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Pokémon The Suicune's Choice

Chapter One - The Choice

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
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  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
The Suicune's Choice

Haru has always done things right: won eight badges, landed his dream internship. But when the time comes to wrap up his pokemon journey, right and wrong aren't so clear anymore. And duty pushes him down a dangerous path . . .

Otherwise known as: boy has religious revelation at worst possible time.

Haru with Atalanta.jpg

(lovely artwork by @OldschoolJohto!)

Chapter One - The Choice


The lights inside the ranger's station burned a pale white. Haru Watanabe paused in the entryway, drawing in a deep breath of filtered air. A dark, aromatic scent wafted towards him. The ranger on duty was making tea.

Haru approached the desk slowly, his heavy, waterproofed boots thudding against the floor.

"Morning," the ranger said, a slight yawn muffling her words. It was seven minutes past six. Outside, Route 119 was still dark and gray, the road winding through the reeds like the dark back of a seviper. "Early starter, huh?"

"The route gets too crowded mid-day," Haru replied. His voice came out low, but to his relief, it was steady.

"Returning traveler?"

"That's right." Haru held out his trainer's license.

"Eight badges, huh," she said, peering at her monitor. "Congrats. Your Class B expires this month, though. If you want to file for a Class A, the window's almost over," she added helpfully.

Haru shook his head. "I'm not going pro. I'm starting a research internship in a couple of weeks, actually."

"Really? What's your field?"

"Ecology. With a focus on micro-climates."

Now he had her attention. She looked up from the monitor, her orange bob swinging.

"That's my focus too! Micro-climates and the despeciation problem. It's why I took a ranger job here, to get some local experience before I apply to the Weather Institute's patrol team. What lab are you going to be working at?"

Haru swallowed. He hadn't been expecting questions. "Station 111—by the desert ruins. Mirage Tower, if you know it."

"Wow, yeah, that's one intense area," she said with a grin. "All those fossils. So what brings you out to this neck of the woods?"

His stomach lurched. But somehow he found a smile, broad and overly bright. "You know. The micro-climates."

The ranger's laugh echoed tinnily off the station's metal walls. "Getting your fill of rainy weather before heading off to the desert?"

"Something like that, yeah."

A lull fell as she logged his information. Haru's foot began to tap against the ground. This had never seemed to take so long before.

"Haru," the ranger said suddenly, her eyes still fixed on the monitor. His stomach somersaulted. "That's an unusual name. It's pretty."

Pretty? His name was common. He'd been the fourth Haru in his cohort growing up in Ecruteak. The other kids had called him "Caterpie" for his unusually wide eyes, probably inherited from the Kalosian relation his family never talked about.

"Thanks," Haru said, before the silence became awkward. "It's a traditional name in Johto—means clear day."

"Well, we could use some of that here," the ranger joked. "Maybe you'll be our good luck charm. I miss the sun out here. Oh, and I'm Feng."

"Feng. Nice to meet you. Maybe we'll see each other at a conference."

"Let's count on it," she said with a wink. She handed him back his trainer's license, and his hand clenched around it tightly. "Let me see—weather is pretty much the usual, though we're expecting some serious thunderstorms starting mid-afternoon and running until late evening. Currently a ban on kecleon capture, until mating season ends. And I know you've heard this a hundred times, but bear with me. Poaching and dumping are national crimes under the Hoenn Revised Code, Section Eleven, Chapter Five. I'll need a verbal affirmation that you understand the law—"

"Yes," Haru said quickly, his heart suddenly thunder.

But the ranger didn't seem to hear. She continued, "Everything else you already know, but keep safe, and don't feel ashamed to use your emergency signal if you need to. Shit happens to the best of us."

Haru nodded, returned his license to his pocket, and stepped outside. The difference in atmosphere hit him instantly, the filtered air of the station giving way for the moist, heavy murk of Route 119. It was drizzling lightly, so Haru flipped up the hood of his raincoat. Methodically, he checked that his possessions were secure, making sure to place his pokedex in a rainproof case. He'd learned that lesson the hard way, when a sudden downpour had put the device out of commission. These preparations done, he stood still on the path, tasting the mist on his mouth and letting the pounding of his heart calm.

So what if the routine check had gone on longer than he'd have liked. It wasn't anything to be concerned about. She'd remember him as just another trainer, enjoying the route one last time, before his traveling days were over.

One last journey. One final obligation.

His hand clenched involuntarily around the single pokeball on his belt.



Haru set off at a brisk pace. There were roughly six miles to cover, and he had hoped to travel the bulk of the distance on the path, before the route became busy with trainers. Once he went off road, the going would be much slower.

His mind wandered as he walked. First, to an essay he'd written in elementary school. It had won second-place in some meaningless competition and his mother had framed it on the mantel. The opening lines of the essay, written in his childish prose, looped insistently in his head. "Everyone always complains about the rules. But are rules bad?"

His thoughts turned to Erika. She'd received a promotion at her agency and had been completely off-the-wall ecstatic when she'd called him last night, alternating between boasting and chiding. "Just imagine where you'd be if you'd taken a job earlier. Experience counts, you know. Starting so late, you're going to see a salary drop of at least twenty-five percent compared to your peers. Maybe more." He couldn't have gotten a word in edgewise even if he'd wanted to. So he'd listened and nodded, while his decision sat like a stone in his stomach.

And every swirl and eddy of thought brought him back to that warm Evergrande night. It had only been a week ago, but it might as well have been a year. He'd ducked into an after-party at his friend's hotel suite, but the stuffy air and sour smell of beer hadn't felt like celebration—nor had it felt appropriate for loss.

His team had made it past the league's three qualifying stages and lost in the first round. In three weeks, his trainer's license would expire for good. His head still pounding from the party, he'd wandered down to the training grounds, where it was quiet. Even the most committed trainers were celebrating their victories that night; the losers were making the most of their defeats.

He'd arranged the last kindling from his backpack, doused it with starter, and lit a bonfire.

"So," he had said, his voice sounding small in the deserted training grounds, "I guess this is it."

The fire crackled, reflected in his pokemon's eyes—six pairs, so different, staring expectantly back at him.

In three weeks he would have to part with all but two of them. Nya-Nya, his delcatty, was considered a category three pokemon—permissible for recreational ownership. Damascus, his cradily, could also stay with him, or at least, near him. The Mirage Tower Laboratory had a special license for fossil pokemon.

As for the rest—it was the Placement Center or the Daycare. He'd tried to explain as clearly as he could. If they went to the Placement Center, they could continue to battle. An opening would be found for them on a professional trainer's team. Haru would be notified, of course. He promised he would watch every battle they competed in.

Aporea, his breloom, had raised her head at that. She was a fighter—more of a fighter than Haru had ever been. He'd won his eight badges by dint of hard work, good strategy, and a fair bit of luck. The badges had been a useful accomplishment to point at whenever his parents complained that his future would be better served by quitting training and entering the workforce, but they had never been a passion. Aporea would do well with a professional trainer, someone who could bring out her full potential.

Perched on Aporea's head, Quannuk had slowly raised a wing and let out a short, piercing call.

"You too?" Haru had asked, looking his pelipper over. He'd never known why she had followed him from the beach as a young wingull, staying even after he'd shown her that he was out of bread crumbs. He met her impassive eyes, with their bisected blacks, and held back a shiver. There were some answers he'd never learn now.

"There's also the National Daycare," he told them. "It'll be a quieter life. A chance to raise a family, though—" He'd faltered as his tropius stirred, a questioning look on her face. "Your children may go to starting trainers, I think."

His probopass made a muffled, craggy sound, that Haru had long ago decided to interpret as a chuckle. "I guess that's not a problem for you, huh?" he said and Crado had bobbed up and down in evident approval.

"Stop me if I have this wrong," Haru said to the night. "Aporea, Quannuk, you want to keep on battling. Crado, you'd prefer the daycare. What about you, Heconilia?"

The silence stretched out until it was unbearably thin. Shouts and muted laughter rose from the Evergrande after-parties in the surrounding hotels. He held the tropius' amber gaze until the campfire smoke made his eyes sting and water.

"It's one or the other, you know, that's the law." He should have started this conversation earlier. The days suddenly felt so short. "You have to make a choice."

But Heconilia had let out a long trill and shook her head rapidly, until a single crescent fruit fell from around her neck with a dense thud. She nudged it towards him with her green crown. Underneath, her eyes were impossibly trusting.

I want to go back home.

The smoke burned at his eyes and he rubbed them. The only one with a choice to make was him . . .



Haru sucked in a breath of moist, clean air and found his feet slowing.

The ranger's words echoed in his mind. Poaching and dumping are national crimes under the Hoenn Revised Code, Section Eleven, Chapter Five.

Haru understood the purpose of the law better than most people. Letting loose trained pokemon disrupted the ecological balance. Turf battles took place, habitats shifted, and the end result was the encroachment of pokemon on human lands—wurmple devastating harvests and zubat swarming radio towers. The rules were there for a reason.

He didn't need to risk this. He could still turn around, tell the ranger he had a pokemon to place and leave it to the system. He could walk away now with his prospects still intact.

If his parents had any idea what he was contemplating . . . he could see the apoplectic red rising on his father's face and the way his mother's eyes would harden into tight black coals. They hadn't uprooted themselves to Hoenn to see him throw away his future. An internship at the Mirage Desert Station. If he worked hard and kept his head down, they would take him on as a lab technician. After three years, hopefully no more than five, he would begin to conduct his own experiments. One solid breakthrough, one strong paper, and he could lead his own team of researchers. That had always been his dream.

Haru's hand crept to the feather pendant around his neck. Ho-Oh's charm.

"Help me, ancestors," he whispered.

The rain picked up around him, a slow, light patter that made the air into a continuous murmur. Through the fall of the water, he thought he could hear an aged, rasping voice. His grandmother's voice. He closed his eyes, straining to pick out her words from the rainfall.


Then Ho-Oh beheld the mighty deeds these three spirits had rendered him;

And he was pleased and spake, Loyal servants, your service has been good;

Then Raikou went up to the Heavens, where he dwelled close to the life-bringer;

Entei entered the heart of a great mountain, for he was tired and sought rest;

But Suicune ran along the white caps of the waves and, like unbidden wind, she was free.

Free.

The final word hung in the air like a judgment.

He was back in her reading room, perched attentively on his knees as Grandmother recited from the Golden Book. The tapestries on the wall were threadbare, but brilliant. Every spring Grandmother laid them out and worked them carefully with a clean white towel. There was something magical about the process, Haru had always thought. Grandmother labored with a quiet, intense concentration, as if history itself would topple if the dyes chanced to blur.

How many times had he heard Grandmother recite that same verse? But the words took on a new, graver meaning now. Ho-oh had granted freedom to his most able servants. If Heconilia undertook Suicune's choice, Haru had no right to refuse her.

A particularly large droplet of rain fell and burst on Haru's closed eyelid. He opened his eyes, blinking through the wetness. Erika would laugh at him if he ever tried to explain this. "So logical," she would say, shaking her head, "right up until the end. Superstition gets you every time, little brother."

But she had never liked to listen when Grandmother told the old stories. She had never paid attention while Grandmother explained the duty that still bound them, as descendants of the ancient priestly order. She had never cared to take in the magic of the old tapestries, renewed with every season, woven dense with obligation.

Haru tightened the hood of his slicker as the rain intensified. He unlatched Heconilia's pokeball from his belt and held it for a moment, the surface growing slippery from the rainwater.

No, there was no choice here—only duty.

With his other hand, he pulled out his nav. "Open area map."

On his screen, the geocached marker where he'd originally captured Heconilia glowed a bright green. It was less than a mile off now to his left, far into the canopy that rose up from the road.

Haru double-checked that the waterproof coverings over his legs left no gaps and glanced at the screen of his nav, glowing like a beacon in the gloom. 9am. The day was coming on quickly. Soon, the road would be swarming.

He needed to stop wasting time.

Haru pushed off into the wet undergrowth, which rose to his shoulders. Taller trees formed a dark canopy above his head. Only scattered streaks of the gray morning light passed through. The rain was falling more heavily now. Water pooled in the imprints his boots left on the road.

As the rain poured down, the mud bubbled up and ran, until even those traces were gone.
 
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Chapter Two - The Consequence

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Chapter Two - The Consequence

After two hours of slow, uneasy travel, Heconilia lifted her head and let loose a joyful trill. Haru squelched to a stop.

"You've caught the scent of a herd?" he asked, tilting his head up. The sky was almost completely blocked by the dark canopy overhead, and he couldn't make out anything over the steady drumbeat of the rain.

Heconilia nodded energetically, her eyes shining. She looked healthy and vigorous—the humid air had lent her leaves an especially verdant sheen. Her good mood had been impossible to ignore the last few hours as she swung her neck from side to side and sniffed at every flower.

Haru certainly couldn't fault Heconilia for her happiness. But it came in painful contrast to the constricted feeling in his own chest, the sensation that every step drew a noose tighter around his neck.

"Okay," Haru said slowly, as Heconilia craned her head upwards, her wings lifting slightly like she was considering taking off then and there. "We need to go over the rules now." He snapped his fingers and raised his voice. "Heconilia, I need you to pay attention."

Chastened, she lowered her neck and butted her head forward, twisting so that the ring of fruit under her neck hung in front of his face. An apology.

Haru let out a breath. "I just need you to listen," he said softly. "I could get in big trouble if you don't listen."

Heconilia made a keening murmur of agreement. Haru closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the sleek, springy surface of her neck.

"You're stronger than a wild tropius would be from all the training we've done. I know you'll want to show that off—impress a mate, take command of a herd. But you have to watch yourself. If the rangers notice anything unusual about you, they'll bring you in for an examination. And when they do, they'll find a microchip, saying you're my pokemon. If that happens, it's all over for me. Dumping is a national crime. So you can't draw attention to yourself and you can't let yourself be caught, no matter what happens. Do you understand?"

Haru felt the rumble of Heconilia's agreement. He took a step back and looked her over. How much did she understand, really? How much could a pokemon ever comprehend of the rules and regulations that were the cogs and gears of human society? He'd read a study recently claiming to categorically disprove the notion that non-psychic pokemon could access abstract thought. But the methodology had seemed sketchy to Haru. He couldn't know, so he would have to put his trust in Heconilia—and in luck, the most fickle blessing of Ho-Oh.

He forced himself to smile. Heconilia had been with him for six years now. If this was their last hour together, he didn't want to spend it fretting over things outside his control.

"Lead on, then," he said, injecting his voice with cheer. "Let's find you your herd."

They pressed on for a quarter hour more. Rotting pomeg berries littered the ground. Their sweet, pungent scent mixed unpleasantly with the damp odor of decomposing leaves. At frequent intervals, Heconilia raised her head and let out a series of high, trilling calls. Haru couldn't catch any response, but Heconilia seemed pleased, picking her path forward without hesitation.

They were passing into a small clearing when a shrill screech cut the air, setting Haru's ears ringing. Heconilia reared up and then staggered. She snapped her head from side to side, sharp-edged leaves rising around her. Haru squinted through the rain, trying to understand where the sudden attack had come from. His eyes caught onto a yellow streak darting through the air, too fast for the eye to follow.

A ninjask. What in the world . . ?

"Calm down and use whirlwind," Haru called out. Heconilia stilled and then began to beat her wings rapidly, gathering wind around her. As the ninjask darted close, the air current snapped it up and trapped it in a tight vortex.

Haru ran to Heconilia's side, startled and bewildered. This wasn't ninjask habitat at all—the area was far too rainy to support a pokemon that thrived in zero precipitation climes.

"Ah man, you gotta be kidding me!"

The exclamation came from behind Haru. Heart thudding, he turned around to see a bedraggled boy in a sopping purple hoodie trudging over. His dark hair, shaped in a fashionable Hoennese bowl cup, was plastered to his forehead.

"Can't believe I've been chasing a trainer's pokemon all this way," the boy said with a scowl. He looked Haru up and down. "You heading to Fortree for a badge?" he asked.

"No," Haru said. He looked over to Heconilia. "That's enough, let it go."

The ninjask leapt back into the air to hover at the boy's side. It was barely beating its wings fast enough to keep the water off.

"This is hardly the weather for a ninjask," Haru said. His bafflement from the sudden attack was fading, leaving only irritation rising in its wake.

The boy shrugged. "Stinger can fly. How many badges do you have?"

"Eight," Haru said curtly.

This won him a considering look. "Eight? Really?" The boy's eyes drifted dubiously down to the single pokeball on Haru's belt. He had already dropped off the others. "I've got six. Beat Winona last week. Hey, let's have a battle!"

Haru looked up at the ninjask, which had sunk even lower in the air, wings still buzzing industriously, and back to the boy, who was kicking some mud off his feet. "No thanks," he said politely.

The boy scowled. "What? Come on. Don't be a scaredy-skitty. You got something better to do?"

Had he ever been this rude? It was possible, but Haru didn't think it was likely. Grandmother had taught him better than that.

"What are you even doing off-route?" Haru asked, deciding that the boy's remark didn't deserve a response. "You're not dressed for it."

"I'm gonna get me a tropius," the boy declared. "It's just what I need for badge number seven. Plus, I heard the fruit's super tasty. Nothing like having an on-call snack machine, I figure."

With a frown, Haru looked over at the sweet yellow fruit hanging under Heconilia's neck. There had been a few occasions when she'd offered it to him, and the taste had been truly special—subtly, fragrantly sweet with a dense, pulpy texture. He couldn't imagine referring to it as a convenience snack or acting like he had some right to eat it.

"Well you're out of luck," Haru said shortly. "Shouldn't you get back on-route before you come down with something?"

"I'm good," the boy said, as fat droplets of rain rolled down his face. "So you've got eight badges? Have you competed in the league?"

"Yes," Haru said again, not wanting to elaborate. Heconilia was beginning to stamp her feet impatiently. "It was nice to meet you," he added, sure that he had never spoken those words with less sincerity in his life. "But we've got to be on our way."

Without waiting for an answer, Haru stepped up to Heconilia's side and followed her lead back under the canopy. The partial cover from the rain came as a relief. Even with full waterproof coverage, the water was still managing to seep into his clothes. He could hear his heart thudding over the drumbeat of rain as he paused to collect himself. All his caution and he'd still been spotted. What were the odds of running into another trainer all the way out here?

Heconilia stopped abruptly and wheeled around with a gust attack that made the vines behind them bend and sway. The boy in the purple hoodie stumbled out from the foliage. His ninjask was perched precariously on his head.

"Are you following us?" Haru asked in disbelief.

The boy crossed his arms. "Figured all that noise from your tropius might attract some more of them." His eyes narrowed. "Is that a problem? You headed somewhere special?" The thought of a secret seemed to excite him. He brushed back his wet bangs, eyes gleaming.

"No," Haru said, his heart sinking. "Nowhere special." His mind worked frantically. Should he tell the boy to stop following him? That would probably just make him more persistent. But with him here, there was no way Heconilia could covertly join a herd.

"We have to lose him," he whispered to Heconilia, who inclined her head in agreement.

They set off again, faster this time, Haru's feet sinking into the muddy earth with new urgency. He steered Heconilia into the thickest clumps of undergrowth, where visibility vanished, but each time they broke into a clearing, the boy appeared behind them like an extremely sopping specter. Haru's breath was coming fast, and his skin was hot with tamped-down adrenaline. This ridiculous chase couldn't stretch on forever. He had to come up with something.

Ahead, the ground began to rise. He plunged onward, heading where the rise was steepest. The fallen leaves made the path treacherous. A few times he slipped and would have fallen if Heconilia's wing hadn't been there to catch him.

All at once they emerged onto something of a peak, higher than the nearest layer of canopy. Haru turned and peered into the murky forest behind him. He couldn't see any movement. Ahead he could make out the shape of a rock formation, the curved overhang seeming to promise cover from the rain. Dark shapes moved within it.

An excited trill broke from Heconilia. She raced forward, her wings providing her with slight lift, and was halfway across the peak before Haru had taken a step. As Heconilia approached the formation, she let out another call, this one more complex. A wild tropius emerged from the formation and approached Heconilia cautiously. They exchanged soft trills and then Heconilia lifted her head, offering the fruit on her neck.

Tropius shared their fruit for many reasons. Heconilia was making a show of trust, submitting herself to the appraisal of the wild tropius. Haru watched closely, unbothered by the rain, which was coming down in long sheets, no longer broken by the canopy.

The other tropius gently placed his mouth around the slender moon of Heconilia's fruit, and began to eat. Acceptance. More tropius emerged from the rock formation. They came out in twos, ringing Heconilia and the other tropius in a loose circle.

Mating pairs, Haru realized. That explained the group's small size and awkward shelter. They must have recently broken off from their home herd. The tropius who had come out of the cave first seemed to lack a mate. His trills were short and excited as he paced around Heconilia, who stood with her head raised proudly, showing off the sweep of her wings.

"Jackpot!"

Haru flinched violently at the exclamation. He hadn't noticed the boy in purple rounding the peak.

"A whole group of them. Man, this was worth the trip," the boy crowed. He hit the release mechanism on his pokeball and a mightyena appeared at his side.

"What are you doing?"

The boy looked over at him incredulously. "Uh, what do think? I'm making a capture."

"But you can't." Haru spoke without thinking.

"What do you mean, I can't. Do those look like kecleon to you?"

Haru pointed. "Look at how they're grouped in pairs. It's a young herd, entering mating season. The females may already be pregnant."

"Really?" The boy examined the herd with new interest. "Awesome. Maybe I can catch a breeding pair. My buddy Marve pays a mean price for rare eggs."

"That's illegal." Haru's breath was coming fast. "It's illegal to knowingly target a mating pair and it's illegal to sell eggs without a breeder's license."

The boy rolled his eyes. "Look, if it bothers you, then take a hike, will you? I gotta move before this herd scrams. Shadowsmith, use confuse ray!"

Not a bad tactic, Haru thought distantly, as if appraising a televised match, when the dazzling light rose into the air. Confuse ray wasn't a move commonly found among Route 119's local pokemon. A herd of wild tropius would have no frame of reference for combating the enticing play of light.

But Heconilia knew what she was seeing. She screeched out a harsh warning call, shielding her face with one wing and using the other to shield her new companion. At Heconilia's call, the herd scattered in alarm. A few rose up into the air, though their flying grew lopsided as the confuse ray's effects set in.

"Crap! Use your fury cutter, Stinger! Don't let them get away."

The bedraggled ninjask rose through the sleets of rain, wings beating at alarming speed. But it didn't get far. Heconilia's gust slammed it back to the ground. The boy cursed again and threw out another pokeball. "Dumpster, acid!" A huge swalot drew itself up, spiting out a spray that crested in the dark air like a purple wave.

At Heconilia's trill, the herd drew together, the wind from their whipping wings cutting the wave and scattering it harmlessly.

She's already taken control, Haru realized. Without a single leadership battle, either. Despite everything, he couldn't help the warm glow of pride that rose in his chest.

The boy was staring straight at Heconilia, his eyes narrowed.

"Use yawn on the one in the middle, Dumpster!" he shouted.

Haru opened his mouth to call out a warning. Then common sense caught up. The boy didn't seem to have realized that the tropius he'd seen by Haru's side and the tropius leading this herd were one and the same. If he gave a command, there would be no hiding the fact that Heconilia was his.

He had to let this encounter play out.

The swalot belched a clear bubble, which rose inexorably towards Heconilia. She wasn't looking in their direction, her efforts focused on downing the flitting ninjask. She didn't see the attack coming. She wouldn't be able to stop it.

"Dodge!"

The shout broke from his lips before he could think.

Heconilia's head darted up and her eyes moved frantically. The soporific bubble of gas had no color and no texture that could be distinguished from the sheets of rain. Heconilia saw nothing, but she trustingly heaved her body to the side. The bubble burst against her companion's face.

"What the hell are you playing at!" the boy shouted. His angry eyes met Haru's. "Shadowsmith, use shadow-ball, now!"

When the smoke cleared, the tropius herd appeared mostly unharmed, except for the tropius who had first greeted Heconilia. He was slumped on the muddy ground. Asleep, Haru knew. Trapped in the deep, artificial sleep of a yawn attack. But Heconilia didn't know that. She nudged him with her crown and, when he didn't respond, let out an ugly cry.

Leaves began to gather in a tight spiral around her, each one glowing an unearthly silver. The other tropius followed her cue. The leaf storm built slowly, on a magnitude Haru had never seen before.

"Fury cutter, acid spray, dark pulse," the boy shouted, his voice high and panicked. The attacks came scattered. His ninjask hung too low in the sky, on the verge of a faint. The increasingly violent rain washed away the swalot's acid in mid-air. A shadow ball was still building on the mighteyana's lips when the storm broke.

The leaves shot forward, each one a dagger. When the onslaught ended, the ninjask, swalot, and mightyena were slumped on the ground.

The boy swallowed, as every amber eye turned to fix on him. He stepped back, his hands falling to the pokeballs at at his side, and hissed something frantic at Haru, impossible to make out over the drumming rain. His eyes, meeting Haru's, were large and expectant.

"That's enough, Heconilia," Haru could say.

The words stuck in his throat.

They'd never made a formal goodbye. Her pokeball was still clasped on his belt. But the instant she had lowered her neck, offering her fruit to the wild tropius, Haru had known that she wasn't his pokemon any longer.

All of her choices were hers.

He stood, hands hanging limply by his side, as Heconilia reared up and unfurled one enormous wing to its full span. The air slash hit the boy squarely across his chest. He took a small step backwards, staggered, and hit the ground.

The rain pounded down like avenging thunder. Haru looked to the dark, roiling sky and back to the boy, sprawled out on the dirt. He didn't stir.

And now, Haru thought blankly. What now?
 
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The Walrein

Pokémon Trainer
Partners
  1. gulpin
  2. kricketot
Hello Pen, here I am for the catnip circle! Very late, but better late than never! I actually read the first two chapters of this a while ago on FFN when it was first posted but never commented there. Not sure how much this has changed since then, but I guess I'll find out!

The lights inside the ranger's station burned a pale white. Haru Watanabe paused in the entryway, drawing in a deep breath of filtered air. A dark, aromatic scent wafted towards him. The ranger on duty was making tea.

Haru approached the desk slowly, his heavy, waterproofed boots thudding against the floor.

"Morning," the ranger said, a slight yawn muffling her words. It was seven minutes past six. Outside, Route 119 was still dark and gray, the road winding through the reeds like the dark back of a seviper. "Early starter, huh?"

"The route gets too crowded mid-day," Haru replied. His voice came out low, but to his relief, it was steady.

"Returning traveler?"

"That's right." Haru held out his trainer's license.

"Eight badges, huh," she said, peering at her monitor. "Congrats. Your Class B expires this month, though. If you want to file for a Class A, the window's almost over," she added helpfully.

Haru shook his head. "I'm not going pro. I'm starting a research internship in a couple of weeks, actually."

"Really? What's your field?"

"Ecology. With a focus on micro-climates."

Now he had her attention. She looked up from the monitor, her orange bob swinging.

"That's my focus too! Micro-climates and the despeciation problem. It's why I took a ranger job here, to get some local experience before I apply to the Weather Institute's patrol team. What lab are you going to be working at?"

Haru swallowed. He hadn't been expecting questions. "Station 111—by the desert ruins. Mirage Tower, if you know it."

"Wow, yeah, that's one intense area," she said with a grin. "All those fossils. So what brings you out to this neck of the woods?"

His chest cut open. But somehow he found a smile, broad and overly bright. "You know. The micro-climates."

The ranger's laugh echoed tinnily off the station's metal walls. "Getting your fill of rainy weather before heading off to the desert?"

"Something like that, yeah."

A lull fell as she logged his information. Haru's foot began to tap against the ground. This had never seemed to take so long before.

"Haru," the ranger said suddenly, her eyes still fixed on the monitor. His stomach somersaulted. "That's an unusual name. It's pretty."

Pretty? His name was common. He'd been the fourth Haru in his cohort growing up in Ecruteak. The other kids had called him "Caterpie" for his unusually wide eyes, probably inherited from the Kalosian relation his family never talked about.

"Thanks," Haru said, before the silence became awkward. "It's a traditional name in Johto—means clear day."

"Well, we could use some of that here," the ranger joked. "Maybe you'll be our good luck charm. I miss the sun out here. Oh, and I'm Feng."

"Feng. Nice to meet you. Maybe we'll see each other at a conference."

"Let's count on it," she said with a wink. She handed him back his trainer's license, and his hand clenched around it tightly. "Let me see—weather is pretty much the usual, though we're expecting some serious thunderstorms starting mid-afternoon and running until late evening. Currently a ban on kecleon capture, until mating season ends. And I know you've heard this a hundred times, but bear with me. Poaching and dumping are national crimes under the Hoenn Revised Code, Section Eleven, Chapter Five. I'll need a verbal affirmation that you understand the law—"

"Yes," Haru said quickly, his heart suddenly thunder.

But the ranger didn't seem to hear. She continued, "Everything else you already know, but keep safe, and don't feel ashamed to use your emergency signal if you need to. Shit happens to the best of us."

Thought this opening section did a good job of building up tension, and the descriptions of Haru's nervous body-feels were good. Not sure about "His chest cut open", though - to me that suggests a very different sensation than one's stomach lurching.

The fire crackled, reflected in his pokemons' eyes—six pairs, so different, staring expectantly back at him.

Should be pokemon's eyes, I think.


Aporea, his breloom, had raised her head at that, her dark eyes glinting brightly. She was a fighter—more of a fighter than Haru had ever been. He'd won his eight badges by dint of hard work, good strategy, and a fair bit of luck. The badges had been a useful accomplishment to point at when his parents complained that his future would be better served by quitting training and entering the workforce, but they had never been a passion. Aporea would do well with a professional trainer, someone who could bring out her full potential.

Perched on Aporea's head, Quannuk had slowly raised a wing and let out a short, piercing call.

"You too?" Haru had asked, looking his pelipper over. He'd never known why she had followed him from the beach as a young wingull, staying even after he'd shown her that he was out of bread crumbs. He met her impassive eyes, with their bisected blacks, and held back a shiver. There were some answers he'd never learn now.

"There's also the National Daycare," he told them. "It'll be a quieter life. A chance to raise a family, though—" He'd faltered as his tropius met his gaze, her amber eyes bright and questioning. "Your children may go to starting trainers, I think."

Speaking of, it seems like there's quite a bit of description of eyes in this part - "dark eyes glinting brightly", "impassive eyes, with their bisected blacks", "amber eyes bright and questioning"- it feels a bit much to me.

Haru understood the purpose of the law better than most people. Letting loose trained pokemon disrupted the ecological balance. Turf battles took place, habitats shifted, and the end result was the encroachment of pokemon on human lands—wurmple devastating harvests and zubat upsetting radio transmissions. The rules were there for a reason.

Not quite sure how Zubat would interfere with radio transmissions - I guess in this setting they use EM radiation instead of just sound in their attacks? Or do they attack radio sources because they mess with their magnetoreception?


On his screen, the geocashed marker where he'd captured Heconilia glowed a bright green. It was less than a mile off now, to his left, far into the canopy that rose up from the road.

Think this should be "geocached".


"You're stronger than a wild tropius would be from all the training we've done. I know you'll want to show that off—impress a mate, take command of a herd. But you have to watch yourself. If the rangers notice anything unusual about you, they'll bring you in for an examination. And when they do, they'll find a microchip, saying you're my pokemon. If that happens, it's all over for me. Dumping is a national crime. So you can't draw attention to yourself and you can't let yourself be caught, no matter what happens. Do you understand?"

One thing I'm not sure about with this plan is why nobody would notice that Heconilia was never turned in at the National Daycare or Placement Center, given the level of bureaucratic oversight we've seen thus far. I'd assume that there'd be some sort of automated alert if a Pokemon in the system hasn't been marked as transferred somewhere when their trainer's license expires.

He'd read a study recently claiming to categorically disprove the notion that non-psychic pokemon could access abstract thought. But the methodology had seemed sketchy to Haru. He couldn't know, so he would have to put his trust in Heconilia—and in luck, the most fickle blessing of Ho-Oh.

It seems a little implausible that a society quite as obsessed with Pokemon as typically depicted in Pokemon media, and with so many people interacting with them on a daily basis, could fail to notice that they're intelligent enough to at least partially understand human language (which definitely seemed to be what was going on in the campfire scene). I guess the researchers here have a higher standard of what constitutes "abstract thought" than just that? Or there's a Behaviorism-scale Science Failure going on.

The exclamation came from behind Haru. Heart thudding, he turned around to see a bedraggled boy in a sopping a purple hoody trudging over.

Extra "a" after sopping here.


"What are you even doing off-route?" Haru asked, deciding that the boy's remark didn't deserve a response. "You're not dressed for it."

Seems unwise to bring up a question you might not want to answer yourself, Haru...


An excited trill broke out from Heconilia. She raced forward, her wings providing her with slight lift, and was halfway across the peak before Haru had taken a step. As Heconilia approached the formation, she left out another call, this one more complex. A wild tropius emerged from the formation and approached Heconilia cautiously. They exchanged soft trills and then Heconilia lifted her head, offering the fruit on her neck.

Tropius shared their fruit for many reasons. Heconilia was making a show of trust, submitting herself to the appraisal of the wild tropius.

Haru watched closely, unbothered by the rain, which was coming down in long sheets, no longer broken by the canopy.

The other tropius gently placed his mouth around the slender moon of Heconilia's fruit, and began to eat. Acceptance. More tropius emerged from the rock formation. They came out in twos, ringing Heconilia and the other tropius in a loose circle.

Liked the detail on Tropius behavior here, and thought the fruit-sharing thing was cute.

Not a bad tactic, Haru thought distantly, as if appraising a televised match, when the dazzling light rose into the air. Confuse ray wasn't a move commonly found among Route 119's local pokemon. A herd of wild tropius would have no frame of reference for combating the enticing play of light.

I'm... not sure if it's really a good tactic to confuse a large number of Pokemon of that size in such close proximity to you...


But Heconilia knew what she was seeing. She screeched out a harsh warning call and pushed her new companion to the ground.

It's a bit difficult to envision a creature with the size and body type of a tropius getting quickly shoved to the ground as a means of dodging an attack - maybe it'd work better if Heconilia just pushed her head down?

You don't see many fics dealing with what happens to Pokemon in the aftermath of a trainer's journey, and the system described here with the mandatory daycare/placement center seems like something that could actually exist. The descriptive language remained strong throughout and was one of the highlights of the work, although I do think you relied on descriptions of eyes a bit much at times. Continuing with the positive, the central conflict is interesting, and I can't see anything Haru could've done so far that would've been obviously better than what he did in the fic. Definitely quite the pickle you've put him in at the end, there!

There's nothing major I could say on the negative side apart from the little nitpicks above. Will definitely continue with this one!
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Thank you for the catches! And what you said about eyes--now that you point it out, yeah, it's a bit repetitive. Will have to come up with something more varied there.

I guess in this setting they use EM radiation instead of just sound in their attacks? Or do they attack radio sources because they mess with their magnetoreception?
Ha, I really actually don't know enough about this to answer you. Both of those sound plausible to me though! Will look into it more.

One thing I'm not sure about with this plan is why nobody would notice that Heconilia was never turned in at the National Daycare or Placement Center, given the level of bureaucratic oversight we've seen thus far.
I'm envisioning IRS-style bureaucracy, where they could theoretically audit you and notice but they aren't keeping such specific tabs on everyone all at once.

I guess the researchers here have a higher standard of what constitutes "abstract thought" than just that? Or there's a Behaviorism-scale Science Failure going on.
Mm, stay tuned for more of what's going down in pokescience world.

It's a bit difficult to envision a creature with the size and body type of a tropius getting quickly shoved to the ground as a means of dodging an attack - maybe it'd work better if Heconilia just pushed her head down?
I figure since both tropius are about the same size, it's possible, but there's definitely a lot of ways that could happen. Maybe she could shield him with her wing.

I can't see anything Haru could've done so far that would've been obviously better than what he did in the fic.
Beat me to it! I always enjoy asking people this question.

Will definitely continue with this one!
:grin:
 
Chapter Three - The Flight

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Chapter Three - The Flight
Haru's mind was a waterfall of rushing, roaring eddies, breaking in furious white.

The boy's mouth lolled slightly open, the rain-water trickling in. Haru grabbed him by his backpack and dragged him into the shelter of the rock formation. It wasn't difficult; the boy barely weighed anything, despite his sodden clothes.

Haru pressed his ear against the boy's chest. All he could hear was his own heartbeat, pumping loudly. He put his finger against the pulse point on the boy's neck and closed his eyes. The skin there rose and fell, faintly, but unmistakably.

He looked over to the herd, who had regrouped on the peak. They were bent over the fallen tropius, trilling in concern.

"He's just sleeping," Haru said, but the rain drowned out his voice. They weren't paying him much notice anyway, so he began to move, step by step, until he was at the edge of the cluster. Slipping between the tropius, Haru crouched under Heconilia's wide, protective wing and rooted around in his pack until he found an awakening spray. With his other hand, he pried open the tropius' mouth and squirted the potion in.

A happy murmur rose from the herd when the tropius blinked blearily and staggered to his feet. Heconilia stepped forward and gave him a hard nuzzle.

Ducking back in the shelter, Haru unclipped the pokeballs from the boy's belt and recalled his unconscious swalot and mightyena. He hesitated over the ninjask, which was eyeing him blearily from the muddy ground. Its wings were completely soaked through; it couldn't fly even if it wanted to. Recalling it into the pokeball now, the damp would fester, damaging the delicate tissue of its wings permanently.

Haru scooped the insect up in his arms, feeling the fragility of its husk-like body. Hunching to keep off the rain, Haru carried it into the dry cave and placed it on the ground. Sitting down cross-legged, he watched the ninjask flutter its wings, attempting to shake off the accumulated moisture. Haru pulled his portable space heater from his pack and switched it on high. The ninjask chittered questioningly and then crawled closer to the heat.

Up and down, up and down. The boy was breathing, Haru was sure now. But he hadn't stirred from his position slumped against the cave wall.

And when he did stir, what then?

Even an idiot could put two and two together. The boy had come across Haru in the company of a tropius. Then he'd witnessed Haru giving a command to a tropius leading a wild herd.

A burst of anger wriggled through Haru like a worm. He shouldn't have followed me. He shouldn't have tried to attack the herd. If he had just . . .

But there were no ifs. Every thread of fate spun out: thin, bright, and utterly immutable.

Haru poked lightly through the boy's sopping clothing and found a shorted-out pokedex and a pokenav on the fritz. Haru rubbed it dry against his shirt. The boy's pack mostly contained snack food and cup noodles, mixed with an assortment of potions. There was a spare set of clothes at the bottom, but no tent. It wasn't the pack of someone who planned to spend a night out in the wild.

The rain was lessening. He didn't notice at first: there was something about the rain out here that made you believe it would go on forever. But the drumbeat gradually softened and then subsided to a trickle.

Haru was still sitting, staring blankly at the orange light of the space heater, when Heconilia nudged him hard in the side. Her eyes were bright and calm now, like she'd come to a decision. She trilled a long, melancholy note.

"Time for you to go, huh," Haru said. His voice felt unbearably small.

Heconilia trilled again. This time she seemed concerned.

"I'll be fine," Haru said reflexively. Then he looked around at the cramped, makeshift shelter of the rock formation and the unconscious boy. "I'll take care of it, don't worry, Heconilia." He smiled, though the contortion felt tight and strange. "I'm happy for you," he said.

Heconilia pressed her face against his one last time. She smelled like the rain forest. Then she ducked outside, where the other tropius were gathered, stretching their wings to soak in the emerging sunlight.

The tropius that Haru had come to think of as Heconilia's mate came to her side. After a moment of silent conference, Heconilia trilled, and the herd lifted into the air. Clustered together, they looked like a small forest taking flight.

With their absence, the peak seemed bare and mysterious. Haru stared out at the clumps of dark foliage, almost expecting another person to suddenly emerge, as the boy had done. But everything remained still and quiet, as the sun crept over the undergrowth.

Bzzzzt, bzzzt.

The buzz of the ninjask's wings broke the silence. The thin, translucent membranes dried quickly under heat. Haru turned to find the small insect regarding him with curious red eyes.

"How do you feel?" Haru asked softly. The ninjask vibrated its wings experimentally and rose a few inches into the air. "Good."

He needed to get his thoughts together. He needed to think.

The boy was still lying inert— the boy. He didn't know his name. And the boy had never asked for Haru's name. That was crucial. Even if he reported what happened, no one would know who . . .

Except that ranger. Feng. She would remember his name and his eight badges.

Eight badges. He'd told the boy that.

Stupid, stupid.

How many trainers traveled Route 119 on the off-season with eight badges? How many male trainers, with— Haru didn't think his features were particularly distinctive. He was taller than most. He wore his dark hair long, in popular Johtoan style, but he doubted the boy would have noticed that through his rain slicker. He scrunched his face, mind aching to recall every single detail.

If he left now—

Haru drew in a short breath.

It was dangerous for a person to stay unconscious for very long. If Haru left now, the boy might not wake up.

Haru turned back to the boy's pack, dumping out its contents onto the rocky ground. Buried under a pack of Magmar Crisps, extra spicy, he found what he was looking for: the boy's emergency beacon. Haru patted his side. His own beacon was clipped firmly to his belt, there to be pressed in case of emergencies. It was arrogant to keep your beacon buried at the bottom of a backpack. It was stupid.

The boy's beacon was functional, at least. Haru turned it over and found a peeling label that read Wei Luo. Activating the beacon would immediately trigger an alarm in the two ranger stations on Route 119. A team would be sent out at once, riding swellow and skarmory. With the shower over, they would arrive quickly. How long would he have to get away? An hour? A half hour? Less?

He looked at his watch. Somehow it was already past noon. Time felt viscous, like something he was moving through.

Would it be better to stay until the rangers came and try to explain? He could lie . . . but when Wei woke up, the boy's story would contradict his and the rangers would know Haru's name. They would send out a patrol, find Heconilia.

No, better to be long gone.

The gurgle of his stomach broke the post-storm silence. Haru absently dug a power bar out from his pack. The sweet, nutty taste cleared his head a little.

He ducked out from the shelter and straightened to stand on the peak. With the sky temporarily clear, he could look out on to the rest of the rainforest, sweeping out in green waves in all directions. He and Heconilia hadn't followed a straight path, especially in their final rush. According to his nav, he could cut out diagonally and hit the main road in less than an hour, if he kept to a quick pace.

Haru placed the space heater back in his pack and checked the boy again, making sure his legs were slightly raised, and returned his pokeballs to his belt. He hesitated over the last pokeball. The ninjask was still watching him intently.

"You're all dry now, right?" Haru said. "Ready to go back in?"

As his finger edged towards the release mechanism, the ninjask moved, faster than his eye could follow, knocking the pokeball out of his hands.

Haru stared in confusion at the small yellow insect. It hadn't followed up with an attack.

"Don't worry," he said after a moment, unsure how the ninjask was interpreting his exit. "I'm going to get help for your trainer. He'll be fine. Would you rather stay outside your ball and wait?"

Haru couldn't see the harm in that. He picked up the fallen pokeball and placed it lightly on the ground next to the boy.

Then Haru swung his pack onto his shoulders. He removed the outer layer of the boy's beacon and pressed the large button in the center three times in quick succession. The beacon flashed red and let out a mechanical whine.

Activated. There wasn't another moment to waste.

Haru closed Wei's damp fingers around the beacon and stepped out from the cave. He double-checked the heading on his nav. As he began the steep descent down the peak, picking his steps with care between the slippery leaves, he heard a buzzing sound behind him. The ninjask!

Exasperated, Haru swung around. "You need to stay with your trainer!"

Intent red eyes met his own. "Ja-j-j-j," the insect chittered loudly. It buzzed forward and settled on Haru's head, small but strong pincers clamping onto his scalp.

Haru stood frozen. He could imagine the bustle at the ranger's station, the triangulation of the signal, the trained teams of swellow being harnessed.

"What are you doing? What do you want? I told you I can't stay."

Haru began to jog forward, hoping the motion would make the ninjask understand that Haru was not going back. But the ninjask clung firmly to his head, its back pincers tangling with his hair.

He was running now, his nav held out in front of him. The ground was exceedingly slippery from the rain, but it was easier going than it had been coming. His mind and body seemed attuned: his feet picked out the way without stumbling, swerving to avoid sudden obstacles, ducking beneath low-lying vines, and clearing treacherous roots. A cramp cut into his abdomen like a steel razor, but Haru ignored it. When he paused at last to catch his breath, it had been twelve minutes. According to his nav, he had traveled 1.2 miles.

Haru reached up and pried the ninjask off his head.

"I'm not a pokemon trainer anymore," he told it, panting. "If you want to leave your old trainer, fine, but don't come with me."

But as he spoke, Haru realized his mistake. This ninjask wouldn't survive a sustained rainstorm on its own. And the insect pokemon wasn't built for long-term travel, only short, quick bursts of motion. If another storm came, it would not be able to make it safely out of the forest.

Haru's stomach twisted painfully. How was it that at every turn he was trapped?

The ninjask sat docile in his hands, watching him closely.

"You can stay with me until we are out of the rainforest," Haru said finally. "But no longer. Do you understand?"

It let out a loud cry and shot out of his arms, settling once more on his head. This time, the grip was not as uncomfortably tight.

"I'll take that as a yes," he muttered. Then he glanced up. Through a crack in the canopy, he could see the sky was darkening again. A droplet of water plunked into his eye. Route 119 never went long without rain.

Only another mile until he'd reach the road. His legs ached and his lungs were still burning, but that didn't matter. He had to press on.

His right hand, hanging by his side, brushed against Heconilia's pokeball.

I should …I should really get rid of that.

Haru glanced around once to confirm that he was alone. Then he dropped to his knees in front of a verdant patch of foliage and shoved the pokeball deep inside the moss. He looked over his shoulder again, feeling like a criminal disposing of a body.

The pokeball couldn't have weighed more than a few ounces, but Haru felt oddly light now that his belt was empty. He set off again at a jog more sustainable than his earlier sprint. Above, he could hear the rain picking up. But the crack of thunder made him pause.

The ranger had mentioned something about that. Thunderstorms in the late afternoon, hadn't she said? Bad weather always liked to make an early entrance.

A tug on his hair drew his attention to the ninjask. "You shouldn't be out in this rain," Haru realized. But the ninjask's pokeball was back with the boy. It was lying back there on the ground, of no use to anyone now. Haru's stomach twisted. "You'll have to get in my pack." He uncinched the protective outer cover and held it open. The ninjask seemed to understand: it didn't hesitate before shooting inside.

Haru's pack was well-made. It should stand up to the partial rain beginning to penetrate the canopy. Once he reached the road, there would be space to use an umbrella.

He hurried on, listening to the groan and crash of the storm developing overhead. Lightning was flashing every few seconds by the time he reached the road. The path was muddy and spotted with growing pools of water, but the lack of protruding roots and slippery leaves came as a relief. He set off, unfurling his umbrella. In the distance, he could make out other umbrellas. A few were heading towards him, but most were moving north towards Fortree Station, the nearest waypoint.

Haru slowed to a brisk walk as he neared the other umbrellas, trying to force his breathing to a steady rhythm. He wondered if the other travelers could sense something off about him. He was drenched, of course, but other than that, did he look out of the ordinary? They couldn't know just from looking at him what had happened over the last hour.

The wind was picking up. Haru grasped his umbrella tightly. Up ahead, another trainer did not—the wind picked their umbrella up and shot it up into the air like a bottle cork.

As Haru rounded the final bend to the northern ranger station, the route grew even more crowded with trainers seeking shelter from the thunderstorm. He swung through the revolving door to the station and found himself in a queue. Stowing his umbrella and pulling down the hood of his slicker, he took in large gulps of the filtered air, appreciating how perfectly dry everything was.

"Next!" the ranger shouted and Haru shuffled forward. "Any captured Pokémon to declare?" the ranger asked him, her eyes fixed on the growing line.

"No," Haru said, and then inspiration struck. "I'm not a trainer."

It wasn't a lie, not fully. Heconilia had been his last category one pokemon.

"Regional ID, please."

He pulled out the slim card, glad he'd taken the time last month to fill out the paperwork to request it. Then he hesitated. It would look odd, wouldn't it, to have a different ID listed going out from going in?

The ranger noticed his frown. "Is something wrong?" she said. "If you've lost your belongings in the storm, you'll have to fill out an LP-3."

"It's not that," Haru said quickly. "It's just—" He smiled sheepishly. "I've only just quit being a trainer. I realized I used my old trainer ID coming in. That's not a problem, is it?"

The ranger sighed. "Happens all the time. I suppose you thought you'd just wait for it to expire rather than closing it out properly? Give it here. And I'll need the regional ID too."

She shot another glance at the line behind him.

"Are you the only ranger on duty to handle all of this?" Haru asked.

"Not usually, no, but everyone else is out answering an SOS. Probably a false alarm, as usual, but what can you do? Especially with the thunderstorms coming on."

She was typing now and didn't see Haru's face go pale.

"Okay," she said after a moment. "Your Class B license is canceled. I've updated your information in our system with your regional ID."

"Thank you," Haru said effusively. He stepped quickly away from the desk as the ranger shouted, "NEXT!"

A broad smile broke across his face as he came out into the open air again. The rain dropped off after a few minutes of walking; Route 119's micro-climate was extremely localized. After ten minutes he reached the pokemon center and had no trouble securing a small private room in the guest wing. Fortree didn't see many visitors on the off-season. Stripping off his wet clothes, he collapsed gratefully onto the thin, dry cot.

A plaintive cry from his pack made him sit up. He had completely forgotten about the ninjask.

Haru uncinched his pack and the yellow insect shot out to hover in the middle of the room. It began to explore its new surroundings. When it approached the window, Haru crawled over on the bed and flung the panel open. He expected the ninjask to dart out, but it only stared outside thoughtfully and then landed back on Haru's head.

"I told you already," Haru said. "You can't stick around with me. I'm not a trainer anymore."

The ninjask ignored this. After a moment, it let out a shrill cry that seemed to pierce the thin walls. Haru glanced around nervously. This wasn't the trainer wing. If someone made a noise complaint, he didn't know how he could explain the bug pokemon's presence. The ninjask didn't seem ready to quiet down anytime soon. Another cry made Haru flinch.

What did it want? The window was still hanging open. If it was unhappy, nothing was stopping it from leaving. Think, Haru told himself. It's throwing a tantrum—why?

Another slow breath and he had it.

"You're hungry, aren't you?"

The ninjask fell silent, buzzing expectantly over to Haru's pack. With a sigh, he got to his knees and began to rifle around. He hadn't brought any pokemunch for this trip, just some berries for Heconilia. There were a few still secure in their casing, but the ninjask eyed them unhappily.

Haru flipped open his pokedex and scrolled to the entry for ninjask. Sap, of course. He could probably grab a couple of honey packets from the cafeteria. The 'dex page also came with a set of physiognomy charts. Haru looked from the image to the ninjask's small pincers. "You're female, huh."

Hadn't the boy called her Stinger? Haru frowned. What a nonsensical nickname. Ninjask didn't even carry a sting.

"Do you mind if I call you Atalanta?" Haru said. "The name's from an old story, about a woman who gained the blessing of Suicune. They say she ran so swiftly no man, woman, or pokemon could match her."

He decided to take the ninjask's gurgle as approval. "I'm going to get you some food, Atalanta," he said, praying that she would keep quiet while she waited.

Besides the honey, he purchased a hearty meal for himself in the cafeteria, along with a glass of hot cider. He ate in his room, next to Atalanta, who sucked away happily at the honey, and listened to the far-off crash of thunder. Now that he was safely indoors, the rain sounded less like a drumbeat and more like an elaborate dance, like the stage shows his grandmother had taken him to see in Ecruteak. She had told him that the dancer's every step and turn held a particular meaning, for someone who knew how to interpret the signs. Maybe the rain was the same way.

He leaned back against the wall and shut his eyes to listen. At once, exhaustion beat down on him. Haru doubted he would need his sleeping spore tonight. Sleep was already lapping over him like rising water. In the drowsy lull between waking and sleep, he thought he caught a pattern to the rain dance. Then warm fatigue took over and he heard nothing.

.

The shrill ring of a pokenav woke him abruptly to darkness. Haru reached for his nav and raised it to his face. The device was dark. The ringing didn't stop.

Haru followed the sound, stumbling over to the bathroom door, where his rain slicker was hung out to dry. There was a second pokenav in the right pocket.

Wei's nav.

He didn't remember taking it.

The ringing filled the small dark room, persistent and foreboding. Haru waited until the device rung itself out and then lifted it cautiously, like he was handling a feral pokemon. A message banner was flashed across the screen.

Marve: hey

did u nab a tropus?


Haru had heard that name before—Wei's buddy, who dealt in illegal eggs. He stared at the bright screen until its outline wavered before his sleep-bleary eyes. Navs could be traced. That was the important point. He had to dump it as soon as he could.

An anonymous grinning face, bent over a nest. The image followed him as he sank back into bed.

Seamlessly, speculation slipped into dream. Behind him, Heconilia cried long, desperate trills. He was standing on the roof of a vast canopy and the forest stretched out like a giant lake. Suicune watched him from the far bank.

"I've done everything I can," he told her.

She made no reply, but her fixed, heavy gaze didn't waver.

His voice shook as he said, "What more is there?"

"It will cost you."

The voice blew past him like a wind. Under him, the canopy swayed, as if shaken by a giant. A heavy mist was rising around them. Through it, he could just make out the dark outline of Suicune's body, her eyes glowing points of red.

He opened his mouth to respond, but the canopy under him had also turned to mist. Cost, the wind whispered, as he plummeted down, down, down . . .

The next morning, when he woke, the window hung ajar. The air that wafted in was cool and dry, like the breath of the North wind.
 
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Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
  3. custom/roserade-adam
I read up the first chapter of this story yesterday, and henceforth I shall make this catnip review right away, if a bit late.

Going into this story I wasn't really sure what to expect. The title made me assume Suicune has some role to play in it, though that role isn't made known by the first chapter. I do quite like the character interactions and the tone of the story. It feels relatively grounded and you do a good job at selling to us the things going through Haru's mind.

The idea that pokemon can become invasive species and disrupt ecosystems is one you hardly ever find touched upon in most stories, and the only canon example would be alolan rattatas. I doubt it'd be a significant aspect in the story going forward, but I still find it neat that it was mentioned at all.

I sort of forgot the names of Haru's pokemon, but I'm guessing it's the tropius who wanted to return to the wild among his party, right? It was a bit melancholic seeing him recount how he got far in the indigo league but didn't really make it in the end. Though I wonder why he's not just going to try again the following year, it does appear that that's not really an option he was graced with. It could also just be that he's more interested in becoming a researcher than he is about becoming a pokemon master or something.

All in all I found the first chapter to be pretty interesting and does a well job in catching one's attention. I'd probably check this story out again to see where it goes.
 
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Reactions: Pen
Chapter Four - The Waypoint

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Chapter 4 - The Waypoint

The ring cut the dewy morning like the shriek of a ghost. Haru stopped short, his heart thudding, before common sense caught him up. Wei's nav was gone, soaked in the bathtub until the power shorted. He'd tossed it with his breakfast down the cafeteria dumpster.

Haru pulled his vibrating nav from his pocket: 10 am on a Sunday. It was time for the family conference call. He glanced around Route 121—Atalanta was happily occupied by a bunch of blooming flowers—and accepted the video call. His mother and sister were already on, both of them framed by the muted wallpaper of their company break-rooms.

"Your father can't join us today," Mother said at once. "He's in a meeting."

Haru just nodded. After everything that had happened yesterday, he didn't trust himself to sound normal. Luckily, Erika, who tended to be tactical in these matters, had saved the story of her promotion for the weekly call. Haru was able to listen quietly as Mom oohed and ahhed over every detail. It was easy to let Erika take the center stage —it tended to happen anyway, whether he wanted it to or not. Erika was the oldest, the success story. His parents had named her after the famous Kantonian gym leader who started a multinational perfume company, all ladylike delicacy and hard-headed business acumen. Haru wasn't sure he believed that names shaped destinies—but his parents seemed to have pulled it off with Erika.

Haru had been named at his grandmother's urging. She had wanted at least one traditional name preserved in the family. Her own father had been a Haru, and his father's father. "It may be that a Haru once knelt before Lord Ho-oh himself. So you must always cherish this name and act to bring honor upon everyone who has borne it before you."

"Well, Haru?"

The impatience in his mother's voice made his back stiffen. He must have tuned out a question.

"Excuse me, Mother, what was that?"

Mother and Erika exchanged an all-too-familiar glance. Haru privately called it the "Oh, Haru" glance. It had been cropping up with increasing regularity in the past year.

"Mother was asking whether you'd finished dropping off all your pokemon yet," Erika interjected. Mother hated to repeat herself.

"Yes. Heconilia was the last." The lie came out smoothly enough. But their attention was on him now.

"To some ranger program, you said?"

"That's right, Mother. Tropius don't do well outside their native habitats, so it was the best thing for her."

"It's taken some time, though. Where are you now?"

"Just outside Lilycove."

"And when does your internship begin?"

"In eight days." He was answering on automatic now, falling into the familiar rhyme of interrogation.

"Eight days? And you'll be able to make it to Mauville on time all the way from there? Not by foot, I hope."

"The Lilycove ferry goes direct to Slateport, and it takes less than a day from there. I'll rent a bike."

"Hmph. And that fossil pokemon of yours is taken care of?"

"Yes, she's already settled in at the lab."

"And what about you? Have you finalized your housing arrangements in Mauville?"

Haru blinked, thrown. Housing. He stared at the flashing red light of the video call, his mind gone completely blank.

"Wake up, Haru!" Mother said sharply. "You aren't a pokemon trainer anymore. You'll need an actual apartment to stay in. Mauville's housing is notoriously expensive. You should have been working on this last month. I thought you had been."

The rebuke hit Haru like a slap. What was the matter with him? Every year he'd attended the Hoenn league, he'd booked his room months in advance, refusing to trust the overflow lodgings or rough it in a tent while he competed. He had known giving up his trainer's license meant an end to free pokecenter lodging. But somehow, with everything, the pieces hadn't come together in his mind.

"You're right, Mother," he said quietly. "I'll figure something out."

Frustrated with himself, Haru fell silent as his sister spoke up hastily with an amusing story from her last staff meeting.

This fuzziness—this aimless, wild feeling—had to end. He would catch the next ferry out of Lilycove, Haru resolved. That would leave him a full week to devote to apartment hunting.

The call was drawing to a natural close, like a receding tide. Haru felt he had to make amends. "I should have time to make a stop at the Lilycove shopping center," he said. "Is there anything you want?"

Mother wanted her Ecruteak teas. Erika wanted some complicated battery pack from Unova. "They're the best value for money and of course they're impossible to get here, what with how Devon locks down the market—sorry, Mother, but you know it's true. You should be able to find them on the basement floor. Ask for the Zeno Mark VII pack, okay?"

Haru nodded.

"Oh, and Haru," said his mother, "Nya-Nya is doing quite well, by the way. She's a very docile pokemon. I've even started to take her out on errands with me and received several compliments on her behavior!"

Nya-Nya had had a hard time of it in the upper levels of competitive battling. She deserved some pampering and ease.

"I'm glad you two are getting on," Haru said with a smile. It felt odd, still stretched across his face, when the call ended. He picked his nav back up and switched over to the newsfeed.

Another wurmple outbreak. Some act of terrorism over in Johto.

Atlanta tugged impatiently at his hair. Haru glared up at the ninjask. "What are you in such a hurry for? I'm doing something important." Nothing about a death on Route 119. If something had gone wrong with Wei, it would have made the headlines, right? It would have been a story. If he saw nothing, that meant everything had gone fine.

Another painful tug. Haru set his nav down and plucked the insect pokemon off his head. "Do you want to know what I was doing? I was checking for news about your trainer. You know, your trainer?" Uncomprehending red eyes met his own. "Aren't you worried about him?"

Haru doubted the ninjask had understood what all the business with the emergency signals had been about. From her perspective, they'd left the boy slumped on the ground, still as a corpse.

"Aren't you worried about your trainer?" Haru tried again, shivering slightly as Atalanta's unblinking gaze didn't alter. When nincada evolved into ninjask, Haru knew, the lifeless husk they shed in the process animated into a new being.

Did ninjask even understand the concept of death?

The thought made him go cold. He stood quickly, cinching his pack. It was another two hour's brisk walk to Lilycove.

"Hey, you up for a quick battle?"

Haru's heart flipped. He wheeled around and saw a smiling trainer standing next to a bright-eyed zangoose.

I'm not a trainer . . . would sound ridiculous when he had a ninjask buzzing over his head.

"Sorry, I'm a coordinator," he called back. His shoulders slumped with relief when the trainer simply nodded and kept walking, her zangoose at her heels. Around Lilycove coordinators were thick as wurmple. Still, he really had to deal with Atalanta.

Any metropolitan pokemon center would accept the ninjask for re-settlement. But their first action would be to scan for an identifying chip. Atalanta would register as Wei Luo's pokemon and Haru wouldn't be able to escape the questions.

Frustrated, Haru shook his head. A solution would suggest itself eventually. One had to.

.

Haru knew he was getting close to Lilycove when the fog began to thicken. Lilycove was on the sea and even in the summer months the fog crept deep inland, lingering through the afternoon.

Haru had visited Lilycove many times and the cobblestone streets of the city were wide, but he still felt uncertain as he traced his way to the mall. The fog hid the vast bulk of Lilycove's shopping center, so it was with surprise that he stopped a few yards away from the flashing lights of the entrance.

He hadn't met anyone in the streets; it was as if Lilycove's entire population was congregated within the mile-long shopping center. The lobby was hot with the press of bodies. Most people had the sense to keep their pokemon stowed, but a few flying-types soared overhead and an errant linoone was winding between shoppers' legs.

The import-tea store was where he remembered it, tucked in a rare quiet side-corner. The old woman who ran the shop didn't seem to alter with time. She was wearing a formal kimono in a deep shade of purple. A couple was browsing the shop, speaking loudly in Kalosan. The shopkeeper was ignoring them, but she gave Haru a small nod when he came in. He wasn't sure if she really recognized him or had just noted the Johtoan cut of his hair. He picked out a set of strong red teas for his mother and added in a small packet of sencha for himself.

Piloting on automatic, he took the elevator up and turned left, into 10ib Pack, the best value-for-money training goods store in Hoenn. Nothing there was high-end, but it all worked reliably, a cut above the goods sold by street vendors, and far less expensive than league-sanctioned pokemarts. Entering, Haru had to step quickly to the side to avoid a girl racing by with her combusken. He stood still for a moment, thrown. What was he doing here? He had no training supplies to buy. He wasn't a trainer anymore.

Feeling off-balance, Haru hurried out of the store. His sister's battery pack would be on the lower levels. There were no walk-in stores down there, just stands where vendors hawked their goods. Haru passed racks of phones, good luck charms, and mechanical odds and ends. He didn't give any of it more than a quick glance. But when he caught a scruffy man hawking pokeballs for 1,200 apiece, Haru felt himself slowing in disbelief.

"1,200?" he said out loud. "That's insane."

The man smirked. "What do you mean? These are free." He emphasized the last word strangely.

Free. The slang rang the vaguest of bells. That meant . . . a pokeball without an identification number or tracker. The kind of pokeball a criminal used.

"Right," Haru managed. But he didn't walk quickly away as he would have once done. He was thinking about the ninjask. If he wanted to transport it on the ferry, it would be best if he had a pokeball.

"Do you sell pokeballs that work even if the pokemon already has an ID tag?"

The man stiffened at the question and subjected Haru to a sharp once-over. "You want a broken ball?"

Guessing that was the slang, Haru gave a short nod.

"That'll cost you more than this free merchandise, for sure. And I don't carry them, anyway. You can get in a lot of trouble doing that." He eyed Haru suspiciously. Who does he think I am? Some kind of undercover agent? Haru almost smiled. The dealer's speculations were likely far more glamorous than the reality of Haru's situation.

"Okay," Haru said. "I was just asking." It had been a stupid idea anyway.

"Wait." He looked back. The vendor met his gaze steadily. "I might know a guy. Interested?"

His backpack twitched.

"I'm interested," he answered despite himself.

.

Haru woke on Monday morning feeling queasy to his stomach. His window might as well have been a gray curtain for all he could see out of it. Lilycove, he reminded himself. Still Lilycove.

A small bowl of rice and a cup of sencha brewed in his single-serve teapot were all he felt he could hold down. He huddled in the corner of the cafeteria for the rest of the morning, scrolling through his newsfeed. At some point, the action became mechanic. The words blurred, sliding senselessly past.

At 9:37 he headed back to the shopping center. The difference from the weekend was stark; Haru took the escalator down to the basement level alone, feeling horribly exposed.

"You're early," the pokeball seller drawled when he caught sight of Haru. "He won't be. You should browse."

So Haru lost himself for a while between colored scarves that flew like flags and shelves of hand-carved icons. One caught his eye—a suicune carved from an albino wood, the eyes set with some red jewel. "Real ruby!" the seller burbled when she noticed him looking. Haru doubted that, but he threw down a few hundred poke and stuck the icon in his belt bag.

Past ten now. He circled back to the northwest section. A man who couldn't have been too many years older than Haru had joined the pokeball vendor. Hoenese, with his black hair jelled into stiff spikes. He was wearing an electric-blue trenchcoat made from some shiny vinyl material. When Haru approached, the pokeball vendor nudged him.

"You my client?" he called out, and Haru nodded. "Okay," the man said, pausing as a wide yawn split his face. "Broken ball, right? 20,000 yen."

Haru felt his jaw drop. "Don't be ridiculous," he managed after a moment. "5,000 is all I'm prepared to pay. Which is already generous."

"Don't lecture me on what's generous, Pretty-Boy," the man said. "What I'm selling, you're not gonna get anywhere else here, and you're gonna go through a lot more to get it, too. So don't mess with me. 20,000 or we don't have any deal."

20,000 was . . . far too much. He'd need that kind of money for rent once he reached Mauville. Haru shook his head and backed away.

"You're the one who's mistaken," he said quietly. "I don't need what you're selling. So take 10,000 or I'm leaving, and believe me, I won't be back."

The man met his eyes with a scowl. "You got it on you? In cash?"

"Yes," Haru said cautiously, glancing around to make sure they weren't completely alone. He didn't expect the two men to jump him, but he had no assurance that they wouldn't.

"Let me see."

Haru pulled out the wads of money jerkily and made a show of counting them. "Now you," he said, his voice steadier than his heart, which was speeding wildly.

"What?"

"I want to test your merchandise."

The man gave a shrug after a moment and produced a single pokeball. It didn't have any special markings; it just looked like a normal pokeball, a little scuffed. Haru uncinched his pack and held his hand over the opening to stop Atalanta from bursting out. "Hold still, okay?"

When he pressed the capture mechanism, the inside of the pack lit up with red light. The ball didn't even shake once before clicking shut. Haru let out a breath and handed the money over without speaking, his grip on the pokeball tight.

The man seemed much happier with the cash in his hand. He came over and gave Haru a slap on the back. "Nice doing business with you. If you ever need anything else, just ask around for Marve."

Haru must have made a sound. The man stepped back with a frown.

"I—I think I've heard of you," Haru said. "Is it true that you—trade in eggs?"

"Might be." The man narrowed his eyes and looked Haru over. "This isn't the place for that kind of talk, though. I'll be hanging around the Gyarados' Head tonight if you want to talk real business."

He left before Haru could answer, swallowed by the growing crowd. Haru stood still, staring at nothing.

"You mind budging along?" the pokeball seller said after a moment. "I've got merch to move, you know."

"Sorry," Haru said breathlessly. He started away at a brisk walk, his pace increasing as he approached the exit. When he stumbled out into the fresh, wet air he was almost running.

The ferry now, he told himself when he was back in his room. His belongings were packed and ready to go. But exhaustion had hit him like a hammer. He dropped back on his bed and fell into sleep with Atalanta's new pokeball clutched to his chest.

.

It was late afternoon when he finally set out for the ferry. The sky was beginning to tint orange as the sun sank into the sea. He felt groggy from the daytime nap, like his body was something separate from himself. He also felt strangely at ease. It was funny—Haru knew intellectually that both the purchase and possession of the pokeball that now held Atalanta were illegal. But he felt safer with the pokeball than he had felt without it.

When the grinning head of a gyarados loomed suddenly through the fog, Haru stopped short, his breath coming fast. Blinking, he registered that the gleaming fangs were plastic. The sinister red light of its eyes came from small electric bulbs.

Haru flinched when an arm slung around his shoulders, pressing down hard. A voice exclaimed into his ear, "Pretty-boy! You came."

Before Haru could say anything, Marve had already maneuvered him into the dark entrance of the bar. The bouncer gave them a quick, apathetic glance and waved them in without asking for ID.

The bar was cramped and badly-lit. In one corner a small stage was set off, in another, arcade games whizzed and glittered. Marve's bright blue trench coat glinted in the strobe light as he made his way over to the counter. Haru followed him slowly, feeling as if he had stumbled into a bad dream.

"Order whatever you want! It's on me—well, it's on you, really. It's your money I've been drinking," Marve said. He tipped back his head and laughed uproariously, as if he had just said something immensely funny.

"Sake," Haru answered automatically, but he grimaced when the bartender slammed down a golden can in front of him. He loved the slimly tapered neck of a traditional bottle. Sake in a can missed the whole point.

But that was Hoenn for you, Haru reflected, surprised by the bitterness of the thought.

"So," said Marve, knocking back something pink and strong-smelling. "You looking for a life of crime?"

Haru shook his head, staring at his canned sake. He felt strangely paralyzed, still lethargic from his daytime nap.

"Scared, huh?"

Haru shook his head again.

"Aw, you don't have to put on a brave face for me. I know your type. Bet you used to spend sleepless nights worrying you'd filled out a form wrong."

Marve grinned widely at Haru's expression. "Oh, I'm right. And then you grew up a bit, didn't you, started to take a look around. And you wondered, who's it all working for, and who's going to stop me? Well, I'll let you in on a secret, Pretty-boy." He leaned in uncomfortably close to Haru's face. Haru flinched at the puff of hot, alcohol-heavy breath that blew against his cheeks. "No one's gonna stop you. All that tauros-shit they feed you in school, about conservation and responsibility? Hah! Tauros-shit," he repeated with evident satisfaction. "It's not like any of them actually give a damn about pokemon. They just want people to follow the law, for pokemon to stick to their place. As long as you don't shake things up too much, the world's your clamperl, there to be prised open."

He was drunk.

Haru didn't have to sit here and listen to this, like a trapped dreamer. Nor did he have to justify himself to this glittering apparition. He stood, tossing down a 1,000 note, and left without looking back.

.

The ferry wasn't far. At the kiosk the woman told him the next ship would depart in 18 minutes. Haru bought himself a ticket and went into the inner lobby to wait. Inside, the floor was dark and so well-polished that he could make out his own reflection peering curiously up at him. The sight made him uneasy, so he looked out the window instead, at the gray expanse of sea.

Haru had grown up knowing the sky belonged to Ho-oh and the sea to Lugia. His grandmother thought it was tempting fate to take a ship and blasphemy to take an airplane. She'd refused to speak to his parents in the months after they'd flown to Hoenn. Maybe she'd have forgiven them in time, if she hadn't . . .

But it was useless to dwell on that. A horn blared, announcing that the ferry had docked. He hurried on board with a few other passengers, though it was clear that the ship was under capacity. The evening was an unpopular travel time: the chilly evening headwind chased everyone below deck.

Haru remained by the railing, staring out as the wind blew cold ocean spray into his face. The fog hid the place where the sky met the sea, leaving only an impenetrable grey shroud. After a few minutes, Haru turned to look back, but Lilycove's harbor was shrouded as well.

As if there was nothing behind him—nothing at all.
 
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love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
You know I probably shouldn't be reading this because I have my own thing to work on but here we are

The lights inside the ranger's station burned a pale white.

I read the very first sentence and was like "yep, that's Pen." Nice concise, evocative language.

I like how the first scene conveys the character's feelings without messing up the pacing, and how the last sentence hints at what he's here to do. Feeling the suspense here.

As Heconilia approached the formation, she left out another call

We mean "let", right?

His ninjask hung too low in the sky, on the verge of a faint. The increasingly violent rain washed away the swallot's acid in mid-air.

I like how the boy's ignorance of pokemon and nature is apparent in the way he mishandles the battle

He didn't notice at first: there was something about the rain out here that made you believe it would go on forever

I don't like the "you", how dare the narrator address me, aah

Not only does Haru illegally dump a pokemon, he also knocks out another trainer and steals his. Total badass, amirite

Nya-Nya had had a hard time of it in the upper levels of competitive battling. She deserved some pampering and ease.

Yay, good delcatty!

The old woman who ran the shop didn't seem to alter with time.

What about "The old woman who ran the shop didn't seem to have aged?"

Nothing there was high-end, but it worked reliably

I don't know if the "it" is correct?

At some point, the action became mechanic

Is it actually correct to say "mechanic" instead of "mechanical"? Honestly curious.

As if there was nothing behind him—nothing at all.

I feel like we got some quality scene-closers throughout the fic

The way the whole thing with Marve unfolded gave me noir vibes. Or is that just because there's crime? Anyway, I really like how Haru just walks out of the bar in the middle of the guy's monologue. He has no reason to stick around.

I feel like this fic is kind of similar to Dragon's Dance in that I still don't feel certain about where, exactly, it's going. I guess Dragon's Dance sort of has the overarching goal of evolving Toku, but that wasn't really directly driving the story, if you get me. Sort of a similar thing here---I don't really know exactly where things are going next or what the point of it all is. That's not something I really take issue with (that would be pretty hypocritical of me, considering that what I said applies to Those Who Will Inherit the Earth); I just think it means that I have to be interested in what's happening moment-to-moment, and I feel like your prose and characterization do that for me. I can relate to Haru's motivations and don't think there's an easy answer for him, which makes for some good drama.

Anyway, in conclusion, good fic plz update.
 

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
boy has religious revelation at worst possible time.
Yeah I say no such thing.

ANYWAY, here for your review! As you know, my reviews tend to be 0% crit and 100% gush so I hope you're all right with that!

The ranger on duty was making tea.
Did the ranger's name begin with an "S" and end with an "arlight Aurate"

"Ecology. With a focus on micro-climates."
Oh gosh I hate studying ecology and climate. They're so hard and large-scale and take in so many complicated factors >_<

He'd been the fourth Haru in his cohort growing up in Ecruteak. The other kids had called him "Caterpie" for his unusually wide eyes, probably inherited from the Kalosian relation his family never talked about.
Not at all related to this story, but if Kalos=France and Johto=Japan then I'm getting some Ouran High School Host Club vibes here except that I suspect said Kalosian relative may not have been formally married into the family. Or even if they were, Haru's family divides people into two categories: Johto and non-Johto. And considering how traditional his grandmother is, I'm willing to bet she doesn't take terribly kindly to non-Johto people.

If he worked hard and kept his head down, they would take him on as a lab technician. After three years, hopefully no more than five, he would begin to conduct his own experiments. One solid breakthrough, one strong paper, and he could lead his own team of researchers.
Wow and here I was thinking this was a depressing take on the Pokemon world, but ONE paper and he can lead a team of researchers?!?! That sounds WAY more optimistic than anything I've heard in real life! Where can I sign up?

The fallen leaves made the path treacherous. A few times he slipped and would have fallen if Heconilia's wing hadn't been there to catch him.
I'd imagine there's quite a bit more than just fallen leaves to make him lose footing--mud, rocks, tree roots, slippery grass, rotten fruit, just to name a few.

a mightyena appeared
:veelove:

The boy didn't seem to have realized that the tropius he'd seen by Haru's side and the tropius leading this herd were one and the same. If he gave a command, there would be no hiding the fact that Heconilia was his.
Huh, not what I'd expect, considering how closely he had been tailing them. Kid must be daft!

I notice you have a very poetic writing style, and it really comes in to play when describing the tropius and their behaviour.

Recalling it into the pokeball now, the damp would fester, damaging the delicate tissue of its wings permanently.

Haru scooped the insect up in his arms, feeling the fragility of its husk-like body.
Interesting. I usually see Pokeballs as a means of escape and getting Pokemon to safety, not with the potential danger of using them coming in to play. Do insect wings fester from dampness in real life? I'm not doubting it, I just haven't heard of it.

If he had just . . .
Not sure if I should comment on the ellipses, considering the discussions that have erupted in the Discord server lol. I'll just say that everything I know about ellipses I learned from Negrek whichmeansputtingspacesbetweenthemisincorrectokaybye so if you have issue, take it out on her pls

The boy's pack mostly contained snack food and cup noodles, mixed with an assortment of potions. There was a spare set of clothes at the bottom, but no tent.
And no tea? :(

It buzzed forward and settled on Haru's head, small but strong pincers clamping onto his scalp.
Oh my gosh that sounds absolutely terrifying.

And this makes the second Pokemon to willingly follow and stay with Haru, after his Pelipper! It seems like Pokemon attachment to people is a running theme here. It's sweet; I like it :D

... Although, I guess in retrospect, it'll look a lot like theft :V

When he paused at last to catch his breath, it had been twelve minutes. According to his nav, he had traveled 1.2 miles.
WIMP

His right hand, hanging by his side, brushed against Heconilia's pokeball.

I should …I should really get rid of that.
Awwwww. Interesting perspective; I once wrote about a trainer who lost her Pokemon and she deliberately kept the Pokeball just to feel sentimental XD

Interesting to see trainers using umbrellas in rainstorms! I'd imagine they'd use rain jackets and rain pants instead, since those provide more direct coverage and don't break in the wind like umbrellas do.

Stowing his umbrella and pulling down the hood of his slicker, he took in large gulps of the filtered air, appreciating how perfectly dry everything was.
Ah yes, it feels great to be in dry air after being soaked to the bone.

Haru doubted he would need his sleeping spore tonight.
Awww poor Haru has trouble falling asleep?

Navs could be traced.
!
Is this canon? Or did you make it up? Because I have that same headcanon too, haha.

Wei's nav was gone, soaked in the bathtub until the power shorted.
Oh dude I understand the terror of legal trouble but you're just digging yourself deeper and deeper here.

Mother wanted her Ecruteak teas.
My kind of people.

He picked out a set of strong red teas for his mother and added in a small packet of sencha for himself.
When you say "red tea," do you mean what most westerners refer to as "black tea"? I know that black tea is referred to "red tea" in Chinese (I think other Eastern languages, too? I don't speak Japanese so I don't know about them). And mmmm nothing quite like the taste of grass.

"Nice doing business with you. If you ever need anything else, just ask around for Marve."
Ooooohhhh and the plot thickens!

"Bet you used to spend sleepless nights worrying you'd filled out a form wrong."
I admit: I'd be lying if I said this had never happened to me. Multiple times.

Nor did he have to justify himself to this glittering apparition. He stood, tossing down a 1,000 note, and left without looking back.
Noooo Haru, don't pay for it if the other guy said you don't have to! Besides, it was your money in the first place!

And well well well, now our hero tempts fate by sailing in Lugia's waters! I don't have too much else to say other than what I already noted before. The bits about science aren't criticisms; I'm just a nerd who does this in my daily life. There were a couple of times I stumbled over your sentences, but I think that's more of something on my end and not something that has to do with your writing. This is a beautifully-written piece; I read all four chapters in one go, and I pretty much never do that with fics (though the short chapter length certainly made it easier, and I'm one who's privy to short chapters as well). The Japanese inspiration is vey evident and clear and I can tell you take a lot of care and do a lot of research with your writing. Your description is thorough, and you leave a lot of little tidbits and snippets that leave me hankering for more.

In conclusion: gud fic plz update.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
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@love @Starlight Aurate Delighted to have you two nature nerds reading along!

I read the very first sentence and was like "yep, that's Pen." Nice concise, evocative language.


We mean "let", right?
We do indeed.

I don't like the "you", how dare the narrator address me, aah
🤣

Total badass, amirite
This story is all about Haru being a badass.

I don't know if the "it" is correct?
I think it is, it's referring to 'nothing.' But maybe 'it all' would read more clearly.

Is it actually correct to say "mechanic" instead of "mechanical"? Honestly curious.
Hm, I thiiink mechanic can double as an adjective.

The way the whole thing with Marve unfolded gave me noir vibes. Or is that just because there's crime? Anyway, I really like how Haru just walks out of the bar in the middle of the guy's monologue. He has no reason to stick around.
Noir's a fair read on it. Haru briefly wanders into a noir novel and decides he's having none of it.

I feel like this fic is kind of similar to Dragon's Dance in that I still don't feel certain about where, exactly, it's going. I guess Dragon's Dance sort of has the overarching goal of evolving Toku, but that wasn't really directly driving the story, if you get me. Sort of a similar thing here---I don't really know exactly where things are going next or what the point of it all is.
They're definitely both similar in that the plot in both is set into motion by choices the characters make and the consequences of those choices. Internally driven plot rather than externally, I guess.

Yeah I say no such thing.
😆

I'm getting some Ouran High School Host Club vibes here
Oh, I'm not familiar with that one?

Wow and here I was thinking this was a depressing take on the Pokemon world, but ONE paper and he can lead a team of researchers?!?! That sounds WAY more optimistic than anything I've heard in real life! Where can I sign up?
Hah, Haru doesn't actually know anyone in this field, so he may be overly optimistic!

I usually see Pokeballs as a means of escape and getting Pokemon to safety, not with the potential danger of using them coming in to play. Do insect wings fester from dampness in real life? I'm not doubting it, I just haven't heard of it.
Pokeballs as safe haven is definitely the standard. I went a different way here 1) for plot reasons 2) I can accept that they've mastered the physics of space, but the idea that they're freezing time as well in the pokeballs is starting to get pretty magical.

I think bee wings can normally survive rain and they'll just dry out, but it's hard for wings to dry out trapped in a closed space.

Not sure if I should comment on the ellipses, considering the discussions that have erupted in the Discord server lol. I'll just say that everything I know about ellipses I learned from Negrek whichmeansputtingspacesbetweenthemisincorrectokaybye so if you have issue, take it out on her pls
Oh no, you opened Pandora's Box of ellipses and there's no shirking from it. Pistols at ten paces, let's go.

(So, there are two valid ellipses formats. Negrek uses AP style, which is " ... "

I'm partial to Chicago style, which is " . . . "

Both are correct!)

And no tea? :(
Now you know what kind of person he is.

... Although, I guess in retrospect, it'll look a lot like theft :V
Yup, pokemon exercising their agency in a world that treats them like property can be kind of tricky.

You try making better time in a slippery rain forest!

(yeah, he's a bit of a wimp)

Interesting perspective; I once wrote about a trainer who lost her Pokemon and she deliberately kept the Pokeball just to feel sentimental XD
Haru's decided the pokeball is incriminating evidence, sooo.

Interesting to see trainers using umbrellas in rainstorms! I'd imagine they'd use rain jackets and rain pants instead, since those provide more direct coverage and don't break in the wind like umbrellas do.
Like Haru, they've got both. The route doesn't tend to be windy except in major storms.

!
Is this canon? Or did you make it up? Because I have that same headcanon too, haha.
I tend to treat navs and their equivalents like smart phones in our world, and since in our world it's canon they can track you . . . so too in the pokemon world.

Oh dude I understand the terror of legal trouble but you're just digging yourself deeper and deeper here.
🙃

When you say "red tea," do you mean what most westerners refer to as "black tea"? I know that black tea is referred to "red tea" in Chinese (I think other Eastern languages, too? I don't speak Japanese so I don't know about them). And mmmm nothing quite like the taste of grass.
Yup, black tea! My Hoenn is vaguely modeled after China. Vaguely.

There were a couple of times I stumbled over your sentences, but I think that's more of something on my end and not something that has to do with your writing.
Feel free to point out any sentences that trip you up. I'm sure there's a way they could be written better.

This is a beautifully-written piece; I read all four chapters in one go, and I pretty much never do that with fics
 
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Phoenixsong

the world's scariest violinist
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People on Discord keep being mad about this not updating on TR, so probably it is something I should also be mad about enjoy! Let's dive in, shall we?

Chapter 1

Always interesting to see a fic that looks at life after a journey, and I love worldbuilding that gets into the details of how training actually works. Expiring licenses, needing to check in at ranger stations before certain routes—I know the latter is something I've never really thought about, but if we're dealing with the impact that trainers and their pokémon have on environments then it makes sense as a consideration!

His stomach lurched. But somehow he found a smile, broad and overly bright. "You know. The micro-climates."

Something about this pretty banal exchange has Haru nervous, hm.

"Yes," Haru said quickly, his heart suddenly thunder.

Love that turn of phrase.

The opening lines of the essay, written in his childish prose, looped insistently in his head. "Everyone always complains about the rules. But are rules bad?"

Not yet sure why this is relevant; I guess there's some rulebreaking coming up in Haru's future? That is an adorable baby essay thesis, though.

He was thinking about Erika.

Something about this is throwing me off here. I guess because you're implying that he's cycling through different thoughts, but wording it this way gives the impression that thinking about Erika in particular is constant? I dunno, might just be me.

(Also a tiny mental hitch because my brain jumps to the gym leader Erika when I see that name in a Pokémon context, but it's not exactly an uncommon name, haha. Unless maybe that is somehow the same person, but given the preference for a "real job" over training I doubt that it is!)

back to that warm, Evergrande night

I don't think you need the comma there? Usually with adjectives a comma goes where an "and" would make sense, and it wouldn't be "warm and Evergrande night".

So Haru got stomped in the first round of a big tourney, and that was the big finish to his training career. Big oof. I'm not yet sure how he actually feels about all this, mind. There's what appears to be some regret at not just skipping the whole training thing and getting some proper work experience, based on his call with Erika; I guess a big loss would hammer home just that sort of regret, though. When he's talking to his team a bit later, there's a sense of inevitability to it—you can tell that there is a bond there, the way he's learned to interpret Crado's vocalizations(?), how Heconilia trusts him to understand what she wants, the implication that he possibly feels bad that he couldn't give Aporea the battling career she's interested in, but at the same time there's not a lot of overt emotion there, like this parting of ways is just What Happens and he's okay-ish with it. The badges weren't a passion, Haru says... but then I wonder why he did this at all? No real indication yet, but maybe he just liked spending time with pokémon and needed the journey as an excuse? Maybe there was something he was avoiding? I suppose we'll see!

I guess the pokémon are mostly okay-ish with it, too; they seem willing to accept that they can't stay with Haru forever, no particular bitterness over the fact that Nya-Nya and Damascus are the only ones who do. It seems so far as though this is a world where it's just normal that this is a temporary partnership, where it's not expected that a team will all be lifelong friends bound by the power of friendship. Not at all a bad thing! Definitely something I've wanted to consider in some of my own worldbuilding.

"It's one or the other, you know, that's the law."

I feel like there's an obvious third option being left out here! Why not release—and ha, there we go, that is where it's going:

Letting loose trained pokémon disrupted the ecological balance.

I've never considered that before, but it does make sense! If pokémon do get significantly stronger under the care of trainers, then they reach levels of strength and ability that are not what their environments are necessarily equipped to handle. Interesting! A bit of a shame that returning a pokémon to its natural habitat is referred to as "dumping", though, haha... and that catching a pokémon seems to (legally) mean removing it from its home and territory forever! I'm guessing if he'd left Heconilia with a ranger she'd still have ended up going to either the placement center or the daycare? Are there no, I dunno, preserves or sanctuaries that would at least be closer to what a pokémon's expected/desired habitat would be like? (Or is that what the daycare is like, and it just also provides young pokémon to trainers?)

Does seem like the environmental research really is what he wants to be doing, at least! Does still raise the question of why he went into training at all...

If Heconilia undertook Suicune's choice, Haru had no right to refuse her.

Hm! Is this just poetic/weighty phrasing on his part, or do other people who practice this religion see it the same way? Are the laws about pokémon release different in Johto than they are in Hoenn?

This looks to be interesting so far! I guess when I saw that this would be exploring religion I hadn't expected the titular choice to be about letting a pokémon go back home, and now I'm very curious as to how this is all going to tie together. It's been a great read so far, with lovely prose and thoughtful little bits of worldbuilding—I eat up all these fun (and bureaucratic/not-so-fun) minutiae of life with pokémon, and what little we've seen so far of Grandmother and her little ritual was beautiful, with a real sense of timeworn tradition. Very eager to see where this goes next!

---

Chapter 2

Chastened, she lowered her neck and butted her head forward, twisting so that the ring of fruit under her neck hung in front of his face. An apology.

aaaah lovely little little touches of body language

I wonder if Heconilia actually is going to end up inadvertently getting Haru into trouble. It doesn't seem like she'd do it on purpose, but she does seem so overjoyed about finally going home that it might be easy to forget!

And when they do, they'll find a microchip, saying you're my pokémon.

Microchipping! I've always wondered whether that would be a logical way to implement trainer IDs.

I've got six. Beat Winona last week. Hey, let's have a battle!"

Only last week, eh? So I guess this isn't operating on a seasonal schedule? Or maybe there are different terms for different licenses. I suppose it's not like everyone's ID or passport or whatever expires all at once, haha.

He couldn't imagine referring to it as a convenience snack or acting like he had some right to eat it.

Between that article about non-psychic pokémon and this, I wonder whether there's going to be any exploration of pokémon personhood involved.

Although I guess Heconilia isn't the one we have to worry about re: getting Haru in trouble anymore ;)

The bit with Heconilia meeting the herd was lovely. Golly it's weird to think about eating something off of someone else's body as a sign of acceptance, but tropius is what it is, lol.

And now we come to the (a?) consequence of Haru's choice—one that really isn't even his fault, honestly, but if something goes wrong here I'm sure he'll blame himself for it at least partially.

The swallot belched a clear bubble

Li'l typo, which happens consistently in this chapter: it's "swalot", just one "l".

Oof, what a mess we're in now, eh? I'm not sure whether the boy is dead. I assume not, since it's not like he has to be in order for this to be a complication, and alive is arguably "worse" (aside from the huge conscience issues of "his pokémon" being responsible for a death, even if she was defending herself/her new herd). So long as he can get up, he can tell the rangers that a trainer's tropius was hanging out with wild ones, although I suppose he couldn't prove Haru hadn't taken her with him after leaving unless the rangers did decide to search for her. Would they? I guess if they examine pokémon for microchips when hearing reports of strong "wilds", they'd probably also investigate reports of what I'm sure the boy would describe as an "unprovoked attack from a very strong pokémon". Good that Haru is still at least respecting Heconilia's decision, though I suppose this would be a very different story if he wasn't, but yeah... big, big oof.

---

Chapter 3

Recalling it into the pokeball now, the damp would fester, damaging the delicate tissue of its wings permanently.

Sounds like poké balls aren't perfect little stasis chambers like they are in some other interpretations! Neat! Not for the ninjask, I mean. Though I get the impression that this little punk wouldn't have cared had he been conscious to make the decision. I wonder if that'll come to anything? There is a ninjask in OSJ's lovely art, after all. Maybe Stinger wants a new friend?

riding swellow

Heh. Tiny birb! If they can ride them, maybe not so tiny in this setting?

the ninjask moved, faster than his eye could follow, knocking the pokeball out of his hands.

Stinger wants a new friend!!! Double problems for Haru!

Interesting that Nya-Nya and Damascus aren't still with him. Did he just leave them somewhere temporarily, or did they actually end up deciding that they wanted to go to the placement center or daycare after all? He didn't include them in his summary of the team's decisions back in Chapter 1's flashback, but they were present for the discussion, it sounds like.

I wonder if routes that are less "wild" than 119 have all of these ranger stations and places to declare catches? You could maybe do that at a pokémon center or some kind of league facility as well, I guess. Interesting!

Route 119's microclimate

Minor thing, but just for consistency: it seems like sometimes you hyphenate "microclimate" and other times you don't.

What a nonsensical nickname. Ninjask didn't even carry a sting.

Haha, I was wondering. Doesn't seem like Wei would've been that bothered about getting it right! Nice little mythology adaptation, meanwhile! Makes sense that Atalanta would be running like the north wind, heh.

Haru doubted he would need his sleeping spore tonight.

Hm, insomnia? Sensible enough that people would make use of spores/powders for this sort of thing, anyway.

He didn't remember taking it.

oof

And then what seems to be a vision from Suicune herself! Too early to tell what it means, of course. At least so far, it really does seem like Haru has done his best to do right by his pokémon, and all of these very serious issues he's falling into are ultimately because he had the poor luck to be spotted and followed by Wei, or to treat Atalanta with some actual thought and kindness. But there's still a lot we don't know, like why he started down the league trainer's path if that wasn't actually something he was interested in and everyone else was telling him not to. Possibly he still has some helping of Atalanta to do yet, but it's hard to say how that would involve a "cost"...

---

Chapter 4

Wei's nav was gone, soaked in the bathtub until the power shorted.

Well that's one way to do it, heh.

Family conference calls are a nice idea! So often it seems like people forget to have their trainer characters check in back home.

Ah, Erika's named after the gym leader! Interesting. I guess this is happening a ways into the future of the canon stuff. Kind of hilarious to think of dreamy Erika having "hard-headed business acumen", though. I guess that Haru isn't particularly close with his family, meanwhile? With the possible exception of his grandmother, at least. So far it doesn't sound like they've been horrible to him or anything, but apparently demanding, perhaps easily disappointed, not supportive of whatever choices he wanted to make. (And again, I wonder: why this choice? So curious to see when that answer will come up!)

Ah, there is a ranger program of some sort for pokémon to go to natural habitats. I definitely understand Heconilia getting to go where she wanted to, and if she didn't want that then oh, well, but I guess I wonder why this didn't come up as an option during the discussion we saw? Why "one or the other"? What differences are there between this option and releasing her illegally that Haru didn't even seem to consider the former? Would it have prevented her from being with a herd?

"Hey, you up for a quick battle?"

Whoops, haha. I guess I must've missed somewhere that he wasn't still in his room, because for a minute I thought he was offering this to Atalanta. Nice save after, though. However temporary.

Who does he think I am? Some kind of undercover agent?

This is Haru's internal thought, I guess? Should this be italicized? I think you've been doing that previously.

Jailbroken/serials-filed-off poké balls, eh? Interesting that something "criminals use" is being sold out in the open, if any knowledgable trainer would balk at that price. I wonder whether there are non-criminal use cases for things like that?

Poor Haru. One unfortunate sighting and he just keeps diving deeper and deeper into illegal activity. Neat little suicune charm impulse buy; one wonders how everything he's doing and how it might catch up with him might tie into this potential "cost", although it doesn't seem like the kind of cost Suicune would want to exact!

Haru falls pretty quickly into negotiating with the poké ball seller, heh. Is he just that generally savvy, or has he had some experience with this before? I suppose there probably is some haggling going on even in the legit trainer's world. Trainer's budgets probably aren't extravagant!

If you ever need anything else, just ask around for Marve.

bahahahahaha. Deeper and deeper and deeper and...

I wonder why Haru did end up meeting with Marve. Was it an accident and he just happened to find the place while on his way to the ferry? Slightly unclear, but not really a huge problem.

Oof. Seems like Grandmother has passed on. (And possibly Haru feels like he's the only one in the family still holding on to her traditions.)

As if there was nothing behind him—nothing at all.

Poignant! A completely fresh start, or at least Haru hopes so. He is probably not going to get what he is hoping for!

So yes! gud fic, upd8 more, why isn't all of this on TR. There's still a lot we don't know about Haru and his decisions, what his relationship with Atalanta is going to be like, just how deep this Marve and Wei hole he's fallen into actually goes. The prose really flows, and I still love all the little bits of setting and atmosphere. I eagerly await the rest of those uploads! ;)
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
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@Phoenixsong Thank you so much for these lovely reviews! I'm really into how focused you are on Haru's characterization and internal motivations; that's the heart of the fic for me in so many ways.

People on Discord keep being mad about this not updating on TR, so probably it is something I should also be mad about enjoy!
Hahthe shitpost crew triumphs! I think you made kintsugi's day with this.

I love worldbuilding that gets into the details of how training actually works. Expiring licenses, needing to check in at ranger stations before certain routes
Ooh, if you're into realistic and in-depth worldbuilding re training, can I point you towards Spring by OSJ? Lots of camping and money and tourney logistics.

I don't think you need the comma there? Usually with adjectives a comma goes where an "and" would make sense, and it wouldn't be "warm and Evergrande night".
Thanks for catching that! Yep, no comma fren needed here.

So Haru got stomped in the first round of a big tourney, and that was the big finish to his training career.
Yes, though it wasn't causal. I wasn't able to get in all my licensing world-building organically, but a Class B is a time-limited license. Once you hit 18, if you want to continue training you have to get a Class A Professional license, which carries certain obligations, such as continued participation in refereed matches and health checkups. Haru never planned to "go pro." He was riding out his Class B as long as he could. Why? Well, that's a question for later chapters.

Maybe there was something he was avoiding?
Haru, avoid things??!

and that catching a pokémon seems to (legally) mean removing it from its home and territory forever!
It varies--lower level pokemon can often be resettled. The law recognizes three categories of pokemon, and category 3 pokemon are permissible for resettlement and ownership by holders of Class C (recreational) licenses.

I've thought about attaching the full licensing laws to this fic as an appendix, but I don't know if anyone actually wants to read that.

Are there no, I dunno, preserves or sanctuaries that would at least be closer to what a pokémon's expected/desired habitat would be like? (Or is that what the daycare is like, and it just also provides young pokémon to trainers?)
Pretty much the latter. It's a lot of effort to create a genuine preserve that mimics the wild, but doesn't mix with the wild in the ways that cause problems. You'll see an example of a sanctuary like that later on, but there has to be some serious funding involved.

Is this just poetic/weighty phrasing on his part, or do other people who practice this religion see it the same way? Are the laws about pokémon release different in Johto than they are in Hoenn?
Haru's application of the idea of the Suicune's choice is definitely idiosyncratic here. But it's also true that Johto has somewhat different laws, though Haru has never experienced them, since all his time as a trainer has been in Hoenn.

I guess when I saw that this would be exploring religion I hadn't expected the titular choice to be about letting a pokémon go back home, and now I'm very curious as to how this is all going to tie together.
The thing about choices, is that sometimes one choice leads to another.

Microchipping! I've always wondered whether that would be a logical way to implement trainer IDs.
Me too! It feels kind of icky, but how else are they supposed to track things like what pokemon belongs to what person? I mean, you got to have some way to track property, right??

If pokeballs somehow automatically and permanently mark pokemon the way they seem to in the games, that would be even weirder to me. In this system, pokeballs are serialized and pokemon are microchipped, so when you first register a catch, those two numbers are linked, and pegged to your trainer ID number.

Or maybe there are different terms for different licenses. I suppose it's not like everyone's ID or passport or whatever expires all at once, haha.
Yeah, they're on renewal cycles based on when you got the license, with the aforementioned hard age cut-off for Class B licenses.

I wonder whether there's going to be any exploration of pokémon personhood involved.
pokemoN persoNhood? never heard of it

Li'l typo, which happens consistently in this chapter: it's "swalot", just one "l".
Oof, missed that. Thanks.

Good that Haru is still at least respecting Heconilia's decision, though I suppose this would be a very different story if he wasn't, but yeah... big, big oof.
Yeah, if he chose not to respect her decision, there wouldn't be a story. And Haru would be happily embarking on his research career under no cloud, except for his conscience.

Tiny birb! If they can ride them, maybe not so tiny in this setting?
Oh, maybe it's an anime thing, I always envision swellow as big birbs.

Did he just leave them somewhere temporarily, or did they actually end up deciding that they wanted to go to the placement center or daycare after all? He didn't include them in his summary of the team's decisions back in Chapter 1's flashback, but they were present for the discussion, it sounds like.
I think this gets clarified by chapter 4, but Nya-Nya is already with his family, and Damascus is at the lab he's going to intern at.

I wonder if routes that are less "wild" than 119 have all of these ranger stations and places to declare catches? You could maybe do that at a pokémon center or some kind of league facility as well, I guess. Interesting!
Less "wild" routes definitely have less oversight. All major pokecenters can register captures ie microchip pokemon.

Kind of hilarious to think of dreamy Erika having "hard-headed business acumen", though.
Might be an anime thing again? In the anime Erika runs a highly successful perfume emporium, and definitely seems like she means business.

Ah, there is a ranger program of some sort for pokémon to go to natural habitats. I definitely understand Heconilia getting to go where she wanted to, and if she didn't want that then oh, well, but I guess I wonder why this didn't come up as an option during the discussion we saw? Why "one or the other"? What differences are there between this option and releasing her illegally that Haru didn't even seem to consider the former? Would it have prevented her from being with a herd?
Haru's fudging things a bit for his family here. They keep close enough track of him to want to know why he had to go to Route 119, but don't know enough about training/daycares/settlement to know the program he's talking about doesn't exist.

Interesting that something "criminals use" is being sold out in the open, if any knowledgable trainer would balk at that price. I wonder whether there are non-criminal use cases for things like that?
Nonserialized pokeballs are sort of at the level of illegally torrenting a show vs broken balls being the kind of offense that you might actually get prosecuted for (because you can steal other trainer's pokemon with them.) So there's little reason to be wary about hawking 'free' balls in a crowded market, but some cause to be cautious re 'broken' balls.

Is he just that generally savvy, or has he had some experience with this before? I suppose there probably is some haggling going on even in the legit trainer's world. Trainer's budgets probably aren't extravagant!
He's definitely had to haggle before.

Was it an accident and he just happened to find the place while on his way to the ferry? Slightly unclear, but not really a huge problem.
Accidental! Haru and fate aren't getting on so well in this fic.

(And possibly Haru feels like he's the only one in the family still holding on to her traditions.)
Well-spotted. Yes. There will be more about this.
 
Chapter Five - The Safehouse

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
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Chapter 5 - The Safehouse

Mother was right—Mauville City was ridiculously expensive.

First, Haru had tried to find a room at a newly built apartment complex a few blocks from the pokecenter. The studio flats there were dourly minimalist, with stark white walls and bare concrete floors, but they were clean and private, which was all Haru needed. The realtor warned him that the wait-list was already long and they were selecting tenants 'holistically,' whatever that meant. She'd handed him a ten-page application—previous apartments, job history, income. But his eight badges had impressed her. She'd sent Haru off with a warm handshake and the promise that he'd hear back in no more than a week.

The price-tag, though, for that modest, dark little room . . . Haru doubted his research stipend would stretch that far.

He'd spent the rest of the day inquiring after other listings, but they were either already filled or even more expensive than the apartment building had been. Haru found himself half-heartedly wishing he'd been a little more social on his journey. He didn't know anyone in Mauville nearly well enough to suggest rooming together. Most of the kids in his cohort had dropped off from training after a few years—the remaining trainers had been focused on making it as pros, rocketing from tournament to tournament, and conversation with them was limited to discussion of the latest protein shake blends.

His feet aching from walking up and down the city, and a headache brewing behind his temples, Haru retired to his bed at the pokecenter, trying not to think about how much the stay was costing him. After two hours readjusting his pillow and covers, he gave up and sent himself to sleep with the spore he'd collected from Aporea before dropping her off.

The next day's search wasn't any more fruitful. Evening was drawing on when Haru decided to take his chances with Mauville's lower level. The area had a reputation, but Haru did have a pokemon on him, if it came to that. He stowed Atalanta's pokeball in his jacket pocket and took the screechy lift down.

The contrast was obvious from the moment he stepped out into the streets. The pavement was smeared with oil and dirt, and tents lined the avenue. People were arrayed on the sidewalk—some sitting on crates, others sprawled out on dirty piles of bedding. A few eyes followed Haru as he made his way down the street, unfocused and apathetic. One man approached Haru to ask for money in a hoarse, quiet voice. When Haru shook his head no, the man went back to sitting on his torn quilt without another word. Haru found himself speeding up, though not out of fear. The place seemed more depressing than dangerous.

Anyone who talked about the prosperity of Mauville City should spend some more time down here, Haru thought, averting his eyes as he passed a man defecating on the street.

A few blocks out from the address on the listing, a familiar scent made Haru pause—the smoky, fragrant burn of incense. The scent wafted from a small doorway, set off from the street with nothing more than a faded lavender hanging. The building had no sign announcing its function, though its outer wall was covered by a smeared, amateurish mural, depicting a mixed panoply of mythic pokemon.

Haru hesitated for a moment and then pushed the curtain aside. He stood blinking as his eyes adjusted to the dark. The room inside was lit, but only just, by a few scattered candles and some hanging lamps that emitted dim, yellow light. The carpet was lush and thick, layered with mismatched mats and pillows. Shrines were crammed together along the sides of the room. Haru could make out the rainbow feather of Ho-oh, the double helix strand of Mew, and icons of other gods he didn't recognize. The room was mostly empty, but not deserted. As his eyes adjusted, Haru made out figures spread throughout the room in various states of prayer. The silence was broken only by the occasional whisper of verse or scattered yawn.

A temple. It had been a long time since Haru had been inside one.

He picked his way forward slowly, trying not to trip on the wayward corners of prayer mats, over to the emblem of the rainbow feather and bent to examine the shrine beneath it. The candles were stubs, but they were braided from red, green and white wax. At the center of the shrine a greening copper plate held a sweet-smelling loaf, its crust glazed gold from brushed egg. Haru sniffed the cup to its left and felt his nostrils flare at the powerful, vinegary smell of fermented rice-wine. Something unclenched in his chest. The shrine wasn't beautiful or costly, but it was correct. It was respectful, for all its poverty.

Prostrating himself on the prayer mat, Haru began to work through the traditional blessings. He gave thanks for bread and wine, for sunlight and water. He thanked the evening for ending and the darkness for passing. Halfway through, Haru realized that he had defaulted to the longer version, the priest's version that Grandmother used to insist on.

The prayer for the dead came last. Look to the second sun that waits behind the rainbow. There dwells Ho-oh, Life-Bringer . . .

When he had finished, Haru didn't rise. The room was pleasantly warm and the sweet, smoky perfume of the incense reminded him of the long afternoons he'd spent in the Ecruteak temple as a child, in a stupor that wasn't quite sleep.

Haru's mind had been blank as he prayed. Grandmother had always said that a true prayer demanded nothing from Lord Ho-oh and everything from one's self. With an uneasy twinge, Haru realized that he hadn't brought anything to offer on the shrine, not even simple buns.

Fumbling for a moment through his belt bag, Haru's fingers closed around the wood carving he'd purchased in Lilycove. That was something. What better way to praise Ho-oh than to offer back an emulation of his handiwork? Haru placed the carving gently on the shrine, where the candlelight caught on the figurine's red eyes, making them flash and dance.

"'Scuse me."

The voice made Haru start. He hadn't noticed anyone coming up beside him.

"No disrespect—I don't want to interrupt your prayer."

"That's all right," Haru said. His voice sounded odd, as if it had been pulled from a long way away. "I was finished."

"We don't get too many people at the Ho-Oh shrine. But you're a Johto boy, huh?"

Haru twisted around to face the person addressing him. It was hard to make out her features in the dim light—her skin was very dark.

"That's right."

"I'm from the Sevi Islands, off of Kanto. Grew up putting out milk for Mew." She smiled, her teeth flashing white. "Here, the milk's not so good, but I don't think She holds it against me. I'm Maliki."

"Haru," he said. Instead of holding out his hand, he brought his fist over his chest and made her a seated bow.

His reward was a delighted laugh, loud against the muffled stillness of the prayer room. Haru glanced around hastily, but none of the other worshipers seemed bothered.

"I haven't seen you before. Do you live in the city? Or are you just passing on through?"

"I'll be settling here," Haru said. He huffed an awkward laugh. "As soon as I can find a place to rent, that is."

The woman looked at him carefully. "I usually wouldn't ask a stranger, but I get a good vibe from you. We have a shared place above the shrines, on the second floor. A bit crowded, but I promise you, no stealing, and everyone here minds their own business. We're proper worshipful types, too."

Haru's eyes widened. "What's the price point?"

"About 35,000 a month."

Haru's mind jumped to his bank account. That was less than half of what the apartment complex charged. His stipend could cover it easily—he could probably manage out of pocket for a couple of months, even if the payment came late.

Mother's litany of 'clarifying questions' bubbled up in his mind. Was there in-house laundry? Did the payment include utilities? Did the other tenants use drugs? Were pokemon allowed? Could he see the rooms?

But none of it came out. Instead, Haru said, "I'll take it."

Maliki's grin widened. "You trust your instincts too, huh? I knew we'd get along. You can move in anytime. Your berth will be the third room on the left. We mostly keep the place unlocked. Not much to steal, here, and anyone who tried would bring down the wrath of at least thirty gods."

"I've got about 10,000 on me," Haru said. "The rest I can get you by—"

She waved her hand dismissively. "Keep it, until you're sure this is the place for you. Saves hassle in the long run, don't you think? Friday evenings we always do a group dinner. If you want to meet the others, that's the best time. Try not to come empty-handed though. That wouldn't be a great start."

It all sounded so loose, Haru thought, as he ducked back out onto the street. He'd secured a room, but there had been no paperwork, no key, no money exchanging hands. Mother would be shocked if he told her he'd leased a room without seeing a contract first. But, Haru figured, promises made in a prayer room were probably as good as oaths.

He bought a cheap dinner at an alley-side ramen shop and returned to the pokecenter long enough to gather his belongings, close out his room, and withdraw his savings.

The room turned out to be small, little more than a futon stuffed in a closet, with a single window letting in weak light from the adjoining alley. But Haru didn't plan to spend much time here—his new job at the research station was sure to keep him busy from dawn until dusk. Painting his eyelids with sleep spore, Haru sank into deep, dreamless sleep.


.

He woke the next morning to the savory smell of something frying.

"Early riser, huh?" Maliki said, when he stumbled into the cramped galley kitchen. He could make out her features better now in the light of early morning. She had an ovular face, arched eyebrows and full lips. Her hair ran down her back like beads on a string, twisted into dark knobs. Something loose and orange was draped over her back, swaying as she slid sizzling nanab berries around in a pan. "Would you like some?"

"I couldn't." Haru already felt like a trespasser in this cramped space. The morning light had revealed the peeling red wallpaper and forgivingly dark brown color of the carpet. Everything here spoke to a poverty his family had never known.

"Sure you can," Maliki answered, in a voice that didn't brook argument. "I always make extra."

Haru sat down heavily on the rickety wood chair. He rested his hands on the table, then moved them to his belt bag, where Atalanta's pokeball was nestled. "I was meaning to ask. Are pokemon allowed here?"

"Allowed?" Maliki quirked an eyebrow. "Sure. I mean, be courteous, if you've got a muk or something."

"No, nothing like that."

She sat opposite him, setting down a plate for each of them. "You a trainer, then?"

"Ex-trainer," he answered quickly, hoping she'd fill in the rest herself. Plenty of ex-trainers kept a few Class C pokemon around.

"What do you do now?"

"I'm starting as an intern. Up on Route 111's lab."

"A researcher?" She eyed him with interest. "Do you follow Doctor Qian's work at all?"

Haru didn't know the name. He shook his head apologetically. "There's so much out there—I'm mostly focused on ecology."

"Too bad. Maybe I'll tell you about her work sometime, huh?"

She flashed a wide grin at that, as if something had struck her as funny.

"I'd like that." Haru dipped his head over his food. The nanab was sweet, the faint bitterness balanced by the crunchy edge. "Oh, I almost forgot. I have the rent for you."

Maliki waved her hand. "What did I say? Keep it until you're sure, okay? If it ends up not working out, it's no skin off my back to have put you up for a night or two."

Haru was struck by the suspicion that this generosity wasn't entirely for his benefit. Maliki wanted to see if he was the kind of person she and her flatmates wanted to keep around.

It had been a long time since Haru had needed to endear himself to anyone that way. For the last five years, his only company had been his pokemon. Other people were incidental, passed on the road, spoken to only on those long nights at the pokecenter when the storms shorted out all power. Haru had never needed to live with them or prove that he was someone worth living with.

Erika had told him he'd have to get used to pleasing other people—career advancement was a delicate balance between hard work, skill, and sucking up, she'd said. Which all sounded hideous. But Haru didn't mind the idea of proving himself to Maliki. Her impeccable hospitality demanded reciprocation.

He finished his meal in silence and insisted on doing the dishes, relieved when Maliki allowed it. She watched him for a moment, presumably to make sure he wasn't about to break anything, and then said, "Catch you later," disappearing down the dark hallway.

When the cleanup was finished, Haru set out westwards, towards Verdanturf. The cramped industrial buildings gave way to an open, floral landscape, brimming with berry trees. The fragrant air brought a smile to his face, though something about Route 117 nagged at him. The serene beauty was almost disturbing, coming directly from Mauville's lower levels. Haru glimpsed gardeners at work along the route, tending to berry trees, weeding flower patches. What society would put such care into creating beauty here, when there was such obvious ugliness and need only a short walk away?

Haru shook his head to banish the thought. Route 117, with its clean, temperate air and excess of flowers, was the perfect place for Atalanta. Taking shelter behind a dense berry thicket, Haru released the ninjask, who let out a pleased chirp. She buzzed into the air and began to flit from flower to flower, trembling with unmistakable joy.

Watching her, Haru felt a sudden rush of shame. He hadn't let her out once since purchasing the pokeball. He'd been so relieved to shut her away, he hadn't even considered it. Ever since Atalanta had chosen to follow him, Haru had been thinking of her as a problem, not a pokemon. She deserved better than that.

"You like it here, huh?" Haru called out. "What do you think about calling this your new home?"

Atalanta detached herself from a blossom and jetted back over to perch on his head, pincers clasping tight around his hair.

"Seriously, why not stay here? There's no reason to stick with me. You don't owe me anything."

Maybe Haru was imagining it—assigning meaning where there was none—but he heard skepticism in Atalanta's answering screech. Frowning, he pulled her from his head.

For the first time, Haru wondered what would have happened to Atalanta, if his path hadn't happened to cross with Wei's. Would her wings have survived that prolonged water exposure, the long walk back? Wei's cheap pack hadn't held any heating equipment. Atalanta's wings might have been disabled for life.

It was a painful thing to contemplate, as he watched her wings vibrate, their delicate, gauzy surface catching copper in the sunlight. A ninjask that couldn't fly couldn't live.

The original Atalanta, Haru remembered suddenly, had declared she would be no one's bride but Suicune's, in gratitude for the gift of speed Suicune had granted her. Atalanta had been the daughter of a powerful lord, promised to the prince of a rival kingdom. Her refusal to wed had drawn both nations into war. But history had not judged her harshly for it—Haru's teachers had always praised Atalanta as an exemplar of piety and sacred obligation.

"Whatever it is you think you owe me," Haru said slowly, picking his words with care, "I want you to make a life here. If I need you, I promise I'll come back and collect the debt."

Atalanta stared at him for a long moment, her red eyes intent. Then, in an abrupt motion, she shot into the air, lingering only a second before setting off between the berry trees. In one blink, she was a yellow speck in the distance.

Haru sank to the ground, floored by relief and a strange exhilaration. He'd guessed right. He'd understood. Nothing he'd ever read had suggested pokemon could understand the concept of debts. But how could a situation like this be replicated, anyway? Haru sat for a while, lost in the thought of potential experiments, but every idea seemed inadequate or deeply cruel.

At last he got to his feet, stowing the illegal pokeball in his bag. He regretted the expense now, but there was nothing to be done about it. Whatever he'd said, Haru didn't plan to be back.

This Atalanta's debt could expire in peace.


.

When Haru made his back into Mauville's downtown, it was already past noon. After fortifying himself with a quick lunch, Haru set himself to the task of shopping, picking up rice, ume, nori, eggs, sweet milk, and a square pan. As he waited in the endless check-out line, his conversation with Maliki that morning came back to him.

"Doctor Qian," Haru typed into his nav, but none of the results seemed right. Searching "Doctor Qian Mauville" brought up an article from a local newspaper, headlined Local Researcher Raises Alarming Questions About Mauville's Power Plant.

The body of the article was only a few slim paragraphs.

Doctor Bai Qian, a local researcher, has released a new study exploring the impact that working at the Mauville Power Plant has on electric pokemon. She argues that the work, generally considered harmless, leaves these pokemon with long-term damage.

In the study, Qian compares 100 wild electrike, magnemite, and voltorb with 100 pokemon of the same species that worked at the power plant, estimating the duration of their work from the data found in their ID chip. She measured these pokemon on a set of health metrics and found that the wild pokemon have, on average, lower stress levels, less instances of electrical degeneration disease, and longer life-spans of five to ten years.

When asked what the public should take away from her research, Doctor Qian told Rewire, "I'm not prescribing policy. But I should think the logical consequence would be an immediate review of the working conditions in the power plant and the methods of voltage extraction."

A spokesperson for Mauville Power Plant stated in response to an email inquiry, "Mauville Power Plant is a testament to what people and pokemon can achieve by working together. The work is safe, rewarding, and mutually beneficial for all."


Haru tried to open the link in the first sentence, but the page was defunct. Try as he might, Haru couldn't find the full study. Eventually he landed on an abstract of the paper, entitled "The Impact of High-Stress Voltage Extraction on Electric Pokemon." It was followed by a short peer review, criticizing the article for citing too few comparable fieldwork experiments.

It seemed to Haru that the author might have cited few comparable field experiments because there were few comparable field experiments. Frowning, he shoved his nav back in his pocket and paid for his groceries.

There was a teenage boy prepping instant noodles when Haru made his way into the kitchen. The boy glanced up suspiciously and took off with his bowl before Haru could say hello. Charming his flatmates would have to wait, then. With a shrug, Haru measured out three cups of rice and began to wash the grains. Two hours later, the onigiri were ready. He wrapped them carefully and stowed them in the fridge for tomorrow evening.

When the kitchen darkened without another appearance of his flatmates, Haru decided to call it a night. Lying on his futon, he quickly skimmed his email. A message from Route 111's lab sat at the top of his inbox. A few friendly words, inviting him to stop by anytime to check on his cradily. Tomorrow, Haru decided. It would be good to scope the lab out before his internship officially began. And he missed Damascus.

Below that—

Haru swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry.

A message from the Ethics Commission, the league's chief regulatory body.

Haru's breath began to speed. He got messages from the Ethics Commission all the time: legal updates, reminders, even the occasional notice about government internship opportunities. It didn't mean anything had happened.

His breath was coming faster and faster, like Atalanta's beating wings.

He should just open it. It would be something normal, it would be something fine, and if his heart would just stop pounding

Haru's hand closed around the jar of sleep spore. The bottle was already beginning to look empty at the top. He'd been using it too frequently these last few sleepless weeks. If anyone knew, they would have told him to stop. The consequences of medicating with the pokemon powders were still largely unknown.

Screwing the bottle open, Haru scooped up a generous dollop of sleep spore and smeared it over his eyes. The effect was instantaneous. With a light clatter, the poke-nav tumbled from his limp hand. Haru sank down into his futon, letting the artificial sleep wipe his mind clean.
 
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HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Okay I actually stumbled across this fic on FFN a few weeks ago, but it’s HIGH time I leave a review on this beautiful, beautiful story.

To start: your prose. Is. Gorgeous. It’s so smooth and vivid, and I can clearly imagine each scene as though I’m actually immersed in it. I love that, while at first we don’t know why Haru is anxious, it becomes very clear by the end of the chapter, and all without having that information spoon-fed to the reader. Also, the WORLD BUILDING. WOW. This chapter is PACKED with great, rich details that make the world feel completely real.

Pretty? His name was common. He'd been the fourth Haru in his cohort growing up in Ecruteak. The other kids had called him "Caterpie" for his unusually wide eyes, probably inherited from the Kalosian relation his family never talked about.

I love this?? In just a handful of paragraphs, you’ve described the setting, the character’s heritage, and his internal conflicts - all without it feeling forced, and with it fitting so naturally into the narrative. Not only that, but it there are even mild comparisons made between Johto and Hoenn, so it’s like you’re developing two different regions at once this way?? The world building in the first chapter alone is EXCELLENT, and best of all, it doesn’t come at the expense of the story. The plot and the premise is clearly introduced, and the world takes shape around it as it goes along. To be honest, I could learn a thing or two from how you do this. This is HARD to do, but you appear to pull it off effortlessly.

The rain picked up around him, a slow, light patter that made the air into a continuous murmur. Through the fall of the water, he thought he could hear an aged, rasping voice. His grandmother's voice. He closed his eyes, straining to pick out her words from the rainfall.


He was back in her reading room, perched attentively on his knees as Grandmother recited from the Golden Book. The tapestries on the wall were threadbare, but brilliant. Every spring Grandmother laid them out and worked them carefully with a clean white towel. There was something magical about the process, Haru had always thought. Grandmother labored with a quiet, intense concentration, as if history itself would topple if the dyes chanced to blur.

Just quoting these because they’re BEAUTIFUL and AGH, this fic already has such a magical/mythical feel to it, I love it so much. Mildly envious of how smooth your skills are, I won’t lie. XD
 
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HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Haru felt the rumble of Heconilia's agreement. He took a step back and looked her over. How much did she understand, really? How much could a pokemon ever comprehend of the rules and regulations that were the cogs and gears of human society? He'd read a study recently claiming to categorically disprove the notion that non-psychic pokemon could access abstract thought. But the methodology had seemed sketchy to Haru. He couldn't know, so he would have to put his trust in Heconilia—and in luck, the most fickle blessing of Ho-Oh.

A very valid question, one that ought to be addressed at least somewhat in every Pokémon story, in my opinion. How much do they understand? Again, I have to applaud you for so clearly outlining the laws that exist in this world, even though it’s just the start of the second chapter. I’m amazed at how concisely you’re able to relay so many details without it feeling like an info dump - no, seriously, how do you do that?? XD

Anyway, laws regarding training and Pokémon have always been really fascinating to me, and I’m really enjoying the opportunity to see them get fleshed out here.



Heart thudding, he turned around to see a bedraggled boy in a sopping purple hoody trudging over.

Just a nitpick, but I think the proper spelling is “hoodie”.


With a frown, Haru looked over at the sweet yellow fruit hanging under Heconilia's neck. There had been a few occasions when she'd offered it to him, and the taste had been truly special—subtly, fragrantly sweet with a dense, pulpy texture. He couldn't imagine referring to it as a convenience snack or acting like he had some right to eat it.

Ah, yes, trainers feeling entitled to every skill/ability/gift their Pokémon have, regardless of said Pokémon’s nature or culture. I’m curious to see how common of a mindset this is in your version of this world. I love that the reader clearly understands how arrogant and entitled this kid is without it having to be explicitly stated. We know enough about the world, and about Haru’s feelings toward Pokémon, to know that this isn’t okay.


Tropius shared their fruit for many reasons. Heconilia was making a show of trust, submitting herself to the appraisal of the wild tropius. Haru watched closely, unbothered by the rain, which was coming down in long sheets, no longer broken by the canopy.

The other tropius gently placed his mouth around the slender moon of Heconilia's fruit, and began to eat. Acceptance. More tropius emerged from the rock formation. They came out in twos, ringing Heconilia and the other tropius in a loose circle.

Mating pairs, Haru realized. That explained the group's small size and awkward shelter. They must have recently broken off from their home herd. The tropius who had come out of the cave first seemed to lack a mate. His trills were short and excited as he paced around Heconilia, who stood with her head raised proudly, showing off the sweep of her wings.

More world building and some beautiful, rich details! I LOVE seeing Pokémon in their natural habitat, and you wrote this so well. It makes sense that they would have their own way of operating in their societies in the wild. Love this. So much.

"That's enough, Heconilia," Haru could say.

The words stuck in his throat.

They'd never made a formal goodbye. Her pokeball was still clasped on his belt. But the instant she had lowered her neck, offering her fruit to the wild tropius, Haru had known that she wasn't his pokemon any longer.

All of her choices were hers.

This was powerful, especially this last line. Haru’s respect for Pokémon has been made clear from the beginning, but this really seals the deal, and it’s a concept that many trainers probably don’t understand: that Pokémon can, and should, be able to choose for themselves.
That being said, though - Oof. Now he’s in a pickle, and I can’t imagine things are going to get any better!
 
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Reactions: Pen

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. crobat
So I finally got around to reading this, figured I better review too! So lets begin! I'm going to try a new sort of rating system for myself, breaking it down into some main aspects I think every story needs in some way.
[Main character, side characters, plot, subplot, prose, villain/antagonist, theme]

First up, main character. Haru is an interesting character. He seems to possess a strong sense of duty, but also a need to do 'what is expected'. Yet he also has a spiritual aspect as well, so to speak. These factors come together to paint a solid image for a first chapter. He's likeable, and I can see through his interactions he cares for his pokemon. For the first chapter, I think you handle the use of flashbacks and internal monologue very well.

There's nothing to really say in the way of side characters, since this is only the first chapter. Your few choices words about his sister does give me a decent idea what she might be like if we ever met her. And I definitely enjoyed the brief interaction with the other ranger at the station.

The plot setup here is solid. I know what the MC wants, and why he wants it. You've also set up the conflict well, since what he's doing is apparently against the law in this setting. This paints a rather sad picture, and quite the internal struggle. Follow the law, or do what is right. Sometimes what is right doesn't always mean following a law it seems.

These elements lead very well into the subplot, which I assume will address the themes mentioned above, and how they will affect Haru's growth as a person. This part is probably the aspect of this story I'll be looking forward to the most. I'll also say I can see that you've already set up some clear themes of law vs choice, freedom, and elements of escalation. The biggest question is, how well will you follow through on this? (Knowing you, the answer to that is, very well!)

Your prose is very clean. You have a very pleasant, stylistic way of writing that feels almost cinematic at times. Your word choices paint a clear picture in my mind of the atmosphere and setting, while you use things like word repetition and sentence length to create a rhythms and specific feelings.

The last aspect is villain/antagonist. Now its rather early to discuss any antagonists or villain, but I can tell that the law itself may play a role as an antagonist force. This is certainly a bit different approach so far, and one I eagerly await.

I don't have much else to say for broad strokes, so I'll give a few line by line thoughts.


"Morning," the ranger said, a slight yawn muffling her words. It was seven minutes past six. Outside, Route 119 was still dark and gray, the road winding through the reeds like the dark back of a seviper. "Early starter, huh?"
Fat bonus points for using pokemon species to describe imagery. I love that stuff. Gotta use that more in my stories...

"That's my focus too! Micro-climates and the despeciation problem. It's why I took a ranger job here, to get some local experience before I apply to the Weather Institute's patrol team. What lab are you going to be working at?"
This interaction really stands out to me. Its very simple. Like the way someone might react if they found out you both shared the same obscure college major. Very satisfying!!

Pretty? His name was common. He'd been the fourth Haru in his cohort growing up in Ecruteak. The other kids had called him "Caterpie" for his unusually wide eyes, probably inherited from the Kalosian relation his family never talked about.
This is something rare. Common names in fantasy. Im a sucker for this secretly and the inclusion of this detail is fantastic.

"Let me see—weather is pretty much the usual, though we're expecting some serious thunderstorms starting mid-afternoon and running until late evening. Currently a ban on kecleon capture, until mating season ends. And I know you've heard this a hundred times, but bear with me. Poaching and dumping are national crimes under the Hoenn Revised Code, Section Eleven, Chapter Five. I'll need a verbal affirmation that you understand the law—"

"Yes," Haru said quickly, his heart suddenly thunder.
This part seems rather sad to me. And potentially cruel but necessary? The rules are understandable, but its seems so tragic that a pokemon can never return home. I wonder, other than daycare or being passed off to another trainer, has society truly never created another way? Preserves or something like the Safari Zones? An area where trained pokemon live in a way similar to the wild or something.
This isn't a criticism of course, just an observation. It'd certainly make me sad if I lived in this world.
Still, its a fascinating set up to see thought given into the potential rules and laws that might exist in a pokemon world.

One last journey. One final obligation.

His hand clenched involuntarily around the single pokeball on his belt.
Loved this bit of prose.

Then Ho-Oh beheld the mighty deeds these three spirits had rendered him;

And he was pleased and spake, Loyal servants, your service has been good;

Then Raikou went up to the Heavens, where he dwelled close to the life-bringer;

Entei entered the heart of a great mountain, for he was tired and sought rest;

But Suicune ran along the white caps of the waves and, like unbidden wind, she was free.
I really enjoyed this passage, it felt like something very mythical and grand.

Suicune's choice
*cinemas sins voice* roolll credits!

Haru pushed off into the wet undergrowth, which rose to his shoulders. Taller trees formed a dark canopy above his head. Only scattered streaks of the gray morning light passed through. The rain was falling more heavily now. Water pooled in the imprints his boots left on the road.

As the rain poured down, the mud bubbled up and ran, until even those traces were gone.

UGH nice prose. Just. so poignant. Dunno how else to describe it. Good stuff.

Fantastic so far. Bonus points bc Hoenn and Breloom. Now where's my Flygon?
 
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Back for more! And oh, boy, things REALLY went downhill quickly, didn't they? Luck has not been on Haru's side for these next couple chapters.

Ducking back in the shelter, Haru unclipped the pokeballs from the boy's belt and recalled his unconscious swalot and mightyena. He hesitated over the ninjask, which was eyeing him blearily from the muddy ground. Its wings were completely soaked through; it couldn't fly even if it wanted to. Recalling it into the pokeball now, the damp would fester, damaging the delicate tissue of its wings permanently


What an interesting detail! I take it you don't adopt the "pokemon are kept in stasis in their pokeballs" theory, then? To be honest, I don't either - it makes more sense that they would (somehow) be able to live inside their balls without being frozen in time. Also feels more ethical that way, lol. The detail about ninjask's wings is yet another example of how thorough your world-building is. I love seeing specific details on how Pokemon species vary from one another, what their different needs are, etc.

Haru poked lightly through the boy's sopping clothing and found a shorted-out pokedex and a pokenav on the fritz. Haru rubbed it dry against his shirt. The boy's pack mostly contained snack food and cup noodles, mixed with an assortment of potions. There was a spare set of clothes at the bottom, but no tent. It wasn't the pack of someone who planned to spend a night out in the wild

This, combined with the information given in previous chapters, really gives the reader a sense for what kind of trainer/person this kid is. He's arrogant, doesn't bother to educate himself on how to properly care for his Pokemon (as evidenced by keeping his ninjask out in the rain), and he's so full of it, he doesn't bother preparing properly even though he intentionally strayed from the path and could have gotten lost SO easily. This kid is an idiot - but I love that you don't have to spell it out for the reader. It's made very clear by all these little details you've provided.

The boy was still lying inert— the boy. He didn't know his name. And the boy had never asked for Haru's name. That was crucial. Even if he reported what happened, no one would know who . . .

Except that ranger. Feng. She would remember his name and his eight badges.

Eight badges. He'd told the boy that.

Stupid, stupid.

Oof. OOF. Haru just keeps digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole, doesn't he? Poor guy.

Haru turned back to the boy's pack, dumping out its contents onto the rocky ground. Buried under a pack of Magmar Crisps, extra spicy, he found what he was looking for: the boy's emergency beacon. Haru patted his side. His own beacon was clipped firmly to his belt, there to be pressed in case of emergencies. It was arrogant to keep your beacon buried at the bottom of a backpack. It was stupid.

Yet another detail that illustrates how arrogant and uneducated this boy is. Not only that, but it gives some insight into training culture/preparedness as well. I wonder, are trainers with Haru's careful mindset in the minority? Are most of them like this kid - arrogant and ill-perpared? If so, that's a terrifying thought. Yikes.

Haru's stomach twisted painfully. How was it that at every turn he was trapped?

How, indeed! I can sympathize with his stress (which you've done an excellent job of illustrating all throughout the story so far), but I can't complain. If things didn't go so horribly wrong, well, we wouldn't have this story to read, would we? Sorry, Haru.

Haru glanced around once to confirm that he was alone. Then he dropped to his knees in front of a verdant patch of foliage and shoved the pokeball deep inside the moss. He looked over his shoulder again, feeling like a criminal disposing of a body.

Oh. Oh no. This seems like a very BAD decision. At least try to dispose of the pokeball in a more permanent way? Maybe sink it in a river or something? I can't help but feel that this is just going to come back around to bite him. Come on, man, be a little more thorough!

Haru followed the sound, stumbling over to the bathroom door, where his rain slicker was hung out to dry. There was a second pokenav in the right pocket.

Wei's nav.

He didn't remember taking it.

OMG. This actually made me panic when I read it. The mistakes just keep snowballing more and more, and wow, I can FEEL Haru's stress through it all. I don't fault him at all for not thinking straight - he wasn't prepared for things to go so wrong so quickly - but oh boy. You're digging your own grave, son.

Marve: hey

did u nab a tropus?

LOL at the misspelling of "tropius" here. Such a tiny but rich detail.

The next morning, when he woke, the window hung ajar. The air that wafted in was cool and dry, like the breath of the North wind.

Ooooh I love the air of mystery here. I love that this legend, though only briefly mentioned so far, is playing right along with the current events in the story. Even though I don't know all the details about this legend yet, I know that it's playing a huge role in influencing Haru's decisions.


Haru pulled his vibrating nav from his pocket: 10 am on a Sunday. It was time for the family conference call. He glanced around Route 121—Atalanta was happily occupied by a bunch of blooming flowers—and accepted the video call. His mother and sister were already on, both of them framed by the muted wallpaper of their company break-rooms.

"Your father can't join us today," Mother said at once. "He's in a meeting."

Once again, you've done it. You've provided SO much information in just a handful of sentences. The contrast from Haru's surroundings (outside, surrounded by flowers and nature and the unpredictability of it all) with the surroundings of his mother and sister (clean, orderly office walls) was not lost on me, here. Not to mention the fact that his father wasn't even present because he was in a meeting. Haru seems like the black sheep of his very corporate-minded family, and this simple visual really drives that home. Does he even want this lofty internship he's qualified for? What DOES he want? Does he even know?

SO much good stuff, seriously. Every paragraph in this story is so packed with rich details. How do you do this?? How?? I love it.

Haru just nodded. After everything that had happened yesterday, he didn't trust himself to sound normal. Luckily, Erika, who tended to be tactical in these matters, had saved the story of her promotion for the weekly call. Haru was able to listen quietly as Mom oohed and ahhed over every detail. It was easy to let Erika take the center stage —it tended to happen anyway, whether he wanted it to or not. Erika was the oldest, the success story. His parents had named her after the famous Kantonian gym leader who started a multinational perfume company, all ladylike delicacy and hard-headed business acumen. Haru wasn't sure he believed that names shaped destinies—but his parents seemed to have pulled it off with Erika.

Haru had been named at his grandmother's urging. She had wanted at least one traditional name preserved in the family. Her own father had been a Haru, and his father's father. "It may be that a Haru once knelt before Lord Ho-oh himself. So you must always cherish this name and act to bring honor upon everyone who has borne it before you."

This plays right into what I just said above about Haru being different from his family. He believes Erika's name was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but doesn't realize that his own name probably was, too. It's already been hinted that he is more traditional than the rest of his family, and seemed to have a closer connection to his grandmother than anyone else. All of these things have contributed to him being the careful, thoughtful, and introspective person he is. Everything he does is heavily influenced by what his grandmother taught him, unlike the rest of his family.


Mother and Erika exchanged an all-too-familiar glance. Haru privately called it the "Oh, Haru" glance. It had been cropping up with increasing regularity in the past year.

Another great detail. So much information is presented here without it being spelled out. *chefs kiss* FABULOUS.

The man seemed much happier with the cash in his hand. He came over and gave Haru a slap on the back. "Nice doing business with you. If you ever need anything else, just ask around for Marve."

Haru can you stop screwing yourself over for FIVE SECONDS -

"Sake," Haru answered automatically, but he grimaced when the bartender slammed down a golden can in front of him. He loved the slimly tapered neck of a traditional bottle. Sake in a can missed the whole point.

But that was Hoenn for you, Haru reflected, surprised by the bitterness of the thought.

Ah! This is so good! It gives a little insight to the world of Johto and Hoenn at the same time. UGH I love it, I love it so much. Can't wait to see where this story goes, and I can't wait to absorb more of your fantastic writing. I probably sound like a broken record in this review, but I just can't express how much I love your writing and how well-done this story is. Amazing job!
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. custom/gfetchd-kyeugh
hey pen! i felt compelled to check out more of your work after catching up with dragon's dance, and boy i am not disappointed with this. so far this fic has all the charms of your writing style, but the content itself is way more up my alley. i really love the ecological tilt of this story, and feel based on these first few chapters that it might end up being one of my favs once i'm caught up! :D

1. the choice
haru seems like a fairly interesting character here—ecology is not the ordinary field of interest for a pokémon fanfic protagonist, and his attention to superstition despite his position as a scientist-to-be is certainly interesting. however, i think worldbuilding is where this chapter really shines. there are so many small, offhand details here that really ignite my interest. in particular, i think the ecology of the pokémon world is a really interesting subject, as well as the laws surrounding it, and it seems like you've put a lot of thought into those areas. not sure if that's just because they're deeply relevant to the scenes at hand or if it'll remain a recurring theme in the fanfic, but i'm certainly hoping for the latter myself. :D as usual, your prose is very polished, slick and easy to read. not much in the way of critique for this first chapter—it's short, sweet, and certainly does the job of establishing haru's character and the initial conflict he's facing. good stuff.

"Eight badges, huh," she said, peering at her monitor. "Congrats. Your Class B expires this month, though. If you want to file for a Class A, the window's almost over," she added helpfully.

Haru shook his head. "I'm not going pro. I'm starting a research internship in a couple of weeks, actually."
these few lines tell a lot about the world. the way your version of the league works—with an upper professional division gatekept by the eight gyms—is interesting, and i particularly enjoy how inextricable your plot is from that worldbuilding detail. the event that kicks this story into motion only makes sense given this detail that haru may not keep pokémon anymore unless he renews his license.

"Let's count on it," she said with a wink. She handed him back his trainer's license, and his hand clenched around it tightly. "Let me see—weather is pretty much the usual, though we're expecting some serious thunderstorms starting mid-afternoon and running until late evening. Currently a ban on kecleon capture, until mating season ends. And I know you've heard this a hundred times, but bear with me. Poaching and dumping are national crimes under the Hoenn Revised Code, Section Eleven, Chapter Five. I'll need a verbal affirmation that you understand the law—"
i really dig the thought you've put into this. your world so far lightly evokes the US Fish and Wildlife Services, and sort of brings to mind persephone's aloladex as well. haru's field is ecology, and it seems like you've put a lot of thought into that dimension of your world. i totally dig that, and am excited to see how else it crops up in the fic.

His thoughts turned to Erika. She'd received a promotion at her agency and had been completely off-the-wall ecstatic when she'd called him last night, alternating between boasting and chiding. "Just imagine where you'd be if you'd taken a job earlier. Experience counts, you know. Starting so late, you're going to see a salary drop of at least twenty-five percent compared to your peers. Maybe more." He couldn't have gotten a word in edgewise even if he'd wanted to. So he'd listened and nodded, while his decision sat like a stone in his stomach.
oof. in dragon's dance you do a good job capturing the mindset of a child through lance, and here you've really distilled how it feels to be... well, my age, lol. some real relatable stuff here.

Haru understood the purpose of the law better than most people. Letting loose trained pokemon disrupted the ecological balance. Turf battles took place, habitats shifted, and the end result was the encroachment of pokemon on human lands—wurmple devastating harvests and zubat swarming radio towers. The rules were there for a reason.

He didn't need to risk this. He could still turn around, tell the ranger he had a pokemon to place and leave it to the system. He could walk away now with his prospects still intact.
neat detail. not something i've ever thought about but it makes sense. it says a lot about haru that he's willing to release heconilia, even with his heightened knowledge of the reason for the law, even with so much at stake. what makes him willing to take such a risk? is he just a super empathetic person? reckless? deeply obligated to his spirituality? something else?

If Heconilia undertook Suicune's choice, Haru had no right to refuse her.
1608252939131.png

On his screen, the geocached marker where he'd originally captured Heconilia glowed a bright green.
hmm, interesting use of "geocached" here—did he literally place a physical marker at that place? or is it just a digital marker in his nav? if it's the latter, i don't think geocache is the right word here, and even if it's the former it might not be quite right, unless it has an additional meaning i'm unaware of. my understanding of the word is in reference to a very particular activity, though.

2. the consequence
the main thing that struck me in this chapter was the very strong sense of place. i felt like i could picture the rainforest so clearly, feel the rain soaking me through to the bone, smell the ozone and rotting berries underfoot. you also make the boy very irritating in basically no time at all, which was pretty impressive. the battle sequence was fun, and it was interesting seeing haru struggle not to issue commands to heconilia. i'm curious what he'll do now that he's responsible for this brat that his illicitly-dumped pokémon maimed, lol. i do wish we got a little more out of haru in this chapter; this early in the fic i find myself constantly looking for pieces of characterization to get myself familiar with the perspective, but haru mostly felt like a passive onlooker in this chapter, aside from his annoyance with the boy. still, it was a short and action-packed chapter that held my attention until the end, and finished off with a compelling cliffhanger—looking forward to coming back for more!
Chastened, she lowered her neck and butted her head forward, twisting so that the ring of fruit under her neck hung in front of his face. An apology.
very fun body language. i rarely think about how pokémon might use their bodies to communicate like this, and rarely read it, either.


"I've got six. Beat Winona last week. Hey, let's have a battle!"

Haru looked up at the ninjask, which had sunk even lower in the air, wings still buzzing industriously, and back to the boy, who was kicking some mud off his feet. "No thanks," he said politely.

The boy scowled. "What? Come on. Don't be a scaredy-skitty. You got something better to do?"

Had he ever been this rude? It was possible, but Haru didn't think it was likely. Grandmother had taught him better than that.
lol. this kid is such a brat. you're great at imbuing personality in short periods of time.

They set off again, faster this time, Haru's feet sinking into the muddy earth with new urgency. He steered Heconilia into the thickest clumps of undergrowth, where visibility vanished, but each time they broke into a clearing, the boy appeared behind them like an extremely sopping specter. Haru's breath was coming fast, and his skin was hot with tamped-down adrenaline. This ridiculous chase couldn't stretch on forever. He had to come up with something.
can't tropius fly? why didn't he just take off on heconilia's back?

Tropius shared their fruit for many reasons. Heconilia was making a show of trust, submitting herself to the appraisal of the wild tropius. Haru watched closely, unbothered by the rain, which was coming down in long sheets, no longer broken by the canopy.
it's nice having a narrator who's knowledgeable about this stuff—means an excuse to put in lots of fun details like this! 😁

She's already taken control, Haru realized. Without a single leadership battle, either. Despite everything, he couldn't help the warm glow of pride that rose in his chest.
hahaha. might not be the best thing, under the circumstances...
 

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
This fic certainly surprised me, but coming from you I guess it shouldn't have. I'd been eyeing it for a while but hadn't taken the time to actually read it til a couple of days ago and I'm glad I did.

I'll start by talking about the thing that made me open up a doc for the paragraphs that jumped at me, your writing style. I think I mentioned this when I read Starfall but I really like the flow that your stories and prose have, they read very quickly but also compose vivid images that makes it easy for someone to imagine what the characters are doing, what their expressions are, what they're feeling. It's a kind of writing I really respect a lot because it has a way of leaving details to the imagination without feeling like we're missing information as well.

That style also influences the story's worldbuilding. A lot of the time stories can run into the trouble of overloading on worldbuilding, but you strike a balance that makes it seem seamless, organically blending in details about the world such as the different license systems for trainers and pokemon, the different kinds of laws and regulations put into place to manage trainers once they retire as well as their pokemon and the dangers they could pose. It's kind of sad that a trainer has to say goodbye to their pokemon, but at the same time it makes sense. Them having super powerful animals could be dangerous in a normal citizen, plus having a lot of pokemon in an apartment probably isn't the best.

I also like the way in which you deal with training and one that I like in a few other stories. By that I mean that training is still a sport, being a good one is still something people recognize or look up to; but at the end of the day it's still a sport and it's something that doesn't really have much bearing in the real world once you leave it behind and something that some people might not see as important or significant as a long-term life plan.

With that introduction I can finally get into the meat of the story. I gotta give you kudos on that front because the main theme of your story is right in the title. The idea of the choices we make and the consequences we face because of them is brought up in every chapter, whether directly or indirectly. Obviously the biggest example of this is the fact that every chapter presents Haru with a choice or a series of choices, and each subsequent choice is thus influenced by the consequences of his last one. This is not only a great bit of character writing because it makes Haru a more active protagonist but it also highlights the crux behind the theme; his worries and fears; and the way in which Haru as a person is beginning to change.

Another aspect of the choice theme and the idea of decision is the idea of independence and the thinking for one self.

Because here's the thing...I don't think Haru wants to give up training. The fact that he's always thinking of his experiences and his pokemon, the fact that the first thing he does in Lilycove's mall is go to the stores centered around pokemon training, the fact that he forgets about his license. It's highlighted throughout the story that Haru giving up training is more for his family, because he hasn't reached a level where he can become a pro, because everyone else he's known is moving on to different things or stepping up in the world of training.

This is especially true in the video conference he has with his family. Not only is he treated as the runt of the litter, it's clear that his family doesn't approve of anything he does or thinks. Erika always tells him to do things the "ideal" way, his mom always wants him to adhere to their idea of what a good life should be, what the correct path is.

Haru isn't taking the internship because he really wants to. He's doing it for his family, doing it because it's "correct", because he feels he has to follow the rules and do what he perceives to be right, just like he did when he was a kid and did his project or when he listened to his grandmoter's stories.

That's another prevalent theme that gets paired up with the idea of choice that I've noticed, the idea of what's right and wrong and Haru's smackdab in the middle of it. Haru is a character that straddles the line between modernity and tradition, between what's morally just and what's ideally just. He's into science and does what his parents want but he also has his faith and believes in all the values and ideals his grandmother taugth him, even if the world around him acts as if it's dumb for him tod o that. That same dichotomy is what puts him at odds with everyone else because what everyone sees as right or wrong or what they think goes against the rules varies in his mind.

He know it's against the law to leave a trained pokemon out in the wild, but isn't it just as morally wrong to ignore your pokemon's wishes? to give them a life in a daycare they might not like or just constantly hop from trainer to trainer?

That's not to say Haru doesn't follow the law, he is against the idea of hunting down pokemon unjustly as well as against the idea of selling eggs ilegally or pokeballs without ids. That's why I say he straddles the line, because Haru's someone that lives by his moral code, he wants to live by his moral code and do what he thinks is right, even if that goes against what others think.

This is actually exemplefied in a big way with the comparison between him and his sister. Erika is the perfect daughter, named after an accomplished woman, she does everything by the book, know how to get what she wants and willing to do what it takes to get it without stepping on any toes. Haru on the other hand doesn't want to live life that...monotonously. He doesn't want to believe that for him to live a happy life he has to talk to people in a certain way, to behave a certain way, to think in a certain way. And that clash eats at him even more.

I know I'm going on and on about the themes and all that jazz, but they were stuff that really jumped out at me. That's not to say that everything else isn't great, I love Haru and I love how dynamic and complicated he is. He messes up and does questionable things, but there's no malice to it, it all comes from him genuinly trying to make the choice that makes everyone happy, and I think the way he's changing right now is fate leading him down to realizing that he has to make his own path, that he can't just continue to live life according to what others believe.

And I think that what makes Haru's plight so interesting is just how it embodies that idea of going out into the world, of leaving behind a phase in which you could just do what you wanted, go where you wanted and not worry about responsibilities. It's scary, it makes one question who they are and what they want, and it's perfect for a story like this and a character like this. He is the Suicune in the title.

I'm sorry I haven't mentioned much of anything else. I also like the way you wrote pokemon and pokemon culture, especially with the Tropius. Your presentation for the routes and city is also on point and I vibe very hard with the slight hints you're throwing at how Meuville is managed in chapter 5, it's a town that doesn't really get showcased a lot in fics so it's interesting to see it get a more in-depth treatment.

The other characters might not get as much focus as Haru, but you still do a great job of highlighting their personalities through their dialogue or body language, especially in the case of Erika, Wei and Maliki.

And well, that's all about me rambling for now. Let's go through some line by lines that I picked out shall we?

Now he had her attention. She looked up from the monitor, her orange bob swinging.

This is a good example of how you use body language to give us an idea about the character, or in this case how the ranger goes from being mostly uninterested to actively engaged.

"Wow, yeah, that's one intense area," she said with a grin. "All those fossils. So what brings you out to this neck of the woods?"

Really good dialogue, it feels very naturally the way she cuts from one topic to the next.

"Let's count on it," she said with a wink.

Haru's a bit of a ladykiller isn't he?

Haru nodded, returned his license to his pocket, and stepped outside. The difference in atmosphere hit him instantly, the filtered air of the station giving way for the moist, heavy murk of Route 119. It was drizzling lightly, so Haru flipped up the hood of his raincoat. Methodically, he checked that his possessions were secure, making sure to place his pokedex in a rainproof case. He'd learned that lesson the hard way, when a sudden downpour had put the device out of commission. These preparations done, he stood still on the path, tasting the mist on his mouth and letting the pounding of his heart calm.

I really like this description because it both paints a good contrast between the atmosphere in the ranger station and the outside on Route 119, as well as give us a good, instant, image of what route 119 is like.

One last journey. One final obligation.

His hand clenched involuntarily around the single pokeball on his belt.

Pretty foreboding, back when I was reading chapter 1 it really made me wonder just what Haru was gonna do and had me at the edge of my seat.

Poaching and dumping are national crimes under the Hoenn Revised Code, Section Eleven, Chapter Five.

Damn, you've got the laws marked down pretty well, or you just picked numbers at random :p

If his parents had any idea what he was contemplating . . . he could see the apoplectic red rising on his father's face and the way his mother's eyes would harden into tight black coals. They hadn't uprooted themselves to Hoenn to see him throw away his future. An internship at the Mirage Desert Station. If he worked hard and kept his head down, they would take him on as a lab technician. After three years, hopefully no more than five, he would begin to conduct his own experiments. One solid breakthrough, one strong paper, and he could lead his own team of researchers. That had always been his dream.

This paragraph is an example of what I said earlier. Haru's deadset on doing things by the books, to grin and bear life and follow what his parents set out for him, even if he doesn't actually want to. The way you paint it here makes it obvious too because it sounds like Haru's just listing things that should happen, not what he wants to happen.

Then Raikou went up to the Heavens, where he dwelled close to the life-bringer;

Entei entered the heart of a great mountain, for he was tired and sought rest;

But Suicune ran along the white caps of the waves and, like unbidden wind, she was free.

These three lines took me by surprise but also draw a really good comparison. Haru goes on to refer to this literally later on in chapter one, but even before he does it's pretty easy to see how the three legendaries are meant to represent the three paths that Haru's pokemon take. Those that go on to battle alongside other trainers or stay with Haru, those that go to the daycare center and Heconilia who just wants to be free to make his choice.

Haru pointed. "Look at how they're grouped in pairs. It's a young herd, entering mating season. The females may already be pregnant."

"Really?" The boy examined the herd with new interest. "Awesome. Maybe I can catch a breeding pair. My buddy Marve pays a mean price for rare eggs."

Wei is an ass, but this scene also shows us that while Haru isn't exactly doing something legal himself, he's not someone that would also discard all rules like Wei. It helps make Haru more complex.

Haru opened his mouth to call out a warning. Then common sense caught up. The boy didn't seem to have realized that the tropius he'd seen by Haru's side and the tropius leading this herd were one and the same. If he gave a command, there would be no hiding the fact that Heconilia was his.

I mean. What I'm about to say is a dick move but couldn't Haru just call out to Heconilia, tell the boy "Yeah she's my tropius, I just wanted her to have time to hang out with other tropius", return her to her pokeball, call it a day and then come back another day?

He stood, hands hanging limply by his side, as Heconilia reared up and unfurled one enormous wing to its full span. The air slash hit the boy squarely across his chest. He took a small step backwards, staggered, and hit the ground.

The rain pounded down like avenging thunder. Haru looked to the dark, roiling sky and back to the boy, sprawled out on the dirt. He didn't stir.

And now, Haru thought blankly. What now?

Yeah Haru, what now?

Haru scooped the insect up in his arms, feeling the fragility of its husk-like body. Hunching to keep off the rain, Haru carried it into the dry cave and placed it on the ground. Sitting down cross-legged, he watched the ninjask flutter its wings, attempting to shake off the accumulated moisture. Haru pulled his portable space heater from his pack and switched it on high. The ninjask chittered questioningly and then crawled closer to the heat.

Haru's such a nice guy :c it's sad that fate constantly throw rocks at him.

How many trainers traveled Route 119 on the off-season with eight badges? How many male trainers, with— Haru didn't think his features were particularly distinctive. He was taller than most. He wore his dark hair long, in popular Johtoan style, but he doubted the boy would have noticed that through his rain slicker. He scrunched his face, mind aching to recall every single detail.

If he left now—

Haru drew in a short breath.

It was dangerous for a person to stay unconscious for very long. If Haru left now, the boy might not wake up.

I mean...yeah it's pretty morbid and technically that would've been the best course of action given the situation. Hell, for all the shit they talk, I'm sure someone like Erika would've done it. But Haru isn't like that.

Now that he was safely indoors, the rain sounded less like a drumbeat and more like an elaborate dance, like the stage shows his grandmother had taken him to see in Ecruteak. She had told him that the dancer's every step and turn held a particular meaning, for someone who knew how to interpret the signs. Maybe the rain was the same way.

Kabuki reference.

He opened his mouth to respond, but the canopy under him had also turned to mist. Cost, the wind whispered, as he plummeted down, down, down . . .

The next morning, when he woke, the window hung ajar. The air that wafted in was cool and dry, like the breath of the North wind.

I guess we'll never know if Suicune was actually there or not.

Haru just nodded. After everything that had happened yesterday, he didn't trust himself to sound normal. Luckily, Erika, who tended to be tactical in these matters, had saved the story of her promotion for the weekly call. Haru was able to listen quietly as Mom oohed and ahhed over every detail. It was easy to let Erika take the center stage —it tended to happen anyway, whether he wanted it to or not. Erika was the oldest, the success story. His parents had named her after the famous Kantonian gym leader who started a multinational perfume company, all ladylike delicacy and hard-headed business acumen. Haru wasn't sure he believed that names shaped destinies—but his parents seemed to have pulled it off with Erika.

Haru had been named at his grandmother's urging. She had wanted at least one traditional name preserved in the family. Her own father had been a Haru, and his father's father. "It may be that a Haru once knelt before Lord Ho-oh himself. So you must always cherish this name and act to bring honor upon everyone who has borne it before you."

A good example of how Haru straddles the line between someone that represents modernity and tradition. Erika is named after someone that's a success, is still alive and thus has achievements that can be backed up by recent news and events. While Haru is named after someone that might've existed but no one really knows.

This fuzziness—this aimless, wild feeling—had to end. He would catch the next ferry out of Lilycove, Haru resolved. That would leave him a full week to devote to apartment hunting.

The call was drawing to a natural close, like a receding tide. Haru felt he had to make amends. "I should have time to make a stop at the Lilycove shopping center," he said. "Is there anything you want?"

Mother wanted her Ecruteak teas. Erika wanted some complicated battery pack from Unova. "They're the best value for money and of course they're impossible to get here, what with how Devon locks down the market—sorry, Mother, but you know it's true. You should be able to find them on the basement floor. Ask for the Zeno Mark VII pack, okay?"

And here we have an example of how Haru lets himself get taken along by his family's ryhtmn.

Did ninjask even understand the concept of death?

Deep, but makes sense. Though wouldn't a ninjask know that ninjask do eventually die?

Piloting on automatic, he took the elevator up and turned left, into 10ib Pack, the best value-for-money training goods store in Hoenn. Nothing there was high-end, but it all worked reliably, a cut above the goods sold by street vendors, and far less expensive than league-sanctioned pokemarts. Entering, Haru had to step quickly to the side to avoid a girl racing by with her combusken. He stood still for a moment, thrown. What was he doing here? He had no training supplies to buy. He wasn't a trainer anymore.

Yeah Haru, you totally don't want to be a trainer anymore...I believe you (not)

Anyone who talked about the prosperity of Mauville City should spend some more time down here, Haru thought, averting his eyes as he passed a man defecating on the street.

Yikes, Didn't think Mauville was so bad.

Haru's mind jumped to his bank account. That was less than half of what the apartment complex charged. His stipend could cover it easily—he could probably manage out of pocket for a couple of months, even if the payment came late.

#beentheredone that. It's always *fun* when you have to wonder if you'll be able to last the first couple months in a new place.

It had been a long time since Haru had needed to endear himself to anyone that way. For the last five years, his only company had been his pokemon. Other people were incidental, passed on the road, spoken to only on those long nights at the pokecenter when the storms shorted out all power. Haru had never needed to live with them or prove that he was someone worth living with.

Socializing is the real hardest trial of all.

Erika had told him he'd have to get used to pleasing other people—career advancement was a delicate balance between hard work, skill, and sucking up, she'd said. Which all sounded hideous. But Haru didn't mind the idea of proving himself to Maliki. Her impeccable hospitality demanded reciprocation.

I agree with Haru. I also alway shave trouble with the idea of faking and trying to have that delicate balance, even if you have to lie to others and yourself to do so. It proves that at the end of the day Haru values his own moral code and living life his way.

At last he got to his feet, stowing the illegal pokeball in his bag. He regretted the expense now, but there was nothing to be done about it. Whatever he'd said, Haru didn't plan to be back.

This Atalanta's debt could expire in peace.

I don't know Haru, based on your track record...I don't think this is the last you'll see of her. Also you've dumped two pokemon now man.


He should just open it. It would be something normal, it would be something fine, and if his heart would just stop pounding

Haru's hand closed around the jar of sleep spore. The bottle was already beginning to look empty at the top. He'd been using it too frequently these last few sleepless weeks. If anyone knew, they would have told him to stop. The consequences of medicating with the pokemon powders were still largely unknown.

Screwing the bottle open, Haru scooped up a generous dollop of sleep spore and smeared it over his eyes. The effect was instantaneous. With a light clatter, the poke-nav tumbled from his limp hand. Haru sank down into his futon, letting the artificial sleep wipe his mind clean.

WHAT DID IT SAY? I MUST KNOW DON'T LEAVE ME LIKE THIS!!!

And well, that's all I have to say...I think, I'm sure I'm probably forgetting something. Either way I really enjoyed reading this, it's a very well written fic and one that'll surely give me even more to talk about as it goes on.
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
Back for chapter 5! I'm surprised to see that only 5 chapters are up, as I recall seeing 8 or 9 on FFN? Eh, it's no big deal, I'm sure you'll get around to cross-posting eventually :)


Most of the kids in his cohort had dropped off from training after a few years—the remaining trainers had been focused on making it as pros, rocketing from tournament to tournament, and conversation with them was limited to discussion of the latest protein shake blends.

This is a rather depressing tidbit, honestly. Haru doesn't really strike me as an outgoing or social type to begin with, but these sentences confirm my suspicion that he was only half-heartedly into the whole training aspect in the first place. Not in terms of being with pokemon, necessarily - it's obvious that Haru took good care of his team, that he cared about them, and made sure to know enough about each species to meet their specific needs. But he wasn't in it for glory or to go pro, so why bother with acquiring all eight badges? He's in a weird in-between spot, a no-man's land between a casual trainer and a trainer pursuing it as a professional career. What led him to take this path, I wonder? And why go through all the trouble to get eight badges (and spend five years training!) if he was just going to quit and give up his team? Lots of questions here.


. After two hours readjusting his pillow and covers, he gave up and sent himself to sleep with the spore he'd collected from Aporea before dropping her off.

Hmm yes, self medicating with Pokemon remedies, very responsible, I'm sure nothing harmful will come of this. Nope, not at all. He and Wes could be friends for sure. Lol

The area had a reputation, but Haru did have a pokemon on him, if it came to that. He stowed Atalanta's pokeball in his jacket pocket and took the screechy lift down.

Haru...you have a pokemon THAT ISN'T EVEN YOURS, in an ILLEGAL POKEBALL, what will happen if it DOES come to that? THINK ABOUT THIS, BRO, I'm begging you!

The contrast was obvious from the moment he stepped out into the streets. The pavement was smeared with oil and dirt, and tents lined the avenue. People were arrayed on the sidewalk—some sitting on crates, others sprawled out on dirty piles of bedding. A few eyes followed Haru as he made his way down the street, unfocused and apathetic. One man approached Haru to ask for money in a hoarse, quiet voice. When Haru shook his head no, the man went back to sitting on his torn quilt without another word. Haru found himself speeding up, though not out of fear. The place seemed more depressing than dangerous.

Really effective scene setting here. I can very vividly picture both the appearance and atmosphere of this place. And...it's sad how true to life this is. A prosperous city that tries to pretend its slums and poor/needy don't exist? Certainly not in our world, nope! *sad sounds*

Shrines were crammed together along the sides of the room. Haru could make out the rainbow feather of Ho-oh, the double helix strand of Mew, and icons of other gods he didn't recognize.

The use of the word "icon" throws me off here, and it threw me off in a previous chapter when he bought the Suicune icon. What IS an icon? Is it a carving of some sort? I'm probably just ignorant and don't know the meaning of the word itself, but it does take me out of the story a bit because I'm having a hard time picturing what these particular items are.

A temple. It had been a long time since Haru had been inside one.

The fact that the temple is hidden in the slums, rather than out in the open for everyone to see and visit, seems to say a lot about Mauville's priorities - and, perhaps, Hoenn in general.

He picked his way forward slowly, trying not to trip on the wayward corners of prayer mats, over to the emblem of the rainbow feather and bent to examine the shrine beneath it. The candles were stubs, but they were braided from red, green and white wax. At the center of the shrine a greening copper plate held a sweet-smelling loaf, its crust glazed gold from brushed egg. Haru sniffed the cup to its left and felt his nostrils flare at the powerful, vinegary smell of fermented rice-wine. Something unclenched in his chest. The shrine wasn't beautiful or costly, but it was correct. It was respectful, for all its poverty.

Prostrating himself on the prayer mat, Haru began to work through the traditional blessings. He gave thanks for bread and wine, for sunlight and water. He thanked the evening for ending and the darkness for passing. Halfway through, Haru realized that he had defaulted to the longer version, the priest's version that Grandmother used to insist on.

Such rich, beautiful details here! I'm very curious as to what cultures and religions you gathered inspiration from for scenes like this. The rice-wine sounds very Japanese to me (and a lot of what you've mentioned about Johto also seems to have a lot of Japanese parallels), but I don't know enought to be certain of that.


It all sounded so loose, Haru thought, as he ducked back out onto the street. He'd secured a room, but there had been no paperwork, no key, no money exchanging hands. Mother would be shocked if he told her he'd leased a room without seeing a contract first. But, Haru figured, promises made in a prayer room were probably as good as oaths.

Yet another eloquently written statement that sharply contrasts Haru's thoughts and feelings with those of his family. Brilliant.

At last he got to his feet, stowing the illegal pokeball in his bag. He regretted the expense now, but there was nothing to be done about it. Whatever he'd said, Haru didn't plan to be back.

This Atalanta's debt could expire in peace.

HMMM, press X to doubt. Something tells me Atalanta may be reappearing at some point, though I could be wrong!

Haru's hand closed around the jar of sleep spore. The bottle was already beginning to look empty at the top. He'd been using it too frequently these last few sleepless weeks. If anyone knew, they would have told him to stop. The consequences of medicating with the pokemon powders were still largely unknown.

Screwing the bottle open, Haru scooped up a generous dollop of sleep spore and smeared it over his eyes. The effect was instantaneous. With a light clatter, the poke-nav tumbled from his limp hand. Haru sank down into his futon, letting the artificial sleep wipe his mind clean.

Ah yes, more self-medicating, once again I'm suuuuure there will be no repercussions from this. xD
 
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