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Thread: Anima Ex Machina (PG-15)

  1. #226
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    Oh geez... It's been, what, nearly a year since I last reviewed? Well, this is still as good as I remember, if not better. I'm still working on catching up, but so far it's blown me away. Again. This fic is just... amazing. It literally has everything a reader could ask for in it, and more, and just makes me want to read it even more :c kudos to you Jax, for writing this masterpiece.

  2. #227
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    I am highly excited about this. I haven't had this much fun reading a 'something other than Pokémon in the Pokémon world' fic in a long time, and you've pulled it off well. Character development has been good, while the plot has not ceased to intrigue me. There is one thing that's been bothering me, however:

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine
    Before he could continue, Bill brought his hands up to rub his wrists. He couldn't imagine why this would be such a bad idea until one hand actually touched the other. As soon as he did, he heard a clack and felt something that couldn't have been right.

    Looking down sharply, he examined his fingers. Somehow, while he was asleep, his skin had turned into metal plates, overlapping each other at the joints like the limbs of a suit of armor. His fingertips were no longer the round, fleshy things he remembered. They were now sharp, curved claws. Turning one of his hands over, he found the round hemisphere of a garnet embedded in his palm. In it, he caught sight of his reflection: a gaunt face, fangs just visible in his open mouth, short, bristly hair, and horns – a pair of rounded horns shaped like cat ears on either side of his skull.

    Now, Bill had always felt that he was a decently rational person. He would get excited about a success or a recent discovery or a new pokémon in the index, but he wasn't the kind of person to be jumping and shouting over it. Likewise, although he had seen quite a lot of things that would have shocked a normal person – such as, for example, the complete destruction of his lighthouse's beacon by a giant pokémon – he wasn't the kind of person to experience a total meltdown.

    Of course, waking up to discover that his hands were made of metal was an unusual circumstance, and as such, it deserved an unusual response. With a cry, Bill jolted backwards, scrambling in an effort to get away from his own hand. In doing so, he could feel his feet and torso dig into the mattress and the foam stuffing flowing out against his metal skin. Looking down, he caught another glimpse of something that caused his voice to catch in his throat. His entire torso was made of overlapping plates of metal, and beyond that, his feet no longer looked remotely human. Inhaling shakily, Bill extended one of his legs and examined it carefully. It looked somewhat normal, although the calf stopped a few inches shorter. Right after where it ended, another joint led into a broad, reptilian foot. Swallowing, he tried to move his toes, only to see the three claws on the appendage flex.
    By this description, Bill is 100% metal exterior, even if it is capable of sensing in a manner similar to skin. I may be picturing him wrong, but I'm visualizing essentially, from in to out, skeleton, musculature, nervous and veinal systems and then steel plating. Exoskeleton around upper body, thighs, lower legs and upper arms all in ribbed plate, while that around the skull, face, abdomen and tail is of a smoother type which is possibly less hard, but still metallic.

    My curiosity is aroused by:

    Quote Originally Posted by Chapter 7 End
    "Should we kill it?" he asked.

    Jenny shook her head. "I've got a better idea."

    She swung her arm. The barrel of her gun cracked against the side of Bill's head, sending him sprawling into the ground. Once again, his vision darkened, and he found himself quickly slipping into unconsciousness.
    as well as another scene (which I would locate save that I am running out of time and have already reread half of the fic without locating it) in which Bill's face is cut by something that shouldn't have affected metal in any way.

    Suffice to say, my question is: is he really metal, or is his facial skin softer than the rest of him? And how could he get knocked out by a blow to the head? Even electrocuted or what have you, the reason steel-types are preferred over rock-types is their ability to handle physical blows and strikes.

    Anyways.

    Loving this, as I said. Oddly, I found myself thinking of pokémorphs more than anything as I read this. I look forward to the next installment.

  3. #228
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    Hnnnnnng like Matt so much feelings for this chapter. ;_;

    The way you have Lanette and Brigette's interaction be all innocent at first and then have it switched to Brigette slowly turned to an ixoidia is quite tense. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Lanette not wanting to kill her sister and can't blame her for that. With that said, oh no poor Mr. Briney. :< The backstory also made more sense as to why she didn't want to grow too attached to Bill. And of course, d'aww Bill apologizing to her. Touching moment there.

    One other thing I quite like is your use of Trick Room. Quite a creative way to have it used to show past events. Trick Room should be used more that way, lol. XD

    Another great chapter here Jax along with messing with my heartstrings here, lol. Still looking forward to the next chapter!
    Last edited by Bay; 5th February 2012 at 12:46 AM.


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  4. #229

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    Wow, I don't even know what to say about this chapter.

    I really didn't expect this kind of revelation. I'm a fan on how you used Trick Room! This Trick Room just seems a lot more mysterious and actually scary in comparison to the game mechanics I'm used to. There are so many possibilities with this kind of attack. I can't help but think the Trick Room here (or maybe even Solrock) serve as a container for Lanette's memories, ala Harry Potter mode.

    That scene in the truck had me cracking up so much. I mean, it's not like I didn't suspect these kinds of feelings, but hearing the banter from Brigette and reading Lanette's and Bill's reactions just made it all the better.

    The rest of the flashback was just... deep. I suspected Brigette to be killed by ixodida but become one? I didn't expect that. Then to end up being killed in such a way must have been horrible, so it's no surprise Lanette was trying to be as distant as possible after that.

    I don't know if I can say any more because I can't think anything else other than, "Oh my God, what just happened...?". I'll just leave you with the assurance that this chapter was so intense, in a good way, and I can't wait to read what follows. Awesome job!

    - Kat


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  5. #230
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    Oh wow. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you guys. @_@ I'll do my best to get to all your comments~!

    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post
    (Is still trying to catch up though)
    Take your time. ;D Not much happened in that chapter anyway, though, so it's all good!

    So I remember the first reading around I was rather surprised that Nettle was actually a member of Team Rocket. Of course, by then I already had her on my “To Hate List” that I didn’t really care much, but it still shocked me.
    Awesome! \o/ I think I mentioned in one of my other review responses that I was a little bit uncertain about Nettle because I thought it would come off as too obvious that, yeah, she's totally on the villains' side. So it's always good to hear that people really don't suspect that she's that bad.

    Poor girl. The whole thing seems so creepy. And can’t they manage to give her some clothes??
    Nope! 8D

    Seriously, I think at first, they'd give her a gown or something, but when she stops looking like she's human from the neck down, then they'd probably not bother, especially since Ixodida are intensely violent during the transformation stages (so she'd just rip any semblance of clothing off one way or another anyway). I could throw in a mention of that in the edit blitz… or we can just continue to be amused by the implication that she's completely naked.

    You see? She was pissed because you were studying her while she was naked. Reminds me of an old saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s wrath.” Considering Lanette, Pandora, Queen of Ixodida, Veronica…Yep, I don’t think it would be too out of line of me to say that this saying has some meaning in this story.
    …You know, now that you mention it, it is rather funny that every single woman in this fic except Ellen, Hope, and Julie (the latter of whom doesn't count) is incredibly pissed off, violent, or calculating for one reason or another. I really don't know what this says about my view on women.

    On the positive side, all of the men are womanizing, idiotic, stuck-up, overstressed, dependent on women, and Bill, so whatever the female cast members have to say about my view on women is apparently better than what the male cast members have to say about my view on men. (No offense, guys!)

    ….Do I see a spelling mistake? Or am I just imagining that the “she’d” should be a “he’d”?
    Professor Oak got a sex change at some point. Thanks for that! It'll be fixed the next time I edit!

    At least until we get a new game. XD You might end up having to edit your story for all eternity. Or until Pokémon ends. Whichever comes first.
    Haha, or until I finally finish it. And then whatever number the Ixodida land on by that time is going to be their permanent number, regardless of how many other 'mon we get after that. It'll be like reading all that old, awesome fic written in the Gen I/Gen II period! \o/

    There’s a C form, too. Unlike the others, it did end up getting an official name: Chuck Norris.
    Pretty much. *nods*

    And Bill's going to form-change into it eventually.

    Which would probably be something like:

    Bill: *RAGE RAGE!!*NOOO! I’M OUT OF TEA!!! *RAGE RAGE!!*

    Lanette: Bill…sit.

    Bill: Yes ma’am ;~;
    I'm extremely amused by this mental image. XD Because yes, that's exactly how it would go down.

    Interesting. If Bill was considered a patient, it would be impossible, due to ethical codes, for a family member to be a part of his rehabilitation. But I’m assuming Bill is, in this instance, considered a specimen, which would kind of throw out ethics…
    Pretty much, yeah, he's considered a subject and not a patient.

    That and the Committee isn't entirely sticking to Earth's code of ethics in all scenarios. ;D

    It’s funny, but I keep forgetting that they have video phones in the Pokémon world.
    Totally A-OK. It's pretty much only used whenever Ash needs to switch out Pokémon these days. I sort of miss the old days when he used to call his mom all the time, and we'd get interesting backstory/development out of it. (Sort of like that time Ash's mom shared tidbits about his father in the second episode.)

    And to think I saved you a seat in the gutter…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLTZc...eature=related

    (Yes, this totally needs to be watched instead of said.)

    They had no choice but to sacrifice continuity for the sake of making more LOLZ COTD.
    Pretty much.

    Hey, whatever floats your sailor studded boat. Am I right?
    ;_;

    Now, if we were talking about these kinds of sailors, I wouldn't mind quite as much. *shot!*

        Spoiler:- SPOILER:
    XD Pretty much.

    No, seriously. Sorry about that. ^ ^;
    Haha, don't worry about it. In fact… EXTRA COOKIE for making me quote myself. ;D

    But speaking of dangerous/dark/evil stuff, I ate at the cafeteria the other day while they were serving “Oriental Beef”, as they called it. For every bite I took, it meowed.
    Oh, cafeteria food. I do not miss that at all. *sage nod*

    (College food only gets marginally better. You might as well start cooking for yourself, really.)

    ….Move to Scotland? XD
    Tempting~!

    I almost spat out my water at this, which would have been horrible as it would have gotten my computer wet.
    An appropriate reaction. XD That chapter just has crack on top of crack, and best of all, the art looks pretty.

    I’ll look around. I heard it also has a lot of suggestive stuff in it. Is it designed with adults in mind or something?
    Sort of. See, the artist behind it was actually a pretty well-known hentai artist, so a lot of stuff that got into the original was just there because without it, it'd be a lot like watching a movie made by Tim Burton that has none of the weird, creepy fantasy elements he's known for. So instead you get the equivalent of seeing a Tim Burton film with the weird, creepy shenanigans in the background.

    That's been filtered heavily thanks to American censorship, assuming you're looking at the Viz version.

    Seriously, if you read this comic, try to find a translation. Viz went out of their way to edit out a lot of the blatant fanservice and questionable content Ono put in, but luckily, that was largely only the character designs (large boobs, Misty in less than a Speedo, and so forth). There were a few other bits that got edited further (like May, Gary's sister, fully clothed and lying in a bed while tucking Ash in because he's having a "my babysitter is hot" fantasy), but really, those bits, Viz was in the right for editing. Also, they don't affect the story in any way. That's one good thing about this translation. Really, Viz didn't change anything – dialogue or what-have-you. So, you can still get what's going on, and what's getting across is still pretty much what was in the original. You're just missing the missile-boobs, and that's about it.

    So I guess the answer to your question is it's got suggestive stuff in it, but I'm not sure if it was explicitly designed for adults. Pokémon manga in Japan tends to be… weirder than what we get over here. (Let's not talk about the Pocket Monsters manga for the sake of everyone's sanity, but to put it in short, Electric Tale is pretty tame in comparison.)

    And yet she still ends up saving you from getting sucked into outer space. So the question that remains is: who was worse when it came to killing you? Female sociopath or male schizophrenic?
    Ah, but Wheatley was sociopathic at some point too, so…!

    I had a feeling that you were the owner.
    Naturally. ;D Only I would be crazy enough to spend that much time on fangirling Bill.

    So is acid.
    No, no. The only one in that family who does psychedelic substances is—

    Actually, wait, you heard nothing.

    THE BIRD IS THE WORD.
    *goes to YouTube*

    ….

    *decides against this course of action*

    Valentine may not
    Like poetry, but guess what?
    I do. VERY MUCH.

    Granted, I don’t need
    To rhyme in Haiku, so it’s
    a bit easier.
    *counts syllables on her fingers and is mightily impressed*

    I’ll take your word for it…But if:

    JOHN vs. LANETTE

    Ever happens, my money is on Lanette and, by extension, her crowbar.
    Alternatively, John woos her over successfully, and Bill stands on the sidelines, quietly angsting to himself.

    And then John woos Veronica for good measure.

    SAILOR STUDDED BOAT.
    D8

    On that note…man, John. He must go to extremes with S and M.
    Oh yes. He's into all kinds of freaky things.

    …YOU HEARD NOTHING.

    Do you really?
    Absolutely, man! Tastiest part.

    Well in THAT case…
        Spoiler:- CAUTION: Spam:
    I'm surprised you didn't just keep going. XD

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Wow... that was, wow.
    *bows*

    I'm honestly glad that we got to see this, some clarification about Lanette, her past and the glimpse of her past relationship with her sister and Bill. For some reason, throughout the entire chapter, I kept imagining what scenes would look like in a graphic novel and how they would be set out in the panels and such, it was pretty fun.
    That would actually be awesome. Anima Ex Machina: The Comic.

    ….

    Hey, Diddy! You can draw decent ponies, right? *SHOVES THIS TASK ON YOU*

    ….

    Which now makes me think of My Little Ixodida. This is why I should not be writing review responses at ungodly hours.

    I believe I was vastly too "just-woken-up" to find the references, but it's been a while since I watched Madoka anyway. Nothing else jumped out at me as something reference-esque so it's either I'm not paying enough attention or I'm not familiar with the source material. I'm not very good at this game D:
    To put it in short (as if you didn't read my LJ/DW entry or anything), Lanette should be reminding you strongly of a certain dark-haired Ice Queen magical girl.

    That and the scene where she wakes up is meant to mirror the one where said dark-haired Ice Queen magical girl wakes up in episode ten.

    Or in other words, this is just one contract away from being full of "OH GOD WHY."

    I got chills, man.
    Mission accomplished! \o/

    And then you end it with a "hug it out" moment, where I can only imagine Lanette sobbing her hate and anger into Bill's shoulder, yet doing nothing to release herself from his iron grip.
    Yep, that's pretty much what happened after the scene faded out.

    Now here comes the question of whether or not she'll get any closer to Bill than this. Or if she'll show her vulnerable side more often.

    (Hint: The answer to both of these questions is no.)

    Great chapter. I want to hug Bill and Lanette as well!
    Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    The fact you're quoting Madoka Magica at the very beginning frightens me, Jax. What am I getting into?
    Awesome things. ;D

    First question: was there another timeskip? It feels like there might have been.
    There actually wasn't. It's more of a scene shift, really. Put it this way. The last chapter ended with Bill carrying Tate through the woods, but the first part of this chapter is still Bill carrying Tate through the woods. The time that's elapsing between Bill's start point and his end point is pretty much embodied with the lengthy opening paragraphs about how each of the Caravan members are standing guard/doing something quietly.

    Lots of description here, but you did well avoiding the possible danger of repetition, so it didn't feel grueling to get through at all. Good use of Steven's Metagross, too.
    Thank you on all counts, including the part about Steven's Metagross. I have to admit, I was slightly worried about that bit, and I swear, the characters' Pokémon are going to be more than just literally furniture soon enough.

    Simply adorable. A beacon of hope (heh) in the middle of hell like this shouldn't be this cute.
    Oh, but she totally should. ;D It's like comic relief, only less annoying!

    I'll stop you here for a minute.

    I would totally read a spinoff about Hope before the disaster.
    Ask and ye shall receive!

    Anyway, ordinarily usage of Japanese in an English story would put me off, but you set it up properly, so I like it here. I think I've said that before, actually.
    Thank you! And rest assured, it's going to be a plot point.

    Also, it's a good thing you mentioned the Japanese here. One of the things I forgot to point out in my DW/LJ post about things that people didn't pick up on yet is that line.

        Spoiler:- Because…:


    Oh ****. Peace couldn't last, could it?
    NOPE. Not in this fic, anyway.

    This is gonna be serious, isn't it? Sure feels that way...
    Absolutely. ;D

    Awwww **** Bill. When are you going to learn to not act suspiciously around people who don't trust you?

    Or is Adam beginning to rub off on him more?
    Haha, nope, that's just Bill being Bill. (Read: Completely oblivious to social appropriateness.)

    I don't really care for the use of "burden" here. It feels a little awkward, and it made me have to read it a couple of times to absorb it properly.
    I think here the description could have been a bit better. I get that you were trying to make Tate be a surprise, but the awkward wording of the previous bit makes it a bit hard to understand just what it was he's carrying without being explicitly told. It would be better if the reader could reasonably guess who it was before; maybe saying something about Tate's clothing could help.[/quote]

    Totally a valid comment, and I do agree. I just couldn't find a better word at that moment, but I'll give it another shot and see what happens when I abuse my thesaurus a little.

    Always so calculating. Not entirely sure Steven and Wallace are gonna take this well though...
    Better than you'd imagine for at least one of those parties. *whistles innocently and nudges away the implied love triangle*

    Interesting. I hadn't really thought of the idea that Nurse Joys don't all have the same training, but again, since you're talking about the field, it's something I wouldn't have even come near.
    Pretty much, yeah. I mean, they all receive the same education, but what they do with it and what kinds of experiences they get from it are widely different. It's sort of like how not all real-life doctors are the same in every single city, what with having to deal with different people. You'd still get the same care, but a doctor used to treating middle-class, suburban people probably won't know what to do if forced to treat people in a third-world nation ridden with disease and malnutrition.

    I wonder what those would be. Suspicious...
    *whistles innocently*

    UH OH. Steven moving in on Bill's turf? Adam isn't gonna stand for this!
    Haha, absolutely. ;D

    In fact, for kicks, the relationship chart!

        Spoiler:- Cut just in case you want to figure all of this out yourself.:


    Not entirely sure Steven would complain if he couldn't battle out there.... (kidding)
    ;D

    I'm not sure what to think here. Something's different, but what is it? Why is Hope so stunned?
    When is Hope not stunned? XD

    She has an odd way of interacting with her friends.
    Haha, if you can call their relationship that.

    Are you complaining, Bill?
    When is Bill not complaining? ;D

    No, he does when with you. /runs
    Luckily, he's got built-in protection with that form. Unfortunately, by "protection," I mean "pelvis that doubles as a knife," but.

    Don't kneel down, Bill. Don't ****ing do it now you son of a *****.
    Haha, save that for the epilogue.

    Oh ****. This is going in a completely different direction than I expected.
    Mission accomplished! \o/

    And to think I feel the same way right now...
    It's pretty awesome that you feel that connected to a character. …Mostly because I feel pretty awesome that I got across those emotions to the point where a reader can do that. Thanks!

    Creative use of Trick Room,
    Thank you~! I always have fun thinking up alternate uses for moves. (Unfortunately, I had to fudge this a little. This borrows canon more from Special than the anime or games, but mostly, I just wanted Bill to see physically what happened to Lanette and realized belatedly that I gave her a psychic Pokémon that isn't actually able to use Hypnosis. Side point: why can Solrock learn Dream Eater, then? Seriously.)

    Ohhhhhhh boy. This one is gonna be interesting...
    Oh, it will be. ;D

    Okay, that got a spit-take and a good laugh. Good job.
    Thank you! Also, that will probably be the closest thing you'll get to a confession from either of them.

    I like this Lanette. Can we at least know why this Lanette isn't around anymore?
    Oh, you will. ;D

    If only Brigette was still around now...
    Oh, the irony of this line.

    Oh this is gonna be grim. The seatbelt's going on now.
    *cackles* Gooood plan there.

    It's about to get horrible, isn't it?
    Well, this is one of my fics, so… yes. Very quickly.

    Now that's not what I expected. Didn't even think they'd manage to get this far.

    OH GOD NO IT'S WORSE THAN I THOUGHT
    \o/

    NO

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO THIS IS WORSE THAN ANYTHING I EVER EXPECTED WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS

    /Mami getting chewed.gif
    trollface.jpg

    I can't take this anymore. This is ****ing agonizing...
    It's sort of hilarious that you chose to split the review right here. Even though I don't have sigs enabled, I took one look at the end there and went, "**** **** **** he's serious!"

    Nice job at trolling me right back. XD

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    This is gonna go where I think, isn't it. She's gonna ask her to end this, isn't she?
    Yep. Because as much as I love messing with y'all, I've got to throw in some clichés here and there for the sake of "this is a homage to everything ever."

    Oh God... at least it's finally over...
    Oh, if only (for Lanette).

    Damn it, Jax. Why did it have to come out like this?
    Because only the most extreme options would be able to shut Bill up. Maybe. Or make him more insistent when it comes to his efforts to repair his relationship with Lanette.

    My mind is full of feelings, Jax. Completely full of feelings.
    Awesome~!

    That was the most gut-wrenching thing I've read in a very, very long time. I knew Lanette's backstory would be bad, but I never expected once that it was going to be this painful to read. Those scenes of Brigette slowly being lost to the parasite were absolutely agonizing and horribly sad. I felt like I'd start bawling as it was going.

    You did good, Jax. You did damn good and it's bringing tears to my eyes.
    Thanks very much! It seriously means a lot to me to hear that you were affected that much by something I wrote. Seriously, that is a massive compliment for a writer, and it really makes me proud.

    Quote Originally Posted by 11tjcoulombe View Post
    Oh geez... It's been, what, nearly a year since I last reviewed?
    XD Totally cool. Welcome back, by the by! I was wondering where you went off to!

    Well, this is still as good as I remember, if not better. I'm still working on catching up, but so far it's blown me away. Again. This fic is just... amazing. It literally has everything a reader could ask for in it, and more, and just makes me want to read it even more :c kudos to you Jax, for writing this masterpiece.
    Thank you! I really appreciate all of that.

    And this fic shall continue for some time, too!

    Quote Originally Posted by October Winds View Post
    I am highly excited about this. I haven't had this much fun reading a 'something other than Pokémon in the Pokémon world' fic in a long time, and you've pulled it off well.
    Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying it!

    Suffice to say, my question is: is he really metal, or is his facial skin softer than the rest of him?
    This is a very good question because it's always difficult for me to describe exactly what he looks like. To put it in short, basically, all Ixodida look like monsters and their type below the neck. They each have human faces as part of a defense/predatory mechanism (because they operate on the assumption that an uninfected human would pause if they saw the face of someone they knew or something that looked human as well), and the rest of the head tends to be a mix of both. For example, Brigette's scalp when she died had the traits of a Grass-type's skin, so if you just hit her head with a Poison Sting, for example, she would take the same damage as a Grass-type. In Bill's case, it's actually a rather nasty Achilles' heel because, in order to have human skin on his face and in order to grow hair (which, incidentally, is more like very thin wires), the rest of his head is more of a spectrum, with his scalp being a softer metal than the rest of his body. Think "aluminum foil" soft. So with a hard enough blow to the head, it's possible to knock him out. The rest of his body definitely can endure hard hits, however, and if he has Iron Defense up, he probably could take a few to the head too (because it's like he's coating his entire body with a suit of armor… made of light or energy or what-have-you). Just not so much when he's defending himself without any preparations.

    As for electrocution, that's the downside of being a walking lightning rod. XD His particular type combination is actually 1x weak/resistant to Electric-type attacks, so it's very easy to cook his innards.

    Seriously, though, awesome question!

    Loving this, as I said. Oddly, I found myself thinking of pokémorphs more than anything as I read this. I look forward to the next installment.
    Thank you very much! And it's totally cool that you started thinking of Pokémorphs while you were reading. I always like to think that if you squint hard enough, this story is about 'morphs… just a different kind of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Hnnnnnng like Matt so much feelings for this chapter. ;_;
    \o/

    With that said, oh no poor Mr. Briney. :<
    Yeah, I know. ;_; I wanted to make his appearance be more epic because he was actually the leader of the Caravan back then, but I ran out of time and space.

    The backstory also made more sense as to why she didn't want to grow too attached to Bill. And of course, d'aww Bill apologizing to her. Touching moment there.
    Aww, thank you! He's really a sentimental character sometimes, and I love writing the moments when he is.

    Quite a creative way to have it used to show past events. Trick Room should be used more that way, lol. XD
    *bows* And inorite? Moves in general need to be used more creatively in canon. I miss the days when the anime pulled shenanigans like Pikachu Thundershocking a sprinkler system to take advantage of Onix's weakness to water, Meowth using two buckets of water as a Water Gun, and Sabrina's Kadabra using Psychic to attack Pikachu with an electric dragon. Those were the awesome days.

    Another great chapter here Jax along with messing with my heartstrings here, lol. Still looking forward to the next chapter!
    Thank you~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    I really didn't expect this kind of revelation.
    *cackles madly*

    I'm a fan on how you used Trick Room! This Trick Room just seems a lot more mysterious and actually scary in comparison to the game mechanics I'm used to.
    Thank you! And agreed. The games just never really go into detail about how these moves work, and that makes me frownie-face.

    I can't help but think the Trick Room here (or maybe even Solrock) serve as a container for Lanette's memories, ala Harry Potter mode.
    That is an awesome comparison, and that may just be fic-canon now.

    That scene in the truck had me cracking up so much. I mean, it's not like I didn't suspect these kinds of feelings, but hearing the banter from Brigette and reading Lanette's and Bill's reactions just made it all the better.
    *bows* You should've heard them when they were all together and sane and not infected. ;D (In fact, I'm thinking "special prequel one-shot." Y/N?)

    I don't know if I can say any more because I can't think anything else other than, "Oh my God, what just happened...?". I'll just leave you with the assurance that this chapter was so intense, in a good way, and I can't wait to read what follows. Awesome job!
    Thank you! I hope I don't disappoint!
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 9th February 2012 at 9:05 PM.

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    That would actually be awesome. Anima Ex Machina: The Comic.

    ….

    Hey, Diddy! You can draw decent ponies, right? *SHOVES THIS TASK ON YOU*

    ….

    Which now makes me think of My Little Ixodida. This is why I should not be writing review responses at ungodly hours.
    I remember at about seven pm on Christmas Eve I said to myself, I want to draw a Bill Pony for Jax, but I just didn't get around to it xD

    I want to do it again now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    I remember at about seven pm on Christmas Eve I said to myself, I want to draw a Bill Pony for Jax, but I just didn't get around to it xD

    I want to do it again now.
    I would love you forever if you did.

    ...What would his cutie mark even be? A Poké Ball?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    I would love you forever if you did.

    ...What would his cutie mark even be? A Poké Ball?
    No, he has Tron Lines all over himself. He fights for the Users.

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    *arises from the dead*

    I swear I will be more active with reviewing.

    CURSE YOU REAL LIFE! (*smashes multiple expensive objects in uncontrolled fury*)

    ...Anyway!

    First off - loved the Christmas special, even if I read it a few months late XD Hilarious!
    As I've said, I will castrate him.
    Ooh, new vocabulary word!
    *looks up in dictionary*
    Ohhh...that’s what it means...

    R.I.P.
    The innocence of GastlyMan
    1993-2012

    
XD

    Unfortunately, Adam wasn't nearly as forgiving. What are you doing? You cannot let all our prey go!

    "Well, I can't very well kill it when it's looking at me!"

    Bill. They will all be looking at you when you kill them.

    "Exactly!"
    Lol, poor Bill doesn’t want to kill the Kecleon. I suppose I wouldn’t want to, either...but that’s extremely funny.

    Steven followed her for a few steps, leaving Wallace behind with Tate in his arms. "Lanette, would you like someone to keep you company?"

    She turned to him and flashed him a look. Bill froze, noticing right away that it was softer than usual, that her voice was a little more gentle than the one she used with him.

    "Thank you, but no," she answered. "Concern yourself with protecting the camp and tending to Tate, please. Those two tasks are far more important than what I have to do."

    Again...Poor Bill.

    And wow, that was a really cool idea, using Trick Room to travel into Lanette’s past. Really, really cool. I absolutely loved that part.

    And just like that, he was running again. He didn't think twice about it. It didn't even occur to him that there was no way he could do a thing to save either of the sisters, and it certainly didn't occur to him that, logically, he had no reason to rush to Lanette's aid anyway if she still existed in the present. His body just moved on instinct, carried him closer to danger when he would have normally run in the opposite direction. All he could think about at that moment was the second cry. An ixodida. An ixodida was attacking, and as he considered that, Bill could think of a thousand different possibilities as to what he would be confronting in a matter of seconds.
    Also, interesting how this affected Bill so much that he essentially forgot that he was in a memory.

    Swablu’s evolution was so cool! But wow at what happened to Brigette. I mean, I could sense something bad was going to happen at that point, but still...wow. It’s sort of like what happens to Bill, with Adam occasionally taking over, but worse. And then what happened after that...I can really see how that influenced Lanette to act how she does now. Poor Lanette.

    Keep up the good work! This is getting even more exciting! ^^
    I'll be online on weekends, mostly, and as often as I can.

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    Chapter 3: Should be up by December 31st.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GastlyMan View Post
    *arises from the dead*
    So many jokes I could make here, most of which involve Jesus. But I want to be nice today.

    CURSE YOU REAL LIFE! (*smashes multiple expensive objects in uncontrolled fury*)
    I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. ;_; Why do things like the things that pay us get in the way of fun times?

    First off - loved the Christmas special, even if I read it a few months late XD Hilarious!
    Thank you! It was a blast producing all of that, even the one I recorded by myself. XD (Although fun fact: I lost my voice briefly after recording Domino's parts. Holy crap, I never knew speaking like that for an hour would do terrible things to a person's throat.)

    Ooh, new vocabulary word!
    *looks up in dictionary*
    Ohhh...that’s what it means...

    R.I.P.
    The innocence of GastlyMan
    1993-2012
    I love corrupting readers! 8D

    Lol, poor Bill doesn’t want to kill the Kecleon. I suppose I wouldn’t want to, either...but that’s extremely funny.
    Haha, yeah. Poor guy's probably going to end up starving himself at the rate he's going. Also? That Kecleon's totally a recurring character now. (*pauses and waits to hear Absol scream*)

    And wow, that was a really cool idea, using Trick Room to travel into Lanette’s past. Really, really cool. I absolutely loved that part.
    Thank you! \o/ Like I said in my last response, it's always a lot of fun coming up with alternate uses for random moves. It makes working with Pokémon particularly exciting.

    Also, interesting how this affected Bill so much that he essentially forgot that he was in a memory.
    Yep. He really does care about Lanette (and Brigette of course too). *pets him* Too bad he can't figure out exactly what this means himself.

    Swablu’s evolution was so cool!
    Thanks! It's my personal belief that if you're going to have a Pokémon evolve, you might as well make it one of the highlights of a chapter, amirite? ;D

    But wow at what happened to Brigette. I mean, I could sense something bad was going to happen at that point, but still...wow. It’s sort of like what happens to Bill, with Adam occasionally taking over, but worse. And then what happened after that...I can really see how that influenced Lanette to act how she does now. Poor Lanette.
    Exactly on all counts. And this is why it seriously sucks to be a drone. Monarchs (like Bill) at least have the option of turning rogue or being sane, relatively stable Ixodida. Drones like Brigette, meanwhile, just go feral and attempt to kill anything within reach (unless a monarch tells them otherwise).

    Keep up the good work! This is getting even more exciting! ^^
    Thank you! Working on chapter 26, and I'm hoping it'll be a decent follow-up to all of this. One of the bad things about writing a chapter like this one? Being terrified that the next scene would be considered mood whiplash. ._. But we shall see~!

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    A little Valentine's Day gift that certainly isn't almost a week late or anything.

    Also, this may or may not be semi-canonical, unlike the other specials which totally did not happen according to the characters. I also may or may not have stolen something from Sailor Moon.

    Lastly, if you want to see any chapter extras at the end of chapters or in random separate posts (and I'm talking things like character profiles, detailed explanations of things I might not cover in the story -- basically the things you might've seen on the Extra Series on my LJ, only updated and posted here), let me know because I was debating on whether or not I should do something like that.


    Anima Ex Machina
    Special 04: I'm not sorry.


    "Attract." Lanette arched an eyebrow. "Really, Bill?"

    Across the Caravan's campgrounds, Bill reached down and grasped his ankles in a stretch. "Don't make fun of it. It's the best tactic I could come up with that doesn't harm my target."

    "Why couldn't you just learn a low-damage move that has a high chance of inflicting a condition? You know there's a large number of them, and very few of them have the capability of inflicting serious injury on a victim."

    A long pause hung between them. In the silence, the other members of the Caravan gathered on the edge of the makeshift battlefield to watch. Thom sat in front of the others with a bag of popcorn, into which both he and Veronica reached every so often. At the same time, Bill straightened to his full height and stared at his partner until, finally, he shrugged.

    "Anyway, I was thinking that perhaps I could test the move on your spinda," he said.

    Lanette furrowed her eyebrows a little deeper. "That doesn't answer my question, Bill."

    Completely ignoring her, he continued, "After all, Spinda is both female and a humanshape pokémon, right? I'm not entirely certain what egg group the ixodida would belong to, but—"

    His partner crossed her arms. "Do you realize how disturbing this is? Don't you have anything better to do with your time?"

    "—I have no doubt it will work if I try hard enough!"

    "You're just going to ignore me, aren't you?"

    "Probably," the others replied in unison, drowning out Bill's answer of "no."

    "I just don't think it's relevant," Bill added, his voice quick and high-pitched and certainly not hiding anything at all. "If it works, then I'll have perfected a move that inflicts one of the most devastating conditions in a pokémon battle!"

    "Sleep," Lanette answered impatiently.

    "What about it?"

    "Ugh, never mind!" she exclaimed as she pulled a poké ball from her belt. "Let's just get this fiasco over with so we can pretend this never happened!"

    Holding her ball out in front of her, she let it pop open and release a mass of white light. Spinda dropped from the glowing orb and landed perfectly on her stubby feet halfway between her mistress and her opponent.

    "Okay, Spinda," Lanette said. "Stand there and watch Bill embarrass himself."

    The panda tilted her head and looked over her shoulder. "Da?"

    "Right," Bill said. "Here goes nothing!"

    He winked and brought a hand to his mouth to kiss the tips of his fingers. As he flicked his fingers away from his lips, his claws guided a wisp of pink energy into forming a heart that floated over his hand. With a grin, he tossed his arm towards Spinda, sending the heart flying in her direction. She looked up just in time to watch the heart split into several that circled her and pulsed. The ring of hearts shrank for a few seconds before halting just above her skin and bursting into a brilliant, pink light.

    All of the onlookers watched for several seconds in complete silence until Ellen finally spoke up.

    "Was that supposed to happen?"

    "N-no, not really," Bill stammered. "Maybe it's just that Spinda is a rather unique pokémon."

    Lanette drew her hand to her crowbar. "Go on, Bill. Say that about my pokémon again."

    "What I mean to say," he replied quickly, "is that maybe she's harder to infatuate because she's, ah, an incredibly intelligent and independent pokémon?"

    "I'm sure that's what you meant," Lanette growled as she gripped the handle of her weapon.

    "Well, maybe if we brought out more pokémon, we can see if it would work on any of them! What about Professor Nettle's jynx?"

    Lanette allowed a beat of silence to elapse before she moved her hand to the second poké ball on her belt. "If you want to continue testing, I'll let you – but only because I would love to watch Jynx use Ice Punch on you if you fail."

    Following the same motions she used to release Spinda, Lanette drew out and cracked open her next poké ball. This time, Jynx materialized, towering over Spinda. As if she heard everything that was going outside of her ball, Jynx balled one hand into a fist and used the other to crack her knuckles.

    "I'm not going to fail," Bill squeaked. Then, shaking it off, he resumed a fighting stance. "Right. Attract!"

    Once again, he brought his hand to his lips again. Spinda, keeping her eyes forward, took one long step to the side and left Jynx wide open for the attack. At the same time, Bill kissed the tips of his fingers once more, formed a heart out of the pink energy they emitted, and sent it floating at Jynx. The ice princess merely stood where she was, watching as the pink light split and formed a ring of smaller hearts that surrounded her. However, just as it had for Spinda, the ring shrank for only a few seconds before bursting in a flash of pink light. For a few seconds, every spectator merely watched in surprise.

    Lanette pointed a slender finger at Bill. "Okay, Jynx! Use—"

    "Wait, wait, wait!" Bill cried out as he frantically held up his hands. "Maybe the problem is that I'm not a humanshape pokémon!"

    "Anyone could've told you that," Veronica quipped.

    "Maybe if everyone sent out all of their female pokémon, I can use Attract on all of them to figure out what type of egg group it would work on!" Bill reasoned.

    Lanette sighed. "You're really adamant about this, aren't you?"

    "Well, I should be if it's going to help us defend ourselves from the ixodida."

    She eyed him carefully, her red eyes peering over the top of her glasses. In that state, she didn't say anything. She merely pursed her lips and inhaled deeply, lifting her chin as she breathed.

    "All right," she finally said. "Everyone. Release your pokémon."

    Her own hands drifted to her belt again and pulled off all of the remaining poké balls. At the edge of the battlefield, Thom, Veronica, Ellen, and Tate stood, the humans drawing poké balls out of their pockets and off their belts. Flashes of white brightened the field briefly before fading into a crowd of pokémon huddled between Lanette and Bill. The steel-type scanned them carefully, surveying his opponents until something dawned on him. His eyes settled on a select portion of the group before he spoke.

    "…Some of these aren't female."

    Veronica and Thom shrugged and spoke together. "We thought it'd be funny if you tried that move on a male pokémon."

    "How is that funny? And Tate, what are you doing here?!"

    "Evening out the count," Tate replied mischievously. "So you have four guys and four girls."

    Bill pointed at Lanette's pokémon. "Solrock don't even have genitalia!"

    "Wouldn't that mean you have a fifty-fifty chance of infatuating it?" Veronica asked.

    "That's not how biology works!"

    A ghost of a smile flitted across Lanette's lips and vanished. "So Attract will fail on them, and you're not risking anything by using Attract on pokémon it shouldn't work on. What are you worried about, Bill? Or are you not entirely secure about your masculinity?"

    "I'm not insecure!" Bill snapped, his voice breaking ever so slightly on the last word. "Here, I'll show you! Attract!"

    For a third time, he kissed the tips of his fingers and swept his arm outwards. A third heart formed in his hand, but as he tossed it towards the group, it split into just enough hearts for each of the females: Spinda, Jynx, Altaria, and Chansey. Once more, each light first formed a ring of hearts that constricted and then exploded. The females stood still as the ixodida panted and gazed at them incredulously.

    "Maybe he's just inadequate. There's pills for that these days, you know," Veronica offered.

    Growling at the officer's words, Bill resolved himself. He dug his feet into the ground and threw a grave glance at the full pokémon party in front of him. Even Lanette had to straighten her back a little at the expression on Bill's face; she had never seen him quite as serious in her life. A shiver went down her spine as she swore she could see the spark of a fire in his eyes.

    "Attract!" he shouted.

    He threw his hand to the side, opening his claws until he showed his palm and its glittering jewel to the crowd. Then, he winked at his targets and brought his hand to his lips to kiss the tips of his fingers. This time, when the pink heart formed between his lips and open hand, he quickly grasped onto it with his thumb and forefinger.

    "Love and Beauty Shock!"

    Swinging his arm in a wide arc around his body, he released the heart and let it split into several smaller ones. The chain of hearts circled him before reuniting as a ball of pink light. Then, the ball shot forward and split into eight heart rings that wrapped around every pokémon between himself and Lanette. Each one shrank around their victims, but just like the other rings Bill created a moment ago, the ones around the females and Solrock burst into pink light before any of them touched the pokémon. However, the ones around the males shrank enough to wash over their bodies as a bright, pink light.

    Once more, all of the spectators stopped, but this time, each of them stared in a completely dumbfounded silence. Bill lifted a hand, pointing a finger skyward as if he was about to say something.

    And then, Manectric, Growlithe, and Tate leapt over the crowd of females to lunge at him. The only thing that muffled Bill's terrified yelp was the excited barking and babbling of all three of his victims. As quickly as he could, he turned and started bolting for the woods, narrowly avoiding Tate's hands in the process.

    "That was so cool!" Tate gushed. "Can you teach me how to do that?!"

    "Veronica! Thom! Lanette! Keep them away from me!" Bill shouted.

    All three of the humans remained exactly where they were, opting to watch Bill and the three infatuated pokémon run back and forth across the campground.

    "That explains so much," Veronica quipped.

    "Help!" Bill shouted.

    After a few seconds – which involved Manectric firing off an affectionate Thunderbolt, electrocuting Bill and allowing the other two to jump on him in the process – Lanette put her hands on her hips and quirked her head slightly.

    "You're right," she said. "This is rather funny."
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 19th February 2012 at 10:35 PM.

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    Say whaaaaaat?

    Okay, this was some lulzy stuff. Does this mean that Adam is female? Or maybe Adam was just trolling Bill by purposely making it not work on the females and letting it work on the males? Either way it made me laugh more than that video of Batman eating nachos. Or maybe Bill just hadn't perfected the move until he got to the males.

    I certainly wouldn't mind seeing some characters bios and what not. It would help me to get to know the characters and the world little better.
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    The universe is a troll. ;D That's all I have to say about that.

    Also, awesome! In that case, keep watching this space because maybe in a few hours, you'll see the first profile go up.

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    *lets head fall on laptop* What did I just read?!

    Not that I'm unhappy. On the contrary, I don't think I've smiled so much while reading AEM as I did when I read this. xD Let's just say that I'm not surprised that Bill's Attract would have that effect, especially after remembering Bill's profile you wrote up. Like Diddy said, maybe he just hadn't gotten the move right until the males showed up, but nonetheless, it does make us raise some eyebrows. I hope Lanette is always there, reminding him of this incident.

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    So many jokes I could make here, most of which involve Jesus. But I want to be nice today.
    That was exactly what was going through my mind when I wrote that. XD

    I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. ;_; Why do things like the things that pay us get in the way of fun times?
    I know! I need to learn to live without food and a house so I don't have to worry about all that anymore. >: (

    Thank you! It was a blast producing all of that, even the one I recorded by myself. XD (Although fun fact: I lost my voice briefly after recording Domino's parts. Holy crap, I never knew speaking like that for an hour would do terrible things to a person's throat.)
    Oh wow! XD

    Haha, yeah. Poor guy's probably going to end up starving himself at the rate he's going. Also? That Kecleon's totally a recurring character now. (*pauses and waits to hear Absol scream*)
    Ooh, I'm excited to see. |D

    Exactly on all counts. And this is why it seriously sucks to be a drone. Monarchs (like Bill) at least have the option of turning rogue or being sane, relatively stable Ixodida. Drones like Brigette, meanwhile, just go feral and attempt to kill anything within reach (unless a monarch tells them otherwise).
    Ah, yes. Interesting how the hierarchy of ixodida works. Being a drone would definitely suck.

    Thank you! Working on chapter 26, and I'm hoping it'll be a decent follow-up to all of this. One of the bad things about writing a chapter like this one? Being terrified that the next scene would be considered mood whiplash. ._. But we shall see~!
    Mood whiplash, huh? Sounds exciting, hehe. ^_^

    Oh, and the special was awesome!

    "…Some of these aren't female."

    Veronica and Thom shrugged and spoke together. "We thought it'd be funny if you tried that move on a male pokémon."

    "How is that funny? And Tate, what are you doing here?!"

    "Evening out the count," Tate replied mischievously. "So you have four guys and four girls."

    Bill pointed at Lanette's pokémon. "Solrock don't even have genitalia!"

    "Wouldn't that mean you have a fifty-fifty chance of infatuating it?" Veronica asked.

    "That's not how biology works!"

    A ghost of a smile flitted across Lanette's lips and vanished. "So Attract will fail on them, and you're not risking anything by using Attract on pokémon it shouldn't work on. What are you worried about, Bill? Or are you not entirely secure about your masculinity?"

    "I'm not insecure!" Bill snapped, his voice breaking ever so slightly on the last word. "Here, I'll show you! Attract!"
    ...I was laughing so hard when I read that. XD

    And then, Manectric, Growlithe, and Tate leapt over the crowd of females to lunge at him. The only thing that muffled Bill's terrified yelp was the excited barking and babbling of all three of his victims. As quickly as he could, he turned and started bolting for the woods, narrowly avoiding Tate's hands in the process.

    "That was so cool!" Tate gushed. "Can you teach me how to do that?!"

    "Veronica! Thom! Lanette! Keep them away from me!" Bill shouted.

    All three of the humans remained exactly where they were, opting to watch Bill and the three infatuated pokémon run back and forth across the campground.

    "That explains so much," Veronica quipped.

    "Help!" Bill shouted.
    Oh goodness. Poor Bill. So amazing that the Attract only worked on the males.
    I'll be online on weekends, mostly, and as often as I can.

    Greetings from the asylum of my insanity.
    Chapter 3: Should be up by December 31st.

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        Spoiler:- Responses!:



    In the meantime, the first extra! I was thinking of doing a profile for it, but really, GM's post made me just want to break out the world building stuff. So!

    Extra #1: The Ixodida Hierarchy
        Spoiler:- Whee, semi-spoilers!:
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 26th June 2012 at 2:48 AM.

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    I should be finishing a paper and preparing an oral report. What am I doing instead? Posting this. Because my priorities are awesome.

    Also, a huge thank you to The Great Butler for betaing this chapter. And probably subsequent chapters unless he tells me, "lolnope." Or something to that effect.


    Lastly, not to spoil anything, but in the middle of the chapter, you're going to be introduced to the Ixodida homeworld. Play this as mood music. You'll thank me later.



    Anima Ex Machina
    Twenty-Six: In the mist of a memory, you wander back to me.


    Purple eyes.

    Bill couldn't look away. They hovered in his field of vision, staring deep into him. Their pupils contracted, narrowing into slits as the violet of the irises flashed. The creature's mouth tensed until it formed a straight line. At the same time, the skin of the rest of the face – the oval, hairless face – pulled back until it looked like someone was grasping the creature's flesh from the back of her head.

    He wasn't sure how he could tell this was a female; something inside him simply knew. More importantly, he felt as if he had seen this being before, but he couldn't place his finger on where.

    That was not a good sort of déjŕ vu. In fact, as she floated in front of him, he had never felt as terrified in his life as he was right then. He tried desperately to move, to squirm away from her, but his body felt distant, like he was floating inside it.

    Because of that, he could do nothing but watch as the creature extended her willowy arms towards him. Her long, thin fingers brushed his face. Each fingertip felt ice cold.

    Then, all of a sudden, it felt as if every part of Bill's body burst into flames all at once. He tried to scream, tried to move, tried to do something to cope with the pain, but all he could do was float inside himself and feel every last part of him burn. The purple eyes continued to burn into his skull as if in search of something while the ice-cold hands drifted to his chest.

    He could feel cold fingers stabbing into burning flesh and curl around his heart.

    His hand rose without his consent to grasp the creature's head. But it didn't look like his hand. The fingers were too long. The arm was too spindly.

    As his claws dug into the other being's skull – bone cracking beneath each finger – he could hear a woman's voice whisper from everywhere all at once.

    Ereshkigal.

    Then, the last thing he saw was a flash of blue, human eyes, and the last thing he heard was a long, piercing wail.

    ---

    Bill jolted awake. Much to his relief, instead of purple eyes, the first thing he saw was a blue sky and the branches of trees moving above him. His body no longer burned, but it ached. It wasn't with the lingering sensations of his dream; rather, it was because he was crammed in an uncomfortable position between boxes of supplies in the bed of the truck. He stiffly pushed himself to sit up as his tail unwound itself from the tight, tense coils it created around one of his legs. His hands reached down to grasp it, rubbing feeling back into it as his shoulders pulled back in a half-stretch.

    "Hey! Look who's awake!" Thom called.

    Bill looked up to see the young man sitting on the edge of the truck bed. Between Thom's knees was a plastic bag, from which he drew out a strip of jerky. As Thom bit into it, Bill caught the smoky, salty scent of meat, and involuntarily, the tip of his tail began smacking against his hand in an attempt to wag. Realizing what he was doing, Bill quickly shoved his tail under his feet, but by then, it was too late to keep Thom from noticing. With a loud guffaw, Thom tossed the bag at Bill, letting it fall awkwardly in his lap.

    "Saved the rest for you," he said. "You haven't eaten anything today, right?"

    Bill shook his head and reached into the bag. "Not really, but I'm not sure if I can eat this."

    "Why not? It's meat, isn't it?"

    At that, Bill threw his companion a startled glance. Noticing his expression, Thom frowned.

    "What? Something I said?"

    "No, it's just…" Bill laughed and slapped a hand to his forehead. "It's all too simple! I should have thought of it ages ago!"

    Thom leaned forward, letting his hands droop between his knees. "Okay, now you're creepin' me out. What are you talking about?"

    "Cooked meat!" Bill drew a strip from the bag and held it up. "All this time, I've been trying to force myself to kill pokémon for food, but it never occurred to me that meat is meat! I could eat the same things you can, just not plant matter!" As if to punctuate his point, he bit off a piece of the jerky and relaxed. "Assuming, anyway, that we're right about this."

    "Well, yeah, I figured you already knew that," Thom said. "When the ixodida invaded Mauville City, they ate any kind of meat. Didn't even matter where it came from. I thought it was really stupid that Lanette's making you go hunt for food, honestly. Everyone knows ixodida can eat all kinds of meat. They just like pokémon meat more for some reason. And she probably wants you to train, but that's stupid because we said we'd help you with that."

    As soon as Thom said that, Bill's face dropped from excited to annoyed. "Everyone… already knew that?"

    "Yeah, but hey!" Thom leaned over to punch Bill lightly in the shoulder. "Now you know, right?"

    "Oh yes," Bill replied with a light hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Now I know."

    Ripping off another bite, he watched the trees of the forest pass by as the truck continued ambling down the road. He wondered idly if the Caravan was nearing Fortree City, if somewhere close by, Brigette's grave lay. His mouth slowed as he thought about last night – Lanette trembling in his arms for the first time in months, sobbing into the dirt. They must have spent hours in the forest without a word passed between them, with the only sound coming from Lanette's soft whimpering. She wouldn't look at him at any moment after that. Even when she had stopped, wiped the last of the tears from her face, and pulled herself away from him, she had refused to let him see her expression.

    She had been avoiding him ever since. When dawn came, she had busied herself with breaking down camp, packing up the supplies, and arranging the passengers and drivers of both vehicles. No matter how many times Bill had come to help, she turned her head away and gave him orders while diverting her attention to some other task. Eventually, she had stopped addressing him altogether, opting instead on sending Thom to tell him what to do and where to go. Then, when the Caravan started moving, she had given up her usual space in the bed of the truck, taking Thom's in the cabin next to Vito. Looking over his shoulder, Bill could see the back of her head and the occasional sliver of her face as she spoke to her human partner. She was so close, yet she was separated from him by glass and metal and an expanse of awkward silence.

    That, Bill decided, was far more aggravating than having her hate him. He couldn't figure out why.

    "Hey, you okay?"

    Bill turned back to Thom. "Sorry, what?"

    "You've been acting a little weird," Thom said. "Spending all night out in the woods with Lanette, only to have her look all fussy when she gets back." He cracked a grin. "Be honest with me. Did you…?"

    The ixodida's expression instantly turned horrified. "I beg your pardon?!"

    "You know. Did you…" Thom bobbed his head. "Go at it like rabbits. Know each other biblically. Dance the horizontal tango. Make love."

    "I…" Bill furrowed his eyebrows. "I honestly don't know how to respond to that."

    "Simple yes or no question, Bill. I mean, it's not like there's anything wrong with that. You guys are just picking up where you left off, right?"

    Bill coughed, choking on his own words in surprise. "W-what?! What on Earth are you talking about?!"

    Thom leaned back and made a small, circular motion with one of his hands in the air. "Y'know. You guys were awfully close, right?"

    "You… you think Lanette and I were in a relationship?!" Bill squeaked. "An intimate relationship?!"

    "Well, weren't you?"

    "No!" Bill sighed. "We were partners, Thom. Colleagues! Didn't I mention that before?!"

    "No."

    Pausing, Bill took another bite of jerky. Hadn't he mentioned it? Everything from the time Lanette appeared in Mauville onwards had happened so fast. Bill couldn't remember how much information he had shared and with whom, and all of a sudden, he realized that despite the fact that Thom was probably the closest thing he could call a friend in the Caravan besides Ellen, there was a lot they didn't know about each other. Swallowing, Bill straightened in his seat and tried to explain.

    "Lanette and I are both researchers, Thom," he said. "We worked on a number of projects together, and before the quarantine and my transformation, yes, we were close. But we were close as friends, not as… good gods, do you normally think that two people who fight…?!"

    Thom shrugged. "Why not? It's pretty classic. Girl violently denies that she even likes guy. Guy acts all protective and caring and soft towards girl. You see it all the time."

    "In fiction!"

    "So?" Thom shook his head. "Anyway, point is, a bunch of us got worried about you."

    Bill couldn't help but crack a smile. "A bunch of you?"

    "Okay, only me and Nurse Joy. But still, the way you were following around Lanette like a puppy and how bad you looked when she just blew you off… I might not be the smartest guy around, but I know how heartbreak is sometimes."

    At that, Bill looked at his lap as his smile faltered. "Thom—"

    "'Sides, you didn't look like you were having a good sleep."

    The ixodida looked up. "What?"

    "Yeah." Thom slid into the truck. "You were shaking. Tossing. Turning. Your tail looked like it was wrapping around your leg pretty tightly. You just looked like you were in pain. I would've woken you up ages ago, but Lanette told me to let you sleep."

    "She did?"

    Bill forced himself to smile, but his throat felt dry. He had spent the past few minutes trying to forget the dream, but now that Thom brought it up, he could almost see the burning, purple eyes again. One of his hands drifted to his chest. He tried to make it seem as if he was simply wiping it on the front of his shirt, but his fingers grasped the jewel over his heart.

    "It was… it was just a nightmare," he said. "That's all."

    Yes, Bill, Adam whispered. Do not concern yourself with it now, but we will need to talk about it eventually.

    "Adam," Bill murmured.

    When the human cannot hear you. It has been far too long since we have last spoken, anyway.

    "Bill?" Thom leaned forward. "You okay?"

    "Huh?"

    Shoving the rest of the jerky strip in his mouth, Bill shakily stood. His arms flailed against the movement of the truck, but he managed to remain on his feet. Swallowing, he looked up at the sky, narrowing his eyes in thought.

    "H-hey, Bill? You're gonna fall over or something, and Nurse Joy's gonna be pissed," Thom said. "Why don't you sit back down, and we can talk about it?"

    Bill frowned. "I'm fine. I just need some time to think."

    "Well, okay, but you can think—"

    "Magnet Rise!"

    Quickly, Bill surrounded himself with a golden aura, and his translucent wings burst from his back. Thom reached out to grab him, but without another word, the ixodida crouched and sprang off the truck bed, pushing himself into the air.

    "…By sitting down," Thom muttered as he watched his companion rise several feet into the sky.

    Above the treetops, Bill drifted forward, following the convoy down the road. In his mind, he searched for any sign of Adam's presence.

    "Indeed we do need to talk," he snapped.

    Upset, are we? Adam purred.

    "I'm not upset. I'm just… disoriented." Bill exhaled. "Adam, were you in my mind while I was asleep?"

    Yes.

    "Then you know about that vision. About that-that creature with the purple eyes."

    Yes.

    The conversation lulled briefly. Bill huffed and pushed himself higher, rising into the air until the Caravan looked more like toys racing along a thin, brown line.

    "What was that?" Bill asked softly. "What did I see?"

    A memory.

    The answer came so suddenly and so nonchalantly that Bill halted in mid air, righted himself, and glanced down at the parasite.

    "A memory?" he repeated. "What, yours?"

    You are falling behind, Bill. Pay attention and follow the Caravan, Adam snapped. Yes, mine. This is only one consequence I was afraid of when you asked me to teach you how to use those moves. Forcing parts of my knowledge onto you and opening up your mind that wide requires more direct contact with you than simply reading your memories or speaking to you telepathically. Parts of my subconscious entered yours. I apologize.

    "Only one consequence?" Bill swooped down, speeding after the Caravan in an attempt to catch up with them. "What about the others?"

    There is only one other consequence. You know how the move works, but you have not mastered it. There are no guarantees that you will be able to use that move successfully the next time you attempt it.

    Bill smirked. "That doesn't sound too bad. I can learn. It's not like it'll take my arm off the first time I use it or anything, right?"

    That is actually a distinct possibility.

    For a second time, Bill abruptly stopped. "What?!"

    But that is hardly relevant.

    "How can that not be relevant?!"

    In any case, I feel that there are quite a few things that we need to discuss.

    "No, really!" He threw up his hands in frantic gestures in front of him. "Are we talking about a 75% chance that I will severely injure myself in my next attempt to use it, or is it more like a 5% chance?"

    Bill, concentrate. We must talk. There are many things I have never told you that you must know now.

    "And that's the other thing," Bill growled. "It seems you're very fond of keeping me in the dark. Wouldn't it be easier for me to keep us alive if you answered my questions in the simplest and most straightforward manner possible?"

    It would if you knew what to ask, which you do not. Your first question, for example. "Who is that creature with the purple eyes? Is she dangerous?" One of these is irrelevant, and the other is obvious. But I cannot blame you. Humans think too simply.

    "If humans think too simply," Bill answered impatiently, "then what should I be asking?"

    The parasite didn't respond. It simply left Bill to hang in the air in complete, utter silence.

    "Adam?" Bill asked, his voice slightly softer.

    When the silence only lingered onward, Bill huffed and swooped towards the Caravan for a second time. It was all strange to him. When he was a human, he couldn't recall ever feeling this frustrated, this confused, this spectrum of extreme emotions, but now – now that Lanette began avoiding him, that Adam refused to speak to him, and that everything else in the universe dictated his life to him, all he could think about was how there were walls all around him that he wanted so badly to tear down. It wasn't the first time he felt trapped, caged by things outside him, and he never did like the feeling. Yet, these moments were different. In the past, he knew he could overcome a mental wall by thinking through them or avoiding them altogether, but the walls that blocked him now from the truth or happiness or whatever else he was trying to seek were going to be there for the unforeseeable future.

    That and he didn't like the fact that those walls were being purposefully erected. He wouldn't mind if he had any sort of clues to go on in order to piece together answers, but Lanette and Adam, at the very least, left him with absolutely nothing. It wasn't a game anymore. Bill couldn't remotely call the numbers of times he was left to figure things out fun. He wasn't sure what he could call his relationship with both his parasite and his former partner, but all he knew for certain was he didn't like a piece of it.

    That was probably the reason why, when Adam finally spoke again, Bill wasn't entirely willing to listen until he caught the echo of the last syllable.

    --Gal.

    "Excuse me?" he said tonelessly.

    "Who is Ereshkigal?" Adam repeated. That is a question you may ask, but I am afraid you would not understand the answer unless you asked a better one.

    "And what question might that be?"

    That is obvious. "Where are you from?" Naturally.

    Bill scoffed. "Naturally."

    Sarcasm. Your sense of humor is growing. That is a good thing. Humor allows one to survive the most horrific of challenges.

    By then, Bill caught up with the convoy, but he skirted the treetops above its tail end. He trained his eyes on the metagross bringing up the rear; the last thing he wanted was to draw the attentions of either of the champions riding it. So far, they kept their gazes on the van ahead of them. Even though he knew it was unlikely that they could hear him, Bill's voice dropped in volume, lowering to a near mumble.

    "Is this another conversation where I end up more confused than I was when we started talking?" he asked Adam.

    Of course not. I am only making idle conversation so that you may be in the best mood to handle what I have to tell you.

    It was roughly at that point that Bill decided he just didn't care anymore. For a third time, he paused mid-flight, but this time, it wasn't out of surprise. Instead, he closed his eyes in exasperation briefly as he carefully constructed an appropriate response.

    "Adam," he said slowly – deliberately. "Please."

    Right then, Bill got the distinct feeling that Adam was amused. A light, warm sensation tickled his chest, as if his nervous system was laughing while the rest of him wasn't. Behind his closed eyelids, he could see a flash of a smile that wasn't his. Instinctively, he snapped open his eyes and pulled himself backwards.

    Of course, Adam answered. And I will, as you say, answer them in the simplest and most straightforward manner as possible, but I must warn you, it is a long story. Close your eyes.

    "Close my eyes?" Bill glanced all around himself, scanning the area carefully. "Now?"

    Now. I would suggest landing as well. You are far behind as it is, but the Caravan will stop soon. You will be able to catch up soon enough.

    Bill hesitated. In his silence, he drifted forward and downward slowly as he watched the metagross grow further and further away from him.

    Do you not trust me? Adam asked. Or do you simply not want to know the truth after all?

    That was all it took. Bill's boots hit the dirt path, his aura faded, and his wings burst into crackles of golden energy that fizzled in the air behind him. Exhaling, he shut his eyes and relaxed.

    "Okay," he said. "Tell me."

    A blue flash flooded his field of vision. With a shocked cry, he doubled over and clutched the sides of his head with both hands. He squeezed his eyes shut, but the harder he did it, the more he began to see stars.

    It eventually dawned on him that he was seeing literal ones.

    Taking a step back, Bill craned his neck but didn't open his eyes. He didn't have to. In the darkness behind his eyelids, stars appeared before him: first one by one and then flooding the void as if it was the night sky. At the center of it all, a blue and gray spot appeared. Bill focused on it until it resolved from a haze to form four perfect spheres: a small, azure-and-brown one with white streaks floating across its surface and a massive silver one with purple flashes of lightning illuminating the clouds rolling across its atmosphere. Beyond the first two were the last objects, a faint red dwarf just barely noticeable next to its brilliant, blue sister star.

    "What is this place?" Bill asked breathlessly.

    My home, Adam replied with uncharacteristic patience. This is Nila, the blue moon, orbiting the storm-ridden planet Avani. My kind made their homes in the jungles of Nila. It was far different from Earth, Bill. You would have liked it.

    The scene before him became consumed by a white flash, and when it cleared, Bill found himself floating far above the surface of the blue moon. Lush, green forests spread out beneath him, with vast, blue oceans skirting the edges of the sprawling continent. As Adam guided his vision close to the jungle, Bill slowly realized that many of the plants he was looking at weren't trees. Most of the forest was a vast sea of floating, bulbous, green balloons huddled in swaying bunches that shadowed the earth beneath them. The rest of the forest consisted of tall, thick-trunked trees with broad, waxy pads branching from them instead of leaves. Wherever thick trunks of the pad-leafed trees didn't grow, the long, thick vines anchoring each balloon plant to the continent sprang from the soft, black earth.

    Beneath the canopy, the ground was dark and shadowy, with a few beams of light filtering through the balloon plants and the thick, waxy pad leaves. Every so often a shadow – a broad-winged, stingray-like creature with glowing, red eyes and two long tails – swooped between the vines and trees and sang softly with a high-pitched cry. Bill followed one with his gaze until he spotted a dark puff of fur with six, long arms propel itself from pad-leaf to pad-leaf just before the skate snatched it from mid-air. As the creature gracefully soared back towards the balloon plants, Bill stood beneath it, trembling in wonder.

    "It's beautiful," he whispered.

    The ixodida came from forests like these. Not this particular one, however. I am making you see this place because it is where the original hosts made their greatest city.

    "The original hosts?" Bill's voice tumbled across his lips almost inaudibly. His concentration wasn't on speaking at all, and he almost didn't realize he said a word.

    Another flash of light brought him to someplace new. In the heart of the forest, massive, violet crystals rose high into the air, parting the balloon plants just enough to reach the sunlight above them. Light filtered down their shafts, illuminating the clearing enough to reveal the mouth of a stone tunnel. The vision guided Bill into the earth, following the twisting corridor for several yards until, finally, he came to a massive underground chamber illuminated by countless glowing crystals of all colors embedded in the smooth, rock walls. Terraces were carved out of the walls of the cave, and on each terrace was a cluster of stone buildings. Tiled roads twisted throughout the cave, connecting terrace to terrace in an intricate web. Silver machines shaped like the flying creatures outside of the cave darted over and under each bridge to smoothly land on terraces throughout the cave.

    And on every road and on the backs of every silver skate, Bill saw the exact creature from his dream.

    The ones on the roads didn't so much walk as glide while the hems of their long, colorful robes brushed the tiled road and concealed each creature's feet. Every last one of them was tall and willowy, with the smallest being only a head shorter than him. They held their pale, hairless heads high as they moved, and no matter which facial expression their long, oval-shaped faces made, their white skin seemed to pull towards a point on the back of their skulls. Their eyes glittered each time they turned their heads; each face possessed a different, vivid color of the rainbow. When they spoke, their hands and long, thin fingers made sweeping gestures with each word, and their voices echoed throughout the chamber in tongues Bill couldn't begin to decipher.

    These, Bill, were the original hosts, Adam explained. The Relians.

    "The Relians?" Bill repeated in a soft voice.

    Those of the Empire of Relia.

    Bill's vision moved rapidly through the sea of Relians. All around him, he heard the rolling syllables of their language, saw the bright colors of ornately embroidered robes and sparkling eyes, even smelled the smoky scent of incense and spices wafting in the air. Yet, his brain felt like it was on pause, like it was overloaded with the massive loads of information assaulting three of his basic senses. He floated, allowing Adam to pull him through a memory until the vision ascended to an entranceway at the very top of the cave. The lights there were dimmer, with the crystals embedded in the walls emitting a soft, violet light.

    The Relian Empire, Adam continued. It is difficult to find words to describe it. The Relians were the only kingdom on the entire moon of Nila, and that is not without good reason. For eons leading up to the final days of their world, they were a peaceful race, united under one crown. They knew no war, no famine, no disease, and no poverty, and their technology was the envy of the galaxy. By the time your planet was young, the Empire had already developed instantaneous space travel and had already mapped much of the known universe. By the time you were born, they had assisted in the civilization of hundreds of planets. Never Earth, however. They wished to reach you, but alas, tragedy befell the Relian Empire.

    Upon Adam's last word, the vision passed through a flash of bright, purple light, and the next image Bill saw was a smaller chamber. The walls of this place were made of pale violet crystal, and the floors were made of smooth, white stone. Silks of various colors were hung from the ceiling, stretching across the room to create a rainbow canopy. In the center was a bed covered with shimmering, white sheets and golden pillows. Relians in plain, white robes darted back and forth across the room carrying trays piled with bowls and cups. The only place where they stopped was by the edge of the bed to speak in their rolling language.

    On the other side stood a figure that made Bill's blood freeze. The female, the same one from his dreams, stared down at the bed with her deep, purple eyes. She stretched one of her long hands towards the center, fanning the sleeves of her colorful robes out beneath her arm. Her fingertips caressed the forehead of the bed's occupant, a sickly, gray Relian with dull, blue eyes.

    Beneath her touch, the Relian trembled and turned its head with a long, deep moan. Other Relians – nurses, Bill realized – immediately stopped what they were doing to gather by the bedside.

    Relians once had extraordinarily long lives, Adam said. They had no disease on their moon, and their medical technology was far more advanced than you could imagine. But they were not immortal by any means, and the last emperor's reign lasted for many, many years.

    The Relian's – the emperor's – head lolled to the side to stare at the female. One of his hands shook as he raised it to touch her face. A single fingertip grazed her cheek before the hand fell to the bed with a thump.

    So it should be natural to say that he died.

    Another flash of purple flooded Bill's vision, and in the next instant, he saw a large, familiar chamber: the one from his dreams. This place was largely bare. It was only a hall with violet crystal walls and the same smooth floors of the emperor's bedchambers. The only decoration was the red carpet running from the massive arch serving as a doorway at one end of the room to the elevated platform at the other. On the platform was a stone bench with red cushions covering its surface. Otherwise, the only color came from the rainbow of robes worn by the crowds gathered on both sides of the room. The female from the bedchamber stood at the foot of the platform, dressed in the flowing, white robes Bill had seen in his dream. Before her was an older Relian flanked by two younger ones, all of whom were in gold robes embroidered with red trim. The elder held a bowl in one wide hand as the other reached into it and wet itself on the rose-scented oils inside.

    While the emperor had been widowed for years before his death, he did not leave this world without a successor, Adam told its host. Shortly after his funeral, his eldest daughter ascended the throne.

    The female bowed before the elder, who placed its oil-slicked hand on her head. All around them, the crowd erupted in cheers as the female straightened her back. Without looking at her subjects or changing her neutral expression, she climbed the stairs, turned, and took her seat on the bench.

    But while the last emperor was a kind and wise man, his daughter was not.

    Another flash erupted across the vision. This time, Bill could only see a dark room, and in the dark room, he saw the red glow of molten metal and heard the deafening roar of machines and hammers on steel.

    It was during her reign that the Relians came to know war.

    There were no flashes this time. The scene simply changed to the silhouette of the empress and several Relians in armor standing at the mouth of a cave entrance similar to the one Bill had seen earlier. Only this one was massive – a giant chasm gouged into the earth. The empress stood at the edge of stone with her gaze on the sky, on the gray planet Nila orbited. A buzz filled the air, and the glow of green lights filled the mouth of the cave. Within seconds, hundreds of silver skates burst from underground with armored riders, flanking a giant skate-shaped ship. All of them quickly filled the sky, the smaller skates cutting down treetops to make way for the larger one's ascent.

    I cannot say who the Relians fought or why. I never cared, and it is irrelevant. The fact, though, is that the Relians would never know victory with their technology alone.

    The vision cut to another forest, one full of pad trees but no balloon plants. Here, the air was still and quiet, without so much as the shriek of one of the six-legged monkeys. But more importantly, the main difference between this forest and the one at the mouth of the Relian city, was that the trees and the forest floor were covered with glowing, red creatures.

    Ixodida parasites.

    So they found the ixodida.

    A hum signaled the approach of silver skates. Through the trees, Bill could see their green lights descending until they landed gracefully. Their riders dismounted and walked into the red-lit clearing. There, they stood in thick boots in a sea of parasites. Armored tails swept behind them, brushing parasites off their thick, bird-like feet. It was then that Bill realized that when in full-bodied, plated armor and helmets, the Relians looked uncannily like ixodida. He was about to say something about it when one of them strode forward and stooped down to spread a spindly hand on the ground. One of the parasites crawled onto one of the long fingers, and as it stood, the Relian tilted its head and examined the creature. Then, its other hand rose to take off its helmet, revealing deep, purple eyes that resembled those of the woman in Bill's dreams. Yet, there was something different about this pair. They looked weary and angry.

    Without speaking to its companions, the Relian soldier placed the parasite on its head and closed her violet eyes.

    The clearing filled with the sound of its ensuing scream.

    That was the first host, Adam said. My kind had victims in the past – attempts to invade other creatures and escape our isolated jungle – but the Relians were the first intelligent hosts, the first to truly allow us to escape our home. It was the first time I had tasted power.

    "That was you?" Bill breathed, watching the female collapse in writhing pain.

    The soldier's companions stood silently. Then, the largest among them took off its helmet and stooped down to pick a parasite of its own. The others followed in unison.

    Yes, Adam replied. We were one from that point onward, and I felt the pain of the Relians. I knew that for the good of the people – our kind – I had to fight the Relian throne, to help usher in a new era.

    Abruptly, the vision returned to the Relian city, but this time, it wasn't peaceful. Relians in colorful robes dashed across bridges in a panic, chased by soldiers. Ixodida flew through the air, diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps. Bridges fell, and the sounds of Relian screams and falling rock roared through the air.

    So I did.

    The vision entered the throne room. Bodies of soldiers and ixodida lay in piles along the edges of the room, and green smears of parasite innards streaked across the crystal walls. At the opposite end of the chamber, the empress rose from her stone bench and glided down the steps towards Bill. Her hands reached for him, and her purple eyes glittered. All around him, he could hear the voice of a woman whisper.

    "Ereshkigal."

    Bill snapped his eyes open. As he panted, he looked around himself frantically. Earth trees. Earth sky. The soft cry of Earth wingull in the distance. He placed a hand over his heart and doubled over. A lingering, uncomfortable feeling crawled across his chest.

    You must understand, Bill, I did only what was necessary.

    "What… what happened?" he murmured. "What happened after that?"

    The empress was overthrown. Nila was destroyed.

    Bill bowed his head. "How?"

    How what?

    "How?" he asked, a little louder this time. "How was Nila destroyed? What happened? Why are you here? Why are you telling me this?"

    After a long pause, Adam answered, The empress was overthrown but not killed. She escaped, and I sense that the ixodida empress of this planet is connected to her.

    As Bill straightened, he stared in the distance, struggling to process this information. The uncomfortable feeling in his chest grew, but he was too preoccupied to grasp it. Still, he was vaguely aware of the fact that the air seemed to grow heavier and hotter.

    Ereshkigal, Adam finished, was the last empress on Nila, Bill. And she is here.

    "She's… here." Bill swallowed. "Ereshkigal."

    "You must be quite a brave creature to have the audacity to speak that name."

    Bill whirled around, only to find the fire-typed ixodida hovering behind him. Prometheus smirked and held out his hands, allowing a flame to arc between them.

    "I would address you as the Lord of Iron, but the truth is that I am surprised you exist at all," he said. "Her Majesty is quite intrigued by this and requests your audience. Accept and come with me."

    His body burst into flames. Bill, startled by the sudden show, tried to back away but tripped over his tail and went sprawling into the dirt.

    Smiling at this display, Prometheus added, "As you can see, denying this request would be far from your best interests."

    REBOOT: Chapter fifteen now available. | Original: Chapter thirty-one now available.

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  18. #243
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    I should be finishing a paper and preparing an oral report. What am I doing instead? Posting this. Because my priorities are awesome.

    Also, a huge thank you to The Great Butler for betaing this chapter. And probably subsequent chapters unless he tells me, "lolnope." Or something to that effect.
    I'll be betaing as long as I don't get infected and turn into an alien hybrid. XD

    Anima Ex Machina
    Twenty-Six: In the mist of a memory, you wander back to me.


    Purple eyes.

    Bill couldn't look away. They hovered in his field of vision, staring deep into him. Their pupils contracted, narrowing into slits as the violet of the irises flashed. The creature's mouth tensed until it formed a straight line. At the same time, the skin of the rest of the face – the oval, hairless face – pulled back until it looked like someone was grasping the creature's flesh from the back of her head.

    He wasn't sure how he could tell this was a female; something inside him simply knew. More importantly, he felt as if he had seen this being before, but he couldn't place his finger on where.

    That was not a good sort of déjŕ vu. In fact, as she floated in front of him, he had never felt as terrified in his life as he was right then. He tried desperately to move, to squirm away from her, but his body felt distant, like he was floating inside it.

    Because of that, he could do nothing but watch as the creature extended her willowy arms towards him. Her long, thin fingers brushed his face. Each fingertip felt ice cold.

    Then, all of a sudden, it felt as if every part of Bill's body burst into flames all at once. He tried to scream, tried to move, tried to do something to cope with the pain, but all he could do was float inside himself and feel every last part of him burn. The purple eyes continued to burn into his skull as if in search of something while the ice-cold hands drifted to his chest.
    I'm glad I beta'd it right now, if for no other reason than I won't think Bill is about to get some freaky alien action here.

    He can't though. It would cause the end of the world like in Species or something.

    He could feel cold fingers stabbing into burning flesh and curl around his heart.

    His hand rose without his consent to grasp the creature's head. But it didn't look like his hand. The fingers were too long. The arm was too spindly.

    As his claws dug into the other being's skull – bone cracking beneath each finger – he could hear a woman's voice whisper from everywhere all at once.

    Ereshkigal.

    Then, the last thing he saw was a flash of blue, human eyes, and the last thing he heard was a long, piercing wail.

    ---

    Bill jolted awake. Much to his relief, instead of purple eyes, the first thing he saw was a blue sky and the branches of trees moving above him. His body no longer burned, but it ached. It wasn't with the lingering sensations of his dream; rather, it was because he was crammed in an uncomfortable position between boxes of supplies in the bed of the truck. He stiffly pushed himself to sit up as his tail unwound itself from the tight, tense coils it created around one of his legs. His hands reached down to grasp it, rubbing feeling back into it as his shoulders pulled back in a half-stretch.
    After that dream, I'm glad it was his tail he grabbed when he woke up.

    "Hey! Look who's awake!" Thom called.

    Bill looked up to see the young man sitting on the edge of the truck bed. Between Thom's knees was a plastic bag, from which he drew out a strip of jerky. As Thom bit into it, Bill caught the smoky, salty scent of meat, and involuntarily, the tip of his tail began smacking against his hand in an attempt to wag. Realizing what he was doing, Bill quickly shoved his tail under his feet, but by then, it was too late to keep Thom from noticing. With a loud guffaw, Thom tossed the bag at Bill, letting it fall awkwardly in his lap.

    "Saved the rest for you," he said. "You haven't eaten anything today, right?"

    Bill shook his head and reached into the bag. "Not really, but I'm not sure if I can eat this."

    "Why not? It's meat, isn't it?"

    At that, Bill threw his companion a startled glance. Noticing his expression, Thom frowned.

    "What? Something I said?"

    "No, it's just…" Bill laughed and slapped a hand to his forehead. "It's all too simple! I should have thought of it ages ago!"

    Thom leaned forward, letting his hands droop between his knees. "Okay, now you're creepin' me out. What are you talking about?"

    "Cooked meat!" Bill drew a strip from the bag and held it up. "All this time, I've been trying to force myself to kill pokémon for food, but it never occurred to me that meat is meat! I could eat the same things you can, just not plant matter!" As if to punctuate his point, he bit off a piece of the jerky and relaxed. "Assuming, anyway, that we're right about this."

    "Well, yeah, I figured you already knew that," Thom said. "When the ixodida invaded Mauville City, they ate any kind of meat. Didn't even matter where it came from. I thought it was really stupid that Lanette's making you go hunt for food, honestly. Everyone knows ixodida can eat all kinds of meat. They just like pokémon meat more for some reason. And she probably wants you to train, but that's stupid because we said we'd help you with that."

    As soon as Thom said that, Bill's face dropped from excited to annoyed. "Everyone… already knew that?"
    HAHAHA OH WOW. I DIDN'T THINK OF IT EITHER. I bet that poor Zigzagoon from earlier really wishes SOMEONE had though, right?

    "Yeah, but hey!" Thom leaned over to punch Bill lightly in the shoulder. "Now you know, right?"

    "Oh yes," Bill replied with a light hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Now I know."

    Ripping off another bite, he watched the trees of the forest pass by as the truck continued ambling down the road. He wondered idly if the Caravan was nearing Fortree City, if somewhere close by, Brigette's grave lay. His mouth slowed as he thought about last night – Lanette trembling in his arms for the first time in months, sobbing into the dirt. They must have spent hours in the forest without a word passed between them, with the only sound coming from Lanette's soft whimpering. She wouldn't look at him at any moment after that. Even when she had stopped, wiped the last of the tears from her face, and pulled herself away from him, she had refused to let him see her expression.

    She had been avoiding him ever since. When dawn came, she had busied herself with breaking down camp, packing up the supplies, and arranging the passengers and drivers of both vehicles. No matter how many times Bill had come to help, she turned her head away and gave him orders while diverting her attention to some other task. Eventually, she had stopped addressing him altogether, opting instead on sending Thom to tell him what to do and where to go. Then, when the Caravan started moving, she had given up her usual space in the bed of the truck, taking Thom's in the cabin next to Vito. Looking over his shoulder, Bill could see the back of her head and the occasional sliver of her face as she spoke to her human partner. She was so close, yet she was separated from him by glass and metal and an expanse of awkward silence.

    That, Bill decided, was far more aggravating than having her hate him. He couldn't figure out why.
    I think Lanette doesn't know how to feel now that Bill knows her darkest secrets. The events back there really smacked of her hitting rock bottom, and I almost think that she had no plan for handling herself after all those revelations.

    "Hey, you okay?"

    Bill turned back to Thom. "Sorry, what?"

    "You've been acting a little weird," Thom said. "Spending all night out in the woods with Lanette, only to have her look all fussy when she gets back." He cracked a grin. "Be honest with me. Did you…?"

    The ixodida's expression instantly turned horrified. "I beg your pardon?!"

    "You know. Did you…" Thom bobbed his head. "Go at it like rabbits. Know each other biblically. Dance the horizontal tango. Make love."
    CLEARLY I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE EXPECTING THIS. THANK YOU THOM.

    "I…" Bill furrowed his eyebrows. "I honestly don't know how to respond to that."

    "Simple yes or no question, Bill. I mean, it's not like there's anything wrong with that. You guys are just picking up where you left off, right?"

    Bill coughed, choking on his own words in surprise. "W-what?! What on Earth are you talking about?!"

    Thom leaned back and made a small, circular motion with one of his hands in the air. "Y'know. You guys were awfully close, right?"

    "You… you think Lanette and I were in a relationship?!" Bill squeaked. "An intimate relationship?!"

    "Well, weren't you?"

    "No!" Bill sighed. "We were partners, Thom. Colleagues! Didn't I mention that before?!"

    "No."
    Colleagues... in mattress research.

    /turns around 360 degrees and moonwalks away to the IT'S GENDO theme

    Pausing, Bill took another bite of jerky. Hadn't he mentioned it? Everything from the time Lanette appeared in Mauville onwards had happened so fast. Bill couldn't remember how much information he had shared and with whom, and all of a sudden, he realized that despite the fact that Thom was probably the closest thing he could call a friend in the Caravan besides Ellen, there was a lot they didn't know about each other. Swallowing, Bill straightened in his seat and tried to explain.

    "Lanette and I are both researchers, Thom," he said. "We worked on a number of projects together, and before the quarantine and my transformation, yes, we were close. But we were close as friends, not as… good gods, do you normally think that two people who fight…?!"

    Thom shrugged. "Why not? It's pretty classic. Girl violently denies that she even likes guy. Guy acts all protective and caring and soft towards girl. You see it all the time."

    "In fiction!"
    PSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH OKAY. Why does it not surprise me that 1) you make jokes about the stereotypical tsundere relationship and 2) I can't get the image of Asuka out of my head now. Seriously.


    Yes, Bill, Adam whispered. Do not concern yourself with it now, but we will need to talk about it eventually.
    He's baaaaaaaaaaaaack. Been a while actually.

    "Adam," Bill murmured.

    When the human cannot hear you. It has been far too long since we have last spoken, anyway.

    "Bill?" Thom leaned forward. "You okay?"

    "Huh?"

    Shoving the rest of the jerky strip in his mouth, Bill shakily stood. His arms flailed against the movement of the truck, but he managed to remain on his feet. Swallowing, he looked up at the sky, narrowing his eyes in thought.

    "H-hey, Bill? You're gonna fall over or something, and Nurse Joy's gonna be pissed," Thom said. "Why don't you sit back down, and we can talk about it?"

    Bill frowned. "I'm fine. I just need some time to think."

    "Well, okay, but you can think—"

    "Magnet Rise!"

    Quickly, Bill surrounded himself with a golden aura, and his translucent wings burst from his back. Thom reached out to grab him, but without another word, the ixodida crouched and sprang off the truck bed, pushing himself into the air.

    "…By sitting down," Thom muttered as he watched his companion rise several feet into the sky.
    Poor Thom. Why do I get the feeling he's going to be out the money if anything on that truck got damaged?

    Above the treetops, Bill drifted forward, following the convoy down the road. In his mind, he searched for any sign of Adam's presence.

    "Indeed we do need to talk," he snapped.

    Upset, are we? Adam purred.

    "I'm not upset. I'm just… disoriented." Bill exhaled. "Adam, were you in my mind while I was asleep?"
    He's always in your mind Bill. Alwaaaaaaaays.

    Yes.

    "Then you know about that vision. About that-that creature with the purple eyes."

    Yes.

    The conversation lulled briefly. Bill huffed and pushed himself higher, rising into the air until the Caravan looked more like toys racing along a thin, brown line.

    "What was that?" Bill asked softly. "What did I see?"

    A memory.

    The answer came so suddenly and so nonchalantly that Bill halted in mid air, righted himself, and glanced down at the parasite.

    "A memory?" he repeated. "What, yours?"

    You are falling behind, Bill. Pay attention and follow the Caravan, Adam snapped. Yes, mine. This is only one consequence I was afraid of when you asked me to teach you how to use those moves. Forcing parts of my knowledge onto you and opening up your mind that wide requires more direct contact with you than simply reading your memories or speaking to you telepathically. Parts of my subconscious entered yours. I apologize.
    I'm kind of liking Adam showing a bit more emotion here. It's giving his character a bit of a new angle, and it is easy to forget sometimes that a glowing parasite is still a character.

    Bill, concentrate. We must talk. There are many things I have never told you that you must know now.

    "And that's the other thing," Bill growled. "It seems you're very fond of keeping me in the dark. Wouldn't it be easier for me to keep us alive if you answered my questions in the simplest and most straightforward manner possible?"

    It would if you knew what to ask, which you do not. Your first question, for example. "Who is that creature with the purple eyes? Is she dangerous?" One of these is irrelevant, and the other is obvious. But I cannot blame you. Humans think too simply.

    "If humans think too simply," Bill answered impatiently, "then what should I be asking?"

    The parasite didn't respond. It simply left Bill to hang in the air in complete, utter silence.

    "Adam?" Bill asked, his voice slightly softer.
    Yeah, I'm really liking how Adam is showing a much more distinct personality here. Maybe this is just how it happened, or this is foreshadowing of more ominous events forthcoming, like Adam beginning to infect Bill's mind further.

    When the silence only lingered onward, Bill huffed and swooped towards the Caravan for a second time. It was all strange to him. When he was a human, he couldn't recall ever feeling this frustrated, this confused, this spectrum of extreme emotions, but now – now that Lanette began avoiding him, that Adam refused to speak to him, and that everything else in the universe dictated his life to him, all he could think about was how there were walls all around him that he wanted so badly to tear down. It wasn't the first time he felt trapped, caged by things outside him, and he never did like the feeling. Yet, these moments were different. In the past, he knew he could overcome a mental wall by thinking through them or avoiding them altogether, but the walls that blocked him now from the truth or happiness or whatever else he was trying to seek were going to be there for the unforeseeable future.

    That and he didn't like the fact that those walls were being purposefully erected. He wouldn't mind if he had any sort of clues to go on in order to piece together answers, but Lanette and Adam, at the very least, left him with absolutely nothing. It wasn't a game anymore. Bill couldn't remotely call the numbers of times he was left to figure things out fun. He wasn't sure what he could call his relationship with both his parasite and his former partner, but all he knew for certain was he didn't like a piece of it.

    That was probably the reason why, when Adam finally spoke again, Bill wasn't entirely willing to listen until he caught the echo of the last syllable.

    --Gal.

    "Excuse me?" he said tonelessly.

    "Who is Ereshkigal?" Adam repeated. That is a question you may ask, but I am afraid you would not understand the answer unless you asked a better one.

    "And what question might that be?"

    That is obvious. "Where are you from?" Naturally.

    Bill scoffed. "Naturally."

    Sarcasm. Your sense of humor is growing. That is a good thing. Humor allows one to survive the most horrific of challenges.
    Naturally, right. I'd never think of that, Adam.

    Why does he know about sarcasm and the benefits of humor? Just how intelligent is this thing?

    By then, Bill caught up with the convoy, but he skirted the treetops above its tail end. He trained his eyes on the metagross bringing up the rear; the last thing he wanted was to draw the attentions of either of the champions riding it. So far, they kept their gazes on the van ahead of them. Even though he knew it was unlikely that they could hear him, Bill's voice dropped in volume, lowering to a near mumble.

    "Is this another conversation where I end up more confused than I was when we started talking?" he asked Adam.

    Of course not. I am only making idle conversation so that you may be in the best mood to handle what I have to tell you.

    It was roughly at that point that Bill decided he just didn't care anymore. For a third time, he paused mid-flight, but this time, it wasn't out of surprise. Instead, he closed his eyes in exasperation briefly as he carefully constructed an appropriate response.

    "Adam," he said slowly – deliberately. "Please."

    Right then, Bill got the distinct feeling that Adam was amused. A light, warm sensation tickled his chest, as if his nervous system was laughing while the rest of him wasn't. Behind his closed eyelids, he could see a flash of a smile that wasn't his. Instinctively, he snapped open his eyes and pulled himself backwards.
    I'm beginning to get a little alarmed. It almost seems like Adam is starting to get more and more control that he didn't have before.

    The ixodida came from forests like these. Not this particular one, however. I am making you see this place because it is where the original hosts made their greatest city.

    "The original hosts?" Bill's voice tumbled across his lips almost inaudibly. His concentration wasn't on speaking at all, and he almost didn't realize he said a word.

    Another flash of light brought him to someplace new. In the heart of the forest, massive, violet crystals rose high into the air, parting the balloon plants just enough to reach the sunlight above them. Light filtered down their shafts, illuminating the clearing enough to reveal the mouth of a stone tunnel. The vision guided Bill into the earth, following the twisting corridor for several yards until, finally, he came to a massive underground chamber illuminated by countless glowing crystals of all colors embedded in the smooth, rock walls. Terraces were carved out of the walls of the cave, and on each terrace was a cluster of stone buildings. Tiled roads twisted throughout the cave, connecting terrace to terrace in an intricate web. Silver machines shaped like the flying creatures outside of the cave darted over and under each bridge to smoothly land on terraces throughout the cave.

    And on every road and on the backs of every silver skate, Bill saw the exact creature from his dream.

    The ones on the roads didn't so much walk as glide while the hems of their long, colorful robes brushed the tiled road and concealed each creature's feet. Every last one of them was tall and willowy, with the smallest being only a head shorter than him. They held their pale, hairless heads high as they moved, and no matter which facial expression their long, oval-shaped faces made, their white skin seemed to pull towards a point on the back of their skulls. Their eyes glittered each time they turned their heads; each face possessed a different, vivid color of the rainbow. When they spoke, their hands and long, thin fingers made sweeping gestures with each word, and their voices echoed throughout the chamber in tongues Bill couldn't begin to decipher.

    These, Bill, were the original hosts, Adam explained. The Relians.

    "The Relians?" Bill repeated in a soft voice.

    Those of the Empire of Relia.

    Bill's vision moved rapidly through the sea of Relians. All around him, he heard the rolling syllables of their language, saw the bright colors of ornately embroidered robes and sparkling eyes, even smelled the smoky scent of incense and spices wafting in the air. Yet, his brain felt like it was on pause, like it was overloaded with the massive loads of information assaulting three of his basic senses. He floated, allowing Adam to pull him through a memory until the vision ascended to an entranceway at the very top of the cave. The lights there were dimmer, with the crystals embedded in the walls emitting a soft, violet light.

    The Relian Empire, Adam continued. It is difficult to find words to describe it. The Relians were the only kingdom on the entire moon of Nila, and that is not without good reason. For eons leading up to the final days of their world, they were a peaceful race, united under one crown. They knew no war, no famine, no disease, and no poverty, and their technology was the envy of the galaxy. By the time your planet was young, the Empire had already developed instantaneous space travel and had already mapped much of the known universe. By the time you were born, they had assisted in the civilization of hundreds of planets. Never Earth, however. They wished to reach you, but alas, tragedy befell the Relian Empire.
    Once again, I am glad that I beta'd this. This time, it's because I would have begun speculating upon the how Adam knows so much about the Relians and the nature of the tragedy that hit them.

    Upon Adam's last word, the vision passed through a flash of bright, purple light, and the next image Bill saw was a smaller chamber. The walls of this place were made of pale violet crystal, and the floors were made of smooth, white stone. Silks of various colors were hung from the ceiling, stretching across the room to create a rainbow canopy. In the center was a bed covered with shimmering, white sheets and golden pillows. Relians in plain, white robes darted back and forth across the room carrying trays piled with bowls and cups. The only place where they stopped was by the edge of the bed to speak in their rolling language.

    On the other side stood a figure that made Bill's blood freeze. The female, the same one from his dreams, stared down at the bed with her deep, purple eyes. She stretched one of her long hands towards the center, fanning the sleeves of her colorful robes out beneath her arm. Her fingertips caressed the forehead of the bed's occupant, a sickly, gray Relian with dull, blue eyes.

    Beneath her touch, the Relian trembled and turned its head with a long, deep moan. Other Relians – nurses, Bill realized – immediately stopped what they were doing to gather by the bedside.

    Relians once had extraordinarily long lives, Adam said. They had no disease on their moon, and their medical technology was far more advanced than you could imagine. But they were not immortal by any means, and the last emperor's reign lasted for many, many years.

    The Relian's – the emperor's – head lolled to the side to stare at the female. One of his hands shook as he raised it to touch her face. A single fingertip grazed her cheek before the hand fell to the bed with a thump.

    So it should be natural to say that he died.
    That should go without saying. Adam's really stating the obvious here.

    Another flash of purple flooded Bill's vision, and in the next instant, he saw a large, familiar chamber: the one from his dreams. This place was largely bare. It was only a hall with violet crystal walls and the same smooth floors of the emperor's bedchambers. The only decoration was the red carpet running from the massive arch serving as a doorway at one end of the room to the elevated platform at the other. On the platform was a stone bench with red cushions covering its surface. Otherwise, the only color came from the rainbow of robes worn by the crowds gathered on both sides of the room. The female from the bedchamber stood at the foot of the platform, dressed in the flowing, white robes Bill had seen in his dream. Before her was an older Relian flanked by two younger ones, all of whom were in gold robes embroidered with red trim. The elder held a bowl in one wide hand as the other reached into it and wet itself on the rose-scented oils inside.

    While the emperor had been widowed for years before his death, he did not leave this world without a successor, Adam told its host. Shortly after his funeral, his eldest daughter ascended the throne.

    The female bowed before the elder, who placed its oil-slicked hand on her head. All around them, the crowd erupted in cheers as the female straightened her back. Without looking at her subjects or changing her neutral expression, she climbed the stairs, turned, and took her seat on the bench.
    Wait, what gender is the elder? It feels a bit odd to be using specific pronouns for one but "it" for the other.

    But while the last emperor was a kind and wise man, his daughter was not.

    Another flash erupted across the vision. This time, Bill could only see a dark room, and in the dark room, he saw the red glow of molten metal and heard the deafening roar of machines and hammers on steel.

    It was during her reign that the Relians came to know war.
    This is a stupid point, but the Relians must have "known" war if she knew how to introduce it. I get what you meant here, it just maybe could have been worded a bit better.

    There were no flashes this time. The scene simply changed to the silhouette of the empress and several Relians in armor standing at the mouth of a cave entrance similar to the one Bill had seen earlier. Only this one was massive – a giant chasm gouged into the earth. The empress stood at the edge of stone with her gaze on the sky, on the gray planet Nila orbited. A buzz filled the air, and the glow of green lights filled the mouth of the cave. Within seconds, hundreds of silver skates burst from underground with armored riders, flanking a giant skate-shaped ship. All of them quickly filled the sky, the smaller skates cutting down treetops to make way for the larger one's ascent.

    I cannot say who the Relians fought or why. I never cared, and it is irrelevant. The fact, though, is that the Relians would never know victory with their technology alone.

    The vision cut to another forest, one full of pad trees but no balloon plants. Here, the air was still and quiet, without so much as the shriek of one of the six-legged monkeys. But more importantly, the main difference between this forest and the one at the mouth of the Relian city, was that the trees and the forest floor were covered with glowing, red creatures.

    Ixodida parasites.

    So they found the ixodida.

    A hum signaled the approach of silver skates. Through the trees, Bill could see their green lights descending until they landed gracefully. Their riders dismounted and walked into the red-lit clearing. There, they stood in thick boots in a sea of parasites. Armored tails swept behind them, brushing parasites off their thick, bird-like feet. It was then that Bill realized that when in full-bodied, plated armor and helmets, the Relians looked uncannily like ixodida. He was about to say something about it when one of them strode forward and stooped down to spread a spindly hand on the ground. One of the parasites crawled onto one of the long fingers, and as it stood, the Relian tilted its head and examined the creature. Then, its other hand rose to take off its helmet, revealing deep, purple eyes that resembled those of the woman in Bill's dreams. Yet, there was something different about this pair. They looked weary and angry.

    Without speaking to its companions, the Relian soldier placed the parasite on its head and closed her violet eyes.
    That's actually a brilliant way of tying up several plot points here. The Relians tried to use the Ixodida parasites to increase their own power, didn't they?

    The clearing filled with the sound of its ensuing scream.

    That was the first host, Adam said. My kind had victims in the past – attempts to invade other creatures and escape our isolated jungle – but the Relians were the first intelligent hosts, the first to truly allow us to escape our home. It was the first time I had tasted power.

    "That was you?" Bill breathed, watching the female collapse in writhing pain.
    Something amuses me about Adam's original host being a female warrior.

    Yes, Adam replied. We were one from that point onward, and I felt the pain of the Relians. I knew that for the good of the people – our kind – I had to fight the Relian throne, to help usher in a new era.
    I'll be honest, this part feels a little strange. It feels a little... abrupt, maybe? ... that Adam suddenly has or had a noble goal. I kind of think that maybe he is not being totally forthcoming about his motives.

    Abruptly, the vision returned to the Relian city, but this time, it wasn't peaceful. Relians in colorful robes dashed across bridges in a panic, chased by soldiers. Ixodida flew through the air, diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps. Bridges fell, and the sounds of Relian screams and falling rock roared through the air.

    So I did.

    The vision entered the throne room. Bodies of soldiers and ixodida lay in piles along the edges of the room, and green smears of parasite innards streaked across the crystal walls. At the opposite end of the chamber, the empress rose from her stone bench and glided down the steps towards Bill. Her hands reached for him, and her purple eyes glittered. All around him, he could hear the voice of a woman whisper.

    "Ereshkigal."

    Bill snapped his eyes open. As he panted, he looked around himself frantically. Earth trees. Earth sky. The soft cry of Earth wingull in the distance. He placed a hand over his heart and doubled over. A lingering, uncomfortable feeling crawled across his chest.

    You must understand, Bill, I did only what was necessary.

    "What… what happened?" he murmured. "What happened after that?"

    The empress was overthrown. Nila was destroyed.

    Bill bowed his head. "How?"

    How what?

    "How?" he asked, a little louder this time. "How was Nila destroyed? What happened? Why are you here? Why are you telling me this?"

    After a long pause, Adam answered, The empress was overthrown but not killed. She escaped, and I sense that the ixodida empress of this planet is connected to her.

    As Bill straightened, he stared in the distance, struggling to process this information. The uncomfortable feeling in his chest grew, but he was too preoccupied to grasp it. Still, he was vaguely aware of the fact that the air seemed to grow heavier and hotter.

    Ereshkigal, Adam finished, was the last empress on Nila, Bill. And she is here.
    Something doesn't feel right about this. I'm immediately asking myself why Adam spared Ereshkigal in the past; it smacks of an ulterior motive. It's just too suspicious.

    "She's… here." Bill swallowed. "Ereshkigal."

    "You must be quite a brave creature to have the audacity to speak that name."

    Bill whirled around, only to find the fire-typed ixodida hovering behind him. Prometheus smirked and held out his hands, allowing a flame to arc between them.

    "I would address you as the Lord of Iron, but the truth is that I am surprised you exist at all," he said. "Her Majesty is quite intrigued by this and requests your audience. Accept and come with me."

    His body burst into flames. Bill, startled by the sudden show, tried to back away but tripped over his tail and went sprawling into the dirt.

    Smiling at this display, Prometheus added, "As you can see, denying this request would be far from your best interests."
    And then **** just got real.

    Now for my thoughts on the chapter as a whole:

    The biggest comments I have are in regard to the backstory of Adam, the Ixodida, the Relians, Ereshkigal, and Nila. This was simply magnificent. It must have taken an extraordinary amount of careful planning to devise such an intricate and vast setting along with the history alongside it. As far as the planet - or perhaps all of the settings seen - goes, the sheer level of inventiveness in just how elaborate everything was was what impressed me. You really put in a lot of thought to come up with the native planet and animal species, distinct visual cues for all of the settings, the very well defined appearance of the Relians, and so on. The story was very impressive as well; while the idea of a peaceful species that turned warlike upon the ascendance of a new ruler is somewhat simple in detail, the way you built on it pushed it over and above, especially the detail about the Relian warriors apparently deliberately infecting themselves with the Ixodida parasites to increase their powers.

    I'm becoming a little confused by and more than a little suspicious of Adam's motives, however. He seems to be subtly gaining more and more control over Bill and influencing his mind more as well, but that's minor compared to some of my suspicions regarding his history with Ereshkigal. I can't imagine that he spared her, so if it isn't that she merely stunned him and escaped, the biggest question is why Adam supposedly made it his mission to end her reign of terror but then let her live. I am very suspicious that he may have an ulterior motive in sparing Ereshkigal and her appearance on Earth may not be a coincidence.

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  19. #244
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    Yes, Adam replied. We were one from that point onward, and I felt the pain of the Relians. I knew that for the good of the people – our kind – I had to fight the Relian throne, to help usher in a new era.

    Abruptly, the vision returned to the Relian city, but this time, it wasn't peaceful. Relians in colorful robes dashed across bridges in a panic, chased by soldiers. Ixodida flew through the air, diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps. Bridges fell, and the sounds of Relian screams and falling rock roared through the air.

    So I did.
    The bit in the middle, "diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps." I don't think that's quite right somehow...

    Dunno, it just jumped out at me.

    Also, I would give my opinion on the whole backstory thing, but TGB said this:

    The biggest comments I have are in regard to the backstory of Adam, the Ixodida, the Relians, Ereshkigal, and Nila. This was simply magnificent. It must have taken an extraordinary amount of careful planning to devise such an intricate and vast setting along with the history alongside it. As far as the planet - or perhaps all of the settings seen - goes, the sheer level of inventiveness in just how elaborate everything was was what impressed me. You really put in a lot of thought to come up with the native planet and animal species, distinct visual cues for all of the settings, the very well defined appearance of the Relians, and so on. The story was very impressive as well; while the idea of a peaceful species that turned warlike upon the ascendance of a new ruler is somewhat simple in detail, the way you built on it pushed it over and above, especially the detail about the Relian warriors apparently deliberately infecting themselves with the Ixodida parasites to increase their powers.
    QFT. This was a brilliant chapter purely for this backstory. It really gives the Ixodida a new kind of legitimacy, they have a homewolrd, they have a history... they apparently assimilate intelligent species like some kind of primal, tribal Borg. I'm surprised Ol' Prometheus didn't say "Resistance is futile" xD

    Speaking of, that ending was great. Cliffhangery as all hell and badass to boot.
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    "You know. Did you…" Thom bobbed his head.

    "Go at it like rabbits. Know each other biblically. Dance the horizontal tango. Make love."

    "I…" Bill furrowed his eyebrows. "I honestly don't know how to respond to that."
    Thom shrugged. "Why not? It's pretty classic. Girl violently denies that she even likes guy. Guy acts all protective and caring and soft towards girl. You see it all the time."

    "In fiction!"
    LOL oh Thom, that's why I love you. XD I'm also going to have to agree with The Great Butler when he mentions of Bill and Lanette researching in mattress. :P

    Oh, quite like the setting of Nila. I like jungles and forrests, LOL. I too love the backstory of Adam and the Relians. Nice bits on the Relians' culture ike medicine and the throne cereamony. Am quite nterested in Ereshkigal already.

    Overall, really like this chapter a lot. Looking forward to Bill's meeting with Ereshkigal.


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  21. #246
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    YOU DID NOT SEE POSTING FAIL. I DID NOT USE THE POST QUICKREPLY BUTTON INSTEAD OF THE GO ADVANCED BUTTON. *magic handwaves* >_> <_<

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I'll be betaing as long as I don't get infected and turn into an alien hybrid. XD
    Le awesome!

    And because there's actually massive hints dropped throughout this post, I'm putting massive amounts of my response to The Great Butler behind a spoiler tag and all the definite hint-droppings behind another spoiler tag. Just so those of you who would rather have me screw with your mind completely will have ample warning to avoid reading the spoilery things.

        Spoiler:- Also, it makes this post a lot less massive.:


    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    The bit in the middle, "diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps." I don't think that's quite right somehow...
    Now that I look at it, I have to agree. It's the "corps," I think. And the wordiness. I'll have to go back and fix that up so that it's not as unwieldy a sentence. And uses something better than corps. Seriously, wtf, self? >_>

    QFT. This was a brilliant chapter purely for this backstory.
    Thank you~!

    I'm surprised Ol' Prometheus didn't say "Resistance is futile" xD
    That's Pandora's line. ;D

    Speaking of, that ending was great. Cliffhangery as all hell and badass to boot.
    Haha, thanks! Here's to hoping the beginning of the next chapter doesn't start with Bill getting slaughtered is just as exciting for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    LOL oh Thom, that's why I love you.
    He's seriously my favorite OC to write. XD I need to bring him in more often.

    (Hey, maybe he can go help save Bill too!)

    I'm also going to have to agree with The Great Butler when he mentions of Bill and Lanette researching in mattress. :P
    They totally were. :P

    Oh, quite like the setting of Nila. I like jungles and forrests, LOL. I too love the backstory of Adam and the Relians. Nice bits on the Relians' culture ike medicine and the throne cereamony. Am quite nterested in Ereshkigal already.
    Thank you!

    Overall, really like this chapter a lot. Looking forward to Bill's meeting with Ereshkigal.
    Which will be soon, I assure you. *tents fingers evilly*
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 17th March 2012 at 11:44 AM.

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  22. #247
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    I've been reading for a while but haven't really had anything to contribute up to this point that wouldn't just amount to "I like your story. Can I borrow your brain so I can be a better writer?" Anyway . . .
    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    "She's… here." Bill swallowed. "Ereshkigal."

    "You must be quite a brave creature to have the audacity to speak that name."
    Why am I suddenly thinking of Voldemort?

        Spoiler:- Just one question regarding Adam's past:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ememew View Post
    I've been reading for a while but haven't really had anything to contribute up to this point that wouldn't just amount to "I like your story. Can I borrow your brain so I can be a better writer?"
    Considering how many dirty thoughts are in there, that may not be a good idea. Huzzah, closet readers! \o/

    Why am I suddenly thinking of Voldemort?
    Because Ereshkigal is totally a snake-faced wizard who can speak to serpent things.

        Spoiler:- Just one question regarding Adam's past:
    This is an awesome question.

        Spoiler:- Le answer! Or most of it, anyway.:

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  24. #249
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    Back from the dead, guys!
    I suppose this makes me a
    ZOMBIFIED ABSOL.

    (self-fulfilling prophecy much? And yes, I couldn’t resist making another haiku)

    I, ZOMBIFIED ABSOL, HAVE COME TO EAT YOUR BRAIN (or at least the part of your brain that deals with writing) SO THAT I MAY BE A BETTER WRITER.

    In other words:
    Quote Originally Posted by Ememew View Post
    "I like your story. Can I borrow your brain so I can be a better writer?"
    [spoiler="Cut for people whose delicate sensibilities will be offended."]
    Pfft.
    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    YOU DID NOT SEE POSTING FAIL. I DID NOT USE THE POST QUICKREPLY BUTTON INSTEAD OF THE GO ADVANCED BUTTON. *magic handwaves* >_> <_<
    What’s that? These ARE the droids we’re looking for? Well, all right then!
    Yeah, I realize I’m going backwards post wise.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    "You know. Did you…" Thom bobbed his head. "Go at it like rabbits. Know each other biblically. Dance the horizontal tango. Make love."
    CLEARLY I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE EXPECTING THIS. THANK YOU THOM.
    Oh hey. You too, huh?
    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    It may come sooner than people think! ...Along with something that will make Absol happy. XD
    I'm listening. INTENTLY. ....Or I guess I'm actually reading intently.
    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Haha, yeah. Poor guy's probably going to end up starving himself at the rate he's going. Also? That Kecleon's totally a recurring character now. (*pauses and waits to hear Absol scream*)
    asshdjdhiejflejkdhiejdkj~~~!!!!!! *#$(*$E)!(

    Quote Originally Posted by GastlyMan View Post
    Haha, yeah. Poor guy's probably going to end up starving himself at the rate he's going. Also? That Kecleon's totally a recurring character now. (*pauses and waits to hear Absol scream*)
    Ooh, I'm excited to see. |D
    You're exicted to see me scream? ಠ_ಠ

    EDIT: MORE STUFF:

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    On the positive side, all of the men are womanizing, idiotic, stuck-up, overstressed, dependent on women, and Bill, so whatever the female cast members have to say about my view on women is apparently better than what the male cast members have to say about my view on men. (No offense, guys!)
    Bill doesn’t fall into the overstressed or the dependent on women category?

    Professor Oak got a sex change at some point. Thanks for that! It'll be fixed the next time I edit!
    Old men need to amuse themselves somehow after all.

    And Bill's going to form-change into it eventually.
    *tries to imagine Bill fighting like Chuck Norris*--> *head explodes*

    ;_;

    Now, if we were talking about these kinds of sailors, I wouldn't mind quite as much. *shot!*
    FIGHTING EVIL BY MOONLIGHT! WINNING LOVE BY DAY—Good lord what the heck am I saying??!!

    To this day, I still don’t understand why they’re called Sailor Scouts

    Oh, cafeteria food. I do not miss that at all. *sage nod*

    (College food only gets marginally better. You might as well start cooking for yourself, really.)
    The sad part of your comment is the fact that it was college food. We have cafeterias on campus.
    It’s been awhile since High School.

    Seriously, if you read this comic, try to find a translation. Viz went out of their way to edit out a lot of the blatant fanservice and questionable content Ono put in, but luckily, that was largely only the character designs (large boobs, Misty in less than a Speedo, and so forth). There were a few other bits that got edited further (like May, Gary's sister, fully clothed and lying in a bed while tucking Ash in because he's having a "my babysitter is hot" fantasy),
    Saywhatnow?
    but really, those bits, Viz was in the right for editing. Also, they don't affect the story in any way. That's one good thing about this translation. Really, Viz didn't change anything – dialogue or what-have-you. So, you can still get what's going on, and what's getting across is still pretty much what was in the original. You're just missing the missile-boobs, and that's about it.
    I can definitely live with that. I hate out of proportion body images. Female or male. It’s stupid to go over the top with a woman’s figure or give the guy muscles to the point where he’d probably topple over because then they just look like aliens to me.

    So I guess the answer to your question is it's got suggestive stuff in it, but I'm not sure if it was explicitly designed for adults. Pokémon manga in Japan tends to be… weirder than what we get over here. (Let's not talk about the Pocket Monsters manga for the sake of everyone's sanity, but to put it in short, Electric Tale is pretty tame in comparison.)
    I looked that up, too, and I wish I hadn’t.

    Ah, but Wheatley was sociopathic at some point too, so…!
    He only got worse when he was uploaded into the system, which makes me wonder if the system itself affects the personality uploaded. Or perhaps his delusions just got worse.

    No, no. The only one in that family who does psychedelic substances is—

    Actually, wait, you heard nothing.
    Bill: I swear, Lanette! It was for the sake of research!

    Alternatively, John woos her over successfully, and Bill stands on the sidelines, quietly angsting to himself.
    She wouldn’t be weirded out by the fact that he’s the father of the research partner she loves to hate, who may or may not be seducing her for the sake of trolling his son?
    And then John woos Veronica for good measure.
    No.

    Oh yes. He's into all kinds of freaky things.
    …YOU HEARD NOTHING.
    “Now Bill, how about I tell you the story of how you were born? Once upon a time there was a man named John. John was walking one day when he happened upon a very attractive Magmar…”

    Absolutely, man! Tastiest part.
    ….
    When I first saw this, I had forgotten we were talking about Gingerbread men heads.
    ….um….yeah….Darnyoubrainofmine.



    ….Mmmm….brains.

    I'm surprised you didn't just keep going. XD
    I’M NOT THE ENERGIZER BUNNY DARN IT!
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post
    Back from the dead, guys!
    I suppose this makes me a
    ZOMBIFIED ABSOL.
    Asdfghjkl; *CLING* Absol, I was wondering where you went! ;_;

    (I, ZOMBIFIED ABSOL, HAVE COME TO EAT YOUR BRAIN (or at least the part of your brain that deals with writing) SO THAT I MAY BE A BETTER WRITER.

    In other words:
    Do you reeeeally want to do that? ;D

    [spoiler="Cut for people whose delicate sensibilities will be offended."]
    Pfft.
    Yeah, inorite? What was I thinking, assuming anyone with delicate sensibilities are still reading this thread.

    Oh hey. You too, huh?
    I'm now wondering if there's anyone in the audience who isn't wondering when Bill and Lanette are going to hop in bed with each other. XD Because besides probably Steven, Wallace, Tate, and Hope, the cast sure is expecting it.

    I'm listening. INTENTLY. ....Or I guess I'm actually reading intently.
    Something to admit: Next chapter, I actually wound up not using the plot point I was talking about here. Because I forgot. But! You'll still get to see something awesome.

    asshdjdhiejflejkdhiejdkj~~~!!!!!! *#$(*$E)!(
    Ah, the sweet sound of success.

    You're exicted to see me scream? ಠ_ಠ
    We're all sadists here.

    Bill doesn’t fall into the overstressed or the dependent on women category?
    Nope! He falls into the last three categories.

    *tries to imagine Bill fighting like Chuck Norris*--> *head explodes*
    You're going to like this next chapter. ;D

    To this day, I still don’t understand why they’re called Sailor Scouts
    What, the sailor bibs aren't enough? You-you don't know any sailor who can use sparkly magic and the power of love to defeat the embodiments of evil?

    The sad part of your comment is the fact that it was college food. We have cafeterias on campus.
    It’s been awhile since High School.
    XDDDD WELL, IN THAT CASE, yeah, you should totally start cooking for yourself. I feel you. ;_;

    Saywhatnow?
    Oh yeah, pretty much. Gary has an older sister named May, and Ash has the hots for her. It becomes a running gag… and part of the reason why he's a trainer. It's sort of glorious.

    I can definitely live with that. I hate out of proportion body images. Female or male. It’s stupid to go over the top with a woman’s figure or give the guy muscles to the point where he’d probably topple over because then they just look like aliens to me.
    Agreed so hard. Or they just look disgusting. Like, when it comes to men, if you've got this overly muscular figure, you can see their veins, and that's just not cool. With women, if you've got torpedo boobs, all I can think of is, "Oh, plastic surgery." And back pain, for that matter. It's just plain not attractive, so I'm happy Viz toned everything done so that women actually look a little more reasonable.

    I looked that up, too, and I wish I hadn’t.
    I don't blame you in the slightest. X_x

    He only got worse when he was uploaded into the system, which makes me wonder if the system itself affects the personality uploaded. Or perhaps his delusions just got worse.
    I personally think it was the system that did it. I mean, Caroline was pretty reasonable herself before she got uploaded, so…!

    Bill: I swear, Lanette! It was for the sake of research!
    XD Headcanon time: This is how the costumes actually work.

    She wouldn’t be weirded out by the fact that he’s the father of the research partner she loves to hate, who may or may not be seducing her for the sake of trolling his son?
    Nope! ;D

    No.
    XDDD I guess Ellen is out of the question too?

    “Now Bill, how about I tell you the story of how you were born? Once upon a time there was a man named John. John was walking one day when he happened upon a very attractive Magmar…”
    Funny story about how someone noticed I never mentioned Bill's mom in this version of the fic.

    ….
    When I first saw this, I had forgotten we were talking about Gingerbread men heads.
    ….um….yeah….Darnyoubrainofmine.
    XD Oh, time removing all sense of context.

    I’M NOT THE ENERGIZER BUNNY DARN IT!
    Aww. You mean you're not fluffy and pink?


    Also, update! The next chapter is finally underway, thanks to the fact that my month of death is slowly winding down. Just Anime Boston, a paper, a final project, and job/internship applications left. Which sounds like a lot, but considering I just said March was my month of death… yeah. In any case, chapter will be coming soon~!

    By the by, if any of you are in the Boston area and are going to Anime Boston, I will probably be the too-cool-for-cosplay chick hanging out near my friend's table on Saturday. Drop by her table at any time during the weekend, though, for she is cool and full of win. Or stalk me on Saturday because I'm too poor for a full weekend and sort of busy on Friday anyway as I do awesome things at conventions.

    Aaaaand this is also my 100th post to this thread. Neat!

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