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Pokémon Whine-Yelp (2021 Contest Oneshot)

canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
EDIT (2022-01-02): The story has now received light edits and is no longer the same as it was when it was originally submitted into the competition. If need comes to look at the original version, it is still up on Google Docs here.

Results out means it's time to break the stories out of judging jail, and here is mine! The Origin Story of the dark horse or should I say dark dog XDXDXD of Hunter, Haunted, Eli the Houndoom, Samson's adopted son. (Note: the Mark you meet here is Samson - Mark is his first name.)

Word is free and all is appreciated, but there have been some aspects that have received critique more than once. I'd like to try and make those aspects work better, but I've had trouble doing it. The aspects in question:
- The pack hierarchy (whether it makes sense and is believable), particularly Arrow's position as leader (but not beyond questioning)
- How the hounds learn human language and how Iwai is better than the other pups (I am planning to add edits to establish their teacher is Kaph and Iwai is more interested in learning than the others, not to mention Kaph's nephew)
- Mark's viewpoints on humans and mon are opinionated and should not be taken as objective fact.
So if you have feedback regarding these, I'm interested in hearing it, and even more interested in suggestions and advice.

Iwai (by me)
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Iwai and Mark (by me)
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Rated teen for mild language and violence.

---

WHINE-YELP

Synopsis:
A runt's attempt to prove his worth to his pack accidentally leads him to befriend the enemy - a human.

Genre:
Drama

Status:
Complete oneshot.
Submitted to contest privately on 7 Mar 2021.
First uploaded publicly on 1 June 2021.

Length:
10 000~ words

---​

...when suddenly, a loud BANG split the air!

He froze. He recognized that bang. It was the bang of that terrible, deadly human weapon - the gun. And just a second later, the purpose of that gunshot became clear.

Right in front of him, as if served by a mother to her pup, landed a big, plump unfezant. In its chest was a bleeding hole - the cause of death, Garad deduced. Either way, he bit down on the bird’s neck and ran.

He looked right and left for some den to hide out at and enjoy his meal in private. But wait -- from behind came a bark.

He stopped and turned around. A stoutland twice his size stared back, teeth bared. Garad quickly matched the smoke to the fire and realized this was the hunter's dog.

The stoutland spoke something - but it was in human. As Garad didn't speak a spit of human, he had to interrupt. "Shpeak in canine, will ya. You are a dog."

But the stoutland only shouted back more human. Garad shook his head - this dog had lost his roots completely. He was more a dog-shaped human now than any real canine.

Either way, this meant there could be no negotiating, no convincing the dog that his master had no right to hunt when he could simply get his food from a store. Garad chose the smartest option and kept running.

The stoutland did not like that. He barked and growled like mad as he chased after Garad. His speed took Garad by surprise - despite that cumbersome-looking fur, the stoutland was catching up. The sound of his steps came ever closer, until Garad felt its teeth on his --


Arrow paused his story to kick back his hind leg for show, but abruptly whined as sharp pain reminded him of his injury.

“Dad!” Iwai yelped, standing up. “Are you okay?”

The houndoom nodded, though his face was still wrinkled by pain. “Just forgot about my leg,” he said. “I’m alright. Sit back down.”

Iwai did as instructed, but a second worrier was on her way. Arrow sighed as he saw his sister, Kaph, trotting to him across the warehouse, jumping over some other resting or chatting houndoom. Before she could open her mouth, Arrow gave her the same story.

Kaph frowned. “You’re so careless...”

“I’ll be fine,” groaned Arrow. “Besides, a healing limb needs to be exercised. Otherwise the muscles will wilt away.”

“They won’t wilt away in just a few days. At least rest for that long.”

Arrow rolled his eyes, at which Kaph huffed.

“Look, can I trust you not to wreck yourself anymore and just go back to my spot?” she asked.

“Yes, you may,” answered Arrow. Kaph wasn’t happy with his tone but left the room either way.

Arrow was about to continue, when --

Clank! Clank! Clank!

The chatter in the room ceased at the noise from the front door.

"I got it," shouted Kaph. After opening the door and engaging in some quiet conversation, she yelled back again. "It's a murkrow. Has a case."

“Bring them in,” shouted Arrow, then turned to Iwai and lowered his voice. “Sorry about this. I’ll finish the story later.”

Iwai nodded. Soon after, Kaph returned, the bird perched on her head.

“What do you have for us?” asked Arrow.

“Big human party tonight!” responded the murkrow. “Get very much delivery pizza - eight box at least. Deliver by doduo cart. West Crenella, party start at eight.”

It was clear from his slurred and fragmented speech that he was no expert in canine language. Iwai wondered briefly if he would actually understand better had the bird chosen to speak human.

“Hmm...” Arrow flicked his tail in thought. “And how large a share do you want?”

“Three box!”

Arrow spat a flame. “At best, one!”

The murkrow puffed up his feathers. “Three!”

”If your crew ate that much, you couldn’t fly for the rest of the day!”

“Three!”

Arrow stuck up his snout. “If three is what you demand, you’ll have to take your offer elsewhere. Perhaps to the cats?”

The murkrow screeched. “Cats eat our egg!”

“May I make a suggestion, leader?” Kaph asked.

“You may,” said Arrow.

It was always strange for Iwai to see how much more the two became leader and left-horn when there were guests around.

“It is already seven,” Kaph began, “and if we want to take on this case, we need time to prepare. I suggest you settle this matter quickly.”

“Fine,” Arrow scoffed and looked to the murkrow again. “Two boxes.”

The murkrow answered with a long, squinted glare. Arrow held that glare, unyielding.

“Two,” the murkrow finally spoke, bitter.

“Glad to reach an agreement,” said Arrow. “Alright, everyone, start getting ready.”

Grunts and yawns filled the room as the houndoom and houndour alike got up to their feet and stretched. Iwai watched as a few headed for the storage to gather some supplies --

"You go too, Iwai."

"Huh?" Iwai flinched. He looked to his father, who gazed back with a gentle expression. "You want me to go?"

This made Relgir’s ears perk up. The liver-brown houndoom turned to Arrow. "You want us to take him?"

"Certainly," Arrow replied. "The boy's got to learn what it's like out there on a case."

“But he’s just a pup!”

Arrow huffed, smoke escaping his mouth. “So? There are other pups coming.”

“Well, yes, but they’re not as…” Relgir trailed off, grimacing, but Arrow only stared, demanding he finish his comment. This held for multiple seconds before Arrow decided to continue.

“I do not appreciate your implication of my son being weak,” he said. “Not only is that insulting and inappropriate behavior for a right-horn, it is incorrect and easily proven as such.”

He turned to Iwai. “Show him your flame.”

Iwai flinched again. “R-right now?”

“Right now.”

Iwai gave Relgir a glance. The right-horn’s stare was chilly. Regardless, Iwai did as asked - he gathered warmth to his throat, ignited it and spat. A short-lived flame flashed the room orange, startling Relgir with its brightness and heat.

“Not just anyone’s flame, is it?” Arrow said. “That’s Garad’s.”

Relgir tightened his lips. “Fine,” he finally said. “He can come. But he better not screw anything up…”

He turned around and marched away, claws clicking against the floor.

Arrow turned to Iwai. “Have fun out there,” he said.

Iwai pulled back his ears and shrank. “You really want me to go? I’m just gonna… screw something up, like he said.”

“Nonsense! Just stick to the other pups and you’ll do fine.”

“I don’t know…” Iwai stared at the floor. “I-I’m just gonna get in trouble.”

Arrow sighed. He crawled closer - wincing slightly at his bad leg - and nuzzled Iwai’s side.

“Iwai”, he began with a gentler tone, “you’ll be alright, okay? You’ll have your pack with you, you’re better at human than any other pup and most adults at that… and if you somehow got in trouble, you’ve got your flame. Our flame. Isn’t that right?”

Iwai looked at his father, meeting an expectant gaze. As Arrow refused to relent, Iwai had no choice but to comply. “Yeah.”

“That’s the spirit,” Arrow said, giving a quick wag of his tail. “Now, hurry along. You don’t wanna get left behind.”

Defeated, Iwai nodded, got up and headed for the others.

“And remember: always stay on your guard around humans!” Arrow shouted after him.

When Iwai reached the entrance hall, he saw that supplies had already been gathered - bags to carry the spoils in more conspicuously and accessories to let them pass off as tamed. Once Relgir saw Iwai, he picked something up and brought it to the pup. A pink collar with a bow.

“You’ll wear thish,” Relgir said - and before Iwai could even speak, Relgir had slipped the collar around his neck. He heard snorts from the other pups. Great.

“Don’t look so sour,” Relgir continued, stifling his own snickers. “That was the only one left that would fit a pup your size.”

It probably wasn’t true, but Relgir was right-horn and Iwai was a runt. Talking back wouldn't do.

Head lowered, Iwai followed the others out.

---​

In the city, there was no letting one's guard down. One had to tread carefully to avoid being caught in the legs of passersby - or worse, the wheels of the cars, those growling hunks of metal that spewed smoke noxious for even a hound. Their glowing eyes threw long, shifting shadows on the walls, making Iwai flinch every couple of seconds at minimum.

At least he had his pack: a few adults and fellow pups ahead of him and another adult behind him, making sure no one strayed from the group. The adults kept watch of not only the lights that said when one could cross the street without being crushed, but the humans and other creatures walking past. They needed to believe the pack was a regular family of city-slickers or else there'd quickly be a confrontation with the animal control.

Even if he knew his share of watching was handled by his elders and the informant murkrow that followed them high above, Iwai kept his eyes open and took in the looks of every human, dog, cat, rodent, bird, reptile and plant creature that passed him by. After all, it was hard not to stare at the flat-faced, fearful-eyed freaks or the mon no less strange. They were not human, but for all intents and purposes seemed to want to be, speaking the humans' language, living in their houses and wearing clothes despite having no need for them. As one such manectric that wore a coat with stylized human words on it walked past the pack, Iwai could hear Relgir mutter something under his breath.

After a long, twisting walk, they finally arrived at Chimney Street 17: a tall apartment building among four others like it. As it was still half an hour to eight, they had time to plan their positions. Kaph stayed near the address while Relgir led the rest of the pack along the paths the doduo was most likely to take when escaping, placing individual hounds to the bases of branching streets. Iwai was in no way surprised to be the last one to be positioned, in a place the doduo was very unlikely to go, no less.

“Alright,” said Relgir as Iwai sat down by one of the brick walls that flanked the narrow street. “Stay here and keep your eyes open. And if any human comes up to you to ask why you’re alone, you say, I’m waiting for --

“I’m waiting for my father,” Iwai filled in. “I know.” He knew it better than Relgir, no doubt, considering the houndoom’s poor pronunciation.

Relgir grunted. “Alright, then. Just don’t screw up.”

With that, he turned around and trotted away. Iwai pulled back his lips for a silenced snarl, then sighed.

He kept watch over that patch of street just as assigned, witnessing no motion outside a few walking or biking humans and a group of blabbering pidoves flying past. But as that same view began to persist even after he closed his eyes, he decided it was time to refresh.

He kept his ears perked for anything from that direction and turned around to study his surroundings with more care. To his right was the dead end the doduo would presumably take once he blocked their path - nothing interesting there, just some dumpsters - but behind him was an opening, the square that Chimney Street began from, and what lay in its center made him all the more curious.

It was a statue of a human male and a sitting female arcanine, determined expressions on both their faces. The man’s clothes were different than those of regular streetwalkers - most significantly, he had a headpiece that reminded Iwai of the ones that humans with bikes or wheeled shoes wore. On his back was a gun. Was he a hunter? Was the arcanine his hunting companion, like the stoutland in Dad’s story?

But why would a hunter and his companion deserve a statue for themselves? Did they hunt something very big and powerful, like a hydreigon? Or maybe it wasn’t a hunt. Maybe that creature had attacked them and they’d only defended themselves. Or more than just themselves - their whole pack. That felt like something worthy of a statue.

But why had this arcanine chosen to live among humans? Had she chosen at all? Had she been raised by them? Recruited by them? Brainwashed by them? That is what some hounds believed those red-and-white balls did. To them, it seemed like the only way a mon would willingly enter and stay inside those things. Some hounds were more optimistic, speculating that the interior was like a comfortable nest or that the whole ball was actually a two-way portal to some lovely spot in the wild - but the cautious soul that Iwai was, he’d decided it was best to just steer clear of them completely. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder what it was that the humans offered --

“Iwai!”

Iwai flinched. He turned around to face the voice --

A figure wooshed past him. It was brown, red, black and yellow. Following it came all the houndoom and houndour of his group. They all zoomed past him just as well, fury in their eyes - most of all Relgir’s.

Only once he turned around and saw his pack rush into the square after a doduo and their pizza cart did he realize what had happened.

He’d screwed up.

---​

Relgir paced back and forth. “Eight pizzas,” he muttered. “We could’ve had eight pizzas.”

“According to the deal, only six of those were really ours,” remarked Arrow.

The murkrow, perched on the edge of an abandoned table, nodded vehemently.

“Whatever.” Relgir mumbled. “In any case, we don’t have them, and it’s the fault of that…”

“My son,” Arrow corrected. ”Who has a name.”

Relgir huffed and threw Iwai a nasty glance. Iwai folded his ears even further back and huddled closer to his father.

“Just calm down,” said Arrow. “You’re being unreasonable. None of the other pups succeeded in cornering the doduo, either.”

”At least they tried!” complained Relgir. “Iwai wasn’t even paying attention. If you ask me, he’s lost his right to eat tonight!”

Some concurring mumbles arose from the rest of the pack. Arrow grimaced. “He’s just a pup!”

“That’s what I told you when I didn’t want to bring him along!”

“I --” Arrow cut off his reply and sighed. He looked to Iwai. “What really happened?”

Iwai stared at his paws. “I screwed up.”

“At least he’s honest,” grumbled Relgir.

Arrow ignored the remark. “Do you think you should be punished?”

Hunger growled in Iwai’s belly, but guilt growled in his brain. “Probably.”

Arrow pulled back the corners of his mouth, then faced Relgir. “Okay, look. We’ll give him only half his usual share. Would that satisfy you?”

“Always haggling...” Relgir snorted. “Fine.”

“Give rest to me,” squawked the murkrow. “I give information, I want pay.”

Arrow nodded. “Certainly. It’s only fair.”

The pack dispersed as each hound wandered off to kill time in their own way until the hunters returned. This also meant that the judging glares on Iwai finally relented and he could let out the sigh he’d been holding in. He rolled over onto his side. “Why am I so bad at everything?”

“Come on, Iwai,” said Arrow, “don’t beat yourself up over it. Everyone makes mistakes.”

“But no one else is as hated as me,” Iwai mumbled. “And now they hate me even more.”

Arrow sighed. “You know that’s not true,” he said, but his avoidance of eye contact betrayed at least some level of agreement. Iwai simply lowered his head.

Moments later, Arrow suddenly leaned close.

“Keep this between you and me,” he whispered. “I want to meet you outside tonight after everyone else has fallen asleep. I’ll wake you up if needed.”

“...What for?” Iwai whispered back, but Arrow shook his head.

“You’ll see then,” he said. “But for now, act like I never said this to you. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Arrow gave a subtle nod and returned to his prior position.

Iwai lowered his head back down onto the stantler pelt. After some thought, he decided to close his eyes and try to get some sleep, as he knew whatever his father had planned would cut into the amount of rest he'd have that night.

---​

The moonlit concrete was cold underneath Iwai’s paws. So cold that he sighed in relief as he reached the grass on which his father stood, awaiting.

“Did anyone see you?” asked Arrow.

Once Iwai shook his head, Arrow led him further away from the warehouse. The little saddlebags draped around the houndoom’s neck bounced up and down as he limped.

Iwai frowned. “Dad, I don’t think you should be walking around like that --”

“Oh, hush,” said Arrow, keeping a steady pace despite his leg. “I’ve gone on nightly walks for a while now. It’s good for my leg - and it also lets me make myself useful to the pack by scouting the area, looking for opportunities. In fact, It’s thanks to those walks that I have what I have for you tonight.”

“What’s that?”

Arrow glanced back at Iwai. “It’s a chance for you to redeem yourself in the eyes of the pack. You’re gonna bring them food that you caught, by yourself, on your own.”

Iwai’s slowed down, his steps now wobblier. “B-but I can’t hunt.”

Arrow smirked. “Correct. But you’re not going to hunt.”

Iwai wanted him to elaborate, but Arrow only told him that it'd be easier to explain things once they arrived at their destination. He was thus reduced to silently following his father while the night bloomed around them - the gibbous moon shining, the bugs chirring and wind rustling the leaves of the trees that flanked the sandy paths they took.

Eventually the forest ended at a suburban neighborhood with a row of modest houses of one or two floors. The road was silent underneath the streetlights’ glow, but Arrow still kept to the forest’s side, blending into the shadows as Iwai’s eyes adjusted to the light.

Arrow soon began to slow down and then finally stopped at one of the houses. Iwai quickly noticed the small open window near its roof and began to understand what his father had in mind. He also noticed the artificial-smelling odor wafting from it and grimaced.

“Alright, we’re here,” said Arrow. “Take a look at that window. They’ve been keeping it open for ventilation recently since they’re painting the room - which explains the smell - but you can probably tell I’m too big to fit through. This is where you come in.”

“You want me to steal food from there?”

Arrow nodded.

Iwai eyed the window further, frowning. “But how am I gonna get up there?”

“Ah.” Arrow gestured Iwai to follow and led him to the front yard. He stopped next to the large trash can, and Iwai understood.

“Tell me if it begins to topple over,” said Arrow, circling around the can, and began to push it with his horns. Iwai kept a close eye on it, yelping each time its balance seemed to be shifting, and eventually the two made it back to the window. Arrow pushed it onto the wall as noiselessly as he could and then took the saddlebags off his neck.

Iwai stepped forth with a nod, and with the cooperation of the two, the bags were strapped onto his body. Arrow then walked to a metal box at the side of the wall, opened it and began to pull out something that looked like a long, thin, green snake. Enough of the snake out of the box, he dropped its metallic head in front of Iwai and began to talk.

“Okay,” he said. “This thing here is a hose. You’re gonna grab it by the head and carry it with you through the window so I can pull you up with it later.”

Iwai nodded and took the neck of the hose into his teeth.

“Now,” Arrow continued, “I’m gonna get you up on that can, and then you’ll jump in through the window. Try to land well, and if you make a loud noise, freeze. If you’re sure the humans aren’t coming, make your way into the kitchen, the place where they keep and cook their food. There should be a tall cupboard that feels colder than the rest - that’s called a fridge. They keep their eggs, milk and fish there, sometimes even meat. Gather as much as you safely can in your bags, then come back to the window and let me know. You got all that?”

“Mmmh...” Iwai lowered the hose momentarily. “What if I get caught?”

“Try to talk your way out of it.” Arrow said. “If any pup can do it, you can.” His expression became solemn. “Remember, your life is worth more than the food. Don’t try to keep the food if it’s dangerous. Alright?”

“...Alright.”

Iwai grabbed the hose once more and stepped up to the can. Arrow weaved his head underneath Iwai’s body and, slowly but surely, lifted up the pup. Iwai pawed at the can until he could reach the top and let his father know. After mutual agreement, Arrow thrust himself upward to give Iwai the momentum he needed to get his whole body atop the can. He stumbled in his landing, but soon found his balance. He sighed in relief, his heart pounding.

Then for the jump. Iwai made sure his bite on the hose was firm, bent his hind legs and - eyes nailed onto the window - pounced.

His paws met the frame! All four of them. No, three - one landed on the hose. It slipped. He slipped. Oh. Oh no.

He heard his father cry his name as he fell down through the window, accelerating towards the floor and the paint can right beneath. Breathless, he shielded his head and prepared for impact.

The edge of the can met his hip, striking it with force sure to make a bruise, and next came the newspaper-covered floor that was at least more welcoming to his body. Still, it squeezed the air out of his lungs, and getting back to his paws was no easy feat.

“Iwai! Are you okay?” Arrow whisper-yelled from the other side. “Hold on to the hose, I’ll pull you back up!”

The hose…

Iwai looked up to the window and saw it teetering on the frame. Amidst his fall, he’d lost his grip.

“I-I can’t,” he stuttered. “I-it’s hanging too high, I can’t reach --”

With a click, a faint glow appeared past the closed door. Soon after came thumps - steps.

Iwai froze. He barely breathed as the thumps approached and finally stopped behind the door. Light flooded in as it opened.

In the frame stood the silhouette of a human - a tall, muscular male. Iwai could not see his face, but as his imagination filled in the blanks, he felt the chilling stare of an enraged beast.

Instinct drew the warmth from his body to his throat and filled his maw with flames. They ate away what darkness remained with its amber glow and revealed the face of the human, a face of…

Fear. The man recoiled, eyes wide, and raised his hands.

“Whoa, hold on,” he said. “It’s okay. I don’t wanna hurt you.”

He didn’t want to…

No, it could be a lie. Iwai growled, the fire quivering from the sound.

The man slowly lowered himself to his knees and spoke clearly. ”Can you understand me?”

Iwai hesitated, but decided to nod.

“Alright,” said the man. He eyed Iwai’s saddlebags, then the window. “What are you doing here?”

Iwai glanced around the room, flashing the whites of his eyes. Did he not know?

”I’m not mad if you were trying to steal food,” the human said. “You can tell me.”

Not mad? Had Iwai heard correctly? If a pest snuck into the pack’s warehouse and got caught, there’d be hell to pay. Did this human have so much that he didn’t care? Just how much food did humans have?

Still having received no response, the human backed away and got up. “I’ll get you something myself,” he said and walked out of view. For the first time since his fall, Iwai felt like he could breathe freely. Still, he was stuck in this house…

“Iwai!” whispered his father from the outside. “What’s going on?”

“Uh -- the human came, but then he left,” Iwai reported. “I think he went to… get me food.”

“What?”

Thumps returned to the soundscape and Iwai tensed again. “He’s coming back.”

“Don’t take any food he gives you,” said Arrow. “It could be poisoned! Just try to make him let you leave!”

“Okay, here we go,” said the human, appearing in the door frame again. He crouched and offered forth something white and round - an egg. “Do you want it?”

As Iwai only tilted his head, the human set the egg on the floor and pushed it towards him. It rolled in front of his paws and stopped.

Iwai remembered then that his last meal had only been a measly arm of a watchog, and that it had been hours since. The fire in his mouth switched to water.

His father’s warning of poison echoed in his mind, but how could an egg still in its shell be poisoned? He looked at the human’s face again, but it helped little - what he knew about the expressions of canines was in no way sure to help him read a human.

He rolled the egg around with his snout and paws, trying to look for any signs of tampering, but there was nothing but the pink stamp of letters and numbers that was always in eggs sold by humans. Nothing about its smell was out of the ordinary, either.

He decided to take the plunge. He bit down on the egg to crack it, then licked at its contents. A perfectly regular egg, although the newspapers underneath it certainly gave it some of their own flavor. He kept his eyes nailed to the human while he lapped up all he could, but the man made no movements outside drawing the corners of his mouth upwards. It looked like a smile, that thing humans did when they were happy. Why was he happy?

“I can get you more if you want,” he said. “It’s no trouble.”

Iwai supposed he could as well begin to talk. He cleared his throat, though paused for a moment to make sure the words he was about to speak were the right ones. “Why are you… give me food?”

“Oh, you can talk,”
remarked the man under his breath. “Well, it seems like you need it,” he said, then paused. “Do you have a pack? Do they have enough food?”

“Pack, yes. Food, umm… yes and no. Sometimes enough, sometimes not.”

“Do they give you enough?”


Iwai tightened his mouth in thought. If this human was really this nice, maybe he could let him know about his predicament. It wasn’t as if he would tattle.

“I fail… hunt,” Iwai said, not knowing the word for case nor wanting to announce his history of crime right away. “Pack do not like me. If I bring food… alone, pack maybe like me.”

“I see, I see...”
The human rubbed his chin. He got up. “I’ll give you more food. You can give it to your pack and say you stole it.” He waved his hand toward himself. “Come with me, you can pick out what you want.”

Iwai hesitated, but the promise of food and his own curiosity overwhelmed his doubts, and he slowly walked towards the human. He smiled and began to lead him through the house. Iwai took in the sights carefully - he’d never been inside a human’s house, and he guessed he wouldn’t get to do it again in a long while, if ever. There were lots of shelves, drawers, hanging cloths, big black rectangles...

“Do you have a name?” asked the human, looking back at Iwai. As the houndour only tilted his head, the man pointed to himself. “I am Mark. Who are you?”

Oh, he was asking for Iwai’s name. Iwai gave his, but suspected the human wouldn’t really be able to pronounce neither the whine nor the yelp it consisted of.

“That sounds a bit like Eli to me,” said Mark. “Can I call you Eli?”

It really made no difference to Iwai what the human called him, so he simply nodded. Mark nodded back, smiling. Iwai would have smiled too if he knew how to do it right.

Just as they were entering what Iwai supposed was the kitchen, a scratching noise came from the front of the house. Mark stopped.

“Did you come with somebody?” he asked as he changed course for the front door.

Iwai’s snout wrinkled in embarrassment. Now the human too would see what a papa’s boy he was…

”Yes,” he said, defeated. “My father.”

Mark pulled away the cloth that covered his window and peered through. “He seems worried,” he said and stepped to the door. As soon as he opened it, an orange glow filled the room - fire.

The human yelped and stepped back. A dark figure shot past him, circling behind Iwai in a heartbeat. Iwai looked over his shoulder to see his father towering above him, maw blazing and throat rumbling in a forbidding growl.

“Dad, it’s okay!” Iwai shouted, back to his native tongue. “He’s nice!”

“Humans aren’t always what they seem. Don’t trust them so easily,” Arrow warned. “Either way, we’re leaving.”

“But he was going to give me food!”

“I told you, it could be poison,” Arrow grunted, eyes fixed on Mark and any motion he made. “Or it could track us somehow. Find our pack so they can catch us all.”

Mark, despite all this, kept his voice calm. “It’s alright, sir,” he said, palms up and lowering himself. “I mean no harm to your son. I just wanted to offer food. You’re free to leave if you want.”

“Don’t mind if we do,” grumbled Arrow. He flicked his head to the side. “Move.”

Mark nodded and slowly walked past the hounds, clearing the path outside. Still watching the human, Arrow led Iwai out of the house. Only once they had descended the steps to the front door did Arrow cease his growling.

“Now, let’s hurry,” he said, pushing the pup with his snout. “Before they can alert others.”

“Dad, I really don’t think --”

Now, Iwai,” Arrow ordered.

Iwai’s ears drooped. He looked at the window where Mark stood. Knowing he had no choice in the matter, he whined weakly and began to walk. They circled the house and entered the forest in silence.

A minute or so later, Arrow slowed down, sighing.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know you’re upset, but I’m only trying to keep you and the pack safe.”

Iwai pouted. “There was no danger.”

“I know you want to think so, but you just can’t go trust humans that easily. It’s better to skip out on some food than to get people sick or worse.”

“But how could the food have been poisoned?” Iwai snapped back. “He told me I could choose what I wanted! Are you saying they would’ve filled their food storage with poisoned food and stashed their real food somewhere else? And in that case, I wouldn’t have been any better off if I’d stolen the food like you planned!”

At this point, the two had stopped. Arrow avoided Iwai’s gaze, then sat down.

“You’re sure he said you could choose?” he asked.

Iwai huffed. “Yes. And I smelled the egg carefully before I ate it, too. I was still being careful.”

Arrow sighed again, but didn’t respond. Iwai wanted to press on, but his father’s pensive expression had him reconsider.

“I’m sorry,” Arrow finally said. “You’re right. I’m not making sense.” He paused and closed his eyes. “I just… really don’t want anyone to get hurt, you know? Not on top of… wrecking my leg. I don’t want to be any more of a burden to the pack.”

Even if Iwai knew he was in the right, he felt guilty. He paced back to his father and sat next to him, their sides touching. It felt warm as always.

”You can’t blame yourself for your leg,” Iwai said. “Anyone can get hurt like that.”

“I should have noticed the ditch --”

“And I should’ve noticed the doduo,” pressed Iwai. “And you still defended me.”

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but it doesn’t really work like that,” Arrow said. “I’m all grown up, and it’s my role to help hunt. You’re only learning.”

“So if I was grown up and I got hurt, you’d blame me?”

Arrow looked at him with gentle eyes, then sighed in resignation and nuzzled Iwai’s cheek. “Of course not.”

Iwai nuzzled back, wagging his nubby tail.

“So...” he then said. “What about the human?”

Arrow stared at the forest floor in thought. “Well, I feel like if I say you can’t see him again, you’ll just sneak away some night to do it anyway,” he finally said. “But if we go see him together, I’ll at least be able to watch over you. Can you promise not to go on your own if we do that?”

Iwai’s eyes sparkled, and he nodded vigorously. “I promise!”

“Alright.” Arrow stood back up. “We’ll go home now and see him tomorrow night. But be sure not to tell anyone. Especially Relgir. You know how much he hates humans.”

“Is that why he’s so bad at their language?”

Arrow snorted. “Maybe so. Now, come on. I’m sure you’re tired, too.”

Iwai hummed in agreement, and the two continued their way back home in silence. The pup’s mind was busy wondering how the next meeting with the human would transpire until the two eventually reached the warehouse.

Arrow quietly opened the door for them and slid the crossbar plank back in its place once they’d entered. With slow steps, he snuck back to his place on the stantler pelt as Iwai followed him.

“Where were you two?”

Iwai jumped in his skin. Both turned to the voice in the darkness and barely made out the form of a liver-brown houndoom with a fierce stare - Relgir.

No words could leave Iwai’s throat, but Arrow was prepared. “Just a small walk and talk,” he said. “Father to son and all that.”

Relgir paced up to them and sniffed. His snout wrinkled. “I smell human on you.”

“A group of humans had recently been in an opening we spent time in. We made no actual contact with them.”

Relgir hmphed. “Fine, then. Just make sure you don’t strain that leg of yours too hard so that we can have you back on the field sooner.”

With that, he marched back to his own spot and lay down, facing away from the two. Arrow rolled his eyes and lay down himself. Iwai followed suit, though his pounding heart and racing thoughts ensured that sleep would not come so easily.

---​

The sun moved slower than ever before the following day. Iwai’s head was brimming with thoughts - the memories of the previous night and the speculation on how the next one would go. He thought of countless questions to ask Mark, struggling to choose the most important ones he would spend their limited time together on. His mind was so preoccupied that he’d forgotten his hunger the whole time until his share was brought before him - this time the carcass of a patrat. Even then, he continued his pondering while tearing off the remaining flesh, ignoring the resentful glares from the rest of the pack.

After ages, the sun finally dove behind the trees and the sky darkened. Iwai and his father followed the same steps in sneaking out as the night before, lucky that Relgir had at least had the trust - or disinterest - not to stay up to keep an eye on them.

Once they arrived at the human’s house, they saw that the window had been closed and the garbage can returned to its original position, which prompted Arrow to mutter something about hospitality and Iwai to huff in response. Nevertheless, Arrow was the one to get the human’s attention by scratching at the door as he had done before. Iwai had prepared for Mark to take a longer time to respond, but was surprised to see the door open in a matter of seconds. Mark smiled warmly as he recognized his visitors.

“Well, hello there,” he said. “I was hoping you two would return.”

”Hello, Mark!”
greeted Iwai, tail wagging from both excitement and his pride in his delivery. He’d practiced saying those words in secret quite a lot.

“Hi, Eli. Good to see you.” Mark looked at Arrow. “Does your father have a name?”

Arrow glanced at Iwai, and the houndour translated. Arrow then puffed out his chest.

“Arrow. Garad…” He turned back to Iwai. “How do I say ‘descendant’?”

“I doubt he cares that you’re a descendant of Garad,” muttered Iwai. “He doesn’t know who that is.”

Arrow snorted. “He should know...”

Iwai rolled his eyes and looked to Mark. “He is Arrow.”

Mark nodded, repeating the name. He then opened the door and gestured the two to come in. To Arrow’s relief, he took them straight to the kitchen, though not before asking them to be quiet as his wife - Iwai’d heard the word before, but couldn’t remember its meaning - was sleeping.

Once he reached the fridge, he opened it so the two could have a look. “Now, we don’t have any meat,” Mark said, “but we do have some fish, eggs and plant-based food. And milk, but that’s mostly water and probably not worth carrying all the way. Show me what you want and I’ll hand it to you, okay?”

Iwai relayed the message to Arrow, who nodded and stood on his hind legs to see the contents of the fridge.

”Don’t ask for too much. Be polite,” said Iwai, to which Arrow faintly groaned.

”So,” began Mark, sitting down to be level with Iwai. “How is it going with your pack? Did they give you enough food now?”

Iwai sighed. “Yes, but… pack still do not like me. I am not good in hunt. I… worry I… do not get better.”

“But you’re still young, aren’t you? A child.”

“Other childs are better. I…”
He thought for long, but couldn’t find the expression for ‘should’. “Pack need better,” he decided to say.

Mark stroked his chin. “Have you ever thought about living with humans instead?”

Arrow’s ears perked. He turned his head to the two, eyes vigilant.

“Mmm...” Iwai stared at the floor, or more specifically the pelt that covered it. It looked nothing like the coat of anything he knew, but the world was full of creatures he’d never seen before. ”I do not… know much on humans. What I know, strange. Scary. Living with humans, do not know how it is.”

“Well, it’s not bad,”
said Mark. “Not to me, anyway, or the mon I’ve seen do it. Since you’re a child, for you it would mean learning, you know, getting to know new things. Then when you grow up, it’s a little more complicated, but by then you’ll understand.”

“Do mon with humans need have… clothes?”
Iwai asked weakly.

“Clothes?” Mark chuckled. “No, you don’t have to wear clothes if you don’t want to. But you can. A lot of mon like to do it.”

“Do they like it for… want be human? Can they not be mon?”


Mark scratched his chin. “If I understand you right, you’re worried about not being able to do the things houndour and houndoom do, right?”

Iwai nodded, if a bit uncertainly.

“Well, while there are rules for the mon that want to live with humans, those are just to make sure everyone gets fair treatment, you know, live in safety and keep what they have. I’m mainly talking about not stealing. But I should also mention that mon can’t hunt anymore. But it’s not like you really seem to like it yourself --”

Arrow interrupted with a grunt. He got down on his four paws, glowering. ”Not hunt?” he said. “Human hunt, but say hound not hunt?” He spat a plume of smoke and turned to Iwai. “See? This is what humans always do. They’ve designed their rules to so clearly make them above mon and then act like they’re generous for even letting us walk around. They’re --”

“Uh, sir - Arrow, was it?” said Mark. ”Sorry, but I think there’s been a misunderstanding. Humans can’t hunt, either.” He brought his hands together, concerned. “If you’ve seen humans hunting, they’re doing it against the law. You should tell me what you know so I can tell the police.”

Arrow opened his mouth, but said nothing. Iwai wasn’t sure if he’d actually witnessed any humans hunting or if he was only aware of the practice through gossip.

Mark sighed, sitting down on the floor. “You don’t like humans very much, do you?”

Arrow gave a confirming growl.

Mark leaned back onto his hands. “I get it, you know. Humans aren’t very likable. We take up lots of land with our buildings, land that really should belong to everybody. We live comfortably while the majority of living beings struggle to survive another day. In the past, we killed and chased away a lot of mon with little regard for their way of life, and while we like to think we’ve moved past it, it still happens today.

“But there are a lot of good folk out there, too. People that want to help mon be healthy and free. I myself try to be one of those.”

“But... why you...”
Arrow tried, but then groaned. “Dammit, Kaph would be so much better at this… Iwai, ask him why he insists that you should come with him while saying we should be free.”

Iwai gave a tense hum, but relayed the message anyway to the best of his abilities.

“Oh, no, it’s not my intention to force him to live with humans,” said Mark. ”I only want him to know that if he feels like he can’t keep up with the pack and the wild lifestyle, he’s always welcome to come to humans for help. And he doesn’t have to stay with them, either - he can return to the wilderness any time he wants.”

He turned to Iwai, looking the pup in the eyes. “If you’re ever in trouble and near the city, Eli, look for any buildings with a picture of a pokéball or pawprint on them. The people inside those buildings are your friends. Do you understand?”

”Pokéball is… red-and-white ball?”
asked Iwai. To see those strange devices as a symbol of help and hope… that may have been too much to ask for.

Mark smiled and nodded. “Yes. Red-and-white ball.”

Iwai flattened back his ears. “Can I not come to you?”

Mark’s smile melted away. ”Well… I’d love to help you, but I’m not staying here for very long. My wife and I are soon moving to Kanto, which is very far away. I’m only here now to help with the renovation. That’s why it’s important for you to learn to trust other humans, too.”

Iwai lowered his head but nodded. His sorrow puzzled him - he’d known Mark for such a short time, but it already jabbed at his heart to hear the human would soon be gone.

Arrow watched the two with a thoughtful frown, but flinched as Mark suddenly spoke to him again.

“Have you decided on what food you would like?

“Ah...” Arrow looked back to the fridge. “Yes.”

He chose to take six eggs, a package of salmon sushi rolls and a plastic container filled with tuna that had originally come in a can, but Mark had insisted on storing it in something that wouldn’t get sharp edges.

“Alright, we’re good to go,” said Mark as he tightened Iwai’s saddlebags - human hands were certainly better at it than a dog’s mouth. ”Need anything more? Some water to drink, maybe?”

Iwai looked to his father, who shook his head. “No need.”

“Alright.”
He led them to the door and opened it slowly, still wary of waking his… whatever it was. Arrow stepped out unconcerned, but Iwai lingered in the frame, gazing at his paws.

Mark squatted down next to the houndour. “Is there something wrong?”

Iwai looked up at the human. “Is this last time I see you?”

Mark sighed, returning Iwai’s sorrowful gaze. “It may just be so, friend. But...” He smiled. “It doesn’t have to be the last time you meet a nice human. Just give them a chance, alright?”

Iwai nodded, and Mark offered him his hand. The houndour rubbed his head against it, receiving some scratches behind the ear in return. It felt much better than trying to scrape at it with one’s hind leg.

Finally, Mark drew back, and Iwai knew it was time to leave. He stepped over the threshold and descended the steps with his father. Looking back one last time, Iwai said his final words to the human.

“Goodbye, Mark.”

Mark waved back, still smiling. ”Goodbye, Eli. And you too, Arrow.”

“Goodbye,”
replied Arrow, his face and voice serene much to Iwai’s surprise - and delight.

Iwai watched Mark close the door, stood there for a second or three, then finally walked away, sighing.

They circled the house and set off on the forest path the same way they had before. Also like before, their journey was silent - but the silence was relaxed, not tense.

“That went a lot better than I’d expected,” Arrow finally spoke.

“What did you expect?” asked Iwai.

“I don’t know...” Arrow flicked his head to the side. “Him to bust out some of those red-and-white balls, capture us and hand us off to the mon-catchers, maybe.”

Iwai snorted. “Well, now that you saw how nice he actually was, do you think...”

He trailed off as his father slowed down in pace and gave him a worried look.

“That you could go see more humans?” Arrow completed for the pup.

Iwai slowed down further, his high spirits quickly diminishing. “You don’t want me to see them.”

Arrow stopped, sighing. “Iwai, while that one human turned out nice, most of them just see us as pests. I can’t let you --”

“But he said there were others like him!”

“Of course he’d want to believe his species isn’t all bad! A-and how were you expecting to find those nice humans? Just walk up to humans in the city and ask them to be your friend? You’ll get the catcher called on you at least nine times out of ten, and to escape unscathed every time - only a victini has that kind of luck!”

Iwai weathered the words with a lowered head and gritted teeth. Seeing the anguish of his son, Arrow changed his tone.

“Look, I’m sorry that I --”

“It doesn’t matter that you’re sorry!” Iwai snapped back. “It only matters if you change your mind, and you won’t. Y-you want me and the pack to be safe, but at this point I feel like it’d be better for both if I just left!”

“No, no,” said Arrow quietly, stepping up close. “Don’t say that...”

“I mean it,” said Iwai, voice cracking. “I screw up the simplest of tasks, I have no friends, not even the grownups like me outside maybe you and Aunt Kaph… maybe I’m okay at speaking human, but outside that, I’m worthless. Less than worthless. Just a mouth to feed!”

“Iwai, even if you ate like a snorlax, I’d do my very best to keep you fed. You may not feel important, but you are - you’re important to me. Ever since your mother --”

He realized too late that the sentence he had started was not one he could finish.

With a quiet sigh, Iwai got up and continued along the path. “Let’s just not talk anymore.”

Arrow silently agreed and followed.

The rest of their trip went by with just as few words - until they reached the familiar opening in which the warehouse stood. Something demanded addressing.

“Light,” remarked Arrow, staring at the warm glow that emanated from the cracks of the door and boarded-up windows. “Someone must have started a fire. But why?”

“Maybe they saw you were gone and considered it a big deal,” said Iwai. “With your leg and all.”

Arrow grit his teeth. “Ugh. Kaph...”

Nevertheless, they made their way to the door. Arrow lifted a paw for a scratch at the metal, but the door already swung inwards at the touch. Inside, he saw the whole pack awake and awaiting - with expressions quite displeased.

He sighed. “Look, a healing leg needs to be exercised --”

“This isn’t about your leg,” interrupted the least friendly of all the faces - Relgir. “This is about the human.”

Iwai’s heart jumped to his throat.

He moved closer to his father, brushing against the houndoom’s leg. It was just as tense as he was.

“What human?” Arrow asked, still keeping his voice as casual as he could. “Oh, the human smell we had yesterday? I told you, we just got it indirectly. You’re really overreacting --”

“Don’t play dumb,” Relgir snarled. “The murkrow saw you go into that human’s house. That you talked. That he gave you food. That your pup even rubbed up against his hand like a lapdog!”

Iwai slipped underneath his father. Through his terror, he could still look around and locate the black bird perched on top of a shelf in the background. He could not identify the murkrow’s expression, but was sure it was not one of regret.

Kaph, however, stepped forth with a raised tail. “Remember your place, Relgir,” she growled. “You are only right-horn.”

She turned to Arrow with a doubtful gaze. “But I do have to say, leader… things don’t look very good. The pack wants an explanation… and I do as well.”

Arrow looked around, taking in the hounds’ expressions. Their lips were tightened and tails half-raised in uncertainty. None dared to meet his gaze - none but Relgir, Kaph and Relgir’s sister, Wenr.

Arrow sighed. “Alright. We were going to steal from that human, but we were caught. Strangely enough, though, the human wasn’t mad, and instead, offered us food. Look!”

He dug his snout into Iwai’s saddlebags, pulled out the container of tuna and threw it on the floor so that the others could see. In just moments, the scent of the fish inside reached the nostrils of the rest of the pack, and a few hounds took eager steps toward it --

“Halt!” shouted Relgir, and the hounds stopped in their tracks. “Did you forget this came from a human? Did you really just throw all your caution to the wind?” He paced around the container, keeping a limb’s distance. “Most likely, it’s poisoned!”

Kaph snarled - a stronger warning.

“It’s okay, Kaph,” Arrow said. “I’ll protect my own position.”

Once Kaph had retreated, Arrow looked to Relgir. “It is not poisoned.” “He let us choose what to take. The only way this food is poisoned is if their entire fridge was filled with poisoned food.”

“Or if they had poisoned what they anticipated a hound would want to take,” said Relgir, “or if they poisoned it while you weren’t looking. And who’s to say they couldn’t use poisons that they are immune to?”

The hounds that had lunged for the tuna glanced around, then slowly withdrew.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Arrow, but Iwai could hear a waver in his voice. Was he… beginning to doubt Mark?

But there was no way Mark would poison them. He should know that. He should say that, bring up all the proof that Mark had no ill intentions, but he… said nothing. All the while Relgir waited with that annoyingly arrogant expression on his face.

“Well? Why is it ridiculous?” Relgir asked.

This wasn’t good. If Arrow wasn’t speaking up, who would?

...Iwai could.

The realization of that was both exhilarating and petrifying. He had the chance to make a difference, but he also had the duty. The burden. He would have to stand up for himself with the whole pack watching. Stand up against the right-horn, no less. How would he, the runt of the pack, hope to achieve that?

“Guess your silence speaks for itself,” said Relgir, turning around to the pack. “You see? You see what happens when you listen to your belly instead of your brain?”

The only way Iwai could succeed was to try.

“H-hey!”

Iwai nearly collapsed under the weight of all the glares he received.

But this was what he wanted. Full attention.

“What?” growled Relgir.

Thoughts ran rampant in Iwai’s mind, but with great determination, he managed to herd them into order. He flexed his toes, steeling himself, and spoke.

“The human had plenty of opportunities to hurt us that he didn’t take,” he said, ignoring Relgir’s piercing stare as much as he could. “He could’ve called the catcher on us or had one track us when we got home the first time, but he didn’t.”

“The first time?”

Iwai frowned. “Yes, the first time of two. The first time was when we got caught. Dad -- Arrow had us leave, but we came back the second time because he’d offered us food.”

“You went back to the human just for some scraps?”

“It wasn’t just scraps, it was --”

Iwai stopped himself, but knew he was already trapped.

“Oh,” started Relgir, “were you going to present that food as if you’d stolen it all by yourself? While in reality, you’d gotten it as a handout from the humans?”

Iwai grit his teeth. Speaking up felt a lot less heroic now.

Relgir stood up straight and turned to the pack. “I have a suggestion. I would like to call for a pack vote.”

The ears of the listeners perked. A few whispers were heard.

Arrow’s ear twitched. “What exactly are you planning?”

“Well, this pup has had a troubling history with our pack,” began Relgir. “It is not only the shortsightedness displayed by him concerning the human here or the fact that his lack of focus cost us a great meal yesterday...”

“I don’t like where this is going,” Arrow said.

But Relgir’s monologue could not be stopped. “He rarely plays with other pups of the pack anymore, missing out on important training for hunting...”

That’s because they just bully me! Iwai wanted to shout, but his shame made his lips stick together like treesap on fur.

“He sticks only by his father and, to a lesser extent, his aunt. It seems these are the only members of this pack he has any attachment to. He has no loyalty to the pack itself. But that is precisely what gives me this idea...”

“No!” shouted Arrow, silencing Relgir. “My son will not be exiled!”

His tail was raised high, its tip pointing towards the ceiling, and his snout was upturned. He spoke as leader now, at which Iwai’s heart blazed in triumph - finally, he’ll put Relgir in his place - but the conflicted looks of the rest of the pack doused it in cold, wet fear.

A pack vote denied when the pack felt one was needed just might lead to impeachment.

Relgir kept his face enragingly calm. He knew the pack now questioned Arrow’s leadership. “Why, I’m only suggesting that your son join the company of the humans he seems to care so much for.”

“You are being preposterous,” boomed Arrow, keeping his stance, blind to the doubts in his subordinates in the heat of passion. “The bloodline of Garad has run alongside this pack for generations!”

“Well, it’s a great thing we’ve got Kaph, then,” Relgir mocked. Kaph only huffed.

Arrow grimaced, indignant. “Aren’t you forgetting about me?”

“I don’t know,” muttered Relgir. “I feel like a descendant of Garad would’ve seen that ditch.”

The room flashed orange as a fierce bark cut through the air. Iwai saw just a single image - the silhouette of his father’s teeth clamping down on Relgir’s snout.

Relgir whined in surprise and pain, the cry ear-splittingly sharp. It shook his sister Wenr into action, making her leap to the central pair with her own teeth bared. As Kaph saw her move, she joined in as well - and as this chain continued on, the air was filled with snarls, yelps, whimpers, barks, spit, flares, plumes of smoke and tufts of fur.

It was hell.

Iwai couldn’t move. His role had been set to be the sole witness of this rabid, writhing mass of flesh in its full terror. He could not tell which horn or leg or tail belonged to whom. He could find neither Relgir nor his father, and for a few true seconds, he feared he never would again.

But soon that thought, like all other thoughts in his head, was overtaken by a single sentence that repeated over and over again.

This is my fault.

The doduo. Getting caught by the human. Insisting to go back. Speaking up against Relgir. All mistakes of his, perfectly preventable, and yet he’d let them happen. And now his pack was tearing itself apart.

He had to stop it.

“S-stop,” he said, but it was too quiet.

“Stop!” he shouted, but all the noise of fighting still drowned it out.

”STOP!” he screamed, and they must have heard it - but no one listened.

Well, what now? If all shouts would go in one ear and out the other, he was helpless.

Helpless, helpless. Like a tympole on land. That feeling was nothing new, but it never really got easier. How could a descendant of Garad be such a wimp? Was there really anything that tied him to a hero like that outside some diluted blood?

Well… there was one thing.

Iwai shut his eyes. He focused on his body, every last corner of it, and drew their heat towards his maw. He shivered from the cold the migration left behind, but refused to stop until the fire in his throat threatened to burn even him.

Keeping that flame put just for a few moments longer, he opened his eyes and aimed for the ceiling. Finally, as the flame was too hot to contain any longer, he spread his paws apart for support and spat.

The fire flashed white, and reflex shut Iwai’s eyes. Even with lids securely shut, the glow was bright, and its afterimage stayed as a vibrant haze. As he heard nothing, he worried something had happened to his ears as well - until he could once again open his eyes and saw the result of his flame.

The mass of flesh had unraveled, split back into individual hounds. They stood still, maws slightly ajar, staring directly at Iwai.

He had succeeded.

Knowing their attention was fleeting, Iwai forced his thoughts into order and spoke.

“Since you all want it so much,” he shouted, “I’m leaving.”

The surprised expressions of the hounds confirmed that they’d indeed heard him.

“I’m going to the humans and I’m not coming back!” he continued - and concluded.

He could have sworn he had more than that to say, but really, that had been all of it. There was no reason to stick around any longer. There was plenty of reason to leave.

Despite the anxiety gripping his heart, he turned around and ran, headed for the pitch-black woods.

“Iwai!” his father yelled from behind. For five seconds, he could resist his call - but on the sixth, he had to look over his shoulder.

Arrow’s expression froze him in place.

“Don’t go,” Arrow said -- begged as he limped to Iwai. His injured leg dragged on the ground, unused. There was a hint of red in the fur.

“I have to,” Iwai whimpered. “Things will only get worse if I don’t.”

“Iwai, I can’t...”

Iwai had never heard his father so miserable - not since…

“I can’t lose you,” Arrow cried. Then, his eyes widened. “I’ll come with you!”

Iwai stared at Arrow’s leg. “No… you can’t. Not like that.”

To prove Iwai wrong, Arrow hurriedly hobbled towards his pup - but his body betrayed him, collapsing with a yelp of pain.

His agonized eyes overrode all of Iwai’s plans, drawing the houndour to his father in a heartbeat.

But Iwai still knew what he had to do.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but you have to stay here. You need the pack and the pack needs you.”

“Don’t go,” Arrow only cried.

Iwai shook his head. “I have to. But...” He forced a tone of confidence. “We’ll meet again. I promise.”

He leaned closer to his father, close enough to touch his snout touching his, and licked.

Arrow whined, but this whine was in resignation.

“I’ll hold you to that promise,” he whispered. “Please… be safe.”

Iwai nodded.

More light flooded out of the warehouse as the door was opened wide. Before the other hounds could approach, Iwai turned around and kept running.

But he did look back once. Seeing Kaph by Arrow’s side, nursing his wound, put Iwai’s thoughts at rest for at least a moment.

Arrow had his pack, and Iwai would find his own. Even if it meant becoming Eli.

---

END

---​
 
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kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
hi canis! here from catnip, bork bork.

I think the general shape of this story is pretty tried-and-true--social outcast strikes it out, learns that the group that his group hates isn't so bad after all, and makes a new friend. It's a solid structure that continues for a reason, and between the general structure + the summary I wasn't exactly on the edge of my seat for how this would play out, so I ended up way more interested in the parts that you made your own--the integration between human/pokemon societies, the past fraught with human crimes that Mark alludes to, the different languages, houndoom folk heroes, and so forth. The intro myth does a lot of good legwork in establishing a lot of the future conflicts: houndoom look scornfully on pokemon who ally with humans, houndoom are afraid of human hunters but will steal from them if necessary, Garad has some renown and even though he's not around, people still tell his stories.

It's a solid introductory sequence and the worldbuilding is pretty seamless, although I wish we'd ended up with some more grounding for it later in the story. The idea of certain houndour/houndoom having the ability to have a special flame (or maybe the only ones who could use fire? wasn't entirely sure) is a cool one and I see how that could result in mythic status here, but I wanted to know more about how that connected specifically to Iwai and Arrow. By the middle it felt like Garad's flame isn't really important/beneficial--Iwai doesn't try to use it to get out of situations, the pack doesn't respect him anyway, etc. But it doesn't really feel harmful either--there's not much mention about the weight of expectations of being this special kind of descendant (maybe, in a loose sense, his peers dislike him because Arrow has been going around being like omg we're so cool Garad is the best, and everyone else thinks Iwai is a square and dislikes him even more out of spite), but in general it felt like Iwai's ostracization is despite Garad's flame, not really because of/in any relation to it. Which is also super fine; I don't think characters need to constantly be grappling with every aspect of their ancestry/meta-mythos here, but the fire returning to resolve the climax does bring it back to the center of the story, which is a really cool moment that I think would've landed better if we'd had more clarification on what the fire actually means to both the houndoom pack and to Iwai specifically.

I also wasn't fully sold on why Iwai needs to leave immediately following--the houndoom respect him after that show of strength, and it doesn't seem like they're immediately going to run him out of town, so him leaving his injured father crying on the ground, only reassured after the fact that Arrow would be okay, felt a bit unnecessary/callous, especially since they have such a tender rapport before this. Arrow's place in the pack is one I struggled to pin down as well (a problem that would self-solve with the Garad thing mentioned above, I think), but I didn't fully buy "you need the pack and the pack needs you". He's presented as important, both in the way that Iwai loves/respects him and in general setting up the murkrow pizza deal, but he doesn't really seem to have much weight and by the end Relgir is just dunking on him verbally and no one steps in, so I'm genuinely not sure if the pack even wants him lol.

[I like the conceptual translation of Iwai to Eli, and how Iwai is basically a whine and then a yelp when I try to sound it out in my head, and I love the detail that most of the dog names sound very dog-soundy, but thinking it through I'm not sure why Mark can't pronounce Iwai then? although I imagine this falls into the woes of having xenofic language explorations where everything has to be translated back to human language so the human readers can read it, lol.]

Final area of grey for me--I wasn't sure how much Iwai actually knows about the humans, how much is correct vs houndoom myth, etc. It comes up a few times that he's better at human than most of the other pups, but is that just because he picks up on languages better, or was that a choice that he made? During the pizza section he gets distracted by the concept of war veterans and why human society would idolize them, what they could've done to earn that affection--but to what extent does he even understand that "statue = respectful gesture" in the first place? I wanted a bit more grounding in his understanding of human culture, especially since the story ends with him leaving everything he's ever known and running headlong into it--as it stands it feels more like he's just yeeting the houndoom culture rather than wanting to join humans, simply because his understanding of human culture either feels vastly negative or unknown.

All that said though, I thought this was a fun oneshot and the pieces click together really nicely. The side characters and the worldbuilding were my favorite parts; I love the sheer creativity in "murkrow and houndoom have a shaky alliance and negotiate pizza heists", for example; it's an excellent concept that's both hilarious to picture and also seems very possible/realistic in the setting you've constructed. The little bits like adding ribbons to better blend helps make it seem like this is a heist that these guys have put a lot of thought into, but at the same time it's funny because we don't actually know if humans care about these bows and if they really won't be suspicious if there are 15 houndoom just sitting patiently at various street corners, waiting for their fathers--it's some great xenofic and a lot of fun to poke at here.

I also like how you portray the human/pokemon relationship here. It's fraught, and a lot of wild pokemon still have pride for their independence/disdain for pokemon who live in cities, which feels realistic. There's some ugly truths that humans probably did do the bad things, but those humans are dead and at least some of the new humans don't like the bad things, but that doesn't mean that the world is immediately fixed and all of those wounds are healing. It lets your characters occupy a nice grey area, where they don't really feel responsible for doing enormous world-changing paradigm shifts (which I think wouldn't really fit in the scope of this story), but there's still acknowledgment that things have been shaky in the past and are causing issues now. I'd be curious if there were other reasons that pokemon would live alongside humans in this world--obviously in this story we see it through such a tight lens of "specifically my pack doesn't like me", and I don't think it's necessary to explore other reasons outside of that in a oneshot, but in general I thought this interplay of human/pokemon society was well-written and a lot of fun to explore both here, and maybe in other stories. I like how explicit things are that Mark's interested in Iwai joining him because he thinks it'll benefit Iwai, not because he wants a houndour or something--when I write it out it's weird that I'm excited by that but it's not as common of a take as I'd expect lol.

Overall really fun read, and your prose is smooth as ever. some misc line thoughts below:
deadly human weapon - the gun
But wait -- from behind
I swear I won't do the em dash talk again, but it would help to have some consistency between which combination of hyphens you use.
“I’ll be fine,” groaned Arrow. “Besides, you need to exercise your healing limbs, anyway. Otherwise your muscles wilt away.”
The phrasing here with general-you made it seem like Arrow's talking about Iwai's limbs at first, which was a bit hard to follow given we'd just recently learned about Arrow's injury. I think something like "Besides, you need to exercise healing limbs, anyway. Otherwise the muscles wilt away" would help make that clear.
“I got it”, shouted Kaph. They all heard the door open, followed by some quiet conversation.

“It’s a murkrow,” Kaph then yelled. “Has a case.”
This could be streamlined to:
> "I got it," shouted Kaph. They all heard the door open. Then, after some quiet conversation, Kaph yelled, "It's a murkrow. Has a case."
Arrow huffed, smoke escaping his mouth. “Please! He’s my son. He’s got the flame of Garad!”
Normally I don't really advocate for telegraphing exactly what a character is saying, but in this case, since it's still a little early and the Arrow/Relgir dynamic is still being established, I read the "Please!" as a genuine plea, even with the huff, when on second read it's clear that this is meant to be derisive.
“You’ll wear thish,” Relgir said
Ha, liked the detail that his speech is altered because his mouth is occupied with the collar--at first I thought it was some artifact of the "Shpeak canine will ya" and wasn't sure why Relgir was speaking human here, but this was a fun clue.
Relgir paced back and forth, huffing like a pregnant bitch about to give birth.
This narration feels a bit more specifically you-flavored (or idk something Red would say lol). Iwai in general is a bit hard to pin down as a character but this didn't really feel like something he'd say, even in a more removed third narrator. Has he often watched births in his pack?
Iwai looked up to the window and saw it teetering on the frame. Amidst his fall, he’d lost his grip.
I wasn't sure why Arrow couldn't unwind the hose from the top and pass it down to him--running in the other direction with it and then dropping it back down the window. They're smart enough to case the joint and understand how the hose reel works, so I was surprised neither of them tried it.
If this human was really this nice, maybe he could let him know about his predicament. It wasn’t as if he would tattle.
A few too many he/him/his in this sentence made me think the "it wasn't as if he would tattle" referred to Iwai.
Iwai huffed. “Yes. And I smelled the egg carefully before I ate it, too. I was still being careful.”
I think this is the first/only time that Iwai mentions actually eating the food, so I was surprised that Arrow didn't have more of a reaction here.
“So if I was grown up and I got hurt, you’d blame me?”
:((((
Iwai nuzzled back, wagging his nubby tail.
I was actually really curious about this--there aren't many dog breeds that are naturally born with docked/nubby tails, and dobermans aren't one of them. And then there's a whole different conundrum of how/why evolution would give them the tail back, and what that would do as far as using a tail to communicate certain thoughts if the adolescents of the species have less-visible ways of showing that.

Anyway. Not terribly important for this story and probably not a thing most people would consider--I briefly thought this was going to be a secret plot point that humans dock tails of wild houndour or otherwise made it genetically pass down, somehow and that tied back into the lingering distrust of humans, but I do not think many other readers would have this hangup.
“Alright.” Arrow stood back up. “We’ll go home now and see him tomorrow night. But be sure not to tell anyone. Especially Relgir. You know how much he hates humans.”

“Is that why he’s so bad at their language?”

Arrow snorted. “Maybe so. Now, come on. I’m sure you’re tired, too.”
I wasn't sure why Iwai would jump to this conclusion since Arrow is also pretty bad at human (and has limited interest in learning)--felt like a weird thing to tell his father after the discussion of hating humans.
“Hi, Eli. Good to see you.” Mark looked at Arrow. “Does your father have a name?”

Arrow glanced at Iwai, and the houndour translated. Arrow then puffed out his chest.

“Arrow. Garad…” He turned back to Iwai. “How do I say ‘descendant’?”
I wasn't sure why Mark assumed Arrow can't speak human immediately--seems like a more likely choice would be that he asks Arrow for Arrow's name and then Arrow struggles to respond/glances at Iwai for translation. fwiw I empathize deeply with the dynamic of kids translating for their parents to other adults and I liked how the rest of this scene played out.
They circled the house and set off on the forest path the same way they had before. Also like before, their journey was silent - but now in bittersweetness rather than bitterness alone.
The emotional weight of "bittersweet" didn't really sell to me.
This wasn’t good. If Arrow wasn’t speaking up, who would?

...Iwai could.
I liked how this was the part where Iwai's narration comes through the strongest, when he's making the choice here.
 

canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
The idea of certain houndour/houndoom having the ability to have a special flame (or maybe the only ones who could use fire? wasn't entirely sure)

This is the second time now that someone's gotten the idea of them being the only ones that can use fire, so I should definitely work to better clear that up if I ever get to revising this story.

I also wasn't fully sold on why Iwai needs to leave immediately following--the houndoom respect him after that show of strength, and it doesn't seem like they're immediately going to run him out of town, so him leaving his injured father crying on the ground, only reassured after the fact that Arrow would be okay, felt a bit unnecessary/callous, especially since they have such a tender rapport before this. Arrow's place in the pack is one I struggled to pin down as well (a problem that would self-solve with the Garad thing mentioned above, I think), but I didn't fully buy "you need the pack and the pack needs you". He's presented as important, both in the way that Iwai loves/respects him and in general setting up the murkrow pizza deal, but he doesn't really seem to have much weight and by the end Relgir is just dunking on him verbally and no one steps in, so I'm genuinely not sure if the pack even wants him lol.

To this day I haven't really figured out what the hierarchy of the houndoom pack is and how much influence Arrow has. I think I wanted it to be a combination of meritocracy and hereditary power, the first of which puts Iwai in a poor position while the latter puts him in a favorable one. I think Arrow and Relgir were meant to be roughly equal in how much say they get in things, making a disagreement between them an awkward situation for the rest of the pack that would force them to choose sides.

[I like the conceptual translation of Iwai to Eli, and how Iwai is basically a whine and then a yelp when I try to sound it out in my head, and I love the detail that most of the dog names sound very dog-soundy, but thinking it through I'm not sure why Mark can't pronounce Iwai then? although I imagine this falls into the woes of having xenofic language explorations where everything has to be translated back to human language so the human readers can read it, lol.]

"Eli" comes from a guy hearing someone say something in a language that does not have the same phonemes as his own and approximating it (with an already existing human name), while "Iwai" is what the name would be transliterated as if given proper scholarly analysis. How it actually sounds is literally a certain type of whine and a certain type of yelp, which humans naturally can't reproduce with the accuracy that dogs can, so Mark may as well just go with an approximation he can consistently pronounce the same way.

Final area of grey for me--I wasn't sure how much Iwai actually knows about the humans, how much is correct vs houndoom myth, etc. It comes up a few times that he's better at human than most of the other pups, but is that just because he picks up on languages better, or was that a choice that he made? During the pizza section he gets distracted by the concept of war veterans and why human society would idolize them, what they could've done to earn that affection--but to what extent does he even understand that "statue = respectful gesture" in the first place? I wanted a bit more grounding in his understanding of human culture, especially since the story ends with him leaving everything he's ever known and running headlong into it--as it stands it feels more like he's just yeeting the houndoom culture rather than wanting to join humans, simply because his understanding of human culture either feels vastly negative or unknown.

This is definitely something I would have given more focus and polish if I had the wordcount to spare. Where the houndoom learn their human language and how Iwai is good at it is left largely unanswered even though I did plan it. Arrow wishing Kaph was there when he was speaking to mark was a hint at Kaph being the best at human language in the pack and responsible for teaching the pups, but really no one can piece that together from just a single, vague throwaway line.

A statue being a respectful gesture I didn't think of as being super human, as the concept of making something (altar, drawing, text) in honor of some figure or event seems abstract enough, and the likeness of that figure being shown in it just makes its purpose clearer. There's also the fact (that I don't think I hinted at whatsoever lol) that these houndoom and a lot of other feral-but-intelligent mon originally got their intelligence from being around humans or mon that had been around humans and learning from them, which means more human influence in their culture than there would be had they created civilization among themselves. (This is a product of that mon-intelligence mechanic of mine where mon turn out intelligent if they have enough intellectual stimuli at an early age, and only with animal intellect if they don't get that. It results in animal-intelligent mon nearly always rearing animal-intelligent mon and human-or-higher-intelligent mon nearly always reading human-or-higher-intelligent mon.)

I swear I won't do the em dash talk again, but it would help to have some consistency between which combination of hyphens you use.

There is a rule I follow, but the line between the cases gets blurred sometimes. A single hyphen is like an em dash used in general punctuation (similar to a semicolon), while two hyphens mark an interruption or sharp change in thought. In the two-hyphen line you quoted, it can kind of go both ways, though thinking more about it now, one hyphen would have fit better.

This narration feels a bit more specifically you-flavored (or idk something Red would say lol). Iwai in general is a bit hard to pin down as a character but this didn't really feel like something he'd say, even in a more removed third narrator. Has he often watched births in his pack?

I was fifty-fifty on whether to include this line. Iwai has definitely been around when a pregnant houndoom is about to give birth - not necessarily watching, but definitely hearing from another room. It does, however, have that sharp tone to it because of the word bitch, even if it's just correct terminology between dogs.

I wasn't sure why Arrow couldn't unwind the hose from the top and pass it down to him--running in the other direction with it and then dropping it back down the window. They're smart enough to case the joint and understand how the hose reel works, so I was surprised neither of them tried it.

I think we both had different ideas about the layout of the scene, because I can't figure out how this would work in the setup I had imagined.

I was actually really curious about this--there aren't many dog breeds that are naturally born with docked/nubby tails, and dobermans aren't one of them. And then there's a whole different conundrum of how/why evolution would give them the tail back, and what that would do as far as using a tail to communicate certain thoughts if the adolescents of the species have less-visible ways of showing that.

Anyway. Not terribly important for this story and probably not a thing most people would consider--I briefly thought this was going to be a secret plot point that humans dock tails of wild houndour or otherwise made it genetically pass down, somehow and that tied back into the lingering distrust of humans, but I do not think many other readers would have this hangup.

I was actually calling it a nub merely because that's how I'd imagine a houndour's tail to look like in real life. I didn't mean to imply there were any artificial reasons behind it.

I wasn't sure why Iwai would jump to this conclusion since Arrow is also pretty bad at human (and has limited interest in learning)--felt like a weird thing to tell his father after the discussion of hating humans.

It's more of a joke at Relgir's expense rather than an honest observation.

Thanks for the review! Wonderfully in-depth. Very much appreciated.
 

Sinderella

Angy Tumbleweed • PFP by Canisaries
Staff
Location
In Guzma's Closet
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/sylveon-shiny
  2. gothitelle
  3. froslass
  4. chandelure
Hey Canis, rolling up for catnip! Been a hot minute since I read something of yours (gottacatchuponHHandseemysweetbabybabbuRed), so I'm glad I ended up rolling this!

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, your prose is as fluid and firm as ever. I super enjoyed the story as a whole, but your writing alone really elevated it to a level of enjoyment I get when I'm reading professionally published books--seriously, if this weren't about Houndours and Houndooms, I'd have expect to find this in some sort of short story collection. Far out, yo.

I've seen this trope countless times--social outcast with a big family name seems to not be able to live up to that name, until they're forced to make some sort of decision that defies what that name stood for. It's actually a trope I'm kind of over seeing, but I really like the way it pans out here, mostly because of the immense amount of worldbuilding you do here. I had a lot of questions about your Pokemon World while I was reading Hunter, Haunted and Seiren, but walking away from this story, it all makes a lot more sense. I absolutely love how you wrote out this slight language barrier, with the "human" and "canine" language. I did have a question though: do all Pokemon speak the same? Or at least, similarly? I know it was mentioned that the murkrow wasn't an "expert on canine language", but then there was a part where Iwai noticed a pack of "blabbering" pidoves, but I couldn't tell if he meant blabbering like talking or blabbering like chirping; I have to assume it's the former because of what "blabbering" actually means, so maybe he just knew they were talking but couldn't understand? I'm thinking way too damn hard about this.

There are a couple parts where I did find myself slightly tripped up, though. My biggest gripe had to do with Relgir and Arrow, almost entirely because I COULD NOT tell who was in charge of the pack or not. In some instances it seemed like Arrow was alpha male, but in some instances it seemed like Arrow was. Are there multiple leaders in this pack? Was Relgir acting alpha while Arrow was down and out with his fucked up leg? I couldn't really tell.

I also have a question regarding Garad character Arrow keeps alluding to (have to assume it's his father or grandfather or something). I found myself wanting to know what exactly Garad did to earn this kind of almost seemingly legendary backing to him. Arrow takes a lot of pride in being a descendent of Garad, and it seems like the entire pack knows who he is. What is so special about the Garad bloodline? Part of me thinks that little tidbit would somehow make the stakes here higher--you kind of give us the gist that Iwai has a lot to live up to, but you don't really say "why" and I'd like to hear the why. I have an inkling of a feeling it's in regards to that story Arrow was telling at the beginning of the story that ended up being cut off. Maybe, possibly...find a way to finish it somehow? Idk.

Also, my biggest question...what was the murkrow meant to gain by ratting Arrow and Iwai out? I guess I see a world where it's bitter that Iwai lost the pizza case thing, but even then, the murkrow still got food out of it, so...that part I'm still struggling to parse. Maybe he's just an asshole? He's probably just an asshole. Seems fitting for a murkrow, tbh.

All in all, some fantastic stuff happening here! Great job on this!

Line-by-Lines:
“Bring them in,” shouted Arrow, then turned to Iwai and lowered his voice. “Sorry about this. I’ll finish the story later.”
“Glad to reach an agreement,” said Arrow. “Everyone, get ready to leave.”
So just a few examples here that totally have me thinking Arrow is pack alpha.

Arrow sighed. “You know that’s not true,” he said, but his avoidance of eye contact betrayed at least some level of agreement. Iwai returned the gesture.
That ending part read a tad wonky here. Arrow was already avoiding eye-contact, so I don't find it necessary to mention Iwai was doing the same. MAYBE you can try "Iwai also found he couldn't look at his father" or maybe "Iwai simply lowered his head."

”I’m not mad if you were trying to steal food,” the human said. “You can tell me.”
Okay so deadass you have me traumatized, thought for sure Mark was luring Iwai in to slaughter him. Had to remind myself that this isn't Red LOL.

Oh, he was asking for Iwai’s name. Iwai gave his, but suspected the human wouldn’t really be able to pronounce neither the whine nor the yelp it consisted of.

“That sounds a bit like Eli to me,” said Mark. “Can I call you Eli?”
Whine...yelp?

*roll credits*

“Halt!” shouted Relgir, and the hounds stopped in their tracks. “Did you forget this came from a human? Did you really just throw all your caution to the wind?” He paced around the container, keeping a limb’s distance. “Most likely, it’s poisoned!”
“Well? Why is it ridiculous?” Relgir mocked.

This wasn’t good. If Arrow wasn’t speaking up, who would?
“This pup has had a troubling history with our pack,” began Relgir. “It is not only the shortsightedness displayed by him concerning the human here or the fact that his lack of focus cost us a great meal yesterday...”

“Are you still upset about that?” Arrow barked. ”Get over it!”

But Relgir’s monologue could not be stopped. “He rarely plays with other pups of the pack anymore, missing out on important training for hunting...”
And here it totally reads like Relgir is pack leader. I feel like if Arrow was in charge, he'd tell him to shut the fuck up. So I was very much questioning the power balance here.

Arrow grimaced, indignant. “Aren’t you forgetting about me?”

“I don’t know,” muttered Relgir. “I feel like a descendant of Garad would’ve seen that ditch.”
Alright, so it's definitely well-known who Garad is. What'd he do to become a legend?

It shook his sister Wenr into action, making her leap to the central pair with her own teeth bared.
This came moderately out of left field, because we got an introduction to Kaph, but then Wenr here wordlessly helps domino effect this dogpile here. I think this would read a little better if we also had a slight intro to Wenr.
 

canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
I did have a question though: do all Pokemon speak the same? Or at least, similarly? I know it was mentioned that the murkrow wasn't an "expert on canine language", but then there was a part where Iwai noticed a pack of "blabbering" pidoves, but I couldn't tell if he meant blabbering like talking or blabbering like chirping; I have to assume it's the former because of what "blabbering" actually means, so maybe he just knew they were talking but couldn't understand? I'm thinking way too damn hard about this.
Not all pokémon speak the same! Canine language is indeed limited to canines. It's also not just any canines, but sapient ones - only sapients can use complex verbal language like ours. Completely wild houndoom and other canine pokémon communicate like our wolves.

I think my intention with the "blabbering" line was indeed the last suggestion you had - Iwai could tell they were talking, but he didn't speak bird language.

There are a couple parts where I did find myself slightly tripped up, though. My biggest gripe had to do with Relgir and Arrow, almost entirely because I COULD NOT tell who was in charge of the pack or not. In some instances it seemed like Arrow was alpha male, but in some instances it seemed like Arrow was. Are there multiple leaders in this pack? Was Relgir acting alpha while Arrow was down and out with his fucked up leg? I couldn't really tell.
The idea was that they are at the same level of hierachy, but it's clear from the comments I've gotten that it's not properly established as such - people are going to assume Arrow is a singular leader when he's acting like one in the opening scene without anything to show that Relgir is his equal.

I also have a question regarding Garad character Arrow keeps alluding to (have to assume it's his father or grandfather or something). I found myself wanting to know what exactly Garad did to earn this kind of almost seemingly legendary backing to him. Arrow takes a lot of pride in being a descendent of Garad, and it seems like the entire pack knows who he is. What is so special about the Garad bloodline? Part of me thinks that little tidbit would somehow make the stakes here higher--you kind of give us the gist that Iwai has a lot to live up to, but you don't really say "why" and I'd like to hear the why. I have an inkling of a feeling it's in regards to that story Arrow was telling at the beginning of the story that ended up being cut off. Maybe, possibly...find a way to finish it somehow? Idk.
Hmm, I didn't feel like his exact deeds were important and so I didn't really come up with any beside the story at the beginning, hoping that it would suggest enough that he was this deeply admired folk hero who had a lot of stories about his amazing feats. There is also the talk of Garad's flame, which is the greater power in fire moves that his bloodline seems to exhibit.

Also, my biggest question...what was the murkrow meant to gain by ratting Arrow and Iwai out? I guess I see a world where it's bitter that Iwai lost the pizza case thing, but even then, the murkrow still got food out of it, so...that part I'm still struggling to parse. Maybe he's just an asshole? He's probably just an asshole. Seems fitting for a murkrow, tbh.
I feel like there's a reason I've forgotten. It may have been that the murkrow also feels like feral mon should not be working together with humans.

This came moderately out of left field, because we got an introduction to Kaph, but then Wenr here wordlessly helps domino effect this dogpile here. I think this would read a little better if we also had a slight intro to Wenr.
This I believe was a direct consequence of the word count cap for the contest. I would have slipped her in earlier but there wasn't space.

Thanks for the feedback! I hope I can find the energy to revise this story some day, but if not, it's still useful for general writing. Either way, I'm really glad you enjoyed the story! If you liked Eli, you'll meet him again in Chapter 15 of HH.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
I'd been meaning to read this for months so I'm glad I finally got around to it.

After all, it was hard not to stare at the flat-faced, fearful-eyed freaks or the mon no less strange.
I just love that Iwai calls humans freaks. Idk why but I just do. (I mean it'd be mean to say in-person, but it gives us a glimpse of his characters and grounds us in his viewpoint. I bet we look weird to pokemon).

“My son,” Arrow corrected. ”Who has a name.”
👏

Hunger growled in Iwai’s belly, but guilt growled in his brain.
Love this little bit of prose. Analogy, simile? idk I forget, but I like it.

“Come on, Iwai,” said Arrow, “don’t beat yourself up over it. Everyone makes mistakes.”
:quag: I am so HERE for Arrow defending is son :okgon:

“Now,” Arrow continued, “I’m gonna get you up on that can, and then you’ll jump in through the window. Try to land well, and if you make a loud noise, freeze. If you’re sure the humans aren’t coming, make your way into the kitchen, the place where they keep and cook their food. There should be a tall cupboard that feels colder than the rest - that’s called a fridge. They keep their eggs, milk and fish there, sometimes even meat. Gather as much as you safely can in your bags, then come back to the window and let me know. You got all that?”
I loved the amount of forethought and planning here. Very clever!

He told me I could choose what I wanted! Are you saying they would’ve filled their food storage with poisoned food and stashed their real food somewhere else? And in that case, I wouldn’t have been any better off if I’d stolen the food like you planned!”
YES!!!!

I’m sorry,” Arrow finally said. “You’re right. I’m not making sense.” He paused and closed his eyes. “I just… really don’t want anyone to get hurt, you know? Not on top of… wrecking my leg. I don’t want to be any more of a burden to the pack.”
THE DAD BEING HONEST AND SUPPORTIVE WHAT

“So if I was grown up and I got hurt, you’d blame me?”
Iwai out here asking the real questions!

So...” he then said. “What about the human?”

Arrow stared at the forest floor in thought. “Well, I feel like if I say you can’t see him again, you’ll just sneak away some night to do it anyway,” he finally said. “But if we go see him together, I’ll at least be able to watch over you. Can you promise not to go on your own if we do that?”
*angel chorus* FINALLY!!!!

Whenever this type of situation comes up, I always feel like, just. JUST GO WITH THE KID!!! Arrow recognizing that Iwai would go anyway and instead saying he'd go with him is PERFECT. Excellent subversion of what you usually see in this type of 'outcast searching for home' situation, where the kid runs off anyway much to everyone's shock (/s. Do you not know your own kid? come on) Father of the year award.

Arrow snorted. “He should know...”

Iwai rolled his eyes and looked to Mark. “He is Arrow.”
This exchange amused me, Arrow being grumpy that this random human doesn't know Garad the houndoom.

Mark’s smile melted away. ”Well… I’d love to help you, but I’m not staying here for very long. My wife and I are soon moving to Kanto, which is very far away. I’m only here now to help with the renovation. That’s why it’s important for you to learn to trust other humans, too.”
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

There goes my hopes of Mark and Iwai becoming buds. :sadcat:

only a victini has that kind of luck!”
Excellent phrase! It makes sense that houndoom would speak of victini like this, nice little tidbit.

Overall, I really enjoyed this piece. I am honestly a filthy sucker for 'socially outcast character meets group mistrusted by his group, only to discover (shocker) they're not all bad'.
However, it's also really easy to tell this kind of a story in a trite way or make it very 'by the numbers' and have it fall flat. This is far from the case here! The setting, the worldbuilding, and glimpse into how the clan operates all add lots of flare. But the thing that really seals the deal is Arrow.

It's unfortunately absurdly overly common to have the kid both outcast from his tribe and ostracized by the parent. This isn't bad but it is done so much that Arrow is such a breath fresh air my goodness!! A father who is supportive and understanding AND smart is wonderful and propels the story much better. ARROW IS THE BEST.

I also loved all the small things like the Murkrow spy, demanding payment, pizza deliveries pulled by doudou carts, and having a stash of collars so they look like 'town' mon. I also adore Mark, he's such a nice guy like, he's not even doing it to try and ask Iawai to stay with him he just wants to show Iwai that humans aren't all bad.

The only part about this story that I wish could have been elaborated on was Garad's flame? it didn't click with me that apparently this was a literal special fire attack that only his descendants could use, I thought 'flame' was just a phrase houndoom used. Not until Iwai actually used it at the end apparently did I realize this was some kind of like, attack or literal fire.

That and Iwai just dipping at the end. While I have no issues with him leaving his pack, I do wish we could have seen Iwai 'roast them' a little. Either that or make the moment last, as it felt a bit abrupt (although given the word limit this is hard to help). Even so, Iwai has proven that he's got a bit of wit on him, in social stuff, like asking if his dad would be proud of him if he were older or saying how the fridge can't be poisoned because then the humans would have a whole fridge of just poisoned food.

I would have liked to have seen Iwai stand up, in a way, to the right horn for being rude. I was even expecting Iwai to volunteer to eat the food himself to prove its safe.

That said the ending as is still accomplishes its purpose, and the poetic declaration of 'Even if it meant becoming Eli' was great.

ARROW FOR DAD OF THE YEAR AWARD BTW

Really loved this piece!
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Hey Canis! I had a good time with this one--it put me in mind of a lot of xenopov stories I enjoy. Also some strong energy of the anime episode Go West, Young Meowth, with the gangs of food-stealing street pokemon and the outcast who follows humans.

The opening folk story does a lot of work in a short space--it establishes opposition between humans and the pack, and paints as traitors pokemon that collaborate with them. It has a folk hero vibe that indicates humans are a deadly threat, with Garad being celebrated because (presumably, though of course we don't see the end of the story) he is able to outwit or otherwise defeat them. I appreciated how often Garad is invoked in the fic, particularly Arrow's insistence that Iwai introduces him as a descendant of Garad. It's something massive to him--and, of course, meaningless to people outside of the pack's culture. I actually really like that Garad's deeds remain fuzzy around the edges. It doesn't have to be explained, because everybody knows. I got some Watershipdown and El-ahrairah energy from it all. Also, it totally checks out that a hereditary pack leader would claim ancestry to an important cultural figure (and believe it, whether or not it's really true.) The one thing I didn't completely get was what it means to have Garad's fire. I wasn't sure what exactly set Iwai's flame apart--other houndour/houndoom are capable of it, not just him, right? If it's a particularly deadly weapon, I'm curious why he'd be so useless on hunts. Or is it so powerful that it would burn any pray past edibility? I feel like if it's that fatal, Iwai would get an uneasy respect from the rest and be valued as someone who could deal with threats.

I had trouble sorting out what was going on in the beginning of the story immediately after the Garad myth. While some of that confusion came from the introduction of many characters in quick succession, which is always hard to navigate, I think my confusion was compounded by the head-hopping. We seem to start in Arrow's POV:

Arrow paused his story to kick back his hind leg for show, but abruptly whined as sharp pain reminded him of his injury.

Iwai did as instructed, but a second worrier was on her way. Arrow sighed as he saw his sister, Kaph, trotting to him across the warehouse, jumping over some other resting or chatting houndoom.

Here, though, we switch to Iwai's POV:

It was clear from his slurred and fragmented speech that he was no expert in canine language. Iwai wondered briefly if he would actually understand better had the bird chosen to speak human.

We stay with Iwai for the rest of the story (with one head-hop I flagged in the line-by-lines) but it's disorienting having that switch in perspective at the start of the story, when the characters are getting established. I had to read it a few times to figure out what was going on.

Another source of confusion in the opening segment revolved around how many characters there were there. When Relgir first speaks, he comes out of nowhere. There is some indication that there are other houndoom/houndour around, but I think a few more scene-setting lines would go a long way towards making that initial scene clearer.

A final confusion that persisted for me throughout the course of the story was Arrow's role in the pack. Early on it's established that he's the Leader, with what seem to be a right-hand and left-hand mon. But the way he goes sneaking around made it seem like he's pretty afraid of Relgir and his authority ultimately seemed a bit dubious. I can definitely see a situation where Arrow is the old/hereditary leader, who is losing his vigor and respect, but remains holding position on the strength of his former authority, but can't push things too far in case he gets challenged, and I saw some seeds of that in his playing off his injury and his anxiety over not seeing the ditch and Relgir's invocation of that, but I think I needed a bit more to emphasize that dynamic, if that's what you're going for. (Have you read The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by any chance? It features a pack of rats with a similar dynamic, with an older leader clinging to his position but full of unease that his prime is past.)

I enjoyed the broad beats of the worldbuilding. The pack's organized theft and agreement with the murkrow felt like smart adaptations to a human-dominated world. I just really like the mental image of a murkrow eavesdropping on pizza restaurants and then winging over to recruit the gang--major heist energy. I'd be down to read a whole fic that was just Ocean's Eleven but dogs. This is a coming of age story, not a heist story, of course, so poor Iwai fluffs guard duty.

Arrow's support of Iwai was a bright light during the fic. It's refreshing to have a father figure who's not yelling at his "runt" son constantly, but rather constantly trying to devise opportunities for his son to shine and gain respect. I got a bit lost on the logistics of the fridge-theft plan--mainly I couldn't figure out why the hose was needed. Windows aren't usually so high off the ground that a dog would need a rope to jump back up? Arrow also seemed way too well-informed on the whys of the window being open. It felt incongruous that he knows that humans air out their houses when they paint but thinks all the food in the fridge could be poisoned. Seems like, "the window's open, we can get in!" would have sufficed there.

Mark was a bit of a blank-slate for me. He's kind and says all the right things, and that's about all I got from him. He did get a spark of life towards the end when he talked about his plans and how he'll be leaving soon. I don't think he needs to be a fully developed character to fulfill his role in the story, which is to challenge Iwai's perceptions about humans and introduce the possibility of living among them, but some of the dialogue, particularly his speech about not-all-humans felt like a bit much.

There's some interesting tensions that are unresolved by the end. Mark says that "hunting" is illegal, but I find it hard to believe that Relgir and Arrow's fears are entirely based on out-dated myths about humans with guns. It can be true that there's a place for a individual houndour like Iwai/Eli to find a home among humans, and also be true that houndour/houndoom living in packs are considered hazards and captured in the way feral animals are captured in our world. Ultimately, it seems to be a case of being able to live in the human world if you do it on human terms, as Iwai seems to accept in the final line of the story. It's definitely not a warm-and-fuzzy take, but feels true to life for me, and parallels realworld issues about assimilation. I did find tragic Iwai's decision to abandon his father despite his father wanting to come with him. I don't think it's unrealistic--Iwai is a teenager, he has been under a lot of stress, and he wants to make a definite break. But I think it's a decision that may haunt him for a long time. Life among the pack seems to require pulling your weight, and Arrow has just shown, literally, that he is unable to do so. By the time Iwai returns, if he ever does, I wonder if Arrow will even be alive to see how his son has changed and grown.

I think you mentioned Eli shows up in HH? Looking forward to it!

I read the first half of the story on my phone, so line-by-lines are bit less detailed than usual.

They ate away what darkness remained with its amber glow and revealed the face of the human, a face of…
* their amber glow

“Iwai!” whispered his father from the outside. “What’s going on?”
Would he be able to hear a whisper if he's that far up/inside?

“I can get you more if you want,” he said. “It’s no trouble.”

Iwai supposed he could as well begin to talk.
"as well" reads very strangely here. In that formulation, also fits better. Or you could say, Iwai supposed that he could begin talking too.

He cleared his throat, though paused for a moment to make sure the words he was about to speak were the right ones.
Throat-clearing feels like a very human tic. Maybe there's a slightly more doggish thing he could do to prep?

“Do they give you enough?”

Iwai tightened his mouth in thought. If this human was really this nice, maybe he could let him know about his predicament. It wasn’t as if he would tattle.
I think the not being able to tattle might be reason number one for Iwai to share.

Iwai hesitated, but the promise of food and his own curiosity overwhelmed his doubts, and he slowly walked towards the human. He smiled and began to lead him through the house.
The second "he" being the human here was a bit jarring. Perhaps combine the sentences with a who clause.

Mark nodded back, smiling. Iwai would have smiled too if he knew how to do it right.
It's a little odd to me that Iwai automatically interperts smiling as a positive thing, considering how little experience he's had with the freakish blobs that are humans up to now. Smiling seems like something that could easily be taken as a threat by Iwai.

“I just… really don’t want anyone to get hurt, you know? Not on top of… wrecking my leg. I don’t want to be any more of a burden to the pack.”
This line is especially indicative of what felt to me like a larger tone issue for Arrow. His dialogue often read to me as the same maturity level as Iwai's, not someone of an older generation.

Iwai hummed in agreement, and the two continued their way back home in silence. The pup’s mind was busy wondering how the next meeting with the human would transpire until the two eventually reached the warehouse.
The narration seemed to get strangely distant with "the pup's mind" when we've been in Iwai's close POV for most of the story.

No words could leave Iwai’s throat, but Arrow was prepared. “Just a small walk and talk,” he said. “Father to son and all that.”

Relgir paced up to them and sniffed. His snout wrinkled. “I smell human on you.”

“A group of humans had recently been in an opening we spent time in. We made no actual contact with them.”

Relgir hmphed. “Fine, then. Just make sure you don’t strain that leg of yours too hard so that we can have you back on the field sooner.”
Arrow really doesn't come off as the Leader in this exchange. He seemed more like Relgir's lieutenant.

The sun moved slower than ever before the following day.
This read awkwardly to me. Perhaps, "The next day, the sun seemed to move more slowly than ever before."

Iwai’s head was brimming with thoughts - the memories of the previous night and the speculation on how the next one would go.
Think this would read smoother without the thes--"Iwai’s head was brimming with thoughts - memories of the previous night and speculation on how the next one would go."

“Arrow. Garad…” He turned back to Iwai. “How do I say ‘descendant’?”

“I doubt he cares that you’re a descendant of Garad,” muttered Iwai. “He doesn’t know who that is.”

Arrow snorted. “He should know...”
Love how important Garad is in their culture.

”Not hunt?” he said. “Human hunt, but say hound not hunt?” He spat a plume of smoke and turned to Iwai. “See? This is what humans always do. They’ve designed their rules to so clearly make them above mon and then act like they’re generous for even letting us walk around. They’re --”

“Uh, sir - Arrow, was it?” said Mark. ”Sorry, but I think there’s been a misunderstanding. Humans can’t hunt, either.” He brought his hands together, concerned. “If you’ve seen humans hunting, they’re doing it against the law. You should tell me what you know so I can tell the police.”
I wonder if there's a translation issue here. I suspect that some things Arrow considers hunting may be perfectly legal.

Seeing the anguish of his son, Arrow changed his tone.
We seem to have head-hopped back to Arrow here.

He realized too late that the sentence he had started was not one he could finish.
Yep, this is definitely from Arrow's POV, not Iwai's.

A pack vote denied when the pack felt one was needed just might lead to impeachment.
Impeachment sounds like they've got a pretty complex democratic hierarchy here, but then a few lines later they just all begin tussling.

“I don’t know,” muttered Relgir. “I feel like a descendant of Garad would’ve seen that ditch.”
The call-back to the ditch was really effective here.

“I can’t lose you,” Arrow cried. Then, his eyes widened. “I’ll come with you!”

Iwai stared at Arrow’s leg. “No… you can’t. Not like that.”

To prove Iwai wrong, Arrow hurriedly hobbled towards his pup - but his body betrayed him, collapsing with a yelp of pain.
💔
 

canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
The one thing I didn't completely get was what it means to have Garad's fire. I wasn't sure what exactly set Iwai's flame apart--other houndour/houndoom are capable of it, not just him, right? If it's a particularly deadly weapon, I'm curious why he'd be so useless on hunts. Or is it so powerful that it would burn any pray past edibility? I feel like if it's that fatal, Iwai would get an uneasy respect from the rest and be valued as someone who could deal with threats.
I suppose it makes sense for multiple readers to be confused about it considering I never fully decided on it myself, lol. I generally think it's stronger, flashier flames, but not really by that much - a lot of its value is symbolic, showing you share blood with the great folk hero Garad. In terms of hunting, houndoom are pursuit predators like wolves, and while fire can be an attack, it's kind of useless if you can't run fast enough and long enough to get within reach of your prey.

A final confusion that persisted for me throughout the course of the story was Arrow's role in the pack. Early on it's established that he's the Leader, with what seem to be a right-hand and left-hand mon. But the way he goes sneaking around made it seem like he's pretty afraid of Relgir and his authority ultimately seemed a bit dubious. I can definitely see a situation where Arrow is the old/hereditary leader, who is losing his vigor and respect, but remains holding position on the strength of his former authority, but can't push things too far in case he gets challenged, and I saw some seeds of that in his playing off his injury and his anxiety over not seeing the ditch and Relgir's invocation of that, but I think I needed a bit more to emphasize that dynamic, if that's what you're going for. (Have you read The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by any chance? It features a pack of rats with a similar dynamic, with an older leader clinging to his position but full of unease that his prime is past.)
Arrow really doesn't come off as the Leader in this exchange. He seemed more like Relgir's lieutenant.
Damn, the revision I just recently made was particularly supposed to make the hierarchy clearer and more sensible, but I guess it only changed the nature of the issue. I was aware when editing that Relgir was stepping on Arrow's toes a lot, but I didn't want to get rid of the tension Relgir brought - if Arrow could just tell him to shut the hell up and be done, I feel like I'd lose a lot of conflict. In general, my idea was kind of that the leader is only the leader when he has the pack's trust and respect rather than someone that's always right by virtue of their position - it's somewhat removed from how real wolf packs operate, but these aren't wolves or even dogs but fantasy creatures in the end. These feral-but-sapient houndoom also have far more mix-and-match in their packs due to the feral lifestyle, so they needed a more democratic system to be able to stick and be strong together instead of an extended family model that wolf packs tend to have.

Arrow himself isn't actually very old, but Relgir's trying his best to undermine his leadership due to wanting to be the leader himself (when a leader is demoted, the right-horn is the first candidate for a new one). Relgir's been trying to manipulate the pack into distrusting Arrow, an endeavor that caught much more traction now thanks to the incidents with Iwai.

I got a bit lost on the logistics of the fridge-theft plan--mainly I couldn't figure out why the hose was needed. Windows aren't usually so high off the ground that a dog would need a rope to jump back up? Arrow also seemed way too well-informed on the whys of the window being open. It felt incongruous that he knows that humans air out their houses when they paint but thinks all the food in the fridge could be poisoned. Seems like, "the window's open, we can get in!" would have sufficed there.
Right - I was envisioning a very small, high window that only a pup could fit through, which is why Arrow had Iwai steal instead of just doing it himself and having Iwai take the credit. Iwai is also still on the smaller side and unable to leap as high as mature hounds. As for the paint-explanation, I can vividly imagine myself putting all that in so that someone doesn't go "buh why did they have an open window when there are mon and maybe thieves around buh", so that's probably what happened. But I think having them just smell something artificial and Iwai describing the room as being empty save for newspapers and a large metal can would lead to the reader putting two and two together.

Mark was a bit of a blank-slate for me. He's kind and says all the right things, and that's about all I got from him. He did get a spark of life towards the end when he talked about his plans and how he'll be leaving soon. I don't think he needs to be a fully developed character to fulfill his role in the story, which is to challenge Iwai's perceptions about humans and introduce the possibility of living among them, but some of the dialogue, particularly his speech about not-all-humans felt like a bit much.
Yeah, Mark is annoyingly milquetoast and kinda preachy in this, which is largely because he's a pre-existing character that just happens to be like that - but from the perspective of someone that hasn't met Samson (or doesn't know Mark is him, which the story doesn't really convey), he's taken to represent humans in general and thus feels really bland. I think I should take more advantage of breaking out of wordcount jail and have him come across more as a character than a spokesperson, though it is kind of tough to do all that when we're constrained to the viewpoint of a scared houndour that's never met a human face to face before.

I think you mentioned Eli shows up in HH? Looking forward to it!
Heh, well... don't hold your breath, because you'd be holding it very long. Eli only shows up in the extra chapter which takes place after the story.

There's some interesting tensions that are unresolved by the end. Mark says that "hunting" is illegal, but I find it hard to believe that Relgir and Arrow's fears are entirely based on out-dated myths about humans with guns. It can be true that there's a place for a individual houndour like Iwai/Eli to find a home among humans, and also be true that houndour/houndoom living in packs are considered hazards and captured in the way feral animals are captured in our world. Ultimately, it seems to be a case of being able to live in the human world if you do it on human terms, as Iwai seems to accept in the final line of the story. It's definitely not a warm-and-fuzzy take, but feels true to life for me, and parallels realworld issues about assimilation. I did find tragic Iwai's decision to abandon his father despite his father wanting to come with him. I don't think it's unrealistic--Iwai is a teenager, he has been under a lot of stress, and he wants to make a definite break. But I think it's a decision that may haunt him for a long time. Life among the pack seems to require pulling your weight, and Arrow has just shown, literally, that he is unable to do so. By the time Iwai returns, if he ever does, I wonder if Arrow will even be alive to see how his son has changed and grown.
I definitely didn't mean for it to be a bad thing that Iwai chooses humans - more like he decides that he just isn't cut out for pack life, but there's still another place he can go live and maybe even thrive. I think this could have come across better if I'd added in the final scene I originally planned of Iwai arriving at Mark's and explaining what's happened while Mark tries to comfort him. Also, something that I may have failed to get across is that the houndoom don't exclusively depend on the city for food, but do have regular hunts in the woods - both venues of food supplement each other.

I have had thoughts about a sequel where we see Iwai with the humans and Arrow with the hounds and something something! If I get good enough ideas, I may write it.

"as well" reads very strangely here. In that formulation, also fits better. Or you could say, Iwai supposed that he could begin talking too.
I was trying to invoke the phrase "might as well" rather than expressing that Iwai could talk "as well".

Throat-clearing feels like a very human tic. Maybe there's a slightly more doggish thing he could do to prep?
*shrug* Well, if I come up with one, I'll edit it in.

It's a little odd to me that Iwai automatically interperts smiling as a positive thing, considering how little experience he's had with the freakish blobs that are humans up to now. Smiling seems like something that could easily be taken as a threat by Iwai.
You're right, this is definitely something I ought to expand on now that I'm no longer bound by wordcount.

This line is especially indicative of what felt to me like a larger tone issue for Arrow. His dialogue often read to me as the same maturity level as Iwai's, not someone of an older generation.
Hmm... well, I thought of Arrow as being kind of a young inexperienced father, especially since his mate's death took him by surprise and he was thrust into being the only parent for Iwai. Something of note is also the fact that generational gaps are notably shorter in time with houndoom than with humans - probably not full-on doglike "sexual maturity is reached in less than a year", but still much less than the 20-30 years of humans.

The narration seemed to get strangely distant with "the pup's mind" when we've been in Iwai's close POV for most of the story.
This was probably another artifact of the word limit in the original version.

Impeachment sounds like they've got a pretty complex democratic hierarchy here, but then a few lines later they just all begin tussling.
I was actually going to use "mutiny" originally, but it had a connotation of being illegal or condemnable - what I wanted to express was a kind of event where a leader is demoted in a way that's supported by the pack code. I figured "impeachment" could be a word for that, but I guess it had more sophisticated connotations than I wanted. The tussle, though, was not the proper way of handling things but rather a fight escalating into anarchy.

Thanks for the review! I'll try to address a lot of the points mentioned in the next edit, but it may take a while since I still have minor burnout on this story from the last edits (which I did in the deepest throes of my covid infection because I'm really, really smart).
 

Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
Hi Canis! I enjoyed reading this for Smeargle Swap. I'll try to give a review of my thoughts at some point! Until then, I hope you enjoy this drawing I did (I know it's messy; I did it by hand and then scanned it. I did the best I could!). Here is a tender moment between Arrow and Iwai.
 

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