• Welcome to Thousand Roads! You're welcome to view discussions or read our stories without registering, but you'll need an account to join in our events, interact with other members, or post one of your own fics. Why not become a member of our community? We'd love to have you!

    Join now!

Pokémon Without A Human Heart (Oneshot)

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Summary: N didn't give up after the castle. Afterwards, the Hero of Truth tries to live with herself.

Author's Note: So, Keleri and Kintsugi's awesome N fics this month ('People and Humans' and 'naturally') got me thinking about the idea of N being a pokemon who becomes a human. It makes so much sense! At the same time, there's something so convenient about the idea, if N could be summed up by the people of Unova as a bad punchline, a pokemon in human clothes. This is my hastily-written attempt to digest that unease.

Warning for implied character death.


.
.

Without A Human Heart
.
.


The whispers begin after it's all over. She's sitting in a small cafe, anonymous under her cap. The conversation buzzes behind her like a swarm of kricketune on a still summer night.

"I'm telling you, got to have been a zoroark. Couldn't have been a ditto. They can't manage humans. Got these dots for eyes, like something a kid would draw."

"I dunno, it's not like we ever got a good look at his face during the broadcast, did we? You can hide a lot under a cap."

"Do you think he got the texture right? I mean, what if his hands were—squishy, you know?"

"Stop, that's so gross."

They're breaking into laughter now, relieved, like a tea kettle expelling steam, relieving pressure.

"That's so gross."

This is what people are like, Hilda thinks numbly. Her stomach hurts and her hands hurt and inside of her it feels like a furnace. She wants to combust.

No, this is what humans are like.

She can hear him saying that—never really angry, and only ever the slightest bit pained.

He'd come to her apartment after midnight. Blinked at the shag carpets, the chandelier in the dining room. "The league chose the furnishing," she'd said. "It's their apartment, not mine, you know." Then she'd stopped, wondering why she was justifying herself again.

A flush sat high in his cheeks; she'd wondered, for a moment, if he was drunk. "I've found a fault in the system, in the pokeballs." He paced the living room, his feet sinking into the carpet. "I can change them, make it so their only function is release. Imagine it, Hilda! Every pokemon free to make their own choices, at last. They'll have to see it then."

"They won't see anything," she told him, "except treason. I got you off last time; I won't be able to do it again. Besides, if you do that, what happens after? Days of chaos, or weeks. It won't change anything."

He shook his head slowly, his eyes bright. "You think this world is something static, locked into an unchanging equation that only ends in pain. But I refuse to accept that."

I should have made him listen. I should have—

That had been their struggle, from beginning to end. The truth he couldn't accept and the dream she couldn't believe in. Her hands clench around her cup of cocoa.

She could turn around, remove the cap, and scream a little. It would make her feel better. Maybe they'd even duck their heads and sham a sense of shame. Someone would video the whole thing, of course. And then she'd have the old headache back to deal with. Tabloids speculating about her loyalty. About her grief. About—private things.

Truth, Hilda thinks bitterly. What was the point of it? Knowing what would be useless and so not bothering to try. N had tried, at least. It had been his making and his undoing, a rise and fall as necessary to each other as the two ends of a parabola.

"Do you think he ever—did it?"

There's a breathless hush from the table. No one speaks for a moment, clearly too delighted for words.

"No way. Stop."

"Yeah, but if he did do it—"

"Would that even, like, work?"

"I mean, with who? It's not like anyone would want to, once they touched him. 'Cause what I was saying earlier, about the squishy, you know, that would be everywhere. You know?"

They're shrieking now, like a murder of murkrow.

It's as if Hilda's bolted to the ground. She stares down at the thin, rippling skin forming over her cold cocoa.

He'd bled. Back on the plateau, when Ghetsis slapped him so hard his nose ran, bright and red and sticky. He hadn't bled when they'd sat him on the chair. He was speaking quietly to the electabuzz on duty, words no one could catch, until his voice had risen, "I'm so sorry they're making you kill," and the electabuzz had gone still, its jaw slack, and something had burned so raw in its eyes that Hilda had known, known, this couldn't go through—then its trainer slapped it on the back, almost jovially, and the automatic rush of current had run down the wire.

The rage is effervescent. It bubbles up inside her, until she feels like she is losing form—metamorphosing from a teenage girl into a seething, angry thing.

They have to do this, interjects the part of her mind that has always stood to the side—the part that watched and analyzed, kept cool in the heat of every battle. They have to make him inhuman. If they didn't, there would be no living with it. He'd be a martyr, not a freak.

A freak without a human heart.
Ghetsis' words. His true talent had always been for branding.

Behind her, chairs are scraping. A brief argument over the size of the tip—"Really? 20% for this crap service?" "Give it a rest, you know they're underpaid here"—and they're gone.

"The league has commissioned a statue of you and Reshiram," Alder had told her yesterday, watching her carefully from under his thick eyebrows. "With everything that's happened, Unova wants to celebrate its hero."

Hero, he said, singular, as if there had only ever been one.

"I don't want a statue," she answered, though what she'd meant was, "I don't want your bribe."

But what could she do about it? Have Reshiram pull the thing down herself? That was N's style—big, dramatic, and stupid. A gesture that wouldn't achieve anything.

If she turned into a statue here and now, would anyone notice? If rock encased her skin down to her heart, left her cold and motionless, would anyone notice? People could come and ask her questions, the complexities and grays of their lives squeezed into yes or no, and she would move her head in the appropriate direction.

Why didn't you win? That first time, when the castle unfurled like a rose, when the sky was starred like a fairy tale, and it felt like the world could change, just a little, just enough.

He'd doubted. Facing her, after everything. He'd doubted and she hadn't. When the Light Stone had woken in her hand, she'd expected it to burn her, but instead of heat there had only been a terrible cold. She'd stood like a statue as they fought, washed clean of everything but her certainty, and if she could turn back time—have her heart, just for a moment, speed and falter—

Hilda swallows. Could you fight for something you couldn't see? Could you struggle towards a dream you couldn't imagine?

"I promise you—"

And for just a moment, the clamor of the cafe recedes. For one fleeting, golden moment, she believes.
 
Last edited:

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Pen! You've been so busy, you marvelous fiend. Post to FFN so I can put this in my loot hoard faves list. 😍

I'm so glad you're visiting the idea of Hilda's guilt. I've wondered about that in this flurry of N-centered one-shots. N makes such a compelling argument, fic after fic, it's hard to be on her side. Did the dragon choose wrong when it chose her? Was she changed?

This went to some places I didn't expect it to. Death by pokemon execution is extra brutal if you see them as people and not as tools -- and this method of death is ironic considering events of "Let it Ring." 👀

The only awkward line was this one:
The milk is curdling in her cocoa cup, pale sheets forming like the growth of new skin.
Nice image, but I found myself wondering, is it really? However, I love the motif of the cold hot chocolate -- childhood gone cold, loss of innocence.

The dialogue between the girls at the table next door is perfect. I also liked the rendering of N as affable and "only ever the slightest bit pained."
 
  • Like
Reactions: Pen

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
😁 This isn't normal, when I get through my backlog I'll be back to not posting for months, I'm sure. But also, reading good stories makes you want to write more!

Yeah, I go back and forth on whether N is the Hero of Truth or Hero of Ideals and what that means for his counterpart. If he's the Hero of Truth, pointing out the problems and realities of the world, then Hilda's role as Hero of Ideals—someone able to imagine a better future—is helpful and understandable. But if N is the Hero of Ideals, believing that a better world for pokemon is possible, then that leaves Hilda as the hero of cold, hard reality—that humans are not going to give up on their supremacy.

Re the hot chocolate, your comment made me actually look up the science behind the phenomenon I was trying to describe, of "milk skin." I guess curdle is the wrong word, it's the denaturation of the milk proteins. I'll rework that simile for FFN posting.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
Re the hot chocolate, your comment made me actually look up the science behind the phenomenon I was trying to describe, of "milk skin." I guess curdle is the wrong word, it's the denaturation of the milk proteins. I'll rework that simile for FFN posting.
Yeah, it was the word "curdle" that threw me. Like, "that was some eldritch-speed bacterial growth..." Haha.

But also, reading good stories makes you want to write more!
Amen. "Suicune's Choice" lit a fire under my ass, NGL. I mean, no pressure but... 👀
 

Negrek

Only the Lonely
Staff
Ohhh, another fic playing with the idea of N as pokémon-turned-human? I'm here for it. Great concept, and you've put together a really heartbreaking take on it here. I thought you did a great job with the conversation Hilda overheard; you really nail the tone of scandalized gossip, the kind of breathless delight at how gross it all is, imagine, a pokémon, and how gut-twisting it is for Hilda, someone who really cared for N, sitting there and listening to it. Especially that line where Hilda imagines N gently correcting her on "This is what people are like." I also liked the imagery of Hilda being turned to stone as an emotionless oracle of truth.

A couple little things:

They’re breaking into laughter now, relieved, like a tea kettle expunging steam, releasing pressure.
I think you might have meant "expelling" rather than "expunging" here.

Behind her, chairs are scraping. A brief argument over the size of the tip—“You’re really giving 15% for that crap service?”—and they’re gone.
This felt a little gratuitous to me. I think one of the shocking things about characters expressing really gross sentiments is if you could otherwise imagine them as being nice, normal people, but then they just casually drop these really ugly views. When they're kind of just dicks in general, as at least one of these people seems to be, it kind of takes away from that a bit.

But overall this is super tight and brutal. Little details like the execution being carried out by an electabuzz that N actually tries to comfort even at the end or really just amp up the sadness. And yet you manage to end it on a hopeful note! And one that doesn't feel cheap or out of place. Perhaps the hero of truth can learn to believe after all?

It all does leave me wondering why Hilda went up against N in the first place. Obviously she didn't think his plan could work, but why actively battle against it? Or if it was the case that the League was watching and she either felt forced or was actually forced into it, why didn't she (subtly) throw the match? As she sort of expresses here with the "why didn't you win?" sentiment.

Anyhow, this is a lovely little fic. Thanks for sharing it!
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Ohhh, another fic playing with the idea of N as pokémon-turned-human? I'm here for it.
Yep! Or, playing with the idea that people in Unova might think of N as a pokemon-turned-human, whether he was or not.

I personally don't imagine N as a pokemon-turned-human precisely because he loses. I like the idea that he doesn't actually know what world he's fighting for, but is willing to try anyway.

This felt a little gratuitous to me. I think one of the shocking things about characters expressing really gross sentiments is if you could otherwise imagine them as being nice, normal people, but then they just casually drop these really ugly views. When they're kind of just dicks in general, as at least one of these people seems to be, it kind of takes away from that a bit.
Yeah, I get that. I think you're right, it could be a nice chance to show they aren't jerks to people they think of as people.

And yet you manage to end it on a hopeful note! And one that doesn't feel cheap or out of place. Perhaps the hero of truth can learn to believe after all?
Glad the glimmer of hope felt earned to you.

It all does leave me wondering why Hilda went up against N in the first place. Obviously she didn't think his plan could work, but why actively battle against it? Or if it was the case that the League was watching and she either felt forced or was actually forced into it, why didn't she (subtly) throw the match? As she sort of expresses here with the "why didn't you win?" sentiment.
When the authority figures in your life anoint you the Hero of Truth, and then a legendary pokemon chooses you, seemingly for that reason, you feel a sense of obligation to fight for that truth. Hilda's skepticism about what it means to be the Hero of Truth is a result of her experiences, not something she came in with. She regrets her conviction because it feels hollow to her now, even though it didn't then.

Thanks for taking the time to read and review!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
I read this as soon as it came out and was shook, but I never really dropped a review, did I? It's mostly praise; sorry lol.

She can hear him saying that—never really angry, and only ever the slightest bit pained.
I still love your characterization of N -- still vaguely eccentric like in the games, but much more driven, and yet just as calm, just as pained.

sham a sense of shame
really fun phrasing there

They’re shrieking now, like a horde of honchkrow.
Small nitpick, but I think Honchkrow don't go in hordes -- dex implies there are many murkrow but just the one boss honchkrow? something like haunter or misdreavus might fit the "coming in hordes and laughing" gap, or maybe just murkrow...

He was speaking quietly to the electabuzz on duty, words no one could catch, until his voice had risen, “I’m so sorry they’re making you kill,” and the electabuzz had gone still, its jaw slack, and something had burned so raw in its eyes that Hilda knew, knew this wouldn’t go through—then its trainer slapped it on the back, almost jovially, and the automatic rush of current had raced down the wire.
UGH. THIS LINE. SO GOOD.
it's so brutal and twisted to have him go like this, fighting against pokemon being used as objects only to be executed by a pokemon used as an object

A freak without a human heart. Ghetsis’ words. His true talent had always been for branding.
THIS ONE TOO.

“Even if you’re right,” N said, “I need to make them see.”
This is at the core of the frustration I feel with N's actions, canon and otherwise -- he's right, he raises good points, and no one gives a damn. I really like the take you've taken here, that people feel the need to brand him as a non-human because there's -- no way a human could possibly feel the shame and sympathy that he did; there's no way a human heart would feel for them -- because imo the reception he gets from NPC's and the fandom is exactly that. It's something that's disgustingly cynical and yet never really gets dissected in a satisfying way; I'm glad you did it here. And yet for N, through it all is this vague, optimistic hope that he'll send a message, even though it's clearly futile. Oof.

Everything about this is so well-composed and tightly-paced. The phrases are snappy and brutal; you certainly know how to pack a punch. And I think the ending captures a really complex feeling -- regret and desire for atonement, but it still rings just as hollow for everything except Hilda's catharsis, but it's still something worth hoping for.

blurgghh. Love love love this. Thank you for sharing -- your addition to the N one-shots definitely leaves me thinking. <3
 
  • Like
Reactions: Pen

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
@kintsugi aghhh thank you so much!

Honchkrow nitpick noted and corrected! @OldschoolJohto suggested 'murder of murkrow' so we're trying that. Preserves the all-important alliteration.

This is at the core of the frustration I feel with N's actions, canon and otherwise -- he's right, he raises good points, and no one gives a damn. I really like the take you've taken here, that people feel the need to brand him as a non-human because there's -- no way a human could possibly feel the shame and sympathy that he did; there's no way a human heart would feel for them -- because imo the reception he gets from NPC's and the fandom is exactly that. It's something that's disgustingly cynical and yet never really gets dissected in a satisfying way; I'm glad you did it here. And yet for N, through it all is this vague, optimistic hope that he'll send a message, even though it's clearly futile. Oof.
Yeah, all of this. It is frustrating--that's why it inspires so much fanfic, I think, and why N will eternally fascinate me as a character.

I don't know whether you ever read Let it Ring, but that's an exploration of what it would take for people to begin to actually listen to N.

regret and desire for atonement, but it still rings just as hollow for everything except Hilda's catharsis, but it's still something worth hoping for.
Right, there's something that's just so inexplicable about N's faith, even to the end, for Hilda and for us. And she's come to a place where she's willing to try and make that leap of faith, even if it will be just as futile for her as it was for N, because the alternative is just too grim for her to contemplate.

blurgghh. Love love love this. Thank you for sharing -- your addition to the N one-shots definitely leaves me thinking. <3
Same to you, with 'naturally'!
 

Nubushi

しぶい
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/slowpoke-hgss
Hello, I’m here from the Review Blitz, and, having read this, now I’m really curious about what you’ll make of Chapter 2 of my B2W2 story.

He shook his head slowly, his eyes bright. "You think this world is something static, locked into an unchanging equation that only ends in pain. But I refuse to accept that."
This is one instance of a line that strikes me as being extremely true to how N talks in the games (including the gesture of head-shaking, too). I really love it when authors incorporate the way characters talk or act in the games, but make it work in the story, so I enjoyed the lines in your one shot like this.

The truth he couldn't accept and the dream she couldn't believe in.
Very concise encapsulation of the classic case of two people who can't meet each other in the middle to see eye to eye.

Truth, Hilda thinks bitterly. What was the point of it? Knowing what would be useless and so not bothering to try. N had tried, at least. It had been his making and his undoing, a rise and fall as necessary to each other as the two ends of a parabola.
This is very...I can't quite put my finger on the right word. Not quite "cynical" or "jaded," but the sort of pessimism that comes from hard experience. I also really enjoyed the sentence about the parabola, as another instance of something that really dovetails well with N as a character (specifically, his love for mathematical beauty).

shrieking now, like a murder of murkrow.
Works fantastically on so many levels. I like the way you applied the word for a flock of crows to murkrow, but on top of that, it serendipitously alliterates. Additionally, given the topic of this story, the word "murder" resonates with the theme of death.

He'd bled. Back on the plateau, when Ghetsis slapped him so hard his nose ran, bright and red and sticky. He hadn't bled when they'd sat him on the chair. He was speaking quietly to the electabuzz on duty, words no one could catch, until his voice had risen, "I'm so sorry they're making you kill," and the electabuzz had gone still, its jaw slack, and something had burned so raw in its eyes that Hilda had known, known, this couldn't go through—then its trainer slapped it on the back, almost jovially, and the automatic rush of current had run down the wire.
Hits really hard. So, it's just implied, not outright stated, that he went through with the pokeball thing.

They have to make him inhuman. If they didn't, there would be no living with it.
This is also classic, true through every age of human history in the way that the enemy is demonized in every war (because if you think of them as humans, it's hard to kill them), and still very evident in political situations today.

If she turned into a statue here and now, would anyone notice? If rock encased her skin down to her heart, left her cold and motionless, would anyone notice? People could come and ask her questions, the complexities and grays of their lives squeezed into yes or no, and she would move her head in the appropriate direction.
Heart-rending; the statue metaphor is really fantastic, and it seems to me that it gets at the feelings of grief, as well as Hilda's sense of paralysis and helplessness, and being forced by others into a mold that isn't who she really is. The parts about greys turning to black and white, and everything being simplified into yes/no answers, is also very true to the games...in a way. (In the games, IIRC it was really Team Plasma that was accused of painting everything in terms of black and white, while the gym leaders and other "good guys" were constantly pointing out that there are as many different opinions as there are people.)

Why didn't you win? That first time, when the castle unfurled like a rose, when the sky was starred like a fairy tale, and it felt like the world could change, just a little, just enough.

washed clean of everything but her certainty

Some very poignant and beautiful lines here.

Hilda swallows. Could you fight for something you couldn't see? Could you struggle towards a dream you couldn't imagine?
These are some really fascinating, taut, probing questions.

Overall, I think the biggest thing that is missing from this story (partly because of its short length/precise focus) is a sense of why Hilda changed her mind. We know that she did, sometime between when she defeated N and the date of the story. When she had that battle, she was absolutely sure of herself, but now, she wishes she could go back in time and lose. It's like the story explores the edges around the silhouette of something that can't be seen. But, ultimately, I guess that's not really the point of the story--the story is about the way that humans degrade and demonize people they disagree with to make themselves feel better. In that way, although this story is a lot darker than is my preference for Pokemon fanfiction, it's very probing and gets at a lot of very common human failings, while still being incredibly concise. It's also very haunting in the way it portrays Hilda's grief and regret, and I think this is one that will be sticking with me for a while.
 
Top Bottom