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Pokémon The Suicune's Choice


golden scars
waiting for the fog to roll out
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
I return! Incidentally, if for any reason if someone were to be counting up how many chapters this review is about, please do kindly note that there is nothing in this review referencing chapter 5. It is solely for chapters 6-8. There is no fifth chapter. Honestly it's kind of weird that you have this gap where Haru thinks about renting a place in chapter 4 and then immediately after that he's got a cool roommate in chapter 6, but skip battles and skip character development 2021.

This is a lot more fun to read in one sitting, which makes sense--most stories are. But the tension builds really delicately in these last bits; the problems escalate. There's the recurring thread of Haru checking his Nav and being too nervous to actually look at it; to distract from his problems, he just ends up doing another felony instead. Very good decisions all around. It's kind of anxiety-inducing to watch, since we're watching him just spiral further and further down this path without even realizing it.

I found myself unsurprised that this story leans into ethics and morality and questions of choice--most of your stories do imo. But the running trend tht I'm more able to appreciate--either because it's coming up more frequently in your work or because I've reached the stage in my life where I'm looking for it--is the focus on the things that inspire us to fight, the burdens and the blessings we carry with us. It makes perfect sense that a story about choice would wrestle with these deep-rooted questions of motivations and faith, but I think the way you do it here is particularly poignant. Grandmother is such an OG here and I'm sad just thinking about the tragedy you created with her, but also how proud she'd probably be of Haru now. The caterpie theme at the end of chapter 8 is a really powerful one as well: in your darkest times sometimes all you can do is have faith; sometimes, all you can do is infiltrate a power plant and steal tons of human assets with your cool new roommate. But in a very tangible sense, one fuels the other, because it has to.

And there's a lot riding on faith in these last bits. Where will the electrike go? Will this actually fix anything? It strikes me that the Suicune's choice is something that, as far as I can tell, Haru made meaning for on his own--the verse itself is there, and I can't imagine this is an uncommon interpretation, but the onus of choice is something that he read into a passage. The original verse is about running, about rest, about three people deciding what to do when their fight is over. But for Haru, it becomes something to hold to when his fight is just beginning--like faith, it's something that only has weight when he puts weight into it. I thought the grafitti scene at the end of 8 was a little gratuitous at first, but reading it again it became one of my favorite scenes so far--Haru's making a choice. This is what fuels him forward.

This is beautiful. I'm sure chapter 9 will break me into tiny pieces.

and here are some line-by-lines, which are pretty much just "good fic update more", exclusively for chapters 6-8.
Like he used to tell Grandmother, the sweet egg omelette was a little big for one.
I really love how you have his relationship with Grandmother here. He Cares, capital C, and the kindness she taught him shows in everything he does. It's really beautiful.
Haru added half-way down the corridor—extremely belatedly, he realized. He felt slow this morning, like he hadn't fully woken up.
Cannot imagine why. There is absolutely no connection to the self-medication from before I am sure huh! did he have a rough night? I don't remember anything like that happening in the previous chapter. And now this joke has run its course.
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.
I didn't quite follow what was up here--there's long-term evolution in some pokemon, but the examples we get in this section (and all the ones Ogletree chooses to study) are all species who either don't seem to exhibit long-term evolution or were only recently reintroduced into being alive. I think it'd be helpful to have a non-negative example of what they're looking for here--maybe a flygon skeleton that has a longer snout, suggesting that they used to nectar feed before the desertification intensified or something.
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 is the best friend and please let nothing bad happen
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.
This was a really neat tie-in, both to character and world. Basically directly as I was reading this, I was wondering why Haru would have a fossil pokemon, and then boom, an answer.
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.
He gently unlatched Damascus' tendrils from his body, wincing at the cradily's confused whine. "I'll see you again soon, Damascus."
My heart, of course Mew doesn't need our milk. It's us who needs to give it.'
This line stuck with me back when I read it months ago. Some things are important for what they cause us to do, not what they do for us.
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.
jesus fucking christ my heart is not ready for the roller coaster that is this story
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.
part 2 of not being ready
The word choice here is poignant, and sad. We get glimpses of Haru's dark times and his doubt, but we never see the full thing--and I found that fitting, honestly. We don't need to see to know, and I'm fairly certain Haru isn't looking back either. You do a great job of shaping out this nebulous period of rumination and guilt and how it defines him without ever actually looking it in the face.
"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."
There's something beautiful about how this story builds imo. We see the poem in the first chapter, and it's special in a way, but what really gives it meaning is what it ultimately inspires Haru to do. It's a lesson that's only as powerful as you want it to be.
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.
yes she's definitely flying free nothing bad is happening
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!"
I loved this as a dream sequence--the tower is where Suicune was reborn; Haru must make a similar choice, but he doesn't. And failing to choose is a choice as well, as he's seen.
"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?"
Wasn't sure why this makes him fumble the rice ball? Is he just so excited to meet another researcher?
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.
wow Pen I had no idea this topic interested you
The rain was a growing drumbeat against the window; Haru hadn't noticed when it first began.
this probably wasn't a metaphor but I like to pretend it is one--it fits in nicely with the language of the story, of Haru being swept up in things and not being able to tell when the first bad things began.
"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."
awwww yay it's funding ethics!
Companies were money grubbing, but they wouldn't condone electric pokemon dying just to save a few yuans. Would they?
"it never gets old watching your protagonists try to explain that breaking the law is illegal", part 4
"If pokemon are dying to power Hoenn—that's unjust."
oh hey, it's DevCo.

I like this reimagining/adjacent idea to infinity energy--it's less blatantly evil. No pokemon are actively dying; they're fine! They're working hard, wow, it's so cool how they can get jobs in human society that aren't battling! They are being treated so well. DevCo is almost comically evil in how silly it is, how they're just slaughtering puppies for coal when there's perfectly good puppies that don't need to be slaughtered right around the corner. I like the flip here; it's something that people would reasonably not be completely affronted about, the kind of thing where the vast majority of the popularion would just shrug. What else can you do?
Befriended a one under the bike-path, smiled at the way it jumped among the patches of clover, chasing its own electric sparks.
wow a wild typo
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.
I like this idea that words fail to convey meaning, immediately followed by a very vivid meaning--by the end it's clear what Haru is trying to say, but it's also clear why he doesn't say it.
"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."
yes but what if they ate the rich
"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 like how this couples even further, and now Haru's just conveying information that he doesn't even know anything about.
His nav rested like a hot coal in his pocket.
Sure glad this isn't relevant.
She might have completely misread the situation. "I was wondering how projects get funded. How is that determined? Where does the money come from?"
It's true! People might have had a big misunderstanding where no one politely told them that breaking rules is illegal.
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.
this is a clean transition
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.
awww, what a lovely lad. I heard he does lots of research too!
"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."
I imagine you want "buckling" over "bucking" here
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.
god what a fucking mood
That day already seemed like a distant island—like a full sea had closed in behind him.
the water metaphors really build throughout these later chapters, which is fitting, and also sad.
"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."
In the alleyway, a wild magnemite was attempting to feed off the nearest street-light, but the pokemon-proofed casing defeated it.
"was attempting" and "defeated" read a bit awkwardly to me
He felt unmoored, incomplete. The night was utterly calm; in the distance, he spotted the tell-tale flares of volbeat, circling over the sea.
[this was also a good water metaphor]
His arm completed the arc of the throw before he even registered his hand on the kettle.
he's sharing tea!!
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.
I love the mini flashback here, and the fury that's present in so few words.
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.
Ugh. My heart. She and her son have drifted apart, but I can feel the desperation here, where she's reaching out for her grandson and desperately hoping that he'll carry some part of the burden forward. It's gut-wrenching to think about--she doesn't get to see what happens to Haru here, she doesn't know that he thought of her constantly, that he carried her here and he shoulders the burden; she only died alone in Ecruteak. But maybe she had faith.
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 . . .
This and the repel were a cool detail.
When Haru reached the third, his heart stopped.
Well well well, if it isn't the consequences of my own actions.
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.
Beginning to wonder if Haru understands what choices are.
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.
I can feel the guilt in "nothing she could have tasted before", fuck
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.
this sequence was beautiful
Finally, he thrust out his nav and let her read the words inscribed there like an epitaph.
can u let us read the words pls i need to know how fucked heconilia is
"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."
The caterpie through-line is sooooo good here.

and, like the unbidden wind . . .

. . . she was free.


Memento mori
  1. leafeon
Review for chapters 7+8

Chapter 7

Either this yard was abandoned, he thought, or the owner didn't accept the premise of weeds.

My kinda gal

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

Usually science article titles are lowercase, except for the first word, but maybe the pokemon world has different conventions

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

My sweet summer child. Also, does "money grubbing" need a hyphen?

"If pokemon are dying to power Hoenn—that's unjust." / The word came out a hiss between his teeth.

It's kind of an understated thing, but this reaction really frightens me. As in, I'm frightened for Haru, because we know how strongly he feels about injustice and how ready he is to put himself on the line.

Befriended a one under the bike-path

"a one" is kind of unusual. I wonder if there's an advantage to it over "one".

There is something... I almost want to say "simple-minded" about Haru. He doesn't really have a strong direction, but he sure does know when he doesn't like something

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.

Oh yeah Steven and DevCo exist outside of Continental Divides

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

"instead of a scream" says a lot. To me it means he is doing this out of frustration as much as anything. Right now he feels he has no one to turn to, not even his pokemon. I really felt awful for him when he went to talk to Damascus and realized it would get him in trouble. One can't help but think that he might not have been so quick to commit more crimes if he had simply had someone to vent to (aside from Maliki, kind of)

Chapter 8

We have no creed.

Like Haru himself, this group doesn't have a clear direction, but they know what they don't like. I'm getting the sense that a moral of this story may be that it's bad to be too reactive. You need to take a more measured approach if you want to save the world—and yourself. Could help to have a positive, long-term goal and think of how to reach it. I have to wonder what, exactly, Haru's ideal world looks like.

the kettle sobbing on the counter-top.

I understand what you were going for in retrospect, but when I read this initially it really didn't click that this was supposed to be a description of the kettle's whistling.

His arm completed the arc of the throw before he even registered his hand on the kettle.

Seems he acts on instinct/emotion on both a micro and macro level

The sight was somehow obscene.

I felt this might do better without the "somehow"

A mistake. Like mixing up sugar and salt.

This trivialization makes me think maybe Maliki isn't so concerned with the consequences of actions, but more the intent behind them. Pretty different from my own mindset. We'll see if future events support my supposition, or if it matters.

I have little else to say. Thrilling chapter. You use a lot of creative verbs/descriptions and somehow it's not clunky or awkward.
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