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Pokémon Unown Quantity

Unown Quantity

kyeugh

you gotta feel your lines
Staff
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. gfetchd-kyeugh
  3. onion-san
  4. farfetchd
  5. farfetchd

Unown Quantity​

pBLzuZq.jpg

A researcher arrives at the doorstep of one of the last Tanoby with a few questions.
This was written to fulfill the prompt "Tanoby's Descendant" for the 2023 Anniversary Bingo.
Content warnings: none

It was a summer evening when the impostor came knocking, so when Tuku pulled open his front door, he was greeted first by the rush of hot, wet air and the sober notes of kricketune song. Then the stranger came into focus against the black sky, with sharp chin, longish nose and urgent brown eyes.

The door was still opening when he said, “Hello,” in a clear baritone. “I’m Professor Tsukamoto.”

“I’m—,” Tuku began.

“Tuku-shii, right? One of the Tanoby, I understand.” Tuku fought a grimace. “I was told I might find you here. I have a number of questions for you, if you don’t mind—it regards my research, you see. Quite groundbreaking stuff, actually, and I think you might be the—”

“—not prepared to host visitors at the moment, Tsukamoto-san. My sincerest apologies.” He gave a shallow bow. “It’s rather late. Perhaps another time?”

“Oh, no need for hospitality. I’ll be quick.” Tuku opened his mouth to protest, but the professor was already removing his sandals and pushing his way through the doorframe.

“Of course,” Tuku said with a smile, trying his best to conceal his chagrin. “Please, allow me to make you some tea.”

The professor mumbled an affirmation and seated himself at the chabudai. Tuku paced to the kitchen to put on the kettle, and allowed himself a frown once his face was out of the view of the professor.

What a bold and inconsiderate man.

It wasn’t the first time an academic had showed up on his doorstep unannounced to beg him a question or two—Tuku was, he had often been told all too appraisingly, the only Tanoby on this side of the Coronet Highlands—but it was a rare thing for one of them to make it as far as entering his home. Father would have shut the door in the professor’s face, and perhaps Tuku could have done with a touch of that boorishness, but for better or worse, he took more after his mother.

“Oh, a sentret!" the professor exclaimed from the other room. "I’ve never seen one up close… What a cute little thing.”

The water was properly boiling now. Tuku removed it from the heat and began preparing the tea.

“Please don’t mind Usagi—he’s too familiar with strangers for his own good.”

“I don’t mind at all. Very rare indeed to see a sentret in this part of the world.” The professor scooped the little pokémon up and assessed him. The sentret’s bulbous tail hung limp. “Primitive creature, isn’t it?”

“Ah, I don’t know,” Tuku said, finally bringing the tea to the chabudai and sitting opposite the professor. “Who can say what’s primitive and what isn’t? I’ve never seen a human use a swift attack.”

“I take your point,” the professor said. He set Usagi down and eagerly watched Tuku pour his tea. Usagi watched too, shiny black nose twitching. “Now, if you don’t mind…” The professor produced a notepad and pen from his pocket.

“Of course.”

“My research regards the unown, as you may have deduced. To begin, I’d like you to tell me what you know about the unown.”

“Generally?”

“Indeed.”

It was a vague question. Vague questions got vague answers.

“To us they were just like any other pokémon. They’re rather shy, and poor battlers, so we mostly left them alone. They were quite attracted to music, though.”

“Did you ever befriend an unown?” the professor asked.

“No. As I said, they are very timid pokémon. They prefer to avoid humans.”

“I see.” The professor scrawled something onto his notepad. “I will share with you the particular subject of my research. As you know, unown take symbolic forms. It has long been supposed that the Tanoby alphabet is based upon the natural shapes of unown. However, I challenge this assumption. There is much we still don’t understand about pokémon, and it’s my belief that they are, categorically, quite psychically responsive creatures that shift their forms and behaviors over time according to changes in the collective human consciousness. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I’m not sure I do,” Tuku said meekly, taking a small sip of his tea.

“Consider the examples of voltorb, klink, foongus, varoom. Pokémon which take the forms of manufactured objects. Some suppose that these pokémon long predate these inventions and actually serve as inspirations for their designs, but no literature or resources contemporary to their conception suggests this to be the case. What if, instead, these pokémon are newly-formed, birthed in response to the formation of new prominences in the human imagination? Do you understand now?”

“Hmm… Yes, I think I understand.” Tuku said. He tried to relax his shoulders.

“Excellent. I cannot claim credit for this theory—it’s an old one, but not very well-accepted among the scientific community. As for how this relates to unown… Well, I take the position that unown represent the purest and least refined forms of the pokémon kingdom among us. They express the basic shared traits—response to abstract human ideals, and discharge of elemental energy in its simplest form. They are almost viral in nature, wouldn’t you agree? If this quality could be proven in unown, it would lend credence to this theory generally, and could have massive implications for the field of pokémon science.”

Tuku took another sip of his tea. “So you believe that unown did not inspire the alphabet, but were rather inspired by it. And that this is related to the emergence of other pokémon who resemble human creations. I see.” He nodded thoughtfully. This professor was a sharp one, wasn’t he? “I suppose what you want from me is some evidence of some a divergent unown. Some evidence that they have changed further in response to shifts in the human imagination.”

The professor just looked ahead at him expectantly, pen in hand.

“I’m afraid I have nothing useful to offer you. In fact, I have reason to believe otherwise… The Tanoby alphabet has been out of use in this part of the world for many centuries, hasn’t it? Yet their forms have remained the same. There have been no unown taking the form of kanji or katakana, for instance, nor have unown adapted to the Galarian modifications to the old Tanoby alphabet, to my knowledge.” He set his teacup down and bowed slightly. “I am sorry to be of so little use to your research, Tsukamoto-san.”

Tsukamoto was quiet for a moment, pressing his lips into a line and scrawling something slowly into his notepad. Then he looked up and gave a small shrug. “All information is good information,” he said flatly. “I thank you for your time.” He began to rise from his place on the floor, teacup still mostly full.

“Wait,” Tuku said abruptly. “I do have a few small theories of my own about the unown, if you care to hear them.”

The professor lowered himself to the floor again and clicked his pen. “Do tell.”

Tuku suppressed a grin, and mentally recalled an old story his mother had told him in his childhood.



Once, many years ago, there was a great drought that stretched for many years, and the sea goddess Lugia—whose strength came from the rains—became very parched and frail. As a result, the whirlpools that guarded her lair had grown shallow and weak. Distraught by her vulnerable state, Lugia summoned her three children to her cove and told them this:

“Look at this puddle—it is all the water I have left. It is just enough to fill three shells. I have imbued it with my powers, and whoever controls all of the waters shall control me. I beg each of you to take one shell of it and guard it with all your might, and I shall watch over the final portion; if all four of us are conquered, I will be defeated, but so long as one of us perseveres, my powers shall remain intact.”

Lugia’s three children agreed, and each of them gathered up a portion of the waters into a shell and flew to the furthest reaches of the earth to defend it.

The first child, Articuno, flew to the peak of Mount Silver and built herself a fine nest there, basking in the snow. The best defense, she determined, was the defense of nature—let the invaders come, she thought, and let them freeze and starve. No man had crested the peak yet; there were few safer places in this world.

The second child, Zapdos, flew to Fuschia and roosted on its tower. “You,” she called to the ninja master there. “See this shell? I must protect it at all costs. You and your ninjas will help me do this. In return I will grant you my strength. This village has repulsed invaders for many centuries—with our combined powers, no barbarian shall darken your doorstep again.” The ninja master, respecting the strength and grace of the bird, agreed.

The third child, Moltres, did not know what to do. She returned to her home and looked out at the sea anxiously, worrying for her mother, wishing for strength.

One month later, as the drought stretched on, the whirlpools surrounding Lugia’s cove were reduced to nothing more than a lazy current, and a band of human warriors crossed them easily. Lugia bested them nonetheless, but it was too late—they had stolen her shell. Still, she took heart that her children would defend her powers.

One month after that, a lone man on the back of a charizard crested the mighty peak of Mount Silver. With a stab of dread, Articuno realized that while no man had ever ascended the peak, many pokémon had—by the time she realized her error, the dragon had beaten her back with great plumes of flame, and stolen away the shell. She hung her head and wept for a long night, hoping desperately that her sisters would prove stronger.

One month after that, Zapdos was awoken by urgent whispers. The ninja master was there, his face like a mask of stone, and he held by its hair an ashen human head. He informed her that the shell had been stolen. One of the ninjas had traded it away, and his family had been evacuated for protection under a neighboring shōgun, but the ninja himself had been caught. By the time Zapdos was awoken, the traitor had already performed harakiri, but the shell had not been recovered. Zapdos flew into a great rage, and her lightning reduced the forest to ash and killed many pokémon—but there was nothing to be done.

However, in the months and years that followed, no raiders came for the third child, Moltres. With time, the rains returned, and Lugia’s strength was restored. She flew over the land and reclaimed her stolen waters from her captors—bringing with her heavy rain, floods and much devastation—and imbibed the blessed waters. Satisfied, she at last approached Moltres to recover the final portion of her power.

“You have done well to guard my strength so well for so long,” she told her child. “I owe my life to you. But now the time has come to return it to me so that things may return to the way they were.”

“I can’t return it to you,” Moltres admitted, “as I’ve hidden it too well. But don’t worry—no one will ever find it.”

“What have you done with it, then?” Lugia asked, a little curious and a little angered.

“Oh, I dumped it into the sea.”



It was late in the night when the professor at least took his leave, and the tea was all gone; when Tuku opened the door to let the man out, even the kricketune had stopped their soothing lamentations for the night.

“Sorry to have taken so much of your time, Tuku-shii,” the professor said, pulling his jacket close. “But I have little doubt your insights will prove invaluable. You have given me much to consider. Much indeed. I admit a little regret that my pet theory doesn’t seem to carry much water, but that’s the nature of science… Emotions and convictions have no place in it. I have many new directions to seek, though, and I am indebted to you for that. This has been a very productive meeting.”

Tuku smiled gently. “It’s no trouble at all, Tsukamoto-san. I’m pleased to have been any help. I wish you luck in your research endeavors.”

The professor bowed, then took his leave.

Once he was totally sure Tsukamoto was gone, Tuku returned inside and slid the door shut. He waited another quarter-hour for good measure, then said: “You can come out now, Mogi.”

The little unown revealed itself trepidatiously, taking almost a full minute to peek out from its hiding place behind the upper beam of the bedroom shoji screen. Its single, constricted pupil looked to Tuku for reassurance. It was such a timid creature, even for an unown. Tuku had found it loitering outside a tenement in Goldenrod, and it had fled the moment it noticed him. It took the better part of an hour to coax it out of its hiding place, and even then only after Tuku had sung the old songs for it, careful to avoid being overheard. He wondered if it had been picked on as a youngling for its unusual shape.

And its shape was unusual.

“It’s okay, Mogi. He’s really gone. I don’t think he’ll be coming back here for a while.”

The unown understood just a little Kantonian, but Tuku was sure it was enough for it to deduce that the professor had known too much.

“I won’t let anyone take you away or hurt you. You know that.”

Seemingly soothed by Tuku’s reassurances, the unown finally emerged totally from its hiding place, revealing again its unusual form.

“Sus,” Mogi whispered, and Tuku smiled.

“He was a bit, wasn’t he?”


 
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Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. dratini-pen
  3. dratini-pen2
This was such a great read! You did a wonderful job establishing the character voices right off the bat. Unsurprisingly, I was completely taken with the myth section. The cadence is excellence, and I loved the punchline. The theories about pokemon being shaped by human imaginings was a lot of fun. I was . . . not expecting where it went at the end, but I guess it's not a kyeugh fic without a pinch of humor! It's a sweet and funny mental image to end on.

I initially thought Tuku himself was going to be an unown or something of that nature. I do wonder, since it is the case that the professor's theory is correct, why no one's reported running into new unown shapes before. I also wasn't entirely sure how the Lugia story fit in thematically. I guess it stands for the idea that the best way to hide something is to put it among a lot of things that look like it. And that's what Tuku does--to hide that the professor's theory is actually correct, he gives a ton of other unown theories. Okay, that makes sense now that I've thought it through! I think it's the placement that's throwing me--Tuku thinks of the story before he knows that the professor has an accurate unown theory. I wonder if you could find a way to slide it in after the professor has shared his theory and before Tuku starts his unown-theory infodumping? That might make the connection more apparent.

Regardless, a super enjoyable read. I'm excited to see your other fills!

Line responses:

Then the stranger came into focus against the black sky, with sharp chin, longish nose and urgent brown eyes.
You know I'm here for any fic that starts with a stranger showing up at the door.

“Tuku-shii, right? One of the Tanoby, I understand.” Tuku fought a grimace. “I was told I might find you here. I have a number of questions for you, if you don’t mind—it regards my research, you see. Quite groundbreaking stuff, actually, and I think you might be the—”

“—not prepared to host visitors at the moment, Tsukamoto-san. My sincerest apologies.” He gave a shallow bow. “It’s rather late. Perhaps another time?”

“Oh, no need for hospitality. I’ll be quick.” Tuku opened his mouth to protest, but the professor was already removing his sandals and pushing his way through the doorframe.

“Of course,” Tuku said with a smile, trying his best to conceal his chagrin. “Please, allow me to make you some tea.”
I could hear these lines of dialogue in my head! Very nicely done.

The second child, Zapdos, flew to Fuschia and roosted on its tower. “You,” she called to the ninja master there. “See this shell? I must protect it at all costs. You and your ninjas will help me do this. In return I will grant you my strength. This village has repulsed invaders for many centuries—with our combined powers, no barbarian shall darken your doorstep again.” The ninja master, respecting the strength and grace of the bird, agreed.
Ooh, I haven't considered a Zapdos/Fuschia connection before. Cool idea. I'd love to see this illustrated.

The third child, Moltres, did not know what to do. She returned to her home and looked out at the sea anxiously, worrying for her mother, wishing for strength.
Baby!

“I can’t return it to you,” Moltres admitted, “as I’ve hidden it too well. But don’t worry—no one will ever find it.”

“What have you done with it, then?” Lugia asked, a little curious and a little angered.

“Oh, I dumped it into the sea.”
Amazing!

I was going to comment on the parallel with Lord of the Rings, but you haven't read/seen it, I think?

“Generally?”

“Indeed.”

It was a vague question. Vague questions got vague answers.
Heh, Tuku is extremely done.

“I suppose what you want from me is some evidence of some a divergent unown.
Typo here.
 

Negrek

komorebi
Staff
This is a delightful little fic! Been meaning to read it for awhile, and I’m glad Catnip gave me the nudge to do so.

The concept of Pokémon taking forms based on human culture is a super fun one. Like the professor said, a take I’ve heard now and again, but not one I’ve seen much done with, so it was fun to have this one-shot center on it. Like Pen, I didn’t initially get how the folktale fit with the rest of the story, but “hiding something amidst a bunch of identical-looking but worthless things” is pretty much what Tuku’s doing here, sure. I enjoyed that both the folktale and the larger story end with humorous twists.

It does seem like if sus has become unownified, there’s gotta be a poop emoji floating around out there somewhere (imagine that being your life) as well as a whole bunch of other novel/modern unown forms as well. It stretches belief a little, but who knows, maybe there’s a Tanoby or two in every region keeping tabs on things…

I enjoy protagonists who can get things over on people despite being the extremely mild tea-drinking sort by nature. Tuku’s ploy here sounds like exactly the sort of thing that would throw a researcher off the trail. It’s a short one-shot, but I think you captured the characters’ personalities very well within that space. All in all, this is a really fun one-shot that touches on some very interesting Pokémon worldbuilding. Thanks for posting it!

Brief nitpicks:

As a result, the whirlpools that guarded her lair had grown shallow and weak
Not technically incorrect, but I think “grew” would sound better here?

She flew over the land and reclaimed her stolen waters from her captors—bringing with her heavy rain, floods and much devastation—and imbibed the blessed waters.
I think it would be “their” captors rather than “her” captors.

But now the time has come to return it to me so that things may return to the way they were
Maybe look at rephrasing to avoid the double “return”?

I suppose what you want from me is some evidence of some a divergent unown
Extraneous “some.”

It was late in the night when the professor at least took his leave, and the tea was all gone; when Tuku opened the door to let the man out, even the kricketune had stopped their soothing lamentations for the night.
*at last
 
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