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Pokémon The Suicune's Choice

kyeugh

onion witch
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
3. the flight

i think think the throughline of this fic (or what you've written of it so far, at least) is small bad choices compounding on small bad choices, and this is the chapter where i began to become aware of that. just one small choice here—"sure, the ninjask can stay outside its ball, what's the harm¨—ends up causing quite a lot of pain and stress for haru, and generates numerous additional bad choices down the road! :D the way you build up tension through this snowball effect is really well-done.

lots of nice physical and sensory detail in this chapter. the taste of his snack, the feeling of the rain, his pain while running—all very vivid descriptions that really pulled me in. the fortree station gives me kind of a gift shop/café vibe.

we don't really learn wei's fate in this chapter, just that there are indeed people out to come rescue him... i have a feeling it won't be so simply as dumping his nav and never crossing paths with him again, but i suppose we'll see. i'm sure he'll want his ninjask back, and iirc it's said earlier that heconilia is chipped and that the chip can be traced back to haru, so maybe that particular bit of worldbuilding will become relevant again later, too...

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.
oof, jeez. seems like it was really irresponsible to send it out in the rain at all. it's sad that there don't seem to be any barriers to trainers doing things like that to their pokémon—i wonder if he would have been reprimanded when he brought the ninjask to the pokémon center?

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

She smelled like the rain forest.
rainforest is one word, right?

He smiled, though the contortion felt tight and strange.
it took me a second pass to realize the contortion was the smile.

Time felt viscous, like something he was moving through.
excellent description of a very particular feeling.

"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.
oof. this didn't feel like it mattered that much the first time i read it, but looking back on it now...

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.
hey, not a bad pace! i like the comparison of the cramp to a razor.

I should …I should really get rid of that.
this ellipsis seems misplaced.

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.
god, that sure is a mood. gotta love afternoon showers.

The rain dropped off after a few minutes of walking; Route 119's micro-climate was extremely localized.
love this. very in-character observation to make.
A plaintive cry from his pack made him sit up. He had completely forgotten about the ninjask.
lol, oops. cronch.

An anonymous grinning face, bent over a nest. The image followed him as he sank back into bed.
i wasn't sure if this was supposed to refer to something in particular. someone about to steal eggs, perhaps?

The air that wafted in was cool and dry, like the breath of the North wind.
woof. strong closer.

---

4. the waypoint

more bad choices! :D jailbroken poké balls are a fun idea. i usually see stuff like that in relation to team rocket or similar criminal contexts, so i found this more down-to-earth take refreshing. committing a little crime to help cover up another little crime that was the result of another little crime... it's very anxiety-inducing but very realistic.

it's interesting that the guy selling the ball just happens to be the same guy wei was in contact with. i strongly doubt that was a throwaway detail, so i imagine he'll come up again, which... doesn't really bode well. just stay out of trouble haru!! i will say that i wasn't really sure what the point of the bar scene was. why did haru bother showing up? i got the impression that he asked marve whether he deals with eggs just to confirm that he was indeed the marve haru was already aware of... is it even practical for him to get into the illicit egg trade? was he seriously considering that? so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that he actually showed up to the bar. when he ultimately left before anything of consequence occurred, i mostly just found myself confused.

i thought the family video call was fun. family gets left out of stories all too often, and the personalities of his family in particular—a stern mother with high expectations, a highly accomplished sister, a busy and potentially absent father—will bounce nicely off the drama generated by haru's questionable decision-making abilities. i suspect there'll be a fair bit more lying to come. erika's request was oddly specific, so i expect that'll become relevant again too... guess we'll see!

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."
really love this detail. i always enjoy seeing what names are common/repeated in a setting, and why. asoiaf comes to mind.

"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."
hmmm. why didn't he actually do this? if the ranger habitat places tropius in their "native habitats," doesn't that just mean they would've done the same thing haru just did but legally?

"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.
ouch. so real, i've had more than a few conversations like this with my parents, lol. love his sense of disappointment in his self.

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?"
hmmm...! wonder what she wants that for.

Some act of terrorism over in Johto.
damn, that's kind of heavy. i wonder what might motivate a terrorist in the pokémon world.

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.
oop, there's that microchip i brought up earlier. will he ever be able to take it to a pokémon center?

The man smirked. "What do you mean? These are free." He emphasized the last word strangely.
i found "free" a bit of an odd term to roll with here, especially since it's brought up in proximity to discussions of price so frequently here. definitely confused me a few times.

A small bowl of rice and a cup of sencha brewed in his single-serve teapot were all he felt he could hold down.
small and maybe mundane thing but i like that he's drinking the sencha that he drank earlier—it's just such a little trivial detail that really makes things feel cohesive and real.
Hoenese, with his black hair jelled into stiff spikes. He was wearing an electric-blue trenchcoat made from some shiny vinyl material.
that's a pretty ostentatious appearance for a guy ostensibly trying to stay unnoticed. reverse psychology, perhaps? also, i think you dropped an "n" in "hoennese?"

Haru followed him slowly, feeling as if he had stumbled into a bad dream.
love this. i often have this very same feeling in spaces like that.

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 . . .
really fun bit of worldbuilding here. this thread's masterpost says this story is about haru having a religious revelation—i hope that means more neat little stories like this! they're highlights of the fic for me so far.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Alright, beeg review time! Finally got caught up on this!!! Alright so you already know I love your prose. The way you weave worldbuilding and character and detail into sentences is awesome. Let's go into my chapter breakdowns.

Chapter 2

Alrighty so this was such a sad but tense chapter. Haru has to let go of his Tropius. You paint fantastic imagery here of the rain, mud and rainforest. I can really feel the environment. You've also painted solid reasonings of why Haru feels compelled to do this. I relate to him so strongly, I'd no doubt do the exact same thing in his place. DOWN WITH BUREACRACY. Poor Heconilia, she deserves to be free. I see no other reasonable options.

Then going into that annoying boy. I hate him. Given how your world takes into account heavy themes of pokemon ecology and conservation, I despise people like him. I've always had a soft spot for animals and their proper care and habitat. You do a good job showing the disparity between people like Haru and people like that dumb boy who think its all fun and games like... bro these beings are supposed to be your partners and friends. I love the way you don't directly tell the audience that Ninjask shouldn't be in the rain, but you let it come from character background and interactions. Haru cares about this topic and is knowledgeable, so it makes complete sense that he would make these observations.

And then things just escalate from there. The silly boy won't leave, the fight happens, and Haru can't say anything without giving himself away.

You've really carefully plotted out this sequence of events that feels like increasingly impossible circumstances. I'll give line by lines now.


After two hours of slow, uneasy travel, Heconilia lifted her head and let loose a joyful trill. Haru squelched to a stop.
For some reason, I've been reading this for days but only just now saw that her name is Heconilia. For some dumb reason I kept reading it as Heconcilia?? I don't know why.

Also loved the little things, like 'Haru squelched to a stop'

Haru closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the sleek, springy surface of her neck.
This is such a lovely image. If I could draw, I would draw this picture. Loved the way you described the feel of her neck.

injecting his voice with cheer
Describing this as 'injecting' his voice with cheer is absolutely stunning prose.

scaredy-skitty
MMMM love those pokemon phrasings/allegories/etc

Plus, I heard the fruit's super tasty. Nothing like having an on-call snack machine, I figure
EXCUSE ME???? My gosh I'd slap this kid if I could. Thats just... so rude??? a snack machine bro??? wth???

I really want to punch this dumb boy. Also, great word choice to reveal/enhance/hammer down on character.

Shadowsmith
This sounds like exactly the kind of name an arrogant brat child would choose in this world. Like some 12 year old playing fortnite, smh.

And now, Haru thought blankly. What now?
This line is great, great way to end. Also, its fascinating to me because it shows some intriguing things.
1. Haru must know that the attack wouldn't kill the boy. I assume? It shows that pokemon attacks presumably aren't necessarily fatal to humans.
2. It reveals Haru's character. For whatever reasons, the way this sentence and the previous are coupled together, make it feel a little like Haru isn't particularly concerned with the boys safety. He almost comes off as cold? or perhaps uncaring or apathetic. Not completely so, of course. He does save the boy after all. But its very interesting. Revealing.


Chapter 3

Boy howdy! So things just keep escalating. Haru's hole seems to be steadily getting deeper and deeper. Now the boy is in trouble, his Ninjask is miserable, and the dumb brat will no doubt cause more problems. Another impossible situation. It really reveals Haru's character more to see what he chooses to do. He won't leave the boy, because he could get hurt. So He HAS to use the beacon. Yet he can't be found either so he goes on the run.

Except darn it. Ninjask has now seemingly imprinted on him. He can't get rid of it, and it doesn't want to leave. And Haru's on a time crunch. But what will happen when the rangers find the brat and he wakes to find 'Stinger' missing. I loved the later bits too, like the way he tries to understand Ninjask, and starts to sort of 'bond' with it.

Again, the lovely weaving of world details with personal character observations is great.

Some line by line observation and thoughts.

Recalling it into the pokeball now, the damp would fester, damaging the delicate tissue of its wings permanently.
This is a curious statement. So it seems pokeballs in your world don't use stasis tech? That would explain how poison in the games continues to sap their strength. Very interesting way to weave this detail in, too.
Makes me sad to wonder what would have happened if Haru hadn't come along...

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.
Nice prose, describing the rain as something seemingly endless.

He smiled, though the contortion felt tight and strange.
I really liked the choice of the word 'contortion' here, as it lends to the picture of something being forced.

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.
The way he observes this makes me think Haru sees saving him as a duty, not out of some direct emotional desire to be 'good'. Which is a really interesting characterization. He does whats right, even though he doesn't necessarily feel 'inclined' to help someone as bratty as the boy. At least, that's how it comes off to me. Actions speak louder than words as they say, so Haru seems determined to live by his own beliefs. (Which I agree with.)

When he paused at last to catch his breath, it had been twelve minutes. According to his nav, he had traveled 1.2 miles.
This is intriguing. Haru must be sort of in shape, given that he manages to clear a mile and change in only 12 minutes. At first I thought he ran the mile way too fast, but then I realized he's right, its just about average, maybe a little above. Good way of using a physical detail to tell us about Haru's character.

"You're hungry, aren't you?"
I loved how he slowly came to this realization, nice look at internal thoughts.

"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."
I loved how you wove Haru's personal knowledge of myth and legends into the story. A nice name.

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.
UGH how do u do it? Good prose again.

Haru doubted he would need his sleeping spore tonight.
This line really intrigues me. I wonder why Haru has such trouble sleeping. What ails him? He clearly has been using this sleep spore for awhile, which may or may not be healthy(?). I can't wait to unravel more of his character. Does he over stress himself and can't sleep? Worry he filled out a form wrong, lol?

The air that wafted in was cool and dry, like the breath of the North wind.
Nice ending line.


Chapter 4

So this chapter revealed more of Haru's family dynamic. We see some points touched on earlier expanded. And then we see Haru's hole get even deeper. He has to get the pokeball because its the easiest way to travel but then, of COURSE who shows up but Marve?

This story has a nice, slow-burn type thing, but it's far from boring. Something new is always being revealed or happening in each moment and scene. You have a really great way of weaving character into scene into occurrence into world and it comes together beautifully.


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.
Man I love the idea of a family naming a kid after someone famous, like a gym leader. I wonder how many Lance's or Brock's there are in the world... hm

Haru privately called it the "Oh, Haru" glance. It had been cropping up with increasing regularity in the past year.
Strong showing of their family dynamic. I could really picture this in my head. I imagine its frustrating, to have your family look at you like that a lot, but he's used to it by now.

"In eight days." He was answering on automatic now, falling into the familiar rhyme of interrogation.
I know this feel. Same questions, over and over. You gotta wonder, do his family even remember stuff? Do they know how to make conversation about something else?

Some act of terrorism over in Johto.
TR reference maybe?

The import-tea store was where he remembered it, tucked in a rare quiet side-corner.
I really enjoyed these little descriptions of things like the tea shop. Everything feels like it has so much personality.

If you ever need anything else, just ask around for Marve."
I knew it. I really love when seemingly innocuous details from previous parts play a key role. I have a feeling this won't be the last time, either.

Sake in a can missed the whole point.
Another tasty little observation. Things just taste better in certain containers. Relatable.

As if there was nothing behind him—nothing at all.
I really love your chapter enders. very stylish.

Chapter 5

I think I've covered my feelings about your lovely prose. You build visual details great. I really enjoy Haru as a character. straight to line by lines this time.


Mother was right—Mauville City was ridiculously expensive.
Ah, the struggles of city life.

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.
I love the little asides like this, mentioning how the ones obsessed with "going pro" tend to one track minded.

A temple. It had been a long time since Haru had been inside one.
The description of the temple was fantastic. I love how you show the cultural differences between regions. The way Johto seems very classic and old school, while places like Unova feel very 'forward' and Hoenn seems occasionally inbetween.

"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."
Goodbye Atlanta. Yet I somehow have a feeling she might be back. I loved the way her name and the history behind it tied into Haru's understanding and words he says to her.

She argues that the work, generally considered harmless, leaves these pokemon with long-term damage.
D: Poor things. I have feeling this is true too. Are all pokemon working at an electric plant disdavtnaged?

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."
This makes me wonder then. Are there safe, effective, and pleasant ways for pokemon to work at an electric plant? Is Mauville Plant doing it badly? Maybe there's better ways to extract or draw out the electricity, but less easy? Usually, these things happen because some bigwig wants a shortcut. Knowing the fact that this is mentioned at all leads me to believe the story will come back to this issue. I hope so! I can't wait to learn more.

He wrapped them carefully and stowed them in the fridge for tomorrow evening.
The first thought in my head when I read this was 'They won't be there'. We'll see I guess...

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.
*Squints* What are you up to Haru? Why do you feel the need to use it? Is it really safe?

Haru sank down into his futon, letting the artificial sleep wipe his mind clean.
Another great ending line.


Overally, finally caught up! Fantastic story so far. A touch removed from my usual flavor, seeing such a strong focus on politics, ecology and history and such. Yet a very interesting one. As I've said before, you do a great job of showing all these details thought the lens of the viewpoint character. You've set up a lot of intriguing plot elements. Marve, the place Haru is going to work, the Mauville plant, Wei, and Atalanta. I really can't wait to see how these things will intersect and come together.

Keep up the good work!
 

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
Starlight is feeling particularly star bright and is going to review the latest chapter tonight.

Delighted to have you two nature nerds reading along!
How dare you call me a nerd

Oh, I'm not familiar with that one?
Essentially one of the characters has a Japanese dad and a French mom and (I don't remember why) ends up living with only his dad in Japan and I think his mom's family didn't like his dad's or something. Actually I think he was an illegitimate child. I'll have to revisit it to remember.

Hah, Haru doesn't actually know anyone in this field, so he may be overly optimistic!
If he doesn't know anyone in the field, it's interesting to think of his prospects for getting a job or how he would have found himself in that field anyway. Pretty much everyone I know working in science has connections--it tends to be a close-knit group of people forming communities.

You try making better time in a slippery rain forest!
Girl I LIVE in a slippery rainforest!

Like Haru, they've got both. The route doesn't tend to be windy except in major storms.
It just strikes me as odd since umbrellas aren't at all the thing outdoorsy people tend to carry, as far as I know/have seen. I've never seen the point in carrying both, but perhaps it's just what I've been exposed to or where I've lived :V

Chapter 5
Mother was right—Mauville City was ridiculously expensive.
*Cries in adulthood*

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.
Private?! Dude, get a roommate! Then everything becomes affordable.

The price-tag, though, for that modest, dark little room . . . Haru doubted his research stipend would stretch that far.
Trying to live off a biological research stipend without a roommate? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

He didn't know anyone in Mauville nearly well enough to suggest rooming together
I understand wanting to know someone before you room with them, but you gotta do what you gotta do and sometimes getting to know someone first is a luxury you just can't afford.

I'm feeling less and less sympathetic for him. At some point, he's gotta just suck it up and go with it.

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.
1. I tend to try to sleep for 3-4 hours before giving up and getting out of bed
2. I've struggled a lot with sleep in the past and have thought so many times about how I wish I could have a Pokemon sing/spore me to sleep XD

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.
All too true.

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
I just learned a new word! :D

The prayer for the dead came last
Did you take this from any particular religion, or do you know if it expands across multiple religions? Because we have something called Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office, and the two "hinge" or main hours are Morning and Evening Prayer. Both come with a set of Intercessions, and the final intercession for Evening Prayer is always one for the dead. So I thought this bit was neat!

Where do you base the Sevii Islands off of, if Johto is Japan and Hoenn is China?

But none of it came out. Instead, Haru said, "I'll take it."
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO that is asking for so much trouble!

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.
Interesting to see ramen instead of mian in China-based Hoenn :P

Painting his eyelids with sleep spore, Haru sank into deep, dreamless sleep.
If the kid keeps doing this, he's going to be unable to sleep without sleep spore at some point.

What society would put such care into creating beauty here, when there was such obvious ugliness and need only a short walk away?
Definitely a good question to ask, and one that demands a full conversation and a look at the society itself instead of just a few simple answers! I hope he gets to talk with someone about this.

This Atalanta's debt could expire in peace.
Hahahahahaha right

Doctor Bai Qian,
I'd be interested in seeing the hanzi for this name 👀

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.
I have read too many news articles that take scientific papers wildly out of context and incorrectly interpret them to take this one at its word. Find the paper, Haru! Look at the background, Methods, Results and Discussion yourself!

Try as he might, Haru couldn't find the full study
Probably one of those services that you need to pay for :/

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.
But what about the methods and statistical power involved? You gotta ask the important questions, Haru!

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.
*shudders* Using drugs anything artificial to induce sleep always creeped me out.

This was an interesting little chapter! Haru made a new friend and found a place and (apparently) released Atalanta! Sounds like he's certainly making gud decishuns that will not in any way shape or form land him into more trouble, nope nope nope. Not too many thoughts that I haven't aleady said, though anything to do with science is going to be subject to controversy because science isn't set in stone. Once again: gud fic plz update kthnx bye.
 
Chapter Six - The Awakening

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Chapter Six - The Awakening

The egg sizzled gently in the pan. Haru watched with drowsy eyes as the yolky mixture slowly firmed. He slid his spatula under and rolled it over. Sizzle. Roll. Repeat. Making tamagoyaki was soothing. Grandmother had made it whenever the weather turned rainy. She'd plop the yellow roll down on his plate, warm from the pan, and then he'd have to spend the next ten minutes cajoling her until the omelette was evenly split between them.

Haru seemed to have the kitchen all to himself this morning. It was past nine, and the others were probably off at work. Too bad. He had hoped to return Maliki's favor by making her some breakfast. Like he used to tell Grandmother, the sweet egg omelette was a little big for one.

Haru had never been much for constant conversation, but something about the emptiness of the kitchen suddenly struck him as unbearable. Even Atalanta's frenetic buzzing would have at least filled up the silence.

It would be good to see Damascus again. Spurred on by that thought, Haru showered and dressed. A half-hour later found him walking briskly up the dirt road towards the Mirage Desert laboratory. Haru knew he was getting close when his mouth dried out and his eyes began to sting. The arid weather here was definitely going to take getting used to.

The lab had a modern design, all white curves and wide glass windows. Haru wondered how expensive the upkeep was, what with the fierce desert winds and continual dust storms. Finding the door locked, Haru pressed the buzzer. Once. Twice. No answer. Just as he was holding it down for the third time, a gruff voice crackled, "Deliveries go round the back."

Haru cleared his throat. "Not a delivery, sir. My name's Haru Watanabe? I'm starting as an intern here on Monday. My cradily's already arrived and I heard it would be possible for me to check in on her briefly today."

Haru waited, shifting his weight from foot to foot as the intercom voice digested this. If they had been in person, he would have punctuated his introduction with a formal bow.

"Watanabe?" the voice finally rumbled. "Ah, yes."

Haru pushed when the door gave a buzz. The long entry hall was flanked by two alcoves crammed with hangers of protective suits and more everyday clothing stuffed in the back. The floor was coated with fine sand. Further in, Haru found a wide lobby, with a broad window that looked out on Mirage Desert. The day was calm and bright, and the desert seemed deceptively still, the flat, dark yellow sands stretching as far as the eye could see. But Haru knew that rock formations, pits, and crumbling towers lay out there as well, obscured for now by a trick of dust and light.

"A marvel, isn't it."

Haru jumped at the voice. He turned to find an older man—Galarian features, bushy orange mustache and balding hair—had come up behind him. The man stuck out his hand.

"Doctor Ogletree, head researcher."

Haru took the proffered hand uncertainly. Up and down they went, twice, before he was released. The doctor's grip was firm and slightly sweaty.

"Lab's empty today," he continued. "Everyone's out on expedition. Would have joined, but my damned lungs are acting up again. Follow me—"

Haru trailed after him, down a long corridor. The doors on either side were shut and the doctor was walking too quickly for Haru to read the nameplates.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Doctor. I enjoy your work," Haru added half-way down the corridor—extremely belatedly, he realized. He felt slow this morning, like he hadn't fully woken up.

The doctor glanced briefly back at him. "You're familiar with the despeciation problem, then?"

It sounded like a test. Luckily, Haru had never had a problem with those, even half-asleep. "Yes, Doctor. Simply put, Hoenn is growing less diverse on the level of species. It's not just that some species are on the verge of extinction, but that the rate of their long-term evolution seems to be slowing."

"Correct," the doctor said gruffly. "Now, how does one go about studying such a long-term phenomenon, when our own scientific records run back only a scant few centuries?" Doctor Ogletree plowed on before Haru could attempt an answer. The question had clearly been rhetorical.

"I study baltoy and claydol. The most fascinating pokemon, from a purely anthropological perspective. Uniquely, we have cave drawings of baltoy and claydol stretching back a millenia. And if you showed a child those drawings, and then showed them a modern baltoy, the kind you might encounter anywhere out there in the desert, they wouldn't hesitate to tell you these pokemon are one and the same. They have hardly altered at all across the many centuries. If we can understand the baltoy—the role they played in ancient civilizations, why they didn't evolve over time—we may find the answers to the national downturn in evolution patterns. Or as some call it, the despeciation problem. Is it normal variance, on a time scale greater than we have the current means to track, or a product of human action? This is by no means a simple question—as it is sometimes portrayed in the popular media. But what answers we can find will begin with the ancient, unchanged patterns of the baltoy."

Doctor Ogletree paused to draw in a breath. He'd halted in the middle of the corridor to deliver his impromptu speech. Clearing his throat, he resumed walking. A few minutes later, the corridor dead-ended at a thick door with a circular observation window.

"The Terrarium," Doctor Ogletree announced.

Stepping inside, Haru was hit at once by a rush of hot, dry air. He was standing in an enormous, high-roofed room. The walls on two sides and the ceiling itself were constructed out of glass, amplifying the heat of the mid-morning sun. The ground was all sand dune, interspersed here and there with patches of flowering succulents and prickly pear. Rock formations lay scattered across the sands, and in the distance light glinted off a small oasis. Looking closer, Haru spotted the telltale signs of trapinch digs and caught the buzz of vibrava somewhere out of sight. Several sandshrew were sunbathing on the closest slab of rock, seeming content to ignore the intrusion.

"The cradily keep close to the oasis," Doctor Ogletree said. He made his way laboriously through the sand. Haru followed, stopping occasionally to stare at a particularly intricate succulent, or the red flash of a baltoy spinning by. He couldn't begin to imagine the cost of maintaining such an impressive space. Safe to say, this research center was well-funded. He wouldn't have to worry about his stipend being delayed.

A few lileep peeped up their heads as they neared the oasis.

"Damascus?" Haru called out. A high whine sounded from behind a thick outgrowth of cacti. An instant later, a familiar green head poked out.

Haru smiled as the pokemon inched closer, reaching out to feel his face with one sensitive pink tendril. Satisfied by whatever information the examination had conveyed, Damascus let out another whine, this one pleased.

Damascus herself wasn't a fossil resurrection. She'd come from a breeding colony, a decades long attempt to build back up the lileep and cradily population in the Mirage Desert. Species restoration was very trendy these days, in popular media as well as the scientific world—restoring Hoenn's ancient glory, people said. As the colony stabilized and became more well-known, they'd announced a fellowship-contest—a few lucky trainers would be selected to travel with a lileep, logging its daily habits and growth. When he'd caught wind of that, Haru had thrown up training for his gym battle and spent the rest of the week locked in his cramped pokecenter room, laboring over his essay submission. The work had paid off: he'd been one of only seven trainers chosen. The months that had followed, diligently logging his lileep's diet, emotive responses and battling progress were the first time he'd seriously considered a career in research. And the fellowship was probably what had made the difference for him in landing this internship.

"How're things treating you here, Damascus?" Haru asked softly. Her tendrils retracted and widened, a sign of contentment. One reached out to trail questioningly up his face. And you?

Haru swallowed, staring down at the yellow swirls on the cradily's face. They weren't actually eyes, only their simulacrum. Cradily lived in a world of sound vibrations and touch sense. So she felt the tension in his jaw as he struggled to form an answer. Damascus, with her solemn way of listening, would have made the perfect confidant. But Professor Ogletree was standing just meters away, observing their interaction. Haru couldn't say anything that was on his mind.

"I'm good," he said aloud, for the professor's benefit. Even if she recognized the sound-patterns, Damascus was unlikely to believe him. "After all, I'm here. Do you miss battling, Damascus?"

The cradily considered this, her tendril wavering. At last she raised her right tendrils up and lowered her left tendrils down. Haru huffed a low laugh, recognizing Damascus' imitation of a human shrug.

"Take it or leave it, huh? Same for me."

Damascus extended a second set of tendrils to roam his body. Haru knew she was checking him for injury, attempting to locate the root of his distress. He hoped Doctor Ogletree knew less about the behavior patterns of cradily than he did about baltoy.

"This terrarium is amazing," Haru said to the head researcher, before he could comment on Damascus' actions. "How many cradily are here?"

"Just yours at the moment. They're a tad large for the space. When the lileep evolve we send them out to the colony."

"Would you like to go to the colony?" Haru asked Damascus. "Maybe you could find a mate there, just like—"

Heconilia. He clamped his mouth shut before the word could escape. Heconilia wasn't supposed to have a mate.

The silence hung awkwardly. Damascus' tendrils were now latched on to each of Haru's pulse points.

"How big is the colony now?" Haru pressed on desperately, turning back to Doctor Ogletree, who shrugged.

"Big and growing bigger. That's Bingqing's project, though, you'd have to ask her. Very admirable, I'm sure, and of course, the physiological knowledge can't hurt, but for anyone with an interest in social conditions the setup is completely untenable. Far too many external factors." He huffed in a breath, clearly irritated at the thought. "There, you've seen your cradily now. I do have work to do, I'm afraid—can't babysit all day."

Haru fought back a rush of indignation at the word 'babysit.' This man was the head of research, possibly the most important person in the entire station. He probably wasn't accustomed to spending his time with interns. And though Haru considered himself a careful person, he hadn't had a lab orientation yet. He could see why the doctor didn't want to risk him wandering alone, near all the expensive equipment.

"Of course, Doctor, thank you for your time," Haru said. He gently unlatched Damascus' tendrils from his body, wincing at the cradily's confused whine. "I'll see you again soon, Damascus."


.

Evening found Haru sitting awkwardly on a lumpy pillow. When Maliki had mentioned a Friday night dinner, he'd pictured something intimate—the housemates squeezed around a table, getting to know each other.

Instead, Maliki had led him down from the kitchen to the shrine room, where a long table was groaning with a mismatched assortment of food. Haru had quietly set down the plum-stuffed onigiri he'd made on one end. There were at least twenty people gathered in the room, of all ages and nationalities. Some had drawn into clusters, laughing loudly together as they ate. Others, like Haru, kept their distance. They sat around the room, withdrawn and silent, as if they were waiting for something.

Haru found out what when Maliki and a few others dragged some prayer mats together at the center of the room to fashion a makeshift stage. The conversation fell off as Maliki stepped up, a microphone in her hand.

"Thanks everyone, for making it out here." The microphone gave her voice a low, resonant quality. "For taking that time. I know it's not much, but I think it's really important to get together like this, where we can meet eyes like human beings, and hear each other speak from the heart. I hope to hear from everyone tonight, but I'll start us off, if that's all right with folks."

An unorganized murmur of assent rose from the crowd.

"My name's Maliki. When I was just a little thing, my mam and pap took me out to the edge of our lands. And together we laid down a bowl of milk, fresh from the udder. 'That's for Mew,' my mam said, so I asked her, 'What's Mew?' 'Mew's the one we all come from,' Mam said. So I say, 'Mam, if Mew made us all, why does she need our milk? Can't she make milk of her own?' 'And my mam laughed and said, 'My heart, of course Mew doesn't need our milk. It's us who needs to give it.'

Maliki paused for a moment, letting her words soak in. The crowd had come to a complete hush. Haru found himself leaning forward to catch every softly spoken word.

"Yes, it's us who needs to give it. We need to remember this land we till is Mew's and so's the land of our neighbor. She made it grow first and we must rise and we must sleep with that gratitude every day. You gotta live in gratitude, Sweetheart."

The audience nodded their agreement. "Gratitude!" shouted a craggy-faced man in the front.

Haru shivered. Gratitude, he thought, suddenly cold.

Grandmother had passed a few months after they left Johto. Pneumonia, he'd overheard, come on suddenly from a cold left untended. It has been clear to Haru, even at the age of nine, who should have been there to tend her.

They hadn't gone home for the funeral. The timing was just impossible, his father had said, with the company retreat coming up. If they didn't show their faces, they would be marked forever outsiders in this new firm. Grandmother would understand, Father added. She had wanted success for her children.

Hearing that, Haru had bitten his tongue, swallowed down his anger, and said nothing. Said nothing for days, not that anyone noticed. He had always been a quiet child.

When he was sixteen, he'd traveled back to Ecruteak, spending his savings on the trip rather than trying for the Evergrande Conference that year. In the basement of the old dance hall, he'd come across Grandmother's tapestries packed away in a cardboard box. They were ragged and dirt-stained, completely beyond his skill to mend.

And then he had come back. Back to Hoenn's dense metal cities and wild woods. Taken the anger, taken the hurt, and stuffed them in a box of his own, somewhere dark and out of the way, where he wouldn't trip over it.

Gratitude.

Haru realized his eyes were stinging wet.

Father had been wrong. They'd owed her something more than their own success. There was a price to pay, for knowledge, for guidance, for the gift of birth into a beautiful, ever-renewing world.

Haru stood. Up on the stage, Maliki met his gaze, her own eyes dark with understanding.

"That's right," she said. "Don't be shy, now, if your heart's urging you to speak."

Haru stepped onto the small, makeshift stage and took the mic Maliki offered.

"My grandmother—" he began and then faltered. The crowd was watching him, a crowd of strangers, the press of their eyes hot and itchy.

Fumbling for words, Haru landed on verse instead. "Then Ho-oh beheld the mighty deeds these three spirits had rendered him," he recited, his voice shaking. "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."

Haru swallowed and licked his lips. The crowd wavered as he stared out past them. On the back wall, a candle flickered: someone had lit the Ho-oh shrine.

"What the verse means, I think, is that there are three kinds of people. Three kinds of ways people choose to lead their lives. Like Entei, some people just seek rest. They're not lazy but they're not driven, either. They live for quiet moments, for peace.

"Other people want power. Or want to be as close to power as they can be, like Raikou when she ascended to the skies. They strive to stand at the tops of big buildings, at the sides of powerful people. And they don't really care what that power is for or what it's accomplishing. They just want to be near it. And the thing about these kinds of people is that they think the world is mostly pretty fine. Maybe they wish their place in it were a little different, a little higher. But otherwise, fine."

Haru paused to draw in a breath.

"The last kind of person doesn't see it that way. She embodies change because she could never stay still. We don't pray to Entei or Raikou, but we pray to her, because when she sees a bespoiled lake, she heals it. And there must be people, too, who want to fix the hurt they see, who follow a path no one has set for them. And those people—they've made Suicune's choice."

Suicune's choice, somebody murmured in the crowd.

His parents, his sister, they were like Raikou, chasing glory in the sky. But what did their string of promotions amount to? What use was any of it, if it meant that Grandmother had gone to the grave alone, as if she'd never raised a son, never devoted herself to the care of two grandchildren?

Haru couldn't say anything more. If he spoke now, he would begin to sob. Soundlessly, he thrust the mic back towards Maliki.

"Thank you for your words," she said solemnly.

Another person was coming forward to take the mic. Haru stumbled to the back of the crowd and sat heavily. He felt like he was caught back in the sheets of rain that swept Route 119, so constant and all-consuming you could lose yourself completely. The anger had festered too long. It overwhelmed him now—anger at his father, his mother, his sister, but at himself, too. He could have said something. He could have spoken up. Yes, he'd been young, but not too young to sit through the boat-ride from Rustboro to Olivine, to take the shuttle that ran to Ecruteak. Even though it would have changed nothing, he could have stood for the funeral rites and murmured with the crowd, "Look to the second sun that waits behind the rainbow. There dwells Ho-oh, Life-Bringer, Lord of All."

When the man in front of Haru got to his feet, Haru blinked. Looking from side to side, he realized that the crowd was breaking up. The evening had ended, while he sat in the storm of his thoughts.

As he stood, a tap on the shoulder made him turn.

"Hey," said Maliki, peering intently into his face. "Are you all right?"

Haru didn't want to imagine what he looked like. He hoped his eyes weren't puffed and red.

"I'm fine," he croaked.

Maliki's lips quirked slightly at the obvious lie. "What you said tonight, Haru, that was very wise. I was wondering, do you mean it? About the three kinds of people? Because if you do, I gotta ask—which kind are you?"

Her question cut through the air like a blade.

"I don't know," Haru said after a moment. The admission made him feel smaller than he'd ever felt before.

What had driven him all these years, the long, cold nights in his tent, staying out in the wild, refusing to come in. People were supposed to find themselves on pokémon journeys, but Haru wasn't sure he'd found anything other than uncertainty.

He wasn't like his parents or his sisters. But he wasn't better than them, either. What had he accomplished in all his wandering? Of all of it—the fellowship, the badges, the internship—the only choice he could really take pride in was the last, disastrous one. No matter what else happened, Heconilia was out there, flying free as Ho-oh intended.


.

That night, Haru dreamed again. Grandmother was cleaning tapestries in the Bell Tower, humming an old hymn, when fire suddenly sprang out on all sides. First it burned the tapestry, the gold-edged fabric turning black. Unsated, the flames danced onward, towards grandmother's long, veined hands. Just as Haru tensed to run towards her, a hand gripped firmly down on his shoulder. His mother and father dragged him screaming from the tower and they didn't let go until every last wooden beam was burned entirely to ash.

The three beasts were there, watching the devastation unfold. Entei was the first to turn away. Then Raikou, who leaped into the air. Her passage traced a dazzling gold path through the sky. Haru's parents began to ascend along the path, Erika close behind them.

Haru stood alone, just him and Suicune's red gaze, which seemed to weigh him from his head to his heart. Just as he took one fumbling step towards her, she leapt away across the water.

"Wait!" Haru shouted. "Wait!"

But she was gone. The clouds drew in and the rain came down, more and more heavily, until Haru was swept away too.
 
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love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
A little review for chapters 5 and 6

ch 5

Haru sniffed the cup to its left and felt his nostrils flare at the powerful

Cut "felt"?

The shrine wasn't beautiful or costly, but it was correct.

Interesting word choice with "correct", but in a good way.

What society would put such care into creating beauty here, when there was such obvious ugliness and need only a short walk away?

This is reminding me of how Celadon was portrayed in DD

Nothing he'd ever read had suggested pokemon could understand the concept of debts. But how could a situation like this be replicated, anyway?

Finding it a little tricky to connect these two sentences.

When Haru made his back into Mauville's downtown

"made his way back"

longer life-spans of five to ten years

Should it be "by five to ten years?"

Welp, anyway, more intrigue. New flatmates are interesting.

ch 6

He felt slow this morning, like he hadn't fully woken up.

There have been several hints that the sleep spore is having a bad effect on him. Another thing to worry about, I suppose.

When he'd caught wind of that, Haru had thrown up training for his gym battle and spent the rest of the week locked in his cramped pokecenter room, laboring over his essay submission.

I feel like this says a lot about him. He is someone who cares about pokemon, and not just as a means to an end.

Her tendrils retracted and widened, a sign of contentment. One reached out to trail questioningly up his face.

I like that body language.

Damascus extended a second set of tendrils to roam his body. Haru knew she was checking him for injury, attempting to locate the root of his distress.

Aw, so cute. It is portrayed in a reasonably inhuman way, but it is still endearing.

Damascus' tendrils were now latched on to each of Haru's pulse points.

This is another really nice detail. I feel bad for poor Damascus. She just wants to help ;_;

Anyway, clearly Haru's dream represents his guilt, but maybe there's another aspect to it too. The fact that he tried to run into the fire suggests an element of self-destructiveness. Obviously, Haru is willing to risk himself—we saw that in the first chapter—but I'm sure it will only get worse from here.

Even though nothing awful really happened in the last couple chapters, there's still a sense that things are going to get rougher for Haru. He's stressed, his sleep is getting messed up, and there's something that's just too convenient about his new living situation, and the way that Maliki smiles when she mentions Doctor Qian gives me the sense she's hiding something... My pet theory is that his flatmates are going to turn out to be some extremist pokemon rights group and they're going to rope him into being a part of it.

Anyway, I feel like I know Haru a bit better after his little monologue. I don't totally agree with his, I guess, traditional values/sentimentality, but he has good intentions and isn't acting in his own interests, so I think he's interesting and sympathetic. I think he's overreacting to his grief a bit, but that's a pretty human thing to do.

I'd like to think that I'm like Suicune, but really I think I'm more like Entei. I do good sometimes, but really, most of the time, I just want to rest.

(What kind of legendary are you like? Let me know down in the comments and remember to rate and hit that yellow subscribe button!)

Anyway, nice chapters.
 
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
Okay, this was an interesting "christmas" chapter, considering it came out just a day before :p

What I appreciate the most about this chapter is how quiet and slow it might seem. It's really short too, so one would think that not much happens. But I actually think that Haru's character progressed a lot in this chapter, at least in regards to coming to his own conclusions about a lot of things in his life. I don't think he's quite figured out how to move out of his rut but...he's realized he's in one and that just doing and being what his family wants isn't going to get him out.

I also like it because of how it externalized the myth surrounding the legendary dogs, I had my own interpretation that I mentioned in my original review and while I still stand by that, I really liked the way you applied it here. It's a great metaphor and I think it mostly fits with the different kinds of people that you see.

The other thing that really helps the metaphor is how you drive it home both with Haru's scene at the lab as well as his scene back at the house. In the lab Prof. Ogletree is, rightfully I guess, focused on getting through with Haru's meeting with Damascus, so much that he doesn't seemingly notice how off Haru is acting. This contrasts with Haru's and Maliki's interaction later, where Maliki can tell there's something wrong just by looking at him. Not to diss the lab or anything, but clearly the professor doesn't actually care about Haru, he's just an intern, one of many, it lacks that human connection.

That's also something that adds to the metaphor because as you say, Raikous don't actually care about the world, only about their standing in it. As long as life can keep progressing in the way they like they'll just go on ignoring it and treating everything that doesn't adhere to their ideal like it's wrong.

I also really like Maliki, she's the kind of friend Haru needs right now as he's trying to figure out where he should go in life and starts taking his own choices about where he wants to go.

Well, I have a few other comments but I think I can get them through better with line by lines. So let's do that!

"Doctor Ogletree, head researcher."

I love how you continue the whole joke of professors having tree names, but I can't stop laughing from the name Ogltree.

It sounded like a test. Luckily, Haru had never had a problem with those, even half-asleep. "Yes, Doctor. Simply put, Hoenn is growing less diverse on the level of species. It's not just that some species are on the verge of extinction, but that the rate of their long-term evolution seems to be slowing."

This is a very intersting worldbuilding detail. Does it mean that pokemon are taking longer to evolve? or that their forms haven't changed in a long time?

"I study baltoy and claydol. The most fascinating pokemon, from a purely anthropological perspective. Uniquely, we have cave drawings of baltoy and claydol stretching back a millenia. And if you showed a child those drawings, and then showed them a modern baltoy, the kind you might encounter anywhere out there in the desert, they wouldn't hesitate to tell you these pokemon are one and the same. They have hardly altered at all across the many centuries. If we can understand the baltoy—the role they played in ancient civilizations, why they didn't evolve over time—we may find the answers to the national downturn in evolution patterns. Or as some call it, the despeciation problem. Is it normal variance, on a time scale greater than we have the current means to track, or a product of human action? This is by no means a simple question—as it is sometimes portrayed in the popular media. But what answers we can find will begin with the ancient, unchanged patterns of the baltoy

To add to what I asked above, does this mean that there used to be even more pokemon in Hoenn?

Safe to say, this research center was well-funded. He wouldn't have to worry about his stipend being delayed.

I too, care more about whether the place I'm going to work in can actually pay me before I start working.

Damascus herself wasn't a fossil resurrection. She'd come from a breeding colony, a decades long attempt to build back up the lileep and cradily population in the Mirage Desert. Species restoration was very trendy these days, in popular media as well as the scientific world—restoring Hoenn's ancient glory, people said. As the colony stabilized and became more well-known, they'd announced a fellowship-contest—a few lucky trainers would be selected to travel with a lileep, logging its daily habits and growth. When he'd caught wind of that, Haru had thrown up training for his gym battle and spent the rest of the week locked in his cramped pokecenter room, laboring over his essay submission. The work had paid off: he'd been one of only seven trainers chosen. The months that had followed, diligently logging his lileep's diet, emotive responses and battling progress were the first time he'd seriously considered a career in research. And the fellowship was probably what had made the difference for him in landing this internship

Ooooh, this is some really nice character detail. I legit thought that Damascus was a revived fossil but the fact that Haru got it by winning a competition is intriguing, I guess that also explains why the lab was willing to take Damascus so readily since they don't have enough Cradily to study either. I also like how this moment is the reason he got his internship. So it tells me something, this big internship that Haru's family has been pushing him towards...isn't actually something he wanted. I mean, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth sure, but all Haru really wanted was the chance to raise a Lileep, that's what pushed him.

"How're things treating you here, Damascus?" Haru asked softly. Her tendrils retracted and widened, a sign of contentment. One reached out to trail questioningly up his face. And you?

I love the detail of Damascus communicating and interacting with the world through its feelers. Is that actually how they work? it makes sense, I just hadn't heard of it before.

Damascus extended a second set of tendrils to roam his body. Haru knew she was checking him for injury, attempting to locate the root of his distress. He hoped Doctor Ogletree knew less about the behavior patterns of cradily than he did about baltoy.

Damascus is really cute! I like how she worries about Haru and wants to make him feel better.

"Would you like to go to the colony?" Haru asked Damascus. "Maybe you could find a mate there, just like—"

Heconilia. He clamped his mouth shut before the word could escape. Heconilia wasn't supposed to have a mate.

Careful Haru, wouldn't want to let it slip.

"My name's Maliki. When I was just a little thing, my mam and pap took me out to the edge of our lands. And together we laid down a bowl of milk, fresh from the udder. 'That's for Mew,' my mam said, so I asked her, 'What's Mew?' 'Mew's the one we all come from,' Mam said. So I say, 'Mam, if Mew made us all, why does she need our milk? Can't she make milk of her own?' 'And my mam laughed and said, 'My heart, of course Mew doesn't need our milk. It's us who needs to give it.'

Well, you were right that this chapter was going to go into more detail about religion in the pokemon world. I really like these details though, I feel like Mew doesn't get enough credit ever since Arceus was introduced.

Grandmother had passed a few months after they left Johto. Pneumonia, he'd overheard, come on suddenly from a cold left untended. It has been clear to Haru, even at the age of nine, who should have been there to tend her.

This really hit me as my own grandmother passed not too long ago, so I can relate with Haru and having that feeling of not being there for someone you care about.

They hadn't gone home for the funeral. The timing was just impossible, his father had said, with the company retreat coming up. If they didn't show their faces, they would be marked forever outsiders in this new firm. Grandmother would understand, Father added. She had wanted success for her children.

Dude, what the fuck!? It's your mom man. And yet at the same time I gotta call out the company his dad worked for too, like how are they gonna treat him as an outcast just because he went to his mom's funeral? Though well, there are such cases sadly so it's not that surprising either. But I do wonder what it is that caused that shift for Haru, that he's the only one of his family that actively cared.

"The last kind of person doesn't see it that way. She embodies change because she could never stay still. We don't pray to Entei or Raikou, but we pray to her, because when she sees a bespoiled lake, she heals it. And there must be people, too, who want to fix the hurt they see, who follow a path no one has set for them. And those people—they've made Suicune's choice."

Ooooh he said the thing, he said the thing.

But yeah, again, I really love this metaphor and how it highlights what it means to make Suicune's Choice.

Maliki's lips quirked slightly at the obvious lie. "What you said tonight, Haru, that was very wise. I was wondering, do you mean it? About the three kinds of people? Because if you do, I gotta ask—which kind are you?"

That's a very very deep question that I don't think most people Haru's age can reply to. But I like how it's that theme of growing up and trying to find and carve your own path coming back together.
 
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
Another chapter, you say?!

The egg sizzled gently in the pan. Haru watched with drowsy eyes as the yolky mixture slowly firmed. He slid his spatula under and rolled it over. Sizzle. Roll. Repeat. Making tamagoyaki was soothing. Grandmother had made it whenever the weather turned rainy. She'd plop the yellow roll down on his plate, warm from the pan, and then he'd have to spend the next ten minutes cajoling her until the omelette was evenly split between them.

whyyyy must you be so good at your descriptive writing? My mouth is watering and now I want an omelette and it’s all your fault, Pen. XD

He felt slow this morning, like he hadn't fully woken up.

Oh, I’m sure this has absolutely nothing to do with the Very Responsible self-medicating with Sleep Powder. Nope, nothing at all.

Doctor Ogletree plowed on before Haru could attempt an answer. The question had clearly been rhetorical.

The second sentence feels a little redundant to me. By asking a question and plowing forward without waiting for an answer, it’s already implied that the question was rhetorical.

Doctor Ogletree paused to draw in a breath. He'd halted in the middle of the corridor to deliver his impromptu speech. Clearing his throat, he resumed walking.

I didn’t visualize him stopping until right here, and then he promptly resumed walking again, which created a weird “stop and start” image in my head. I think mentioning him pausing in the hallway somewhere in the middle of his dialogue might work better visually?

Species restoration was very trendy these days, in popular media as well as the scientific world—restoring Hoenn's ancient glory, people said.

I really like this whole scene, but I enjoy the fact that you’re taking the time to acknowledge Hoenn’s ancient roots. Hoenn has tons of ancient Pokémon, but nobody ever seems to pay attention to that detail, and all the talk of ancient lore and Pokémon tends to be aimed towards Sinnoh.

The cradily considered this, her tendril wavering. At last she raised her right tendrils up and lowered her left tendrils down. Haru huffed a low laugh, recognizing Damascus' imitation of a human shrug.

Never, not once, have I thought of a Cradily being cute until this moment, lol. I love seeing Pokémon try to mimic human gestures to communicate. Lovely detail!

Grandmother had passed a few months after they left Johto. Pneumonia, he'd overheard, come on suddenly from a cold left untended. It has been clear to Haru, even at the age of nine, who should have been there to tend her.

Oh, that last sentence hits hard. Poor Haru. Something tells me that he probably blames himself for this, even though he was literally a child at the time.

They hadn't gone home for the funeral. The timing was just impossible, his father had said, with the company retreat coming up. If they didn't show their faces, they would be marked forever outsiders in this new firm. Grandmother would understand, Father added. She had wanted success for her children.

Hearing that, Haru had bitten his tongue, swallowed down his anger, and said nothing. Said nothing for days, not that anyone noticed. He had always been a quiet child.

“Not that anyone noticed.” Oh, my HEART. You know, I find this interesting: Haru’s family seems to view him as disconnected from reality with his head in the clouds, but the opposite might actually be true. Haru is painfully aware of many of the injustices in the world; he’d picked up on Mauville’s social imbalances immediately. He is very aware of those around him, of his Pokémon, of the fact that every creature is a living thing that deserves to be considered. However, all his family has ever been able to care about or focus on is rising up the ranks, climbing the ladder, etc. They’re so focused on this, they don’t notice that their own son/brother is incredibly upset, and they neglect their own family (grandmother) without any remorse (or so it seems, from Haru’s perspective). So who is really disconnected from reality, here? I don’t think it’s Haru.

Haru landed on verse instead. "Then Ho-oh beheld the mighty deeds these three spirits had rendered him," he recited, his voice shaking. "And he was pleased and spake, Loyal servants, your service has been good.

Small nitpick, but shouldn’t the “Loyal servants” line be inside single quotation marks because it’s a quote within a quotation? (If not, I’m very curious as to know why, for my own learning, haha.)

His parents, his sister, they were like Raikou, chasing glory in the sky. But what did their string of promotions amount to? What use was any of it, if it meant that Grandmother had gone to the grave alone, as if she'd never raised a son, never devoted herself to the care of two grandchildren?

This chapter is FILLED with single lines that hit like a punch to the gut. I can feel Haru’s sadness and bitterness here. You’ve communicated his feelings very eloquently with these lines.

Maliki's lips quirked slightly at the obvious lie. "What you said tonight, Haru, that was very wise. I was wondering, do you mean it? About the three kinds of people? Because if you do, I gotta ask—which kind are you?"

Her question cut through the air like a blade.

OOH OKAY I HAVE THOUGHTS

I think the reason Haru feels so stuck and aimless (and maybe even restless?) is because he is very naturally inclined to be the third type of person, the one who makes Suicune’s Choice. However, he either doesn’t realize this about himself, or he subconsciously fights against it because he’s been raised to think that Raikou’s path is the only option (or, at least, the only “correct” option). I also get some Entei vibes from him, too; at this point, he’s been carrying years of grief and guilt and resentment, and he just seems so tired. I get a lot of “I just want peace and rest” vibes from him, but his natural tendency to want to help and heal wherever he goes won’t let him rest.

These are just my thoughts and speculations, anyway! I could be totally off the mark, but it’s really fun to think about these things!
 

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. vulpix-alola
I tried to read this a few months ago but the world was on fire and I couldn't take the tension of the prologue. Now the world is still on fire but I've sort of learned to ignore it some of the time.

I guess when I first read the prologue I thought that there would be a time skip of sorts to a few weeks later while Haru was settling into his job when consequences reared up. I think I like this approach better, even if it does make the first part a little contrived. I get that Haru is bad at crimes but it does feel like some potential solutions to basic problems were just ignored. Tropius can fly, right? Probably fast enough to outpace a single unprepared human on foot in a rainforest. Couldn't they have just flown ahead of asshole kid? Or withdrawn the tropius for a bit so the kid no longer had a reason to follow. I know that it's dangerous but at least considering and dismissing it would've been nice. Same for accidentally taking a Pokegear from a crime scene when it's a pretty bulky object to just take, carry, and walk for miles without noticing it. It works for building tension up and justifying choices that quickly become worse than the actual crime probably was.

One final nitpick on the opening arc: Database cross-references would catch him in an instant. Huh, strange how that tropius is in none of our databases. Kind of strange that we didn't check when we cancelled his license early.

There were a lot of things I did like about the first arc. The ever-building tension, the worldbuilding around license systems and the choices it forces, the way the whole system seems designed to ignore the wishes of pokemon at every step. You've subtly been getting at that throughout, first with the titular choice and then with asshole kid's attempt to capture a 'mon that clearly didn't want to be captured, the best little ninjask, repeated questioning of pokemon intelligence, the power plant news, the very brief encounter with Damascus, etc. Suicune's Choice explores it much more subtly than, say, eNvy of edeN, but it does get to the same general theme: if the system of capitalism pokemoN traiNiNg is uNjust, is breakiNg eveN the well-meaNiNg rules of it wroNg?

You use tradition v. modernity as a parallel question, reinforced by the Suicune's Choice being well-respected in the temple. The duality of upper v. lower Mauville is also nice. Can't tell if you're going with an East v West thing here. Names like Damascus and Ogletree seem to imply it. You do that in dance dance revolution with regions that are much closer together.

Food imagery is very common and good here. Emphasizes culture. Which ties into themes, I think.

Arc 2 nitpicks: Kind of weird that the desert is a easy daily walking commute away from a city that is emphatically not desert. I get "microclimates," but there are towns in the desert you could've used. Or a town. I think. Haven't played the Hoenn games in a while. Not sure why cradily live in the desert? They're aquatic per the dex iirc. Trust me, lots of fossils are found in places the modern equivalents couldn't survive today. Plesiosaurs on continental Europe, large reptiles in North Dakota and Alberta, giant bugs in the tropical rainforests of Scotland...

Some minor details I liked: sand getting everywhere in desert lab (100% does in beach labs), ninjask eating honey, ninja bugs having code of debt and honor, asshole breeder justifying himself in a way that isn't wrong but actually doesn't make a case for what he thinks it does, wow I hate all of his family and they haven't even properly appeared. Biggest criticism so far is that this is not The Bachelorette for Suicune. Much better fic tbh.

Oh! I'm so used to your other peN name's work (Continental Divides, Spring) that I forgot you can have trainers who aren't eighteen on this account. Threw me off when the sixteen-year-old took a break from training to recover some unusable tapestries and watch grandma burn to death in a dream temple. Speaking of that I do like the dream / guilt imagery. Works well with a fic about gods where it's plausibly not just a normal guilt dream. Could lead to some fun stuff later on if Haru is just guilty or some kind of a prophet. Or if it matters what's true so much as what people believe.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
huge fan of this "make memes about this for a year instead of reviewing" strat but presumably I shouldn't do that forever. chapters 2-4 for now but things sort of came out in a big lump.

"It will cost you."
Reading this fic actively makes me sad, in a powerful and profound way. We talk about how it's a story about how choosing the right things for others is often the wrong thing for you, and vice versa. And then sometimes there aren't even right things to choose at all. It's a dichotomy between choosing to respect Heconilia's wishes, accommodating Atalanta, calling help for Wei vs not asking your tropius to stop attacking a human + not risking massive damage to an ecosystem, supporting black market merchants who illegally sell/poach, letting a careless trainer continue to endanger his pokemon. There isn't winning, there's just not losing, and Haru isn't even focused on picking between those--in trying to do right by those he cares about, he digs his own hole more and more. It's deeply depressing to read about, simply because I find it so grounded and real.

And the conclusion that we seem to be building towards--that choosing the right thing is deeply painful and alienating, that it comes at great personal cost and isolation--it's one that deeply resonates, but it's still really sad to watch someone slowly begin that road, perhaps unaware of the sheer severity of the consequences.

I like how Haru uses this idea of choice to shield himself from his own actions though--"all of her choices were hers" re: Heconilia attacking Wei stood out to me, since it's not just her choice; he's consciously choosing inaction here, because he's mad and he doesn't like the kid and it would benefit him greatly if Wei doesn't blab. Seeing him choose the other direction was really powerful here, because 1) it does roughly give him what he wants (more than Wei running free would be) and 2) he doesn't seem to feel much guilt about it. There's something deeply seductive about choosing the option where the trolley runs over your enemies instead of your friends, and I respect that Haru is swayed here. And it's certainly a bad choice that doesn't detract that for the most part he tries to make good choices and be a good person--but the full consequences of his actions are heavy and I imagine he'll still have to face them all the same.

Worldbuilding and similar continues to impress, as always. I like that Haru is our POV character and he gets to know a lot about Hoenn and pokemon--it lets you pack in a lot of interesting details that I don't think we'd be able to get in DD and MiB. Ninjask wings staying wet in stasis (this is sad and also raises a lot of questions about the validity of pokeballs as a safe spot for pokemon between battles, since if time passes for them then they can still bleed out or get infected. that's fun! I'm glad that this story never has to deal with any sort of ethics questions). I like the details we get about Heconilia, tropius subculture around fruits, an expert on microclimates why Route 119 is the best route in Hoenn, jailbroken pokeballs and the black market. You do well with your fish out of water stories here, and I like how Haru's Johtonese background and family influences him here.

[This is so stupid but I deeply loved the detail about his relatively asking him to buy things from Mauville--I have deep childhood memories of packing lego sets and specific brands of chocolate for my relatives in my bags when we visited, and I grinned when I saw Erika requesting the Zeno Mark VII because of the locked down market lololol, god, oof. And it's such a good segue into him stumbling into the sketchier parts of the market; I like how seamlessly those events flowed into one another.]

"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."
oh! so this must be the suicune's choice, right--run away so quickly from your problems that no one can catch you. thank god haru figured that one out so early.

Reading this one is a strange experience since I find I really don't have much to say in terms of improvement or structure--things build so well; it's such an organic take on the pokeworld but everything feels lived in and real. We don't get to handwave issues like releasing pokemon in the PC with something as simple as "bye-bye, Heconilia"; the people who oppose us aren't brightly colored and clearly-labelled evil team grunts. And the choices we are offered in this world, the duties we need to shoulder on behalf of others--are often unfair. I know OOC you sometimes talk about how this is about how making good choices can ruin you, but the story I see here is almost one about how there aren't actually good choices, just ones that do and don't harm you directly.

I find that watching Haru navigate this is deeply depressing, for reasons I think I'm almost harping on at this point--and I know, coming from me and my own 2020 project fic, it's borderline hypocritical for me to remark that reading narratives structured like this makes me feel sad and hopeless, even if I enjoy them immensely. But despite that I still have hope for the kid! It's a beautifully crafted story with a lot of bright spots, and it's the kind of story that I think in 2020 we all don't like to but all really need to read. Glad that the TR train finally discovered this one + my one regret is that I never got around to typing out my thoughts early enough to claim to be an OG fan.

---

"Everyone always complains about the rules. But are rules bad?"
I like the framing of this as Haru's child prose (why are you calling this child prose!?!?! this should be the fic summary)--but clearly he hasn't changed his mind.
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.
wdym we know they can't do abstract thought that's why we place so much value in emphasizing their choices.
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.
I'm not sure why they didn't just walk around in the opposite direction from the herd? Withdraw Heconilia so they'd harder to follow (presumably he'd have a much easier time avoiding being tracked without an elephant-sized companion)?
The boy shrugged. "Stinger can fly. How many badges do you have?"
"Dumpster, acid!"
Shadowsmith, use confuse ray!
I am so here for these S-tier nicknames.
He couldn't imagine referring to it as a convenience snack or acting like he had some right to eat it.
wdym if they have it and sometimes consent to offering it then that means that I should always assume I can have it right
I think this one is more commonly spelled "hoodie"
"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."
I mean this completely unironically; it never gets old to watch your protagonists tell people things are illegal and then be surprised that that argument doesn't work.
She nudged him with her crown and, when he didn't respond, let out an ugly cry.
:(
the use of the word "ugly" is really effective here
What a nonsensical nickname. Ninjask didn't even carry a sting.
I feel like in all my memeing about Chris boot and Lance pants superiority, I've been sleeping on Haru judging people for humans being stupid about pokemon.
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.
I didn't pick up on this in the order that I read things, but I like how this does feel mutually canonical with DD. Good to know that Hoenn's totally fine and Johto/Kanto are also totally fine and everyone's fine.
"That's right, Mother. Tropius don't do well outside their native habitats, so it was the best thing for her."
This sort of ruins the entire premise, but I'm surprised that they don't have a better way of tracking dumping--Heconilia just disappears from his account, right? But there should in theory be records of him transferring her to a designated nursery or a new trainer, like the others. So when closing out a trainer license they'd probably want to check that all the pokemon have gone to a legal, non-dumping location, right? Unless the idea is that the rules don't actually care about the ecosystem and the idea is just to punish people for dumping, which ... seems harsh, but idk.
Nya-Nya had had a hard time of it in the upper levels of competitive battling. She deserved some pampering and ease.
:')
A small bowl of rice and a cup of sencha brewed in his single-serve teapot were all he felt he could hold down.
I have learned something new today! Usually I only see hot water machines.
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.
I liked this detail + the added context of him throwing around money at the bar and such--he's really thinking his purchases through!
"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."
I was surprised that he bartered back here! In hindsight I'm not sure why; Haru did just consider leaving a guy to die in the woods so like. Seems in character.
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.
you really should write orre fic.
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 . . .
</3
As if there was nothing behind him—nothing at all.
thank god nothing he's just done will haunt him since it's all behind him
 
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Chapter Seven - The Initiation

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Chapter Seven - The Initiation

The tall house stood alone where the cliff came to a point. Ivy climbed the black-scaled siding; thick fog draped over the roof.

Haru paused in front of the iron gate. The curved arches depicted Hoenn's titans locked into a ceaseless battle. Groudon's jasper eyes gleamed; Kyogre's tail flared out in blue lapis. If the gate had been shut, Haru would have turned back then and there, but it was propped loosely open.

Beyond, a cobblestone path wandered through an overgrown yard. Bugloss plants grown to monstrous heights criss-crossed past thorny bluk berry and silver-edged goutweed. One bugloss shoot curved directly over the path. Haru stopped to run a finger along its thick, fuzzy stem, still wet from the morning's rain shower. Either this yard was abandoned, he thought, or the owner didn't accept the premise of weeds.

As he approached the door, Haru checked the address one more time against the one Maliki had given him. He'd found her already seated at the table when he came into the kitchen that morning. She'd shot him a small smile and pulled out the chair next to her. Hoping to forestall any discussion of the night before, Haru had seized onto the first safe topic he could think of.

"I looked up that researcher you mentioned. Doctor Qian."

Maliki set down her chopsticks, smile growing. "Did you now! What did you think of her work?"

"I couldn't find much," Haru admitted as he rummaged around in the fridge. His hand closed around the seaweed shell of a leftover rice ball. "Just an abstract. Too bad—it looked like an interesting read."

"I know her," Maliki said, "if you're interested in hearing about her research first-hand."

Haru had almost fumbled his rice-ball. "What, really?"

"Sure. She lives just outside the city, overlooking the water. I bet she'd be in today, if you want to stop by."

"Just like that? Shouldn't I call first—"

Maliki had waved a dismissive hand. "Best not to. Doctor Qian's a spontaneous sort of person."

Swallowing, Haru pushed back his rain slicker and pressed the doorbell lightly, flinching at the imperious bong that rang out. He gazed up at the black-scaled house with growing skepticism. This couldn't be a researcher's house. For one thing, it was simply too huge. If his mother had managed to impress anything on Haru in the past year, it was that a researcher's salary didn't stretch very far. He must have written the address down wrong.

Just as Haru was turning back down the cobblestone path, the door swung open behind him.

"Well?" demanded a voice from the doorway.

Haru bowed hastily, the gesture made awkward as he turned. "Doctor Qian?" he said hesitantly.

"In the flesh." The figure shuffled forward, into the foggy light. She was a petite Hoennese woman, her hair gone a dark gray. The plum-colored sleeves of her house robe hung down past her hands. "Well?"

"My name's Haru Watanabe. I'm a friend of Maliki . . ?"

"Oh." An unreadable expression crossed the old woman's face. "The islander? One of her rag-tag crew, are you? Well, what does she want now? I've already told her I can't help."

"I was hoping to talk to you about one of your papers," Haru plunged on. Why hadn't he called first? There'd clearly been some kind of miscommunication. "I'm an intern, at the Mirage Desert laboratory—"

"You want to talk research!" The old woman cut him off, a smile blooming startlingly on her face. "What are you waiting for, then? Come in, come in."

Slightly dazed, Haru allowed himself to be ushered into a vast, shadowy anteroom. A tall wooden coat rack stood to one side, a shoe rack to the other. Haru removed his muddy boots hastily.

"Mirage Desert, hm?" the old woman said. Her house robe dragged against the floor of the hallway, which was paneled with fine bamboo, but dusty. Haru watched the hem move, half-tempted to lift it off the ground. "What a bunch of blithering idiots. Still, I hear they're choosy when it comes to interns. How do you know Maliki, then?"

"I'm renting a room with her."

"Hmph. And what paper would it be, that's brought you all the way out here to me?"

"'The Impact of High-Stress Voltage Extraction on Electric Pokemon,'" Haru recited.

"Ah, my recent work."

They had entered a large dining room. One glass-windowed wall looked directly out onto the sea. In the distance, a flock of wingull roosted on a raised rock, safe above the white-breaking waves.

"Sit tight, I'll put on tea."

Haru lowered himself gingerly onto one plump floor cushion. An elaborate blue-crystal chandelier cast soft light from the ceiling, though he noticed that several bulbs had burnt out.

Doctor Qian bustled back in a moment later, setting down two cups of dark oolong. The cups let off a faint earthy smell, which mixed pleasantly with the bitter scent of the tea. As Doctor Qian gazed at him expectantly, Haru said, "I was only able to find the abstract, not the whole paper. So I was hoping you could—"

The old woman sprang to her feet before he'd finished speaking. "Easily remedied."

She vanished down another winding hallway.

As he waited, Haru sipped at his tea, enjoying its smooth, articulated taste. Aristocrat tea, his grandmother would have called it. Tea fit for royalty—and priests, of course.

"Here!" The leather-bound manuscript hit the table with a smack. Haru flipped the cover open to find the title, "The Impact of High-Stress Voltage Extraction on Electric Pokemon."

Haru began to read. At first, he was uncomfortably aware of Doctor Qian's gaze, fixed on him as she slurped noisily at her tea. But soon, the article took up his entire focus. The study examined the short-term and long-term health impacts of voltage-extraction on the electric-type pokemon that worked at the Mauville Power Plant.

Electric-type pokemon naturally built up stores of electricity in their bodies, Haru read. These stores fluctuated by age, season, battling frequency, and other stressors, with a certain baseline required to maintain the pokemon's health. The electricity extraction method used at the Mauville power plant Doctor Qian termed "high-stress" voltage extraction, because it drained the pokemon of enough electricity in a single session that they fell below their baseline. This triggered a stress response that excited the pokemon's electricity production, causing the worker pokemon to replenish their electric stores in a matter of days, rather than weeks. Doctor Qian didn't dwell much more on what she labeled the "stress-production cycle." Her paper measured its impact on the pokemon's health. And the numbers from her study were grim. Haru's gut was churning by the time he set the paper down.

"Finished, are you?" Doctor Qian said. The rain was a growing drumbeat against the window; Haru hadn't noticed when it first began.

He nodded.

"And what do you think?" the old woman demanded.

Haru was reminded of Doctor Ogletree turning to question him in the hallway. Another test, he thought. "It's a very compelling study. I thought the health metrics were well chosen, very concrete. And the disparity's just extreme, I mean, the charge degeneration rate alone—"

"Criticism?" Doctor Qian said, her eyes not moving from Haru's face.

He hesitated.

"The sample size," he said at last. "You say one hundred, but that hundred is drawn from three species of pokemon. You compare them within the species groups, but then present those results as combined. I'm not sure that extrapolation is entirely justified. I think it would be more accurate to say you compared twenty sets of voltorb, twenty-four sets of magnemite, and fifty-six sets of electrike, rather than claiming you compared a hundred sets of electric-type pokemon, as if there wasn't species variation."

Haru drew in a nervous breath when he had finished, unsure how this would be received, but Doctor Qian's low chuckle surprised him.

"Well spotted. Yes, I fudged it there, no doubt. Why do you think I did that? Why not just study one hundred each?"

"There weren't that many available of each species?" Haru guessed.

"No, no, the power plant employs a thousand electric pokemon at least, with hundreds in turn-over each year. So why didn't I get myself some more respectable numbers, hm?" Before Haru could attempt an answer, she continued, "Simple enough. Didn't have the resources. I self-fund all my work, you know. Take a look around—I can afford it. But my resources do have a limit. I've got my own lab built into the back, but it's not set up to process that many pokemon. I'd need a bigger space and several additional hands to produce some really decent numbers."

"Why not work with the Mirage Desert lab?" Haru said. "Or get a grant to hire some lab assistants and rent out—"

Doctor Qian's disdainful laugh rang through the room. "Get a grant? Ah, my boy, the funders wouldn't touch this one with a ten-foot elastic pole. And neither would the brown-nosers at the labs. They know where their bread is buttered."

"Why wouldn't it get funded?" Haru shot back, his voice rising. "This is an important issue. If voltage extraction is killing pokemon early—I mean, electrike only live fifteen to twenty years if they don't evolve. So that's cutting their lifespans by a third or even a half—"

"I'm well aware." Doctor Qian cut him off. "That's why I started this research project, you know. All the electrike corpses washing up on my little beach down there were a tad difficult to ignore." A tremor entered her voice as she jerked a finger towards the rain-streaked window and the ocean beyond it. "All of them with those damn worker chips. But Mauville won't fund anything that endangers their precious electricity. Our power is electric power, one of our mayors used to say. Hah!"

"But if I understood your paper correctly, it's the high-stress extraction method that's causing the issue," Haru said. "If the plant sets their specialists on finding a different method, maybe graduating the extraction—"

Doctor Qian shook her head. "They won't. First, it would cost extra money, and when do the corps like to cough that up? But second, what if the solution turns out not to be so easy? What if the method's not the problem, just the extraction? Then they'd have admitted to the world there was a problem, see? Admitted it was a bigger issue than the babbling of old kooks like me and those crazy fundamentalist kids. Given it legitimacy. So these companies, the government—they'd sooner touch a gulpin than my research." She snorted. "A gulpin would make them look a lot less dirty."

Outside, the waves churned. A storm was brewing on the water. Haru tried to collect his thoughts. Companies were money grubbing, but they wouldn't condone electric pokemon dying just to save a few yuans. Would they?

Doctor Qian studied him, a knowing look on her face. "Not an easy pill to swallow, is it," she said quietly.

"If pokemon are dying to power Hoenn—that's unjust."

The word came out a hiss between his teeth.

For some time, the only sound was the rain beating on the window. Haru stared out at the sea, unable to wipe the image of electrike corpses from his mind. He'd almost trained an electrike. Befriended one under the bike-path, smiled at the way it jumped among the patches of clover, chasing its own electric sparks. He felt sick to his stomach.

"Are you religious, boy?"

Haru blinked at Doctor Qian's sudden question. He supposed the short answer was yes. But yes didn't encompass a childhood spent learning at Grandmother's feet, or that dark, cruel year in Rustboro, when he cried every time he tried to pray. It didn't encompass his years on the road as a trainer, the silent prayers he made each day, even though he never crossed the threshold of a prayer house. It didn't encompass the feeling he'd experienced, alone on the rain-swept path of Route 119—the sudden, absolute certainty that had crystallized inside his heart.

"My father's family were priests," he offered at last. Maybe less an explanation than an excuse.

Doctor Qian raised an eyebrow, setting down her cup of tea. "Were they now? I come from a line of priests myself, as it happens. From Mossdeep. Were your family the rich kind of priests?"

"Not rich," Haru said, looking up at the blue-crystal chandelier. His family's home back in Ecruteak had wide rooms and well-polished floors, but never anything that extravagant. "We were comfortable."

Doctor Qian snorted. "Well, mine were rich. Received a handsome stipend from the local government for doing a few dances at the appropriate time of years. To ward off the wrath of the ancient ones, you know. Mossdeep was born in the clash between the Land-Maker and the Sea-Spreader and we've always been a bit paranoid about that. Worried a second clash would come and unmake us as thoughtlessly as we were once made. Thus the dances."

She paused to take a sip of tea.

"I don't think my parents really believed, you know. It was their day job. Most of what they did was city politics anyway—endless development planning meetings, endless fights with the space station. I'm pretty sure they took bribes, too. Oh, you want to build your luxury mansion only a few meters from the sea-side? Very dangerous, very provocative towards the Great Sea-Spreader. But we can ease the way for you—at the all important planning meetings, as well as with the gods. You can fill in the rest, I'm sure. Well, I didn't want any part of it—split off, got my degree. The money was a nice surprise, when they finally passed. I was sure I'd be disinherited.

"And then—" The rain was coming down in sheets now. Doctor Qian turned to stare out at the blurred seascape, her voice distant. "Then the world ended. Just the way it went in the stories. Do you remember? You would have been too young, I suppose. It began with a rain storm, not too different than today's. But that rain didn't stop.

"The skies were so thick with storm clouds that day seemed like night. And the water rose here in Mauville, so high that I could dangle my feet over the cliff-edge and get them wet. Hard to remember what I was thinking at the time. I rummaged through the chests in the attic like a woman possessed, until I found my mother's old robes, still smelling of sandalwood and cinnamon. I draped them over my scrawny body and stood out there in the rain, wondering if I should do some kind of dance." She let out a quiet, bitter laugh. "All I managed to do was get myself soaked all through and a nasty case of pneumonia a few days later.

"But the rain did end, eventually, and the world didn't. The titans retreated into their dens. And that's when I realized. We aren't going to get justice. There won't be a final reckoning, where the worthy rise and the unworthy sink beneath the waves."

Doctor Qian's voice hardly shook, but her hands trembled as she clasped her tea cup. Outside, the rain dropped off. The clouds shifted, and a beam of sunlight fell suddenly across the bamboo floor.

"Maybe it was a warning." Haru hadn't intended to speak. The words came from nowhere—he found them waiting ready on his tongue. "Maybe we only get one."

The doctor stared at him, her face gone pale. All at once she seemed very old and very frail in her over-sized robe.

Hoenn's gods had made the land shake and the seas rise. But the people hadn't heeded the sign. They'd continued to build their towers, spit in their seas. Electrike corpses on the beach.

"Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Doctor," Haru said into the silence. He needed to get somewhere he could think. When he stood and made a deep bow, Doctor Qian rose as well. They passed down the shadowed hallway without speaking. As Haru slipped on his boots, Doctor Qian's voice startled him. It echoed loudly off the wood walls.

"You can tell your islander friend I'm in."

Haru glanced over at her in confusion. Doctor Qian's chin was set firmly and her eyes glittered in the dark entry hall.

"In?" Haru repeated.

"Yes, in. Whatever it is. You think they've told me the details? I'm the establishment!" She let out a short, humorless chuckle. "Though, believe me, that would be news to the establishment."

"I—I'll pass that on to Maliki," Haru said at last. He stepped out into a light drizzle and made his way down the cobblestone path, out the gate. Groudon's jasper eyes burned into his back.


.

Maliki's smile lit her whole face, when Haru told her what Doctor Qian had said. Before he could react, she'd reached out and pressed him into a quick hug, even though his jacket was soaking wet. "That's wonderful news. Thank you, Haru."

Haru drew in a deep breath. He'd felt jumpy and unsettled the whole way home.

"Maybe you can thank me by telling me what she meant by that," he said. The words came out more sharply than he'd intended.

"Well, you heard the doctor's research. What do you think of it all?"

"It's wrong." It was as if Haru had been waiting for the question. Every swirling thought from the walk home poured out in a confused, emphatic torrent. "This voltage extraction method, it's wrong, and even if more studies need to be done, they should be calling a moratorium on it, the funding should be pouring in for more experiments. I'd always heard it's healthy for electric types to let off excess energy, but this isn't that. It's a complete perversion of a natural stress mechanism. And if it's killing them or worsening their quality of life to that extent—do the pokemon know what they're getting into? I mean, they can't know, right? So it's our responsibility to make the work safe for them. That's our duty."

Maliki nodded, a solemn look on her face. "You're right, it is our duty. But you think a company cares about that? They think their duty is to their bottom line. You think the city of Mauville cares? The people might, if they knew. But the politicos sure don't. Their power's proportional to the power coming out of that damn plant and they know it. Oh, they know it." Maliki paused for a moment, as if waiting to see if Haru had a counter-argument prepared. "So where does that leave us?" she continued when he stayed quiet. "If we know about this and we've got a duty. Well, we have to let people know, don't we?"

"There was an article," Haru said. "When I looked Doctor Qian up. In some paper—I forget the name . . ."

"Rewire? Yeah, Rewire's great. A real decent, hard-working alt, surviving by the skin of their teeth. But they've hardly got any circulation. Besides, anyone picking up that paper already knows this city has some problems. But how do we reach the ones who don't? How do we make it so this can't be ignored?"

Another test. But not one Haru knew how to answer. They stared at each other in silence. A few drops of rain-water ran down Haru's sopping bangs and fell to the kitchen floor in a series of plonks.

"Sunday night," Maliki said slowly, "we're going to make some news they can't ignore."

What did that mean? Who was we? And why was Maliki looking at him like she expected—the same way she'd looked at him last night in the shrine room, a gaze that asked, which kind of person are you?

The cowardly kind
, Haru thought, letting his eyes fall to the increasingly wet floor. His nav rested like a hot coal in his pocket.

"I've got to put on something dry," he said at last.

"Sure," Maliki answered, her tone impenetrable. "Just think about it, will you?"


.

Early Sunday morning, Haru returned to the Mirage Desert lab. He desperately wanted some time alone with Damascus, but his heart sank when Doctor Ogletree's gruff voice answered the buzzer.

"It's Haru Watanabe, Sir," he said. "I was here Friday? I was hoping to visit my cradily again, but if it's too much trouble I can wait until—"

"Watanabe? No, no, come in. That damn expedition was delayed another night and I need a second pair of hands."

"I haven't had an orientation yet—"

"A trained chimchar could handle this work, and you're smarter than that, aren't you?"

The door buzzed without waiting for Haru's answer. He found Doctor Ogletree in one of the smaller lab rooms, the door propped open. The man reeled off some rapid fire instructions before leading Haru over to a set of petri dishes.

"Doctor," Haru said, as the man turned to leave. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Hm?" Doctor Ogletree's mustache twitched in irritation. "What part of that's unclear?"

"Not about the samples. Um." Haru swallowed. He didn't want to waste the head researcher's time, but there was no one better to ask. Doctor Qian clearly had some grudge against the Mirage lab. She might have completely misread the situation. "I was wondering how projects get funded. How is that determined? Where does the money come from?"

Doctor Ogletree's hearty laugh made Haru flinch. "Lad, it will be a good five years before you have to trouble yourself with questions like that! If you think labeling samples is tedious, try writing grant proposals!"

Which didn't exactly answer the question. Haru tried a different tact, remembering the way Doctor Ogletree had paused to lecture in the corridor when the topic turned to his own research.

"Your own work, for example. How do you fund it?"

Doctor Ogletree's hand rose to his bushy mustache. Its red color was really very striking, especially since, Haru couldn't help but notice, his eyebrows were completely gray.

"Well, this is a government lab. We get a set sum each year out of the federal budget, to divy up among our internal projects as we wish. It's not enough, obviously. Government always underfunds us. So that's when we turn to corporate. DevCo's a massive funder, of course. Been very generous with my research. That Steven Stone's a good influence—appreciates a good archeological dig, that man. I met him myself, actually, last year at the annual meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Prehistoric Pokemon." The pause Doctor Ogletree inserted here had an expectant air.

Erika's advice echoed through Haru's mind: a delicate balance between hard work, skill, and sucking up.

"Wow," Haru said. "Did you really?"

"Indeed." Doctor Ogletree gave a satisfied nod. "So rest assured, lad, this is a very well-respected lab. We don't suffer from the funding troubles some other places do."

Haru chose his next words carefully. "I can see that, Sir. But what if—what if, say, your research began to indicate that the despeciation problem is being caused by human activity? By the same companies giving you money? Would they still fund you?"

Ogletree furrowed his eyebrow. "Ah, well, you have put your finger there on one extremely thorny funding problem. The media and some ridiculous non-profits are always trying to politicize my research. Use it to justify their policy programs. That kind of thing is very toxic, lad, very toxic. Not much to do about it, unfortunately, except try to keep your work out of the popular domain as much as possible."

Had he heard that correctly?

"I don't understand," Haru said, before he could stop to think. "Once the research is out there, why wouldn't people try to find solutions? How is that bad? Isn't that the whole point of diagnosing problems?"'

Doctor Ogletree's face creased into a heavy frown. "Lad, you seem to be operating under a fundamental misapprehension here. It's called the despeciation problem because we don't understand it, not because it's our job to solve it."

Haru blinked. "Whose job is it, then?"

"Hm?" Doctor Ogletree's mustache gave a twitch. "Well, society's, perhaps. But not us. We are researchers, compilers of knowledge, clean fact and theory, not activists."

"But how is society supposed to know what needs fixing without our work to tell them?" Haru demanded.

A thick silence fell. Haru realized he'd raised his voice into just short of a shout.

"I have work to get back to," Doctor Ogletree said finally, his voice cold. "Working here, young man, you'll have to learn that there's a time for asking questions and a time for bucking down and doing what you're told."

Haru sunk into a rigid, Johtoan bow. "Of course, Sir. Please accept my apology."

He turned to the samples, fighting to keep his mind blank. Sample one. Divide into five dishes. Sample #1 Test #1, he marked on the first plastic surface. Whose job is it to decide? Not mine, Doctor Ogletree had said. Not ours.

But who did that leave?

As Haru worked his way mechanically through the sample plates, a memory rose in his mind of a dimly-lit room, the warm puff of alcohol against his face.

Who is it all working for and who is going to stop me?

The words circled through Haru's head as he bent over the lab table. When his stomach grumbled, Haru took a short break. He didn't see Doctor Ogletree, but he did find a drawer of power bars in the lobby room. The sweet, nutty bar didn't do much to clear his head, but it did give him the energy to return to the lab room.

The sun was setting when Haru set down the last labeled test sample. His back ached from the awkward way he'd been bending and his stomach felt cramped and empty. The lab seemed deserted. In the lobby, the electric lights were off, though they flickered back to life when Haru walked in. Had Doctor Ogletree already gone home?

Haru knew he should leave as well, but his feet led him back down the hallway towards the thick door of the terrarium. Inside, the terrarium was cooler now, faithfully mimicking the weather patterns of the desert. Haru shivered in his light jacket as he crossed the sand. The moonlight made the terrarium into a shifting sea of silver and black. All was silent except for the faint scratching of trapinch tunneling somewhere below.

"Damascus?" Haru called out in a whisper. Was she already sleeping? Cradily were strictly diurnal, but Haru had known Damascus to keep him company late into the night. Then again, that had been on the road. The pull of her native environment might have made her revert to her usual biological rhythms.

As Haru stood uncertainly by the edge of the still oasis, he caught a glint of red above, too static to be the roving eye of a baltoy. All at once, his stomach sinking, Haru realized his mistake. Of course the terrarium would be under surveillance! It was an observation room, after all.

Even if he managed to wake Damascus, he wouldn't be able to tell her anything, not with a camera listening in. He was probably in trouble already just for having entered the terrarium unsupervised. He hurried out, down the long hallway.

When he stepped outside, the night was still and dry, without a trace of yesterday's rains. Haru stood motionless for a moment, fighting the urge to cry.

If only Nya-Nya were here. The delcatty would curl up with him, a warm weight in his lap as she kneaded rhythmically against his legs. But to see Nya-Nya he'd have to face Mother or Father. And Haru didn't think he could stand to look at either of them right now, not with the memories of Grandmother still so close.

Erika had always been the one to have flaming rows with their parents. She and Mother could go back and forth for hours, but they made up as quickly as they fought. Haru, in contrast, never raised his voice. If he was angry, he'd clam up until the anger fell to a low simmer. But right now, Haru thought if he were to see his parents he'd begin to scream and not stop.

For a moment, he was tempted to turn back towards the lab, walk past it, out into Mirage Desert. No one would be out there to take offense if he poured all the grief, all the fear, all the anger of the past week into one long scream.

That would be stupid, though. The dust storms of Mirage Desert could whip up in an instant. Even close to the edge, it was possible to completely lose your way.

So Haru wiped his eyes and set off towards Mauville in silence. Above, the stars wavered like guttering candle-lights.


.

When Haru pushed back the faded curtain, he found the shrine room a bustling hive. Maliki stood at the center of it all, conferring with one person, then the next. But when she caught sight of Haru, she cut across the room.

"Tonight," Haru said, before she could speak. "You said you're doing something they can't ignore, right?"

Maliki studied him carefully. She was dressed in dark, muted clothing and she'd removed her bright orange earrings. "Yes," she said. "That's right."

Haru sucked in a breath. His stomach was cramping, his eyes stung, and the inside of his head was thumping and stamping loudly, like a slaking gone berserk. When he opened his mouth, instead of a scream, he heard himself say, "Count me in."
 
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Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
Well well well, I think this may be my favorite chapter yet! Well, favorite is hard to pick. But this chapter was really moving. It found very drive, t had this particularly good slow burn feeling. All these discordant little details were coming together into one bold moment.

Haru is finally rising to the occasion growing. He's gonna do something to fight back.

Also this story makes me sad :(

It seems I rarely have any specific critique to offer, so instead I will simply offer my thoughts in line by lines

The tall house stood alone where the cliff came to a point. Ivy climbed the black-scaled siding; thick fog draped over the roof.
I really love how you use just a couple broad stroke sentences to begin painting the gist of a picture. You don't dump everything at once, but slowly feed the reader the information as is necessary.

Swallowing, Haru pushed back his rain slicker and pressed the doorbell lightly, flinching at the imperious bong that rang out. He gazed up at the black-scaled house with growing skepticism. This couldn't be a researcher's house. For one thing, it was simply too huge. If his mother had managed to impress anything on Haru in the past year, it was that a researcher's salary didn't stretch very far. He must have written the address down wrong.
Tying the physical details of the course to a character based observation is just, great.

Haru allowed himself to be ushered into a vast, shadowy anteroom. A tall wooden coat rack stood to one side, a shoe rack to the other. Haru removed his muddy boots hastily.
Nice descriptors again, very tasty.

An elaborate blue-crystal chandelier cast soft light from the ceiling, though he noticed that several bulbs had burnt out.
I like these really really tiny details. Like the bulbs being burnt out. It shows that appearances a little stuff are not very important to Qian. Perhaps she's not interested in using more electricity? Too busy with research to worry about a few bulbs? All of the above?

Electric-type pokemon naturally built up stores of electricity in their bodies, Haru read. These stores fluctuated by age, season, battling frequency, and other stressors, with a certain baseline required to maintain the pokemon's health. The electricity extraction method used at the Mauville power plant Doctor Qian termed "high-stress" voltage extraction, because it drained the pokemon of enough electricity in a single session that they fell below their baseline. This triggered a stress response that excited the pokemon's electricity production, causing the worker pokemon to replenish their electric stores in a matter of days, rather than weeks. Doctor Qian didn't dwell much more on what she labeled the "stress-production cycle." Her paper measured its impact on the pokemon's health. And the numbers from her study were grim. Haru's gut was churning by the time he set the paper down.
</3 How DARE they. I hate this... this is horrible.

Another test, he thought. "It's a very compelling study. I thought the health metrics were well chosen, very concrete. And the disparity's just extreme, I mean, the charge degeneration rate alone—"
Oh Haru, you nerd.

No, no, the power plant employs a thousand electric pokemon at least, with hundreds in turn-over each year. So why didn't I get myself some more respectable numbers, hm?
I hate corporations like this though. You could do more but you're lazy.

This is an important issue. If voltage extraction is killing pokemon early—I mean, electrike only live fifteen to twenty years if they don't evolve. So that's cutting their lifespans by a third or even a half—"
:C

Would they?
I want the answer to be yes but I know that's not it.

He supposed the short answer was yes. But yes didn't encompass a childhood spent learning at Grandmother's feet, or that dark, cruel year in Rustboro, when he cried every time he tried to pray. It didn't encompass his years on the road as a trainer, the silent prayers he made each day, even though he never crossed the threshold of a prayer house. It didn't encompass the feeling he'd experienced, alone on the rain-swept path of Route 119—the sudden, absolute certainty that had crystallized inside his heart.
What a nice dollop of prose. You really know when to parsel things out and when to drop a long bit. How do you decide!?!?!

"Maybe we only get one."
Scary.

And if it's killing them or worsening their quality of life to that extent—do the pokemon know what they're getting into? I mean, they can't know, right?
The fact that they're lying to the pokemon is just... *screams* Those poor puppers

How do we make it so this can't be ignored?"
I actually have a morbid idea of my own

Which didn't exactly answer the question. Haru tried a different tact, remembering the way Doctor Ogletree had paused to lecture in the corridor when the topic turned to his own research.

"Your own work, for example. How do you fund it?"
That self-absorbed little bum. Also, very clever on Haru's part.

Erika's advice echoed through Haru's mind: a delicate balance between hard work, skill, and sucking up.

"Wow," Haru said. "Did you really?"
Clever indeed.

Well, society's, perhaps. But not us. We are researchers, compilers of knowledge, clean fact and theory, not activists."
You belong to society too you dummy! I hate this nebulous concept that people create of 'society' as if every single human being isn't ALSO a member of society. UGH. Typical scientist type. Thinks they're above it all.

Count me in.
AW YIS

Many sadfeels during this chapter too. Very good. I'm delighted to see Haru stepping up. I don't know what this means or what will happen but if a stand can be taken I always admire those who take it.

Scared too though, Haru could be getting himself into a loott of trouble.

I think this chapter had really really solid pacing and rythym, you packed a whole lot together. Good job.
 
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kyeugh

onion witch
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
5: the safehouse

i really like the way haru's decisions are contrasting with his family's expectations of him. i wonder how long he'll be able to hide that from them. religion and science are frequently cast as being at odds—i don't necessarily think that's true, and it doesn't seem to be the case here thus far, but i do have it in the back of my mind. will haru be forced to choose between his career and what he feels is right? that seems likely, and if what he feels is right is informed by his religion...

i hope we'll learn more about the other gods worshipped by the tenants at the temple. the worldbuilding around haru's spirituality is one of my favorite things about this fic, and i thought it was cool learning about how maliki grew up leaving out milk for mew, too. hopefully we'll get more details like that!

this chapter felt very transitional to me; so far a lot of the plot has been about the fallout of the situation with wei (including atalanta), but with her release, all of that seems to be behind haru for now. the story seems to be moving on to some new plotlines instead, about haru's internship and the new group he's associated himself with and dr qian's research. the email haru received at the end tells me that these new plotlines will probably cross over with the old ones at some point; i doubt it'll be in a way that's any good for haru, but i'm excited to see where it goes nonetheless!

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.
this sure sounds like it's probably not racist.

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.
lmfao, i missed the last part of this sentence the first time. gotta love it.

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.
i found mew's double helix icon interesting. sort of leads me to wonder what the exact chronology looks like there. has mew always been worshipped, but its symbol was updated after the discovery of dna/mew's role as an ancestor pokémon? was dna etc just discovered long ago by the time the fic takes place? or is it just a coincidence?

Grandmother had always said that a true prayer demanded nothing from Lord Ho-oh and everything from one's self.
i think you can use "oneself" here.

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

Maliki's grin widened. "You trust your instincts too, huh?"
well, that's one way of putting it.

What society would put such care into creating beauty here, when there was such obvious ugliness and need only a short walk away?
i can think of one or two...

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.
b-but she's on the cover! seriously though, i doubt this is the last we see of atalanta... i wonder what will bring them together again. i doubt it's anything good.

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.
damn, i had no idea it took that long. always thought it was sort of a quick/easy sort of thing.

Below that—

Haru swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry.

A message from the Ethics Commission, the league's chief regulatory body.
ohhh shit. i actually completely forgot about this. i can't believe he never looks at it!? haru you buffoon. you utter fool.

---

6: the awakening

oof. poor haru, having feelings and whatnot...

this chapter built on the last one in a nice way, sort of expanding on the elements introduced in the last one—the internship and the new apartment in particular. not the best first impression for the new roommates, what with the breakdown and all that... or hey, maybe it is. i'll be curious to see how his new roommates treat him going forward, though i'm assuming his emotional performance earned him a permanent room...?

dr. ogletree is an interesting character. i'm guessing that maliki sort of represents haru's spiritual side, whereas dr. ogletree will come to represent haru's secular obligations. it seems like his research is mostly harmless if not straight up beneficial, so i somewhat doubt they'll come to blows directly, but i'm anticipating a push-and-pull that'll force haru to choose what kind of person he is—entei, raikou, or suicune—in the end.

i'm curious what role damascus will play running forward. not sure if he was just there to provide a reason for haru to visit the lab, or if he'll make further appearances later on. his level of perception is intriguing—wonder how much he'll pick up on during haru's tenure at the laboratory.

good stuff overall. i have a hard time writing these reviews sometimes because your prose sort of stands on its own; i rarely have a ton to comment on explicitly because it's just really good and works, haha. just thought i'd let you know that... these comments are pretty superficial but it's not for lack of engagement. i'm having a great time with this fic and i'm very impressed with how quickly you've been rolling chapters out recently! keep up the great work and thank you for sharing your story!

The egg sizzled gently in the pan. Haru watched with drowsy eyes as the yolky mixture slowly firmed. He slid his spatula under and rolled it over. Sizzle. Roll. Repeat. Making tamagoyaki was soothing. Grandmother had made it whenever the weather turned rainy. She'd plop the yellow roll down on his plate, warm from the pan, and then he'd have to spend the next ten minutes cajoling her until the omelette was evenly split between them.

Haru seemed to have the kitchen all to himself this morning. It was past nine, and the others were probably off at work. Too bad. He had hoped to return Maliki's favor by making her some breakfast. Like he used to tell Grandmother, the sweet egg omelette was a little big for one.
gotta agree with another review i read, you pay great attention to food and it's awesome. very good sensory detail and it sounds delicious every time without a fail. there's also just something very mindless and relatable about the mechanical act of preparing food, and you manage to give us details about haru's history, too.

Haru knew he was getting close when his mouth dried out and his eyes began to sting. The arid weather here was definitely going to take getting used to.
i was surprised the weather changed that much just within a half hour's walk, but then i remembered haru specializes in microclimates... is that what you mean by that? does hoenn have pockets of radically varying climates? that's definitely interesting and i think adequately explains the variability within hoenn, as well as why haru would come to hoenn for his internship. don't think i put those pieces together before though.

"Lab's empty today," he continued. "Everyone's out on expedition. Would have joined, but my damned lungs are acting up again. Follow me—"
wonder if this is because he lives in a desert environment with shitty, sandy air quality... neat detail if so.
The doctor glanced briefly back at him. "You're familiar with the despeciation problem, then?"

It sounded like a test. Luckily, Haru had never had a problem with those, even half-asleep. "Yes, Doctor. Simply put, Hoenn is growing less diverse on the level of species. It's not just that some species are on the verge of extinction, but that the rate of their long-term evolution seems to be slowing."

"Correct," the doctor said gruffly. "Now, how does one go about studying such a long-term phenomenon, when our own scientific records run back only a scant few centuries?" Doctor Ogletree plowed on before Haru could attempt an answer. The question had clearly been rhetorical.

"I study baltoy and claydol. The most fascinating pokemon, from a purely anthropological perspective. Uniquely, we have cave drawings of baltoy and claydol stretching back a millenia. And if you showed a child those drawings, and then showed them a modern baltoy, the kind you might encounter anywhere out there in the desert, they wouldn't hesitate to tell you these pokemon are one and the same. They have hardly altered at all across the many centuries. If we can understand the baltoy—the role they played in ancient civilizations, why they didn't evolve over time—we may find the answers to the national downturn in evolution patterns. Or as some call it, the despeciation problem. Is it normal variance, on a time scale greater than we have the current means to track, or a product of human action? This is by no means a simple question—as it is sometimes portrayed in the popular media. But what answers we can find will begin with the ancient, unchanged patterns of the baltoy."
this is some interesting stuff but feels a little bit aykb to me. i wouldn't bat an eye at this conversation if haru hadn't just said he's already familiar with ogletree's work.

Damascus herself wasn't a fossil resurrection. She'd come from a breeding colony, a decades long attempt to build back up the lileep and cradily population in the Mirage Desert. Species restoration was very trendy these days, in popular media as well as the scientific world—restoring Hoenn's ancient glory, people said. As the colony stabilized and became more well-known, they'd announced a fellowship-contest—a few lucky trainers would be selected to travel with a lileep, logging its daily habits and growth. When he'd caught wind of that, Haru had thrown up training for his gym battle and spent the rest of the week locked in his cramped pokecenter room, laboring over his essay submission. The work had paid off: he'd been one of only seven trainers chosen. The months that had followed, diligently logging his lileep's diet, emotive responses and battling progress were the first time he'd seriously considered a career in research. And the fellowship was probably what had made the difference for him in landing this internship.
ohhh, i really love this. awesome take on how fossil resurrection can work in a fleshed out setting while making it still feel unique and special to haru (i.e. not just anyone can receive a fossil pokémon).

"My name's Maliki. When I was just a little thing, my mam and pap took me out to the edge of our lands. And together we laid down a bowl of milk, fresh from the udder. 'That's for Mew,' my mam said, so I asked her, 'What's Mew?' 'Mew's the one we all come from,' Mam said. So I say, 'Mam, if Mew made us all, why does she need our milk? Can't she make milk of her own?' 'And my mam laughed and said, 'My heart, of course Mew doesn't need our milk. It's us who needs to give it.'
i think the quotation marks are a little messed up here; there's no double quote " to end the dialogue, and there seems to be an extraneous apostrophe ' before the "And" beginning the penultimate sentence. really love this tidbit though.

In the basement of the old dance hall, he'd come across Grandmother's tapestries packed away in a cardboard box. They were ragged and dirt-stained, completely beyond his skill to mend.
ouch. i love that you just let this fact stand on its own without going into detail about his emotional reaction right away.

And those people—they've made Suicune's choice.
i think "taken" works better than "made" here. "made" makes it sound like they're making a choice for suicune, to me at least.

"Hey," said Maliki, peering intently into his face. "Are you all right?"

Haru didn't want to imagine what he looked like. He hoped his eyes weren't puffed and red.

"I'm fine," he croaked.
 

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
For purposes of this review and trying to give a more accurate representation of my thoughts, I think so anyways, I'll start with the highlights first and then give my general thoughts at the end.

Maliki had waved a dismissive hand. "Best not to. Doctor Qian's a spontaneous sort of person."

Well this approached ended up working but that could've gone really wrong really fast.

Haru paused in front of the iron gate. The curved arches depicted Hoenn's titans locked into a ceaseless battle. Groudon's jasper eyes gleamed; Kyogre's tail flared out in blue lapis. If the gate had been shut, Haru would have turned back then and there, but it was propped loosely open.

Beyond, a cobblestone path wandered through an overgrown yard. Bugloss plants grown to monstrous heights criss-crossed past thorny bluk berry and silver-edged goutweed. One bugloss shoot curved directly over the path. Haru stopped to run a finger along its thick, fuzzy stem, still wet from the morning's rain shower. Either this yard was abandoned, he thought, or the owner didn't accept the premise of weeds.

This segment was a little harder to imagine in my head the first time I read it. After a couple of rereads I was able to properly figure out the image it was paintining but it felt a little hard at first, probably because it's hard to imagine where the weeds are actually growing out from, are they climbing up a wall or just going along the floor? and on that note does it mean that Haru is touching the floor as well?

"Oh." An unreadable expression crossed the old woman's face. "The islander? One of her rag-tag crew, are you? Well, what does she want now? I've already told her I can't help."

You know, Qian actually did go a little against my expectations here, based on what Maliki'd said earlier I thought she'd be more open but I like this approach of a reclusive professor who doesn't just help when someone asks.

Haru lowered himself gingerly onto one plump floor cushion. An elaborate blue-crystal chandelier cast soft light from the ceiling, though he noticed that several bulbs had burnt out.

This is another aspect of your story I haven't touched in my previous reviews. I like this sort of mish mash of cultures you have in your version of Hoenn. This Hoenn is clearly closer to its Asian roots but it's not quiiiite Japanese either, there's a sort of blend between eastern and western that comes out in the ways character behaves or the inside of buildings like this one, where on the outside it looks like a western mansion but on the inside it's got a tatami mat and it's set up more like an eastern home. That same feeling extends towards the boarding house that Haru's staying at as well.

The old woman sprang to her feet before he'd finished speaking. "Easily remedied."

She vanished down another winding hallway.

I love Dr. Qian, she's such a charismatic character and I love how she changes from being stern and closed off to being completely excited at the prospect of having someone she can discuss her paper with, also love how she had a copy at the read.

Electric-type pokemon naturally built up stores of electricity in their bodies, Haru read. These stores fluctuated by age, season, battling frequency, and other stressors, with a certain baseline required to maintain the pokemon's health. The electricity extraction method used at the Mauville power plant Doctor Qian termed "high-stress" voltage extraction, because it drained the pokemon of enough electricity in a single session that they fell below their baseline. This triggered a stress response that excited the pokemon's electricity production, causing the worker pokemon to replenish their electric stores in a matter of days, rather than weeks. Doctor Qian didn't dwell much more on what she labeled the "stress-production cycle." Her paper measured its impact on the pokemon's health. And the numbers from her study were grim. Haru's gut was churning by the time he set the paper down.

So basically electric types are being made to expend all of their energy constantly forcing them to produce even more energy until they just can't anymore? That's pretty dark all things considered.

That being said, I do like this detail from a worldbuilding standpoint, both in regards to electric types providing energy but also the different ways in which that energy functions depending on the pokemon. It also raises some really interesting questions whether it's okay or not to even use them to produce energy in the first place since they'll probably just end up getting treated as batteries anyway.

"Criticism?" Doctor Qian said, her eyes not moving from Haru's face.

He hesitated.

"The sample size," he said at last. "You say one hundred, but that hundred is drawn from three species of pokemon. You compare them within the species groups, but then present those results as combined. I'm not sure that extrapolation is entirely justified. I think it would be more accurate to say you compared twenty sets of voltorb, twenty-four sets of magnemite, and fifty-six sets of electrike, rather than claiming you compared a hundred sets of electric-type pokemon, as if there wasn't species variation."

I really like the way you differentiate Haru's relationship with Dr. Qian compared to Ogletree. Ogletree is so full of himself that he doesn't give Haru a chance to speak, heck, in this very chapter he only really talks to Haru when he kisses up to him and only cares about speaking his mind. Qian on the other hand seems like someone that's genuinely interested in Haru's opinion, as someone with a background in research who presented actual interest in her work, enough to sit down and read a whole paper in front of her. I don't know, it just shows that she's more attentive and cares more about how her work is perceived rather than just chugging out a new study and getting paid for it, plus I like the quick mentor relationship they develop here. I hope Haru ends up working with her if he doesn't end up in jail.

Doctor Qian's disdainful laugh rang through the room. "Get a grant? Ah, my boy, the funders wouldn't touch this one with a ten-foot elastic pole. And neither would the brown-nosers at the labs. They know where their bread is buttered."

I'm also intrigued at the shifts this fic is taking, what originally started out as a guy trying to cover up a series of crimes is starting to turn into a sort of political thriller story, we're delving deeper into the politics and ethical issues plaguing Hoenn with every passing chapter. Cities like Mauville thrive while a subset of the population is downtrodden, scientists and researches are getting bought by big corporations trying to hide their misdeeds in an attempt to come off as the good guys because they're supposedly benefitting society. I hadn't expected things to take this kind of turn when I started reading it but I'm interested in seeing where it goes.

"I'm well aware." Doctor Qian cut him off. "That's why I started this research project, you know. All the electrike corpses washing up on my little beach down there were a tad difficult to ignore." A tremor entered her voice as she jerked a finger towards the rain-streaked window and the ocean beyond it. "All of them with those damn worker chips. But Mauville won't fund anything that endangers their precious electricity. Our power is electric power, one of our mayors used to say. Hah!"

Holy shit that's dark. That's a pretty gruesome picture to paint, forget unethical, that's downright horrific how they'd just dispose of pokemon bodies like that.

And again, I reiterate that I like Qian in the way she worries about these kinds of issues, even if I know that the only reason she's even been able to get this far is because she can self-fund.

Outside, the waves churned. A storm was brewing on the water. Haru tried to collect his thoughts. Companies were money grubbing, but they wouldn't condone electric pokemon dying just to save a few yuans. Would they?

Yes they would, Haru.

Also, the mention of yuan makes me wonder, is this Hoenn predominantly based on China? the names of the natives have sounded a little more Chinese in that regard.

"And then—" The rain was coming down in sheets now. Doctor Qian turned to stare out at the blurred seascape, her voice distant. "Then the world ended. Just the way it went in the stories. Do you remember? You would have been too young, I suppose. It began with a rain storm, not too different than today's. But that rain didn't stop.

Oooh, now this is interesting. Does this mean that the events of RSE happened many years ago? I mean the story doesn't outright say it, it kind of just throws hints at it, but that's the vibes I'm getting. If so, it's pretty interesting since you don't usually get stories that explore the aftermath of the games. I also found it interesting how you go into the similar yet different backgrounds for both Qian and Haru here and the different ways in which their families grew up around their faith. It's another interesting nod at the different eastern inspirations behind these regions as the priests Qian mentions sound more like something ala Feng Shuei while Haru's are more traditional Japanese ceremonies.

"Sunday night," Maliki said slowly, "we're going to make some news they can't ignore."

What did that mean? Who was we? And why was Maliki looking at him like she expected—the same way she'd looked at him last night in the shrine room, a gaze that asked, which kind of person are you?

Well shit, I guess Haru is being presented with yet another life-altering choice now isn't he?

"I don't understand," Haru said, before he could stop to think. "Once the research is out there, why wouldn't people try to find solutions? How is that bad? Isn't that the whole point of diagnosing problems?"'

I've always asked those same questions myself. Anyways, it paints a pretty stark picture when even the best scientists are eating from the pockets of the people controlling the world in the background.

Maliki studied him carefully. She was dressed in dark, muted clothing and she'd removed her bright orange earrings. "Yes," she said. "That's right."

Haru sucked in a breath. His stomach was cramping, his eyes stung, and the inside of his head was thumping and stamping loudly, like a slaking gone berserk. When he opened his mouth, instead of a scream, he heard himself say, "Count me in."

Well, I think Haru might've just made the second most important choice in this whole story.

I'm really intrigued in seeing where Haru's character heads next. With every passing chapter he's slowly coming into his own and opening his eyes up to the problems in the society he lives in, the ones his family's always wanted to ignore in favor of climbing up to the top. I think remembering what happened to his grandma and all the events leading up to here made him realize that he's just not happy and he wants to live a life that his grandma can be proud of.

Similarly, I like that even through this he's still someone that focuses on doing what's right. One of the moments in this story that most resonated with me is young Haru and his essay on the importance of rules. Haru's always valued the idea of following the rules and doing things the right way, but now he's realizing that maybe those same rules he's always followed are actually hindering others. It's a really great way of giving us a character that both rebels against the norm but is also overall a good person while still keeping his innocence and it's an approach that reminds me a lot of dystopic novels and the approach to their protagonists as everymen wrapped up in situations that force them to come to terms with their society.

Anyways, I see that this story is heading to some interesting places and I'm even more pumped to see where it goes.
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
Well, hello, it’s been a minute!

Another fantastic chapter, as usual! This feels much like a “calm before the storm” kind of chapter, and the weather mentioned throughout seems symbolic of that, too. Haru is finally making a decision about something HE wants to do—yes! I’m so proud! Can’t wait to see what goes horribly wrong happens next chapter!

Her house robe dragged against the floor of the hallway, which was paneled with fine bamboo, but dusty. Haru watched the hem move, half-tempted to lift it off the ground.

Lol I love these little details that show how careful and tidy Haru likes to be—no wonder he’s been nothing but a ball of stress this story, since everything is a hot mess that just keeps getting worse.

Haru began to read. At first, he was uncomfortably aware of Doctor Qian's gaze, fixed on him as she slurped noisily at her tea.

LOL I like this lady already.

Electric-type pokemon naturally built up stores of electricity in their bodies, Haru read. These stores fluctuated by age, season, battling frequency, and other stressors, with a certain baseline required to maintain the pokemon's health. The electricity extraction method used at the Mauville power plant Doctor Qian termed "high-stress" voltage extraction, because it drained the pokemon of enough electricity in a single session that they fell below their baseline. This triggered a stress response that excited the pokemon's electricity production, causing the worker pokemon to replenish their electric stores in a matter of days, rather than weeks.

I really enjoy reading various interpretations of how Pokemon operate, and you’ve done a marvelous job all throughout the story! Even if this is...honestly horrifying, it’s a fascinating detail about electric Pokémon. I’d probably read entire fics that are just pokemon research and biology, tbh. It’s so interesting to me.

I think it would be more accurate to say you compared twenty sets of voltorb, twenty-four sets of magnemite, and fifty-six sets of electrike, rather than claiming you compared a hundred sets of electric-type pokemon, as if there wasn't species variation."

Hm, why would the power plant use first stage evolution Pokémon when evolved ones are stronger and, I imagine, capable of producing more electricity?

"No, no, the power plant employs a thousand electric pokemon at least, with hundreds in turn-over each year.

Uh, WHAT. I do not like what this insinuates. No, no, noooo.

Haru tried to collect his thoughts. Companies were money grubbing, but they wouldn't condone electric pokemon dying just to save a few yuans. Would they?

Oh, Haru, my sweet summer child...yes. They absolutely would.

"Not rich," Haru said, looking up at the blue-crystal chandelier. His family's home back in Ecruteak had wide rooms and well-polished floors, but never anything that extravagant. "We were comfortable."

Huh, this actually surprised me! His family has such a corporate, capitalist mindset, I readily assumed they were on the wealthier side of things. Perhaps they are now, since moving from Johto. But this goes to show that this obsession with success is definitely not limited to just the wealthy.

"Yes, in. Whatever it is. You think they've told me the details? I'm the establishment!" She let out a short, humorless chuckle. "Though, believe me, that would be news to the establishment."

Ha! What a great line.

They stared at each other in silence. A few drops of rain-water ran down Haru's sopping bangs and fell to the kitchen floor in a series of plonks.

This is...probably a total nitpick, but “plonk” seems too heavy a sound for raindrops. Maybe “plinks?”

"Tonight," Haru said, before she could speak. "You said you're doing something they can't ignore, right?"

Maliki studied him carefully. She was dressed in dark, muted clothing and she'd removed her bright orange earrings. "Yes," she said. "That's right."


Say what? Shady rebellions? Activism? Probably incoming property damage? Did I stumble onto Continental Divides by mistake? LOL

Honestly though I’m excited for next chapter. I’m sure everything will go smoothly and nothing with go wrong at all. Yep. Certainly.
 
Chapter Eight - The Raid

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Chapter Eight - The Raid


The candlelight wavered across Maliki's face. "What we're doing. You know it's not exactly within the thin bright line of the law."

"I understand."

"Do you?" Her gaze weighed him. "Do your pokemon? If you're caught, you'll get a defense lawyer. They won't."

"Lawyer" conjured up a TV image of wooden podiums and judgemental eyes. She'd chosen the word on purpose, he decided, to see if he'd back down.

"I don't have any pokemon," he said instead.

Her eyebrow rose. "Didn't you—"

Explaining about Atalanta would mean explaining everything.

"I don't have any pokemon," he repeated.

"All right. We leave in fifteen minutes. Stick to Power Axel on the way over." She nodded towards a scowling teenager in the corner. His dark brown hair covered most of his face in a ragged sweep, and a magneton buzzed by his head. Haru recognized him as the instant noodle chef who had fled the kitchen a few days ago. Thursday. That day already seemed like a distant island—like a full sea had closed in behind him.

"Power Axel?"

"We go by code names," Maliki explained. "Safer that way. You should pick one for yourself."

Nothing came to mind. When he opened his mouth, an old nickname fell out. "Caterpie."

Maliki was surprised into a smile. "Caterpie? You sure you don't want to go with something a little grander?"

Haru shook his head. He felt only tenuously attached to the earth—light from hunger, strangely airy. His hands were shaking.

"Caterpie it is then." Maliki waved at the scowling boy. "Hey, Axel! Caterpie here is your responsibility until we reach the plant."

The boy gave a quick dismissive nod. When Haru walked over to him, he didn't say hello. The shrine room buzzed with anticipatory chatter, but the hushed conversations were too low for Haru to catch. He pulled out his nav instead.

"You can't bring that."

Startled, Haru looked up. The boy was watching him with a deepened scowl.

"DevCo crams in all sorts of shit. And I don't have time to wipe it for you."

"I'll put it in my room," Haru said quickly. When he returned, the boy was waiting with a black bandana held in his left hand and a power bar in his right.

"Hungry?" he asked in a slightly less hostile voice, and shoved both items at Haru before he could answer.

Just then, the chatter guttered out like a candle exposed to wind. Maliki had taken the stage. Everyone gathered around her, and the silence thickened with expectation.

"We call ourselves the Sacred Flame," Maliki said in a low, carrying voice. "We have no creed. We know that we are grateful and we are free. People have forgot their freedom and their gratitude. We're gonna bring it back. Back to the people, back to the pokemon. It starts with the feeling right in here"—she clasped her fist over her heart—"that they can never take from you, because what is in here is so true and so right. It's the flame that Arcanine brought us. I know some here tell it another way. But all the same, it's that very flame Arcanine gave to humanity from a place of mercy, and each generation bears that debt and that duty, tending to this land we've been given. Mauville Power Plant's forgotten that duty. Tonight, we're gonna remind them."

Nobody clapped, but the fervent nods and flashing of prayer signs struck Haru as a more potent reaction than applause would have been.

The departures were staggered. Haru hung back next to Axel, until the boy suddenly started forward, his steps darting and impatient. The night was wet with mist, and the pavement was dark like a river. In the alleyway, a wild magnemite was attempting to feed off the nearest street-light, but the pokemon-proofed casing defeated it. Axel paused.

"Tri attack, fire only," he murmured to his magneton. One steel-rimmed eye blinked open. It floated lazily upwards and struck at the street-light with a red-hot magnet, knocking off the casing. A surprised sound, almost a chirp, came from the wild magnemite. It extended its magnets to the exposed wiring and began to feed. The street-light flickered out, leaving the alley a murky gray.

"Least this godsforsaken city can do for them," Axel muttered. "Come on, let's go."

As they crossed into the more upscale parts of the city, the street-lights multiplied. Tall apartment buildings shed yellow light, and neon arrays flashed on every unused surface. When Haru had first experienced Mauville City at night, he'd been seized with a sense of undirected awe for human achievement.

Now the profusion of light struck him as strange and sinister.

The sprawling complexes of the power plant lay on the far outskirts of the city, where the houses dropped off and the pavement subsided into brown scrub. They came to a stop twenty meters in front of a gently-pulsing yellow barrier. A light screen. Probably intended to keep out the wild electric types attracted by the power generated inside the plant. Haru glanced to his side and saw that Axel had tied his bandana. He followed suit; the fabric fit snugly over his nose. When he breathed, warm air pooled over his lips and lingered, as if in anticipation.

They stood without speaking, Axel gazing determinedly into the field. Haru tried to match him, but the shifting light of the barrier made his head ache. He shut his eyes. The silence was thick out here; the noises of the city had receded into a distant growl. But he soon became aware of another sound, a low scrabbling, close at hand. It sounded familiar.

For several minutes, Haru couldn't work out why. Then it came to him—the terrarium. It was the sound of trapinch digging.

They weren't going to break through the barrier. They were going to go under it.

In the distance, a light flashed twice.

"Come on," Axel said.

To enter the trapinch tunnel, Haru had to get to his hands and knees. The soil was still wet from yesterday's rain and clung to his pants and palms like clay. At the midpoint, the light was blocked out completely. Haru stilled, drawing in a full breath. The air in here was moist, alive. He could hear his heartbeat, mystifyingly steady.

When he emerged, a wet breeze lapped at his face. Three trapinch were clustered by the mouth of the tunnel, snouts encrusted with black soil. Their eyes gleamed like stars set in tar.

"Five minutes," said Axel, shoving a can of spray paint into Haru's hands. "Be quick."

"What should I—" Haru flinched at how loudly his whisper cut the silence.

"There's a reason you're here, right?" Axel said in a muffled voice. "Don't you know it?"

With that, he turned away, a spray can clasped in either hand. The wrathful face of Zapdos took form in a hiss of furious yellow and black. THESE ARE MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, read Axel's messy capitals. MY RETRIBUTION IS SWIFT.

Haru shook the cylinder in his own hand and heard the liquid slosh. It took him a few tries to determine the correct amount of pressure and distance. Slowly, words took shape.

Verse 8:14. But Suicune ran along the white caps of the waves and, like unbidden wind, she was free.

The tap on his shoulder made Haru flinch. He hadn't felt the time slip away.

"Stay or go, Caterpie?" Maliki whispered. A butterfree watched him from her shoulder, its eyes an eerie red. Haru followed her gaze to where half the crew had regrouped by the tunnel. The barrier glimmered behind them like an untimely sunrise.

Go? He felt unmoored, incomplete. The night was utterly calm; in the distance, he spotted the tell-tale flares of volbeat, circling over the sea. Not yet.

"Stay," he whispered back. If her expression changed, he couldn't tell from under her bandana.

Haru joined the group by the entrance, just as the doors slid open with a metallic snick. He threw an arm over his eyes as light erupted from the opening. It cut out abruptly, leaving eddies of black and white swirling behind his lids. Someone must have found the off-switch.

They stepped inside. The only light now came from the butterfree. A soft, purple-green glow spilled from its wings, just bright enough to lift the corridor ahead from pitch blackness into uncertain gray shadow. When the corridor forked, the group split. Haru followed Maliki.

Their footsteps made a muffled melody. Time seemed to stretch out and distort. Twice his hand dipped to his left pocket, only to find it empty of his nav. Haru's eyes strained to force the darkness into some kind of order, but each corridor was the same unending gray.

Eventually he gave up, and let distance join time as concepts that lost their meaning here.

When Maliki drew to a sudden halt ahead, he almost ran into her. She turned, a finger over her lips in the universal gesture for hush. Haru listened, but he heard nothing except the low hum of machinery somewhere in the indecipherable distance. The seconds lengthened. Then a high wail split the silence, as terrible as a scream.

Maliki traced a signal in the air, purple light burning behind her hands. She turned the bend and vanished along with her butterfree—and the light.

Blood pumped in Haru's ears. The darkness assembled before his eyes into an ensemble of tiny, whirling dancers. Simultaneously, he heard a shout, a thud, and a long, low growl. Before the growl ended, Haru was moving. He waded into the black, found the sharp edge of a corner and felt his way around it to see yellow light spilling from a doorway.

It was a break room: small, sparsely furnished. The unimportant details filtered in first—the blue couch, bleeding foam; the flimsy fold-up chairs; the kettle sobbing on the counter-top.

A man in the blue uniform of the power plant lay slumped on the floor. Over him stood a manectric, Maliki's butterfree gripped in its mouth. Sparks prickled across its upraised fur.

"We're here to help," Maliki was saying, her hands raised and her voice steady. "We're here to release your brothers and sisters."

The manectric hadn't noticed Haru yet. He inched forward, his eyes fixed on the kettle only feet away. Maliki was still speaking, but the manectric wasn't listening. Haru reached the countertop just as the break room lit up blue.

His arm completed the arc of the throw before he even registered his hand on the kettle. The manectric howled as the boiling water hit its back, and the butterfree dropped from its mouth like a discarded toy. A bolt of electricity skittered towards Haru, but hit the countertop instead, searing a line into the black surface. The butterfree fluttered raggedly into the air. Purple powder shook from her wings and settled on the manectric's fur. Its body tensed as if to leap, but something gave way at the last moment. Its front legs collapsed, and the rest of it followed. A few stray sparks leaped up from its fur and flickered out.

Silence fell, broken by the jittery hum of the break-room fridge. The air smelled of burnt plastic.

Maliki pushed herself up from the floor into a crouch. Her hair was singed, but nothing else. She extended a hand towards the sleeping manectric, as if to smooth its fur.

"This one would come back even if we did release it," she said at last, voice pensive. Her eyes met his. "Thanks, Caterpie."

"You're welcome," Haru tried, but his mouth was too dry for words. He thought he should help Maliki up, but by the time he stumbled over to her, she was already on her feet.

"It's not much further. Come on."

Haru's blood thrummed under his skin as they re-joined the others and continued down the corridor. His head darted from side to side, expecting a band of snarling manectric to materialize from the shadows at any moment.

But they met no more guards. Their destination lay behind metal doors, the surface sleek like seel-skin in the jittery green light. Maliki tapped a card, and warned, "Lights."

Haru pressed his eyes shut. He heard the door slide open and Maliki's disgusted hiss.

"Workers. What kind of workers are imprisoned in their place of work?"

The lights burned. Blinking hard, Haru made out shelves filled floor to ceiling with pokeballs. He tried to estimate the number, but half-way up they blurred into a long red line, and he lost count. Each one holds a life, he thought numbly. The sight was somehow obscene.

So Ho-oh left the earth unto the dominion of Man. Father liked to quote those words whenever protestors flashed their signs on the evening news. In his mouth, it became a justification. The earth is ours to shape to our will.

Grandmother had seen it differently. Dominion, she spat, was the mistranslation of greedy priests. Bailment was the proper word.

"We hold the earth in trust, until the Life-Bringer returns. We own it no more than I own the parcel left in my care."

It had been the slow period in the temple, that time when even the most chatty congregants had dispersed from the morning services and before even the most devout returned for evening prayers. Mother and Erika had been at loggerheads that day. Their shouts chased him from the house to the stuffy quiet of the prayer-house. Their topic was the move. Erika didn't want to go. Her friends were here, she yelled, slamming her palm against the table in emphasis, not across the sea. Haru didn't want to leave either, but he didn't see the use in arguing. When Mother and Father agreed, they became like mortar and brick, forming a wall that stood fast against any assault. You could scream, but you'd only lose your voice. You could beat your fists, but you'd only bruise them. Hold your tongue. Conserve your strength. He'd learned those lessons early.

The murky afternoon light had underscored every wrinkle and crevice on Grandmother's face with charcoal shadow. "We are wardens, Haru. It is a burden. A burden. It is not light."

And she'd taken his hand and squeezed it, so tightly he almost cried out.

The others were unzipping backpacks and duffle bags. Someone tossed Haru a spare. Maliki stood with her foot tapping, eyes fixed on the ticking hand of her old-fashioned watch.

"Time," she said and walked up to the wall of pokeballs. She hesitated, then reached out firmly and detached one from the shelf. Everyone looked to the ceiling, cringing in anticipation of an alarm blare that didn't come.

"Nice one, Axel," someone murmured, and there was a general easing.

Maliki's butterfree took to the air with a dry rustle, a glow rising on her wings and expanding outward. Pinkish light wrapped around each pokeball; one by one, like cheri berries shaken from a tree, the pokeballs dropped into their open bags.

How many pokeballs—fifty? One hundred? They'd barely emptied the front-most shelves. Haru hefted up the duffel, shocked at the lack of weight. Grandmother's words rang through his mind. It is not light.

They were leaving. The same shapeless corridors, the same muffled steps, but they moved now like sleepwalkers who had awakened onto a race-track.

The first alarm struck like a blow to the back.

Haru buckled: for a moment, all strength left his legs. Then Maliki screamed, "Run!" and the darkness cascaded into itself.

Maybe the distance really had been an illusion, because when they reached the exit, only minutes seemed to have passed, except that his lungs and chest were on fire. He staggered out into the open air, the blue velvet sweep of the sky.

Someone shoved him forward, towards the mouth of the tunnel. He crawled blindly through the dirt. The plain was still empty. Behind him the barrier rippled with majestic calm. No, not empty. A colony of oddish whirled in the moonlight, their fronds swaying to some private melody. A bellossom spun in their midst. Petals, vividly pink against night, fluttered through the air. The beauty was disconcerting. Haru stood spell-bound; his nose and throat clogged with musk and jasmine.

Suddenly, the oddish scattered. Jeeps cut across the field, headlights streaking out like wild paint strokes. Their passage tore up the grass and soured the air. Haru relapsed into motion.

I can't run anymore, I'll burst, he thought, My legs will turn to ribbons, my throat will combust. I can't.

But his mind and his body had parted ways. His legs pumped, heedless. Behind him came the sounds of pokeballs releasing, but he didn't turn. Scrub turned to pavement. Buildings rose on either side, and the pitch of trains and traffic filled the air. At last, heaving, he came to a halt in an alleyway. He sank into a crouch, aware that standing would circulate his breath better, but unable to muster the strength.

The bellosom's aroma clung to his clothing. Will they have tracker growlithe? he wondered with a fresh jolt of panic. Each bellosom's scent was unique. They could trace him, even if hours passed. He couldn't return to the shrine like this. Unless . . .

Fives minutes slipped by before he could force himself to move. There was a small pokemart at the end of the block, its blue awning tinted gray from the smog. The bell jingled as he stepped inside, making him flinch. Haru thought he must look a sight—hair mussed, clothing soiled, stinking jasmine, but the woman at the counter barely blinked. He bought the cheapest brand of repel he could find, the kind he normally avoided due to its the overpowering stench. Back in the alleyway, he sprayed himself and the duffel until he was choking on rotten egg and rank berry.

The walk back passed in a daze. He drew dirty looks, probably from the repel stench, but nobody spoke to him, and Haru's exhaustion was such that putting one foot in front of the other demanded his complete focus. When he saw the familiar lavender hanging to the shrine-room, he almost doubled over in relief.

All the candles had burned out. Haru fumbled through the darkness. Twice he stumbled on the overlapping rugs, before his eyes adjusted, and he made out a pile of duffel bags in the corner. He hadn't been the only one to escape, then. Had Maliki made it out? He found her room and knocked, but there was no answer.

His body screamed at him to collapse, but his mind buzzed with a brightness that resisted sleep. He showered, scrubbing himself with citrus-scented soap until he could bear to breathe in his own air. He changed into pajamas, flicked off the lights, and stared into the wavering darkness of the ceiling. That was unnerving, like he was still back in those corridors. He got to his feet, flicked the lights back on, and retrieved his nav from where had left it. Out of habit, he pulled up the newsfeed, and with it a host of notifications from the alert he'd set on Route 119. The first notification was an emergency weather forecast, the second a photo essay depicting camouflaged kecleon.

When Haru reached the third, his heart stopped.

.
The knock was gentle, but insistent. Maliki's voice floated under the door. "Haru? Are you up?"

She hadn't been caught, then. The relief was like a buoy in a hurricane. Haru caught onto it and clung, despite the futility.

"Can I come in?"

"Yes," he managed, his voice like crumbling leaves.

She hadn't changed yet. Sweat gleamed on her forehead, and her braids were askew.

"I owe you a debt of gratitude, Haru. You saved my life tonight."

Had he? The memory fragmented when he tried to call it up. A wailing kettle, a flash of light. It had been instinct, from one moment to the next. There hadn't been any thought.

"Not just for that. Doctor Qian's agreed to rehome the pokemon liberated from the plant. She has the resources to remove their worker chips. Once those are disabled, the plant has no claim on them."

"That's great," Haru said hollowly.

Maliki gave him a long look. She sat down gingerly on the bed and spoke in a careful voice, like she was circling a wounded gyarados. "Are you regretting this?"

"No!" The word erupted from him. He swung his head from side to side. "No, it's not that. It's something else. I made a bad mistake. I—"

The tears surprised him. They came with no warning, no catching of the breath. One moment he was stiff-faced, the next he had collapsed into wetness.

"Hey now, Catepie, breathe, come on and breathe with me." Maliki's words rushed over him like a relentless stream. "You're here and you're safe and you got out. Breathe." Her hand touched his shoulder. "I'm here. Breathe."

Then it was words, not tears, spilling out. He spoke out-of-order, haphazardly. It was the day he met Heconilia—an impossible day, with not a single cloud in the sky. She had sniffed curiously at the berry he offered her. It was a species native to Olivine, nothing she could have tasted before. She'd loped after him through the undergrowth; the vines had swished and swacked.

He was telling her how he got the name Caterpie. It had been an insult, but he'd never minded: the name suited him. In biology class they'd learned how caterpie fed, safe in the curl of a leaf, how towards the end of their larval stage, their movements slowed. There was a short span of time before evolution when caterpie went completely prone. All their energy was held inside, conserved for evolution. This is the most dangerous time for them, their biology teacher declared with gusto. Without the option of flight, without the defense of a hard metapod shell, they were vulnerable to every hazard. Haru had closed his eyes, imagining how that would feel. Knowing that if the change didn't come, you would die. In that moment, all you had was your faith.

He was back on Route 119, and the rain was thick enough to drown. The narrative clarified. He told her the rest in a thin but unfaltering voice, as if it had happened to somebody else. Finally, he thrust out his nav and let her read the words inscribed there like an epitaph.

Throughout, Maliki didn't say a word. Her eyes were half-lidded. For a moment, Haru thought she'd fallen asleep. But then her eyes opened, and her gaze speared him, sharp and bright.

"So you made a bad mistake," she said. "And now both of you are going to pay for it."

He nodded but couldn't speak. The telling had emptied him out.

"A mistake. Like mixing up sugar and salt. If you could go back, you'd do it differently. Is that right?"

Like sugar and salt. It wasn't that simple.

"If you made a mistake, it's not too late for you. You're young, you're bright, your folks have some money. The system knows mercy for people like you."

"If I made a mistake?" Haru said hoarsely.

"If. Because I don't hear a mistake in this tale. I hear a choice. A brave one." She held out her hand; the suicune figurine rested on her open palm. Its serene red eyes bore into Haru: penetrating, judging. Maliki paused. A whole lifetime passed within it. Haru thought of the immobile caterpie, praying that it had the strength to be made new. "And now you've got to make another one."

 

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. vulpix-alola
Well, holy crap. Wasn't expecting a hard turn into the ethics of science. It's good that Haru found partners for crime since he is very, very bad at it. The penultimate chapter doesn't reveal exactly what went wrong, just that he did mess up at some point in the initial crime spree. Route 119-related, so probably not related to the broken ball and the ninjask. So... either the kid is dead or the tropius got caught. Or both. Probably just one, though. Hope it's the kid. Dumbass went far off trail in a thunderstorm. Even without Haru's intervention in the battle he probably would've died. Plus he deserves it. And no one's really dead because fiction.

Heconilia did nothing wrong.

Professor Oddball is best character in story. At first I thought you were going to model her after a certain Groudon-and-Kyogre-obsessed professor in Orre, but you didn't wind up going that way. Even if their houses are pretty similar. Best research, fun segue into a rant about how research is funded that has no bearing on real life. Pay no attention to the Exxon-funded climate studies. Professor Ogletree's reasoning on keeping stuff out of the public domain isn't usually how scientists think from my experience. Most hard scientists (i.e. the kind that I've talked about this with) seem to want their works to be widely available, but can't because then they wouldn't get the same prestige/funding. Granted, this was in a Marine Science department where much of the research concerned climate change. Climate scientists tend to be activists by nature. I imagine there are probably some stodgy conservatives like Ogletree who would rather politics stayed out of their science.

Not many pokemon here. That does play against one of the strengths of the fandom, but it mostly works. Good butterfree. Messes with all the capitalists. And Haru can use Scald despite not being a pokemon. Or... is he a pokemon? Maybe he is Suicune since Suicune knows Scald. Would explain why you keep bringing up that particular doggo. And it meshes with the tie-in work The Raikou's Choice where Raikou is turned into a human. Was that foreshadowing? If so, Haru can just run away when the law comes. That is clearly the purpose of the emphasis on Suicune running. Good job subtly spoiling your own ending.

No cradily is sad. I wanted to see more Damascus. Cradily is the cutest fully evolved grass/rock-type pokemon.

The mention of workers being held inside the factory made me think of how weird Pokemarx (got to seize them all!) must be. Probably full of fun intersectionality fights on if pokemon can truly count as workers. I now want to read a fic that is just many fictional twitter accounts having The Discourse. And some pokemon (manectric) are clearly class traitors. And herdier. Herdier will betray the revolution at the first opportunity and must be culled, for the good of the poketariat. All hail First Comrade Wooper. Down with his enemies. What enemies? First Comrade Wooper has no enemies. First Comrade Wooper has never had enemies. Suggesting that First Comrade Wooper has ever had enemies will make you an enemy of First Comrade Wooper, and then you will have never existed because First Comrade Wooper does not, will not, and never has had enemies.

If only Nya-Nya were here.

Yes. The presence of cattos makes almost everything better.

The air in here was moist, alive. He could hear his heartbeat, mystifyingly steady.

You do good imagery. I thought this was some of your best.
 

Phoenixsong

the world's scariest violinist
Partners
  1. custom/skiddo-steplively
whooooooops, I swear I read 5 already but somehow didn't write my thoughts down? Bah. Well, here they are now, along with all the rest! Apparently I'm picking back up at the halfway point here, which is interesting—it feels like we're only just getting settled here from what I remember of my previous read of 5, like the real trouble hasn't started yet/is juuust about to kick into gear, but there are only a few chapters left!

Not a bad thing at all, of course! Mostly now I'm just wondering how all of these little problems and choices are going to come to a head... presumably All At Once, which I'm sure Haru will appreciate, haha.

Anyway! Let's get stuck in!

Chapter 5

Ah, down to the lower half of Mauville, where everything is fine. This is... not something I'd put past the new version of Wattson, sigh. Dunno that any version of Wattson is scheduled to be relevant, granted, but yeah, I can definitely jive with the idea that Mauville probably has some unfortunate poverty issues swept under the rug/upper apartments.

Anyone who talked about the prosperity of Mauville City should spend ...

"talks" might work a little better, maybe?

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

Ooh, finally a closer look at some of his actual religious traditions! Been eager to get more little glimpses of these. Neat how this is sort of a joint temple for many gods—I suppose that makes sense, given folks have probably got to be pretty economical with their space down here.

Also interesting how Mew's symbol is a double helix! I wonder which came first—the use of a double helix as a religious icon, or the discovery of the actual shape of DNA strands.

He stood blinking as his eyes adjusted ... As his eyes adjusted,

I'd replace one of these.

Such a calm, relaxing prayer scene. (Enjoy it while it lasts, bucko.) In particular I love the bits about how serene and not-quite-sleepy it is.

We don't get too many people at the Ho-Oh shrine.

Usually so far you've written it "Ho-oh", no capitalized "o". Technically "Ho-Oh" is the official capitalization, but no one really cares if people use "Ho-oh"—I'd just be consistent about it, is all.

I'm from the Sevi Islands, off of Kanto.

"Sevii", two "i"s.

It's admittedly a bit convenient that Haru just happens to stumble into a place that can give him somewhere affordable to stay, but hardly inappropriate to get him into a situation where trusting in his faith (and the faith of others) would cause something (apparently) good to happen. I'm sure it won't turn out to be as simple as all that—one wonders whether Haru might end up having to worry about incurring the wrath of at least thirty gods, heh—but for now it is at least nice to get him into a place where he believes he can be comfortable enough for a while. I dunno, I feel like I'm rambling here, haha. But yes, I'm very keen to see what comes of all this!

I'm really looking forward to seeing a bit more of Maliki, too. She does seem to tick the boxes of someone Haru can really relate to, a person of strong faith with an interest in research, or at least in following it (since we don't yet know what else she might be doing for a living/as a hobby). What else is she going to bring out in him, I wonder?

This Atalanta's debt could expire in peace.

Suuuuure it can.

Atalanta's "release" was a sweet little scene. As implied above, I don't think anyone believes they'll truly be separated for long, stories being what they are, but in a world where it does seem to be so easy to disregard pokémon and what they want, it's nice to continue to see Haru doing his damndest to be decent and thoughtful. As he himself admits, even he 100% isn't perfect about that, but at least he's aware enough to call himself out when it does happen.

I am also glad that Atalanta did understand his offering and was content to leave and enjoy herself for the time being. I've never been too bothered by the concept of poké balls or anything, I'm quite content to take the series and its strange conceits at face value and in fact generally prefer to do so, but at the same time I do very much like to see examples of humans and pokémon who don't need to be constantly together to be close (or burgeoning, in this case) friends. That loyalty doesn't have to mean being inseparable. I'm very here for trainers and their teams traveling and growing closer as they grow stronger, but I also love seeing examples that aren't just that. I'm rambling again, but yeah, it's just nice.

lower stress levels, less instances of electrical degeneration disease, and longer life-span of five to ten years

Should be "fewer instances", I think, and the last clause might be better as "by five to ten years" since I believe you're talking about an extension.

Oof. Gotta love the spokesperson's cheerful corporate non-answer. Everything Mauville touches is just kinda slimy, innit, heh.

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

oop

The sleep spore use just keeps popping up, doesn't it? Two of the times we saw him use it in this chapter he was obviously stressed, "what do I do about affording a place to live" and "oh nooooo they're (probably, hopefully not, definitely) onto me", but even in the middle, when he spends his first night in his new apartment, things don't seem so overtly worrying that you'd think he'd need help falling asleep. Haru's aware at the end of the chapter that he's probably overdoing it, and yet at the same time there was that casual little use in the middle that maybe points to him not being fully aware of just how close he's cutting it. Interesting.

Chapter 6

and then he'd have to spend the next ten minutes cajoling her until the omelette was evenly split between them.

Grandmother not much for sharing, eh? Look, she put a lot of work and a lot of love into getting that omelette the way she likes it, darn straight she deserves a big serving!

And then we're off to see Damascus! Letter from the Ethics Commission casually remains unopened, it's totally okay, they just changed one of the words in the fine print of a policy or something to a slightly different synonym or something. That's aaaaaaall.

Like the description of the desert and the lab. The sand they probably don't bother trying to sweep off the floor anymore, the trick of dust and light that hides the varied landscape beyond.

extremely belatedly, he realized. He felt slow this morning, like he hadn't fully woken up.

I'm sure it's fine. (So easy to gloss over the earlier mention of "drowsy eyes" because duh, morning, but now! Hm hm!)

It's not just that some species are on the verge of extinction, but that the rate of their long-term evolution seems to be slowing.

Oof. Always interesting to think about how Darwinian-style evolution affects pokémon, though!

Cool that you're interpreting lileep and cradily as desert-dwelling! I think traditionally they're seen as crinoids? But then, it's not like Pokémon doesn't put animals in all sorts of weird environments to begin with, eh? Lava rhinos? Sounds legit.

Also excellent to get some info on why Haru became interested in pokémon research.

"How're things treating you here, Damascus?" Haru asked softly. Her tendrils retracted and widened, a sign of contentment. One reached out to trail questioningly up his face. And you?

I am Very Here for one (1) boy bonding with his fossil desert plant friend. Studying emotive responses, indeed. So far there hasn't really been much sign of how close Haru was to his pokémon other than Heconilia—somewhat understandably, since there's been rather a lot going on!—but I love really seeing how in tune he is with her here.

Damascus extended a second set of tendrils to roam his body. Haru knew she was checking him for injury, attempting to locate the root of his distress. He hoped Doctor Ogletree knew less about the behavior patterns of cradily than he did about baltoy.

More 👏 soft 👏 scenes 👏 with 👏 weird 👏 pokémon!

Ohhhh man, the dinner at the shrine. Digging deep into Haru's feelings about what happened to his grandmother, the distance between him and the rest of his family—I think I've mentioned before (or at least thought it, whoops), but it's not like... he doesn't seem to hate them entirely or anything like that, but there's a gulf of understanding and a stark difference in goals between them, and it's clear how Grandmother's death could so easily drive that wedge deeper.

When you got to the bit about her tapestries being ruined, that was a kick in the chest right there. Haru mentioned earlier having the feeling that Grandmother's weaving had such a sense of import and stability in his eyes, that the world might fall apart if her tapestries did, but it doesn't seem to have been that way for anyone else. Even the dance hall just shoves Grandmother's work unceremoniously into a box. Just... damn.

So now I wonder—what was it that drew Haru to his grandmother over the rest of his family? I suppose we shall see...

And then Haru's piece up on the stage. A lot going on there: trying to work through his family's actions, trying to settle his own thoughts about them, trying to remind himself that what he did for Heconilia was right no matter what the Ethics Committee says, because of course that last is also still on his mind even though he's managed to let his thoughts skip over it for most of this chapter. All so much to process, and all bubbling up until he has to get it out in a jumble in front of a bunch of strangers. Mwah. Lovely.

Still very curious about the role Maliki will play in all this! "What kind of person is Haru"... what business is it of hers? It speaks to an interest greater than just "is this person going to be an obnoxious tenant". And presumably Haru's guess at that being why she seemed curious earlier was probably off-base! (At least partially. Prooooobably still a good idea to make sure he won't be an obnoxious tenant.)

He wasn't like his parents or his sisters.

I think you mean "sister" singular here?

Such a powerful dream, too. Perhaps a bit more on on the nose than the others so far iirc, but striking nonetheless. Suicune's appearances hit closer and closer to what's actually happening to Haru, and what has happened to him—what does it all mean???

Chapter 7

Maliki set down her chopsticks, smile growing. "Did you now! What did you think of her work?"

Starting to get the impression that this is where Maliki's interest is heading. She might have some interest in dealing with problems like the mistreatment of pokémon at the plant, and wonders whether Haru might be able to help in some way, perhaps?

Well, what does she want now? I've already told her I can't help.

👀

The old woman sprang to her feet before he'd finished speaking. "Easily remedied."

Man, scientific journal paywalls are such a mess. Obviously it's not always possible to do this, especially not in person, but lots of researchers are super willing to share copies of their papers for free!

Interesting that Qian admits to fuzzing her sample size a little bit. Not the greatest thing to do, but I suppose it's something one might consider when you have this important a point to make.

All the electrike corpses washing up on my little beach down there were a tad difficult to ignore.

ooooooof. Cruelty aside, do they really not have a better way to, er, dispose of the dead electrike? Just pitching them into the water is the best they can think of? Are they assuming that they'll all get eaten by water-dwelling predators and, eh, what's the difference really between an electrike and a fish, or something? I guess I'm not 100% on what the alternative would be—cremation?—but this seems very yikes, and while I'm sure that's a large part of the point I do kind of wonder how realistic it is. It might well be; I just don't know!

Very aware of how rainy it's getting outside as the conversation carries on, heh. Blue Doggo Has Something to Say! (Or Blue Feesh, possibly.)

those crazy fundamentalist kids

Interesting word choice here. When I hear "fundamentalist" I don't really think of something progressive like reducing reliance on a big energy industry, or really looking into the safety of animals/pokémon. But strictly speaking there's a lot the word could mean, I suppose.

"You can tell your islander friend I'm in."

Aha, there we go. Maliki wants to save the puppers!

Rewire? Yeah, Rewire's great.

I think "Rewire" should be italicized, since it's the name of a publication?

The cowardly kind, Haru thought, letting his eyes fall to the increasingly wet floor. His nav rested like a hot coal in his pocket.

Haha, whoops. It's fine, Haru! It's definitely 100% fine.

...I wonder whether it might be, actually? With the sort of setup this story had, it'd be easy to think that the main conflict would be Haru having to deal with the fact that apparently respecting his pokémon's decision to return home is illegal, but that doesn't seem to be the big crux we're building toward. I could see it going either way, honestly—choices have consequences, and we've yet to see the other shoe drop on this particular consequence, even if I think we as readers agree that the decision he made was the right one. On the other hand, though, like I said, the power plant seems to be turning up as a bigger issue, and after all the stress Haru's choices have/will put him through it might be nice for him to get a little reprieve, eh? Besides, having said shoe drop means Heconilia could be taken away from her new herd, and nobody wants that. </3 Let good soft tree friend be happy, at least!

DevCo's a massive funder, of course. Been very generous with my research. That Steven Stone's a good influence

obligatory OSJ sockpuppet meme

The moonlight made the terrarium into a shifting sea of silver and black.

gorgeous

As Haru stood uncertainly by the edge of the still oasis, he caught a glint of red above, too static to be the roving eye of a baltoy.

oof

When he opened his mouth, instead of a scream, he heard himself say, "Count me in."

Ahaha. And he still doesn't even know exactly what they'll be doing! Angry as he is right now, and very justifiably so, I get the feeling that some part of him's going to feel that the amount of trouble this night gets him into won't be worth it. Hopefully the other parts of him do!

Chapter 8

Nearing the end now, eh? There's a lot to wrap up in just two chapters! Time to see how it all goes wrong.

Haru shook his head. He felt only tenuously attached to the earth—light from hunger, strangely airy. His hands were shaking.

Ruh-roh.

Arcanine as a legendary (or at least a mythical figure), eh? Neat. Nice to see somebody actually play with it a bit in a fic.

The night was wet with mist, and the pavement was dark like a river.

Love this. Simple, but I'm right there.

I like the use of the light screen to keep pokémon out. Li'l bits of poké-world–specific tech/solutions.

"There's a reason you're here, right?" Axel said in a muffled voice. "Don't you know it?"

Wow. Was there really no time to brief Haru on anything at all?

Ooh, angery zapdos graffiti.

I am slightly unclear on what they're tagging, I will say, and where they are in general. All we know is that they've emerged from the tunnel. I guess I'd like a slightly better sense of where they emerged. Are they tagging a wall? Have they rolled right up to the front doors? The latter especially seems like a good place for security cameras to be trained, so probably not that, but still, a bit of spatial grounding might be nice here.

Haru joined the group by the entrance, just as the doors slid open with a metallic snick.

Ah. Maybe they're not so concerned with cameras on the doors, then. A little odd that automatic doors would still be operating if the plant is presumably closed for the night, hm.

Their footsteps made a muffled melody.

"Melody" is a bit odd, imo. Unless there's a lot of metallic clanking and echoing happening, I wouldn't ascribe any sort of melody or tune to the sound of footsteps. "Rhythm" instead?

a finger over her lips in the universal gesture for hush.

Not sure we need any more than her finger being over her lips!

the blue couch, bleeding foam; the flimsy fold-up chairs; the kettle sobbing on the counter-top.

So good. Geez, though. Too cheap to replace a beat-up couch is one thing, but the kettle's actively "sobbing" with something after hours? No respect for cleaning up after themselves in the breakroom, these people!

Purple powder shook from her wings

Tiny consistency note—the butterfree was "it" when first introduced, and I'm not sure what's changed.

Father liked to quote these words whenever protestors flashed their signs on the evening news. In his mouth, it became a justification. The earth is ours to shape to our will.

Interesting. Is he justifying on the side of the protesters, or what they're protesting against?

The first alarm struck like a blow to the back.

Haru buckled: for a moment, all strength left his legs. Then Maliki screamed, "Run!" and the darkness cascaded into itself.

Not sure about the colon there; I'd expect a list. A semicolon or just a separate sentence would read a bit better, imo.

Darkness cascading into itself, mmmmm.

The run back was great. You got across the panic and chaos and the automatic need to just escape quite well. What a pity that the pretty bellossom dance might've gotten everyone in trouble! That's a neat detail.

and retrieved his nav from where had left it.

Dropped a "he" after "where".

When Haru reached the third, his heart stopped.

Oh, no. :( I feel like maybe it might be something more complicated than just having been directly identified, but whatever it is, it's not good.

"Not just for that. Doctor Qian's agreed to rehome the pokemon liberated from the plant. She has the resources to remove their worker chips. Once those are disabled, the plant has no claim on them.

Ah, I was wondering how her help might come into this. Cool!

Knowing that if the change didn't come, you would die. In that moment, all you had was your faith.

Ooh, nice.

"So you made a bad mistake," she said. "And now both of you are going to pay for it."

Heconilia no :(((((

So, more fool me, then! Well, not fool, but a bit surprised, certainly. The power plant rescue he might just get away with, but Heconilia's return home does in fact bite him in the end. Still works perfectly, of course! There was no way that something wasn't going to catch up with him. I just hope Heconilia doesn't end up suffering too much for it... I mean, I don't want Haru to suffer, obviously, but again, it was inevitable that something was going to happen. It's not soft tree friend's fault that human laws say she's too awesome to go home :(

And, heh... the burden is not light, indeed. Haru hadn't, to my knowledge, done anything "wrong" before all this started that I'd think a deity would want him to atone for. He doesn't really "deserve" the risks and consequences he's having to deal with, but somebody has to do something to help those pokémon, and the way humans have set their world up, there's no way to do the right thing without consequences happening. It's not easy to save the world! One would hope that if most of us were moved to do something it wouldn't be so harsh. But alas, no such luck for Haru. I'm eager to see whether he gets one last dream from Suicune that clarifies where she's angling with all this. And, of course, what Haru will ultimately decide to do.

Oh, boy. Great to finally be caught up! Eagerly awaiting the final chapter whenever it's ready—I'm sure it'll be well worth the wait.
 

HelloYellow17

Artsy Whimsical Nerd
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
Chapter 8, let’s do this!

Oh, boy. Right away, the title has me very intrigued. “Raid” definitely implies a lot of things are going to go down this chapter.

A solid chapter! And I was not expecting that twist at the end, at least, not so soon. I like that you didn’t fully reveal what it was that Haru found out, leaving the reader in a little bit of mystery—although I bet I can guess what happened.

"We go by code names," Maliki explained. "Safer that way. You should pick one for yourself."

Nothing came to mind. When he opened his mouth, an old nickname fell out. "Caterpie."

Oh, Haru. So soft and gentle and sweet. I love that he chose to use his old nickname.

It's the flame that Arcanine brought us. I know some here tell it another way. But all the same, it's that very flame Arcanine gave to humanity from a place of mercy, and each generation bears that debt and that duty, tending to this land we've been given.

Nice detail about Arcanine being a legend/object of worship, as I believe it has several dex entries that support this! It’s also probably not called “the Legendary Pokémon” for nothing.

In the alleyway, a wild magnemite was attempting to feed off the nearest street-light, but the pokemon-proofed casing defeated it.

I like this detail.

So Ho-oh left the earth unto the dominion of Man. Father liked to quote those words whenever protestors flashed their signs on the evening news. In his mouth, it became a justification. The earth is ours to shape to our will.

Grandmother had seen it differently. Dominion, she spat, was the mistranslation of greedy priests. Bailment was the proper word.

A very realistic depiction of how religion can be skewed so many different ways, and how many people use it to justify their own selfish desires and beliefs.

Haru didn't want to leave either, but he didn't see the use in arguing. When Mother and Father agreed, they became like mortar and brick, forming a wall that stood fast against any assault. You could scream, but you'd only lose your voice. You could beat your fists, but you'd only bruise them. Hold your tongue. Conserve your strength. He'd learned those lessons early.

Haru seems to have been resigned and discouraged from a very early age, and this makes me sad. He learned that it didn’t matter what he wanted or how hard he fought for it, because it wouldn’t change anything—and now, for the first time in his life, he’s actively fighting for something.

He bought the cheapest brand of repel he could find, the kind he normally avoided due to its the overpowering stench.

Extra “its” here.

Back in the alleyway, he sprayed himself and the duffel until he was choking on rotten egg and rank berry.

oof. I initially thought it would be kind of like mosquito repellent in terms of smell, but no, it’s like actual bad smells. Yuck.

"No!" The word erupted from him. He swung his head from side to side. "No, it's not that. It's something else. I made a bad mistake. I—"

The tears surprised him. They came with no warning, no catching of the breath. One moment he was stiff-faced, the next he had collapsed into wetness.

Ughhh poor baby. I just want to hug him, he’s just a sad ball of stress that’s trying to do the right thing.

He was telling her how he got the name Caterpie. It had been an insult, but he'd never minded: the name suited him. In biology class they'd learned how caterpie fed, safe in the curl of a leaf, how towards the end of their larval stage, their movements slowed. There was a short span of time before evolution when caterpie went completely prone. All their energy was held inside, conserved for evolution. This is the most dangerous time for them, their biology teacher declared with gusto. Without the option of flight, without the defense of a hard metapod shell, they were vulnerable to every hazard. Haru had closed his eyes, imagining how that would feel. Knowing that if the change didn't come, you would die.
In that moment, all you had was your faith.

Ah yes, I love parallels like these! Haru is definitely in his vulnerable stage right now, holding on to his faith when everything else is failing him.

"So you made a bad mistake," she said. "And now both of you are going to pay for it."

“Both of you”?? So Heconilia was found?? Noooo. :(
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
7. initiation

to me, the theme of this chapter seems that nothing is clear cut or neutral. a few chapters ago, i wondered how haru would balance his career with his beliefs and convictions, and i think this chapter produced the answer: he can't. at least, not in a way that's easy or convenient. the nature of his industry demands that he take a side of some kind; even keeping his head down and doing what he can to get by is an implicit choice of its own. i think the contrast between the two secondary characters in this chapter—dr qian and dr ogletree—exemplify this fact. dr qian is fortunate enough to have her own wealth to draw on for funding, but because her research threatens the status quo, it's suppressed by the people in power (and even others in the industry). meanwhile the mirage desert laboratory has funding to spare, but that money doesn't come free; in taking it, dr ogletree basically ensures that his research won't make a real difference, lest the funding dry up.

haru is at a turning point here—these are his two options, and he's torn between them. take the prestigious internship, travel along that path, and turn a blind eye to the injustices that await there; or do what he feels is right, even at great personal cost. his family has clear expectations for one, but his personal faith points to the other. for me this debate brings to mind the parable of the suicune's choice and the question maliki asked him that night: which is haru? entei would go with the flow and do what's easiest, and raikou would do whatever brought the most glory; both of these probably point to throwing himself into the industry despite everything. but at the end of this chapter, haru takes maliki up on her offer to cause a ruckus. he's made his choice, and it isn't what's easy or what's glorious. it's what he feels is right. for better or worse, it seems like haru has followed in the footsteps of his pokémon and taken the suicune's choice.

all that aside, i really enjoyed the scene with dr qian. she's a very colorful character and her anecdote about the day the world ended—and how it ties in with her faith and upbringing—was super interesting. little tidbits of worldbuilding like that have been my favorite part of the fic so far! not much else to say about the chapter other than that it's really well done and that i felt engaged the whole time. i actually haven't read chapter 8 yet as of this writing, so i'm anxious to see what happens!!

Haru paused in front of the iron gate. The curved arches depicted Hoenn's titans locked into a ceaseless battle. Groudon's jasper eyes gleamed; Kyogre's tail flared out in blue lapis. If the gate had been shut, Haru would have turned back then and there, but it was propped loosely open.
this is really cool. that is all.

"Well?" demanded a voice from the doorway.

Haru bowed hastily, the gesture made awkward as he turned. "Doctor Qian?" he said hesitantly.

"In the flesh." The figure shuffled forward, into the foggy light. She was a petite Hoennese woman, her hair gone a dark gray. The plum-colored sleeves of her house robe hung down past her hands. "Well?"
not sure if the repetition of "well?" here was your intention but it felt a little weird to me, might sub the last one for "and you are?" or something like that.

"What a bunch of blithering idiots."
blithering is a very good word. i'm curious why she thinks they're idiots, exactly.

At first, he was uncomfortably aware of Doctor Qian's gaze, fixed on him as she slurped noisily at her tea.
lol, love this. really speaks to her personality.

Electric-type pokemon naturally built up stores of electricity in their bodies, Haru read. These stores fluctuated by age, season, battling frequency, and other stressors, with a certain baseline required to maintain the pokemon's health.
hah, i wonder if some electric-types (the kind that feast on electricity, like magnemite and joltik) could just sap from electabuzz etc. i guess it wouldn't be very efficient.

"I'd need a bigger space and several additional hands to produce some really decent numbers."
hmmm, didn't catch this before! i wonder if this fic ends with haru working for dr. qian. probably not though. i expect it ends with haru in jail or something. 😝

"That's why I started this research project, you know. All the electrike corpses washing up on my little beach down there were a tad difficult to ignore."
ugh, that's so horrible. bad enough that they work their pokémon to death, worse that they just cast their bodies into the sea. has no one else noticed this!?

"And then—" The rain was coming down in sheets now. Doctor Qian turned to stare out at the blurred seascape, her voice distant. "Then the world ended. Just the way it went in the stories. Do you remember? You would have been too young, I suppose. It began with a rain storm, not too different than today's. But that rain didn't stop.
ooh, so i'm guessing this takes place ~twenty years or so after the events of RSE? that's really interesting! it's always fun to see how regular people were affected by all the apocalyptic shit unfolding.

Doctor Qian's voice hardly shook, but her hands trembled as she clasped her tea cup.
mm. very succinct way to capture that emotion. not sure what i'd call it—fear? passion? both? but i know exactly what it is.

"Maybe it was a warning." Haru hadn't intended to speak. The words came from nowhere—he found them waiting ready on his tongue. "Maybe we only get one."
oof. snappy, powerful.

It's a complete perversion of a natural stress mechanism.
hey, we're good at managing natural stress mechanisms going haywire. just put 'em on medication. 😁

Doctor Ogletree's mustache twitched in irritation.
lmao, love this. although it does kind of make it sound like the mustache is twitching because it itself is irritated—maybe "Doctor Ogletree twitched his mustache in irritation"

"Lad, it will be a good five years before you have to trouble yourself with questions like that! If you think labeling samples is tedious, try writing grant proposals!"
double exclamations feels like a lot... i feel like the first one could be a period.

"Ah, well, you have put your finger there on one extremely thorny funding problem. The media and some ridiculous non-profits are always trying to politicize my research."
"trying to" lol.

His stomach was cramping, his eyes stung, and the inside of his head was thumping and stamping loudly, like a slaking gone berserk.
always a good sign!

---

8. the raid

oh man, what a chapter. if the last chapter was about haru making his choice, this chapter was about committing to it. once he stepped past that lightscreen, there was no going back. at the beginning of the fic, haru made some questionable decisions in the spur of the moment as he rolled with the punches, but this wasn't that. it wasn't a decision so much as a choice, a premeditated one, and one that for better or worse he can't take back—just like his choice to free heconilia, which comes back to bite him here, too.

the scenes in the power plant felt very dream-like and surreal, which was cool. i've never raided a power plant but similar experiences in my life—the big, scary ones—felt a lot like that too, like i wasn't really present and my body was propelling itself. i think you captured that feeling very well during the scene itself and in the fallout, like when haru thinks about the scene in the breakroom later from the comfort of his bedroom. the bit about the bellossom etc being used to pin a strong identifiable scent to the intruders was really clever. it's interesting that they had such strong security, given it's a power plant—what do they have to fear intrusion so much for? seems like the product of a guilty conscience.

it seems like the next chapter will deal with maliki and haru's revelation at the end—that freedom isn't free, and that the suicune's choice isn't just about doing what you feel is right in the moment. it's about facing the repercussions head on, too, and that's something haru's going to have to do here soon one way or another. very much looking forward to seeing it transpire.

Her gaze weighed him.
not sure what it means for a gaze to weigh someone—weigh on him maybe? size him up?

Haru recognized him as the instant noodle chef who had fled the kitchen a few days ago.
hahaha, "chef."

In the alleyway, a wild magnemite was attempting to feed off the nearest street-light, but the pokemon-proofed casing defeated it.
omg, i'm in love with this detail.

a gently-pulsing yellow barrier.
i don't think you need the hyphen here? might be wrong about that.

based on the power plant's treatment of its electric-type pokémon, i can only imagine the light screen is being held up by pokémon around the clock, too.

Verse 8:14. But Suicune ran along the white caps of the waves and, like unbidden wind, she was free.
interesting! haru referred to "verse" before but it didn't occur to me that there might be a formal, numbered document like this. i wonder if it's the same for all legendaries that are worshipped.

Twice his hand dipped to his left pocket, only to find it empty of his nav.
"empty of his nav" felt a little clunky to me. maybe "Twice his hand dipped to his left pocket, and twice he was stabbed with momentary panic upon finding nothing inside before remembering that he'd left his nav behind" or something of that nature?

Eventually he gave up, and let distance join time as concepts that lost their meaning here.
awesome line.

Silence fell, broken by the jittery hum of the break-room fridge. The air smelled of burnt plastic.
love this. i don't often think consciously about how jarringly silent things are after a confrontation like that comes to an end, but yeah. smart detail.

Hold your tongue. Conserve your strength. He'd learned those lessons early.
oof. i felt that.

Pinkish light wrapped around each pokeball; one by one, like cheri berries shaken from a tree, the pokeballs dropped into their open bags.
i think "like cheri berries shaken from a tree" should go on the end instead; as-is i thought the simile was about the pinkish light, not the way the poké balls fell.

Haru hefted up the duffel, shocked at the lack of weight. Grandmother's words rang through his mind. It is not light.
but haru is shocked at the lack of weight! looks like you're wrong, granny.

Out of habit, he pulled up the newsfeed, and with it a host of notifications from the alert he'd set on Route 119. The first notification was an emergency weather forecast, the second a photo essay depicting camouflaged kecleon.

When Haru reached the third, his heart stopped.
oh man. looks like he's done sowing for now. time to reap. i guess he never did check that email from before, huh?

"So you made a bad mistake," she said. "And now both of you are going to pay for it."
oh god. what the hell? did they find heconilia, and do they plan on putting her down!? why not just transfer her to a nursery or something!?

"If. Because I don't hear a mistake in this tale. I hear a choice. A brave one." She held out her hand; the suicune figurine rested on her open palm. Its serene red eyes bore into Haru: penetrating, judging. Maliki paused. A whole lifetime passed within it. Haru thought of the immobile caterpie, praying that it had the strength to be made new. "And now you've got to make another one."
ooh, man. this gave me the chills. seriously can't wait for the conclusion.
 

Flaze

Don't stop, keep walking
Location
Chile
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. infernape
Huh, I didn't expect this hcpater to be an action chapter. Well, what qualifies for action in this story. I still think it was an interesting avenue. Chapters so far have revolved more around exploring Haru's psyqhe as he goes through his life and all the choices he has to make, but this one is entirely dedicated to developing the underlying plot that's slowly been making its way in the background, with the focus being more external. And it makes sense too, things are progressing so fast for Haru and it's something so alien to him that it's almost like he's not in his own body, something the description conveys by focusing more on surroundings and how Haru's actions end up coming out more on instinct than how he usually does.

In a way this is a chapter where Haru, without fully realizing it, lets out all the hidden rage and resentment he's been building up since he was a kid, but especially since the story started.

But first, let me start with the highlights because there were more than I expected.

Nothing came to mind. When he opened his mouth, an old nickname fell out. "Caterpie."

You go into more detail about why Haru picked this name later but on first learning about it I really liked it because...well obvious symbolism. Haru's like a caterpie himself, someone that's still growing, that's still in a stage where he hasn't fully gone down what path he wants to take in his future and is the process of "evolving" himself. It represents his hidden potential in a way.

"DevCo crams in all sorts of shit. And I don't have time to wipe it for you."

So I guess Axel is the requisite hackerman. Also pretty good analogy between DevCo and big companies like google or apple here.

"We call ourselves the Sacred Flame," Maliki said in a low, carrying voice. "We have no creed. We know that we are grateful and we are free. People have forgot their freedom and their gratitude. We're gonna bring it back. Back to the people, back to the pokemon. It starts with the feeling right in here"—she clasped her fist over her heart—"that they can never take from you, because what is in here is so true and so right. It's the flame that Arcanine brought us. I know some here tell it another way. But all the same, it's that very flame Arcanine gave to humanity from a place of mercy, and each generation bears that debt and that duty, tending to this land we've been given. Mauville Power Plant's forgotten that duty. Tonight, we're gonna remind them."

I don't know why I first thought of Starfall when I first read this paragraph xD

That aside, this speech is actually pretty fire, I can see why Maliki would have people backing her up and it also gives us a good idea of what her group is fighting for. Simply put, they're freedom fighters but they're not malicious like something like Magma or Aqua. I also like how you bring back the theme of freedom an having the ability to choose and also give others their own right to choose.

"Tri attack, fire only," he murmured to his magneton. One steel-rimmed eye blinked open. It floated lazily upwards and struck at the street-light with a red-hot magnet, knocking off the casing. A surprised sound, almost a chirp, came from the wild magnemite. It extended its magnets to the exposed wiring and began to feed. The street-light flickered out, leaving the alley a murky gray.

Huh, I'd never thought about tri attack being used individually, pretty neat detail right there.

When Haru had first experienced Mauville City at night, he'd been seized with a sense of undirected awe for human achievement.

Haru's impression of Mauville reflects a lot of the way people think about big cities. It's easy to get caught up in the dream-like landscapes of large metropolitan cities, even though they're specifically made so that you only see their beauty but not the ugliness hiding within. Something that Haru's starting to realize himself.

The sprawling complexes of the power plant lay on the far outskirts of the city, where the houses dropped off and the pavement subsided into brown scrub. They came to a stop twenty meters in front of a gently-pulsing yellow barrier. A light screen. Probably intended to keep out the wild electric types attracted by the power generated inside the plant. Haru glanced to his side and saw that Axel had tied his bandana. He followed suit; the fabric fit snugly over his nose. When he breathed, warm air pooled over his lips and lingered, as if in anticipation.

I don't know who did it first but I see you and OSJ ended up arriving at the same idea in regards to how to control wild pokemon :p

To enter the trapinch tunnel, Haru had to get to his hands and knees. The soil was still wet from yesterday's rain and clung to his pants and palms like clay. At the midpoint, the light was blocked out completely. Haru stilled, drawing in a full breath. The air in here was moist, alive. He could hear his heartbeat, mystifyingly steady.

Really good detail with the mud. I know it's pretty useless that I say that but it's still something that lets me as the reader truly feel what Haru is feeling, both on an emotional and a physical sense.

Haru shook the cylinder in his own hand and heard the liquid slosh. It took him a few tries to determine the correct amount of pressure and distance. Slowly, words took shape.

I...did not expect a paragraph going into depth about the process of doing graffiti, but I liked it nonetheless. Also it's interesting how at this point, where Haru is at a point of no return, he's still very analytical of his situation. Or maybe that's his way of coping with what he's about to do.

Verse 8:14. But Suicune ran along the white caps of the waves and, like unbidden wind, she was free.

Haru turning into a street evangelist over here.

Eventually he gave up, and let distance join time as concepts that lost their meaning here.

This one's pretty intense. It's really subtle, but it conveys the idea that Haru is just letting himself go with the flow at this point.

The manectric hadn't noticed Haru yet. He inched forward, his eyes fixed on the kettle only feet away.

It's a little confusing to pinpoint who's moving towards the kettle in the second part of that sentence, I can tell its Haru after thinking about it but at first it was hard to tell.

Grandmother had seen it differently. Dominion, she spat, was the mistranslation of greedy priests. Bailment was the proper word.

Haru's grandmother took no shits from anyone. Still, a pretty good worldbuilding detail that also reflects the way the real world tends to justify humans just doing whatever they want by acting like they're a superior species.

How many pokeballs—fifty? One hundred? They'd barely emptied the front-most shelves. Haru hefted up the duffel, shocked at the lack of weight. Grandmother's words rang through his mind. It is not light.

Well you state it plainly to text. Still cool how you give a physical manifestation to the "burden" that Haru has to carry if he wants to follow in the grandma's teachings.

Someone shoved him forward, towards the mouth of the tunnel. He crawled blindly through the dirt. The plain was still empty. Behind him the barrier rippled with majestic calm. No, not empty. A colony of oddish whirled in the moonlight, their fronds swaying to some private melody. A bellossom spun in their midst. Petals, vividly pink against night, fluttered through the air. The beauty was disconcerting. Haru stood spell-bound; his nose and throat clogged with musk and jasmine.

This paragraph was a little confusing to me at first. Did they all get hit by the sweet scent or was it just Haru? Either way, the chaotic vibe that this paragraph gives outfits perfectly with how rushed the group is in trying to get out. A situation where it feels like stopping to even recognize where your standing could spell your doom.

I can't run anymore, I'll burst, he thought, My legs will turn to ribbons, my throat will combust. I can't.

Me every time I go out jogging.

When Haru reached the third, his heart stopped.

Goddamn it, Pen. Let me know what's happening with Haru already D: I haven't forgotten that we never got more detail about what he discovered at the end of chapter 5.

"If. Because I don't hear a mistake in this tale. I hear a choice. A brave one." She held out her hand; the suicune figurine rested on her open palm. Its serene red eyes bore into Haru: penetrating, judging. Maliki paused. A whole lifetime passed within it. Haru thought of the immobile caterpie, praying that it had the strength to be made new. "And now you've got to make another one."

It feels like Haru has to make a new choice in every chapter.

Anyways, like I said throughout this review. It's cool to see the ways Haru is changing and letting out his feeling more with every chapter. That being said, I do wonder how the situation with Sacred Flame will develop. Sometimes they seem like a group of people trying to make the world better through more outgoing action, but I wonder if that's how it'll stay, and how long Haru will continue to just go with the flow.
 
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