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Thread: Under the Same Sky- PG-15||A Chaptered Story

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    Default Under the Same Sky- PG-15||A Chaptered Story

    EDITED on 07/07/11

    A/N: This fic was inspired by Lull, so Breezy, thank you. However, it is a different breed from Lull, as it will probably notice. The Pokemon Battles (the Cynthia vs "the boy"; partial "the boy" vs Susan Riche) draw stylistic influences from Lamora's Game of Champions and the Sun Soul. Check those two Pokemon fics out when you get the chance; they're wonderfully written.

    Dedicated to tonnes of people, but mainly: Sike Saner, Diddy (thanks for the convos), and Psychic. Believe it or not, Psychic was the one helped start this story for me. Years and years ago, she made a small remark that Champion Lance notably helped the protagonist of G/S/C. In comparison to that, Cynthia and Alder pale a little. And a story idea was germinated.

    Also dedicated to a guy called MattSilver (the beta) and another guy called enembee (a mentor-of-sorts from an awesome but scary forum called DLP)

    One more thing: Before you ask, yes, it is the B/W protagonist. I rendered him nameless for thematic/stylistic reasons. It gives him an interesting "every-man" quality and ties in with the identity theme. I also didn't like the name "Hilbert".

    Enjoy.



    --------------------------------------------------




    ================================================== ======
    Under the Same Sky
    ================================================== =======

    /+/CHAPTER INDEX\+\

    Overture
    ---
    Chapter One
    Chapter Two
    Chapter Three
    Chapter Four
    Chapter Five
    Chapter Six
    ---
    Chapter Seven - The Finale Sonata

    Memorandum: "A Deathless Prelude"



    Summary: A nameless teenager is heralded as the Champion of the Unova League. However, he's not ready to bear that cross. In order to deal with his inner demons, he absconds to Undella Town - and meets a certain blonde Sinnoh Champion.

    Warning(s): Swearing and violent scenarios.
    Rating: PG-15
    Verse: B/W Games (Gen. V)
    Genre: Friendship/Drama.


    ================================================== =======

    "Overture"

    ================================================== =======
    “You cannot live under the same sky as your father’s murderer.”
    -Proverb from the philosopher Confucius-

    ================================================== =======

    Water. Everywhere.

    I try to open my mouth. Air bubbles escape before my own eyes, like little translucent marshmallows. The taste of sea salt blisters my tongue, while the din of turbulent waves rolls over me. Vicious tentacles start to wrap around my neck and throttle. My own grip loosens, and a few flashes of pink are swept away. As I struggle, I can see only the black expanse of the sea. It’s like ink.

    I think I’m drowning.



    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    NOIR. Cheren gives me an intense glare.

    “Champion of the Unova Pokémon League,” he repeats.

    I confirm it.

    He’s incredulous. “It’s a little sudden, don’t you think?”

    I open and close an empty Pokéball. Fuck, for once, I agreed with Cheren.

    Shit.




    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    BLANCHE. Bianca collapses against a wall.

    “Why?” she asks. “Why does it have to be like this?”

    Her voice is thick with phlegm and pity.

    “Champion? But what about Alder?”

    I don’t know what to tell her. Is there anything I can say?

    I don a smile; I don’t think it reaches the eyes.



    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    NOIR. Professor Juniper has her back against me.

    “The Elite Four?” She sighs. “My, my, have you grown.”

    I wonder what she’s doing with the computer.

    “I’m making modifications to the latest Pokedex – Prototype #B06.”

    She swivels around in her chair. “Do you want to volunteer for the beta model?”

    I decline.




    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    BLANCHE. My mother is silent.

    Her voice sounds from the Xtransceiver. “You’re too skinny.”

    I ignore her comment.

    “Are you eating well?” Another question.

    She wrings her hands. “I can’t stand seeing you… like this.”

    I switch off the video-call.




    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    I still dream about it, sometimes. About that day.

    A flash of green hair shimmers before me, like a mirage. He holds onto his next Pokémon, as I do to mine. The rubble of the Pokémon League surrounds us, while fire and lightning shatter the black sky. The Menger sponge was already on the floor. The cuts through my shirt are starting to sting, while small spots appear in front of my eyes. We’re both exhausted and about to faint, maybe. I never wanted to do this, fight him. And I think N is crying.

    For who?

    The white dragon then aims downwards. A pillar of red.

    I’m sprinting, but it’s too late. Of course.

    That day has changed things.

    And people ask me why Zekrom isn’t with me anymore?.





    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    The first time somebody calls me “Black”, I'm seven. My baby teeth haven't popped out yet, and ironically, Bianca is the tallest kid in class. I'm the shortest, but that doesn't faze me. At least to the best of my recollection. When you're a preschooler, there are only so many times that matter to you.

    One of them is your choice of friends.

    I’m on the seesaw, pushing myself on and off the ground. The seat opposite mine is vacant. Because my family had only recently moved into town, none of the other children seem to want to talk to me. The perks of being “the new kid”.

    It surprises me when somebody approaches me. A bespectacled boy, with straight-laced hair and an even more straight-laced expression.

    “I’m Cheren,” the boy declares. “What’s your name?”

    I tell him.

    Cheren wrinkles his nose. “That’s your name? It sounds stupid.”

    I tell him that his face is stupid.

    “Your name is stupider,” replies Cheren, in a breezy way that only a seven year-old can muster. “I’m gonna call you something else.”

    Curious, I ask him what.

    “I dunno. What’s your favourite colour?”

    Black.

    “Really?” Cheren sits on the seesaw. “Isn’t it too gloomy? Dad says you only wear black when somebody dies.”

    Black is cool. Black is my favourite sweet: shaved liquorice. Black is the colour of my sneaky shadow, which follows me everywhere.

    “Weirdo. You probably only like black ‘cause you’re not ordinary or normal.” Cheren rolls his eyes. “How did Dad say it? ‘The black Mareep in the flock’.”

    I tell him that I’m not a weirdo.

    “Whatever. If you like Black so much, that’s what I’ll call you.”

    Although I want to insist that my name isn’t “Black”, I’m too eager for Cheren’s approval to disagree. I meet Bianca soon after, and Cheren introduces me as “Black” to her. She giggles and likes Cheren’s reasoning. The name catches on.

    Years after, people grow up, and the playground nickname fades out of use. Cheren graduates from juvenile insults like “weirdo”. Bianca prefers to mispronounce and butcher my real name. “Black” is a leftover of my childhood.

    But now? Do most people even call me by my real name? I’m not an ordinary boy to them. I’m always something else.

    Maybe that’s why I like to refer to myself as “Black” in my head. Nobody else calls me that name, but that’s part of the appeal. I haven’t been “ordinary” in a long time, anyway.

    How “weird”.





    /+/+/+/+/ /+/




    Fuck, I’m going crazy. Caitlin is right. I do need a break.

    I check the map she gave me. Her cursive writing spills out.

    “‘Undella Town – A Town of Rippling Waves’,” I read aloud.

    East of Unova, huh?

    I fold the map with my definite destination in mind.


    /fin of Overture/

    ================================================== =======

    Chapter One

    ================================================== =======

    -Undella Town-
    Friday


    The storm beat down. The sky was cluttered with murky clouds, while gales of wind streaked like arrows from a bow, angling the raindrops against the wet pavement. Snarling, the ocean itself gnawed at the coastline. Undella Town’s famous beaches – the soaring plains of white – had temporarily become nothing more than mere soggy sand dunes. Indeed, Undella had transformed herself into a desolate wetland, as the residents and tourists alike scurried to the warmth of shelter. The main road, normally packed with weekend stalls selling trinkets and 50-Cent Snow Cones, was empty.

    A hurricane in a hamlet.

    Through this baleful weather, a lone figure walked down the road. A boy, aged fifteen. He wasn’t a particularly inspiring fellow. He was neither short nor tall, and his messy, brown hair was insipid, plastered with water against the slender nape of his neck. An official Pokémon League hat was squashed down on his head, hiding the face.

    In his mind, the boy liked to call himself “Black”. It was nothing like his real name, or what others called him, but it worked for him.

    Black wasn’t too fussed about the storm. He actually enjoyed the cool feel of the rain, as Arctic fingers trailed over his spine. It could have been worse. The cold was preferable to the hot, anyway. He still remembered the burning scorch of the Resort Desert. Wouldn’t you rather die by ice than die by fire? Freezing numbed the senses, ensuring that the victim could no longer feel. No more pain – just a blanket of sleep.

    The C-Gear on his wrist beeped, signalling a video call. Black checked the screen. The caller ID: Bianca. Hastily, he turned off the C-Gear. This was the third time in two days that Bianca had attempted to contact him, even though he had made it abundantly clear that he wished to be left alone. Yes, he was avoiding her, but could one blame him? He wasn’t ready to talk about what had happened. No meant no. A concept which Bianca didn’t comprehend.

    Eventually, Black reached the end of the road. A series of buildings were clustered by a picket fence. He walked into the largest one.

    As he trudged through the lobby, Black heard the whispers and gasps of the people around him. A young waiter nearly knocked over the wine cooler. A mother of three tried to quieten her suddenly agitated children. Ignoring the pointed stares, Black stepped in front of the concierge’s desk.

    “Welcome to Undella Town,” recited the concierge in a dull tone. “How may I help you?”

    “I would like to rent a villa,” said Black.

    “There are no villas available today. You will have to find alternative accommodation.”

    “I don’t think that’s an option,” said Black brightly.

    Bored, the concierge typed into her computer. “I’m sorry, sir, but we have no more rooms. You’ll have to wait like everyone else. No exceptions.”

    “I think you can make an exception with me.”

    The concierge flicked her eyes towards Black, who took off his hat. A young tanned face emerged in the light. A face that had been sandblasted across billboards and television screens. The concierge dropped her jaw.

    “Why don’t you check the computer again,” said Black. His amber eyes glimmered. “There might be a vacancy.”

    “O-Of course, let me check.”

    Black flattened the hat over his hair again, as the flustered concierge scrutinised the database.

    “There is one villa available, but you will have to share with another person,” said the woman.

    Nervously, she returned her gaze to Black. The copious cakes of makeup could not hide the deep, red flush in her starstruck face. Immediately, Black was reminded of that beret-wearing girl from Altomare City.

    “Is this arrangement to your liking?” asked the woman, her upper lip trembling.

    A little exasperated, Black nodded.

    “O-Okay. Firstly, I need to call the other party to confirm that she’s also fine with sharing a villa.”

    Picking up a fancy receiver, the concierge dialled the phone. She waited for the tone, before speaking.

    “Hello, Ma’am? I’m sorry for intruding upon your evening, but we have another client who wishes to share your villa. I understand that Lady Caitlin herself had rented you the villa, but Undella’s policy states that – ”

    The concierge paused. Black wondered what the other person was saying. Was the person upset with the concierge? Not everybody could have been happy sharing what was once a peaceful, empty villa. People tended to dislike change. Black had seen how possessive people could become. Then, why could he hear laughter from the phone?

    “Yes, Ma’am. It’s the Unova League Champion,” the concierge said.

    Surprised, the woman buckled forward. “‘Send him up?’ Now? Y-Yes, Ma’am. Thank you for your time.”

    The concierge set down the phone. Nervous, she turned her head towards Black, chewing her lip. She straightened the hem of her pencil skirt. Black rolled his eyes, but did not falter his smile.

    “The villa is available, sir. I’ll arrange for bellhop to take your luggage,” said the woman.

    Black forced a placid smile. “No need. I can take my satchel myself.”

    The concierge fumbled with a knot of keys. She detached one from the bunch and called out to him.

    “Here’s your key,” she said, passing the lacy metal to Black. “Your villa is the second one from the right. It has two blue shutters; you cannot miss it.”

    Black nodded, pocketing the key. When he began to step away from the desk, the concierge called out:

    “Sir! My son is a huge fan; he wants to be just like you.”

    “Really?” Black replied, trying to keep his tone cheery and detached.

    “Yes. If I could get him your autograph, he’d be over the moon. You’re the greatest hero and Champion to him.”

    Chuckling, Black pressed his lips into a thin, bitter line. “I’ve done nothing worth noting.”

    “But – ”

    “Tell your son to find a better role model.”

    Without another word to the concierge, Black wheeled around and walked out of the lobby. People scuttled away from him, trying to avoid looking him in the eye. A fat tourist dropped his grease-stained camera; deliberately, the businessman with the tame Liepard headed in a different direction to him. Even the Plusle and Minun, playing by the granite fountain, squeaked upon seeing Black. Swiftly, they scurried behind their Trainers’ pants.

    The Minun’s Trainer, a mousy haired girl with baby-fat cheeks and a ridiculous ‘Hello Skitty’ sweater, pointed at Black.

    “Papa, it’s the boy from television! The one who fought the scary man!”

    As Black lowered his hat, he overheard the girl’s father whispering to the girl, telling her that it was rude to point. Black didn’t miss the franticness in the man’s voice. It was dark and glossy, like a prowling Luxray. Black was familiar with it; he had witnessed it glisten in the eyes of far lesser men.

    Fear.

    After exiting the lobby and enduring a few minutes of rain, Black arrived at his chosen villa. It was as the concierge had described: adorned with blue shutters, and impossible to miss. Large and ostentatious, sun-bleached walls stretched outwards. Like a fisher’s trawl, lush ivy dragged across the Grecian colonnade. A matching set of polished, mahogany doors completed the image of luxury and affluence.

    Typical. Caitlin was spoilt sweet, preferring her cucumber sandwiches to have their crusts off. Everything had to be perfect with her, from her Pokémon battles to her laundered Lilycove skirts. Her vacation villas couldn’t be an exception.

    Fitting the key into the door, Black entered the villa. A spiralling, burnished staircase and a darkened marble floor greeted him, like a groomed butler. Black threw his bag on a coffee table. He chuckled when mud and rainwater seeped across the clean glass, dripping down the table-legs. That should give Caitlin a nasty shock; the girl cared far too much about cleanliness than was considered healthy.

    Black remembered the first time he met Caitlin. Dressed in a white sundress, she was the epitome of grace and chastity. He didn’t like her from the start. She claimed that he had no place challenging the Unova Elite Four. What was the phrase she used again? “dim-witted little boy”.

    The moniker wasn’t entirely false, though. Once upon a time, he was a small boy from the smallest town in Unova. However, he had high hopes: he wanted to be the greatest Trainer of them all. The only thing bigger than his dreams was his toothy smile. His first Pokémon, a pig with orange fur brighter than the sun, liked his smile the most. Not even the tastiest Poffin could elicit from Tepig a squeal of delight more than his toothy grin. However, that was back in the old days, when Black’s grin was genuine. Sure, the motions were the same: the dimples still curled at the edges, and his teeth still shone through.

    But the joy wasn’t there.

    Abruptly, the clicking of heels brought Black out of his thoughts. Instantly, his hand snapped to his Pokébelt. He skimmed across each of the five capsules. Unfezant would provide the quickest attack, flying like a bullet to rip out a throat. Scrafty and Simisage could break the assailant’s bones, while Carracosta would create enough Rock Slides to disinter the villa’s underbelly. Even Beheeyem would be more than surfeit: two silent Psybeams would neutralise any threat. Avoiding the empty sixth slot, Black tried to make his final decision. He had two seconds to pick, before the other person would utilise her chance to attack him first –

    “Isn’t it a little late for a Pokémon Battle?” a female voice remarked from the stairwell. “I am more than ready for a good match, but I would much rather do this when I’m not so tired.”

    A tall figure stepped forward, allowing the moonlight to illuminate her body. She was a statuesque woman, with willowy legs and a generous bust. A black nightgown, verging on indecent and see-through, hugged her hips. Her long, blond hair cascaded downwards in rivulets, while grey eyes glinted with amusement. Pointed cheekbones, angled upwards. A silver ring, inset with an odd brown stone, twinkled from her middle finger. She stood akimbo, smiling slightly.

    The woman was a household name. A breakfast cereal in Jubilife was designed in her honour. Black spoke without thinking: “Cynthia.”

    Cynthia tilted her head. “That would be my name.”

    “What are doing here? Aren’t you meant to be in Sinnoh?”

    “I decided to travel around the world, so Caitlin rented me a few overseas villas as a favour,” said Cynthia.

    She yawned and stretched her arms, causing the robe to open slightly at the chest. Black reddened at the glimpse of soft, pink skin.

    “And I am not needed in Sinnoh anymore. My duties as a former Champion have been delegated,” she explained gently.

    Smoothly, Cynthia gestured at him. “I have some coffee in the kitchen. You’re more than welcome to join me.”

    Black shot a doubtful look at Cynthia, who was starting to swan towards the hall. After a moment of contemplation, he followed her. So, this was the person with whom he was sharing a villa? In all honesty, Black was apprehensive. Champion Cynthia was many things, but predictable wasn’t one of them. Indeed, Cynthia had frustrated the Sinnoh officials with her sporadic and random stopovers at interesting historical sites, throwing her schedule into disarray. Once, she had disappeared for four days, forcing Lucian to substitute for her as Champion. The press was in an uproar. Where was she for half a week? Visiting the Solaceon Ruins, because the “glyphs intrigued her”. Living with her was bound to be a challenge.

    As expected of Caitlin, the kitchen was well furbished. The marble benchtops had in-built ovens, courtesy of Devon Corp. An assortment of blenders, mixers and food processers clung to the walls, aligned in sleek, polished rows. Next to one of these blenders were some of Cynthia’s belongings: an Everstone, a sketch of an Unown, and her notebook, which was open. Black barely caught the words “Chi-Ro: King?”, before Cynthia had closed it. Accompanying Cynthia’s curios was also a pasta machine and a series of non-essential, luxury trinkets.

    One of these trinkets was a Silph espresso machine, which Cynthia approached and adjusted. Within minutes, the blond woman produced two cups of steaming coffee. She handed one to Black, who carefully took it with two hands.

    He sipped it in silence.

    “We should get you out of those wet clothes. Otherwise, you might get hypothermia,” said Cynthia, glancing at Black’s soaked jacket and cargo pants. “Allow me – ”

    “No, I’ll deal with it,” Black replied.

    Taking out a Pokéball, he released the Scrafty inside it. The hoodlum-like biped materialised with a flash of white light. The Pokémon’s face, ordinarily besmirched with mischief and malicious glee, was scrunched in mild concern. Scrafty stared questioningly at Black.

    Donning a warm facade, Black tried to focus on the task at hand.

    “Scrafty, I’m a little wet from the rain,” he said.

    He leaned towards the Pokémon, giving a small smile. “Could you help me?”

    Scrafty growled affirmatively. Cynthia raised an eyebrow when the Pokémon belched a shroud of soft flames around Black. The fire was rather weak in intensity, carefully controlled not to burn the boy. After another minute, Scrafty closed his mouth, and the flames self-extinguished.

    Black was dry and unburned.

    “Thanks, mate,” was Black’s muttered reply as he returned the scowling Pokémon back to his capsule.

    “That was impressive, using Incinerate to dry your clothes,” Cynthia said kindly.

    Black shrugged. “It was nothing.”

    “You’re too modest. We both know a Scrafty cannot naturally control fire like that, at least without being trained specifically. You taught him well.”

    Cynthia finished her coffee and set down the mug in the sink. “You must be a talented and powerful Trainer. As expected from the Hero of Unova.”

    Black nearly dropped his cup. Cynthia sauntered past him and patted him on the shoulder.

    “The guest’s bedroom on the second floor is yours,” she said, as she left the kitchen. “Please turn off the espresso machine when you’re finished.”

    Black didn’t respond. His grip around the coffee mug tightened.



    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    Somehow, the press finds out what happened. I guess it’s inevitable, since nobody could have missed the sight of a fucking castle suddenly encircling the Pokémon League. Websites and newspapers discuss the events of that day. Witnesses say that they remember two gods – one white and the other black. They remember that a teenager controlled the white dragon. They remember that I controlled the black one.

    The Nimbasa Daily has the bright idea of calling me the “Hero of Unova”. The name catches on.

    Then, the blog of some fatass sources photos of me and Reshiram; Reshiram is clearly in pain. Using this evidence, the bitter jackass lambasts me as a “god-killer” and “danger”. The name catches on.

    Even though Zekrom isn’t with me anymore, people still ask how I subdued and captured the god. How I chose to become a Hero.

    I didn’t. Zekrom had dictated my destiny. Fuck, all this attention. It’s everywhere.

    Only my mother seemed to remember my real name.






    /+/+/+/ /+/+/



    -Undella Town-
    Saturday


    The next day began as usual for Black. He woke up at daybreak and, after yawning loudly, stretched his limbs to maintain his flexibility. He brushed his teeth using a cheap brand of toothpaste (‘Morning Budew with Extra Fresh™’), following with a wash in the nearest water source. In this case, that was the en-suite shower. The clothes for the day were the typical: fresh underwear, as his mother had always insisted, and the standard tee-shirt and cargo pants.

    He fitted on his League cap. Nothing had changed, at least on the surface.

    Grabbing his jacket off a chair, Black walked out of the guest’s bedroom and headed towards the kitchen. Cynthia was probably there already. The woman looked like an early-starter.

    As he strolled down the stairs, he heard a soft knocking at the villa’s entrance. Within seconds, Cynthia appeared. With a smile, she opened the front door.

    “Yes?”

    A weedy teenager, older than Black, stood on the other side. He was gawky and gangly, as though he had grown too quickly in too short a period of time. A few pimples dashed across his nose. Braces complemented a narrow face, which showed a wispy attempt at a five o’clock shadow. The feather-shaped logo on the teenager’s shirt was telling: ‘RUFFLET PIZZA: 24/7 Service. Wherever, Whenever.’

    “One medium pizza for a Miss Chard?” said the scraggy teenager. He read off a piece of paper. “Vegan special, but with anchovies, kidney beans, and extra feta. No shallots and no beetroot.”

    Serenely, Cynthia nodded. “That’s my order.”

    “That will be $19.55.”

    As Cynthia opened her purse, the pizza deliverer finally caught a good look of the woman in front of him. His eyes widened when he realised that this wasn’t any blonde, it was Cynthia. The former Sinnoh Champion, biannual winner of the Lily Valley Conference for 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. She was one of the League’s living legends, not to mention a cultural icon. Even those who didn’t follow the Pokémon Battle circuit would recognise her from the ‘Hoenn Disaster Appeal’ commercials, back when the region was experiencing freakish flooding and droughts.

    Black rolled his eyes when the geeky teenager started sputtering.

    “Here’s twenty dollars,” Cynthia said, pulling out a green banknote. Black twitched when he saw Alder’s familiar face stamped across the watermarked side. It brought back his memories of the League, of meeting the Elite Four. Of meeting him.

    Cynthia pressed the note into the spluttering deliverer’s hands. “Why don’t you keep the change?”

    As she snagged the pizza from his hands, the weedy teenager squeaked, as though he was bursting at the seams. His ears became pink.

    MayIhafyourautographplez!

    She blinked. “Pardon?”

    “May I have your autograph please?” The teenager took a deep breath, slowing down.

    “Oh! You want my autograph?” said Cynthia slowly.

    From his semi-hidden spot on the stairwell, Black wondered how Cynthia would react. Would she indulge this recurrent request? She must have been exhausted from more than a decade of signing autographs. Wasn’t she now free of such obligations? She was no longer Champion – it was not her duty or her concern.

    To Black’s surprise, she took out a pen. “Sure, why not. What’s your name?”

    “Matt Johansson. It’s spelt with two ‘s’s.”

    Cynthia picked up a napkin and scribbled something on it, flourishing the pen in wide strokes. Black thought that she was making a small spectacle out of it, as though she was conducting a ceremony of sorts. Matt Johansson, however, was spellbound. His face became as red as the tomato paste which had been slathered over Cynthia’s pizza.

    Cynthia returned the napkin, now adorned with some sort of trite platitude and her signature, to Johansson.

    “Here you go,” she said warmly.

    Taking the napkin, the delivery boy read its message out loud: “‘To Matt Johansson. Never give up on your Pokémon dreams. They’ll come true someday. Yours, Cynthia.’”

    Johansson cradled the napkin, as though it would disintegrate at the slightest touch. Reverently, he gawked at Cynthia.

    Shit, thank you! Thank you so much!”

    “You’re welcome,” was Cynthia’s response as she shut the door with a low thud.

    Black watched Cynthia grab the pizza, humming a strange tune to herself. Opening the box, the former Champion chose a slice and bit into it. A pleasant aroma of melted cheese and roast vegetables wafted upwards. Black felt his mouth water a little. Abruptly, he was reminded that he hadn’t eaten a decent meal in days. Yes, there were the water crackers and freeze-dried fruits which had proven to be staples of his diet while travelling the wildness, but those were ration-issue foods. They would provide sustenance but not satisfaction.

    Lowering his League hat, he climbed down the stairs. Cynthia had already finished her first slice. She was halfway through the kitchen when she spotted him.

    “Good morning, did you sleep well?” she asked.

    “Better than usual.”

    Black tore off a piece of the peculiar pizza. Up close he could perceive the toppings, and he realised that while the pizza smelled palatable, it wouldn’t necessarily have a good taste. He spotted shavings of anchovy, kidney beans, and oven-roasted broccoli, all held together by hot nets of feta cheese. What a bizarre combination. Did Cynthia always have such… specific tastes? It reminded Black of Bianca, who was encouraging him to try new foods whenever they reached their next Gym. “Try the Casteliacone, it’s a local specialty!”, “Rabuta Berries aren’t just for Pokémon!”, or “Moomoo Milk is a great aphrodisiac!” More often than not, Black regretted listening to Bianca; her peculiar taste in food didn’t quite match with his. She was annoying that way.

    Glancing back at the pizza slice, Black felt his empty stomach grumble. No matter. At this point, he was hungry enough to eat raw Krokoodile. Losers couldn’t be choosers.

    He chewed. Immediately, there were sharp bursts of saltiness, outset by the sweetness of pumpkin and the mild taste of broccoli. All in all, it was surprisingly pleasant. Swallowing, Black wolfed down the pizza, as the hot cheese burnt the inside of his mouth.

    Cynthia leaned against the kitchen counter. “It must have been difficult travelling so much. The bad food, the constant camping. Didn’t you ever get homesick?”

    “I managed,” Black stated.

    “When I was starting out as a Trainer, I missed my grandmother terribly,” said Cynthia, sprinkling a few more olives on her pizza.

    She gave a low, throaty laugh. “I couldn’t wait to arrive at the next PokéCenter so that I could use the video-phone to call her. If the booth was already occupied, sometimes I would cry until the person let me go ahead of him.”

    “That sounds a little – ” Black tried to sound polite. “needy.”

    “I was young and inexperienced,” she said, smiling. “People mature over time.”

    Black glanced at the blond former Champion, who was humming to herself again. A shred of curiosity pricked him, like a metal needle. The small detail about Cynthia’s life had piqued his interest; what was a younger Cynthia like? How different was she to this statuesque woman?

    “Did you travel alone?” he asked, unable to resist.

    “Initially, but not for long. When I was visiting Canalave City, a boy stole my bike. I was visiting the famous library to research Gible’s evolutionary cycle. I come out with my books, and my bicycle was gone.” Absently, Cynthia pushed a stray blond strand out of her eyes. “Moreover, when I finally found it behind a dumpster, someone had broken the chains and the spokes. In his haste, the thief had accidentally destroyed my bike.”

    Black gaped, while she languidly toyed with silver ring on her hand. The inset brown shard shimmered at certain angles of light.

    Unaffected, Cynthia continued: “I was understandably upset at the time. Eventually, I found the thief and confronted him.”

    “You challenged him to a Pokémon Battle,” Black speculated.

    “Not everything in life involves fighting,” said Cynthia carefully. She nibbled on the end of her pizza. “No, it turned out that the boy’s Bronzor was very ill and needed urgent medical attention. The boy had to get to Canalave PokéCenter quickly. My bike just happened to be nearby.”

    “What happened to the Bronzor? Was it okay?”

    Cynthia gave Black an approving look. “Your concern for Pokémon, even those who aren’t yours, is admirable.”

    Reflexively, Black’s hand darted to his belt. His fingertips ghosted over each of the five Pokéballs, protective and defensive. Suddenly, a strong emotion seared through him, like a comet, parching his throat; he found it a little hard to breathe.

    “And the Bronzor was fine. But as a result of this ordeal, the Bronzor’s Trainer and I became close,” Cynthia elaborated. “We decided to travel together, at least until he could recompense me for my bicycle.”

    Black picked at the pizza box. “Did he?”

    “Eventually, yes. However, by then we were already good enough friends that I decided to stay with him anyway. His presence made the wilderness much easier to tackle. It was nice not to be alone.”

    Reaching for her purse, Cynthia pulled something out and showed it to Black. It was a faded photograph, blotched with coffee spills and crinkles from excess handling. A younger Cynthia was leaning over a leering Gabite and an unidentifiable, pink-skinned slug, whose visage on the photo was smudged out. If Black didn’t know any better, he would say that the latter Pokémon had been crossed out with a permanent marker – and then scrubbed at a much later date, in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the obscuring ink. Strange.

    Black drifted his gaze up the photograph. The younger Cynthia looked different: her signature blond hair was cropped short, while her smile showed baby teeth. Instead of those signature Umbreon hairclips, a vibrant pastel flower balanced behind her ear. Black ironically noted that even the younger Cynthia had a disproportionate bust, though. Next to the Gabite and the pink slug was a dark-haired figure. The face was motion-blurred, but one could make out what appeared to be tinted, silver-framed glasses. The younger Cynthia held a victory V-sign over her human companion, who was clutching some sort of thick book.

    Black was guessing that this photo was a picture of Cynthia and her bike-stealing friend.

    “We’re still friends, even today,” said Cynthia.

    She pocketed the photograph. Black threw the last pizza slice back into the box. A shiver of sadness tinged his mind; Cynthia’s picture was reminiscent of that summer day in Nacrene City. Cheren had made everyone sandwiches, while Bianca lay back on the grass. She said that the clouds reminded her of cargo ships, with great, white sails which billowed in the wind.

    “What about your own friends?” Cynthia asked, breaking him out of his stupor. “I heard from the Professor that you had journeyed through Unova with a few companions. Aren’t you still in contact with them?”

    Black froze. Inscrutably, he spun around and faced Cynthia.

    “It’s better if I stay alone.”


    /+/+/+/ /+/+/



    When Caitlin and Grimsley approach me, I’m sitting in the top most tower of the Pokémon League. From my vantage point, I could see the bulldozers and construction cranes rumbling around the wreckage. The builders aren’t alone. Trained Gurdurr cringe at some of their orders, but obey nonetheless. Would the builders understand what their Pokémon feel? Judging from their confused chain of command, the construction crews probably barely understood each other.

    Grimsley is smoking. Fuck. That’s not a good sign – he only does that when he’s stressed.

    “We need to talk,” said Caitlin.

    I try to be a smart alec. “You know I don’t feel that way about you, but if you insist.”

    “Please stop blathering,” she replied, in a sleek but waspish voice. “This is rather important.”

    Caitlin and Grimsley sit down next to me. When they finish talking, I’m on my feet. I give a small laugh and I ask if she’s kidding.

    “Unfortunately, no.”

    Caitlin leans closer.

    “I think you need to take a vacation.”


    /fin of Chapter One/
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 15th September 2011 at 6:16 PM.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

    Memorandum to UtSS: "A Deathless Prelude".
    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

  2. #2
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    Don't have much time at the mo.

    First off, =D

    Secondly,
    Vicious tentacles start to wrap around my neck and throttle. My own grip loosens, and a few flashes of pink are swept away.
    Throttle... me?

    Also, you don't need the comma.

    I also find the random bolding in the middle of swear words, but stars are more annoying, so I'll just say, highlight the middle of the word and format it to change the font size to the same size as the rest of the text, 2 I think it default. Perfect, unchanged swears.

    I wonder she’s doing with the computer.
    I wonder what she's doing?

    [quote/]Immediately, the boy was reminded of that beret-wearing girl from Altomare City.[/quote]

    Those are two completely different Bianca's

    In short (may expand upon later or in subsequent chapter reviews)

    Very awesome,
    written well,
    characterisation great,
    Cynthia win,
    mystery and hints to later events and past events done very enigmatically.

    Well worth the wait.
    Skogsrĺ

    Gardenia never liked the Old Chateau, but what if the Old Chateau liked her?

    Author's Profile

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Don't have much time at the mo.

    First off, =D
    I can certainly understand that sentiment.

    And, Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    Secondly,


    Throttle... me?
    Fix'd

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    Also, you don't need the comma.
    I thought it was a complex sentence, so it was grammatically correct this way... But hey, I wasn't the best at grammar, so I may be wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    I also find the random bolding in the middle of swear words, but stars are more annoying, so I'll just say, highlight the middle of the word and format it to change the font size to the same size as the rest of the text, 2 I think it default. Perfect, unchanged swears.

    =D Thanks for that tip. Fixing the swear words. Honestly, the stars are so fucking annoying.

    xD


    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    I wonder what she's doing?

    [quote/]Immediately, the boy was reminded of that beret-wearing girl from Altomare City.
    Those are two completely different Bianca's[/QUOTE]

    Fixed the first mistake and for the second, I thought at the time that mentioning the two Biancas would be a funny reference. But now I realise that it's just confusing.

    Will fix.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    In short (may expand upon later or in subsequent chapter reviews)

    Very awesome,
    written well,
    characterisation great,
    Cynthia win,
    mystery and hints to later events and past events done very enigmatically.
    Thanks. It was really hard to balance the dual, unfolding mysteries of past and present events; I wanted some sort of symmetry between what was happening to "the boy" and what had happened to him before. More words than I had for a one-shot were required to do justice to the storyline (and to Cynthia's own backstory; Shirona wouldn't spill the beans within 20,000 words, and I had to make this a Chaptered fic. xD).

    The final story is now approximately 40,000 words, but I think it's better for it. =D

    And about "the boy", Hilbert, Black, Touya, Lucy - call him whatever you want. I thought it'd be interesting to render him nameless, since in B/W they didn't offer you any default names when choosing your player character. Calling him "the boy" gives a nice "everyman" quality, and reminds people of whomever they called the Player, don't you think? xD


    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy
    Well worth the wait.
    Wait another week, and I'll give you the second Chapter. xD

    I'm so mean in holding my chips close to my hand. But hey, this way I leave you guys wanting more. Which means you'll come back again. xD xD

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

    Memorandum to UtSS: "A Deathless Prelude".
    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

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    Chapter One has been edited accordingly, so that the protagonist now has a "name". My beta told me that it reads better this way.

    And here's Chapter Two.


    ================================================== =======

    Chapter Two

    ================================================== =======
    “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
    -William Shakespeare-

    ================================================== =======

    The man opposite me is ugly. While his bulging forehead reminds me of a Crustle under its grimy shell, the extravagant jewels on his rings make those fat fingers look like sausages. The expensive business suit struggles to contain that enormous stomach. The nameplate pinned to his Lilycove blazer identifies him as a Director, one of the highest ranked officials in the League. When I glance at his chubby legs, I have to wonder how much funding he had diverted to pay for those expensive dress-pants. In short, the man looks like a pig in fancy clothing. Very fancy clothing.

    The fatass passes me a vanilla folder. Inside are a number of forms. Each paper bears the picture of a black and white Pokéball, the official logo of the Unova Pokémon League.

    “The Board of Directors has discussed the situation,” says the man. “In light of recent events, we have decided to supersede Subsections 1B and 1E.”

    “What the hell is this?”

    “Champion Alder has already completed his paperwork.” The man smiles. “All you need to do is sign.”




    /+/+/ /+/+/+/



    -Undella Town-
    Sunday


    Feathers flurried. Sunlight gleamed off the jagged beak, as a great, grey bird soared upwards into the sky. The Unfezant’s yellow eyes narrowed, locking onto her prey. She started flapping her wings. All around the arena, sharp coils of wind blustered outwards and gorged the earth, like a ravenous beast. Rocks flew everywhere, buoyed by the gales. One particular rock, shaped like an overgrown snail with a face that was both viscous and aflame, shrieked. Terrified, the rock-snail belched a plume of scarlet fire at Unfezant.

    The sweltering blast spurted towards the bird, singeing the heat-retardant tail-feathers. However, Unfezant remained unharmed. Imperturbable, she released a curiously echoing cry.

    Giga Impact,” Black ordered.

    Unfezant spread her wings, which began to shine with brilliant, purple iridescence. Orange flecks of light overlay the violet glow, like the afterimage from a camera flash. A second later, the bird was entirely encased in a seethed cocoon of energy. The rock-snail tried to crawl away from Unfezant. As characteristic of its species, acrid smoke gushed from the Pokémon’s pyroclastic shell, signalling its distress.

    “Maggy! Magcargo!” cried the girl in the petticoat. “Stone Edge!

    Listening to its Trainer, the rock-snail struck the ground. A chasm opened underneath Unfezant, and sharpened stones shot upwards, like recalcitrant bullets. However, to no avail. The rocks disintegrated upon the Giga Impact’s energy cloak, crumpling into harmless shards. Magcargo floundered, its panic becoming palpable. As Unfezant plunged at the rock-snail, Black crossed his arms. Ordinarily, Normal-type attacks such as Giga Impact would not be effective against Rock-types, like Magcargo. It was, along with the rest of the Type chart, one of the first lessons from the Trainers Academy. A typical Trainer would have opted instead for a Fighting-type attack, such as Focus Blast, or a powerhouse deluge, like Hydro Pump.

    However, Black wasn’t a typical Trainer. Far from it.

    What many people didn’t know was that Magcargo’s lithic shell was brittle. Made of the same pebble-like residue from volcanic discharges, it did not rank high on the Mohs scale of mineral strength. Furthermore, the shell was circular. With a clear centripetal centre – and a weak point.

    With the force of a freight train, Unfezant spiralled into the side of Magcargo’s craggy shell. The keen beak pierced the bull’s eye. An explosion ballooned outwards, as smoke and bits of dirt went flying. As the aftershock released a clamouring blast, the girl in the petticoat yelped and blocked her ears from the splintering noise. Black merely blinked.

    The dust finally settled. Unfezant materialised; her plumage was a little charred, but she was still intact. The same could not be said of Magcargo, who was eerily motionless. Shattered shards of magmatic rock strewed the ground.

    “M-Maggy!” the girl whimpered, running to her fallen Pokémon.

    Black nodded at Unfezant, before returning her to the Pokéball. Weary, he frowned. It was his second day in Undella, and this was already his second Pokémon battle. Since he had arrived in Undella for intimate, personal reasons, Black had sworn off matches in the meantime.

    However, the challengers were persistent; once they discerned his identity as Unova Champion, the ones who weren’t deterred by his past pursued him. Hour after hour, like a predatory Warrgle and its Wurmple prey.

    The girl in front of him was the leader of the more relentless ones; she had managed to force his hand. In fact, the only one more aggravating than her was the small kid whom he had battled yesterday. That youngster, pinch-faced and needle-chinned, used his immense wealth as a cudgel. Brat.

    “Life goes on,” Black muttered, pocketing Unfezant’s Pokéball.

    “M-Maggy! Magcargo!”

    The girl in the petticoat called out again. Her voice corded with horror, drawing her opponent’s attention.

    Carefully, Black looked at the girl and sighed. Huge tears were welling up in her eyes, when he walked up to her. Quietly, he handed her a handkerchief.

    “There are two subdermal cuts, and a severe open fracture,” said Black.

    “W-What?”

    “Magcargo can regenerate new shells, though. They simply need to cool down a little,” he continued, as though the girl hadn’t spoken. “Just get him to a PokéCenter, and he’ll be fine.”

    The girl’s face brightened. “R-Really? Maggy will be alright? How do you know?”

    “What’s your name?”

    “Susan,” replied the girl.

    “Well, Sue, I know because of this.”

    Black fished out a peculiar, chess-black machine that was around the size of his right palm. The familiar Pokéball logo gleamed on the metallic cover. When he pressed a button, a 3-D image of Susan’s Magcargo flickered onto the bottom screen. A number of statistics accompanied the image.

    Susan gawped. “What is that?”

    “It’s called a Pokedex – Pokémon Encyclopaedic Index,” said Black, as he scrolled up the machine’s screen. “Using the latest Poké-technology, it scans information specific to each Pokémon and analyses the data.”

    Impassively, he showed the device to the fascinated girl. “Take a better look, if you want.”

    Her eyes widened upon inspection:

    --

    Pokémon Encyclopaedic Index (POKEDEX) – Prototype #A05
    //://NATIONAL Mode

    Species #219: Magcargo

    -Weight: 121.7lbs
    -Height: 2'08"
    -FIRE/ROCK

    -MALE
    -Strength Lv.: INTERMEDIATE
    -Gentle Nature
    -ABILITY: Flame Body

    Description: Magcargo, the LAVA Pokémon. Lives primarily in volcanic regions and occasionally emits the lava from its back that circles its body. Its inner body temperature is roughly 18,000 degrees F. Its shell, which is actually skin that has been hardened as a result of cooling, is very brittle and fragile - just touching it causes it to crumble apart. Rejuvenates its shell upon respite, followed by gradual cooling.

    H. Status: FAINTED; subdermal cuts and shattered pyro-armor.

    --


    “So you don’t need to worry.” Black calmly told the girl, who blew her nose on the handkerchief. “Magcargo isn’t in particular danger. Holding him in Pokéball stasis will stabilise his condition.”

    Snivelling slightly, Susan aimed her Luxury Ball at the fallen Magcargo. The lava Pokémon disappeared in a shimmer of red light.

    “Thank you,” she mumbled.

    Black forced a smile.

    “Y-Your Pokémon are amazing. Unfezant had a Type disadvantage, yet it trounced Maggy completely,” Susan said in wonder.

    She looked down, blushing. “I-I shouldn’t have pressured you so much into battling me. Magcargo had reached a winning streak, and I got arrogant.”

    “You got impulsive, not arrogant,” said Black coolly.

    “I wanted to fight you when I heard you defeated my brother,” Susan said, brushing dust off her expensive, Celadon blouse.

    “Brother? You mean the blond kid in the sweater-vest and bowtie?”

    Susan giggled. “That sounds like Draco, definitely. He’s a good battler, but he hasn’t yet outgrown the snotty phase.”

    The girl straightened her lilac sundress for creases. Her crimped, auburn hair emanated the scent of fresh strawberries, probably from an organic shampoo. It reminded Black of an elegant but disdainful Trainer from the Elite Four, another native to Undella – Caitlin. Indeed, Susan’s handbag contained certain, tell-tale items: Luxury balls, Full Restores, Balm Mushrooms. Like her brother, Susan also held an inexpressible air of affluence and having been well cared for. Someone who had coasted through life without any hitch, who hadn’t spat into the maw. Content, but oblivious.

    Undella Town – the Retreat of Rippling Waves – must have been Susan’s birthplace and home.

    “Thank you for finding the time to battle me,” Susan piped in. “You must be very busy as Champion, saving Unova and jetting around the world. And it’s only your second day in Undella, and already you’ve had to deal with my brother and me…”

    “It’s nothing,” said Black. “You asked me for a match, I gave you one.”

    As per standard Unova League rules, Susan handed Black a wad of cash. However, he refused with a straining smile, citing that he had enough winnings to live two times over. The Riches family could keep their money, he assured. There was another reason for refusing the reward, though. While he talked to Susan, a sinking feeling of anger, discomfort, and something indefinable was pooling in his stomach.

    In reality, Black simply wished to get away from the sheltered socialite as swiftly as possible.

    “What you did was very brave, by the way,” murmured Susan, as she pocketed her rejected cash.

    Vacantly, Black stared at the auburn-haired girl.

    “We saw what you did to that white-tinted Pokémon in the giant Castle. Nobody else could have committed to the sacrifice you chose to make. If it weren’t for you, I-I would no longer have Maggy – or my Teddiursa. Humans wouldn’t be able to befriend Pokémon anymore.”

    Susan surveyed him; her blue irises glistered with innocent gratitude. “S-Some people might be frightened of you, but I’m not scared. You did a noble thing. You’re the Hero of Unova.”

    Black clenched his fists. A savage feeling spiked his chest, like a spear. Susan actually staggered backwards when she caught the dim glint in Black’s eyes. He took a step forward.

    “You don’t –”

    A loud crash interrupted him. The two Trainers wheeled around. Removing his gaze from Susan, Black discerned a hazy shape in the distance. It was approaching from the plateau above. A raucous buzzing, not dissimilar to the sound made by the blades of a lawnmower, boomed from the cliff’s edge. Bits of turf were flung outwards, as the blurry form rocketed down the slope at an absurd velocity. The creature came to a skittering halt in front of Susan. Alarmed, the girl stumbled.

    Black tilted up his League cap; his eyes studied the beast before him.

    The monster was lithe and streamlined, in an optimal aerodynamic design. A jagged fin, medalled with crisscrossing scars from overlapping battles, sprouted from the back. It was this, alongside the wide wingspan, which granted the Pokémon its infamous agility and manoeuvrability. Curved claws jutted out; a thin layer of dirt coated the tips, signalling that the creature had used them as grappling hooks. Its tail swayed back and forth, like a foul pendulum. The face was next. Serrated fangs furnished a hammer-shaped head, from which glowered a pair of beady eyes.

    Predator. Garchomp.

    “Hm.” Bemused, Black said, “I didn’t know Garchomp could use Rock Climb.”

    There was a shuffling behind Garchomp. To Black’s correct prediction, a mane of silky, blond hair emerged. Cynthia hopped off her Pokémon in one, fluid motion.

    “It was an HM for a while, before the Silph Co. phased it out of the market,” Cynthia replied.

    Laggardly, Susan recovered from the shock of meeting Garchomp. When she looked at Cynthia, her jaw unhinged comically.

    “You! You’re the Champion of the Sinnoh League!”

    Former Champion,” Cynthia corrected.

    “My mother and I were there in Sunyshore when Volkner challenged you,” said Susan breathlessly. “You’re a role model to female Trainers all around the world. The Sunyshore Exhibition Match of ’06! The way you finished that Raichu was ingenious.”

    Susan clapped her hands; the Silcoon-silk gloves rustled together. “You’re an incredible Champion. My favourite, actually. ”

    What was he? Chopped liver? Sardonically, Black wondered what Susan thought of him. Probably not this much. She wasn’t nearly as dewy-eyed when he first met her. Instead of gushing about his achievements, the girl announced that she was challenging him to a Pokémon match. Impertinent and haughty.

    Black didn’t mind, though. At least she didn’t ask for his autograph – or shudder and whisper behind his back.

    “That’s very flattering, Susan,” said Cynthia softly. “I’m honoured that you think so highly of me.”

    “You know my name?!” Black winced at the high-pitched squeal.

    “Yes, your mother and I have become acquainted over the past few days. She often speaks of you.”

    Garchomp growled something incomprehensible in its Trainer’s ear. Cynthia listened and nodded, as though she understood.

    “And that reminds me, your mother sent me over, Susan. Apparently you have a rehearsal dinner with Grandmother Clairdonna in one hour. Your mother wants you to come home immediately in order to prepare.”

    Susan actually squeaked. Panicking, she packed her belongings and arranged her hair, presumably into an acceptable manner.

    Shit, I totally forgot about that! Mum’s going to murder me,” Susan said to herself.

    A Pokéball soared into the air. In a flare of white, a tall hare with strong hindlegs and floppy ears manifested. Black’s Pokedex identified it as a Lopunny.

    “Thank you for the heads up,” Susan told Cynthia, as she climbed onto her Lopunny.

    The girl gave Black a furtive look, which he disregarded.

    “Loppy, try your best, okay?” Susan tightly gripped the brown fur. “Loppy, Bounce.”

    Cynthia and Black watched as the Lopunny launched itself upwards with one, powerful kick. Within seconds, Susan and her Pokémon passed halfway up the cliff. Another jump, and the pair vanished over the edge.

    Black tried to muster a polite smile, but failed.



    /+/+/ /+/+/+/



    “ – And you are going through with this? Isn’t there a rule designed to prevent to this sort of thing?”

    Shauntal is protesting, although I doubt that it is solely for my benefit. For somebody who often chooses to take a backseat and write instead of speak, Shauntal is surprisingly vociferous in her argument. Perhaps the news is jarring, even to her. She and the other Elite Four members do seem shocked at what the Board of Directors is proposing. I don’t even need to look at Marshal to know that he is, at that moment, only two sandwiches away from a picnic. Caitlin isn’t any better. She has set her face in default setting #10: haughty disdain.

    The pig in the expensive clothes gives a simpering smile.

    “Miss DuNoir,” he says to Shauntal, “the Board has the authority to supersede provisions in Sections 1 and 3, granted that the League has been put under a State of Emergency. If I am to understand, Champion Alder is yet to reverse that status?”

    “That was so the repair work wasn’t impeded by bundles of red tape,” rebuts Shauntal.

    “Nevertheless, our decision is quite legal. We have deemed that Champion Alder is unfit for duty. The fact that Team Plasma was able to build their headquarters here, undetected, is surfeit. Indeed, you are all lucky that you even retained your positions as the Elite Four. If the Gym Leaders hadn’t rejected our offers, they would have replaced you.”

    When Shauntal reels back, the official in the laundered clothes glanced at me. The look in his eye is predatory.

    “Besides, our new Champion is a prodigy, like the Champion of Sinnoh,” says the man. “He shall meet our expectations most wonderfully.”

    Everybody in that room turns to stare at me. The indignity on Marshal’s face, the shock on the others… The conceited, knowing look on the wealthy official. I hate that self-satisfied gleam. What would he know about survival? About Pokémon?

    Fuck you.

    At that moment, I decide that I hate rich people.






    /+/+/ /+/+/+/




    On the outskirts of Undella Town, there was a splendid mansion of crystalline windows and marble walls. At over 8,500 square feet, the mansion was the largest of Undella’s residences. Indeed, it even surpassed the villa of Lady Caitlin, Former Frontier Brain and Psychic mistress of the Unova Elite Four. Such opulence was matched by the identities of the mansion’s owners: the Riches Family. Led by the patriarch Albus Riche, the family had become a staple of Undella Town. The women of Undella attempted to emulate Trish Riche’s fashion, while sycophants offered rare artefacts to the item-maniac Albus, in hope of impressing him.

    Even the three Riches children – Miles, Susan, and Draco – were treated with such respect by the townsfolk that they had become anchored on their own egos. Not even the sight of the Unova League Champion daunted them. They even had the conceited gall to challenge the Champion to a Pokémon Battle. While Susan and Draco had endeavoured and lost, Miles was already planning his move.

    Such was the wealth of the Riches Family. Therefore, it was no surprise that the family possessed their own, private arena, designed for Pokémon Battles. The arena – located behind the colossal Riches Mansion – was an empty plateau that lay sandwiched between a high-rising cliff and the ocean itself. Devoid of wildlife, barring the tall evergreens and occasional flowers, the plateau was isolated and hard to reach.

    The perfect place for an undisturbed Pokémon match.

    It was on this plateau that Susan Riche had engaged in a battle with the reigning Unova League Champion. Of course, she had lost, leaving behind rubble and her pride. Susan was content, though, for she had gotten to meet Cynthia Chard, Former Champion of the Sinnoh League and the first female winner of a Grand Pokémon Tournament. Susan’s idol.

    Currently, that idolised woman and the Unova Champion were standing on the Riches’ plateau. The Unova Champion, “Black”, had just concluded his victory against Susan, who was climbing up the cliff with her Lopunny. He and Cynthia examined the girl, as her figure became more and more distant in the horizon.

    Black spoke as soon as Susan had completely vanished over the cliff: “How long were you watching?”

    “What do you mean?” Cynthia’s tone was evasive.

    He gave her a gimlet look.

    “I’m not stupid,” said Black, scrutinising Cynthia as she touched the silver ring on her left hand. “I sensed your Garchomp ten minutes ago.”

    “Really?”

    “Yes, really,” he replied. “So answer the question. How long?”

    Cynthia raised her eyebrows at him; Black did not waver.

    “Long enough,” she admitted, finally.

    Placidly, she brushed back her blond bangs. “I liked your use of Lucky Chant. It was very inspired.”

    “You noticed that?” He was surprised. “But it was a non-verbal command; only Unfezant should have known.”

    Stone Edge has a high critical-hit ratio,” she said plainly.

    Black peered at Cynthia; her acuity impressed him. By all reasons, Magcargo’s Stone Edge should have demolished Unfezant, even after factoring in Unfezant’s superior level and experience. A critical hit, which would have surpassed Giga Impact’s protective energy sheath, should have landed. Magcargo’s Type advantage should have triumphed. Why didn’t Unfezant lose?

    Simple. Unfezant was also known as the Super Luck Pokémon. Near the end of her Razor Wind attack, she slipped in a surreptitious Lucky Chant. Lady Fortune had weakened the Stone Edge, diverting the worst of the barrage.

    That Cynthia noticed all of this was remarkable. In fact, the last person to have perceived his strategies was –

    A memory of those piercing green eyes resurfaced:

    “Do you believe that Pokémon battles help us understand one another?”

    No. He wasn’t going to remember, not now. Tautening, Black banished the thought.

    Cynthia glanced at him.

    “You look a little pale. How are you feeling?” she asked.

    Brusquely, Black batted away Cynthia’s hand. “I’m fine.”

    Concern laced her voice. “Are you sure?”

    Black glared at her, as though she had slapped him. There was something galling about Cynthia’s demeanour. Although it seemed amiable and tranquil, her expression was knowing. Age and experience echoed in her eyes, dredging up memories of Professor Juniper and her apposite advice. However, there was more: optimism, cold logic, and… Was that a twinge of… empathy?

    “Why are you so nice?” he demanded.

    “Pardon?”

    “Why are you so nice to me?” Black repeated, warily. “Not just me, but to other people as well.”

    “You’ll have to be more specific,” said Cynthia.

    “You know!” Black gestured, frustrated. Cynthia’s Garchomp snarled protectively when he drew closer to the inexpressive blond woman. “Like that girl and the deliveryman from yesterday.

    “Why? You’ve never met them before, you’ve never met me before. Yet you sign autographs and talk as though you’ve known us for years. We’re total strangers. The truth is that we have different ideas and incompatible beliefs. We don’t share yours.”

    Cynthia cocked an eyebrow at Black’s darkening voice.

    “Those other people and I, we can never understand you,” he retorted. “We don’t really want to either. Why do you bother, then?”

    “Because I can,” she said.

    Black bolted up. His heart hammered against his ribcage like a drum.

    “True, in an ideal world we would all understand each other. Yet reality dictates a different existence,” said Cynthia in a firm tone. “People have different dreams and different priorities. Thus, we come into conflict and competition.”

    “You told the delivery boy that all his Pokémon dreams would come true,” said Black heatedly.

    “Yes, I did.”

    “Why?” Black’s voice became clinical. “Johansson’s life is shitty predictable: his father owns the local, Undella pizza shop, ‘Rufflet Pizza’. Two older sisters, both married. His mother died when he was ten. Aged nineteen, he wishes to become a Pokémon Trainer, specifically a Water-type Master.”

    Cynthia said nothing. Her serene smile waned imperceptibly, like Darkrai’s moon.

    “Johansson’s favourite region is Johto, because of the famous Whirl Cup and the Tour de Alto Mare. He doesn’t own any Pokémon, but he once befriended a wild Wailmer. When the seasons changed, though, the Wailmer herd had to migrate to the warmer oceans in Hoenn. Johansson never saw his friend again.”

    “You’ve done your research,” said Cynthia.

    “Undella’s a small resort town. When it rains, the locals gossip,” Black replied. “The information wasn’t hard to find.”

    Cynthia sighed. “Of course not.”

    “Standard age for the Trainer Qualifying Exam is eleven; Johansson is eight years too late,” said Black coldly. “You knew this. To expect otherwise is stupid. Why did you lie and give him false hope?”

    “It’s not false hope.”

    “You’re setting him up for massive disappointment,” he growled.

    Poised, Cynthia petted her Garchomp, who cooed in appreciation. “This isn’t just about the advice I gave Matt Johansson, is it? This is about you as well. About your own conflicts, perhaps over recent events? About Alder, or maybe someone else?”

    Words choked in Black’s throat, incoherent.

    “Caitlin told me how you feel about your new fame,” said Cynthia, stroking Garchomp’s tough skin. “She thinks you’re not handling it well.”

    Caitlin should mind her fucking business,” Black snapped.

    Cynthia didn’t reply. Instead, she gazed into the environment around her.

    A summer breeze drifted through the evergreen ferns which arrayed in the vicinity. Luxuriant, the leaves rustled, as Dwebble and Crustle scurried into the loamy sand. A Wingull glided through the sky’s crisp canvas, like a white paintbrush. Nestled under the exuberant sun, a row of cerise flowers swayed, secreting a faint aroma of honeyed freesias. Despite his situation, Black had to acknowledge the natural serenity of Undella Town. Cynthia appeared to be breathing in these beautiful surroundings, instead of responding to his anger.

    The breeze whistled again, fanning out Cynthia’s long hair. Troubled with a strong emotion, Cynthia touched her silver ring and stroked the strange brown stone.

    “Caitlin is not the only one,” she said at last. “Your friend Cheren had expressed similar concerns, as did your girlfriend, Bianca.”

    Black tensed. “Bianca isn’t my girlfriend.”

    “That does not diminish the sentiment any less.” Cynthia’s grey eyes gleamed, like the ash at a fire’s end. “Many people are worried about you, and they wish that you’d return home presently, whether that is Nuvema Town or the Unova Pokémon League.”

    Trembling, Black asked almost inaudibly. “When did you talk to my friends?”

    “I didn’t,” she said. “When I mentioned to Professor Juniper that you were cohabiting Caitlin’s villa, she forwarded their messages. They miss you, it seems.”

    Cynthia wandered to the murmuring ferns behind her Garchomp. Bending over, she scooped the flowers from underneath the foliage. Blushed petals floated in sea-bound zephyrs, wafting past Black’s shoulders, like a mother’s hands. A cherry aroma lingered.

    “These flowers remind me of a spring blossom from Sinnoh,” said Cynthia offhandedly.

    She lifted the bouquet to her nose. “They’re called ‘Gratia’ or ‘Kansha no Hana’ in a few of the Ancient Languages. Nowadays we call them Glacideas.”

    “Your point?” Black was brusque.

    “Legend says that Glacideas are a symbol of celebration and gratitude,” she said smoothly. “They bloom only every few years, and only under a certain angle of moonlight. The circumstances have to be right, or else the petals won’t open at all.”

    Black knew how finicky it was to grow Glacideas. His own mother had tried to cultivate the flowers when he was younger. She had purchased heirloom seeds, yet the saplings stubbornly refused to bloom. Extra water, Charizard manure, Growth Mulch imported from Goldenrod. Nothing could persuade the Glacideas.

    A hollow pain panged when Black remembered his mother. At this time of year, Nuvema Town would have decked itself with migrating Tranquill and kids in sweaty singlets, trying to catch the stray Sewaddle. His mother would probably be in a flour-dusted apron, watching some rerun of a ‘80s Lifetime Original. Would she be worried? Was she thinking about him? Outside their house, in the paddocks, Professor Juniper would tend to her Pokémon – Snivy and Oshawott, among others – for the next generation of Trainers.

    Nuvema Town… It had been so long.

    Too much had changed.

    Cynthia loosened her hand; the flowers hung between the fingers, like lonely teardrops.

    “In the west of Sinnoh, there is a town gilded with Glacideas,” she said quietly. “It’s called Floaroma. Its prime export is the famous Sonoo Honey, which had been produced by Combees, using the nectar of vivid, regional flowers.”

    “Sonoo Honey?”

    “Yes, Sonoo Honey. However, that’s not why I’m interested in Floaroma,” Cynthia explained. “You see, the elders of Floaroma have a myth about Glacideas. They claim that under the shadow of a dark moon, a legendary Pokémon would leave the Paradise of the North and visit the Glacidea fields. In the presence of the untainted Glacideas, the Pokémon would shift forms and take flight.”

    Against the ocean wind, Cynthia’s flowers emitted another coil of sweet perfume. It was subtle fragrance, this time of raspberries and blackcurrants.

    “In this new winged guise,” Cynthia resumed, “the Pokémon would confer its gifts of thanks to the townspeople, even though they never asked for anything. The Pokémon was simply glad that the Glacideas of Floaroma were untarnished. Mythology actually states that it’s because of this Pokémon’s mystical gifts that the Combee of Floaroma work so effectively, producing the town’s almost preternatural Sonoo honey.”

    “What are you saying?” asked Black.

    Cynthia fixed him with a stare. Grey orbs met amber. “Do you wonder why the Floaroma Pokémon is called the Spirit of Gratitude?”

    Her eyes flashed. “It is because the Pokémon’s gift was not requested, yet freely given. Because that gift to humanity was the Pokémon’s only way of expressing the joy it felt upon seeing those blossomed Glacideas.”

    Black’s pulse quickened.

    “Gratitude is like the Glacidea flower: it’s something so delicate and ephemeral, blossoming under exceptional circumstances, only to fade too quickly,” Cynthia ruminated.

    Radiantly, she smiled. “But however rare, it is breathtaking… Can you truly hate something that is this beautiful?”

    Black fell silent. The inside of his mouth was dry.

    Cynthia called out his name, causing him to look up. She approached from her Garchomp.

    “You’re not a bad person,” she told him. “I saw the way you interacted with Susan Riche. Even though she was rude and far from understanding, you chose to comfort her.”

    “What, no…” Black mumbled.

    “You showed her your Pokedex, although you had no need,” continued Cynthia. “You chose to use your Unfezant instead of your Carracosta, who would have completely annihilated her Magcargo. Despite everything, you didn’t want to hurt her feelings.”

    Black fingered his collar, which felt oddly tight around his neck.

    “I don’t like her – and the rest of them,” he said darkly. “They act like I’m their idol or something, as if they understand me. ‘The Hero of Unova’. Either that, or they treat me like a walking time-bomb. I’m dangerous.”

    “You’re not dangerous.”

    He laughed. “Who are you trying to kid? I brought down a fucking god.”

    “I know a Sinnoh girl who did worse in the Distortion World, and she was twelve,” said Cynthia.

    Garchomp roared at that moment. Cynthia dropped the fragrant bouquet, which slid towards Black’s feet. He picked up the flowers and scrutinised them. They were undeniably beautiful: the petals were splayed out in a hexagon pattern, extending in rose-coloured tips. A long stigma stretched daintily from the centre, like the leg of a prima ballerina. It was familiar…

    Then, Black remembered. This pink flower, it was in Cynthia’s photograph. The younger Cynthia had worn it in her cropped hair.

    More questions…

    Cynthia spoke again: “You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself.”

    Black’s hand flitted to the Pokébelt, feebly.

    “You insist on the truth, and reality can be harsh,” she said gently. “But ideals can still exist. Yes, some people will never understand, and conflicts will continue to arise. However, others can change. Their gratitude can be sincere; you have no reason to fear it. Don’t reject it.”

    Cynthia moseyed to her Garchomp and climbed onto its scaly, blue back. As she secured her footing on the hammer-head Pokémon, Black crouched down. Tired, he hugged his arms.

    “I need to leave now; I have to arrive at Undella Bay in thirty minutes,” she said. “A few people are coming from Sinnoh to discuss… business. Leave when you want.”

    Black remained silent.

    Sighing, she turned away. She whispered a command in Garchomp’s ear and wrapped her arms around its neck.

    “And the answer to your question,” called out Cynthia, as the Mach Dragon prepared to take off. “I was nice to Johansson because somebody had to. Although his dreams are unlikely, possibilities still remain. If you don’t dare to wish, nothing will change.”

    Black glanced up.

    “Even the harshest truths need the lens of idealism to mellow it,” she said earnestly. “Just as ideals have to tempered with a rational view of reality. Yin and Yang. Balance for balance.”

    “You spout neo-philosophical shit,” retorted Black.

    Cynthia was impervious to the insult. “I have the age and experience to back it up.”

    “I don’t buy it.”

    Cynthia chuckled knowingly. She said only one more thing before Garchomp vanished in a Dragon Rush.

    “I never said you have to.”



    /+/+/ /+/+/+/



    Alder doesn’t seem as bothered as I would’ve expected. He is folding a map to the Celestial Tower when I walk towards him. I work hard to keep my composure.

    “Why did you do it?” I ask him. “They said that you conceded… willingly, when they told you their plan.”

    Alder wears a weary expression. “You mean resign as Champion?”

    I don’t respond.

    “I choose to leave my position when the Board approached me,” says Alder, solemnly, “Because I realised that I needed to undo my mistakes.”

    “Mistakes?”

    “I saw what Reshiram’s boy did to you in that castle,” he says.

    His black eyes flash. “I promise you, I will catch him.”




    /+/ /+/+/+/+/



    -Undella Town-
    Monday

    “ – I’m not putting them on. You can’t make me.”

    “They’re swimming trunks, and you’re putting them on,” said Cynthia, reclining in the armchair. “It won’t kill you. I am not asking you to jump in toxic waste.”

    A deadpan response: “I’d take the toxic waste.”

    Amused, Cynthia raised an eyebrow. “How are you supposed to go swimming without swimming trunks? Are you expecting me to lend you a bikini?”

    “Keep your two-piece,” said Black, “because I’m not going swimming. Period.”

    “I’ll be wearing my black swimsuit.”

    Black glanced up. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

    “Nothing,” was the noncommittal reply. “I thought boys your age always want to know what women are wearing.”

    It was a sprightly Monday morning, and the two Champions were talking in Caitlin’s villa. The banter was friendly… it felt nice. Surprising, in fact. After their little ‘chat’ on Sunday, Black had expected things to become awkward between him and Cynthia. He had lost his composure and lashed out. It wasn’t something he was especially proud of.

    Half of him had anticipated that Cynthia would shun him, perhaps lodging a complaint to Caitlin. The Unova Elite Four were already on a knife’s edge, after his sudden “vacation”. Indeed, Marshal would have wet himself with glee at the chance to beat the living shit of him. Caitlin would have found another reason to whinge, while Grimsley had to play peacekeeper.

    Shauntal would have just stood back and added extra notes to her (unauthorised) biography on him. What a “unique” personality.

    However, Cynthia’s complaint never came. When the blonde former Champion returned to the villa from her rendezvous, she sashayed to the kitchen cupboard. She opened a tub of mixed nuts, added a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and topped off the infernal mixture with extra-salty Slateport fish sauce. Black waited for the cold shoulder.

    Instead, the woman had offered him a spoon. “If you wait around for too long, the ice-cream will melt. That would ruin the dish.”

    Black made a sarcastic comment.

    “It’s nothing like that,” she said, giving some of the mixture to her Garchomp. Enthusiastic, the Pokémon scoffed down the gelatinous mess. “Garchomp thinks it’s palatable.”

    Hesitant, Black took the spoon. He licked the smallest tip of the discombobulated blend. Instantly the mixture stuck to the underside of his tongue, like unprocessed glue. Granules of bitterness coated his throat as he swallowed. Afternotes of sweet-and-sour followed.

    It tasted nice. He took another bite.

    Cynthia chuckled, before returning to her own dish. The two Trainers ate in comfortable silence. Any awkwardness had already evaporated, like the morning mist. And so, the heated conversation went unmentioned, leaving Black back where he started.

    Blithely, Cynthia had reverted to peppering him with coy and cryptic remarks. Currently, she had decided that the weather was apt for swimming at Undella Beach; the last vestiges of storm clouds had finally parted. She was trying to wheedle him into joining her in a swimsuit.

    “I am sure that you’ll enjoy yourself,” argued Cynthia. “You won’t be bored with me.”

    “You’re nearly twice my age,” Black said flatly.

    “And?”

    “You wouldn’t know what my generation does for fun,” he explained, without looking up from his book: Old as Dirt – the autobiography of Bertha Brunt, Elite Four. “For all you know, you’d think that a game of Beach Connect-Four is the ultimate pastime.”

    Cynthia gave an analytical look, while Black closed his tome and set it back in the bookcase, next to the Collected Historic Anthology of Sinnoh Gym Leaders: From Byron to Volkner.

    “What an uncanny resemblance,” she murmured.

    Cynthia shook her head. “It’s surprising to meet another Trainer who has the same clipped tone as that girl…”

    “Oh, the horror,” Black deadpanned.

    As the two Trainers stood at an impasse, outside the villa, a flock of Wingull squawked and bickered over the leftovers of greasy Fish-and-Chips. There was a faint screech of a car steering on the dirt road.

    Then, an unusual gleam manifested in Cynthia’s eyes. Apprehensive, Black retreated slightly when the woman opened her mouth:

    “Why come to a beach town if you don’t plan to visit the beach?”

    “Lots of other reasons.” Black felt mischievous. “I have an unhealthy appetite for blistering sea-salt and skin disease.”

    Cynthia carried on: “Nevertheless, the expectation is that when you abscond to a beach resort, you use the beach. That fact remains.”

    “The Unova Elite Four are toiling through a string of matches,” she said vaguely. “Specifically, Grimsley and Caitlin are pulling double-duty, in the absence of their eminent Champion.”

    Black buckled forward.

    “I wonder how they would react if they hear you refuse to leave the villa and enjoy yourself. Marshal Kunz had not vacationed in four years – ”

    Black raised his hand, interrupting Cynthia. Shuddering, he dismissed the mental image of an outraged Conkeldurr and a further outraged Trainer. The dark-skinned man had flexed his arms, announcing to “prevail the strength of conviction” – with his fist.

    “You win,” Black said, sighing. “I’ll get changed now. Give me the swimsuit.”

    Widening her smile, Cynthia reached into her duffel bag and pulled out a black material. She tossed it to him.

    With an ease honed from years of handling Pokéballs, he effortlessly caught the material. However, his eyes popped out when he examined the costume. It wasn’t a pair of swimming trunks; it was a speedo. Complete with little Sharpedos on the rear area.

    “This is a speedo,” Black retorted.

    Cynthia shrugged. “You were so against the swimming trunks that I had to choose something else.”

    “It’s a speedo.”

    “Yes, it is.” Cynthia sounded distinctly amused.

    It’s a speedo.

    The former Champion lounged in her armchair, like a smug Glameow.

    “Did you bring your own swimsuit?” she asked. “I am not referring to the torn pants you’ve used when Surfing, the ones I’ve unfortunately had to throw away.”

    At the mention of his ruined shorts, Black scowled. Cynthia’s Garchomp thought it would be hilarious to practice Fire Fang on some of his belongings. The damn sand-shark had barked with laughter when Black gawked at the sight of his charred possessions. Needless to say, the shorts were burnt, along with some assorted curios: a Cleanse Tag, two Miracle Seeds, a Lava Cookie from Cheren, and a half-eaten Rage Candybar. Black was incensed. Not even Cynthia’s sincere apology could help.

    Cynthia had insisted that it was all a grave misunderstanding; Black had muttered that Cynthia’s Garchomp was the groin-spawn of some flea-ridden incubus. The stupid Dragon hated him.

    Trilling, Cynthia’s voice pulled Black’s attention from his thoughts:

    “Judging from your expression,” she said in a light tone, “you don’t have your own swimsuit. Therefore, you will have to rely on what I have to offer.”

    Black glared.

    “Would you like me to continue?” she said, pleasantly.

    Defeated, Black sighed again. “I’ll go get changed.”

    “Excellent.”

    He rolled his eyes at the disquieting delight in Cynthia’s velvety voice. The woman had a surprising capacity for mischief. Wasn’t she meant to be renowned for her unflappable poise and rational, mature style? How unbecoming.

    Black had outwardly declared that he was protesting these new arrangements. However, under that blank demeanour and messy fringe of brown hair, there was a different story. The corners of lips, curled upwards ever-so-slightly.

    For the first time in weeks, he was actually smiling.



    /+/ /+/+/+/+/



    The first time I buy a Casteliacone, it isn’t particularly good. The sweltering, summer sun has melted the ice-cream, creating dribbles of vanilla down my wrist. I swear colourfully.

    I walk to a garbage can to bin the soft serve. However, Tepig nuzzles my leg. He is looking pointedly at the ice-cream.

    Mischievous, I lower the soft-serve and poke it gently into his nose. Tepig squeaks and then licks the Casteliacone off his face. The sprinkles catch on his tongue.

    I actually smile.



    /fin of Chapter Two/
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 8th July 2011 at 1:03 PM.

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  5. #5
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    I really like the story and I'll keep track of it. It's not really like the ordinary storyline-story (which just includes getting all the badges and becoming Champion). The only thing I noticed is the following (which does not mean that there might not be others (and that's not ment in a rude way), as I'm not a native English speaker)

    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    “That’s very flattering, Susan,” said Cynthia softly. “I’m honoured that you think so highly of me.”

    “You know my name?!” Black winced at the high-pitched squeal.
    I believe Black should be changed into Susan, otherwise this doesn't make any sense to me.

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    I believe Black should be changed into Susan, otherwise this doesn't make any sense to me.
    Susan is the one squealing "You know my name!" and Black is reacting to her squealing, by wincing.

    Sense made :P


    I saw that had posted something when you did but I started doing something else and completely forgot... whoops xD

    I really enjoyed this chapter, especially the constant geological, sciency descriptions of the magcargo :P

    And now we get to see the scene that the trailer referenced. I like the character development that came out of that scene, Black and Cynthia just added a new arrow to their quiver of characterisation.

    I wonder how Black's swim went xD
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    After I read this I had to go and do something else for a while or the review wouldn't just been a big fangasm rant that would have just been lashings of blind praise all over the place.

    Firstly, the things that gripped me from the beginning and kept me reading was your description. You found an interesting and unique way to describe pretty much everything. Here is one of my favorite examples of this:

    Unfezant spread her wings, which began to shine with brilliant, purple iridescence. Orange flecks of light overlay the violet glow, like the afterimage from a camera flash. A second later, the bird was entirely encased in a seethed cocoon of energy. The rock-snail tried to crawl away from Unfezant. As characteristic of its species, acrid smoke gushed from the Pokémon’s pyroclastic shell, signalling its distress.
    Bolded parts are the highlights. As soon as I got any of this kind of stuff I was in awe.

    Also the characters you are portraying in Black and Cynthia are superb. I found Black's view on the world intriguing and Cynthia was just how I imagined her. I approved of her actions and all of her dialog suited her perfectly. Her expression in even her sugimori art gives a lot away. She's one of my favorite characters (could you guess?)

    Also, you've described the Unova region in a way that makes me not hate it which isn't an easy feat considering I considered it a well advertised fakemon region for a while.

    The stuff with the battling and lucky chant got the inner battle mechanic nerd inside of me excited. I liked this little touch:

    -Strength Lv.: INTERMEDIATE
    Good on you for making the in-game system make more sense! The Pokedex actually seemed helpful which was nice instead of it spouting trivia about the Pokemon you are facing.

    All of the references to Sinnoh and the amazing way you described gratitude really picks this story up for me. I get one of those "I get that reference" moments and lots of endorphins float around my brain whenever that happens.

    I'm excited the read the rest and well done! (Notice how I said I was going to review, and then did! Aren't I a good boy?)

    But your description! I am sooo envious.
    Lol.

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    Ooooh...... Black gon' kill Cynthia!

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    Draco, you meanie! I was finishing up reading and reviewing the first two chapters, only for you to post the third chapter. D: For now I'll post my thoughts on Chapters One and Two and will edit this post/do a new post of my review of Chapter 3 when I get around to it later tonight/tomorrow.

    Chapter One
    The flashback with Black’s first meeting with Cheren and Bianca is nice and interesting Black likes all things, well, black. XD

    Haha, Black’s reaction to seeing Cynthia for the first time is priceless. She probably should have worn a more conservative nightgown, LOL. The part where Black mentions about the press calling him the Hero of Unova and a blogger saying he’s a god-killer are quite intense. Indeed, people tend to catch the news on like wildfire, oi.

    As Cynthia opened her purse, the pizza deliverer finally caught a good look of the woman in front of him. His eyes widened when he realised that this wasn’t any blonde, it was Cynthia. The former Sinnoh Champion, biannual winner of the Lily Valley Conference for 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. She was one of the League’s living legends, not to mention a cultural icon. Even those who didn’t follow the Pokémon Battle circuit would recognise her from the ‘Hoenn Disaster Appeal’ commercials, back when the region was experiencing freakish flooding and droughts.
    This part I feel is a bit off because here this is in the pizzaman’s POV when most of the chapter so far is in Black’s. Either that part should be out or maybe somehow have Black think about Cynthia’s success. The pizzaman’s reaction to the autograph right after is very funny though, haha.

    I actually thought Cynthia’s little backstory of her missing her grandmother was cute. I can imagine her like that when young, her being very close to her grandmother and all.

    Chapter Two
    The first battle was quick but nicely written. Yep, Black is not your typical trainer, there. I was scratching my head though when Susan doesn’t know what a Pokedex is. Shouldn’t all trainers know what it is? Then again, I guess the professors are the only ones that have those. Very nice of Black to let her know her Pokemon is all right and very sweet of her to give her thanks to him for saving everyone, though.

    I like the meeting flashback there. Nice job having the Elite 4 and Alder being held responsible for not preventing the Team Plasma incident.

    Cynthia fixed him with a stare. Grey orbs met amber.
    Real quick, one of my pet peeves is when eyes are described as orbs. Eyes are not objects! D< LOL

    Anyways, loving the interaction between Cynthia and Black here. The part of them talking about the Glacidia flowers is nice and haha gotta love Cynthia making Black wear a speedo. XD But yeah, you make their interactions natural and not forced. Great work on that!


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    Emeraldfan: Firstly, my referral to this article.

    And hohoho, I was evil with that cliff-hanger, wasn't I? And thanks for the compliment.

    Bay: Thanks for the review of Chapters one and two. I wasn't too mean, was I? =D

    The flashback with Black’s first meeting with Cheren and Bianca is nice and interesting Black likes all things, well, black. XD
    Cheren and Bianca are really fascinating characters, in my opinion. You could tell what sort of friendship they share. The Special Manga makes it rather cute, actually. And the Black thing was fun, since I kill two birds with one stone. I add characterisation and avoid the name "Hilbert", without contradicting canon! Remember, "Black" makes it clear that his real name is something else. And that Cheren thought it sounded stupid. xD

    The part where Black mentions about the press calling him the Hero of Unova and a blogger saying he’s a god-killer are quite intense. Indeed, people tend to catch the news on like wildfire, oi.
    Yes, the section in which Black details how the newspaper and blogger effectively put two different labels on him was meant to be intense. Like you said, fame can be very intense. It's why Black was, er, avoidance issues. =)

    This part I feel is a bit off because here this is in the pizzaman’s POV when most of the chapter so far is in Black’s. Either that part should be out or maybe somehow have Black think about Cynthia’s success. The pizzaman’s reaction to the autograph right after is very funny though, haha.
    Really? That excerpt was in Matt's POV? I didn't know. Perhaps it is; I do think that Black would have thought all those things about Cynthia. If you're trying to be rational about a person, the first thing you'd list is their achievements.

    I actually thought Cynthia’s little backstory of her missing her grandmother was cute. I can imagine her like that when young, her being very close to her grandmother and all.
    It was fun writing Cynthia and her younger backstory. I always thought that she would have been far less serene as a kid. Plus it was fun to give her a childhood connection to Lucian. When I saw Lucian at the Canalave Library, that was the first thing I thought of. Plus an allusion to the bikes from the anime is always fun to write.

    The first battle was quick but nicely written. Yep, Black is not your typical trainer, there. I was scratching my head though when Susan doesn’t know what a Pokedex is. Shouldn’t all trainers know what it is? Then again, I guess the professors are the only ones that have those.
    Nah, not all Trainers would know about Pokedexs. Like you've said, the Professors have them, and it seems that they give beta models to certain Trainers in order to gain field data and modify them. After enough data was gained, they'd probably make a final version. Hence, there perhaps is a Pokedex that the public knows about and/or uses, but that would be one of the earlier models. Black/Cheren/Bianca's Pokedex is probably the latest beta, and therefore, Susan might not have recognised the outside cover of the new machine.

    And even rich people don't know everything. =D

    Very nice of Black to let her know her Pokemon is all right and very sweet of her to give her thanks to him for saving everyone, though.
    Yeah, Black is a softie at heart. It's one of my favourite reasons for writing him. Through the flashbacks, you could tell that he was once a really cheerful kid who tried to do "good" a lot. He did change after the N-plot, but he still retains his old self under all that anger. I think it's why Cynthia is fascinated by him. Susan is interesting. I'm glad you've liked her...

    I like the meeting flashback there. Nice job having the Elite 4 and Alder being held responsible for not preventing the Team Plasma incident.
    You could perhaps excuse the behaviour of the E4/Champion in other regions, but the Unova E4 really screwed up. They didn't notice a bloody castle that Plasma was building around them, and none of them, except Alder, even tried to stop the Sages. At least to our player protagonist's recollection. The GLs had to pick up the slack.

    Real quick, one of my pet peeves is when eyes are described as orbs. Eyes are not objects! D< LOL
    It's a metaphor? XD

    If you don't like it that much, I can change it. Say the word, Bay.

    Anyways, loving the interaction between Cynthia and Black here. The part of them talking about the Glacidia flowers is nice and haha gotta love Cynthia making Black wear a speedo. XD But yeah, you make their interactions natural and not forced. Great work on that!
    Writing the dialogue between Black and Cynthia was one of the great things about this fic. Even in the games, Black is reeling from the Plasma incident, while Cynthia had already dealt with a child prodigy taking on a villainous team. They would have interesting conversations. An added dimension is the fact that the two are opposite genders, adding interesting angles of maternal comfort and chemistry... It's a weird friendship; let's not put a label on it. =D

    And I thought it'd be IC of Cynthia to explain emotions or concepts using myths and legends. The Floaroma Pokemon is called the Gratitude Pokemon, which made me go "hm".

    And I'm glad that you thought the interaction wasn't forced. The interplay between those two is the bread-and-butter of the fic, so I'm relieved that it didn't fall flat on its face. xP

    Now post a review and tell me what you think about Chapter Three. XD XD

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    Emeraldfan: Firstly, my referral to this article.

    And hohoho, I was evil with that cliff-hanger, wasn't I? And thanks for the compliment.
    And thank you for writing the story and explaining what exactly you mean with a Speedo :P (But I still can't wait for the next chapter

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    Just one question. What exactly do you mean by a Speedo? I do competitive swimming myself, and to me it's a swimware producer, but I don't think you mean that Black's swimming trunks are made by Speedo..

    EDIT: Well written chapter and I really want to read the next. Stupid cliffhanger, I wish it would stop hanging :P
    Last edited by Emeraldfan; 9th July 2011 at 10:06 PM.

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    Okay, here's my (overdue) review of Chapter Three! Real quick, over the orbs things, yeah I would recommend changing it to eyes. XD

    Nice flashback scene with N and Black. I don’t know why, but I chuckled over N’s reaction when he realized Cheren and Black can’t hear what Tepig had said.

    LOL over the mention of Garchomp headbutting Black. And of course, Cynthia would say Garchomp definitely likes him. :P
    Poor Black blushing over Cynthia in a bikini. Yep, he’s a teenager all right. XD; Speaking of which, I love that Cynthia thought Black that too and him talking about how he wasn’t able to talk to Cheren and Bianca anymore.

    Aw, Black’s interaction with Unfezant was sweet, there. Loved how he was able to understand his Pokemon just by her reactions (although it’s a given in the games the protagonist understands their Pokemon well, haha).

    The last part with Cynthia, Looker, and Black is quite intense. Well, at first I laughed outloud over how Looker had disguised himself as Cynthia. XD Later on though when Looker mentions how he wants Black to help the Global Police with finding the Seven Sages, I was like “oh dear D:” when Black was against it.

    Well, so far this shaped up into a very enjoyable story. Great work, there! Looking forward to the battle between Cynthia and Black. This shall be good, haha.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Okay, here's my (overdue) review of Chapter Three! Real quick, over the orbs things, yeah I would recommend changing it to eyes. XD
    Hm, since it bothers you so much, I'll change it. Tell me what you what you think of the change when you come back to review Chapter Four, okay?

    Nice flashback scene with N and Black. I don’t know why, but I chuckled over N’s reaction when he realized Cheren and Black can’t hear what Tepig had said.
    That flashback was fun to write. Hell, all the flashbacks were fun to write, but the first meeting between "Black" and N was one of my favourites. The contrast between the younger, more excitable "Black" and the calmer, older but somehow more doe-eyed N highlighted the dynamic between the young but sullen Black and the older and serene Cynthia. It made it easier to show how much "Black" had changed.

    Besides, it was fun to depict him when he was more hot-heated, excitable and naive. And his relationship with N allowed him to do that. =D

    LOL over the mention of Garchomp headbutting Black. And of course, Cynthia would say Garchomp definitely likes him. :P
    Garchomp is probably insanely protective of Cynthia, I reckon. Wouldn't you be, if you were a 209 pound dragon-shark whose Trainer is someone like Cynthia?

    Poor Black blushing over Cynthia in a bikini. Yep, he’s a teenager all right. XD; Speaking of which, I love that Cynthia thought Black that too and him talking about how he wasn’t able to talk to Cheren and Bianca anymore.
    Yeah, one thing I really liked about Cynthia's character in this story is how she brought out Black's younger personality traits. He is a teenager, and Cynthia knows it. Exploit those hormones without being forward or creepy - that's Cynthia.

    And Cynthia would be the one to break down Black's barricade. Her mixture of steel (a quality necessitated by Championship, in my opinion) and gentleness is surprisingly potent. The key is her age; because of she's nearly twice Black's age, she bypasses all of the awkwardness and confusion inherent in teenage interactions, which is something Cheren and Bianca couldn't do.

    Cheren and Bianca also couldn't really talk to Black, because of the more obvious reason which I alluded to. =P

    Aw, Black’s interaction with Unfezant was sweet, there. Loved how he was able to understand his Pokemon just by her reactions (although it’s a given in the games the protagonist understands their Pokemon well, haha).
    I drew (heavy) inspiration from Lull to write that scene. Granted, the dynamic and conversation is quite different here. Black is more gentle with Unfezant, and Unfezant has a much stronger maternal vibe than Honchkrow. Whereas, Lull involved a more masculine and combative relationship, which was nonetheless affectionate. Black and Unfezant's conversation drew interesting parallels to how he reacted around other people, anyway, perhaps hinting that he's not such a grumpy-boots underneath. =D


    The last part with Cynthia, Looker, and Black is quite intense. Well, at first I laughed outloud over how Looker had disguised himself as Cynthia. XD Later on though when Looker mentions how he wants Black to help the Global Police with finding the Seven Sages, I was like “oh dear D:” when Black was against it.
    Yes, "oh dear" would be apt. =D

    Looker was hilarious to write. At first, it was a struggle, because I couldn't get his weird way of speaking. I had to ask my beta for help and advice. Eventually, I think I got the knack of it, and I really started to like the character.

    Look, the guy isn't the most competent detective in the world, but he's interesting because of the linkages which he provides between Generations and Regions. Plus his personality is a hoot.

    Well, so far this shaped up into a very enjoyable story. Great work, there! Looking forward to the battle between Cynthia and Black. This shall be good, haha.

    And thank you for reading. Chapter Four involves a long Pokemon battle, so I hope you like it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    You gotta make Looker's grammar worse, should he pop up again.
    I thought I got Looker's dialogue right. I utilised the quotes on bulbepdia to craft his weird syntax. My beta didn't say a problem with it...

    Could you give me some more specific criticism on Looker's grammar? I could re-examine it, if that's what you prefer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    Also, I love how Black (Hilbert sounds more human, btw, I don't know why people don't call him that, but I do respect someone wanting to make an everyman) is starting to become more like N. Except more douchebaggy and full of teenage angst. I guess that's what happens when you give power to the young.
    Black is becoming a little like N, isn't it? A similar distrust for other people, anchored by a belief in "truths/cold reality" over naive "ideals". I'm using Pokemon White as my base, so Reshiram sides with N and Black sides with Zekrom. I find it wonderfully ironic: because of his hard ordeals and his relationship with N, Black becomes less like his old self, whose ideals were the reason why Zekrom selected him as a Hero, and more like N. With added "attitude", as I like to put it. =)

    Symbolically, "Black" doesn't even use his old name; he wants to go back to how things used to be, but everything has changed for him, and the poor guy is too angry to act excitably again. Of course, Cynthia noticed.

    Like B/W, I wanted to make it clear that neither truth nor ideals should supersede the other. The two both hold equal importance, Yin-Yang. Pokemon Grey would probably reiterate that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    And, finally, I want to see his Scrafty. Make it pimp-slap Cynthia, pl0x.
    I'm sorry about Scrafty, but he doesn't feature that heavily in this story. He'll still get mentions, but he won't get to "pimp-slap Cynthia". Although, why would you want to do that to Cynthia? And I don't mean for irrational reasons.

    Cheers and thanks for the reasons. Chapter Four is come out after my exams, so wait at least a week. This will also give time for the slower, closet reviewers to catch-up and review!

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

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    You gotta make Looker's grammar worse, should he pop up again.

    Also, I love how Black (Hilbert sounds more human, btw, I don't know why people don't call him that, but I do respect someone wanting to make an everyman) is starting to become more like N. Except more douchebaggy and full of teenage angst. I guess that's what happens when you give power to the young.

    And, finally, I want to see his Scrafty. Make it pimp-slap Cynthia, pl0x.
    Last edited by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb; 12th July 2011 at 2:05 AM.

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    Alright, compromise. I'll do a three-part, three review response wheneve possible as I can't do it at one time, and can't save what I write:
    Prelude:
    Ocean: I'm curious as to the nightmare. Why water? Is it something specific e symbolic? I'm curious to see if drowning has any other significance.

    Cheren: I haven't played B/W, so I hav no idea if it was in character. It did justify how Black can't even defend his path.

    Bianca: Captures her reaction well enough, and more despair. I think it was the least powerful part of the Overture, but that could just be me.

    Professor Juniper: For some reason, I found declining the Dex the most powerful part of the overture. It really shows how things have definitely change away from a carefree journey.

    N battle: I felt the emotion here, but didn't really understand the fire part. It almost implied that N won. It could just be me, but I had to stop and think about that for a moment.

    Blackstory: Well, that was interesting. It was certainly in character for preschoolers, and made some sense. The whole self-identity behind the name was powerful in it's own way, and conveyed the character quite well.

    Chapter One: The initial description was kind of boring/overly long, but I managed to get through with the momentum from the Overture.

    Bianca call: For some reason, this also symbolized a break from the course of the games (as far as I understand it) and was quite powerful in it's own way.

    Rental sequence: I felt Black's might have been overly intimidating. I mean, while the reaction of the concierge and man would have been different, she wouldn't have had a mini panic attack. Also, Black's commentary on himself was really depressing, but the "find a better role model" line said a lot about his current attitudes.

    Catalin description: I felt as if that was a very nice job of describing Catalin, while still showing how and why Black hated her -or more of what she stood for. It was an interesting segment, but fading back into a depressive rant on smiling of all things really depressed me for the fifth time this far. I realize it's not a happy story, but this is quite depressive to the point of almost being overkill.

    Cynthia: I'll talk more in part one part two tomorrow during the characterization segment. However, if she was supposed to be portrayed as really mischievous and manipulating with a very clear and focused mind hidden under the guise of appearing mildly off her rocker and subtle control of the situation, you did a very good job as that's exactly what the entire description and dialogue told me in all of three paragraphs.


    Scrafty: That's a very clever use of a move. Props on coming up with it. Also, Black's reactions to the "Hero of Unova" and "Let me help you with that," comments really express a lot in a short span of time. It's interesting to observe his interactions with Cynthia and how many times he can become irritated in a short period of time without snapping.

    Hero of Unova: It's certainly an interesting -and fairly realistic- explanation of how things would probably go in those events. After all, a castle appearing and a fight between two gods is slightly noticable. In fact, I'm wondering now why no one seemed to notice/care/remember when the same thing happened in Sinnoh... nice plot hole to attack.

    Trademark: Nice detail. Seriously, nice detail.

    Pizza delivery: Wow, Cynthia is a bit more willing to spend her time talking than one might expect. I know you explain it well later, but how did she get through her time as Champion if she stopped and talked with and signed autographs for anyone who wanted one? And really good choice for a really strange pizza. Also, the memories of Bianca didn't spark some sort of a depressive incident for the first time in the entire fic as far as I can remember. Is that intentionally symbolic of Black coming to terms with the past or is that a "I really don't want to write another flashback that would break up the flow?"


    Cynthia's backstory: A few very interesting details here. I have no idea how important it is to the plot, but it wa rather interesting to read and it was a very good and realistic way of breaking down the barriers between Cynthia and Black, so it served a purpose. The sequence was well done, but I'm questioning how much it will actually come up later.


    Cynthia's Backstory Pt Two: And this guy refuses to stop being depressive and reminiscing. My question now: can this guy do anything but that. I'm not sure where the line is drawn, but Black may be crossing the line between realistic and way too depressive and tragic.


    Ending: That made close to no sense. On my third read, I still can't get an entirely solid idea of what the scene was, and if my assumption is right I can't see why you chose to throw it in there. That's the only thing that seemed ill placed.

    Chapter Two:

    Opening: I viewed it as possible to follow, but I didn't see a point of the passage. It was generally less interesting than every other part, and didn't really have that much significance to the plot. While it wasn't a bad sequence, I didn't like think it was necessary or as good as the rest of the story.

    Battle(Pt 1): The description here was very good, even if it started to border on too much at times. The finishing move and the (later-revealed) Stealth Chant tactic were pretty creative, and made the battle more interesting. I did find the "normal trainer would do X, Black isn't a normal trainer" sequence a bit annoying. Most people would know that the obvious move would be to spam a super effective attack, and the build-up to "Black wasn't a normal trainer" seemed a bit overdone consequentially. Also, can Unpheazant even learn Hydro Pump?

    Battle(Pt 2): First off, how did Black know exactly what Macargo's injuries were before he checked -or even took out- his Pokedex? I know he probably could have guessed, but to get it in that much detail with almost certain confidence is questionable. His sudden show of sympathy to his opponent after the "life goes on" remark, even with Cynthia's explanation, still seems like it was too much of a change to occur that quickly. His sudden show of rage was also remarkably in character.

    Garchomp description: It was a very good sequence that contrasted very nicely with the following exchange of dialogue. Overall, a very well done sequence.

    Susan and Cynthia's conversation. I found this quite in-character for both. Also, Black's mild jealousy mixed with relief was an interesting response. Apparently he doesn't hate attention completely. Once again, I'm sorry that I can't say much, but it's nearly impossible to give a good review for a writer better than me.

    E4: I loved this sequence. While it could have realistically been left out, I felt it actually added and explained something. Namely: why Black hates rich people and why the E4 dislikes him. Seeing how all of that came about in a few well-written paragraphs, it was quite productive.

    Re-introduction back into the storyline: I have mixed feelings on this. First off, it's really annoying to go from a rather attatched style to an almost entirely detached one giving a recap of events I just read a minute ago. If it was at the start of a chapter it would be OK, in that location it was just kind of annoying. The part about Miles "planning his move" and some of the Riches family description was interesting, but the narration style change and poor location really killed the sequence.

    Black and Cynthia: The insight of both trainers is really quite intriguing. From this sequence alone it's possible to see what qualities make them a better trainer than most. The N/Bianca/Cheren flashbacks frequency is mildly annoying, but the quote about battles helping people understand each other is intriguing when placed into a dialogue about battling that helps a reader understand more about both characters. It was a very nice effect, but it tends to be overused and just make the test/main character even more depressing than it already is. As for the "Why are you so nice?" remark, I think it sparked one of the most thought-provoking sequences I've read in a fan fic in quite some time. Cynthia remaining calm through the entire thing while Black finally explodes also shows more about their characters. The references as to Black's companions also reinforces that only Black appears to be having problems, and any issues he is having are almost entirely self-inflicted.

    Flowers: Interesting story that reinforced Cynthia's points to say the least. I thought it might have been a bit long for the middle of a conflict, but it worked and wasn't excessive. But I may have missed the point. What does gratitude have to do with kindness in this case? Wouldn't kindness have been a better thing to explore?

    Post-parable dialogue: The brought down a god line, and the distortion world response were also rather thought-provoking insights into the game. I'd never thought before about people fearing the champions, but it definitely makes sense. You're quite good at exploring the way the game universe would actually work in a real world. Also, the closing exchange concludes the entire sequence rather well, and I don't think you could have picked a better way to end it.

    Alder, and random thought: First off, Alder's personal buisiness remark from later in the story makes a lot more sense after rereading that portion. For once, I actually feel as if an excerpt was almost entirely necessary. Alder resigning on a personal quest to take N down... that adds some complication to the story. I think a major portion of the coming chapters will be Black deciding if he even wants to take down N. Also, if Black is assumed to be the protagonist of Pokemon Black, why did he get Zekrom and N get Reshiram? Just a thought.

    Conversation in Catalin's villa: Wow... I'm not even sure what to think of Cynthia anymore. She's starting to come off as a little creepy. And Black going from depressive and angry to sarcastic is a rather interesting shift. And then at the end, Black starts to scare me too. If you're taking this fic in any direction that resembles shipping, this would be the point it would start. Just... I really hope you aren't.

    Ending: Most useless one yet. The only reason to even include it would be the smile, and I still think it would've been better to just end it with Black's half-smile.

    Chapter Three:

    Pressed for time, and already reviewed quite a bit, so I'll just summarize.

    The beach sequence was mildly off-putting for most of the same reasons listed above. Just... I didn't really like it. N's exchanges with Black were actually intriguing and interesting enough that they deserved to be in there. Most of the italics I wouldn't say the same of, but those were interesting and a nice ending to it. I was ecspecially interested by the opening, and how N (and I when I was reading it) briefly thought Black could understand Pokemon. All of this and Alder's "Personal Buisiness" are setting up a very nice path for the plotline to follow. Looker's Ditto was mildly creepy, and once again a good use for a Pokemon to match Inferno, Unpheazant's battling style, and other creative uses of moves throughout the fic. Overall, I can't tell if I think Black is being immature, or if everyone else is just expecting him to automatically want to do something. For once, I can't really tell what side of an argument is in the right, and that takes quite a few skills to pull off correctly. Also, the Unpheazant interaction did show that Black's hugely depressive mindset does have another side.

    Details you wanted:

    Characterization: Overall, I'm impressed by how much you can convey about a character in a short amount of time. While some shifts in mood and action seemed a bit too fast, I think that overall you're doing an amazing job here.

    Description: It was very good, but just know when to stop. In certain areas, it felt like it was too verbose when I read through it again.

    Dialogue: I think this was the third one. It all matched characterization perfectly, and is better than anything I can pick apart.

    Once again, I'm hindered by being of a lower skill level, and thus less prone to catching flaws. I will just say to watch for if a sequence is really needed, if it can be followed easily, and if it actually means something. With that, review complete. Sorry I couldn't do better.
    Last edited by Rediamond; 24th July 2011 at 7:32 PM.
    The Flash Drive of Champions: Backgrounds

    There are many reasons to journey in the Pokemon World. It turns out that banishment, Bond Villains, unbeatable rivals and being forced to attend one dance too many are among them.

    File 2.5 is up. Gela literally puts on a show for the world to see while elsewhen her world is shattered beyond repair.

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    Rediamond: Firstly, thank you for the review via the Review Exchange. I can appreciate the effort you've put into your response, even if I don't agree with everything you've said. It was a long review, which wouldn't have been easy. So, thank you.

    I'll respond to the review in a separate, longer post when somebody else posts. I don't want to make this post any longer and detract from the chapter itself. I don't agree with everything you've said, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You can't please everyone, right? However, I'll deal with that review at a later date. For now, please enjoy this chapter.

    This chapter is full of, ahem, drama and angst. You get to see the depth of Black's backstory and get more details about his conflicted psyche. However, I'm a true proponent of you've got to hit rock-bottom before you can go up; this chapter is a necessary step in Black's journey and provides catharsis. Chapter Five will be less dramatic, so no worries.

    Have fun. Diddy and Breezy, please tell me what you think. Cheers.

    I also threw in a reference to Roots, so tell me if you think you've spotted it. =D

    I'll deliberately keep Chapter Five, Six and the Epilogue until I feel that the time is right. lol at the teasing. xD


    ================================================== =======

    Chapter Four

    ================================================== =======
    “Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”
    -Ovid-

    ================================================== =======

    Alder is pacing in front of me. He stares at the stairway which leads away from the Pokémon League and into the heart of N’s Castle. To my right, Cheren crosses his arms and tries to maintain a façade of calm. It doesn’t work.

    When I start to climb up the stairs, Alder grabs my wrist. His stubbly face, smeared with sweat from his battle with N, seems troubled.

    “Wait,” he says. “If you go in there, you will have to face Reshiram, the Yang Dragon. A god.”

    I tell them that I understand that.

    Alder shakes his head. “No, not completely. Reshiram’s power is like nothing you could imagine. The Dark Stone has not even responded yet. Only danger waits inside there.”

    “I don’t have any other choice,” I say.

    Alder clenches his fists. For a moment, I think he’s going to stop me. He gives me a regretful expression, as though he wants to do more to help me.

    He relaxes his hands.

    “Face your destiny, then.” His tone becomes firm. “I might regret this, but go forward and battle N. Prove that humans and Pokémon have an unbreakable bond.”





    / /+/+/+/+/+/




    Black didn’t give Cynthia much time to react; he threw the Pokéball in his hand into the air.

    Beheeyem, I choose you!” said Black.

    A brown, bejewelled biped manifested with a flash of white light. The creature had a bulbous, oblong head, from which gleamed a pair of green gemstones. A series of other jewels, ranging from white agates to paired rubies and tourmalines, embossed its small, levitating body. Mystical markings etched into the skull, like the mysterious Stone-Circles of the Far West.

    There was little wonder why people called Beheeyem the ‘Alien Pokémon’.

    Cynthia’s hand jumped to her Pokéballs when Black suddenly pointed at her.

    Charge Beam,” he ordered.

    An arc of blinding electricity hustled, like a cracking whip. Black pursed his lips when the Charge Beam appeared to strike bullseye on Cynthia, who buckled with a choke. Was the great former Champion defeated from one blow?

    Of course not.

    To Black’s correct predictions, Cynthia pulled herself off the ground. Her entire body was wrapped in a foul, sizzling energy, which emanated the putrid stench of decay. It was a funerary smell, one you’d associate with open caskets and dilapidated graveyards. Black shivered; his skin was beginning to break out in goosebumps, as though his pores were anticipating a tainted presence.

    The dark energy converged, forming a malevolent creature.

    An odd keystone hovered in front of Cynthia.

    Shit, a Dark-type. Immediately, Black knew what to do: “Beheeyem, Light Screen.”

    Humming a tuneless song, the extraterrestrial released a squall of raw, psionic power. Mesmeric light burst outwards, like a distant nova. Wisps of rainbow colours danced through the nearby trees. A translucent shield began to form. However, the telepathic energies had barely congealed, when a shadowy figure rushed forward.

    The Light Screen cracked upon impact. Beheeyem cried, and bits of numinous glass were sent flying. The shadow-beast cackled, sending its ethereal tendrils towards the Psychic. Beheeyem was forced to telekinetically fling a folding-chair in front of himself to block the ghostly assault.

    Shadow Sneak is usually considered a dick-move, Cynthia,” said Black coldly. “I never expected that from you.”

    “Choosing to attack a Trainer directly isn’t in good taste, either.”

    Black snorted. “Like you don’t always carry Spiritomb around your pocket.”

    Beheeyem panicked when the folding-chair started to collapse under pressure. Invisible arms crumpled the iron-joints, like a child’s Play-Dough. The Keystone drew closer.

    “I’m quick with my hands,” said Cynthia. Her voice gained an oddly sad tint. “Why can’t you accept that some people actually care about you?”

    Thunderbolt!

    Squeaking, Beheeyem fired a streak of hot lightning, through the gap in the folding chair and at the Keystone. The air actually rippled from the heat, as the Thunderbolt skimmed the surface of the Keystone, before spiralling into one of Caitlin’s fountains. The marble boy, innocent-eyed and clutching a carved pail, exploded.

    “You’re full of shit,” Black told Cynthia. “I can’t believe how self-righteous your crap can get.”

    Beheevem garnered another cluster of electricity.

    Black gave a loathing smile. “Most people don’t know exactly what I’ve done. If they did, they’d all stay away from me. All of them. That includes you.”

    When his Trainer nodded, the Beheeyem discharged the second Thunderbolt. This time, the attack honed closer to its target. Electricity crackled, singeing the meticulously mowed lawns. Hot wind lashed, as Cynthia shielded her face from the scorching heat. Black didn’t even turn away.

    “The truth is that even you don’t really give a damn about me,” said Black, harshly. “Not for the right reasons.”

    Suddenly, the hot air that was billowing outwards vanished. Black gripped his fists, as Beheeyem cried in surprise. What could this be? What was happening? The temperature dropped, and an eerie whistle coiled through the trees. The air in front of Black became a cloud of vapour. A repulsive stench swelled. It was at this moment that Black noticed that the Thunderbolt, the coil of electricity, was still churning. The lightning was also immobile, as though it was being held down on the spot.

    “That’s a lie,” said Cynthia quietly. “Believe it or not, I do harbour some affection for you. And you know it.”

    A hiss and a bang. The Ominous Wind blasted through the Thunderbolt, which it had been keeping at bay. Beheeyem was flung across the garden. He was screaming as he went crashing into an aged, flaking birch. Gales of swivelling purple slithered around the tree, while the brimmed leaves started to decay. Black watched the vile keystone, floating above the rot and mould. A wraithlike laugh reverberated.

    “Ghost attacks…” muttered Black. “It’s a violation against the world’s natural forces. Nothing should be allowed to linger between life and death. The tether is an affront to the cycles of birth.”

    “Our existences aren’t mounted in black and white,” was Cynthia’s gentle reply.

    Withered leaves bristled, as broken branches were telekinetically hurled from the ground. Beheeyem drifted up from the disarray. His face was riddled with scours, and the right emerald was cracked. Black knew that although the Psychic-type was still able to battle, Beheeyem would need medical attention. His Pokémon… Injured, because of his own inadequacies as a Trainer. Black’s blaze of fury bolstered.

    “The press always wondered how the great Cynthia – ” Black emphasised her name. “ – obtained something as disgusting as Spiritomb.”

    Cynthia didn’t reply; she twisted her ring again, as that curious, brown stone glistered.

    Picking up his fallen League hat, Black spoke: “I think it’s rather apt. A Pokémon who matches its Trainer.”

    Cynthia looked at him; her face exuded sympathy.

    “Spiritomb, I want you to summon a full-charge Shadow Ball,” she commanded calmly.

    Delighted, the Keystone shrieked in affirmation. The dark shadows whipped inwards, rallying into a rotating sphere. The black ball began to burgeon, like a macabre balloon.

    “Beheeyem,” said Black, “disrupt it with rapid Psybeam.”

    As Cynthia gave a look of surprise, Beheeyem deployed an iridescent beam. The shimmering ray rushed towards the Spiritomb, who was still charging the Shadow Ball. Psychic energies met Ghost. A high-pitched wail rattled the sky, as bits of turf and fertiliser were sent flying. After a moment of hesitation, Beheeyem squealed and barrelled into the fray surrounding the Keystone. A wreath of mystical flames enthroned the Psychic-type’s head. Screeching, Spiritomb tried to defend its flank with a dark tendril of splintering energy.

    Black jumped out of the way, when the resultant blast heaved a sharpened bough towards him. However, the projectile cut his ankle as it whizzed past, slashing through his Flaafy-wool socks. He felt his sneakers begin to fill his blood.

    Cynthia squinted, trying to see her Pokémon through the dust surrounding it and Beheeyem.

    “How is this possible? A Psychic attack working on Spiritomb,” she said to herself. “That mesmeric, rainbow light from earlier… Could it be?”

    Black ripped off a section of his shirt. When he took off the sneaker, the red parts of his shoe seemed darker in colour. Carefully, he tied the cloth around the injured ankle. As he put on the sneaker again, the smoke which encircled Beheeyem and Spiritomb began to fade. Already Black could perceive the floating, bipedal figure – and a motionless Keystone.

    “Yeah, Miracle Eye.” Black confirmed for Cynthia. “It allows the user to deprive Darks of their immunities.”

    The haze cleared, and a victor was apparent. Beheeyem, though gasping for breath, was hovering over the battered Keystone. The trailing shadows, and that accompanying presence of malice, had vanished. A noticeable chunk of stone was missing.

    Miracle Eye also enabled Beheeyem to discern through illusions,” Black said.

    Coloured with acrimony, he gripped his League cap. “I didn’t have time for your bullshit.”

    Psybeam and Zen Headbutt. Power moves…” Cynthia sounded forlorn. “You have such potential for battling. Why are you so reluctant to admit that fact?”

    “You never know when to give up,” said Black, brusquely.

    Cynthia said nothing. Instead, she strode to her Spiritomb and examined the indentations in the Keystone. Her face lightened subtly with relief. Presumably, the Ghost-type was still “alive”, if that was even possible.

    Meanwhile, Black scrutinised Beheeyem. The rubies in the Pokémon’s hands had lost much of their vibrant sheen, as though something vital had been siphoned from them. He snapped out of the Pokédex: low health, low energy; an unknown status affliction.

    ‘Unknown status affliction’… Black wondered if Spiritomb had played that one, final card, before fading. If it did, Black wouldn’t be surprised. Cynthia had already once surprised him with her bullcrap – and history tended to repeat itself.

    “It must have been terrible, having to do what you did,” said Cynthia sombrely, as she aimed her Pokéball at Spiritomb. “The pain must have been impossible to describe.”

    When the tattering Keystone dissolved into a stream of red light, returning to the Pokéball, Beheeyem squealed. The Alien Pokémon writhed in pain, as Black felt his heart plummet. Beheeyem’s limbs splayed out, as though invisible forks were skewering them. A soundless scream tore the Psychic-type’s throat, while a tell-tale fetid smell of infected meat blossomed towards the rest of the garden. Black lowered his League cap.

    Pursing his lips, Black returned the thrashing Beheeyem to his Pokéball.

    He glared at Cynthia, whose demeanour was still unflappable and irrefutably enigmatic.

    “Has Destiny Bond always been your Spiritomb’s finishing move?” asked Black, icily. “Or is it just something you whipped up now to screw with my head?”

    “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said, in a regretful tone.

    “Too late for that.” Black chose his next Pokéball. “Unfezant! Take to the sky!”

    The great, grey bird emerged in a flash of white radiance. Unruffled, Unfezant greeted her Trainer with a soothing trill. Black stroked the Pokémon’s back feathers.

    “Hey, girl,” he said, “d’you think you’re ready for one more battle?”

    Unfezant glanced at Cynthia. Whipping her head back, the Pokémon cawed sharply.

    Black clenched his fists. “It was the last straw.”

    Another caw.

    “I promise you won’t have to do much,” said Black, brusquely. “Three minutes, tops.”

    When Unfezant gave a slow, reluctant whistle, Cynthia felt her gaze soften.

    “The way you care for your Pokémon; it reflects your true character,” murmured the blonde woman. “Many people treat Pokémon as tools for battling, but you understand that Pokémon are not your pets, but your friends.”

    Cynthia followed the rim of her ring’s brown stone.

    “Why can’t you trust people like you trust your Pokémon?” she asked, pressing her hands against one of the shattered, garden statues.

    Her hand traced outlines over the marble girl, moving over the statue’s laughing cheeks.

    She repeated: “Why?”

    “Because I can understand my Pokémon!” shouted Black. “They don’t expect anything from me, they treat me the same as before. When I’m with them, nothing has changed.

    Cynthia called out Black’s name.

    “The truth hurts, but you have accept,” she asserted, steadfastly. “Learn to forgive and believe that a world of ideals can coexist.”

    When Black tautened, Cynthia sighed and chose her next Pokémon. It was no use…

    Garchomp, let’s go,” said Cynthia.

    A Pokéball twirled upwards, as the familiar, fearsome visage of the land-shark materialised. Garchomp stomped and let out a keen battle-cry. Noticing Black, the Dragon-type snarled; the Mach Pokémon still despised him, it seemed.

    Garchomp reared his head back, as though he were preparing to ram Black into a wall. Perhaps using Headbutt? The creature was certainly no stranger to the move, as the events on Tuesday had proven. That sunny day at Undella Beach, where Cynthia was wearing an indecent bikini and Black himself was forced into an obscene Sharpedo speedo… A memory of sympathetic, ash-grey eyes resurfaced, like a buoy. Cynthia had made him laugh, made him feel like he could hope again–

    Why couldn’t he feel like that now?

    Dismissing those mutinous thoughts, Black addressed his Pokémon:

    “Unfezant. Aerial Ace.”

    “Counter with Crunch,” directed Cynthia.

    With a resounding roar, the two Pokémon catapulted towards each other. Unfezant glided through the sky and encircled Garchomp, giving the impression of a hunter and its prey. Her talons were extended, glinting like whetted knives. Then, she lunged. Swinging his powerful tail, Garchomp defended and tensed, as the bird swooped under the dragon’s hooked arms. The Dragon-type missed. Unfezant gracefully continued her attack; she feinted with a laggard swipe on the left, before swiftly veering to the Garchomp’s exposed, right flank.

    True to its word, Aerial Ace did not miss; Unfezant clawed the Garchomp’s scaly skin, tearing through flesh to draw blood. However, Garchomp was far from finished. The land-shark slammed his right leg into Unfezant’s hovering form, catching a strangled cry from the bird. As Unfezant tried to open her wings to fly away, Garchomp curled his tail around the bird’s midsection.

    The Dragon-type gave an ominously toothy grin.

    FeatherDance into a Tailwind!” shouted Black, as Garchomp brought his fangs towards the struggling Unfezant.

    Unfezant flapped her wings, releasing a smothering deluge of grey feathers into Garchomp’s open mouth. Choking, the land-shark writhed and loosened his grasp on Unfezant, the Crunch attack completely forgotten. The bird seized this window of opportunity and tore free. Immediately, Unfezant soared into the sky, with the verve of a kestrel. A light breeze began to pick up, rustling through the swing-set near the porch. The Dodrio weathervane turned against the advent winds.

    Garchomp spat out the last of the feathers. Infuriated, he roared and, when Cynthia nodded, heaved a gust of fuschia flames at Unfezant. The nearby gardenia shrubs ignited, as its flowers hissed with smoke. Unfezant dove under Garchom’s otherworldly fire, only to meet a second Dragonbreath. The blaze licked the bird’s sensitive chest. Screaming, Unfezant plummeted into the fountain below. Collected rainwater drenched the antiquated plinth, as the Dragonbreath on the bird’s plumage became extinguished.

    Meanwhile, the ambient breeze evolved into a moderate zephyr.

    Black felt something catch in his throat. A horrible feeling sank in stomach, like an anvil.

    “Why do you fight?” asked Cynthia, as Garchomp approached the fountain. “Why do you refuse to open your heart?”

    Unfezant’s form floated in the middle of the fountain. Her tail feathers, normally stiff and proud, were charred, their ends wilted like a limp vegetable. Garchomp’s shadow loomed over the bird.

    “Unfezant!” shouted Black. “U-Turn!

    Abruptly, Unfezant leapt from the fountain, soaring over the surprised Garchomp’s head. She plunged at the land-shark before the Dragon-type could react. Her claws raked the top of her opponent’s head and cleaved off some scales, as though one would peel a tangerine. Howling in fury rather than in pain, Garchomp tried to swipe Unfezant, but the bird had already swerved around and away.

    Black’s Pokéball opened, as Unfezant transformed into a stream of red light. Once the bird had safely returned, the ball clicked close.

    When the zephyr intensified into a mild gale, Black shouted at Cynthia.

    “Stop pretending like you want to relate to me!” he yelled, clutching Unfezant’s ball. “Like you understand me!”

    “But I do – ”

    Black laughed cynically. “You’re a real piece of work, aren’t you? Giving it your best shot.”

    Garchomp snarled and hurdled to his Trainer, protectively. Cynthia placed her hands over her heart.

    “You think I don’t know, Cynthia?” he said, steadily. “I know what you did. What kind of a person you are.”

    When Cynthia didn’t say anything, Black glanced at his remaining Pokéballs. One down, another weakened. Three, untouched choices. Who would be able to parry with the woman’s famed Garchomp? A Dragon/Ground dual-type. Strengths: Electric, Fire, Poison, Rock, Steel, Dragon. Weaknesses: Dragon and Ice. Perhaps the Fossil would be the best choice. Yes, he would do.

    Black grabbed his third Pokéball.

    Carracosta, I choose you!”



    / /+/+/+/+/+/



    “Do you think Pokémon and humans understand each other?”

    N and I stand at opposite sides of the floor, as the darkened wind screams at us. N looks exactly the same: familiar tea-green hair and perpetually glum eyes. He even has that signature Menger’s sponge on his belt. Above him is Reshiram, the white god and the embodiment of truths. The behemoth releases another torrent of flames, knocking down a sandstone pillar. While Reshiram howled, I try to reach N.

    “Trainers have a bond with their Pokémon, a bond that’s special,” I explain firmly. “Battling together is a way of expressing our implicit understanding for each other. It’s how we coordinate moves and strategies.”

    Affirming my words, Emboar nods by my side.

    N seems sadder than usual.

    “If humans can’t even understand other humans,” he insists, “how can they understand the complexity that is Pokémon? The truth is that everyone is different from each other. From that, conflict and ignorance arises.”

    N turns the Menger sponge in his hands. “And the cycle of abuse continues.”

    “That’s fucking bullshit,” I snap.

    “And you have a different answer?”

    “Hell yeah. People aren’t different, because everyone shares a common core.” I stand my ground. “Everybody has some once of decency and compassion in them. That once is how humans understand each other and Pokémon. Through common empathy and sympathy.”

    I lower my voice. “It’s how I understand you. How I’ve grown not to hate you.”

    “You truly are idealistic,” replies N, with a tinge of pity.

    I share a conspiratorial look with Emboar, who growls in support of my words.

    “You know what?” I respond. “Call me what you want, but I believe in those crapshot ideals. I’ll stand by them, even if it means I have to throw everything away and fight you.”

    And at that moment, the Dark Stone in my pocket starts to glow.





    / /+/+/+/+/+/



    Carracosta, I choose you!”

    There was a flare of brilliant white. A giant, blue sea-turtle appeared, extending his heavy flippers. Bored yellow eyes glimmered under a sturdy, lithic mask, while a rugged shell encased the Pokémon’s round body. Lazily, the Carracosta surveyed his surroundings. He took a look at prowling Garchomp and the burnt garden; the turtle yawned, as though he were bored.

    Once again, Cynthia grasped her silver ring on her hand, as though it were a lifeline.

    “Please, just let it all go,” she said softly. “Your thoughts are poisoning you.”

    “Carracosta, Aqua Tail!

    With astounding speed, the sea-turtle coated his tail with swirling water and struck Garchomp in the face. The impact of the attack sent the Dragon-type into a glass window. As Garchomp roared and thrust back towards Carracosta, the enduring zephyr which had helped propel the turtle to greater speed strengthened. The Tailwind had escalated into a seething gale, along with Black’s emotions.

    “You’re a hypocrite!” Black said to Cynthia. “You preach acceptance, expecting me to buy your philosophising shit.”

    Carracosta thrust a punch towards Garchomp, who ducked and parried.

    “But how could I listen to you?” Black’s voice wavered. “You wouldn’t know about loss, considering what you chose to do.”

    “My life is my life,” said Cynthia gently, “Just like your life is your own. Please, listen to me – ”

    Garchomp and Carracosta countered blow with blow. An unexpected chill settled over the garden, smothering the burning begonias and singed gardenias in a blanket of frost. The water in the fountain started to crystallise.

    Black felt the pressure mounting. The Tailwind’s windstorm bellowed, knocking down tiles off the villa’s roof. His eyes burned, as he shouted:

    “You abandoned your own Pokémon!”

    A vicious pleasure pooled in Black’s stomach when he watched Cynthia’s face fall. Her signature serenity melted away, like a Surskit’s dewdrop in the scorch of the Resort Desert. Shivering, she had to steady herself. She was rendered speechless.

    “Cynthia Chard, born in Celestic Town, 30 July of 1981,” stated Black. “First female winner of a Grand Pokémon Tournament. The Seventh Champion of the Sinnoh League.”

    In the background, the statues of the rejoicing milkmaids exploded in the fountain. Shards of ice and frozen marble ricocheted, as Carracosta fired an opalescent beam of energy at Garchomp. The land-shark barely dodged the Ice Beam, which spiralled into a birdhouse. Instantly, the Pidoves inside turned into ice.

    “Born to a single mother, you’ve always had superiority complex. A drive to prove yourself,” said Black, frigidly. “To the world – and to your family. It drove you nuts, didn’t it? When you watched the other kids leave with their parents at the end of a school day, while you waited for your grandmother to pick you up.”

    Garchomp stomped the ground, causing the garden to shudder and groan, as though it were sentient and in pain. A minor Earthquake. Turfs of manicured grass gave away to rocks and stones, as the earth under Carracosta started to fissure. Both Black and Cynthia stumbled on the unstable ground. Quick on his feet, Carracosta aimed an Ice Beam downwards, before flicking it up at Garchomp. Hoarfrost spread across the ravine, streaking like cold lightning. While a pseudo-glacier filled and stabilised the top of the chasm, ice crystals froze around the water residue on Garchomp’s skin. The land-shark snarled. The chill deepened.

    “Your mother was ill, wasn’t she?” continued Black, coldly. “Your biographies talk about your grandparents, who were both elders of Celestic Town, but never about your mother. All she gets is a little footnote mentioning her date of death, when you were ten.”

    Cynthia tightened her clasp around the silver ring. The brown gem glistened, as Garchomp threw another punch at Carracosta. Brick Break. Spurting a Hydro Pump, the sea-turtle fended off the land-shark’s vicious assault. Water was spouted everywhere, drenching both Trainers’ clothes.

    Black intensified his piercing gaze.

    “Stifled by the dreariness of Celestic Town, you decided to become a Pokémon Trainer, to explore the outside world,” he said flatly, after ordering Carracosta to parry Garchomp’s Dragon Claw with Aqua Tail.

    “You wanted to become a Master, so you could avoid your grandparents’ destinies of shrine-keeping and tradition-preservation. And your own mother’s absence. You wanted to prove more.”

    Carracosta dodged Garchomp’s tail, and discharged another Ice Beam.

    “That desire to prove something… It’s why you travel so much, even now.” Black was brutal, methodical. “The Sinjoh Ruins, Faraway Island, the former Tin Tower – even Undella Town. You’re definitely seeking something, but what? Power? The ability to transcend as a Trainer?”

    As Garchomp smashed Carracosta’s head through a birch tree, Cynthia bit her lip. Her ash-grey eyes were inscrutable, but her breath hitched and betrayed her inner feelings.

    “Your Starter was a Gible, a gift from a man called Michael Rowan,” recited Black. “You were excited, because Gible heralded from a strong evolutionary line. What could beat a fucking Dragon? You were hoping that the rest of your team would be the same.”

    While Carracosta doused Garchomp in a torrent of pressurised seawater, Black gripped his Pokébelt. Fingers brushed over each of the five Pokéballs. He felt suffocated, as though iron bands had tightened around his chest.

    “Official sources claim that you caught your first Pokémon in the Eterna Forest,” said Black frostily. “A Budew, which later became your famous Roserade.”

    Garchomp, responding to Cynthia’s wayward glance, charged at Carracosta. Powering his claws with draconian energy, the land-shark gave the sea-turtle a ferocious uppercut. Twice, in a Dual Chop. The brittle shell began to crumble, like a stale biscuit.

    “That’s not true, though,” Black resumed. “I think – no, I know – that the first Pokémon you’ve ever caught was a Shellos, on Route 205.”

    Cynthia twisted her ring; she finally spoke. “…How did you know?”

    “Bertha Brunt, the then-Gym Leader of Eterna City, mentioned in her autobiography of battling a blond girl with a Gible and a Shellos,” said Black in a hard tone. “In the Anthology, Byron Argente of Oreburgh also noted that when he first fought you, you used a Gastrodon, a Gabite, and a Roselia.”

    A stray Dragon Pulse blew the Dodrio weathervane off its hinges.

    “Assuming that Eterna was your first Gym, you must have caught Shellos before Budew,” finished Black, cynically. “Or else why wouldn’t you use the Grass-type against a Ground-type specialist, especially one who deployed Quagsire and Whiscash?”

    Garchomp struck Carracosta again. The sea-turtle winced when his shell began to rent, exposing small islands of dry, sensitive skin. Garchomp noticed. With the force of a freight train, the land-shark tackled the sea-turtle under the right flipper, where the protective casing was splintering. Dragon Rush released a tremendous aftershock which levelled the plinths of the rejoicing milkmaids. Although the stone shell remained unbroken, sharpened fragments of lithic rock dug into Carracosta’s back.

    The sea-turtle moaned. Bits of his flesh littered the Garchomp’s hammer-head, lolling over the snout like pink tongues.

    “It makes you wonder… where is Gastrodon now? Why lie?” Black faced his struggling Pokémon. “And Carracosta, hang in there. Water Pulse. Follow it with Ice Beam.”

    In one sluggish but measured movement, Carracosta hurled a deluge of pulsing water at Garchomp. The land-shark growled. Thrusting out his left arm, Garchomp diverted the surge with a Slash. However, the Water Pulse had left a parting gift: droplets of water clung to the Dragon-type’s skin, pooling at the feet and forming rough puddles over the patches of disinterred earth and hoarfrost. A pursuing Ice Beam froze these puddles of water, pinning Garchomp to the ground. There was a bellowing roar; the land-shark’s scales became brittle against the cold.

    Beside the villa’s porch, Cynthia slumped against a Grecian pillar. She seemed tired, immensely weary.

    “Shellos must have annoyed you,” said Black, icily, “when he lost the Gym Battle against Bertha. He had the type advantage, yet couldn’t handle even the first Nosepass.”

    His voice became clipped and more jaded. “Shellos’s subpar speed and commonplace abilities couldn’t keep up with your other Pokémon. You wondered if Shellos was holding you back from reaching your potential. And you did want to prove your strength, so badly.”

    Cynthia wrung her hands, almost imperceptibly.

    “After you met Lucian White, you travelled to Arrowroot Town in the North of Sinnoh,” deduced Black. “You were on your way to visit Lake Valor and the myth of Azelf, your favourite of the Lake Trio; the embodiment of Willpower had always interested you.”

    The Tailwind reached a fever-pitch, flinging a swing-set towards the west – Garchomp’s direction. Black felt the bitter anger boil his blood.

    “Your official history says that there, at Arrowroot Town, you battled the Gym Leader Camellia,” he said. “Although your Shellos – now probably a Gastrodon – lost against Camellia’s Clefable, you eventually managed to obtain the town’s Clearsong Badge. But we both know fighting Camellia wasn’t the only thing you did in Arrowroot.”

    Garchomp, after catching a fly-by look from Cynthia, started to thaw the ice around his feet with Incinerate. Carracosta did not want to miss an opportunity, however. When Black shouted the order, the sea-turtle tucked in his legs, rolled into a ball, and, at the speed of a turret-missile, smashed into the still immobile Garchomp. The Roll Out landed a critical hit. As the adjacent statue of the innocent boy juddered and disintegrated from the shock, the land-shark howled and cradled his wounded stomach. The blue skin was beginning to mottle with bruises.

    “No, something else happened after the Gym Battle. A Trainer approached you afterwards, right? Maybe one of Camellia’s apprentices,” intoned Black, as Cynthia gripped her arms. “That Trainer had watched your match, and, for reasons which were unfathomable to you then, had become fascinated with Gastrodon. The Trainer – I’m assuming a girl – found your Gastrodon captivating. She offered a trade for him.”

    Cynthia stared blankly at the grass. Repressing a pang of guilt, Black soldiered on:

    “A Togekiss for your Gastrodon, the Trainer had suggested. It seemed like a good offer: you’ve probably always wanted a Normal/Flying dual, and the difficult battle with Camellia must have proven how powerful Normal-types could become.”

    He darkened his expression. “Unlike your Gastrodon, Normals boasted impressive movepools. Togekiss also had kick-ass abilities, bearing the semi-mystical honours of Serene Grace and Super Luck. Togekiss was even a fucking rarity in Sinnoh, compared to relatively common Gastrodon. Togekiss could have helped you fulfil your goals.”

    Garchomp brought his leg up, still coated with ice-crystals, and deflected Carracosta’s Hidden Power. Another garden sculpture exploded.

    “But Gastrodon was your first capture, the oldest member of your team after only Gabite,” muttered Black. “It would’ve been obvious that Gastrodon had grown close to you; to willingly separate him from you would have been like abandonment. Because of the trauma to the Pokémon, most Trainers didn’t trade away their Starters and first captures.”

    Reaching for the brown shard on her ring, Cynthia gazed at her fingers. She curled and uncurled them, almost mechanically.

    “Cynthia, the Great Champion Cynthia, knew better, though,” said Black frostily. “Shaking the Trainer’s hand, you traded your Gastrodon for the Togekiss. Because power is more important, right? More than your Gastrodon’s inevitable distress at leaving you. More than how the friendships between Gastrodon and the other members of your Pokémon team.”

    After Carracosta blasted him with Brine, the land-shark lunged towards the garden’s granite sundial. Picking up it up with Strength, Garchomp slung the slab of carved rock, like an Olympian with a discus. Carracosta sidestepped, although barely.

    “That’s not true,” was Cynthia’s fraught reply.“I did think about Sheldon’s well-being, even though – ”

    “Bullshit,” snapped Black. “If you did, why did you continue using Togekiss? Nobody ever saw you using a Shellos or a Gastrodon afterwards, it was always Togekiss in your League teams. Even in the Distortion World, when you had to use all of your Pokémon against the god Giratina. No Gastrodon. You never tried to renegotiate the trade.”

    “That’s not true.”

    “Sure, you became more mellow and peaceable after the trade. Perhaps you realised it was stupid to seek adventure all the time, settled down a little.”

    Drained, Cynthia shook a little.

    “You probably read a few history books and toned down your insecurities.” Black seized his Pokébelt, feeling hollow. “Stop trying to overcompensate. Settled down a little, started to reconcile your historic roots in Celestic with your ambitions for the Pokémon League.”

    “I don’t – ”

    Carracosta drove his foot into Garchomp’s arm, creating an ominous cracking sound.

    “You definitely changed, Cynthia,” said Black. “After that trade, you became less of a fickle girl and more of a serene Champion, the first female winner of a Grand Pokémon Tournament. It’s transformed you.”

    He pointed at Cynthia’s hands. “You even kept a small brown shard, a shed flaking from Gastrodon’s shell. You probably wear it, because you sometimes remember and wonder about the past, right?”

    Hastily, Cynthia hid the silver ring under her cloak.

    “You remember the trade, that’s for certain.” Black dropped his voice down into a threatening whisper. “But don’t you fucking dare to pretend that you regret it.”

    Garchomp flailed under Carracosta’s immense weight, swiping blindly at the sea-turtle. However, Carracosta did not falter. More pressure was piled on, as the Dragon-type’s arm started to snap into an awkward position.

    “You don’t understand what real loss feels like,” said Black; his heart was heavy. “Real loss is when something precious is forcibly wrenched out of your life. Something so precious that you’d trade away the air you breathe for just one more minute with it.”

    Cynthia’s reply was muted: “I do understand. With Sheldon, I couldn’t…”

    “Shut. Up.” Black growled. “Real loss is when you couldn’t protect that something because you were too fucking weak, too deficient. You couldn’t stop it.”

    As the Tailwind reached its concluding crescendo, Black whispered against the storm:

    “Real loss isn’t something you choose.”

    At last, the bellowing winds began to wane and fade from Caitlin’s garden. The begonia bushes ceased to thrash as though they were against an invisible hand; the frosted waters of the marble fountains stilled. Flying debris started to drift towards the ground, like sleeted snowflakes, as the Tailwind evanesced.

    Black focussed on the anger in his chest, suppressing the other emotions which rustled at the edges. Cynthia was crouched on the floor, putting her head in her arms.

    “You’re not even talking to me because you actually want to,” he said, almost inaudibly.

    Cynthia didn’t look up.

    “The current Sinnoh Champion… Dawn.” His words were unsteady, as though he was reluctant to roll them off his tongue. “Team Galactic had a stranglehold of the Spear Pillar, attempting to bring destruction to Sinnoh, yet she had to tackle the mountain. Alone.”

    Twisting under Carracosta’s weight, Garchomp opened his mouth and spewed a flaring pillar of yellow flames. Slips of empyreal blue laced the blaze. While the sea-turtle squirmed to douse the draconian fire, Garchomp exploited the distraction caused by his Dragon Rage. The land-shark kicked Carracosta, sending the preoccupied Water-type off him in one, fluid motion.

    “Storming the Galactic Veilstone Headquarters, stopping the Galactic Commanders at the Lakes – they were your responsibilities,” said Black, in a hushed tone. “Other Champions had intervened directly: the Mossdeep Space Center in ’05, Mahogany Town in ’08. But in Sinnoh, a twelve year-old girl had no help.”

    “What happened to Dawn has no bearing here,” replied Cynthia. Black noted that the woman’s voice was husky.

    “Yes, it does,” he said. “You couldn’t help Dawn, who probably resents you for abandoning her. You feel guilty; you failed her. But look, there’s another young Champion, whose circumstances are similar to Dawn’s. You have a second chance to makes things right.”

    Wincing at his broken arm and bruised stomach, Garchomp lobbed a gunk of hardened mud at Carracosta. (Mud Shot). The sea-turtle, wheezing under his own injuries, parried weakly. The Pokémon were nearly at their fight’s end. Another moment would cause their unconsciousness.

    “To you, I’m just a pity case,” murmured Black. “A blank slate upon which you can doll up your guilt. How fucking meaningless.”

    Finally, Cynthia looked up. Her grey eyes were rawly-red rimmed.

    “It’s not meaningless,” she said, slowly. “When I look at you, I don’t see a pity case or a blank slate.”

    “A hero, then. Give me the word, and I’ll capture a monster or a god for you,” he retorted, bitter. “Because that’s what I’m good at, apparently.”

    “Not that either,” was the quiet reply.

    Black laughed. “Something to be frightened of, then. Something to point at. An exhibit for show.”

    Cynthia’s eyes were resolute. “Why are you so scared of opening up to me? Why?

    “Go screw yourself, Cynthia. You wouldn’t understand me – you abandoned your Pokémon, just as you abandoned the current Sinnoh Champion.”

    Standing up, Cynthia brought herself to her full height. It was impressive, topping Black’s own height by a few centimetres. Statuesque, like one of those Argos sculptures from Alto Mare. With a start, Black realised that Cynthia really was an adult, a woman. Somebody who had years of experience and wisdom over him.

    Cynthia approached him. When she tried to touch his arm, he pulled away. Her face, normally calm and inscrutable, was tightened with concern and weariness. She looked much older than her twenty-nine years.

    “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, a lot of things I wish I could do again,” she said, after returning Garchomp to her ball.

    Black pointed his own Pokéball at Carracosta. The sea-turtle, exhausted and battered, lazily glanced at Cynthia and stared at Black. Carracosta flicked his head towards the blonde woman, as though he were asking Black to listen to her. There was a flash of red, and Carracosta dissolved back into the Dive Ball.

    “I regret leaving Dawn alone. Yes, I should have stayed with her,” said Cynthia, as Black pocketed Carracosta’s ball. “She was too young to deal with the Galactic Admins, not to mention Cyrus. I bear that responsibility and, as a price, endure Dawn’s resentment even today.”

    She sighed, before resuming.

    “And trading away Sheldon was one of worst things I’ve ever done.” She withdrew her hand from her cloak, allowing sunlight to glint off the brown shard. “You think I don’t know this? Believe what you want, but not a single day has gone by where I haven’t thought of my Gastrodon. I love Togekiss, but it’s not the same.”

    “You willingly abandoned your Pokémon.”

    “I was a silly little girl who thought she could do no wrong,” replied Cynthia, tiredly.

    She raised her ring. “I wear this ring as a reminder of what I’ve failed to do, to remind myself that arrogance can be my downfall.”

    Black scowled, as a vindictive streak surged through him. It fuelled his anger, as one would feed meat to a caged predator.

    “Really? A ring?” repeated Black. “Did you even bother searching for Togekiss’s original Trainer to reverse the trade? Maybe your Gastrodon was too pathetic for anyone to want him back.”

    Cynthia moved so swiftly that Black scarcely caught more than her shadow and a whip of long blond hair. She held him by the collar, grey eyes darkened to furious black. Black fought back an expression of surprise; this was the first time he had seen Cynthia angry.

    “You can call me names and accuse me of whatever crimes you want,” said Cynthia in a low, dangerous voice. “But disrespect my Pokémon again, especially Gastrodon, and I’ll fucking finish you.”

    She said it so matter-of-factly that Black was a little dazed. The fact that Cynthia, the pleasant but aloof Cynthia, had sworn compounded the absurdity of the situation.

    “Finish me, then,” said Black. “Give it your best shot.”

    Softening her expression, Cynthia released Black from her hands. She tentatively tried to touch his shoulder again, but he pushed her away once more.

    She said Black’s name.

    “I want you to know something,” said Cynthia, steadily. “Dawn, Gastrodon, Cyrus – I regret a lot of things in my life. But no matter what you say – ”

    She raised her gaze; Black recoiled at the genuine resolve burnishing her face.

    “ – I don’t regret meeting you.”

    Black felt something surge through his body, searing through the tips of his limbs. As memories rattled and re-emerged, his throat parched and words stuck to the roof of his mouth. He backed away from Cynthia.

    “It’s true: I have never experienced a loss like you have,” admitted Cynthia. “I could never understand completely, and neither can anyone else. Tension and ignorance will always be there, callously.”

    Black swallowed uneasily; he tried to muster a glare, but he was failing.

    “The painful memories will never truly leave you, and a part of you will never heal,” Cynthia said softly. “Some truths will be difficult to reconcile with ideals; optimism will seem asinine.”

    “Don’t fuck with me, Cynthia.”

    “But I want you to know,” she said, “you’re not alone.”

    Black trembled. “Fuck you, Cynthia.”

    Cynthia drew closer. “You’re not alone.”

    Fuck you.

    With his good hand, Black pushed the woman away. But his arms felt limp, as though all the blood and energy had been sucked out of them. A terrible weight pressed down on his eyes, prompting him to rub them. Why were they… wet?

    “Since there is sadness, we can feel joy,” said Cynthia. “With anger, there’s compassion.”

    Black backed against a frozen birch; his breathing was shallow. He promised himself he wouldn’t, he promised himself he wouldn’t –

    “You don’t need to bottle your emotions,” she said.

    When Cynthia placed two fingers under her chin, Black couldn’t find the strength to push her away. What was happening? His heart was pounding at hundred miles per hour, and every pore was numb. Black dimly registered that his legs were beginning to fail him. With a small thud, the knees buckled and Black found himself on the ground. Everything around him was frozen, from the grass to the fragmented garden gnomes. His breath formed a chilled vapour.

    Cynthia crouched next to him. Gently, she placed her hand over his.

    “It’s okay to feel,” she whispered, directing her gaze into his. “It’s how we know that we’re human.”

    Black didn’t respond.

    Cynthia caressed his icy palms.

    “You’re not alone.”

    Black’s reply was feeble. “Stop fucking around.”

    Carefully, Cynthia brought her arms around the shaking boy. As her body pressed against his, Black became aware of the tickle of her blond hair against his cheek, the lilac scent of Glacideas from her perfume, the warmth of her breath on his cold face.

    “You’re not alone,” she repeated, softly.

    The guarded dam broke. Shuddering, Black collapsed in Cynthia’s arms. He clutched her arms, as the former Champion stroked his head.

    “Fuck you, Cynthia,” he sobbed. “Fuck you.

    At last, Black began to cry.



    /+/+/+/+/+/ /



    It takes only one stray shot. One stray shot from Reshiram for the deed to be done.

    I start running. Dust clings to the air, obscuring my sight, and the horrible stench of burning fur permeates. I nearly throw up when I realise that the dust is probably the remnants of charred flesh.

    When I reach him, my hands are shaking too much to even hold his head. The damage is terrible: his left tusk had been ripped out completely, and a gash in the flank leaks rivulets of blood. Those red eyes are hooded with pain. It takes only another minute for those eyes to close.

    I stagger backwards, tripping over a stump that was a few feet away from the body. When I look down, I fall to my knees. My sight blurs with vertigo, as I reach out and clasp that severed arm. The black fur is still smouldering slightly, and my hand burns a little. I only let go when N dashes towards me and tries to pull me off the burning arm. Screaming, I push him away. I want to punch him, kill him.

    But my body won’t listen. Sobs racket me in little, choked gasps. The world spins around.

    “I – I am sorry,” says N.

    He tries to approach me again, but this time I managed to punch him. N lets the blow connect; there is a cracking noise when his head hits the wall.

    “Stay away, get the fuck away from me– ” My words are grabbled and rushed, as I start wheezing.

    N seems frightened. Fumbling, he picks up the Menger’s sponge. The green tiles are marred with a thick, brown liquid. N trembles and lowers his head, avoiding my eyes.

    My own weakness, because I couldn’t protect. My own stupidity for not listening, for trusting N. For thinking that he is my friend and I could understand him–

    This had to end, and end now. I glare at Reshiram and Zekrom. As hatred burns my eyes, I grip my Pokéballs.

    At last, I start to cry.




    /fin of Chapter Four/
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 29th July 2011 at 4:10 PM.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

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    Double-post, but here's Chapter Five. Please read and enjoy.

    I recognise that this is a slower chapter compared to the last one, but the plot is rapidly coming to a close, and I have plot holes/elements to tie-up. However, I hope you guys notice the parallels I'm trying to make between here and previous chapters.

    I've endeavoured to structure this story so that mirror images are created, as well as character development. I hope you enjoy. Even though not as many people reviewed this time, I'm sure that if I horde Chapter Six and do not release it for some time, people will eventually catch-on. *evil laugh*

    Also, I hope that you notice the Minor Characters who make reappearances in this chapter. There are at least three, so have fun!

    Cheers.


    ================================================== =======

    Chapter Five

    ================================================== =======
    “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
    -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-

    ================================================== =======

    Cheren is watching me. I can feel his scrutinising looks.

    “Do you ever wonder what you might have been?” he asks.

    “What do you mean?”

    “What you would have been if you never became a Trainer.”

    I choose to be funny. “A space cowboy.”

    Cheren shakes his head.

    “You fucker,” he says, almost pityingly. “You have no idea of what you want to be, do you?”




    /+/+/+/+/+/ /



    -Undella Town-
    Thursday


    Black was sitting on the edge of the pier, dangling his feet over the seawater. His socks and sneakers were flung to the side. He watched as the sun descended in the west, splashing the horizon with burnished swathes of gold and purple. Sensing the end of the day, most people had headed indoors: the wharf was empty, with the exception of a few persistent fishermen, while a lone woman fed a wild Pelipper. All in all, Undella Beach was peaceful at twilight.

    He lifted his right leg. Messy, white bandages enclosed the swollen ankle, protecting the wound against infection. The cut from the battle with Cynthia had yet to heal. Indeed, his ankle throbbed a little whenever he took a step. Granted, Black had experienced worse injuries, but it was still a bitch to not be able to run. He had walk, or suffer the consequent aches. At least that was what the doctor had said.

    Cynthia… He hadn’t seen her since the Pokémon match. After he broke down in front of her, Black had exhausted himself. His recollections were hazy, but he remembered somebody stroking his hair, whispering that things were going to be alright. He must have fallen asleep in the person’s arms, because the next clearest memory he had was waking up the following morning, in the guestroom. A blanket had been carefully placed over him.

    Black’s C-Gear buzzed, bringing him back from his thoughts. Sliding it open, he checked the Caller ID: Bianca. Black sighed. This was the second time that Bianca had tried to contact him today. Perhaps she was attempting to compensate for not calling him at all for the last two days. Oh, well. He had to concede that Bianca had guts.

    Ordinarily, Black would have switched off his C-Gear when he saw Bianca’s name on the screen, but this time, he let it cross to voice-mail. He didn’t know why, but the persistent video-calls didn’t bother him as much as it would have a week ago.

    Um, hey.” A female voice piped from the voice-mail. “It’s me again, Bianca! Well, you probably already know that, because of Caller ID? Gah, I’ve never liked that stuff – it eliminates the element of surprise!

    “I’m sure the Xtransceiver people were thinking of you, Bianca, when they designed it,” said Black drolly.

    Anyway, I know you probably don’t wanna talk to me.” Bianca seemed more solemn. “Y’know, with everything that happened. Uh, you probably don’t even like me right now, with all the calls I’ve been making.

    Black tugged at the hem of his shirt.

    Bianca perked up again: “But if you’re interested, some of the old gang is meeting up in Nimbasa, this Sunday! We’re riding the Big Dipper and everything. They didn’t think to invite you, because, y’know – but I said, “screw them”!

    Another tug.

    We had so much fun the last time we went to the Nimbasa Theme Park,” she said, excitedly. “I’ll win that Houndoom plushie you like at the shooting gallery! You remember how I trashed Cheren at riffle-shooting.

    A tug again.

    We’re planning to arrive at the Nimbasa Theme Park by ten in the morning,” said Bianca. She became quiet. “I really hope to see you there.

    After a pause, she said, “I miss you.

    The C-Gear beeped, signalling the end of the message. Black tapped his fingers against the side of the pier. He mulled over the bouncy voice which he had heard. Bianca sounded hoarser, a touch deeper even. Perhaps she was feeling a little under water? Stress or worry? Both? However… That cheerful pep, an exuberance that made you wonder which meds she had hopped on – Bianca hadn’t changed, overall. She probably never will. As Professor Juniper once said, Bianca was like the sun: bright, vivid, and constant.

    That thought put an almost indiscernible smile on Black’s face.

    Picking up his socks and shoes, Black stood up and experimentally rolled his ankle. A dull prick of pain tingled. But it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Thankfully, the cut had been cleaned with antiseptic, it seemed. The bandages also were wrapped tightly, staunching any blood flow.

    The person who had treated his wound took great care to dress it properly.

    “Cynthia, I don’t get you,” muttered Black.

    It was true. He had a deluge of questions for the blond woman, but she had disappeared to somewhere. When Black had awakened, Cynthia was not in sight. He had searched the rest of the villa: in the lounge, he found his Pokéballs, within which his Pokémon were mysteriously Full-Restored. In the dining room, he found a casserole dish filled with enough Stir Fry to provide three meals. And in the kitchen, he found was a small Post-it on the fridge. It was written in Cynthia’s slanted writing, with sloped ‘l’s and looped ‘g’s.


    -Dear (____),

    I’ve gone to meet someone. I could not postpone it any longer.

    I promise to return by tomorrow.

    Food is in the dining room.

    Please remember that it’s not your fault.

    Love,

    Cynthia.



    Black’s name – his actual name – was smudged out. It presumably happened when Cynthia had written in hurry, accidentally smearing the ink with her sleeve. Maybe the person she was meeting was so important that exigency was required. A League official? Lucian of the Sinnoh Elite Four? Michael Rowan, the Professor on Pokémon Evolution?

    Black put on his socks and sneakers, while his mind wandered elsewhere. As a result of Cynthia’s temporary absence, he had spent the whole day to himself. It was rather lacklustre: he exercised in the villa’s gym, taking a jog on the running machine. Next was a nap on the futon. Afterwards, Black flicked on the widescreen and surfed the channels. Eventually, he settled on one of those subtitled telenovelas: Marietta had betrayed the loyal Entei for her mother, while Ginevra had married Enrique, producing children and upsetting the wider community around them.

    What an odd plot, if he could say so himself.

    All in all, the day had been uneventful and boring. But Black found himself much happier than he had been for a while. That tremendous weight had lifted, allowing him to breathe for the first time. Some might call it ‘catharsis’.

    After tying his laces, Black started walking down the pier. He could hear a few gasps and pointing stares. Even though the wharf was mostly empty, some people still loitered. A middle-aged waitress bumped into a bench-top, while a father of two tried to calm his suddenly restless kids. The restaurant next door wasn’t any better: the local, sitting at a wicker table, spluttered his steamed, ocean-fresh trout; in the adjacent seat, the businesswoman directed her Purrloin’s gaze away from Black.

    Black rolled his eyes. Instead of pushing down his League cap, he raised it.

    “Should I add a third eye to my appearance,” Black said wryly, “or would they stare too much?”

    Black strolled past the restaurant and headed down a series of concrete steps. Gradually, the hard pavement segued into soft, white sands. He could see the ocean kissing the beach, lapping in rolling waves. A lifeguard’s high-chair, white with peeling red stripes, stood aloof. Next to it laid a deflated tuba and the strange arrangement of stones. Luminescent sunlight traced the skeletons of two parasols, while a few indistinct shapes bobbed in the distant, indigo waters. If he had to, Black would guess that a visiting Wailmer pod from Hoenn was grazing on the sunken krill. The clean scent of salt permeated the area. Everything felt calming.

    This was one of his favourite parts of Undella. It was the beach where he and Cynthia had visited on Tuesday.

    Unhurried, Black treaded the sands. This part of Undella Bay was neglected. Compared to the tourist gaggles which waddled around the other beaches, only the occasional, intrepid local had boasted visiting this beach.

    Black had concluded his research on the beach. Apparently, the town folklore had claimed that this part of the Bay, loosely called ‘the Divine Cove’, was cursed. A god who governed creation had supposedly contoured the Cove. The legends warned that a person who stepped into its watery depths would be judged. Therein, the voyager would either die – or live.

    It seemed that these warnings hadn’t deter Cynthia, though. She had dragged him here without any scruples. Twice. In swimsuits. If anything, the maniacal myths had probably encouraged her. She did have a bizarre fascination for legends.

    Black cocked an eyebrow.

    “A god who judges whether you live or die, huh?”

    He continued to walk down the beach. Pausing, he wondered if Caitlin had heard about her garden’s current condition. The damage totalled between him and Cynthia was colossal: six headless sculptures, two shattered fountains, a garden gnome with no hands, and three birch trees which resembled charred stumps. A majority of the lawn suffered from hoarfrost, while a giant chasm filled with ice stretched from the burnt oak to the porch. The split chairs alone would give Caitlin an aneurysm.

    Of course, the payments would cost a mere drop in her vast fortune, but the repairs would take time. Time which Caitlin would spend bitching in his ear.

    At the thought of Caitlin, Black reached into his pockets. He pulled out a folded note and opened it. The Elite Four’s message was just as he remembered: snide and highbrowed. Still…

    He snorted and shoved the note back into pants. Somehow, enduring Caitlin’s whinging didn’t seem that bad. Hm.

    Folding his arms behind his head, Black resumed walking down the beach. The breeze was gentle, and his thoughts were not heavy, for once. He didn’t understand why the locals viewed the Cove as a source of fear. It was irrefutably peaceful…

    Then, something happened.

    A wave broke on Black’s feet, a wave that was stronger than the ones which preceded it. Suspicious, Black flicked his gaze towards the horizon. The waters were becoming oddly turbulent, as though ocean itself had become frightened. Strident wails rang out, like the police’s siren. Trouble was brewing. Instinctively, Black’s hand shot to his Pokéballs.

    His danger senses proved true: a large throng of figures started to brawl in the distant water. There were roars and shrieks, as chunks of fat and thick blubber went flying. Pillars of pressurised water spouted upwards. Black narrowed his eyes when he caught a glimpse of something black. A curved, scarred dorsal fin. The final piece of evidence was the thick slivers of red which began to lace the seawater, turning it purple.

    A Sharpedo attack.

    Black knew that Sharpedo were called the Bullies of the Sea for a reason. Their serrated fangs could tear through sheet iron, while the sleek, pectoral fins were designed for maximum, aquatic acceleration. Only the ferocity of their draconian cousins, Gabite and Garchomp, matched Sharpedo’s aggression. Indeed, both Kanto and Unova dreaded Sharpedo gangs so much that the respective provincial governments had introduced anti-shark legislation. Sharpedo Nets became a common sight in both regions. Some Unovans even actively hunted Sharpedos, baiting them with Goldeen flesh or severing their fins for a special gumbo.

    The consequence was that Sharpedo were now rare in Unova; only the vast waters of Hoenn still housed noteworthy Sharpedo populations. Therefore, for a Sharpedo to be found in Undella Bay, it had to be able to survive the constant shark-baiting and anti-shark nets, especially the numerous premium ones which enclosed Undella Bay. It had to be powerful and ruthless.

    Highly experienced, highly leveled.

    The Wailmer pod had little chance of survival.

    After another minute, the thrashing in the water ceased. The wails silenced. As large, bloodied blobs began to rise to the surface, Black fished out his Pokédex and pointed it at the centre of activity. Prototype #A05 had a high-quality, inbuilt camera. At the right angle, he could capture a decent picture of the Sharpedo.

    The screen displayed a shaky resolution; Black had to squint a little to perceive the image. The picture mainly showed the reddish waters and bits of Wailmer carcasses, but there was an interesting blur at the top-right corner.

    Black enlarged the photograph and zoomed in the blur. As the Pokédex processed the image, he could make out the outline of the Sharpedo’s body. The beast had its fangs halfway into a Wailmer’s stomach, dragged out the entails in its mouth. However, that was not what interested Black. No, it was the Sharpedo’s skin.

    It wasn’t black, as he originally had thought, but vibrant purple. A mystical, silvery aura clung to the shark, like a robe.

    Interestingly, the dead Wailmer were also strangely coloured. Diverging from their usual indigo tint, the pod was arrayed in shades of violet, even without the blood staining their skins. What did Professor Juniper call Pokémon with these rare, deviant colours? Ah, ‘Shinies’.

    “What a stupid term,” muttered Black.

    Witnessing the Sharpedo finish its messy meal, Black wondered what had caused these Pokémon to obtain their extraordinary, perturbing colours. Was the presence of the Divine Cove? The legends spoken by Undella Town? Professor Juniper implied that the cause was a mutation, although the sources of the mutations were unknown. Yes, radiation could trigger pigment mutation, but such intense radiation did not exist in the wild, at least not naturally. A scientific anomaly, a mystery… From the available genetic material, Black was beginning to speculate that the origin of Shinies was supernatural, celestial even.

    No wonder the locals avoided the Cove. An ordinary person would have been terrified of these Shiny Pokémon.

    Eventually, the Sharpedo stopped its feeding and released its last Wailmer carcass. Black took another photograph using his Pokédex. Zoom-in. Judging from the look in its red eyes, the shark had satiated its hunger and was ready to leave. Sure enough, the tell-tale dorsal fin began to swim away from the scene. Within two minutes, the vibrant purple was a mere dot in the horizon. Another minute, it was gone.

    In the event of a wild Pokémon feeding upon another, Black would usually leave the area as quickly as possible. However, those eerie colours intrigued him.

    He stepped towards the water, almost hesitantly.

    Suddenly, an enormous beast leapt at him from the ocean. With his razor-honed reflexes, Black opened the first Pokéball in his belt. Carracosta materialised in a white flash and instinctively blocked the mysterious creature’s attack.

    Recoiling from Carracosta’s defence, the beast hastened back into the water. Even under the faint light of dusk, Black could see the creature which had attacked him. Purple skin, which was peeling at little from tooth-wounds. A tan belly with grooves. Pupils that were dilated in fear and panic.

    It was one of the Wailmer from the pod, a survivor of the Sharpedo’s feast.

    “Those dilated eyes… It’s just probably frightened from the Sharpedo attack,” Black said to himself. “I need to show that I don’t mean any harm.”

    The Shiny Wailmer launched itself at Black again. Defending, Carracosta pushed it away with a Water Pulse. The whale ricocheted into the ocean, giving a small wail of pain. More blood seeped from its wounds. Abruptly, Black realised that Wailmer was still injured; the Pokémon would require urgent medical attention, or else it would not survive the night.

    Black felt his conscience prick.

    “Carracosta,” he said, turning to his Pokémon. “Try to trap Wailmer in a Rock Tomb. Be careful not to hurt it, though.”

    Lazily, the sea-turtle stomped on the ground. Several rocks emerged and sailed towards Wailmer, like a gliding flock of Swanna. The first few landed in front of the whale, blocking its movement. However, Wailmer hurled a Hydro Pump at the Rock Tomb, breaking through it. Black massaged his temples when the whale used this opportunity and swam away, down the beach.

    Sighing, he said, “One of these days, my impulsiveness will kill me.”

    He started to sprint after the Wailmer but dug in his heels, when he noticed that Carracosta was not moving. The damn sea-turtle was yawning, giving his Trainer a bored look.

    “If you’re not coming, I’ll stop taping your favourite TV show,” Black told Carracosta. “The one with the fucking chef who swears at everyone.”

    Carracosta gave him the finger. Nevertheless, the sea-turtle started to follow Black, although reluctantly.

    The two raced down the coastline, passing through several lifeguard flags. Soon, Black had left the Divine Cove and was at Spiraria Beach, the most popular and tourist-friendly section of Undella Bay. It wasn’t difficult to find Wailmer; the Pokémon was three-hundred pound whale, after all.

    Wailmer was beached next to a tide pool, wheezing on the craggy rocks. A group of schoolgirls, who were presumably taking an evening walk, were squealing at a safe distance.

    Black turned to Carracosta.

    Rock Tomb again!” he commanded.

    Great boulders soared out again, falling around Wailmer in an ensnaring circle. However, this time the whale was too exhausted to escape. Firing that Hydro Pump – and swimming away – had sapped most of its remaining strength.

    “Okay, Wailmer needs to get to a PokéCenter. But we could end up doing more damage if we touch him,” murmured Black, formulating a plan.

    He reached for his satchel. “I’ll need to capture it, then.”

    Black went through his available Pokéballs. It didn’t take too long to make a decision.

    After ordering Carracosta to remove some rocks and clear a passage for him, Black approached the Wailmer. He gripped his chosen Pokéball. His eyes softened at the sight of the injured Wailmer, as brown blood puddled underneath its belly.

    “Rest well,” he said, as he threw the Heal Ball.

    The pink Pokéball flew into Wailmer. Immediately, the Pokémon’s body liquefied into a dynamic, red light and spiralled into the empty ball. The Heal Ball closed with a ‘snap’. Rhythmic clicks started to sound. Three more clicks, and the Pokéball stopped moving. A clean capture.

    Black picked up the Heal Ball. Pursing his lips, he flipped out his Pokédex and analysed the Wailmer inside it. Although he knew that Heal Balls restored their Pokémon’s health, Black wanted to be sure.

    H. Status: CONSCIOUS; Full health’,” he read aloud, “‘Minor scarring; may require latter treatment at a PokéCenter’.

    Relieved, Black switched off the Pokédex. So Wailmer was alright, and he wasn’t too late.

    “I saw what you did,” said a girl’s voice from behind him. “That was an amazing use of Rock Tomb. Precise aim, not to hurt Wailmer.”

    Black wheeled around.

    Behind him stood three girls, the schoolgirls who had been lingering around the rock pools. They each wore a laundered blazer and a pair of matching bell-bottoms. The Lilycove handbags hung off their delicate arms, like cherries from the dark-wood trees, while Hermčs scarves completed the reflections of easy wealth. Despite the similar articles of clothing, each girl had a differing colour scheme. The blithe blonde on the left wore yellow, while the scornful brunette on the right wore green.

    The redhead in the middle wore red. She was the one who had spoken. And her face was familiar: button nose, a stylish amount of make-up, and ponytailed, auburn curls which smelled like strawberries.

    It was the wealthy girl who had challenged him earlier. Susan Riche.

    “These are my school friends,” said Susan, gesturing at the other two girls. “This is Tyra Waldorf, daughter of Mayor Waldorf, and Rebecca van der Woodsen, my brother Miles’s fiancée.”

    Black glanced between the two girls. The breezy blonde – Rebecca – waved at him, while the disdainful brunette – Tyra – wrinkled her nose, as though she would not deign to consider the sight of him. Both were equal in attractiveness, he had to admit.

    He extended a hand to the girls.

    “Nice to meet you.”

    Starry-eyed, Rebecca shook his hand as if she were strangling it. On the other hand, Tyra took one peek at the dried Wailmer blood on his fingers and sneered. Black raised an eyebrow at the proud brunette. Normally, this sort of conceited behaviour would irk him, but at the moment, he had a better control of that same-old, embittered temperament. He found it entertaining, frankly, that this girl thought she was better than everyone else. She was bound for an unpleasant surprise, later in life.

    “We saw what your Carracosta did,” said Susan.

    “You did?”

    “Yes,” she replied, with the barest hint of wonder. “Your Pokémon was extraordinary, remarkably quick-footed for a resurrected Fossil. He’s well-taught.”

    Susan stared at Black. “You really are the Unova League Champion.”

    Black adjusted his cap; he kept his face impassive.

    “That’s my official title,” he said.

    Rebecca giggled and clapped her hands together.

    “Susan, I can’t believe you challenged him to a Pokémon Battle,” she said, breathlessly. “What were you thinking? How could you!”

    “Susan has a right to challenge whoever she wants to,” said Tyra in a cold voice.

    Amused, Black folded his arms. Did this girl, Tyra, have any sense of propriety? She didn’t understand him at all, like many people of her stature. In an ideal world, he would have insisted that she was kind-hearted under an icy exterior. The truth was that she was just a bitch.

    Susan seemed to notice the implications of Tyra’s comment. Spinning around, she admonished her friend:

    “Tyra! He’s standing right there!”

    When Tyra scowled, Susan turned to Black and grabbed his hands.

    “I’m sorry for the way Tyra’s behaving. Er, her summer boyfriend called it quits, so she’s been rather crabby lately,” explained Susan.

    Tyra hissed something in Rebecca’s ear, with a mean urgency. The cheery blonde gasped and blushed like a red fire-truck. She seemed scandalised. Black watched as Rebecca whispered something back at Tyra, who merely shrugged. Glancing at Susan and Black, Rebecca blushed again. Tyra smirked. In front of them, Susan didn’t look impressed; Black chuckled. He sensed some sort of rumour or gossip between Susan’s friends. High school politics were comical, that was for sure.

    Emboldened, Susan stepped towards Black; she was determined to compensate for Tyra’s general unpleasantness.

    “I want to give you something,” she told him. “You wouldn’t let me pay you when I lost the Pokémon battle. I felt kind of rotten about that, so – ”

    Susan pulled something out of her handbag. As Black tried to protest, she pushed it into his hands.

    “Here,” she said, closing his fingers around the object. “Keep it. Think of it as a belated ‘thank you’.”

    Black examined the gift. It was a metallic disk with a silver trimming. Accompanied by the blue glaze painted over it, this appearance was recognisable to him. A Hidden Machine, or HM for short.

    “HM06 – Dive,” Susan elaborated. “See the darker parts of the sea? Those are called diving points. If your Pokémon knows this move, it’ll be able to take you through those diving points and towards the ocean floor.”

    “Diving. Why would I want to do that?” asked Black, turning the disk in his hand.

    “I don’t know. Undella Bay has some wonderful oceanic trenches. Maybe it’d be interesting to explore those?”

    Black contemplated. Then, he slowly tucked HM06 among his other HMs and TMs. Like a cosy campfire, a warm feeling churned in his stomach. A smidgeon of pink reached his ears.

    “Erm, thanks,” he said, as he avoided looking Susan in the eye. “That was really… nice of you.”

    Susan pulled at an auburn curl, while her cheeks gained a similar pink tint. Her characteristic arrogance and confidence seemed to have melted away, leaving a schoolgirl reticence in its place. She hid her face from Black, with a curtain of hair.

    “No problem,” was the rushed reply.

    Tyra sniffed in disapproval, while Rebecca squeaked with delight and directed her eyes at Susan. Those hazel eyes gleamed with excitement, as though a sordid and fabulous story were blossoming before them. Black and Susan tried to evade each other’s gaze.

    Tyra eventually intervened.

    “Didn’t your grandfather want us to return by seven?” intruded the brunette snottily. “It’s nearly ten to seven.”

    Rebecca panicked. “Oh, Susan, that is true! We have to leave. Now.”

    “Alright, alright. Give me a minute,” muttered Susan.

    The other two girls obliged, giving Susan some privacy. She shot a grateful look. Clearing her throat, the auburn-haired girl turned to Black, who was touching the grooves in his Pokébelt. He looked up.

    “Try not to Dive in the Divine Cove. Strange things have happened there,” cautioned Susan. “Legends say that part of the Bay is haunted, or something.”

    Black laughed. “You don’t need to worry about me.”

    “Just because you’re the Champion of the Unova Pokémon League doesn’t mean you can’t get skewed by a rock, or something equally dangerous.”

    “I’m a big boy,” he said.

    “I know that,” retorted Susan; her face was luminous with red. “But I wanted you to be safe… because I thought maybe we could catch a musical together. Grandfather Zillion has spare tickets.”

    Black was surprised. “A musical?”

    “You know, a musical,” she mumbled. “There’s a new one in Nimbasa. Basically, all the characters are either gay or have AIDS.”

    Susan turned around before Black could formulate an adequate response.

    “Think about it,” she said.

    “And by the way, I saw what you did for that Wailmer.” Her voice tinged with true admiration. “It was really sweet. I think that’s why they call you the Hero of Unova.”

    Black didn’t reply.

    Returning to her friends’ side, Susan walked away without another word. As the girls climbed up the concrete stairs and left the beach completely, Black studied Susan’s back. Auburn bangs whipped against the ocean wind, revealing a creamy neck. Long legs and a hint of fresh strawberries…

    Black shook his head.

    “The Theme Park and the musical theatre…” Black trailed off, wondering.

    He gave a small smile. “Nimbasa can’t be too terrible this time of year.”



    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    Professor Juniper examines my Pokédex. As she scrolls down the various entries of encountered Pokémon, her expression becomes impressed. I share a victorious grin with Pignite. Surprised, Professor Juniper sets down the Pokédex.

    “The sheer amount of data you were able to collect, all the different Trainers you must have met…” Professor Juniper trailed off.

    She closed her eyes. “I am speechless.”

    I’m uncomfortable with the attention and praise.

    “It’s not as amazing as you make it out to be,” I murmur.

    Professor Juniper chuckled.

    “You’re certainly a talented young man, no doubt about it,” she says. “I’m just glad you are using your gifts to help other people, I suppose.”





    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    -Undella Town-
    Friday


    “W-What did you say? You shall do what?!”

    Black sipped his juicebox. “I said I’ll do it. It makes sense: I have the greatest experience with Team Plasma, so it’s only right that I help you.”

    “B-But that is not what you said on Wednesday!” sputtered Looker. “How is this possible?”

    “People can revise opinions,” replied Black, coolly. “I had some time to think about it.”

    They were sitting at a local café. Looker had chosen to meet at one of the noisier joints in Undella: bustling waitresses carried laminated menus, barking at the customers who were slower to order; a queue of businessmen, thirsty for espressos to-go, extended from the cashier to the lamppost outside. The fact that it was lunchtime only exacerbated the traffic. If Black had knew better, he would have insisted on another meeting place. However, the café’s food was dirt-cheap and phenomenal. The clientele was too busy salivating over their meals to eavesdrop.

    A few hours ago, Black had finished reading a series of books on Undella’s legends, when he saw a small business card flutter down from his jacket’s pocket. Looker’s business card. After a moment of thought, Black had steeled his mind and dialled the number on the card. When the detective picked up his phone, he was shocked. Looker had not been anticipating the turn of events. Nevertheless, he arranged to rendezvous at noon.

    If the mere fact that Black had wanted to meet him surprised Looker, Black couldn’t imagine how surprised the detective was now.

    “I must admit, I was a little doubtful. You were filled with anger during our last meeting,” said Looker, as he tried to collect his unhinged jaw and set down his BLT sandwich. “It was unlikely that you would even consider my offer.”

    “Like I said, I had some time to think about it,” said Black.

    As Looker shot up from his chair, the dumpy waitress who was taking the adjacent table’s order harrumphed. Annoyed, she squeezed her lips together, giving the impression of a shrivelled lemon.

    Looker disregarded the waitress’s irritation. Beaming, he shook Black by the shoulders. Black blanched at the almost painful force in the man’s grip. Didn’t Looker understand the concept of personal boundaries? Apparently not.

    “If you are speaking true, this is most wonderful news!” he exclaimed. “My quest to capture the Seven Sages shall be fast-forwarded. Oh, joyous!”

    Looker wore a childlike, mile-long grin, which looked ridiculous on a stubbly face with a square chin. Black sighed. It was a minor, Christmas miracle that the man was even able to function as a competent Private Investigator. In a logical world of hard truths, Looker’s uncontainable liveliness would have definitely thwarted his investigative work. However, the universe was more merciful and ideal, it seemed; Looker somehow managed to pull it together.

    Cynthia was right, as usual. Damn.

    Finally, the stocky waitress on the right had enough. She glared at Looker, who was still standing up and rattling Black’s shoulders.

    “Sir!” she rebuked. “Please control yourself. You are disturbing the other customers.”

    Looker either was dreadful at looking guilty or didn’t particularly care for the waitress’s opinion.

    “I apologise, Madam,” he said, not sounding apologetic at all.

    Offended, the woman huffed and marched away from their table. Idly, Black wondered how long it would take before the manager kicked Looker out. Minutes or seconds, which option? Hm…

    “I must warn you, Champion,” said Looker, after he was sure that the waitress was gone. “The investigation for the Seven Sages will be time-consuming. You must spend weeks in the Unova wild again, while following our leads.”

    Black sipped from his juicebox again; the orange flavour tingled as it went down his throat. He wiped his mouth. The juice was saccharine sweet, sweeter than juice from a bottle.

    “I’m aware,” he said.

    “Are you truly content with the conditions of this case, then? Will you still agree to our investigation, despite knowing these prices?” asked Looker.

    Picking at his own BLT sandwich, Black pondered the natural consequences of Looker’s words. Would he be prepared to put his life on hold? Fare shitty weather and shitty Trainers to track down a group of people which he had never wanted to see again? Be reminded of the terrible events at the Castle and of his own failings?

    A month ago, the answer would have been an empathic ‘no’, mixed with some choice swear words. However, now his answer was –

    “– yes,” replied Black.

    Oh, joyous!

    Ecstatic, Looker leapt to his feet again, sending the juicebox and the sandwiches flying. Orange juice drenched a stunned businessman, while bits of lettuce and tomato clung on the fuming waitress’s perm. When the woman calmly removed a piece of bacon from her cleavage and took in a deep breath, Black smirked and prepared to witness a yelling match of gargantuan proportions.

    He wasn’t disappointed. Yeah, definitely not.

    The screaming duel resulted in the manager throwing out Looker and Black from the café. It didn’t matter, though; they had nearly finished eating by that time. Looker himself didn’t seem to be too upset by the manager’s actions. The man was probably too excited from Black’s acceptance of his offer. Indeed, Looker spent the next thirty minutes detailing all of the Interpol’s liaisons. After he was finished with the liaisons, Looker then proceeded to his various leads, while the two of them started to walk down the street. There were a lot of leads, if Looker’s mouth was any indicator. Although the information bored him a little, Black smiled and politely nodded along.

    Black’s smile only waned when Looker mentioned something which chilled his nerves.

    “And we will have to locate Ghetsis again,” said Looker, shaking his fist. “That Shadow Triad is crafty, no? They broke into the prison, very easy.”

    Troubled, Black faced Looker. “Could you repeat that?”

    “Ah, the Shadow Triad is crafty.”

    “No, before that,” said Black quietly. “Did you say that Ghetsis escaped?”

    Looker scratched his head. He seemed rather embarrassed.

    “It is true,” he confirmed, tentatively. “A little shameful of the Interpol, but rest assured! We will capture the leader of Team Plasma once more!”

    Black clenched his fists.

    “Do you have any further questions?” asked Looker, in a careful tone.

    Surreptitiously, Black eyed the detective standing next to him. Looker had his right shoulder rolled back and his left foot forward. While tension held the arms, the man rapidly curled and uncurled his hands. His entire demeanour implied extreme hesitance. Overall, Looker seemed nervous. Was Looker afraid that Black would renege upon his acceptance of the offer?

    A sliver of pity slid up Black’s spine.

    “No, I’m good,” said Black; he shoved as much verve as he could into his voice.

    The trick appeared to have worked. Relaxing visibly, Looker wiped his forehead and beamed. The man checked his Jigglypuff wristwatch.

    “I must make my leave,” declared Looker. “I’m late for an important interrogation. Contact me tomorrow. You have my business card, yes?”

    Black nodded.

    “Excellent! We shall meet soon.”

    Taking out a Pokéball, Looker released his Ditto. The pink blob metamorphosed into a Fearow, predictably. As he mounted the Transformed Pokémon, Looker glanced down at Black. After a moment of rumination, the man extended his left hand. It was clenched.

    Looker bumped his fist against Black’s knuckles, forming a fist-bump.

    “And that is for good luck,” he said, grinning. “We are in this together. Right, Hero of Unova?”

    Black could only gape, as Looker crooned in his Ditto’s ear and ask the Pokémon to take off. With the aerial agility of an Aerodactyl, the Fearow metamorph soared into the sky. Soon, Looker and his Pokémon were a far-away blot, vanishing behind a plume of clouds. Black stared until he could no longer see the blurred man.

    Setting his eyes back on the street, Black perpended the new information. Ghetsis had escaped? The news sickened Black, like a bad dinner. The one-eyed leader of Team Plasma was easily one of the most manipulative, most conniving, most evil man which Black had the misfortune to meet. In his megalomania, Ghetsis had brainwashed masses of Unova into releasing their Pokémon, and, on a far more personal note, had indirectly caused –

    Deep breaths. Calming breaths. Black closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. He had come too far to regress, not again. The mere mention of Ghetsis’s name wasn’t going to summon those heavy thoughts again. Not if he couldn’t help it. And he was a fighter, dammit. He was going to make it. Fuck it, he had to. More deep breaths. Calming breaths.

    Gradually, the familiar pressure on his chest lessened. Black opened his eyes and wiped his face with his jacket’s sleeve. It was becoming easier.

    “Mom, look! It’s the Champion! The one who battled the giant dragon!”

    A small kid was pointing at Black from across the road. The child was tiny, even for his elementary school age; he barely possessed twice the height of his pet Emolga, who was squeaking from the side. A young woman, presumably the mother, was holding the kid’s hand. Stricken, she froze upon seeing the newest Champion. Unlike her son, she appeared to be rather scared of Black. It wasn’t an uncommon response.

    “Don’t point, Tim,” the mother reprimanded. “It’s rude and isn’t considered good manners.”

    “I knew it!” exclaimed Tim. “I knew that Bart was telling the truth yesterday! Can I please ask him for an autograph, oh please – ”

    “Tim, now is not the time.” The mother was anxious. “He probably doesn’t want to. Let’s go home – ”

    “But Mom! He’s the Champion. Please, just let me at least ask him. He might say ‘yes’!”

    “Timothy, stop this nonsense,” said the mother; she tugged on her son’s arm. “The Champion is a busy person. Tim, don’t act like – ”

    The woman’s words were caught in her throat when she saw the Unova Champion walking towards them. Tim gawked, as though he had witnessed Santa Claus give one of the elves a lap dance.

    “C-Champion,” choked the mother.

    In these circumstances, Black would generally lower his League hat and try to hide his face. He didn’t like the attention and his status as Unova’s Champion. However, things were different now. Black raised his cap and smiled down at the kid.

    “What’s your name, kiddo?” asked Black.

    Tim brightened. “Timothy Daniel Drake, but everyone calls me ‘Tim’.”

    The mother looked distinctly uncomfortable. Shooting Black a fearful look, she wrapped her arms around her son. Her posture was protective, as though she were expecting Black to fish out a Pokéball and release a Legendary Pokémon on a whim. Which was at least half-true.

    “You can relax,” Black told the mother. “I don’t plan to hurt your son.”

    She tightened her expression. “Then what are you trying to do?”

    “Give your son an autograph,” was Black’s honest answer.

    While the woman dropped her arms in muted surprise, Black took out an empty Pokéball from his bag. He whipped out a permanent marker; he started to write on the white half of the ball.

    “‘To Tim Drake’,” said Black, as he read out what he wrote. “‘Life may seem stupid, but it gets better. Eventually. And eat your green vegetables – they’re actually good for you’.”

    He finished with a flourish. “‘Signed, the Fifteenth Unova Champion’.”

    Gently, Black passed the signed Pokéball into Tim’s hands. The smile on the kid’s face widened to a width which exceeded what should have been a natural limit.

    “T-Thank you, mister!” cried Tim, cradling the Pokéball.

    “You’re welcome.”

    The mother was astonished. She gawped at Black, who was capping the marker and returning it to his pocket. The fear in her expression had abated, and flabbergasted gratitude emerged.

    “The editorials said that you were cold and hostile,” stammered the woman. “They said that you would never sign autographs, and that you could – ”

    “Shut up, Mom!” Tim cut in.

    Clutching the Pokéball, the kid rebuked his own mother:

    “The Champion is nothing like what the stupid ‘zines say! I’ve been saying he’s a good person, and now, you can see that.”

    Ignoring his gobsmacked mother, Tim swivelled around and stared at Black. The kid’s eyes were bright and hopeful, reminding Black a little of his old self.

    “You were always the coolest Champion,” asserted Tim. “No matter how many times Bart blubbered it, Lance wasn’t cooler than you. Lance may be a Dragon Tamer, but you’re the Hero of Unova!”

    Black blinked.

    Then, he ruffled Tim’s hair. His voice was quiet but resolute.

    “Yeah, I am.”


    /+/+/+/+/ /+/



    Bianca isn’t watching me. She’s too busy fingering the hem of her skirt, as though she’s in a trance. While a glassy look glazes over her eyes, she chews on her bottom lip. Even that isn’t enough, she starts drumming her fingers on the café table. Spacing out, again. Sighing, I set down my spoon.

    “You dragged me to Castelia City to talk to me,” I say, feeling exasperated. “Suddenly, you’re not doing that anymore.”

    Bianca blinks. “Oh, was I doing spacing again? Sorry.”

    “What were you thinking about,” I ask, “that distracted you so much?”

    “Z-Zekrom.”

    I nearly slip out of my chair. Repressing my emotions, I tried to put on a smile. It was a pale imitation, like how a shadow is only the outline and not the object itself.

    “I was wondering… you said that Zekrom left you after, well, you know.”

    “Yes,” I reply in a prickly voice. “He flew away to the horizon when the battle had finished.”

    “Do you think he’ll ever come back?”

    I pick at my League hat. “Maybe. It’s his choice. I don’t think so, though.”

    “Why?” she asks.

    “We finished our agreement,” I answer, “and we don’t believe in the same things anymore.”

    Bianca gives me a meaningful look. She shakes her head, before facing me.

    “Once you’re the Hero of Unova, you’ll always be the Hero of Unova,” Bianca says, “No matter what you claim.”

    She touches my hand; I whip it away from her.

    “I-I think, someday, you’ll see Zekrom again.”





    /fin of Chapter Five/


    Ergh, opening quote for this chapter was really hard to find, fyi. I struggled a little with that.
    Last edited by Draco Malfoy; 8th August 2011 at 12:49 PM.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

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    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

  19. #19
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    I forget just how critical I was in the last review. However, I'll say this: however much I may have ranted (a lot), I really did enjoy reading it a lot. And this chapter only amplified it. The battle was amazing, and I could hear both the validity and insanity in Black's rant during the battle. Overall, it was a very hood chapter. And after seeing a little bit more on Emboar (?) I think I can understand a lot of Black's really deep depression. I can't believe I forgot about the Bird (can't spell it's name) scene from the last chapter, as it also caused a reversal in perspective.

    Overall, I loved the battle and N flashbacks. Together the chapter was epic.

    EDIT: Why do they both seem to enjoy wrecking the place?
    Last edited by Rediamond; 29th July 2011 at 6:25 PM.
    The Flash Drive of Champions: Backgrounds

    There are many reasons to journey in the Pokemon World. It turns out that banishment, Bond Villains, unbeatable rivals and being forced to attend one dance too many are among them.

    File 2.5 is up. Gela literally puts on a show for the world to see while elsewhen her world is shattered beyond repair.

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    Rediamond: You weren't too critical; I don't believe in "too critical", usually. Don't be afraid to go for the pressure points. What I meant was that I didn't agree with some of the points you've raised, such as Black coming off initially as too depressive. The angst doesn't really kick in until chapter Four, and he's meant to be more weary than ANGSTANGST.

    However, I still appreciated your review since it offered another perspective to my story, something that I actually needed. And your questions, such as "why water in the opening sequence?", will be answered in good time.

    And the Champions didn't enjoy trashing Caitlin's place (well, perhaps not too much); it's simply the way things turned out, because of the high octane nature of Pokemon Battles and the tension between Black and Cynthia.

    Yes, it was Emboar, to clarify. I suppose it's not a spoiler to say now that Emboar died during the N-battle, and that's where this story diverges from the game canon. I always thought that in a battle involving two gods, danger is everywhere. Something like that could have definitely happened.

    Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb: I'm sure you can have a cynical tone, like how you could have a mischievous tone or miserable tone. Voices can convey bitterness and jaded attitudes in their inflections.

    I wanted to show that Cynthia herself wasn't some Madonna or perfect, serene woman. She's human too, with definite emotions; she just controls herself better due to experience. I thought it might be fun to see her lose her cool, even if it's only momentarily. =)

    Scrafty is cool, but I'm sorry; you get to see much of him. I simply didn't have room or time to fit him into the story, like I could with Unfezant. Black's Pokemon team was created, simply because I had certain restraints I wanted to work within. For example, Black had to get an elemental monkey, since Cheren and Bianca both have one, and I wanted an Unova Water-type who could use Ice Beam, etc.

    Black's not a douche, although he comes off that way sometimes. I wanted to show that he's still the kind guy that he used to be, underneath that prickly demeanour. The interactions with Susan and Unfezant should have hinted at that, along with the flashbacks which show a more innocent and idealistic Black, pre-N.

    Diddy: I corrected the "once/ounce" thing, if that's the mistake you're referring to. Tell me if you see more mistakes. =)

    It was this battle that prompted the Battle Thread, yeah. I was struggling a little with the Black v Cynthia battle, but you guys helped me out there with your advice. I'm glad that you liked the battle; it thought that the use of Ice Beam added a nice symbolic edge, to be honest. =)

    Cynthia has some kickass Pokemon, that's for sure.

    Emeraldfan: Well, if you want another update, you better keep an eye of this thread. You never know when I might post Chapter Five. xD Black does swear a lot, but even in his pre-N state he did have a coarser mouth than some. I think it suits his personality, and he only really swore a lot in this chapter because of the emotional stress. Before that, I think that he did keep a tighter hold on his tongue.

    And Black's homework did pay off. I operate my stories with the Law of Conservation of Detail; every reference has to play some sort of role, whether it is mere comic relief or has future significance. Chekhov's Guns. =)

    That's why I'd advise you to keep a closer eye on the Undella Beach and even little things, like Susan and Matt.

    Cheers, and thanks for the reviews.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

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    I'm starting to think you have a Chekhov's Gun fetish.

    Also, what is the Ice Beam symbolic of? Is it symbolic of the hax and RAAAGE that follows using it on a Garchomp?

    Also, I assume that the water in the opening sequence was only a dream forewarning Black of what is to become of him. The real Black is drowning in the cynical monster, the raging storm of hatred, that he is becoming.

    The only way you could have made this more obvious is if you had the part at the beginning describe how Ghetsis and N, while wearing masks of Black's face and slither up into his body through his anus, and then post a link to Sigmund Freud's Wikipedia page, linking to the section about his study of dreams.

    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb: I'm sure you can have a cynical tone, like how you could have a mischievous tone or miserable tone. Voices can convey bitterness and jaded attitudes in their inflections.
    *bitterly whispers to self* I was expecting that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    I wanted to show that Cynthia herself wasn't some Madonna or perfect, serene woman. She's human too, with definite emotions; she just controls herself better due to experience. I thought it might be fun to see her lose her cool, even if it's only momentarily. =)
    Funny, I myself am writing a fic about how Cynthia is human, even though the fandom says otherwise. However, she gets her 'Mrs. Perfect' powers not only from experience, but because she allows Spiritomb to reside in her body, and has to pay for her perfection with the soul of a child or Pokemon.

    Unlike how you had her trade Gastrodon away, Spiritomb slowly destroys its mind and sucks the life out of it to show a younger Cynthia what would happen if she doesn't 'pay up'.

    Fic is in sig below. Part described has not been written yet. Criticism welcome.

    Shamelesss self-advertising ftw.

    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    Scrafty is cool, but I'm sorry; you get to see much of him. I simply didn't have room or time to fit him into the story, like I could with Unfezant. Black's Pokemon team was created, simply because I had certain restraints I wanted to work within. For example, Black had to get an elemental monkey, since Cheren and Bianca both have one, and I wanted an Unova Water-type who could use Ice Beam, etc.
    Then I will hack your account and write a humorous scene in which Scrafty slaps some hos.

    Oh, I see now why you gave him the worst Pokemon in Unova. You know you could have given him a Jellicent and made him a hypocrite for douching all over Spiritomb? After all, he does dislike Ghost-types, and Jellicent does not at all look like a Ghost. Plus, it has a moustache.

    Who doesn't like moustaches?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draco Malfoy View Post
    Black's not a douche, although he comes off that way sometimes. I wanted to show that he's still the kind guy that he used to be, underneath that prickly demeanour. The interactions with Susan and Unfezant should have hinted at that, along with the flashbacks which show a more innocent and idealistic Black, pre-N.
    I've noticed, that's the point of the story. Also, I like how you killed off Emboar. Alder warned him, after all, that it was supremely dangerous.

    I wonder what he chose (that doesn't suck, like everything else but Scrafty) to replace it?

    Good luck! I can't wait to see moar!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    I'm starting to think you have a Chekhov's Gun fetish.
    Not a "fetish" per say. More of a "healthy enthusiasm". Every writer uses some of Chekhov's Gun, I reckon. It's part of Foreshadowing. =)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    Also, what is the Ice Beam symbolic of? Is it symbolic of the hax and RAAAGE that follows using it on a Garchomp?
    Well, I used adjectives and adverbs such as "frigidly" to describe Black. Basically, it's the aggressive but isolationist attitude that the boy was employing against Cynthia.

    That, and the hax too. xD

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    Also, I assume that the water in the opening sequence was only a dream forewarning Black of what is to become of him. The real Black is drowning in the cynical monster, the raging storm of hatred, that he is becoming.
    Interesting... I won't tell you if you have the right or wrong idea. Just wait until the end, and you'll find your answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    The only way you could have made this more obvious is if you had the part at the beginning describe how Ghetsis and N, while wearing masks of Black's face and slither up into his body through his anus, and then post a link to Sigmund Freud's Wikipedia page, linking to the section about his study of dreams.
    Perhaps.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    Oh, I see now why you gave him the worst Pokemon in Unova. You know you could have given him a Jellicent and made him a hypocrite for douching all over Spiritomb? After all, he does dislike Ghost-types, and Jellicent does not at all look like a Ghost. Plus, it has a moustache.

    Who doesn't like moustaches?
    I thought about Jellicent, but I ultimately decided against it for a few reasons. I know that I've made post-N Black pretty glum and prickly. However, I didn't want to make him unrelateable or unlikeable. The reader still had to care about the guy, enough to want to still continue with the story. Hypocrisy would have been the one thing that would have turned readers off Black, because he is, due to N's influence, so insistent on the truth.

    Black's honesty and ability to uphold himself to his word is one of the things that didn't change about him, and why he's still sympathetic, imo. If I changed that, I wouldn't make him a nice character to read about. He wouldn't be heroic enough.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    I've noticed, that's the point of the story. Also, I like how you killed off Emboar. Alder warned him, after all, that it was supremely dangerous.
    Exactly, and Black knows that he got adequate warning. It was partially his fault for idealistically befriending N, and there's the source of his self-loathing and bitterness: he blames himself for Emboar's death, when it's not something that anyone could have readily foreseen or blame on anyone in particular.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb View Post
    I wonder what he chose (that doesn't suck, like everything else but Scrafty) to replace it?
    As already hinted a few times, Black is only carrying five Pokeballs for the time being. There's an empty notch in his belt, so he hasn't replaced Emboar yet. Granted, it's still a little painful for him, and he hasn't recovered from the trauma yet.

    Under the Same Sky - PG-15||Completed

    Memorandum to UtSS: "A Deathless Prelude".
    FF.net Profile//Quote-of-the-month: “History is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace and revolution continue on forever.”

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    Here I am with the return review. This is probably the longest review in the history of the forums because it's more than ten thousand words and goes over the character limit so I have to post it in two parts. Yeah. That's how long my reviews can get. Be afraid.


    Overture

    Is it intentional that your scene dividers are missing one + sign?

    As I mentioned in my response to your review of Morphic, size tags aren't actually a flawless way of evading censoring because the skins have different font sizes; for me, one letter in all your swear words is showing up as bigger than the others and it looks weird. I've since that response been reminded that I'm at least pretty sure the default font in all the skins is Verdana, however, and one letter of Verdana in the middle of some other sans-serif font doesn't usually look that jarring anyway, so I'd suggest instead evading the censoring with "f[font=verdana]u[/font]ck".

    ****, for once, I agreed with Cheren.
    This is a bit grammatically dubious; I'd make the comma after "****" into a semicolon or a period, since it's an exclamation that portrays a separate thought of its own. I'm not sure I can properly explain why it seems to lose power to me as it stands, but it does.

    “Why?” she asks. “Why does it have to be like this?”

    Her voice is thick with phlegm and pity.

    “Champion? But what about Alder?”
    These paragraph breaks seem unnecessary to me; moreover, they're confusing, since they make it hard to tell that Bianca is still the one speaking the third line there. The speaker isn't changing and the subject isn't changing; there is no reason you ought to put "Her voice is thick with phlegm and pity" in its own paragraph, and when doing so is creating ambiguity, it's really better to just drop it.

    I don a smile; I don’t think it reaches the eyes.
    I feel this would sound more natural as "my eyes"; generally you don't think of your own body parts as "the" whatever.

    “The Elite Four?” She sighs. “My, my, have you grown.”

    I wonder what she’s doing with the computer.

    “I’m making modifications to the latest Pokedex – Prototype #B06.”

    She swivels around in her chair. “Do you want to volunteer for the beta model?”
    Same thing as above with that final paragraph break. Professor Juniper is still speaking; in fact, the last line is a direct continuation of what she's saying in the previous one, so the paragraph break (implying a change of topic) is outright inappropriate. While above you could excuse it with wanting to emphasize "Her voice is thick with phlegm and pity" by giving it a paragraph of its own, there is no such excuse here.

    I also felt the second line was a bit muddy. Generally, when a character's narration says "I wonder", it refers to a thought, but the fact the same verb can also be used as a speech verb to refer to wondering aloud, combined with the fact Professor Juniper's next line sounds like she's responding to him, suggest the interpretation that he actually asked her. The two possible interpretations make it confusing for the reader. As I read on I discovered that you're not giving Black any quoted dialogue in his first-person portions at all, which is a pretty clever nod to the fact he's a silent protagonist, but this one line of indirect dialogue here just feels random, especially when it's ambiguously worded so that the reader isn't actually sure he was speaking aloud at all. Try making the wording more explicit, e.g. "I wonder what she's doing with the computer and ask her."

    My mother is silent.

    Her voice sounds from the Xtransceiver.
    Well, that's a little self-contradictory; if she's silent, her voice can't also be sounding from the Xtransceiver. I realize you're trying to say that she's silent for a bit and then speaks, but because silence is a state rather than an action, saying his mother is silent doesn't in itself imply a duration, and without such an implication, the two sentences feel like they're supposed to be just about simultaneous. Portray the duration of the silence somehow; either show some actions with an implied duration between mentioning the silence and when she speaks (e.g. "My mother is silent, narrowing her eyes at me on the screen of the Xtransceiver as if trying to read something out of my expression"), or make the pause explicit (e.g. "My mother is silent for a few seconds" or "After a lengthy pause, her voice sounds from the Xtransceiver again").

    “Are you eating well?” Another question.

    She wrings her hands. “I can’t stand seeing you… like this.”
    Again this paragraph break in between two sentences said by the same character. This would make more sense if you properly shifted the focus away from her in between, like if you actually showed Black's nonreaction, but just his observation that it's "another question" isn't sufficient to make it feel like we're changing the subject enough to warrant a paragraph break.

    The Menger sponge was already on the floor.
    Random past tense in the middle of a present-tense passage. You may feel like because it's been on the floor for a bit it should be past tense, but "already" takes care of that; "is already" implies a state of being that's been going on for some time and still is, whereas "was already" would be used to imply the same only in past-tense narration.

    We’re both exhausted and about to faint, maybe.
    The "maybe" feels off to me. I think you only mean to imply that they might be about to faint, but it makes it sound as if he's also not sure if he's exhausted, which doesn't really make sense. I'd reword this to make it clearer he's only unsure about the fainting bit. Really, though, being merely unsure about it feels weirdly passive; shouldn't he be worrying he's about to faint, or feeling lightheaded, or something a little more personal than a flat prediction of what might happen in the future?

    And people ask me why Zekrom isn’t with me anymore?.
    The question mark doesn't belong. He's not asking a question; he's just referencing a question. If you quoted it directly, you'd retain the question mark (and not have a period), but here that's not the case.

    I’m on the seesaw, pushing myself on and off the ground. The seat opposite mine is vacant.
    You can't... really do that on a seesaw with nobody on the opposite side. Seesawing works because the kids on it are likely to be around the same weight so it's very close to being in balance, making it easy to kick off. If there isn't another kid on the other side, it's completely unbalanced and wouldn't go up at all, or if it did it would come down far too harshly for it to serve as idle entertainment. It's just like trying to jump from a sitting position.

    Because my family had only recently moved into town, none of the other children seem to want to talk to me.
    Because my family has only recently moved into town. Though this is happening in the past, you're telling it in present tense, and in that present, you'll want to use the present perfect rather than the past perfect to refer to recent happenings.

    “I’m Cheren,” the boy declares. “What’s your name?”

    I tell him.

    Cheren wrinkles his nose. “That’s your name? It sounds stupid.”

    I tell him that his face is stupid.

    “Your name is stupider,” replies Cheren, in a breezy way that only a seven year-old can muster. “I’m gonna call you something else.”
    I like this exchange; it's amusing and childish in the right way.

    “Whatever. If you like Black so much, that’s what I’ll call you.”
    Since he's still referring to the color black here, that "Black" shouldn't be capitalized.


    I expected the NOIR. and BLANCHE. to be an ongoing theme or otherwise relevant, but having finished the Overture and looked through the first chapter to find there aren't any more of them, I must say I still don't understand why they're there; they just seem like pretentious flourish, to be honest. Though marking Cheren's scene with NOIR and Bianca's with BLANCHE makes sense, in that it's connected to their names, it doesn't provide a reason why you would want the French words for the colors they're named after to precede snippets about them, and the designation of Juniper as NOIR and his mother as BLANCHE just seems completely arbitrary as far as I can see. There isn't any visible contrast between the NOIR and BLANCHE snippets or the like that seems to justify giving them special, separate, opposite markers. All the scenes are pretty similar; what do Cheren and Juniper's snippets have in common that's in any way opposite to Bianca and his mom's snippets? If I'm completely missing something, by all means say so, but they come across as meaningless and, as I said, kind of pretentious.

    Anyway, it's hard to tell much else at this point (several things that seem vaguely odd or awkward to me could make sense when I know Black's character better), so I'll just get right to chapter one.


    Chapter 1

    I'm going to read the whole chapter before I start to review this time; earlier I ended up typing out a bit of unnecessary puzzlement over the indirect dialogue in the Juniper snippet that could have been avoided if I'd already read the scene where it became clear what you were doing.

    ...

    Okay, so. Done reading. There were some recurring issues I noted that I'd like to address here so I won't have to quote every example.

    First, I have to say I don't find your third person nearly as readable or appealing as your first person. The first-person portions are to-the-point, with descriptions brief, flow mostly naturally and center around the protagonist's perception of things. The third-person main body of the chapter, however, often feels choppy, gives undue attention to irrelevant and uninteresting detail that doesn't really tell us anything, and uses a truly bizarre number of unnecessary similes seemingly just for the sake of similes.

    In particular, and this is a little ironic since you criticized my sentences as being too long (which I acknowledge), I actually feel that a lot of your sentences are too short. The choppiness I mentioned is largely because you often choose to write multiple sentences about facts that should be connected but, thanks to being split up that way, are made to feel disconnected; where a "while" or an "and" or a semicolon could combine facts into a single, more illuminating superfact, you like to just put a period in between them and leave it that way for the reader to make up these connections in their head. Even things that do work as separate sentences are structured or arranged in such a way that the narrative doesn't seem to flow so much as jump from sentence to sentence; there isn't a logical connection bridging adjacent sentences, or if there is, the reader has to spend a moment figuring it out.

    I'm making this sound a bit more dramatic than it is, but it really distracted me nonetheless. Let's look at an example:

    As he trudged through the lobby, Black heard the whispers and gasps of the people around him. A young waiter nearly knocked over the wine cooler. A mother of three tried to quieten her suddenly agitated children. Ignoring the pointed stares, Black stepped in front of the concierge’s desk.
    The young waiter and mother of three seem to appear randomly in the middle of your description of what Black is doing, and though we know that his arrival caused these two events, you don't really write them as if it did, resulting in this disconnected feel. Suddenly we just jump from Black to some waiter, and we can't start to make the connection until we get to the "knocked over the wine cooler" part. Likewise, we then jump to a mother but aren't sure where she comes in until we get to her children being agitated. Then somebody is ignoring pointed stares, and after the waiter and mother you brought in, this could just as well be a third observer, until you tell us it's Black. It takes a moment to piece together, and though it's a very short moment, it's distracting for the reader.

    This paragraph is also kind of weirdly structured; you start with Black, move on to the reactions to him, and then just go back to Black. Generally, the structure of a paragraph involves the first sentence introducing its subject and the rest of the paragraph discussing it, with the final sentence concluding the topic and leading into the subject of the next paragraph. Here, however, the final sentence of the paragraph just kind of undoes the middle by going back to Black continuing what he was doing as if nothing were more natural. Your first sentence introduces the subject of people staring and gasping when they see him nicely, but when the final sentence comes along it makes it seem like the subject of the paragraph is actually just Black walking across the lobby - which doesn't work either, because then the waiter and mother don't really belong in the paragraph in the first place. This is another recurring problem; you have quite a few odd paragraphs or paragraph breaks, not only within dialogue. I'll point them out below.

    Or at least this is as close as I can get to pinpointing why this paragraph feels so disjointed to me. I might personally write this as something like...

    As Black trudged through the lobby, he heard the whispers and gasps of the people around him. In the corner of the room, a young waiter looked up and nearly knocked over the wine cooler in shock; on his left, a mother of three tried to quieten her suddenly agitated children as they pointed at him, wide-eyed. Everyone had stopped where they were standing, giving him stares ranging from pointed to merely incredulous, except the concierge by the desk at the far end of the room, who was typing away at her computer and seemed not to have even noticed him coming in.

    Black ignored the stares, as he always did, and headed straight for the concierge's desk.
    ...but that's my writing style and not yours and I'm adding in detail (see comments on your description below) and my sentences are probably too long, so obviously I'm not expecting you to change it to this. Point is, as you wrote this in particular, it ended up choppy and I think I'm on to something with my theories above on why that might be.

    Another example:

    The woman was a household name. A breakfast cereal in Jubilife was designed in her honour. Black spoke without thinking: “Cynthia.”
    The breakfast cereal sentence just feels absurd and random there; I think it's because it makes the breakfast cereal the focus of its own sentence, as if the cereal is what's important, instead of making it feel like merely an illustration of Cynthia's fame. You could tie it better to the bit about her being a household name by phrasing it as something like "She'd even had a breakfast cereal in Jubilife designed in her honour", and personally I'd at least combine it with the previous sentence to make the breakfast cereal feel properly like an aside rather than something important.

    Another part of the reason for the choppy feel is how you write descriptions, which is my next issue. While you seem to take some care to describe what things look like, you tend to do so in a very flat manner; you just dully list off features one after another, usually taking up a whole sentence for each of them. Moreover, you often fail to include the actual potentially interesting details about what's going on. Let's look at some of the more egregious examples of both:

    Eventually, Black reached the end of the road. A series of buildings were clustered by a picket fence. He walked into the largest one.
    A tall figure stepped forward, allowing the moonlight to illuminate her body. She was a statuesque woman, with willowy legs and a generous bust. A black nightgown, verging on indecent and see-through, hugged her hips. Her long, blond hair cascaded downwards in rivulets, while grey eyes glinted with amusement. Pointed cheekbones, angled upwards. A silver ring, inset with an odd brown stone, twinkled from her middle finger. She stood akimbo, smiling slightly.
    One of these trinkets was a Silph espresso machine, which Cynthia approached and adjusted.
    The fire was rather weak in intensity, carefully controlled not to burn the boy. After another minute, Scrafty closed his mouth, and the flames self-extinguished.
    The next day began as usual for Black. He woke up at daybreak and, after yawning loudly, stretched his limbs to maintain his flexibility. He brushed his teeth using a cheap brand of toothpaste (‘Morning Budew with Extra Fresh™’), following with a wash in the nearest water source. In this case, that was the en-suite shower. The clothes for the day were the typical: fresh underwear, as his mother had always insisted, and the standard ***-shirt and cargo pants.
    A weedy teenager, older than Black, stood on the other side. He was gawky and gangly, as though he had grown too quickly in too short a period of time. A few pimples dashed across his nose. Braces complemented a narrow face, which showed a wispy attempt at a five o’clock shadow. The feather-shaped logo on the teenager’s shirt was telling: ‘RUFFLET PIZZA: 24/7 Service. Wherever, Whenever.’
    All these descriptions and more feel rather choppy and dull, largely thanks to your choice of details to spend whole sentences on. A sentence is like a unit of storytelling: each sentence should tell the reader something, or it really ought to be gotten rid of one way or another. When you write sentences like "A series of buildings were clustered by a picket fence," this doesn't tell the reader anything interesting. We don't care about the series of buildings or the fence. You could make a meaningful sentence out of it if Black were to muse on it in some interesting manner or something, but as it stands it's extraneous and trivial and we don't know why you brought it up in the first place if you weren't going to say anything of interest about it. The description of Cynthia may include details Black would reasonably be paying attention to, but it's too long, specifically too many sentences: each one says so little of real interest that the passage as a whole becomes too long and awfully uninteresting. This description would be better partly condensed into one or two sentences and partly snuck into later sentences in which something is happening.

    Then the espresso machine just doesn't matter; if she uses it to make coffee, write one sentence about Cynthia making coffee and mention the espresso machine there if you feel it necessary instead of bringing it up separately as if we should care about the machine. If the POV character is having a Fire attack used on him to dry himself, surely the focal point of the description should be how it feels - the flames are only comfortably warm, tickling him, etc. - rather than how it's "rather weak in intensity" or precisely how long it takes. There is just no reason anyone should ever care what brand of toothpaste Black uses, what he uses to wash himself or what underwear he puts on. And the pizza boy is an incidental character who is there for one minute; he should not have five sentences devoted to detailing his appearance.

    Detail is good, but only relevant detail. If it doesn't tell us something interesting, it's a waste of our time. I'd highly recommend checking out this old post by Negrek, which is the best description advice I've read - it pertains specifically to describing Pokémon, but the same basic principles apply to all other description.

    Finally, similes. I understand you want to use evocative language; however, many of your similes just don't make sense or seem bizarre; rather than helping to illustrate what's going on, the images you evoke are often strange, unfitting or just kind of ridiculous. Some samples:

    Black didn’t miss the franticness in the man’s voice. It was dark and glossy, like a prowling Luxray.
    Describing somebody's franticness (or a frantic voice) as being like a Luxray doesn't seem to make any sense whatsoever; if anything it feels like an oxymoron, since Luxray is a lion, associated with courage and strength. And what does it even mean to say somebody's franticness is "dark and glossy"? It might convey some image about a voice, but it's certainly not a frantic one; on the contrary, it evokes something smooth and cool.

    A spiralling, burnished staircase and a darkened marble floor greeted him, like a groomed butler.
    The floor can't greet you like a butler, because a butler greets you by actually greeting you, not in the metaphorical sense in which a floor or staircase might 'greet' you as you walk into a house. I guess what you were trying to evoke here was something of a feeling of refined classiness, which does somewhat get across, but only beneath a thick layer of "bzuh?" over the implication the floor can talk. A better way to make that point would be to have Black note, on seeing the lavishness of the place, that he half-expects to see a butler there to complement the image, or something like that.

    His face became as red as the tomato paste which had been slathered over Cynthia’s pizza.
    I fail to see how on earth likening his face to the pizza sauce is meant to help us picture his flusteredness better; the simile is distracting rather than illustrative, especially since now I'm picturing him with pizza sauce all over his face. It would work in a humour piece, I suppose, but not here.

    Not all your similes are this jarring; some work pretty nicely, actually. Just be a bit more conservative with them and ask yourself every time you want to put one in, "Is this going to help the reader picture what's going on better?"

    Anyway, that's all for these general complaints. I haven't named every example, only some of the clearest. I won't bother mentioning these issues again in the later chapters unless I find some example particularly worth commenting on.

    Now, on to another read-through for specific quotes.

    A boy, aged fifteen.
    You probably know that this is not a complete sentence and did it intentionally, but it just bugs me for some reason; maybe it's the shortness of the sentences here.

    “I would like to rent a villa,” said Black.

    “There are no villas available today. You will have to find alternative accommodation.”

    “I don’t think that’s an option,” said Black brightly.

    Bored, the concierge typed into her computer. “I’m sorry, sir, but we have no more rooms. You’ll have to wait like everyone else. No exceptions.”

    “I think you can make an exception with me.”
    This bothers me a little because it makes Black's character feel inconsistent to me - in all the rest of his scenes, he seems to hate the idea of being the Champion (later in this very conversation, he tells her "I've done nothing worth noting"), and yet here he sounds almost cocky about it. "Don't want to rent me a villa? Well, that's not an option. Look at me. I'm the ****ing Unova Champion. You should bow to my every whim." It just doesn't seem like something the same character would say. Maybe with more insight into his character this will make more sense, but I feel like I've gotten a pretty decent grasp on him by now, since I've read the whole chapter already, and this is the only part that's at odds with it.

    A young tanned face emerged in the light. A face that had been sandblasted across billboards and television screens.
    Sandblasted? o_O Also, again, the latter sentence here isn't a full sentence and again it jars me rather than working for the effect.

    The copious cakes of makeup could not hide the deep, red flush in her starstruck face. Immediately, Black was reminded of that beret-wearing girl from Altomare City.
    I can't for the life of me figure out the relevance of Altomare-Bianca here. Is there a reason you brought her up?

    She waited for the tone, before speaking.
    The comma is unnecessary.

    “Hello, Ma’am? I’m sorry for intruding upon your evening, but we have another client who wishes to share your villa. I understand that Lady Caitlin herself had rented you the villa, but Undella’s policy states that – ”
    I'm really not sure I buy this. If this is Caitlin's personal villa that she has the authority to rent out to people on her own, how can the resort management just plant some other guy there? Of all the villas in town, this is the last one they should try to put him in. I realize you need Black to end up in the same villa as Cynthia for your plot to work, but as it is this doesn't seem very believable.

    The Minun’s Trainer, a mousy haired girl
    Since the "mousy" is modifying the hair rather than the girl, this should be "mousy-haired".

    Black was familiar with it; he had witnessed it glisten in the eyes of far lesser men.

    Fear.
    This seems a little overdramatic. For one thing, "far lesser men"? He doesn't know this guy; what reason does he have to think he is particularly great? For another, saying Black is familiar with fear is kind of ridiculous; everyone is familiar with fear because it's pretty much the most basic emotion humans have. If it was a particular type of fear, or if you implied instead that Black was familiar with seeing people look at him with fear, it would work, but here you're just saying he's familiar with fear in general and it seems bizarre.

    The paragraph break right after this part is pretty jarring because you jump with no transition whatsoever from dramatically talking about how Black has seen fear glistening in the eyes of far lesser men and to him walking out and finding the villa as if nothing were more natural. Remember when I talked about the structure of paragraphs above? Although a paragraph break represents a change of topic, there has to be a logical progression between the different paragraphs. If you don't lead from the topic of one paragraph to the one after it in any way, the reader will feel like they missed something in between.

    Black remembered the first time he met Caitlin. Dressed in a white sundress, she was the epitome of grace and chastity. He didn’t like her from the start.
    This is weirdly worded, because "she was the epitome of grace and chastity" is a positive description; for him to describe her like that and then immediately move on to saying he didn't like her from the start feels contradictory. If he feels contempt for the "grace and chastity" thing, he's more likely to think of her as a pretentious prude or something, or at least to inject some kind of irony or scorn as he describes her that way. If he did respect the grace and chastity thing but grew to dislike her after the "dim-witted little boy" comment, then you shouldn't say he didn't like her from the start right after the "epitome of grace and chastity" part.

    What was the phrase she used again? “dim-witted little boy”.
    Even when quoting the phrase, it doesn't retain its noncapitalization if it's placed at the beginning of a sentence, so capitalize the D.

    The only thing bigger than his dreams was his toothy smile. His first Pokémon, a pig with orange fur brighter than the sun, liked his smile the most. Not even the tastiest Poffin could elicit from Tepig a squeal of delight more than his toothy grin.
    Really dislike this passage. "Toothy" doesn't seem like the most appropriate modifier to put on the smile to begin with (to me it seems to imply insincerity or cheek, as if it's trying to show teeth), but then you repeat it which makes it feel even more awkward. Then the "orange fur brighter than the sun" thing is such drastic hyperbole that it seems really silly, not to mention that Tepig's color is about as irrelevant here as it can get. And then the whole thing is just clunkily worded, really. "His first Pokémon liked his smile the most"? What, there's a competition for who likes Black's smile most? Is whether others liked his smile more actually relevant? And even so, though liking somebody's smile is perfectly sensible, squealing in delight when you see it seems a little drastic, especially when this is compared to tasty food as if a smile is something to be eaten (aaaand now I have some very strange images in my head). You should really reword this whole bit. It kind of wrecks a paragraph that could be pretty impactful.

    However, that was back in the old days, when Black’s grin was genuine. Sure, the motions were the same: the dimples still curled at the edges, and his teeth still shone through.

    But the joy wasn’t there.
    A much better passage, but the paragraph break here seems misplaced, especially since the paragraph after this doesn't continue from "But the joy wasn't there". If I were you I'd take this whole bit (i.e. from "However, that was back in the old days...") and make it into a paragraph of its own while ditching the break before "But the joy wasn't there".

    Instantly, his hand snapped to his Pokébelt.
    Is it actually called a Pokébelt? It's not unreasonable or anything, but the unfamiliar Poké- term makes this sentence a little jarring and you'd probably be better off without it. If this is a canon term and I'm just ignorant, never mind.

    Abruptly, the clicking of heels brought Black out of his thoughts. Instantly, his hand snapped to his Pokébelt. He skimmed across each of the five capsules. Unfezant would provide the quickest attack, flying like a bullet to rip out a throat. Scrafty and Simisage could break the assailant’s bones, while Carracosta would create enough Rock Slides to disinter the villa’s underbelly. Even Beheeyem would be more than surfeit: two silent Psybeams would neutralise any threat. Avoiding the empty sixth slot, Black tried to make his final decision. He had two seconds to pick, before the other person would utilise her chance to attack him first –
    I hope it's very intentional here that Black is being absurdly paranoid - this is not just a little knee-jerk what-is-that-sneaking-up-on-me but a full-blown search for ways to brutally murder a person he has no reason to be suspicious of (especially since he already knows there is somebody else going to be sharing the villa with him, which shouldn't slip his mind for more than a second). I'm all for characters who aren't quite sane, and I find this pretty intriguing (what could have happened on his journey to make him this way?), but because Black doesn't come across as even a little paranoid anywhere else in the chapter, I'm not quite sure that's what you were actually going for, and if you weren't, this passage really, really needs to be changed to make him seem less psychotic.

    I do like, however, that here just after noting that his starter was a Tepig, you have him recounting his team, not mentioning any evolution of Tepig and avoiding one Pokéball as being empty. It's appropriately subtle and builds intrigue nicely, plus it says something about Black that he's avoiding even thinking of what used to be in that sixth ball.

    She yawned and stretched her arms, causing the robe to open slightly at the chest. Black reddened at the glimpse of soft, pink skin.
    Initially this seems a little random, but seeing as later Cynthia is suspiciously eager to take his clothes off, I'm assuming she did that deliberately and just likes seducing teenage boys. You could reword it to add some hint that she didn't just happen to stretch that way, but eh, it works.

    “And I am not needed in Sinnoh anymore. My duties as a former Champion have been delegated,” she explained gently.

    Smoothly, Cynthia gestured at him. “I have some coffee in the kitchen. You’re more than welcome to join me.”
    Another one of those paragraph breaks in the middle of the same character's dialogue. Though just removing the paragraph break would make it a little awkward thanks to ending one sentence with "gently" and beginning the next with "smoothly"; I'd remove one of the adverbs, too.

    So, this was the person with whom he was sharing a villa? In all honesty, Black was apprehensive. Champion Cynthia was many things, but predictable wasn’t one of them. Indeed, Cynthia had frustrated the Sinnoh officials with her sporadic and random stopovers at interesting historical sites, throwing her schedule into disarray. Once, she had disappeared for four days, forcing Lucian to substitute for her as Champion. The press was in an uproar. Where was she for half a week? Visiting the Solaceon Ruins, because the “glyphs intrigued her”. Living with her was bound to be a challenge.
    I like this anecdote; though your Cynthia doesn't feel quite like game!Cynthia to me, this is something she does in the games that fits very well with your loopy reinterpretation. I also just like that everybody's in an uproar because she's deserted her post. Though this does open up the question of why nobody minds that Black is somewhere in a villa in Undella Town.

    “Scrafty, I’m a little wet from the rain,” he said.

    He leaned towards the Pokémon, giving a small smile. “Could you help me?”
    Another one of those unnecessary paragraph breaks.

    Cynthia finished her coffee and set down the mug in the sink. “You must be a talented and powerful Trainer. As expected from the Hero of Unova.”

    Black nearly dropped his cup.
    Dropping your cup seems like a surprised reaction, which is rather strange here since he is world-famous and all and most people would know he's the Hero of Unova. Later his grip tightens on the cup, which seems more appropriate to somebody who just doesn't want to be reminded of it.

    “One medium pizza for a Miss Chard?” said the scraggy teenager. He read off a piece of paper. “Vegan special, but with anchovies, kidney beans, and extra feta. No shallots and no beetroot.”
    That can't be a vegan special, since you specify that it's extra feta (implying there is some feta on it by default). A vegan pizza couldn't have feta, or any cheese at all for that matter, because vegans don't eat dairy products. It's not a synonym for "vegetarian".

    Cynthia picked up a napkin and scribbled something on it, flourishing the pen in wide strokes. Black thought that she was making a small spectacle out of it, as though she was conducting a ceremony of sorts.
    I like this detail. Again, though I can't get your Cynthia to feel like the one from the games in my head, she does have a definitive sense of character of her own that's quite fun.

    “Good morning, did you sleep well?” she asked.
    This is a comma splice. Since "Good morning" and "Did you sleep well?" are both complete sentences, you can't join them together with just a comma. ("Good morning" technically doesn't have a verb in it, but it's a common enough phrase to feel like a full sentence to the reader.) A period would feel more natural.

    I'm a bit weirded out that Black doesn't actually ask before just grabbing a slice of Cynthia's pizza. I could chalk it up to the same dissociation from society that's made him so paranoid, but that just leaves open the question of why Cynthia didn't make any comment on it. I can't help suspecting you just forgot to include some manner of obtaining permission, but do correct me if I'm wrong.

    or “Moomoo Milk is a great aphrodisiac!”
    Pffft. Got a snort out of me.

    At this point, he was hungry enough to eat raw Krokoodile
    It's spelled Krookodile, as in "crook".

    “I managed,” Black stated.
    "Stated" is not a word to just randomly replace "said" with; it sounds really stilted and overly formal in a context like this. Just use "said" unless the line is being said in a way that really calls for a different word.

    “When I was starting out as a Trainer, I missed my grandmother terribly,” said Cynthia, sprinkling a few more olives on her pizza.

    She gave a low, throaty laugh. “I couldn’t wait to arrive at the next PokéCenter so that I could use the video-phone to call her. If the booth was already occupied, sometimes I would cry until the person let me go ahead of him.”
    Lose that paragraph break.

    “That sounds a little – ” Black tried to sound polite. “needy.”
    I have actually heard conflicting information about how something like this should be punctuated, but at the very least you need a dash on the other side, too, as in “That sounds a little –” Black tried to sound polite. “– needy.” Though I think I'd actually use ellipses here rather than dashes, again on both sides.

    I was visiting the famous library to research Gible’s evolutionary cycle.
    ...cycle? It's hardly appropriate to refer to a process that's decidedly not cyclic as a "cycle".

    “You challenged him to a Pokémon Battle,” Black speculated.
    Don't capitalize "battle". Not even the games capitalize that.

    “And the Bronzor was fine. But as a result of this ordeal, the Bronzor’s Trainer and I became close,” Cynthia elaborated.
    She isn't really elaborating on anything, is she? Elaborating is giving additional detail about something, but she's just answering a question and adding new information, not details of what she already said.

    Reaching for her purse, Cynthia pulled something out and showed it to Black. It was a faded photograph, blotched with coffee spills and crinkles from excess handling. A younger Cynthia was leaning over a leering Gabite and an unidentifiable, pink-skinned slug, whose visage on the photo was smudged out. If Black didn’t know any better, he would say that the latter Pokémon had been crossed out with a permanent marker – and then scrubbed at a much later date, in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the obscuring ink. Strange.
    Intriguing. Overall I think one of your strengths here is that you really do make the reader curious, both about Black and about Cynthia, in a fairly quiet, understated way, which I'm pretty sure is exactly what you were going for with this chapter, so I'd call you successful there.

    “What about your own friends?” Cynthia asked, breaking him out of his stupor.
    Stupor? Seems a bit over-the-top to call it that.

    When Caitlin and Grimsley approach me, I’m sitting in the top most tower of the Pokémon League.
    "Topmost" is one word.

    From my vantage point, I could see the bulldozers and construction cranes rumbling around the wreckage.
    Random past tense; this should be "I can see the bulldozers".

    Judging from their confused chain of command, the construction crews probably barely understood each other.
    Again; should be "barely understand each other".

    “We need to talk,” said Caitlin.
    Says.

    “Please stop blathering,” she replied, in a sleek but waspish voice.
    Replies.

    I actually really like "Please stop blathering" here. However, I have to say can't possibly imagine what on earth a "sleek but waspish" voice is.

    So, I'm finally done with this chapter.

    The good parts so far: I like how you've slowly built intrigue around these characters and what went on in their pasts. I enjoy character-based fiction and if you deliver the answers to these mysteries in a satisfying way, this could be very enjoyable. I like your Cynthia, who combines being nice, polite, serene, intelligent and a little eccentric with things that are just-off enough to be a little bit creepy, pricking at the edge of my perception of her without just freaking me out. Black has the potential to be interesting as well. And for one reason or another, something intrigues me about the glimpses we've caught of the Unova Elite Four and their cold, resentful relationship with Black.

    The bad is mostly, in my opinion, your third-person writing style, which feels stilted or disjointed a lot of the time for the reasons I tried my best to explain above and perhaps more I haven't pinpointed. The style is making it a little hard for me to get properly absorbed, which is unfortunate because stylistic deficiencies are also some of the most difficult to pinpoint, explain and fix. I'm presuming your style is going to remain the same in the following chapters, but unless reading them gives me further insight into exactly what is bugging me about it, I'll refrain from commenting on the general stylistic issues on the assumption that whatever I might have managed to teach you about it by now has already gotten across.


    Continued in the next post.
    Last edited by Dragonfree; 2nd August 2011 at 5:08 PM.

    Chapter 64: Hide and Seek
    The story of an ordinary boy on an impossible quest in a world that isn't as black and white as he always thought it was.
    (rough draft of the remaining chapters finished for NaNoWriMo; to be edited and posted)

    Morphic
    (completed, plus silly extras)
    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

    Lengthy fanfiction reviewing guide / A more condensed version
    Read and I will be very happy for a large number of reasons.

  24. #24
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    Amazing.

    But, one question: how do you say something with a 'cynical' tone? I thought cynicism was a state of mind, not a tone of voice.

    Also, I liked how Black nearly made Cynthia kill him by dissing Gastrodon.

    I think he's a douche because he knows all of his Pokemon suck. Unfezant, Carracosta, Beeheyem, and the like are the lamest Pokemon in Unova. If he did'nt have a Scrafty, I'd beat him up.

    And please, have Scrafty slap someone.
    Last edited by Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb; 30th July 2011 at 3:24 AM.

  25. #25
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    I found two spelling/grammar errors when I was reading, but I forgot to note them, so I can't find them again xD

    They're there though.

    I assume this is the battle you were writing when you posted that battle thread in the Author's Café? If so, then I can definitely see that you took the advice to heart and really made the battle into a lot more than it usually is, in the part with Garchomp and Carracosta (and with the added effect of Unfezant's Tailwind) you could really see how their state in the battle reflected the emotional state of the mental battle Black and Cynthia were fighting, Garchomp was getting punished as Black laid into her with his accusations, Carracosta took a beating as Cynthia came back and explained herself.

    Overall, it was an incredibly effective (and enjoyable) battle. You pulled it off really well.
    Skogsrĺ

    Gardenia never liked the Old Chateau, but what if the Old Chateau liked her?

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