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Pokémon A Wonderful Leaf Boat [2023 One-Shot Contest]

tomatorade

The great speckled bird
Location
A town at the bottom of the ocean
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. quilava
  2. buizel
A Wonderful Leaf Boat

CW for death.

Finally get to post this. I have edited this version, though all the edits have been minor trimmings, rewordings, grammar, and other mostly small changes to make this more readable. Knowing my editing habits, there are probably still a bunch of typos I missed somehow, so feel free to point them out.

Had a lot of fun writing this. It loosely ties to my other fic, What the Gods Gave Me, but neither is important reading to understand the other. I don't normally write oneshots, so it was both a struggle and a refreshing change of pace to actually finish something and have it feel whole. I may one day return to this and add some stuff or change the pacing around, but that will take at least a few months of distance.

In any case, enjoy!

If Latios were to close his eyes and rely entirely on maimed threads of memory, he would have nothing but smears of colour. Those greens for the grass beneath his once-paws. Grey, maybe blue, for the sky and one streak—one brilliant crystalline streak of blue—cutting through the murk and vaporising the scene. It always smelled like the salt and rot of the sea, always felt warm and sunny even when his thoughts were rainy. If he imagined his mouth open, body coiled and poised to spring on summer bugs as he used to, the taste would be sweet.

Even now, hundreds of metres above the beach he once stood on, the impression sends his heart racing.

That would be him.

The first time he saw himself.

~(0)~

Once, his name was Midas.

Once, Midas was young. Spry, a brown duster of a tail swishing eagerly behind him.

Once, he stood on a beach and his mama stood beside him and they watched a creature he’d never seen in person before cruise safely above the whitecaps, body glinting in the sunlight. Out in the distance, a human craft tilted dangerously against a crop of hidden rocks. He knew of them from the gossipy squawking of wingull that frequented the beach, though the humans didn’t seem to. From his distance, the craft remained a speck.

The creature darted in. Then out, lugging a struggling blob to the nearby pier. Repeatedly in and out again until the dots numbered in the hundreds. A while after those blobs passed on the beachside path, sharpening into focus—all these humans, tired and dripping.

Midas hid in the bush. An instinct passed from his Mama. Something common to all pokemon, though he and her looked so different. Here, she did not hide. She lay in her rut on the sand, sunning herself with blue ears pointed back. She cracked an eye open and drew up her barbs as humans passed.

“They were drowning,” she said, once he drew up the courage to creep back and snuggle into her and feel the roughness of her skin catch his fur. Her words rumbled in her chest and passed into his. “They would not be concerned with us.”

Midas still looked to the other creature hovering above the water, observing its work. He perked up. Tried to make himself known. But it sped off again, kicking up droplets of water and spraying them across the sand as it passed.

Their protector. Midas stood in awe, breath held as it whistled by. Mama said it was a regular pokemon once. And so helpful and so loved that it could no longer take all that love into its body. One day, The Creator came to it in a shower of light and saw the way its heart ached, overburdened, and placed it inside a new form so that it could continue on without trouble. Now it soared above the water, quick enough to be in every place at once.

That night, ushered home by his Mama in the serenade of the forest winds, Midas dreamt of himself in the eyes of their Creator.

~(0)~

Autumns stole the green from the trees. The branches bent under the power of the winds and rains, which also filled the shallow valleys and riverbeds that dried over the summer. Those leaves, now brown and crispy, couldn’t hold on. They were ripped away, spiralling to the forest floor.

When they landed on the river, Midas followed them. All these little leaves rocking gently over submerged grass and pebbles. He batted the water with a paw and shivered at the cold and giggled as they struggled to keep afloat. Sometimes little droplets would crest their edges and send them to the bottom, sometimes they would survive and travel the river length and around the corner, unconcerned.

He didn’t know where they went. Until he asked and Mama told him they’d go to the ocean.

He scowled. How terrible. The ocean was much larger than the rivers and he heard it was very easy to get lost in. The pokemon who made the waves was not kind for making their waves so great. But he could do nothing about that but wade in the shallow end, shaded and cool as the leaves made it into the splotchy light at the bend and vanished from sight.

After first hearing about the protector, Midas started noticing the buggies. Little green mites and black specks of ant clinging to the stems of his leaves. They flailed once they fell from their boats and hit the water. Midas couldn’t imagine them surviving the ocean and he couldn’t paw them up to shore from the river or catch them in his mouth without hurting them. Instead, he watched. Keen eyes trained between blades of grass tickling at his nose. He caught the boats before the sea, batting them up to shore. Watching also as the passengers crawled to the safety of the grass.

Mama left him on his own, often. Only sometimes passing by and lingering, huffs of hot breath washing over his back as she snorted.

“What are you doing?” She asked, equal parts amused and exasperated.

“Saving the buggies. I’m their protector.” And he’d turn with a smile plastered on his muzzle—so wide it hurt. “You think he’d be friends with me?”

“I’m not sure if he could handle you, Midas. I barely manage,” She said. But not unkindly. He used to cry when she said such mean things, but then she explained that just meant she loved him differently.

“I want to fly on his back! Zoom! all the way across the water!” He pounced, splashing up against the bank, ears pinned back as if wind blew through his fur.

Mama faced him solidly, letting stray droplets of water trail down her face. “Not if you catch sickness, then he’d stay far away,” she scoffed. “Come. Into the den. It’s raining.”

Midas blinked. Twirled, mouth open to argue. Then a prickle of cold struck his back. He paused, looking up to watch a slow stream of raindrops strike the leaves and spray across the forest floor. Grey had taken over the sky, unnoticed as he played in the stream.

Huh.

In minutes, the rain had turned harsh.

Curled up in their den, Midas watched a wall of water more solid than anything he’d seen carve away at the dirt mouth of their hole. It sounded like the machines—the ones humans used on the trees—and bright flashes of lightning cut through the gray more and more as the night grew closer.

“Not natural,” Mama muttered, shaking her head. “Let’s dig this hole longer, Midas.” Mama’s ears dipped. Without another word, she dug into the far wall, leaving Midas frozen at the entrance.

He only just noticed the bare roots framing the entrance. Those once snug and covered in dirt, now dripping and bare and whipping wildly in the wind. Little rivulets of water flowed over the edge and threatened to soak his paws. It was as if the whole world was flooding. And although the sight made him tremble, If he looked hard enough through the gray, a streak of blue flashed by.

So he helped, little heart pounding away as he dug.

The deeper they got, the more he felt like flying.

~(0)~

All they had for the procession were a handful of straggly blue feathers the wingull found washed up on the beach. Midas didn’t know the protector had feathers. But the blue was familiar. Same as the ocean’s calm.

Every pokemon in the forest came. With all these sad faces, fidgety claws and paws drawn into chests. Heads turned so low, long whiskers tickled the ground. But if the Protector left and wouldn’t come back, then Midas thought they shouldn’t be sad. They should be hot with anger, scowling and kneading the dirt with their claws. Like him.

The protector abandoned them.

Still, they dug a hole and threw the feathers in and no matter how much he prodded Mama’s side and asked, all she could tell him was that he’d gone.

When they buried the feathers, he still didn’t understand.

I’ll be the protector then”, he huffed. “If he doesn’t want to.”

“Okay,” Mama sighed, sinking and so, so visibly tired.

She led him back home after. Down from the hill, baffled all the way but clearly in no mood to explain why everyone seemed so sad. He thought about her response deep into the night, as he watched the mouth of their new den and wondered if another flood would come.

And it’s a good thing Mama said okay.

If she hadn’t, he might never have had the will to receive it.

~(0)~

Everything led up to it. Every hello and excited wag of the tail. Every chin raised. Every paw lended. Every new den he dug for neighbours after the storm. Every new friend he made. The smiles and thanks and promises of favours returned. The burning muscles and matted fur. Panting, struggling, hurting.

(Sharper eyes might have looked up to the stars and noticed a particle swirling off orbit from the chaos. It pinged between other particles, zipping wildly and cutting through debris and slingshotting from the gravity of each planet until it sailed to a blue place. But not many would not have noticed it impact in a sleeping child—hitting Midas like a speedboat crashing against a seawall. Only one pair of eyes watched on.)

~(0)~

The legend came true one morning. His Mama clawed through layers of dirt in a panicked scurry. Only after he was unburied, a mess of feathers, panting and coated in dirt and grass, did he understand why they buried the feathers. So another protector could take root, growing from someone else. But any thoughts of the former protector were drowned quickly.

It wasn’t only him staring at the blue mass of feathers that had grown from him overnight. As Mama shouted and worked him over in disbelief, others noticed. They woke from perches in the trees and blearily stumbled from burrows and all gathered around.

Some hid behind foliage above, squawking and ducking back if midas caught their eyes. Others approached in awe, whispering pleasing words that he couldn’t determine through the fog in his head.

He felt washed up. Too drained to do much but hold a new set of paws above him, framed against the sky.

He scoured each feather in awe.

“Mama?” he whispered. And turned to watch his reflection in her eyes.

Despite only lasting moments, the flicker of fear that hid there still hurt.

“Mama,” he pleaded.

And in spite of her hesitance, she crept forward. Nudged him with her with the cold end of her nose and tried to snake in under his chin. She did so awkwardly. Only then did Midas realise how large he’d become to her. He tried to wrap his paws around her, like he’d seen minun do with their young. He could only reach far enough to scratch her belly. She leaned in, a rumble of something harsh in her chest.

Someone approached. An older manectric, blue fur tinged a darker gray with age. He broke the ring of pokemon chattering around, creeping very close with wide eyes and shaky paws. He locked eyes with Midas, glancing once to his Mama heaving against his neck.

His name was Fang. Fang who liked to dig up flowers to bury around his den and always chased off the kits trying to eat them.

“Protector?” he asked.

Midas had not thought much about it before then. He hardly skipped a beat.

“Yes,” he chirped. Weakly, but coming on stronger as he heard his own voice. “That’s me. I’m the protector.”

Despite wanting more, Midas could only raise his head a foot off the ground before he felt the strain.

Before him, the manectric bowed.

~(0)~

His vision had sharpened, unfolding into colours he couldn’t have imagined before. Four legs fused into two spindly claws. Fins broke through his back to balance him midair, all feathered and proud in the sunlight. Still, these things didn’t matter for long.

Because, above all, he became fast.

He powered across the grasslands faster than any linoone or manectric. Even the ninjask he disturbed from their trees could only eat his wake, buffered by the winds trailing off his fins and shouting obscenities at him as he passed by, laughing. Early summer memories became real—instead of blinking, only to see the trailing spray of seawater left behind by a ghost, he became that ghost, carving his claws through the whitecaps, feeling the chill spray and salt sticking to his feathers.

That bright freedom in his chest was worth the work he put in. Even on bad nights—when he realised Mama couldn’t build a den big enough for him and they spent the night outside. Curled against each other in the clutches of roots and bark. Or on mornings when he felt quite small, trapped in a body that wasn’t his. These things did not outweigh the freedom.

In early days he hovered through the forest in the shadow of awe. These suspicious silences hid in the trees when he woke up and crowds greeted him at the end of the day. He felt it all with a strange kind of indifference. They came and went regardless of if he’d accomplished anything that day. Even shamefully holding out his claws and having nothing to show the stern elder nuzleaf that headed the charge changed nothing. They waved him off and donated berries they collected and held their breath until he ate them.

Once, he was tempted not to. But refusing the berries worked them into a panic, so he sighed and plucked a sitrus between his claws and worked it between his teeth so slowly most of the juices poured down his chin and pooled in the dirt. They gasped. Then broke out in smiles too wide to make sense of.

It became clear to him why the old protector moved so quickly. To outrun all the strangeness.

But a protector like that had left in their hour of need, and Midas would not be that pokemon.

He bore it. He could move on from there. Become this smiling, selfless hero who watched for pokemon floating too far from shore and drag them sputtering back. Grinning between either end of a pokemon’s mood and leaving them behind at the end of the day.

~(0)~

He could not leave behind his Mama, though.

Normally, she tired fast. But Mama still took the change in stride—hardly skipping a beat or snort or unamused twitch of the ear.

On most days.

On others, even Midas noticed the way she tensed as he hovered around her. Her muscles coiled like an ekans protecting their brood.

“Midas, you’re fidgeting.”

Every morning she liked to walk out to the beach and bathe in the sun. Making it back in time to collect berries for the neighbors’ kits. Midas had taken to escorting her before dealing with everyone else. It became a focus. Even on restless days when he noticed how slowly she walked and had him itching—unable to help but glance through the trees in hopes someone came crashing through, screaming for help.

He mumbled something like an apology. But couldn’t help himself from zipping back and forth at every minute rustle in the trees, shadow barely able to keep up with him.

She did not last long. She paused by the river. At the bend where he once shook droplets from his fur and chuckled sheepishly as Mama faced him with a wet scowl.

That scowl returned. Just much drier.

“You know other places exist besides this forest, right?”

Midas scoffed the way he saw her do sometimes. Of course he knew that; he’d flown high enough to see the tops of trees in the horizon and the land meeting sea across the bay and the curve of the earth. There were many forests out there, if he squinted against the wind. But he worried about losing himself. All trees had woody bark and overflowing leaves and looked the same to him, even if Mama insisted she could find her way through them.

But it seemed silly for the protector—the good one he strove to be—to get lost anywhere.

He let the silence sit for a while while Mama plodded on. She would be happy for the quiet moment.

They reached her spot on the beach. Once the tide came in it would wash away the rut she liked to sun in, but she always seemed to find her way back to it. She made a show of kicking up sand, grunting with each swipe until a sizeable dent, brown and wet at the bottom, formed. She sat herself down in it, sighing and letting her ears droop behind her.

Only then, as her eyes closed on an empty beach and Midas could pretend to be his old self, did he speak.

“I don’t want to get lost, Mama,” he whispered.

She cracked an eye open. Regarding him over a mountain of sand.

“You always remember how to get back to the den, don’t you?” she asked, “How is that?”

Midas blinked. He looked back through the forest, imagining the trails he pierced through as the sun sunk beneath the leaves and blanketed the treetops in darkness. As the chatter of pokemon became too great and chased him back. As a sick loneliness crept into his heart over the ocean and drove him back home.

“I remember the sitrus tree that fell over the river and the baby tree growing beside it. I go across that river, and over the dry river I used to play in before the flood.” He screwed his face into a grimace, trying to pick out details from the image in his mind. “Oh! And the tree you carved a picture of me in! It’s gone now, though… I remember where the stump is.”

“And the den is a little beyond that, over Fang’s garden.”

“Yeah.”

“See? It’s much harder to get lost than you think. Even beyond the trees there are landmarks to keep in mind.” Satisfied with her explanation, Mama nodded and closed her eyes and snuggled back into the dirt.

Midas watched, twirling his claws together and marvelling at their dexterity.

Although, it did remind him of something he wanted to ask.

He floated closer. Down, until his belly met sand and his eyes met hers. “Mama, do you want me to take you flying? It’s pretty up above the trees.”

It was the first time he would ask. The first of hundreds over the coming years.

She wrinkled her snout as if the idea had never occurred to her.

“Goodness, no,” she said, “I’d like to keep my paws firmly on earth, if you’d please.”

And although he didn’t understand, he knew better than to disobey Mama. He let her sleep, looking up through the clouds, then floated up, following his stare until Mama was a faint blue speck on a strip of yellow sand.

Looking out on the bay, he tried to memorise its shape. A crescent of sorts, one point all crumpled and gangly like the end of a chewing twig. A human building stuck out on the point—striped and blaring and taking waves across its slope, unafraid.

He burned it into his memory, took a deep breath to seal it and bury the shaky panic. Before he could think twice, he pushed forward.

~(0)~

Wind whipped by him, tears clinging to the corner of his eyes. If he were to look behind himself, he could watch a sea of clouds part above him, little trailing wisps the last survivors swimming through the gap.

And he could push himself. Faster, as the clouds darkened and he caught the mist of rain, then the bite of frost. Faster, racing the human craft that fought for airspace, screaming by or diving as he crossed them. Faster, until dipping below the clouds revealed another world with different colours: browns for the trees, and darker, angrier blues for the oceans and a ground of gray. Desolate besides the humans. But still beautiful somehow, drawing chilly breaths from him that gathered on his snout and coating it in a chill beard.

Once he’d learned where home was, the years seemed to pass by with his own speed. He helped, often. Still at home and still starting every morning walking Mama to her beach. They took a little longer now. Mama was getting older, or so she said.

He never travelled far. Only a couple hundred kilometers or so in one direction, turning back once the air became too cold or too hot.

He liked to assist the humans, as the old protector did. But they had a habit of trapping themselves in the most unusual places. He could understand the shipwrecks. Those bulky things did not seem easy to tame—too temperamental for soft hands—and the sea contained many hidden dangers. So he always kept an eye out for the slow ships, or the bright flags, or the great, sputtering lances of energy that trailed into the clouds and lit them bright red even in the day, and he faced those seabound humans with a smile.

He was never sure how to face those that stranded themselves atop mountains. Or in ravines. He certainly wasn’t for those who tried to catch him.

It had happened enough to be annoying. Only the first had been truly scary. There, the flickering of artificial light that had him blinking spots from his eyes. It held some facsimile of a forest inside. Small. Suffocating. He had torn through the wall in his own panic. Easily. Like passing through rain.

So he would never panic about it again. Simply face the offending human with a dry frown, carry them to safety and jet off before they could try again.

Pokemon had a wider range of issues. Finding lost cubs for bawling parents, helping construct nest or dens or defending those from the human machines. None took him very long, and although he had once intended to keep tally of every good deed, he’d long since forgotten most of them. The numbers streamed through his head.

He chilled at the thought. He wanted to remember. But whenever a pokemon came up to him, gushing about the last time they met, he could only give a shaky grin and wonder when he could leave. Luckily, loneliness didn’t scare him.

He let out a faint smile and took one last glance at the landscape. Lots of green-stained rocks and white, white snow lay down there. Not much life.

Time to turn back.

But as he turned, folding his paws in and screwing his face into a stern glare to face the winds, an odd power tickled the corner of his mind. He blanched, sputtering in the air. Glancing around, he could not say what it was. It felt old, like a memory of someone he’d forgotten. It had the feel of ferns unfurling between the oran bushes and hit him so strongly he could almost smell the green of it.

It tugged him along. Uncharacteristically slow, bobbing back and forth to catch it like a boat in the waves. Midas let it take him off the path, lower and lower until he hit the tops of trees. All these pointy ones, dark-spiked and unlike the bushy heads of his forest.

Someone pink floated there. Someone feline and cute, humming to themselves and picking needles individually with psychic power, letting them fly all around themselves like a storm. They emanated that same power he felt. He should bow to it.

Creator, his mind whispered.

And he did bow, holding his breath and keeping his head low until their song stopped. Only then did he let out a shaky hiss and chanced a peek.

She had stopped. She bobbed in midair, as if to copy him. Faced him with a curious glint in her eyes. But no fear.

“Ah,” she said, voice high, brisk as the air. “Yes, I felt you a while ago. Midas, is it? How’s life treating you?” She watched, always watched but still tended to her tree, letting psychic fingers pluck more needles until the top branches were sad and bare.

Midas had trouble thinking of what to say. Words seemed inappropriate. He clicked his claws together, trying to keep flight beneath the weight of a shaken mind.

The Creator. He’d grown up on stories of her. Ancient tales imprinted on his mind since the first moment he was born, messy and wailing and squinting against the pain of sunlight. She seemed so large in his mind he could only imagine her breaking from the crust of the earth like a mountain. Here she was, though. Pink and fluffy and unintimidating if not for the sheer power of her aura.

“Y’know I worried after Latios died. You were quite young, then, but I think you’ve picked up the role well.”

She smiled, but he still found himself caught at the start of their sentence.

“Died?” he blurted out. Then froze, a chill shooting down his spine as he clutched his traitorous neck.

The creator simply giggled. “Yes. You know what death is, don’t you?”

Well, yes. He’d know for a while. Even before Fang had died and he and Mama helped bury him in his den, amongst the flowers. But he didn’t like thinking about it. It wasn’t what caught him, besides.

“I thought the protector… left,” he said, waving one paw to mime him zooming off across the landscape.

“In a sense, he did,” she giggled, “no, but there was a moment, years ago, when Kyogre woke and tried to flood the world. Many humans and pokemon banded together to stop it—and did, thank rayquaza for that if you must—but not all made it. Unfortunate. Like I said, I worried.”

Most of what she said passed over his head except flood. That, he remembered. And she was saying he died then? Midas… wasn’t sure how to feel about that. As he looked out across the desolate fields of snow and shivered, a faint burn of shame crept up on him. He’d never acted on it, but he’d let a sharp anger live inside him.

And wasn’t that what drove him? To be better than the protector that had abandoned them? If he hadn’t left, then where did that leave Midas?

“I’m doing better than him, aren’t I? I think I’m around more often,” Midas said. He wanted to sound confident, but couldn’t help the warble in his voice as The Creator faced him again. She paused. All those little needles paused alongside her, organising themselves into rows.

“Of course,” she said, “you’ve done wonderful so far.”

Well, it didn’t feel so cold outside anymore. Midas let himself mirror the smile she gave him, breaking down any remaining jitters. It carried on beyond that, his pride growing until it puffed out his feathers. But he couldn’t let it sit there. The Creator just gave him something incredible, and he should return the favour.

“I should help you with something!”

“I can’t imagine what you’d want to help me with.”

“Anything!” he blurted out, then thinking on it, corrected, “something important, I mean. What are you doing now?”

She looked around at the pines and the snow as if seeing them for the first time. Those needles did a nervous kind of jig in midair. The hum returned—this pretty little song that carried along the wind.

“Nothing interesting. I guess some oran berries would be nice. If you want.”

So he got them. Almost before the sentence finished and certainly before the thought passed his mind. Midas shot over the rocks, tracing his way back to sunnier shores and the cool green leaves and brambles he passed by earlier. Not soon after, he had an armful of orans and returned, dumping them in the snow before The Creator and facing her with a gracious smile.

She shared it, dragging a berry midair to inspect. It twirled, dappled blue and purple in the sunlight. Inspection passed, it dropped back onto its pile.

“Well, thank you,” she said, “you shouldn't feel burdened to help me, really. I’ve got centuries to wait.”

But Midas couldn't imagine waiting centuries for anything. Instead, he resolved to help her again tomorrow. It would be hard to forget the pull of her aura—now that he’d touched it, he imagined himself able to find it even across the globe.

For now, he had other duties.

“Thank you for choosing me,” he whispered.

The Creator looked at him. For a brief second confusion flickered behind her eyes. Then something unknowable. Both passed before Midas could think on them. She sighed.

“It’s no problem,” she mumbled. And watched as a cloud passed by.

~(0)~

It was strange to know the creator as Mew.

The change happened both gradually and all at once. He met her every day after and she became more and more personable until it seemed odd not to ask for a name. And then she simply told him. About herself—her years on earth, her thousands of them and the brief objects that held her attention whenever they sprung to mind.

“I liked watching them make clay pots,” she said, relaxing in the shade of a palm and chewing on the pulp of a sitrus Midas brought.

She referred to an ancient civilization of pokemon that learned pottery from the humans who abandoned them. “They didn’t really know who I was, just that I had power, so I got to pose for the glazers. There’s a lot of Mew pottery floating around.”

And she flicked her tail through the sand and brushed sand off her shoulders and went to sleep, unconcerned.

Midas would’ve been bothered months ago, the way she’d say something amazing and brush it off like nothing. About the same time he realised how she used his daily offerings. Although catching her peeling a pinap with the tip of her claw felt much less like a betrayal when she responded with nothing but a wave.

“What did you think I was going to do with them?” she’d asked. Though not unkindly.

It felt stupid to say ‘something important’ out loud when she looked at him like that. He did think that she might have had a greater plan. A ritual. A secret.

But she ate them. And Midas had to shyly admit that was what one did with berries.

A memory of himself surfaced, one baffled at the collection of food his forest brought him. Maybe he understood it now.

~(0)~

“I helped stop a meteor from crashing into earth once. Thousands of years ago,” she offered once, unprompted.

Midas sat in the sand beside her this time. He watched a flock of wingull notice them, devolve into a flurry of squawking and feathers, and take off to a distant rock. It didn’t lift his spirits like it should have. He sighed and tried not to notice the itchy sand cooling against his belly.

Mew had to repeat herself to catch his attention.

“That’s incredible,” he mumbled. He meant to work up some enthusiasm, but it wouldn’t come. It felt wrong.

Mew shrugged. “It’s strange. I wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t stopped it. Lots of death, I guess. I can’t imagine the earth would look the same, and yet…” as if to demonstrate, she kicked a crater in the sand. Midas flinched as particles sprayed across the beach. “Who would remember it, these days? Just me. And Rayquaza—he’s almost as old.”

Midas nodded. Numbly, and to himself. He grumbled something like a response.

“I remember the berry more. Those were great pinaps by the way.”

Midas set his chin on the sand.

“Are you alright?”

~(0)~

He’d been ignoring it for a while.

Mama had been slowing down. Midas knew something was wrong the day she waddled up to the grassy step down to the beach. Instead of leaping down into the sand like every other day, she simply took a spot on the grassy edge and watched the ocean from there.

She grew slower. Every day. Her trips shorter, until she huffed and wheezed and still couldn’t make it to the grass. Some days she sat in a sunny spot between the trees. Some days she didn’t bother.

It was not Midas nor the universe who decided.

“I think it’s time,” she croaked on waking. One august morning, like something from MIdas’ childhood. “One last trip to the beach.”

And Midas knew. He followed like he used to—a shadow, twitchy and nervous. She did not have the energy to scold him.

He wished she did.

“I could carry you,” he whispered. A lazy blue ear twitched in response.

“Oh, let me pass with some dignity, Midas,” she said. It might’ve been playful but broke into a moan that ruined it. “I’ve never wanted you to carry me before, why should I now?”

“I can get you a moon stone.”

“So I can live another year in a body I can’t use? No thank you.”

She continued on. Midas stressed. It made no sense, but he felt if he stopped her before reaching the beach then everything would be okay.

“I can ask mew!” he blurted.

But he already had and she had faced him with a grim smile and let out a very patient no, and now that Mama wore the same smile, Midas wasn’t sure he could handle it anymore.

Please! Mama—”

“Honestly, Midas. Let me be selfish for once.” She stopped, wheezing with a sick wetness and trail of saliva spiralling into the grass. All the walking and talking winded her. Midas hovered around, biting his cheek in guilt and seriously considering disobeying her, worming his way under her belly and taking to the sky.

“Would you like me to be truthful?” She croaked.

He shook his head. She huffed.

“I am tired of this earth. The things I once enjoyed do not enjoy me anymore. My body aches, my eyes and mind have grown foggy—”

“I don’t want you to die.”

Midas’ voice was small. It inherited some of her strain, cracking as he spoke. And she sighed. A great sigh, one buckling under the weight of many years. And the wind rustled the leaves and the distant stream gurgled and the lesser bugs buzzed eagerly.

“...it is time.”

They reached the coast. Slow, but fuzzy as Midas tried to keep strong. Squint and shake his head every time he felt the tears coming. Hover clumsily through trees, clipping branches with a carelessness he hadn’t felt for many years.

She could not make it to the sand. Once again, she sat in the grassy overhang and hung her head low in the sunlight. The way it washed over her dug her wrinkles deeper into flesh.

Midas couldn’t sit still and wait alongside her as he used to. He tried to busy himself along the beach, darting back and forth, cleaning up bits of trash, fishing up the occasional pokemon and responding to their thanks with a shocked nod. Every little noise, every hint or tug at his psychic sent him hurtling back to her. Then waiting, watching her still body and wondering if she had died right there. It gave him too much time to think. For cruel thoughts to pop up while he worried.

She only woke as the sun left her, blinking sleep from her squinting eyes. Wordlessly, she groaned, shaky paws pushing her up. And set off, back to the den.

Midas watched, blinking. And followed.

She could face anything down—any creature, any though—with nothing but a grim scowl. She did not fear or waver. Even death seemed patient for her. She was so strong.

“Why didn’t you get to be the protector?” Midas blurted out as the thought came. “You’re strong, you’re smart. You’ve earned it more than I did, how much could I accomplish as a child?”

These used to be small thoughts, but he couldn’t face his past without also realising how little he compared to her. Not when the most he had to offer was a kind smile, wave of the tail, and four decent paws to dig a hole with.

She scowled. For the moment, it brought a fire back. One that flickered, then left with a pained wince.

“Why give me something I don’t want? Hasn’t this been your dream?”

“Yes. But you would be better. It was just luck.”

She paused at the edge of the dry river, working heavy legs down the side until she stumbled into the basin with a heaving gasp. The other side faced her—a slope. Midas took place behind, nudging her up as her knees locked up.

She did not complain as she met grass again. Just continued talking. “There is nothing wrong with that. You wanted it. You got it. You do good work with it. I see no problems. What is wrong with luck?”

“It means I didn’t earn it.”

“Who says you must earn something before receiving it?”

That should be a comforting thought. Midas let it hang, felt around it and waited for it to find a place in his mind. Then he watched her stumble over a divot in the path, keep down on her haunches, take a long moment to breath, mouth open and voice hoarse and he remembered she was dying and nothing could make sense anymore.

A hole dug into the opposite hillside marked her den.

Maybe she sensed the pain written on his face.

“Let me tell you, Midas—” She took a deep breath. “The two greatest things that have happened to me.”

She got up again.

“The second:” she began, “my father was never a good den-builder. The duties went to my mother. But sometimes she couldn’t. One day, she became injured defending her eggs. Father had to pick up the slack. He dug deeply, deep as he could manage into a dry path. But that was also the path of the rivers. Only he, my mother and a lone egg could make it before the den was drowned.”

While she caught her breath, Midas thought. He’d heard something like it before. With perhaps less detail, only whispers in the dead of night when she thought he was sleeping and thus could speak to the moon in peace.

“Your egg?” Midas warbled.

“It’s strange to think what happens if another egg survived. Or none. I would not be here, but I am. For miracles like that I am grateful, and I believe there is no different between what became of us, because each life is equally unlikely. So I will not stress that I must die now. I will not hate the things I love, or resent the things I have always wanted. I cannot have children of my own, you’ve heard. But I still found a little eevee wandering on his own—”

Yes, he remembered that conversation. Long ago, questioning how they looked so different if she was his Mama.

“--and I still got what I wanted. Now, first—”

She got up, creaking across the road, passing Fang’s old flowerbeds. They had grown wild and spilled into the grass, exploding colour and the sweet scent of spring. She paused by the mouth of her den, framed by an unending blackness. Her ears twitched weakly, but still found the strength to perk up.

“--my greatest memory.”

She held. And looked him deeply in the eyes with a softness he had never seen before.

“Why, just this morning my lovely son took me on a final walk to the seaside.”

And it’s good she turned and perched on the edge of the den. Otherwise she would’ve seen Midas’ jaw quake.

“You’ve made me proud, whether protector or not. The greatest thing you’ve ever done was let me be your mother. Thank you.”

And she crawled inside.

Midas felt like he’d never aged, still curled up in their den, watching a wall of water loom, heart pounding in his little chest. Only his Mama wasn't there anymore. So he watched the space she used to be, one where she plead for his help digging. Which was also the abyss she vanished into.

A world Midas could not enter anymore.

He waited several days and nights. Vigilant, refusing to break into tears no matter how tempting. He would be strong and wait in case she crawled back out once more.

She didn’t.

One day, Midas woke to himself lugging armfuls of cold mud and dropping them into the mouth of the den. He thought about leaving it open. Waiting longer. But the threat of scavengers—the image of bones cleaned and left out in the grass like litter—hurt more than anything.

A flower would be nice.

Looking out over Fang’s garden, he could not remember which ones she liked most. He settled on the blue ones—small petals spread open and waiting for an embrace. They were her colour.

~(0)~

It started as a comfort flight. Midas tried taking it slow, rocking unsteadily in the winds. He would cruise out to the boundaries he remembered, those hundreds of kilometres out, whether to the desolate snow-blanketed plains on one side or the rolling dunes on the other, it didn’t matter. In no time at all, he passed the wall of pines.

And did not stop.

The trees became snow in a blink, blending in green and white and brown until it all shook to pieces—a muddy gray hurtling across Midas’ vision as he grit his teeth and pushed. Fast. Faster than ever, shaking his bones and tearing at his feathers and turning each pass through spindly branches into violent whipcracks. He grit his teeth. He rammed his eyes closed and tensed every muscle in his body trying to keep himself together.

Whatever shadow he tried to outrun, it followed too closely. Beyond the point where his muscles grew sore and his power weakened and he couldn’t tell if the tears in his eyes were from the wind or the pain. Just as he tried to bank, a breeze caught him. Lifted him up with a startled squawk. He sailed up instead, piercing through the clouds at speed. The overcorrection caught his fin on exit, sending him spinning, spinning, spinning endlessly until he caught himself.

Then clouds roiled below him. The endless blue sky lurked above. He gasped. Or tried to, but he had never been up so high; trying to take in breath that fast chilled his lungs and caught his throat. It sent him coughing, dipping lower and lower until he skimmed the clouds once more. The sky held nothing for him. Dipping below the clouds held nothing, either.

He could only stare blankly, darting back and forth surveying the vast ocean beneath him. How had he ended up there? He could see no landmarks in any direction.

Lost. Over the ocean. His heart still pounded angrily in his ears. Deep under that, an ancient aura drew him somewhere…

That way.

~(0)~

Midas took caution coasting up to Mew. He had exhausted himself in every sense of the word. His eyes were so heavy, if he were to settle down somewhere, he would sleep. Lucky he found her above the clouds, floating over some unknown human city that glittered beneath them.

They could have a normal conversation, here. Like they always do. On their own, away from the rest of the world. In a bubble. She could talk about some ancient pokemon and Midas could gawk and prod and gaily wonder where she pulled all these anecdotes from.

So he rubbed his eyes and mumbled comforting words to himself to make sure his voice wouldn’t crack. Hee coasted up beside her.

“Hello,” he said, trying to force some joy into his voice.

She turned. That sad smile told him he wouldn’t get what he wanted.

“Are you doing alright?”

He nodded. Dug his claws into his palms. Took a shaky breath and hoped she wouldn’t notice.

“I’m fine.” He said. And it’s all he could say.

“I’m sorry.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry your Mama died.”

She floated closer, placing a warm paw on his neck.

He broke.

Up there, in the clouds, he wailed.

~(0)~

“Does it ever get easier?”

Who knows how long it’s been. Midas got lost, then found home again, then got lost again. It seemed cyclical.

Mew became something of an anchor for him.

That day, she’d found an anthill. She didn’t do anything with it as far as he could tell, just watched. Perched on her hind paws, tail snaking through the grass behind her, this mischievous glint in her eye coming and going at the most random of times.

“Can you love something without being hurt, you mean?” she asked, casual as anything, and prodded a procession of ants along, offering little bits of leaf and her leftover berry skins to tiny, chomping jaws.

It had been a while. Enough for the hurt to fade. One day he woke up, ate his breakfast, went down to the beach and spent some time in the sun. Only hours later did he think of Mama, and floated there, blinking.

And although others hadn’t filled her void, the forest seemed to go with her. He didn’t recognise faces in there anymore. It turned strange and empty, changing quickly, the old landmarks eroding away like the beach cliffs.

Sometimes Midas watched old trees come down and felt he should be sad.

All around where Mama’s den once was had been stripped of trees. So Fang’s old garden took their place, soaking up the sunlight and eating the hill they grew on. Sometimes Midas spotted the blue ones he planted, but they spread so wide.

So he did not think of those buried bones as her. Not the den, either.

She was the flowers.

“Yes.” He sighed. “I suppose that’s what I’m asking.”

“Well, don’t ask that. It’s not a very helpful question.”

He held back a growl. Seemed she wanted to be difficult today.

“I’m trying to have a serious discussion with you.”

“I’m being serious, too.” The ants were starting to climb on her, now. But she simply giggled, scooping them up with a wave of psychic and dumping them back on their mound. “Ask me if it’s worth it instead.”

Midas mulled that over. He didn’t come to many conclusions aside from obvious ones. He’d long since admitted to himself that he was less a brain and more a muscle, and mostly complied with whatever diatribe Mew wanted to go on.

“Fine. Is it worth it?”

“Depends. Do you want to abandon everything about yourself to avoid being hurt? I’m sure it’s possible, but I’ve never managed to do it.”

“I’m not sure exactly what you mean.”

“I mean, I’ve never stopped caring. I like living creatures. I like friends, I could go off into space like rayquaza, but I wouldn’t be very happy out there. Not a lot to see in space.”
Maybe she didn’t know how tempting that idea was for Midas. He couldn’t, of course. He would not survive exposure so it remained hypothetical.

Mew finished whatever she was doing with the anthill, dusting off her paws and taking a moment to stretch before taking to the air with a quick spin.

“It’s how I was born, Midas. I’m just not sure I could help myself, even through thousands of years. Why, not too long ago I met this young upstart—”

Midas sighed, knowing where this was going.

“It’s me isn’t it? I’m this young upstart.” Then paused. “Wait, you care about me?”

Mew smiled.

“Sure. We talk almost every day, don’t we? And I always let you find me. But I guess I’m a bit predictable.”

“Right.”

Midas watched her go on her way, flitting about aimlessly through the forest while she waited.

“Give it some time. Ask yourself again in a hundred years or so and see how you feel. They go quickly, believe me.”

That seemed almost impossible, no matter how much she reassured him. He could just barely count his years in decades and those decades seemed long.

But he grunted something under his breath, trailing behind Mew as she hummed a little song and spotted an abandoned nest stuck between the arms of an old maple.

He chose to stay, this time. The sun had only just come up.

~(0)~

A hundred years passed. Quickly, as Mew had predicted. Days became years became decades and it seems his role in the universe became reversed—while he could jet faster than anything on earth, he continued to be baffled at how things changed in his absence. He could not keep track.

The forest he once lived in was…

Gone?
Really, the old crescent he remembered had been built out and eroded into an entirely different shape. The lighthouse had moved. Another flood happened, and the push and pull between the woods and human settlement never reached an equilibrium.

He moved on to other forests. There, Mew’s other prediction came true.

He could not stay away.

At some point, someone would die, and he would decide he’d had enough. Then he’d meet someone—a human boy, maybe. Named Joel. One of hundreds he’d saved from burning buildings. He didn’t plead, or let a stream of endless thanks pour from his mouth like many of the others.

There, covered in soot and rubbing smoke from his eyes, the boy looked at Midas. Midas smiled.

“Why are you so big?” the boy asked. “I thought you were smaller.”

And Midas floated there, stunned. He was so thrown off that he just kept coming back.

One day, a decade later, Midas flew to the window of the boy’s room as he usually did. He knocked. Instead of the boy answering, an older woman drew the curtains open and screamed.

Midas cried again. By himself.

Once, he worried he couldn’t keep track of all the good he’d done. Now, he worried he’d forget all those who died. Who left. Who stopped talking or realised that Midas couldn’t make them happy.

He hadn’t yet, but sometimes he saw his future in Mew. When she struggled to put a name to a face or remembered the entirety of a being through a single detail, eyes squinted and watching something far away. She told many stories about a crooked-whiskers, the old man and that one researcher who may or may not have been a woman.

She’s especially right in the friendship she found with him.

On the boring days, he spots her in the distance, a sole pink blot against her background. He’s learning to take his time, so he cruises up beside her.

“What have you done today?” He asks.

“Just ate some orans. Watched the sun come up. Y’know.” She shrugs. “You’d think someone would invent something better than a slice of berry with a little salt, but they haven’t yet. How about you?”

Midas talks through every event of the day. Waking up, doing his stretches, plowing through the sea and spray, escorting a family of lotad across a busy highway, and stopping a car from careening off the side and into the sea. There’s not much he can surprise her with, but one thing sticks in his mind.

He sighs. “Oh, it’s childish.”

“You think I’d mind?”

He looks down, through a break in the clouds and tries to spot the river he visited to drink from that morning.

“I made a little leaf boat. Put it in the river and watched it float out to the sea.”

Mew’s eyes sparkle faintly.

“I love leaf boats! You can’t fold them like paper boats, but I have tried. Did you name it? What happened to it?”

He didn’t name it at the time, but right then he thought he’d call it cornflower. Though the memory of it was oddly absent. Did it even make it to the ocean? Or did it wash up ashore somewhere along the way? Or sink early? He didn’t know anymore.

He sighs for forgetting. It feels like the universe sighs alongside him.

“Nothing, I suppose.”
 

K_S

Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
Review blitz
Fic leaf boat

An: hi very belated welcome to the forum thought i'd poke in and give you a review.

A Latios xeno fic, nice i've come from another jetdragon piece recently lets see how yours pans out.

The opening blurb it seems like Lat is remembering to create... That he's over a void of ocean. The line about him seeing himself left me curious if confused.

So back to the intro game. A brown duster of a tail made me think avian. But mama's descriptor. Blue fur and spines, makes me think of the nido line? Midas seems very young and the introgration of fight flight for the new things (the humans and thier craft) as well as the introgration of thier myths, mama's tale of the creator recalled to sooth the smaller mon were nice touches.

Love how Midas is like, "the oceans big and scary and not nice" and i imagine somewhere a magma grunt is like... I know theres a 'mon out there for me.. I just know it.

Laughs well Midas is just mimicing what he's seen. And its not a bad ambition. I imagine most would love a Lat ride.

Hm i wonder what the procession was for? I mean i am imagining a funeral honestly... But for who or what? And something cataclysmatic must of occured (beyond the storm) to light such a fire in Midas.

And roundabout he seems to be getting his meeting with the legend by effort and work. First in mimicry, then in this transformation. I fellt his pain when his mama feared for a second and his confusion when the others bowed was like a kick to the gut. You get the sense he is very much over his head but there is no turning back.

And he seems to be growing into the burden of living god hood for his old neighbors and friends. He's got one keystone of his old life... But legends tend to be timeless and i suspect he's too young to realize that.

After all he's grappling with immediate things. Like how to navigate his much larger world.

Love how he views humams as that pesky cat who keeps getting into places they aren't supposed to and gently wheeling them down out of the tree they scaled this time. And being mystified by catching attempts. Would he start each encounter in a confused state then?

So enter mew. Is this benign sweet mew or slightly loony first pokemon movie mew?

Neither it seems. Mew seems a bit taken aback by Midas' insistence of "let me help!" thats thier core character trait. Inwonder how different they were
Or are from the previous lat?


Still, they both seem to be growing into a friendship of sorts, hopefully it'll help brace Midas for whats coming. Though with how detached to time Mew is who knows.

So he was an eevee and she was a nidorina way back when. I'd been wondering awhile now. Her death felt fitting and I'm glad she held on long enough to have that last good day.

His outrunnimg his grief seems to have tied him into another legends territory. From local i suspect he'll be re-aquainting himself with kygore.

Or not. Guess it was Mew after all.

And Midas now has the next x millenia to wrangle with time. Mews been there before and unfortunatly has some hard truths to share it seems. Delivered gently. But still...

It seems like life is a cycle of bonding and breaking. And speaking of cycles Midas is almost back to where he started. Making leaf boats for bugs, but its been too long and the solid pieces of why he did it before pale in the face of the centuries hes lived now.
 
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Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam | pfp by kintsugi
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
  2. psyduck
Hello! I'm here for review Blitz, and because I haven't reviewed you before, and because I'm interested in looking at the latest batch of Contest One Shots!

That night, ushered home by his Mama in the serenade of the forest winds, Midas dreamt of himself in the eyes of their Creator.
Awww, my heart!

“I’m not sure if he could handle you, Midas. I barely manage,” She said.
Aww, what a mom-answer! (nitpick, but the s in "she" should be lowercase.)

Cute that Midas expected Mew to do something ritualistic and grand with the berries he gifted her with--but no, turns out she enjoys eating them, just like any other Pokemon!

Mama had been slowing down.
😭

And AW, what a great piece of writing! I absolutely adore how it begins as a slice-of-life through the eyes of an Eevee living with a mother Nidoqueen (I assume, from the line about her being unable to have children, if this fic is following the game mechanics) looking up to and admiring "the protector." I noticed the insanely heavy rain at the beginning, and I was glad that it came back as one of Kyogre's floods! The bit about Midas becoming Latios and using his powers to help everyone shows exactly why he was chosen--he's incredibly selfless and really just wants to help others. He really loves them. So when he asks Mew if it's worth never loving anyone to avoid pain, it's clear that Midas wouldn't be able to do it--he's too selfless and centered on others to refuse to love.

And that makes it all the more heartwrenching when Mama passes away! I thought you did a really good job with her death--wanting to face it with dignity, being totally fearless, and comforting Midas throughout it. Not going to lie, I shed a few tears. It was so sweet. I wonder if this story has any concept of an afterlife? They have a Creator and clearly accept death, so I wonder if there's any sort of belief in a next life. It's also interesting that Midas compares himself to his mom, and thinks that she would have been a more worthy protector than himself. Again, it shows how much he sees the good and beauty in those around him, and it shows his mom's character in not being resentful.

I wonder how she felt when she realized her adopted son had become an immortal, powerful protective legendary. It must have been a mix of emotions, for sure--and she chose to keep any sadness, worries, or thoughts about it to the grave with her instead of burden Midas with them.

And it was, again, bittersweet to see Midas move on, growing older, and his memories becoming blurred together. Rescuing Joel and developing a relationship with him was especially sweet. I wonder if the woman was Joel's wife, or a sign that Joel's family moved on and someone else moved in their place.

Either way, thank you so much for sharing this beautiful little piece with us! I'm so glad that I got to stop by and read it--you definitely deserved a place in this year's contest, so congratulations on that!
 

HelloYellow17

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
  3. mew
This has been on my reading list ever since the contest ended, and now I FINALLY got around to sitting down and reading it. And it was truly, truly lovely, written in a very simple yet beautiful way. This is a story about grief and love and the burden of immortality, and it touches on all of those themes so well.

I’ll start with my one and only criticism, and it’s that it was entirely unclear to me what species Mama was until the very end. I also had no idea what Midas’ original species was—I thought he was a Zigzagoon—until it was explicitly stated he was an Eevee. As for Mama, I think? She was a Nidorina? That’s the only blue Pokémon I can think of that evolves with a moonstone. The lack of clarity did make it rather difficult to visualize either of them for a long time. Other than that, though, I have no complaints. I loved absolutely everything else.

In a way, this story is about growing up, too—the lines where he realizes he doesn’t recognize home anymore, doesn’t know the faces of the mon around those parts, hit close to home for me. I lived in the same small countryside town my whole life, revisiting my parents periodically of course—until my parents moved to a new town entirely, and since then I haven’t really been back to the town that was all I knew in my childhood. There’s so many new people there now, so many new houses. It’s grown and changed so much, it’s not the same place where my childhood was. Going back invokes a really strange…sad, bittersweet, melancholic feeling. And that’s precisely what this fic feels like. Beautiful, wistful, nostalgic for something that doesn’t really exist anymore.

I love the depiction of Mew here—the Creator, all powerful, but ultimately a pretty regular mon with the same emotions as any other. I’m glad that she and Midas have each other—I can’t imagine how lonely immortality must be, to always be making new friends and then losing them, to always be on a completely different level from other Pokémon and rarely seen as just…another individual.

Mama’s passing made me emotional, but I love how peaceful it was, how ready she was to move on, and what she tried to teach her son before doing so. Midas’ grief tore at my heart and I’m glad he had Mew to turn to, someone to comfort him while he cried. You depicted grief so well here, and it really got to me.

Last but not least, while the ending is maybe a little sad—a little lost and aimless, like the immortal characters who can’t help but continually get attached to mortal friends—there’s a little spark of levity in there, too. Even now, after all this time, Mew still finds wonder in simple things like leaf boats. I hope that Midas can continue to find that same wonder, that same purpose, and that he will never stop caring or loving even when it hurts.

Thank you for this, it was a lovely read and invoked a lot of hard to describe emotions—which means it really stuck with me! Your writing style is beautiful, and it’s a real treat to experience!
 
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