLas

this chapter sits nicely between the action-packed introduction and the action-packed battle that comes up next between ghetsis and alder. the reverse flow of this story makes this chapter in particular very interesting imo—it's the last standoff between hilda and N, and by now they're seasoned and experienced, their positions already fully formed. the argument is more of a formality than anything else; they're both already armed with legendary dragons and know they'll have to fight to determine whose world will become (or remain) reality. the previous chapter shows us that the two of them eventually came to blows, but this chapter illuminates just what they come to blows over—it'll be interesting seeing the next few chapters show us the why.
I'm really glad this reasoning landed tbh--sometimes I'll stare at the page and be like "jesus fuck what idiot thought reverse chronology would work", but! this is why I wanted it to work haha. It's all about why instead of what bay-bee.

hilda's comparative silence doesn't bode well for the outcome of the battle. she doesn't seem very sure of herself, certainly not as much as N is anyway. what with the state of hilda's team in chapter 0, i find myself curious how—if?—hilda manages to turn things around. valselva suggests that their roles are sort of reversed here compared to earlier on, so i'm excited to see what the swapped dynamic looks like, with an empassioned hilda and a subdued N.
</3
hahahahahhaa
Since you're all caught up--having her zebra get killed on national television was sort of discouraging for her whole schtick, yeah :(

as usual, your prose is a pleasure to read, your dialogue is snappy, and you give just the right amount of detail. your poetic prose is a ton of fun, although by now i'm beginning to detect a pattern that the language sometimes gets away from you a little and results in some slightly awkwardly-formed sentences or phrases... but that's super minor stuff and it's never pulled me out of the story so far.
it does sometimes ngl! if you happen to stumble on any, I love fixing them lol.

i initially read this as a complaint that he's not inflicting enough collateral damage, haha. not sure how i'd adjust that but it was definitely a moment of 😧 before i figured out what you mean there.
wave is here to kick ass and watch the world burn, and they're all out of ass ...

i found this line surprising. does alder understand his frustration? up until now, he'd kind of seemed like a conservative type to me—pokémon training is good, they like it and it makes them strong, you're just being silly.
I'm unsure! I don't think he does, but he, uh, certainly thinks he does.

hmm... i kind of expected more of a reaction here. i read your response to mijumaru and while i can see what you're going for with your portrayal of alder here, i think that mostly explains his choice to continue on with the battle, or his choice not to withdraw his volcarona, but no so much his imo weak reaction here. alder seems to me like a character who represents trust in tradition and reliance on decorum—i'd expected a much stronger reaction from him upon seeing that tradition and decorum broken here.
I'm torn, yeah! I don't know if I can balance them talking even more lol--but I did want to clarify why the gut reaction of withdrawing his volcarona would fail, so I added that in.

btw, if ripping off a pokémon's limbs is only a yellow card, what the hell do you have to do for a red card? hahaha.
nah they're fine they'll grow back! pokecenters.

haha, crazy that they'll send in an additional trainer before alder just takes the L. really underscores how the rules apply to thee but not to me here. ghetsis's breaking of the rules is horrible; double-teaming him in a battle alder has pointedly not ended despite having the power to is totally fine.
at this point I think they're more focused on extracting Alder safely--as far as they're concerned, Ghetsis forfeited via excessive force and he's basically just committing acts of terror at this point. It's not like if more trainers lost they'd acknowledge him as champ lol.

hmmm, curious about this maevis character—wonder if they'll come up again!
haha rip unfort no :(

interesting. so i guess in your canon the champion is the de facto head of state, huh? i have a feeling that'll be relevant again. it's an interesting interpretation imo, i wonder where you'll take it.
I do think there's some significant political clout to be had with being the most powerful pokemon trainer ... but, ala Dragon's Dance, power doesn't always get you what you want

man. fucking alder. interesting that wave seems to be siding pretty unequivocally with ghetsis here. not all pokémon feel this way, as evidenced by vaselva's attitude in the previous chapter. could it be that only pokémon who themselves battle feel like battling is okay? does that suggest that they're just brainwashed?
I think it's possible + there are some pokemon who unequivocally like battling! their stories are just told in all the other BW fanfics haha. and a few other chapters where this is Fine everything is Fine

oh man. i love the juxtaposition between wave's and hydreigon's reverence and hilda's naive attempts to command a god. vaselva's frantic pleading is great too.
I always think it's strange that once the dust settles with the whole Zek vs Resh thing, you can just use your dragon to bully random pidove lol

oof. vaselva said a similar thing of N... i hope there's more comparison between ghetsis and N like this going forward, it's something i haven't thought much about. i sort of perceived ghetsis as a con artist but it seems like his anger is genuine here—i'm excited to see how that interpretation plays out.
* sad sounds about how maybe pokemon would see unsympathetic traits as "human" when they look at us *

it's such a beautiful meme i love himb

i actually forgot how much i liked this chapter. i usually don't care much for battle sequences, but you thread it so intimately with the narrative that it hardly feels like pokémon battle at all; it's sort of just their ideological battle given flesh. i appreciate the opinionated narrative here, too. it's certainly a unique one, as wave doesn't seem to be a pokémon who personally battles, but as someone who has seen countless battles fought by reckless trainers like alder, their perspective is a valuable one that adds interesting layers to the complex issue.
Haha this was such a silly narrator concept on paper--"let's give a camera a soul". I'm glad it landed!!

i will say that the last leg of the battle, where everyone more or less gangs up on ghetsis, sort of dragged on to me. it wasn't tiring or anything but i definitely feel it could have been trimmed, as it was starting to fall into "just a pokémon battle" territory rather than the excellently written parallel with the rhetoric that the rest of the chapter does so well.
ooooh, bless, I'm always looking for ways to trim this behemoth. Which part do you define as the last leg?

i find it interesting that you diverge from canon on this point, with ghetsis challenging alder rather than N. this definitely feels like an integral scene and it absolutely couldn't have happened with seNsitive N in his place, but i do wonder whether this signals other divergences from canon later (earlier?) on in the story. guess we'll see!
yes! there is some other stuff hinting at it, but there's one major difference that leads to why it's Ghetsis who comes here instead of N 👀

on the whole this is a wonderful fic so far and, i know i've said it a million times, but your prose is a joy to read. the fic starts out with these larger-than-life conflicts that sort of descalate in scale with time... i'm very curious about how this fic ends. does it come full circle or do we stop at the beginning? i think the way you've structured the fic is smart—as you say, the big ideological debate that pervades the plot isn't a surprise to anyone with knowledge of the games' plot, so it makes sense to set up those major stakes early on and then tell us the story of just how they came to be. my favorite bits (at least as far as i've read) are still to come, but these first few chapters establish a very strong and exciting base. i trust that the unusual structure will pay off, and am excited to see exactly how it does. looking forward to reading more!
<3!!! I'm so glad you enjoy omg. There's a lot of juggling in the air and I'm really happy that it's landing haha. Thank you so much for taking the time to write all of these lovely reviews out; they really make my day
Equitia!!!! hi! thank you for swinging by omg :quag:

The prologue certainly sets up a mood, with Pokémon wounded, their trainers standing around them. I can’t quite tell yet if the time freezing actually happened or was a plot device, but either way I like it.
six of one, half a dozen of the other tbh!

Also, this story is going to be told backward? 👀 Verrrrrrrry interesting.

Chapter 1

(Heck yeah, backwards.)
you've stumbled upon why I had to have that moody prologue tbh! it'd probably be really confusing if I didn't explicitly say things were happening backwards.

The fact that this chapter is from the POV of a Pokémon immediately stuck out to me. I wasn’t expecting this, but it didn’t take me long to see what a great choice this was. Vaselva has a strong voice, and a deep outlook and backstory. I enjoyed her in this chapter.
Yeah! I think the BW games are interesting for a storytelling perspective because they're all humans talking. So this is pokemon telling a story instead.

Her backstory :(. I like how Vaselva says one thing to N, but her story says another. Being taken from her family for battle was subtly, heartwrenchingly conveyed. I hope I can see more of her relationship with Hilda later, but I suppose we’re already at the end of her character development. Vaselva seems to be clinging to a sunk cost fallacy; she’s lost everything, so she has to protect what she was given instead. I feel internal doubt that she’s not quite willing to admit though. It makes me wonder, if Hilda did find the right words, how it would have all turned out and what Vaselva would have done. But again, the story is already done.
</3 love this assessment! Vas means so well; she's so close but she's so far.

Obviously, humans do not see Pokémon as their equals and even if the humans aren’t killing babies anymore, most still refuse to fix any harm. But, Vaselva does want to remain with Hilda. Even if I think the circumstances that brought her to her trainer were wrong, would N have the right to separate them? My favorite moment in this chapter was this:
! this is such a good assessment too, and I'm really glad that this is the question you walk away from this chapter with--to what extent are you obligated to solve a problem that you didn't create? hilda didn't kill the haxorus, didn't take vaselva from her mother--but should she try to repair those wounds?

Is there an inbetween to be found, or is one even possible? I still find this story mysterious, and I don’t feel like I how much figured out. Definitely interested and want to keep going.
👀 I think there could be ...
hiya Flyg0n! Welcome, and thanks for reading! Lotta good thoughts here.

N's language and way of speaking are cool to read, cause he has a very 'high' and 'wordy' kind of way of speaking. Kind of Shakespearean maybe.
canon N always strikes me as having a strange way of speaking tbh--all of this talk about formulas, catalysts ... but he does strike me as an interesting, if unorthodox, orator.

Having the story seemingly play out in reverse is interesting, to say the least. You found a way to tell it that was pretty much easy to follow despite the plot unfolding backward. I found myself most interested in the story, even if I knew the gist of the end result. Because it wasn't about the end of the plot, but the how and why.
Yeah! That's pretty much on the money for why I tied myself to this silly format, yes.

The fight between Alder and Ghetsis/Harmonia being told through the eyes of a Rotom was unique. I enjoyed reading it, although there were one or two parts that became kind of hard to follow, either because the viewpoint or the seemingly sudden interruption of many radio waves. There were a couple times I wasn't sure who or what was speaking, but maybe I'm not supposed to know or it doesn't matter? Alternatively, its certainly possible I misread. But if you wanted to communicate urgency and chaos you did a good job.
Depends? There are definitely some where lines where it's important to know. If you happen to remember which ones are unclear, that'd be really helpful.

There is some glaring factors from a worldbuilding perspective that really make no sense to me. This story seems to lean towards N being right and pokemon are slaves/forced to fight/abused. At least, the story seems to lean that way but maybe it will change, so feel free to pay this no mind. But what doesn't compute or make sense if pokemon are abused, is they have no reason to do it. If Ghetsis is right, then why fight at all? They could very easily kill humans, pokemon seem much much stronger than humans in this version of the pokemon world.
Hmmm, it's messy. I'm not a fan of the "pokemon are slaves" narrative either tbh--but it's also not impossible for pokemon to be abused. Once you start handwaving people's pain + say as a rule they all enjoy this one thing (that conveniently benefits humans), it becomes very easy to start stomaching other abuses as well. I don't think this story is anywhere close to a blanket statement that all training is evil and trainers are the worst kinds of people ethically, but it also exists in a world that's pretty similar to the games where pokemon aren't being treated as people.

"Why fight/comply at all" is definitely a complicated question as well--historically why have people been oppressed? Most peasant revolts are notable because all of the peasants together were more powerful than the nobles, for example--but immediately before the revolt began, the situation was the worst it had ever been, wasn't it? It can be terrifying to break norms if you can't see what will come next.

"Why don't they just kill all humans"? is another interesting question. I would like to think that if I were in a pokemon's shoes I wouldn't kill a child, but beyond that I think there are a lot of reasons--fear of being killed in retribution by a legal system that doesn't recognize me as a person, nowhere else to go, etc--I think we circle back to this in my response to ch3/4 since this ended up being a recurring theme and I answered it better there.

It doesn't make sense to me why Pokemon don't just choose not to fight. They don't have to listen to their trainers at all. While I could sympathize somewhat with Valseva who I guess grew up with her mother? Neither her nor her mother seem to have any reason why they couldn't leave if they wanted to. For hundreds of years pokemon have fought alongside humans in a sport that apparently gets bloody regularly. But they're shown here to have intelligence levels equal to or above humans. They can speak and reason. But can't reason enough to make their own choices as a whole? As a species?
This is headcanon but I don't really think the games construct a convincing case that pokemon can open their own pokeballs--we rarely see pokemon accompanying a trainer in the overworld; the player's pokemon either don't come out ever or only when the player dictates it (HG/SS); evil teams like Rocket or Plasma can "steal" pokemon by taking pokeballs, which would be a non-issue if pokeballs could self-release (or there'd be language to specifically say "oh no they've tampered with the pokeballs"). Plus there's like, the whole shenanigans of throwing the pokeball in the air and calling the pokemon out when--why would you need that if they could just join the battle when they want to?

So in this world, I run with that to a conclusion--pokemon not being able to leave pokeballs by choice severely alters the power dynamic. This is a more recent invention, and arguably the downhill slope in pokemon/human relations is also more recent.

I'm curious what choices you don't think are being made here! There are certainly a lot of them but I don't want to assume on your behalf.

I also call foul on Ghetsis. How can he call himself better when he's simply using or asking pokemon to fight for a cause he wants. It's certainly not the pokemon controlling him and telling him to free him and his people. If so, a psychic or Hydreigon himself would simply lead the revolt. There's no reason they couldn't, given their intelligence level being more than high enough. But this to seems mostly like another human, asking pokemon or convincing them to fight for cause the human wants. Of course, the seeming hypocrisy of Ghetsis isn't a criticism, but more like an observation. Villains do tend to be hypocritical so it's fair enough that he may be that way.
Ghetsis is a bit of a shitbag and I'm pretty sure if I tried to write him as anything but that, he'd be unrecognizable from his canon counterpart. In this world he advocates burning children alive--ironically that'd be the end result of "why don't pokemon turn on their trainers", but it's not really a result I can endorse lol. He's empirically not doing good guy things in this chapter. He just also happens to be saying hero things while he's doing it.

The hydreigon does have Thoughts on this though!

Anyways, it also serves Ghetsis right. Too bad he didn't die. That is the one part I definitely see sympathy in, as Rotom observes. it's hardly fair that Hydreigon should die. He's just being used as a tool as well, it seems. No different than how N in the games was a tool as well.
I do struggle to wish death on people, but perhaps that's where we disagree re: killing trainers haha. But yes, hydreigon fren deserved much better :( I always find it strange that the pokemon killcount in fics/anime/movies is almost always higher than the human count--but if it's safe to be a pokemon, if pokemon are valued just as much as humans, that wouldn't happen, right?

Feel free to ignore anything here that may be answered later in the story of course. These are just my two cents based on the first bit. I know and expect stories take time to develop their themes! Def gonna read more sometime.
no, you're all good! it's always interesting to see how this story makes people feel. I think some/most of these questions will be addressed in future chapters, and I hope you find them satisfactory!
So after yesterday's review I had to come back for more. If anything, I was curious to see what direction this unusual story would tell. I'll be reviewing uh... the next two parts? So... Three and Four. I don't actually have much in the way of 'critique' as much as observations and reactions and thoughts.
hiya, welcome back! :quag:

First off, really interesting chapter, from this Boldore that Cheren has captured. I really enjoyed how you don't say its a Boldore, but you show and describe him through context clues. I also really feel like I'm able to get in the mind of each viewpoint character you choose. They all have differing and unique perspectives of their own.
haha, I'm glad! I know that shuffling POV's each chapter leads to some confusion, but I'm glad that it works here.

Well that's rude. I mean, I don't have to speak English but even I could tell if a sapient animal didn't like a name. Or if I met someone from another country and just declared their name to be whatever I chose. Cheren is on the **** list.
I do find the nicknaming tradition kind of strange--I always find myself wondering how many names someone would have to try with me before I settled on one I was okay with! * sad strange username sounds *

Ok but humans in this version of the pokeworld suck. I mean how can they just stand there with their (supposed) friends and companions injured, bloodied, bones broken and call it good? In this specific context, pokemon battling is evil to me, if it simply results in such bodily harm.
I was thinking of this image of a trainer standing their with their injured friends and companions as I wrote this chapter:

And I think there's a lot different in these two situations, of course--Ash's pokemon are all pretty enthusiastic to be there, and they make it pretty clear. Which is good, and it's a good thing that Ash listens + his pokemon encourage him + they all fight together.

But this episode always confused me in anime--is it uncommon for a trainer to roll in with 6 pokemon in such bad shape? Nurse Joy doesn't ask any questions like if Ash is secretly abusing his pokemon or pushing them too hard, so presumably there's some level of battling at which seeing this many injuries in one place is commonplace to her. They don't explicitly show blood or broken bones, but everyone's in the hospital overnight, so there's some amount of lasting damage. And again, in this case it's fine because it's our boi Ash and he'd never dream of hurting his pokemon, but in this case everyone is relying solely on the trainer's discretion--the discretion of a ten year-old child.

This is where we differ I think--I know in your world humans evolved to be kinder and good. But in this world I don't know if everyone who is trusted with that discretion does it perfectly, and when that discretion slips, people get hurt. That's sort of what's at stake when you compete in a sport that's about fighting to the point of being physically unable to do so. In this world pokemon aren't so alien from us that they can't bleed, can't feel pain; I can't really wrap my head around how that would be concurrent with NPC dialogue about "I can see your pokemon are hurt" or w/e--but then if battling results in any type of harm, the results are pretty horrifying, like you say.

Also I still really wonder how Pokemon as a collective have let it get this far? It'd be easy enough to kill a trainer.
tbh did a lot of thinking about this--as mentioned in the previous review response, I'd like to think I wouldn't kill my trainer if I were a pokemon. (Side note: would that make what they did to me any less wrong? Are transgressions usually defined by the reactions of their victims?) But I do wonder if other people would--so! I hotfixed the next chapter to elaborate more on this point actually. It fit in really well and I think it overall makes that arc more interesting, so thanks for your thoughts here!

But I still don't get why pokemon as a collective bother asking. Even stemming as far back as ancient times, I don't get why this goes on. Humans don't seem to have much in the way of real leverage over these thinking, sapient, reasoning beings.
Carnel tries in this chapter! Several times. But he gets recalled for his efforts. I do think the utility of being able to catch pokemon without a trace, and pokemon not being able to escape pokeballs, is massive leverage.

Then the conversation with Valseva. Definitely some fascinating takes on this discourse. Valseva who is loyal but honestly I guess why wouldn't she be, as she was raised like this I suppose. I can kinda sympathize with why she chooses not to leave. You really do do a good job presenting varying characters of all kinds and making them very distinct.
I'm glad! Always fun to examine the relationship between a trainer and their starter.

Well THIS is a jarringly revealing quote. Very poignant, a good way of saying something without telling the audience. Also wtf is wrong with Hilda here jeez. Adding her to the garbage humans list.
I do always find it strange that most pokemon in games/fanfic spend their time in their pokeballs, yeah.

What does it really mean to be a hero? N doesn't quite call himself one. Ghetsis definitely masquerades as one but he's full of garbage. N kinda acts like one, but is he? It's worse to pretend to be something you're not than to just be something, imo. Gotta say, I see Amara's point. At least as far as getting annoyed with N.
Excellent questions! This idea of heroes fascinates me--and I agree, N and Hilda aren't super heroic in this moment. Pokemon are the real MVP's lol.

Also uh. Humans suck in this world tbh. Where's a nice psychic type to lead a revolution when you want one? I mean, heck, why haven't legendaries wiped out humanity yet, crikey. Even in other regions. Goodness knows how they tolerate these humans, can't see why they would. In this world, I don't see pokemon reaping any real benefits? Of course, who knows what further reading may reveal??
I think this mostly (?) gets answered across a few other points in this review (but if not, lmk! always happy to talk shop), but for the point of legendaries specifically: Unova lore fascinates me since their big legends are locked behind an incredibly specific set of requirements. In Johto they're just chilling in the towers (at least in G/S); Hoenn you can dig up the orbs; in Sinnoh you can do it with science--but in Unova you need like, two heroes who are the pure embodiment of these very specific concepts, and otherwise there is no way to get the gods to awaken, and this is treated as like, something that hasn't happened for thousands of years. The musketeers are (?) kind of helpful in dex lore? But in game they mostly just wait in random coves for you to find them. And thundurus/tornadus don't really seem concerned with humans either. Victini is locked in a basement for a few centuries, Genesect is basically discount Mewtwo--idk! This story mostly focuses on Unova, but I think it's possible that other regions have a better balance + their legends are around to do some specific yeeting when the humans are naughty.

I wonder--do you think there are situations where someone more powerful can/should do something for someone else even if there isn't a real benefit for them?

I still take question with why or how humans remain or even got into power in a world like this, it just doesn't compute with me. I also wonder, if battles are so violent, how do pokemon get stronger? Like, if a bone can break, then no matter how strong you get, or more powerful you grow, the exact same amount of force will break a bone? So really, a pokemon can't get stronger, right? Just an observation, makes me curious to say the least.
idk if the goal in fighting is to break the opponent's bones, so it's not really like your goal is to avoid breaking your bones--it's just an accidental consequence sometimes. For a different example, you can break bones in football, but people still practice playing football, because the metrics for getting better at football have nothing to do with breaking bones. Questions of strength come up later as well--what does it mean to be strong? Is there a definition for a strong pokemon that exists beyond their capacity for fighting?

Most battles in this setting go to knockout only. Ghetsis is very violent; Cheren's a bit harsh; Hilda's pretty reasonable when she isn't being burned alive or trying to stop someone from ending the world. As we go further back the battles get less and less bloody--a bit of fun with the reverse chronology and a reverse slippery slope I guess--is there an acceptable amount of pain?

Most intrigued still by this tale you're spinning. You raise some big big beeg questions thematically, very much looking forward to see where this goes. shall read more sometime.
I'm glad you're enjoying! I know this is pretty far from your standard fare, so I appreciate that you're taking the time to write out your thoughts here! Lots to discuss and it's always really helpful to see how people interpret what I've done so far.
i really wanted to cover two chapters with this review, but ended up a bit busier today than expected—sorry about that. will try my best to leave another asap!
omg noooo you're great <3

first off, i love, love, love carnel. his perspective is woven into every layer of the narration—the things he notices in the environment, the way he perceives others, the anecdotes and turns of speech and maxims. it all just felt so cohesive and brilliantly done. in my last review i commented that i thought your language got a way from you a little from time to time, but i didn't find that to be the case at all in this chapter. the prose is consistently polished and beautiful, and your metaphors are just fantastic. i frequently found myself pausing to admire your prose and that's not something i experience very often at all, even in published fiction. i feel like this type of prose walks a fine line between improving the narration and distracting from it, but in this case i felt like your language strictly augmented the reading experience. really nice stuff all around, i had a total blast reading this chapter.
<3 <3 <3
little ronk friend is such a good ronk friend

fixed the line edits as you pointed them out--thank you so much for doing this close read for me!

the different pokémon dialects thing was interesting, not sure i've seen that idea before. i wonder if it'll be relevant later, or if it was mostly just to emphasize the themes of miscommunication in this chapter. it reminded me a little bit of the magnetons in parliament of steel, particularly in the bits with carnel and ico.
👀 I do always think it's strange that you can get traded a pokemon from Germany or Hoenn or whatever and they understand you perfectly--it's obviously a game-ism, but maybe it doesn't have to be.

some fascinating stuff plot-wise, too. i wonder who tourmaline's original trainer was, and am curious whether it's relevant or if we'll find out at all. someone from plasma, perhaps?
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

i really enjoy your portrayal of cheren. in canon he's very methodical and motivated, which (to me at least) came off as strictly positive traits, but you do a great job as making him feel like a kinda shitty person without significantly warping his personality. just a matter of perspective in the end i guess! it seems like pokémon in this setting have radically different views on the subject of training depending on their personal histories. thinking about vaselva, it occurs to me that she was bred to be distributed to a trainer and had virtually never known anything different—i wonder if tourmaline's and carnel's perspectives are more or less universal among pokémon who were caught in the wild? whatever the case, it really does force you to carefully assess N's point of view. is it possible to be a trainer who's good to their pokémon and also good at battling? hilda seems to be such an example, but it's hard to say as we've only really seen into the mind of vaselva, who's different from most for the reason i just described. i suppose we'll see! i really wonder who i'll be siding with by the end of the fic.
Hilda definitely Tries! I think ... hmm, if I do my job well, hopefully you can side with everyone :3

ultimately i hope we see carnel again, he was a lot of fun. sorry if this review isn't super helpful, mostly i just had a really great time with this chapter!
no you are the BEST thank you for loving this little rock friend and understanding cheren

seems odd to me that he's panicking now, after politely asking about his situation just a moment ago. just a delayed response, maybe?
hmm, might have to revisit this one--in this canon pokemon can't pick up on the passage of time in their pokeballs--so Carnel is just realizing that he might be really far (both time and place) from the last time he was out

haha, aw. this is a cute thing to notice. i would've never thought of this.
the cat is PRETTY

lol, love how single-minded carnel is.
why do rocks migrate?? where do they go?? science does not know but the rocks value it very much

this is a really cool bit of pokémon culture—these are the bits that really stick with me from this fic so far. hoping to see more as i continue!
I certainly try haha

this pantomiming is so cute and i can picture it so vividly.
ronk does puppet show; does not receive standing ovation :(

bless you for the memes I laughed at this for like a full minute

hmmm. initially i wondered if he actually believed this, but it makes enough sense given his previous trainer just let him do whatever and didn’t care much for strategizing.
beeeeeg eyes

ouch. that's so grim. i know it isn't true, because vaselva seemed happy to fight for hilda, but it's probably still true for many, if not most...
she's projecting a bit here! She is ex-Plasma after all, so her sample size is admittedly skewed--but how many is enough where you can finally say, fuck it, something's gotta give

i love this bit so much. some really awesome writing. curious how you came up with this.
omg. this one is actually ... really stupid. I have this song on my eoe writing playlist, it came up while I was trying to make a metaphor for a task a rock would find difficult, which lead to imagining boldore trying to run uphill, which lead to sisyphean tasks, and then I decided that rather than have the boulder crush you, if you were a rock you could just galaxy brain be the boulder. I wish I had something smart for this but I DON'T lol.

I'm really glad you love my rock fren <3 He is a good fren and nothing bad happens to him. Thank you for taking the time to read + respond on this! I appreciate it + big grins all around
Here I am. Back again.

This time I'm not doing a 11 chapter review because that almost killed me last time, so you'll have to make do with two :P
I'm constantly in awe of how you pump out these review ngl. They're always so fun.

Anyway, I actually don't have toooo much to say about these two except that you're still masterfully juggling all of the themes I mentioned in my last reivew. I love how you're constantly tackling the same ideas but you're doing it through different points of view, in a way that each character's upbringing and culture informs their opinion on what's happening.
I'm! really surprised you like these actually! I think these two chapters round off this 4-chapter section (10-13) of the weakest part of the story, but it's good to see what bits I might try to keep onboard.

Along those lines, I also liked the focus that both of these chapters put on humans interpreting pokemon and their cultures wrong. It ties back into what I said last time, how people are so focused on their own lives and desires that they can't connect with others. It comes through in a really interesting way because it also affects the way in which those perceptions hinders the individual anyway. Hilda is a trainer with a lot of talent, a genuine desire to help and a lot to give...but, even if she tries hard to prove the contrary, she's constantly beating herself up because of that feeling that she has to prove she belongs there that she ends up closing herself off. I do agree that both Hilda and N are empathetic, but while N wears his heart on his sleeve and gets hurt and bears it, Hilda gets hurt and tries to build a shell around herself to lick her wounds.
<3 I think this is a really good assessment. even if it's sad as well as accurate It's worth noting how different their upbringings are--Hilda definitely has to struggle to get where she is now, so she's used to having to wall herself off; N definitely had a softer upbringing, which I think lends him a sense of being able to be broken.

And well, I already told you this through discord but I really liked your interpretation of the solosis line and the munna line. They feel abstract, like they're species external to humanity, beyond our understanding. I think that's also something that goes into what their chapters are about, because they're so far off from what humans could even intend to comprehend, people tend to just assume or make up stuff about them. They're so alien that it's easy to make our own conclusions.
Haha, I do want to ground them a bit more--especially Jericho--but psychics are my bread and butter, as it would seem.

Bianca as a character is...interesting, she strikes me as a sort of valley-girl type, which is ironic considering she's technically a hillbilly based on where she lives in Unova. However, I do think you capture the character she's supposed to represent in the games and ground it just enough in that her ditziness and air-headedness comes off more as a girl that feels so insecure about herself that she doesn't actually believe she can do or be anything, which in turn causes her pokemon to think that if they fail then they're failing her because they're not helping her feel better. I feel bad for her but at the same time I have to recognize how selfish it is, and yet, as per usual with your stories, it's very real.
I feel so bad for Bianca tbh--her story is kind of centered around control and abuse, and I'm not sure if I actually want to have her story here be centered around how she perpetuates it to others. But! Who knows. I'm glad that this angle worked.

It's an interesting way of looking at astronomy and astrology. Also kind of a twist on the whole theme of truth, in that, you know, maybe trying to find the truth in everything isn't the best thing either? Like maybe life loses some of its magic if you figure it all out.
Oooh, I love how Pen is rubbing off on you--unlike her worlds, magic has pretty much left this world, but there are still a precious few for whom it could be alive.

I can relate to this so hard from when I moved, tho it was aunts instead of my mom. Either way, it was nice to get a bit more detail on Hilda's relationship with her family. It sounds like her parents haven't done a good job of helping her feel like she can achieve anything. But I like this interpretation! Also she has a dad, which is surprising in pokemon.
yeah, eyes peeled on this--I think I'll try to make this section more clear about her parents. And I forgot that her dad doesn't show up in canon lol. I should probably do something with that ...

See, this is what I mean. We've seen it a lot throughout the story, Hilda has that hidden potential, something worthy of a Queen and of someone that can bodn with Zekrom. But her ideals and her own confidence are so shaky that it feels like she never actually fully embodies that potential.
I want to work on this too! This trainer who summons a god.

*takes in air* SOMEBODY-
omg I didn't catch onto this in Discord but you're right I've done smashmouth haven't I

Does she feel like people will think that way about her because they actively have? or is that just her own insecurities? Because from what I've seen, Hilda doesn't seem to be doing half bad at all and anyone that says the contrary is just dumb (?)
six of one, half a dozen of the other? I don't think it's incorrect that the sponsorship trainers have a lot riding on them--she has no safety net if she fails or if Juniper decides to jettison her, for example. But she's also doing a decent job.

Bianca stop, don't read weird blogs you find on the internet, they're never true. I do like that dig at those though, and the fact that, again, there's so many things people don't understand that they kind of just make their own conclusions.
but Flaze! this one says i'm a capricorn and I'll fall in love

Have I mentioned how cute Munny is? I don't know, her POV is just so...innocent and kind and cute and I wanna protect her and wish to tell her she's doing just fine :c
wdym Munny is doing just Fine everything is Fine this is all Fine

Also Cheren is still an asshole. I like how you play with the whole childhood trio aspect here, it seems like they're friends but only because they grew up together and set out together. Aside from that it's more like they just put up with Cheren and his antics.
It happens tbh! I think, and perhaps I should coax this out somehow, Cheren is under a lot of pressure--basically the same as Hilda. It's absolutely a dick move to pick on Bianca for easy wins, but his reasoning is basically that if Juniper has to pick one trainer to defund and leave penniless/defunct ... it isn't gonna be him.

Munny, I feel like we have different perceptions on who your trainer is here. This was still sad,t hough.
I think it's deeply interesting how some pokemon in fanfics love their trainers no matter what! It's a strange concept if you go into it questioning if that love is deserved--but maybe it could still be earned? I do want to turn up the second bit more in this chapter.

Another thing I liked about these two chapters, since we're still going back in time, is that you can see how N was more...indecisive, something we see him fix later on. But here you can tell why other members of Team Plasma might've been frustrated with him and his kind of wishy-washy attitude. It's nice, and it's great that his decisions are all based on consent, but no one's ever gonna take him seriously if he always gives them an out. I'm not saying he has to force Munny, but it kind of feels like he doesn't try hard enough.
A bit of a chicken and an egg I think--he certainly isn't going to tell them no, they can't go back; that would be antithetical to everything he stands for. But the more he hears this, like in canon, I think the more shaken in his beliefs he becomes. I just can't wrap my head around the idea that every single pokemon he talks to is 100% on board with their trainers, or at the very least that some new information wouldn't come up if a pokemon could actually talk to a human.

Capitalism, am I right? But again,this tells us a lot about Bianca's own self-worth and how that influences her pokemon. It's not that Bianca is a bad person, it's just that she has her flaws and issues and, whether willingly or not, projects those to her pokemon as well.
hard agree here! especially about the capitalism I actually like Bianca as a character quite a bit. Maybe I'll write a fic where she gets to be good so I can do her some justice haha.

BIANCA WTF at least tell me it's cause the Pokemon Center is far away.
Oh, I can clarify that in the text, yeah. The woods are big and if your pokemon gets knocked out early it can be pretty dangerous :( especially if your pokemon is a friendly nonviolent dream hippo

Well shit. That last line actually floored me when I read it. It's also something that made me love Black in the manga though because there he actually does the opposite of what Bianca does here.
👀 do they? I only read the summaries and I always thought the musharna just ate his nightmares tbh

:C you shouldn't have to ask though.
:(

again, I'm really glad (?) you enjoyed these--these are gonna be under construction in a bit, but it's helpful to see which bits worked! thanks for your thoughts here <3
 
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Navarchu

Exploration Team leader
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. swampert
Hi Kint, Navar here! Since I’m feeling better now, I decided to read and review the first chapter here for the blitz! My review style is mostly me rambling about the cool stuff, so I hope you don’t mind that, and enjoy it! Without further ado, here I go!

For starters I gotta say I loved the descriptions, and most importantly, N! My favorite character from the mainline games. It’s always a delight to see how anyone writes about him, and you didn’t disappoint. Not at all! From start to finish, this chapter got me very fixated on it. It took me a while to find out that the POV was from Reshiram, but once I did… Wonderful! Unova is one of the greatest regions for me, and it was nice to see how you wrote both N and Hilda. The conflict between Truth and Ideals. Two trainers clashing goals. A good and fun start to this fic, which hopefully I’m actually going to finish, since I’m on break from college now. Anyway, My thoughts overall about this chapter were: Nice description, nice characterization, the scenes were smooth and organic, like a fine work of art. So I think you're on the right path here, your story is using canon characters in a good, refreshing way. Like I said, N is always nice to see, so I think I'm gonna read this fic in its entirety later. This got my attention, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the story!



 
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Dragonfree

Ace Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
Ah, Zoroark! Lovely. Also love to hear about what stories the humans tell as a contrast to what the Pokémon do.

In that moment, a that pokémon appeared to him, and bowed low.
You've got an extra word in here.

You liked the part where they human tried to kill everything he could see, because that at least made sense
haha, nice

The boy took it eagerly, and honed it. He learned to craft her illusions into his words, and fashioned himself a pretty lie: that Mitama’s kindness bound pokémon to humans for the rest of time.
Ha, neat. I love how abstract and mythological this is, this notion that Zorua has the power of lies and a human could learn from it to lie in words.

If they ever doubted themselves, if they ever thought they were trying to be kind, surely they’d pull back from the cruelty they were inflicted
Should be inflicting, surely? Unless I'm misparsing this.

Zoroark can deceive each other, but they cannot deceive themselves. This is only logical, after all. You create the illusion. It does not create you. You have mastery over it, and you can choose when the illusion falls and your true self remains.
Ooh, continuing along that theme with their way of thinking. Deception makes sense because they do it all the time; self-deception does not.

He was never raised to understand what it means to change your skins; to have one face for prey, one for battle, one for family.
This is interesting, though! Humans absolutely do do that, if in a less literal sense: putting on different masks for different social situations.

But you’re halfway through twisting your way around a palpitoad’s legs when you hear a scream, and then a pop, and you turn just in time to see a gas cannister strike a scolipede in the thorax. The cylinder lodges between the chinks in its reddish armor, and then it begins seeping burning-hot gas while the scolipede shrieks in pain, bucking around wildly.
Ouchhh. Continuing with the police brutality, I see.

The herdier has his nose pointed straight at you, and you know you’re doomed. You can smell like a herdier if you want to, and with this much gas floating around you’re sure his nose is just as shot as yours is—but can you smell like his herdier? Lillipup packs rarely separate after birth, and even when they do, they will never forget the scent of a sibling.
Hmm, why would she assume this Herdier would be a sibling of any other Herdier that might be "one of ours"? Figuring he'd probably recognize the other Herdier he knows, yeah, seems reasonable, but why siblings? Only reason I can think of would be if Inari assumes by "one of ours" they must mean one of the family, but then why bring up that they don't forget the scent of a sibling even if they're separated?

You’re in a daze, so time seems to skip ahead a few moments until there are shoes in front of your face, a human figure standing in front of you, arms outstretched. The purple silhouette of a liepard twines around her ankles. The herdier pulls up short as soon as it sees the girl, and his attack fizzles out immediately.
yaaaay Rhea she's so good (wow look at that police Herdier immediately canceling the attack when this other Pokémon apparently turns out to belong to a human)

It bugs me a little, though, that Blue explicitly was going for her scent and not the illusion, and thus presumably knew she wasn't just a real normal Herdier - yet didn't sound the alarm when Rhea came along, calling her a Herdier. From Blue's point of view, this should have been extremely fishy, yet the narration here sounds like she just immediately bought it without question, which is a little disappointing. Would've loved to see her as a more active character here.

But the liepard around his ankles fixes you with a flinty gaze. {This is your only chance. Can you stand?}
Around his ankles? Assume you just wrote the wrong pronoun, unless Tourmaline is suddenly very up close and personal with the officer.

The humans aren’t using you. You were angry long before anyone told you that you were allowed to be.
This seems like kind of a funny thing for her to say, given this is the first time she's ever met any humans and prior to that she was actively indoctrinated into thinking humans were scum - she would obviously never have been under the impression being angry about humans "wasn't allowed", and still doesn't even know about Team Plasma or the liberation movement, so her talking about "before anyone told you that you were allowed to be" just seems very strange, like she's talking from an entirely different point of view. (Even if it's purely a hypothetical, a 'You were angry even without anyone telling you that you were allowed to be', why would she assume anyone needs to be told they're allowed to be angry about humans? Why would that be where her mind goes at the notion that humans could be trying to use her?) It's a good line, but I feel like it would fit better in the POV of a different narrator, like Zahhak or somebody, that it would actually apply to.

{The human I seek is probably twenty suns old by now.}
Hmm, would you call years "suns"? Surely the intuitive understanding of just "a sun" as a measure of time would be a day and not a year, right?

If she wanted to be like Mineta and put her lots in with humans who would attack even their own, then let her.
Mineta? Should this be Mitama?

The general portrayal of Rhea and Tourmaline's relationship at the motel is lovely - they really do feel like old friends and a girl and her cat at the same time. (Every chapter makes it hurt more that they ultimately get separated forever, the end.)

You decide to wear the changeling’s face as you saw it in the crowd yesterday, to remind yourself what you’ve been looking for. Idly, you cast yourself in the illusion of a tall male human with a puff of green hair, a slight slouch, distracted fingers that fidget with the skin of his pants. It’s the details that matter. He had a quiet face, one that you don’t think anyone would take offense to or even approach. A slightly lilting way of walking, very careful and seemingly random at the same time. The voice doesn’t matter, but his words still ring in your ears.
Like this description of little details about N a lot.

Your real issue will be the bird, Touraline warned you.
Missing an m in the name there.

She trails off again, and you idly wonder if this is a good distraction to steal the stone or if you should wait until they all drift off to sleep. Hilda’s voice doesn’t shake one bit when she says, “I mean, they have good ideas, but after what they did to you? I can’t just stand with people like that.”
Ooh, intriguing.

“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.”
Oh, Hilda, you're not nearly as good a trainer as you think.

So you put on the illusion of Hilda—any human would do, really, but she’s the one whose face you remember the best—and Tourmaline she takes you to see the changeling human.
Presumably you only want one of "Tourmaline" and "she" there.

{Inari.} You make the image of the girl’s mouth move alongside yours, twist the growls out of her lips, and you’re sure from his reaction that this is the most frightening illusion you’ve cast today. Have you messed up her face again? Humans are hard. Do they only have two fangs, or are they supposed to have more?
Ahaha, oh dear.

Kobo came back from his time with the humans with a horrible secret and a new face. Both were equally terrifying, and both drove you to seek out the changeling. The secret, for what it said. And the face, for what it didn’t. When Kobo left, he could cast no illusions. When he returned, he refused to show you his true face, or his false face, or any face at all. He was just a voice lingering in the wind, staying with you but never showing itself.

He had learned something from the humans, you’d decided once he’d fallen silent and you could no longer find him. He’d finally learned how to lie even to himself, hidden his face so well that no one could coax him out of it.
Huh, interesting. Not sure I quite see the connection between learning to lie to himself and turning entirely invisible, though. (Then again, maybe that's just something Inari is imagining and not the actual truth. This is written almost like he's actually just dead and returned briefly, temporarily, as a ghost? Especially with him just falling silent and then Inari can't even find him anymore. But that seems like it'd be a strange thing for you to do here randomly.)

The ending is neat, but I can't help but not find Inari's way of thinking entirely convincing here. Sure, you can refer to Kobo learning to weave illusions better than any other Zoroark as learning to change, and you can also refer to persuading humans to treat Pokémon better as them learning to change, but that doesn't mean that these two things actually have anything at all to do with each other. The logic of "N could (somehow, nebulously, according to her vague guesswork about the fact he came back knowing this skill) teach a Zoroark to be better at illusions" => "N ought to have the conviction be able to change humans' hearts and minds" just kinda seems like moon logic to me. Even if we do take the skill at illusions = ability to deceive connection at face value, "N could teach a Zoroark to deceive even himself" => "N ought have the conviction to be able to change humans' hearts and minds" is still a non-sequitur. Like, does she actually think N just needs to get better at deception and lie to the other humans about why they should treat Pokémon better? Surely she doesn't think that's actually a lie? (And that isn't what he does! He literally does it by bonding with the dragon of truth!) All in all this is very interesting but just didn't quite feel to me like something a person would coherently believe.

Also, I'm curious why Inari feels that N gave Kobo a great gift, given that Kobo also apparently said that the pack has no room for those whose lies fool themselves. Is this something the pack scorns but Inari actually admires? Does she think it was good of N to teach him to make normal illusions but the self-deception is still bad? This wasn't entirely clear to me.

Rhea remains really good, though. The motel scene was my favorite. I also did enjoy the general sense of the POV and how Inari treats everything as a lie by default.
 

IFBench

Rescue Team Member
Location
Pokemon Paradise
Partners
  1. custom/chikorita-saltriv
Here for the first review of my chapters 1-8 review exchange! This review will be on the first three chapters.

First, though, a little comment on the summary! It's an excellent attention-grabber. It tells the reader that N wins, and that yet he might not be entirely right, going by the last sentence. Very good!

Also, going back to the chapters, I really like how all the chapters start with the letter N when, except the first one and the last one, which start with N when spoken aloud! A very neat touch, and gives some intrigue as to what sets these two chapters apart, aside from being the beginning and end.

Onto the first chapter itself now...that is a very horrifying and gripping description. The way how you describe all the bodies of the Pokemon, how they're all broken or hurt and likely dead is gruesome, and hurts to read in a good way.

The bit about the dark fire in the trainer's eyes is also very intriguing. Is it because of Zekrom, are they very angry, or something else?

And looks like N is about to use Reshiram to permanently seperate humans and Pokemon. Yet, despite everything, he doesn't feel like the hero. Very, very interesting.

One thing that does annoy me is that while a story playing out backwards is a very interesting and unique idea, it also has the unfortunate side effect of leaving a cliffhanger either doesn't get for a very long time, or never gets resolved at all. I want to see what exactly Reshiram will do, but that may never be shown, and that's a bit discouraging as a reader. I'm not asking you to rewrite everything to fit this, but perhaps in another chapter, it could be explained what Reshiram being summoned would truly entail? Or maybe you already do that in a later chapter, or maybe you have something else planned! Either way, I do hope that somehow what happens next is explained.

Overall, a very good chapter, and an excellent hook, but it's also one of those cliffhangers.

Onto chapter 2, nominal! It's a really interesting change of perspective, being from the perspective of Hilda's Serperior, Vaselva, though the fact that this is her Serperior isn't clear until the third paragraph. I really like how you don't directly tell the reader whose perspective everything is in, but allow them to figure it out themselves through context clues! That's something I'm a very big fan of!

Now that I'm on the perspective topic, I'll mention that it's also pretty interesting how the story is all in second person. Normally, I'm not a very big fan of second person without any twists, but you pull it off excellently!

I like how Vaselva keeps making comparisons to plants. A very interesting, but fitting take on the perspective of a grass-type Pokemon.

I also really like the lore tidbit about Opelucid City. While relatively short, it manages to tell a horrific, sad story very quickly.

Hilda is really interesting. She seems to genuinely care about her Pokemon, yet there are moments where it seems like she may not be in the right. I am VERY intrigued by this!

I'm also very intrigued by how N mostly only talks to Vaselva, though still occasionally says a few words to Hilda. A great way of showing how much he cares about Pokemon.

And the chapter ends just as the battle between Hilda and N begins, nicely leading into the events of chapter 1. I like it!

Overall, a very good prequel to chapter 1, that build intrigue and also resolves a few questions.

Now for chapter 3...and now I feel very, very conflicted as a whole about everything. This was a very hard chapter to read. You did not pull any punches while writing this. Apologies if I don't mention some things. There was a lot that happened, and it got so harsh at points that I skimmed through some of it.

Alder's words did a very good job at making me quickly dislike him, and that remark about how the Pokemon aren't going to get hurt combined with the tw at the start of the chapter struck fear into my heart.

Then...Ghestis put on that show of cruelty, commanding his Hydreigon to rip the wings off of the Volcarona. And that was just the beginning, as his Pokemon maimed the opponents' Pokemon, and...you did perhaps too good of a job showing how horrific it was.

And then he aims directly for Hilda, and I couldn't keep reading entirely anymore. Zekrom showing up was really intriguing, but I was too shocked by all the cruelty that it barely registered for me.

The ending of the chapter, showing the consequences of what happened, with Zekrom appearing, and how so many of the Pokemon involved would either be permanently crippled or outright die, was a good, but depressing close to this amazingly effective chapter.

This was an amazingly done chapter. Perhaps even too well done.
 

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
All right, coming in here to finally get up to date again with the last two chapters!

So chapters 14 and 15 were both a doozy all on their own. I really liked chapter 14 because of how you went deeper into the mythology behind Unova. Your approach to Sigiglyph is really interesting and as a pokemon that I tend to ignore or forget about, it really painted them in a new life. This chapter also personified the theme of differing truths and perspectives and how those can prevent a person from looking past their beliefs by having N and the Lorekeeper literally debate on their differing opinions of the Storm Dancer and Drago Mother myths.

I think both versions of the myths make sense and could technically work, especially with how they both showcase the relationship between humans and pokemon in a different way. One emphasizes the respect that humans and pokemon should hold for each other, while the other emphasizes how humans always take away things from pokemon. Though ironically N's version of what happened to the Dragon Mother is the myth that the franchise itself uses, but it makes sense since I think that's the most popular one.

I also appreciate that you don't go out of your way to say which of their versions is right, they're both valid and they both exist for a reason. At the end of the day it really comes down to which one the specific person appreciate or reflects their world-view. For N it makes sense, he's been taught his whole life that humans will always take things away from pokemon and oppress them if given the chance. Lorekeeper on the other hand, as someone that's lived thousands of years and lived in a time before training and even had his own "trainer", believes in his version because that's the one that best reflects the life he knew. A version in which Storm Dancer gratefully handed over her ability to humans, just like his creator gave his blood, sweat and tears to create Lorekeeper in the first place.

Also the fact that N is so steadfast in his belief as to why he agrees with his version, the one he was taught, also tells us that at this point he's still struggling with trying to reconcile between his dream and Ghetsis', he's still unsure on how he should approach the idea of a world where pokemon can be free and while he's open to hearing other viewpoints he has a bit of trouble realizing that maybe what he himself believes is different from what others have taught him.

Lastly the reveal of, regardless of how they got it, humanity possibly obtaining Meloetta's gift to talk to all species is huuuugeee and it answers one of the biggest questions I had, and mentioned, with this story. Pokemon can understand humans because Meloetta's power gives their voice the ability to be heard by all species regardless of their environment.

This also answers why pokemon are willing to listen to and form partnerships with humans. I mean, outside of it kind of being ingrained in their culture, if we go off on the basis that they can understand humans because they were blessed by a god, it makes complete sense. We've seen that most species are respectful of ancient pokemon myths and especially of the gods, so if the gods gave humans the ability to communicate with pokemon regardless, then why shouldn't they put their trust in humans? At least I can see that connection being made by a lot of them.

As for chapter 15. I'm gonna be honest, I really liked this chapter and I think that it drives the big point of how training enslaves, punishes and forces pokemon to not only obey humans but also think of each other as obstacles, opponents that they have to beat to please their trainer.

That being said, I did think that maybe the chapter suffers a little bit from retreading old ground in a way. I'd say its biggest benefit is that it's the first time we get a proper look at a pokemon just entering the world of training and we also get our first look at what a ground level battle is like. I say it in the sense that these are meant to be "basic" battles, ones that any starting trainer would engage in, as opposed to the pro level champion level matches that we saw in chapter 2 between Ghetsis and Alder. However, I think that a lot of the ideas from chapter 2 come up again here.

That being said, I can appreciate the differences. In chapter 2 you showed us the pains of pokemon battling and how that injures pokemon, but the Rotom was still a bystander, here we get a first-hand look at what an inexperienced pokemon might go through and just how uncaring trainers like Tim, and even Lenora really, are towards their pokemon by forcing them to just come in and fight each other no questions asked. Tim even acts like Samson already knows what he's getting into when he gets it which like...how dude? Just cause they're wild pokemon doesn't mean they've been fighting it out each other their whole lives or something.

The reveal that Tim was THAT Tim, the guy from chapter 5 that got arrested for abusing his pokemon, also floored me and I should've realized it sooner to be honest. It was a really great payoff and a nice callback (or I guess call forward) as well as showing us the events that led up to what happened in chapter 5. Plus, as much as an outlier as Tim is, the only thing that really did him in (at least for the people in that world) was that he beat his pokemon, not the fact he had an inexperienced timburr go into a battle against a much stronger pokemon and expected him to win effortlessly by himself.

Before getting into the line-by-lines, there is another thing that jumped at me from these last two chapters, that I'm not sure if they were on purpose or not. That is, the ideal for human and pokemon relationships.

Your fic has never actively denied the ideas that humans and pokemon can cohabitate with one another. As long as they respect each other's boundaries and consent humans and pokemon can have a genuine and powerful bond, this was shown to us in chapter 5 and with all of N's pokemon or Iris and her Fraxure. Battling itself is the problem here, because even if there are pokemon that want to fight (just like how there's humans that want to fight each other) that doesn't mean that all pokemon should be expected to fight, or that even if they like to it doesn't mean they have to.

So what jumped at me is the kind of generational gap that was highlighted in these two chapters. Lorekeeper lived in a time without training and without pokeballs, his bond with his trainer was one built on trust and sacrifice for each other. Similarly, Samson's father worked as a construction-mon all his life and had a genuine bond with his partner. Maybe an argument can be made that it's still like humans are using pokemon for tasks that humans could do, but at least it's something that most of the timburr line *want* to do, it's part of the philosophy of their species. That's the difference, Samson's dad was allowed to work in something he actually wanted and his partner treated him as an equal, even allowing him to go back to the wild and raise his own family once the two of them retired.

So why do I say that this is a generational shift? because it feels like the battling craze is still "new" in the sense that it's something that's only become a big thing relatively recently. Maybe it existed even back in the time of Samson's dad, but it feels like it wasn't the big worldwide sport that everyone lauds it as today. That makes me believe that battling is the reason that this new generations' bonds with pokemon are so fractured, it's commercialized, taken for granted, and used for cheap entertainment. Again it's no coincidence that our greatest examples of human-pokemon relations are a millennia-old pokemon, a guy that can speak and understand pokemon, and a girl raised in an environment where she was taught to respect her pokemon.

Foooo, I went long enough. But since it's xmas and this is the closest I can give you to a present I'll do some line by lines anyway.



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.

Again, you're really good at this story-telling-like paragraphs, especially with how you capture that feel of saying something profound with every little word. It tells us so much about Lorekeeper's life and his relationship with his partner in just one paragraph.

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.

This made me feel genuinly sad :c and like I said before, I think it represents what the ideal pokemon-human relationship should be like. One where they both give a bit of themselves to each other, a mutal exchange if you with.

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.

Love how you're going specifically with ice, fire and thunder :p

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.

Wait, doesn't the start of that paragraph contradict what we learn later? that she divided herself after she created her children? At the start it sounds like you're talking about the tao trio.

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.

It's a paragraph that hits powerfully, not gonna lie, especially if we take into account all the current context in the story at the moment, the fact that humans couldn't obtain any gifts and now they're the ones forcing the world to go their way is pretty ironic.

“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.”

Again, I love how this reveals to us why pokemon are able to understand humans perfectly and also possibly why they trust them too. It also explains why humans act as if pokemon should listen to them, after all, if pokemon were superior why aren't we able to understand them?

{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.

The guardian's words here correlate with what we've seen in previous chapters about humans taking over pokemon, and other humans, cultures.

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?

Another interesting tidbit about where N is at. He still doesn't believe that pokemon should get involved and sacrifice themselves for him here. I understand where he comes from though, if he uses pokemon to fight then that just makes people doubt his message of not forcing pokemon to fight.

“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.}

That last part is deep, I'd genuinely never fully understood the difference between power and strength til I read it.

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. This is a child who needs help … but it is difficult to understand what would help him.

N is going through a complicated phase.

{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?}

This chapter also brings forth a lot of interesting questions on the idea of sacrifice, another theme we've been seeing pop up a lot throughout the story, though it's been mainly focused on Hilda and her pokemon. That's fair though, since unlike them N still hasn't accepted the fact that sacrifices have to be made.

{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.}

Again, this is both a good way of repurposing the original tao trio's myth and also shows us how N sees the legend, or rather how it was taught to him. He can't comprehend the fact that maybe humans aren't the ones at fault for everything in the world.

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?}

I just love how wise and respectful Lorekeeper sounds, he does sound like someone that's been alive for a long time and seen a lot of things.

{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.}

What about kyurem?

{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.}

I wonder, who are these other forms he's talking about? is it aludding to other pokemon or other legendaries?

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.

Hmmmm, on the one hand, like I said, I like that the emphasis here is that pokemon and humans can reach their full potential by actively working and growing with each other as equals. However, I can also see how such beliefs could lead pokemon to think that humans think the same way as they do and then they end up getting trapped in battling instead.

And! There’s a human in front of you! Lucky day indeed. 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 his bough.

I like how Samson's pov immediately tells us a lot about Tim. Before seeing how much of a dick he is we see that he hasn't really had to work hard for anything. The imagery also applies well with what we saw in chapter 14 with Lorekeeper's creators and N's hands, which were calloused and looked like they'd been through a lot. Tim's privileged and blind to the world beyond what he desires.

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.

I love the little shifts to what other pokemon are doing, we haven't gotten a lot of environment description in the last few chapters.

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.

Samson's so sweet and it just shatters my heart, I love how he's always paying attention to craftmanship details, it's what he's interested in and what he knows.

n 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.

Samson's father sounds like a good dad.

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.

This is honestly really cute :c I do hope that Samson was able to find something like it after he got taken away from Tim but...yeah I doubt it.

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.

Damn, I didn't know Plasma included kids in their movements.

“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.”

Like you're one to talk, Tim.

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.

Oh, the irony. I both love and hate how you set up these kinds of things :P

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.

I'm gonna assume that's N and Tourmaline? altho I guess if it was N you would've told us.

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 paragraph shows us how single-minded Tim really is about everything, he looks down on Lenora for not being a traveling trainer and preferring the library, but in reality she's someone that's lived her life and exudes her own kind of confidence.

“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.”

THIS IS A SERIOUS STORY KINT, HOW DARE YOU SNEAK A PUN IN HERE?

{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.}

This was really interesting to me. Makes me wonder if there's a lot of gym trainer pokemon that help younger pokemon out in battles so they gain points with their trainers. It's still messed up though.

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?!}

;-;


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.

This moment felt like a very "Innocence lost" type of thing. I love how you drive home the pain and anguish Samson feels as he realizes what the purrloin outside was really talking to him about.

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.

Oooooffff, stop it kint, why do you want to rip my heart in every chapter like this?

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.}

Everything's fiiinneeee

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

Everything is not fiiinneeee.

It also makes me wonder what nurses, the human ones, think about it all. I mean since they talk with the audino and work with them constantly and have to deal with all these injuries have they just grown accostumed to it or have they started to resent the league as well?

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.

This one hurts doubly so because it mirrors Samson at the start, looking at architecture in wonder and awe, and now here where he looks at it to not think about the trauma he's experienced.

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.

Or she's just internalized her own point of view enough that she believes it. But since this is Amara, we know that she'll develop her own doubts.

{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.}

The first part of the second paragraph is the same as the first paragraph.

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.”

Again this reveal floors me, especially since this whole chapter stands as a contrast to chatper five, which feature Tim's mom and how that chapter showcased the ways in which human and pokemon could help each other grow.

Anyways, I've gone on for long enough. I'm finally up to date and I can't wait to see what comes next. Also, happy holidays!
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
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  1. flygon
Ahh, another chapter. This time from a Bisharp's point of view. I'm really loving all these different POVs. Narsil. Great chapter name too, I get that reference. Totally digging it. I enjoyed reading the details and understanding what kind of pokemon I was following this time. It's almost like parsing out a tiny mystery!

I think this is perhaps my favorite chapter so far? It really stands on its own as a simple, isolated short story with a beginning, middle and end. No context about the actual story of pokemon games is needed, just base knowledge of species. It also has the strongest character arc and growth so far of any individual chapter, in my opinion.

(Plus it appeals a little more to my personal tastes ;)

Line by line time!
“Typically, wild pawniard form a pack of up to nine, and the strongest one evolves into bisharp to protect and command the others, coordinate hunts, and so forth. Introducing a bisharp into an existing pack will result in the pack killing the newcomer, or the newcomer killing first the bisharp and then any remaining pawniard who don’t accept it.”
Nice bit of detailing about the life of wild Pawniard and Bisharp in your universe. Very kind of dark? But not really, cause that'd be kinda like calling National Geographic dark. Nature is what it is.

You never got to talk him before Trainer got arrested
Well about time :V

You don’t fully understand the people inside of the television.
I really am amused by pokemon understanding so much but also not getting television. It's great.

one who flew overhead and joined his enemy.
Foreshadowing for Archeops?? Or if things play out in reverse would that be? backshadowing?

the sword shattered in his hands.
:o
I also really enjoy this story within a story, and I can definitely see where you've drawn inspiration from a certain series.

father’s father’s father
I guess pokemon have no word for great grandfather? interesting.

Then the White Dragon urged the king to retake his birthright, and he did.
I would honestly watch this movie like if you wrote a whole short story/fic about this movie I'd be so into it.

Trainer fell asleep in the first movie while you stared at the screen, enraptured; he was so bored by the second that he skipped to halfway through the third, by which point the wanderer had cast aside his cloak and taken up the sword at last.
Trainer has no taste :V. I feel like this movie is really good but judging by this brat's character he has no appreciation for fine cinema.

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.
#struggleisreal
But no, that's an interesting prospect. being chosen or doing something because you must, even though its not the thing you want to do.

The rock struck Trainer in the side of the head, and Trainer crumpled to the ground immediately
Well you reap what you sow, jerk.

I mean, do I pity him??? It's hard to. Pokemon, and Seismitoad here, show so much patience but really, how can I feel bad? its hardly as if that kid didn't know better. If you're gonna start a fight and dish out hits against beings who lawfully can do little to harm you, you should be ready to take them back, in my opinion.

It's not like this was done unprovoked, for no reason. I'm just gonna say it. Trainer reaped the consequences of his actions.

You gather that they’re afraid that you hate humans, after what Trainer did to you. There’s a shadow that he’s cast on your entire team, one you can’t get out of.
Well sheesh humans *really* suck. I haven't seen a decent one so far. Pokeballs are prisons, humans don't majority recognize pokemon as sentient, thinking beings... they treat them like dumb animals. :v

Samson is there, wearing human clothes, a suit and tie. From a distance, he could be a human. He walks down a busy street. Another human slaps him. A crowd rushes to his side.
Scary dream. Also revealing symbolism.

someone put my number on the internet and everyone’s been calling nonstop to tell me what a piece of shit we both are
Sounds about right. Exactly the kind of garbage that happens in our world. Disgusting.

“When he hit the conkeldurr, the one where he got caught. Was it the first time?”
I raised him as best as I could and he thought that fracturing a conkeldurr’s ribs was the best way to be a good trainer.”
Press F to doubt

I fail to understand at all how a kid? maybe he's much older? is Trainer buff? How he could fracture a conkeldurr's ribs. The logic doesn't add up for me. Do Conkeldurr have weak ribs? Also pokemon take part in battles against other equally strong beings that dish out oodles of force per blow. How does a human possess the strength necessary to fracture pokemon's ribs?

Even though your take on the pokemon universe is more 'realistic', this means humans are nearly on par with pokemon in strength, right? Like, Newtons of force.

A Conkeldurr can fight another conkeldurr but they hit way way harder. So they should shatter every bone in each others bodies, no? Even if it was fighting a rapidash or something, a horse kicks much harder than a human. Also, Conkeldurr are basically all muscle, being fighting types and also carrying around giant pillars like that, are they not?

Did this kid use a bat? Is it a grown man? Maybe an MMA boxer? (although even a grown man I find doubt it could hurt a conkeldurr's bones). I doubt a human could punch hard enough to break or fracture or gorilla's ribs. I think some context here would really help.

Now of course, I would never discount the psychological effects of abuse. I just find that describing the physical effects as 'fractures' completely drew me out of the story and shattered my suspension of disbelief.

In a realistic world like yours, I could understand if you said he broke a Herdier's bones. Or a Liepard perhaps. But a Conkeldurr?? no

“He would’ve died if you’d left him there. Why did you bring him home?”
Because pokemon are better than people

In the ensuing fight, it had been killed.
:( People suck. I've yet to see evidence otherwise. (except for the lady here)

They wouldn’t have asked you, though, just like they didn’t ask Anri.
Ditto above.
Also this world really overlooks a pokemon's sapience. Yikes. How hard would it be to just get a psychic to translate?
-1 for humans again (I oughta start keeping track)

{It’s what I wanted him to do for me,} you said quietly.
Pokemon really deserve better than humanity. gross humans.
If I was N, I'd catch Arceus and ask him to use judgement on all of humanity and just, SWOOSH.

“Look at me, talking to a pokémon. I must be going crazy.”
???? What's wrong with people? Are they just dense?

“Is this for my garden?”
YES DUH. This seems obvious. I mean I've seen videos of dogs digging holes in gardens for their owner and I don't sit there and say 'hurrdurr wow is that for my garden?'
Flaw on lady, although I unflaw immediately after since she's nice. Still. People really really don't think pokemon are remotely sapient or capable of understanding speech? Yet... they command them in battle... with words... I guess they only think pokemon understand simple commands. Poor pokemon.


That evening Mina unplugs the phone.
Good for you Mina!

You don’t really understand how people can drink trees.
I just. Love this wording. Drinking trees. Hilarious!!!

That sums my thoughts! V good chapter, fav so far maybe bc mostly happy ending for our POV character. I definitely thought this was a very good chapter, with solid arcs for everyone involved. Like I said, probably my favorite so far.

To address a couple broad thoughts from the review response - killing is an extreme example but if a cat was fully sapient and could breathe fire I would find it hard to believe that humans could reach a point where we even managed to enslave fire breathing cats, you know? I'm not so much confused by current times as I am questioning what course history took to arrive at this point.

As for the pokeball thing... I guess pokeballs have been around for a really long time in your world? That would certainly explain some things. I suppose I'm mostly curious about the historical context, like I mentioned in the paragraph above.

And to clarify, I kind of overexaggerated to say 'kill the trainer' but you could smack him, right? Even a dog will snap at someone who takes its bone. But I guess it's cause pokemon are honestly better than us. They are massively merciful, considering that unlike peasants in a revolt, even a single pokemon wields considerably more power over its trainer. But they choose to wield it better than humans.

Anyways! Much enjoyed so far otherwise!
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
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  1. suicune
Okay, I’m back!! I think I’m going to go through and review each chapter gradually, because I need a refresher on the earlier chapters anyways, but I’m jumping in here because this is one of the chapters that has really stood out to me so far, and I have lots of thoughts to share!

None of you are lucky, not like how Lucky was. You imagine your entire family making a wish on him, on his huge paws, on his sharp senses, on his fearless bark.

Some people are born to be favorites.

Right off the bat, you’ve set up some backstory that will be a strong factor in current day Ace’s thoughts. He doesn’t hate his brother, but there’s definitely a little bit of resentment there, some jealousy over being in his shadow.


Sam wouldn’t know why you’re afraid, but he’s happy to help you overcome it, and he has, every single day.

The start of many good back and forth things like in this chapter. This officer is a real piece of work towards Rhea, but is kind towards Ace. You are showing that this officer is a human capable of both good and bad (and terrible) things, and choosing to show this chapter through Ace’s perspective was a really interesting and effective way to show multiple sides all at once.


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.


Oof. As you once said in a review on OSAS, sad 2020 police noises. And wow, what a realistic portrayal of this. Many In law enforcement truly believe their forceful actions are always justified simply because they are protecting and upholding the law, so therefore it’s okay. I’m willing to bet there are many out there that don’t enjoy using excessive force, but feel that they have to, because of what they’ve been taught about what is supposedly “okay” and “necessary.”

He pulls her away from the wall by her left shoulder, and you can see that her cheek is starting to bleed from where it scraped against the brick. Not a lot or anything; it’s just a scrape.

More sad 2020 police noises. Slippery slope, and this is how it begins.

“Yeah, yeah.” Sam finishes his search and then picks up the pokéball from the ground where she was standing. He inspects it carefully before pocketing it. “You’ll get it back after processing.”

“I know.”

His retort is immediate. “Don’t get mouthy with me, young lady.”

This is so spot-on and painfully true to real life examples, it made me actually flare up in anger. uuuughhh I hate it, I hate it so much — this is being written too well, and it hits too close to home.


“We fight for pokémon rights alongside pokémon. Of course they’re out with us. They’re protesting too. Battling is legally defined as a pokémon attacking another pokémon. Water suppresses chemical gas. Brex was our ground support,” she says. Purses her lips. Even from here it’s pretty obvious that her eyes are rimmed red. “So thanks for that.”

So, my question is, how did Cheren get in this situation in the first place, then? Did he just attack the palpitoad out of nowhere without talking with their trainer first? Because if so, that’s a dick move, my dude. And if he did talk to the trainer, wouldn’t that have realistically prevented the battle from happening because then he would be informed that it was illegal for him to start a battle at that place and time? Unless he ignored the trainer and attacked anyway — which, again, dick move.

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.

This chapter is just SO well done. You provide perspectives all at once, and even this passage has a few solid points — police do put their lives on the line, and it’s a pretty thankless job. There are many cops out there that are truly good people, and they have to endure so much due to the nature of the job. BUT. That doesn’t change the fact that there are problems, very big and widespread problems. This is a beautiful portrayal of how someone in law enforcement with good intentions can still get things skewed and end up on the wrong side of the fence in terms of what is right and wrong.


“I said,” Rhea repeats, “liberation isn’t theft. It’s kidnapping.”

Excuse me?”

“Theft is for property. Kidnapping is for people. If I took you somewhere against your will, you wouldn’t say you’d been stolen. You would say you’ve been kidnapped.” A wry smile. She gestures with her chin to the walls of the van. “Or legally detained.”

OOOF. Got ‘em. Very profound point here; are Pokémon property or individuals? That’s basically what all of this boils down to.


Uplifting montage, before and after pics, everyone gets to condemn the dumb shit who punches his conkeldurr. That was the most recent one, right?”

Appreciate how effectively you weave the content from other chapters together throughout the story. Lots of separate stories and POVs throughout, but you manage to link it all together so well.

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.

This just ties into what I said above. He has a point, Rhea has no idea what officers go through on a daily basis — but that doesn’t make her points any less valid.

Ace is a good name. It doesn’t remind you of Clover, or of Lucky, or anyone else. It means that you’re someone Sam can rely on. All of the pokémon you’ve seen at protests, the ones who bothered talking to you—they seemed to look at you with pity. Like you were someone who hadn’t wanted to be there, like you weren’t proud of who you were. They wanted to make you ashamed of yourself. They wanted you to be the secondborn again.

No. Having this job makes you strong on your own. It doesn’t matter who listens to you or not, because when you’re strong, your actions will always speak louder than your words.


And here we go, tying Ace’s present thoughts to his insecurities when he was young, and how they influence the way he is today. So well done.

Sam unlocks her cuffs from the mags on the wall and shoves her forward. “You’re being detained for resisting arrest, disturbance of the peace, and possession of a bred pokémon without proper documentation,” he begins to recite as he walks her out of the van. “You may be detained for up to ten days depending on your cooperation.”

Rhea nods, tight-lipped. The laughter is gone from her face now and that’s not part of her act.

“Your pokémon will be held by the police pending your trial. If the original owner can claim them they will be handed over; otherwise, after a period of seventy-two hours they will be repossessed by the state.”

That seems to get through to her. “That’s three days,” she says in a quiet voice. And then, faster: “But if you’re going to detain me for—”

“Upon repossession they will be put up for adoption. At that time you will also be able to reclaim your pokémon should the previous window be insufficient.”

They’re talking over each other. Sam’s louder, but Rhea’s more urgent. “Please, you know that if I’m here I can’t—”

No, no, no, NO, I hate this SO much, agh.

Once again, too painfully accurate with today’s current events. The most frustrating thing? He’s not doing anything illegal here. He’s not blatantly beating her or doing anything that will bring him condemnation. He’s not pulling strings to screw her over, but he doesn’t have to, because his power and authority and knowledge of the justice system gives him all he needs to screw her over, and all within the restraints of the law. And for what?? She’s an annoying protester so he has to feel bigger than her, somehow? By taking away her Pokémon? And we all know that it doesn’t matter how cooperative she is, he’ll make sure she’s held for the full ten days just because he can.

I hate how accurate this is — which, to be fair, is a compliment to your storytelling.

They put her in a cell in the station. Sam tells someone else to contact the public defense attorney, but it’s 9 PM on a Saturday so it can wait until Monday if it has to.


ugh, screw this, screw him, screw the whole justice system. Stop making feel all the feels, kint! (Jk please continue, this fic is too gud.)

You blink back. Why is she telling you this? “If my friends don’t get me out in time.” She stops in the middle of her sentence and swallows. “Can you explain to her what happened to me? That I’ll find her? I’ll get funds to buy her back from her new trainer or something. I’ll find her.”

Hmm, so we already know that Mali ends up with Acheron eventually, but does he know she is Rhea’s Pokémon? Probably not, but its quite the coincidence.
 

IFBench

Rescue Team Member
Location
Pokemon Paradise
Partners
  1. custom/chikorita-saltriv
Time for the rest of my review for the exchange! This review will be on chapters 4-8!

First up, chapter 4, Nuestro! I recognize this as the Spanish word for "our", and that fits in a dramatically ironic for this chapter, since it's about how separate a trainer and their Pokemon are, how they often don't listen to their Pokemon, and how nothing they and their Pokemon do together is truly a group effort.

I don't really have too much else to say here, other than the fact that I find it interesting how many of Cheren's Pokemon hate him, and how the problem is trainers, not humans. Carnel's previous human seemed like a nice person, but Cheren is more complicated and morally gray.

Overall, an interesting chapter that sheds some light on what some Pokemon's attitudes are to trainers.

After that is chapter 5, Nostrum! I've researched this, and found that it means an ineffective remedy for problems, which fits perfectly for this chapter, with how what N is doing might not be truly effective, and how Hilda won't be an effective remedy for Team Plasma in the end.

I find the kafara stuff in this chapter really interesting! It's a running theme throughout the chapter, and the story behind it is very neat!

Actually, I really like all the stuff you're doing with Pokemon culture in general. You give each species their own culture, their own way of thinking, and their own quirks, and it's all really cool!

I really like how Hilda's Pokemon all have different opinions on what's happening! A very great addition that adds a lot of depth!

I also really like the bit inside Dragonspiral Tower, with the whole partial truths being no better than a lie thing, Reylin leaving Hilda's team and joining N's, and how N's Zoroark creates an illusion of Reshiram to make Hilda think that N actually succeeded right there, that was all really good! Nicely done!

And the ending line of the chapter, about N pretending to be a hero and how at least Hilda doesn't pretend to be one, is a great one. Despite N's noble goals, there are many Pokemon that don't like him. Very intriguing.

Overall, a rather sad chapter, but fully brings a new perspective on all this, that N might not be truly right.

Now for chapter 6, Narsil! This is my absolute favorite chapter yet, for many reasons.

First of all, the chapter title. After doing some research, I found out about the meaning behind this chapter's title, and what a meaning it was.

Narsil is a sword from The Lord of the Rings that was wielded by a king, was broken during a great battle, and reforged later on by a relative of that king. It also means "red and white flame".

The first bit is very clever, both reflective of the movie the Bisharp's trainer watched, and the POV character, the Bisharp themself.

In the movie the trainer watched, a king wielded a sword, which shattered during a great battle as he attempted to strike the half of the Great Dragon that opposed him. Generations later, the sword ended up in the hands of a descendent of that king, and the White Dragon reforged the sword. This roughly follows the path the sword Narsil takes in Lord of the Rings.

In this chapter, the Bisharp is referred to as a sword by his Queen in a dream. They are abused by their trainer, and eventually their trainer is presumably jailed after being attacked by their Seismitoad, essentially breaking the Bisharp's ability to battle other Pokemon, and leaving the Bisharp in the care of their former trainer's mother, Mina. Originally, the Bisharp was going to be released into the wild or given to another trainer, "reforging" their ability to fight other Pokemon. However, at the end of the chapter, they stay with Mina, helping her with the garden instead of fighting battles. This also roughly follows the path the sword Narsil takes if you take away the specifics, but diverges at the end.

The second bit, "red and white flame", calls to mind a certain red-and-white fire-type that's been rather prominent so far. Reshiram, a white dragon!

I love how much thought went into this chapter title. It fits perfectly to this story and this chapter, so much that I think I'm going to call the Bisharp Narsil, since they aren't named in the chapter.

Onto the actual chapter now!

This is a much more optimistic chapter than the previous ones. It starts off rather drearily with discussions of Narsil and two other Pokemon being released as well as the mentioning that Narsil's trainer beat his Pokemon, and goes even more in that dreary direction as Samson the Conkeldurr is taken away without a chance to say goodbye. Then there's perhaps the darkest moment of the chapter, when Anri knocks his trainer unconscious and insists that he and Narsil run away. In the end, Anri runs away, and Narsil stays behind. This dark tone continues into the next section, as Mina continues to try to send Narsil away, and there's the nightmare that stabs Narsil right in the places that hurt.

And then Narsil goes outside and tries to help Mira with gardening, and she opens her heart to the Bisharp, asking Narsil questions about her son, apoligizing for everything, and asking what Narsil wants. Narsil keeps digging the furrow into the dirt for the seeds, but Mira doesn't understand and thinks that what he's doing is about battling, until she finally understands that Narsil is just trying to help with the garden. Then the two of them garden together and Mira talks about it and the two get along and AAAAAAAA IT'S SO GOOD!

Even outside of the main plot of this chapter, I love the description and tone of it. I love the warrior-like thinking of Narsil. I love the description of the television and the phone and how Narsil thinks that there's actually people inside of them.

And the ending of the chapter where Narsil thinks back to the garden and how reforging isn't needed to grow anew and everything is hopeful, that's really, REALLY good!

Overall, I absolutely LOVE this chapter!

Next is chapter 7, Noted! While I don't like this chapter quite as much as the previous one, I still like it a lot!

I really like the narration of this chapter! Zahhak's narration and attitude definitely feels draconic, yet they show a lot of care for N. How they show little concern for their deteriorating body, yet listen to what N says.

N's really great in this chapter, too! I like how, despite everything, he has uncertainties about his goal, connecting back to how he doesn't feel like a hero in chapter 1, and how there are Pokemon who don't consider him a hero as shown in chapter 5. I like how he continously asks Zahhak hard-hitting questions, and Zahhak asks him questions in return. I like how he and Zahhak discuss together what should be done, culminating in N cementing his decision to go to Dragonspiral Tower and summon Reshiram. I love how at the end of the chapter, N speaks in the dragon language, and he and Zahhak make that promise together.

Overall, a nice chapter that goes more in-depth to N's personality.

Last for this review is chapter 8, Nonconformist! I really liked this chapter as well! The title of this chapter really fits well, since one of the main characters for it is a Team Plasma member who doesn't conform with the norm.

I really like how the opening segment with the favorites thing sets the stage for the rest of the chapter, with Cheren the favorite and Rhea the definitely-not-favorite, and how Ace's attitude towards the two reflects what he has learned.

I also really like how this shows more of Team Plasma's impact on Unova! People are protesting, counterprotests are happening, and it shows that this is absolutely not just a small movement.

I also really like the conversation between Rhea and Cheren, where Rhea keeps trying to get through to him in a variety of ways, and yet Cheren refuses to see her points. It really shows how ingrained trainer culture is in Unova.

kintsugi said:
“You must be a good trainer, then,” Rhea says softly. Her voice is calm, level.

Of all the things she could’ve said, he didn’t seem to be expecting this. He deflates, just a hair. You can see the red on his face. “What?”

“Your pokémon never get hurt. You must be an exceptional trainer.”

Cheren scowls. “That isn’t what I said.”

Rhea doesn’t take the time to push, though. She sits, quietly. Studying Cheren. Doesn’t say a word beyond, “What did you say, then?”

“I don’t hurt them. The context is important. My pokémon enjoy battling. It’s what they want to do.”

Looks at chapter 4.

I love how the inclusion of this in a later chapter than 4 lets the reader know exactly how wrong Cheren is.

And at the end of the chapter, Rhea is imprisoned and her Pokemon taken away to be given to presumably trainers and forced to battle. And all the while, she thinks the Herdier is actually going to help when they aren't going to. A pretty sad ending to the chapter, but an understandably sad one.

Overall, a very good chapter that gives a bigger picture as to what's happening in Unova at large.

Overall, I quite liked these chapters, especially 6-8. I'll be looking forward to reading more of this sometime! This was a really good read!
 

Navarchu

Exploration Team leader
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. swampert
Hi Kint, decided to review your story once again, haha. Let’s do this, shall we? You know the drill by now, so I’ll cut to the actual review.

Now this chapter has a different point of view, I think. Unless Harmonia is like, N. If they are, then well, nice job! If not, then it’s just a big coincidence, haha. Now to the fight! This chapter contains the battle against Alder, now, Alder is that lovable Champion. I always thought he represented the fanbase in a way, considering his bonds with his team.

With that being said, I think the way you wrote Alder was nicely done, although he seemed a little aggressive. That’s… When my theory got confirmed. Harmonia is N, right? It has to be, maybe I just missed the narration explaining that, but huh… Alder being aggressive about his position as champion makes a lot of sense if you consider how he’s standing against the king of Team Plasma. Because of that, I salute you. This whole scene was stunning, I found myself reading it twice to fully understand the scopes, and to be honest, it was very exciting to do that.

Which brings me to the closing moments of this chapter, we see the protagonist calling Hilda. This was another nice scene, the despair of whatever Ghetsis was planning to do there was real, I could sense the tension going on and found that very nice to read. This fic is honestly surprising me, you’re a very good writer, Kint! I’ll be sure to read the rest of it when I can!
 

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. vulpix-alola
To be honest I was really tempted to just copy paste all of my shitpost DM reviews here but decided that it wasn't worth going back to find them all. This is a review very much in retrospect so don't expect line by line comments or anything.

We've talked before about how this fic has aged. You thought it had aged poorly in that the police response wasn't actually disproportionate enough then. I think that the general themes and overarching question are more timely than ever. To me this fic's structure is the presentation of a question and then an exploration of the arguments behind it. The Question: Was N right to change the system by violence and/or magic? There's obviously not a singularly correct answer, which is sort of the point of everything after it. Some people and pokemon did eventually find happiness with each other, like the best squishy boy and gardener sharp. And some just don't want to give up their people for one reason or another (herdier, best kitty, Munny, SMUGLEAF). But the system is clearly unjust, as you show often in subtle and major ways. Ghetsis' fight against massacre of Alder's team and the Roto-rebellion that followed was probably the best encapsulation of it and, uh, good job having a Ghetsis who isn't just EVIL INCARNATE but actually had and made really good points and even came close to "victory" by himself.

But the real joy of this fic is in all the ways it doesn't explicitly state its thesis. Best kitty getting caught up in a feud between humans and used carelessly as collateral, the die-in being entirely ignored, the fossils ending up with the wrong trainers and unable to fix it on their own (short of flying off), myths being twisted between cultures, bisharp being left behind due to an oversight in the system.

It's also fascinating to watch Team Plasma get progressively less violent as the story goes on. First it's ending the world, then it's killing pokemon, then it's violent protests and theft, then it's die-ins. The early stuff is all ignored and the latter is demonized. It suggests that N really did try to change the system "the right way" before he invoked the apocalyptic option. There is no metaphor here, clearly. This fic at no point suggests that any real life crimes or fringe political positions may be justified. Any resemblance is purely coincidental.

Not that it eveN would map cleanly onto real life. Pokemon are genuinely way different from humans, physically and mentally. Repeatedly the perspectives of different pokemon call into questioN if there even is a siNgle good solution for all species. Herdier would really prefer to stay with their hoomans, thank you very much. The fossils wouldn't even exist in the modern world without them. The sigilyph quite enjoys their stories, even if it might be happier without them. The dragons mostly hate them, and not without reason. The Rocks will probably just outlive them anyway, so why bother doing something drastic now?

Also this is neither here nor there but I really liked the Axew (?) chapter. The politics of the league, especially re: minorities with power, is fascinating and feels real. If you want to succeed you have to do whatever the racist assholes in charge want, and that's seldom actually what you do. Even the more privileged leaders presumably aren't spared from the flanderization of their personality. And the whole thing with drayden wanting a haxorus but having to skirt the law and kind of ignore the well being of an actual human to get one is great. As is the whole deal about the conservation double step: first kill almost all the animals to hurt indigenous people, then take remaining animals away on the grounds that the indigenous people let the population crash and can't be trusted to manage it. It is a good thing that this only happens in the world of fiction.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Can't help myself, I keep coming back to this story. I think Noted really solidified the intent of this story for me? Even though its present in the earlier chapters, the shift to a pokemon that finally doesn't feel like a prisoner/has a different perspective cements what direction I think this story is headed towards. (Of course, I could be wrong. Only time and reading will tell.) Also, I'll be dual reviewing elements of Noted and Noncomformist.

I'd like to preface by saying I leave reviews mainly because I guess the skeptics perspective might help.

I thought this chapter was pretty good. The use of Ghetsis Hydreigon as the POV is intriguing. It works well, as I said, to offer a new perspective in this ever expanding web. Not as strong as Narsil to me, especially near the end. I feel like they talk in circles, but that's also not inherently bad. After all, people in real life tend to talk in circles in arguments. So if that is the vibe you wanted to achieve, good job.

If you wanted it to have a steady escalating feel, I feel like roughly a paragraph of content could be trimmed? Not a lot, just a little, to really drum home your point concisely.

Overall I still thought this was solid. There was no real grammar or prose problems I have, so I don't have anything to say in that regard.

Ahh, so now it's time to dissect.

Zahaak confuses me thematically. From a worldbuilding perspective. Apparently, Zahaak has total free will and freedom of choice. So he says. Because he is a big tough dragon, who are apparently the only race who demand respect, he is totally here of his own free will.

Apparently, a pokemon like Lillipup are simply not strong enough to make their own decisions. Yet pretty much any pokemon seems strong enough to fight back against a human, based on what I've read. What makes Hydreigon here so unique and special? He seems resigned to his fate that he has to do what he does because he doesn't want anyone else to have to.

The very next chapter shows us that Herdier Ace has made his choice and quite honestly, I agree with him for the most part. What right do humans have to speak for other fully sapient and thinking beings who are capable of revolting? More hypocritical humans who don't listen. That's how I interpret this.

Later, Zahaak also remarks that he has no choice. So really, it seems pairing humans with pokemon period is a bad idea. He's being used by Ghetsis (or as he says, he's using Ghetsis). It's a partnership he says, because he claims he made this choice. And Ghetsis helps him? Except I don't see how Ghetsis can provide him, a big tough dragon with 'power and strength' as the text says. Other than a TM, what can a human give a pokemon?

There's no aura, nothing to insinuate that there's any kind of mutual partnership. I guess those baths much be dang good.

I don't see why or how he is any different unless that is the intended point of this chapter. Zahaak is just as 'indoctrinated' as the rest of the miserable pokemon who are in pain so much yet also lack or don't have the will to stand up for themselves, despite being stronger physically and being supposedly fully sapient.

Zahaak later explains this by trying to compare it to how humans rage against their boring office jobs, but still choose not to leave. The comparison seems very weak. I could quit my job any time. Plenty of people do quit when they don't like their jobs. Of their own singular free will. And being annoyed with my boss is a huge difference from my boss dragging me into fight night every evening and I get bloodied and broken bones. I fully admit that I only stay at my job because its more convenient. But it really doesn't seem more convenient for pokemon to stay with humans.

So really, if pokemon hate being hurt so much, and battles=bad, what's to stop two fully cognizant thinking sapient beings from just standing there on the battlefield and not fighting? Why isn't a pokemon leading the resistance? Why doesn't Ghetsis and N take orders from Zahaak or another pokemon?

I guess the answer to that is they beat their pokemon? Which as I mentioned, seems pretty hard to believe, unless humans are the same durability as a pokemon? Yet the text seems to contradict this, given how pokemon frequently remark how soft humans are, implying humans are less durable. Zahaak complains that weak humans never put themselves on the line, but then turns around and states that he does what he does because he doesn't want those weaker than him to have to fight. So... hypocrisy again? Double standards? I am curious if you specifically intended Zahhak to sound hypocritical or self-contradictory.

Seems to me like every human is a hypocrite still using pokemon for their own desires, given pokemon don't want to fight at all, don't enjoy it, and gain nothing from it except blood and broken bones. (Zahaak being the exception I guess. He likes his broken bones). This is how the story reads to me so far, given the context provided.

As for battles themselves, I'm curious if its even possible to have a good battle. To not get hurt and bleed and broken and hate every moment of it (as pokemon seem to in this world).

Moving on, I thought the Ace chapter was decent. As other reviews pointed out, Ace feels a little disconnected, but I don't think thats necessarily a bad thing. He's an observer, giving his own commentary and thoughts on the situations. And as I said before, I generally agree with him.

For example, why do humans always have to be the ones to choose for another race and insist they are wrong for not revolting? Did Rhea's Liepard come up to her and say 'oh yeah I wanna revolt against humans, please help me?'. Doesn't quite seem that way.

The way this reads to me is that humans, being the race that we are, decided we want to appear super moralistic and heroic by taking it upon themselves to 'free' pokemon who seem to be capable of still freeing themselves?

Even given the pokeball situation, is there no way to break the ball? to escape anyway? Zebstrika could have. Shouldn't Plasma be looking for ways to instate fair laws for pokemon who do want to be with humans? Heck, they should be trying to lobby for pokeballs that pokemon can break out of. Except the juxtaposition of the text kind of implies that 'silly Ace Herdier doesn't know any better'. Of course, I may have misinterpreted,

Disclaimer - its entirely possible Zahaak is an extremely unreliable narrator, in which case some of his remarks make a little more sense. Probably everyone in this story seems pretty unreliable, but I think humans deciding for pokemon the terms of the revolt, then using them to revolt, seems hypocritical. Maybe intentionally so. But really, if this was about humans respecting pokemon rights, pokemon should be in charge. No?

Now, this story itself is still very good, for what it is. An exploration of pokemons feeling towards their position in a universe that is darker and less kind. And you definitely raise some interesting topics and are exploring them in unique ways. You've provided some interesting takes and POV's, which I appreciate.

I think my biggest issue has to do which much much more wide scope worldbuilding problems with a scenario like this. Given how the text frequently mentions humans' overall weakness, I still can't fathom why pokemon would need them to revolt? That said, waving all that away, I still think the story offers unique insight.

Anyways. Ace Herdier is my fav, love the little pupper. Zahaak is a very interesting sarcasm dragon, nice. Nice prose bits throughout, like
Have a slam poetry night about liberation?
This was hilarious to me, loved this line.
because they don’t actually need to defeat your ideas; it’s just you they need to kill.
Well if this ain't the truth though. Thats how the world works.

You lean in close, peel the scales back from your words until they’re just as soft as his.
This was some choice prose.

At the end of the day in this tale, it seems there is no right answer, but I feel like Team Plasma is also not making things better either. I shall see how this will continue to develop! Perhaps later chapters may give further insight to my questions.
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
i told myself i was only going to review chapter four and here we are. just prefacing this by saying that this fic was a fun read before but i'm really getting into it now. gonna be pretty torn between finishing this and salvage up the next week or so, i expect. it's pretty late as i'm writing this review and i'm somewhat sleep deprived and have read probably 70k words in the last 24 hours, so forgive me if it's a little frazzled in places.

iv. nostrum

You can only be as strong as the ones you protect. A human wouldn’t understand that, not when they never have to protect anyone.
love this line. definitely feels like an important one, not just for amara's initial perspective, but for the fic as a whole.

amara's perspective is a really interesting one—i'm almost beginning to detect a pattern with the perspectives in this fic! :wink: her understanding of the world seems to be built in terms of the herd as the basic social unit, and that comes with a sense of communal living and (ideally) self-sacrifice for the good of the group. that almost appears compatible with the model presented by pokémon training, only it isn't, because there's a trainer and then there's the pokémon. the trainer isn't really sacrificing anything and isn't really themself a member of the herd, so to speak. it makes sense that N's rhetoric would appeal to amara—it basically seems crafted to suit her existing worldview, in a sense. but something is holding her back, something that she doesn't seem fully aware of at the beginning of the chapter. we get the impression that it's something that's weighed on her a long time. she cites her escape attempt as evidence that, yes, she really does want to be free—but it feels like she's trying to convince herself more than anyone else.

i really liked the philosophy of the kafara as a lens through which to view the issue permeating this fic, as well as amara's worldview, although i didn't fully understand what it really meant until fairly late in the chapter and found that more frustrating than suspenseful. i feel like if the meaning of the word was stated very explicitly in the first section of the chapter, my reading experience would have been a fair bit smoother.

amara's desire to be free brings carnel to mind, except for that where carnel was dogged in his attempts to return home and tried his best to remain useless so cheren would no longer want him, amara seems to fight anyway, resigned to her position as a tool used for fighting even when she nominally resents it. she even seems to take pride in having been chosen, which is interesting. she's at odds with herself, and it makes her thoughts at the beginning of the chapter feel incongruous... which makes sense! there is an answer to her conflicted thoughts, she just doesn't find it until the showdown with N. unsure if this was intentional, but i enjoyed the way her colors factored into her characterization here. she's black and white, for one thing, and you give that in-universe significance, too, but when amara charges N, you describe those stark color divisions as melting away as she becomes all lightning. i thought that was super neat.

so far it seems like many of the pokémon content to fight—excepting N's—are either beaten down (thinking of some of cheren's pokémon here) or have never known anything different (i.e. vaselva). i would say that even amara feels a bit beaten down, to an extent. she's found value and meaning in her position, and genuinely cares for hilda, but it doesn't seem like the life she would have chosen for herself, necessarily—more like one she's come to terms with. do all these pokémon seem like they're suffering cheren and hilda are bad trainers? or is what tourmaline said true—are all captured pokémon really suffering? maybe even vaselva is suffering, she just doesn't know any better; like amara, she's made peace with her situation (better than most), but maybe it still isn't the happiest possible path for her. vaselva claims not to deal in hypotheticals, which is pretty convenient, but...

fun chapter. reylin's betrayal at the end was simply 👌. i'm a sucker for the archeops line tbh.... curious if we'll get a perspective chapter from him later on—it would certainly be an interesting one, and hey, that's the pattern innit.

You spark your tail and mane and fritz yellow light through your stripes.
i know "fritz" to mean, like, to be in a state of disrepair, and even then i believe it's colloquial, so it doesn't feel like the right word here. it's unclear to me exactly what you mean—i'm guessing that the yellow light is blinking?

While you wait there patiently, casting light around the grove of trees she’s trying to use as a windshield for tonight’s camp, you count up the times she’s let you out while she sets up camp. It’s a small number, one that’s quite close to the number of times the batteries in her headlamp have run out.
oof. i sort of bad for her here, but also it seems like she hates being in an unfamiliar environment, so maybe that's not the worst thing.

Vaselva has twined around Hilda’s heart and Hilda’s mouth; while you languish in your ball, she is privy to your trainer’s deepest secrets.
damn, "languish" is a powerful word. is it physically uncomfortable being in the ball? or is she just uncomfortable with the fact that she's not outside of it?

A flash of silver claws brought red to the surface. The golden grass thirstily received the new moisture.
loving this imagery. i'm enjoying the description of the plains, too, populated with blitzle and zebstrika and liepard. feels very much like a savanna, which isn't my first thought when it comes to unova, but it makes a lot of sense.

{I am no plant.}

{Then leave,} she says tonelessly
b-but she'd have to make like a tree to do that, and she's no plant! 😱

You aren’t sure how much he understands; the tongue he knows died centuries ago with the rest of his kin. You’ve never heard him speak.
huh, centuries is less than i'd expected. wonder what the geological timescale is like here.

First she just had to be good enough for Juniper, to maintain the sponsorship that paid for all of your gear and supplies on the road.
hah, interesting. this kind of evokes galar.

A pair of humans wearing jewel-studded crowns.
you know, i'm just now noticing this, but pokémon really seems to love the idea of dual kings.
You look nervously to Hilda, and she answers. “Wild Charge, Amara.”

Wild Charge? On him?
yikes. this brings to mind her thoughts from earlier about how reshiram would never strike down a human who can't fight back.

lighting up your mane in fritzing light
there's that word again.

You shove down the part that doesn’t think he deserves it. Because he does. He’s a criminal. He’s bad. He’s a liar.
i feel like this might hit harder if the last three sentences were reversed in order so that they ascend in severity rather than descend.

The flash of metal catches your attention. His pokéball. He’s grabbed his pokéball.

“Reylin?” Hilda asks, but too slow. The archeops rockets towards N. He grabs N’s shirt in his beak, uses his talons to shove the pokéball into the N’s hands. Reylin shouts something urgently in a language you can’t understand, but you see a faint flicker of understanding in the human’s eyes.
the N? also, holy shit. chad move.

You look at Reylin with betrayal twisting your stomach. He wasn’t even part of the team. He barely spoke. When he fought, he gave up when the pain was too much. But when the chance to flee appears, he doesn’t even hesitate to leave you behind.
hah, i really like how his personality fits with archeops' ability and almost explains his actions here. fits very well with the way you've established that pokémon species have different predispositions.

The creature is enormous, straight out of a storybook, scraping at the ground with four legs, enormous tail lashing wildly.
i don't think of reshiram as four-legged so this sort of threw me for a loop. maybe "scraping at the ground on all fours"? unless that's part of the illusion's malformation.

---

v. narsil

ohhh my heart. this hit me completely out of nowhere.

disclaimer: not too sure what the bisharp's gender is, so i'm sticking with Gorl bc Queen. lmk if that's wrong and i can go back and edit.

i don't have a TON to say about this one, since it feels a bit detached from the narrative so far, but that's not a bad thing. i actually think this could be the kernel of a really powerful oneshot—it kind of gives me the same feeling that neb's outside the frame did. a pokémon with tumultuous feelings roiling around in their heart, a trainer that's gone away now, and only a griefstricken mother to pick up the pieces with. i guess we'll never know what happens to bisharp from here, since we're playing this story in reverse and it doesn't seem to belong to hilda or n or cheren etc, but i really dig the (implied) future you've carved out for her here—this body that had stolen away her chances of returning home can be used for something new instead, not for the combat that she'd spent her life perfecting but instead to help another and to grow something new, to create. i found that really beautiful, and i'd like to imagine bisharp stayed with tim's mother forever, the two of them just gardening in the backyard together.

i thought the culture you crafted for the bisharp/pawniard was interesting; i say this in the line comments but it definitely evoked bee social structure, for me at least. it's a little strange since bisharp/pawniard are so humanlike, but still pokémon, and still so culturally different. i think the fact that bisharp and conkeldurr are humanlike casts the abuse in a different light—i'm not quite sure what to take away from it, but it definitely feels very different than it would if tim was beating up on, say, a samurott, or a liepard, etc.

i didn't expect something like this to come up in this fic, which seemed to adhere pretty faithfully to the story given to us by the games, but now i'm very much hoping it won't be the last chapter of its kind. you're consistently punching me right in the feels with this fic of yours.

You’re not surprised. Up until last week you always were the sticking point.
hah. just like her arms, amirite. lol.

Your rank would never take you back. Those are the rules. 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 rank, you will only ever be a human’s pawn.

“You can’t? Why not?” Mina asks, but she hasn’t unburied her head from her hands, so her face is just a tangle of curly hair.

“Typically, wild pawniard form a pack of up to nine, and the strongest one evolves into bisharp to protect and command the others, coordinate hunts, and so forth. Introducing a bisharp into an existing pack will result in the pack killing the newcomer, or the newcomer killing first the bisharp and then any remaining pawniard who don’t accept it.” You can’t really tell through the phone, but the man sounds snide when adds, “This is actually one of the many reasons that a Class C permit is required to capture and raise a pawniard—the increased risk of evolution in captivity and subsequent impossibility of release means that a trainer must be prepared to care for their bisharp until the end of its life. Every trainer with a Class C permit is taught this information.”
i liked the structure here, presenting her intuitive take on it and following it with a human explanation. this social structure has a very bee-like quality to it, it's an interesting interpretation.

A woman arrives the next day with a kind smile and an intake form. She’s here from the Nacrene Conkeldurr Sanctuary.
lol, i love the idea of a conkeldurr sanctuary. i'm imagining it as like a senior care home but with extra pillars.

Mina is staring at the television. There’s a woman in the box now, wearing a suit and holding a stick to her face, reporting about a trainer who beat his pokémon.
i guess if it's on tv so much, physical abuse against pokémon must be a really uncommon thing, huh? that's reassuring. honestly surprising that a guy with a conkeldurr and a bisharp would go for it, but i guess that says more about the power dynamic than it does about the guy or his pokémon in particular.

Seeing this, the king threw the broken sword down, quietly walked with his shame into the sea, and when he was waist-deep he used his bare hands to tear out his throat.
wow, this escalated immensely with every comma lol.
i think it's interesting to think about the way unovan history contains stereotypically (western european) medieval stuff like this, since it doesn't really fit in with the, well, new yorkness of it. it's an interesting topic imo, and i'm curious to see whether you expand on it more. it can come down to a lot of little details i think—is unova colonized? if so, when? who built the desert resort? were the kings native to unova, or were they descended from colonizers? etc. that's some of the stuff i find really interesting about unova as a setting. by the way, please write a fic about this Wanderer who takes up the Sword, i would be very interested in reading the unova edition of a certain story i've been plotting up...

Humans are nice. They let you rematch if you lose. Three losses in a rank is unheard of, simply because you would never survive them all. But instead you stood there, Trainer at your back, Anri before you. The board reset again and again.

Humans are cruel. They make you rematch when you lose. Anri had been too slow as a palpitoad, too slow for Clay and too slow for you. Dodging his attacks was almost second nature; he telegraphed them so blatantly that even Trainer could see. And then it was your job to dash in and strike him, like Clay’s excadrill. Over and over again, until he learned.
loving the parallel structure here.

{I’m tired of this,} Anri said simply, in a deep, rumbling voice. Then, with reddened eyes, he picked up a rock the size of your head and threw it at Trainer.
holy shit this made me lol
1609653304381.png

{He’s hurt,} you managed to say, because that was the thought that leaked through everything else. {He’ll die.}
1609653506605.png

Trainer was so soft in your arms when you’d held him. You had to angle your blades so he wouldn’t get hurt.

{It’s what I wanted him to do for me,} you said quietly.

Maybe she doesn’t understand you. But your words weren’t for her.
ouch. holy shit, the feels. i really thought this was going to culminate in a selfish way—it was so she could walk free, to preserve her own skin, etc. did not see this coming at all. ugh.

She looks firmly at you. “But they’re growing towards something, and we’ll help them get there. Even damaged leaves still need sun.”

Strands of sweaty hair hang in her face, and the aroma of damp earth is everywhere. She’s got her neck bent over the row of mint that she’s planting, but even still:

Something tells you this wasn’t actually about the garden.
😭 😭 😭

---

vi. noted

i think this was my favorite chapter so far. beautiful as the last chapter was, this chapter really gets into the guts of what comprise, to me, the heaviest and most salient bits of this fic; in particular, the way it relates to the real world. i think for the chapters preceding this one, i was mostly focused on the individual perspectives—how does this character feel about the issues? what kind of background does this character come from? how do those things predict each other?—without thinking too deeply about what it all means at its root, about the central point all these perspectives are orbiting around. this chapter changed that in a big way. in particular:
Is that what you heard in resounding echoes from every corner of Unova, as a chorus of my weak-minded kind realized that they only needed the right human to come along and save them?
holy shit, i was so glad he said this. tell me to stop if i'm getting too Political On Main, but a lot of the liberation that's occurred in the real world—in the US, in particular—gets attributed to privileged people in power having a change of heart. we hear about how slavery was abolished because the morally superior northerners enforced their will on the morally bankrupt south. the working class was thrown a bone during the great depression for no reason other than that FDR was a good guy with good ideas. gay marriage was legalized because the straight majority of america had a change of heart. and so on. even the civil rights movement gets whitewashed significantly—MLK prevailed because he was nice and peaceful to the ruling white class, because he played nice and played by the rules. in the textbooks, so much of the struggle of the oppressed is erased for one reason or another, and the result is a history told in terms of the changing whims of the ruling class, not hard-won victories by people on the ground.

but there's a grain of truth to that warped perspective too, isn't there? it wasn't a slave revolt that struck down slavery; it wasn't a revolution that pulled our country out of the depression or out of the clutches of the robber barons; etc. all of these liberations and victories were won because of mass effort, but they still required the cooperation of the ruling class to some degree. they operated through the system in the end, not against it. i think N is really emblematic of that particular paradox in the national consciousness. n is a human—a human with a special connection to pokémon, but a human nonetheless—championing pokémon rights, not with an army of pokémon at his command but instead an army of humans who have just been convinced by his rhetoric. ultimately team plasma, too, boils down to this idea: that real change can only be enacted by the ruling class on behalf of the oppressed. this fic does an awesome job at digging into that idea by showing so many different perspectives of so many pokémon from such disparate walks of life, and i'm really glad to see that issue tackled head-on here. where are all the pokémon you claim to be fighting for? these are monsters who breathe fire and thunder and ice, who could effortlessly obliterate their soft-bodied rulers if the impulse overcame them. the previous chapter illustrates that vividly and concretely. so why haven't they? why does N have to do it? what does it mean that he's the one who has to take that action?

it's parts like this that make me really glad this fic is in reverse order like it is. we know the conclusion N arrived at when we start; we know the issues he had to push aside in order for him to get there; as we go forward (backward?), i expect we'll see him struggling with those issues in real time, and i'm very excited to see that unfold. seeing characters become less resolved as we go forward is really interesting. anyway, awesome fucking work on this chapter overall, it's definitely one of the hardest-hitting pieces and most thought-provoking pieces of fanfiction i've read and you manage it without feeling preachy at all. the conversation is 100% in the context of pokémon liberation, yet it says so much more, and i think you achieve that really masterfully.

He gives you what you want. Power. Strength. Vengeance. A bit of coaching. A strange disc that holds the secrets of how to create fire. A wide berth. A warm bath.
hah, i love this. the "strange disc" bit got me.

What reason would a human like N have to willingly seek to correct the imbalance that favors them so heavily?
woof. heavy question. i think this line was the moment that the gears started really turning in my head.

When the humans label him as separate from themselves, they show their true intentions for the world to see: no human heart has a place for sympathy for the children of fire and thunder. Better to think that in his chest beats a different organ altogether.
since the people of unova are described as having "fire and thunder and ice" running through them, i feel like it would be neat to use those same three elements here too rather than snipping ice out. i also found the last sentence kind of awkward; maybe something like "Better to think that the thing beating in his chest is a different organ altogether" or something? "in his chest" standing on its own in the middle there was a little confusing for me.

{Or maybe this time you could pass out some flyers? Have a slam poetry night about liberation?}
ah, behold, the fabled Slam Poetry Night. cheeky bastard.

He is the bitter root that cures a deeper poison. You do not love him, but you understand his use. You will endure the flames that lick at your scales so long as they burn away the rot.
really powerful, i'm loving these metaphors.

Humans razed the whole forest and were surprised when there were no roots to hold the soil down when the rains came.
lol. absolutely nothing more human than that.

No, it’s certainly not even a good answer, either. The road you’ve chosen goes one way, and N is too idealistic to walk it.
some hero of truth. i guess in the end things aren't all black and white... 🧐 twist ending where zahhak is actually the hero of truth?

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.
🥺
 
xvi. nepeta

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
hiiiiii omg, so many reviews part 2, electric boogaloo. been mulling on a few of these and I definitely want to do them full justice--please do not think I have forgotten these! will be doing proper responses in the next week or so.


note: this update's a bit of weird one--chapter 12 (jericho visits a ferris wheel) has been more or less completely rewritten. can provide summary if you don't want to read even more funky time loops in this already funky timelined story.

※​


xvi. nepeta

※​

You run up to the human. Lithe, powerful, graceful, nimble. You’re careful to show off all of your strengths.

{Train me,} you command.

You watched her from a distance. Left her gifts you thought she’d enjoy. A potion, for her weaker teammates. A pokéball, for you. You could tell just by looking at her that she needs all the help she can get, but if she gets it, she’ll go far. She’s a fighter, like you. Scrappy, like you. She wants the world, like you. It’s a good match. She just doesn’t know it yet.

She probably doesn’t understand you, but the intent is clear enough. There’s a strange green pokémon with big eyes at her ankles. Smells like grass. Your nose crinkles. She’s got a smug look on her face, like she knows she’s better than you.

(Like she is better than you.)

The human has pulled out her pokédex and is pointing it at you. She’s not even looking at you; she let’s the machine do that for her. That’s fine. You’ll pose for it as well. “Purrloin, huh? Tricky to raise, average offensive prowess, and a few warnings for mischievousness. Oh, and if that’s not ironed out, that could manifest as extreme aggression after evolution. They will disobey trainers they do not respect. Yikes.” She looks down at the simpering, smug one by her feet. “Still, not a dealbreaker. What do you think, Vaselva?”

Oh, she’s asking the plant for an opinion. Did you say simpering, smug? You meant supremely superior. Of course. {Please,} you say in the dialect of forests, even though the word tastes like birdshit on your tongue. {Tell her I want to train with you. She’ll listen to you. I’ll be the best companion.}

You wait, your heart throbbing in your chest.

The green one fluffs up her fronds, clearly annoyed. {Why.} It’s not a question.

You don’t hesitate. {I want to be strong.}

{This is my human. I protect her. You do not.}

That’s fair. What the green one doesn’t know won’t hurt her. {I want to be strong for myself,} you say. And that’s not even a lie. You do mean it. {But being strong means having strength to spare.}

The green one considers. Thoughtful. Yes, she would make a good partner on the field anyway. You’ve picked well. Finally, she shakes her head, and then tugs at her human’s pantleg with her scaled hands. Looks up. Nods.

You’ve done it! You have a human! She will be yours! You will call her something witty, clever. Hummy, perhaps. Brownie? She has the hair for it.

Wait, no. The human is shaking her head. She’s already put the red device away. Still isn’t looking at you. “Sorry, Vaselva. I think we’ll pass. Bianca says there are blitzle in the grass outside of town, and I think that’ll round out your flying weakness better. It’s not worth the risk, and, I mean … we can’t really afford to have extras right now.”

No!

No no no no no!

They’re turning away. You dash around them on all fours, and then skid to a halt, blocking their path. {Train me,} you repeat. {I will be good. I will take care of the birds. I am exceptionally good at taking care of the birds. I will feed myself. No birds will bother your grassy one.}

The snake’s face is carved like a statue. {She said no.}

“Awww, aren’t you the cutest!” says the human. “Do you want a snack?” She’s reaching into her satchel now.

No, you want a trainer; you do not want a—

She pulls out a berry and you salivate immediately. You’re hungry. You’ve been hungry for days. You—

Are eating ravenously.

When you look up, they’re gone.

※​

You’re more careful choosing the next one. The rejection stings. The human you’d chosen didn’t look particularly powerful; she certainly wasn’t that much stronger than you. So for her to say that you weren’t good enough? For her?

She looks like she crawled out of a gutter. Your mother belonged to one of their elites. Her trainer was one of the best in Unova, and she taught all of her moves to you before old age took her. So what does this little human girl know about dealbreakers?

Nothing. She knows nothing, you have to remind yourself. You don’t need that particular human to know you’re worth something. Your mother belonged to one of their elites, until he gambled away his fortune, and his fame couldn’t protect him. He sold the expendables. Her new life wasn’t so bad; the humans who bought her were wealthy and took good care of her. But when she grew out of her prime, they discarded her like an old toy. She scrounged for a new home, and her once-proud head bowed for scraps, which she ferried back to you.

The anger festers, but the message is clear time after time: humans determine your worth in this world. If the little girl who rejected you doesn’t understand your worth yet, you will have to find someone who does. It’s that or go hungry.

So you watch him watch them. He has a strange gait, you decide. He doesn’t walk like a human, all confident and loud. He pads around, always nervous, always gentle, always quietly, as if he knows he doesn’t belong and is trying to draw as little attention to his outsiderness as possible.

He wouldn’t last a day as a purrloin, hunting them so obviously. Even as a kitten you learned how to hide from your prey. And your predators.

But he certainly has the eyes of a hunter. He surveys the other humans with a quiet, withdrawn sort of precision. Even watching him carefully, you can’t quite tell if he’s looking at them or if he’s wistfully studying the trees. But he always times his entrances and exits flawlessly; always arrives just in time for the battles before melting seamlessly back into the crowd, as if he was never there to begin with.

Yes. This one will be yours. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will soon.

You leave the oran berry by his hand while he’s sitting on a park bench, even though holding it makes your mouth water, your stomach rumble. You place it where he’ll see it the second he turns around, and then you mold back into the grass behind him, eyes wide as you watch.

It takes him a while. He’s observant, but he points his withering focus at one or two things at a time, and the rest slip out. When the human children withdraw their pokémon, one battered and the other no longer able to stand, he shifts his weight and almost crushes your offering. You watch as he turns, looks at the palm of his hand, and pulls the berry up closer to his face. He doesn’t smell it for ripeness, fool that he is, but he turns it over in his hands, runs one finger over the ring of bite marks from where you held it in your teeth.

He bares his own teeth in amusement—the smile seems genuine. He looks around, almost guilty, almost amused, and, when he fails to notice you through your perfect stealth, he shrugs and deftly begins to peel it.

Excellent. You are bonded for life now.

When he gets up to leave, you linger, watching. You pad over to the spot on the bench he had occupied, which still is faint with his warmth, and as you leap onto the slats, you realize that he’s left precisely half of the oran.

You are too hungry to hunt him down and question him for his disrespect, so you eat it instead.

※​

You deposit the second gift while he’s alone.

You sort of have to, you see. It’s not by choice. You’d much rather give it to him where he and everyone else with eyes can see what a good hunter you are, to bring him so many gifts. Then everyone will have no choice but to be amazed at your prowess, and they’ll all be jealous. Everyone wins.

But. The bird is quite loud. It squawks periodically, and then falls silent, as if it’s forgotten that it wants to be obnoxious. And then it remembers, and it’s shrill calls echo again. So you’re stuck with the unsavory task of half-walking, half-dragging it through the streets until he’s alone, staring over the railing into the depths of the Forest of Pinwheels.

What does he see out there? He still hasn’t fought, or battled, or done anything in this strange town except watch. You’re beginning to wonder if you made the wrong choice.

No. You would never make the wrong choice.

You deposit the broken-winged pidove on the steps behind him. You’ll leave him with the honor of finishing it off. He is a frail one. You are the better hunter. And now you can make good on your promise: no birds will bother him, or any of the others he seeks to protect. You curl up around the balcony railing and blend into the shadows.

He turns around at the low coo of the pidove. His eyes rove across the observatory deck, at first too high, and then he sees the bird slumped in a pathetic pile of grey feathers. He gasps, and rushes towards it—

Good! He’s seen your gift!

—“What? Who hurt you like this? Oh, no, you poor thing.” He’s got his hands hovering a solid foot away from the pidove in either direction, seemingly torn on if he should try to move it or leave it be.

Ugh. He pulls out a pokéball and catches the stupid thing, hopefully so he can eat it later. Is he really going to waste his time with one of those?

He hurries off to the pokécenter, and you’re left following after him.

※​

You look for the third gift while he’s standing in the midst of a crowd. Hunting, probably. He blends in with the rest of the humans if you don’t know where to look.

He is the distracted type. You see him fiddling with the collars on his wrists constantly, twisting them in golden spirals up and down his forearms. Where does he go, when his eyes wander far away? He certainly isn’t seeing this world.

There is a child with a fidget-cube. Her fingers are too chubby to manipulate it properly; she’s too young for it. That’s what you tell yourself, at least, when you approach her. All fluff and smiles, something big and purple and colorful to look at, and when she throws her arms around you, you endure it. One moment, maybe two.

Yes, this is all part of your plan. She has to hug you for at least five seconds. Or ten. Yes, when she’s nuzzling her head into your neck, mixing strands of her hair with your fur. This is part of your devious plan as well. She has to get her guard fully down, this miniature human, or else you’ll never succeed. Absolutely.

“Purr! Purr!” she says, an utter butchering of your name. Despicable. How can you stand her, the way she squeezes too tightly, lets her warmth and love bleed into yours? Thank goodness you’re so strong.

“Riley!”

Oh no. Big human.

You look up guiltily. The big human has business clothes on; you recognize the flappy bit of fabric around his neck as plumage that only the adults have. On his face is carved a scowl, also the kind that only the adults have. “Riley! Get away from that!”

No no no, you’re friendly, you aren’t going to—

He swats you off with open fists, and then with gentle hands picks up the small one.

You hiss, puff up your fur defensively at the smarting blow, but he’s already hoisting the mini human onto his hip. “See, Riley? You can’t play with strays. They’ll always show their true colors.”

No! That’s … he … you didn’t start this! He did.

The mini human dropped her toy when the big one picked her up. So you do the only sensible thing and steal it, and then run away, and then very gently deposit it at your future human’s feet.

{Train me,} you yowl, and your persistence is rewarded when he turns around and looks at you with a warm smile.

You wait for him to send out a pokémon, to attack you. Something, anything at all. You need to prove yourself. You won’t make the same mistakes as before. You’ll win this time. He’s already accepted your gifts, so he is caught deep, deep in your cunning traps.

“Hello. My name is N. I’m travelling across Unova,” he says instead. Crouches down so that his eyes are on your level. You back up instinctively before you remember to be brave.

{Train. Me.} You keep the words simple. Mewl alongside them for emphasis. Maybe he’ll hear the question in it.

“Yes,” he says. “That too. Only if you want to.”

What a silly, silly trainer he’ll make. Of course you want to fight. Why else would you seek out a human? {I will fight for you. Loyally, and without fail. I promise that.}

“Oh?” He chuckles at that one.

You arch your back. You aren’t to be laughed at. You are better than this. You huff, turn to leave. You’ll find another human, and then he’ll see. You’re three steps into your dramatic walk away when you realize he isn’t stopping you. {You’re just going to let me leave?} you mewl over your shoulder. {What, a purrloin isn’t good enough for you? Too common?}

“No. I would be honored.” Long pause. “If that’s what you want.”

He’s lying, even if he doesn’t know it. No human is honored like this for long. New pokémon are prizes to be won, interesting at first and then lackluster if they can’t prove their worth. You’ll lose his fascination and he’ll put you up on a shelf when you start losing. You know this. Your mother knew this, and taught you all too well—she was a trainer’s pokémon once, until she wasn’t.

You won’t make the same mistakes. You won’t be useless.

{Train me,} you repeat, and your heart almost bursts from pride when he extends his hand.

※​

N talks to you more than you thought a trainer would. He has too many questions—where are you from? what’s your name? what interests you in battling? am I talking too fast?—and at first you think it’s part of a test, so you answer him honestly. Accumula. Tourmaline. Strength. Yes, absolutely, do you ever stop?

(The last one you don’t say out loud.)

Slowly he peters off, when he seems to pick up that you aren’t really into it. You aren’t here for the chitchat. You’re here for the magical part where humans make you stronger than you could’ve been on your own. And if he thinks this interrogation will help, you’ll give it a try, but otherwise … you can’t get distracted.

You’re immediately distracted when you see her again.

{That girl,} you say, tugging on the collar of his shirt. You’re curled around his neck like a purple scarf, tail fluttering down his back. {I want to fight her.}

“You want to battle? I, um.” He stumbles over the words. “I don’t know how.”

{What do you mean, you don’t know how? You’re a human. All humans know how to fight.} You alight from his shoulders and land smoothly on the ground. You yowl to the girl and her green one. {Hey. Fight me.}

The green one looks up in alarm. {You again?}

{I got my own human,} you say, gesturing smugly with your tail. {He will make me strong. I will fight you now.}

{Hilda would’ve made you strong, too.}

{Hilda,} you say, the new name stretching your mouth into impossible shapes, {didn’t want me.}

{Don’t get mad that she was too busy training me. That’s not her fault.}

“You guys want a battle?” her human says, and yours gives a sort of strained grunt.

“Alright, Vaselva, let’s do this,” says the Hilda. She puts her hands on her hips like she’s analyzing the situation carefully. Silly. She should be more like your human, who isn’t staring at the opponent at all. “Vine Whip.”

The snivy nods, and then extends two thorny fronds from her backside—where was she keeping those??—and launching them towards you. You narrowly twist out of the way of the first one, but the second one hems you in from the other side, smacking you upside the face before you can duck.

The first impact doesn’t hurt that badly. But the vine hits you hard enough to throw you to the ground, and the ground is harder than the vine, and your eyes are full of stars for a moment when your head hits the concrete of the street. You whine in alarm before you can stop yourself. You can’t look bad on front of them.

You’d watched humans watch these all the time. The pokémon there weren’t crying out in pain, although surely it must’ve hurt just as badly. Were they just stronger than you? Desensitized to it? Your mother said that when she was on the circuit, she’d just moved all the bits of her that she thought were soft and delicate and hidden them deep in her chest. {Which is where I hid you, Tourmaline, my love,} she’d whispered, nudging you with her nose. {So you wouldn’t be hurt.}

Hide them away. It’s your turn now. You pull yourself up, feel N’s concerned gaze burning into your back. {I’m fine,} you hiss back, an answer to his unspoken question. If he thinks you’re weak he’ll throw you to the side. If she thinks you’re weak she’ll know she was right to. {Tell me what to do.}

“I don’t know!” He sounds truly desperate.

You file him out as background noise for the moment and study the snake. Her vines have a predictable attack pattern to them. Left, right, left. There’s an arc and a sway that they all share; she hasn’t yet had her human point that out to her and train her out of it. You duck under the first, and then start running headlong in. The vines chase you, but you’re moving fast—they don’t retract as quickly as they extend. You get in close, and you rake your claws across her face. She manages to close her eyes and shy away just in time to protect those big, ruby eyes from the worst of it, but drops of red start sneaking down her face. She screams. You go in again. And again. Your claws ache under the impact of her skin. She’s got scales, and they’re still soft, not yet battle-hardened, not meant for this, like your claws, but if you can rake fast enough, you’ll win. You have to. Your chest aches and your head throbs and your paws are weary but—

“Vaselva, now! Vine Whip into Slam, like we practiced!”

Her vines are back. You didn’t consider that. She wraps them around you and raises you five feet into the air, prepares to smash you into the cobblestones. And before you can stop yourself, a wordless scream rips from your mouth—

“I forfeit!” shouts your human before she can complete the attack and send you into the ground, to match your shame. “Stop!”

The snake freezes, almost guiltily.

{What are you doing?} you snarl at him as she places you back on the ground. {I almost had her.}

But he’s not looking at you. His breath is coming in short, uneven bursts. He’s reaching into his pocket, pulling out a wad of green paper, counting out a handful, shoving them towards Hilda. “Here. You win.”

And then, in a softer voice, he looks at the snake. Sounds almost hurt. “You … you didn’t even hesitate. Why?”

She looks up at N, one leaf on her tail torn. The fronds around her neck are in disarray, and she shakes them out disdainfully before answering. But she doesn’t meet his eyes. {She told me to. For her and her dreams, I would do anything.}

“But … why?”

Vaselva flicks her tattered tail dismissively, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. {Because that’s what pokémon are for.}

Your breath is coming in short gasps. Something in your ribcage feels bruised. Your fur is all ruffled. You grit your teeth. This is what you wanted. This is what you want.

“Are you hurt?” he asks, crouching down to look at you. Hilda’s saying something to him, but he doesn’t seem to hear.

{I’m fine.} He can’t know you lost this so badly. He’ll think you’re weak and then you’ll be back at square one.

You picked a strange human, one who can understand pokémon. But he doesn’t listen, so he immediately sees the way you’re holding your chest, the gash in your leg from where you hit concrete.

And that’s how you end up glaring at the stupid pidove again in the pokécenter, both of you bandaged up and neither of you in the mood to speak.

※​

The pidove is still quailing in its roost at the pokécenter, but you won’t sit around quietly. You’ll be the most useful member on his team, and then he’ll see. But he doesn’t go near the trainers, even as you follow him resolutely through the streets, down the streets, across the streets. For a while, he’s silent, his hands shoved deeply in his pockets. You imagine a miniature thunderstorm brewing around his shoulders. A few blocks in, he stops and crouches, as if to tie his shoe; though it fills your heart with shame, you accept his offer and perch around his neck. There’s still a dull ache in your legs from the battle, and all this walking isn’t helping anyway.

He must’ve been expecting it, because he doesn’t shoo you off. He doesn’t say anything else though, either.

Accumula is a nice town from up here. This tall, and you can look down on the things that used to seem so big. There’s a street cart with wisps of smoke curling off of the grill, fencing off a man selling hotdogs. He waves when you and N approach. Down the road from him is a pair of humans hogging the sidewalk, but they shuffle to the right so that you and N can pass.

This is what it means to have a human, you remind yourself. None of them would’ve given you the time of day if you’d been alone. This is what you wanted.

“Are you busy this evening, Tourmaline?”

It’s the first thing he’s said to you since you lost, so it must be important. But what a dumb question it is. You’re a pokémon. You’re a pokémon who is now owned by a human. What else would you be doing this evening? But you get the feeling he’ll be disappointed by that answer, so instead you just say, {No.}

“I’m helping my friends try something out and I think you’d enjoy it,” he explains quietly as he pushes open a gate, steering the two of you off of the sidewalk and onto a garden path. “But it’s a little new. Do you like music?”

{Do you?}

He pauses for a moment, like he’s never considered that question. The gravel crunches beneath his feet. “Yes,” he says at last.

So then that settles it. {Yes.}

Something in your voice makes him pause. “Forgive me for asking. Are you just saying that—”

{Yes.}

There’s a long silence.

{Do you want me to see this place or not?} you growl at last, when it’s clear that he isn’t going to be the one to say anything else.

“Well, we’re here already,” N says with a weak smile, one where you can’t even feel the edges of it against your cheeks. “So you see it. But the real magic will happen in … soon. I need to help set up. But it’s a performance of sorts. Many of my friends will be there. Do you want to watch?”

What a stupid answer for a stupid question. Perhaps you wasted your gift. No. Not in a million years. Your mother picked a bad human but you haven’t made the same mistake. {I will see this place with you tonight.}

‘This place’ is an empty garden just before sundown, with three humans and a watchog fiddling with some speakers. N’s bad at stealth, so when you and he slip in, all of them turn to wave at him when he enters. “The show will start in an hour,” he says in a quiet explanation that, like most of his statements, doesn’t seem to explain anything at all. He pauses. “If there’s anywhere else you’d like to be.”

You’re a trainer’s pokémon now. Where else would you go? But you don’t have the energy to argue, so you alight from his shoulders and watch them archly from a stool in the corner of the garden, furthest from the stage, your tail flicking.

Humans are strange. They rearrange all of the furniture into a grid shape, and you have to move twice (twice!) until they’ve gotten all the chairs in a layout they’re happy with. The joke is on them though; all of their furniture is so mismatched and slapped together—there’s no way to arrange two dozen chairs that look like they came from two dozen places nicely. At the center they put up a little makeshift stage, and N is fussing with some cords on the ground when the others start to trickle in.

“Oh!” he says, too loudly, and immediately drops what he was holding to run over to the leavanny standing by the garden’s gate. “I’m so glad you could make it, Briselle.” They both fold one hand in front of their chests and bow. “Did you have any trouble finding us?”

{No,} she answers very slowly in the dialect of forests. {Your directions were very good.}

“Do you need any help setting up?”

{No,} she repeats solemnly. {I have brought everything I need. Can I help you with anything?}

“There’s some lights over in the corner I was hoping to hang up before everyone else showed up,” N says, pointing to a tangle of wires, and the leavanny delicately stalks over and begins unpicking them with her leaves.

N and one of the other humans struggle with the lacing of a large banner, its paper crackling as they try to hang it over the stage. You watch with veiled interest; the lettering means nothing to you, but it must surely be important. The watchog scampers from chair to chair, laying a little piece of paper on each one.

When she skips your stool, you hiss, {What are those?}

{They’re for the humans,} she says, and when you look, you can see that they’re all crawling with the same illegible letters. {You can have one if you want,} the watchog adds.

You snatch it from her waiting paws and frown at it, trying to trace over the symbols with your tail. Belatedly, you realize you should’ve asked, What are they for? but she’s out of hissing range and if you shout at her they’ll all see how stupid you are for not knowing. So you curl your tail tightly around your paws and trace over the strange symbols.

“Oh, hey Hilda! Welcome!”

Your head flicks over. No. What’s she doing here?

She looks like she doesn’t know the answer either. One hand fiddles with her hair and she’s shifting her weight back and forth. But it’s the eyes that really give her away—her gaze flicks over every corner of the room, taking it in with rapid precision, analyzing the important bits and storing the information away. Her eyes slide right over you and back to N. “Hi. I hope I’m not too early?”

“You’re right on time!” N says. “Could Vaselva make it?”

Hilda blinks politely. “Pardon?”

N flinches and seems to catch himself. “Oh, pokémon are welcome in this space. If Vaselva would like to join us, we’d love to see her.”

Maybe he would, but—

“And she’s already met Tourmaline, so perhaps they could catch up a bit!”

Before you can interject, the snake is already out of her pokéball, blinking sleepily in the garden light. Your hackles raise immediately. Does he not realize that you don’t fraternize with enemies?

{I’m not talking to her,} you yowl from your perch.

Vaselva calmly shakes out her tail. {Scared?} she asks before N can respond.

Your claws sink into the wood of the stool. {I’d be happy to entertain our guests,} you say frostily to N, and he flashes you a grateful smile.

“Thank you,” he says. “Oh, and Tourmaline, could you save me a seat?”

{Of course,} you promise, and then belatedly realize you’re not sure how to do that. A problem for later; the snake and her human settle in next to you, and of course, Hilda doesn’t sit between you. So you have to glare over the snake’s scaly head to watch Hilda shuffle into her seat and almost sit on the paper on her chair.

But she does notice it, and she begins to read it. You strain to catch the words as she murmurs them under her breath, her forehead creased with a frown—“First performer, Tiallys of the Yarrow Clan, from Lostlorn. He wants to be an idol performer, like Roxie, to catch the attention of his family. Second performer, Brex, from Pinwheel Forest. He usually prefers singing underwater. Third performer, Briselle, also from Pinwheel Forest. When she’s not practicing her harp, she’s working on a leaf-inspired fashion line … what?” She looks around the room, her brow furrowed, but N’s off by the stage messing with a tall light.

{Did N tell your human what this is for?} you ask the snake, while Hilda falls keeps scanning the strange paper, mouthing the words to herself.

{Perhaps, but she didn’t tell me,} Vaselva replies.

There’s a long silence.

{Are you still mad that I won?} she asks.

Not one to mince words, this one. You ignore her under the pretense of grooming at a particularly matted bit of fur under your ear while you search for the right words. {No.}

She stares straight ahead. {You certainly act like it.}

The snake wouldn’t understand. You’ve seen her type before. Bred for battle. It’s not like she ever had to struggle for what she wanted, blessed as she was by her birth to make her someone the humans wanted. Snivy are powerful, uncommon. She probably had everything she ever wanted given to her from the moment she hatched.

{You fought well,} you say instead, your voice stony. {Perhaps we’ll fight again.}

{Perhaps your trainer will be better when we do,} she says primly.

Your mouth is open for a retort when you realize you don’t know what you want to say. It’s not about my trainer; it’s about me—but that’s not true, is it? Hilda was smart, so they won. You could’ve beaten the snake if Hilda hadn’t helped. But it’s not N’s fault that you lost. It’s yours.

Before you can find an answer, more people begin filling in the seats behind and around you. There’s a commotion as some of the chairs have to get rearranged to make room for a venipede, and a human boy tries to take the seat you’re saving for N, so you have to yowl at him until he stops. By the time you turn away from that, Vaselva has nuzzled up against Hilda’s leg, her eyes half-closed as Hilda gently strokes the yellow scales beneath her chin.

When you look at them, it isn’t anger that fills you. That could’ve been you. If you were—

No. You have your own trainer. This is what you wanted.

Someone flicks a light on by the stage, and then the rest of the room goes dark. The hushed chatter fizzles out, and everyone watches as N takes to the stage. You can’t help but lean forward. This is what he wanted you to see, right?

“The—” he flinches back as the microphone in his hand screeches, and when he starts over again he’s careful to keep it further from his face. Which is a problem, because he speaks softly, and you feel the rest of the audience straining in to catch his words. “The performers will be introducing themselves, and there are also programs on your seats for the hard of hearing.” He clears his throat, and you watch his gaze dart nervously around the crowd. “Um, thank you all for coming. We’re really pleased with the turnout, and the Accumula chapter will be trying to host more events in the future.” Another pause. “That’s all.”

He replaces the microphone and slinks off the stage to scattered applause. There’s a tiny, localized wave of disturbances as he picks his way through the tightly-packed seats—it looks like he struggles to see in the dimmed light, but you can watch him fumble around perfectly—and you trace the mantra of “pardon me, sorry, thank you” until he makes his way to the back row and takes the seat by your side.

{Is that what you wanted me to see?} you whisper, but he just points at the stage.

You’ve seen these a few times before, from when you greedily watched human television through their windows. But you’ve never seen one with—

A minccino quietly totters up the steps, and scampers up the ascending boxes that have been arranged so he can be tall enough to reach the microphone. {Hello. My name is Tiallys,} he says quietly, in the dialect of forests. It would seem he learned from watching N; he’s careful not to get too close to the microphone, but his voice carries smoothly from the speakers. {I am from the Yarrow Clan of Lostlorn Forest. This is a song that my siblings and I used to sing in celebration of the Short Night. Traditionally—} He pauses.

His tail twitches, and that’s when you see how dirty it is. Strange. Usually the rats clean one another; it’s the first thing they do when they meet. {Traditionally, it should be sung with at least five others, but the Yarrow Clan was separated when our part of the forest was clear-cut. Um. The melody is very simple, and you are welcome to join in on the chorus if you would like.}

He pauses. The room is silent. Then he begins.

When he sings, his voice resonates in a deep vibrato, one that you wouldn’t have believed could fit in his tiny body. The words are lost to you, but the melody settles around your shoulders like a heavy blanket, warm, comforting. It lilts in a strange way, with pauses that feel like they should be filled by another. But it happens all at once: he’s halfway through threading a lyric, some stupid rhyme about “my love” and “stars above”, when—

You’re curled up against your mother, in the rare shared moments she had with you. Her humans couldn’t know about you, she’d explained. They’d make you fight. So she hid you carefully in the alleyways during the day while she fawned around her humans, and ran to you at night. {But I was thinking of you the entire time, my love,} she whispers with a soft laugh, her tongue rasping against the fur on the back of your neck. Her breath is warm, and you’re bundled tightly to her flank, and as you drift off to sleep, she begins to croon a lullaby—

Short night, good night,

Find your way in the moon’s soft sight.


You blink back to reality. It’s a different song; a simple one, like Tiallys said; roughly half the pokémon in the room have joined the rat on the chorus. You want to focus on how they aren’t as good as he is, how they’re distracting from the real talent in the room, but you can’t. You can’t even bring yourself to join them; you just stare, stare at the stupid rat as he finishes his song with his eyes closed.

Short night, good night,

May we meet in the morn’s sweet light
.

Your heart feels like it’s sunk all the way to your paws, and there’s a heavy weight on your shoulders that forces your head down, your ears back. The snake’s got her tail curled tightly around herself, and she clutches it like it’s something precious.

A tear traces down Hilda’s cheek. Does she even know why?

The rest of the show is a blur.

※​

After the show, people start to trickle out. A group of humans approach N; he answers their questions with a stutter and a fake smile. The pokémon performers are gathered on the stage, and you almost could go up and join them, thank them, but what would you say? So you sit quietly.

Eventually, the crowd thins. Hilda walks up and clears her throat, and when he looks at her, she says, “Thanks for inviting me. This was … this was really nice. And different.”

N practically beams. “I’m so glad.” He fumbles around until he finds the stack of flyers in the chair beside him and presses one into her stunned hands. “The Accumula branch of Plasma has chapter meetings every other Wednesday, and for travelling trainers there’s listserv that’ll go directly to your x-transceiver so you can see what’s going on when. There are chapters in all the major cities now.” His smile fades and he trails off. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, of course! But if you were interested …”

Hilda scrutinizes the flyer in her hand—what, does she think it’s going to answer for her? “I think I will.” She swallows. “I learned a lot tonight. And you had a good time too, didn’t you, Vaselva?”

The snivy nods, and then adds quietly, {This was a very nice performance. Thank you.} She looks at both you and N when she says it.

The enthusiasm is back in N’s voice. “I’m so glad! I think a lot of people—and trainers—could benefit from seeing things like this, if we just …” He frowns and picks his next words very carefully. “If we just helped them see a world where pokémon are free to be people.”

Hilda’s face clouds in confusion. You see the question burning on her lips, but N doesn’t, and maybe she doesn’t either. She nods and waves before slipping out of the room, Vaselva at her heels.

Most of the room empties until there’s just a core group of people left. As far as you can tell, no one says a word, but somehow they all know what to do, and they begin rearranging the chairs (again) into a large circle. A human and the watchog from earlier drag a heavy black bowl into the center. Someone turns on a set of string lights that almost seem to float overhead, twined in the branches of the oak tree above. The remaining half dozen or so people lounge in spots around the ring of chairs; someone passes glass bottles around them.

That night is a quiet one. Somewhere deeper in the city, a fester of sewaddle are gathering, humming as their legs click together. Their music drifts gently through the leaves.

N’s hunched over the black bowl, and with his own two hands he shakily manages to trap a flame. Oh. You remember those. You saw them in the city windows. Envied the ones who had their warmth.

He’s careful. You watch him from atop your stool, entranced. You’ve never seen someone handle fire so delicately. Normally you’d expect him to be rough about it; it’s fire, after all. He should be afraid. But he’s not, as he gently pokes at the embers with a stick, blows a little into it, and coaxes it into a crackling hearth.

You’ve always wanted a human. Maybe this isn’t what you meant, though. This one is strange. This one will not get you to where you want to go.

But. Is that so bad?

The fire crackles as he steps back, casting shadows up his face and neck. You watch him survey the ring of people, and then he comes and sits next to you.

He leans back, but his back stays hunched, like he’s some sort of misproportioned sawk. He’s much too tall for the chair he picked, but he doesn’t seem bothered by it. You leap down from the stool and pick your way over to him, nuzzle yourself under his hand and curl up in his lap.

“Did you have a good time, Tourmaline? I’m sorry if you were uncomfortable being alone.”

You ignore his question. You can handle the snake and the girl, and he doesn’t need to know if you can’t. {Why didn’t you perform?} you ask instead.

“It wasn’t my place. I wanted that to be somewhere for pokémon to be who they want to be.”

When Brex sang, a human girl drummed the sides of his bucket. When the tympole dove underwater, the warbling effect from his voice echoed with the rhythmic rapping sound from the metal. It was a nice duet, you remember, but by that point your heart and your mind were far, far away. {There were some humans up there as well.}

He smiles stiffly. “That’s true.” The smile fades. “But I’d much rather watch.”

You think about how Hilda watched, frozen, the tear on her cheek glistening in the lights of the stage. When Tiallys finished his song, she’d wiped it away and clapped with all the rest, but you couldn’t help but wonder: did she know? Did she understand?

Your mother could’ve taken you to the forests. It’d be easier to hunt there, and she wouldn’t have had to preen and posture for her humans to get enough scraps to feed the two of you. But the wilds were dangerous in their own ways. Too easy for humans to decide that your home, your family, was theirs now. Tiallys sang for his siblings. If they were dead, he would’ve started with that. There is no shame or sadness in losing one to the wild. But if they were taken, scattered across Unova—he could sing as loudly as he wanted, but he’d probably sing alone.

Did she sense the magic in the room when the others joined in? Did she know who they were singing for?

No. Surely not. She might’ve tried, but she’d never be able to understand, not when all she could do was watch.

You certainly weren’t wrong in picking your human. You can see that much now. But—

{You lost to that girl. I was humiliated.}

“I’m sorry you were hurt, Tourmaline. That was my fault.”

{I don’t want your apologies. I want to know how to get better.}

N swallows nervously. He’s staring into the fire, so all you can see is the bottom of his chin, the way it throws different shadows alongside the flickering light. “I think you did a really good job. You tried your best.”

{My best wasn’t good enough.} It’s your pride that stings more than the ache in your bones, now that you’ve been healed. You lost to the green one, and you won’t forget it. {You didn’t give me any commands.}

“I’m sorry,” he says, and from the sounds of it, he’s not making that up. “I’m new to battling, honestly.”

{New? But you’re so old.}

“I waited a bit.”

Ah.

“It makes me uncomfortable to try to give pokémon commands. I didn’t think you’d prefer it. You know yourself so much better than I do.” Idly, he begins to scratch at the spot where your nose bridges into your forehead, and you close your eyes. The fire is warm on your fur; the crackling light sends patterns spiraling up the inside of your eyelids. “I hope that if you ever find a new trainer who gives you a command that you don’t want to obey, you don’t feel obligated to listen.”

He’s certainly new to this, if he doesn’t realize what humans are. They’re meant to command. That’s their only purpose. Pokémon fight. Humans call the shots. That’s simply how things are. He’ll learn his place one day, as you’ve learned yours.

{I will do what it takes,} you promise instead.

“Do you think it’s fair that battles work like that?” he asks, almost casually. But you can sense the loaded intent in his words. If they had form they would be an adult liepard, rear legs bent taut and ready to pounce. “Is that what you want?”

{What else would I want?} you respond testily.

He doesn’t take your question as an answer, even if you wish he had. “I’m not sure. That’s why I like organizing events like this. It’s good for the trainers, but I hope that maybe the pokémon who attend can see if there’s something else they want instead.”

{I’m not going to sing.} You think of the leavanny and her harp, who introduced herself tremulously and explained that she’d admired the lyre since she was a sewaddle. Is that what he wants from you? {And I’m not going to play a stupid instrument, either.}

“You don’t have to.”

{You didn’t sing either,} you say, in case he’s got any grand ideas about getting the two of you onstage in a duet. {You organized the whole thing, right? If you hadn’t spoken up at the beginning, they wouldn’t have even known you were there.}

“No, they wouldn’t have.” He shifts his legs slightly, and you hiss in annoyance until he stills. “But I find that I hear quite enough of my own voice these days.”

You aren’t sure how to answer that. He keeps petting you, but he goes silent.

“That pidove you left me.” He pauses for a while, eyes distant into the open flame. “Why?”

{You knew it was me?}

The next long pause tells you all you need to know. “You were very stealthy,” he says, very carefully. He’s a very bad liar.

{I wanted to show you I was strong.}

“I believe you’re strong. You didn’t have to do it like that.”

{Do what?}

“The pidove almost—she was badly wounded.” His fingers stop on a snag in your fur, and he delicately begins pulling a small bramble out of it. Gentle. You haven’t had anyone groom you this way since your mother— “Did you intend to battle her for me?”

{Not a battle. You seemed like a bad hunter.}

“Ah.” The bramble’s tangled deep in there; had it come from the snake’s vines? You don’t remember. “Forgive me. I don’t actually know. Do you normally hunt pidove for food?”

{No. Territorial spats, sometimes. I would wound them or chase them off. In times of great famine, perhaps. If there is no other choice. Otherwise, no. They are irritating and more trouble than they’re worth.} So loud. Your mother picked the loudest spot in the alleyway to hide you when you were younger, where the pidove screamed at all hours of the day.

He’s got the bramble out. He inspects it in the firelight carefully, and then throws it aside. Resumes his petting in nice, slow strokes. “Would you hurt a human like that?”

{No. Absolutely not. I would never.}

“Why? Even for territorial spats? If one took your nest?”

Your tail flicks idly. He speaks like one who has never had to hunt. That is okay. You will do the hunting for him. You weren’t a good hunter in the city, but when you grow older you’ll be good enough for both of you. {Pidove are stupid. If I attack one pidove, the flock leaves us to settle our grievances alone. Even if I’m weaker, and two or three of them could easily overwhelm me. If I attack one human, they will all come. I will lose.}

That doesn’t seem like the answer he was expecting, but he smiles anyway. “Interesting.” Someone is getting up from the circle; N waves at them before they go. You don’t turn to watch. When he settles, he says, “You said you wanted to show me you were strong. What does that mean to you?”

Mean? Why would he ask that? Humans are for making meaning. {I want to win. I want to be stronger.} Maybe if you repeat it, it’ll sink in.

Maybe not. “What is stronger to you? The power to crush your foes? To have teeth and claws so sharp that none would dare challenge you?”

You … you aren’t sure. But stronger is certainly the opposite of what you are now. Can you get there on your own? You don’t think so. Your mother always told you the humans were the ones with all the power. They were the strongest. So of course you’d have to learn from them.

What would you learn from this human, though? How to call people together and help them sing? How not to battle? How to hang posters from trees?

There could be good lessons in there, you suppose. Perhaps even strength. But would they be what you want?

These are thick concepts. You’re reminded of trying to tear apart a backpack with your teeth to find the sweet prizes inside—it’s heavy work. The cloth is thick and must be wrestled with. You’re tired. Today started so long ago.

“You don’t want to stay with me, do you,” he says at last. He’s not looking at you. He’s staring into the fire.

Those words send a lurch of alarm through your paws. You stiffen. {What do you mean?}

“I think we’re both realizing I can’t make you strong the way you want, Tourmaline. I apologize.” He’s still petting you, and with your eyes closed the world is reduced to just the warmth of the firelight, and the pressure of his hand on your back, and the softness of his voice. “But I respect your desire. If you wanted to train, I have a few friends who have more courage than I, who can stomach violence. I think you would like them. They could help you become strong. Or, if you’d like, you can seek out your own trainer until you found one who fit.”

{Are you …} The anger crystallizes through the exhaustion. {Are you rejecting me?}

“If that’s what you want,” he says quietly, staring straight ahead.

You blink very slowly up at him. Fatigue is starting to slip in, enveloping your sore limbs, your confused mind. It’s a hard question. Maybe tomorrow you will leave him, find a trainer who will help you fight and become strong. Maybe you’ll stay. It could be that tomorrow you wrestle with what it is that you want from your humans, what it is you want with this world. It could be that the answers are easy once you look at them in the sunlight.

Somehow you know they won’t be. They never are.

Your mother wanted you to stay in the alleyway forever, even as the box she tucked you in grew smaller and smaller and you no longer fit. She wouldn’t have wanted you here, following her pawprints. But it’s what you wanted. She hadn’t been able to hide the glints of glamor in her voice, the way that all of Unova used to erupt into cheers, chanting her name like a magic spell when she fought.

When the humans here applauded for Tiallys tonight, they were quiet, hesitant. Even though opening his heart up like that, finding all the soft and delicate bits that he’d hidden deep within his chest and sharing them with the world—that must’ve been harder than any battle. Your wounds from fighting Vaselva healed already, but there’s a pressure on the top of your head, the kind that feels like your mother’s breath on your fur. Tiallys had put that there without even touching you. It feels warm.

That … that was some power indeed.

Perhaps he could teach you this tomorrow, or N. Perhaps, tomorrow, one of N’s friends could teach you a different strength. If you could only find the one you wanted.

But that is tomorrow. Tonight, you curl up with him by the fire, watch the stars above, shutter your eyelids as N softly sings a lullaby in a language whose words you do not recognize. Tonight you can be at peace.

※​
 
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