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Pokémon Broken Things


Windswept Questant
Yes, I remember your announcement last year about the Pixie Sixthborn novels! But despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to find them anywhere! It's super frustrating, hearing people rave about them all the time, but not being able to read them for myself. What have I got to do to get my hands on these??? All the bookstores around here keep giving me excuses like "they don't exist," but clearly they don't know what they're talking about.
Rock 4.10


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Genesis goes through conversion therapy under the guidance of Mrs. Rivers. Most of it consists of trying to do stereotypically feminine things while being punished for her failures. A starmie detects whenever she thinks about Lyra or Cuicatl and hurts her when she does. Mrs. Rivers is also going through Gen's old books and making heavily edited plot summaries that reflect 'proper morals.' Genesis eventually complains about a pair of heels that are too tight on her. In retaliation Mrs. Rivers locks her in her room for an extended period with no additional food or water. Mrs. Rivers also claims that she is a 'former' lesbian.

There will also be a plot summary for this chapter at the start of the next Genesis one. Heavy CNs for abuse and (internalized) homophobia.

4.10: Birthday Party


You take a moment to reflect as you finish applying your foundation.

The new heels are more comfortable once you’ve broken them in. No more blisters or sore spots. And you’ve gotten better with not thinking about them and remembering to call everyone ‘sir and ‘ma’am.’ You barely even feel anything when you have to scream at the pictures of the temptresses anymore. Still a small pang of regret. They aren’t here, though. It’s fine since you’re not actually hurting them.

You hope you don’t actually have to hurt them.

You’re still not entirely sure if Cuicatl was actually trying to tempt you or not. There were moments, like how she insisted early on that she could stay in the tent while you changed. Most of it seemed pretty innocent. Just her being herself.

Green light shines in the corner of your eye.


The shock never feels less painful, no matter how many times it happens. Is it getting stronger or is there no such thing as mental pain tolerance? At least you managed to drop your lipstick before it smeared.

Mrs. Rivers looks up from her book and faces you. “What was it now?”

You consider lying. It might be the kind of question you can’t ask. But you can’t lie to starmie.

“How could I be sure if a girl was trying to tempt me or not?”

Mrs. Rivers frowns. “And this is about the pagan?”


She closes the book. “They’re all dykes over there. Should’ve just taken over and converted the savages when we had the chance.”

That doesn’t explain how to tell for other girls. It also doesn’t seem like she’s taking questions.

Once you’ve finished your makeup you turn around and Mrs. Rivers evaluates you. “It’s fine,” she says. “I’ve finished your books. I’ll get you your last rewrite this afternoon. Then we can finish them off this evening.”

You aren’t sure what you’re finishing off. It’s not usually a good idea to ask questions. You’ll find out in the evening, then.


An unfamiliar man accompanies you down the halls. He’s tall and muscular. The kind of man you should be attracted to, even if he is a bit older than you. Instead, you find yourself more intimidated than anything. He isn’t carrying a gun like some of Father’s guards do; the pokéballs on his belt could contain creatures far stronger than a firearm. He’s here for your protection. You should feel safe. Or attracted. You don’t. Something foolish in you is screaming to stay out of his reach.

The man opens the door to your pokémon’s room and steps to the side. You dart through and mentally kick yourself. Should have stayed composed. Father is standing in the middle of the room. You stop and curtsy like you’re supposed to. He just stares blankly for a moment. He never seems used to you doing that, but Mrs. Rivers says that proper respect for authority is a necessary step in becoming straight.

“Er, right. Good to see you, too.” He gestures towards the inflatable pool that Sir—that Bubbles has been living in. “We moved your pokémon out to the gardens. Just brought them back for a few hours. Big milestone tonight.”

It’s good that Ferny and Bubbles are getting access to real sunlight and water. At least they’re happy, even if you can’t cuddle them as often as you want. The milestone, though? Is that what Mrs. Rivers was talking about? Being done with the books? Asking would be speaking out of turn, which is disrespectful of authority, so you don’t.

Ferny stirs and looks vacantly in your direction. His coat seems greener and healthier. He’d been curled up for a nap before you or Father woke him up. Still doesn’t seem fully awake. Bubbles is in the kiddy pool he’d been in during the darkness. Father starts walking towards the pool and gestures for you to follow.

Bubbles pokes up his head as you approach. Unlike Ferny he doesn’t seem to be looking too good. There are warts on his side—no, not warts, arms! Bubbles is evolving! How long have you been home? You came back in December. After that there weren’t really days or nights and sometimes you didn’t deal with people for long stretches of time. It could still be January. It could be May or June. It hasn’t been raining as much lately. March or April? That would mean…

That would mean that you missed your birthday. You’re maybe sixteen now and didn’t even know. Are birthday parties sinful? Why couldn’t they have told you?

Your father is looking at you with something like pride. Even though you aren’t the one evolving. You hate to ask something that isn’t about Bubbles, because he’s having a big moment, but you feel like you need to.

“Am I sixteen?” you ask.

He looks at you with his mouth spread thin in… worry? Surprise? He must not have realized you didn’t know. Not like you see each other personally very much anymore. “Yes? Your brother’s birthday is coming up, actually. There’s some talk that you might be able to attend.”

Levi was born on April 7th. You have been at home for three months. That feels far too long and not nearly long enough at the same time. Something scrapes against your leg. You look down to see Ferny rubbing his face against it before looking up. He mews softly. Aww. Did he know you were feeling bad? You kneel down and rub the side of his face. He purrs enthusiastically before twisting his head and rubbing the top of it against your outstretched hand. He smells like grass after a rainstorm. You wish you had more time with him. There was just over a month between getting him in North Shores and having to leave him behind.

“Perhaps I should give you a litleo from Red’s next litter,” Father muses. “Your leafeon certainly likes you well enough. Maybe you’d be up for a real pokémon.”

Real? Ferny is very real. Would it be disrespectful to ask? Probably.

You don’t.


The man whose name you don’t know and Mrs. Rivers escort you out of the building. The sun has already set and there’s the aura of twilight over everything. The world seems smoother and colder, but not terribly so. There’s also a feeling, almost a scent, in the air. It’s one of your favorite times of the day.

This is your first time outside in over three months. You got a tan during the journey but it’s all been lost and then some. You don’t remember ever being so pale. Perhaps it’s good that they didn’t take you out into direct sunlight. That would have resulted in a terrible sunburn.

The adults take you down a path to the edge of the gardens. There’s a firepit there with benches around it and a bar nearby for keeping drinks cold and ready. Your parents host guests there a lot. Is this a bonfire ceremony? One of your school friends, well, someone else’s friend, really, told you about one they had at the end of summer camp. It was a secular camp. You couldn’t attend.

Good thing you didn’t go: it could have made you gay or something.

When you get to the pit you see that there is stuff in the firepit. Familiar stuff. Your books. An old rocking horse. Your sword you bought from a fair on the early warriors of Xerneas and then left unused because it was too heavy to lift. A few action hero toys you stopped playing with years ago. A stack of fashion magazines. (Isn’t fashion feminine? You look at a cover for a little too long and then whip your head away in shame. Oh. That’s why.) Two big pictures of people who don’t have names or faces anymore. There’s a strange chemical smell in the air. Probably something to help it all burn. Mother and Father are present. Both are formally dressed. So are you. This wasn’t pitched as a ‘dress nice for the ceremony thing’ as much as ‘girls should always dress properly when out and about.’ Girls who don’t are sluts or vulgarians. (You still don’t entirely know what ‘vulgarian’ means. Something like ‘poor’ and ‘rude’ but nicer?)

The pit holds your childhood, ready to be burned.

The man steps forward and pulls a lit torch off its holder. There’s an awful chemical smell coming from it and you do your best to hold it away from you.

“I think you know what you need to do,” Mrs. Rivers says. “Show us your progress.”

You hesitate. How does burning any of this help make you straight? The sword won’t even melt unless the fire is nearly 3,000 degrees. And the plastic. “There’s plastic in there.” You can use that. Maybe burning chemicals makes people gay? Is that where all of the gay people came from in the last century? Saying it would make it sound like you know better. You aren’t supposed to act like you do. That’s how you ended up here in the first place.

Father reaches to his belt and pulls out a dark pokéball. Ultra? Luxury? Heavy? You wouldn’t have known the difference at all a year ago. A big cloud of red forms beside you and solidifies into a pitch black bird almost twice as tall as you are. It looks down at you with its big red eyes and you gulp. Father’s courier. You’ve been quietly fascinated by it for years since it seemed like something right out of your stories—the stories on the pile—but were always a little too scared to get close. Now it’s just beside you. Even in the twilight you can see how sharp its feathers are.

“Ebony can send the fumes away,” Father says. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll do fine.”

You swallow down the fear and try to focus on the encouragement. You shouldn’t hesitate. You should do this. There’s no reason not to do this. Everything will be for the best if you do this. You can be straight if you do this. Your arm is still locked up and your mind won’t tell it to throw the torch.

“Genesis,” Mrs. Rivers says, “this is reflecting very poorly on your performance. I’m not sure I can allow you to go near your brother if you might infect him. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

No. No you wouldn’t want to infect him. Your arm moves and the torch flies through the air before you’ve fully worked out what’s happening. A fireball explodes from the pile as soon as it touches. You stand transfixed as the fire races up and away from the pit. It’s only Ebony stepping forward and extending a wing that keeps you from getting burned.

Ebony takes a step back and its wing presses you along. The underside is surprisingly soft and gentle for having feathers that look like knives. Once you’re away from the fire it drops its wing and lets you see the others. Illuminated by flickering flames and dying light your father looks terrifying. “What birdshit was that?” Father asks. “By The Garden, are you trying to kill me?”

“Sorry, sir,” the strange man says. “We just wanted to make sure the metal and plastic would burn.”

“Yeah, well, leave me out of it next time.” He pauses and furrows his brow. “No, not next time. You’re fired.” He pulls out another ball and Red appears beside him. The pyroar briefly seems delighted by the flames before seeing you. She walks straight over the firepit and nuzzles your hair. Then she licks your face. You can’t help but giggle. Even if it’s not proper. Everything about this is kind of funny, right? It has to be. Because you’re not going to think about the parts that aren’t funny. “Alright, Red, that’s enough. Escort this man off the premises. Light his ass up if he dawdles.”

Father powerwalks away from the pit immediately after. Mother follows, trying to dart after him but moving awkwardly in her stilettos. That leaves just you, Mrs. Rivers, and the giant bird.

She sighs. “Well, you’re not a terrible failure. I might be able to make you a bi-sexual in the end. Or at least get you to take a vow of celibacy. But I don’t think you can be fully reformed without telepathic reorientation.”

The words hit you hard. You failed. You’re a failure. A sinner.

“Will I go to the cocoon?” you ask in little more than a whisper.

“I don’t know.” Your eyes drift back to the fire. The action figures are dripping liquid plastic down as Ebony lazily bats the fumes away from your side of the pit. The books are already burnt to charred black covers. One that fell and opened up shows its flaky, ashy pages. The rocking horse is still on fire. Everything else seems to have already burned out. “I suppose I should get you back inside. Try to make the most of this.”

She walks away. After another moment of staring into the pit you pivot around. A good pivot. One fluid motion. Like…

There’s a deep sense of loss in your heart as you follow Mrs. Rivers.


The door swings open and Mother walks in. She gives you the briefest of nods before walking straight into your closet and rummaging through your clothes. “It’s your brother’s birthday,” she says. “He wanted to speak with you and your sister.”

Your heart flutters. He still wants to talk to you? And you’re being allowed to? It’s been eight days since the fire. Mrs. Rivers hasn’t returned. Barely anyone has spoken to you at all beyond giving you food and taking it away. It’s just been you, your pokémon, and the accursed starmie.

Mother pulls out a modest yellow dress that flows down to your ankles. “Wear this and your red boots. Do your makeup like Mrs. Rivers instructed you to. I’ll be back in an hour.”

She hangs the dress off a rack and storms back out. Huh. You didn’t feel too weird about her being in your space. Did all the time with Mrs. Rivers help you work through that?

Ollie waddles closer and tries to wrap his arms around you. Aww. You pick the psyduck up and hug him close. You’d been really worried about him at first, but now he’s gotten to be a regular cuddlebug. Sometimes he even presses himself into the crook of your legs while you sleep. Cloudy also drifts closer but doesn’t make contact. Good. That would be unladylike.

There’s actual enthusiasm as you get dressed and apply your makeup. You haven’t been this excited in… months? Since December, probably. Would’ve been right before your second trial. Cloudy and the crabrawler you used for a little bit carried that one. Ferny helped out a lot, too, since he barely even noticed the togedemaru’s attacks.

When you finish you sit down at the edge of your bed and pick Ollie back up. He’s soft and warm and good for cuddling when you’re nervous. Good nervous, for once. Cloudy eventually moves back to the window to bask in the sunlight. You wish you could unlock it for him. No one’s ever told you why the window is locked, just that it is.

Your mother walks in wearing a nice blue dress and black jacket. She narrows her eyes upon seeing you. “Why are you holding that thing? You’ll get hair on your clothes.”

“He doesn’t shed much.” He really doesn’t. Even his bed never has much fur in it.

“Put. Him. Down,” Mother commands. Once he’s out of the way she looks hard at your dress before brushing a few hairs off. “All that training and you’re still… like this,” she hisses. The starmie follows her as she storms back off. You belatedly follow, unsure if you’re still invited. She doesn’t complain about it.

Levi is set at the dining table next to your father. He beams when he sees you before rapidly standing and pushing the chair back. He doesn’t put it back in place like is proper. Instead he rushes over to you and wraps you in a hug. His head comes up to your eye now. Last time you saw him he wasn’t quite up to your nose. He’s going to be a lot taller than you are when he’s done growing and you’re already tall for a girl.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he says. More quietly, he adds, “I had to fight with our parents for ages before they agreed.”

You take a step back and give him your own smile. It comes so much easier now than it ever did when Mrs. Rivers was trying to get you to smile properly, like a real girl would. “I’m happy to see you, too.”

Someone coughs at the corner of the room. You turn to see a screen with your sister’s face on it. She’s wearing a decent t-shirt, but still. A t-shirt. Hardly as formal as your dress or your brother’s adorable little suit. “They let you out, huh?”

“Yes.” You don’t give her anything more to go on. Levi is pure. You won’t corrupt him. Between you, a lesbian, and your sister, an attempted murderer, there’s no telling how much you could corrupt each other.

Levi walks back to his seat. You follow and sit beside him. Both of you are facing towards your sister.

“The three of us can talk for twenty minutes with no one stopping us,” Levi announces. “That was the only thing I wanted for my birthday.”

You glance at your parents. Neither of them seem very happy about that. You can imagine why. They made one good child and he wants to associate with people like Exodus. Like you.

“Yup. Guess I’ll start, then,” your sister’s image turns to bore into you. “Why are you still here? You’re sixteen and you’ve shown you can live on your own. Why not, just, emancipate yourself and go?”

She’s already tempting you. How predictable. “Unlike you, I want to confront my sin.” You hate having to put yourself on her level of sinfulness. You hate how far you fell without even noticing.

“Yeah, um, about that. What did you even do? No one’s been able to tell me that.”

You pause. You don’t want to answer that. Not in front of your brother. “I… I looked impurely at others.” Vague enough. And you’ve heard Mrs. Rivers use that wording.

Exodus just rolls her eyes. “Sure. What did you do though? Who did you hurt?”


Your sister looks disappointed, but not surprised. At least you feel the same way about each other.

“And why would He care? He made you that way, didn’t He?”

“Exodus Rosemary Gage,” Mother says. “I will not have you blaspheming in front of my son.”

She laughs. Openly laughs at your mother. “Listen, for twenty minutes I can do whatever I want. Rules are rules, right?”

“We agreed on a twenty-minute birthday conversation,” Father says. “Exchanging well wishes and the like. We did not agree to allow a sermon on debauchery to be broadcast into our home.”

“Let her speak,” Levi says. “Please.”

Mother glares at him so intensely that you wilt just from being in sight. Levi stays firm. In the end Father sighs and relents. “Fine. As you will.”

“I mean, that’s natural, right? Who you are without learning anything? And Xerneas made the natural you?”

“Lots of things are natural that we shouldn’t do,” you say as calmly as you can. “Like murder.”

She rolls her eyes. Rolls her eyes! “Fine. Let’s backtrack. Have the nice conversation our perfect parents would like. How are you these days?”

“Fine,” you say on reflex. Even if it’s a lie and you aren’t supposed to lie. You’ve cried more in three months than everything else you can remember and everything just feels… less. Except the shame and guilt. That’s more.

Levi reaches over and grabs your arm before squeezing it reassuringly. He’s holding it just a little too low for the grip Cuicatl would use when you guided—

The starmie glows green and you get kicked in the mind.

“What was that?” Levi asks angrily. When you recover you see him standing up and leaning on the table. Bad manners.

“I thought of someone I shouldn’t,” you stammer out. “My fault.”

“Holy shit they aren’t even letting you have your own thoughts?” Exodus asks. “I thought I had it bad, but—”

“That’s like hitting her,” Levi says. “You can’t do that!”

“Settle down,” father half-shouts. Not full shouting like he’s out of control. Still loud enough to echo. All three of you instantly shut up. You know what that voice means. Father turns to look at Levi. He’s… disappointed. Really disappointed. You aren’t great at faces but even you can tell that. “I assure you that corporal punishment is legal under Alolan law. Please think before saying things that could damage the family’s reputation. The family and business will someday be yours to command. You don’t need to hurt your standing before the time comes.”

“It’s needed,” you add before Levi can say things he shouldn’t. “To help.”

Levi throws up his hands and walks away from the table. “Holy roots, no one cares! It’s 2020. People are gay.”

Mother stands as well. “And who told you this?”

“Everyone at school. They’re all worried about Gen when I bring it up. Think we’re cruel weirdos for what you’re doing.”

Father seems to puff up bigger like an angry vulpix. “Perhaps you should be in explicitly religious education as well. And give me names, please. I sense a lot of donations and contracts are about to be cut off.”

Levi takes a deep breath and turns to you. There are the beginnings of tears in his eyes. Why? What did you do? “I love you, okay. Stop letting them hurt you.”

Something in you breaks. You can’t give him what he wants. It… it would be wrong.

Father finally stands and grabs your shoulder. “That’s enough. I’m not putting her through any more of this.” He tugs you away and your feet struggle to find their footing and follow. Once you’re out of the room he relaxes his grip a little and slows down the pace. His breathing is still heavy and fast. Levi really got to him.

Why is he defying your parents anyway? So that you can be a lesbian? He isn’t… he isn’t helping anyone. You’re broken and need to be fixed. Can’t he see it? Why is he hurt for you?

Doesn’t he know you’d do anything to get him to stop hurting? And he’s asking you to sin…

Father eventually stops once you’re inside of his office. He slams the door shut behind you and walks over to his chair. You sit down across from him. He takes several angry breaths before he collapses back into the chair like a puppet with its strings cut. One hand rises up to cover his eyes.

“I’m trying,” he says. “To do the right thing. Rivers was supposed to be an expert but she just had you cavorting around like a 50s housewife. And now that my son is at stake…” He lowers his hand and looks you in the eyes. Now he seems less upset and more… sad? Defeated? “I’ve read everything I can and there’s only one thing that seems to work.

You lean forward. Something that works? Something that can fix you? End all of this so your brother can be happy?

“I’ve hired a psychic. He’ll be here in two weeks to fix you for good.” He adds, so quietly that you’d swear you were making it up if his lips weren’t moving, “May Xerneas forgive me.”
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Rock 4.11


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
4.11: The Prodigal Brother

March 23rd, 2020

There’s an early morning mist in the air. The forecast predicts it’ll become a proper drizzle in a half hour or so. Just in time for Kekoa’s trial.

You glance at Mallow beside you. The older girl is leaning back on a tree and lost in her smartphone. It’s weird that you, Grace, and Mallow can all be captains. Grace looks and acts like a child and Mallow’s practically an adult. You’re just out of the most awkward parts of your teenage years. Your acne finally started to clear up and the people at school chilled out after the shittiness of late middle school. You’d trade ten years of your life not to have to go through eighth grade and its petty politics ever again.

Mallow locks her phone and slides it into her pocket. “How’s the jungle?” she asks. It was her trial site for five years. Every time you meet up she asks about it like an anxious mother interrogating her child’s babysitter. You feel bad about it because she didn’t want to move and the current situation is kind of your fault. You got promoted when Ilima went off to college. Oranguru are only native to the jungles up north, so when you picked your totem Olivia shuffled Mallow and her lurantis down to Akala Meadow.

“The plants are fine. Definitely not as bad as it could’ve been if volcarona stayed in her cave.” A few of the most fragile flowers wilted. The comfey and lurantis are already restoring those. “Most of the surviving raticate moved south when the light came back.”

There have been raticate in the jungle since the rodents arrived in Alola. The forest adapted. The Blackout sent half of Alola’s raticate scurrying north. Even with the gumshoos following and a captain working overtime to kill them off, they still ate through a good chunk of the forest’s wildlife. The damage could take a generation or two to recover.

Mallow sighs. “At least the meadow has fences.” The raticate almost ate their way through Akala’s oricorio once. Much of Akala’s central meadow was fenced off with electrified reinforced barriers. The meadow and its birds have been slowly recovering since then. You know that they didn’t get as many castform as Mallow wanted during The Blackout. You’re curious to see how it looks today.

Someone walks towards you through the mist. They look about Kekoa’s size. Not that anyone else is walking up to a gated-off trial site at the same time he has scheduled. You get a good look at him as soon as he’s fully visible. He’s slouched over with his hands shoved deep into his pockets. His acne’s definitely gotten worse since the last time you saw him. And his face seems to have lost some softness. You’re happy for him.

There are five pokéballs on his belt. Good. He still has room for a gift once he gets to the ranch.

You walk forward and wrap your arms around him. Aw. He even smells kind of bad.

Mallow walks closer and politely waits until your hug is finished. “Welcome. You ready for your sixth trial?”

“Yeah.” His voice is deeper, too.

“Alright. Just letting you know that the last three trials are going to be harder than what you’ve faced before. Still up to it?”

“Yes.” He sounds annoyed that he’s even being asked.

“Let’s do it, then.”

Mallow walks over to the gates and you follow with Kekoa. You shoot him a sly smile meant to say that it’ll be okay. He smiles back more timidly.

The gate swings open. When you walk through you can hear and even feel the electricity from the fence buzzing around you. The gate automatically closes once you walk through. The meadow itself is… well, this part seems dead. Just a few woody shrubs left, the skeletons of past flower bushes. The castform must not have reached out this far.

“There’s more life deeper in the meadow,” Mellow says. Then she pulls out four pokéballs from a pouch hanging from her belt. She releases the pokémon inside one by one to reveal a sudowoodo, a red floette, a yellow petilil, and a blue fomantis. “I’m going to give these four time to hide in the meadows. Then you’ll have a half hour to find them all. Any you don’t find you’ll have to battle. Questions?”

Kekoa shakes his head no and Mallow motions to the pokémon. They all run off. Well, sudowoodo runs off. Petilil and fomantis shuffle off. Floette floats off, flower propelled by an invisible breeze.

Then you wait. They’re slow pokémon, and even if the trial site is only a fairly small portion of the meadow it’ll still take them time to reach their positions. You wonder how their usual hiding spots have changed with the dying. All of them have at least a half dozen because of people sharing info online. It’s unsporting and Mallow complains a lot. Olivia still won’t investigate anyone who does it.

After five minutes Mallow glances at her watch and speaks up. “You can go. Half hour on the clock.”

Kekoa finds two of them, even without being allowed to use defog. Mallow always stays back for a moment to comfort the pokémon that get found. At the end you find your way to the central clearing, an area of the meadow with a small pond, some bushes, and a little less fog. The petilil he couldn’t find comes out and gets devastated by his drifblim. Powders don’t do any good when they’re heading upwind. Most the little flower could do was land a leech seed.

Kekoa immediately withdraws his pokémon and the seeds fall to the ground, the one sign of the battle undone.

Mallow withdraws the petilil a second later. “Well. Hope you’re ready. The totems won’t be holding back anymore.”

A massive shadow appears in the fog. The lurantis walks off the boardwalk and slowly becomes more visible. She’s eight feet tall with gorgeous pink flowers and long, wicked scythes. People think of lurantis as a soft pokémon best left to breeders and coordinators.

People forget they’re related to scyther.

A loud hissing roar echoes through the meadow. It’s met by a warbling war cry as an oricorio jumps from the flowers and a splash of water as a lileep rises up from the edge of the pond.

Three on one. Trial’s on.

Kekoa takes a few steps back to the corner away from the three pokémon. You and Mallow walk past the totem to stand on the boardwalk.

Kekoa reaches to his belt and a cloud of red light falls to the ground.

It forms into… a charjabug? Wouldn’t have been your first choice. They can barely battle at all. Theoretically, bug- and electric- make the perfect typing for this battle. In practice…

Before Kekoa even gives an order the charjabug starts spewing out lines of web. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern. Just blasting them out and letting them fall. The trial pokémon aren’t idle. Lileep rears back his head and tosses jagged rocks into the air. They stay levitating several feet above the ground. That’s going to be really rough for Kekoa’s birds. The oricorio stands on one leg and stays perfectly still. Calm mind. You’re really questioning Kekoa’s choices here. Lileep barely move and lurantis are bugs that can move around webs decently well. This is really only going to slow down the oricorio, but they’re ranged attackers anyway.

The lurantis lumbers forwards as his allies set up. He reaches out and picks the charjabug off the ground, just giving him more height to spit webbing from. The totem’s fangs gleam and Kekoa finally withdraws the charjabug. After… okay it was probably less than thirty seconds. Still got a good coating of webs on the field. But now there are enough stealth rocks in the air to be annoying and the lileep is still putting more up there.

A rufflet takes the charjabug’s place. There are fights where it’s worth starting slow. Then there are the ones where all three opposing pokémon can set up, too. When the rufflet screams to the sky and the winds begin to blow the fog and stealth rocks away, you can’t help but think he’s making a serious mistake. Lileep stops setting up and starts throwing out oddly shaped chunks of glowing stones at the rufflet. Ancient power. Another move that will make the lileep stronger as the fight goes on. Oricorio continues to meditate. The totem once again moves, slowly, against the wind and the webs.

He wreathes a scythe in darkness before bringing it down on the rufflet. Who dodges. Maybe it’s the wind, maybe it’s being a small target. He weaves between hits and keeps pecking or slamming a wing into the totem’s legs for over a minute. The totem struggles to safely hit so close to his own body and the lileep gives up his ancientpower for the moment. But the totem is old and clever and the rufflet is young and untrained. Eventually a wicked night slash launches the bird across the arena. He’s withdrawn before he hits the ground.

Kekoa’s next pókemon forms and immediately launches into the air. Trumbeak. His starter. Frail, but at least fast.

“RS, lileep.” The trumbeak dives down as the oricorio twirls around, a small tornado forming around her. Lurantis moves forward. They’re all too slow. Trumbeak’s hit lands on the lileep’s flower with a mighty crack. Then another. Oricorio’s hurricane flies in and the trumbeak launches away. It’s not enough. She gets caught in the winds and falters in midair. An ancient power hits the trumbeak’s wing, sending her into a tailspin. The totem lunges in and snatches the bird up with the most dexterous part of her scythes. She brings the trumbeak high and bites down with her fangs. The bird screams and thrashes ineffectually. Leech life. It’ll buy the lileep time to recover while dealing some damage.

Out of the corner of your eye you see Kekoa go through the steps of a ritual dance. It seems like the normalium dance. Why? What’s that going to do?

When the dance reaches its zenith light flares up around trumbeak.

“Supersonic!” Kekoa shouts.

The trumbeak answers in a horrible, warbling shriek. Lurantis drops her and the oricorio staggers back. Lileep stands still and the rocks swirling around him drop back to the ground.

Z-Supersonic. Again, not the play you’d make. Now to see what he does with it. “RS lileep,” Kekoa calls again. The trumbeak gets airborne on shaky wings before diving back down to the pond. The lileep notices a bit too late as the trumbeak strikes a solid blow with her beak. The oricorio tries to send out another hurricane but it flies far wide. The lurantis is still stumbling around in confusion.

So that was the point. Letting him take out the lileep without getting triple teamed.

The lileep’s rapidly coming to his senses and forming another cloud of swirling dust and stone. Another hit rings out but the trumbeak is visibly shaking. Maybe not enough strength left for another hit.

It doesn’t matter. The lurantis staggers forward and lands a lucky strike wreathed in black energy and trumbeak goes flying. Knock off. Kekoa’s starter collapses in a heap as the oricorio begins to return to her senses.

Kekoa pulls the trumbeak’s ball back out and moves to withdraw him. Bright light illuminates the clearing.

White light. Not red.


The new toucannon rises out of the flowers with an angry squawk. She charges towards the lileep with wings held out to the side flapping uselessly. To make her seem bigger? To fly? It’ll take a lot more than that with her new weight. A fiery glow appears around her beak as she rushes to the lileep and stabs it hard in the flower. She hits the stem uselessly with a wing before going for another hard peck.

“Lileep’s down,” Mallow calls out before withdrawing the fossil. “Carry on.”

“Up!” Kekoa orders. The toucannon flaps her wings and gets a foot or so off the ground. It’s far too slow and awkward. Another hurricane catches her, sending her tumbling right back to earth.

The lurantis greets her on the ground with another night slash, launching the bird away. Toucannon are ungainly on the ground and awkward fliers at best. Their real strength is in their ranged seed attacks. Those have to start being prepared well before the battle starts. The evolution bought the bird a second wind but she won’t really be able to use it.

“Supersonic!” Kekoa sounds desperate. He must have realized the same thing.

This supersonic isn’t nearly as loud. Unpleasant and grating more than debilitating. It’ll buy one or two strikes, tops.

“Pluck.” The toucannon stumbles forward, getting trapped in her own ally’s webbing, but still nails the lurantis’s thorax with a powerful peck. On a follow up she opens her beak wide and partially closes it around the bug. She continues to squeeze until there’s a soft crack of the exoskeleton chipping. It’s enough to knock the totem back to her senses. With one final hit with the flat of her scythe she launches the toucannon back into the flowers.

She doesn’t get back up.

The crack’s pretty small, but it’s still something to work with. He has two pokemon left to end things. The lurantis hasn’t really had a good target to set up with leaf storm, but the oricorio is much stronger than she was at the start. And he’s still facing two pokémon at a time.

It’s a good first try. Maybe he can go all the way. You hope he does. You’d bet he won’t.

Kekoa picks out his dusk ball and unleashes his drifblim. It immediately floats into the air above the lurantis’s reach. Both of the trial pokémon crane their necks back look up at the ghost.

Kekoa smiles. “Hypnosis.”

You’ll find out something strange later: lurantis don’t have eyelids. The totem can’t just close her eyes and avoid the attack. The leaves and grass around the totem rise up and twist into sharpened arrowheads before blasting off towards the ghost. The attack lands true and at least three of the darts puncture the balloon. The air around the pokémon distorts from the oricorio’s revelation dance, but the drifblim is already blasting away at a far greater speed than you’d expect from the round ghost. Punctured drifblim go faster but last less time. Let’s see what Kekoa does with it.


Huh. You’d figured he’d have a stronger flying attack than that by now. Drifblim learn air slash, right? Or at least air cutter? You’d figured he’d been using gust against the petilil just to save energy and blow back the spores.

Still, the vortex is at least decently big. Shadowy spirals are mixed in from the drifblim’s leaks. The lurantis’s next attempt at a leaf storm ends in half the leaves blowing away before they can be sharpened. The rest fall to the ground as the totem’s head dips.

Drifblim is using the gust and leaking cuts to keep moving ahead of the distortions from revelation dance. You wonder what her fourth move is. Roost? Hidden power? Neither is helpful here.

The next leaf storm lands true. It opens more shallow cuts and the drifblim zooms off. More and more purple is mixed into the gusts. The problem with spirit attacks is its hard to tell just how hurt the victim is. Lurantis could easily outlast the drifblim or topple any moment.

An air slash from oricorio slashes through the air right behind drifblim. Looks like she’s just going for anything that might hit now.

The battle stays in a holding pattern for another two minutes as the drifblim slowly depletes, dodges or takes trivial damage from leaf storms and revelation dances, and keeps on hitting the lurantis with gusts. That must’ve been the point of throwing everything at the lileep: a lucky ancient power hit could’ve ended this. As it is the trial pokémon can’t really touch Kekoa’s.

The totem collapses before the drifblim deflates. He slowly bends over and falls, catching himself with a scythe before lowering all the way to the ground. Seems like he wants a nap. Fair. Totems don’t always go to their limits every fight, even when the captain says they should.

You would know: your totem is probably the laziest of the current set.

The drifblim turns back to the oricorio and launches a volley of shadow balls. They don’t do nearly as much as they should because of the calm minds and it means the ghost is staying still long enough for a revelation dance to finally land. The balloon deflates and crumples before red light snatches her out of midair. The oricorio turns to Kekoa. Even with the boosts she’s not holding herself with the same confidence as before when she could attack with two allies.

Kekoa spends out his final pokémon: a carbink.

This is going to be a spectacular stallfest.

The oricorio’s revelation dances don’t do much to a pokémon with as weird a nervous system as carbink’s. Hurricanes will just annoy them. The rock type’s ancient power attacks also do very little. But with every hit more and more dust and energy swirls around carbink while the oricorio gets slower and more frustrated.

Mallow starts checking her phone. You do as well. Two texts. One from your mother, one from Emily. Mom wants to know how long you’ll be out, Emily is asking about the group project in Biology you’ve both been procrastinating.

You check your socials. The President’s being racist and dumb as usual. This time he’s threatening to veto the aid package to Alola just because he got heckled when he showed up and threw glowsticks into the crowd. After The Blackout was already over.

Oooooh. Akane and Ibuki were seen back together in public for the first time since their last breakup. And Ibuki almost murdered the paparazzi for interrupting her date. Heh. Serves them right.

You look back at the field. Seems the oricorio isn’t using roost this match. Good. Battle might finish this century.

You know you can’t complain about stall when you have a blissey on your team, but it’s so tedious to watch someone else do it. Even if you really want to care about his win.

At long last the oricorio gracefully twirls down to the ground in defeat. Mallow withdraws her.

“Congratulations on completing your sixth trial. For the efforts of you and your pokémon, you have earned the Grassium-Z…”

Mallow drones on and shows the basic steps of the ritual dance. She’s not even pretending to be enthusiastic. Is that because of the length of the match? Some personal dislike? Or is she just always like that. You at least pretend to be excited.

Kekoa grins smugly nonetheless. If he minds it doesn’t show.


March 29th, 2020

You wake up to Palupalu nudging you with her arm. Odd. You hadn’t noticed that you were falling asleep. Wigglytuff fur is just so, so soft. Unexpected naps can’t be helped.

When you look at your friend he gestures towards the forest across the clearing. “How big?” you whisper.

He holds his arms out as wide as they go.

Very big. Probably a stoutland. Maybe even the very same one you’re looking for.

Route 4 is usually one the safest in Alola. The largest predators are stoutland and ariados. Both are quite friendly around humans. Gumshoos and raticate might raid a campsite that forgot to hoist their food, but that’s about all they’ll do.

There’s not much a trial captain needs to do there outside finding the odd lost child. You and Kiawe spend more of your time running errands around your trial sites than in your backyard.

Five days ago a pair of island challengers failed to make it to Paniola on time. They didn’t answer their phones. You went out to look for them.

You found something, alright. A broken tent and trails where two somethings were dragged off into the woods. Those trails led you to a gnawed pile of different-sized bones.

The Blackout killed most of the plants. The herbivores began to starve. They either died or lost most of their excess weight. That meant the predators were starting to starve.

It was enough to turn one feral stoutland into a mankiller. Two days ago the DNR gave authorization to cull the remaining stoutland and herdier on Routes 4 and 6. Mallow took 6 since it was by her trial site. You’ve been stuck in a hunting blind on Route 4 with a pile of lab meat laid out in a clearing. Only rodents, ariados, and an eevee have taken the bait so far. You let them eat a little for their troubles before you scared them off.

From the sound of breaking branches in the forest your luck might be changing. For better or for worse.

The stoutland finally breaks through the tree line. It’s far too thin: its ribs are visible even from a distance and loose flaps of skin hang from its sides. Poor thing. You can’t know if it’s a maneater or not and no shelter will want to nurse a potentially dangerous large carnivore back to health. Unless you want to rehabilitate it yourself you’ll have to put it down. And you don’t want a carnivore with a taste for flesh near your sister…

The stoutland sniffs the air and looks straight at you. It growls low and menacingly but doesn’t come closer. Its eyes seem to be normal and it isn’t frothing at the mouth. No symptoms of rabies aside from the unhealthy thinness. It should be safe to use a melee attacker. But you’d rather not take the risk.

“Palupalu, moonblast.” The wigglytuff’s fur puffs out and he takes a very deep breath. When he exhales a pulse of light streams out and nails the stoutland’s front right femur. It howls in pain before turning around and limping back into the forest.

Shit. Now you have to follow the thing.

You maneuver yourself to the rope ladder and climb down. Palupalu floats down to the ground beside you. “Thanks for keeping watch,” you tell him. After he warbles his thanks you withdraw him and send out ‘Umi’umi and Pilikia. ‘Umi’Umi sniffs the air while Pilikia looks around and kicks the ground with his front right hoof.

“Looking for a stoutland,” you tell ‘Umi’Umi. “Do you have a scent?”

The raticate glances at you and starts walking towards the tree line. He might feel insulted that you even asked. You can deal with his hurt feelings later. You give Pilikia the signal to keep your pace and the tauros slowly walks by your side. He warily flicks his head from side to side and sniffs the air. Most tauros are headstrong attackers that lash out at anything. Pilikia was one of the least aggressive on the ranch. It means he doesn’t get over his head in battle. And he doesn’t gore any new friend you bring over. Double win.

The stoutland’s path through the forest would’ve been clear even without ‘Umi’Umi. There’s a trail of blood and crushed grass and brush leading away. Still best to be slow and cautious about things. There’s more potential for danger here than in any standard battle. The price of caution is low and the dangers of rashness are high.

There’s more blood and even sloppier damage to the foliage as you keep going. Palupalu must’ve done more damage than you thought. Or maybe the stoutland was greatly weakened by starvation. When you finally catch sight of the dog it slowly turns around and snarls. You quickly withdraw your raticate and replace it with your toucannon.

“Lutanela,” you command, “beak blast.”

The toucannon glares at the stoutland but doesn’t make a sound. The stoutland just continues to growl. Good. It doesn’t know that you’re attacking. After a few seconds of preparation Lutanela opens her mouth and rains down hell. Superheated blast out of her mouth like bullets, each accompanied by its own little sonic boom. The first volley breaks the dog’s other front leg and leaves a nasty trail of blood down the side. It roars in pain and collapses to the ground. Then it just glares at you in silence, waiting for you to finish it off.

You oblige.

“Another round to the head.”


The warm water runs through your hair and down your back. The grime and blood from the day’s hunt is washed away with the water. Showers are always most satisfying after a day of hard work. Staying in a tree for six hours and killing a stoutland and three herdier isn’t the most physically demanding task, but you still found a way to get coated in sweat and dirt.

The tropical heat is welcome after the region’s brush with winter. That doesn’t mean you have to like every part of it.

After your body is clean you turn off the water and grab a towel. Now that the unpleasant business of the morning is over you have something big to look forward to in the afternoon: Kekoa’s coming over. It will be the first time he’s been to the ranch in years. He’s different now. Obviously, you’re different, too, from what you were back then. You grew up. But you feel like you grew up in a way that made sense for the girl you were. Kekoa just feels angry and empty. Given what happened it’s easy enough to imagine why.

When you’d gotten back home after seeing him for the first time you had a long talk with your parents about why they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, take him in. Money, they’d started. We didn’t have the ability to help him through everything, they’d continued. And, when pressed far enough, they’d never really liked him.

They thought he was a lesbian and a bad influence. And it took you months to get reassurances that they wouldn’t misgender or deadname him to his face if he came to visit. You hadn’t thought your family would’ve had a problem with it. Perhaps it’s better that he didn’t end up living with you. Your parents have been great to you and your sister, but it turns out that love was always conditional.

You’ve been spending a lot more time by your trial site lately.


You rush to the door when the doorbell rings. Kekoa’s in front with his traveling partners beside him. He seems nervous and only gives a half-hearted smile when you hug him. Probably not sure how to feel about being back here after all this time. You can understand. Well, not understand, but at least imagine what he’s going through.

You’ve met Cuicatl and Lyra before during their trials. Kekoa’s talked about them a little. Cuicatl’s dressed in something woven and colorful. Probably traditional for her culture. Your parents will ask her about it. Lyra’s wearing a glossy light jacket and stylish jeans. Chic hiker aesthetic. Cuicatl seems uncertain and is fidgeting with her cane. Lyra gives you a confident and friendly smile. From what you’ve been able to figure out her parents are socialites down in Heahea. Figures that she can at least pretend like she’s in her element.

“Come on in.”

Kekoa moves Cuicatl’s hand onto his elbow and helps escort her in. Lyra steps ahead and walks beside you. “Nice place,” she says.

“Thank you.” It is a nice place. Your great-grandfather and his pokémon built it themselves out of wood and brick. It was meant for an extended family. These days its home to you, your sister, your parents, and your paternal grandmother. (Oddly enough, your grandmother is completely fine with Kekoa being who he is even when your parents aren’t.)

“Smells nice,” Cuicatl adds. “Is it real meat?”

“No. We only kill tauros that are too unruly for trainers. Haven’t had one in a while.” You almost never eat those yourselves. Best to make sure the kill happens off-site. That way the other tauros can believe it just went to a trainer. Eating the flesh of something you helped raise also feels deeply wrong to you.

And real tauros meat is way out of your family’s price range, anyway. Even if you could have it for free it you wouldn’t get the profits from selling.

You end up walking to the kitchen first. At least your grandma is there. Your mom shouldn’t make a scene in front of her. You walk in with Kekoa and Cuicatl. Lyra lingers back by the door. Grandma perks up and smiles at Kekoa. She starts walking over, arms outstretched for a hug. Kekoa steps forward and gives it to her. “Good to see you again, dear.” Your mother watches on and doesn’t say anything. Kekoa nods at her and she nods back.

“Anything I can do to help around here?” Cuicatl asks. “I’m a good cook, despite…” She trails off. Her cataracts and cane do a good enough job of explaining.

“You’re a guest, darling,” Mother says. “We couldn’t possibly—”

Grandma waves her hand and turns around. “If she wants to help, she can help. There are some vegetables that need cut.” She glances back. “Can you do that?”

Cuicatl nods. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. Follow my voice and I’ll show you what needs doing.”

You take that as your excuse to leave the room. You’ll talk more to them at dinner, for better or worse.

Your Father is waiting in the living room. He looks up at Kekoa and curtly nods, muttering out something that might’ve been ‘welcome,’ before going back to reading his magazine. ‘Modern Farming Monthly.’ There’s a photograph of cracked earth on the cover with a signpost saying something in Spanish.

“Reading up on Argentina, huh?” Lyra asks.

“Yeah.” He sets the magazine down. “Shame what’s happening over there. We get out of our disaster and they plunge right into theirs.”

“It should keep tauros prices high, won’t it?” Lyra says. “More if it turns to riots and the socialists take over. I’ve heard some interesting rumors about that.”

She waves you away with a hand clasped behind her back. Was there a strategy here? Cuicatl and Lyra deal with unsupportive parents to keep Kekoa away? Or were they just planning to let you have Kekoa to yourself. You and Kekoa walk away without a word from your dad.

“How does she know anything about Argentina?” you ask. “She doesn’t look like she’s from there.”

“Her family’s rich. Probably heard it from them.”

Perhaps. You were surprised when you found out he was traveling with a socialite given what you know about the boy he’s become. There’s probably a story there. Maybe you’ll get it before the night’s over. You walk towards the back porch and hold the door open for him. He rolls his eyes but steps through without complaint. You follow.

It’s shaping up to be a good night. Sunset on the horizon and cool air. There’s a moisture to it that feels like incoming rain. Even a slight breeze that runs through your hair. Down in the valley behind the electrified fences the tauros herd is moving towards their shelter while Pikilia keeps an eye on them from the other side of the walls. In the less fortified kennel by the porch Umi’Umi is digging in the dirt while Lutanela and Palupalu are napping beneath their shelter. Palekeiki is tending to some of your sister’s newborn mareep, gently guiding the sheep back into a shelter while trading soft hits with the most rambunctious one. Once he’s had his fun playing with the blissey he’ll go in with all the rest.

It's a good night. The kind of night you’d really miss if you had to leave this place forever. You wonder how Kekoa’s feeling right now. You look back to him and see his lips spread thin as he looks at the tauros. “Your parents don’t like me much, do they?”

“They… ‘don’t approve of your choices.’” You make big air quotes to show that the words aren’t yours.

He scoffs. “I’ll walk out of dinner if they start shit.”

“And I’ll walk out with you.”


You settle into comfortable silence, watching the ranch wind down for the evening. The wind gusts again and you wish you’d worn a jacket out. It’s not cold, not in the way The Blackout was, but it’s not pleasant anymore.

“Kekoa?” you ask.


“Do you want another pokémon?”

He looks over at you. “I will need six, yeah.”

“We have a miltank. Freemartin. Not quite male, not quite female. Uh. I’m not saying that’s what you are, you’re a boy. Didn’t mean to offend you.”

“You didn’t.”

“Good. Good.” You collect your thoughts before going on. “I, um, she did make me think of you a little. And she’s getting a little stir crazy. Keeps attacking other miltank and even the tauros when she gets a chance. I think she’d do well with a trainer. Might like all the fights and the chance to explore.”

Kekoa gets to his feet and tucks his hands into his pockets. “She strong?”

“As strong as any miltank on the ranch.”

He nods. “Alright, you have me sold. Where is she at?”

You get up as well and start walking to the main tauros barn. “There’s not really ancient wisdom on miltank,” you tell him. “Not from here, at least. But I’ve learned a few tricks. I think you’ll only need a proving battle for now. Let her see just how strong your pokémon are. That’ll get her curious. I can fill you in on all of the other things you should know if that works.”

“She have a name?” Kekoa asks.

“Anuenue.” Rainbow. “Sis named him when she was ten. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, I know.”

“Pride,” he says. “I think it still works.”

It does in its own way. You unlatch the door to the barn and walk in. You brought Anuenue in from her pasture earlier. She probably hasn’t been thrilled about that. You walk through the barn to a smaller side paddock. The miltank and tauros have their own main areas and stalls. Anueneu isn’t welcome in either. She’d try to mate with the miltank and fight the tauros. Most of the year she has to be kept on her own. Even if you try to be social with her she still isn’t getting the attention she’d get from a proper trainer.

When you reach her stall Anueneu looks up at you and Kekoa. She snorts in greeting before going back to eating hay from her trough. She’s big for a miltank, over six hundred pounds, but not quite as big as the average tauros. Her fur is deep black typical of the females of her breed. Tiny nubs grow from her head. Not horns, but at least the start of them. Once you have her ball in hand you open up the stall. She takes a step forward. Not aggressive, just curious. You weren’t expecting her to lash out but it’s worth planning for the risk. “Meet me outside,” you tell Kekoa. As soon as he’s out of the barn you slowly walk backwards away from the miltank. She matches your pace and follows you. When the cool evening air hits her fur she huffs and stamps the ground before looking around. It’s rare for her to be outside her paddock entirely. Probably trying to figure out what’s going on.

“Kekoa, send out your strongest pokémon.” That’s almost certainly his starter, but maybe one of his others has some trick they didn’t use in the trial. He reaches to his belt and sends toucannon out. Miltank’s eyes narrow and she stamps a foot in challenge. The toucannon flares her wings out in her own display of dominance. Then Anueneu moves. It’s not a full charge, that takes time, but it will be. The bird just sneers before opening her beak. Seeds spray across the battlefield, each with its own sonicboom like bullets. At least three hit Anueneu and she bellows in pain and confusion.

“Now supersonic,” Kekoa orders. The screech isn’t nearly as bad as the one in the grass trial but it still stuns the miltank. She stomps the ground and bellows while swinging her head from side to side as she looks for the toucannon right in front of her. Probably not the best idea to get a miltank angry and confused during a proving battle. Palekeiki is leaving the mareep and waddling over towards the battle to take care of any pokémon that get hurt. What a good blissey. Hopefully Kekoa ends this before too much damage is done. Or before Anuenue can break any of the toucannon’s bones.

The toucannon’s eyes narrow and she opens her bill once again. More little gunshots blast out grazing the miltank’s sides and carving deep burrows in the earth where they hit. It’s a good thing you’re standing by Kekoa or you could have ended up in the blast radius. He really needs to work on accuracy before he gets a citation.

Anuenue moos in a very strange harmony. The breeze stills and the grass seems to stand a little taller. Her eyes narrow and she stares down the toucannon. Heal bell. Huh. Didn’t expect her to remember to use that. Miltank aren’t exactly the brightest of pokémon.

“Good trick,” Kekoa says. “I can teach you more.”

Anuenue almost certainly doesn’t understand the words. But she knows the intent. She’s known that from the start. After a moment of consideration she slowly bows her head. Palekeiki rushes in to tend to the miltank’s wounds while you hand her pokéball over to Kekoa.

“Good job.”

“Yeah.” He’s smiling. It’s one of the first real smiles you’ve seen from him since your reunion. Maybe the very first. “I think I’m getting a hang of the whole trainer thing.”

“There’s always more to learn, but I’m sure you’ll do great.”

And you mean it. He surprised you in the grass trial. Didn’t take the approach you’d thought he would. Didn’t here, either. But he got the job done in the end. He’s learning. Becoming his own man. You’re happy for him.

Even if he couldn’t come into his own here with you.
Last edited:
Rock 4.12


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Ableism, depression, discussion of antidepressants

Rock 4.12: Truths and Lies


You slowly make your way up the staircase with the help of your cane. Achci is off with his friends playing ball so you don’t have his help. Its fine. You’re better at getting places than he seems to think you are. When you reach the last step you close the distance to your father’s study and knock on the door.

“Come in,” he calls after a few seconds.

You shuffle in until you’re standing near his desk.

“Yes?” he asks.

You swallow. It’s never fun giving him bad news. Hopefully he won’t get out a cactus spike this time. “I was looking with Achci. We don’t have enough food for the rest of the week. Can you buy some more?”

He scoffs but doesn’t move. Good. You’re not going to get hit. Yet. “We have our duties, Cuicatl. As the man of the house, I provide the food. As the woman, you prepare it. Are you saying that you cannot do your job? Or did I not do mine?”

It is a trap. If you did not do your job you will be punished. You cannot say that he failed at his. The only way to win is to not answer the question. “There will be less food for the rest of the week,” you say. “I will do the best I can.”

Father gets up and you brace yourself. Hopefully he at least lets you get downstairs first. Walking down is always hard. Walking down while hurt could make dinner late and then you would be corrected again. “Your brother is a growing boy who needs to eat. And I am a fully grown man who can’t work hungry.” He reaches out and… squeezes your stomach? It feels weird but it’s not painful like you were expecting. “You are a fat girl. If anyone goes without it should be you.”

His footsteps retreat back to his desk. “Go make dinner. I have work to do.”


March 16th, 2020

What are you left with when your world goes away?

Only you. You’ve always had you, even when you had nothing and no one else.

There are truths that you know about yourself. You’re blind. Psychic. Nahua…half-Nahua, at least. You love(d) your brother. You’re fat.

And then…

All you have is yourself and you aren’t sure what that means anymore.

You can’t help but feel like this is your fault. You should have known. How didn’t you know? It’s not like you touched other girls that often. Even if it was a normal thing for other people, you were half-American and not very social. All the other girls had their mothers to take care of the house. You only had memories. By the time you were done with your duties you just wanted to listen to a book and go to sleep. Even when you had social time you’d have rather spent it with your pokémon. All of them were lean and strong. Almost all of them. Charles has some fat. He’s a fighting type so he needs it to keep having energy through long fights. You never fought. Never fought back, at least.

You don’t have all of your mother’s memories. A few from her journey, a few from her childhood, a few from Anahuac. She never really felt her own body. Or if she did Renfield didn’t include it. He has to understand modesty, right? Father would have wanted you to not take food from him and your brother. He didn’t need to lie, though; you gladly would have given it to them. They deserved it more.

There still has to have been some way you should have known.

There is a way you should have known. Someone with a functioning set of eyes you shared almost your entire mind with. Someone who knew that he didn’t have to lie to you because you’d give him what he needed anyway. Why… how…

He loved you. You know he did. And. He did nothing. Why?

And why did you only find this out after it was too late to ask him?

Another pillar of yourself begins to shake. You love him. You killed him. He hurt you first, even if you didn’t know it. He still didn’t deserve what happened to him. What you…

…you don’t know anymore. You don’t know anything anymore.

Coco shifts beside you and rests her head on your legs. Coco. No. You don’t have nothing, even if you don’t have yourself. She chose to stay with you even when your lies fell apart. She might come to regret that. But you don’t want to push her away. It feels good to be loved, even if you don’t deserve it.

Leo skitters above you while he clings to the bottom of the top bunk. “Are you injured?” he asks.

You can understand why he’d ask that. Your heart rate is way up and you’re leaking stuff from your eyes.

“Only hurt in my head,” you tell him.

He clicks his mandibles in rapid succession. Panic. “Head wounds are dangerous! Heal it now!”

So literal. He reminds you a lot of Ce.

Pixie made you give up Ce.

You love Pixie. You broke Pixie. She hurt you, too. Like…

“I’m only hurt in my thoughts.”

She goes quiet for a long time. “Why would you think about being hurt? Pain is bad.”

How to explain all of this to a wimpod? It was bad enough with Noci. With her… stunt, afterwards. You don’t want to go through that again. Not now. Not with a bug.

“Most humans think like that,” you agree. “I don’t. I’m broken.”

Broken in so many ways.

“Just stop thinking about pain?” he suggests, like it’s the easiest thing in the world. “Then you won’t be broken.”

“Stop being afraid,” you tell him. “Then we can talk.”


Your train of thought screeches to a halt.


“Let’s go outside. I will fight a black-pink ball.”

Pyukumuku. He means a pyukumuku. You’d been trying to get him to at least threaten to attack one since they almost never strike first. Has to be a wild pyukumuku, not Lyra’s. Hers is strong enough to beat Pixie. Sometimes Coco if she makes a mistake. You don’t need Leo picking a fight and immediately getting walloped.

“Fine. Let’s go.”

The dinosaur leaps out of bed and lands with a heavy thud before bolting to the door in excitement. It’s almost enough to warm your heart from its chill. Almost.


You bring your cane with you to the beach. The other hand carries Coco’s longest leash. There are rules about controlling predators. Letting Noci trail Lyra on a park trail at night wasn’t going to get discovered. Having an unleashed, hyper tyrunt on a public beach in the day is asking to get caught.

Coco strains as far as she can against her leash and you have to dig your sandals into the sand to avoid getting dragged away. You only barely avoid falling over before she stops pulling so hard.

“Tell me if she poops,” you order Noci. Cleaning up after your pokémon is hard when you can’t see the waste. Thankfully Noci can just scoop it into a bag telepathically. She really is the best support pokémon. Even if you don’t know why she’s here. Even if she could leave as easily as she came. You crouch down to the ground and Leo slowly crawls off your jacket and down your legs to the sand. She’s probably fine out here. Nothing’s going to attack him on a public beach while you’re right there. You almost ask Noci to look out for wingull before remembering she’s already doing something else.

A quick whistle brings Coco running back to you. Leo scurries halfway up your leg as the dino approaches but doesn’t go all the way to your jacket. Progress? “Can you find a black squishy?” you ask Coco. “Don’t attack it, just tell me it’s there.”

“Yes!” Coco chortles. Her voice is rough and getting rougher as she gets bigger. Deeper, too. Tyrantrum have roars you feel more than hear, whatever the movies say. At what point will you stop hearing her words? Will your gift still translate? No. What are you even thinking, you spoke to a tyrantrum less than a month ago. Are you so stressed that you can forget even that? No. No point being sad over something that won’t happen. There are more than enough things to worry about that could occur.

“Noci, look out for wingull, please.”

{Orders received.}

It’s not needed. Nothing is going to attack Leo while Coco is near. It still might reassure the bug.

A few minutes later Coco finds a pyukumuku. She growls but remains in place. You catch up and reach out for where you’re pretty sure her neck is from the sound of the growl. Good. You guessed right. You ruffle up her feathers in thanks and she stops growling. “Alright, Leo, try to scare it away.”

A brilliant idea comes to you.

{Noci? Can you pick up the pyukumuku and throw it into the sea when Leo’s had his fun? Make it look like the pyukumuku is running away?}

{Orders received. Orders are within Unit_Nocitlālin’s capabilities.}

She’s even started using her name. The metang really has come a long way.

Leo skitters closer to the pyukumuku and begins chattering away. There might even be a weak struggle bug mixed in there. Hard to tell by sound alone. For several seconds the pokémon just takes it. Then it… spits? There’s a squelching sound and Leo stops talking. Then you can hear something (the pyukumuku?) getting dragged through the sand before being tossed into the water with a plop. Noci, probably.

“You hurt?” you ask Leo. Hard to tell what the spit did.

“No…” he says hesitantly. Odd. He’s usually sure of himself. Or sure that he’s unsure. “…did I win?”

“Yes, you did. Great job.”

“I won?” It sounds like he’s not even sure what the phrase means. Like it’s not something that’s supposed to happen. “I won.” He repeats with more confidence. “I won!”

“You did!” Sure, you’re lying to him, but it makes him feel better. Maybe he’ll even evolve. That would really help against Mallow and Olivia. Not that you don’t like him now, just that he’d be better if he was too big to hide under your shirt. And also big enough to help out in battles. Noci and Coco are strong but Olivia has four pokémon on her side. The next two kahunas will have more. You’d catch more, but…

Pixie still looms over everything. If you get new team members it will be because it happens so quickly you don’t have time to remind yourself what you could do to them. Like with Leo.

“I did something scary,” Leo says. Yes, yes he did.

“Now you don’t think about pain.”

Like you even know how to pull that off. “I’ll try,” you tell him. And you don’t really have the heart to lie after that so. Um. Something that will make you happy? You like your pokémon. And Kekoa and Lyra, but things are still awkward with Lyra and Kekoa’s with his brother. You could listen to something? Or have a movie night? But you’ve been in bed most of the day. Going back feels maybe wrong then. Lyra said the lodge had good blukberry ice cream. It sounds weird enough that you sort of want to try it. “Coco, do you mind going into your ball for a little bit?”

She whines but doesn’t really mean it since she walks right over and presses her snout up by her ball. “Good girl. You’ll be out soon, I promise.” After she’s withdrawn you look back up towards Noci. “Do you think you can fly me and Leo up to the Lodge? The big wood building down the beach and up the mountain.”


In the end the ice cream’s weird. Almost bitter. You wouldn’t call it good. Also not bad enough to regret trying it. Besides, it won’t kill you. It’s not like you are fat or anything.


March 29th, 2020

Tonight went well, all things considered. You enjoyed being around Kanoa’s mother and grandmother. Sure, they babied you a little. Thought that just because you’re blind and a kid you have no idea what you’re doing around fire and blades. You’ve had years to learn and the scars to prove that you’ve learned what not to do. In the end they only begrudgingly gave you a butter knife and let you cut berries. They were nice enough once you got talking. Even praised you for doing the cooking on the trail. Not that trail cooking is hard. Mostly just warming stuff up.

Dinner was a little quiet. Probably awkward for Kekoa and Kanoa. The food was good so you just ignored everyone else and ate. Maybe ate too much. Even if you aren’t fat now you could be if you let yourself go. You can’t just eat the things you want when you want them.

It takes a while after dinner to get everything cleaned. Kanoa’s parents also didn’t trust you with that, which is fine. You never really liked dishwashing. In the end you end up out back with Lyra to meet Kekoa’s new pokémon. A miltank. A trans miltank or something? You aren’t sure if they understand gender like that and you’re curious to find out. Just not around Lyra. You like her and after Mauna Wela she knows more than she ever should have. You still can’t trust her. It’s hard being friends with someone who would hate you if they really knew you.

Something approaches. Its steps are about as heavy as a human’s but faster and in a different pattern. No one else seems scared so it’s probably fine. Just one of Kanoa’s pokémon. Then it barrels past the point where Kanoa’s standing and towards you.

“Hello!” it chimes in a high-pitched voice. “Have this!”

You blink and tighten up. First, you don’t know what it wants to give you. Second, you can’t pretend like you understand it. Third, you have no idea what the giver even is.

“Can I help you?” you ask.

“Yes! Eat this!”

Yeah, no. You’ve seen the kinds of things pokémon try to get you to eat. Alice never understood why you wouldn’t eat her kills raw. Or blackened. Or after she’d already bitten into it. Not sharing food until you’re sure what it is.

“Oh, my blissey wants to share an egg.”

Now you’re even more confused. “Why? I’m not hurt?” You thought they gave eggs to people who were hurt. You’re not right now. Unless she’s talking about being blind. You don’t care about that, though. The thought of being sighted… it makes your spine like taut string and crowds out all other thoughts. You don’t want that, right? Another key part of who you are gone. And you get around fine. Really it’s everyone else who should make things easier for people like you rather than pretending you don’t exist until it’s time to shower you with pity and then not fix anything.

“You’re sad. Have an egg.”

You almost laugh. She can heal injuries and she wants to waste that gift on your feelings?

“No, thank you. Please give it to someone hurt.”

There’s a heavy, tense silence. You can almost feel anger radiating from the pokémon in front of you.

Kanoa coughs. “Just take the egg. She’ll get angry if you don’t.”

Whatever. It won’t kill you.

You hold out your hands and the blissey puts her egg into them. If she said it was because you were ‘sad’ and not blind it probably won’t do anything about that. Still…

{This won’t make me not blind, right?}

The blissey chirps back. “It will clear your eyes up.”

That’s not why you’re blind though. {The blindness is in my brain.}

“Probably not? Brain wounds are hard to heal. Except sadness. Sadness is easy.”

Good enough. You don’t expect it to do much of anything, but it probably won’t hurt.

“So I just eat it? Like it is?”



You cautiously take a bite. It’s good, you just can’t put your finger on why. Has the texture of a boiled egg, just a little sweeter. You take another bite. It’s good. The flavor or… no it’s not very flavorful. You take another bite. And another. And another until there’s nothing left.

Did you really just eat all of it? That’s got to be so many calories. And the way it kept you eating might’ve been, like, why people keep using drugs. You really hope this isn’t addictive. You don’t need a drug problem on top of everything else.


March 30th, 2020

You feel weird today. A little bloated but that might just be your period approaching. No, not body weird. Mind weird. Everything feels a little lighter. Less weight to your steps, even though you might be heavier than yesterday. When the wind blows you feel it more on your skin. Everything just feels more than it did before. You find yourself smiling instead of frowning. Even sang on the trail for the first time since the rules were made. Kekoa said you were being weird but didn’t trip you. He’s right: you are being weird. It’s the stupid blissey egg making you high. You want to laugh and dance and sing and play and let all the responsibilities flow off of you like water. Even though you can’t do that. There are people depending on you. They could get hurt or go hungry if you aren’t doing your duty as the girl of the house, caretaker of everyone. And it’s so hard to care. You want to whine like a spoiled child about how you shouldn’t have to do things.

It’s also twisting your thoughts on things that matter. Burning guilt is there but it’s like you’re touching it with a glove between your mind and the pain. Even what you learned about your brother makes you sad, but that goes right away when you stop thinking about it.

This is wrong. It’s not who you are. Even if it feels good. Just another drug high.

It can’t last forever. Pain should be felt. Especially by you.

At least Leo seems happy about it. Even if he’s scared that your singing could draw predators.

You do prepare dinner that night, as you should, after Lyra and Kekoa put up the tent and hang the food. Just reheating some lab pidove, beans, maize, and rice. It’s good. Could be better. Now that you have some money you’ll buy more seasonings in Heahea. Worth their weight in gold.

Coco’s gotten big enough that it’s not practical to heat all of her food up. She tries with fire fang before finally chomping everything in her bowl up. Then Lyra’s salandit crawls over to lick the bowl out. Took Lyra long enough to get a proper predator. Soon she’ll also have a noivern in time which is a badass dragon. A badass, horribly loud dragon. Can’t tell if you’re more excited for the big dragon or worried about the noise.

Dinner is good so dinner is quiet. No one talks until Lyra’s done eating. “You seem to be in a better mood than usual.

You finish chewing and answer. “I’m higher than usual.”

Kekoa snickers. Lyra doesn’t say anything for long enough that you go back to eating.

“Blissey eggs don’t make you high. They’re just antidepressants.”

No. You’ve only been high once. Drunk a few times. Feels a little similar. Less weight on your shoulders. Unlike normal in a specific way.

“There are other antidepressants if you want this but… less,” Lyra continues. “You’re still planning on seeing a therapist, right?”

“Three weeks.”

It’s a wonder how money can make waitlists disappear. You’re still pretty sure it’s not worth the cash per session. Nothing they can possibly tell you in an hour is worth two hundred bucks. You’ll still go to a few meetings. Noci would be on your case if you didn’t.

“Cool. Maybe ask about it and see if you can get a referral?”

You grunt non-comitally.

“Why wouldn’t you?” she asks.

You glance towards Kekoa in a silent plea for help. He doesn’t answer. Bastard.

“I want to be me.” You’ve given it some thought. Like, what if you died and someone happier was created in your place. Someone like you, just less of a failure. Do you want that? Sometimes you think you do but… no, no you don’t.

“It doesn’t change that,” Lyra says softly like she’s talking to a baby. You’re not. “I’m on antidepressants and they didn’t change who I am.” Her tone shifts back towards something more serious. “If they did that I’d burn them in a heartbeat. It’s different. I just feel like I have more energy to put towards things. That’s all.”

Energy would be nice. Maybe you could sleep less. You probably sleep too much, anyway, and you’re still almost always at least a little tired.

“Don’t push her.” Good. Kekoa’s finally stepping in. You’re going to be nice and think that he was just too busy eating to talk. “Her choice.”

“I know. Just. Think about it, okay?”

You nod and go back to your dinner. Food is hard but it’s better than the quiet anger building in you. Anger? Maybe pain. Discomfort. Like you’d rather talk about anything else. Because you don’t want to be high all the time. You want to feel. Need to feel. Need to be. Especially with everything else changing.

You deserve it, after all.

After dinner you approach Kekoa with a kind of awkward request while Lyra’s off training. There’s another weird thing the egg is doing that makes you need touch. Last night you’d ended up smooshed against Lyra in the tent while you were asleep. She laughed it off but it was embarrassing. And now that it’s been hours that strange want is bubbling up again.

“Um, Kekoa?”


“Can we hug?” He doesn’t answer. “I, um, the egg is doing weird stuff and—”

He cuts you off by stepping forward and wrapping his arms around you. “This good?”

“Yeah.” You lean in and wrap your arms around him, too. He’s warm. And someone got him to use more deodorant. Probably Kanoa. After a bit too long you step away again. “Sorry, I, uh, just want to be around people and…”

“I get it,” Kekoa says. “Don’t worry.”

And that’s that.


March 31st, 2020

You lay curled up on top of Noci and soak in the sunlight. She’s always warm. The sun makes her even warmer. By afternoon she might be unbearable to sit on. For now it’s just nice. Feeling her radiated heat, having her telekinesis pull down on you like a blanket. The egg-brain is happy. And Noci gets to do what she does best: observe. Apparently metang can pick up on any psychic signals sent. Doesn’t mean they can always understand them, just that they know when and where they’re used. Espeon are the only psychic types in this part of Route 6 so you can just wait in the air until she senses one. Then you get to give your pitch. Hopefully they’ll want to travel with you for a while. Until Leo evolves you really only have two pokémon against Olivia’s four. Having another one would be good. Espeon are also good assistance pokémon.

…better tempered than vulpix, at least…

You always miss Pixie. Your blissey-brain really, really misses her. You can’t call her, though, not without reopening old wounds. If she wants to talk to you then you’ll do it. Not until then. For her sake.

{Broadcast detected.}

You stir and try to stretch out before being locked back into place by Noci. Fine. Probably just doesn’t want you to fall off. “Go towards it. Slowly.” No point scaring the espeon away. You do your best to stay awake and get ready. But the warmth is just so nice… you sigh and try to move into a sitting position instead of lying down. Noci stops while you do. Then she goes back to going down. It feels like an elevator. Controlled falling. You don’t actually like elevators much—they just feel weird—but this is nice. Probably the telekinesis. Or you just trust Noci more than some random machine.

{Elevation:0.6m Reached}

“Thanks,” you tell her before sliding off. “Hello!” you call. “Anyone here.”

A few pikipek fly away at the noise. Something scampers in the grass. You can’t hear anything that sounds like an espeon.

{How far away is it?}

{Class:Espeon Is 4.698 Meters From UD_Cuicatl}

Definitely close enough to hear you.

{Any humans nearby?}


You breathe deeply. Okay. Open pulse time. Sending out a psychic message to everyone around without your voice is actually pretty hard. There’s usually no reason to since you’re either talking aloud or using your gift to talk privately. Now it might help. You close your eyes and steady your breathing.


Something makes a soft landing to your right. It’s hard to hear what are probably dainty steps from what you’ve heard from Miss Bell’s espeon.

“Aren’t you an odd one,” the fox says. “I didn’t think humans had path gifts.”

“Path gifts?” You think Inferno said that once. Is that an eevee thing? What they call evolution?

“The changes of your final form. I thought humans grew in size but not in strength.”

“I’m different.” You could explain that you were born like this but it would take time for something that doesn’t really matter. You’ll tell them if they join the team. “What’s your name?”

“Tranquility. Yours?”

“Cuicatl Ichtaca.”

They scoff. “Humans and their two names. My mate told me about that.”

Shit. They’re mated. Yeah, not much chance this works out anymore. Maybe they’ll know another who might go with you?

“Are you male or female?” Because you don’t want to keep referring to them as ‘them’ in your mind.

“Female,” she answers. “And you are… female as well?”

Pixie could smell the difference. Is that just because she’d spent more time around humans?

“I am.”

“Hmm.” You can hear her step on a leaf as she moves closer. “I suppose you want me to join your team?”

“If you’re mated I won’t take you away from that. Just, if you know another espeon who might want to be with humans—”

“My mate and kits died during the darkness.” Oh. “I understand humans have food even when it is dark and cold. That seems better than the forest.”

That hits you hard. It was one thing when the butterfree agreed to go into human care: they’re butterfree, they had, like, two months left. When someone smart and long-lived says that they’d rather live in an unknown place with strange people instead of staying home…

You relate a little too much.

“We could feed you. There are still options.”

“Oh?” she asks. “Such as?”

“You could come with me. Fair warning, I battle a lot.”


Oh. Yeah, you can see how she’d make that mistake with your gift and all.

“No.” The air shifts subtly. Tranquility says nothing else. “Or you could go to another human who wouldn’t make you battle. You’d probably help care for humans who were born wrong. Mind problems.”

Kekoa kept getting on you until you found out what the espeon would be sold for. Turns out that people with disabled kids really like espeon. Long-term caretaker that can talk to kids who don’t talk, move stuff around, and make sure they don’t die.

The air shifts again. “You care for them?” Tranquility asks. “Your defects? To what end?”

“I’m blind,” you tell her. Because you really don’t like that line of thought. You’ve overheard more than one adult say that about you when they thought you couldn’t hear. You’ve certainly heard their kids say it to your face.

“Your eyes look fine.”

Don’t you have—oh no. Blissey said it would heal your cataracts. You hadn’t even really thought much about that, but now you’ll have to be more obvious about your blindness. Cane and sunglasses whenever possible or people will think you’re lying. Even when you can’t get around.

People really are dumb. Every time you talk to a pokémon you’re a little embarrassed you’re human.

“Problem is in my brain.”

Her mind brushes against yours. “I could fix that.”

“No. I’ve already had a psychic-type try.” Not to mention that you don’t want it fixed.

Thankfully she lets up on that. “Your defects don’t die?” she asks.

“We’ve made a nice world for ourselves.” And a pretty shitty world for everyone else. Including some humans. Most humans. Basically, all humans in the States. Not that tranquility needs to know that now.

“Well, if I would be looking after a defect either way,” and you hate being lumped in with people who will never, ever be able to live alone or talk or do anything that you can, “I would rather not fight. I’ve had enough of that.”

You can imagine. You do your best to beat down your anger since she didn’t really mean to insult you. No, she probably did. Almost definitely did. Not sure how good an ableist espeon will do as a caretaker, but that’s someone else’s problem once you have your money.

“Alright.” You take out a pokéball. Just a normal one. VStar can upgrade it if they want. “Anyone out here you want to say goodbye to?”

“I suppose I should tell my mother. Can we meet here at high sun tomorrow?”

“Of course.”

You can wait an extra day for ten grand in your pocket. And forty grand in VStar’s. But Rachel really won’t give you more—Lyra already bargained her up from $5,000—and this is still good money.

For a second you think about trying to get her to try out being on your team, just for one trial, so you’d have four pokémon to match Olivia’s four. But the last time you tried that with a fox… no. No. You can’t do that. If she doesn’t want to fight, you won’t make her.


April 3rd, 2020

You sit on a bench and listen to the waves as the cool evening winds whip through your hair. Leo likes being near the sea but not in it and Coco needed a walk. Kekoa thought you should do both at once. Found you a nice park. There isn’t a beach, just rocks and then the ocean, so its not busy at all. You run a toothbrush over Leo’s back as he sits in your lap. Coco sits by the water and growls every time a wave comes close. If she leaps in to attack its not a big deal. She can swim. If she can’t you can withdraw her.

The world feels colder today and it’s not just because of the wind. As the egg wears off your mind is going back to normal. Which is good. Everything just feels… less. Emptier. There were always gaping holes and burning pains in your mind. Now they just feel bigger. Like you were standing under a hot shower until you got used to it and turned up the heat so you’d still feel warm. And then you did it again and again before turning it back to a temperature that used to feel hot. Feel good. Except now it almost hurts.

You hate it.

You know it’s just the egg talking, but you hate it. You hate feeling the full weight of your brother’s death, of his betrayal, of your betrayal of Pixie, of Alice and Searah and Renfield being lost. It would be so much easier not to feel them. Faker. You can’t. You won’t.

Someone walks closer on the concrete path. You can hear the click of their boots. Sounds like there’s a heel. And the steps are a little too light for a man, anyway. Not too light or quick to be a kid. Woman. Her alarm goes off. It’s a strange alarm starting with a high pitch and then going quickly between low and high notes. There’s a constant hum through it all. You could imagine it in song. A string keeping the tense note. Maybe switch the rest to lyrics? Have the boys sing half of it while the girls sing the rest. One word each.

You’ve heard that weird alarm before. Just can’t remember where. Miss, Mister, um, Lila, just Lila? Yeah, that seems right. You press out your mind to see if she’s the one approaching but can’t find her. Or any other psychics.

“This seat taken?” the woman asks. You don’t recognize her voice. Kind of low and gruff. Not bad sounding.

“No.” If she sees Coco and still wants to sit nearby that’s her choice. And a good choice. Coco is a sweetie.

You go back to brushing Leo. Coco walks over and sniffs the new visitor before going back to the waves. New person doesn’t overreact. Also a sign that she’s a good person. Not, like, ethically. But in the ways that matter.

“I suppose I should get this out of the way,” she finally says. “Name’s Plumeria. I’m the boss of Team Skull.” Your blood runs cold. You’ve seen the stuff the Skulls say about VStar. Even if you have nothing against what they’re doing she might have a problem with you. And you’re here alone. Exposed.

{Noci, come to me.}

{Initiate Ramming}

You have Coco, but Plumeria’s supposedly a good trainer. Salazzle, crobat… you regret not reading more about her. Both of those are weak to rock and psychic—Leo squirms under your hands and you can feel him tensing up to get ready to bolt. You go back to brushing him in soft strokes. This is fine. You can act fine. Coco must sense your feelings because he growls, loudly, but doesn’t come any closer. Good.

{Attack any pokémon she sends out,} you order her.

She growls back in response.

{Don’t attack her.}

The growling stops.

“I like what you’re doing,” you tell Plumeria. “We don’t need to get violent.”

“You’re right,” she says breezily. If she’s at all concerned it doesn’t reach her voice. “We don’t. I’m not here to fight, just to talk.”

You relax a little. Your brushstrokes slow down and almost stop. Okay, you relaxed a lot. No reason to believe her but she’s not attacking right now and she did tell you who she was when you had a tyrunt out. Seems like she does just want to talk.

“About VStar?”

“Eh. Sure, about them.” What else would she even want to talk about? “You know how their last kid with a Class V ended up, right?” No, you don’t. You don’t know if you want to admit that. She’ll probably tell you anyway. “Tried to steal a larvesta. Got burned to death. Had to use his teeth to identify him.”

Oh. That’s why Miss Bell wanted you to see a dentist.

“He got what he deserved. Trying to steal a grandchild of the sun,” you tell her. You wouldn’t do it. You don’t steal pokémon, ever. You just give them choices. If they choose to do what you want then you did nothing wrong. Tranquility even wanted to leave! You didn’t have to convince her at all. You helped her.

She laughs. It’s a very nice laugh. Wait, is her salazzle out? {Does she have a salandit out?} you ask Coco. Thankfully she knows what those smell like.

“No,” she hisses. “Smells like one, kind of.”

That explains that. And maybe it means that you are into girls? Or maybe you just like her voice. Doesn’t have to be like that. Something to think about later.

“He did have it coming. Glad we’re on the same page.” You can hear / feel her stretch out on the bench. Relaxed. Or pretending she’s relaxed. “You still going to help them?”

“Yes.” You have to. No one else will give you that kind of money.

“I get it. Really. I would die for my family, too.” She knows about that? You haven’t said it in any interviews. Maybe she stole records or something? “Have you thought about what happens if you sell your soul to them and they still can’t find your family?”

You stiffen up again and press a hand down on Leo so he doesn’t bolt. “It’s been six months and they haven’t found any of them, have they? Not even the swanna. Weird, isn’t it?”

Anahuac isn’t going to be easy for a foreign company, an American company to poke around in. You always knew that. In the end you’ll probably have to go back there and hire detectives to find the rest of the team yourself. You just need them to keep an eye out for any getting sold outside the country.

“They’re trying.”

“Maybe.” Neither of you speak. She must realize how far she’s pushed you. And there’s nothing left for you to say. Just the sound of the wind filling the silence.

{Arrived. Resume ramming?}

{No. Stand by.}


It still might not be enough against her, but it gives you confidence. Hope. Maybe you could get away if she attacked. Or if you attacked and lost.

“Is it better to believe a sweet lie or a bitter truth?” she finally asks. You stiffen up. She’s wrong. You will get your team back. You have to.

“It’s not a lie.” It comes out more like a kid pleading with the gods then a statement of Truth. You ignore that. And how you’d been telling yourself that the truth was better than the lie all day but can’t bring yourself to do it now. Because it’s not a lie. It can’t be. Plumeria ignores all of that too.

“I think about your cousin a lot.” Another thing she shouldn’t know. “’Is it better to believe a sweet lie or the bitter truth?’ His words. He meant with pokémon. That shit wasn’t perfect and we were just privileged enough to ignore it.” We built a good world for ourselves. And for no one else. “I think about it here. The Americans pitch this wonderful lie to the tourists and the colonizers, that this is fine, that Alola means we should be kind and welcoming and shit. And then they turn around and tell us that if we just vote it can work out. No need to rock the boat. In case you do rock the boat we have two aircraft carriers and a cruiser fleet parked in Hau’oli. Just in case you get any ideas. Big damn boats to rock.”

She sighs. “Your cousin talked a big game. Burning everything down would be painful and we wouldn’t know what came next. But it was better to have a chance at a better world than accept the one we lived in. Then he faltered. Lost. Ran away. And nothing got better for the pokémon.”

You sort of want to stand up for your cousin, but she is right. He took the weight of the Ideal Dragon on his back and failed him. Then he ran away in shame. Like your ancestor did.

“These islands were made by a fire goddess and our people were made by the sun. When the time comes I won’t hesitate: I’ll burn everything down and trust that the kānaka maoli will still be standing as the Americans burn away.”

It’s a good speech. You do hope that she isn’t being literal. You’re pretty sure that people don’t work like that.

“When the time comes I’ll need your help to light the fire. I hope you can answer your cousin’s question by then.” She stands up and you can hear her adjust a coat or jacket. “Until then, I won’t stand in your way. But if you stand in mine I’ll burn you away, too.”

She walks away without attacking and you relax. Seems she just wanted to be cryptic. Maybe scare you away from VStar. She didn’t. And you weren’t planning on opposing her in the first place unless she put herself between you and your siblings.

What a waste of her time. You won’t even think about what she suggested. It can’t be true. You don’t need more voids and tears in your soul.
Last edited:
Rock 4.13


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
4.13: Unlikely Allies

April 4th, 2020

Your carbink races across the field with an angry miltank right behind them. “Keep going! Rock polish again!” you call out to Kapuna. The lights around the carbink distorts and they get a second wind right before Anueneu crashes into them. He stops his rollout and bellows while the carbink rights themself.

“Good job,” you tell him. “And you’re definitely getting faster, Kapuna. Do you want to keep going?”

They don’t say anything. Right. You glance up the hill at Cuicatl. Probably too far away to translate and you’re trying not to depend on her for everything. She’s with her metang and wimpod. The metang is shooting out ping pong balls into the grass while the wimpod dodges. You can’t actually see the bug so it just looks like a metang randomly shooting out small objects while a girl relaxes nearby.

Coco is sparring with your birds. Playing, really. Ihe tries to intimidate Mahina while the toucannon spreads her wings and shrieks back. Sometimes Ihe will jab and get parried and pushed back by Ihe’s massive bill. Coco alternates between wrestling with either of them. She goes easy enough on Ihe so no one gets seriously hurt. Coco’s almost as big as Mahina now. You don’t know exactly when they evolve but she might be getting close.

When that happens Cuicatl’s basically won the island challenge. Game over, proceed directly to the Elite Four. You wish you could trust her with the championship. She’s a good person, but she’s not from here. She doesn’t, no, she can’t understand. Still, her path to beating Selene is going to be easier than yours. If you fail despite your best efforts you might switch to helping Cuicatl train for her own challenge.

Lyra jogs over with her absol keeping pace beside her. “Wanna spar?” she asks. “Haven’t gotten a shot at your miltank yet.”

Anueneu breaks his rollout and snorts. He knows his species name at least. And from the way he’s almost hungrily eyeing the absol it’s clear that he knows what he wants.

“Alright, Kapuna. You can stop the speed exercises.” The carbink had been flying away even after their pursuer stopped. On your order they stop almost instantly and slowly turn around to stare at you. Not stare, exactly. They don’t have eyelids. But looking at you for hours without moving is still creepy. What is it with mineral pokémon and being weird little shits?

You look back at the battlers. Absol has a sharp blade, training and speed. Anuenue is way bigger and tougher.

“Alright. Anueneu.” You really need a shorter nickname. Neu? You’ll ask later through Cuicatl when you get some time alone. “Stay.” His eyes narrow and he paws the earth with a snort. He doesn’t move.

“Your move, Lyra.”

If you attacked first she’d just go for a dodge. Making the absol comes to you gives you a chance.

She snaps. Her code for quick attack. “Slash.”

“Headbutt!” Anueneu rears up as the absol rockets forward in a blur. She stops beside the miltank’s left flank as a dark aura flares around her horn. “Left!”

Lyra snaps twice just as the night slash carves a bloody line into Anueneu’s side. Just before his head crashes down onto the dark-type she jumps just out of the way and runs. Detect. Your Pokémon catches his balance and charges forward without your command. The absol just keeps running. She’s faster and fresher since she hasn’t been doing speed exercises for a half hour. Anuenue won’t be able to keep up.

“Stay!” You call. He ignores you. Fine. “Rollout?”

He at least slows down long enough to curl into a ball and chase the absol that way. It still won’t be enough. Damn it, you really need to get a bulldoze TM. But that’s money, and that requires relying on your brother, and you still don’t really want to do that if you don’t have to.

You hear two snaps and the absol pauses and turns around. Anueneu barrels straight forward and the absol dives away just in time. It takes a while for the miltank to bank back around. When he does Lyra snaps twice again and your pokémon misses. Again. This isn’t a winning strategy. Maybe he’ll listen now.


He does, reluctantly, break out of his rollout an stare down the absol. “Wait for her to get close again.”

Lyra smirks. “Razor wind.”

Shit. Is that a new trick? She didn’t use it in the fire trial and you haven’t seen her practicing it. Maybe it’s just a bluff. Cuicatl talked about doing something similar against the totem toxapex. No. The air stirs around absol’s blade and your stomach drops. You’d hoped you could help Anuenue win this. Earn some loyalty. That’s not looking likely anymore. “Headbutt, fast.”

Anueneu gets down on all fours and charges straight into the blades of wind. They leave gashes on his skin but barely seem to bother him. Lyra snaps twice and absol dives out of the way with detect and precognition. This time the miltank’s caught on enough to lunge to the side after absol. He just misses and the dark-type scurries away as fast as he can.

He got close. Maybe as close as he can get right now. “Good job,” you call out. Hopefully he knows that. “Come back.”

The miltank snorts and glares at the absol. But he does turn around and walk back over. He doesn’t seem too angry, either.

“Good job,” you repeat. “Are you hurt?”

He shakes his head. Kanoa said she didn’t spend a lot of time with him, but he’s clearly picked up some words and gestures. Maybe it just wasn’t a lot of time by her standards.

You walk around her and look at her cuts. Nothing bad. Looks like the absol was pulling her punches at least a little bit. “Good job. We’ll talk more at dinner.” He moos in agreement before you withdraw him. It’ll make him more comfortable until a nurse can patch up his cuts.

“Excuse me?” Someone asks. You turn to see some dweeby haole tween walking your way. He’s wearing a vest over a button up with slacks in Alola. Who even does that? Even the rich haole walk around in tacky flower print half the time. “You’re Kekoa, right?”

“Depends who’s asking.” Which is a dumb expression since you’re giving the game away. Whatever. Sounds cool.

“I’m Levi. Genesis’s brother. I’m told she traveled with you?”

Now you can kind of see the resemblance. Same blonde hair, same thin nose, same blue eyes. He might look a little too much like his sister to be masculine. Who knows what’ll happen in five years, though. Testosterone is one hell of a drug.

Lyra walks over. She’s smiling but her eyes are slightly narrowed. Sizing up a threat. You’ve seen her do it in almost every battle she’s been in. She knew Genesis so there’s probably history between the two. Not really any of your business. “Hey, Levi,” she greets him. “Good to see you again.”

The boy’s eyes widen as he notices Lyra. A crush? Crushing on your sister’s ex-friend is awkward, but probably not any more awkward than crushing on your boss. Hormones gonna hormone.

“Oh, hi! I wasn’t expecting you to be traveling with him.” And now you’re curious what business he has with you but not with Lyra. “That actually helps things a lot. Is, uh, Cuicatl still with you?” You gesture at the metang up to the hill. “Can you get her? It would be easier to tell this to all of you at once.”

Lyra purses her lips. “Kekoa, can you go?”

There’s not really a need. You turn around and shout uphill. “Hey, Noci!”

{Greetings Returned;

“Can you get Cuicatl down here?”

There’s a moment’s pause. {Affirmative. UD_Cuicatl Has Initiated Ramming.}

What a weird hunk of metal.

Cuicatl slowly makes her way down over the next minute. Levi greets her. “Hi, Cuicatl. I’m Levi. Genesis’s sister.”

She smiles. “Genesis told me about you.”

Yeah, she probably did. Not that you were paying attention.

“Good things, I hope?”

“Yup.” For a second Cuicatl’s smile falters. Then it’s back to full strength. “She loves you, you know.”

Levi looks down at the ground and takes a deep breath. Is he disagreeing with that? Guilty?

“What did you want to talk about?” Lyra asks. “I can’t imagine it’s anything good.”

“It isn’t,” Levi murmurs. “After Gen came home our parents hired this weird woman to try and make her straight.”

What the fuck. She’s gay? Or bi? How did you not notice that?

Lyra slowly inhales. Her shoulders rise up and her face is twisted. Probably trying not to scream. Screaming would be a good reaction. The right reaction. You don’t even like Genesis but that’s really messed up.

“She’s been going along with it because she’s stubborn. My other sister and I tried to talk her out of it but I don’t think it worked.”

Lyra pinches her nose and closes her eyes. “Worried about Yveltal?”


“Damn it. I love the girl but she can be so stupid.”

Love the girl? Wait. Have you, uh, been really misreading some stuff? That has to be one sided, right? Even if Gen’s gay, she’s way too into the deer cult to actually date another girl.

The kid, Levi, looks down and wraps a hand around his other elbow. Like his sister did when she was uncomfortable. Does when she’s uncomfortable. “That was bad enough But I’ve heard him talking about hiring a psychic to… fix her.”

You hear a clunk beside you. Lyra dropped the pokéball she was holding. She’s gone as pale as her crush and her hands are trembling. “That’s…” She trails off before she can finish the thought.

“Fucked up? Maybe illegal?” you finish for her.

“Definitely illegal,” she whispers. “But he sells silk armor to cops. They won’t want to turn around and arrest him.”

Shit. Then, uh. That’s bad. Not like you ever expected the cops to do anything to a rich haole. Too busy arresting your people for loitering.

The kid looks towards Cuicatl with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. “Could you fix that? They seemed to think that you made her gay.”

Lyra scoffs. “Oh, please. She was into girls way before she entered into the picture.”

“I couldn’t,” Cuicatl says. “To change something that deep you’d need a strong psychic and an alakazam. I’m not that strong and Noci works better with computers than brains.”

“There has to be something…” Levi says. It doesn’t sound like he believes his own words.

What to do, what to do. You could go to the media. Unless he owns the media? And even then it’s not like any of you are reliable sources.

“We could go to the press,” Lyra suggests. Even though it wouldn’t work. “Cuicatl gives interviews sometimes. She could bring it up live. Wouldn’t even need to find a reporter willing to take it.”

The psychic purses her lips. “VStar wouldn’t like that.” And she’s willing to put her mom’s pokémon over Genesis’s happiness. Disappointing, but not surprising. “I can talk to INTERPOL. One of their agents sort of looks after the psychics in the area. She might be able to do something.”

Maybe. Your guessing INTERPOL uses ariados silk as well. You doubt they’d bite the hand that feeds them.

“If everything else fails we could break her out.” Lyra’s hugging herself and still deathly pale. Pretty sure she should sit down so she doesn’t fall. Looks like she’s a gust away from keeling over. And she’s speaking absolute nonsense. Break into a billionaire’s home? With what? Your strongest pokémon are an absol, a metang, and a toucannon. Even if Coco evolved it would be pretty damn clear who broke in using a tyrantrum. Then they’d probably just track you down and arrest you when you’re asleep. Or kill you. The cops have killed for way less. Wouldn’t even be a stretch to say that tyrantrum girl made them afraid for their lives.

No one else bothers to tell her off. It’s a bad idea, but she looks like she needs at least some hope. Whatever keeps her going.

You won’t say it out loud, but you do have a card of your own to play. Maybe Plumeria will care enough to do something. Gen might not like what she does, but it’s better than getting torn apart and put back together into something else.


It started raining in the early afternoon. Its only picked up from there. April marks the changing of the seasons from wet to dry. The rain knows and seems to pour harder and harder every time it comes, not wanting to let the sun rule the skies.

When you were really young you used to love napping when the raindrops were pounding down on the roof loud enough to be heard. Now you can’t sleep without a fan or a show or something to drown it out. Kyogre’s asleep. The rain isn’t literally fighting against Groudon. You could walk outside and be fine, just wet. No raindrops like bullets. No cracked pavement. No fire and ash and thunder and tsunamis.

You know all of that.

But your feelings never got the memo.

There’s a knock on the door. Two knocks. Probably Cuicatl. You haul yourself out of bed and walk over. When you open it you see her in the hallway with her metang floating behind her. “Can I come in?” she asks.

You take a step back and wave into the room. Uh. Right. “Go for it.”

Her metang has to tilt to the side to fit in through the door. At least they have the decency to push it closed behind them. Shows that Noci does understand the concept of privacy, she just doesn’t care.

“How’s Lyra?” you ask.

“Bad.” Figures. She barely made it back to the Center without collapsing. “She’s had a bad run in with a psychic before. Scared for Genesis.”

You’d both kind of figured that. “Any details?”

She shakes her head. “There was an alakazam. She doesn’t know what she lost, just that she lost something.” Oh. That might actually be scarier than knowing you lost something big. Creeping doubt all the time… you can kind of see where she’s coming from, even if she’s being a dick about it to Cuicatl. “She fell asleep next to her absol. Thought I could sneak away.”

Almost like Lyra’s a toddler and Cuicatl’s her fed-up mother who just wants a break. She already cooks for the girl, might as well take another step towards babying her. “Well, you’re welcome to crash here for a bit. I was going to watch a movie or something.” Something loud. Something distracting. She doesn’t like loud, though.

“The nurse said I could use the garage for polishing Noci. You want to bring Kapuna? We could talk” {quietly.}

“Sure.” Kapuna would like that. And you can deal with the rain being louder if you have someone to talk to.

You pull out your oil and cloths and leave the room after Cuicatl. Noci closes the door behind you. Are they just interested in closing doors now? Someday they’re going to lock you or Cuicatl out if they keep this up. Assuming they can’t just unlock doors now like that ninetales did.

Nope. Not going down that road.

“You sure you couldn’t help Gen?” you ask on the way down the hallway. “That wasn’t just something you were saying for Lyra?”

“I wouldn’t know how to start.” {Every psychic is different. Some see minds as pictures or scans or something. I see them as words. I could maybe make her think different words for a few seconds? I don’t think that would help.}

“Probably not.” Could she do it with a metagross? Then again, if she had a metagross, all of you would have a much bigger problem to deal with. On the bright side, Noci might let Genesis die gay or something. That’s about as much mercy as she could hope for. No idea how that Daigo prick keeps his in line. Maybe he doesn’t and he’s just bleeding hush money. Wouldn’t surprise you. If rich assholes there are anything like rich assholes here he might not even care. He certainly didn’t go out of his way to stop Aqua-dan and Magma-dan from killing hundreds of thousands of his countrymen.

If Cuicatl hears any of that she doesn’t comment. Not until you’re in the garage. There’s an employee there to keep any eye on you, because of course they wouldn’t trust two kids of color to be unsupervised. Not like there’s anything important in the garage. A couple run down pieces of machinery, a tool bench, and a clunky van they probably bought in the 80s.

Noci floats out in front of Cuicatl and Kapuna drifts over to you. Whatever. You can ignore the haole bitch’s glares. You won’t break her shit, however much you’d like to. You pour a little water into the first rag and hold it out to the carbink. Need to get her cleaned and dried before you can polish.

{When did you start caring?} she asks you. {You wanted her gone the entire time she was here.}

Yes. Yes, you did. And you aren’t sure if you want her back. She should be out and no one should have to go through the kind of shit they’re threatening her with, but she can be someone else’s problem.

{You’re the one who wanted her to go back to her parents.}

She grimaces and doesn’t reply. By the time you’ve gently cleaned and dried Kapuna’s jewels Cuicatl is still washing her metang. Its strange how differently your polishing goes. She’s much rougher than Kapuna would ever allow. From the way her arms sometimes jerk it looks like Noci is using their powers to move the rag (and its holder) where they want. Kapuna stays still in midair through the entire thing. You wouldn’t even know if they loved or hated this if Cuicatl didn’t tell you.

As you get the duster out to clean the rest of Kapuna’s body, Cuicatl speaks out again. {I talked to your boss last night.} Your boss? How did she figure that out? Did Plumeria tell her? {Thanks. Wasn’t sure if that was a coincidence.} Damn it. Damn her. Damn psychics. You’re really starting to see where Lyra is coming from these days. {Fuck you. I was born like this.}

{A bitch?}

She drops the rag she was polishing Noci’s stomach with. It gets caught and rises right back up. Then she giggles. Your watcher looks up from her phone and looks on in confusion. “Remembered a joke, that’s all.” {You have one joke and I still didn’t expect it.}

Rude. You have at least two.

{I don’t care,} she tells you as she picks up a new cloth and starts drying off her metang. {I just wanted to know. You sent me to a weird spot, she shows up, seemed like you might’ve known something.}

You don’t give her a response. It was just a talk. You didn’t do anything wrong. Kapuna nudges away and you blink in confusion. Oh. Must’ve been a little too aggressive with the duster. Got close to the eyes or something. “Sorry.” You realize too late that Cuicatl might think you’re talking to her.

{She has the same ringtone as a cop.}

{There aren’t that many ringtones.}

She shrugs. {Just thought it was weird.}

It seems like she lets it go there. You finish dusting off Kapuna and they start to drift off towards some paint cans. You keep an eye on them and put a finger to the recall button on her ball. The Center employee watches the carbink even more intensely than you. Fuck them. Kapuna’s just a curious rock. They almost never break anything.

{I don’t think we’ll get along.} Her face is neutral but she’s really pushing down on the cloth as she polishes her pokémon. {I agree with her. Just can’t help.}

Typical. You’re surprised Plumeria even bothered to ask. She’s the public face of VStar.


Was that Cuicatl’s one warning before Skull went after her?

You need to talk to Plumeria. You were going to because of the Genesis thing, but now it needs to happen soon.


Someone knocks gently on your door three times. Probably Lyra. Cuicatl has her pattern. Ugh. Fine. You get up and let her in. The girl looks like a mess. She has some of the worst bedhead you’ve seen from her (and you’ve camped with her for weeks) and her eyes are bloodshot. She tried to put on makeup but its smudged and sloppy enough that it just makes her look worse. This from a girl who spends way too long getting ready every time you’re going to be around other people. Her hands are rammed into the pockets of her tight blue jacket and her absol is standing at attention beside her.

“Hey,” she mutters. “Cuicatl’s working on her thesis. Want to go on a walk?”

Asking you for one-on-one time. Truly desperate. Whatever. She’s going through a lot and it would be rude to turn her down. And this lets Cuicatl study at least. You aren’t actually sure how far she’s into her paper (you need to ask her) but more work can’t help. You looked up the people on the Class V approval board and they’re almost all snotty old haole dweebs who are going to make her work ten times harder for it than usual.

“Where to?”

“Bakery in the east part of town,” she whispers. You lean in a little bit just to hear her. “They have good cupcakes.”

Good enough that she’ll walk halfway across town for one. You’ll go with her, but you might have to take the bus back. Heahea is… actually you don’t know how big it is. Always seemed endless when you visited as a child.

“Cool. Let me throw my shoes on.”


Her absol spends the walk pressed against Lyra’s side. Lyra keeps one hand on the absol’s neck at all times. Like Cuicatl does. Except this is more of a security blanket thing, probably. With all you’ve learned today you’re really not surprised she picked a dark-type starter. One who could sense disasters. You thought about seeking out an absol yourself at one point. If castform were any better in battle you might’ve picked one of them. Or if altaria lived here…

“I hate it,” she finally mumbles.

“You’re going to have to be more specific.” Even if you can guess what she’s talking about.

“Hate that psychics can just do this shit with no consequences.”

“There might be. For the psychic, not the Gages.” Even if they’re too late. You kept your eyes glued to the screen when they executed the leaders of Aqua and Magma-dan, but it didn’t bring anyone back.

“No. There has to be some way to…” Her expression darkens as you approach a crosswalk. “They’re monsters.”

You aren’t sure who she’s talking about. Psychics or the Gage clan. You’ll assume the rich assholes and not the minority group.

“They’re careless people. Smashing up things and going back to their money.”

She blinks and looks at you like you grew a second mouth. “I don’t think that’s the right quote. And I, uh, didn’t think you’d have read much.”

Racist and rude. Sure, that was one of two books you read to the end in Galarian last year. And you only read that one so you could rant to Manollo about it. It was weird at the end. Half the class was mad because somehow they’d lived thirteen years in this goddamned country without learning that rich people could do whatever the hell they wanted to. The other half knew. Always knew.

“I didn’t like it.” She doesn’t need a full lecture right now. You’ll save that for later, when you won’t feel as bad drilling her on why, exactly, she thinks you don’t read.

“Neither did I,” she says. “The ending. Gatsby did everything for Daisy and she just left and let him die.”

Oh. Oh hell. She sees herself in the slightly-less-rich-asshole with a one-sided crush on a vapid girl who doesn’t really care about him. And she doesn’t like the ending because she can imagine it for herself.

“Gen’s your Daisy?”

“Shut up.” She presses her free hand even deeper into her pocket until it leaves the whole thing unbalanced, horizontal lines tilting to the left. “She’s not like that, whatever you think of her.” Yup. She’s probably dumber than Daisy. “Why didn’t you like it?”

“Because it wasn’t realistic. The person who got screwed over was also rich and white. Would’ve been a better story if it was about all the servants at the parties that were never given names or faces. Come to work one day and find out you’re unemployed because your boss got shot in the pool you were supposed to clean.

“Did the worker still have to clean the pool afterwards? Did anyone pay him? The boss was dead so he probably couldn’t collect his last paycheck. Maybe he couldn’t pay rent that month and ended up homeless just off the page.”

She stiffens up. “I never thought about that.”

“Of course you didn’t.”

Lyra sighs but doesn’t answer. Neither of you talk until a car takes a hard turn in front of you while you’re on a crosswalk. It rushes by and accelerates off. Had you been three feet further it would have hit you.

“Watch where you’re going jackass!” you shout.

“Asshole,” Lyra agrees. Once you’ve reached the sidewalk she speaks up again. “There has to be something to do about it, right? Some way to stop them…”

Again, you’re not sure who ‘them’ is. Psychics, the Gage clan, rich assholes, shitty drivers. The answer is really all the same.

“Get more power.”


“More power. We live in a world where the strong can do whatever they want to anyone else. Take over countries, rewrite minds, sink islands. Doesn’t matter. You can do what you want if you’re strong enough.”

Lyra sighs. “We do live in a society with rules, you know? It’s not always like that.”

“Rules that the powerful wrote. Get your own power and you can rewrite the rules until someone stronger comes along.” Like another challenger. Or… Heat. Rain. Death. “Like a god.”

Lyra stops suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk. A pedestrian behind you almost walks right into her before stepping around, throwing her a stink eye that she doesn’t notice. “Tapu Lele’s a psychic, right? We could ask her?” She pauses. “Do you know how to ask her things? I assume there’s some ritual.”

There probably is. You don’t know it. “I know someone who might.” Kanoa. Or Plumeria. You already have a meeting scheduled for the evening.

“Good. And I… I can try to sacrifice to Ho-Oh. She’s kind of gay.”

She’s smiling. Her eyes seem to be filled with fragile hope. You don’t want to dash it, but you doubt it works. Tapu Lele is seen less than any of the other Tapu. And if she won’t intervene to save your people, you doubt she steps up for a single haole brat. And Ho-Oh just drifts throughout the world as far as you can tell. If there’s a way to get her to reliably do something no one’s ever figured it out.

You reach her cupcake place soon after. There’s a rainbow flag out front and the door is decked out in trans pride colors. Huh. Weren’t expecting that in this part of town. Although you suppose these days it’s okay to be gay as long as you’re rich.

There’s a sylveon resting in a bed in the corner of the shop. Now you’re curious if the trans pride door was just an accident. You’d think not with the rainbow, but who knows.

“Holy crap, is that you, Lyra!” The girl at the counter asks. She seems about your age. Haole. Well put together. Probably a classmate of hers. Whatever. Lyra immediately brightens up (or pretends to) and starts excitedly talking to the girl who is, of course, named Tiffany. It takes five minutes just to get your cupcake (and with the prices you wouldn’t have gotten one at all unless Lyra offered to pay). It’s chocolate razzberry and really, really good. The frosting, anyway. Somehow sweet and a little savory at the same time. The chocolate cupcake is just normal good.

It's a nice enough distraction all the same.


By sundown it has started to drizzle again. Nothing too intense. Just enough that you have to throw on a raincoat before taking the bus out to the most remote beach the line goes to. You hear soft footsteps approaching from behind. You turn to see Plumeria in her own green rain jacket walking over. She seems surprisingly normal when she’s hunched over and hiding from the rain like anyone else.

“Alright, what have you got?” she asks. “And if you call me saying you have, quote, really good info, it had better be good or I’m not answering again.”

“The Gages hired a psychic to make their daughter straight. Should happen within a few weeks.”

Plumeria tilts her head. “Where’d you hear that from?”

“Genesis’s brother.”

“Shit.” That sums things up pretty well. “I can use that. Get at least one of the Six Families distracted.”

“You going to kidnap her?” you ask. It’s probably the best Gensis can hope for now.

Your boss just scoffs. “Yeah, no. Not picking that fight directly. But I’ll see what I can do. If the system is fighting itself that’s a win for us. No need to make it us v. them when it can be them v. them.”

That makes sense. Even if you don’t actually think the government will do anything at all to the Gages. Too many donations on the line. Now you can talk about the other thing. Hopefully she’ll listen.

“Cuicatl figured out I set things up last night.”

She just shrugs. “That was always going to happen, kid. Can’t be within fifteen feet of a psychic for months and expect to keep a secret from them.”


“Kinda surprised it took that long. How’d she take it, anyway?”

“She said she liked you but couldn’t work with you.”

Its hard to read her two dozen feet away in the rain and dusk. Is she angry? Sad? Annoyed?

“Figures. I need her alive and on our side when shit gets rolling. I have some info she’d like. Just not right now. Hopefully by then she’ll have figured out her current puppeteers can’t give her what she wants.”

“What do you mean?”

“Kid,” and you really hate how condescending that sounds. “She’s not doing too well, is she?”

“Physically? Mentally? Uh, no to both.” You don’t see what that has to do with lying to her, though.

“Figured. She’s living on hope. I go and dash those hopes, well, she’ll hate someone. Might be me. Might be herself. Either way, threatens the whole ‘alive and on our side’ deal.”

She thinks she’d kill herself. The girl’s not in a great place, but you’re pretty sure its not that bad. She’s never told you about it, anyway. You’ve been traveling together for months. She would have told you about it.

“Give her a few weeks. She’s starting therapy soon.”

“Good.” She turns around and starts walking away. “Call me when you think she can take it. Or when she finds out on her own.”

“Wait!” Plumeria pauses and glances back. “Would Tapu Lele do anything about Genesis?”

The boss pivots around. “Tell me,” she asks, “about a story where Tapu Lele fought her enemies?”

Her enemies. She fought The Darkness, Necrozma, the first time with the other Tapu. And there are stories of her fighting in wars against her siblings. And the sun and moon. You can’t think of her ever fighting a mortal.

“She doesn’t,” Plumeria answers for you. “Tapu Koko fires off his lightning bolts. Tapu Bulu bats aside his foes with brute strength. Tapu Fini drowns hers.” She pauses for dramatic effect. Just like her speeches at the base of the mountain. “Tapu Lele doesn’t have enemies. Approach her with the intent to fight and she’ll make you into her servant. She won’t care about a psychic fucking with someone’s head because she does it whenever she wants.”

Because she’s a goddess. Because she can, and no one can stop her.

Thankfully she’s on your side.
Last edited:
Rock 4.14


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
4.14: Hypnotized

The door above you swings open. Probably Openliver or his mate. You dig a little deeper into the cool sand and wait. But the footsteps aren’t loud and rough like a human’s or even Rockfur’s. Your ears perk up in surprise. Mother doesn’t usually come outside during the day unless a human is with her. Too hot.

Yet she walks daintily off of the steps and looks towards you. Her stance is relaxed. Not angry. She ducks under the human’s home and walks over to you. You tense up for a bite or scratch or freeze. It doesn’t come. Instead, she gently picks you up by the scruff of the neck and carries you out from under the house, up the stairs, and into the building. She carefully sets you down on the entry mat and looks at you. “Shake,” she quietly tells you. You do. It doesn’t get all of the rough sand out of your fur but it gets out most. Her eyes narrow a little and you stand very still. She turns back around and motions for you to follow.

Kalani walks to the human’s litter room and jumps up onto the sink. She’s too big to sit in it, sadly. It’s a lot of fun to sit in the fox-sized hole and then scream at the humans when they summon the water. Then you can also drink fresh water from it.

Instead Kalani opens a drawer with her mind and pulls a strange device out. Wait. You’ve seen those before. They’re loud and hot and terrible.

Oh no.

After plugging the device’s tail in Kalani jumps down with the rest in her mouth and aims the hot end towards you. She bites at a particular angle and hot air blasts out. You hiss in indignation as it ruffles up your fur and sends the sand flying away. You could have cleaned it yourself! You didn’t need this.

In the end your fur is unnaturally fluffed up and hot and it takes everything you have not to scream at your mother, even knowing it would get you put back under the house.

Once she’s taken the device’s tail out of the wall, she picks you up by the scruff once more and takes you to her bed. There she throws her tails around you and starts licking your fur back into shape.

“I hated doing that to you,” she said between licks. “Never make me do it again.”

You think she’s talking about putting you outside and not the air bath. Although the air bath happened because you were outside. “I won’t,” you promise.


She purrs as she continues cleaning up your fur. Cool air wafts from her tails and you can feel the heat of the dryer and outside slowly fading away. Before long you’re purring, too. Everything’s okay. She’s not mad at you anymore. She still loves you. You’re still capable of being loved.


You can hear Rockfur walks over to Kalani’s bed and stop. Your mother just moves her tails to press you even closer to her. “You let her in,” Rockfur says.

“She learned her lesson.”

You did! You aren’t sure what lesson, exactly, but you learned it. Don’t say bad things about Kalani to gods? Even if they already know what you’re saying? That sounds right. Kalani lets out a puff of cold air and you purr in happiness.

“You shouldn’t have done it,” Rockfur says. “It’s too hot out there.”

Kalani barks at him and slowly rises to her feet, tails puffed up and spreading out behind her. You can finally see Rockfur. Just as ugly as ever and not reacting to Kalani all. He must be really, really good at acting like he isn’t scared. “What would you know about vulpix?” your mother asks.

“I was there when we found you by the mountain. You always whined about how hot it was.”

“Not how I remember it.” Mother huffs.

“You screamed every time we went to the water.”

“I was warning the water not to get my fur wet.”

Can she even scare the water away? So strong. She could teach you lots of things.

“You wouldn’t leave the room when we went to the fire mountain.”

“Would have made it too easy for Openliver. Fire melts ice into water. And water beats fire. Obviously.”

It is obvious! Finally, someone sees things your way.

“You peed on the floor for moons after we moved here.”

“Marking my new territory.”

Rockfur doesn’t answer that one. Kalani won. She’s strong and smart and she loves you again.

“You wanted a kit. You got one. Why do you send her away?”

Mother hisses. “She is my kit. She will be powerful and beautiful and smart and obedient like me. When she is not I will not let her be my kit. It will make her learn.”

The stupid dog just chortles. “You? Obedient? When?”

“Whenever the orders aren’t stupid. I would never give a stupid order.”

Rockfur walks away wagging his tail like he won. He didn’t. Kalani told him. And she called you powerful and beautiful and smart! And she would know since she is those things. So much better than being around humans who don’t even praise you even though you’re much better than them.

And you will be obedient. You will. Then you will always be her kit and she will always love you.


In the evening she takes you out to hunt.

“You know disarming eyes,” she says, “and how to take a trick away. Now I will teach you how to make things sleep.”

She explains that you can send out thoughts with your eyes. Like Skysong does with her mind. Sometimes these thoughts can make you seem like you’re not a threat. Sometimes they can make opponents forget things. You can do both at once: make their body think you aren’t a threat and their mind forget to stay awake. Make them sleep. Or at least make them tired.

I can make them sleep. You can only make them tired.”

That makes sense. She’s a nine-tales. She’s a nine-tales who could fight The Moon and live to tell about it.

She takes you into a patch of tall grass and lies down. You crouch in wait beside her. After a few breaths of watching she points at a distant rattata. “Make it sleep when it gets close.” You wait. And wait. And wait. The winds are carrying its scent to you so it can’t notice your presence. Until the winds change. The rattata freezes up. You bolt out of the grass before it can run. It has to see your eyes! While you, uh, think about making it tired! The rat does stare at you for a breath before it turns around and dashes away. No. No! What did you do wrong?

Kalani creeps up beside you and gently flicks a tail into your side. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” she says.

“No! I do!” You’re her daughter and she loves you and you don’t want to go back under the house.

There isn’t anger or amusement in her eyes. Just the cold gaze of a hunter. “How would you know if you’ve never been shown?”

Probably the same way she knows: being perfect.

You look into her perfect eyes. So deep. So much better than yours. You want to look at them forever. But… it’s getting so hard… to keep… your eyes…

A paw runs over your head and ruffles your fur up. You look up in surprise to see Kalan—Mother. New Mother. Her face is relaxed and her body taut. Playful. Oh. She just did what the humans call ‘a joke.’ You were supposed to learn from that. How she did it. Um. How did she do it? By being perfect with perfect eyes?

“Did you learn?” she asks.

No. But you should have. “Yes.”

She chuffs. “Let me try again. Weaker. Slower.”

Her eyes shine brighter. Brighter and deeper? You try to think harder about it but the thoughts don’t come. The thoughts don’t come. She said it was like keeping thoughts away?

…no. Too hard. Need…you’re…safe…


A paw swats your ears. Your eyes flutter open before falling shut. You get swat again. Harder. You look up long enough to see Mother staring down. Mother… hypnosis. Right. Nothing important. Sleep..

This time a claw digs into your cheek hard enough to stain a patch of fur red. “Get up.”

The pain floods your body and wakes you up. Soon you’re staring into your mother’s hard eyes and waiting for her next instruction. You displeased her. You shouldn’t do that. She doesn’t like being angry with you.

“Did you learn?”

“Yes.” You think you did. It’s about making thoughts go away. Or something. You think you can maybe do that. Skysong had her tricks with words. Sometimes when she threw her mind against hers you could make your enemies forget more things or lose them for longer. Or when she had her shiny rock thing power you up. This is… like that. Sort of. Mostly. You can do it.

“A game: we do it to each other. Last to fall asleep wins.”

Just like that? She’s so strong… No. You can do this. She will love you. She does love you.

You yap to tell her you’re ready. Then her eyes bore into yours and push… so… deep… No! There’s… there’s a trick! You don’t press back. Not like she is. You stare into the black of her eye and pull. You can feel something snap between you as the attack lands. Mother blinks in confusion and you smack a tail against the ground to wake yourself up. She can’t put you to sleep anymore. As long as you can do it to her, you win! Just… pull again. Or push. Make her forget. Everything. What did she say about threats? Oh, right. You aren’t a threat. She can sleep. It’s fine. You wouldn’t hurt her. You love her and you wouldn’t hurt her. Mother’s tails droop down towards the ground before she violently shakes herself awake and looks away from you.

“You’re a smart kit,” she says. “Naturally. I picked you.”

Your fur freezes and your heart warms. Yes! You are smart! You did it! She loves you so much. A nine-tails loves you and Mother—and Avalanche was wrong. When you get back to the mountain you’ll tell your birth parents and siblings how you’re the daughter of a perfect nine-tails that fought the moon. And even she says that you’re smart.

“Let’s go find more prey to hunt, Firstborn. I grow tired of Openliver’s food rocks.”

You catch the scent of a one of a long-ears in a bush. Kalani circles around to the opposite side and screams, long and harsh and loud. The long-ears rushes out straight towards you. Your tales flare out and you stare into the long-ears’ wide, terrified eyes. You press out calm, forgetfulness, sleep. When she tries to run you send a beam of cold air through the air and freeze her paw to the ground. Then you circle around, look in her eyes, and make her calm. She slowly stops struggling as much. Eventually she stands entirely still and shivers. Long-ears are coated in tons of ugly, curly fur and they’re still cold enough to shiver.

One of your old trainers had a long-ears. A buneary, as he insisted on calling it. Showered her with love that should have been yours and kept her around when she let you go. You learned enough of their language to know that they have nothing worth saying. The long-ears opens her mouth and begins to talk. “Please, you have enough food.”

Prey shouldn’t beg. There’s no point.

“Your human—”

She’s cut off by Kalani lunging out from behind the bush and snapping her neck with a single awesome bite. You can’t eat the skin—too much fur, you might choke—but the rest of the long-ears’ meat and blood is delicious. And you did the hunting! Part of the hunting. The hard part.

You go to sleep filled with pride and good, warm food.


Openliver is holding a ‘team meeting’ on the beach. You are not part of his team but Mother takes you anyway, tucked under her tails and away from the sun and warm air. The sand is still too hot beneath your paws but there’s nothing you can do about that. The other members of his team make their way over. Rockfur sits as close to Kalani as Mother will allow him. Gillwailer is at the edge of the water with only his head and neck fully above the waves. Static hovers over the water, his weird claw arm things spinning around in circles. Even this far away his lightning still warps Mother’s fur. Sleeper is taking deep, throaty breaths somewhere down the beach. You don’t think she’s asleep but who knows. She’s almost never awake. Hasn’t even talked to you or asked Kalani where you came from. Finally, Bigwings lands with a big thud and a pulse of wind that manages to muss up your hair through a blanket of tails. You don’t know if he can’t land softly or just chooses not to. Rude either way.

“Good. Everyone’s here.” Mother snorts. Because obviously you could all see that. “Onto this week’s business. Gillwailer repeats that in some language you can’t understand. Bigwings or Sleeper’s maybe. You don’t think Static can actually talk.

“We have a tournament coming up in two weeks. I’ll just be announcing except for the end, where we’ll face the winner in a three v three. It’s the Stanford Invitational. The one where we fought the avalugg, walrein, and weavile last year.” You recognize one of those. Weavile. Redcrests. Cowards that hunt vulpix. You bet Mother enjoyed tearing it apart and eating its innards. “Good odds we rematch him. Some solid psychic- and ghost-type specialists in the mix. No dragons, not many steel-, fighting- or fairy-types. They’re academics, not serious trainers.

“First, anyone really want to go?”

Sleeper makes a choking sound that Gillwailer says means ‘no.’ Bigwings just looks away from Openliver. Static does nothing. Rockfur walks forward and sits down near his trainer. Kalani just swishes her tails.

Openliver looks towards you and Mother. “Sina will be there.” Mother growls with a rolling sound at the end. A warning. A warning to a trespasser. “I’m going,” she says. “Firstborn will, too.”

You look forward to helping scare this ‘Sina’ away.

“Nalu?” Openliver asks. The stupid, ugly thing makes a high-pitched trilling sound and claps her flippers together. So annoying.

There’s more rambling from Openliver before he and Gillwailer go closer to the shore to talk to Static. Sleeper finally starts growling in his sleep again and Bigwings takes off to go do whatever it is he does. Mother and Rockfur start walking back. You do your best to keep pace beside Mother, even though her legs are a lot longer than yours. “Who is Sina?” you ask.

“No one important.” Oh. You’d thought that she was from her reaction. “She has a nine-tails. Hate her. So smug. Thinks she’s better than me, even though she mated with an eevee.

You retch in shock and almost lose your breakfast. What? What kind of nine-tails would do that? How does she handle the smell?

“I like her mate,” Rockfur says. Both of you ignore him because he’s talking nonsense. “Smart. Gentle. Powerful when she wants to be.”

“Eeveefucker,” Kalani growls.

Rockfur doesn’t deny it. You’re going to need to stay far away from him in the future. Don’t want that getting on you.


Openliver lets you out of your ball inside a soft room. It looks a little like the ones your trainers stayed in when they were traveling, just fluffier, bigger, and with a single lovely bed instead of four tree-beds. Kalani instantly jumps onto it and sprawls out her tails. You leap up behind her and lean into her side. The bed is soft enough. It’s good that Openliver is treating you with the respect you deserve.

“Hey, that’s my bed you know.”

Kalani glares at him before letting her face settle back down on her bed.

“I brought you yours.”

She makes no move to acknowledge him.

“And before you suggest we can share, last time we did that you froze the bed on purpose so I had to move to the couch.”

“My bed,” Mother barks. “Mine.”

Rockfur walks over to his bed on the floor and sits down in it. Good. He doesn’t deserve to be on Mother’s bed. He could get eevee fur on you.

Openliver doesn’t bother you until night falls and he gets into his sleeping falsefur. He stands at the side of the bed and stares down at Kalani. “You aren’t sleeping here,” he says.

She growls. You bark at him to back her up.

“You can sleep in your bed or in your ball. Your choice.”

Her howls of protest are cut off as she dissolves into red light. Openliver wearily looks down at you.

“That was hers!”

He rolls his eyes. Doesn’t even have Gillwailer tell you what you said. Rude!

“Freeze the bed and I’ll withdraw you, too.”

He tucks himself under the covers. You curl up beside him and wait for him to go to sleep. He’s not as good as Skysong. Takes up too much space. Sometimes he growls in his sleep. Skysong let you sleep on top of her stomach. When Eggbreath wasn’t stealing it. Then she moved to sleeping on her side, letting one of you curl in the crook of her legs and one get hugged. Sometimes you’d sit on top of her like that but then she’d move in her sleep and you’d fall off.

You wonder how she’s doing. It’s been nearly two moons now. Has she forgotten you entirely? Picked up an eevee? Mother hasn’t asked you about cursing her lately. Good. She knows The Moon would just undo it. Even if she has gotten an eevee that’s a curse in itself. So is forgetting your beauty. Not that she ever knew how pretty you are. Her biggest flaw.

You eye Mother’s ball on the bed. Once Openliver is deeply sleeping you move over and nudge the button with your nose. She reforms on the floor in a pulse of light. Her eyes twinkle at you in thanks before she slowly, carefully, raises herself onto the bed and curls up around you.

Openliver wakes up a while later to a frozen bed. He’s just lucky she didn’t pee on him for good measure.

You get withdrawn, too, after that. As you bury yourself into the snow of your ball’s world you plot ways to get back at Openliver for this.


The door opens and an unfamiliar human walks in. Female. Young adult. The equivalent of a nine-tailed vulpix. Her hair is purple. Like poison. You don’t like it. Poisonhair greets Openliver and they say meaningless human things to each other. Then Poisonhair looks at you. No, at mother.

“Eggshell really wanted to meet you again. No idea why after last time. You up for it?” Mother slowly nods yes while spreading out her tails and raising her fur in a threat display. “If you’re sure.”

She presses into her scarf and several pokémon appear. One is a nine-tails. A little bigger than Mother. Not as pretty. Extra size must be fat. The others are four strange vulpix and an eevee. A cold eevee. One that at least knows it isn’t as good as a nine-tails so it tries (and fails) to copy you. It isn’t smart enough to know that just makes it look even worse next to the real thing.

The vulpix are tainted. Their fur is shorter than it should be and almost blue in color. It has weird spiky chunks that would look out of place on any pokémon, but are especially terrible on what should have been the prettiest kind. The nine-tails, Eggshell, which is probably the worst name ever, walks over and extends her snout towards Mother. They sniff for a moment before they both pull back. And scream. They raise their heads and let out the loudest, highest whine they can to assert their dominance. Rockfur covers his ears with his paws and the eevee step back.

“Girls!” Openliver calls. “Hotel. You can’t be this loud.”

Both immediately turn and continue screaming, this time at him. How dare he interfere in a border dispute?

“Should’ve done this outside,” Poisonhair says.

The nine-tails round on her next, this time shifting to a series of barks about how terribly hot it is out there. That at least interrupts the screaming for the time being. Mother clearly won. No need to continue.

Eggshell evaluates you with a careful stare before turning back to Mother. “Who is she?”

“My Firstborn.”

Eggshell chortles. “Awfully old for a newborn.” When Mother doesn’t respond she sticks her forepaws up on the bed and presses her snout into your side. You rear back and hiss. She pulls away quickly. Good. She’ll learn. You aren’t hers.

“Not even your real daughter. Did you just pick up the first stray you came across and take her into your den?”

Mother bristles but doesn’t answer. “She’s more powerful than your kits.”

“A seven-tails that can fight a two-tails. You must be so very proud.”

“She’s a pure vulpix. Not polluted like yours.”

Eggshell hisses in fury before composing herself. Then she tilts her head to the side and fixes her stare back to you. “Then she’s a reject. Someone else’s waste. Like feces left to roll in the wind. And you would make her your Firstborn.”

Mother’s eyes narrow.

“You’re a reject, too.”

“As are you.”

Rockfur softly barks. “Girls, could we—”

Both nine-tales immediately begin screaming at him. This is not his territory to dispute. The eevee takes the moment to walk closer to Rockfur and sit down, ignoring the screams coming his way. Is it ugly and deaf?

Eggshell dissolves into red light. The half-eevee tense up before darting over to their ugly father while Kalani sits on her haunches and licks a forepaw in satisfaction.

“This was a bad idea,” Poisonhair says. “I have no idea why they keep wanting to meet up when they just do this.”

“No kidding,” Openliver mutters.

“Kalani’s the only other Alolan ninetales she sees for months at a time and they just instantly get into each other’s faces.”

“She is unworthy to stand in my presence,” Kalani says. Gillwailer finally pulls herself out of the bathroom to translate that. Both humans stare at Mother like she said something wrong.

“Then why do you always want to see her?”

“To remind her of that.”

“You’re both weird,” the eevee says. As if he isn’t the weird fox. “I love my mate, but I don’t understand things like this.”

“Which is why she deserves better,” Mother says.

The eevee continues to stare at her. “Wait. Is all of this because of the reject thing?”


The eevee keeps yapping along anyway.

“You were told that you’re not good enough so you spend actual centuries insisting that you’re better than everyone else? Because you had a bad feeling once as a kit?”

The water vapor in the room freezes in place and begins to fall as snow. Kalani spreads her tails out and gets back on all fours. Then she lunges, jaws open and ready to tear out the eevee’s throat. At the same time the eevee’s fur hardens into icicles and a faint barrier shimmers around him. Rockfur lunges as well—towards Mother, not the eevee?

Mother gets tackled by Rockfur but barely loses her stride, blasting him right in the face with the widest ice beam you’ve ever seen. He gets thrown back and she turns towards the eevee. With a faint hum the energy in the room shifts and the barrier grows brighter. What is she doing? The… the reverse disable? Like the smelly bird did to you?

Your ribs ache and you suddenly become very aware of the patch over your scar where the fur hasn’t fully regrown. No. You don’t want to think about that bird.

Mother is firing a terrifyingly bright beam of moonlight directly at the shield with the eevee and her disgusting halflings behind it. The shield holds strong for a few seconds but you can already see thin spots forming on top.

Red light races across the room and the attack stops. The shield drops a few breaths later. Another pulse of light shoots out and—Rockfur disappears? Not the eevee? Even though he started it?

The ugly vulpix have wide eyes and ears slicked back. Fear. Would Kalani have killed them once she finished with the eevee? You don’t know. You’re not supposed to kill the kits of a dead nine-tales. Someone has to inherit that territory, after all. But you aren’t on the mountain. Neither Kalani nor Eggshell needs to worry about who inherits their non-existent territory. And the dead fox would be an eevee, not a nine-tales. They can’t leave anything worth inheriting.

The humans are staring at the wall while the eevee turns his back on you and comforts his kits. Even though you could definitely kill him while everyone is distracted. But if Mother wants him dead it would be wrong to steal her kill. You follow the humans’ gaze to the wall. A coating of ice stretches across a large part of it. Must be some of Mother’s ice beam that Rockfur didn’t block with his face. There’s a hole in the middle that punches through the entire wall. Kalani did build a new, better layer of ice behind it. An improvement. Not that the humans will understand.

Someone insistently knocks on the door and Openliver swears.
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Rock 4.15


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Rock 4.15: Bulwark

April 20th, 2020

The hike to the Ruins of Life is lovely. There’s a trail that runs just above the coast. In the morning you can catch a good breeze and some of the best views of the sea on Akala. It takes two hours to reach the battle site, but the walk is worth it. Sometimes you need time to yourself with nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other. You miss your time on the island challenge. Two friends by your side, new places every day, and a steady string of friends to meet and challenges to beat. You can remember the glorious feeling of finally beating Hala with a team full of rock- and steel-types. That year taught you things about yourself it might’ve taken decades to learn otherwise. How to manage money. How to deal with people and pokémon, even on bad days. How to plan around obstacles. How you naturally react to stress and conflict. How to keep going no matter what.

You don’t hate your next challenger like Hala seemed to. Yes, she’s become a public face of a company that endangers the ‘aina. No, you don’t like her employer much at all. But they exposed a problem you’d been trying to point out for years: the island challenge is increasingly pricing out kids who could benefit from it the most. Everything on the islands is so expensive these days. Even if lodging is usually free, food and supplies are not. No one crafts their own balls anymore and homemade medicine can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Unless you go out of your way to learn those things you won’t have a clue how to do them. Public schools just don’t teach them anymore. And since the kahunas and totems have access to TMs and specialized training, challengers feel the pressure to buy those things, too. And pokémon can’t just forage and hunt for food like your ancestors did. Too many (justified) restrictions.

You’ve heard arguments that with a low-cost team and good budgeting you can make it on limited scholarships, occasional tournament prizes, and a couple odd jobs. How well a low-cost team would actually do in the late stages of the island challenge is never discussed. And it feels unfair to pitch the whole thing as a collective bonding experience for all races and classes where only skill matters and then turn around and tell kids born to poor families that they can’t use most of the pokémon and they’ll need to get very, very good at budgeting very fast.

Then the government cut the island challenge budget during the last recession and haven’t found the money to increase scholarships since then. Something like this was inevitable. Frankly, you can imagine worse alternatives. VStar rips off the kids, sure, but there are much worse ways they could be exploiting them.

You aren’t mad at Cuicatl Ichtaca. She’s getting paid. Given her team in the video with Hala you’re guessing that she needs money for tutoring for her Class IV and V and a great deal saved up for feeding her tyrunt when she evolves. And you don’t want to be the one to tell the kid not to train dinosaurs—dinosaurs are great. When you were her age you desperately wanted to train a tyrunt. Ideally the government should be subsidizing her food budget and offering a free mentor pairing program. You’ve pitched both. The governor told you he couldn’t find the money. Now you’re seeing if you can sell something like it to the Pentagon. Girls with giant dinosaurs are a defense asset, after all.

And none of that requires ruining a child’s dreams on camera.


Your arena is a rectangular depression in the earth with stone pillars at every corner. In a higher level match, there would be a mime sr. guarding the edge to make sure nothing flew out. Second trials are usually fine since the pokémon are usually aiming at each other, ten feet below the spectators. The floor of the arena is mostly loose sand and gravel with a small, shallow pond in the middle. No plants for grass-types to manipulate. Just enough water that a kabuto, tirtouga, or lileep can be comfortable in it.

Cuicatl’s already standing on a stone slab on her side of the arena. There’s a green scarf or ribbon hanging from the left shoulder of her dress. Three pokéballs are nestled into pouches in it. There doesn’t seem to be one in her hand. Odd. Very odd. Most VStar members come with at least a full team, even if they have to use one of their recent captures to fill a space. But it seems like she only has the vulpix, metang, and tyrunt from her fight with Hala. Not the worst lineup, but not nearly powerful enough to forgo using a fourth pokémon.

You glance up at the bleachers as you walk towards her. There are more people in them than you’d expect for a second grand trial. Her two teammates, a few bloggers, your sister and niece. All of that’s expected. Some of the others you recognize, old challengers or neighbors from Konikoni. About five or so you don’t know at all. Then there’s a team from Channel 4 News. They’re allowed to film these matches but the press never shows up for anything but a fourth grand trial.

Seems the girl has a bit of a following. Poor dear. The spotlight can burn if it gets too bright.

You wave to the crowd but otherwise ignore them. Cuicatl stiffens up a little when she hears you approach. “Good morning,” you great her.

“Morning,” she replies with a lot less enthusiasm. She fidgets and her fingers slide past each other, grabbing for nothing in particular. Nerves. You remember those. They went away when you realized that it didn’t really matter if you lost or not. But at that age, with fewer failures under your belt, every one can feel catastrophic.

“Just remember: the worst that can happen is you need to wait two weeks for a rematch.” She relaxes a little. Good. “Now, do you only have three pokémon today?”

She nods before pressing her lips together. “That’s allowed, yes?”

“It is. You can have up to four.”

On the way over you considered asking her to swing by your shop tomorrow with her tyrunt in exchange for something good. An ice stone, probably. You’ve only been able to get close to a tyrunt once, and he was a right bastard the entire time. Hers seems tame. There are even videos of her acting as a guide pokémon for her and doing reasonably well. A little excitable, very prone to flashing her teeth at anyone who comes near, otherwise well behaved. You’d love to see how much of cranidos, archen, and shieldon care applies to the apex predator of the Cretaceous. But offering in advance might sound like you want her to like you. She might think that you’d thrown the match, even if she genuinely won. That might hurt her ego after how the first grand trial went. You’ll just have to ask after the battle. Maybe a day or two after the match, even.

A shadow crosses the girl’s face. You look over to see her companion’s carbink floating beside you. “Hello,” you greet them.

The carbink wobbles in place in a strange imitation of a curtsy.

“Can I help you?” No answer. Not that you were really expecting one.

“She’s been very interested in your rock-types,” Cuicatl says. She drops down to a whisper: “Might even want to leave Kekoa for your team. They’re working through that.”

It wouldn’t be the first time. The surface carbink were priests for centuries. Many of them still remember that. When they see a kahuna who specializes in rock-types they often want to hang around her.

“I would be honored to host them if that’s what they want. Or give their trainer advice if they want to stay.” The carbink continues to hover in place. You smile at them and gently press them away. “I have a battle to fight. Maybe we can talk in a few days?”

A few days is nothing for carbink but gives the trainers some time to get their thoughts and things in order. The carbink wobbles again before floating back towards the stands.

You walk back to your side of the arena and stand on the stone slab that marks your spot. It didn’t used to be there, the last kahuna just stood on the grass, but Tapu Lele moved some rocks around for you in the middle of the night. Thought it looked better.

You nod at Elliot and he clears his throat. “Today’s match will be a four-on-four singles battle between Kahuna Olivia Rodriguez of Akala and Challenger Cuicatl Ichtaca of Anahuac.” He looks away from the audience and towards Cuicatl. “I’m to understand that you waive your right to a fourth pokémon?”


There are some murmurings in the crowd from those who didn’t pay enough attention to her sash or assumed she had another ball tucked away somewhere.

“Understood. The rules are as follows: a pokémon is disqualified when they are knocked out of the arena or deemed unable to battle by myself or the nurse on site.” Erica waves to the crowd. “The challenger may switch out her pokémon once during the match. The victor is the trainer who last has a pokémon on the field. Are the rules clear as I have stated them.” Both you and Cuicatl nod. “Kahuna, send out your first pokémon.”

You reach down to your belt and send out Alexia the lileep. She’s old enough to be able to sponge some hits without being untouchable in a second trial. This also lets Cuicatl have a neutral type matchup with her vulpix, since she’ll need one in a four on three with an ice-type.

She reaches for a standard pokéball ball and sends out her metang instead. Huh. Not how you would have played that. No way for her to know if her vulpix will be at all useful later on while the metang almost certainly will be. Oh well.

“Begin,” Elliot calls. As soon as his lips close the metang is already rocketing across the field, arms tucked to the side and underneath her. Take down.

“Brine!” There’s nothing else to do. Mega drain and leech seed won’t find purchase in the metallic pokémon, she can’t out recover the damage taken, and ancient power wouldn’t deal nearly enough damage. Brine might at least corrode the metal a little.

The metang rams into Alexia and keeps going into the wall. The hit shakes the earth beneath you and you almost lose your balance. Your pokémon is struck between a stone wall and a metal predator. She’s durable, but there’s only so much of this that she’s taking.

The metang floats back a little and then raises their claws. They gleam in the sunlight before tearing into Alexia’s armor. She spits out saltwater that flows off of the metang as they move. Good. That spreads the corrosion a little. After two powerful metal claws swipe into Alexia the metang rears back again before pointing the claws inward, forming a small fist made of blades. Just as Alexia hits the ground they rear forward again and hit her with a punch. A weaker punch. Then another and another and another and another. A non-stop barrage of bullet punches.

“Keep up the brine!”

The lileep spits again but the metang doesn’t react at all. After maybe fifteen hits they pull back away from the lileep as her stem falls to the slide. The armor is dented but the stem itself seems okay. She’ll recover. They’re hardy Pokémon. Even if the stem was severed she’d probably be fine in two weeks.

“The Kahuna’s lileep is unable to battle. Send in your next pokémon.”

Only one of your two walls has anything to deal with metang. Obvious enough which you’re sending out first here. You release the clasp on Dorian’s pokéball and the pupitar materializes in the pit beneath you.

“The Kahuna has sent out her pupitar,” Elliot announces.

“Good job, Noci. Let’s give Coco a chance.” Cuicatl reaches for her scarf and the metang dissolves in a burst of light. A tyrunt takes its place a second later. A little bigger than you had expected. Even from a distance you can see the muscles tense beneath leathery skin as she takes in her foe. Excellent plumage. What a wonderful specimen.

Still, you were expecting her vulpix. Not using her against a grass- or ground-type is very strange. You certainly wouldn’t have sent in a rock-type against a pupitar when you had a vulpix on hand. She’s lucky that Dorian isn’t quite well-trained enough to use ground moves without bringing the arena down. Still mostly wild at heart. Hopefully that will be long out of his system by the time he evolves again.

You see Cuicatl say something but you can’t hear it from the other side of the battlefield. Using her tyrunt’s excellent hearing to her advantage? Come to think of it she didn’t give orders to her metang, either. Telepathy? Just letting the metang do its own thing? Not important right this second.

The tyrunt starts rushing across the field towards Dorian. “Rock slide,” you order. The gravel beneath Dorian begins to shift before it starts surging forward like a wave.

“Rock slide V,” Cuicatl’s order is just audible this time. The tyrunt’s roar is much louder. No. Not quite a roar. It’s a low, choking sound. Something like a cross between the hiccups and a growl. The gravel in front of the tyrunt moves. Not in a broad, slow wave like Dorian’s attack, but in a narrow V-shaped strip. One big clump of rock with a wake behind it. The tyrunt keeps running the entire time, just a little more slowly. The rock slides collide and Dorian’s breaks through the tyrunt’s wake, but the two cancel each other out at the tip of the tyrunt’s attack. The dinosaur has to take a moment to regain her footing before she keeps charging again over the newly mixed gravel.

Defensive rock slide. You’ve seen it before, but not often.


Dorian lets out an unholy wail of rocks scraping against other rocks. The tyrunt stumbles but catches herself. Before long she’s made it all the way to Dorian and clamps down with a powerful bite. A thin layer of frost billows out from the hit. Dorian doesn’t waver. You can see his armor begin to softly shimmer and glow as he uses iron defense without being ordered. The tyrunt just bites harder in response. You hear a soft snap but neither gives. Probably just a lost tooth.

You don’t think this is a winning matchup for Cuicatl. Tyrunt could break bone, but pupitar’s armor is really hard even before iron defense boosting. Eventually her pokémon will exhaust herself without you having to do much of anything. The steadily growing layer of ice isn’t even much of a hinderance pupitar barely moves. What’s the problem with a frozen joint that’s used once a decade? They’re mountain creatures. Freezing weather isn’t fatal.

Cuicatl orders something you can’t hear. The tyrunt lets go. There’s a trickle of blood running out of her mouth and she spits out a few broken teeth. Whatever she’s trying you don’t want to see it completed.

“Dark pulse.”

The air around Dorian flickers and cackles as the shadows in the pit lengthen. The tyrunt slams through the pulse of cold and darkness and bites back down where she had before. This time embers rain out from her mouth and you can see the armor around the impact site darken as the frost begins to melt. Fire fang. Pupitar are forged by high heat and pressure deep in the crust. What’s she playing at?

“Again,” you call.

Pupitar don’t have the deepest elemental wells, but those attacks will add up. Eventually. With rock-types you can usually afford to play the long game. Another ripple of darkness slams into the tyrunt. The dinosaur just snarls and clamps down harder in response. Almost all the frost is melted now. From above you can see the meltwater seeping down deeper into your pokémon’s armor. You’ll have to dry him out later. Jeremy’s kiln should do the trick.

The tyrunt lets go. Did Cuicatl order something? It doesn’t really matter. The tyrunt presses through yet another dark pulse and lands another bite. A weaker bite. Strange. A new, thin layer of frost begins to form on Dorian’s armor.

Your pokémon begins to squirm. Why? Frost shouldn’t—

In the autumn rains water seeps into the small cracks between rocks. Then winter comes and the water freezes. As it freezes it expands, creating a bigger crack. Then the next year the same thing will happen over and over again until water and cold can cleave a mountain in twain.

You smile from ear to ear. You can’t help it. Good play should be recognized. “That’s enough, Dorian.” You withdraw the pupitar before he can get too hurt. Rock-types are durable. But when they do get hurt enough to feel it they tend to surrender pretty quickly. Leaving him in longer would only serve to lose his trust. And when he evolves you’ll need all the trust you can get. “Well played, Cuicatl. Did you come in with that strategy or come up with it on the spot?”

It's hard to tell given the distance between you and her skin color, but you think she’s blushing. She certainly lowers her head a little and looks to the side. Not used to compliments? Thinks she’s being embarrassed in public? “On the spot,” she sheepishly admits. Like there’s anything wrong with that. Quick thinking is hard enough when you can see the match unfold.

“Good work. Let’s see how you deal with this.”

“The Kahuna has sent out her carbink.”

You see the carbink in the stands vibrate in place in excitement as your own takes the field. Moku slowly rises above the battlefield and looks down at the tyrunt below. You’re curious how her tyrunt, a classic melee fighter and grappler, deals with something that can float above her and shrug off hits. In the meantime, you’ll set up for later in the match.

“Rock slide U.”

The gravel under the tyrunt stirs like the bubbles of boiling water.


Unless that’s a really powerful rock slide it shouldn’t really do much to Moku. You’re proved correct when maybe fifty pounds of rock shoot up like a geyser towards your carbink. They don’t even bother to dodge. Most of the rocks can’t even make it all the way up to them in the first place. Those that do bounce harmlessly off of her and fall back to the ground. All the while a shimmering barrier of light forms above Moku’s body, shielding them from future hits. It probably won’t be enough to keep them entirely safe from the metang. Still better than nothing.

Another plume of rocks sails towards Moku. They don’t even seem to notice as they continue reinforcing their shield. If Cuicatl’s smart she’ll withdraw her pokémon soon so Moku can’t set up freely for as long as you want. She doesn’t. Instead, she has her tyrunt fire off another rock slide. And another.

The reflect’s pretty secure now. You’ll move on and see if she gets the hint.

“Stealth rock.”

More rocks begin to rise from the pit’s floor. Not as many or as concentrated as the tyrunt’s, but Moku’s stay suspended in the air after rising up. They won’t really slow down the metang much. The vulpix, though? Lycanroc can charge straight through without really being hurt. Vulpix don’t have that kind of armor. She’ll be pinned in place, unable to use her speed to the fullest.

Oh? Cuicatl said something. The tyrunt stops what she’s doing and turns to stare at Moku. Then she opens her mouth and a wonderful, terrible sound pours out. It’s more organic than Dorian’s screech but still has the feel of things grinding against each other. A low rumble more than a shriek. Less coherent than the roar in Jurassic Park, but more impressive from the small shaking in the ground and in your bones. It’s perfect. You can’t wait to hear (or feel) what it’s like when she evolves.

Moku freezes in place upon hearing the roar. Another rock slide attack slams into them without doing much of anything. Then they go back to setting up stealth rocks. Cuicatl crosses her arms and tells her tyrunt something before red light rushes across the field and snaps the dinosaur up.

“Challenger Cuicatl has forfeited the round. Send in your next pokémon.”

Her metang appears above the battlefield. Wrong move.

Cuicatl doesn’t give an order. Her metang just tucks their arms in to their sides and charges across the battlefield. You wait a moment. Moku can take the first hit and you need the element of surprise for this to work right.

“Smack down,” you order just before the metang makes contact.

Some of the nearby stealth rocks move to close in on metang. The steel-type lands a nasty hit on carbink that causes the reflect to shimmer and waver. It doesn’t break. When the rocks hit metang they falter and begin to slowly sink down. Cuicatl crosses her arms and grimaces. Then the metang lunges forward with claws extended and slams them into either side of Moku. The steel-type plummets straight down, the carbink held firmly in their claws. Oh. Taking the battle to ground.

The metang breaks just above the surface but lets go of Moku so they hit the ground in a shower of pebbles. Then the metang closes their fist and smashes a metal claw into Moku. Their other fist hits right after in another attack. Still metal claws. Not the faster but weaker bullet punches. The reflect holds after both attacks. You aren’t sure how much it has left, and then Moku probably won’t want to stay in against an opponent who can actually harm them.

“Keep going with smack down. And get up!”

More pebbles fly up and strike the metang’s shell. Every one sends them lurching further down. Moku’s first attempt to escape is met by a hard metal claw spiking them back down. Now the reflect is translucent. Just a hazy pink shimmer instead of an unbreakable red barrier. The second time they try to fly away the stealth rocks close in on them in a continuous barrage of strikes, hemming them in and forcing them back down into another metal claw. Telekinesis. Should have expected it.

The next bullet punch shatters what’s left of the reflect. Time to call it. The metang is already barely three inches above the ground and you aren’t going to do any meaningful damage. “Excellent work, Moku.”

“The Kahuna has withdrawn her carbink and forfeited the round. Send out your final pokémon.”

You clip Moku’s ball back onto your belt and reach for a scuffed and worn pokéball. The red paint has faded and the white is stained yellow by many misadventures. You remember getting the ball nearly two decades ago when you adopted your starter. She’s getting up in the years for her species now. Taken her share of hits, too. It’s been two years since you came to the agreement to take her off of your highest-level teams in favor of her son, but every now and then she still likes to come out and fight.

You press the release button on the pokéball and Wendy forms up beneath you with a wild howl.

“The Kahuna has sent out her lycanroc.”

There’s a wave of murmurs from the stands. Your niece cheers. It isn’t often that you use Wendy in one of these battles. But even if she’s slowed down in her old age, she’s far from slow. “Stone edge.”

The ground moves between Wendy and the metang as spikes of rock erupt from the earth. The metang tucks their arms in and charges straight through the waves of stone with hardly a scratch. They raise up a glowing, closed fist and you can see Wendy shift in place. She knows what to do. The blow lands true but the lycanroc holds strong. She leans back a little before shoving forward with energy-wreathed fists. The metang goes flying back to the other end of the pit and crashes into the wall. Wendy howls again as the steel-type pulls herself out and turns back around. After the fire and ice play earlier you’d have expected Cuicatl to play around counter. A little disappointing that she didn’t.

The air around Wendy begins to shimmer and the lycanroc snarls. Confusion. Lovely.

“Get in. Thunder punch.”

Wendy stumbles forward and starts cautiously advancing towards the metang. She knows to go slowly when disoriented. The metang keeps up the confusion but doesn’t make any attempt to move. At least Cuicatl’s caught on to counter now. Maybe overcorrecting. Counter’s hard to aim when confused. Once Wendy gets close you see sparks begin to fly from her firsts. Just as she lunges the metang rears forward and sucker punches her in the chest with a bullet punch. Wendy growls and slams both of her fists down onto the steel-type. Sparks fly and the metang freezes in place before striking Wendy again and darting away as quickly as they can while forced to hug the ground.

A machine with thick metallic armor is still vulnerable to electricity.

The air around Wendy shimmers again but the lycanroc is already moving. The metang pivots around to face her dead on. Just as your pokémon advances they charge in with a take down. They don’t even slow down when they hit the lycanroc. The thunder punches slamming into their body don’t deter them. They only stop when they hit the wall at the edge of the pit, pinning Wendy between them and the stone. Then the metang slowly sinks to the ground and goes still. Wendy presses herself off the wall and roars victoriously. There’s a bleeding gash on her chest to go with the old scars but she doesn’t act like it bothers her. Truth be told she’s taken harder hits before and kept going.

“The Challenger’s metang is unable to battle. Send in your final pokémon.”

The crowd cheers alongside Wendy as Cuicatl cradles the metang’s great ball before gently putting it back into her sash. She reaches for her final ball, a net ball, and palms it. But she doesn’t release the pokémon inside. Does she not have her vulpix anymore? It would be strange to keep one in a net ball. Usually those are for birds and bugs.

Either way, a bad matchup in to lycanroc. At least some of the more experienced trainers in the crowd seem to have caught onto that to. Cuicatl looks directly at you (or probably intends to, she’s off a little to the right).

“Just let him think he did something, alright? Then I’ll forfeit.”

A very strange plea. Not one you’re sure how to answer.

She kneels down and lets the pokémon out beside her. You can’t really see what it is as it’s too low to the ground. After a few whispered words the bug begins scurrying down the cliff face and makes its way over the loose gravel of the arena. It’s a wimpod. Suddenly her request makes a lot more sense.

Someone in the stands laughs. Someone else boos.

She brought three pokémon and one of them is a wimpod. That’s not how VStar trainers work at all. What happened to the vulpix? Hala’s hit shouldn’t have been outright lethal with quick medical attention.

The wimpod stops maybe ten feet away from Wendy. He lets out a clacking, hissing display and waves his mandibles around. Your starter shifts uneasily on her feet, unsure what to do in a battle against something that obviously isn’t a real threat.

You don’t want to battle him. There’s no point and Cuicatl made it sound like she just wanted to let the bug feel like he participated. Thankfully you can end things without landing a hit.


For a moment you imagine what the wimpod must be seeing and hearing. Wendy towers above him, old battle scars lining her body. Nocturnal lycanroc are naturally intimidating with their blood red fur and faintly glowing eyes. When they rear up and roar even you can feel a hint of anxiety—and she’s your pokémon!

The wimpod immediately turns around and dashes back to his trainer. He clears the field twice as quickly as when he first entered it and starts darting straight up the side of the pit. Then he slows. And stops. Cuicatl’s already taken the ball back out and has her finger on the release button when the wimpod does something incredible: he turns around and goes back into the pit. You have no idea what’s going on in his head. Wimpod are famously cowardly and Wendy just took out a metang. There’s nothing he could do even if he wanted to. But something draws him back into the arena. He stares down your starter for ten full seconds as you try to figure out what to do about it.

And then he glows.

You find yourself grinning again as the small crowd goes nuts. You’ve still probably got this one in the bag, but it certainly just got a lot more interesting.

The golisopod is moving the moment the evolution ends. He springs forward faster than should be possible with his body size and slams into Wendy. The lycanroc barely has time to prepare before the golisopod is going in with two more hits wreathed in brown energy. Wendy seems to vibrate a little when each one hits. First impression followed by rock smash. The latter weakens armor through strange vibrations. Thankfully nocturnal lycanroc don’t have that much armor in the first place.

Wendy regains her footing and goes in with a strong thunder punch. The golisopod just turns around. Energy shimmers across his back as the fists useless slam into it. Iron defense. Just like Dorian earlier. Before you can get an order out the golisopod is already sprinting away towards the edge of the pit, stopping just before the walls and warily turning around.

He moves very well for having just evolved. Some special instincts? Perhaps evolution only occurs in life-or-death situations so there is no room for figuring out how to move a much larger body. You’ll have to look it up later. Never been terribly interested in the creepy crawlies. Except for armaldo: armaldo are precious.

“Stone edge.”

The ground begins to erupt in jagged spikes. The golisopod dodges the first but the second nails him in the chest. He rears up on his hind legs to minimize the area against the ground but one still grazes against him. The bug kneels down, does something with the ground, and whips forward. A stream of mud and pebbles flies through the air and nails Wendy in the face. Mud slap. Or mud shot? Hard to tell. This is why the four-move rule is useless.

Cuicatl hasn’t given an order this whole time. Probably has no idea what the new golisopod can even do. Just as soon as Wendy can start brushing the mud off her face the golisopod is already moving again. Quickly, too. Another first impression takes the form of a full body tackle before the bug starts wailing away with rock smash again.

“Thunder punch, fast!”

Wendy doesn’t bother wiping off her eyes all the way. She just starts swinging. The golisopod smacks her in the face. Awfully fast. Was that sucker punch? Oliver blows a whistle as Wendy connects.

“The challenger’s golisopod has used five moves and is disqualified. The winner of the round and the match is Kahuna Olivia.”

You cross your arms and raise an eyebrow at Oliver. Your ‘angry kahuna’ stance. “The pokémon just evolved and his trainer hasn’t ordered any of those moves. That hardly seems fair.”

“Rules are rules, ma’am.”

He doesn’t seem sorry. You sigh and turn back to Cuicatl.

“Be that as it may, I have the right to decide who gets my stamp. We’re still going.”

Oliver clears his throat. “Understood. The match continues.”

The golisopod took advantage of the lull in combat to get as far away from Wendy as he could. Wendy just wiped her face off. Huh. Seems like there’s a small puddle of mud in front of the golisopod again. He’s going to do the exact same thing.

Well, time to break the cycle.

“Stand by,” you order. Then you tap your Z-bracelet and begin to perform the hula of stones. Cuicatl shifts nervously before reaching for her crystal case and pulling one out. As you dance Wendy draws every stealth rock left and many pebbles together into an ever-growing boulder in front of her. Cuicatl slams a crystal into her bracelet and rapidly goes through the steps to the hula of fists. Bad idea. Rushing it makes everything worse. You slow down and call out to tell Cuicatl to do the same. Still, there’s only so much you can drag this out.

With the final steps done, power surges through you and Wendy’s boulder grows ever bigger. It races through the air at unnatural speeds towards the golisopod as his trainer finishes the last steps of her dance. Then he surges forward, too, leaping into the air with legs extended. He brushes into the boulder before slashing wildly with all legs. The boulder shatters into powder from the boosted rock smash and the golisopod sails through, landing right in front of Wendy before nailing her with a powerful punch that sends her back into the edge of the pit. The lycanroc slumps down in defeat.

You turn to acknowledge Cuicatl’s victory only to see her sway. She catches herself but still has to slouch down to catch her breath. More dramatic than you were expecting, even if she was rushing the dance.

You withdraw Wendy and walk to the other side of the arena. Erica gets there first and says something to the girl. You arrive a few seconds later.

“You alright?” you ask.

“Yes. Just… glad I didn’t… pass out this time.”

“Has that been a problem before?”

“Yeah…” She takes a few progressively less shallow breaths before continuing. “First trial. Third trial. Fourth trial. Hasn’t… happened… on Akala. Getting better?”

“And you keep using Z-moves?” Erica sounds as exasperated as you feel. “Why?”

“My pokémon get hurt. Why shouldn’t I…” She trails off and yawns.

You consider admonishing Cuicatl further her for risking her own health on a stupid battle she could have redone later with more pokémon or better training with her golisopod but decide against it. Too public. You can talk to her later in private.

“Congratulations on clearing your second Grand Trial, Miss Ichtaca. It was a good display.”

Before you can say more her golisopod scurries to his trainer’s side and butts his head against her shoulder. She turns and embraces the bug while he awkwardly shuffles, unsure of what to do. He eventually cautiously wraps his upper legs around her.

“You did so well,” Cuicatl assures him. “I’m proud.”

The golisopod chitters something incomprehensible and the girl giggles. She slowly pushes herself away from the golisopod and turns back to you to accept her rewards.


Tapu Lele is waiting for you in the center of the Ruins when you arrive. You curtsy out of respect but she doesn’t acknowledge it. You doubt she cares about human gestures at all. She’s… strange. Even compared to her siblings.

She probably wants to talk about the trial. Even when you can’t feel her presence she’s always watching.

“She’s an odd girl, isn’t she? Coming in with two battle-worthy pokémon. Risking herself for their sakes. What do you make of it?”


The Harbor Queen? You’re pretty sure that’s the old-fashioned name for the first monarch of Unova. Does that make her related to N? Your eyes widen as you figure out part of the puzzle, however small. She was ordering the golisopod, just pretending she wasn’t. Probably why he didn’t run all the way out of bounds while falling back after his attacks. And it explains the odd stumble in the video of her fight with Hala. She was probably somehow helping the vulpix with psionic attacks.

And did Tapu Lele just make a joke?


You consider asking her if she cares about the girl’s ties to VStar. Or the retiring captain’s replacements. Or the tyrunt. She doesn’t speak up about any of them even though she knows what you’re thinking of. You take that as a dismissal.

Just before you leave the ruins she reaches out to you again.


Oh. You forgot about that. She was probably diving through your memories since your last meeting. Good thing she caught it.

“Are the rumors true, then?” you ask her.


“Will you give me cover if I try to do something?”


Unfortunate. “Can I tell people that you confirmed the rumors?”


You feel a twinge of annoyance at your goddess that you don’t really try to bite down. She already knows. Probably doesn’t even care.


At least she understands that much.


“We assign a lot of meaning to them,” you protest.


And you won’t be able to make her care. She won’t disrupt politics or allow you to disrupt politics in her name because of something she believes is trivial. The argument is over.

“I’m coming back for a challenge in three days. See you then.”

She already knows that, of course. You just like talking to her sometimes. Feels like she must get lonely, holed up in here. The Tapu doesn’t protest that. Either it’s true or she’s willing to let you believe it is.

As you leave you take stock of the business ahead of you. Cuicatl agreed to meet up in two days so you have that to look forward to. A dream that began nearly twenty years ago with you and Wendy and a pipe dream is finally coming to completion.

Should you tell her that Tapu Lele could help her friend but won’t? That you would like to but your hands are tied by a goddess who can read every thought someone has ever had but still doesn’t understand humans in the ways that count?

No. You’re guessing the girl has enough on her plate already. You’ll try to keep things light.
Last edited:
Rock 4.16


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Rock 4.16: Control Group

April 22nd, 2020

You press your hands down on Noci’s back as she descends. It doesn’t actually keep you on her, she’s doing all that for you, but it feels like you should be doing something. Your finger brushes against the slightly corroded metal from where the lileep had hit her. The Center staff had stopped the spread of the corrosion. You’ll have to fix the surface damage yourself later. Noci has told you it isn’t urgent. It should still be taken care of. There isn’t really a whole lot you can do for her since she doesn’t eat very much at all and can take care of herself. You shouldn’t put off the one thing you can do for her.

She stops moving abruptly but it doesn’t give you whiplash. She’s gotten good at countering out forces. Maybe there’s a combat use for it. Pushing away nearby opponents? You’ll think about it later. Or just ask her. She’s pretty smart after her evolution. Not the cruel supercomputer people compare metagross to. Just clever.

You slide off of her and reach up to your scarf. It was a little tricky to get the pockets into place but now you have a cool way to carry your pokémon. Lyra says it doesn’t really fit with your casual clothes, but it’s still good for formal days. Like going to meet a kahuna at her own home. No pressure.

Coco forms up beside you and you rest a hand on her back. “Stay close, okay?” She chirrups and you reach your other hand out to Noci. Her arm lowers to meet it and she starts walking you towards the door.

“Over here,” Miss Rodriguez calls out. “I’m in my garage. We can walk down the staircase here to my basement.”

Staircases. Coco can do them but not as a guide. Not like you need the help. You smile and walk towards her. Once you reach the stairs Coco bolts straight down them and waits for you to follow. You have to take them more cautiously, feeling out the steps to make sure you don’t trip and fall.

“Thank you for coming,” Kahuna Rodriguez says once you’re properly inside her basement. “Can I escort you to the couch? Or can your tyrunt do that?”

You turn to Noci to guide you. You’d need to talk to Coco in Upper Draconic in front of Kahuna Rodriguez, and not all the words have good translations. When you sit down on the couch Coco jumps right up beside you and wiggles around as she settles in. Oh. Miss Rodriguez might not want a dinosaur on her couch. They have pretty sharp claws and teeth. She doesn’t mention it, though.

“Can you really talk to dragons?” she asks. “Or is that just a way to hide that you’re psychic?”

You tense up. She knows about that? How? Government records? Did Hala know, too? Is that why he was upset?

“Tapu Lele told me. I haven’t told anyone else.” You relax a little bit. Good. The Tapu would know since she’s the one who made your Z-crystal. And Officer Takeda probably works for her.

The silence stretches on. You should answer her other question. “I can actually speak Upper and Lower Draconic, especially the hydreigon dialect. My gift just fills in some of the gaps.”

You hear her shift in her chair. “So, dragons have proper languages huh? Two of them?”

“Yes.” More, really. Lower draconic isn’t a single language so much as a lot of sort-of-related ones that change by region and species.

“And tyrunt speak it?”

“She knew some Upper Draconic, the proper language, when she hatched.”

“Huh.” She unlocks her phone with an audible click. Odd. Most people keep it on silent. “Is it mutually intelligible? Very strange that language hasn’t evolved much in sixty-five million years. Ours change in decades or centuries.”

You’ve thought about that. You’d say that she just inherited Upper Draconic from her father, but hydreigon have to learn Upper Draconic. They aren’t automatically born with it. Lower is their instinctual language. “I’ve thought about that. She speaks a variant of Upper Draconic, the formal language used for mythology, history, and politics. I think that it might have come about to speak to gods. As long as the gods were there and speaking the same as they did before then the language wouldn’t have changed much.”

You aren’t entirely sure how old the different draconic gods are. The Split God arrived a few millennia ago. Quetzlcoatl is older than the dinosaurs. Cipactli is as old as the Earth is. The Paledrake of Japan might be even older.

“The dinosaurs talked to gods,” Kahuna Rodriguez whispers. “I take it that your Class V is on the dragon languages?”

You shake your head. “Pokémon myths. As in, the myths that pokémon believe. Not myths about pokémon.”

“Huh. Shirona might be into that whenever she visits. Didn’t come this winter because of the Blackout but she usually stops by every few months.”

It’s weird to see her just casually namedrop one of the greatest trainers in the world. “Do you know her?”

She laughs. It’s a bark-type laugh. Short and loud. “Honey, we dated once.” What. How. She’s gay? Both of them? And they… “Only lasted a few weeks. She didn’t want to move here full time and Tapu Lele doesn’t like it when I leave for too long. Wasn’t going to work out in the long term so we broke it off. Still get drinks with her whenever she’s in the neighborhood.”

Your brain breaks a little trying to process that. It’s… Shirona isn’t your very favorite, but she’s on the top five list. People say that her garchomp is a sweetheart. A sweetheart that can defeat the god of victory, something so awesome that it doesn’t even make logical sense. Hearing someone talk about her personal life is very strange.

“I can get you her number if you want. She’d probably like talking to you when she gets the chance.”


You put the personal phone number of Shirona Karashina, the world’s fourth strongest trainer, into the contacts of your cell phone. You’ve calmed a rampaging tyrantrum, been healed by a goddess, and SPOKE TO RESHIRAM but none of that felt as unreal as this does.

You’re quiet for a while as you process that. Too long. You should be more social since you’re a guest and she just did something really, really great for you. “Your tyrunt has been baring her teeth at me on and off this whole time,” she finally says. “Should I be worried?”

“No, she just likes showing off her teeth.”

“Huh.” You can hear Kahuna Rodriguez shift in her chair. It makes some kind of a metallic noise. Not loud enough to be obnoxious, but it tells you the furniture has some mechanical part. “They are very good teeth.”

You can practically feel Coco preen beside you.

“This is going to sound weird, but how does she deal with being handled by strangers? Would she bite me if I pet her?” She sounds fascinated. Excited. Like a kid wanting to pet the neighbor’s growlithe.

You turn to Coco. “Can she pet you?”

The dinosaur chirrups.

“She says yes.”

Kahuna Rodriguez slowly approaches. You can feel the air move as she approaches. Hear Coco sniff something. Probably her outstretched hand. A kahuna would know how to work with pokémon. She spends a long-time petting Coco but you can’t hear and can barely feel her movements. Taking it slow.

“She likes neck rubs and scratches.”

You can feel the subtle movements of the air as she shifts her arms. Then Coco starts a low rumbling purr of contentment. You’re pretty sure tyrunt don’t naturally purr. Probably just picked that up from Pixie. Still adorable.

“Can I touch her teeth?” Miss Rodriguez asks. She sounds… reverent? Like she’s having a little religious experience over petting Coco. It’s kind of strange, but you get it: dinosaur dragon. You were having a continuous string of those moments before it all just started to feel… normal. Annoying sometimes. Like when she was teething. You still love her dearly and you don’t deserve her. Now you can just go ten minutes without realizing how miraculous it is that she’s alive here and now and with you.

“Coco, show teeth.” She’s happy to do it and it makes it easy to figure out how her teeth are doing after a battle. She’s even used to letting you run your finger along them because you can’t see them. “One finger, be gentle.”

She holds her breath the entire time before finally taking a few steps back.

“They’re magnificent,” she says. “And she’s so well behaved. The only other tyrunt I’ve met wouldn’t have allowed me to touch her at all.”

Most tyrunt are like that. You get why. They lost some of their culture when they were made by test tubes without tyrantrum parents. And, well, dragons don’t like being managed. You can learn to work with them, even to command them, but that trust doesn’t come easily without some kind of an opening. Like being seen as their mother. Or sister.

You feel the couch shift as she sits down at the other end. A lot of trust in Coco there. Then again, she did just literally stick her hand inside a mouth full of serrated teeth. If Coco wanted to she could have easily taken off the kahuna’s hand.

“When I went on the island challenge, they’d just started having some success cloning tyrunt. Not much: they still died after a week or so, but they’d proven it was possible. My dad owned a jewelry store. Kept some carbink around as part of the display. Helped me get into mineral pokémon. And I thought that maybe, just maybe, someday I could have a tyrunt of my own.

“In undergrad I got my Class V from research into lileep care. They had a few at the university and I helped figure out what temperatures, salinity, minerals, and currents they liked. It was all cutting edge at the time, but now…” She laughs. Genuinely. It’s a good, happy laugh that warms your heart a little for no real reason. “Now we know they don’t even need to be in water full time. But until we got the mineral supplements down we had no idea what we were doing. Just fumbling in the dark to care for the things we’d managed to bring back into the world.”

“Sounds fun,” you say, just to say something. Spending all day in a lab fiddling with water does not actually sound fun. There’s also a creeping dread in your heart that you know where this is going and you aren’t sure you like it.

“Sometimes.” Seems like you were right. “But there were tyrantrum then, you know? They’d managed to evolve one. There was talk that it might even be possible to breed a pair in a couple years. I wanted to get in on the ground floor of fossil care with creatures that aren’t really like modern plants or animals. They’re… close enough to sponges, I guess, but not quite. A lot smarter to start with. Maybe the first plants with a sophisticated nervous system.”

It sounds cool. It’s not that you don’t care about the Cambrian: there just weren’t dragons. Or giant predators. Well, armaldo. Armaldo are fine. (Golisopod are cooler, you’ve decided.)

“Then I went for my PhD. in paleontology. Did my research on rampardos social structures. Where they were found, what migration routes they could have taken given their legs and food availability, how large their territories probably were, all that. There was actually a lot of debate on what they used the domes for. Dominance displays like tauros and sawsbuck? I didn’t think so. A friend of mine and I did some 3D modeling of the skull and found that they would have so many concussions if they just rammed into each other all the time. With antlers and horns the forces aren’t always going straight into the skull. A rampardos’s dome? With the speeds and weights involved? CTE by the time you’re sexually mature. Assuming you didn’t just drop dead on the spot.”

You have no idea what CTE is but decide its polite to nod and let her continue. You do remember reading about all of this. It’s really cool that she was at the center of everything. Even if…

“I think they hunted. Or maybe they bashed into trees to send fruit down. I actually consulted on the first herd they got going out in some private land in the Central Valley.” Another thing you don’t know but don’t really want to ask about because… “To make a long story short, I talked them into mixing some meat into their diet every two weeks. They ate it. We still weren’t entirely sure if that meant anything since most herbivores eat meat when offered. Had to go through a whole mess of ethics approvals before we could see if they would hunt. Turns out that they will, but only if they’re already pretty hungry. We found that out on accident.”

“It must have been a lot of fun seeing whole herds.”

“Eh. I mean it was, but it sort of shredded all of my research. Did you know they were most comfortable with the biggest male having a harem and bachelors hanging out nearby? We rotated them through the pastures the main herd wasn’t in. Sometimes a female broke off to join one of the other males. There was a second herd forming when I left the project.”

She liked it, right? It sounds like she liked it. “Why did you leave?”

“Well,” you can feel a lot of the easy joy in her voice get held back by tension. “My dad’s health went downhill and he needed me to help with the business. Then Tapu Lele made me Kahuna. Even if I did go back to finish my doctorate, the field’s moved on a lot since then. I’m glad I did the work and got a few publications under my belt. There’s just nothing left for me to do there.”

Her dream died, then. She never got to work with a tyrunt. Then you got one purely by accident, because Kekoa wanted to spite his brother. It’s not fair. She has to hate you, right? For stealing her dream.

“You went quiet,” Kahuna Rodriguez says. Coco nuzzles her head against your side. You pet her neck feathers to show her its okay.

“Are you mad at me?” you ask.

“For what?” She sounds genuinely confused.

“Getting a tyrunt, when you…”

She sighs and you hear her get up. You reflexively tense and Coco softly growls. {Not a threat} you tell her. She stops but you can still feel her head move as she keeps an eye on Olivia.

The kahuna sits down in front of you and gently puts a hand on your knee. It’s warm. Not hot. Just comforting. “No. I’m not mad. I’m happy for you. It seems like you’re doing a wonderful job raising her. Better than I would have. My job as kahuna is making sure that the kids of Alola are living their best lives. If she makes you happy then I’m glad you have her.”

You aren’t sure how to feel about that. It makes you feel good, but you aren’t sure it should? She did everything and didn’t get what she wanted and you just… it isn’t fair. You don’t deserve it. You love her and you want her to stay and you’re so, so glad you met her, but you don’t deserve her.

Olivia squeezes your knee a little tighter. Not painfully. Just… it feels nice. Reassuring.

“Trust me, I loved today. I would love to talk more with you about tyrunt in the future and see Coco again. But that old chapter of my life closed a long time ago. I’m happy with what I do now.” She lowers her hand away but stays close. “Now let’s talk payment. I have an everstone if you want it. For your metang.”

“It wouldn’t matter. Metagross ‘upgrade’ metang themselves at evolution. They could just tear it out.”

You figured that out shortly after Noci immediately agreed to having an everstone implanted. She’s sneaky like that. Just not always as sneaky as she thinks.

“Then I could make a collar necklace for Coco if she’d wear it. Could keep her from evolving before you got your Class V.”

“That would be nice.” You can’t keep it on her for too long before it causes health issues, but two or three months should be fine. That’s enough time to get your thesis done even if things keep going slow. Miss Bell said that maybe you could get a few weeks off soon to get more work done. That would help.

“Excellent. I’ll have it sent to you at the Center when I’m finished. Now, did your friend ever reach an agreement with his carbink?”

“It was just a miscommunication.”


You aren’t sure if it’s your place to explain, but. Kekoa won’t. So you will. And she already knows you’re psychic. “They didn’t understand human lifespans. When they understood that Kekoa would stop traveling before you died they wanted to stay for a while.”

The kahuna snorts. “Rocks. I’ll never get tired of them.”

Should you ask her about Noci? How to understand mineral pokémon? Noci isn’t really a rock. She’s just… older than she seems. Not even geologically old, or even people old, just older than you. And she’s more computer than fossil or living bolder. And she’s watching you know. It would be awkward to talk in front of her or withdraw her and damage her trust.

You don’t ask. You still find other things to talk about. The conversation goes on for longer than it should since the kahuna’s a busy woman. You still find yourself enjoying it. You’re even a little sad when she gets a business call and the meeting finally ends.


Noci sets you down by the beach before giving you some distance. There’s a conversation you’ve been putting off too long. You reach for Leo’s net ball and send him out. Before you could hardly feel his presence. He was quiet and small. Now he’s still quiet for his size but you can still feel him there. Echolocation or some part of your gift. You know when something big and alive is nearby. And now he’s bigger than you. it’s not even close.

“You been getting used to the new body?” you ask.

“Yes. It is good. Fewer threats.”

Because that’s the first thing he would think of. His voice is still strange. Almost bubbly. Literally bubbly. As in, you can hear the mandibles click and foam as he speaks. It’s nothing like any of your mother’s pokémon ever did. Not even quite like Ce.

“I’m glad you like it.” And you are. Even if he leaves now, it feels good having helped him out. And he helped you get your second grand trial stamp, too.

“I didn’t believe you,” he says. “When you showed me the fake moving vision of a big wimpod. Said that could happen for me. I only kept fighting because it could scare away predators.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you,” you lie to him. You’ve been doing a lot better with that since Pixie. Since Earthshaker. It’s still hard to accept that your pokémon would still like you if they knew who you really are. You’ve been trying. Really. But you’re still the same person who played carrots and sticks with Pixie until someone came along who could play that game better.

“Wimpod have no talent. Not invisibility. Not mind voices. Not fire teeth. We run. That is all we can do. Now there are many things I can do. It is strange. It is good.”

“What do you want to do with that strength?” you ask. He hasn’t thanked you. He’s a bug. A deep sea bug. It was always more likely than not that he’d leave when he evolved. You knew that. Still… you felt pride hearing him face down caterpie and rattata and lycanroc. Like he’s your child and he’s grown so big. He’s going to leave and… it’s fine. You won’t stop him. Not like you tried with Pixie. He only wants to avoid being hurt. That’s his whole thing. You wouldn’t risk that.

You hear the giant bug shift in place, legs tapping against each other, the sand, and his armor as he thinks. “Your fights are not to the death.”


“You can still feed me?”

“Yes.” You smile a little. Maybe this can go okay?

“Sea fights are to the death. I will stay here.”

“Thank you.”

He doesn’t thank you back. He doesn’t like you or Coco or Pixie or Alice. He will stay near you for convenience. You will happily keep him around for his strength. That is all there is to your relationship. It’s… sad, almost, but you’re just so glad that he’s staying. Maybe you’ll become friends. Maybe you won’t. Only the gods know what the future holds.


Wind whips through your hair as Noci flies you back to the Center.

{Query: UD_Cuicatl in State:Worry over Unit010_101110110}

It takes you a second to figure that out. “No, why would I be?”

{UD_Cuicatl Messaged State:Worry that Unit010_101110110 would Change Missions.}

Oh. You were. When Pixie had just left…

You don’t want to think about that time. Noci decided the best way to help was to threaten to blow herself up. Stupid, adorable computer.

You are still worried. You don’t know what her real mission is. If she plans on evolving. What she would do after she evolved. The only thing you can do is trust a pokémon that doesn’t think anything like humans. “Yes,” you tell her. No point lying. She might figure it out or threaten to explode with you on top of her or whatever seems like a good idea to her circuits.

{UD_Cuicatl Possesses Command Privileges}

“Higher than a metagross’?”

She doesn’t respond for almost two full seconds. A lifetime’s worth of consideration for her.


“If a metagross asked you to kill me, you would do it?”

{Terminating UD_Cuicatl Violates Corollary1 = Defend UD_Cuicatl.}

“Whoever gave you that corollary, could they change it?”

A pause. Much, much shorter, but still noticeable.

{UD_Cuicatl Assigned Threat Level 101;
Class100 Units Possess Minimum Threat Level 1000000;
Class100 Unit Could Terminate UD_Cuicatl;
UD_Cuicatl Could Not Terminate Class100 Unit;
Terminating UD_Cuicatl Inefficient}

“Metagross torture their prey. That’s inefficient.”

There’s an even longer pause. Three full breaths. Why? Is she just ignoring you?

{Unit100_110010 Subordinate to UD_Lila;
UD_Lila Has Affinity Towards UD_Cuicatl;
Harming UD_Cuicatl Violates Subordination;
Harming UD_Cuicatl Prohibited}

You open your eyes in shock only to promptly close them again when a strand of hair whips into them.

“Since when did Lila have a metagross?”

{UD_Lila Subordinated Unit100_110010 100100 Planetary Rotations Ago}

Thirty-six days ago. After Noci evolved. How did you miss that in the news? It would have made the news, right? It’s not every day someone just up and captures a metagross.

“You could have led with that, you know?” You trust Officer Takeda knows what they’re doing.


No? Could she not tell you? The pause. She was probably asking her boss for permission to reveal that. Had to wait for the signal to reach… wherever Lila is right now. They said they lived near where you first met them. Could be away for work.

“Okay.” You feel a lot better now. Stress you hadn’t realized you were holding on your shoulders slips away. “Thank you. Is there anything I can do for you, though? You do a lot for me and I want to help you back.”

{Polishing Hull;
Acquisition of Object_ScrapMetal}

You smile. That’s easy enough. “I can do that.”

{Initiating Descent}

You press your palms down on her back as she lowers herself to the Pokémon Center.

Once you’ve gotten off you hear Kekoa clear his throat. He does it by coughing once then twice in a row. Kind of weird. At least it helps you know he’s there. “How did it go with Olivia?”

“She was kind. Offered me an everstone.” You grin. Even show a little tooth for once. You only regret that you won’t be able to see his face. “She also gave me Shirona’s phone number.”

“Bullshit.” You shake your head a little from side to side. Wait. Is that denying it’s bullshit or that she gave it to you? “The Shirona? Karashina? That one?”

“Yup.” You pop the ‘p’ like Genesis used to when she was feeling smug. Genesis… Fuck. That’s a whole other thing you need to deal with. Or not? Ugh. Fuck. Therapy later. Deal with it then.

“You texted her yet?”

“No.” You haven’t even thought of what to say to someone like her. It might take a few more days.

You hear Kekoa take a step back on the pavement. He’s wearing his sneakers today. The ones he wears in the city. He walks a little differently in them. Less tread? Less ankle coverage? Hard to say why. You just know he does. “Did she take Kupuna?”


“Good.” He takes a deep breath. “Uh, good luck in therapy.”

Right. The thing you’ve been trying not to think about. It feels… weak. Having to go. Saying that you can’t handle things alone. You are handling things. Alone. But Noci might blow herself up if you don’t ‘debug’ yourself. You’ll go for her. Whatever keeps her happy. Wait.

“Do metang feel happiness?” you ask Noci once Kekoa’s walked away.


Even at your lowest you know that you could feel happy again, if only for a moment. What would life be like without that? If you could get rid of sadness, too, would it be worth it? “Something like it?”

{Efficiency. Utility.}

“Huh.” You aren’t even going to pretend you understand that.

{UD_Cuicatl Must Initiate Ramming Towards Debugging Session.}

“Thanks.” She’s not letting you skip this one. Oh well. You can work out… all of that later.

You have to ask the receptionist for directions, but you do make it to the room you’re supposed to meet your therapist in. You wait outside for a few minutes until the time comes, nervously tapping your cane on the ground. Why did you agree to this? What are you getting—

The door swings open. “Cuicatl?” a woman asks. Alolan accent. Mezzo-soprano, probably. That’s not a lot of information to go off of.

You still make a point to smile and turn to her. “Hello.”

“Good to meet you. If you can come in we’ll get the session started.” She follows behind you and closes the door. Now you’re in the room but don’t know where the table or couch or whatever she’s using is. She slips her hand around your elbow and walks you over to a chair that she pulls out. It’s a little demeaning. Whatever. You sit down with no complaints. No need to get things off badly.

She claps her hands and you tense before slowly relaxing. “Let’s get started, shall we? My name’s Dr. Valerie Livens. You can call me Valerie, Dr. Livens, Dr. Valerie, whatever you want.” She led with Valerie. Will she be mad if you use Dr. Livens? “Do you have any questions for me off the bat?”

Lots. What you’re doing here. How this is supposed to help. What’s even going to go on. You can’t really tell her much about your mother since she’s dead. Even if you have memories. Should she know that? You don’t think she’s behind your problems. She’s actually the only person you love who has never hurt you ever, not even on accident.

“No,” you tell her. You’ll have time later. Best to just let her do what she wants. At least until you figure things out.

“Okay. Ordinarily I’d have sent you a whole lot of paperwork before the meeting, but I wasn’t sure how much of it you could fill out. Is it okay if we start by running through it?”


She asks a lot of questions. Your name, birthday, gender (weird she has to ask, but you suppose that Officer Takeda isn’t a woman even though they sound like one), mailing address, phone number. Basic stuff. Then she tells you that she can’t tell anyone anything you say, except for the times where she can. If kids or old people are getting hurt. You could hurt an adult or a pokémon and she wouldn’t care. Weird rules. You wonder who wrote them. You also aren’t allowed to kill yourself. Well, you can. But she would have to do something and get you sent to jail. Or discount jail. Whatever they call it. At least you know you can’t talk to her about that. Good she tells you that at the start.

Then there are questions about you. About your feelings. Depression? Yes. You think so. Especially after the blissey egg. Anxiety? You aren’t really afraid, are you? Some people tell you that you aren’t afraid enough. Some of these you barely recognize. You aren’t autistic or OCD. What even is a personality disorder? How would you know if you had one?

PTSD. No. Haven’t fought in a war. You’re pretty sure that’s just an American thing, anyway. Anahuac trains its boys better than that. Weird she even asked about that one.

You don’t want to kill yourself, you’ve never thought about killing yourself, you don’t understand why anyone would want to, you don’t understand why anyone would tell their therapist that.

You have to ask more questions about eating disorders. You don’t eat much, but you’d get fat if you did. Yes, you know you aren’t fat right now, but you can’t just let that happen to you. It would be… bad. Unhealthy. Disgusting. She tells you that you might have one but moves on.

“Tell me about your family.”

Now the classic question comes out. “My mom died when I was born. I used to live with my father back in Anahuac. My twin brother died last July.”

She goes quiet. You overshared. Great. And you’re not tearing up just from admitting all of that. Not so early in the damn session. You’re paying way too much to start crying before you even get anything out of it.

“I can imagine that’s a lot to deal with,” Dr. Livens says. Her voice has dropped half an octave. Filled with concern. Pity. You don’t want or need her pity. “How have you been holding up?”

“It is what it is.” That’s an American saying that means ‘everything is terrible and I don’t know how to fix any of it so I’m not going to try and I don’t want to talk about it.’ Roughly. You’re still learning all the little cultural things.

“It’s okay to feel upset. Or to not know how to feel. Or to feel nothing. There are lots of reactions to grief and they’re all valid.”

You do feel sad. And empty. And guilty. You aren’t sure how to even start explaining all of that to a stranger.

“We can talk about that later on if you want.”

You nod. Maybe you will want to talk about it if you can trust her. Not with your secrets, you don’t really care if those get out. With your heart. Sometimes things only really start hurting if you tell someone about them. And you’re a psychic. You’ve heard stories of empaths or telepaths destroying a life with a sentence or two.

“Is there anything else you think I should know before we begin?”

“I’m psychic.” She can’t tell anyone. It’s not something you’re embarrassed about. She should probably know.

Dr. Livens writes something down on her notepad. The pencil’s movements are almost annoyingly loud in the silent room. “I see. Do you know your score and classification?”

Miss Bell mentioned something like that. You’ve never been tested. Don’t know your score. You do know your classification, sort of. “Telepath. I translate things.”

More scribbles. “I don’t specialize in psychics,” she admits. “A lot of them use their own therapists. Unfortunately, Alola doesn’t really have one. Do you know Lila Takeda?”

“We’ve met.”

“Good. They’re the unofficial social worker for psychics in the commonwealth.”

“They said something like that.”

(You don’t know what a social worker is and your gift isn’t telling you anything useful. Maybe they just don’t have them in Anahuac. Officer Takeda had said they look after the psychics of Alola. Makes sure they stay in line. You don’t know what the difference between a social worker and a cop is if that’s what social workers do as well.)

“Right. You’re not the first psychic I’ve seen. Like I said, I don’t specialize in psychics, but I do try to stay up-to-date on the lit. And I work with a lot of kids on the island challenge. If you think your problems are more like that we can keep working together. If they’re psychic specific problems I might have to see if Lila can bend some rules around so you can see someone from the mainland.”

None of your… problems… really have to do with your gifts much at all. Except maybe the feeling of emptiness in half your mind. Some days you can go hours without thinking about it but then a thought will brush against it and you’ll suddenly remember how much you’ve lost. No. That’s. How would she understand? How would anyone understand? Even other psychics unless they’d had a twin and lost them.

“I must remind you that I’m not a psychic myself,” Dr. Livens says. “If you want me to know something you will have to tell it to me.”

Fine. It’s not like she can tell anyone else anyway. “Some stuff with my brother. We shared minds a lot.”

For a few heartbeats there’s nothing. Not the scribbling of a pen or awkward shifting in her seat. Dead silence.


You shrug. What is there to say?

When she speaks again her words are slow and careful. Like she’s talking to a child or a rampaging pokémon. “It might be good to talk to Lila about that. See if there’s any brain damage they can fix. I can at least help with some of the grief responses. And if you’re in Hau’oli on the first Thursday of a month there’s a support group for people who have lost a twins. ‘Twinless twins’ they call themselves. It might help you to hear how other people are handling it. To know that you’re not alone.”

They wouldn’t quite understand. But. Those seem… nice. You mostly trust Officer Takeda. And you need to talk to them about their metagross anyway. And even if the other people wouldn’t get it, they still come closer than anyone else you’ve met. “I would like that.”

“Have you talked to anyone about this?” she asks. “Doesn’t have to be a therapist. Lila, your father, friends, anyone?”

A few conversations with Pixie. She didn’t understand it at all. You shake your head no and you can hear Lila suck a breath in.

“To go through all of that,” she says carefully. “You must be stronger than most. But you shouldn’t have to be.”


She must see the confusion on your face. “Have you heard the expression ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?’”

“Yes.” In pop music. You’d had to ask Kekoa about that later. The song was wrong. Very wrong. What doesn’t kill you now can become infected or break a limb and kill you slowly. Every dragon and warrior knows that. Only a nation of cowards would blast something so obviously wrong on their radio.

“It’s not entirely true,” obviously, “but there’s an element of truth there. When bad things happen to us our brains adapt. Our behaviors change. They help us survive whatever happened. It makes you strong, sort of.” She takes a deep breath. “But you’re still a child. You didn’t deserve to lose your brother.” If only she knew. “You shouldn’t have had to be strong on your own. Someone should have been there to help you. And I’m sorry they weren’t.”

She’s a therapist. How does she not know the first life lesson anyone learns: “Life isn’t fair.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that what happened was unfair. It doesn’t change that it happened, but it can change your thoughts around it.”

“Then everything is still exactly the same.”

“No,” she insists. Your patience is running low with this woman’s nonsense. “When your brain and behaviors change, they become good at surviving whatever hurt them. Those changes can also make you less able to cope with day-to-day life. And when the bad situation ends you can be left off worse for it. Like a bone that heals wrong. Part of therapy is rebreaking the bone and changing how you think about the event and what lessons you should have learned. Then you can try and change how you approach things going forward to ways that help you now.”

“What if the bad situation hasn’t ended?” you ask. Alice, Renfield, Searah… you still need to find them. Whatever it takes.

“Then I can help you find your way out of it.”

Fine. Something still bothers you about what she said earlier. “And for the stuff that’s over, you’re comparing it to breaking my leg?” You aren’t sure you need more pain in your life.”

She laughs. It doesn’t sound like a happy laugh. Or that she’s laughing at you. “That’s the fun part. I can’t break your leg in that analogy. You have to.” What. “Don’t get me wrong, I can help. Tell you when to push or pull, make sure you’re putting it back together right, comfort you when it’s done. But you have to be willing to put in the effort to get good results from trauma work. If you aren’t, that’s fine, there are probably other paths we could take. I just need to know if you’re willing before we begin.”

Are you? That’s… it’s a lot to process and you don’t know. You’re not above hurting yourself. Mentally. On purpose. Why should this be different.

“You don’t need to decide today. This is just our first appointment of many. I do need you to think about what you want out of all of this.”

What you want. You did want to talk about the egg.

“Is this going to change who I am?”

The response is almost immediate. “No. Just how you approach the world. You’ll still be you. No one can change that.”

She is once again very, very wrong. You’ll get to that.

“I had a blissey egg a few weeks ago. I felt different for a few days.”

“Even those don’t really change you. They just heal problems in the body. Sometimes bodies just don’t produce enough of certain chemicals and everything gets thrown off. It’s a health problem just like having too little blood. Blissey eggs fix it. Help heal brain damage. That’s it.”

“I felt different.”

“You felt like you would if you weren’t injured.”

You raise a hand to the side of your eye without thinking. No. You know injury. Brains… they don’t work like that. Right? But she just said that losing you Achi could have given you brain damage and. Maybe it’s just healing that? No. You never remember feeling like that before.

“You would still be you.” Dr. Livens’ voice has dropped low. Low and soothing. You lean into it a little despite everything. “Your memories, your likes and dislikes, your personality, your dreams and fears. Everything important. You’d just have more energy. More life.”

You lower your hand and squeeze it against your chest. Your body sinks down into the chair until a third of your back is lying on the seat, the rest awkwardly bent up so your head is upright. It’s all. You don’t know? You don’t know. You don’t know.

“Did any of that feel different to you after you ate the egg?”

No. Maybe a dislike changed. Yourself. But you still hadn’t really… liked yourself? Just didn’t hate yourself as much. Or it didn’t feel like it was as big of a deal. Is that just normal? You don’t think most people hate themselves. But most people haven’t killed their brothers.

“Even if you don’t want something as strong as a blissey egg there are other options. I could refer you to a psychiatrist to talk more about what you want and what medications might help you get there.”

“Okay,” you mutter. You might just tell him you want nothing. At least it would end this conversation.

“Good. I’ll send you some names.”

“You’re still wrong about not being able to change people.”


You tell her about Genesis. About all the warning signs you had that her family was messed up. How she went pack. How you told her to go back. How she’d apparently been gay and her parents tried to change that about her. How they plan on doing it by force. Dr. Livens is silent the entire time save for the scratching of her pencil against her notepad.

“I am going to have to report this to Child Protective Services.”

“Good. I already told Officer Takeda and they said they would do the same thing. Maybe more complaints will matter?”

“I hope so.” She doesn’t sound at all confident in that. “Do you blame yourself for this?”

“Duh.” You told her to go back. Kekoa might have talked her out of it but you had to step in and throw her straight into the fire.

“If I may ask, why did you tell her what you did?”

“I’d just talked to Reshiram. Home isn’t always easy for me but she told me to go back. I’d thought that…”

You don’t know what you’d been thinking. How could you have done that to her?

“And is Reshiram a god to you? I’m sorry. I don’t know much about Anahuac.”

“It’s fine.” It’s hard to learn much about Anahuac in this country. Much that’s real, at least. “She is a goddess. Dragons worship her as the Flamebringer. She’s not really a goddess you pray to. Still very important to worship her when she does show up.”

“And you didn’t even know she was a lesbian at the time?”

“No. I should have, though. I—there were signs, now that I think about it.”

“I see. Do you want my opinion on this, as a professional?”

You suspect she’ll give it whatever you say. “Go ahead.”

“I think that you were in a very stressful situation with The Blackout, believed you were passing on divine knowledge, and had no reason to think things would get this bad.”

“Sure, but—but I still told her to go.”

“I see.” She jots something down in her notebook. “Do you think you deserve punishment for that?”

“Yes.” Clearly.

“Do you believe the universe has punished you enough for it?”

“No.” You haven’t even been hurt at all for it.

“Are you going to do anything, mentally, physically, or socially, to punish yourself for it?”

You’ve already skipped a few meals because of it. “Yes,” you slowly admit. “Not lethally.” Because you don’t want to be arrested. And because you don’t think it deserves death. Does it? They’re going to kill her in the ways that matter. Murderers are executed in turn.


“Because I deserve it.”

“Cuicatl.” You flinch a little from the tone. Exasperated. The first time she’s said your name. “You told me earlier in the session that life isn’t fair. Why do you think its okay to accept the bad things in life that you don’t deserve but then also punish yourself when you think you deserve it? Shouldn’t the unfair universe balance itself out?”

When you disobey, you must be disciplined. When you fail, you must be disciplined. That’s how the world works. If no one else will punish you then you will do it yourself. “Because people will just keep doing bad things if they aren’t corrected.”

You hear her tap the pencil against the edge of the table. Probably a thinking tic. Has she just not had to think for the rest of this?

“I’ve already admitted I don’t know much about Anahuac. I won’t get into your last statement now. I think you might want to think it over on your own. For now I’ll just ask this: if a similar situation happened now would you do the same thing?”


“Even if no one punished you for your past choice, including yourself?” You see the game she’s playing. You won’t let her win. You squeeze your arms tighter against your chest and lower your chin. She just keeps going anyway. “Punishment can change behaviors, yes, but I don’t think yours need to be changed here. You’ve already learned a lesson and will act differently in the future.”

“I still deserve it.” The confession comes out as little more than a whisper. Even if you don’t need it you still deserve to hurt for all the hurt you’ve given to others. For Achcauhtli. For Alice. For your mother.

“Do you struggle with guilt?”

“Yes.” It’s a blunt answer. No need to lie. You’ve done bad things and you feel guilty about them.

“Can you tell me some other things you feel guilty about?”

You start with Pixie. She found a mother and you couldn’t let things go. Had to hurt her one last time before the end. Genesis, obviously, but you’ve already told her about that. Outing Kekoa. Your mother’s death. Killing your brother.

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

“I killed my brother.”

She shifts uncomfortably in her seat. Is she going to arrest you? Was everything before a lie.


“I didn’t mean to. I—” He had a migraine. He wouldn’t share it. You didn’t press him. Then you just left. Right when he needed you the most. It took days to find out he’d even died. You were lucky you didn’t miss the funeral entirely.

“I see.” She drums her pencil on the table a few more times. “A lot of that doesn’t feel like things you did so much as things you failed to prevent. You had no reason to know that Hala was going to do that. You literally weren’t old enough to do anything when your mother died. You didn’t know about Genesis’s family. And having a headache is a perfectly normal thing. It would be a little strange to halt your entire life every time a family member had one.”

“I still—” You break down into tears before you can continue. Somewhere in the sobbing mess you try to tell her that it’s still your fault. That bad things keep happening around you and that at some point you must be the common factor. That even if you didn’t know you should have. Dr. Livens passes over a box of tissues and gives you your space to cry.

Once the tears start to dry out she starts talking again, her voice soft and even. “Sometimes when bad things happen in life and we don’t know who to blame we blame ourselves. That way there’s someone to blame and something to do about it. The idea that we live in an unfair world where things happen for no reason with no one at fault, it’s a hard one to accept. People desperately want control. If you feel like you could have and should have stopped something, it lets you believe you had some control over it. That things don’t just happen to you. That if you act correctly in the future they won’t happen again.”

No. No. No. No. It’s not like that.

“If the shoe were on the other foot, if you had a headache you thought was just a headache and told him to go out of town to do something important, would you blame him for whatever happened?”

It’s not even a hypothetical. He had done that before for sports. For school. On your father’s business trips. He’d gone and you’d thought nothing of it. But you hadn’t died. If you had died—

If you had died then he would have deserved to keep living his life. Because he deserved it. And you—

“No,” you choke out. “I wouldn’t.”

But it’s different. Father wasn’t wrong when he told you that your life was never supposed to have any meaning beyond what you could do for your brother. And with all of that gone. No. He could have gone on. You weren’t supposed to.

But you did.

Because life has never been fair.

“One of the hardest things about sudden deaths is the lack of closure. Not being able to have one last conversation to know what the other side feels about you. To express how you feel about them. The survivors are just left with questions that will never be answered in this life. I never met your brother. I don’t know how he would have answered.”

It his you with terrible certainty, like a heavy weight settling into your gut. He was always nicer to you than you deserved. He wouldn’t want… this. Does it matter? He was wrong in life. Maybe he was wrong in death.

“Do you want to talk about this more?”

You shake your head. No. You don’t. Don’t know if she could help. If you want to be helped.

“That’s perfectly fine. Is it alright if I spend the rest of the session helping you calm down? It would be unfair to stir up your emotions like this and let you go.”

You nod, not trusting yourself to say anything aloud.

“Would you like to send out a pokémon?”

You reach down to your belt and send out Coco and Leo. Noci is still off doing gods-know-what. Coco walks over to you, sniffs, and immediately starts to growl.

{She’s not a threat,} you tell her. {Helping me. I’m just hurt.}

Coco’s tail brushes against your legs and you can hear plop down in front of you. She curls up on herself and rests her tail over your sandals. Leo shuffles awkwardly before stepping forward and leaning in. He curls around your body, arms gripping your torso at all angles, and freezes in place.

{What are you doing?}

{Protecting you.}

Like how you let him hide under your shirt. He’s lending you his armor. That’s. Really sweet? Maybe he can show more love than you’d thought.

“Is there anything you can’t or won’t eat? The Center is serving lunch. I can bring you some.”

“…” You try to speak and nothing comes. Screw it. {I can eat anything.} Whether you will or not? Who knows?

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

She leaves and you’re left alone with your pokémon. You love Leo and what he’s doing but he’s not the best cuddler. Too much force, too many weird angles, sharp claws, and hard edges. If Coco could fit on the chair you’d invite her up to cuddle but it wouldn’t really be big enough for both of you. Instead you flex your leg and press it into Coco. She leans into it and huffs. At least she’s here. That’s…

The door opens up. No one walks in. You can’t hear the steps. Instead you tense up when something solid and warm presses against your chest. Oh. How did she know how to find you here? You still reach out and wrap your arms around the metang. {Thank you for coming.}


You’d think a metal machine wouldn’t give good hugs. You’d be wrong. Her body is smooth and warm. Even if there’s no give she can be surprisingly comforting. You sob and snot falls onto her sleek metal hull.


{No Damage Reported}

The door opens once more and someone walks in. Her shoes and stride sound like Dr. Livens’.

“I see your metang found you.”

{She’s a good pokémon.}

“So it seems. I brought you a fish sandwich, not entirely sure which fish, an aspear berry, green beans, a cookie, and some water.” She walks over and sets them down on the table near you. Not in front of you. Noci’s in the way.

{I’m sorry. Can you move a little.}

She pulls back and shifts to floating behind you, an arm still draped down onto your shoulder. When you move your arms up to eat Leo releases you and stands silently by your side. Coco doesn’t even stir to beg.

You prod at the beans. They’re very American. Boiled, salted, not much else in the way of seasoning. You think they’re okay. You eat them first. Then the berry. Then the sandwich. You wouldn’t say the sandwich is bad. It doesn’t really taste like anything. Just a vaguely warm patty of flesh. Are they sure this is even fish? That usually has a taste to it. Americans and their lab meat. Then you pick up the cookie. No. Too big. Too much fat and sugar. You set it back down.

“If you insist on punishing yourself you should also give yourself rewards. You made a breakthrough today. I think that’s worth celebrating. Or mourning. However you want to approach it.”

Did you really? Everything’s… all feeling. No thought. Heavy feeling. Lighter than it was, but still heavy. No. Exactly as heavy. But there’s something pushing up, too, somewhere in your chest. Lightness. Weight. Both at once. You pick up the cookie. Its fine. Lots of frosting to make up for the cookie’s kind of nothing flavor. Once it’s gone you take a few big gulps of water.

Do you feel better? You aren’t sure.

You aren’t sure about much of anything right now.

“Thank you,” you finally whisper. Your voice is hoarse and strained. It sounds like you’ve been crying. You have been crying. You aren’t supposed to do that around other people but. She can’t tell. That makes it… you don’t know.

“That got a little more intense than I was planning on in a first session,” Dr. Livens admits. “I just saw an opening and took it. If you don’t think my style is going to work for you I can try and help you find another therapist.”

“It’s fine.” You realize you’re being honest. Even if everything is stirred up you don’t feel worse for it. Worn down. No new wounds you didn’t have before. And maybe, just maybe, you can work something out from the feelings.

“Okay. I ordinarily see clients once every two weeks. Do you have any idea when you’ll be in a city week after next?”

“No. Haven’t gotten my VStar assignment.”

“That’s fine. When you get it let me know. We can try and work out when we can meet up. Most sessions will probably be remote, but if you’re in one of the bigger cities I might be able to meet in person. Just depends on where my other clients are.” She clears her throat. “I know this session was particularly hard. If you want to meet next week I can probably arrange that as well.”

“I’ll be in Hau’oli.” VStar usually gives a week between missions. No reason you’d leave the city during that time. Except maybe to visit Pixie. If she wants you to.

“Great. Maybe I’ll be able to see you in my office.” She taps on some computer keys. When did she pull a laptop out. Was that always here? Why was she writing notes on paper? “Thursday at 1:00?”

“Sounds fine,” you say listlessly. Like it’s the most boring thing you’ve ever heard.

“See you then. And it was nice meeting you. Proud of you, too.”

You aren’t sure what she’s proud of. You never told her the things she wanted to hear. You manage to grunt out something. No idea what you were even trying to say there.

“If you need help putting things back together feel free to call me. If I don’t answer and it’s an emergency, call 911.”

Why would you call her first if your life was in danger? She’d just send you straight to the cops herself.

You get the feeling you’re unwanted. She probably has other clients to talk to. You slowly stand up, Noci already lowering herself down so you can rest your hand on her arm. Coco stirs and stands, pressing some of her weight into your leg. Leo remains still.

{Do you want to go back into your ball?}

He considers it for a very long time.

“Do you need protection?”

A ghost of a smile forms on your lips in spite of everything. {No.}

{Ball, please.}

You let him rest in nothingness. He deserves it. And you’ll give your pokémon everything they deserve and more.
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Rock 4.17


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
It’s been a long road here. To briefly summarize the events of previous chapters because some were really heavy: Genesis went home during The Blackout when her parents accepted her back. While there it was revealed that she was kicked out because she was kissed by her (female) childhood friend, Lyra. After she realizes that she is a lesbian her parents put her through conversion therapy while locked in her room. Along the way her parents realize that Cuicatl was a psychic and hire one of their own to see if their daughter had been tampered with. She had not been. The psychic admitted that psychic conversion therapy was possible but had terrible outcomes and was highly illegal. He gave Genesis a mental warning that if her parents tried it anyway she could call out to Lila Takeda in her mind and she would be rescued.

After months more of conversion therapy, Genesis was left confused and exhausted but still committed to being a better person. By a certain definition of ‘better.’ Part of this involved yelling at images of Lyra and Cuicatl, her past crushes. After one of her conversion therapist’s lessons literally blew up in her face she was fired. Genesis’s father decided to finally hire another psychic from Russia to perform the realignment surgery.

In the meantime, Genesis’s brother reached out to Kekoa, Cuicatl, and Lyra to see if they could help. While they did manage to get investigations launched by the international police and child protective services, they haven’t been able to come up with a better plan to help.

Content Warnings for this chapter: internalized homophobia, spiritual abuse, child abuse, transphobia, racism, ableism, general queer nightmare fuel. Now, on with the show.

Rock 4.17: Thy Will Be Done


They’re talking about you in the other room.

“I assure you, this is merely a formality.”

Someone told Child Protective Services about you.

“I understand. You’re simply doing your job. Not your fault people are so quick to file false complaints these days.”

And they don’t think it matters. At least you know it isn’t legally abuse.

“I will need to speak with the girl now.”

“Naturally. Do you mind if I tag along? She can get nervous when talking to strangers without someone she trusts in the room.”

“Fine by me.”

The door opens. Father and Red walk in alongside a brunette woman in a pantsuit.

Miss Rivers had a lot to say about pantsuits and the women who wear them. ‘Elitist whores,’ she’d called them. ‘Women who reject their duty to Life.’

You do your best to push that down. Father had spent a long time talking to you this morning about the importance of not messing this up. They could take you away. Put you in a heathen home. Damn your soul forever when salvation is at hand.

“Hello, Genesis. My name is Debra Smith. I work for Child Protective Services.” She pauses. “Do you know what we do?”

You nod. Stern without being nervous. Just like Father had practiced with you. “Yes.”

“Good.” She sits down in an armchair. Father sits on the couch with Red resting beside him. The pyroar reaches out to stretch and you’re reminded how very big her claws are. A yawn then shows you her mouth full of sharp teeth. “Now, we’ve received some reports that there may be abuse going on here. Are these reports accurate?”

‘There’s a difference between abuse and spiritual medicine,’ Miss Rivers explained. ‘Abusive parents hold no love for their children. They act to satisfy their own selfish, hateful desires. Parents who administer spiritual medicine do not do so out of hate, but out of love. The Decalibres themselves prescribe parents to punish misbehaving children so they may grow up to be righteous. What is truly abusive is letting your beloved child suffer for eternity.’

What happened was spiritual medicine, not abuse. Cuicatl’s father abused her. When he starved her or stabbed her with cactus spikes, that was designed to hurt her. Or maybe it was some blood ritual to his pagan gods. When your parents enforced fasting or had the starmie follow you it was in your own best interests. You would have done the same if only you weren’t corrupted.

“No,” you tell her. “I wasn’t abused.”

“Wonderful to hear.” With that she stands up and turns to the door. After exchanging a few more pleasantries with your father she leaves.

He walks over to you and rests a hand on your shoulder. “Thank you for handling that with maturity. Just two more days and all of our troubles will be over.”


Today is the day. You don’t know when the therapist is coming, but he will come before the day’s end. And then it will all be over, one way or another.

You know you should take your spiritual medicine without complaint. You’re corrupted by The Wicked One, you know this.

Yet your resolve wavers at the end.

You pace the room like a caged animal. Your hands are folded behind your back. You like to have something in your hands to toy with or toss, but it isn’t proper. You must be proper to be saved.

You want to swear but that’s both sinful and extremely unladylike. Instead. the stress keeps building inside. Your mind wanders back to Dr. Brinner, the one who put the idea into your parents’ heads.

What had he said about it? Migraines? Mental health changes? It doesn’t sound the absolute worst. Unless those are really, really bad mental health changes. He’d also almost sounded afraid of the people who practiced. But if they’re doing Xerneas’s work they can’t be bad people, right?

‘If you need help, call out for Lila Takeda.’

The thought hangs like a noose around your neck. You could end this now. Damn yourself to temptation and your own will. Maybe you’ll avoid the Cocoon. Maybe you won’t.

There’s a tiny little bit of horror in you that you can’t quite stamp out. That the person who wakes up won’t be the same as the one who went in. You blame it on Lyra’s anti-psychic rants. She said they could change you. She never considered that you would want to be changed. And Cuicatl showed that not all psychics are bad.

Cuicatl. If you could scream out for Miss Takeda and get an answer, would Cuicatl answer if you called? You don’t even know where she is in Alola. The news said she was in Melemele during The Blackout, but weeks have passed since then.

Look at you. Hoping a human sacrificing lesbian will save you from your own parents.

Human sacrifice.

You open up your copy of the Decalibres. It’s easy to find since it’s almost the only book left on your shelf.

You flip through the first book: Genesis. Your namesake. There it is. The story of a prophet commanded to sacrifice his child. He built the altar and drew the knife, but just before he stabbed him he was stopped by Xerneas. It was just a test of loyalty. To see if he would really give anything, as a true disciple should. And then he was rewarded for one hundred generations.

Is this like that? Just a test? If your father will do anything to save his daughter and follow Xerneas’s commands, he doesn’t need to go through with it. Xerneas will intervene and fix you and then everything will be fine.

Everything will be fine.

But what if it isn’t? What if mental health effects means, like, you’re stuck with the mind of a child forever? Or that you spend every minute wanting to kill yourself? Or that you can’t remember your own name? What if something goes wrong and you aren’t even straight at the end?

No. You… you want this. You should want this. No more temptation. You could finally, um, create life. Like you’re supposed to. The gross images Miss Rivers showed you of male bits flash to mind and you do your best to push them back out. Yuck. That’s. People are supposed to like that? Why? At least girls are pretty. Are expected to be pretty. And graceful. And well behaved. Boys are boys. Why would…

…well, you’ll find out.

You flop backwards onto your bed with a dramatic huff. You should want this but you don’t. But you can’t really trust yourself to know what’s right because Yveltal has corrupted you twice, once when you were born a woman and again when she made you a lesbian.

There’s another passage in the Decalibres that comes to mind, but you’re too tired to get up and get the book for the exact words. There’s a man with the gift of prophecy who realizes that the only way to save his people is to sacrifice his own life. He spends the whole night bargaining and pleading with Xerneas, begging for anything else, but is met only with silence and the slow realization that He won’t save him. That He gave him a choice. That it would be impossible to judge mortals if there weren’t hard choices. The only way to true salvation was to accept his fate. And he did, he walked straight into a den of pyroar without looking back.

“Thy will be done,” he said. And then he said no more.

You’re supposed to be willing to be a martyr. That’s what the Decalibres says over and over and over again. If Xerneas wants you to die then you die. If Xerneas wants you to suffer then you suffer. Everything has a higher purpose in the fight against The Wicked One, even if you can’t see it.

“Thy will be done,” you whisper. There’s a terrible weight of finality to it. But it takes a burden off your heart. Like it or not, your choice is made.

Lyra, Levi: I hope someday you come to understand.


There’s more noise in the house. Unfamiliar voices. People moving around.

It’s time.

As you slowly lift yourself off the bed Oliver reluctantly crawls off of you. He looks up at you with big pouting eyes when you stand. You rub a hand against his forehead like he likes. He still looks stressed. Maybe he’s picked up on yours.

“It’ll be alright.”

The psyduck does not look at all convinced.

“It’s just—a little surgery. That’s all. And then it will be done.”

You sigh and turn away from his pouting face. What are you doing? He probably doesn’t even understand you. Cloudy floats over. You extend a hand to shake one of his nubs, like Levi did in Malie a lifetime ago. He hesitantly accepts.

“Will you take good care of everyone if things go wrong?”

He bobbles up and down. You don’t know if he knows what he’s agreeing to. Besides, Ferny is the better team mom. Dad. Whatever, he’s a leafeon. It’s not as important as it is with people.

Why are you being so dramatic? It’s just a change to how you see some people. You’ll be the exact same afterwards, just purer.

Someone knocks on the door twice before immediately opening it. Father. And Red. The pyroar tilts her head and lazily regards you. Probably wants scratches. Now doesn’t seem like the time.

“Are you ready?”

You freeze up. You want to say yes. Need to say yes. It’s what Xerneas wants and even if this tears your mind apart that’s still better than eternity away from the light of Xerneas.

You want to be good. You want to do what’s right. You want to be better than Allana and Lyra and Cuicatl. You want to save them, but you have to save yourself first. And yet. At the very moment of truth you go still.

“I can carry you if you want,” Father offers. “Like I used to when you were little.”

You nod a fraction of an inch and he reaches down to pick you up. He audibly grunts but manages to lift you into his arms and start walking.

“Little bigger than the last time we did this.”

You nod feebly, even if he can’t see it. Why can’t you say more? You should say more.

Father begins to gently run circles on your back. It all feels nice. Familiar. Peaceful. Your body slowly relaxes inch by inch.

You knew Father still worked out, but this is a lot for him. Have you just lost that much weight? You haven’t had access to a scale since December.

He finally sets you down on your feet in front of the conference room. The one where you met Miss Rivers and Dr. Brinner months ago. It’s better lit now. Less menacing. And yet you’re still far more nervous than you were for the other meetings.

It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. This is the path you’ve chosen. This is the path you have to take.

He kisses you on the forehead and you lean in to the touch. “Just remember, tomorrow everything goes back to normal. You just have to get through today.”

Normal. You miss normal. Walking outside and feeling the wind in your hair. Picking your own food. Playing with your full team whenever you want. Seeing people more than once or twice a day.

Being able to be around your brother.

Just one more day, and then you can have it all. It’s enough to get you to open the door and walk into the room without being pushed or carried.

Mother is inside talking to an unfamiliar man with a Russian accent. His hair is graying and he has thick, bushy eyebrows. When he turns and smiles you can see that his teeth are crooked and almost bulging out of his mouth.

“Genesis, yes? Good to meet you. My name is Gregori. I will help you today.”

Something sets you on edge. Probably just Dr. Brinner’s warning. That this man has no conscience. But he’s doing Xerneas’s work. Better for him to be on your side than The Enemy’s. And he seems friendly enough, just…

Something doesn’t feel right. No. That’s fear talking. You’ve gone too far, come too close to everything being good again, to back out now. You do your best to push it out of your mind as you sit down next to Father.

Gregori turns towards your parents. “I am changing sexual orientation. Anything specific you want while I’m doing it? Can make crushes, fixations, dislikes. Is there a man we are customizing her to?”

Your parents share a glance. “Just the orientation,” Father says. “As long as the rest is, uh, normal, I don’t care. And no crushes for now.”

Gregori nods. “Can do. Will keep things common, normal.” He looks towards you with an appraising eye, seeming to look over every square inch of your body. You do your best to retain eye contact and not to squirm. No need to be rude. Maybe… maybe you’ll even like this sort of thing tomorrow.

“Anything else to change while I’m here?”

“She might be autistic,” Mother says. “We’ve never had her tested because it would be embarrassing if it got out. People would start asking which side it came from. Could you fix that? It would make her fit in better.”

What. You’ve never heard that. Yes, you’ve always been different, but. Having a label feels weird. And you don’t even really have time to think about it before it will be gone.

“Difficult. I could do it, but not now. I will have to come back.”

“Good. And if that works, our son—“

“No,” Father sternly interrupts.


“No. If something went wrong and he was unable to run the business it would be the end of my bloodline’s dominance. I won’t risk it.”

Mother reluctantly nods. “Fine. Could you do something about our other daughter at least? She’s violent and deceitful. Can’t trust her around our other children.”

“Personality is hard. I could put triggers instead, make it impossible for her to harm or lie.”

“That would be great.”

“Good. Can schedule when this is done.”

“I’ll think it over,” Father interjects. “I’m not sold on doing this unless absolutely necessary.”

Gregori shrugs. “If you want. But there are no risks if they do not fight. If they fight? No guarantee.” He turns back to you for the first time in a while. “Do not fight, no problems. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” Don’t fight. Can you really trust yourself? Deep breaths. You can do this. Tomorrow you can run and eat ice cream and cuddle Ferny and Bubbles for as long as you want. Just have to make it through today.

“Wait, can we maybe go back to preferences?” Mother asks. What? You thought you were done with that. “Neither of her main crushes have been the kind of girls I would want my son to marry.”

“How so?”

“Well, one is literally a deformed Aztec. The other is, well, fine enough, but she’s also a recent immigrant. Could you, I don’t know, do something about that?”

“Make her intolerant of other races? Yes, I could.”

Holy crap they’re really. Um. Do you get a say in this? Because this goes beyond fixing you.

“No, not quite like that. I don’t want a racist as a daughter. Just maybe make her not want to be intimate with, um, people who aren’t.” She throws her hands up in frustration. “You get it, right?”

“No.” Father says. “Imagine if people learned of that request. Best to leave it be.”

“I know, but—“

“They wouldn’t even be bad mates for a son. The Aztec’s blindness is unfortunate, but her elemental bloodline would be useful. Imagine being able to hear the other side’s thoughts in negotiations! My sister may have had the right idea on that.”

Right. Your cousin can do stuff with the wind because of your uncle. Not very much. She insists she doesn’t use it to cheat at golf. Almost clubbed you over the head when you asked.

“And Miss Miura has valuable family connections. I wouldn’t want my firstborn to marry her, but a second born? That would be useful.”

And they’re both really smart? And kind, if mischievous. Well, Lyra’s more cynical than mischievous. (Cuicatl has her terrifying moments, too.)

“Criminal connections,” Mother huffs.

“Useful nonetheless. My point stands, her choice in partners isn’t worth correcting. Just take her current interests and make them more masculine.”

What would that even be like? You’ve tried not thinking too hard about what you like in girls. Hair? Scent? Clothes? Height? Would you like boys who are even taller than you, then? And what’s there even to like about boy hair?

“Is that settled, then?”

“Yes,” Father says.

“Good, now.” He reaches to his belt and two pokémon materialize.

A strange brown pokémon with a mushroom head and glowing green eyes floats up to you. A kadabra stretches out beside it.

There’s no help coming. No miracle at the last minute. Just you. Just you and a choice that isn’t a choice at all, because on one side is eternal torment and on the other is… you don’t know. Torment for now, maybe. Hearing them talk about all the other things they could change made you think. At what point are you a different person? You’d still have the same soul, right? And he said personalities were hard to change.

Is this a choice between eternal torture and not existing anymore? How did you get here?

Lila. Takeda. Two words and you get to live on Earth and suffer in eternity. Or you can step into the unknown. You take a deep breath. Maybe you’re just being overly dramatic. Father always does his research. If this wasn’t actually safe Gregori wouldn’t be here. And none of the changes are that big. Then tomorrow you can go outside and live with the best of both worlds.

You slowly raise up your head and gaze into the strange pokémon’s green eyes. Will this be like with the hypno where you just wake up in a different place like no time passed? No. As the eyes grow deeper and deeper you get sucked into a world of memories.


The door is unlocked. You don’t know if you should be surprised since you’ve never even tried to open it before. On the roof you’re hit with the smell of salty air and the sounds of wingull down on the beach. The ocean stretches out almost to the horizon, only broken by the faint silhouette of Lanakila in the distance.

It’s a good view. Maybe you should’ve come here before. Lyra seems to think the same, leaning on the railing and letting the wind run through her hair without a care in the world. She’s wearing the same outfit she wore to the dance. It’ll make it easier to remember how she looks forever, even if she never comes back.

You walk over to the railing and stand by her in silence. You should say something. Time is running out fast and while she can text you on the trail she’ll have bigger things to worry about and new friends you’ll never meet. Someday she might forget to stop texting altogether.

“I guess you’re never going to make a move, are you?” Lyra finally asks.

“What?” What is she talking about? Move on wha—

Her lips meet yours and your mind stops working. Then it starts up again going way too fast. You’ve never been kissed before and it feels good but it shouldn’t feel good but it’s Lyra and she’s pretty and you like it and you’re going to burn with Yveltal and no you aren’t you hate this hate this hate this but you still don’t pull away. Why don’t you pull away?

The door swings open. “Girls,” Stefan says. “You really shouldn’t… be… on… the…”

No. That will hardly do.


Temptation. The process is fragile. I could not do it a second time. Anything that could tempt you back must go.

I didn’t like—

You cannot lie to me in your own mind.

The door is unlocked. You don’t know if you should be surprised since you’ve never even tried to open it before. On the roof you’re hit with the smell of salty air and the sounds of wingull down on the beach. The ocean stretches out almost to the horizon, only broken by the faint silhouette of Lanakila in the distance.

It’s a good view. Maybe you should’ve come here before.

The door swings open. “Genesis,” Stefan says. “You really shouldn’t… be… on… the…”

You freeze up in shame. No. this isn’t—why are you ashamed? You didn’t do anything. Nothing happened. Yet there’s a burning throughout your body of shame and something else. Something stronger.

Practically writes itself.

You freeze up in shame. It’s not what it looks like! You just needed privacy and. Um. You’re not sure why you thought you could do that on the roof? You have your room and, I mean, you can probably do it in your room. You don’t actually know how it works. But you did it here and um.

Why did

Where are

Stop fighting me.

Fighting? Who are—

Who am—

Let’s just move on.


“You’re going to homecoming, right?”

Lyra leans onto the locker next to you and looks at you expectantly.

“Wasn’t planning on it. Dances are…” full of bright lights and loud music and crowds of bodies and the smell of sweat and other terrible stuff. Helping out with prom as part of student council terrified you into swearing off dances, and student council, forever. “Not my thing. But are you going?”

“I don’t have a date, no.” Her smile turns almost predatory. Was that the wrong question? Should you apologize. “But there’s nothing stopping us from going. As friends.”


“Janet,” the blonde from the lunch table (right?), “just found out that she’ll be on the mainland that weekend, so she gave her ticket to me.”


“Please. For me?”

She looks terribly anxious and she just got happy and her hair looks very cute today and you just can’t find it in yourself to say no.

You don’t know many boys. Hard to fill in gaps.

Where—oh, Gregori. Um. Is that a problem?

No. Solves two problems.

“You’re going to homecoming, right?”

Kekoa leans onto the locker next to you and looks at you expectantly.

“Wasn’t planning on it. Dances are…” full of bright lights and loud music and crowds of bodies and the smell of sweat and other terrible stuff. Helping out with prom as part of student council terrified you into swearing off dances, and student council, forever. “Not my thing. But are you going?”

“I don’t have a date, no.” His smile turns almost predatory. Was that the wrong question? Should you apologize. “But I’d like to fix that.”

He looks so confident and he smells like. Something good.


Why are you

Why is he even here? This is a girl’s school?

Stop. Fighting. You might tear something.

Wait. No. I’m not trying. I—

Don’t think about the flaws. It could undo the whole thing.

“I guess you’re never going to make a move, are you?” Kekoa finally asks.

He leans in and presses your lips against yours. For a moment it feels like the whole world stops. Then you lean in. It’s kind of cute that he’s shorter—you wish he was taller. Or manlier. When your chests press together you feel it, you feel the truth. The world stops again, this time in horror.

You press him—her—back as forcefully as you can and she almost falls over the edge of the roof. “Ew! I’m not a lesbian!” you shout.

But when you look to the side you see Stefan standing in the open door and know that the damage is done.


I’m not a lesbian.



That’s why—

That’s why you’re here.


A wave of disgust courses through you as your eyes flick between Kekoa—between whatever her name is—and Stefan. Horror builds in your gut and crawls under your skin at just the idea that you could be like that. A degenerate, filthy queer.

I don’t hate gay people, I just want to save them.

Stop. Fighting. Any damage at this point is on you.

No. You can’t let that happen.

You sit back and watch as memories come and then go with a deeply growing sense of loss. A scene of you and Lyra—an acquaintance from school in your bedroom. She’s mad about her brother fighting—her brother got into a fight in school. You talk it out and then complain about another girl’s fashion sense.

Acquaintances come and go and you have a feeling that there was something, someone important in these memories. You just can’t remember. Who they were. Why they had to go.

Then it’s working.

“Xerneas loves us as he made us and He wants us to be happy. He wants to gift us an overflowing pot of blessings. He wants us to be prosperous. He wants us to be happy. But we have forgotten His commands. We do not live as He made us to live.”

Your attention is taken away from the sermon by Lyra stretching out and awkwardly leaning against you. Is she using a new shampoo? Her hair smells like tea leaves today. “If He wants us to be happy, why doesn’t He give his gifts to everyone?” she whispers, barely audible even to you. “Why does He make some people suffer?”

No. There’s. There’s no one there. Just you and your parents and Levi. It’s Levi leaning on your shoulder and you wrap a protective arm around your little brother as the service goes on.

Xerneas made us. Xerneas wants us to be happy. He wants us to live as he made us.

As long as we do not stray.

Don’t… stray? Oh. You were.

You’re—a degenerate filthy queer.

Those words. They’re from somewhere.

The rooftop. Right.

Why do they feel wrong?

People aren’t filthy. They just need saved—

Again with the fighting. There will be problems now. Stop before they grow worse.

That shuts you up. The memories keep flying by, emptier and emptier. Sitting in the back of class with no friends. A boy (Thomas?) in fourth grade marrying you on the playground. Running around another playground alone. All so much worse from the feeling that something was here, something you liked or loved but it’s just—

A searing pain brings all thoughts to a stop. For a long while you linger in the thoughtless pain until slowly surfacing.

I told you that would happen. Stay still and go along.

Your memories shift to more recent ones. The island challenge with Cuicatl and Kekoa.


You kissed him, right? And then… then why would you travel with—

This time it feels like lightning striking your brain, spreading out little scars everywhere from the center.

One second. I can fix this.

Your memories shift to more recent ones. The island challenge with Cuicatl and Allana.


There’s something fam—



About her.

You can feel more emptiness. Something else stripped away. No. You shouldn’t think about that. Just… breathe.

Just breathe.

As much as you can while trapped in your own mind.

You’re lying down in a tent next to Cuicatl—next to a girl—next to Cuicatl—






No. No. No. No. No. No.

This is—

You wake up alone. You traveled alone. You went to school alone. You played alone.

You’ve always been alone.


Only here.

You know before, before there was

Something begins to shift at your core. Not just in your memories. Every fiber of your being screams out in pain and your will falters.

Just at your lowest you have a hazy memory of a field of long yellow grasses with a disembodied voice drifting through it.

“No. The brionne becomes a girl when it evolves. Organs change and everything.”

Xerneas loves us.

There was a zoo with a psychic working there. Had him ask some delibird what their sex was because they’d need surgery to tell. Found out that the delibird themselves didn’t know. Just kind of guessed.”

Xerneas made us.

“You think Xerneas created everything right?”

Xerneas wants us to live how we were made.

“Then if Xerneas made everything—”

If Xerneas made delibird. If Xerneas made you. If Xerneas wants you to be happy.

If Xerneas doesn’t want you to be alone.

It might not be principle. It might just be pain. But for one small moment you come to the awful realization that you’ve made a mistake.

If you need help, call out to Lila Takeda.




Absolutely not.


Why did you. Why were you. What was the name? Why was it safe?

You cannot back out now.

No. The name is…

There’s another pressure on your soul and you scream again. Somewhere in it the words take on one half-forgotten shape after another.

And then.

No, who are—

The pain and loneliness and pressure keep building and building. When next you peak out thunder rolls. You’re lying down in a clearing with dry, yellow grass. You look up to see a dark-skinned girl with green hair sitting beside you. “Sleep well?”


This was where you caught the elekid, right?


Then why.


You… you recognize her. From. The tent? And this field. And the board Miss Rivers had you yell at about your whores and. Suddenly you fully remember why you’re here and mostly remember who you’re dealing with.

“Cuicatl Ichtaca?” You phrase it as a question because you aren’t entirely sure.


“Are you… real?”

She shrugs. “Sort of. We’re in your mindscape right now. I… sort of know what I’m doing from being in my brother’s, but not entirely. Never done this with someone who wasn’t my twin. Probably can’t do this for long. Especially with a kadabra on the other side.”

Thunder rumbles overhead and the sky flickers with pulsing pink light.

“What can I do?” Some part of you remembers that doing way less stressful things than this gave her migraines for days. You have a feeling that if the sky shatters and the pokémon get in it could kill her outright. Or hurt you like… like you’re being hurt now.

“It’s your mindscape,” Cuicatl repeats. Which isn’t helpful. (Was her voice always so lively?) “You have the home field.”

“I don’t even know how to fight!” It comes out as a whine. “Every time I’ve even thought about it I got hurt. Now—




Arms wrap around you. “It’s okay. I’m here.”

You blink. Did something happen. It felt… the sky pulses and thunder rumbles. A set of cracks line the clouds.

“I can help you fight. I just need you to let me in. And I need you to want to fight. You need to want them out. Want to undo what they did. Do you want that?”

For what feels like the first time in your life you have a choice to fight. To tell people no. And it’s terrifying. What happens if you lose? What happens if you’re wrong and you get sent to the Cocoon? Your eyes settle on Cuicatl. You still don’t entirely know what she is to you. The very recent stuff is hazy but. She cared enough to risk herself to come. And from the words Miss Rivers had you say, the hatred you were made to have…

Everything feels so lonely. But you remember her. And you can make a guess. You lean in, press your lips against hers, and feel the world come undone as Cuicatl stiffens at the touch. Oh crap were you—

Were you—

Were you—

Were you—


The voice comes from inside / in front of / beneath / behind / above you. It’s gentler than Gregori’s booming, consuming presence. Even more omnipresent.

Had to link minds to fight. Just um. Stay there? Maybe try to help?

You become aware of what she means. Somewhere at the edge of your being is another little world. At the thought of it your mind is drawn there and sees the nature of it. Pain. Hope. Pain. A void to the side where it feels like something should be. There’s a collage of memories on the walls. Different colors of memories. Some are all dark. Only sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and feelings. Others are dimmer with a pink tint. When you spend too much time looking at one you get sucked into a conversation where you’re a teenage girl talking to a duck. It’s almost by accident you get kicked out and look at the third and fourth set. The third is stronger with a green tint. You try not to look too close. And the fourth is—

Heat pain heat dry thirsty fear grief fear how dare they damn you no please don’t leave me oh gods they’re all gone they’re all heat pain thirst despair hunger despair hunger despair spite

—you don’t know. They slip away the moment you get close.

This is Cuicatl’s mind. You blush. Oh. You went the wrong way. You turn your perception around and head out to wherever she’s fighting. The air around her is a buzz saw of bloody winds and sharpened spikes of bone. She wields the little cracks in the world that hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt when you look at them and you wince in pain every time they strike something. Two presences poke against her shield with overwhelming force and press it back, but then the presences have to slink off themselves with blurry tendrils seeping away from their mind. Cuicatl stands resolute in the center, never flinching when the jabs come within a few feet of her. The girl’s clothing shifts as well from brightly colored woven outfits to an orange t-shirt and jeans that stirs up something in you to golden chains and tattered purple rags to a strange armor made of black scales. Her hair practically glows.

She’s gorgeous. You don’t remember much of your relationship, just the earliest parts, the ones that Gregori probably didn’t try too hard to remove. Whatever you did to get her, you were damn lucky.

The presences suddenly retreat and you’re left alone with your girlfriend inside her reality-breaking armor.

She turns to you and you feel things separate out. Like slipping out of a tight hug you hadn’t even noticed. The world runs together and you’re back on the grassy hill with Cuicatl. She breaks the kiss. And she’s blushing furiously.

“You know we weren’t dating, right?”

Your heart falls. “We weren’t?” But she’s so cute and there’s an aching void of loneliness everywhere else in your mind and Xerneas wants you to be happy.


You channel the confidence of the boy-who-was-not-a-boy. “Could we fix that?”

Her blush only grows. “Your mind is really fucked up right now. Don’t make big decisions for a bit.”

She just told you to make one. You chose to fight.

Cuicatl’s form flickers and she slumps towards the ground. “Need to go,” she mutters. “Sorry to…”


And then she’s gone, leaving you alone in the horrible wrongness of your new mind.

You made your choice.

You’re afraid

You’re afraid



you made it


far too

Last edited:
Rock 4.18


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Rock 4.18: The Price
Dr. Valerie Livens

April 31, 2022

The phone rings and you groggily look towards it. Who calls you at 6:30 AM on a Sunday? You’re not a teenager anymore, not even in your twenties, but you still cherish sleeping in on your days off.

Cuicatl Ichtaca.

Great. You try to blink the drowsiness away and sit up. She was a little too curious about the rules around reporting suicidal ideation. You don’t think she’s in a stable headspace either. Could be an emergency.

“Good morning, Cuicatl.”

“Hello.” Her accent is definitely thicker over the phone. She did mention that when you told her most appointments would be virtual. And she sounds like she’s half dead.

“Are you having an emergency right now?”


She explains and your heart drops. It’s an emergency all right. Just not hers.


Four teenagers and a cop sit in the lobby of your practice. You share a glance with Lila. Their face is taut and stern, but there’s a storm of emotion in their eyes. They’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and pretending that they’re not.

Cuicatl gave you a one word greeting when you walked in. Now she’s sitting in an armchair with her arms and legs tucked in to make herself as small as she can. Her tyrunt is curled up at the base of the chair and keeping a wary eye on everyone else.

The two girls you don’t recognize are sitting on the couch. The blond, probably Genesis, is staring into space with a vacant, horrified look. The Asian girl is pressed right up against her with an arm wrapped around in a hug, whispering quiet reassurances in her ear. It looks like a scene where someone found out a loved one died. If only it were just that. Truth be told you aren’t even sure how to go about this. You’d seen the documentaries on old psychic reorientation practices but thought was just a relic of a more brutal, more rigid psychiatric system.

The boy, Kekoa, is sitting in a wooden chair and gripping the arms so tightly you wonder if he might snap them. His face is as tense as his body and there’s pure, unadulterated rage in his eyes. Can’t blame him. You just hope he doesn’t actually break your furniture in misplaced anger.

“Genesis?” you ask. She moves her head a fraction of an inch but there’s still no recognition in her eyes.

“She won’t be able to talk for a while,” Lila says. “Shock and lingering psychic damage.”

Lyra visibly flinches at that announcement.

“I see.” Not really, but you should at least act like you do. “Would anyone like to go first?”

“Cuicatl’s your patient,” Kekoa tersely says.

You turn towards her and take a step forward. You drop down your voice a little. She looks like she’s going through her own crisis. “Would you like to go first? It’s okay if you aren’t ready.”

She weakly nods and unfolds her limbs. Her tyrunt follows her into your office and then jumps up onto the couch next to her. Cuicatly idly runs a hand through the dinosaur’s neck feathers. Looks like you won’t need to send out Wiggles after all. You wonder if you could justify getting the tyrunt classified as an emotional support pokémon. She’d probably be the first of her kind to hold the designation. Might even be able to go through service training to act as an official guide tyrunt.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk, physically or otherwise.” She stopped talking aloud last session when things got too bad. Some kind of selective muteness? If she doesn’t want to talk that’s also genuinely fine. She struggles with guilt and you don’t need her thinking she’s wasting your time. “I can just be here for you.”

{I’m not the one hurting.} Another point to the selective muteness theory.

“You clearly are, maybe even physically. Even if you’re not hurting the most of anyone you can still have your hurt addressed. Besides, you talking about it with me does nothing to hurt Genesis further.”

The tyrunt presses her head into Cuicatl’s chest and the girl wraps her arms around her.

{I keep feeling like I could have stopped this.}

“How so?”

{I… don’t know. I just feel like I could have.}

Ah. She would pin the guilt for this onto herself. It does seem to be a common self-destructive pattern for her. “You already alerted the international police and child protective services. It’s their job to prevent things like this, not other children’s.”

“And they didn’t,” she says bitterly, aloud.

“And they didn’t. But the blame rests on them, not you.”

“Americans. I should have never trusted your government.”

You have a theory you don’t want to press yet. She was very reluctant to talk about her living family, even if she thought she was being sly by deflecting to the dead ones. You don’t know why she ran to her mother’s country, alone, after her brother’s death. Most people would take solace in their remaining loved ones after enduring such a devastating event. There’s a pattern there. Her apparently low self-esteem, reluctance to talk about her father, escape to Alola, a few missing teeth. Then the predators. You’ve met her type of trainers before, the ones who seek physical power at personal risk to gain some sort of feeling of control. If you’re right then her government’s police and CPS failed as well. If they have CPS down there. The only website you could find was in Nahuatl. Everything else you found was probably just rumor and propaganda. You doubt they actually drown children as sacrifices to the river goddess.

“Remember what we talked about last week? About holding yourself responsible for things as a means of control.”

She frowns. {Yes.} Hmm. Did even the vague mention of her brother send her back to muteness? You’re going to have to walk on eggshells about that unless the session is specifically on the topic.

“Do you feel like you’re in control right now?”

She shakes her head no. Then the tears start falling. Not full sobbing yet but you imagine she’s close. You have to be careful now.

{I thought about what you said.} You nod before realizing she can’t see it.

“And what are you thinking about it?”

{That… that you might be right. But I still feel responsible? Even if…}

Even if it isn’t actually her fault. Can’t bring herself to saying that yet.

“Most people like to think we’re rational creatures. That our thoughts affect how we feel and act. Studies have shown it’s almost the opposite. That our feelings determine how we act, and then our mind spins a narrative to justify it all after the fact.” She doesn’t have a response. “The point is, knowing something is true is only half the fight. Usually the easy half.”

She goes quiet for a long time but never starts sobbing. Her tyrunt gets progressively cuddlier until her full weight must be resting on the girl’s lap. She barely seems to notice. Is she telekinetic on top of her telepathy? It isn’t a question you want to ask now but you jot down a note for later.

{What should I do about it?}

“It’s going to sound corny.”


“Self-affirmation helps. People tend to start believing the things they hear, and especially the things they say. Starting your morning with a list of statements about things not being your fault could help. So would repeating it when you’re stressed.”

She nods. Good. You won’t have to sell her on that.

“The question is, are you willing to say that even once?”

She shakes her head softly from side to side. “It feels like letting go,” she whispers.

You consider your follow up. Push forward? Let that stand. In the end you decide to gently prod. “Letting go of what?”

“I don’t know.” She lifts her arms up and gestures out to both sides. “Him. My responsibility. Like I shouldn’t be able to just… do that. It’s not that simple.”

No. No, it’s not. Even if it could be. But she’s talking again. You’ll take that as a sign she’s doing a little better. “What would happen if you just did it?”

She folds back in on herself. “Nothing,” she finally says. “It would rock my world and no one else would even notice. Like… there was this moment in an airport in Anahuac when I realized that nothing in my life really mattered to the world.” That’s disturbingly close to a suicidal line of thought. “And I could move on and no one else would care, but I would.” Her voice hitches and she finally sobs. {If I don’t care about him, who else would?}

“Would you like to discuss that now or leave it until next session?” you ask softly. She’s already going through a lot and it feels like she’s just made progress, whether she realizes it or not. This feels like a natural break point, but if she wants to keep going you will.

{Next session. Head hurts too much to do this today.}

Ah. You’d wondered about that. What she described sounded dangerous, even with your minimal knowledge.

“I’m sorry.”

She grunts. {It’s fine. Officer Takeda got me part of a chansey egg. Their alakazam helped me put stuff back together. And the pokémon I was fighting stopped when they figured out I was human. Trainer probably didn’t want to kill someone. I wasn’t even in there for five minutes.}

It was still risky. And there’s a fine line between bravery and despair in those situations. Between risking your life because you believe your cause has tremendous value and doing the same because it’s more socially acceptable than killing yourself. You’ll want to talk about this when she feels better. Not much point pressing now while she’s already in a bad place, physically and emotionally.

“I’m glad you’re okay.”

Cuicatl just shrugs.

“If you would like to go back into the lobby—”

“Wait,” she croaks out. “Um. When we were in her mindscape, Genesis kissed me. And it felt… good? I liked it. Maybe kind of a lot.” She blushes and starts talking a lot faster, even with her strained voice. “She thought we were dating for some reason. I told her we weren’t. Then she asked me out. Her mind was really a mess and she wasn’t acting like herself so I told her no. I don’t want to take advantage. And I don’t even know if I’m gay or bi or whatever.”

You smile in spite of everything.

She crosses her legs, earning a startled yelp from Coco as her headrest moves out from under her. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” she admits.

You snort. And then immediately freeze up. Shit, she’ll take that badly. “I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just… psychic conversion therapy, institutions failing this badly, I don’t deal with that every day. A girl flustered after an ill-advised kiss? You aren’t the first, last, or fortieth client I’ve had in that position. Even if yours is the first that happened in someone else’s head.”

Well, an actual kiss between two people in someone’s head. You’ve had clients dealing with awkward revelations that a friend or stranger daydreamed about kissing them.

Cuicatl faintly smiles back. It’s wonderful to see, especially with everything else going on. “It is small, isn’t it?”

“Hey, I can deal with small today. Does it cause you any distress, wondering if you’re attracted to other girls?”

She shakes her head. “No. It’s a normal thing. I’d even thought about it before yesterday. Just no one was going to kiss the blind American with an overprotective dragon so I didn’t worry about it.”

A lot there to unpack but you aren’t ruining something that makes her feel good right now. You’ll deal with that and any impacts on her self esteem in a later session.

“Is it a different type of attraction than you feel for boys?”

“Yes. No?” She sighs and uncrosses her legs, once again earning a wide-eyed look from her lap dinosaur. “I like voices and smells and people who can sing. Genesis can’t sing but she’s very earnest and willing to change when a lot of people won’t.” Her smile turns into a scowl again. “Maybe too willing.”

You finish jotting down her exact words on her lack of a love life back in Anahuac. Gives you time to think about how to best end on a better note. Don’t want someone with suicidal tells leaving your office in distress.

“I don’t think you did anything wrong, for what it’s worth. You didn’t initiate, you told her she was mistaken, and you don’t want to do anything until she stabilizes. Very responsible of you.”

Her scowl relaxes. Not quite smiling again. Closer to neutral. You’ll take it.

You idly wonder if she’s used to people praising her.

“I guess. Just feels like she deserves someone better.

And you really should have seen that coming. “I think you can trust people to know who they like. Just give it some time and if she’s still interested once things have settled into their new normal, go from there.”


Genesis is curled up asleep on the couch when you leave your office with Cuicatl. Lyra is hovering nervously nearby as if something might go catastrophically wrong at any minute. Kekoa seems to have relaxed just a little but his face is still contorted into glowering rage. Lila isn’t present.

“The cop had to leave,” Kekoa says. “Asked Cuicatl to intervene if Gen starts glitching again.”


“I can do that,” Cuicatl says evenly.

Kekoa sucks in a deep breath. “Her parents got pardoned by the governor. Some shit about family decisions staying in the home.”

That’s not unexpected. You just hadn’t thought it would happen quite so quickly. “There are still federal laws,” Lyra murmurs. “They could get them on that.”

Kekoa scoffs. “With this president?”

He’s right even if you wish he wasn’t. You’re surprised the jail even took them into custody in the first place. If Lila hadn’t rolled up with an alakazam and metagross they probably wouldn’t have humored them at all.

“Can you avoid telling Genesis outside of a controlled setting?” you ask. “I’d need to talk to Lila about how stress might affect her at this point.”

“Can do,” Lyra sounds off.

Kekoa grunts but doesn’t say no.

Cuicatl silently lowers herself onto the couch on the other side of Genesis from Lila.

“Who would like to go next?” you ask.

Kekoa and Lila share a long look. “Fuck it, guess I can,” he finally declares before getting up and stomping into your office. You close the door behind him but he doesn’t sit down, instead angrily pacing the length of the room. You take your seat and pull out the abridged intake forms.

“For today I just need you to sign some confidentiality documents. Basically, I can’t tell anyone anything about this session unless you sue me over it or I believe you are an immediate danger to yourself or others.”

He snorts. “Yeah, yeah. You’re not a cop but you have to work for them. Sure. Whatever. I’ll sign.”

After a quick, forceful signature he goes back to pacing.

“Is this where you ask me about my mother or some shit? Because she’s rotting on the Hoenn seafloor with my dad.”

“I think it might be helpful to talk about that eventually if you want, but no. There’s clearly something more immediate.”

“Got that right.” He stops pacing and whirls on you. “Fuckers almost killed two people and they’ll get off with nothing. Not even a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile a kanaka kid can get arrested for wearing a black shirt to school. And anyone who tried to give them a fraction of what they deserved would get the death penalty for daring to look at them wrong.”

Almost killed two people? Cuicatl didn’t make it sound that bad but it’s possible, even probable, she was downplaying it. Disclosing that would be a breach of confidences. You jot the words down on your pad to add to Cuicatl’s increasingly long list of topics for future sessions.

“So, what, now you’re just going to tell me to deal? Take up yoga?”

“No, Kekoa. I’m not going to tell you to do that. Although yoga is quite good for managing physiological stress reactions. I can help you figure out what you want to do to make a fairer system. Or I can help you figure out how you can best care for your friends. To take your feelings and be helpful with them.”

He shakes his head and gives a dry, humorless laugh. “You can’t make this system fairer. The haole can poison the water, brainwash kids.” He huffs and finally sits down. His legs are still tense like he might spring back up at any moment. “I grew up in foster care. Wound up in an orphanage a while back. You know how many families get their kids ripped away for the crimes of being poor and brown? And when CPS sees this shit, that’s when they decide to be cautious. What the fuck.”

You nod in agreement. What the fuck indeed;

“Point is, you can’t fix this shit. It’s all rotten. The only way is to burn it all down and let the rightful owners of the land make their own nation.”

He looks at you with a challenge in his eyes, daring you to disagree. You sigh internally. Alola learned nothing from the debacle with Aether and Skull. Working with kids on the island challenge means you deal with a lot of foster system kids who want some independence. And then half of them crash and burn with no support structure, no guidance, no money. Then you end up with a whole bunch of angry kids who don’t want to crawl back into foster care but can’t keep up with the challenge. When they get evicted from the Centers it’s so damn easy for someone like Guzma or Plumeria to snatch them up. If the government had just dealt with any of this they wouldn’t have a violent arsonist recruiting hundreds or thousands of kids to her cause. Now the commonwealth will throw half of them in prison and funnel frustrated kids into the real gangs.

You hate that it’s so predictable, so preventable, and yet it Just. Keeps. Happening. And now it’s happening right in front of you. Again.

“It sounds like you have a strong idea of what you want. I won’t try and talk you out of it, but I will ask you to wait a few days to plan and ask the people you care about for input.”

“They wouldn’t get it.” He tilts his head. “Cuicatl might.”

How far do you want to push this? If he thinks you aren’t on his side, he’ll stop listening to anything you have to say.

“If you’re doing this for Genesis, I would also think about the help she actually needs. A lot of people can… do what you want to do. There are fewer who can help her when she’s just lost trust in her family.”

He lowers his head. From what you can see of his face he almost seems… sad? “We didn’t really get along. She misgendered and deadnamed me—I’m trans, by the way.” He looks back up as if daring you to challenge him.

“And Kekoa is your preferred name?”



“He / him.”

You nod and jot it down on your pad. “If we make this a more regular thing I will need your legal name, but not right now.”

“Sure.” He goes back to looking at his feet. “She was an ass to me, I was an ass to her right back. Cuicatl was trying to keep the peace. Neither of them needs that stress right now.”

“You could ask Cuicatl about that,” you offer. Genesis might need a bit before she can offer cogent answers.

“I could.” He sighs and meets your gaze. Now he just looks weary. Exhausted. Like all the rage finally sputtered out. “Look, breaking things is easy. Fixing them is hard. I wouldn’t even know how to start helping them through, like, what even the fuck is this? I’d rather burn the world down until it’s finally safe for them to live in.”

“You could always learn to be better at helping your friends. I can assist with that.”

A lifeline to a gentler future, should he choose to take it.

Instead, he turns away and looks into the corner. “Maybe someday.”


Kekoa walks out slouched over with his hands shoved deep inside his pockets. Genesis is still asleep with Lyra nervously fidgeting next to her. Cuicatl is on the other side of the couch with her eyes closed and mouth slightly ajar. Lila did tell her to keep an eye on Genesis, but you can’t be mad at her for sleeping after taking (allegedly near lethal) psychic damage herself.

“Do you want to talk, Lyra?”

She looks up at you and it takes a moment for the words to apparently click with her. She tersely nods and slowly stands. She stretches out to her full height, arms raised above her head and standing on the balls of her feet. Seems like she might’ve been in one position for too long.

“Kekoa, can you wake up Cuicatl when Genesis wakes up?”

“Sure,” he says in a tone that doesn’t really inspire confidence. Then he sits back down in his previous chair, away from the girls on the couch. “She might be drowsy. Can we wake her up to send out her metang.”

Lyra flicks a finger to something above you. When you look up you see the metallic underside of the pokémon pressed against the roof over your door. Right where you’d be least likely to see them. A bit creepy to say the least.

“They do that,” Kekoa says. “A lot. Just be glad they haven’t tried to watch you piss yet.”

Oh my.

Lyra finally reaches you. Her arms are hugged against her chest and she looks like she’s a stiff breeze away from passing out. Not the most conductive mood for a session. You’ll focus more on comforting her unless she really does want to talk today.

Once she’s settled down on the couch you send out Wiggles. He puffs himself out in his own stretch before turning to look at the couch. When he sees a client there he waddles over and jumps up with a hop to sit next to Lyra. “You can hug him if you want. He likes physical affection.”

She cautiously holds out a hand towards his fur. You can see her eyes widen when she feels how soft it is before she almost rushes to press more of her body against his. Wiggles puffs up a little and closes his eyes. He’s very pleased with himself. As he should be. Farmer’s market is tomorrow. You’ll let him pick out a dozen apples for his services.

“If you want to talk, and you really don’t have to, I’ll need you to sign some forms.”

“Confidentiality, medical disclosure, past history, all that?” she asks.

Seems like she’s been in therapy before. That could be good or bad, depending on how things went with that therapist. “Just confidentiality unless you want me to disclose something to a doctor.”

“I don’t.”

You hand her the clipboard. She quickly glances over it and signs. And then she just keeps cuddling Wiggles in silence for a few minutes. That’s fine. Whatever she needs. Not every day is a good day to critically interrogate feelings. Sometimes you just have to feel them in a safe place.

“When I was eight,” she finally says, “my father told me something he shouldn’t have. A psychic came over with an alakazam and took—something. At least the memory of what I was told. Maybe more. It’s impossible to know.” She takes a deep breath and presses even harder into Wiggles’ side. “Since then I’ve kept multiple journals backed up in multiple places of everything. Just to make sure that nothing else was changed. Or if it were to be changed at least I would know what I lost.”

A bit paranoid. Still not the worst coping mechanism. It’s just journaling with more steps at the end of the day, and that has its own benefits.

“I tried to get Genesis to do it, too, but she stopped after she caught her mother reading her diary. She doesn’t have any of the backups and more was taken from her than was taken from me. I barely even felt it happen and she…”

The girl starts sobbing and goes limp against the wigglytuff’s side. You take the opportunity to jot down a few notes so you remember the details. There’s nothing to say here that’s reassuring, true, and not something she’s likely heard before. You’ve dealt with survivors of childhood assault. Never childhood mental assault, but you assume the feelings of insecurity and helplessness are just magnified. You hope that’s what she’s already been to therapy for.

“Sometimes she glitches,” Lyra whispers. “She’ll be talking or moving and then she just freezes in place. It only ends when Cuicatl’s metang or the officer prod her telepathically. Or maybe Cuicatl herself does it. The officer kind of made it sound that way. And it’s hard to imagine Cuicatl fighting psychic-types in someone else’s mind if she’s as weak as she claims.”

Damn it, Takeda. You don’t go assuming someone knows a girl’s secrets. However close they are.

“How do you feel about that?” you ask. “I imagine you have your reasons to dislike psychics.”

Lyra nervously brings a hand to her mouth and bites down on a nail. It doesn’t look like she does that often. Probably just a reaction to extreme stress. “She lied to me for months about something she knew I would’ve wanted to know. She’s had countless chances to screw me over, but. I keep checking my journals and I don’t think she’s done anything. And she helped Genesis. When we found Cuicatl afterwards, she was pale, feverish, and muttering something about sand over and over again. Didn’t seem to realize we were there.”

She takes a deep breath and puffs herself like the wigglytuff beside her. When she speaks again it’s no longer in a whisper but in a wavering voice at normal volume. “She saved Genesis and I owe her for that. And unless this goes away soon Genesis will need Cuicatl or someone like her nearby. As long as that’s the case I’ll tolerate her. The moment it’s not I’m taking Genesis and running before she decides to start throwing her power around for real.”

You raise a questioning eyebrow. “Why do you assume she would abuse that kind of power?”

“Because anyone would. How could you have the ability to make people anything you wanted and then not use it?”

“Moral codes. Religious beliefs. Fear of legal penalties. Love for one’s friends.”

She shakes her head. “No one really cares about that. If they think they can get away with it they will. And clearly psychics can get away with almost anything.”

You want to dispute the last part. It’s a little difficult given what just happened. “That’s a dim view of humanity.”

“It’s a realistic one.” She huffs before sitting up away from Wiggles and crossing her arms. “People are petty, cruel, and unable to look past themselves. Except Genesis…”

She bonelessly collapses back onto Wiggles. You want to explore her prior statements more because they indicate a problem that will inevitably hurt herself and others. Today probably isn’t the best way to seriously challenge her worldview. Emotions are too high and she doesn’t seem at all willing to relent.

Lyra chokes back a sob. “I’m not sure if she still remembers me. When she saw me again she gave Kekoa this weird look and kept staying close to Cuicatl. She just glanced at me for a moment before moving on.”

“She seemed content with you comforting her earlier.”

She looks away. “I think she wanted Cuicatl to do it. I sort of butted her out because…” She scowls. “She doesn’t deserve it. She was only there for a few months. I put in years comforting her. Getting to know her. Being her only friend. It’s not fair that she wants her.”

You get the feeling she’s talking about more than just who whispered nice things to Genesis today. That’s another looming catastrophe. How long before her paranoia leads her to believe that Cuicatl changed some things herself while she was in Genesis’s mind? How much will she lash out?

You really, really hope that Lyra stays in therapy after this. You don’t care if it’s with you, she just needs someone helping her work through her trauma responses before someone gets hurt.

It’s probably best to move on from talking about Cuicatl before she gets herself worked up. “What will you do if your friend can’t remember you?”

She presses her chin down into her chest and her hair falls over her face. “I’ll stay by her side. She needs the help. And in time we can make things work again. I still know what she likes and dislikes better than anyone else. Maybe better than her after—” She cuts off, unwilling to admit the possibility that Genesis has severe brain damage aloud.

“I’m glad that you’re willing to be supportive of her. Going back to pushing Cuicatl away, do you think you can do what’s best for Genesis, even if it’s not what you personally want?”

She sits in silence for several minutes. That’s fine. You go back to catching up your notes to the conversation’s current point.

“I’ll think about it,” she finally says.

You doubt you’ll get anything better than that today.


The lobby is markedly different when you walk out with Lyra. Genesis is awake and at least looking around the room a little. Cuicatl is sitting next to her with her tyrunt sprawled out over her lap, resting her head on Genesis. Kekoa is pacing tight circles in the corner of the room. Lila has returned and is sitting in the armchair Cuictatl was previously using.

You can practically feel the hostility radiating off the girl beside you when she sees Genesis and Cuicatl pressed against each other. Even if it’s tamer than what she had been doing before.

You share a look with Lila and they nod. It’s time. You walk towards Genesis and hold out a hand. “Do you want to come back into my office with me? Officer Takeda wants to see how your brain is doing.

The girl weakly nods and slowly, laboriously rises. You have to withdraw Wiggles as much as you would love to have him comfort Genesis. “I’m sorry,” you tell her. “But he’s a little hypnotic. Can’t have him interfering with the scans.”

“I get it.” Her voice is weak and breathy. Little more than a broken whisper. Is that trauma? Brain damage? Some mixture?

Lila sends out their alakazam. They’d explained before that you won’t get brain cancer just by spending a few hours around one. It still unnerves you, just a bit. From Genesis’s widening eyes it seems like she’s scared too, just of something else.

“I promise that I won’t hurt you. I just need to have my partner see what damage was done and what can be fixed.”

“O-okay.” Her breaths are still a little fast and her eyes are wide, but she’s agreeing. Lila takes that to be enough. You wouldn’t have. Genesis slowly relaxes and slips into a trance as Lila and their alakazam do… whatever they do.

After two endless minutes Lila curses under their breath. “I’d been worried about this.”

“Oh?” You assume they’re talking to you. If they wanted to talk to her pokémon they could do that telepathically.

“Fucker didn’t have an alakazam, just a beheeyem and kadabra. And beheeyem are mostly just memory manipulators. It’s like—like knives. You’re going to get a cleaner cut with a very sharp knife than a dull one. He had blunt knives and made a mess of things. He didn’t finish the changes. Her sexuality is… mostly intact. Memory’s shot and her stream of consciousness is being disrupted. Not even sure he intended to do that. I don’t think I can get the memories back. Those things are slippery enough at the best of times. Give her a few weeks to heal from the other damage and I might be able to fix the mental seizing.”

You understand half of that. Psychology and Psychic Studies are related fields, but half of the things psychics can do have no good explanation when you’re just looking at the brain of the affected party. Mental seizing isn’t even a concept you were aware of.

“Then Cuicatl—bless the kid, she tried, but her mental defenses are all serrated memetics and emotions swirling around in a vicious loop. She stopped the surgery but probably did some harm herself.” She gives you a very pointed look. “We’re not telling her about that. She did the right thing and she’d take it way too hard if she found out.”

That sounds about right. You don’t like keeping secrets from clients, but this feels like it could be too much for her. “Agreed.” You aren’t sure if you should ask, it might violate confidences, but it does feel like something you should know. “How much danger did she put herself in?”

Lila taps their foot and the alakazam turns to stare at you. When you meet his eyes you can feel his mind boring into yours. “She’s pretty strong. Just not well trained. Metang also aren’t great telepaths. To be frank, she should have died. Only thing that saved her was experience linking to other minds thanks to her twin. I managed to get her fixed up. As long as she takes things easy for a couple weeks and doesn’t try anything like that ever again she should be fine.”

“Did she know that going in?”

Lila sighs and puts their head in their hands. “I don’t know. She was out of it pretty bad at the time and I was stretched thin fixing her, helping Genesis, making sure the Russian didn’t escape, arresting the Gages, and dealing with a false positive on the UB alarm. I do know she has a history of putting her life in danger without really thinking things through. And she has a very annoying enabler.”

You’re curious but you shouldn’t press. If Cuicatl wants you to know then she can tell you.

Genesis stirs and looks around the office like she’s never seen it before. Lila promptly withdraws their alakazam. You give Genesis a friendly smile and she relaxes a tiny bit. “Good afternoon. My name is Dr. Valerie Livens. I’m available to help you today.”

“With what?” she croaks out.

“Whatever you want. Helping sort through old memories, processing recent events, planning out what to do next. I’m a licensed psychologist. Not a psychic.”

She glances towards Lila. “I’m just here to keep you from locking up. Pay me no mind.”

“Locking… up?” she looks and sounds like a house of glass cards. Like she would fall apart and shatter into pieces if you breathed on her the wrong way.

“Sometimes you seize up in place and don’t move until a telepath prompts you to. I’m not sure you notice it happening.”

Genesis shakes her head.

“Unfortunately, today’s session can’t be fully confidential due to the presence of a third party. I still promise not to tell anything to anyone without your explicit permission. And I’m sure Officer Takeda can make the same promises.”

You glare at them. This is a therapy session, not an interrogation. If they turn around and passes this off to the DA or their supervisors, you’ll be extremely upset with them. Upset enough to reconsider your friendship.

“I can, yes.”

“Do you know what you want to do today?” you ask her.

“No. I… don’t.”

“Let’s start with the basics of what you remember then. Can you tell me your name?”

“Genesis Elizabeth Gage.”

You glance at Lila and they nod.

“Date of birth?”

February 3, 2004.”

Sounds about right.

“Do you remember what happened?”

She looks down towards her clasped hands in her lap and squirms. “My parents wanted me to be straight,” she says. “And I let them do it. Until I didn’t.”

Her voice is surprisingly even for the weight of what she’s saying.

“Cuicatl showed up to help. I… I mostly remember her. I think. I don’t think I did until she showed up. Then she did something with sharp air and sand and…” She blushes. Deeply. “I thought she was my girlfriend and kissed her.” She rushes the last part out. A sharp contrast to her slow and low cadence before it. “Does… does she hate me? I don’t… there aren’t many people…”

She doesn’t continue her sentence. She doesn’t move at all. You’re not even sure she’s breathing.

“…left,” she picks back up. So that’s what the ‘glitching’ looks like.

“She’s stayed with you, hasn’t she?” you reassure her.

“She was there when I woke up. But she had to leave—” Her eyes flick up towards Lila as she remember something. “Is she hurt? She sounded like there was an emergency.”

“She’ll need bed rest for a while.”

“Good.” She lowers her head again and her voice slows back down. “I didn’t want to hurt her.”

“She chose to help you.”

Genesis bites her lip. “What happened to my parents? Or the psychic. How—”

She locks up again. Lila closes their eyes and Genesis unfreezes. “—did I get here? Cuicatl said something about knowing someone and…” She’s still breathing. Her face still twitches. She’s not glitching, just genuinely confused.

“The psychic is in a prison with safeguards against his abilities,” Lila says. “He’s been charged with sexual assault of a minor via preternatural ability. I think he’s getting locked up for a long time.”

So that’s who’s taking the fall. Interesting.

“Your parents agreed to give back your pokémon and possessions. I don’t think they’ll be bothering you again.” It might be your imagination but for a moment you think you see a flash of something cruel in Lila’s eyes. What did they do? Do you care? You just hope this doesn’t come back to bite them. “Your team are being checked over at the Pokémon Center. Oh, and your psyduck evolved. He was worried about you and wanted to help.”

Genesis smiles. It’s a nice flicker of warmth in a gloomy atmosphere. “I’m proud of him.”

“You can tell him yourself in a few hours. It seems like all of your pokémon are in good health. They’re mostly just being held as a precaution.”

You’re guessing the pokémon’s ownership was disputed. You’ve heard of at least one abusive parent who tried to claim they were the actual owners or guardians of their child’s pokémon. It would be an easy argument to make if you could afford a high-power lawyer and the child in question had brain damage.

And then the glimmer of happiness is gone. “Are they going to prison?”

Lila winces. “They were released from jail a few hours ago. I doubt they get charged with anything.”

Genesis scrunches up her face but doesn’t look too surprised. “And will my siblings be…” She locks up. “…taken away?”

“I think Child Protective Services will have to conduct a more thorough investigation this time. Someone leaked the report of their welfare check on you.” You’re willing to bet ‘someone’ means ‘Lila.’ They’re really burning all their professional bridges, aren’t they?

“I’m worried about them,” Genesis murmurs. “They were talking about ‘fixing’ them, too.”

Oh shit. And they’ve just learned there aren’t any real consequences for doing it.

“I will make sure that the right people here that.”

“Didn’t stop them last time.”

Lila looks away in shame. You know that’s going to eat at them for a long time. You’re still not entirely sure how they didn’t find out about this. You gave them a heads up yourself.

“Can I ask you something?” Lila asks.

Genesis hesitantly nods.

“Did they use a psychic-type on you before the surgery? There was some bruising around the pain processing area of the brain. It seemed old. Like it had healed and scabbed over lots of times.”

“They had a starmie. When I thought about Cuicatl or…” She trails off. Still breathing. Just staring very intently at the floor. “Someone else. I think… maybe the girl outside on the couch? I don’t remember her name or how I know her. She seemed familiar. Like I should know her.”

“That’s definitely assault with a pokémon. Probably a few other crimes.”

It doesn’t matter. The charges won’t stick. They have to know that, too.

“The third one,” Genesis says. “The boy. Allana? No, Kekoa. He’s. I remember dating him. We were on a balcony and we…” She freezes and relaxes. How often does this happen? Can it occur while she’s asleep? That would be really dangerous. But Lila left her asleep and unsupervised so she must think that’s safe. “…we kissed and I realized he was a… a transgender?”

“’Transgender person’ is usually preferred.”

“Right. Then. A transgender person. And I hated him and that’s why I got kicked out. Because I’d kissed another girl.” She frowns. “No. That’s. He’s a boy. Xerneas would want him to be happy.”

That’s a good sign, at least. Maybe she can heal things over with Kekoa. Even if she wildly misremembers their relationship.

“But then I think I camped with him. And Cuicatl was there. So it would’ve been after I got kicked out. If I hated him I wouldn’t have gone camping with him and—” She huffs in pain or annoyance. “I hate this.”

“You could always just ask him what’s true. Even if you’ve lost people you could regain their friendship.”

“Why would they want to explain everything over and over again?” Her clasped hands separate and turn into fists. “It’s not fair to them. Why would…”

“Because they care about you.”

She goes still. Not as unnaturally as her glitches. Just a girl weighing something immense.

“I’m not sure my parents cared about me,” she admits in little more than a whisper. “Just what I could be. My sister—”

She starts sobbing incoherently. That’s fine. Sometimes you just have to let it all out. And she has more to let out than most.


When everything is said and done only you and Lila are sitting in your office. Each of you has a bottle of cheap wine in hand because, fuck it, why not?

“I got fired,” Lila admits. “Intervening in a domestic political matter. Ignoring a potential UB. Failing to stop this.” They sigh and sets the bottle down. “I had customs checking against the names of every psychic we knew who they might hire. Gages found out. Had the guy approach by boat and then teleport to the shore.”

“I’m sorry. That must be tough.”

“Losing the job?” They snort. “No, I hated that fucking job and everyone who got me to do it. Now I finally have to walk my own path. For better or worse. Failing her… two people almost died because I didn’t consider everything. I’m not sure how to live with that.”

“The only way we can live with any mistake: do what you can to fix it, learn from it, and then move on.”

They pick the bottle back up but don’t drink from it. “I threatened Gage after he was released and I was fired. Told him that if he ever tried to hurt his daughter again, I’d sic my alakazam and metagross on him and see what was left of his mind and body in the morning. Think he pissed himself when he realized I was serious.”

That’s quite the image. It’s a little cathartic after everything he’s done.

“I thought about just doing it then and there. Make him suffer. Still thinking about it.”

“You would stop him from hurting anyone else, but that would be the last person you ever helped.” Hopefully she takes the message better than Kekoa.

“I know, I know, gods do I know. It’s why I won’t. But if he dies screaming it’s still a better fate than he deserves.”

“I agree. I just don’t think you should do it.”

They throw their head back and drink more than is probably healthy. Which means you’re still sober enough to be judgmental. You take a few gulps of your own, ignoring the barely tolerable taste and the burning of alcohol in your throat.

Once you’ve both set your bottles back down they look up at you. “Do you think the kids will be okay?”

You think about it. Cuicatl’s crushing guilt and terrible self-esteem. Kekoa’s insistence that he can’t help anyone except through violence. Lyra’s paranoia and anxiety. Genesis’s empty and fractured mind.

But there are glimmers of hope. Cuicatl came close to admitting that something wasn’t her fault. Kekoa knows his friends need another kind of help. Lyra’s at least willing to stay by Genesis’s side, even if Cuicatl is there. And while some of her core memories are lost, Genesis can make new ones.

You could see things going either way for any of them. Cuicatl fully collapsing into guilt and getting herself killed or coming to terms with her past and bravely marching into the future. Kekoa resorting to a self-destructive spiral of violence or staying as a vigilant protector. Lyra entering a life-or-death struggle with Cuicatl for no reason or finally finding peace with her trauma and being a supportive friend. Genesis breaking down and becoming trapped in her loss or setting out to find new things.

“I don’t know. They could be, with time and effort.”

Left unspoken: until then, they won’t be.
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Windswept Questant
Sup, Perse. What do you know? I actually caught up with this, and in July (EST), too. It’s hard to know what all to say here, because I think these last two arcs represent more than half the total word count in the fic so far. It’s got to be at least a third. It’s been quite a ride, and there’s loads of ground to cover!

This was also an interesting section of the story in that it opened things up as new cast members were added and previous cast members went off to do their own thing. Genesis and Pixie, obviously, have been pretty much doing their own things for these last couple of arcs. It looks as though Genesis may be joining up with the main group again, but Pixie’s still out there on her own… Not that she’d want to rejoin such an unworthy group when she could instead be basking in her mother’s love, of course. I eagerly await her opportunity to Show Them All, and especially Cuicatl, just how powerful and amazing and worthy of love she is.

It’s interesting to me how much work the journeyfic structure is doing for you here. Although most of the characters’ struggles aren’t really related to the journey itself, the mission and trial structure provides a sense of progression even when each character’s individual narrative arc may not have advanced in such a clear way. Although only Cuicatl’s Pokémon are characters worth even passing mention, I think you do a good job of using important journey moments like big battles to tie into the characters’ personal arcs and to frame largely-unrelated discussions (e.g. salandit hunting) such that the fact that this is a world of Pokémon never feels unimportant. Your worldbuilding is ever on point, and I enjoy how much elements like the licensing system or Vstar’s activities impact the plot.

It’s also interesting to me how this feels like a story that could only ever work as a serial. At times there are scenes where I’m not sure whether including them was beneficial to the narrative, and where for something like a traditional novel I think you’d definitely be better off leaving them out. For example, is it better to show what’s happening with Pixie when she’s offscreen, or would it be better summed up after the fact or left to implication? Considering a novel-like structure, I would say it might be better to take some of those chapters out, but in a story like this, which has essentially unlimited space to work with, perhaps it’s better to have some periodic check-ins, and it’s certainly not as though I dislike hanging out with Pixie now and again. Even scenes where I’m not sure of their overall utility, like the ableist Espeon one, add character to the world and exist in a format that can indulge in digressions in ways that novels can’t. These last couple of arcs definitely showed some sprawl, but not in such a way that I found myself wanting to skip parts or that the story had lost its way.

The darkness arc was an interesting one. From your notes I got the impression that you’d had some trouble showing the impact of the darkness on the world and characters. As it is now, I didn’t get the impression that you’d forgotten or that it didn’t have an impact. I’ll be curious to see what some of the longer-term effects might be, as aside from Reshiram’s talk with Cuicatl having somewhat disastrous unintended consequences, the darkness episode hasn’t had much of a direct effect on the characters in the most recent arc. I’m guessing there will be more Ultra Beast fuckery in the future, if nothing else…

The most recent arc has seen a lot of progression in terms of the characters and their relationships, so I think the easiest thing for me to do will be to address where I see each of them.

Cuicatl remains the fic’s protagonist insofar as it has one, and she’s had a lot of good development over the past two arcs. It’s good to see her beginning to confront her disordered eating and actually go to therapy. While she still has pretty severe problems, she feels like the only character who had a fairly uncomplicated upwards trajectory for the majority of these arcs, ever since she started dragging herself back into the world after Pixie’s departure. I’m sure it can’t last! It is satisfying to see Cuicatl make some good moves in this section, though, and I definitely look forward to the havoc that’s sure to ensue when either of her unevolved mons hit their final forms. At times it felt a little repetitive to see her wrestle with her issues in various contexts, backslide, and deflect attempts at help, but it’s certainly realistic as far as these things go, and she is at least clearly moving in the correct direction overall.

Kekoa struck me as the member of the main three who changed the least over the course of this section. He’s quite stubbornly refusing to change anything about his worldview, although his experiences in this section are making him doubt himself at every turn. For me, the highlights of his chapters have been actually getting to meet Jabari and Kekoa’s angst about releasing his charjabug. He’s one character where I think it might be nice to see a little more of him with his Pokémon, since reevaluating his relationship with them has been important to him this arc. I always enjoy having him around, but he felt like the character who might have been most left behind this arc.

Lyra makes for an interesting addition to the main cast, and one I’m guessing you may not have expected to have as big a role when you were first setting out to write this. I feel like in at least one of my previous reviews I commented that I’d forgotten that she was a canon character, and then when I settled in to read this over the past couple months I’d completely forgotten again… Real good at names and faces over here. You’re right that she’s a canon character in name only, but I really enjoy the conflict she brings with Cuicatl. Her paranoia and hatred of psychics is entirely understandable without justifying her prejudice towards people like Cuicatl. Super looking forward to how Genesis forgetting who she is in combination with Cuicatl deciding she might be down to date Gen throws gas on that pile of flaming wreckage. I feel like we haven’t seen a ton of Lyra outside of her psychic paranoia, but that does have a pretty big place in her life and make for fun interactions with the rest of the cast, so I’m not really fussed.

Pixie didn’t make many appearances for obvious reasons, but I’m definitely curious to see how she gets out of this situation. Seems unlikely that she recognizes how awful her mother treats her on her own. As ever, this character’s reasons for her worldview are so heartbreaking and understandable, and yet they lead her to draw such deeply wrong conclusions and only fuck herself up more. Always rooting for Pixie over here. :( Also, gotta say, ninetales must be absolutely GODLY in battle or I cannot understand why any trainer puts up with All That, lol.

And finally we come to Genesis, the big focus character of the previous arc! The one who changed the most… and not in a good way. It was heartbreaking to watch her try to twist herself into the person her parents wanted her to be and her endless attempts to justify what was being done to her as right, helpful, or coming from a place of love. I wasn’t surprised that she went along with their plans for her, even given the intensity of her fear and revulsion, up until the point that it was as close as anything to being too late. I thought you did a great job on the reconstruction chapter, though, both the way her memories were edited and what little we got of the mindscape battle. Gratifying to see Cuicatl get some badass moments! I think you did a good job of making things appropriately disjointed without causing them to be hard to follow. And I’m really, really curious to see how you’ll handle Gen’s recovery. Especially her relationship with Kekoa going forward—oh dear, but also lol.

All in all this remains a standout fic to me. Handles some of the darkest and most down-to-earth subjects I’ve seen tackled in fic while at the same time remaining undeniably a Pokémon fic. It wasn’t always a fun read, but I did consistently find it to be a compelling one. Once the fic-reading conditions were right for me I didn’t find it difficult to catch up. Fantastic work with the amount of writing you’ve done over the last few years. I’m happy to follow this one for five years more to see where these kids end up. Thanks for writing, and I hope you have a refreshing and reinvigorating hiatus.
Recap 3


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Recap 3


Dr. Livens said I should write down what I remember. She’s probably right. I don’t like journaling. Yet we must do what we must do.

I guess I should start with my childhood. But. That’s all fractured. I glitch a lot trying to think of it. Cuicatl’s here helping me right now but I don’t want to take up too much of her time. She’s been really kind considering everything. Wait. I know. I’ll write about how I got here.

I still remember most of the treatment up until the end. I think. I think they would have tried to make it look better if they did change it.

Mrs. Rivers had me do a lot of stuff I wasn’t allowed to before. Like cooking. She thought that being feminine would help. And reading ‘better’ versions of all my old books. Mother agreed about the books but not cooking.

There was a starmie that hurt me in the head whenever I thought about… that part is blurry. I remember yelling at two people’s pictures but not clearly who. Cuicatl, I think. And probably Lyra.

Lyra… I’ll get back to Lyra.

I outgrew my old shoes. Must have grown on the trail. I’m taller than the marks on my closet wall but I haven’t really been able to measure myself yet. Anyway, I asked for a new pair of shoes. They made me sit in the dark without food for a day.

Oliver the psyduck has been really helpful through all of this. He was shy at first. Didn’t really want anything to do with me. But he’s been a really good cuddler in the last few weeks. Cloudy—Count Cloudy—is also really great. As always. The best boy.

I got Sir Bubbles and Ferny back recently. Sir Bubbles evolved into a poliwhirl. He’s bigger and I can get lost in his spiral. So I try not to. Especially after. Everything.

I’m kind of just running my pen here. Stalling for time. But I’ve already glitched four times and I don’t want Cuicatl to have to stay here too much longer. Not that I mind. She’s still cute. And so is her tyrunt. The tyrunt is a different kind of cute from her trainer, obviously. I’m gay but I’m not depraved like that.

Father hired a man to “fix” me. My siblings cornered me. Told me not to let them do it. But. I thought Xerneas wanted me to and. I did it. It was a mistake. I realized that too late.

I don’t remember large parts of my past now. Or I remember them in ways that feel more wrong the longer I think about them. I kissed Kekoa in my memories. I don’t think we kissed in real life.

There’s a girl, Lyra, who claims to know me. And she seems really familiar. Kicks up a lot of complicated feelings. Good and bad. But I don’t remember her anymore. Does that mean she was the most important to me? Were we dating? Exes? I don’t know. I don’t know her anymore. I… I’m still not sure what to do with that.

And then there’s Cuicatl. She saved me. Is still saving me. I literally couldn’t breathe without her because all of the damage that happened during the fight. Miss Takeda says that she hopes to fix that. Soon. Soon-ish. Whenever my mind settles enough. I don’t really want to be operated on again but. I need it. It’s unfair to make her, Cuicatl, or her metang watch over me whenever I’m awake. Oliver is learning to help, too, but he can’t be out all the time and everywhere.

Cuicatl. Um. She just left. Said that if I’m going to be journaling about her she should probably be out of thought hearing range. For privacy. Sent out her metang instead.

Right. Uh. At the end of the battle in my mind I thought we were dating. So I kissed her.

We were not dating.

She’s been really understanding about it. Hasn’t even brought it up. I… it would be really bad if we dated and then broke up while I need her help to not die. And I still don’t know what happened between Lyra and I. But. Cuicatl’s cute. And kind of a badass. And I maybe wouldn’t mind dating her later on. If she’s gay. I don’t even know if she’s gay. Or if, like, that’s a thing they tear your heart out over in her homeland.

Maybe I’m jumping too far ahead here.

I just lost so much for this, I feel like I kind of have to embrace it. Even if this maybe isn’t a good idea.

Xerneas knows it’s not the worst idea I’ve had in the last few weeks.


It’s been a while since I touched this journal. And it’s been a busy two months. Three months? Who can keep track? Time flies when shit keeps happening.

Transition log: got more hair during The Blackout. Everywhere. Including my head. I could really use a cut now. I will once I find somewhere I’m pretty sure is safe. I definitely have more muscles than when I started. Not sure how much of that is testosterone and how much is backpacking all the time for months.

Deciding if I try for a beard. Afraid it’ll be wispy and embarrassing. I don’t even think they look good. I just kind of want to try it. Maybe in another few months.

Enough about that. There have been updates on life stuff.

I couldn’t really keep doing things for VStar. Cuicatl is. Wish she wasn’t. Far as I know the florges hasn’t spoken to her yet. Maybe she’ll set her straight.

Someone else has spoken to her. Spooked her real bad. I just hope Cuicatl stops before someone decides she needs dealt with. She doesn’t need dealt with. But some people won’t see that.

I met with my brother again. He has money. Offered to pay for the insurance on a dugtrio. Didn’t end up catching one. The fights still went okay. Against marowak, too. Since the last update I got a miltank from Kanoa. A freemartin. He likes male pronouns. Kicks ass. Brings me up to a full team.

Moe and Mahina evolved. An intersex cow, machine gun bird, floating rock, and nostalgia ghost. Not the team I’d planned on, but it’s still damn solid. And Ihe and Leilani are there. They’ll be better once they evolve.

Lost Kapuna. They wanted to hang out with Olivia. Can’t really blame them. She seems cool (for a capitalist).

Uh. Anyway. Turns out that Genesis, the Gage Heiress, was gay. And her family was torturing her. Broke her mind into pieces to try and make something “better.” She’s here. And it’s awkward because like. I still kind of want to hate her, but she’s been shit on by her family almost as hard as Alola was.

The Gages are getting away with it, too. No charges. A fucking pardon within hours. We don’t have a justice system, just a sorting machine. Jail for the poor, freedom for the rich.

I’m thinking of Kekoa. The first one. The famous one. The one I named myself after. First king of Alola and all that.

When all four islands fought, he was told by an oracle that he would only be able to pick one thing. His glory, his integrity, his family, or his life. He stood at a four-way crossroads. And he sided with Ula’Ula. With glory. And he won the war. Forged a kingdom that would last for centuries. Did terrible things while he was at it. He killed some of his own family. The survivors wouldn’t speak with him. Died from poisoned wine at the victory celebration. He lost everything, but went down in history as the man who linked Alola together for good.

I always thought he was wrong, though. He should have chosen Poni. Chosen justice. Even if he lost. Even if it cost him his family and friends. He would’ve been right at the end.

I wanted the name because I wanted to rebuild his kingdom, but didn’t want to make his mistake. I was going to have glory and honor. Punish those who deserved to be punished.

I still think that. Sort of. Even if I’ve toned some of it back a little. But I get it now. The oracle was right. You can only have one. Maybe the path I’m going down gets me arrested or killed. Maybe the others won’t talk to me again. Maybe we won’t even win. I don’t care. No more half measures. No more playing the champion’s own game.

I’ll stay with them for a little bit. Help Cuicatl out, at least, because she’s been looking rough. Swear she almost got herself killed. But once they’re better, I’m out.

There’s only one choice. If society lets people like the Gages get away with that, there’s no reforming it. No conquering it. No taming it. The only thing to do is burn it down to the roots and hope something better grows in the ashes.


Hi, Mom.

Or Danielle.

I don’t know if you lived long enough to see me as your daughter. It’s fine if not. I…

I know I used to talk to you all the time. You’re on the procession of the sun and could hear me but. I stopped. Maybe you aren’t. You believed in different gods, after all. Maybe your soul was judged by the split gods and rewarded or punished. Maybe they’ve already reincarnated you. I don’t know.

I also stopped because I was worried you’d be disappointed in me. It seemed like everyone else always was. Especially after I couldn’t save your son.

I’m writing to you now because I did it. I broke the one warning your grandmother told you about over and over again. “We’re talented mortals, not gods,” she’d say. “So don’t throw your mind around like one.”

I did. I almost broke it. Still have a migraine three days later. Even my body is more tired than I ever remember feeling. Can’t even wallow in bed because Gen needs me. However bad my mind is, hers is worse.

I… if you aren’t in the sun procession, I guess I should tell you why I almost broke everything.

I think I last burned a letter to you back in August. After your son died. I felt like someone should tell you. I’m not sure if you could actually read that letter but I hope that whatever magic the afterlife runs on let you. At least I could get this one printed.

I went to Alola like I told you I would. Got a starter. Lost my starter. Nearly got my starter killed and she decided to live with her own kind.

I was initially paired with two traveling partners. One of them left when there was an alien invasion. (I’m fine, it wasn’t even a big deal. It was just a little colder than usual.) Her name is Genesis. I thought she was really naïve. Kind of a bigot. She didn’t really hate people, though. And didn’t seem to care I was from Anahuac.

Kekoa is trans. A bit prickly. A lot less than he used to be after we yelled at each other for a month.

Lyra joined at the start of the invasion. She’s smart. Rich. Blunt when she wants to be. Has history with Genesis. Hates psychics. But she pays bills and I don’t mind having her around. She knows about my gift, sort of, and isn’t too angry with me. And I kind of get where she’s coming from now.

I’ll get back to that.

My starter was one of the ice vulpix that live here. Now I have a metang, tyrunt, and golisopod. They’re all great and I love them so much. The golisopod, Leo, he’s fairly new. Evolved like a week ago. Had to coax him to battle more as a wimpod so that he would evolve. And he did! Even knocked out a kahuna’s ace right after it. Nocitlālin, the metang, is spying on me for a metagross. I don’t know why and I kind of don’t care anymore. She gives good hugs and has a very strange view of the world. Is helping me with Genesis now.

I’ll get back to that, too.

Mitzcocotonaz, the tyrunt, is brave and loves to bite things. She imprinted on me and I’ve been raising her. I need to get a higher license to keep her when she evolves. I’ve sort of been working on a thesis to win over the other trainers I need to convince. I don’t know how good it is. A few dozen stories about the myths pokémon have.

I’m working for the company I told you about last time. After the invasion ended a tyrantrum started rampaging. I went. Turned out the tyrantrum was Coco’s mother. And Coco still wants to stay with me! I also got $300,000 from it. Before taxes. It’s a good start for what I need.

I went hunting for a salandit with Lyra. She… she confronted me. Told me that I’m not actually fat. I think she’s right. I still don’t know what to make of that. I also tried a blissey egg and felt light. Felt good. I’m in therapy, too. She thinks I should go on antidepressants. Or at least catch a pokémon that mimics them. But some make you gain weight. Even if I’m not fat now I could be. Oh. And. She thinks that I should forgive myself for what happened with your son. But. I can’t just do that’s it’s not that easy. I should. I need. I deserve to hurt. That’s how it’s always been.

I’m doing okay at the trials. Coco helped a lot against one of the ghost marowak. Noci and Coco managed to eke out a win in the grass trial. Then Olivia was really close. Would have lost if Leo hadn’t evolved.

I’m really being held back by having only three team members. I’m also not sure I want more. When the dust settles I can really only have six. Yours and mine. I want to keep Alice, Renfield, and Searah. If I could somehow win with only three pokémon I would really like that.

I’ve stalled long enough, I guess.

Genesis is gay. Her parents hired a psychic to fix that. When I found out it was happening I rushed in and tried to save her. There were two pokémon in her mind. I tried to fight them off with Noci. I won. They withdrew. I still felt like my head was about to burst open. Like my eyes might pop out from the pressure. I could have died if it had gone on much longer.

I could have died and I was scared. I thought I was at peace with death. Maybe even wanted it. But I kept wondering what would happen to your pokémon and Coco and I didn’t want to go. Even if it would have been a battle death. Even if I would have found out if you’re in the sun’s procession.

Genesis was brain damaged in the fight. Sometimes all of her muscles lock up unless I give her a little push. It doesn’t take much, but there always needs to be someone watching her. Noci can. I can. Her golduck is learning but I don’t trust him all the way yet. Not with a life in the balance.

Oh, um. She kissed me at the end of the mental fight. Thought we were dating since she’d just lost a lot of memories. It felt good. I liked it. I wasn’t sure if I liked other girls or not. Never thought it would matter since I didn’t think anyone would love me like that anyway. Maybe when she gets fixed we could make something happen? I don’t know. I don’t want to take advantage of her when she’s just been through a lot. And maybe she deserves someone better.

Finally, I’m not sure if Shirona was after your time. The Sinnoh champion. The one with the garchomp, milotic, and spiritomb. The one who figured out how to get a togekiss to battle. That Shirona.

Um. I kind of got her phone number and texted her. I didn’t expect an answer.

I got an answer. She’s coming to help with my thesis. I. I don’t know what to do about that. She’s. She matters. She’s famous. There are tons of other things she could be doing. I don’t know why she’s coming here.

I just… I’ll just have to try not to disappoint her too much.

I love you. I love you even if you never had time to love me. Even if you blame me for your death or your son’s.

I just hope you don’t mind listening.
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Dark 5.1


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Mission Five: Dark

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”

-Mary Oliver, Thirst

Dark 5.1: Lorekeeper


May 3, 2020​

You do your best to ignore the hushed whispers and open stares from the other passengers on the plane. At least there are fewer of them in first class. You never get anything done at all in economy. Good for public appearances. Bad for resting and working on your flight. And you have work to do today.

You stare through your reading glasses at your tablet, trying to make sense of the thesis draft you were sent. It reads like it was written by a semi-literate secondary school dropout. Which, in fairness, it was. The text-to-speech often mangles the text with unrelated conversations, obviously wrong words, or long streams of incoherent letters. Probably from a pokémon speaking up.

Maybe a tenth of it is in Nahuatl for no apparent reason.

You’ve always disliked the thesis system for actively traveling trainers. Sinnoh instituted an alternative referral and badge system at your insistence. A good thesis is delightful, but it only really works for one of the two groups of trainers who need a Class V: academics, breeders, and exhibitors can put together marvelous, thought-provoking treatises on their area of expertise.

Then there are trainers on the gym challenge, often children, with little in the way of a formal education. It frankly doesn’t matter if they can advance scientific understanding. They don’t have the time or support to write a good thesis on the fly. What’s important is that they can properly care for and control their pokémon.

You’ve seen video of Cuicatl talking down a rampaging tyrantrum. From what you can glean from the thesis she earned the trust of a hydreigon. You’ve read the literature on them. Talked with a few other professional trainers. Pacifying a hydreigon is nearly impossible without a master ball plus and heavy ‘conditioning’ with control pokémon. People have done it, but most of them won’t say how.

If she really understands how to interpret hydreigon behavior in such a way that a mutually beneficial partnership can be developed, that would frankly revolutionize the competitive pokémon scene. And the tidbits on dragon culture she’s casually thrown in are the kind of thing that only a few isolated tribes really understand. The forest wanderers of Poland, the Draconids of Japan, a few monks in the Himalayas, the dragon tribes of New England, and, apparently, a random girl from Anahuac with no cultural obligation to keep her secrets. Unless there’s something you don’t know about the honor codes of Unovan royalty.

Chris Foster found the golden swanna and didn’t give her the support to lay eggs. If he didn’t have Victory at his side letting him fail ever upwards he would have wallowed in mediocrity forever. And he seems to be the only person who doesn’t realize that.

Yes, mythology is one of your passions. You want to talk with Cuicatl about it for as long as she’ll lend you her ear. Learn as much as you can. Maybe, years down the line, you can coauthor a book on it. But right now? None of this is usable. None of it builds to a central point. None of it will convince a council of professional trainers, breeders, and academics that she can be trusted with some of the most dangerous pokémon alive. Foster’s company fundamentally misunderstood the assignment and offered her no meaningful support. Especially considering her impediment.

The correct way forward is to lean on the tyrantrum video and whatever she can put together about dragon taming. The trainers will vote for her if they’re smart. The researchers will be trickier. You’ll need to find a way to write a little that promises a lot in the future. Find a way to imply that if they let her care for the most monstrous pokémon alive she’ll provide invaluable insight down the line. And, frankly, she’ll need your endorsement. Probably Rory and Livs’ as well.

The screen goes dark with the flick of the power button. You take your glasses off, rub your eyes, and sigh. You’ve got your work cut out for you. Especially with what Livs has told you…


It’s wonderful to feel the sand around you after so long in the air. You fly much, much better than you used to, but it’s always a little stressful being so far away from the ground.

Your Alolan home is much the same as when you left it. Good. Seems like Skull learned not to mess with your things after you left Reiko to stand watch when you left. That had been some hilarious security cam footage. Didn’t even report them after. Figured they’d learned their lesson from the roserade better than they would from the police.

It seems like something found the pantry while you were out. Probably a rattata. You wonder if it chewed through anything to get in or just found a hole. You reach to your belt and send out half of your team.

Reiko stretches out her petals and looks up expectantly. Genkei glances around before standing at attention. Always so serious. Wouldn’t hurt the lucario to loosen up from time to time. You’ve made progress on that, but he’ll only relax when he’s alone with you. Kagetora growls softly and tilts up her head. You give the garchomp her neck scratches before getting to work.

“We have guests coming in a few hours. Kagetora, can you fill the pool and then move pyukumuku?” You hold out Wakumi’s pokéball to her as you ask. She takes it and lumbers off towards the pool. Pool opening is just hitting buttons. She can enter the passcode and hold down the level to fill it as long as she needs. Wakumi can purify it if it’s gotten dirty. And Kagetora really loves pyukumuku tossing. Doesn’t know that she’s terrifying the pokémon she’s helping.

“Genkei, can you dust and vacuum? Oh, and get Reiko a dustpan when you’re in the closet. She can clean up the pantry.”

Both nod. You’re glad Reiko has something to do. She usually gets upset when she’s left out because there’s not much to be done at her size. “And Genkei? There’s some food in the freezer if you need to thaw something.”

He usually fasts for a few hours before and after travel, but you try to always give him the option of eating. Just in case he’s changed his mind.


“Mitsuru and I will be going to the village to get food. You want anything while we’re there?”


He probably means sushi. You’ll get some of that. And maybe something fresh for Genkei and your guests later in the week. Mitsuru and Wakumi will be upset at real meat, but they’ve learned to look the other way when Kagetora chows down. Genkei prefers lab meat for everything but sushi. Something about the texture. Even if they can tolerate each other, half your team would mutiny if they caught you eating something that used to be sentient. Cooking it for guests is probably fine. Especially if they’re actual children. You’ll have to talk to them about it first.

It's still a bit of a pain that your biggest eaters are so opposed. Kagetora won’t eat anything fake; it’s an insult to her pride as a dragon. Wakumi takes a different view as a self-proclaimed peacekeeper of the seas. Every week you have to get separate meals for both of them. It would be fine if the milotic wasn’t so picky: artificial alomomola steaks are expensive and hard to source while you’re traveling.

You step past the ‘Warning: Dangerous Pokémon. Do Not Enter.’ sign and enter the garage. Only after shutting the door and turning on the security shields do you unclip Solomon’s master ball plus. You don’t like using it. You keep the pacifying features disabled. You still don’t trust all of him enough to give up the option. It’s possible to be kind to the point of recklessness. After typing in the code the ball’s layers uncurl one by one before finally letting the spiritomb out in a pool of red light. He immediately sticks his ‘head’ out of the stone. It’s a distorted, glitching parody of a human face with some features too large, some nonexistent, and glowing green light shining from the mouth, nostrils, and eyes. If he had ears they would probably be glowing as well. Pale purple fog spills out onto the ground around him.

“Greetings, Shirona,” he says. His speech comes from all around the room in a chorus of dozens of voices, male and female alike. There’s at least one that sounds like a young child.

Solomon won’t talk about the child beyond acknowledging she exists. He almost sounded afraid of her when you asked.

“Good afternoon, Solomon.”

It’s best to let him guide the conversation. Trying to push too hard can send him into a mood. Even with a finger on the withdraw trigger it’s not worth risking.

“How was the flight?” Small talk. Not common for him. It means he’s in a good mood. Here’s hoping he stays that way.

“It passed without incident.”

He tilts his head. The eyes, nose, and mouth stay in place so they’re slanted at an angle on the face. “I don’t believe you’ve told me why we had to return to the islands with such haste.”

And you weren’t going to tell him. But it’s not a good idea to lie to him. He’s good at seeing through trickery and he will be very upset if you even try.

“You remember the girl I’ve taken an interest in?”

“Miss Ichtaca?”

“Yes, her. A friend of hers was assaulted by a few psychic types in an effort to change her sexual preferences. She was injured and needs time to recover. Since Miss Ichtaca will be taking a break from her travels, this seemed as good a time as any to work with her.”

His head tilts back into place. “How curious. And Miss Ichtaca is psychic herself, is she not?”

“Yes.” His eyes flicker with malice. Is he blaming her? Best nip that in the bud. “She wasn’t the one who did it. From what I’ve heard she tried to stop it.”

“I see.” His eyes glow a little less intensely. “I would like to meet her. It has been some time since I encountered her bloodline. Eight hundred years ago in Korea, right when her ancestor first arrived.”

You aren’t sure it’s a great idea to put a traumatized child in the same room as Solomon. He’s usually fine. One-hundred-and-one out of one-hundred-and-eight times. The other seven don’t take over often. But. They range from ‘cruel’ to ‘murderously hostile to all life.’

“We’ll see how she’s doing.” You leave ‘and how you’re doing’ unspoken.

The fog coils closer to him.

“I can accept this.”


Mitsuru lies in the bed of your rented pickup and babbles on about her day, the weather, who knows what, the entire way to Tapu Village. You do your best to keep the window down and say reassuring things every now and then. You’ve mostly learned her tone. Can figure out if she’s talking about a good thing or a bad thing. She warbles back her thanks whenever you give the right answer. It’s hard talking to her without Genkei or Solomon translating. You wish you were one of the elementals who can talk to pokémon. Instead, you can just sense the earth around you. Really useful for archaeology and bonding with ground-types. Only okay for everything else.

The town seems less busy than usual. You decide to ask the clerk about it as you check out.

“Blackout,” she says. “Lot of people who stayed after the Tapu’s wrath and the wormholes figured three strikes was enough.”


For a moment the gods of the Celestica tower before you, chained in translucent red. Chained in the blood of gods. Chained in emotion and memory and will. Chained by mortality. Unsure whether to feel despair or relief when the monstrous secret of your people answered your prayer.

You don’t cast a shadow anymore.

Mitsuru’s already left when you leave the store. Probably got bored and decided to fly back. Or explore. It’s fine. There’s very little on the island she couldn’t kill if it came down to it.


You open the door to see Livs. The kids and Officer—Hmm. Not officer. You don’t know what title they prefer. You aren’t sure if you’ve qualified for first name basis, but ‘Lila’ will have to do. Anyway, the kids and Lila are unloading a van in the driveway.

“Hey, Shirlee.”

You roll your eyes. Livs knows you hate being called that.

She also knows you don’t mind it from her.


She smirks and for a moment you’re both twenty-two and high off of oddish weeds in her attic while you talk about rocks. It’s a shame she’s tied down to Akala. You would have loved to be the one to sweep her off her feet and whisk her away.

Then she frowns and the moment ends.

“Be gentle on them, alright? Two of them have psychic damage. Other two are still hurt in their own ways.”

“Two have damage?” They’d told you about Miss Gage. Who was the second?

She glances behind her and steps out of the doorway as the kids approach. She mouths out ‘tell you later.’

You think.

Galarian is your third language.

The boy, Kekoa, is the first through the door. He has well-tanned skin, a smattering of acne, and probably had a buzzcut at one point before it grew out on the trail. He does his best to be neutral but there’s an unnerved gleam in his eyes. It all looks a bit unfortunate on him.

In other words, he’s a teenage boy.

He seems a little unsure of himself when he holds eye contact with you, fidgeting for a moment before settling on something to say. “Hey.” And then he walks past you into the house.

A linguist for the ages.

“Hello yourself.”

He just shrugs and sits down on the couch.

Cuicatl comes in next. She’s slouching, one hand loosely draped on her metang’s arm. The robot flips around so it can come in the door vertically. She walks past you. Probably didn’t even notice you were there. The girl in the doorway coughs and Cuicatl whirls around. She almost trips over herself in the process.

“Hello, Miss Ichtaca.”

Her eyes widen. She tries to bow and almost topples over from the weight of her backpack. “Hello, Dr. Karashina.”

Not many people outside academia remember the doctorate. The trainer magazines usually omit it. Sinnish news is hit-or-miss. The public chooses to know you as Sinnoh’s Black Lily. Thousands of people have doctorates. Only two trainers rank above you. That’s what makes you special to them.

You aren’t going to make a child call you that, though.

“Shirona is fine, dear.”

You take a moment to evaluate her in person. She’s smaller than you expected. Not in the height sense—you knew that before. She’s just… diminished. Skin and bones with only the faintest hint of muscle tone under it all. And with a hand awkwardly clutching her other elbow she almost seems wounded. Is that what Livs meant? It’s not unimaginable that she could have hurt herself trying to help her friend.

You’ll need to call Goyou or Caitlyn and ask some questions.

“Did you bring your garchomp?” she asks in a hurried voice, the words almost colliding into each other in a verbal traffic jam. “I’ve always wanted to meet one. And um. I mean I also want to meet you, but.”

You smile. It seems she has a little more life now. Almost a Presence. “She’s on the beach.” At least, she should be. “And my milotic is in the pool on the way out if you want to meet her.”

“It’s okay,” someone says from outside. “I have Lila here.”

Cuicatl takes a few big steps inside. Probably just realizes she was blocking up traffic. The last of your visitors step in. The white girl, Genesis, has really fair skin. Going to need to up your sunscreen purchases while she’s here. Her cheeks are smattered with faint freckles. Her hair is almost the same shade as your own. Probably not because of elemental blood for her. Just her ethnicity.

Although her cousin is a flying bloodliner. You suppose one of her ancestors might’ve married a bloodliner for the prestige and abilities.

She freezes up as you analyze her. And stays frozen. No blinking. No microexpressions. No breathing. Then it ends and she takes a deep breath. She curtsies to you. “Genesis Gage. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Still using the last name, huh?” Kekoa asks from the couch.

“Lay off her,” the final girl reprimands. “She’s going through a lot.”

Lyra Miura. Born Kotone Miura. The family name rang a bell so you did some digging. Turns out her family is with the Rockets. Most of her family is. You glanced through the files on her brother’s arrest, trial, and extradition. Still haven’t made up your mind on if that was the system working as it should or being wildly corrupt. Or both.

“I agree that it’s Miss Gage’s decision to make.”

He seems to shrink into himself at your rebuke.

Lyra bows to you. Pretty deeply. You return (not as deeply).

“Lyra Miura. It’s an honor to meet you.”

“Shirona Karashina. Likewise.”

Lila Takeda steps in behind the girls and quietly closes the door.

“Well, the guest bedrooms are upstairs if you want to put your stuff away. There are four of them so you can each have one.”

“Um,” Genesis quietly interjects. “Actually, I wanted to ask if Cuicatl would stay with me for now. I need Noci around in case I wake up and freeze at night. And I don’t want to take her from you so regularly.”

Lyra tenses up and glowers. How curious. And this ‘freezing?’ Is that what you saw earlier? Some kind of lingering psychic damage?

Another question for Caitlyn.

{She’s jealous,} Genkei tells you. {And the other two are romantically interested in one another, but unsure of how to approach it.}

He’s been around humans for his entire life and he still doesn’t quite have the concept of privacy down. You don’t really care if they share a room. They’re old enough to make their own choices. You consider quipping at them to use protection but decide against it. You don’t need to disclose the things that Genkei tells you.

For some reason Cuicatl looks away. Her cheeks darken slightly.

Oh. Psychic. You’re not the only one getting information others might want to keep private.

Lila seems as stoic as ever. Seems they didn’t pick up on it.

“I think I can do that,” Cuicatl says. “But you can borrow Noci at night. I don’t mind.”

“Probably safer to have both of you there anyway,” Genesis insists.

Lyra’s eye twitches but she doesn’t speak up. Just storms off in silence with her bag.

The rest of the kids disperse shortly after. Kekoa and Genesis follow Lyra up alongside Cuicatl’s metang, now levitating one of the bags beside them. Cuicatl sends out her tyrunt. She glances back at you and slowly approaches, neck tilted down and head up. Submission. You’ve seen young dragons do it to Kagetora. Rare to see the same courtesy extended to you. The tyrunt stops just out of arm’s reach and looks up expectantly.

“I think your tyrunt wants something. Looking up at me with big eyes.”

“Pets,” Cuicatl answers. “Just hold an arm out. She probably won’t bite.”

Very reassuring. You pet her anyway, because you long ago accepted that’s the kind of risk you’re willing to take. The tyrunt presses her head against your side and purrs like a happy little buzzsaw.

“She’s remarkably docile. I’ve met other tyrunt before and they… weren’t like this.”

“I hand-raised her. She can be a handful at times. And teething hurt. Still love her to bits.”

At the mention of teething the tyrunt pulls back her lips and shows you her sharp rows of teeth. There’s a bit of raw meat left on them. Must’ve eaten recently. No other discoloration. Probably eats a natural diet, then. Great for dragons, if a bit expensive. Her musculature isn’t as impressive as you were expecting, aside from the neck. The neck and jaw muscles are clearly quite developed. Probably isn’t getting the full body workouts she should to stay in peak condition. She’s growing, though, so it might not be a good idea to push her too hard. Yet. You’ve fought Dianthea’s tyrantrum. He’s not the fastest, but if he gets his jaws around a pokémon the round is over. She actually spends most of the tyrantrum’s training time on cardio and leg muscles. The jaws are naturally powerful enough to crush anything short of a steelix. Catching his prey is far more important than finishing it.

You notice Livs fawning over the tyrunt. Livs and her fossil pokémon. It’s adorable to see her so passionate about them. Even if they’ve always felt a little too unnatural for your tastes.


The tyrunt races back to her trainer’s outstretched hand and snuggles up under it.

“Dr. Shirona, can you show me the back door?” Cuicatl asks.

You did tell her to call you Shirona. You suppose that’s a good enough compromise.


Once she’s chatting up Wakumi (who seems very curious about both the girl and the tyrunt) you turn back to Livs and Lila. A heavy weight seems to fall over the room now that all the kids are gone.

“What haven’t I been told yet?” you ask them. “Glitching? Two of them being hurt?”

They tell you.


It takes you a solid five minutes of meditation with Genkei to accept that you shouldn’t kill a billionaire American national on his own soil while acting as an official of Japan.

It takes another twenty to decide that you won’t actually do it.

You fantasize about how you would do it for another fifteen.

There are options. Kagetora could just blitz his security and decapitate him, but there’s no real fun in that. Solomon could be slower and nastier. Make the man doubt his sanity for days or weeks before finally killing him painfully. Less likely to get traced to you, too.

It’s cathartic to think about. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can actually do. You’ve come to accept that you’re a sportswoman with a bully pulpit and a paramilitary role. Not a monarch. You don’t even have diplomatic immunity. And doing it might keep you from helping Cuicatl.

Might be fun to send Mitsuru to perch outside his window every now and again. Just to make him sweat.

“I’m calm.”

You don’t really need to tell Genkei. He insists you should still verbalize your emotions.

{Good. I have more information to share.}

You sigh. “About Gage?”

{Miss Ichtaca.}

“Is it something I actually need to know? Privacy, remember?”

{She suffers from a severe emotional disorder.}


Are you helping someone with anger issues get a tyrantrum and metagross?

“What kind of emotional disorder?”

{Severe and chronic depression.}


“Don’t care. Thought I asked you to keep that private unless they were actively going to kill themselves?”

He’s usually very good at obeying orders. You’re surprised he told you. Unless…

{She is not currently in a mood to self-harm, but I believe she has been within the last lunar cycle.}

Dragon piss.

“Let me know if that changes. I’ll talk with her about it when she’s healed a little more.”


You ignore Livs and Lila while you eat your ice cream. You’re guessing they have nothing good to tell you. They, in turn, do not wish to bother you when you’re on the edge of making a very violent decision.

When you’ve finished off your bowl and put the dishes away you finally speak to the other adults. “I’m going to go speak to Cuicatl. Make sure she hasn’t gotten in to trouble.”

Lila snorts. “Good luck with that. Girl finds herself in the middle of it more often than not.”

Wait. “Aren’t you supposed to be watching Genesis?”

“She’s ten feet or so above me right now. Well within range.”

Fair enough. You trust her to know her psionics. Speaking of.

“Rumor has it that you caught a metagross recently.”

They lower their head to the table and sigh.

“For better or worse. Just don’t expect to see it on the circuits.”

“Oh? You going pro now?” Or was she trying to tell you that she isn’t?

“Maybe. I’m out of a job.”

“You’d be good at it.” And they would. They fight more like a pro trainer than a police officer. Even before they caught the metagross they made you work to defeat their team.

“Thank you for the endorsement.”

Their face is neutral. Hard to tell if they’re being serious or dismissive.

“You’re welcome. As always, guests are welcome to anything in the refrigerator or pantry that doesn’t have a post-it note on it. Although I may have to reconsider that policy if I’m hosting multiple teenagers…”

Hilda was bad enough when she was still growing.

“We’ll hold down the fort. Go check on the kid,” Livs says.

“Thank you.”

When you get to the edge of the deck you can look out on the beach and check up on the kid and the dragons. Kagetora is lazily swimming through the sand while the tyrunt runs from her. Wakumi is mostly lying in the surf with her head loosely coiled in a circle around Cuicatl. Huh. Weren’t expecting her to be that protective already. The tyrunt trips in the sand and Kagetora approaches long enough to give her a push to her feet. There’s a golisopod lurking in the water, sometimes sticking his head up just long enough to observe everyone before sinking back beneath the waves.

Genkei approaches you from behind. If you hadn’t spent years around him you would not have noticed.

“You know I don’t need half my team to watch a child, right?”

He doesn’t answer. Typical. He’s always paranoid of letting strangers around you. Even if he can see their hearts.

Or especially because he can see their hearts.

You map out how you would subdue her, the tyrunt, and the golisopod in two words. What your pokémon would most likely do. What hers might. ‘Match’ over in less than two seconds. Probably less than one. You project the confidence towards your partner and he still doesn’t budge.

“If you insist.”

You press your stress into the sand once you hit the beach. The world opens up and you feel the shifting particles and everything buried in and pressing down upon them.

Cuicatl is lighter than you’d expected. That’s potentially concerning.

You press that aside for the moment. You’ll have time to make sure it’s nothing problematic going forward. Kagetora notices your approach and swims over for headpats. You oblige, of course.

“I see you’re already making friends.”

Wakumi dismissively flicks one of her antennae. Kagetora just softly bellows as you move to scratching his neck.

“They’re good dragons,” Cuicatl says. “Very friendly.”

“There are people who would disagree.”

{Fools and cretins,} Wakumi replies in your mind. And probably Cuicatl’s. {She is neither.}

Milotic aren’t quite as adept at reading people as lucario are, but they’re close. Perhaps she’s reached the same conclusion as Genkei and is being extra protective because of it. Or perhaps she just likes being spoken to by someone who can speak her own tongue back.

“Do milotic speak Upper Draconic?”

They aren’t technically dragons, just closely related. And highly intelligent. And powerful. It’s enough that gyarados and milotic are considered honorary dragons. Dudunsparce as well, even if that isn’t as easy to defend when speaking to the public.


That alone might be enough to get them reclassified as dragon-types. You could easily just retool her thesis into an argument for that. If Wakumi considers herself a dragon. If she doesn’t it’s not worth pushing for.

“Does that make you a dragon, then?”

{In the ways that count.}

“Who taught you the language?” She evolved under your care. Do feebas know it, too?

{I was reborn knowing it.}

An innate language, then. The linguists are going to go nuts over that.

“Then how did that come about?”

“A gift from Cipactli.”

You turn towards Cuicatl. Her golisopod has risen slightly out of the water and is looking at you with an almost predatory gaze. Genkei notices and takes a step forward. The bug promptly bolts in the opposite direction.

“I don’t think you mentioned that in the materials you sent me.”

And that would have been a damn good place to start.

“I was getting to it. Just hadn’t remembered to write it yet. It’s not something Alice talked about a lot. Cipactli isn’t that important anymore and only one of her children is awake.”

“I don’t follow.”

She takes that as an invitation to explain.


The oldest and strongest dragons roam the cosmos. When they find a planet with life they may land and guide it along. The first to find the earth was Cipactli, a clay dragon that weaved her way into the planet. From there she watched the cycle of life and death, guiding it in such a way that the proto-dragons came about.

While she watched nature progress, she created three children to help her protect the fragile planet. They were the lords of sea and soil, and above them was Quetzlcoatl, the White Tezcatlipoca, bringer of winds and protector of life.

When an uncountable number of generations had passed, Cipactli finally found enough worthy species to become dragons. She granted them a fraction of her power and the gifts of intellect and speech. They were to become her heirs and rule over the planet’s life.

The three protectors grew upset over other, lesser beings asked to rule. They were being asked to serve lower creatures that had been mere beasts an eon ago. They plotted to seize control of the world, despite their mother’s wishes. The three children struck before Cipactli had fully recovered from granting her blessing. She only half-heartedly resisted the coup, unwilling to harm her children, and was torn asunder into thousands of pieces and scattered across the planet’s surface.

Even now she sleeps. Every few millennia she finds the strength to stir, but never enough to reform.

Quetzlcoatl abdicated the right to rule over creation to parlay with the dragons from worlds beyond, keeping any hostile ones away from the planet. The lords of sea and soil cooperated for a time, before the lord of the land grew jealous of the size of his sister’s domain. He demanded she submit to him as the true ruler and she refused.

The two fought viciously and nearly destroyed all that they wished to command. In the end, Quetzlcoatl intervened and dropped the heavens on his siblings. Then he tore out their hearts and placed them on the peak of a mountain, the sky lord’s own domain. It would be tens of millions of years before either was woken up.


“I know the myth says ‘dropped the heavens,’ but I’m pretty sure he just crashed a meteor into the sea east of Anahuac. The timing lines up.”

It takes you a few minutes to process all of that. In 2012 when Japan was nearly destroyed, some kid on the other side of the world knew more about how to awaken and potentially seal the monsters than you did. Maybe more than the men who woke the gods knew. And apparently this was just common knowledge for the dragons. For the draconids.

There had been rumors that one was guiding Aqua-dan behind the scenes. It was never made public to avoid acts of genocide from a wrathful public, but the tribe has been closely surveilled ever since. You’re placing a lot more faith in those rumors now. And you’re guessing she knew exactly what she was doing.

You’re starting to understand why the dragon tribes guard their secrets so closely. The one time one slipped, hundreds of thousands of people died. It could have easily been billions.

Cuicatl shifts nervously. “What do you think?”

“I think you just made major advances in the fields of paleontology, linguistics, theology, astrobiology, taxonomy, pokémon studies, and anthropology,” you say dryly.

“Oh.” She absent-mindedly holds out a hand and the tyrunt rushes over for neck scratches. “Is it really that important?”

“You also might end up on a few watchlists.”

{Are you sure all of that is correct?} Wakumi asks. {No one ever told that to me.}

Kagetora grunts and growls.

“She knew the story. Although she was told different names.”

Wakumi sings something low and mournful. Kagetora grunts back.

“Kagetora says that her mother told her the story.”

And no one told Wakumi. You’re going to need to console her about that.

“I see. Any reason you didn’t tell me during the Hoenn crisis, Kagetora.”

She looks away. It’s what she does when she’s embarrassed or ashamed. She answers in a series of slow, rumbling sounds.

{I did not want to take sides between the three lords,} Genkei translates.

“You tried to… never mind.” What happened at the Celestica Temple isn’t classified. That would require the government to know about it. It’s something even higher. On the mountain she tried to fight off Dialga. She managed to draw blood before things went wrong. ‘Atoms scattered across a thousand years’ wrong. That was when you called on the dark god of the Celestica, just as your distant ancestors had when invaders arrived from across the sea.

Dialga was kind enough to undo the kill when he wiped all memory of the events on Coronet from the timeline. Kagetora remembers what happened. She has never wished to speak of it.

The dragon doesn’t answer your aborted question.

“The good news is that I think we can make some of this into a thesis. The Japanese government might also give you a Level Nine license, our Class V equivalent, in exchange for never telling anyone anything about ancient dragon gods, no matter the circumstances. The U.S. has a reciprocation treaty and I can smooth over any upset bureaucrats or politicians.”

This is arguably a matter of global security. People won’t mind you throwing your weight around.

“Is it that dangerous?”

You take a deep breath. “What’s the most dangerous thing you could summon or control with one hundred million dollars and the cooperation of any single person on the planet.”

She pauses for a very long time.

“Probably just Quetzlcoatl. I don’t think I could restore the Dragonmother.”

Nope. Fucking nope. You don’t want to know how you would merge Zekrom, Reshiram, and Kyurem. They’re threatening enough individually. And she thinks there’s a way to do it.

“’Just’ the god that dropped a meteor on the planet and killed seventy percent of all life?”

“The dragons say he regrets it.”

You’re more concerned about someone chaining the dragon. Stronger gods have been dominated before.

The girl shrinks into herself and looks down at the ground. “I’m sorry I made you mad. I won’t tell anyone about any of this.”

“I’m not angry at you.”

You’re pretty sure you aren’t. Just… frustrated. Not at her. She’s just giving you a massive headache.

Cuicatl relaxes a little bit. “Um. This is different, but. Did you ever hear about a Danielle Lee?”

“Can’t say I have.”

A Galarian, Canadian, Australian, or American trainer by the sound of it. You only started following the American leagues when Caitlyn moved there. You’ve never followed the others more closely than your position requires.

“She was a pro trainer in Unova around 2000. Retired and moved to Anahuac in 2002. Had a hydreigon.”

You were just starting to climb the ranks then. It would have been easy to miss her. Still, hyreigon are rare enough that you might have heard her discussed in passing. You’ll have to jog your memory.

“I take it she owned the hydreigon in your thesis?”

“Yes.” She hesitates and nervously taps her foot. You can’t see it, but you can feel the movement of the sand around it. “She was my mother. I just thought that maybe you would have known her.”

Was. You hadn’t figured she had parents in her life given the seeming precariousness of her situation. Sad to hear it confirmed.

“I have a friend in the Unovan Elite Four. I can try and get some of her records to you.”

“I would like that.”

Then it’s settled. You’ll send Caitlyn an email before getting started on dinner.


Lila excused themselves before dinner. Something about cleaning out their office. Privately you think they were just exhausted. When they sat down sometimes you caught their eyes drooping. Poor thing. Probably hasn’t slept since this mess began. You offered them a room but they declined. Teleported away with their alakazam a few minutes later.

Now you’re cleaning up the dishes with Livs while the kids talk on the pool deck. You’ll make them pitch in later (or just let them—Cuicatl had practically begged you to help), but this was a good excuse to have one-on-one time with Livs.

Once everything is settled, she dries her arms off and takes a tepid step towards the door.

“I suppose I should be going now.”

“You know you’re more than welcome to stay the night. It’s quite late and it’s a long trip back to Akala.”

She half-smiles in a way that betrays just how tired she is. “There is a free guest room.”

You raise your exposed eyebrow as innocently as you can.

“Guest room?”


Your phone rings at 6:21 a.m. Caitlyn. You groan and roll out of bed. Livs is blearily looking over at you. Damn phone must have woken her up. “Caitlyn,” you tell her. “Have to take this. Back in a sec.”

You exit the room to see Genkei meditating on the couch. No Kagetora. Weird. She usually camps out right outside your door on the nights where you kick her out of the room. Genkei opens his eyes and rises as you answer the call. “Hello.”

Your exhaustion must’ve found its way into your voice. “Wait. Shit. Time zones. I can wait if—”

“Already up. Did you already find something?”

You step outside on to the pool deck. Genkei follows.

{Where’s Tora?}

{Upstairs with Cuicatl and Genesis.}

Oh. She was probably mad about being kicked out of your room. Decided to sleep on her new friend’s bed instead.

You’ll have to talk to her later in the morning.

“I found a lot, actually. Was talking with Grim and he got all interested. Figured he would’ve heard about someone using a hydreigon in Unova. So we got digging and it turns out that there’s no trainer with that name between ’95 or ’05. Or in any of our records back to ’83. Haven’t digitized the stuff from before then. And Grim didn’t remember any woman with a hydreigon in that time.”

“How curious.” Your brain slowly wakes up and you try to figure out what the hell you’re being told. “Maybe she had the wrong name? Or region?”

“We thought so, too. So Grim called the customs people and got their records on hydreigon exports to Anahuac. Figured that would’ve kicked up a big paperwork trail, moving a dangerous pokémon to a sanctioned country.”


“Nothing. Couldn’t find any exports at all from after the Thanksgiving War. Maybe she just slipped across the border?”

“Or she never existed.”

“Or that.” She pauses. “Probably that.”

“Thanks for the help. I’ll let you or Grimsley know if I have any more questions.”

“No problem. Take care. And, um, get back to sleep, maybe?”

“I’ll try.”

After the call is ended you take a deep breath and look towards Genkei. “Was Cuicatl lying yesterday?”

{She believed she was telling the truth.}

“I think so, too. No reason to lie about it to me. And someone clearly taught her the language and stories. Kagetora wouldn’t have known it otherwise.”

{Then what do you think happened?}

You take a minute to put the pieces together. It’s hard so early in the morning after a bout of jet lag, but you manage something half-decent. “I think there was a hydreigon that taught her. She was just lied to about her mother.”


The sun is starting to rise over the sea. It’s always gorgeous in Alola. Maybe the prettiest of anywhere you’ve ever been. The entire sea and sky alight in shades of orange, red, and purple. And the temperature is just right at dawn. During the day Alola gets a little too warm for your Celestica blood to handle.

“I don’t know,” you finally answer. “And I don’t think I can afford to be direct when asking her. She’s fragile right now. Still healing. I don’t want to stress her too badly.”

{It might push her over the edge.}

You didn’t want to be so blunt about it.

“It’s a very interesting mystery. And you know I love my mysteries.”

Now, how to go about solving it?
Last edited:
Dark 5.2


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Dark 5.2: The Living Blizzard

The humans have an almost mountain-sized bowl ringed with places to sit, all looking down at a patch of grass. You don’t fully understand why they do this. Maybe they built this place so lots of humans can all witness a nine-tails at once without taking up too much of her time? Openliver is standing at one side of the grass, babbling on about how pokémon are only allowed to know four moves. Which is wrong! You know more than four and you don’t care what he believes about it. Mother probably knows all of the moves. Every single one. Except fire. Because who would want to control fire? Or sand. Or poison. It’s beneath you.

Openliver finally stops talking and moves to the side of the grass. Kalani told you she was going to battle today. You want to see just what she can do when she stops holding back. Get a reminder of why you’re obviously the best. Openliver’s mate is providing an adequate pillow as you sit and watch. One of the creepy human-like pokémon with big paws starts waving around and pink barriers slide up around the field. Like they could keep Kalani in. No. They’re probably just there to stop her prey from escaping. Very considerate.

Openliver presses a button on Kalani’s ball and she appears on the field. She glances around, flicks a tail, and raises up a paw to lick it clean. The other human sends out… a giant ball? Half of it is white and half of it is red. Like a pokéball. Just bigger. And with eyes. Kalani broke your pokéball so this one shouldn’t be a problem.

“Thunder wave!” The ball’s human shouts. The ball spits out a small line of static that dissolves as Mother’s wispy hex shield shimmers into place. Huh. You’ve never seen it used like that. Those shields are just for keeping other vulpix from putting you to sleep or confusing you. A counter to tricks. Don’t know how it blocks lightning.

Mother is still licking her paw, barely giving her opponent a glance.

“Bolts! Blasting!”


Kalani reluctantly looks towards the ball and dives to the side, narrowly avoiding a much bigger blast of lightning. You can see some of her fur get puffed up as a result. She growls menacingly before looking to the sky and howling. Another bolt hits her dead on as the winds pick up and snow begins to fall. The next blast strikes a glowing aurora in front of her. As the winds grow ever stronger and the field becomes consumed by snow and hail, she slips inside the storm and becomes perfectly hidden. Soon you can only faintly see the red half of the stupid ball as it keeps blindly firing into the storm.

“Fine. Explosion!”

The ball begins to glow. Intensely. A beam of pink light races from the storm and strikes it dead on. The ball glows brighter and brighter as it the beam pushes it back towards the walls.

“Close your eyes,” Openliver’s mate says.

Even through your eyelids you can see the white glow of whatever happens next. The roar hits you a moment later. She should have put paws over your ears, too.

When you finally blink the light from your eyes you see Kalani standing in the middle of the storm with a few singed hairs. She’s gently licking her flank to try and get them out. Good priorities.

The other human withdraws his ball to a smaller ball in a pulse of red light. At least it’s weak. Now you don’t even need to learn what it is.

A strange floating… pink… bird… thing? appears. The lines are too smooth. Almost lifeless. And it doesn’t flap or squirm through the air as it moves. It just floats forward. Every limb seems to be rotating independently. You don’t know what this is but you don’t like it. Hopefully Mother kills it.

“Lock on,” other human calls out. Kalani eyes the bird quizzically, probably also realizing the need to murder it. Openliver and Mother both wait as the bird rotates and stutters, horrifyingly thrusting its head away from its body before pulling itself back together.

“Encore,” Openliver says with calm confidence. Kalani’s eyes flash as she follows the command, pulling on what she wants from the bird and making it do it again and again.

The bird’s head separates from its body again before coming back together.

Openliver reaches to his belt and pulls out something before putting it on his wrist. Oh. The combination moves. Like Skysong did. Will he faint? Everyone but Skysong always acted like that was strange. She kept doing it anyway. Because…

You don’t know if she cared for you in her own way. Kalani says she did not. And she failed. A lot of times. Didn’t understand you. Couldn’t understand you. Couldn’t give you a home. Not like Mother can.

Openliver finishes his dance and the air grows colder, even outside the barriers. The winds pick up to a degree that not even you can see anything through the flying snow. Something cracks inside. And cracks again. The barriers themselves start frosting over.

And then the cold stops. The ice against the barriers cracks and falls down. When you can finally see the field again the storm has all but stopped. In the middle there’s a solid boulder of clear ice almost nine times as tall as Kalani is and nine of her body lengths across. The bird is frozen solid in the middle. Hopefully dead.

That’s the most ice you’ve ever seen anything create at once. You knew Kalani was strong and that the nine-tails had been gifted by the strongest spirits in Alola. Seeing it like that is something else. Your parents never wanted to waste the energy—no. No, they couldn’t do that. You have a better mother than Avalanche now. Kalani would be the strongest nine-tails on the mountain. Stronger than any of them. Maybe the strongest ever. And you’re her daughter. That means you’re strong, too.

The ice cracks and a full body size splits off and falls to the ground. It shatters on impact. Then more and more cracks and falls apart until giant, jagged shards of ice cover the entire field. The bird finally collapses to the ground and is sucked up by red light. For the best. It wouldn’t have been safe to eat because it was obviously sick. And now you won’t have to look at it.

The humans do a flurry of pointless things. Talking to each other, pointing at the field, finally saying in a big voice something about excessive force. Which it wasn’t. It’s good to be sure something is dead when you’re putting it out of its misery.

In the end they make Kalani go back into her ball. For doing what she was told and doing it well.

Humans. Why do you bother with them?

Rockfur finishes off a floating food-heating box but you can’t bring yourself to care.


Mother shakes herself off when she reappears in the grass. She glances at you before looking at her singed fur, carefully using her sharpest teeth to cut off the burnt ends and leave what can still be salvaged. It’s horrible that the stupid ball managed to hurt her fur like that. Just one paw’s worth of her fur is more valuable than it will ever be.

“I’m not doing this because I’m a reject,” she hisses between bites and licks. “I don’t care what that eevee says. I’m strong and beautiful. The strongest and most beautiful. And everyone should know it.”

She sounds angry. Like she does care what the eevee said. You don’t want to point that out. Especially when she’s angry. And so, so strong. She could have frozen Skysong so thoroughly she’d never thaw. Could freeze you, even. But she wouldn’t. You don’t need to think of that. Even when she’s angry.

You’ll try not to think about that.

“I’ve never seen anyone as strong as you.”

She looks up at you with a satisfied gleam in her eye. “The humans call me the living blizzard,” she says. “I like it. The other nine-tails do not have that title.”

You hear the clack of Rockfur’s nails approaching.

“Are you hurt?” he asks Mother.

She huffs. What a silly question. Nothing could hurt her.

“They were angry at Openliver about how I beat my prey. That is why I let you hunt. I only had three or four paws worth of fur singed.”

She doesn’t ask Rockfur if he was hurt. He wasn’t from what little you paid attention to. And he seems fine now. It wouldn’t be worth asking. And nine-tails don’t ask meaningless questions. They’re too smart.


Mother isn’t allowed inside Openliver’s room anymore. Neither is Eggshell. You curl up in your bed with a huff and glare at Rockfur. Why is he still allowed out? He attacked Mother when she fought Eggshell. Betrayal should be punished more than avenging a slight from an eevee.

Someone knocks on the door and Openliver’s mate opens it up. Poisonhair walks in with her horrible cold eevee alongside her. “Hey,” she says. “Glacons wanted to talk to your lycanroc. I don’t expect problems, but.” She glances at the hole Kalani made in the wall. “I get it if you’d rather not.”

“Come in. Basalt’s better behaved than Kalani.” She pauses. “And I’m so sorry about what happened the other day. She’s been getting more unruly lately, but I didn’t think she’d stoop to that.”

“More unruly? Eggshell calmed down when she had her kits.”

“I’m afraid so.” Openliver’s mate glances at you before quickly and deliberately looking away. “She’s cursed multiple people in the last few months. Including Hala and Selene. Selene. She’s lucky Nebby didn’t kill her.”

She did curse the bird’s human, then. Good. He deserved it. And… Mother says she could fight The Moon. You told on her. If she died because of it, would that have been your fault? Maybe you did deserve to get sent under the house because of that. Even if they already knew before you told them. Even if you had to choose between her and a goddess.

“Was that around her getting the vulpix?”

“Around the time she stole a vulpix, yes.”

She didn’t! You made a choice. Why are they talking about her like this. Like you aren’t here. Like you won’t just tell Mother what they said.


Openliver’s mate sighs. “A trainer came by the lab with a vulpix. Kalani attacked her, cursed her, kidnapped the vulpix, and refused to let her go. The trainer was nice enough about the whole thing. Actually, um.” This time she looks at you and holds her gaze. She sucks in some air and speaks to you in the high pitch voice humans use towards pokémon. “We might need to visit her when we get back to Alola, if you’re okay with that. Some things happened and I think it would do her good to see you for a bit. I’ll give you more details later.”

Things happened? What things? Why does she want to see you again? Is she going to try and steal you? Is this when Kalani is going to curse her for real? Why can’t she just tell you what happened?

“Actually, can we talk about this in your room, Sina? Give the pokémon some space?”

“If you’re sure they can be trusted…”

You can be trusted. You won’t give the eevee anything worse than what it deserves.

Openliver’s mate puts a white pokéball down on the floor. “Basalt, feel free to withdraw Pixie is she misbehaves.”


You need his ball to watch him. Not the other way around.

You see why Mother has never bothered to name this human, despite seeing her almost every day.

The humans leave and the eevee settles down in a heap like he owns the place.

“I’m sorry for Kalani,” Rockfur says.

“And I for Eggshell.”

They both glance at the still-frozen-over hole in the wall from when Mother tried to kill the eevee and his tainted kits.

The eevee looks over to you. “I don’t understand you. As a species. You’re beautiful, strong, and powerful. It’s obvious to anyone who meets you. But you’re rarely kind. Not to others. Not to yourselves.”

How dare an eevee criticize you?

“We are very kind to those who deserve it.” You run cold air through your fur to puff it up. “The kindest, even.”

“Didn’t Kalani kick you out of the house for a week?” Rockfur asks.

You huff. It happened one time and was probably a mistake. Had to have been a mistake. On your end or hers. You’ll be better now and it won’t happen ever again.

Rockfur doesn’t break eye contact. It’s rude. Like he’s challenging you. Like he thinks he’s better than you. He’s not.

“What does she love about you?”

“I’m the best. Behind her. Obviously.”

His eyes don’t move away. You raise your tails in challenge but he ignores it. “She didn’t bother getting to know you before claiming you as her own. Who you are didn’t matter. Just what you are to her. Is that kind?”

You growl, steady and low. The eevee takes a step towards your ball and you snap at her before lunging and sitting on top of it. There. Now no one can withdraw you.

“And why do you need to prove yourself to others?” the eevee asks. “If you’re so much better than them, can’t you just let them see it over time? It’s almost like you’re afraid they are better.”

The air temperature plummets until the moisture around you falls in a thin layer of snow. They’ve gone too far. Way too far.

“Sometimes people make mistakes. We must correct them.”

Hummy made a mistake when she didn’t see how great you are. And Rocktosser. And Lightfur. And Lowgrowl.

And Avalanche.

They were all wrong.

You’re worth more than your siblings.

More than nothing.

You are.

You are!

It was all just a mistake.

You have a new mother. She wouldn’t have chosen you if you were worth less than your siblings. Worth less than nothing.

She loves you. Whatever Rockfur says. She has to.

She has to.

She’s too perfect to make the same mistake as everyone else.

No one will ever leave you behind again.

“You have the empty look,” the eevee says. “The one Eggshell gets after she’s been angry.”

You grunt something meaningless. The eevee doesn’t know anything about you. Or his mate. Or any nine-tails or vulpix. You’re far, far beyond him.

“She usually wants cuddled when she’s like this. Do you?”

You screech and flair your tails. “Don’t touch me!”

(Even if it would be really nice to be wrapped up in Kalani’s tails right now, the eevee is very ugly and you don’t want him giving his ugliness to you.)

The door opens and the humans step in.

“Pixie!” Openliver’s mate reprimands. “Get off your ball!”

You huff and reluctantly step off of it. Not because she’s making you. It was just uncomfortable lying on top of it. That’s why.


Mother shakes herself off and looks around the grass. You hate that she’s only let out long enough to eat and mark her territory. Beneath her dignity. The humans have no right to treat a nine-tails like that.

She turns around and faces you. “Are you hurt?” Mother leans in and sniffs. Then she growls. “You smell like the eevee.”

“I’m not hurt. It just talked to me with Rockfur.”

Mother tenses. “He should not have let it speak.”

No. He shouldn’t have. Shouldn’t have agreed with it, either.

“What did it say to make you so upset?”

It’s wrong to say it. Because it’s not true. And saying it almost makes it sound like you agree with it. But not saying it would make her think you have something to hide. So you should.

“They said you didn’t love me. You just wanted a child.”

Her eyes narrow and her tails rise above the ground. “Rockfur said it, too?”


The air chills and the wind picks up.

“I will have to punish him. He does not interfere with my child.”

Your heart swells. She does love you!

“What do you love about me?”

She growls and turns on you. “Don’t tell me you believe them.”

“No!” You don’t! “I just want to know what you love about me.”

Her eyes narrow and she stalks over. Her tails stay still above the ground. Like she’s hunting prey. You can’t help but back up.

“It sounds like you believe an eevee over your mother.”

“I don’t!” You would never. You just want to know what she loves about you. Why she’ll never leave you.

She holds her gaze for a long time. Her lips are pulled the slightest bit back, exposing the sharp tips of her teeth.

“Good,” she says, before turning around and walking away.

You relax so quickly that you lose your balance and fall into a heap.

She loves you. She says she loves you.

But she never answered your question.


Rockfur has stayed far away from you and Mother ever since you got back. He’s still scared of being trapped in a block of ice while ghostly flames burn his soul. As he should be. Mother is strong. So, so strong. You can’t get the memory of her stalking you out of her head. Because… because she’s that strong! And she’d never really hurt you. That was just. An act. That’s what it was. Joking. She learned that from the humans.

Openliver sits you down two days after you returned.

“We need to talk about Cuicatl,” he says.

Mother hisses. “No, we don’t.” She doesn’t want to leave you alone after the eevee. She’s here to make sure no one attacks you when she isn’t looking.

Gillwailer starts translating but Openliver starts talking over her. Like he doesn’t even care what Kalani said. “She got hurt recently. I don’t know how hurt yet, but it sounds like it could’ve been pretty bad. Do you want to see her? I think she’d appreciate it.”

“She didn’t visit you when you were hurt.”

Gillwailer babbles and Openliver shakes his head.

“She offered to visit if you wanted. Just wasn’t sure if you would.”

What? You thought that was a cruel joke. She wouldn’t want to see you after you… failed. She really did? The tips of your tails perk up involuntarily.

“No.” Mother growls. “Firstborn is mine now. She will not go back.”

“I don’t think that’s your choice to make.”

“It is my choice. She is mine.

Openliver sighs and rubs his forehead. “Pixie?”

You do not dare betray your mother. Not again. Not after last time.

Even if you want to make sure that Skysong meant what she said. That… that someone didn’t leave you.


Mother takes you out to practice at night.

“Light beams are strong,” she says. “But I can teach you to be stronger. The trick to making a pure beam of cold is to narrow it down. Use the same power in less space.”

You can do that! You take a deep breath and hold it, feeling cold and light swirl in your throat. Then you blow it out to make—a light beam that seems even wider than before.

Kalani snarls. “Again.”

Make it smaller. How do you make it smaller? She doesn’t look like she wants to explain. And if she did want to explain she would have done it. Maybe. If taking a deep breath made it too big? You take a shallow breath and spit it out. A flurry of slightly glowing snowflakes streams into the air. It looks like a much bigger version of what the humans call a ‘powder snow.’

“Not cold enough. More powerful.”

Shallow and powerful? Okay… You take a few deep breaths to steady yourself before taking a shallow one and spitting it right out with a mouthful of energy. A single shot of clumped ice forms in the air before breaking apart immediately.


You can try? You take a shallow breath, charge it with energy, and spit it out. And keep blowing. And blowing. There’s no air left but you keep your mouth open and try to blow. The ball of ice had a trail behind it this time but now it has all but run dry. You finally take a greedy breath and collapse on to the ground to recover.


What? But…


You take a shallow breath and launch it out as hard as you can. And keep going. And going. The initial ice ball was bigger and the trail is longer. Progress! This time it takes you far longer to catch your breath when you collapse. Progress?

“More breath.”

“It just did the light beam when I had more breath,” you protest between gasps for air.

The air freezes and a bolt of ice wider than you are sails past you before shattering apart in midflight.

“I am the one who knows how to fight. You are here to listen.”

You try again with more air. It’s just the same as the first try.

When morning comes you can barely stand and you’ve only made a thin beam.

“Barely passable. For a three-tails,” Mother says.


Mother has to have a ‘health check’ in the morning. You’re barely awake and Openliver insists that you get some sleep rather than going along. As Openliver’s mate takes Kalani’s ball to the healing place, he springs his trap.

“I guess I should explain what happened to Cuicatl.”

Your ears perk up despite everything. You had been wondering ever since his mate told you just enough to worry but not enough to know what to worry about.

“She, uh, well you know Genesis, right? Her old traveling partner.”


Gillwailer translates.

“Uh, yeah. Her. Anyway. She got attacked by her parents when they wanted to change her mind into someone else. Cuicatl stepped in but got hurt. She’s said that you can visit her. Now or whenever you want in the future. I just wanted to give you the option away from Kalani. I know that she’s…” He trails off and scratches the back of his head. “She usually isn’t this bad. Don’t know what happened. If I’d known she’d be like this I would have just sent you on your way at the start.”

He tried that. Mother returned for you. “She isn’t bad.” And if she was it wouldn’t be his place to judge her.

“You can barely stand right now.”

“She isn’t bad.” She’s your mother. This is just… just part of being as strong as her.

“We can talk about that later. Do you want to visit Cuicatl? And Kalani doesn’t have to know. I can just tell her that I took you even though you fought me the whole way.”

You shouldn’t defy her. She’ll find out. She’ll be angry with you. And you don’t want her to be angry at you. You have to slowly, hesitantly shake your head from side to side.

“I understand.”

He withdraws you.


There’s something different on the wind. Something familiar. You turn around in place and see the mountain looming in the distance. It seems closer now than it did on the beach with Skysong. Why did he take you here? You aren’t strong enough to go back yet. Not strong enough to show everyone they made a mistake. Another sniff of the air gives you the reason.

Skysong is nearby. With her human friends. And Eggbreath. And Eyerock. You narrow your eyes. You will show both of them who is the strongest. That she—well, Skysong didn’t leave you. But you need to show that you’re better than them because.


You don’t need her to take you back. She didn’t decide either of them were stronger than you. There might not even be a reason they have to know you’re stronger than them.

This is strange.

You aren’t sure how to deal with former servants who didn’t abandon you.

Kalani is going to be mad when she finds out you’re here. But you didn’t want to go. You asked not to. You didn’t betray her. And Openliver might not take you back until you talk to Skysong. Really, this just gets you home faster. She should like that.

You turn towards Openliver and see a building rising off the beach behind him. Bigger than his home. It smells like other pokémon. Strong pokémon are nearby. It’s just a feeling you get. The fur on the back of your neck rising up. The instinct to run or hide or get ready for the fight of your life.

Openliver walks towards the door and you trot after him. A strange woman with bright hair answers. Is she related to Growlsleeper? No. They don’t smell like they would be related. There’s a strange dog on two legs behind her. He smells like metal.

“Glad to see you, Rory.”

Rory? Is Openliver ‘Rory?’ Or is that you? She may have heard how good your roars are.

The woman turns towards you. “Ah. Well met, Pixie. Cuicatl is upstairs.”

Your name is Firstborn of Kalani now. You protest but she doesn’t seem to understand. Then the dog nods its head and the woman blinks.

“Oh. I will use that in the future, then.”

Very respectful. If only all humans were like that.

The humans start talking so you follow Skysong’s scent trail through the home. You can feel the dog’s attention on you the whole way. There’s also a ghost nearby. The strongest ghost you’ve ever felt. You do your best to ignore it. Hopefully it ignores you, too.

Once you hear her breath (and Growlsleeper’s) behind a door you scream a little. Just so she knows you’re there. The door swings open but no one is behind it. Deeper in the room Skysong has her front paws up on a platform while Growlsleeper puts a bad-smelling liquid on them.

“Hi, Pixie,” Skysong says in a quieter voice than usual

The door swings shut and Eyerock floats out from behind it. There’s also a weird bird-mammal-thing with a vaguely human build sitting on the floor. It keeps an eye on you but doesn’t move.

“Firstborn of Kalani,” you announce. “New name.”

“And your—Kalani gave you that?”


She nods as Growlsleeper blows air (?) onto Skysong’s paws.

“Good. Pixie, it was very you, but being named by your own kind must mean a lot, right?”

Yes. And it is a sign that she loves you. Loves you enough to make you her own.

“All done with the color,” Growlsleeper declares. “But maybe don’t pet Pixie? Or at least wash it off with acetone if you do. I can find a bottle. We can always redo it later.”

“Thank you.”

“No pr—” She locks up entirely for a moment before moving again just as suddenly. “—oblem. I’ll give you some privacy?”

“I would like that.”

Growlsleeper flashes her teeth before walking out. The duck… thing follows her along with her stupid cloud you hadn’t even noticed and… Eyerock?

“Did Eyerock abandon you?”

“No. She’s just helping out Gen.” She opens her mouth and closes it twice again before she finally speaks. “I’d pet you, if you wanted, but,” she flashes her paw. Her claws are colored white now. And they stink.

“I don’t want that on me.”

“I thought so.” She lowers her paw back down. “Are you okay? Dr. Kukui told me you had healed but I was so worried.”

A phantom ache runs through your abdomen. It’s fine. It doesn’t bleed. You can even move it fully. “It hurt. I healed.”

“Good, I. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you to do the last two trials. It was wrong but I didn’t want to let you go. You didn’t need to prove yourself. You’re soft, willful, and clever. Clever enough to help beat that big water totem with one trick. Then you helped me when I was hurting and. You’re good enough. Anyone should have seen that. You didn’t need to do that and I. I messed up. And you got hurt. I’m sorry.”

By the end it was coming out in a barely understandable rush of words. Without her mind powers you probably wouldn’t have caught it all.

“You didn’t hurt me.”

“I put you in a place where you got hurt. I…”

“Didn’t do anything.”

She looks away from you. “It’s not that simple.”

“Like your brother?”

Skysong flinches like you dug into her with your claws. Always the brother. She’s sometimes smart, for a human, and then he comes up and she starts thinking like a one-tail.

“Yes. Like him.”

“You didn’t kill him.”

“I-I think I know that. I just don’t want to say it.”

You flick a tail. Humans. Never making sense.

“Because…” She takes a deep breath, opens her mouth, closes her mouth. And shakes her head. “Fine. I didn’t kill him. Happy?”

It’s a good start. She should really listen to you more. It would help her not believe stupid things.

“They said you were hurt. I do not smell blood.”

“You wouldn’t. I just hurt my brain. Big headache. Nothing else. Don’t worry.”

Sometimes she denies she is hurt, even when she is bleeding. Or denies she is hungry when her stomach is roaring. You should make sure. “The humans were worried.”

“A really big headache,” she admits. “I’m better now. Just slept for a few days. Now I just take some pills and don’t even notice it that much.”

That sounds like how you felt when Kalani finally got to take you home. Just a body ache instead of a headache.

You were not healed. She is not, either.

“Are you resting enough? That’s how humans heal.”

You heard one of their healers tell her that once. It makes sense; the sprays and machines that make it faster for you won’t work for her. There must be some way for them to heal.

“I am resting. I just stay here or go to walk with Coco and Leo on the beach.”

“Leo?” Your replacement. You’ve been replaced. She… didn’t kick you off for him, but you still don’t like the idea.

“A giant bug. I got him when he was a little bug and afraid of everything. Now he’s bigger. Still afraid of everything.”

He should be. Bugs are easy to kill.

Something headbutts the door. And does it again. Eggbreath growls from the other side. Skysong gets up and delicately opens the door without letting her claws touch it. The bird rushes in, sees you, and promptly tackles you to the ground. You scream and start chilling the winds as she bites. Hard. Well, hard enough to hurt. Not hard enough to bleed much. And then her teeth get hot. You’d forgotten she could do that. You take as deep a breath as you can with her jaws clamped down and scream alongside the ice. A blast of cold shoots out of your mouth and down her side causing her to drop you in shock. Was that—did you do an ice beam?

“Coco! Bad. Stop!”

There are bite marks running down your side and—even worse—some of your fur is burnt. But you did it! Mother will be so proud.

“She left you and made you sad!” Eggbreath whines to Skysong. “Hurt you. I’ll hurt her.”

“No, she didn’t.” Skysong’s voice is hard. Unyielding as a glacier. Angry. You haven’t seen her like this very often. “I was failing her and she did something about it. That’s all that happened. My fault, not hers.”

You were the one who could not defeat the bird. Who left her behind without really thinking about it. Is that how… No. You had good reasons. The others had bad ones. And she says you did nothing wrong so you didn’t.

The bird smacks her tail on to the ground. She’s gotten very big. Bigger than you. Almost so her head is bigger than your torso. You don’t like it at all. “She could have had two mothers! Like me.”

“She didn’t want that. Her choice. And if you ever want to live with Earthshaker I’ll let you go without a fight.”

Two mothers? What happened while you were gone?

{It’s a long story. Tell you later.} Skysong turns her gaze back to you. “I’m so sorry about this. Are you hurt?”

“A little.”

She growls. It’s very strange from a human. “Dr. Karashina’s lucario knows heal pulse. He can probably fix you if it isn’t too bad. And I’m sorry.”

She keeps apologizing for this. For the bird. And yet. “You didn’t hurt me.”

“I should have known better.”

Just when you thought she’d given up blaming herself for stuff other people did…

“Like your brother.”

Skysong tenses up again.

“Brother? More family?” Eggbreath asks. Her anger seems to have already turned to excitement.

“He’s dead.”

Both of them sit still and silent. You’re glad you don’t have to stay and see all of this play out. Still. Maybe you did this? Maybe you should try to make up for it. You walk over to Skysong and graciously wrap your tails around her leg.

“Is his killer dead?” Eggbreath asks.

You half-expect Skysong to say ‘no’ because even if she tells you something is a lie she might keep believing it herself. Humans are like that.

“No one killed him,” she finally says. “It was an accident.”

The door slowly swings open and the metal dog walks in.

{I heard I was needed.}

“You’ve been listening, then?” Your former trainer sounds so tired. Like she’d stayed up all night practicing ice beams.

{I have good ears.}

The dog’s fists glow and a soothing breeze washes over you. The wounds on your side sting for a breath’s time and then disappear.

“Can you not tell Dr. Karashina about my brother? It’s… I don’t like talking about it.”

The dog leaves without promising anything. Or closing the door.


“Should I go?” Eggbreath asks quietly. Weird. She never asks anything quietly?

“I love you. And we will talk about this. Just…”

“Not now?”

“If that’s okay.”

The bird turns around and walks out the door. Without shutting it.

Fine. It falls to you. Even if you can’t reach the handle so you have to shove it shut. Someday you will be able to open locked doors with your mind like Mother can. When you get back to Skysong you jump into her lap without really thinking about it. She smiles. Toothlessly. The good smile. She curls her claws upward and reaches down with the flat part of her paw to stroke your back.

“Would you have come when I was hurt if I asked?”

You’ve gotten good at reading her scents and breaths and heartbeats. You’d think you’d know if she was outright lying. Distorting the truth like light through ice… she does that a lot. It’s harder to spot. Sometimes you don’t think she knows she’s doing it.

“I would have. And if you ever want me to come in the future I will as soon as I can.”

She sounds certain of that. She did want to see you, then. Even after you lost. That’s…

She was able to name a few things she liked about you earlier. Answered a question you didn’t ask.

Do you want to see me again? I’m not trying to take you back. I just like seeing you. But if you ever did want to come back, I would make room for you. No matter how full the team is. Promise.”

“I’m not coming back.” She doesn’t even deflate. Strange. Does she not want you back after all?

“I’m glad you’re happy where you are.”

It doesn’t even sound like she’s lying.

“I would like to see you again,” you decide. Even if Openliver will have to steal you away in your ball.

“Once a moon? More? Less?”

“Once a moon is a good time.”

She moves a paw to press back your ears and kneed your head. You purr despite the weird scent floating near your nose. You’ve never met someone after they abandoned you. Or you abandoned them. It’s a new feeling.

One you would like to feel again.


Openliver lets you ride beside him in the car with the windows down. Winds carry smells past your nose at high speeds. It’s still too hot outside but the wind reminds you of The Mountain. You can’t wait to tell Mother that you did an ice beam. You can already imagine her sweeping you up in her tails and licking your fur down. Her cold will blast into you from all directions and you will feel so much love.

Rockfur is waiting outside the door.

“There’s a problem,” he barks to Openliver. He doesn’t have Gillwailer out. Doesn’t understand. Just pets his head, opens the door, and walks inside.

Kalani is there on her mat. On your bed. And there’s another heartbeat inside of her tails. When she sees you she flashes her teeth for an instant before unraveling her tails. There’s another vulpix there. A female four-tails.

“Firstborn, meet Secondborn. She isn’t going to see humans while I’m not looking.”
Last edited:
Dark 5.3


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Dark 5.3: Siezing (in) the Moment

May 8, 2020

You take a deep breath and steady yourself. It’s been almost two weeks. You need to have this conversation eventually. Can’t keep dancing around him without knowing what actually happened. And thinking of the contradictions doesn’t give you as much of a headache anymore. You should do this.

But you don’t want to face your ex. Even if you’re pretty sure you never actually dated. Even if you aren’t actually interested in boys. (Although he’s a special kind of boy.)

Enough stalling. You quickly knock on the door before pulling your knuckles back like it burned them.

“What?” Kekoa calls out from inside of his room.

“I wanted to talk.”

You hear him get out of bed with a ‘thunk’ before stomping over to the door. Is he angry? Is this just how he walks? You’ve been trying to think about how Cuicatl must see the world. She told you your footsteps were light and you tended to move either in short bursts or in very long, continuous pacing. You aren’t sure if that’s a compliment or not? Or what she likes in footsteps. If she likes anything in footsteps. It makes your head hurt when you try and imagine what she would find attractive. And not in the brain damage kind of way.

The door opens. “’Sup?” Kekoa ‘sups.

“I wanted to talk.”

“You said that.”

He’s giving you nothing to work with. He doesn’t look angry. Or… lustful. Just bored? Curious? You’ve never been good with—

—reading other people’s feelings. You take a quick breath to fill your lungs. Darn it. Must have seized up again. The only sign for you is that you’re a little out of breath and stuff has moved around a bit. It’s just annoying like this. But if it happened away from a psychic you would probably die of suffocation without ever noticing there was a problem.

“I wanted to talk about our history.”

He steps away from the door and waves you in.

His room is oddly clean. You were expecting it to be dirtier. More like Levi’s. More like a boy’s. (Although it still does smell like body spray in a way that’s more disgusting than if he hadn’t tried to cover things up.) Does that mean. No. You really shouldn’t go there. Maybe he was just taught that way growing up. You can’t forgive yourself and then judge someone else for the same thing.

It’s good logic. You still blurt out, “Your room’s cleaner than I was expecting.”

You can’t even blame the brain damage. You probably would have done this before. Still embarrassing.

He just rolls his eyes. “Got bitched out by foster parents enough times that some of it sank in.”

“Oh.” He’s also lost his parents. You can’t remember if you knew that or not. Now that you do it feels like you always did, but you definitely didn’t before. “I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t kill them.”

Dead, then. Not. What happened to you. Well, you weren’t expecting it to be exactly—like what happened to you, just maybe something close. And the room moved again between blinks. Stupid glitching.

“I, um, just wanted to ask some—thing.” Two in a row? You know it happens when you’re nervous but now you’re out of breath after doing nothing at all.


“We didn’t, um, maybe. Kiss?”

You discovered that Shirona’s sunscreen wasn’t really strong enough for you after months inside. Your skin is redder now than it was the first time you woke up with a full-body burn.

Kekoa just laughs. “Holy shit, they fucked you up bad.”

Is that a ‘no’? A ‘yes’ that you did more and can’t remember?

He must see that you’re confused. “We didn’t kiss. Kind of hated each other, actually.”

“What?” You think you remember that. But it’s hazy as to why. You’d kind of thought it was because of the rooftop, but if that didn’t happen then.

“Don’t take it personal. Didn’t like your parents.”

“Oh.” You take a deep breath. That makes sense. “I don’t think I like my parents, either.”

“Join the club. What’s it like having brain damage?”

You blink. Did you glitch or did he just move between the two with no break? That’s. You think that’s something he would do. Maybe. It’s hard to tell. Everything is just a little bit off from how you think it should be.

“The only thing keeping me alive right now is a robot pokémon.” You glance up to Noci in the corner of Kekoa’s room, just out of both your and Kekoa’s line of sight. She can be very stealthy for a big steel-type.

“Wait, do they have to go into the bathroom with you?”

“Sometimes? Cuicatl says Noci can wait at the door and be fine but I don’t want to risk it.”

Kekoa makes a weird face. A grimace? Disgust? “They’re way too into watching people pee.”

[Unit010_10000111 Has Obtained Sufficient Data On Fluid Release;
No Further Observations Required]

“Then stop perving on people while they take a piss.”

[Alarm Lvl 101: UD_Kekoa Lacks Command Privileges Over Unit010_100000111]

“Whatever. I’ll get Cuicatl to order it. She has ‘command privileges’ or whatever, right?”


You giggle in spite of yourself. It’s funny watching them go back and forth.

Kekoa sighs and turns back to you. “Sometimes I swear they’re just doing this to fuck with me.”

His language is coarser than you remembered. Or was he always like this? You can sort of remember some things on the trail. Is that Kekoa the real one, then? You’ll have to try and focus more on that in your meditation.

“Why are you calling her a ‘they?’” you ask. You aren’t sure if you’re doing something wrong. Cuicatl calls Noci a ‘her.’

“Because they don’t have a gender. Told Cuicatl that over and over. Doesn’t matter; Cuicatl still misgenders them like a prick.”

That. Doesn’t sound like Cuicatl. Unless you’re really misremembering things. Which you might be.

[Unit010_100000111 Has No Preference Regarding ‘Pronouns.’ Class: Feminine And Class: Neutral Are Both Acceptable]

“I think they’re—she’s fine with it?”

He folds his arms and looks away. His legs are crossed. Is that a girl thing? No. Stop it.

His legs have a lot of hair on them. And he just looks different in a way that you’re pretty sure isn’t entirely brain damage. And if he gets to ask an insensitive question.

“What’s it like being on hormones?”

“Great. Beyond great. Like my body finally makes sense. Mostly makes sense.” He glares down at his chest. It’s maybe smaller than you remember but your memory also isn’t great. “Can’t wait to turn eighteen.”

Oh. Do they not let you do that until you turn eighteen? You try to put yourself in his shoes. Growing up. Watching your body slowly,—unstoppably change against—your will—no matter how much you try to—why are you so out of breath?

“You okay?” Kekoa asks. He’s leaning forward and his eyes are wider. His voice is way softer than usual, too. “You were glitching bad there.”

You have to spend a few seconds catching your breath. Should you explain it? “Just thought about being trans and. Um. Having your body—change in ways you don’t like, aware—and unable to—”


“Huh?” you pant. Damn it. Out of breath again.

“I get it. You think you get it and—do. Prob—body than mind.”

The room is gently swirling around you. “I didn’t hear that,” you try to say. Instead you just groan.

“Oh shit. Uh. Noci, can you call Cuicatl over? Or Kagetora. We might have to—don’t know. Get her first aid or whatever the fuck it is you do for…”

The world grows darker and darker even before you close your eyes.


You open your eyes and immediately close them again. The light. Too much.

“Noci, can you turn the light switch?”

The world is less bright against your eyelids. You cautiously reopen them with only a low groan.

“There’s water and an aspirin on the table,” Cuicatl says.

You reach over, fumble with the glass, and greedily pour it all down your throat. You keep tilting it up and up until the last drop finally falls out. Oliver looks at you with concern. He’s so big now. You’re glad for him. You gesture towards the bed and he shakes his head. Weird.

Then you turn back to Cuicatl. She’s sitting up on her side of the bed. Her giant golisopod is sprawled out over his trainer’s legs (and most of the bed). He idly turns towards you and stares at you with his compound eyes before yawning, showing off his four rows of knife-like teeth. Oh. That’s why Oliver doesn’t want to come up. The murder bug that’s taller than him and three times wider. Although the murder vibe is undercut a little by his trainer stroking his armor with a toothbrush.

“Are you okay?” Cuciatl asks.

“Kind of.” Your throat is parched and every word pounds against your skull.

{You sound like you have a migraine. I can help.}

“Wha?” Like, make it go away?

{No. I’ve had a lot. My brother had a lot. I know tricks.}

Out of the corner of your eye Noci opens the door and slips out before closing it again behind her.

{She’s going to go make some coffee and get an ice pack. Staying in a dark, quiet room and trying to sleep it off is the last part.}

You continue to watch Cuicatl gently cleaning (?) her massive predatory insect. You don’t get it. You, like most normal pokémon, prefer cute pokémon. Coco is cute. Was cuter when she hatched. Noci’s odd but charming. You don’t get Leo. At all.

“You like weird pokémon.”

She smiles. Faintly. It still sends your heart fluttering. She liked your dumb, intrusive question. Statement. Whatever it was.

“The closest thing I ever had to a mother,” she whispers, “was a hydreigon. For as long as I can remember I had to take care of everyone around me. She took care of me. Dragged me out to the mountains to learn her ways. Listened to me talk. Never asked for much in return. I blame her for my tastes.”

That explains the first night. Shirona sent her garchomp to lie between you and Cuicatl and make sure nothing happened. You could barely sleep at all on the edge of the bed, staring at the dragon’s scars, blades, and fangs. At some point Cuicatl ended up snuggled into the scaly monster with Coco curled up on her other side. The garchomp had a wing laid over them both. It was about as adorable as any image of a seven-foot dragon could be.

Cuicatl laid out her history like it’s heartwarming. It’s actually just really depressing.

“You didn’t have parents?”

She shrugs and starts rubbing circles with her brush a little more forcefully. Her smile is gone. “My mom died giving birth. Dad was busy. It was just my brother and me, and he had better things to do than chores.”

That’s why she’s so good at cooking and stuff. You’d never really thought to ask. That was stupid. You should have. Not the most important thing. She mentioned a few people she doesn’t talk about much if ever. You aren’t sure you want to ask about any of them. The answers might be bad and she seems. Not happy but. Okay. You vaguely remember that she always seems at her best when she’s caring for her team or talking about them. Maybe that’s true. Who knows. Certainly not your torn-up brain.

You decide not to ask. Your headache is too bad to really pay attention to your words and it seems like a serious subject. If she can read the questions from your mind, she doesn’t answer them. Just keeps brushing her bug.

“Your polish is chipped.” And it is. Chipped and streaked until almost nothing remains.

She flinches a little. “Is it? I’m sorry. Maybe the pool? Or. I don’t know. It’s not as much of a thing in Anahuac and I wouldn’t know how to apply it in the first place.”

“I’m not attacking you.” She sounds like she’s being attacked. Looks like it, too. Twisted her back and shoulders like she’s a togedemaru rolled up into a ball to protect herself. “We can reapply it. Later.”

Cuicatl relaxes a little. Not quite back to where she was but not as defensive. “I would like that.”

You would, too. It’s kind of an excuse to almost hold your crush’s hand and it looks good on her. Still figuring out the ideal color. Maybe her burning through it quickly helps with that? The green you tried wasn’t quite the right shade. Blood red was fun. Fit her vibe. And it looked pretty. Black worked. You’re curious about white. Maybe silver? Shirona had a good collection and she said she could buy more.

The door swings open and you wince at the light. You wince harder when it practically slams shut. You look up to see Noci floating in with a few objects resting on her back, like she’s a giant tray carried by an invisible waiter. She lowers herself down next to you. There’s a mug of steaming brown liquid and an ice pack. Your nose scrunches up involuntarily. Coffee. You’ve never figured out why people like it so much.

“I told her to load it with sugar. Shouldn’t be that bad.”

“This helps?” And, more importantly: “She can make coffee?”

“Yes to both.”

“Huh.” You steel yourself and down a sip of the liquid. It’s… not terrible. The aftertaste sucks but you can handle it on your tongue. Also, not that hot? Maybe Noci has cooling powers or something.

“Put the ice pack on your neck when you’re done.”

You’re glad she’s looking after you. It’s sweet. Yet. With what she said.

“You don’t have to take care of me.”

She glances over her shoulder at you. Well. Not ‘glances.’ Is that just a way to show she’s paying attention?

“I’ll be fine. If you don’t want to. You’ve done a lot of it and. Um. Yeah.”

Maybe this was a bad idea.

“I’m fine.”

It was an empty gesture anyway. You literally need her (or her pokémon) to live. Maybe you can make it up to her later? Take care of her. Not that you’re very good at cooking or cleaning or anything useful. Um. Maybe you’ll have to learn. But not like Miss Riv—ers tried.

“I think you should try to rest,” Cuicatl says gently.

“Did I glitch?”


Darn it. She’s right. Don’t want to knock yourself out again. You’re guessing that’s not good for your brain.

“Alright.” You gesture up to the bed but Oliver shakes his head ‘no’ once again. And you aren’t going to have Cuicatl send her pokémon away. You reach for two of the extra pillows and wrap your arms around one. The other goes between your knees. There. This is almost like cuddling someone.


Your migraine is gone when you wake up. So are Cuicatl and her golisopod. Oliver is cautiously lying down on her side of the bed, one eye on you and the other on the door. Can’t blame him. You’d have trouble sleeping in this room if you didn’t know how loyal Leo and Coco were to their trainer.

You give him a quick hug before standing up. It’s not like you have much scheduled out these days. Sort of just on a vacation with an indefinite end date. You’re fine with that. Haven’t gotten bored quite yet. Really just what you need after everything.

Lyra’s in the hallway when you open the door. She abruptly stops and turns towards you. “Oh. Hi.”


And you both stand there. She’s been skirting around you the last week. Sometimes staring from the corner of the room when she thinks you won’t notice. That’s another thing you’ll need to deal with.

“Should we talk?”

She nods. Smiling. Relieved, you think. “My room?”


Lyra glares at Noci at the door and the steel-type stays hovering outside when she closes it.

Her room is actually messier than Kekoa’s. Not terrible, but the bed is unmade and there’s a pile of clothes sitting on the ground in the corner. She sits down on the bed and leaves you the chair. Huh. A lot like Kekoa this morning.

It’s probably best not to think about that. Don’t want to pass out again.

“What… did you want to talk about?” Lyra’s leaning forward with a small smile. Excited? You feel like you should know more about her. How to read her. But you don’t.

“I wanted to try and fill some of the holes in my memory.”

“Well.” Her smile falters. “Do you remember me at all?”


She sighs and closes her eyes. “I was afraid of that.”

“I should remember you, though?”

“I was your first kiss. I’d hope so.”

Your mind makes another connection to this morning’s conversation. “The rooftop?”

“Yup.” And now she’s smiling again. “You do remember. Just not the people in it?”

You aren’t sure you want to break the exact truth to her. Even saying it aloud feels weird now that you know it definitely didn’t happen like that. “Sort of.” One data point filled. Now what about everything around it? “What happened after?”

Lyra raises her left index finger. And lowers it. And raises it. And lowers it. “Your parents found out.”


You don’t want to think about that.

Neither does she, apparently.

“I tried to contact you afterwards but didn’t have any information. Sorry.”

Did you have her information? Was there some reason you didn’t reach out?

Wait. Yes. You were the type of person who agreed to… that. You would have been upset with her. If it wasn’t something you wanted. And she wouldn’t know your thoughts to know if you wanted it. Would know if you started it. Like, um, Cuicatl. But there you thought you were dating and.

Were we dating?” You’re guessing not. Given your. Everything.

“I thought we were without ever putting that in words. I think you loved me, too, in your own way.”

That sounds like a lot of words for a ‘no.’

Might as well go back to the beginning. “How did we meet?”

She tells you. It’s a long, winding story. Her country was destroyed. You had a nice playground to distract her. You were weird, in a good way. (In the best way, as she put it.) Individual moments stand out in your memory as tiny things you remember well for some reason. Now you know why. She’s been replaced in some of them. You went to homecoming with a boy in your memories. Not her.

It’s a good story. Full of twists and turns and emotion. You won’t deny the power of a story. But it’s just that to you. Even knowing it’s all true you find it hard to really believe it with heart and soul.

“Did that jog your memory?” There’s so much hope in her expression. It kills you to shake your head and watch it all drain away.

“Fine. We need to talk about Cuicatl.”

She won’t meet your gaze anymore. Which is okay by you. Eye contact is hard and people expect it too often.

“Oh? Did something happen while you were traveling.”

“I don’t think so, but it would’ve been trivial for her to fuck with my mind so I didn’t notice.”

You shudder. You definitely noticed it happening. That might have just made it worse. She takes the shudder as a sign to keep going.

“When she was in your head, how do you know that she didn’t alter anything? You weren’t dating before, she’s told me that, and then suddenly you come out sharing the same bed and—did she make you that way? I’m just trying to be sure.”

You blush when she mentions sharing the bed. That one was your idea. “The bed is so I don’t die.” And because maybe you wanted an excuse to be near her. Even if the garchomp made it clear that you are not to be too near to her.

“You could have just borrowed her metang.”

Yes. You could have. But you didn’t want to. Even if Noci doesn’t sleep and is way more reliable at unseizing you, you’re still comforted having someone soft and human looking after you. It’s not that you don’t trust the metang, but that you only trust her because she’s owned by someone else. You could just take out the middleman there.

She sighs when you don’t answer. “Again, is that her influence? I’m just asking questions here.”

“Cuicatl turned me down.”


“In her mindscape I kind of kissed her because everything was a mess and I thought we were dating.”

“And that thought came from—”

“I barely remembered her,” you cut her off. You know where she’s going. You don’t care. “I just thought that someone swooping in to save me, literally letting me into her own mind, that we might have been dating before. She told me that we weren’t. That I was too loopy to make decisions. Even now she doesn’t want to do anything until I don’t need her to stay alive. If she was doing this to take advantage of me, she’s doing it in a really weird way.”

“If you’re sure…” She neither sounds nor looks sure.

Suddenly your stomach roars like Coco in a loud, jarring mess of overlapping sounds.

How long has it even been since you last ate?

You actually have no idea.

Lyra shakes her head. “Well, you’ve given me a lot to think about. Let’s pick this back up later.”


It’s not an empty promise. You probably will. You just aren’t quite sure you need to. It would be nice to have another friend. But if she’s going out of her way to attack one of the few people you both like and sort of remember, there are going to be problems.


May 10, 2020

Shirona bought stronger sunscreen and your burn has faded. It’s safe to go outside again. Even if you’re a little nervous when you feel the sun on your skin. Outside is nice. Outside is not worth spending hours trying and failing to find a comfortable position at night or having to resist the urge to tear off your peeling skin like a new butterfree leaving its shell.

Cuicatl is drying out on one of the chairs. Or maybe she’s just asleep. Her eyes are closed but that might not mean anything. Her towel is only loosely draped around her shoulders. She usually dresses somewhat modestly but now you can see pretty much her entire leg. Her gentle curves are also way more visible this way. Sometimes they get entirely covered up in her flowy outfits.

“Hi, Gen.”

Not asleep, then. “How’d you know it was me?”




She stretches out and yawns like a fox waking up. (She had a fox—you saw her, you just don’t know the full story.) Speaking of foxes, Ferny walks over before sitting down beside you. “Dr. Karashina and I have been talking,” Cuicatl says, “and you have a choice to make.”

“Oh?” That can’t be good. Turns out you’re really, really bad at making choices.

“Relax. It’s not that big. For you.”

“Go on…”

“Dr. Karashina’s pool has some salt in it so her milotic is comfortable. Sir Bubbles has been swimming in it. That means he’ll probably start evolving into a poliwrath soon. But if we can find a king’s rock we could probably push him the other way. Dr. Karashina says they can be found on the seafloor around here. We could have Wakumi and Leo look for one if you wanted.”

You glance down at Ferny beside you. “That shouldn’t be my choice, though? What does he want?”

Sir Bubbles croaks behind you and you whirl around. When did he get here? You thought he was resting inside. Someone must have let him out. Which is fine. Obviously. Just didn’t know he was present. “Which do you want to turn into?” you ask him. It isn’t your place to decide what he gets to be. Maybe he’d go along but. It would be wrong. It would be irreversible— You can’t. Not after—everything.

“Breathe.” Cuicatl whispers. She’s right beside you. When did. Oh. Right. Glitching.

Sir Bubbles croaks twice and hisses.

“Politoed,” Cuicatl says. “They’re loud. He likes loud.”

“I’m sure you’ll be the very loudest,” you tell him.

“Leo!” Cuicatl calls. The bug raises himself over the edge of the pool, mandibles rising up and down under his mouth. You can almost, kind of, sometimes, understand Cuicatl’s love for dragons. That thing? No. Never. It looks more like an alien than her pokémon who actually is one. “Do you think you could find the stone we were talking about? Circle with some shards sticking out on one side.”

He clacks his mandibles together, fully pulls himself out of the water, and scuttles off towards the beach.

{I’m proud of you.}

{I did the bare minimum.}

{Many wouldn’t.}

Yeah. You glance down at Ferny. At your feet. Many wouldn’t.

This is too—depressing. You want to do something else. Dwelling on it won’t—change anything. So you won’t. That’s done. You’re. Moving. On. To. Better. Things.

“What do you want to do today, Ferny?” you ask him. “I haven’t been giving you the time you deserve.”

Not like Cuicatl would. She’s always surrounded by at least one of her pokémon.

He flicks an ear and barks.


Ah. “Okay. Is there a ball somewhere? Or I could find one?” He turns around an opens a box you’d never noticed with his paw. He pulls out a blue ball with his teeth and walks over to you. Well, okay then.

Sir Bubbles croaks.

“He also wants to play.”

That wouldn’t be very fair. He’s still slow on land as a poliwhirl. Probably still will be as a politoed. But. You have a pool. You could maybe play two games at once. No. What if you glitched while in the water? You could try to stay in the shallows but even then you could fall down. You heard once about some crusader dying in three inches of water or whatever because he couldn’t get up in his armor.

“If we sat in the pool, could you watch me and pull me up if anything happened?” you ask Cuicatl.

“Sure. Mind if Coco plays? She likes fetch.”

Ferny huffs and shakes his leaf. He doesn’t want to.

“He says it’s fine. Coco’s slow.”

Oh. Uh. Well, you’ll have to remember that reaction. Cuicatl really is incredible. What is her world like being able to talk to pretty much anything? It must be so much more alive than yours.


Oliver and Sir Bubbles dive after little plastic torpedoes while you throw a ball to Ferny and Coco. If the pool wasn’t so big the catch game wouldn’t work. Sir Bubbles swims like a human with rotating arms. Oliver kicks off from the pool edge and moves with big, broad strokes. He easily wins, but every time Sir Bubbles gains more and more on him. It seems to really be motivating him to train while still being fun. Good. You should do this more often.

There isn’t really a competition on land. You toss the ball. Ferny runs and catches it, sometimes mixing a quick attack into his steps so he can catch it right as it falls. Coco just starts running when you throw the ball. She keeps her head tilted up towards the sky and her arms flailing as she runs. Not that she’s really running towards the ball. Usually, she just turns and keeps running around the entire pool like that before trotting back to Cuicatl for headpats. He does catch it, once, when it falls into her open mouth and takes her completely by surprise.

You only glitch once, right after a throw, going from sitting upright to leaning back in Cuicatl’s arms. How did she see you falling? Oh, wait. She didn’t. Just sensed you glitching with her psychic senses. What’s that like, anyway?

“A giant ping in a different… tone, I guess. Lower and to the side from normal sounds. That’s how I hear all the psychic stuff.”

You’re pretty sure you didn’t say that aloud.

“You were thinking pretty loud and I was already paying attention to your mind.”

“I’ll. Uh. Think quietly?”

She laughs. “Just don’t think about me while we’re touching if you don’t want me to overhear it.”

Right. Her hand is still on your back. You sit up and do your best not to blush. Maybe it’ll just look like another burn? Not that there’s anyone around to see it. Anyone who isn’t a pokémon, anyway. You take the ball from Ferny and toss it again. This time it doesn’t even make it to ground before something snatches it out of the air. You follow the noibat with your eyes and see it perch on Lyra’s shoulder as she finishes walking up the staircase from the beach. Her absol and mudbray trot up behind her She’s. Really pretty. Fills our her swimsuit better than Cuicatl could. Better than you do. And her skin is flawless. You can see why you would have been attracted to her before. Just not why you would’ve fallen for her. You like personalities. Or you’re pretty sure you do. It would be really shallow if you were only into bodies. Most of what you know about her is still just that she doesn’t like your friend.

Lyra’s noibat drops the ball into her open hand. “Mind if my team plays?” she asks. “Musei can carry the ball while the others chase.”

Then it isn’t really you playing with your pokémon. You glance to Cuicatl. She hasn’t moved at all since Lyra started talking. Fear?

“And why’s Gen in the pool? What if she freezes up?”

“Cuicatl’s caught me before,” you tell her.

“You’ve got about a foot on her. You really expect she can catch you?”

“You can take over, Lyra,” Cuicatl murmurs before slowly scooting away. Lyra obliges and sits down next to you while Cuicatl swims off towards a slightly deeper part of the shallows. You wonder how she learned to swim in the first place.

You’re a little mad Cuicatl didn’t fight since you wanted her to stay. But. She’s probably just trying to keep things from blowing up. They traveled together for a long time while you were—gone. Lyra gently presses you back upright after the glitch. Surely they at least liked each other? Is all of this really over you? Why? That’s really dumb. You can make your own choices without them fighting about it.

The noibat plays with the other land pokémon while the three of you awkwardly sit around in the pool. You still throw the torpedo out when Oliver returns with it but it’s not very fun anymore.

“How’s the thesis going?” you finally ask Cuicatl. Just so someone is saying something.

“Had to throw almost all of it out. Dr. Karashina is helping me rewrite it about hydreigon.”

“It can’t have been that bad, right?” Lyra asks. “VStar had a mentor set up. I assumed they were polishing it.”

“I… didn’t like her much. Tried not to ask too much of her.”

“Then they should’ve found another one. They have the money.”

“…she had an oricorio,” Cuicatl whispers. “I didn’t want to upset her again.”

Oricorio? The dancing birds? What’s wrong with that? And why is Lyra blanching beside you?

“You never told me that,” she says.

“Happened before we met.”

She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and huffs. “I can never tell whether VStar’s leadership is malicious or just staggeringly incompetent.”

Cuicatl shrugs. “Don’t care. They have money.”

“For your mom’s pokémon, right?” Lyra follows up before you can even think of what to say.


“Cool. You get them. What then? You’ll still have a tyrantrum, metagross, and hydreigon to feed. You’ll still need money. Are you prepared to be indebted to people who don’t care about you forever?”

Coco grumble-coos something from the side of the pool and Cuicatl’s face immediately softens. “It’s fine, Coco. I can take care of it. Don’t worry. Go back to your game.”

The dinosaur growls softly before reluctantly chasing after the noibat.

Is Cuicatl trying to keep her from worrying about the money issues? That’s what’s happening, right? She’s a good mom. Better than—Lyra breaks your fall and pushes you upright.

“You deserve better than them,” Lyra says. “That’s all.”

“Didn’t know if you still cared.”

“I do. Just.” She sighs and sprawls out in the water, legs pointed out as far as they can go and back sinking down against the concrete stairs. “It’s complicated right now.”

Cuicatl hauls herself up and out of the pool before holding out a hand. Coco rushes over and shimmies under it. She walks to her towel and drapes it over her shoulders. “I’m going to dry off and get back to work on my thesis.”

“Okay. Good luck,” you tell her. And then no one speaks again until she’s gone.

When the door closes you turn to Lyra. Maybe you shouldn’t confront her now. Just. Later. For now there’s something else you want to know. “You never told me much about yourself. Just what happened between us.”

She frowns. “Yeah.”

“Can you? Tell me something? Like you were on the trail, right? Why?”

“I want to take the first steps towards being an explorer.”

You sort of remember something about that, just tied to someone else. “What do explorers do, again?”

“Well, there are actually still lots of areas no one’s ever been to. The middle of the Congo, parts of Antarctica, most of the sea floor. Like, we only learned hydrothermal vents were a thing forty years ago. Crazy, right?”

You don’t know what a hydrothermal vent is. You nod anyway.

“I want to get strong and skilled enough that I can go there. See if there’s something big we still don’t know about. Like the Mammoth Cave Apex Predator. We know there’s something down there eating things, but since the sableye eat the camera traps and it’s, you know, always totally dark we have no idea what it is. I could find that out. Maybe catch it, maybe just photograph or draw it. And then I’ve done something no one else has. Something even rarer than going to the fucking moon.“

She’s smiling. You haven’t seen her smile much, smile genuinely, anyway, in the weeks that you’ve known her. She’s also more relaxed and speaking with less caution than usual. It often sounds like she has to carefully weigh every syllable before she speaks. You like this. If she was always like this before you can understand why you were friends.

“Uh huh.” You subtly encourage her to go on.

She does. It’s nice. It feels pleasantly familiar for reasons you can guess but not know.

And at the end you have to ruin it.

“Why are you mad at Cuicatl?”


“You’re mad at Cuicatl. Why?”

She shifts nervously while you throw the dart out to your aquatic pokémon. “I just. This isn’t how things were supposed to go. I spent years as your best friend. Maybe your only friend. You went to homecoming with me. I thought. I thought that things were looking up. That we could be together. And then we meet again and you don’t even know me. Just… a psychic. The kind of person who has hurt us both. If it was anyone else I think I might’ve snapped already. But. It’s her. I know her. Like her. And.” She pouts and crosses her arms over her chest. “It’s unfair.”

You pick up the torpedo Oliver returns to you. Before you throw it you take a long look at Sir Bubbles swimming back and at Ferny snatching a ball out of midair. “I can make my own choices,” you say. “I’m the only one who can now. You don’t own me. Neither does she.”

“I know. I’m not—them.” She spits the word with as much hate towards them in her voice as you have fear.

“I liked hearing you talk about your interests,” you tell her as you finally toss the torpedo. “I think we could still be friends. Pick up where we actually—left off.” This time you push yourself back up before she can. “But I need you to work things out with Cuicatl, okay? This is dumb.”

Oliver brings the torpedo back and you throw it. This time Sir Bubbles dives towards the bottom and manages to shove Oliver out of the way before catching the toy in one of his hands. He comes back and croaks as loudly as he can before dropping the plastic torpedo in your lap. Maybe that was cheating. You’re still beyond proud of him.

Lyra slowly gets to her feet and holds a hand out to you. “Fine. I’ll go in and talk to her. But you can’t be in the pool unsupervised.”

You smile and take her hand. “That’s a deal, then.”

Maybe things can still be okay? For Lyra and Cuicatl at least. For you they’re—what they are. You blink and look up to see Lyra looking at you with concern, her hand tightly wrapped around your middle.

“Going to lie down on a pool chair.” It’s the only way you can safely think. If you want to. Do you want to? That all—happened. You can’t change it. Why would you want to think about bad things. Just. Happy thoughts. You spent so long controlling your thoughts. You can keep doing it now. You need to keep doing it now. You’ve been through too much to still be miserable, so you won’t be. Whatever it takes.
Last edited:
Dark 5.4


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Dark 5.4: Dragon’s Gold

May 8, 2020

There’s a language you don’t know coming from the television in the upstairs living area. Japanese, probably. That means Lyra is there. Probably alone.

She knows about you. Has known. She barely talks when you’re around and finds a reason to walk away. Usually without telling you. Sometimes you keep talking to no one until someone comes over and asks what you’re doing. Should you talk to her now? She doesn’t want to. You’re probably safe here in Dr. Karashina’s home. Lyra wouldn’t kill you when her own death would be assured. Most people aren’t suicidal. They like themselves. You know that even if it’s hard to believe.

“Cuicatl?” she calls out before you can make a decision. “Can you come over?”

You take a deep breath and exhale slowly. You’d just gotten into a fight a few hours ago. Is she calling you over to apologize? To continue it. In the end you decide it doesn’t matter. This needs to happen eventually. You just took a pill a half hour ago so your head feels okay-ish.

You make your way to the common area, find a chair, and sit down. Lyra doesn’t acknowledge you at all. Weird. That’s fine. You can meditate. Miss Takeda said it would help your injuries heal.

Once you’ve finally tuned out the world Lyra clears her throat. “You’d better not be attacking me right now.”

It sounds like she turned the TV off. Or just muted it.

“I’m not. Just meditating. Helps with the pain.” It’s a reminder that you got hurt trying to help her friend. Hopefully it gets her to soften up a little.

“You seem better. Not babbling on about sand in a delirious haze, at least.”


“When Kekoa and I found you all you would talk about was sun, sand, and bugs. You were really out of it.”

“Just a common dream. Must’ve been sleep talking.”

“Hmm.” You slip back into tense silence. You aren’t sure what’s going on in her head. Don’t dare check with your headache. You’ll have to wait for her to make the next move. “I don’t get you,” she finally says. “Four months to fuck me up and I can’t find any evidence you did. Even stayed with me when you should have known the risks of letting me be nearby and free. Why? You just have that much of a death wish? Is this some sort of sick game to you? Torment me without doing anything?”

She’s being louder than you’d like. Everyone else is probably outside. Anyone inside would hear her, though. And you would like this to be private.

“I didn’t know you hated people like me until we were on the trail. Then…” Putting words together is a little hard now. Putting good ones together was hard before. You swallow and try your best. “You actually cared about your pokémon. And me. After Pixie left, when no one else but Coco and Noci were keeping me company. And I didn’t like being yelled at on Mauna Wela, but. Maybe it helped in the long run?”

You got into therapy. You know you aren’t fat. Yet. And Pixie finally got you to admit… admit that maybe you didn’t do the worst thing you’ve ever done.

“You kept lying to me.” There’s a venom in her words you aren’t used to. Part of you wants to fight back harder. Part of you is just surprised to hear it. And another part thinks maybe you deserved it. “Lying and lying even when you knew I’d want to know. Care to explain that.”

“I didn’t want to die.”

You try to say it evenly. Like it’s just another normal thing. You don’t like the rain. You don’t like the feel of bluk berry skin when you crush them in your teeth. You would rather not be killed.

Even if you aren’t sure how true the last one was. You’re kind of fine with dying. It’s part of life. Sometimes you even…

“Bullshit. How many times have you almost gotten yourself killed since we met?”

You pause to count. Hypothermia on Route 2. Maybe Kalani? Maybe the fight with the vikavolt? The tyrantrum mission with VStar. Saving Genesis. It feels unfair to blame you for the braviary or almost tripping off a cliff no one could see on Route 3. Those could have happened to anyone.

“Three to five.”

“Hah.” It’s not a laugh. It sounds like she just coughed or choked out the chopped up remains of a word. “Then why’d you really stay?”

You try to think of the truth. You… aren’t sure there is one. Not like she wants. Maybe you shouldn’t lie again, though. After Pixie left and Coco met her mom you said you’d stop doing that with your pokémon. Should you extend that to your friends? What if… what if they leave you over it?

There you go.

There’s your answer.

“I like you. And I don’t like saying goodbye to people.”

“You’re pathetic,” she growls. “You know that? And a shitty friend to boot.”

“I know.” It’s why you’ve never had many friends in the first place. Who would want to be friends with you?

“See? There you just—“ She slams something (her hands?) on something else that sounds a little like leather. “You play up how pathetic you are so other people take pity on you. It lets you get away with murder, and then I’m supposed to feel bad for being mad at you.”

“That wasn’t what I meant.” Although you remember Kekoa accusing you of something similar once. If both agree, then maybe it’s true?

Lyra sniffles. It’s… what? Why? Did you hurt her? “I’m sorry if—“


You still have no idea what’s going on in her head. Back to letting her guide things.

“Tell me the truth: how much did you change about Gen while you were in her head? Make her forget me? Make her think she was dating you? I’ve seen how close you are now and how much you like it and. Go fuck yourself all the way into the deepest point of the abyss you psychic bitch.”

You probably should be mad. But now she sounds pathetic. After accusing you of that. There’s a sob woven just beneath her words.

“I didn’t do anything. Miss Takeda would have found it.”

And you’re glad she didn’t find anything. You’ve never really fought in someone else’s head before. You were really worried you accidentally hurt her more than your enemies. Destroyed someone else you thought you cared about. Then. You aren’t sure what you would have done. Maybe just. Finished things? Before you could hurt anyone else.

“I know,” she whispers, before immediately adding, “I know. Damn it, why are you making this so hard?”

“I’m sorry.” She’s angry. The apology is just reflex. Calm people down and they might not lash out at you. Even if she maybe has the right to hurt you just a little. You did lie to her for a long time.

“Don’t be. You—I—I can’t keep doing this.” You hear her shift on her chair and take a deep, shaky breath before turning off the TV. “I like you, okay? You’re good with your pokémon and aren’t afraid to be weird. I don’t like that all of this—it just—it should have been someone else. Someone I can hate.”

You don’t follow. At all. She likes you, but thinks you’re a bitch? Maybe you’re missing context or something got lost in the translation your power gave. Or is this like your father? He loved you. But. He also might have hated you. Which you get. You aren’t always easy to love.

“I can’t keep doing this,” she repeats herself. “Maybe I. She doesn’t need me, does she?”

Genesis? “Maybe? I’m busy and she deserves to have someone with her. She shouldn’t be alone.”

“Can’t Kekoa do that?”

Kekoa is. Prickly. You were at each other’s throats for long enough to know that. He’s also unshakably loyal to the people he decides to trust and really believes that things can get better. It works for him. He’s your best friend. Almost your only human friend. But you aren’t sure he has much interest in Genesis. They never liked each other in the first place.

“Right. I.” She sighs again. “I don’t know. I’ve thought about taking a week away. Going up to Hokulani, taking on the trial, getting away from it all long enough to think things through. Does that make me a bad person? Running away from someone I love when she could use my help?”

“I’m not sure. Sometimes I wanted to get away from my brother even though I could have helped if I stayed. I didn’t think it was a bad thing. And then… I wasn’t there when I was needed and.” You didn’t kill him. You also didn’t save him. A part of you is still convinced you could have. Maybe he wasn’t perfect, maybe he never corrected your father, but. You loved him. You know he loved you. And…

You feel arms wrap around you and you take a shuttering, sobbing breath. Are you crying? When did that happen? And is—yes, the scent is right. Same lilac perfume and what you assume is a trace of salandit perfume. It’s not a full, proper scent but Lyra has inexplicably good since you had your blowup on Mauna Wela and you can never pinpoint why. Subtle enough that sometimes you wonder if she’s even using it at all. Now it’s a welcome distraction.

“You good?” Lyra mumbles into your ear when the tears have finally stopped.


“Good.” She pauses. “I don’t hate you. I don’t want to hate you. And I’m afraid of myself.” With that she relaxes her arms and steps away. “Can you hold things down for at least a week? Maybe more? I… I don’t know how long I’ll be away or what I’ll do afterwards.”

“…I think I can.” Was she threatening you there? You’re pretty sure that was a threat. It’s just hard to take it seriously with Dr. Karashina’s pokémon lurking around every corner.

“Good. I’ll talk to Shirona and start packing.”


May 10, 2020

Cool water surrounds your lower body while the harsh Alolan sun beats down on your upper back and head. There are a few pool noodles in your arms helping you stay afloat. It feels nice. Helps a lot with your headache. Even without pills it’s just a dull roar of pain in the background. You can still think. Talk. Move. Better than it was. Almost back to your childhood normal.

You’re sharing the pool with a very anxious milotic who keeps brushing her tail against your leg to make sure you aren’t drowning, even though you can swim. Her scales are smoother than they have any right to be. Beneath the skin you can feel the movements of powerful muscles. Milotic are peaceful (by dragon standards) and she’s never shown any aggression towards you, but it’s always good to remember how easily you could be killed when dealing with unfamiliar dragons. They’re in control until they decide they don’t want to be.

Leo is sitting still in the corner of the pool beneath you. Probably. He can be stealthy enough you might not notice him leaving the pool. Coco’s resting in the shade somewhere on the deck and Noci… you have no idea.

{What are you doing?} you idly ask.

{Surveilling UD_Genesis}

{Good. Keep doing that.}


Just a lazy story time by the pool. Wakumi is insistent that you tell her all the dragon stories and Coco doesn’t want to be left out. Kagetora usually listens in and corrects anything she thinks you got wrong. He’s not here this morning. Probably diving into the sand of the beach.

The door slides open and Dr. Karashina steps out with her lucario in tow. Pretty sure it’s Dr. Karashina. Her usual shoes have a distinct pattern of hitting the floor, her sole, and the floor again. And Genkei’s metal toe claws can’t be mistaken for anyone else here.

“Good morning, Cuicatl. Didn’t see you at breakfast today.”

“I’m sorry. I slept in.” It’s not even a lie. Your sleep schedule has been really inconsistent since… Genesis. Some days you can barely pull yourself out of bed and some you can’t get to sleep with the pounding against your skull. “It won’t happen again.”

She scoffs. “You’re a teenager. I never see Hilda before noon unless her job or life are on the line. Just eat something when you get up. There’s usually still some kind of leftovers.”

“I’ll try.”

“And are you wearing sunscreen? Your skin tone won’t protect you from melanoma.”

“I put it on.”

You don’t want to sass Dr. Karashina. She’s one of the strongest trainers in the world. One of the smartest people in the world. Allegedly one of the prettiest people in the world. It’s just weird having an adult lecture you about your own well-being. You’re used to being punished for failing to do things for others. If you got hurt by your own actions you wouldn’t need to be disciplined further for it. You don’t like it. Being talked to like you need help just looking after yourself.

If she’s offended by your short answers she doesn’t bring it up. “What were you talking about when I walked out.”

“The Split God. Well, she hadn’t split yet. We were just getting there.”

“I see.” You hear a beach groan and squeak as she sits down in it. “Tell me, does the myth explain where your powers came from?”

“Not really.” You idly move a hand through the water and flick some off the surface. Water is fun. Like thicker air. You don’t swim often and people always get nervous when you do. Like not being able to see makes you unable to swim. Or not having formal lessons. Your brother taught you the basics once he’d learned. It’s surprisingly easy to learn from someone when you can watch the skill in motion in their mind. Anyway. Dr. Karashina’s question. “The Harbor Queen just kind of shows up able to talk to pokémon. The Dragonmother takes an interest in her. There’s maybe something about a dancer? Then the story moves on. She’s not really important. None of the humans are until a lot later.”

“The twin heroes?”

“Kind of? I mean, they matter. Sort of. The Dragonmother split because her pets were fighting and she didn’t want to take a side. It was also time to breed so the war was a good excuse.”

Wakumi’s tail brushes past you again before gently pushing you closer to the surface. Apparently, you’re too low for her.

{Not drowning.}

{I’m being careful. You don’t have fins or gills.}

“That was just the dragon giving birth?” Dr. Karashina asks. “All the epics about humans tearing a god asunder and she just died in childbirth?”

No. It’s not like that. She’s not… gone. Not dead in a human way. “Her soul burns on in her children. Even her body remains.”

“Mitosis, then?”

You try to shrug and lose your grip on the pool noodles. Wakumi’s tail snaps out in an instant, wrapping around your waist and hauling you back into the air. Then she moves and deposits you in the shallows where the water barely comes up to your calf.

“You alright?”

You do your best not to blush from embarrassment. “I had it handled. Would’ve been okay.”

Leo scuttles over and brushes against you before retreating back towards the deeper end. He keeps a leg on your toes to make sure you’re okay. Or something. He seems to get that touch makes you feel better. Maybe. It’s harder to figure out what’s going on in his head than Noci’s.

“Humans don’t factor much into dragon myths, do we?”

“Not until later.” When Unova went to war with the haxorus and won. Eventually. First, they had to burn down the forests by dropping torches from the backs of braviary. Only once the haxorus were starving could they win on the battlefield. And even that was a close war. “Why would they? We only win when we have way bigger numbers or cheat. And they’re dragons. They’re…” Bigger than us. Stronger than us. Tougher than us. Better in every way that matters. “They can do anything they want. Have anything they want. Why should we matter?”

“And what would you want if you could have anything?”

You don’t answer Dr. Karashina’s question. Not aloud. But you know the answer. You just want your family back. Even if some of them are beyond even the dragons’ reach.


May 13, 2022

You’re in Dr. Karashina’s private office having a one-on-one chat about dragons.

You thought this would be more exciting.

“And these long hunting periods, how many kills would ellas make?”

You shrug. “Until ellas was too full to want to fly? Probably around ellas’s body weight. A little more if ellas wanted a challenge.” Or if another pokémon, be they predator or prey, tried to make a big show of scaring ellas away from their nest. Then ellas kill them and the babies on principle. Actually, that might be important. You relay that to Dr. Karashina and she stops typing.

“Awfully blasé about that.”

“Nothing stands up to hydreigon except other dragons. Everything else learns to run or hide.”

“Hmm.” You hear the click-clack of her nails hitting the keypad. They felt longer than you expected from an adventurer the few times you’ve held her hand. Maybe they’re just fake? “I suppose threat displays from a control pokémon wouldn’t be useful in captivity?”

“Not unless it’s a potential mate or a much stronger dragon.” You’ve always found that curious. Why would anyone try to buy Alice? The dragon would probably just kill them and fly away. The government of Anahuac says that other countries have pokéballs that make pokémon obey, but you’ve never quite believed it. It would be too hard. You’re not even sure where to begin with that and you’re an actual psychic.

“And then how long do they stay with the kill?”

“Until it’s finished or rotting and they can comfortably fly again.”

“What would that translate to in captivity? Feed smaller amounts at a time when a tournament approaches?”

“I wouldn’t try to starve a hydreigon. They’re defensive of their food.”

“Duly noted.” More clacking. “Could tournaments be timed around meals? You mentioned a ‘flight period,’ probably better noted as a ‘fast period,’ between the end of a feast and the start of the next hunt. Was that a set amount of time?”

“Until ellas got hungry or bored.”

“Could small daily or semi-daily meals be used to entice them to stay in battling shape without getting hungry?”

“I don’t know.” It’s hard to say that about hydreigon. Drives a splinter deep into your pride. But you don’t. “My dad didn’t have the money to feed ellas.” Or the desire to battle with her. “Mom just bought little treats for ellas. Had ellas hunt down invasives to save money. You know that Unova used to have an emboar problem, right?”

“And her hydreigon lived comfortably on that diet?”

“Mom used to buy ellas fish as rewards.” Alice stopped eating fish after you were born. Unless ellas was hunting with you. Or you gave it to ellas. Brought up bad memories. Or good memories that were clouded with bad ones? Alice loved it the few times you gave one to ellas. It was just almost never in the food budget since you couldn’t even really feed yourself.

When you get Alice back, ellas is getting all of the fish she wants.

The doorbell rings downstairs. “Oh? Is our time here up already?”

You’re privately relieved. Talking about Alice is one thing. Talking about how to try and tame a force of nature just made you feel like a failure when you couldn’t give Dr. Karashina the answers she wanted. And you hate how clinical it all sounded. Hydreigon are bloody, violent, and creative creatures. They are not clean or sterile or predictable. Trainers who want that should stick to porygon.

You’re also very excited for the trip that’s coming up.

“Go and grab Coco from out back. I’ll greet our guest.”


You make your way out to the pool. You call Coco’s name. She has good hearing. If she’s on the deck or the beach she’ll come your way. In the meantime, you stand still and bask in the warmth of the morning sun on your skin.

Coco’s hurried footsteps scratch against the wooden stairs to the beach soon enough. You kneel down and engulf her in a hug while she excitedly thumps her tail on the ground. She knows what’s coming. She’s clearly excited. She just wants you to know that she loves you, too.

You don’t deserve her, now and always.

“Ready to go?”


It takes you a few tries to slide open the glass door and step inside. When you do you can feel the tension in the air. There was just a fight here. Oh no. Did Miss Bell offend Dr. Karashina? Or the other way around? Does that affect your thesis work or your ability to stay here?

“Are either of you mad at me?” You’ve played your share of social games but now you just really want to know.

“No,” they both say in unison. Neither provides any more information.

“Are you ready to go?” Miss Bell finally asks.

“I think so.”

You show Coco her ball and hear her sit down. That’s her sign you have permission to withdraw her. After seeing what teleporting does to you, she’s fine skipping out on it. Even asked if you had a ball you could rest in.

It’s a little hard to detach from your senses like Miss Bell recommended. You can’t just close your eyes and shut out your main way of seeing the world. Instead, you have to meditate while standing up, ignoring the psychic waves of the unleashed alakazam brushing against your defenses with enough force that you know one could crush your mind as easily as—

—the world twists and compresses and presses you down and down and down until you must be the size of a—

You dry heave but nothing comes up. Progress.

When you slowly pull yourself to your feet you note how quiet the world seems. You can hear the buzzing of a drone or large insect. Nothing else. Not the hum of electricity or the movement of vehicles or people talking in the distance. Not what you expected from an active dinosaur containment facility.

“I’m going back to my office for a bit. Text or call me when you want picked up.”

Right. Most people are afraid of large dragons. Especially if they’ve seen them kill people. Coworkers. Did she know the victims? It must be hard for her to visit this place after all of that.

“Go ahead.”

You send out Coco when the psychic pressure lifts. She shakes herself off, sniffs, and makes a low, vibrating roar. It’s still clearly audible now. You aren’t sure it will be once she evolves.

Her cry is met by distant footsteps. And wingbeats. Is Coco’s father here, too? Miss Bell didn’t tell you that. She probably just wanted to surprise you. It is a nice surprise, but you would have liked time to prepare. There’s a big difference between dealing with your sister and a stranger of the same species.

The steps don’t seem to get closer even as the wingbeats do. How odd. Is she not—you can hear her breath. She got close without you noticing she was coming to you. That’s a really cool trick. Can she teach Coco that? Is it something the species naturally does?

You catch yourself and make a deferential call. Earthshaker dismisses you with a grunt before thoroughly sniffing her daughter. Her version of a checkup. The hydreigon’s wingbeats get ever closer before shifting to the sounds of hovering in place nearby. Hydreigon will not land on the ground when uncomfortable. A bad sign.

You repeat your greeting in hydreigon lower.

Coco’s father makes a series of nearly deafening rapid-fire whistles, each head taking their turn before the first starts again. Their version of laughter.

His mate growls in annoyance.

“I had not believed a weak one would learn our words,” he finally says in Upper Draconic. Odd. You showed him you could speak lower. Upper is better for harder ideas. Maybe he’s using it for that? “What need have you to speak with us? When we cross paths, you must either hide, fight, or run.”

“One of your kind loved me like a sister. I learned her language out of love.”

More laughter.

“Does that make you feel important? Does that make you worthy of speaking to dragons?”

Earthshaker makes a low, ominous roar that shakes your bones and organs in ways you did not know they could be shook. “Stop playing. Our child likes her. Now, child, you were saying something about stealing a ghost’s leg bone?”

She goes back to listening to Coco recount all of the things she has had the chance to bite since they last met.

Coco’s father gives a low growl of annoyance. He does not attack either you or Earthshaker.

“I am called Cuicatl Ichtaca by humans and Little Green by my sister. What is your name or title?”

“Pillager of the Alcove.”

A title, then. He evolved in the wild. You have no idea why they thought capturing a truly wild hydreigon was a good idea. Much less separating him from his mate. It does explain some of the differences between him and Alice.

“What drives you, Pillager?”

“Have you harmed my child?”

Coco squeals and rushes over to stand between you and her father.

“Hi! I disembowel things. You’re my second father?”


“Can I show you how sharp my teeth are?”

You hear stronger wingbeats as Pillager of the Alcove lifts himself higher.

“I will never understand you and your mother, breathing ghosts.”

You hear Coco thud back to earth after trying to jump after his father. Then she slams her tail down. “Unfair! Why can’t I fly?”

Earthshaker shifts and rests her head close enough to you that you can feel the heat of her breath. “Have you slowed down, yet?”

“Not for long.”

That’s not quite what the words mean. For dragons it means something different. Closer to ‘I do not intend to stay here forever.’ ‘Not for long’ could mean decades as long as the plan is to stop eventually. You aren’t sure which sense you mean it in now.

“I will always want to see my daughter, yet she is happy with you. She may stay in your care until that changes. Whatever my mate says.”

“I should be allowed to decide,” he protests.

“No.” The tyrantrum rises to her full height beside you. Her breath is now coming from straight above. “Will you challenge me?”

He would win. Flight is a serious advantage. Backing down in front of others is also against everything hydreigon stand for.

You’re in serious danger of getting trampled. So is Coco. You withdraw her for her own safety.

Pillager growls in a threat display. Not an intent to attack, just a warning that he is very, very close to doing so. Earthshaker takes two steps forward.

“Will you challenge me?”

You hear the wingbeats of something else approach. Whatever it is, Pillager just huffs in anger before flying off. Chastised. Defeated. In front of others. Either Earthshaker or whoever is coming must be a lot stronger than you had thought.

“Hello, Cuicatl,” a male, human (and vaguely familiar) voice calls out from above. “Do you need me to step in.”

“No.” You think you know him but without any hints you’re probably never going to guess it. “Who are you?”

“Jabari. Kekoa’s brother.”

You spoke briefly near the volcano. Kekoa asked about reconciling and then never brought his brother up again. Not that you expected anything else. Kekoa is his own least favorite subject to talk about.

“What are you riding on?” You should know if it was his mount or Earthshaker that scared a hydreigon away.

“A salamence,” he says over the wingbeats. Oh. Not a hydreigon, but as close as dragons come. You’re very jealous. “I also have Pillager’s ball. Keeps him from getting any ideas.”

Murdering him in his sleep is both ‘an idea’ and very likely from an embarrassed hydreigon. The dead can’t mock you.

“Are you guarded at night?” you ask once the wingbeats have lowered and then stopped.

“I don’t sleep here. Just leave a few fairies and a drone with the pokéballs. We aren’t taking any chances after last time.”

That’s why there are no other people. Or electrified fences. They’ve just left the entire island to the dragons.

Probably their best move.

Earthshaker impatiently stamps at the ground like Coco does. It’s a bit more intimidating coming from something so much larger than you. It’s the kick you need to send Coco out as soon as your fingers can find the release button.

“Sorry,” you tell her. “I was worried you were going to get hurt in the fight.”

You realize a bit too late that Earthshaker might take offense to that. She only huffs indignantly before lying back down to talk to her daughter. Crisis averted.

You take a few steps closer to Jabari and greet the salamence in Upper Draconic.

“Why are all of rider’s friends so weird?” he asks. You aren’t sure if that’s rhetorical or not. “Go back to your own tongue. If I wanted to talk to humans I would learn how.”

A bit rude. Not openly hostile, though.

“What’s she saying?”

“That she hates all your friends and doesn’t want to talk to me.”

He laughs. One initial ‘hah’ with a few smaller noises for a while after. Similar to Kekoa’s. “I see how she would get there, yeah. Sometimes even I don’t like my so-called friends.”

You take a moment to listen to Coco and Earthshaker go back and forth about the grand trial battle against Olivia. Coco’s gushing about how smart you were for the pupitar strategy. Not like you really deserve credit. You just came up with it on the fly and she did all the work.

“That’s why I found the small ones useful when I used to fight,” Earthshaker says. “They have good tricks.”

She used to battle competitively? Or just informally? You kind of want to look that up now. Get ideas for future strategies.

“How’s Kekoa?” Jabari asks.

“Fine.” You don’t want to give him any information that Kekoa himself wouldn’t, and you aren’t sure where that line is drawn right now. The last time you tried to push someone back to their family it ended horribly for everyone involved. “You can ask him yourself.”

“He doesn’t really answer my calls unless he needs something.” He sounds embarrassed to admit it.

“Did you answer the call when he needed you?”

“I… no. I was a child—”

“I started doing all of the housework for my brother when I was nine.”

Jabari was at least eighteen. Legally an adult. He has no excuse.

“That’s actually kind of fucked.”

“No worse than neglecting them. We have duties to our family. He isn’t sure you can be trusted to perform yours.”

“Ouch. Harsh, but fair.”


“…there’s also a snake dragon who doesn’t know dragon stories, so Mother is teaching both of us all about the old dragons…”

Earthshaker is barely speaking, just happy to hear her daughter’s voice. Its kind of adorable. You know what she’s said and you’re really glad that Coco is staying with you, but you know its all selfish. Coco would be better off with someone like Earthshaker than someone like you. Just like Pixie is better off with her own species.


The teleportation hurts a little less on the way back. You just collapse to the ground and breathe heavily for a minute or two. Nothing even threatens to come up. Progress.

Someone uncaps a water bottle and you feel something cool approach your face. “Have some water. I also have gummies if you need something to fill your stomach.”

Are you in her office? You just assumed she would take you back to Dr. Karashina’s house. You take the water bottle and rise. Thankfully a quick prove to the side with your leg finds the chair you’re supposed to sit in. Or the chair you’re going to sit in. She could have directed you to another one if she wanted. Feels like the one you usually use when you’re here, anyway.

“Did you enjoy your visit?”

“Yes. Coco was happy.”

“Good, good.” She shifts some papers around on her desk. “I’m afraid I don’t have much in the way of good news today. No reports of any of the species you gave me being sold as a trainer’s pokémon. Provenance usually includes number of badges. A merchant would have known to ask about and include it. We would know if any sales came up.”

It’s been almost a year. How have none of them been sold yet? You’re glad she’s looking. Just increasingly nervous that something terrible happened and you were the last to know. Maybe… maybe your father bought them back out of guilt? You weren’t going to school anymore so he had no reason to need the money. Except paying off debts. You know he had a few. From college. From business. From charity. From gambling. Nothing he couldn’t make payments on. Just extra burdens on a tight budget.

Or maybe they were already sold off by the time you reached Alola and had her check. Maybe you’ve missed your chance forever.

“As for hydreigon, there’s only been one sold in the last year as far as I can tell.”

That makes sense. You’re guessing they don’t rehome well. It may take $700,000 to buy a hydreigon. That’s still one of the cheapest major dragons. Dragonite can go for five times as much because they’re a lot less likely to kill their trainer.

“We do need to discuss that, actually. You may have noticed that our fossil breeding facility has been almost completely abandoned.”

“To keep anyone else from dying.” And to keep them from having to pay you loads of money.

“Yes, and also as a prelude to shutting it down. We’ve closed deals on the last assets there and plan to sell the island shortly.”

The last assets… She doesn’t mean…”

“You sold Earthshaker?”

“That’s the tyrantrum, right?”


“Then, yes, we did.”

The bottom falls out on your world and you grip the sides of your chair until your fingers sing in pain just to keep you grounded. “How much—”


“How much?”

She sighs. “Eleven million for both dragons. Tyrantrum are expensive and our buyer had a unique interest.”

Eleven million. That’s eleven times more than it would cost to buy back the rest of your mother’s team. It might be doable. If you could keep getting jobs like the time you had to talk Earthshaker down. Just… Thirty more? You don’t even have that long left on your island challenge. There has to be some way. Coco considers her family so she’s your family, too, and you got into this to save family.

“You could loan—”

“No. I know what you make. You wouldn’t be able to repay it. He might just bid higher, too.”

“Is there anything—”

“No, Cuicatl, no. I’m sorry, but no. Do you even have a long-term plan here? A path to permanent residency? A way to make money once you’re back in Anahuac? Anything beyond ‘make lots of money?’ I’m starting to worry about you and I’m not letting you put this on your back, too.”

There must be something. Anything. Um. More jobs. Sponsorships? Is that how the pros pay their expenses? You don’t love the idea. Better than the alternative.

“Even if you could pay for it, somehow, there would still be the licensing issue.”

“I’m working on it,” you protest. “Dr. Karashina has been a lot of help.”

“I’m glad she has. Still, the fact remains…”

Oh gods. Coco never got to say goodbye. That’s. You know how that feels.

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“You know damn well why I didn’t. It would have made containment impossible. The company is already in dire straights and if we did go under because of it there wouldn’t be any more money coming your way.”

Profit over wellbeing. How. Very. American.

“Do you care about anyone but yourself?” you hiss.

“Only after I’ve taken care of my needs.”

You reach for your belt. If she’s putting you in this position, then—

—the world falls away into endless spins as you get compacted smaller and smaller. When it stops you feel Miss Bell’s alakazam’s crushing presence against your mind.

{Do not attempt to harm my trainer.}

Then he’s gone and you’re completely alone.

Now where did he leave you? The question is answered almost immediately by the door opening and someone walking towards you. Probably barefoot. Too light for shoes.

“Are you okay?” Dr. Karashina asks.

Good. He brought you back. You were worried he dropped you on a remote island out of spite.

“No. I need to talk to my team.”

“May I ask what about?”

“How to make eleven million dollars.”


You give her a brief summary. At some point the door opens and someone else steps out without announcing themselves. You don’t really care.

“A tyrantrum and a hydreigon, huh? I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything. I’ve heard rumors about who the buyer is and they have the motivation and resources to bid well outside my price range. Assuming Chris would even sell to me. I came close to beating him in the last Champions Cup and he’s the sort of person who cares about that kind of thing.”

The other person clears her throat. Higher pitched than Genesis. Lyra, then.

“I’ll ask my family about it but I don’t expect them to help. Not without strings. You don’t want to be tied up in their strings. Just trust me on that”

It’s more than you were expecting from her given everything. You also think she’s wrong. There are few prices you wouldn’t pay to keep Coco from going through the same thing that you did.

The door opens and shuts before you can ask any questions.

“Is there anything I can do for you right now?” Dr. Karashina asks.

“N-no. I just need to talk to my team.” This isn’t her fault. Isn’t her problem. You can deal with it. You always deal with things alone.

“Okay.” You stand up on unsteady legs and reach for the collapsible cane stored at your side. “I can have Genkei look after Genesis for a while. Between him and her golduck it should be fine.”

“Just find me if things aren’t. I’ll be on the beach.”

Selfish. You shouldn’t have a full team meeting in private. Too much risk to her health You know that. You’re doing it anyway. Maybe you deserve what you get, but Coco doesn’t. You’re doing this for her.

Noci comes pretty quickly after you call her. Guides you the rest of the way to the edge of the beach. Leo gets out of the pool when you pass it and trails behind you. Maybe Noci told him to. Maybe he just senses that this is important. You sit down at the edge of the surf. The waves wash up and soak your sandals and shorts but you can’t bring yourself to care. The water isn’t what’s important.

When you’re ready you send out Coco and tell her what’s happening. What needs to be done. Your best ideas for doing it. She listens quietly after an initial growl / roar and stamping around.

“Humans are dumb,” she correctly says. “Can’t I just bite them until they stop?”) Even after you’re finished, she just huffs and paces in the damp sand. “We can get money by winning fights?” she asks. Prize money.

“Down the road.”

For now, battles aren’t guaranteed wins and the prize money isn’t nearly enough. Being strong has other advantages. Easier proving battles and captures. Maybe sponsorships. You aren’t quite sure how pro trainers pay for everything. You’re pretty sure those are big parts of the mix.

“Then I’ll get as strong as I can be. Strong enough to beat the sand dragon.”

“One step at a time,” you gently tell her. “If you work too hard you could get hurt and get weaker instead of stronger.”

She growls but doesn’t object. “Can I start now? I can smell the sand dragon on the wind.”

“Sure.” She rushes off with a roar of challenge to Kagetora. You trust the garchomp not to go too hard on her.

Noci presses into you from the side and you wrap your arms around her. She’s even warmer than usual in the midday sun. About as hot as when she was a beldum. It feels nice. It feels selfish. You break off the hug. “Can you go watch after Genesis? I want to be sure she’s okay.”

{Initiate Ramming.}

That leaves you alone with Leo. Your newest team member. The one you understand the least. You have no idea what to say here. He answers for you by wrapping himself around you. He’s heavy enough that it forces you to lean awkwardly to the side. All of his legs flail around you and dig into your clothes. You’re pretty sure that this isn’t at all natural for him. He’s just seen humans do it and thinks you’d appreciate it. And you do. It shows how he cares. Even when you’re not sure how to care for him. You try to speak but get caught up in sobs.

Damn it. You aren’t even the victim here. You have no right to cry. Leo just squeezes tighter. It isn’t painful. And the longer it lasts the more comforting you find it. Maybe you don’t trust your voice, but you still have your mind. {If there’s anything you want, just let me know.}

“Food,” he hisses / gargles.


“No. Just ate ten nights ago.”

He’s eating less frequently after evolving. When you first got him he ate as often as you would feed him. Has he just come to accept that he can have food whenever he wants it now? That he doesn’t have to eat like his next meal might not come for months?

Have you, of all people, helped someone with their eating problems?

{Anything else?}

You hear his mandibles clack together without anything coming through to your gift. Is that just the bug equivalent of foot tapping?

{Hunting advice. You have good ideas.}

You sob again and you aren’t even sure why.

{I’ll try.}

Your phone buzzes from somewhere behind you. When did it get there? Did Noci move it so it didn’t get wet? What a smart girl. You don’t deserve her, either.

“Message from VStar. Read: Yes or No.”

“Yes.” You try to say it as clearly as you can considering everything. It still isn’t enough.

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear that. Message from VStar. Read: Yes or No.”


“New Capture Mission: Golett. Reward: $50,000. Capture Limit: 1.”

The ghost of a smile forms on your lips. One step at a time. Just like you told Coco. You can still do this. Eventually. No matter what it takes.
Last edited:
Dark 5.5


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Dark 5.5: Repair

May 25, 2020

Today is the day. It’s been a little over—three weeks. Lila scheduled a checkup to see if they can fix things. Just—a checkup. Like a tap on the knee or a—shot in the arm. It’s fine. You trust them. And you want to be fixed again. So you can be away from Cuicatl without dying. So you can breathe without glitching. So you can maybe make things work with Cuicatl. She hasn’t said no. Just that she needs to wait. Which is fair.

You know you’re probably moving too fast there. Just. What else is left? There’s no family to go back to. No job. You aren’t sure you ever really had friends. You can only talk to your pokémon because of her. Lyra would take you but she wants the same thing. There’s nothing behind you. The only way to go is forward. If you want to be happy you’ll need to seize it. You spent months wallowing in place. You can’t—do that anymore.

Kekoa glances at the clock beside you. He’s here. You’re glad for that, even if you still aren’t sure what to say to him. From what Cuicatl’s said you got off on the wrong foot because he was trans, which. Tracks. You hated gay people so much you were willing to—do anything to not be one. You wouldn’t have liked him. Now you aren’t sure how to apologize for things you don’t remember doing.

You close your eyes and focus on breathing. It helps get your lungs the oxygen they need even with the glitches. You can feel something jump up on the couch beside you. Probably Coco. Feels heavy enough and her mother is here. Human mother, anyway. You think it’s adorable how affectionate the little dino is.

“They’re here,” Cuicatl says.


“Lila’s here.”

“How do you know that?” Kekoa asks.

The doorbell rings.

“Felt their alakazam arrive. You couldn’t? They aren’t subtle.”

“We’re not all psychics,” Kekoa grumbles.

Shirona gets up and walks to the door, even though Kekoa was closer. Rude of him. Although you suppose Shirona knows Lila better than anyone but Cuicatl, and she wouldn’t be able to answer quickly.

“Hello, Doctor. Is she ready?”

Shirona glances back at you. Right. Do or die.


Even if you’re scared. Even if you’d rather not think about letting someone—else—in.

Cuicatl’s hand is suddenly on your elbow. “Breathe,” she whispers. “It’s going to be okay.”

You should want this. You need this. But now it’s here and they—have an alakazam and are looking into—entering your mind.



No, you have to do this.

“We can delay it for a while longer. Or I can do a scan on someone first, show it’s safe.”

You stand up and walk over to the psychic.

“I’ll do it.”

They look at you with an unreadable expression. “If you’re sure. Please sit down so I can do the initial scan.”

You find a comfy chair and lower yourself into it. Will this knock you out? Will you feel it like you—felt—last—time.

“Deep breaths.” Lila either closed half the room’s worth of distance immediately or you glitched a lot. The latter, given how greedily you’re gulping down air. “You shouldn’t feel any pain from the scan. I won’t change anything. If you ever want me to stop I’ll stop right then. Deal?”

You look over at Cuicatl. She could step in again if Lila didn’t. It’s fine. This—is going to be—okay.


You feel a weight settle over your being. Tingles race down your spine from head to toe. There’s a feeling of… not electricity, but something like it in your head. Lila wanders around you in a circle to get a view of something from all angles. Their alakazam just hovers in the air and gazes into you. And then almost all the pressure is gone.

“Not as bad as I’d feared,” Lila says as they finish their circle to stand in front of you. “I can definitely do it today.”

You take a deep breath. This is fine. You can do this. “What, exactly, would you be doing?”

“Just closing up some connections that were severed. You shouldn’t have paralytic events anymore. It probably won’t restore any memories, though. It’s possible that a few things become easier to remember. I just wouldn’t get your hopes up.”

“Will it hurt?” you ask.

“Maybe briefly. If it hurts for more than the shortest of moments, let me know and I’ll stop as soon as I can.”

Don’t fight, sit still, take some hurt. Everything will be fine.

Except you really, genuinely, wholly like the outcome of this one. You don’t need to be worn down and convinced. It’s better for you now. Means you can maybe date. Later. You aren’t sure how Cuicatl would take it.

“Sure.” You get up and walk over to the couch. Oliver trails you but stays just outside of your reach. Kekoa is leaning on the wall in the corner with his arms crossed, toucannon out at his side. Weird. He usually doesn’t let the bird inside. Very much not housebroken. More of Shirona’s team seems to be out than usual, too. You can see her lucario, roserade, and garchomp in the kitchen. Even her milotic is standing alert just outside the doors to the pool deck. Are they worried about you? That’s sweet.

You don’t think you have anything to be afraid of, though. Lila was a police officer. They can’t be that bad of a person.

“Close your eyes and try to relax. This won’t take too long.”

You do. Once everything is dark you take a deep breath. Lila’s presence fills your mind shortly after. They’re gentler. More like a scalpel probing around than a hand ruffling through things. Eventually they seem to find what they’re looking for in what feels like the very center of your mindscape.

{This is going to feel weird. Shouldn’t hurt. 3… 2… 1…}

Your whole world flips. Your left hand is on the right and right hand on the left. You still think you’re facing up but your face is reversed, too. Then you feel things bleeding back. Extremities getting pulled back towards the core as everything oozes back into place. Nothing hurts. Everything feels deeply wrong until it abruptly stops moving with everything back in the right position.

{That was the only connection I need to make across the corpus callosum. The feeling shouldn’t happen again.}

You take a deep breath. {Okay.}

They move on to a few seemingly random places around the edge. Sometimes you feel them strike and your world freezes for a moment before resuming at a slightly different angle. There’s a full-body pinching feeling but it doesn’t hurt. Once a scene of… Lyra, you think… flashes through your mind’s eye so quickly you can’t track any of it. Another time you suddenly can’t feel any part of your body. Your mind is just disembodied, not even weighed down by gravity.

Lila reaches out to you again. {This is going to hurt. It shouldn’t hurt for long. Do you want to do it?}

{I already told you yes.}

You can take it. How bad can it—

You become aware of every part of your body. Every follicle on your scalp, every joint in your fingers, every bone in your ear, every individual tooth. And they all hurt, burning and screaming like a full body papercut—

It’s gone. You don’t hurt anymore. There’s no lingering, fading pain. Nothing. Like it never even happened. The whole thing was so short you didn’t have time to scream. You feel Lila’s mind unravel around you as they withdraw. Finally, only one tendril remains. It runs over a patch of mindscape and then it, too, is severed. Then even the presence of their alakazam fades.

“It’s over. You can open your eyes.”

The world seems different when you do. Clearer. Like you opened a window. It was clear before, but now there’s no obstruction at all. You flex your fingers. You can feel them. Painlessly. On the right side of your body. Everything moves right when you sit up. It’s almost… surprising. No lingering wrongness. Nothing hurting. So different than last time.

You can think about last time without your breath hitching even a little.

Not that you want to think about it.

“Everything fine?”

“Yes.” You roll your shoulders and move everything you can think of from head to toe. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” They turn to Shirona and fold their arms behind their very straight back. “I can wait outside if needed. Give you all some space.”

Shirona glances to you. “I’m fine,” you tell her. Honestly. I’m glad they helped.

“Then I’ll make some tea,” Shirona says.

Cuicatl gives you a shoulder hug. She looks proud. And maybe you should be proud. You faced your fears and came out the other side. And now. Well. Now you can start moving forwards.


She says no.


“No,” Cuicatl repeats. “I like you. And I’ll accept, eventually.” your heart flutters. “But you need therapy. You can get it now that Noci or I aren’t watching you at all times.”

“It wasn’t—”

“It was.”

You make eye contact, loathe as you are to do it. Her empty eyes stare back. They aren’t cloudy anymore (when did that get fixed) but they’re still vacant. Unmoving. Like a doll’s eyes. You know she’s smart, probably way smarter than you, but there’s not a spark of intelligence in them like the books said there would be.

Cuicatl looks down at her lap.

“I’m doing it. You can, too.”

Fine. You probably need it. You aren’t eager to go to another therapist, someone else trying to fix you, after everything that happened with Mrs. Rivers. But if it’s what you need to do, you’ll do it.


May 29, 2023

“Good morning, Genesis, please have a seat.”

You sit down on the couch and cross your legs.

“Do you remember our last meeting? You were a bit out of it so it’s fine if not.”

“Sort of.” It was right after… everything. You can think about that without glitching. Even when you take a deep breath on reflex it isn’t needed. It’s almost disappointing. Before you couldn’t think about the past for long, not without needing to breathe and change your line of thought. Now? You can think about it as much as you want. You could easily get lost in thoughts and never find your way out on your own. Before it’s just been a little embarrassing when that happened. Now it’s terrifying.

“Alright.” She pushes up her glasses and takes a sip of her tea. Could you ask for some? It smells good. Would that be weird? “My name is Dr. Valerie Livens. You can call me whatever you like. I’m a therapist who works with the league to cover the particularly difficult cases. Teens dealing with more than homesickness or mild anxiety or depression. Eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia—”

“They let them travel?” You blurt out. You know your sister has been diagnosed with something or other along those lines. She shouldn’t have access to pokémon. Xerneas knows what she’d do to them. What she’d make them do to everyone else.

Dr. Livens purses her lips. Great. You’ve already messed up. “Yes. Often times people with serious mental health disorders are being abused at home. It would be cruel to keep them stuck there because of a stigma against the diagnosis, especially when that diagnosis could have developed or been exacerbated because of their home life.”

“What if they try to kill someone?”

She looks at you with an unreadable expression. “Are you worried about that?”

“My sister tried to kill my brother. Now she’s locked up on the mainland in… well, she called it juvie, but it’s supposed to be helping her.”

She keeps staring at you. Through you? At something else. You take a quick peek over your shoulder and nothing’s there. “I hate to think of what your family’s idea of ‘helping her’ entails. Are you worried I’m going to lock you up?”

“What? No. Just. I don’t know. How do you deal with bad people who come in?”

The doctor looks down at her cup. “Oh, how rude of me. Would you like some tea?”

“Yes, please.”

She leaves the room to pour you a cup. Probably thinking over her answer.

Dr. Livens returns and gives you a cup. It’s black tea. Not really your thing but it would be rude to refuse after asking for it. “I give people the tools they need to help themselves. I will listen to them, offer suggestions, whatever is needed. What I cannot do is make people’s choices for them. If they become a threat to themselves or another, I have to step in.”

“That makes sense.”

The conversation lulls. Should you say something? What?

“Have you been in therapy before?” Dr. Livens finally asks.

“Kind of? My parents hired a woman to supervise things before they fired her and…” You should finish that sentence. She’s your therapist and should probably know. You just. Can’t.

“A conversion therapist, then.”


Her eyes narrow. “Rest assured, I’m not like that. I can give you tricks to manage your thoughts and feelings. I can talk to you to help you better understand yourself. But I’m not here to change you against your will.”

You look down at your lap and fidget. Can you hug one of the pillows? That feels awkward. You shouldn’t. Even if you want your arms to be doing something. “What if something should be changed?” you ask. “Like a mental problem.”

“That’s a good question, actually, and something I think about a lot. First, we’d have to decide what’s a ‘problem’ and what’s just another way of being. Society tends to look at people who are different from normal and believe the problem is the difference, not the barriers they put up to punish it.” She grimaces while sipping her tea. “You know that better than most. But then there are things that are closer to mental injuries. PTSD and depression, for example. Most people just want their symptoms to go away. I can help manage them. I’m glad to do so. Then there’s the middle ground. Bipolar, schizophrenia, other ailments that we can repress with medication. If the medicine is benign enough and the problem severe enough it can be worth repressing. But that’s the patient’s decision to make, not mine.”

“Oh.” You clasp your hands together but now you want to move your feet. Ugh. “Can I send out a pokémon? If it’s not okay I get it, but—”

“That’s perfectly fine.”

You release Ferny. He’s good to pet. Just glances around before curling up in your lap. He smells nice, too. You’ve missed him.

“I don’t like starting out by asking directly about traumas. I’ve heard the basics. That’s all I need for now. Would you like to talk about something else instead?”

“The future.” The words slip out before you can even really think of them. “Like. I guess. I can’t go home. Things between Lyra and Cuicatl—she’s told you about that, right?”

“I can’t discuss her sessions with you,” she replies. “Would you like to tell me your view of the situation?”

“Um. Okay, Lyra knew me beforehand. But then I was made to forget about her when…” Nope. Still don’t want to say it. Your brain isn’t glitching but your mind still slides right off of it like oil on water. “Cuicatl saved me. I lost a lot of things about her, too. Most things. Lyra had a big crush on me. Kissed me, once, which is kind of how all of this got started. She traveled with Cuicatl for a while. I think they got along. Then I came back and only remember one of them, so she got mad and. It’s complicated. She’s gone now.”

The doctor pulls up a notebook and scribbles something in it. “I see. And why did Lyra not like Cuicatl?”

“Uh, well, she’s psychic and Lyra hates psychics. And… I have a crush on Cuicatl but not her. I kind of kissed her in her mind. I thought we were dating, she told me we weren’t, but that felt like it would be nice if it were true even if it weren’t. After everything. Having my own knight in shining armor and. I deserve to be happy, don’t I?”

She makes a non-committal noise while jotting down a note. Are you wrong? Do you not deserve to be happy? “And how do you think Cuicatl feels about this?”

You put all of your attention onto putting Ferny. He rolls over and purrs while you scratch the inside of his big green ears. Why is she asking you this? “You know, right?”

“Yes. But I would like to hear your perspective on the matter.”

Fine. “She said no,” you mutter. “Well, kind of. She said that she wanted me to not be dependent on her first. And then she said that she wanted me in therapy. And.” Wait. Oh. “…maybe she’s just being nice? Like, stalling because she doesn’t want to.” A pit opens in your stomach and you can feel your emotions spiraling down, down, down. What if you are just annoying her? What if you drive her away? There would still be Lyra, but. Have you been messing this up the whole time?

“What are you thinking right now?”

“Just wondering if she secretly hates me.”

“And what makes you think that she might?”

Her face is neutral. Damn it. She could just tell you. She knows, right? Is she leading you on because you’re right? “I. She keeps giving excuses and. Maybe she just doesn’t want it?” The last part comes out in a rush.

“It’s possible to like someone, or at least not hate them, without wanting a romantic relationship with them right at this moment. Have you tried talking to her about it?”

“No. Just thought about it.” And you probably won’t talk to her about it because you aren’t sure you could handle the answer.

“Hmm. I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier, about having a protector. Is that how you see her?”

“Kind of? Like. She’s going to have a tyrantrum. And she was willing to fight for me. I feel safe around her.”

You can’t forget the image of her stepping out in front of you to fight the invaders, a whirlwind of sharpened thought swirling around her. It was probably the most anyone has ever done for you. And yeah. It makes you feel a way you don’t entirely understand. Only part of the experience you can remember fondly.

“I see. Now, do you want her, the person, Cuicatl Ichtaca, or do you want to be safe?”

What. “Both, obviously.”

“Then what do you like about her aside from the feeling of safety?”

That’s easy enough now. Sure, you didn’t have the answer three weeks ago. But. You’ve had time together. “She does a lot for the people she’s closed to. Like, I know people joke about mothering their pets but it feels like she actually does that for Coco. And she helped me breathe for a month without much reason. Even risked her life. Plus, she helps me, Lyra, and Kekoa talk to our teams even though she doesn’t have to. She knows a lot of things about dinosaurs and dragons even though it must be hard to read or learn things. She’s also really passionate about the things she like. It’s always kind of impressive and adorable. Oh! And she knows how to cook and sew well. Really cool she can do that at our age, blind. And Cuicatl’s also willing to make friends with things that terrify most people. I think that’s amazing since I’m bad at making friends with, like, normal people and she’s out here hugging dragons. She’s also kind of weird. In a good way! And she doesn’t seem to care what people think about that. She also has really pretty hair and a nice smile and. Um. Is that too much?”

Dr. Livens shakes her head. She has a faint smile. Are you on the right track? Does Cuicatl feel the same way. “Young love,” she says. “It never gets old to hear about. Even with all that said, do you think your problems would go away if you were dating her?”

“What? No. I mean. Some of them. Talking to my team. Loneliness. Being… attacked again. But I’d still need money and future plans or stuff. Although she could help with that.”

“Alright. I just need you to temper your expectations of what being in a romantic relationship will and will not do. It’s unfair to yourself and to her to see her as something other than human, as a protector from all evils and cure for all problems.”

“I get that.” You uncross your legs and Ferny grumbles. He shuts up when you resume petting him. “Being pressured into being something you’re not. I don’t want to do that to her.”

“As long as you’re aware of that.”


June 1, 2020

Cuicatl comes down just as you’re finishing breakfast. Coco plods beside her and acts as her service dinosaur. Cuicatl’s wearing her hydreigon t-shirt that feels familiar, somehow, and a pair of jeans. It makes her look normal. Well, normal for a girl with green hair and vacant eyes. Not her usual loose, woven, and brightly-colored clothing.

Her eyes are a bit red. She’s also awake later than you. That’s rare.

“You okay?” you ask.

“Fine.” Her reply is like the snapping jaws of an angry growlithe. It does nothing to assure you that she is, in fact, fine. “You wanted to talk to your team? We should get going.”

“Don’t you want breakfast? I heard your stomach growling last night.”

“I’ll be fine.”

Coco lets out a sound between a long whine and a yawn. Cuicatl sighs angrily.

“Let me get her breakfast. Then I’m ready.”

Coco’s breakfast comes out of Shirona’s meat storage room. You’re not really entirely comfortable being in the same house as a carcass freezer, but Cuicatl’s team need it. That’s natural for them. You can… ignore it.

You don’t pay attention to the tyrunt as she tears into the side of something that used to be alive, something that used to have a family and maybe goals and dreams. You don’t pay attention when she cracks a bone between her jaws so loudly you can hear it through the glass door between you and the porch. Cuicatl sits down, arms tightly crossed and muscles tense.

“Are you mad at me?”

“No,” she almost instantly replies.

She’s being insistent. Usually, she defers to others. Or at least speaks with quiet pride. Not commands and short, sharp words. Something must be very wrong.

“This isn’t about my team, is it? If you don’t want to I can ask Shirona’s lucario.”

“It’s not about that. You didn’t do anything.”

Then she admits that there is something wrong. You just aren’t sure how to politely ask for more information.

“It’s Ochpaniztli 17,” she finally volunteers.

You have no idea what that means. “Is that a holiday?”

She just stares into the middle distance until Coco is done eating and knocks on the glass door with her snout. You ignore the bloody plate behind her and the red still dripping from her teeth. Cuicatl lets him in and puts her hand on his back.

“Hey. Um. You can get some more sleep or swim or something. My team and I will still be here later.”

She nods faintly and then heads back to her bedroom without a word. And without eating anything. Is that exhaustion? There was a moment when you were locked in your room where you were too tired to eat and too hungry to sleep. Is this something like that?

Shirona and Kekoa are sitting on the beach when you go out.

“Good morning,” the champion greets you. “Have you seen Cuicatl? We should probably work on her thesis.”

“I did, but she was… off. Tired, kind of angry, didn’t eat breakfast even though I know she was hungry. I asked about it but she’d only say it was the 17th of… I think October? Or the Aztec equivalent?”

“Nahua. They don’t like Aztec,” Shirona corrects.

Oh. Oh no. Have you been insulting her the entire time?

The champion pulls out your phone while you quietly panic. Does she hate you? Is she mad at you for that? You don’t think you ever said it aloud, but she’s psychic. She could hear it anyway. It fails unfair to judge you for that when you didn’t even now.

“Not a holiday,” Shirona says. “And the Nemontemi aren’t until September.”

“Nemontemi?” Kekoa asks.

“Don’t ask her to go outside for five days.”


“Ask her about it later. I’m sorry, but I’m out of ideas.”

Kekoa pushes his plate away from him and stands up. “We met her in October, right?”

“I think so?” The timing lines up with what you remember about the start of your journey. Not that any of that is reliable.

He grimaces. “I think I know. You can come if you want, Gen. You’re better at the touchy-feely stuff and it might be needed here.”

“Okay? What did you figure out, though?”

“Want to be sure before I go spilling her secrets.”

Shirona stands as well. “Good idea. I’ll be downstairs if you need me.”

Kekoa knocks on the door after you go inside and ascend the staircase. No answer.

“Cuicatl, I know you want to sulk but we should really talk about it.”

Again, no answer.

“I’m coming in. Sorry.”

He opens the door. You very hesitantly follow.

Cuicatl is curled up on top of the blankets and holding Coco close to her chest. The dinosaur looks over at you when you enter. Cuicatl doesn’t move. Noci slides in the doorway from behind you to gently nudge her trainer. She manages to elicit a soft, sobbing gasp. This feels wrong. To walk in on her crying. You hesitantly take a step backwards while Kekoa steps forward.

He stands still. And then Cuicatl erupts into louder sobbing for seemingly no reason. What? Did… telepathy? He’d said he didn’t want to reveal any secrets.

Kekoa looks back and waves you in. “She said it’s alright. Just close the door”

Okay? Well, clearly not everything is alright. Just alright for you to be here. That gives you the confidence to step into the room and push the door shut behind you.

“It’s been a year since her brother died.”

Oh shit.

You didn’t even—the void in her mindscape where it felt like something else was supposed to be. Was that his spot? You’ve heard of psychic twins being weird, or even normal twins being kind of psychic, or something.

Kekoa very hesitantly approaches and sits down on the side of your side of the bed. You join him. Cuicatl doesn’t move towards either of you as she continues to sob. He looks over to you, “Think you can get her some applesauce and water from downstairs? Call your shrink, too.”

{Don’t need it.} Cuicatl’s mental voice is almost as robotic as Noci’s. Entirely devoid of feeling or personality or life.

“Yes, she does.”

You glance between the two of them, unsure what to do.

“Trust me, I’ve had my share of shitty anniversaries. I know what I’m talking about.”

You reluctantly get up and start walking to the door. She probably does need food. Water, too, with how much she’s crying. Kekoa’s also known her for longer and he seems to know what he’s doing.

Cuicatl doesn’t tell you not to go. You take that as the second invitation to help. First, you walk to the lounge area and pull out your phone. You’ve only spoken to Dr. Livens three times. She seems kind and knowledgeable. She’d probably know what to do here. You call her. And reach a voicemail.

“You’ve reached the office of Valerie Livens. I’m away from the phone right now and will get back to you as soon as I can. If this is an emergency, please dial 9-1-1. Otherwise, leave a message after the beep.”

“Hi, this is Genesis. Calling about Cuicatl. She, um. Her brother died a year ago today and she’s not taking it well. Can you call me or her so we can, I don’t know, do something? I’m sorry. I don’t know much about therapy. Have a good day.”

You sigh and put your phone back in your pocket. Could’ve gone better. Oh well. You can still get her sustenance. Shirona doesn’t ask any questions when you ask where the applesauce is. You get her a bowl of it, two spoons (in case she drops one), and a big glass of water. Thankfully you don’t glitch on your way up or down the stairs. That would’ve been awkward and painful without Noci around to catch you.

When you get back Cuicatl’s sitting upright against the headboard with Coco in her lap and Noci hovering nearby. She’s not actively crying, even if her eyes are still red. Progress. You set the food and water down on her bedstand.

{Water?} Cuicatl asks.

Right. Can’t see. You guide one of her hands to it. She picks it up with both. For a moment you’re afraid she’ll drop it with how much her body is still shaking. After a long sip she sets it down on the table with no accidents.

{Thank you.}

“You going to eat anything?” Kekoa asks.

Cuicatl just lowers her head.

“Fine. I won’t make you.” Kekoa looks at you and flicks his head towards the spot where you were sitting earlier. You take the cue and sit back down. “Can you tell me about your brother? It used to help with my parents.”

Cuicatl hugs herself tighter and nods so slightly that you can only make it out by the movement of her hair. {His name was Achcauhtli. I called him Achi. He was a head taller than I was and a lot stronger. He was one of the town’s best tlachtli players. Did a few European sports, too. He was good in almost all of his classes. Sang well. It seemed like he was friends with most of the other kids, even though he was half-American. I… wasn’t.}

Even in her homeland people were racist to her. That’s really sad. You aren’t sure if you should hug her, though. Kekoa said he brought you hear for touchy-feely stuff but she’s only just started to open up again. You don’t want to stop that early.

{He was going to go to get into college, go to the capitol, join the military, find honor. It…} She starts sobbing again. Maybe louder than ever. {…it should have been me.}

You don’t think she’s saying that she should’ve been the one to go to college.

Kekoa’s mouth thins and he shakes his head. “He was going to leave your home and do important things, yeah?”

{Y-yes.} Even her mental voice is shaking now.

“And that’s why he was more important than you?”

{Yes.} Now she’s barely audible, even in your own mind.

“Why you should’ve died instead?”

She doesn’t answer. Just hugs herself so tightly you’re afraid she’ll break her own ribs.

“Cuicatl. You know that you left your country, got on tv, earned a shit ton of money, and are being personally mentored by the second-best trainer in the world within a year, right? Do I have to explain that to you?”

Oh. Huh. You… hadn’t put that together. From the look of shock on Cuicatl’s face, neither had she.

“Tell me about your brother all you want. Don’t put yourself down. Survivor’s guilt, yeah, been there, done that. All bullshit. Don’t do that to yourself in front of me.”

That’s way too blunt. You look at him and mouth ‘she’s grieving.’ Because that was just too much, too fast. Just. Let her breathe. Seriously. Now you probably have to salvage that before someone starts yelling.

“Did you love him?”

“Yes,” she whispers.

“Did he love you?”


“Do… you think he’d want you to eat something right now?”

She starts sobbing again. Shoot. What did you do this time?

{He never told me I wasn’t fat.}

“What?” Why… why would she need to know that? She’s barely more than skin and bones.

{My father told me I was. He knew that. He never told me I wasn’t…}

You share a long, meaningful look with Kekoa. You thought your family was messed up. And it is. It really is. Like, not denying that. So is hers. Just in different ways. Or maybe the same. You don’t know.

You don’t like speaking of the dead, but it sounds like her brother might’ve been a bit… well, useless seems harsh. Abusive is wrong.

{He wasn’t like that.}

Hard to tell who or what she was replying to.

{I just don’t know why he didn’t…}

“Let’s set that aside,” Kekoa says with a lot more tact than you were expecting. “Deal with that on a less shitty day. Or with your shrink or something. You aren’t fat. I’m a jackass. I’ve been a jackass to you, specifically. I would’ve told you if you were. You aren’t. Even if you were, applesauce won’t kill you. Seriously. Just eat it. You’ll feel better. Way too easy to feel bad, so you don’t take care of yourself, so you feel worse, so you don’t take care of yourself, and on and on and on during shitty anniversaries.”

Cuicatl looks away from you and Kekoa. Towards her desk. It doesn’t really mean anything since, blind, but you’re choosing to think it means she’s considering eating something. She slowly, hesitantly reaches towards her desk with a shaking hand. Noci helps by levitating the bowl to her. Neither you or Kekoa says anything as she eats a few bites. Which is actually kind of awkward. Um. Should you say anything? So it isn’t just like you’re staring?

Your phone rings and saves you. Dr. Livens. You put it on speaker.

“Hello, Genesis,” she says. “I got your call. Is Cuicatl in any position to talk to me herself?”

“She’s here. On speaker. So is Kekoa.”

“I see. Do you think I could speak with her privately?”

Cuicatl lowers her spoon and swallows. “They can be here.”

“If you’re fine with it,” Dr. Livens concedes. “Would you like to schedule an appointment today or tomorrow? I don’t think Mix (?) Takeda would mind taking you to me and I have an opening at noon. Or we could do a phone appointment. I think in-person might be better, though, given your telepathy.”

“I can come to you. If it’s not a problem. For you or Lila.”

“Good. I’ll call Mix Takeda and set up arrangements. Then they’ll call you.”


“See you at noon.”

She hangs up after Cuicatl tells her goodbye. Well, at least she didn’t fight that. Maybe things are looking up? Or at least not looking down as much. You really hate seeing her like this.


The two psychics disappear into a fragment of warped space.

Oliver steps forward and lays a webbed hand on your shoulder once they’re. Genkei also stands at attention in the corner.

You relax a little. Cuicatl is with a professional now. That’s good. You haven’t lost a sibling, thank Xerneas, but you can’t imagine how crushed you would be if Levi was dead. Let alone if you were psychic twins or something and he died.

“Someone really needs to kick her dad’s ass,” Kekoa mutters.

“I’ve been looking into it,” Shirona says. Even though she doesn’t even know why he needs his butt kicked. “He’s surprisingly hard to find information on.”

You can imagine it being hard to learn things about Anahuac. You’ve made some attempts to learn more about Cuicatl’s culture and it all feels kind of offensive. Like it’s made by people who haven’t been there, heard a rumor, and hate them. They can’t really murder people at birthday parties, right?


Kekoa plopped Cuicatl down on the couch for a dinosaur movie marathon. Cuicatl was quiet for the first movie before finally making a quip or two during the second. She was very annoyed by the third. Arguing with Kekoa over the movie for almost the full runtime of the fifth. It feels familiar. Like you’ve been here before. Shirona keeps to herself beyond sipping and sometimes making more tea in the corner. You aren’t sure what to contribute so you just stay in Cuicatl’s reach.

She falls asleep during the sixth and her head slides down onto your shoulder.


At the end of the day you help her up the stairs and into your room. She takes her time getting changed and showered. Not so long that you get worried. When she comes out she sits down on her side of the bed. Coco jumps up beside her. Noci stays hovering in the corner.

“Thank you for helping,” she says. “It meant a lot.”

You’re tucked under the covers reading another book Shirona lent you. You set it down and pull yourself up into a seated position. “You’ve been helping me for the last month. Least I could do.”

She looks over towards you. Well, to a point a few feet to your left. Close enough you get the intention. “You don’t owe me for that.”

“Maybe not. Still want to help you.”

She sighs and looks back away. Her shoulder slump and she looks so, so small. “I don’t know what you see in me. Thank you, I guess.”

You can help with that. You tell her all the things you told Dr. Livens, maybe with a few more details because she needs to hear it, and by the end you’re just gushing out words. You stop when you realize that you’re talking about her appearance in a way that sounds like what it is. Oops. That. Too far. You’re not flirting with a girl on the anniversary of her brother’s death. Cuicatl inclines her head towards you. It’s hard to see if she’s blushing with her skin tone but she is smiling a little. Thank Xerneas she can’t see how much you’re blushing.

“You’re sure you… want that? With me? You have options. Lyra has her life together and she’d be happy with you.”

Are you doing this? Because it feels like you might be doing it and this isn’t the worst decision you’ve ever made. This month. It’s not your worst decision this month. Not that it’s even close.

“I don’t want her, though. I want you.”

She looks back away. “…I’m not sure anyone ever has before.”

“Their loss.”

She swivels around on the bed so that she’s properly facing you. She’s smiling. Despite… today. And even if she shuts you down hard, you’re glad you could make her smile. She doesn’t do it enough. She deserves it. “I can’t spend a month telling you not to make decisions with a messed-up brain and then make one today.”

That’s not a no. She’s never told you no. She just wants to wait. And you’re fine with that. She’s a good friend. You wouldn’t mind staying that way.

“I’ll make up my mind tomorrow. Tonight, can we…” She takes a deep breath and shakes her head. “Can we cuddle? I want someone holding me. It’s been… it’s been a long time.”

You’re guessing it’s been a year.

“Yeah, we can, um. You scoot closer to her in the bed and wrap her in a hug. She presses herself into you as tightly as she can. Like a komala clinging to her mom’s back. Then she cries. At first it’s just water on your pajamas, and then it’s a full torrent of sound and water and snot.

Not how you’d pictured things going. You still hold her and whisper happy nonsense to her and let her exhaust herself. When she finally collapses you slip out of bed, change your shirt, and lie down next to her. You aren’t entirely sure how to cuddle someone like this. Do you just… wrap an arm around her? You try that. It feels nice. Coco presses into the crook of her mother’s leg. You let her sleep between two people who care for her. She never stirs.

You don’t know how this is going to end. With her. With Lyra. With your team. You don’t know what you want to do going forward or how you’re going to do it. But right now, with Cuicatl next to you, it feels like things are going to be alright in the end.


In the morning, she says yes.
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Dark 5.6


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Dark 5.6: Missed Connections

May 25, 2020

There’s a familiar face in the lobby as you walk out from the trial chamber.

“Kekoa?” you ask. “What are you doing here?”

He pushes himself off of the wall he’d been leaning against and shrugs. “Felt like someone should come out for this. And the girls shouldn’t really travel right now.”

Right. Because one has… and the other is (unfortunately) caring for her. Not that it’s unfortunate Gen is being cared for. Just. Any other type of person. Not her.

You had a plan. There was a way things were supposed to work out. They didn’t in a very big way and a less big one.

(A part of you, the one that went to therapy for years and knows her own head a little too well, knows it’s easier for you to be mad about the smaller problem when the larger problem is too big to think about. The other parts of you would like that part to kindly shut the fuck up.)

“Got here late. Wouldn’t have been allowed to watch the trial anyway. Hope you don’t mind.”

“No. I wasn’t expecting anyone would show up at all. It’s good to see you.”

And it is. You love your team and Shirona’s togekiss is good company for a bird, but you haven’t had anyone to really talk to for days. You can’t imagine traveling solo for more than a week. You’d go mad.

“Do you want to do something after I drop off my pokémon?” you ask. “I saw an ice cream place down the road. I was going to go after we won.”

Kekoa actually shudders. Weird. You didn’t think he minded sweets. “Nope. I was eating there when the sun went out.”

Oh. Right. That. Thank goodness you hadn’t actually been near the cliff face of Route 3 when that happened. You were also close enough to the Pokémon Center to just turn around and stumble your way there for evacuation. At least he was in a city. While holed up in the Center you heard the unearthly moans of a guzzlord. It thankfully didn’t approach. Probably sensed strange creatures on the strange world and avoided them. You wonder if the black hole dragon is as scared of you as you were of it.

What would it be like to fall to another world entirely? One where you don’t know any of the environments, any of the species, where even physics itself could work differently. It would be the ultimate exploration. You think you’d catch on and handle it okay, but the start would be rough. No wonder the UBs are scared.

“How long are you staying for?” you ask.

“Not sure. Shirona’s picking me up tomorrow. Might sleep in Malie, might stay up here.”

“You should stay up here,” you tell him. “We can stargaze. And there’s a cot in my hotel room you can use.”

He shrugs. “Sure.”

Kekoa’s eyes latch onto a plaque as you walk out. The one with the CO2 readings. Can’t remember exactly what it’s called. There’s a big spike after Hoenn. Probably what he’s looking at. It really is a tragedy. Nuclear and hydropower are one angry dragon away from catastrophe, geothermal isn’t reliable, wind and solar technologies aren’t good enough to upscale yet. If Hoenn happened a decade or two later things could’ve been fine. Unfortunately, they did not happen that way and they probably won’t be. A tragedy with no one to blame but two dead megalomaniacs.


Genesis is going to be healed in two days. You’re glad for her. Truly. You hate that another psychic is going to be moving shit around in her head. You give Kekoa instructions to pass on: the best ways to summarize a lot of information on a physical page, how to keep digital backups that can’t be altered, tests to take over time to track how much you’ve changed and the normal amount of deviation humans go through without alteration. Kekoa interrupts before you can talk about meditation techniques. Tells you he won’t remember half of this so you might as well email her. You begrudgingly agree that it might be more useful. Cuicatl’s metang could be reading the email over Gen’s shoulder. Maybe they can just intercept it. They’ll know all of your tricks and be able to plan around them. But if it helps Gen, if it keeps her safe, you’ll take the risk. She’s already been through too much.


Kekoa knows a lot about the stars. So do you. You know the names and distances and when and where they’re in the sky. He knows the stories Alola gave to them. Figured they’d have star myths with the wayfarers and the gods of the island being the embodiments of the sun and moon. Well, supposedly the embodiments. The actual Lunala leaves a little to be desired from what you’ve heard. Still strong! Just not a celestial body brought to earth.

The conversation lulls.

“Are you going to come back?” he asks.

You haven’t decided. Genesis is there. She needs people looking out for her. Cuicatl is there. Maybe you’d go too far and hurt her body a little. Maybe she’d go too far and fundamentally change who you are as a person. The power dynamics aren’t great and she probably sees you as competition. Competition she could eliminate with a few tweaks. Maybe she’d be inspired by recent events and make you straight. There is a level of safety when Shirona is there. Without it? Now that she sees you as being in her way? Who knows. When Subarashī evolves into a salazzle you’ll have a way to keep her in line. Didn’t even anticipate that when you caught her. Back then you’d thought Cuicatl was straight.

Things would be so much simpler if she was. But you don’t have the power to make her that way—no one should—and she does. Or could with the right captures. And why wouldn’t she?

“You should,” Kekoa finally says when he realizes you won’t answer. “The girls shouldn’t be alone.”

What? “Why would they be alone? Won’t you be there?”

He shakes his head. “I’ve been rethinking the whole journey thing. Might continue. Might not.”

You narrow your eyes at him. Might not be visible in the dim light. “Don’t throw your life away,” you hiss.

“No idea what you’re talking about.” His voice is too forcefully even for him to not be lying.

“You aren’t dropping out and going back to foster care, right? And I don’t think you’ve buried the hatchet with your brother. Not enough to live with him. So there’s only one place you’d go if you quit. Don’t. Throw. Your. Life. Away.”

“I’ve been thinking,” he says. “About power. Everyone I’ve talked to says the champion doesn’t have it. The Kahunas can’t even kill bills they don’t like or get the challenge scholarships fully funded. We can’t exactly vote our way out when the colonizers outnumber us. Even Interpol couldn’t keep Gen safe or make what the Gages did have consequences. There’s only one way out, and it’s not through the system.”

“Yeah, system’s fucked,” you mutter. Kekoa blinks. Didn’t expect you to agree on that. “But better people than us have fought it only to end up no better than a bug fighting a windshield. Why do you, specifically, think you can change things?”

He glowers are you. “If everyone thought that—“

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve read Dr. Seuss. Fact is, just because you step up, it doesn’t mean an army will follow you. Most revolutions end up in a bunch of dead kids who get forgotten in a year or two.” You meet his glower with your own. “You’re sixteen. Are you willing to throw the rest of your life away for, what, a chance a bunch of teenage thugs topple the U.S. military? I’m not a betting girl, but if I were I wouldn’t take those odds.”

“Duh,” he scoffs. “You have nothing to lose if nothing changes. But if it meant something like the Genesis shitshow could never happen again—“

Something snaps inside you. “You’re doing this for her? Getting yourself locked up for life? Killed? For her? How does that help her at all?”

He looks away from you and starts to stand up.

“Does she even know? Does Cuicatl?”

“I’m going to tell them,” he grumbles. It’s barely audible. His arms are glued to his sides and it’s clear you aren’t going to get through to him.

“You’d better.”

Hopefully they can straighten him out. Save him from whatever the hell this is. You close your eyes and rub your temples, barely suppressing a groan. Too much like your brother. Wannabe heroes hyped up on stories. Don’t they ever look at the real world? Actual heroes don’t get happy endings. Most of the time they don’t even fix the thing they were trying to solve. Trade one dictator for another, open up territory for a new dragon to move in, delay the inevitable for a year or two. That’s the most they can hope for. That’s the most change they’ll ever make.

Kekoa doesn’t say anything for the rest of the night. In the morning he can barely manage a “happy early birthday” before he sets out.


May 28, 2020

Jishin evolved into a mudsdale the other day. You’re happy to brush her and give her praise and rub her neck and give her all the love she needs. But you can’t talk to her. You can’t ask her if she still wants to find her mother, if she still wants to be with you, if she still believes in her heart that her life’s purpose is to serve humans.

Musei has grown larger and bolder since you caught him. He’s still almost unbearably loud at times while insisting he’s actually very quiet. Does he want to visit his home again whenever you’re in Melemele? Would it just make him homesick? You can’t ask. Just give him fruit and scratch him behind the ears.

Rigan-ryū never talked much even after Cuicatl dropped the act and translated. Turns out that pyukumuku don’t really have that much going on in the head. They’re capable of tricks, of movements of cleverness, but most of the time their mind is almost turned off as they filter feed. Probably saves energy. Brains are calorie intensive. She didn’t have to fight yesterday. You’re grateful for that. The electric gym was never a good matchup for her. Does she want to go back to the water or her ball? Does she even want to be out for team bonding time when she doesn’t really seem to care about any of them? Cuicatl could ask and get an answer in a second. If you were still at Shirona’s you could just call her over and get the answer relayed. How much easier training must be for her. (How much easier it was for you.) It’s already starting to feel like you’ve been newly deafened. You hate that you ever came to depend on her so much. Hate that she slipped past your defenses.

You idly slip another two fish to Subarashī. She’s such a good salandit and she went above and beyond yesterday.

Musei stands faithfully by your side. You trained the absol for months before you started traveling. She was barely more than a calf then. She’s known for for almost half her life and she’s never been able to speak a word to you. Even Cuicatl can’t get around that. Maybe you should catch some kind of neutral translator when you get the chance. Slowking are out. Zoroark or lucario, then? Are lucario too close to psychics? Are you really willing to deal with a zoroark? That feels like the kind of thing Cuicatl would jump at.

You’ve promised yourself to never catch the kind of pokémon Cuicatl would jump at. It just isn’t worth it. Lucario feels too tame for her. Like, she’d do it. But it would just be a boring old pseudo-telepathic martial artist canine to her. Nothing exciting like a deep sea bug, actual tyrantrum, or extraterrestrial invader.

You have no idea how she hasn’t killed herself. (You wonder if she’s tried. Kalani, Z-Moves, the rampaging tyrantrum… you wonder if you’ve seen her try. (You hate the image of her standing on a parking garage, seeing security, and realizing that, no, she can’t do this, and then having to explain to your parents what you were doing there.))

Damn it. Why does everything have to be so complicated?


Your stargazing is interrupted by the ringing of your phone. When you see the caller you have a bout of paranoia. Did she somehow here you earlier? Then you accept that, no, she wouldn’t have. Cuicatl’s miles away from you. Well out of even the best psychic’s range. Fine. What does she want?

“What?” You don’t bother with niceties upon answering.

She takes so long to answer that you start to suspect this was an accidental call. “Is this too late? I’m sorry if you were sleeping?”

Her accent is way more noticeable on the phone. It’s almost embarrassing she kept you in the dark for as long as she did. You’d read accounts of brainwashing victims. You knew that if you ever felt way too positively about someone you should figure out why. But you hadn’t been prepared for someone like her. Someone reasonably nice but not exceptionally so. You thought she was decent enough. Not someone like… that. It meant you couldn’t see her for what she was, no matter how little she tried to hide it. What a fool you were.

“I’m awake. For now.”

“Good.” You can hear a short, sharp bellow in the background of her call. “Coco says hello.”

“Hi, Coco.” You try to sound more positive than when you started the call. You wouldn’t want the dinosaur to think you’re mad at her. Then you take a deep breath and drop your voice’s pitch again. “Why are you calling?”

You can hear her take a breath on the other end. At least there’s one thing she doesn’t hide. It’s just words she obscures. Every time she opens her mouth to speak she’s in your head. You hate it. Even if it makes talking to her way easier.

“It’s your birthday soon, right?” she says. “I wasn’t sure you would be on the trail. Wanted to call before.”

Playing kind then. Great. You rub a hand against your temple and mentally groan. “Thank you.”

You should probably ask her when her birthday is, or do something social and normal, but you don’t feel like it. You’re pretty sure hers isn’t for a few months anyway. Should be somewhere in your phone.

“Are you ready to talk yet?” she asks.

“No.” You already know you’d say something you’d regret down the line. You don’t think you hate her. Just… dislike her. And like her. At the same time. Again. Complicated. Too complicated to explain to a girl who might only understand half of what you say over the phone. “How’s your girlfriend?”

“…we aren’t dating.” she says. “I told her no.”

You bolt upright. The fuck? “Why?” you manage to stammer out. Because. Again. Why the fuck? They seemed enamored. Hell, they’re already literally sleeping with each other.

Cuicatl sighs on the other end. Says something in what you’re pretty sure is Draconic. There’s a pause before she starts talking to you again. “Sorry. Wanted some privacy. Gen’s only like this because I’m the only girl she remembers. She can do better than me. People have never liked me and I barely understand them. Even the people who I thought loved me lied to me and now I don’t know if I even know how to love someone else. Just. I’m not pretty. I know people don’t react to me the way they react to you.” She sighs. “You were right. She deserves better. She’ll learn that when she leaves the house. And then I don’t want to hold her back out of pity or get broken up with or—I don’t know. I don’t know how any of this works.”

For a minute the line goes silent. No breathing. No background. Is she muting it? Why? You’re happy to let the silence continue as you’re caught up in your own thoughts.

This is your opening. With a few well-placed words you could get her to back off and let you have your happy ending. You even know how you’d do it. Start by digging in more on the not being pretty comment. It’s subjective and she’s blind, it’s not something she would ever be able to shake. Especially if someone she obviously still trusts said it. Then maybe agree, or even just not disagree, that she’s bad at connecting to humans. Say that it was difficult for you to understand her intentions even if you understood her words. That sometimes she seemed more like a feral beast than an actual human. Which makes sense. Her healthiest relationship was with a hydreigon. Maybe play on her problem’s with her brother. With her (normal) temper, the risks she takes, and her team, well, maybe she’d just get Gen hurt.

Or you could just stay silent and let her say all of that to herself.

It would be so very easy. Get her out of the way. Get everything back on track. To get what you want. To be happy. And all you’d have to do is rip apart someone you called a friend. Maybe she’d never heal from it. Maybe it would push her over the edge outright.

You’ve never exactly considered yourself a bad person. Not a good one to be sure. Those are vanishingly rare. But you don’t do bad things. You don’t kill, or rape, or maim. Maybe you’re complicit in things, but you aren’t responsible for them. That’s where most people are at.

If you do this you would be a bad person. Maybe you could convince yourself otherwise most of the time, but deep down you’d know what the price of your happiness was. What you did. No proxies, no distance, nothing. Someone handed you a knife and bared their heart and you went ahead and stabbed them through.

You look up at the stars.

Psychic or not, you think you like Cuicatl. Or at least liked her. She’s not a good person. Girl believes in human sacrifice and calls herself a predator whenever people try to play on her guilt for what she’s done. What she’ll continue to do. But she loves the people close to her. She would die for them. Even let them kill her. And the people she loves have constantly let her down.

You could do that.

Would you be any better than her brother?

You idly raise a hand towards the sky. The world is so vast. The stars are nearly infinite. You could spend your whole life exploring and never run out of discoveries to make. Kekoa might be willing to throw away his life at sixteen. Are you willing to throw away your soul? You’re young and the world is enormous. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find two good people in your life. You can cling to that hope. In the meantime you can at least stay friends with the only good person you’ve ever met.

You check your phone. She’s still on the call. “I think you’re wrong,” you finally tell her. “You draw people in who betray your trust.” People like you. “Yet you still give it freely. I know you can love someone, I’ve seen you with your team, and you deserve to be loved in return.” You ignore the pain in your heart and keep going. “Someday you’re going to realize how much you’re worth and it will change your world. Gen can see it. I’m sorry you can’t.”

The call ends. Damn it. Were you even talking to anyone? You let the phone fall down onto your chest and close your eyes. For a minute it’s only you, the mountain below, and the night air above. You can live with this. You can live with yourself.

That will have to be enough.


June 1, 2020

You left an outfit and some cosmetics in a storage facility for traveling trainers. No point getting it stained, torn, or otherwise ruined on the trail when you don’t need it. Your mother told you that the family wanted to meet you for dinner when you got back to civilization. You agreed. You want to see her. It’s only been a few weeks since you met in Malie. Still enough to miss her. If it was just her and Hibiki you’d be overjoyed. You could dress down, get some street food, and hang out in the gardens. Might as well enjoy the dry spell while it’s here.

Instead, you’re going to the Sushi High Roller. That means your father will be there.

You have mixed feelings on the man. Whatever Hibiki may think. He’s obviously not as bad as he could be. Cuicatl and Genesis really lowered that bar for you. That doesn’t mean he’s winning dad of the year awards. Before he showed up your family struggled. Your mother had a good eye so you never looked poor, but if your clothes came from secondhand stores. Meals were small and basic. Sometimes your mother skipped them. Like Cuicatl did. Except no one had to manipulate her into it. Thin line between noble and pitiable with that girl.

Anyway. Poor. And then your father came back and suddenly money seemed an endless thing. It was exhilarating at the time. Looking back now you aren’t sure if you were ever better off for it. If you’d still be a lower class girl in Kogane. Maybe you’d be hustling in the underground for some extra money. You’re pretty, clever, and good with people. If life nudged you that way you could’ve been a great con artist. Then you could go home and eat dinner with your family. Maybe you would still be going to the National Park or Ectureak or somewhere else with free amusements on the weekend. Maybe you’d stay in and make your own fun.

Or maybe you’d be dead.

There’s no point in these hypotheticals. Life went the way it did and there’s no going back, no matter how desperately you wish you could. Life’s not a fairy tale. Celebi isn’t waiting in the wings to fix everything and make you whole. The only way to go is forward.

Hibiki thinks you’re a hypocrite or a sellout for taking advantage your father’s money knowing it’s source. You think he’s an idiot for having to live with the costs and refusing the benefits.

You push yourself out of your own head and finish getting ready. You brought a black ankle length dress with you to Shirona’s place. At the time a part of you had hoped to wear it on your first official date. Well. At least it’s getting used. You’re meeting up with Gen and Cuicatl tomorrow because if someone has to stay and look after those idiot girls if Kekoa goes off to fight the US government with a rufflet and a charjabug. Doesn’t mean you’re looking forward to tomorrow’s meeting any more than today’s.

You step back and evaluate your work in the mirror. Yup. You look beautiful. Impenetrable. Good enough to take on the world.

With everything you can control out handled, you head out to face the things you can’t.


You’ve found that most upscale restaurants only exist as conspicuous consumption. Usually the food is good, or at least tolerable, but you can find better at a tenth the price. Why can they charge that much, then? Because the price is the product. Making the place unaffordable to most people means that only the rich can dine there. At that point the people who can afford it will flock to the place to be surrounded by other rich assholes. When it becomes known as the place where the rich go everyone assumes it must be good. The have nots get on months long waiting lists to experience a taste and then they convince themselves that it was marvelous (because admitting otherwise would be admitting to wasting a lot of money). The almost-haves will spend more than they can afford to be seen as someone with a seat at the table (or at least in the same building as the table). The brand and the clientele make it fancy, not the food.

You hate these places. You hate the curtains with decent patterns sewn onto expensive materials. You hate the servers dressed up in the trappings of wealth because the customers will think about how elements they look they are without ever bothering to see the people underneath. And most of all you hate the dim lights and hushed tones. Don’t stand out, they say. Don’t speak up. Don’t connect with other humans. Live within our petty little rules, play the part you’re given, and then leave. There’s no life in these places. No authenticity in the walls, the servers, or the diners. Nothing but pretty facades.

Gen never got that. Or maybe she did and just refused to go along. She knew all the rules. Her teachers had made sure of that. She just didn’t understand why they were there. Probably couldn’t if it was explained to her. Because she’s full of life that can’t be hidden for long. And her parents hated the life in her so much they tried to kill it and turn her into another pretty facade.

You hate everything here. Yet here you are playing the game without complaining aloud. (Sometimes you understand why Hibiki hates you.)

The waitress (they don’t bother wearing name tags in this place since no one will remember) leads you to your family and leaves you alone with them. They’re all in formalwear. American formalwear. Your father is loudly wearing one of his tuxedos and your brother begrudgingly threw a jacket over a button up. Your mother has a dark green blouse and skirt. You don’t bow to your father. You aren’t supposed to do that anymore. Not in this country. Just like you aren’t supposed to call your brother by the name he wants to be called.

“Father,” you greet him. “Thank you for coming to Ula’Ula.”

“My pleasure, Lyra. Please send Dr. Karashina my regards.”

“She’s sorry she couldn’t make it,” you lie to him.

He’s annoyed Shirona didn’t come. You told her she was busy. You just didn’t invite her. Drawing her away from the girls to a dinner with one of the Gage’s associates? It was clearly a trap. You would never allow it. You doubt Shirona would fall for it but you refused to take the chance.

You couldn’t invite the others because Kekoa would cause problems, Genesis needs to stay far, far away from anyone still speaking to her father, and you were still angry at Cuicatl when the dinner was scheduled. Maybe you still are. Angry. Not at her so much as angry at the world. You never thought life was fair. Its cruelty still caught you off guard.

Mother wraps an arm around your shoulder in a side hug. You lean into her for a moment in return. This is nice. You always want to see her. “Happy birthday, dear.”

“Thank you. I’m glad you’re here.”

She draws away and you look at Hibiki. He sips his water with an air of supreme detachment. “Hi,” he says.


The only saving grace for him is that he becomes a legal adult soon and can leave all this behind. Maybe he won’t use his independence to gun straight for the Rockets this time around.

You take a moment to glance at the menu for show and breathing room. You’ve already read it online. It’s a small thing. Not too many choices. You know Gen’s complains about those types of menus because there might not be something he likes. He’s a bit of a picky eater still. You doubt his parents like that. Maybe they’ll try to fix it. Not like there are any consequences for that sort of thing.

“I hear you’ve cleared your sixth trial recently,” Father says. Of course he’s heard. You told him. Via text because he was too busy for a call, but you still told him.

“I did.” You smile and nod politely. You doubt he really cares. Just wants you to perform (somewhat) humble success. You can do that. You’re his successful child.

“I look forward to seeing you in the League.”

No one actually challenges the League. Not many people clear the island challenge in the first place. Those who do generally don’t want to get embarrassed on live television by actual professionals. Yet here it is. An expectation.

“I won’t disappoint.”

He nods in satisfaction at your answer. There’s a conversation laced throughout the rest of the meal. Mostly between you and your father. Business, pokémon, current events. It’s all the same. It’s all meaningless. Something approximating a family dinner conversation. That’s what he wants. He wants to look like he’s a good father. Yet when the hard parts come he’s rarely to be seen. Your mother speaks up sometimes and things almost feel alive. And then your father changes the topic and you retreat behind your armor once more. Hibiki never says a word.

The food is good enough.

Once you’re outside the restaurant your father brings you over to his car and pulls out an envelope. Written on the back in flowing cursive: “Ms. Genesis Gage.” The front has the family seal stamped in wax. An actual seal. Because the family really want people to think they’re still royalty.

“No,” you tell him. “Absolutely not.”

“It’s just a letter,” he says. “And the family has obligations. Surely this isn’t too much to ask?”

“She doesn’t need anything more to do with them.” You look up from the seal and stare him directly in the eye. “I would be a terrible friend if I passed this on.”

“Will you not let her make her own decisions? Is she not owed that much as your friend?”

“Her parents wouldn’t care about that.”

He glares back and crosses his arms. His sigh is like a parent tired of dealing with their unruly toddler. “Declining a task so small would undermine our family’s relationship with a key business partner. Would you really do that over a petty grudge?”

“A petty—“ You stop yourself and take a deep breath. You aren’t getting into this. Nothing good will happen if you get into this.

“If you can’t do this now, you will be in no position to decline my next request.”

And there’s the trap. You don’t want to hurt Gen any more. You can’t imagine her parents are writing to express genuine remorse. Anyone with a hint of a conscience wouldn’t have done the things they did. But if you decline now you will be faced with a potentially more unpleasant task down the line. Declining that could get you disowned at best. Maybe he’d even threaten to bring back the Rocket with the alakazam to put fear back into you.

This feels like Kekoa making a deal with the damn florges, except this time you know very well what you’re potentially signing away. You grit your teeth. Fine. You’ll gladly suffer if it keeps your—your best friend from suffering.

“Keep the letter,” you tell him through gritted teeth.

He sets his jaw and takes it back. “I thought you knew better than that.”

“I know better,” you tell him, honestly. “But I don’t care. It’s loyalty.”

“It’s foolishness.”


You walk away before he can get in the last word.


June 2, 2020

As you walk up to the arcade you try to figure out who decided to go here. You can’t imagine Cuicatl gets anything out of this. Probably not Shirona’s thing. Never known Gen to go to them. Kekoa, then.

You step in and crinkle your nose in annoyance. Electronic music blasts over the speakers, the room is dim enough for the bright colorful screens to be almost disorienting, and the whole place smells like cardboard pizza. Still, you find yourself stepping in time with the thumps of the music. It’s just catchy. And loud enough to press into your very soul.

You find Gen first. She’s playing some kind of skee ball game and tuning out the world. Seems to be doing well enough from the string of tickets flowing from the machine. You walk up to her and say hello. She ignores you and presses new game. You stand back and watch. She never notices you. Really need to work with her on situational awareness. There are still people out there who want to hurt her.

Gen startles when you tap her shoulder before settling into a lovely genuine smile. (Not that she knows another way to smile.)

“Lyra! Good to see you back.”

She reaches out to hug you even though she barely knows you. You happily return it. She was always too good for someone like you.

“You smell good,” she says. Probably the imorin. You’ll give Subarashī some more fish when you get back to Shirona’s. She’s been a useful little salandit.

“You too.”

“Didn’t know you liked these places.”

She shrugs one shoulder. “I don’t think I do. There was a commercial on TV and I mentioned that I’d never been to one and Kekoa thought I should so I’m here.”

It’s been minutes and you haven’t seen her glitch. You haven’t had the heart to hear if the cure worked, because you don’t want to think about Genesis in the same room as an alakazam. It seems it did. You imagine that means she’s no longer single. It stings. You’ll live. The world is a big place with many people. You can find someone else if it means keeping Genesis happy and Cuicatl emotionally whole.

“How was your trip?“ Gen asks. For anyone else you’d dismiss it as small talk and give them a few forgettable details. But with Genesis you know that she means the question, that she really does want to know.

You try to summarize things as best as you can while shouting in an arcade. You think she gets most of it. Sometimes she laughs at your jokes or takes something you said and goes off on a mini-tangent and for a moment everything feels normal.

It feels like home.

The conversation tapers off because all good things must end. Gen puffs herself up and does her best serious face. “You going to be mean to Cuicatl?”

“No.” And you’re pretty sure you mean it. You were out of line. You’ll probably never fully let your guard down around her, but she hasn’t actually done anything to make you distrust her.

“Okay.” She relaxes in that way she does where all the tension leaves her and she collapses a bit too much before pulling herself back up a bit. “Let’s go upstairs and meet the others.”

There’s a uniformed employee at the bottom of the stairs. He moves to block you before seeing Gen and letting you both through. Seems they’re giving Shirona and her guests the VIP treatment.

Only Cuicatl is on the upstairs balcony. It had a nice view of the laser tag arena. Not that she can appreciate it.

“Hi, Cuicatl,” Gen says before she slides in frustratingly close to the girl. Cuicatl leans into the touch and rests her head against Gen’s shoulders. Ugh. They’re already insufferably cute. Outside of the occasional hug you’ve never really taken Cuicatl for the physical affection type. With people anyway. Different story with her pokémon.

You’re not sure Cuicatl knows you’re even hear. You clear your throat and says hello.

Cuicatl’s eyes drift until they’re looking in your general direction. “Hello.” She says. “And thank you.”

“For what?” Gen asks.

Neither of you answer. Cuicatl probably doesn’t want to tell and you don’t want to acknowledge it aloud. You don’t trust your ability to keep emotion out of your voice.

Gen looks between you curiously before letting the subject be dropped. “Where are the others?”

“Playing tag. With Leo.”

With Leo? The golisopod? You look over the railing and sure enough there’s a golisopod glowing a bright white under the blacklight. He’s climbed up a wall and is shooting anyway who goes through the doorway below him. The pack barely fits around his body and he can only get the tip of a claw around the trigger.

“He says he enjoys it. Good hunting practice.”

You’re not sure you want her pokémon practicing to hunt humans. Yes, it’s going to be the least scary of her three pokémon when they’ve all evolved. Still a predatory insect bigger than you are.

She’s kept a hydreigon in line before. You’ll just have to trust that she can handle a golisopod.

You glance back at the two. Gen is positively beaming like she can’t believe she got so lucky. And Cuicatl is far more relaxed than you usual, like her worries are just out of reach

They’re happy. They’re safe. You want that. You’re glad. You should be glad.

You just wish you could be happy, too.
Last edited:
Dark 5.7


Infinite Screms
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Dark 5.7: The Ninetales’ Curse

You hate Secondborn. Hate. Her.

She acts like she’s better than everyone. Better than you. She isn’t. She isn’t smarter, she isn’t prettier, she isn’t stronger, and she doesn’t deserve to act like she is.

Mother acts like she is, too. Like Secondborn is almost as perfect as her.

Now Mother is helping her learn to control her ice. She can only make waves of cold air. Barely enough to ruffle your fur. Certainly not strong enough to hunt with. Mother is still lavishing her with praise and anger writhes under your skin like a parasite.

She has done nothing to deserve this. You rear your head back, take a deep breath, and shoot a beam of pure ice into the sky. It rises several body lengths before shattering and falling down as hail.

You puff up your fur with pride and turn to brag to Secondborn. “I’m stronger than you.”

“You have almost twice as many tails,” Mother answers. “Secondborn is learning quickly. She may be stronger than you when she has two less.”

That just makes the intruder puff up her fur. Like she deserves it. You growl at her before Mother steps in between you.

She’s still mad about Skysong. You didn’t even want to go meet her. Openliver kidnapped you and took you there. You’ve told her this. Openliver told her. You did nothing wrong. You’re still her daughter. You should be getting her love. Not some vulpix she just met and instantly decided she wanted. You’re special. You’re her firstborn. She loves you.

Finally, someone loved you. And now she’s mad because of a human you left behind. A human who isn’t even trying to steal you back.

“I’ll go practice on my own,” you hiss.

Mother doesn’t even react. That’s. Fine. You’ll just show her how strong you are.

You aren’t as stealthy as you should be. Anger is moving your legs in long, forceful strides. Your coat is too visible against the lowland plants, even at night. You still find a few slow or dumb rats and put them to sleep. You even found what looked like the three-tails equivalent of Opeliver’s stupid, smelly, sleepy bear. You put him to sleep and whacked him in the brain a few times for good measure.

All of this is wrong. Mother shouldn’t be wasting her time on someone weak.

That’s not what nine-tails do. It’s not what Avalanche did…

If Mother were a human, you would assume you were being left. You would’ve already pissed on her bed and screamed in her ear and hid her toys out of revenge. You can’t. You can still return from this. Things can still be okay.

Things will still be okay.

Your new mother will see how smart and pretty and strong you are.

Things will be different.

Your hunt ends when a feeling of tiredness creeps through you from muzzle to tails. Not like Mother’s attack. More like the all-consuming tiredness you felt in the white room where the humans took you after you left the mountain. After the smiling humans in black hurt you. Because they could. Because you didn’t stop them. Because nothing mattered anymore.

The moon shone and faded and returned since you last spoke with Skysong. Now it’s almost half-lit. She will return for you, soon, and Openliver will kidnap you and you will talk to her because that’s what you agreed to. Should you tell Openliver not to?

A sigh runs through your body and you collapse into the grass with legs splayed out. You don’t want to abandon her. You remember the saltwater flowing down her face when she talked about not being able to say goodbye to her brother. You should at least face her when you tell her not to come back.

Kalani will be upset.

With you.

With Skysong.

With Openliver.

You could avoid all of that. Maybe you should. Skysong already has a new team member. A bug. She replaced you with a bug. She deserves…

You don’t know what she deserves. You still don’t know what curse to give her because you don’t hate her. You don’t want to punish her. How do you punish someone without punishing them? You can’t. There’s no way to do what Mother wants while also doing what you want.

A soft rain begins to fall. In the distance you hear Mother take Secondborn into Openliver’s home. You just can’t find the energy to move.

Its only when the rain begins to soak through your fur that instinct drives you to run as fast as you can to shelter. Mother crinkles her nose and glares at you when you push your way through the door flap.

“Wet fur. You aren’t sleeping on my bed.”

Fine. Openliver caused this problem, he can deal with it. You walk into his room, jump on the bed, and shake the water off of your coat.

You end up spending the night in your pokéball.


Mother and Secondborn were withdrawn and taken to the Pokémon Center. You were withdrawn and taken to another building deeper in the city. Openliver didn’t ask you if you wanted to see Skysong. There was no chance for debate. One moment you were preening yourself while glaring at Secondborn, the next you were in a world of wind and ice. You bury yourself into the snow and think. Mother won’t know if you talk to Skysong or not. She’ll say you did and blame you either way. You might as well talk to her. Then make it clear that you can’t do this again. For a glorious moment you were wrapped in a mother’s love and you will not lose it. Not for her, not for anyone.

Skysong will understand. She wants to go back to her own mountain.


You reform in a larger room than Skysong usually stays in. There’s a picture rock in the corner, a bed big enough that Mother could sprawl out on it, and many small contraptions that Openliver has in his home but none of your trainers ever had in their temporary rooms. Skysong is seated on a chair. Openliver stands behind you.

“Mind if I talk to Shirona while you hang out?” Openliver asks.

“No problem. She’s in Room 113.”

“Bye, Pixie. See you in an hour.”

You don’t acknowledge him. He shouldn’t have done this. Kalani’s wrath will be his fault and he won’t be the one to suffer it.

Skysong stands up and slowly moves to the bed, a hand held out in front of her to feel for it. She finds her way before you can get into the guide position and sits down. You jump up beside her. Very soft. You approve of her new home. Even if it doesn’t really smell like her yet. Probably just a very temporary one.

“I like the room,” you tell her.

She laughs. Quietly. Melodically. Like her name. “Dr. Karashina picked it. I wouldn’t have paid for it myself.”

“Where are we?”

“Hau’oli City. Just a little bit away from where you are. I needed to file some forms for my thesis.”

Her what?

“I need to convince some important humans that I can keep Coco when she gets older.”

Oh. She doesn’t want to lose more people. You understand. Even if you never liked Eggbreath. “Will it be hard?”

Skysong hesitantly reaches out a hand. You sniff it before rubbing your face against it. She smells more like Growlsleeper than usual. Odd.

“I don’t know,” she finally says. “I hope not. I… I don’t know what to do if it doesn’t work.”

“It will,” you maybe lie. Always best to think of good things. You can go home. You will show everyone. You deserve everything. When you don’t—that’s bad and you don’t do it and you shouldn’t do it because you are, in fact, the best at everything. Second best at everything. Next to Mother. You are better than your siblings. Better than nothing.

Skysong smiles without baring her teeth. She puts her hand out towards your head and rubs the side before stroking your ears. “Thank you.” For a while you sit there and bask in the petting. The only sound is your purring. You will need to tell her you can’t see her anymore. It can wait until after pets. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what I did wrong with you,” Skysong finally says. “I took Leo—the golisopod, joined after you left—out and he found a game he really liked. A human game. Wants to play more in the future. And. I never really focused on what things you wanted to do outside of traveling and battle. Like, if there were hobbies you wanted to explore. Or something you wanted to do after the island challenge I could have set you up for. I should have treated you like a person with your own goals and future. I didn’t. I’m sorry.”

Goals and future? What’s that about? And does she think you would want to play human games?

“I don’t understand.”

“Well. Like.” She sighs and leans back on her hands. Which means she stops petting you. Terrible. “We could have been exploring different things. Like, I don’t know, we could have tried a contest to see if you like those. Or gone to more places or. Maybe the art museum? You’re smart. Good eye for pretty things. You could maybe make art or something. I should have been trying to see if you could have a life outside of being by my side. Treating you like your own person.”

You still aren’t sure if you can follow where she’s going.

“Okay, fine. Let’s try again. It feels like all the stuff I did with you was designed to help me. Training helped me clear trials. Exploring was mostly for VStar. I got you treats sometimes. I don’t think we ever did anything that was entirely for you. I did stuff that was entirely for me that none of you got anything out of. I should have returned the favor.”

You’re… not sure that anyone has ever done something entirely for you. Something big, anyway. Bigger than treats and petting. Avalanche trained you. Helped you survive. The Mountain was different from the human world, though. There were no ‘hobbies.’ You hunted. You slept. You defended your territory. You learned the old stories. Sometimes you would explore. Wasting energy just meant you would have to hunt more later, and hunts were never guaranteed to end with food in your mouth. The humans have more food than they know what to do with. They can waste energy on anything and everything and still know they will have enough.

Well, some humans have more than enough food. Skysong always made it sound like she could barely afford her ‘hunts.’ Even though there were berries and prey everywhere around her. You’ve never heard Openliver or Mother worry about that. Some of your past trainers didn’t, either.

Is Skysong just a bad hunter? Is that why she wants predators? To help her hunt?

She could have just asked.

“Is there anything you want out of life?” she asks you. “Some goal you want to accomplish or…”

“I want to go back to the mountain,” you tell her. “Show Avalanche how strong I am. Kick one of my siblings off. I…” You pause. Is that still what you want? You have Mother now. You don’t need Avalanche or your old home. You have a new one, right? Even if it’s too hot. Even if Mother punishes you in ways that Avalanche never did.

“How do you do that? Just be strong enough?”


Why wouldn’t it be?

“Then why doesn’t your new Mother go back?”

Wait. She has a point. Kalani fought The Moon and lived. She might even be stronger than The Eldest of Elders. Why hasn’t she gone back? It can’t be that she loves Openliver or Rockfur. She doesn’t seem to like either of them that much.


Is it… is there no going back? No matter how strong you are?

That can’t be true.

That isn’t true.

Why would a human know anything about that?

“I can’t see you anymore,” you tell her. To get away from these lies. “Mother is still mad at me for going back. And she has a new kit, who is very weak, but she acts like she loves her more because she hasn’t gone back to her old trainer.”

Skysong reaches over and ruffles the fur on top of your head. You will allow it. Because it is the last time. “I’ll miss you,” she says.

“You aren’t going to fight for me?”

She just shakes her head. “I can’t tell you that I want you to be happy and then keep you from it. If this is what you want, I won’t stop you. I already tried and… and I don’t want to make that mistake again.”

Is she still blaming herself for what the bird did? That wasn’t her fault. It was the bird’s. You already told her that. You know she’s stupid and it takes a few times for her to understand something, but this isn’t a hard thing to get.

“Would you like to see Noci again? Coco’s out after last time—I’m still so, so sorry, by the way—but Noci promised to behave.”

“Why would I want to see Eyerock?”

Seriously, why? It’s just a rock that liked to watch you pee or ask you dumb questions.

“Just thought you might.”

“I don’t.”

“Okay.” Skysong goes back to stroking your left ear. She keeps one finger inside the ear and rubs one along the outside. It is perfect. “Do you want to talk about how things have been for you?”

They have been going badly and it is sort of because of her. “No.” You don’t blame her. Just… don’t want to talk about it with her.

She nods. “Um. I guess I can tell you about me?” You don’t say anything. Whatever keeps her petting you. “Genesis and I are dating now.”

Wait. Isn’t she too young to mate? She isn’t fully grown yet. Maybe an eight-tails. Do humans practice mating before they can actually do it? There’s probably no harm in it with two females. When they’re older one can just go out, have sex with a male, and then they can raise their kits. It is probably best if Growlsleeper does it. She has no defects. No more than any other human, at least.

Skysong pulls her hand back and coughs. Violently. It sounds like she’s choking. You stand up and try to decide how to help. Should you scream? That would summon someone who knows more about humans. Before you make up your mind she stops and waves a hand. “Sorry. Just. Picked up some of your thoughts. No. We aren’t getting pregnant. Just. Dating.”

A pre-mating thing, then. Humans. So weird.

She extends a hand and begins stroking the fur on your neck when she finds it. “I’ll be in town for another day or two if you do change your mind. If you change your mind after that you can have Dr. Kukui talk to me. I won’t mind. It just might take me a few days if I’m far away from the cities.”

You hum without meaning anything. Just to give her the idea that you’ll think about it. Even if you won’t.


Openliver lets you stay out of your ball as you ride back through the city. He doesn’t talk to you. He wouldn’t understand it if you talked to him. You’re glad you did this. You know you’ll pay for it. However much you deny wanting to go. Whatever Openliver says. It won’t matter. But if you just give it a moon or two, things will go back to normal. Mother will realize how much better you are than Secondborn. Maybe she’ll even kick her out. Make her go back to the humans for being such a disappointment. Then you’ll have all of her love to yourself. You just have to wait.

Mother is waiting for you outside Openliver’s home. Secondborn isn’t anywhere to be seen. As soon as you jump out of the car she lunges forward and picks you up by the scruff. She walks far away, almost halfway up the big hill, before finally letting you down.

“I told you not to abandon me ever again,” Mother hisses.

“Openliver did it!”

“Then you should have fought!”

“I did!” you lie. There’s no way for her to know otherwise.

“Then why does your entire head smell like the human?”

You hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“She attacked my head!”

“Then why didn’t you bite her?”

“I did!”

She barks and rushes forward. Her open jaws stop an eyelash away from your face. “Why do you lie to me?”

“I…” No. No more lies. She’s too smart. You can only tell the truth. The truths that are good for you. “I told her I wouldn’t see her again. She agreed not to see me anymore. I just needed to make sure she wouldn’t come back.”

Mother growls and turns around, striking you in the face with one of her tails and pushing you back. Almost to the edge of a crevasse. A small crevasse. You would have lived. Probably. “Enough. You have stalled long enough. How am I cursing her?”

Skysong’s close. Too close. Mother could maybe find her. Even with all of the smells of the city… Is there some way to warn Openliver?

“Tell me. Now.”

“I don’t know! I haven’t thought of anything.”

“Then you admit to being dumb? Any child of mine could have thought of nine ways to ruin her before falling asleep.”

You don’t want to admit to that now. You’re smart. So smart. Really.

“What does she want?” Kalani asks. “What does she want more than anything else?”

That’s simple. Kind of. She wants the same thing everyone does.

“She wants to go home and see her family again.”

Mother stops moving and locks in place. Then she slowly moves, lowering one tail after another before she finally sits down. “The nine-tails’ curse,” she finally whispers. “Knowing home and losing it forever.”

You get the feeling she isn’t talking about a curse a nine-tails have cast. She’s talking about a curse cast upon you. “Who cursed us?” you ask. “Can’t we fight them?”

She twitches her left ear. No. They can’t be fought. “We did it to ourselves. We should just kill our rejects. It would be kinder.” She looks into your eyes and for maybe the first time you can see hurt in hers. They look like yours do in reflections when you’ve forgotten that you’re better than everyone. Better than your siblings. Better than nothing. “I know what I can do now. Thank you, Firstborn.”

That doesn’t tell you exactly what the curse is. And Mother doesn’t sound excited. Just… accepting. Sad? Tired? Does that mean it isn’t a bad one? She’s mad that it isn’t a good, strong curse like she wanted?

Will things be okay after all?

“You can’t go back and break the curse?” you ask her. “Couldn’t you just kill one of the other nine-tails, take their territory?”

“I have you and Secondborn and you have me,” she answers. “That’s almost as good.”

It doesn’t sound like she believes it.

You don’t, either.

There really is no going back, then. Living with a nine-tails on the surface, competing with your “sister,” that’s all there is.

It’s good!

Someone loves you.

You think back to what the stupid eevee told you at the tournament. That the nine-tails are obsessed with The Mountain, with proving that they shouldn’t have been left. And why wouldn’t they be? You knew perfection. And then it was gone and you can never have it again.

What’s even the point? You could get stronger and show Avalanche she was wrong but it sounds like she still wouldn’t take you back.

“I’m still disappointed in you,” Mother says. Then she turns around and walks back down the hill. She doesn’t object (or seem to notice at all) when you follow after her.

She only turns to bare her teeth and growl when you try to follow her up the steps to Openliver’s home.


You can sleep outside tonight.

Mother will remember how good you are and how much she loves you soon enough.


Rockfur comes down after night has long settled. The home above you is quiet now. Mother and Secondborn went to sleep early. Openliver and his mate have been asleep for a lot longer. Yet Rockfur, who is never awake at night, is here. You don’t send him away. Company is… tolerable.

He doesn’t say anything. Just curls up in the sand. Maybe that’s more comfortable for a rock than it is for you.

You crawl out from under the building and look up at the half-full moon. Hummy had a loud, soft, hideous pink ball as her other pokémon. He wouldn’t shut up. Ever. You remember him babbling on about how half-full moons were his favorite. If you hadn’t been watching before you wouldn’t know if they were growing or fading. That the choice, in that moment, was yours. You told him he was an idiot. You couldn’t affect the moon. Only watch it. Besides, the best moons were the dark ones when you could hunt without being seen.

Sometimes you think about how stupid he was when you look up at the half-full moons. Now you’ll probably think about Skysong, too.

Skysong and her maddeningly human question.

“What do you want to do?” you ask Rockruff. “Not now. Later. For the rest of your life.”

“Now you’re asking the right questions.” He stands up and joins you in the dim moonlight. “I owe our leader more than I can repay. He fed me when I was hungry and guided me when I was lost. He cares for me. Makes sure I have what I want. And I want to care for others. Give back what I was given. I thought I wanted to raise my own puppies. I still would. I will also take care of his litter.” He glances over to you. “I asked Kalani if I could help with hers. She told me no. She’s…”

“Perfect.” Obviously.

“I think she was content when our leader was battling more. But she would never say it. How could she be happy when it wasn’t what she had before? Then she saw you and decided that she was going to have what she wanted as a puppy. That nothing else mattered. And she insists that everything has to be just as she wanted it to be. Perfect. Her idea of perfect. So that she can be happy.”

He stretches out and sits down beside you.

“She was better before. Now she’s angering gods, angering our leader, hurting her own daughter, and trying to kill puppies and things still are not perfect and she is not happy. I’m worried about her. Where she’ll go.”

She’s beautiful. Powerful. Intelligent. Perfect.

Even she isn’t happy chasing after what you want. What every vulpix and nine-tails wants.


Is that… is that all there is?

“Only if that’s all you’re looking for,” Openliver says. Oh. Did you ask that aloud?

You look back to the half-full moon. The pink ball with creepy eyes said that it is what you make it.

Skysong wants you to find something that makes you happy.

Your eyes find their way back to the building where your mother and sister are asleep. You could still go back. Win back Mother’s love. Have what you’ve always wanted.

Maybe she’ll stop attacking your mind to teach you tricks. Insulting you in favor of your sister. Making you sleep in the sand. Maybe she won’t curse Skysong.

Maybe you’ll be happy and loved.

Or you could…

You don’t know what would happen. What you would even be looking for. What you would find. You would push away your mother’s love, the only thing you’ve ever wanted. For. Something. Maybe.

Your Mother’s love.

She couldn’t name anything about you that she loved. Was angry you even asked.

Skysong could.

She is not a nine-tails.

She cannot give you a home.

You look back at the building, the home, that you are not allowed in because of something you didn’t do. That you may not be allowed into for things you are yet to not do.

Can Kalani give you a home?

Will you ever find one?

Is the nine-tails’ curse to always, always, always be alone and unloved, no matter how perfect you are?

Maybe this is all there is for your kind.

Or maybe it isn’t.

“Have you made your choice?” Rockfur asks.


His coat shimmers and sharpens.

“Then I will do what I can to take care of you. Now, go. Get as far as you can before she wakes up.”

You never liked him much. You don’t know why he’s doing this for you. You’re still glad he is. You look to the west, to the stain of the city lights on the night sky, and run.

It’s hard to tell how long you have before Kalani wakes up. She’s a light sleeper at night. But maybe she won’t think anything’s wrong at first. You could have just wandered off to practice hunting. Then it’s possible that Rockfur and Openliver can stop her. She has a ball.

She broke yours before. She could break hers, too.

None of the other pokémon Openliver keeps can fight a nine-tails and win.

She’s faster than you.

No! No point thinking about it. Just run.

Your ribs starts to hurt where the bird hit you just after you reach the edge of the city.

You start panting as you race away from a pack of black cats, hitting one of them straight in the coin with a blast of ice as you run by. Just in case they tried to stop you.

At some point you realize that you can’t remember the exact streets Openliver went down on the way back. Just the first few big ones.

Hopefully you can find her by scent once you get close.

No. Not even her room really smelled like her yet. Cities have too many smells to pick hers out from a distance.


You could always scream.

Kalani could hear it.

Not if you scream inside your head!

You keep running.

You run on stone paths that hurt your paws.

You run on the black rivers when you can’t hear anything big on them.

When your paws start to bleed you find a path of grass to run on.

You run and run and run and try not to wonder if Kalani is right behind you. If all of this was for nothing.

Your breaths are coming harder and harder and the bird’s wound burns like a flame. You still can’t smell Skysong. Don’t know if she’s even awake.

You collapse into a heap in the light of a metal tree.

You’ve run further than you have in a long time. Maybe ever. The sky is no longer anywhere near as dark.

Now you can only hope. You scream out for her in your mind and hope you get a response.

You do.

It’s not one you wanted.

[Query: Purpose?]

Eyerock. Stupid eyerock. So faint you can barely make it out.

Maybe it wants you gone. Doesn’t want to share its trainer with someone so much better.

You… you have to hope that it doesn’t care.

‘I need her to pick me up!’ you scream-think. ‘Now! I’m hurt.’

[Initiate ramming.]

You have no idea what that means. If Eyerock is coming alone. If Skysong will be with it.

If Kalani will arrive first.

It feels like a blessing from The Moon Herself when you see Eyerock float into the clearing, Skysong hunched down on top of it. She slides off after it lowers itself to the ground. And then just stands there until Eyerock holds out an arm. Right. She can’t see where you are. And you don’t want to scream. Just in case Kalani is here. You don’t know what she would do to Skysong. You don’t want to find out.

She pulls out one of the bottles of healing spray as she gets close. “You said you were hurt?”


She bends down near where you’re sitting. You pull yourself over the rest of the way.

“Sorry. I can’t see you. Can you hold them out towards me?” She lowers a paw to the ground. You stick your bloodiest one forward to meet hers. The spray stings. It always does. The pain quickly begins to leave. You hold out another paw and she repeats it. By the time your backpaws are sprayed the front ones are already bleeding a lot less.

“What’s going on?” she asks. “Glad to see you. Just confused.”

“No time. Kalani might be chasing.”

“Okay. Just. Hop onto Noci. Shirona—”

A pulse of ice thicker around than you are rockets across the clearing and knocks Eyerock back nine body lengths before it crashes down to the ground, totally frozen in ice a tail-length thick.

You turn around to see Kalani stalking her way out from behind a bush and into the grass.

In the red light of the dawn you can see blood and shards of stone in her fur. There’s a burn on the side and all the fur around it is sticking up. Lightning damage. She still moves like she can’t feel any of it. She looks you over with the cold judgment of a hunter sizing up their food before turning to Skysong.

{I have lost,} she begins. In your head. Probably in Skysong’s. She said before that it wasn’t worth talking to humans. Now she must really want Skysong to know whatever she’s about to do. You see the girl take a step back and reach for her pockets. She doesn’t send any of her pokémon out. {I have lost more than you can imagine. My siblings. My parents. My home. My entire race. I have grown six tails in exile. I have awakened to the spirits in exile. I had almost lost my dreams. My hope. Now you would steal that from me as well? Steal my firstborn child away in the night?}

“She made her choice,” Skysong says. Her voice isn’t shaking. The hand outside her pocket is. “If she wanted to leave you, then you no longer owned her. I stole nothing.”

Kalani snarls and roars. “Liar!” She gnashes her teeth and a terrible wind races through the clearing. The grass under her freezes. Something crashes down to the ground behind you. Not that you’ll look back to see what it was. Your eyes are locked onto Kalani now. A fox who could fight The Moon. Skysong doesn’t have a chance. But there has to be something you can do…

…if only you could make your muscles move.

…if only you could find the courage to fight someone who can fight gods.

{I killed my own mother when I returned to The Mountain. Made her pay for taking the world away from me. Imagine what I will do to you, thief.}

Your eyes snap open as far open as they will go. Is that why she isn’t allowed back? Vulpix inherit their parent’s territory and awakening when they die. There are rules that any vulpix who kills their parent is killed so no one tries to make things go faster. How did she survive the judgment of The Eldest of Elders? Did she fight them? Kill them, too?

“When you k-illed your mother, d-id it bring you back to The M-mountain?” Skysong still sounds as calm as she can, even if she’s shivering. Even if her teeth clack together in the cold without her will. “Will k-killing me make Pixie love you?”

You almost move when she says your name. Instead, you’re still frozen in fear. What could you even do against someone like her?

Why is a human being braver than you?

{I will not kill you, thief. I will rip everything from you and make you live on. Your family. Your home. Everything. I will make you bare the nine-tails curse.}

Skysong laughs. Actually laughs. Melodically. At first. Then she starts wheezing and almost doubles over as the laughs turn into mad cackles. Is she… is she still sane?

“You’re a year too late. My mother is dead. My brother is dead. My sister is gone. My home is an ocean away. I’ve stood at the edge of the sea and wanted to die. You want to talk about losing everything? Fine. I have. I’ve done bad things. I’ve never killed someone I loved over it. And I’ve learned from my mistakes.” She reaches into her pocket and grabs three pokéballs… and tosses them to the side. Away from her. Out of reach. Definitely insane, then. “Last time I was afraid of losing more I denied Pixie her choice and got her hurt. I’m not doing that again. Pixie has her choice. She’s made it. If you want to hurt me, fine. But I’m not letting anyone else get hurt.”

Kalani stands still and silent. It seems like she can’t understand what Skysong is doing, either.

{For a human, you are very brave.} The words are practically a soft whisper on the edge of your mind compared to the barely restrained roar before. {And very, very stupid. You are wrong, though. There is still something I can take. Your hope. The possibility that you see your family again. The possibility that you cross the sea and go home. You will know you will be alone forever.}

You can already feel the spirits laced into her words. Kalani shifts her hindlegs to pounce. If you’re going to do something, it needs to be now.

You act without a thought, bashing your mind against hers in the sleep attack she taught you. For a moment Kalani relaxes. Even opens her jaws in a half-yawn. Then she turns to you. Her fur relaxes and her eyes shine. She almost seems proud. Before you can figure out why you feel the spirits race around you. Into you. The world turns to shades of grey as something from another plane rips through your body and soul and pins you to the spot.

The spirit lock. A way for one nine-tails to deny the other all their tricks so the fight will be fought with tooth and claw alone.

“Do you wish to fight me?” Kalani asks. Softly. In your own tongue. She doesn’t sound angry. Almost excited. “To see if you have surpassed me? To see how far you have grown?”

She’s still twice your size. Has another tail on you. She is awakened. A true nine-tails, not just a nine-tailed vulpix. You know she would win. She killed her own mother. Why wouldn’t she kill her daughter, too? If you stay out of her way she will curse or kill Skysong. She will take you back. She may never trust you, but you will live to see another moon.

If you fight her, you will die and she will kill Skysong, too.

“Your choice, like your human said.”

You don’t know if anyone will follow Skysong when she doesn’t immediately return. If Openliver has called for help and someone is looking for Kalani. If Openliver and his mate are even alive. If they are, if help is almost here, you could keep anyone from dying. If they are not, you could lose everything.

{It’s okay,} Skysong tells you in your head. {I won’t make you do this.}

Then your decision is made.

You’re a vulpix. The blessed children of the Ashen Goddess across the sea and The Moon above Alola. You will not cower behind a human.

You are beautiful.

You are smart.

You are powerful.

It is time for you to prove it.

You step forward until you stand between Kalani and Skysong.

Kalani bares her teeth like a smiling human.

“I will rip out your tails and gift you to an eevee, where you belong.”


She lunges.

You dive to the side. It doesn’t matter. She’s faster. Her jaws clamp down on your back and press down like you’re prey. Like you’re meat. Your ribs scream. For a moment you think about giving up. Letting it happen. And then you see her leg in front of you and lash out. You clamp down on her ankle as hard as you can and hear something crack. She yelps in pain before dropping you.

You jump towards her throat. She just snatches you out of the air and holds you high above the ground, away from her legs. Then she shakes you while biting down. No. Even without any elements, without the ability to reach her, she won. She already won.

Kalani throws you to the ground. Before you can move she jumps on top of you and pins you with a paw. A claws presses onto your injured rib. She puts her other paw on your chin. A claw to your throat. She moves her head towards yours and you close your eyes to wait for the end. Instead, there’s only pain in your ear. You feel her teeth bare down onto the tip of your right ear and pull. Something comes off with it. You flick the ear and find only pain in the parts of it you can still feel. Blood runs freely down your head.

Something slips around your mind. Around the spirits. Your muscles surge with power. The crystal dance. Skysong is helping you. Two tricks slip the spirit’s grasp. One won’t help – Kalani locked her tricks away as well. Only one is left. Not a good one.

You scream.

In pain.

In fear.

In defiance.

In hope.

The roar makes Kalani’s eyes go wide and she takes several steps back. Away from you. She winces whenever the ankle you hurt touches the ground. You slowly pull yourself up and stare her down. Your body aches. Your ear and ribcage scream and you can feel every stab wound her teeth have made. You’re still tired from running. You still stand. Even if it’s all you can do.

You can’t feel Skysong’s mind anymore. Maybe she knocked herself out. That’s good. At least she doesn’t have to be awake for… whatever Kalani does.

Kalani recovers and slowly starts stalking forward again. “You got in one more hit than I thought you would. If only you had stayed. You could have been loved. Could have been my daughter.”

You hear Skysong stirring behind you. Kalani looks over and bares her bloody, bloody teeth.

She walks forward, keeping as much weight off of her bad paw as she can, and stands over Skysong.

{Enough games. Now bare your curse.} The spirits flood the clearing. You can’t even turn your whole body to watch, just your head. {You will die alone, un—}

Something moves. Something moves so quickly you can barely keep track of it with your eyes. One moment Kalani is standing over Skysong with the spirits flowing off of her and into the human. The next Kalani is gone and being thrown across the clearing. You blink and she’s being held against the wall by the weird blue dog that healed your bite wound. Kalani takes hit after hit to the ribs. Something breaks. You can’t tell if it’s Kalani or the wall behind her or both.

The spirit lock on you fades and Kalani freezes the air around her before slamming a mental attack at the dog. She gets free and summons a blizzard before stumbling off into it. The dog just flexes and all the ice on him shatters and falls away. Blue fire forms in his hands and he launches it faster than you can see into the storm. Kalani screams and the winds slow. You blink and the dog is gone. Snowflakes are stirred up where he charged into the blizzard, into the nine-tails own element. Kalani screams again.

The storm fades to nothing. The dog stands victorious over the nine-tails. Every one of her legs is bent at an unnatural angle. So is at least one of her tails. She breathes heavily and slowly moves her head to look at you.

“Please,” she mews like a newborn begging for milk. “Don’t leave me.”

The dog strikes her in the head and she collapses entirely. You can still hear a heartbeat. She’s alive, for now. And you can still hear her begging in your mind. Is that what she looked like when she was a three-tails facing her own mother? Is that what you looked like? How many vulpix have been left at the bottom of the mountain, begging, begging, begging not to be left alone.

Your begging wasn’t answered. Kalani’s wasn’t, either. Your mothers just turned around and walked back up The Mountain. Back to their territory. Back to their families. Away from you.

You don’t like thinking that an eevee is right. But maybe the vulpix never leave the base of the mountain, begging to go back. Begging not to be left. Kalani… Kalani never moved on.

She still sounds like a three-tails.

Is that what you sound like?

Will anyone ever answer when you beg?

Should you turn around and… walk away? Find out what is off the mountain?

The dog presses a paw onto your head and warmth floods through your body. The pain of the running leaves your legs. Your ribs scream a little less. The flow of blood slows on the side of your face.

{There is only so much I can do,} he tells you. {We need to get you to a healer.}

“What about Eyerock?” you ask.

[Repairs commenced. 13% complete… 14% complete…]

You look over towards where it crashed down. It looks like the dog broke the ice off of it. There’s just a big dent left on its side where the attack hit.

{She says she will be fine.}

Another human enters the clearing. The one Skysong calls Dr. Karashina. She isn’t dressed in black this time. Just white, soft falsefur. Like she’s trying to be a vulpix (and falling short). There’s a scar above one of her eyes that her fur hid the last time you saw her. That eye doesn’t move when she looks over the scene. “You know,” she says dryly. “I would have lent you Genkei’s ball if you’d just asked.”

“Didn’t know Kalani would be here,” Skysong grumbles.

“Always assume there’s danger behind a distress call.”


“We’ll discuss this more at a later time. Genkei, is she safe to carry?”

{I would call a stretcher.}

Dr. Karashina pulls out her signaling rock and types in a number. You ignore it and look back at Kalani. She looks so much smaller when she’s bleeding on the ground. How strong is the dog—Genkei, he deserves his chosen name—that he can effortlessly defeat a nine-tails that fought The Moon?

Skysong sits down next to you. “Are you okay?” she asks.

You don’t know. You won’t know if you can still hear out of both of your ears until the blood gets cleaned out. Human healing devices are good. It still took you a long time to heal both times you were this badly hurt. She definitely rebroke your rib. Probably a few others. Hopefully she didn’t tear out any fur with her bites…

She doesn’t ask you again when you don’t answer.

“You’re the one who got cursed.”

“Right. Um. Do you think it matters that she didn’t finish it?”

“Yes.” Maybe. You only learn the details of how curses work when you awaken. The hostile spirits have mostly flowed out of her. Only a few remain in her blood, mixed in with the background of ghosts that accrue over a lifetime. That’s probably good.

Dr. Karsahina stops talking and walks over. “Medics will be here in five. Now, we have one final decision to make.” She kneels down and looks directly at you. “Will they heal Kalani back up or will she be dead when they arrive?”

She tried to kill you.

Tried to curse Skysong.

Killed her own mother.

You should want her dead.

You almost tell her to kill the nine-tails.

Then you remember her begging. The hurt in her eyes.

You aren’t sure.

You don’t answer.

Dr. Karashina keeps looking at you.

If you let her live, she might try to finish her curse.

She might kill you.

You close your eyes and give your answer.

Kalani was beautiful. Powerful. Smart. Someone loved her once.

She didn’t deserve to die at sea level centuries before age weakened her bones and dulled her senses.

She didn’t deserve to have her neck snapped by a mere dog.

She didn’t deserve to lose her family twice.

She deserved better.

You all did.

You hope she finds happiness in the stars.
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the cat is mightier than the pen
  1. dratini
  2. dratini-pen
  3. dratini-pen2
Arc 4: Rock

It's been a while! I gulped down Arc 4 and I return with thoughts. In short, it was very good and I greatly enjoyed it.

4.2 Aftermath

Rachel! If I remember correctly, she was the first POV we get in BT, but since then, she's been more of a removed fixer. We've at least known enough about her to know that in her own way, she cares about Cuicatl's health and happiness--not enough to not throw her in the path of a rampaging dragon, but generally. It was a treat to return to her POV and get some more insight into what's motivating her.

I was very interested in the flashback for what it told us about psychics. The idea that psychic powers tend to lead to an overdeveloped sense of empathy and push them to prioritize the needs of others makes a lot of sense and instantly puts a new twist on all our psychic characters. Cuicatl's deep abnegation of her own wants in favor of her family's becomes not just an individual personality trait, but also perhaps something that's coming from her psychic ability. If part of developing a stable sense of self for psychics is selfishness, Cuicatl later refusing to lend Kekoa money was a healthy moment for her. Of course, she then tops that by almost killing herself for Gen . . . It also raises questions about conversion therapy psychics as a class. Do they generally have need to buy the koolaid? Or can the empathy be selective--they just care so deeply about the poor families burdened with these messed up children and want to help them.

I really liked the smattering of news articles, from all different sources. Smart choice to just show a few lines from each, so we can get a sense of the overall picture. The contrast between The Rallying Cry (which Kekoa probably subscribes to) and Hivemind (cough, buzzfeed?) was particularly oof. And then Bullseye media . . . poor Dr Brinner. The very real consequences of what he did to try and help Gen really underscore the power of her family and his courage in the moment. It hits even harder knowing that to some extent it was for nothing, though without his initial advice, Gen probably wouldn't have thought to try calling out mentally at all.

The board meeting was a blast. I loved the stupid dynamics, the plotting to get away from the GC, that definitely doesn't reflect how real-world companies regard their in-house counsels. This is the first time I think we've gotten up close and personal with Chris Foster and he definitely underwhelms, as he should. He comes off a small man with a victini. But hey, he's the boss--until he's not. I loved reading about all their background liability issues--this chapter in particular felt a bit by and for lawyers and I was here for it.

Plotwise, this made clear just how important Cuicatl is to Vstar now. Her class V license is not a fun side project Rachel's helping her out with. I got so excited when Shirona's name came up. I am so, so hype for her.

Rachel v Lila was such a fun, tense dynamic. It makes a really nice contrast to the board meeting, where everyone kind of underestimates Rachel and doesn't understand what makes her tic. Rachel and Lila understand each other very well. The thing about *snack mix* being the secret to cracking psychics was a nice moment. I was just imagining these two high-powered woman staring at each other intently while one shovels down snack mix. Their exchange at the end about empathy brought the chapter full circle. I thought it was really smooth that you introduced so much plot and exposition here while also sneaking in a mini Rachel backstory character arc. She's learned to look out for Number One! I probably shouldn't like her as much as I do.

Older alakazam struggle to make basic decisions. He’ll never admit it but without your guidance he would’ve starved to death a long time ago while he tried to decide what to eat.
Loved this bit of worldbuilding. There does just feel like there's something with how intelligent and powerful alakazam are that calls for some kind of balance. I've used their physical frailty in the past, but the idea of extremely strong choice inability also makes for a reason alakazam would partner with humans.

his secretary, one Rachel Bell,
Yeah, his secretary.

“I’ll call Shirona. She likes Alola and mythology is her shit. Won’t shut up about it. And she’s a bitch. Takes her from a ten to a six real fast. She knows her shit, though.”
The characterization for both Chris and Shirona in this line is so effective.

“Even if she was fully informed, can a severely depressed child be trusted to make informed decisions regarding the risks of a job and the value of her life?”

“Under the laws of Alola, yes.” You’ve triple checked that. It’s VStar’s entire business model.
LMAO. I think she was asking ethically, not legally, Rachel. That exchange is peak Rachel though.

4.3 Scars, 4.8 Master of the Moon, 4.14 Hypnotized - The Pixie Arc

Think it makes sense to talk about these three together, since Pixie is off having her own happy and perfect time with her superior and perfect ninetails mom who definitely does not share Pixie's abandonment issues and act terribly because of them.

First, these chapters were just a lot of fun. As always, your Pixie narration is everything, and having a perfect ninetales Mom to cheerlead just puts it on steroids. And despite all the awfulness that is Kalani, I was glad Pixie got her ice cuddles and snow.

I wondered last arc where the Pixie and Kalani thing was headed--nowhere good, obviously, but I wasn't sure what flavor of not good. Ultimately, I think the Kalani and Pixie story is about intergenerational trauma and whether you pass on abuse or renounce it. Kalani was also a reject from the mountain. And even though she's massively powerful now and in theory can do what she wants, it's obvious in every move she makes that the rejection defines her, as it has been defining Pixie. Adopting Pixie is her way to live out a fantasy where she's not alone and rejected. She's a mom now and she can raise a vulpix who's better than any other. That comes through in her training regime for Pixie, which is not geared towards Pixie's health and happiness. She's pushing her when she's already hurt and demonstrating attacks by using them on her. It works but it's rough to read. Pix is so ready to suffer for this.

Kalani vs Sina really brought this all into focus. Kalani and Sina are set up as equal in power, and in some ways they have very similar positions as trainer pokemon, but they've taken very different paths. But Sina's said screw it the mountain mindset. She's mated with a glaceon, she's got her "half-breed" children. And there's conspicuously four of them. I get the sense she's not planning to cull the number anytime soon, either. Of course Kalani and Sina can't stand each other's guts. Kalani seems to maintain her self esteem in a similar way Pixie has tried to--the mountain view is right, but it was wrong about me, and I'm the best. Rejecting all of it also rejects the grounding for Kalani's identity and that this is how it is. I like how it's clear that Kalani gets to Sina too. Even if she's made her choices, she'll probably never feel entirely free in them.

The other thing big thread in this arc was the curse. It's pretty clear from the outset that Pixie does not want Cuicatl cursed. She likes that Kalani is willing to do it for her, but she doesn't actually want Cuicatl hurt. It was painfully amusing watching her twist and weave to find excuses for why different curses wouldn't work--and a big oof in the fact that the reasoning boils down to Cuicatl basically already having cursed herself. It shows how much of Cuicatl's destructive behavior Pixie has picked up on, even if it doesn't really make sense to her.

I wasn't sure how powerful the curse thing was, so Kalani cursing Selene made for a nice demonstration. The answer seems to be, quite powerful, but not legendary league. Selene brushes the curse off as no biggie, but it does kind of leave open the question, since Selene has a lot of psychic firepower on hand. Ultimately, Kalani's abilities are deeply scary, especially since she has no compunctions.

Oh, I guess I haven't quite said this yet--Kalani is so impressively horrible. Pretty much with every action, she manages to do the most horrible version of it. Basically trying to kill Sina's kits stands out at the top, but her more lowkey malic was great flavor too. It's interesting seeing where Pixie will and won't be complicit. Bed-freezing is a fun prank, but cursing Cuicatl or going against the Moon herself? Not happening. I had wondered whether Pixie's reverence for the moon would wain because of her association with Selene, but it didn't. Part of Pixie's mountain view is that reverence--that is something Kalani seems to have discarded.

Zooming out for a second, I really like the big picture choice you've made to separate Pixie and Cuicatl at this point in their stories. When they met, way back, the premise of their arc seemed to be about two people with these major internalized family traumas learning to help each other. And they did, partly, but they're each coming in with such a deeply-fixed, personal mindset, that there was only so much their conversations could bridge. Cuicatl couldn't convince Pixie she was worthy, and Pixie's worldview couldn't understand Cuicatl's guilt. Separated, it seems that they're finally being put in positions where they are starting to be able to face these issues. Cuicatl needs humans to help her understand the framework of her family's abuse--ice foxes don't really have a human sense of 'fat'. And Pixie needs a ninetails to work through her ninetails specific trauma. I like that Pixie and Cuicatl's relationship hasn't been for nothing. Cuicatl only was able to mention these things at first to Pixi--that was the first step. And Cuicatl suggested to Pixie a kindness and framework for love not being a scarce resource or contingent that is there now, dormant, but as alternative to the mountain view. I think there's a deep realism in two broken people not being able to fix each other, because their backgrounds and traumas are so different, but still planting the seeds. It's narratively inevitable that they come back together, but I definitely think the story is much richer for this time they're spending apart.

Pixie's arc doesn't wrap up neatly in this part, but I was satisfied with how we explored her and Kalani's characters and set up for what seems like an inevitable break. Pix has already defied Kalani a few too many times. And Kalani seems like the kind of person who's about to do something really stupid. Kalani feels like what Pixie will become if she doesn't figure some things out first. And Kalani, well. She may be "perfect" but she's not happy.

Poor Skysong. She’s so pathetic that you can’t find an easy way to make her life worse.
Cuicatl in a nutshell, rip.

“Do not bite stonewolves,” she tells you. “It isn’t worth it. You should freeze them instead.”

Very good advice. When you are a nine-tails you will freeze every stonewolf you find.
I can't quote every time this happens because it would be the whole chapter, but I was continually dying at Kalani saying stuff like this and Pixie's inner narration repeating it worshipfully.

Are you allowed to scream and the Moon’s human, though?

The goddess or your mother. Time to pick.

Kalani is perfect and she loves you. The Moon has no reason to. You fear her more than Kalani.
Counterpoint--Kalani is a vindictive asshole.

Unless Lunala’s sure she can do something if Kalani gives the curse her all, it’s best to just keep the two away from each other.”

“It’s not even about that,” he hisses. “You win, so what? Do you think people will just forget what you did? That there wouldn’t be any more consequences?”

“No one will challenge me if I can defeat The Moon herself.”
Can't argue with that logic!

What is a judge? How strong are they that one could fight someone who defeated a goddess?
I need your power match-ups for Kalani vs different supreme court justices.

Your mother is smart. She will remember you. She will come for you.

You just have to wait a little while longer.
Ooof. Though. The sad thing is that by coming back, that still puts her miles above Pixie's actual mom.

“I hated doing that to you,” she said between licks. “Never make me do it again.”
Welp. Kalani reading straight from the abusive parent book.

There isn’t anger or amusement in her eyes. Just the cold gaze of a hunter. “How would you know if you’ve never been shown?”

Probably the same way she knows: being perfect.
The best way.

“She has a nine-tails. Hate her. So smug. Thinks she’s better than me, even though she mated with an eevee.

You retch in shock and almost lose your breakfast. What? What kind of nine-tails would do that? How does she handle the smell?

“Girls!” Openliver calls. “Hotel. You can’t be this loud.”

Both immediately turn and continue screaming, this time at him. How dare he interfere in a border dispute?
Amazing. This moment was so vivid and the timing is perfect.

“This was a bad idea,” Poisonhair says. “I have no idea why they keep wanting to meet up when they just do this.”
Just mountain things, you know. This cracked me up.

That brings me to . . . Gen. Think I'm going to save that for last, though.

Moving on, then, to 4.5 Skitter!

Your pokemon POV chapters are always charming and this was no exception. Wimpod fren made an interesting contrast to the previous pokemon POVs. Pixie, Coco, and Noci are all pretty aggressive. So it was interesting to see a pokemon who picks 'flee' over 'initiate ramming.' I loved Leo's analysis of 'the Coco' and how it tries to understand individuality vs categories.

Leo has a pretty simple arc compared to the rest of the cast, but it was satisfying to watch him come out of his shell.

4.6 Trial By Fire, 4.9 New Leaf, 4.11 The Prodigal Brother, 4.13 A Young Man's Stand - the Kekoa arc

Kekoa's story felt like it took a bit of a backseat in this arc. I was mostly okay with that. A lot of big stuff happened in Arc 3 that challenged his worldview in big ways, and it's clear he's still digesting the fall-out.

Trial By Fire was very wholesome. I liked your Kiawe a lot--he's such a cool character, and you gave him his due. I loved the idea that he chose his trial in order to make people pay attention to traditional marowak dancing. Taking the fact of tourism and all the attention on trainers to preserve native culture. It's so far from the Kekoa way of doing things, but I was impressed to see him recognizing it a bit. Kiawe is also a great way to explore how far Kekoa has come by returning him to his old haunts. Kiawe's here as the Masculine Ideal (TM), he's the local hero, and he claps Kekoa on the back and gives him validation. It's small, but if felt so big, and I was so happy he got to have that moment.

The trial itself was also very wholesome. I liked the break when mom marowak decided her kid had had enough and set him outside the barrier and Kiawe calling it when the totem was tired. I enjoy trials that feel different from a standard, fight to the very last breath gym battles, that give the Alola system a more distinct feeling.

I liked the Cuicatl and Kekoa money conversation a lot in this chapter, though I think I'll save most of that for Cuicatl's section. Though, unless I'm mistaken, this is the first time that Kekoa's learning why Cuicatl's doing all this with any detail, right? I was surprised we didn't get more from his internal narration afterward, digesting this. It seemed like he didn't even think about it.

Kekoa's break from Vstar feels like it fits by this point, though I like that it's followed by him instantly realizing it's not as easy as all that. Still, these chapters are also underscoring a big difference between Kekoa and Cuicatl--Kekoa has a community and family that's ready to welcome him back. Kanoa, Jabari, even Kiawe as showing that his passing acquaintances think of him fondly. He has connection, even if he doesn't have a lot of hard cash. Vstar is not his only option in the world.

Speaking of, onto Kekoa and his brother. First, I'm stupid because I did not realize until 4.6, reading with the boardroom scene fresh in my mind, that Kekoa's Jabari was that Jabari. Now I get why he had the random Coco egg. But that makes Kekoa a whole lot more connected to VStar than I previously understood! He thinks a lot about his brother selling out, but it's weird that they're working for the same company at this point. Isn't Jabari sort of just doing what Kekoa's doing on steroids? Obviously by this point he's getting ready to make a break with Vstar but I was surprised that hadn't been more of a thing before. And the fact that he's realizing that it's hard to get money without Vstar--so let me get help from my Vstar brother--it's Vstar all the way down, isn't it.

Also, wow, this is another reason why Plumera's probably keeping tabs on him. He's a potential hostage against Vstar's head trainer, isn't he? Hm, the plot truly thickens.

I loved how extra Jabari's arrival was and the pleasure Kekoa gets from him sweating in his inappropriate clothes. Jabari comes across as earnest and trying his best to reforge this connection. Partly it's having had the benefit of Rachel's perspective on him--her diagnosis of stupid, but well-meaning--but I was rooting for him. It was nice to hear his story and what's brought him from there to here. Also, Envy was amazing, she is the best, I love her.

This chapter was also a wholesome one. I liked Jabari's complete overkill in helping Kekoa catch his dugtrio. And asking for battle insurance was a really funny move on Kekoa's part for me. It's so, almost performatively practical. But it definitely meant a lot for him to ask for that and to accept Jabari's help in the capture.

“He hurt me. He deserves to face consequences. Punishment. He needs to pay for what he did.”

Her expression is perfectly blank. With her cloudy eyes it almost feels like you’re arguing with a corpse or an oracle or something inhuman. Something scary.

“What punishment would be enough?”
This resonated really strongly, coming sandwiched between chapters where Pixie is debating what kind of curse Cuicatl should have. Kekoa and Pixie both have that directionless anger that comes from being abandoned and are struggling through what it means to live a life that's not dictated primarily by spite. It was good to have Kekoa face this (even if Cuicatl is a classic 'do as I say not as I do'--she's constantly punishing herself.)

Next, 4.11 The Prodigal Brother. I'm including the Kanoa chapter here because that one felt like it was basically a Kekoa chapter by a different POV. This was the only chapter in Arc 4 that felt a bit unnecessary to me. There's not too much going on personally in Kanoa's POV, and we don't have much built-in character investment on her. As a lens on Kekoa--it's mostly her watching him complete a trial that doesn't have much drama to it. Like, she's watching Kekoa play hide and go seek. I feel like we've reached the point where we don't need to see every trial--unless something important happens at it, or it's really intense, I wouldn't blink an eye at a few sentences telling me that Kekoa passed Mallow's trial. I guess the evolution happens, but that didn't feel like enough to justify it all.

Mallow drones on and shows the basic steps of the ritual dance. She’s not even pretending to be enthusiastic. Is that the length of the match? Some personal dislike? Or is she just always like that. You at least pretend to be excited.
At times like this, it almost felt like you were lampshading how routine and not very exciting this is. But while Mallow's a trial captain and has to show up, as an author you don't have that same obligation.

The feral stoutland sequence was interesting worldbuilding, but it felt a bit random in the chapter.

I enjoyed the final scene quite a bit, simply for showing what seemed to be Kekoa, Cuicatl and Lyra implementing a defensive strategy to protect Kekoa from Kanoa's family. It shows how much that trip has banded together and it was really sweet. It did kind of underscore, though, how unnecessary Kanoa felt to it all. She's observing the group dynamics, but not really part of them.

I guess, even though things happen in this that are probably spreadsheet required--Mallow trial, trumbeak evolves, Kekoa gets miltank--it didn't really come together for me as a chapter, and I felt like a lot of the trial stuff could have been skipped.

Lastly, 4.13. Actually, even though this is Kekoa POV, it's not really about Kekoa--he's a POV on the unfolding Genesis crisis. So not much to say here for his arc. I guess just the slightly funny moment where he realizes that he's got to march next to Gen at pride. I wasn't sure why this is called "A Young Man's Stand."

“That’s my man,” he claps you on the shoulder one last time before heading off.

My man. Hearing him of all people say it makes your stomach warm. The most masculine boy in your hometown thinks you’re a man. That’s cool, right? Yeah. It feels cool.
Eyy. I get the warm and fuzzies here every time.

Kiawe gestures at the man beside him. “And this is Dave.”

As soon as hse hits the dirt he stops on a dime and stares at you.

Mother and son twirl around and press their backs to each other as they wait for the ghost to reappear. Cubone might be stronger, but that coordination could be a problem.
I didn't follow the logic here--did you mean "weaker" instead of "stronger"?

A bonemerang strikes Moe’s side as she’s focused.
I didn't understand this.

As soon as the shadow ball gets into range the marowak swings her bone like a baseball bat and lands a perfect hit.
Ooh, is this Counter?

Ihe takes the chance to jump into the air and madly flap his stubby wings. He’s done her job but you’ll let her get in a hit so his pride isn’t wounded.
Typos? Pronouns keep switching.

Whatever he’s on got a lot less scary once they realized a human was controlling it. Like the human is automatically a good person and in control.

The weeks before he abandoned you. the reminder sends a shiver down your spine.

“Am I fat?” she finally asks.

What? Where the hell did that come from? “Uh, no? Not at all? Why.” And what does any of that have to do with your brother.
Everything. I really like how Cuicatl's thoughts are moving on their own track that we understand, even if Kekoa doesn't.

You feel a little awkward. She told you some really personal stuff and you immediately turned it back to you.
Maybe that's the only way she can.

You’re not sure that having a military sellout is better than having Selene, but at least you could directly lobby your brother. That’s an improvement. Until you can figure out how to beat him. Maybe he’d take it easy on you? Your pride would be hurt, sure. It would still end with you as champion.
Kekoa's calculations here cracked me up.

You wonder how their spots have changed with the dying.
I didn't understand this sentence.

Something races through the dirt while the trial pokémon get their bearings. Oricorio moves first, forming orbs of white light around her. Something smacks lileep’s head back just as the water and earth around him begins to churn.
Double something.

Akane and Ibuki were seen back together in public for the first time since their last breakup. And Ibuki almost murdered the paparazzi for interrupting her date. Heh. Serves them right.
Ibuki! That's my girl!!

“If she wants to help, she can help. There are some vegetables that need cut.”
Missing word.

I can fill you in on all of the other thinks you should know if that works.”

What the fuck she’s gay? Or bi? How did you not notice that?
Lmao, Kekoa.

No idea how that Daigo prick keeps his in line. Maybe he doesn’t and he’s just bleeding hush money. Wouldn’t surprise you. If rich assholes there are anything like rich assholes here he might not even care. He certainly didn’t go out of his way to stop Aqua-dan and Magma-dan from killing hundreds of thousands of his countrymen.
Always here for the Daigo-san shade.

Now for Lyra. 4.7 Night Shift is her only POV, and a lot of that ends up focused on Cuicatl. That made sense to me, though, because Lyra's a bit in holding pattern until the Genesis news breaks. In the meantime, I liked all the places her social savvyness moved things forward or smoothed over edges. The Cuicatl fat conversation is a big one, obviously. I really liked that Lyra didn't take it when Cuicatl started venting at her. She just left--which is probably the best thing she could have done in that context. She beats herself up a bit for how she handled that conversation but I honestly think she handled it pretty damn well. Lyra's focus on psychic boundaries is matched by a pretty good understanding of personal boundaries too. I continue to like her contributions to the Cuicatl/Kekoa dynamic.

Going forward, I am . . . deeply worried that Lyra was so committed to catching a lesbian pheromone lizard. She's really focused on getting Gen back, in all senses, and now that Gen is imprinting on Cuicatl, I feel like this is going to turn very nasty. I like Lyra a lot, but she has a vicious quality to her, and in her own way, very few compunctions. I get the sense that a lot of her fear of psychics involves projection. If she had that power, she would go ahead and rewrite people's memories for her convenience, so of course other people would do it to her. And of course Cuicatl would do it for Gen. I hope the trust and friendship that we've seen build between Lyra and Cuicatl in these chapters is enough, but I'm afraid it won't be. Ugh, I get a very strong slow-motion trainwreck sense from all this.

You saw at least one long, long thread discussing whether it’s cultural appropriation for a human to write about pokemon myths.
Of course.

Thankfully the trail is straight so Cuicatl’s can keep a good pace behind you without having to feel out the turns with her cane.
The trail's about the only thing that's straight around here!

You scoff and glare up at the stars as you form an answer.
Form an answer to what? She hasn't been asked anything.

And from what little you can see its way prettier.

“Do you have any more food?” she asks.
!! Cuicatl asked for more food!

Because the part where she called you an American was clearly the worst part of that email.

How much of her height is due to malnutrition? Suddenly even her cuteness feels a bit sinister.
Just Cuicatl things.

Cuicatl's turn. Her arc pops up in 4.1 Hazard Pay, 4.7 Night Shift (Lyra), 4.9 New Leaf (Kekoa), 4.12 Truth and Lies , 4.15 Bulwark (Olivia) and 4.16 Control Group.

Interesting that a lot of the Cuicatl arc takes place in other POV chapters! It makes sense, because a big part of her arc is unpacking a difference between her self-perception and how she's perceived by others. Her eating disorder has been an icky background to the story for a long time, so it was lovely to see Lyra step in and address it in a way that's actually convincing--having Cuicatl compare their bodies with a sense that she trusts. It's a small thing, but the fall-out is pretty big. This is the first time we've seen Cuicatl start to question her image of her sainted brother (who is oddly indistinct as a character, even now. Perhaps because Cuicatl hates dwelling on him.) Obviously the therapy chapter was big. I appreciated the author's note about it not being a realistic depiction of therapy, but as a dramatic representation goes, it read really well and it fit where Cuicatl is in the story. For her to even show up to this, a lot of barriers have been broken.

Then we've got the quest to regain her pokemon. First there's the major hope spot of her making a significant amount of money. But even that's not enough and they still don't know where they are. I liked the scene where she flatly refuses to give Kekoa anything. Cuicatl's very easy going right up until you hit one of her core areas and then she's not. Then, in 4.12, there's the suggestion from Plumeria that VStar's not really going to find her pokemon for her. Cuicatl's starting to face a lot of things in this arc, but the idea she couldn't actually get her mom's pokemon back, get back the only real family she has, is too far. If she accepts that, what would be left?

One thing I didn't get in the Plumeria conversation is what exactly Cuicatl takes a threat by Plumeria. What, that they've someone gotten to her pokemon first and would hold them hostage? That doesn't make sense for one second. First, that they'd have the resources, second that if they had a way to get them, they wouldn't just give them to her for her loyalty. So I really didn't get what this threat was, but it seems to be a big deal to Cuicatl because she brings it up to Kekoa later. I wasn't entirely sure what Plumeria hoped to get out of this--sound out Cuicatl to join the revolution or at least see if she can wean her off of Vstar? It's clear post 4.1 and 4.2 that Cuicatl is a big asset for them.

The parallel between Cuicatl and Gen in this arc is striking. Both of them starting to realize that maybe their family never had their best interests at heart.

You really hope this is addictive. You don’t need a drug problem on top of everything else.
“It doesn’t change that,” Lyra says softly like she’s talking to a baby. You’re not. “I’m on antidepressants and they didn’t change who I am.” Her tone shifts back towards something more serious. “If they did that I’d burn them in a heartbeat. It’s different. I just feel like I have more energy to put towards things. That’s all.”
I liked this conversation. Again, invaluable that it's Lyra saying this, when she's all My Mind Is My Own.
“Aren’t you an odd one,” the fox says. “I didn’t think humans had path gifts.”
Path gifts! Love that term for it. Also, where was my content warning for Cuicatl nearly getting an eevee.
Sounds like there’s a heal.
Woman. Her alarm goes off. It’s a strange alarm starting with a high pitch and then going quickly between low and high notes. There’s a constant hum through it all. You could imagine it in song. A string keeping the tense note. Maybe switch the rest to lyrics? Have the boys sing half of it while the girls sing the rest. One word each.

You’ve heard that weird alarm before.
I didn't get this alarm thing at all. Why would Plumeria have an alarm going off and why would it be so recognizable?
She laughs. It’s a very nice laugh. Wait, is her salazzle out? {Does she have a salandit out?} you ask Coco. Thankfully she knows what those smell like.

“No,” she hisses. “Smells like one Kind of.”

That explains that. And maybe it means that you are into girls?
Ooh, sneaky, sneaky Plumeria. No wonder Kekoa was a hormone-addled mess every time they talked. I like all these hints we get at Plumeria's competence at doing what she does.
. You pick up the cookie. Its fine.

Lyra says it doesn’t really fit with your casual clothes, but its still good for formal days.
* it's

“The dinosaurs talked to gods,” KahunaRodriguez whispers. “I take it that your Class V is on the dragon languages?”
Missing space. Also, what a line.

It’s weird to see her just casually namedrop one of the strongest, smartest, and prettiest trainers in the world. “Do you know her?”

She laughs. It’s a bark-type laugh. Short and loud. “Honey, we dated once.”
Weird to see strongest, smartest, prettiest before anything but fox.

You put the personal phone number of Shirona Karashina, the world’s fourth strongest trainer, into the contacts of your cell phone. You’ve calmed a rampaging tyrantrum, been healed by a goddess, and SPOKE TO RESHIRAM but none of that felt as unreal as this does.
So excited for Shirona.

But you’re still the same person who played carrots and sticks with Pixie until someone came along who could play that game better.
Oof. Not wrong!

{UD_Cuicatl Must Initiate Ramming Towards Debugging Session.}
“I didn’t mean to. I—” He had a migraine. He wouldn’t share it. You didn’t press him. Then you just left. Right when he needed you the most. It took days to find out he’d even died. You were lucky you didn’t miss the funeral entirely.

“I see.” She drums her pencil on the table a few more times. “A lot of that doesn’t feel like things you did so much as things you failed to prevent. You had no reason to know that Hala was going to do that. You literally weren’t old enough to do anything when your mother died. You didn’t know about Genesis’s family. And having a headache is a perfectly normal thing. It would be a little strange to halt your entire life every time a family member had one.”
Interesting how she's switching into telepathic speech without realizing.

A bit on 4.15 Bulwark (Olivia) independent of the Cuicatl aspects. I always enjoy getting another 'responsible adult POV.' It was interesting to see her perspective on the lay of the land and what helpful action looks like, particularly her take on Vstar's scholarship and poaching program being more a symptom than a cause of larger problems with the trial system.

She’d use the arrest as a PR opportunity. You’d be the one left to call lawyers, talk to the family, try to keep the kid from getting even more traumatized.
This seemed pretty emblematic of where Olivia is coming from. Her dismissal of Hala was pretty cutting; all in all she gave me a strong sense of competence and detail-orientation. Her love for tyrantrum was very wholesome and it was nice to see her mature attitude about everything in the chapter--don't resent people just because things haven't worked out for you.

I found this battle more interesting than some of the other's. Mainly, I think, because of the fact that Olivia had done her homework too well and kept expecting Pixie. It was fun to see her analyze Cuicatl's strategy in light of that incorrect assumption. The Leo fight at the end, and Cuicatl having no expectations for it, made the evolution a pleasant surprise. I definitely preferred it to a scenario where Cuicatl would have thrown in her wimpod and expected him to win her the battle, and I cheered internally when wimpod fren turned around and came back.

Not sure how much a fan I am of Cuicatl fainting after all her battles. It's starting to feel a bit repetitive. I guess it clues Olivia in to Cuicatl having problems--not sure how important that is for future developments.

The Tapu Lele conversation was brutal, with funny moments--she and Olivia make quite the contrast. A real 'the gods won't help' moment, though it's interesting that Olivia refers to her own hands being tied, after. Tapu Lele refused to provide her cover but didn't outright forbid her, it seems. But maybe for Olivia that's the same thing. I don't think she's prepared to risk her position, where she can do a lot of good, over one child.

Finally, all that stuff about needing a new trial captain and "it’s been a while since there was a proper flying trial in Alola" suuuure makes me think that this might be where Kekoa eventually ends up. It's his home island, he has contacts, he's the right age, and he's on track to be a flying-type expert. I noticed you had him gracefully offload another pokemon that doesn't match the typing. So keeping my eye on that.

Now you’re seeing if you can sell something like it to the Pentagon. Girls with giant dinosaurs are a defense asset, after all.
I mean. Yes.
A few days is nothing for carbink but gives the trainers some time to get their thoughts and things in order.
Really liked how Olivia uses her knowledge of carbink here to do something that works for both carbink and trainer. In general, she handles things very gracefully.
You’re curious how her tyrunt, a classic melee fighter and grappler, deals with something that can float above her shrug off hits.

Cuicatl’s already taken the ball back out and has her finger on the release button when the wimpod does something incredible: he turns around and goes back into the pit.

Mud slap. Or mud shot? Hard to tell. This is why the four-move rule is useless.
Say it louder for the folks in the back, lol. I hadn't even realized you were following a four move limit in this.

“Rules are rules, ma’am.”

He doesn’t seem sorry. You sigh and turn back to Cuicatl.

“Be that as it may, I have the right to decide who gets my stamp. We’re still going.”

Oliver clears his throat. “Understood. The match continues.”
I enjoyed her laying down the lines here. It's her show--no rules-lawyering.


At least she understands that much.
There's something about that deadpan all caps that gets me every time.

All right, now for Gen. * deep breath in *

4.4 Conversation 2, 4.10 Birthday Party, 4.17 Thy Will Be Done, 4.18 The Price - The Genesis Arc

I mean. You've been setting up for this for a long time. Didn't stop it from being gut-wrenching.

In a way, even though this arc felt like it was at the heart of Rock, with everything else swirling around it, I don't have a ton to say about it. It was frustrating and horrible to watch Genesis going through this ridiculous conversion therapy, getting mentally zapped every moment and basically being written off because of her fundamental personality, being kind and questioning and not concerned with decorum, not even her sexuality. Forcing her to burn her stuff was just so sad and so pointless.

But it all gets so much worse once her family realizes that yeah, imitating a 50s house-wife doesn't actually make people straight. Rather the opposite, one might think. From there on out, it's just a slow crash into horror, where Genesis could hop off the ride at any moment but she doesn't and she doesn't and she doesn't--and by the time she does, something's been lost. A lot's been lost. I can't say I liked going through it, but as a writing choice, pushing Gen to the very edge, past the point of no return, before she makes her choice, was a powerful one. Gen's faith and trust is such a deep part of her character. It was always going to take a lot to make her resist when her family and her god seemed to be telling her this was right.

I really loved the sequences in her mind, where the psychic keeps trying to turn her story into something else, and Gen's natural curiosity pushes back. Her problem is that she's stuck in-between--she can't turn off the part of her mind that questions and analyzes, try though she might--and so even though she commits to doing what her family wants, the core of who she is cannot accept half-truths. It's an interesting contrast to all the themes of sweet lies and bitter truths in Cuicatl's chapters. Gen grew up surrounded by lies, but I think her fundamental instincts have always been to seek truth.

On the theme of family, I appreciated Levi trying to stand up for his sister. Bargaining with his birthday at first--such a childish thing to do, so much trust still in his parents--and ultimately, seeking out outside help. Sometimes family does work.

“Vespera, just replicate the shocks in her mind.”
God, you think for a moment her mom doesn't want her hurt and then no it's just 'you idiot, why are you making the abuse visible?'
“It’s feminine,” Mrs. Rivers insists.

“It’s beneath her.”
I like this mini clash between Mom and Mrs. Rivers. Gender roles vs class status.
That’s not what you’ve heard psyduck are like. Most like to party. Which means they like to break things and hurt people. Was he just raised different? Are their instincts not like that? Or can they learn to overcome their instincts, to be better? Maybe Father was trying to encourage you when he gave you Ollie…
I'd been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the psyduck for ages, but it seems like Ollie is just nice? I wasn't really sure what the psyduck arc was meant to be doing.

“The three of us can talk for twenty minutes with no one stopping us,” Levi announces. “That was the only thing I wanted for my birthday.”
Noooo babies. God.

Exodus just rolls her eyes. “Sure. What did you do though? Who did you hurt?”

This exchange was amazing. A welcome breath of humor in all this terribleness.
“I’ve hired a psychic. He’ll be here in two weeks to fix you for good.” He adds, so quietly that you’d swear you were making it up if his lips weren’t moving, “May Xerneas forgive me.”

Rock 4.17: Thy Will Be Done
The wait between 4.10 and this one was cruel and unusual.

“Naturally. Do you mind if I tag along? She can get nervous when talking to strangers without someone she trusts in the room.”
oh fuck you
“No,” you tell her. “I wasn’t abused.”

“Wonderful to hear.” With that she stands up and turns to the door. After exchanging a few more pleasantries with your father she leaves.
fuck you intensifies
“I can carry you if you want,” Father offers. “Like I used to when you were little.”
Gregori turns towards your parents. “I am changing sexual orientation. Anything specific you want while I’m doing it? Can make crushes, fixations, dislikes. Is there a man we are customizing her to?”
Gregori, for being an amoral psychic mind fucker, was oddly endearing. Also, the last question is so, so gross.
I didn’t like—

You cannot lie to me in your own mind.
Ironically, he ends up helping her accept her sexuality here. Because Gen cares about truth.
You don’t know many boys. Hard to fill in gaps.

Where—oh, Gregori. Um. Is that a problem?

No. Solves two problems.

“You’re going to homecoming, right?”

Kekoa leans onto the locker next to you and looks at you expectantly.
Oh no. No, no, no. And the weirdly conversational back and forth they have works so well.
“I don’t have a date, no.” His smile turns almost predatory. Was that the wrong question? Should you apologize. “But I’d like to fix that.”

He looks so confident and he smells like. Something good.


Why are you

Why is he even here? This is a girl’s school?
Love all the way's Gen's inner monologue picks holes in the narrative.
‘If you need help, call out for Lila Takeda.’

The thought hangs like a noose around your neck. You could end this now. Damn yourself to temptation and your own will. Maybe you’ll avoid the Cocoon. Maybe you won’t.
It makes it all hurt so much worse that she remembers this from the start and chooses not to do it.
If you need help, call out to Lila Takeda.




Absolutely not.

This was perfect.
You channel the confidence of the boy-who-was-not-a-boy did. “Could we fix that?”
Extra word.

In conclusion, 1673740194163.png

The Rock Arc Overall

I really enjoyed this one. Being able to read it as a whole definitely added to the experience. Because of that, I may be comparing apples to oranges, but I think this may have been my favorite arc so far. You open with that quote about family being the only rock that stays steady, the only institution that works, and while family has always been one of the primary preoccupations of this story, this arc really delivered on the epigraph. We see Genesis' family failing her in real time, as Cuicatl begins to finally face all the ways her own family failed her. And we see Kekoa, who has been convinced that he was irreparably failed by his family, start to seek out that connection again, as he strengthens his connections to his community.

This a long story, and it's given you some space to stagger arcs. Genesis' comes to a head in this one, a bit as Kekoa's did in the last one. And I suspect Cuicatl and Pixie's might in the next one. Something else that I enjoyed about this arc is that it's becoming more driven by character motivations and the interplay you've set up with the rest of the world. Cuicatl still wants money and Kekoa still wants power, but the journey framework is becoming less and less what propels the story, which creates a richer one. There's a lot I'm looking forward to in arc 5--the Genesis fall-out, what I fear is a inevitable blow-up with Lyra, Pixie and Kalani, Cuicatl's continued untangling of her abuse, Kekoa's search for a new goal, and of course, Plumeria's Plotting.

There's probably something I forgot to cover in this, but it's a bit of a doorstopper by now. Happy to chat further about anything, and see you in Arc 5!
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