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Thread: Selfish Perceptions

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    Default Selfish Perceptions

    This was my Yuletide fic for The Teller. No warnings necessary; it's an entirely disposable feel-good story about a girl and her ledian. Harmless fluff all the way down. So, here we go:


    SELFISH PERCEPTIONS


    “Strong pokémon. Weak pokémon. That is only the selfish perception of people. Truly skilled trainers should try to win with their favourites.”

    Some eyes rolled; a murmur or two ran through the auditorium. Everyone knew this shtick, after all. Karen had been saying that sort of thing for years, since long before she got the Elite Four position – and this was the sort of audience that knew these things, that remembered when Karen was a career trainer, without the vast machinery of the League to back her up. Amateurs were like that, compensating for their inability to compete on the pro circuit with a doubled dedication for industry trivia.

    “Okay, but like, what am I gonna do with a zubat against a skarmory?” whispered Connie. Sam said nothing back. She did think about saying that maybe you could confuse it, but it wasn't a conversation she really wanted to have. Especially not now, while Karen was still speaking.

    “You've heard this before,” Karen continued, apparently unperturbed by the reaction she was getting. “But it's something that bears repeating. We're all trainers here” (Mostly, anyway, thought Sam: this was a meeting of the Goldenrod University Trainers' Society, but a guest speaker as big as Karen always drew a crowd.) “and I think that it's something that can very easily get forgotten. We're always looking for something else, a pokémon that will best complement the strengths and weaknesses of our existing team. And yet some of the best trainers in the world have made a career out of limiting themselves.”

    She paused to take a sip of her water. By her heels, her umbreon, Toadstone, scanned the crowd, her markings glowing yellow against the shadowy blackness of her hide. In a way, Sam thought, it was pretty cool even just to see her in the flesh. She was one of those pokémon whose prowess gives them an almost legendary aura; Sam couldn't even count how often she'd seen her in those televised matches, calmly shrugging off whatever the opponent had to throw at her. Seeing her up there on the stage was strange, like if she'd caught sight of a cartoon character at the supermarket. Strange, but cool.

    “I'm talking, of course, about League trainers,” said Karen. “Most of us are committed to a type that we have a special appreciation for. Or – like myself – we have a theme.” A little self-deprecating smile: Karen's loose interpretation of what constituted a dark-type had been a sticking point with the League for years. Most of the old guard didn't really think that gengar or vileplume counted. “And, in defiance of all the conventional wisdom that says focusing on just one type makes you weaker rather than stronger, I'd like to think that we win more often than we lose.”

    “But we're not all League standard,” muttered Connie. “Like okay, maybe if you're Karen you can take down a machamp with a houndoom, but …”

    “Would you cut it out?” hissed Sam. “I'm trying to listen.”

    “Is this about Comet? Because, honestly, I don't think―”

    “Ssh!”

    But it was about Comet, of course. Sam's ledian sat placidly in her lap, waiting for his human to be done with whatever it was she was up to now, the star markings on his shell slowly expanding as the hour grew later. As always, Sam was acutely aware of the difference between him and the other pokémon in the room: Connie's ninetales, curled by her chair with her head on her paws; the Society secretary's exeggutor, looming out of the shadows at the side of the auditorium; Jack's hitmonchan, folded up awkwardly along not-quite-human joints on a chair of its own, two rows away. Like most people, Sam had let the greater part of her active team go at the end of her trainer journey, making it clear to them that they had got the strength that they wanted from her and there was no more to give; and again, like most people, she had kept her closest partner, who was happier with her than without.

    That partner was Comet. And Comet was, by a long, long way, the weakest battler of all the pokémon whose partners were part of the Trainers' Society.

    “Tonight I'd like to talk to you about thinking outside the box,” Karen said. “Do you know how many skarmory and feraligatr I've faced in the last twelve months alone? I'm actually sort of surprised there's anything left up there in the mountains.” It wasn't so funny, really, but some people laughed. “And they're all running the same tactics,” she continued. “And they're all of them surprised when they lose. Because they're not thinking, you see? They're looking at what works for other people, and the idea is, well, that will work for me too.”

    She paused to look out at the audience, at various faces in turn. For a moment, her eyes were on Sam's (or she thought they were) and Sam felt her pulse quicken with excitement. Comet felt it too, and looked up at her with a curious tilt of his armoured head; she patted him absently, gaze locked on the figure up on stage.

    “The thing is – if you're only looking at what works for other people, you're never going to find out what it is that really works for you. That's life advice for you, as well as a training tip. If you're partnered with a skarmory – great! Good for you. I'm sorry for all the broken doors, but still, good for you.”

    That got more of a laugh: everyone knew someone or other whose skarmory had learned to open doors with its talons, and accidentally smashed a lot of locks in the process.

    “But that's not all of us,” Karen said. “We're not all professionals, are we? Even those of us who are can't always afford to support the big, tough pokémon that people say you need to get ahead. If you're raising a skarmory or a feraligatr, that's a lot of fresh meat, and a lot of rocks too, for a skarmory. Maybe you think you can't win if you can't field a strong pokémon like that. But like I said, not everyone does field what you might think of as a strong pokémon. Bugsy, down in Azalea, has beaten challengers with a metapod before. Strength and weakness aren't absolute. It's all about how you work with your pokémon, and part of being League – of restricting yourself and your choice of partners – is figuring out how to do just that.”

    Yes. Sam remembered that fight well enough. She was a Blackthorn girl, and she went clockwise around Johto, down through Cherrygrove to Azalea and on to Ilex Forest. Obviously she and Comet weren't tough enough to take on Clair – or any Gym Leader, really – right away, and nor was Falkner's flying-type Gym Sam's idea of a good start for someone with a single bug-type to her name, so Bugsy was her first, a little over a month into her journey.

    It was a good thing it took her so long to get there, really. They say eighty per cent of people fail their first challenge, and if she and Comet hadn't had so much time to train on the long hike south, Sam would probably have numbered among those first-time failures. But she took her time, held out pads for Comet to practise punching and worked to teach him how to raise a reflect or a light screen, and they just, just about managed to earn that badge. Bugsy tried the metapod trick on her, knowing that Comet wouldn't be tough enough to penetrate its defences while it glued up his wings with string shot and prevented him from flying away beyond its reach; his strategy worked, but in the end it came down to Comet and the metapod rolling around in the arena and thumping each other weakly, and the metapod was the one that ran out of energy first.

    Kind of embarrassing, really, that it was so close. But they won, didn't they? And okay, it wasn't a great tactical triumph, but it was her first badge, and on the first try, too. That counted for a lot. Still did.

    She glanced surreptitiously at Connie, to see if she had anything else mocking to say, but apparently not; she was watching Karen in silence, interested now that talk of actual tactics was coming up. Figures, she thought. That's why everyone came, right? Hot tips from one of the most adaptable tacticians of the Indigo League. Because you can always be a little better, can't you? Unless you happen to be sentimental enough to have stuck by your ledian, even after you joined TrainerSoc and remembered why it was that he slipped more and more out of rotation in the second year of your journey. Then you're kind of screwed.

    The thought felt somehow mean, and Sam slipped her arms around Comet to try and make up for it in some way. He clicked, antennae twitching in surprise, and wrapped his own arms around hers in that particular four-way ledian grip. Sometimes she suspected his cuteness was an act meant to make her give him attention and/or treats, but that didn't mean she didn't indulge him anyway.

    “… Whitney, for instance,” Karen was saying. “How many people base their strategy on pheromone manipulation? No one: it's tricky and unreliable. Yet I'd be willing to bet not many of you have come up against her miltank and seen her fail. And like all niche strategies, it's hard to counter. We all know what to do when we see a stallmory; it's much harder to deal with something we're more used to seeing grazing on a farm using a technique none of us have bothered learning.”

    “Yeah,” murmured Connie to herself. “Yeah, that was a tough one …”

    It really was, especially for someone whose pokémon weren't really tough enough to take hits. Comet was a ledian by then, which helped; he threw a lot of punches, but ledian are more about quantity than quality, and he didn't really make much impression. More useful was his reflect, which just about held the relentless rollout at bay long enough for Clef, her nidorina, to kick the miltank down.

    But that was then. That was then, at the start of a trainer journey, where if you just try hard you're kind of guaranteed to come home with at least a couple of badges, because after all everyone expects you to and the Gym Leaders aren't mean enough to take that away from you. It gets trickier later on. So you get more and tougher pokémon, and you get by, and then later you release them to keep just the one you really love and who really loves you. And then you get back into battling and, well … this was why she came tonight, right? Get some inspiration from the one League member who really believes that anyone can win, with anything.

    “… that was in fact very effective,” Karen was saying, talking now about League challengers who've come at her with interesting and unusual teams. “It came down to Toadstone, in the end, and I think even she thought we were about to lose for a moment there.”

    Toadstone looked up at her sharply and growls, pawing at the floorboards of the stage, and Sam laughed along with the rest of them as Karen shrugged and smiled. Comet buzzed his wings in her lap, unnerved by the sudden noise, and Sam tightened her grip momentarily to put him at his ease.

    “Okay,” said Karen. “If you say so, Toad. But it was a close match. I'd never seen anyone combine magnet bomb and discharge like that before. And that's why it was so close: because it was something I had no idea how to deal with. Those are the best matches, where you have to figure out what the hell you're supposed to be doing as you go along.”

    She broke off for more water and gauge the crowd, smiling wryly.

    “Some of you look sceptical,” she said. “What's wrong with what I'm doing if it works, right?” A couple of vaguely abashed murmurs. “Well, nothing. I did say that! You and your skarmory, you're doing fine. But you could do better, right? You wouldn't be listening to me if you didn't believe that.”

    “Yeah, okay, but I have a ninetales,” Connie muttered. “We already do status moves and stuff. What else are we gonna do?”

    “So,” said Karen, “let's have a demonstration.”

    Instant attention-grabber: everyone in the room who had any trainerly aspirations whatsoever sat up a little straighter, eyes fixed on her. Nobody here had ever done an Elite Four challenge, as far as Sam knew; if they had, they'd probably be pro by now, instead of studying here in Goldenrod. And who didn't want to say that they'd fought a match against Karen of the Indigo League?

    Sam, actually. Karen's whole thing might have been about how to find strategies that would help you win with weaker pokémon, but there were limits. And even if there weren't, Sam really, really didn't want to go up there in front of everyone with Comet. She got enough flak from people just showing up to TrainerSoc meetings with him.

    “Any volunteers?” asked Karen, scanning the forest of raised arms. “No, sorry, I think you're probably all right, Mr Machamp over there.” Laughter. “Not you, either – or you – okay, let's make a rule: nobody with anything you look at and think yeah, that's a strong pokémon.”

    Some arms went down; most didn't. Karen looked some more, and sighed.

    “You're not great at self-selecting, are you?” she asked drily. “Come on, this is Goldenrod University. You're meant to be the future of Johto, here.” A few more hands were, reluctantly, lowered. “Okay,” she said. “Let's take a different tack here. Who's got the fewest recorded wins here?”

    A mass turning of heads, and Sam felt her shoulders slump with her heart. That was … a lot of people looking at her.

    Darn it. Who even does that? Who asks a room full of highly competitive trainers to pick the weakest in the room? That's just mean, frankly, and if the pressure of all those eyes hadn't knocked the breath out of her Sam would have been tempted to curse Karen's name.

    “That'd probably be Sam,” she heard the Society secretary saying. “I think she's here tonight.”

    “Looks like it,” said Karen, and oh god she was actually looking at her now, actual Karen of the actual Elite Four was actually looking at her.

    Sam looked back. She didn't move.

    “Well?” hissed Connie, her voice dripping with badly-concealed jealousy. “Go on, then.”

    Sam forced a smile. It seemed like the safest thing to do.

    “O-okay,” she said, standing up, Comet dangling his feet in her arms. “Uh, coming.”

    Karen smiled back.

    “Don't be shy,” she said encouragingly. “If I'm doing it right, this should be fun.”

    Right. Because that's what training is, isn't it. Fun.

    Up to the stage, then: a long, slow walk down the aisle. Sam wished she hadn't sat so near the back. Walking past all these faces really drove home how much envy was currently being death-glared into her back as she passed.

    Comet squeezed her arms in his own, sensing her discomfort; Sam squeezed gently back. At least someone was on her side. Or, well. Someone other than the person unwittingly subjecting her to this ordeal, anyway.

    “Hi,” said Karen, as she climbed up onto the stage. “And this is your partner?”
    “Yeah,” said Sam, doing her best not to look out at the auditorium. “Comet, say hi.”

    He buzzed free of her arms, waving his little fists and waggling his antennae. Karen smiled.

    “All right,” she said. “So you and Comet are going to have a match against me and Toadstone.” That smile still, like a crescent moon. “Take your place, please.”

    This was actually happening, then. Sam sighed and took a few paces back, encouraging Comet forwards into the space between her and Karen. Opposite, Toadstone took up her own position, slightly crouched and ready to spring.

    “So here's how this is going to work,” Karen said. “Sam, obviously you and Comet don't have the strength to beat Toadstone in a straightforward slugging match. That doesn't mean Comet isn't the right pokémon for you here in this fight. What are his strengths?”

    “Uh … he can fly,” suggested Sam. “And, um, I guess he has the type advantage.”

    Someone in the audience smothered a laugh, and Sam felt herself going even redder. Karen ignored them, just held her gaze.

    “That's right,” she replied. “What else?”

    What else indeed? Comet could punch – liked to punch, even; all ledian did – but wasn't really all that good at it. He could do a light screen or a reflect.

    “Reflect?” said Sam. “Light screen, that kind of thing. Other than that …”

    It slipped out before she could hear it in her head. Other than that what, Sam? Other than that not much, other than that he's no good. The fact that she would even think that disgusted her, but the thing was that it was kind of hard to argue with. She loved Comet. He was sweet and loyal and had an endearing habit of stealing flowers for her from public gardens. But he just wasn't much of a battler.

    “Okay,” said Karen, nodding. “He can fly, he's got the type advantage, he can do a light screen and a reflect. And he's not a psychic-type, is he? So his barriers ought to stand up to Toadstone's attacks.” She looked out at the auditorium. “You see? A little thought, and we've already discovered three key advantages that Comet has over what should be, on paper, the superior opponent. What matters next is how we use them.”

    She turned back to Sam.

    “All right,” she said. “Are you ready?”

    “Honestly? Not really.”

    More laughter. This time Karen smiled too.

    “That's fair,” she says. “Let me rephrase that: shall we begin?”

    Comet turned a little in midair to catch her response, an excited gleam in his multifaceted eyes. He wanted this, Sam could see it. Generally pokémon did. If they partnered with you, it was almost always because they wanted a good fight.

    She sighed.

    “Okay,” she said. “Let's do it.”

    Karen nodded.

    “Excellent. On the count of three. Three …”

    What to do? She couldn't exactly throw this, not with everyone watching and not after Karen had gone to all this trouble. Annoyingly, she actually had to give it a go. But what the hell was she meant to do?

    “Two …”

    Probably just start defensively. Umbreon weren't the most manoeuvrable; they weren't like jolteon, able to leap thirty feet across the room in a second and a half. That meant Toadstone would probably be relying on ranged attacks, and that in turn meant light screen was a good idea.

    “One …”

    Screw it, thought Sam. It was about as good as she was going to come up with.

    “Go! Mind!”

    A cryptic command, meant to conceal the move Karen was using from her opponent; Toadstone raised her head and fixed her crimson gaze on Comet. He faltered―

    “Wall!” cried Sam. “And get higher!”

    Comet rose with a buzz and a leisurely wave of his arms, all six of his claws describing circles at different angles around him; blue light flared briefly between each one and then again a moment later, as the eerie light of some psychic force rebounded from the barrier. It held, then. Barely – Sam could see the cracks in the light – but it held.

    “You've discovered Toadstone's secret,” said Karen wryly. “She's tough, but offensively she's not that strong. But she is stronger than Comet. If you play defensively, she'll wear him down, Sam. Again!”

    “Dive and reinforce!”

    Comet dived, the patterns on his shell swirling, and Toadstone's next psychic just clipped the edge of his barrier, most of the energy exploding harmlessly above his feet. She tried to cancel the attack, shaking her head to clear it of the telepathy field, and this was it, Sam realised, this was her opening and if she didn't act now then―

    “C-strike!” snapped Sam: Comet sprang forwards with all four fists drawn back to slam into Toadstone's head, raining blow after blow on her face in the best comet punch of his career―

    ―to absolutely no effect. Toadstone stared at him for a moment, unblinking, and when he didn't stop reached up and swatted him away with one paw. Comet tumbled away through the air, chirping in dismay, but caught himself before he hit the floor and zipped up and out of range once again.

    They weren't even trying not to laugh now. Sam swallowed and kept her eyes on the battle, unable to face the prospect of catching even a glimpse of their faces.

    “Hold it a moment, Toadstone,” said Karen. “Sam, you're still thinking about this in terms of a weak pokémon desperately trying to fight a strong pokémon. You're being defensive, then going for your best moves when you think you have an opening. And that's a mindset that's limiting what you and Comet can achieve.” At the sound of his name, Comet clicked and tilted his head on one side, curious. “Think about this battle as a contest of equals. Comet's abilities aren't worse than Toadstone's, just different.”

    “But he's a ledian,” said Sam. “I mean, I'm trying, but …”

    “But nothing,” replied Karen sharply. “Think, Sam. You just need a different tack.”

    Her tone stung. Sam stood there for a moment, wishing fervently that some kind sniper would put her out of her misery from the other end of the auditorium, and then pulled herself together. Think, she said. So think, Sam: how can you win this? You can't tank Toadstone's attacks forever. You can't hurt her with Comet's attacks either. She supposed she could try a silver wind or something and hope for a boost, but honestly she wasn't sure that even that would do much. The whole deal with umbreon was their ability to take hits. Comet just didn't have the power.

    So: can't defend, can't attack. What else is there?

    Not a lot, honestly.

    “Toadstone,” said Karen, cutting into her thoughts. “Orb!”

    The umbreon opened her mouth, gathering motes of darkness between her teeth, and a moment later spat a flickering, pulsing ball of shadows straight at Comet's face; Comet dodged easily, without even needing to be told, and the shadow ball sailed past Sam and into the wings. Not intended to hit, she thought, but definitely meant to wake her up.

    “Again!” said Karen, and a second shadow ball tore free from Toadstone's mouth―

    “Wall! To your right!”

    Comet chirruped and zoomed left, tracing a circle in the air with his right arms and cloaking his flank in a shimmering light screen; the shadow ball hit it at an angle and bounced away into the floorboards, where it burst in a shower of woodchips.

    Bounced. Okay, the light screen has shattered, but it bounced. And so did the psychic, from earlier.

    Can't defend. Can't attack. But Comet doesn't need to, does he? His attacks are useless. Toadstone's attacks, on the other hand …

    “I'll pay for that,” said Karen, without even looking at the damage. “Come on! Orb!”

    “Get in close!” snapped Sam, and Comet dived without question, straight at Toadstone's face. She was too disciplined to flinch, kept charging the shadow ball, and fired―

    “Wall! Over your head!”

    Comet traced another light screen at the same moment as the shadow ball passed by his hands; the screen popped into existence halfway through the ball and the two moves exploded in a sudden rush of sound and light. Sam had to look away, and a moment later looked back to see Toadstone opening her eyes while Comet buzzed up off the floor, shaking his head against the dizziness.

    “Oh my god,” said Sam, before she could stop herself. “That actually worked?”

    The crowd were silent now, completely focused on the battle unfolding before them. No more laughter, she thought grimly. She wondered how long that would last.

    “Yes!” said Karen, eyes alight. “Now that's how you amuse me. I wonder if you can keep that up? Orb!”

    Well, thought Sam, if she was going to keep doing it …

    “Wall right between the eyes!”

    Comet swooped at Toadstone once again, claws whirling; she spat, he spun, and as the sphere of light popped into existence around Toadstone's head the shadow ball tore free of her lips – and slammed straight back into her face. Toadstone staggered, shaking her head and growling.

    Honestly, Sam felt that Karen kind of handed her that one, but even so. She'd just scored a hit on Toadstone. Toadstone! Signature pokémon of the Elite Four's Karen Fletcher! Last week she and Comet got stomped by Connie and her ninetales, and now she was landing hits on one of the toughest pokémon in the League.

    Comet adjusted his wings and turned to look at her, antennae rigid with shock. He looked about as surprised as she felt.

    “Very good,” said Karen. “How about this? Toadstone! Mind.”

    Comet moved in close again, ready to repeat the trick, but Sam called him back sharply: reflecting a psychic attack wouldn't do anything, not against an umbreon. The crowd seemed distant now, watching from another universe beyond her tiny world of parry and riposte. She hadn't really been in the zone like this for a long time, and now she was it all seemed to come so easily. Psychic attack? Get up, dodge if you can. Save energy for another light screen.

    “Higher!” she called, and Comet soared up as another knot of psychic force crushed the air beneath him; Toadstone glared and fired two more in quick succession, but while ledian weren't all that fast umbreon were even slower, and neither managed to connect.

    “Now you're playing defensively again,” said Karen. “Remember, I can outlast you.”

    Right. So: can't deflect Toadstone's ranged attacks any more. But light screen wasn't Comet's only barrier move, was it?”

    “Get down,” she ordered. “Close the distance!”

    “Okay,” said Karen, as Comet closed once again. “This sounds interesting.”
    Toadstone backed off a step, waiting for a command; Comet kept advancing, spreading his arms in a tiny insectoid threat display. Poke her, thought Sam. Get a reaction. Don't let her turtle up.

    “Scales!” she snapped, and Comet twirled, loosing a cloud of greenish dust from within his wing-cases; a quick buzz of his wings, and the cloud shot forth in a tinted wind―

    ―that floated away in a puff of scales as a wave of black energy rose from Toadstone's skin, countering the silver wind in an instant.

    “All right,” said Karen. “Toadstone! Snap!”

    She lunged, jaws open, and Comet flinched―

    “Don't move!” Sam yelled, hoping that Comet trusted her enough to stay. “Just block!”

    He looked away, chittering with fear, but his hand traced the circle – and the reflect sprung open right between Toadstone's closing jaws, forcing them apart with enough force to knock her clean off her feet, head flying back over her heels as she fell.

    It was only for a second. A moment later, she was back on her feet, licking her ruffled fur and doing her best to pretend that all of this had been intentional. But Comet had just floored her. Comet, and Sam.

    They stared together, open-mouthed. Only after a second or two did Sam realise that Karen was speaking again.

    “So there you have it,” she said, addressing the crowd. “That's my world-class umbreon, knocked down by an amateur ledian.” She turned to Sam with a smile. “I'm obviously not expecting that you win – Toadstone is vastly more experienced than Comet – but I think I've made my point. You're always in with a shot. No matter who your partner is, and no matter who you're up against.”

    Sam smiled back, incredulous.

    “Uh … yeah, I'll, um, bear that in mind.”

    “Wonderful. Thank you, Sam. Can we have a round of applause for Sam and Comet?”

    Apparently they could. It wasn't the most enthusiastic applause, but it was applause. Sam walked back to her seat in a daze, Comet nestled snugly in her arms, and sat down again with the clapping still ringing in her ears.

    “Thanks, Sam,” said Karen again. “Now you start to see what I'm talking about. This artificial distinction between strong and weak pokémon – a distinction that, more often than not, just comes down to which one hits harder or which is most fashionable – doesn't do anything except hold us back. If you really want to bring out your partner's potential …”

    “Hey,” hissed Connie. “You have to tell me something. Did she throw that? Like, to prove her point?”

    Good question. Would forcing a reflect down an umbreon's throat like that really launch her backwards that hard? Or, if it would – would that be something a ledian is even capable of doing?

    Sam looked down at Comet, curled in her lap and clutching her arms. He looked tired, in an honest kind of way. The kind of way you might look if you'd just won a practice match against Karen of the Indigo League.

    “Nah,” she whispered. “I actually don't think she did.”

    Connie said something in response, but Sam didn't pay any attention. She was thinking about next week's TrainerSoc meeting. There was no speaker booked: it would just be a straight battle meet, a few dozen students and their partners thrashing it out in the Old Sports Hall.

    For the first time in months, she realised, she was looking forward to it.
    GO HOME
    Some people just won't see reason.

    ARBITRARY EXECUTION
    If the cover-up is real, it isn't a conspiracy theory. It's a conspiracy fact.

    TIME AND TIDE | A LEASH OF FOXES
    IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

  2. #2
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    As I said in the Yuletide thread, I think Karen is one of the more forgotten Elite Four members, known only for her one memorable line used against the toxic fanbase that considers anything below Smogon's OU tier to be pointless and stupid, and the players who dare to like those Pokemon to be equally stupid. So I'm thrilled that I got a Karen-centric story for Christmas! I think we were all a "Connie" at one point or another, so a story like this is needed every once in awhile. I liked the addition of Ledian as well, a perfect example of an underloved Pokemon solely due to its lack of strength, which works perfectly into the theme of the story. The added fact that these students are all Team Skull grunts in the making (failed their challenge, let go of most of their team, a creeping sense of worthlessness or hopelessness setting in) and only had one Pokemon to their name was also a very interesting concept. You put a lot of personalty into Karen's Umbreon, especially pride, which makes sense given how long it's probably been one of Karen's Pokemon, and a highly skilled one at that. Karen herself never came off as too preachy or pretentious, and Sam is a good representation of a college student who failed a couple of her tests and doesn't know if college is the right thing for her as a result. Or perhaps anyone new to turn-based RPGs who lost a few early matches and thinks the entire genre just isn't for them? Anyway, thanks again for the story! I really enjoyed reading it!

  3. #3
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    The beginning where Sam reminisced her and Comet's journey was sweet. I admit the imagery of Comet and Metapod was amusing, and yup everyone seem to have bad memories of Whitney's Milktank there.

    I think it's neat you have Karen doing a speech and battle presentation, and encouraging Sam to think outside the box with her Ledian there. Nice way to develop Karen there. I also noticed you went with your written battle style with both trainers saying more cryptic like commands there, which was cool. Great work as always!
    Foul Play
    Because we all need a story about two Dark Type elite trainers in Alola bonding.
    Chapter Three up!

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  4. #4
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    This was a really cute read! I really like the whole idea of winning with your favourites. When a friend who recently got back into Pokemon for the first time in 10+ years asked me to rate his in-game team, I tried to explain that maybe that would matter in competitive, but any team would be able to beat the game. But a Pachirisu won the VGC World Championships one year, right? Dang, I really could learn a thing or two from Karen!

    I really liked the whole setup and execution of this fic. Setting Karen up to talk to what (I think) amounts to a university club (not counting the rest of the crowd she draws) is pretty neat. And honestly, how many uni students think they have it all figured it, anyway? (Which, hoo boy, I love the details about how nobody there can really be that good if theyr'e there to begin with, but hot dang will they make up for it with trivia and one-upping each other.) I love that you focused on a trainer whose partner would be seen as irredeemably weak, and Karen holding them up as proof of her point.

    The whole battle section really was fun - I as a reader could definitely relate to the crowd sitting up a little straighter when things were getting serious! I liked the strategy involved, and how Karen was leading Sam to figure things out. The personalities of the Pokemon really shone through, which I just love about your writing.

    I also just really enjoyed all the general headcanon things consistent throughout your fics. Trainers letting all but their closest Pokemon go after their journeys, using cryptic commands, the idea of pro trainers. They add a lot of depth, and I appreciate how those little hints make the world feel so much bigger.

    Quick nitpicks!
        Spoiler:- Nitpicks:



    Thank you for yet another lovely read! This is a lovely fic that reminds me of what makes this series so much fun - that you can use and win with your favourites, the importance of strategy, and just how fun these battles can be.

    ~Psychic

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Teller
    As I said in the Yuletide thread, I think Karen is one of the more forgotten Elite Four members, known only for her one memorable line used against the toxic fanbase that considers anything below Smogon's OU tier to be pointless and stupid, and the players who dare to like those Pokemon to be equally stupid. So I'm thrilled that I got a Karen-centric story for Christmas! I think we were all a "Connie" at one point or another, so a story like this is needed every once in awhile. I liked the addition of Ledian as well, a perfect example of an underloved Pokemon solely due to its lack of strength, which works perfectly into the theme of the story.
    Thanks! I'm glad you liked it – I like Karen a lot myself, because most of my favourite pokémon aren't very strong, and I was delighted to get the prompt. I'd never thought of writing about her before, but I'm glad I did. As for ledian – yeah, it's a pretty good one in terms of creature design, and the image of this little pokémon that overpowers its enemies based on quantity of punches rather than quality is fun, but its stats just don't make any sense. 55 HP and 110 Sp.Def.? Really? What's that even meant to mean, Game Freak? And there's the fact that it might just be the weakest Johto pokémon I can think of, so that worked out too.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Teller
    The added fact that these students are all Team Skull grunts in the making (failed their challenge, let go of most of their team, a creeping sense of worthlessness or hopelessness setting in) and only had one Pokemon to their name was also a very interesting concept.
    Interesting. I hadn't really thought about them like that – I was mostly like, okay, so you've finished your journey and gone back to school, is it plausible you can support a full team now? I mean, I don't know about anyone else, but when I was a student I was barely fit for looking after pot plants, let alone a brace of superpowered monsters.

    But that said, your interpretation of the students isn't wrong, just different, and I like the difference it makes to how the story's read. It really does bring something else to the concept of the Trainers' Society.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Teller
    You put a lot of personalty into Karen's Umbreon, especially pride, which makes sense given how long it's probably been one of Karen's Pokemon, and a highly skilled one at that. Karen herself never came off as too preachy or pretentious, and Sam is a good representation of a college student who failed a couple of her tests and doesn't know if college is the right thing for her as a result. Or perhaps anyone new to turn-based RPGs who lost a few early matches and thinks the entire genre just isn't for them? Anyway, thanks again for the story! I really enjoyed reading it!
    Again, I'm glad you liked it! I always want to make my pokémon characters as striking as the human ones, since the monsters are, after all, the stars of the franchise, and I'm pleased to hear that Toadstone came across that way. Likewise that you liked Karen and Sam, who are, you know, meant to be the sympathetic ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bay
    The beginning where Sam reminisced her and Comet's journey was sweet. I admit the imagery of Comet and Metapod was amusing, and yup everyone seem to have bad memories of Whitney's Milktank there.
    Glad you liked that bit! I wanted to give a little overview of their journey together, to contrast with what happened next, and I guess I was a little concerned that I'd compressed it too much – I didn't want it to be too long and take over the story entirely, but equally I didn't want to make it too short, either.

    As for that miltank – yeah, everyone seems to have a story about it. I think it's probably a combination of that being very early in the game to be meeting a fully evolved tanky sort of pokémon, and also most of us being quite young when we first played GSC. Going back to Silver when they rereleased it for the Virtual Console, I found that Whitney wasn't the unstoppable juggernaut I remembered her being, though maybe I just got lucky.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bay
    I think it's neat you have Karen doing a speech and battle presentation, and encouraging Sam to think outside the box with her Ledian there. Nice way to develop Karen there. I also noticed you went with your written battle style with both trainers saying more cryptic like commands there, which was cool. Great work as always!
    I did go with that, yeah; once I'd had the idea, it felt too sensible to do away with. I kind of feel like the thing with Comet wasn't all that original, in terms of fic battles, which tend to be way more creative than in-game ones, but as it turns out, it's quite hard to think of a way to beat a very tough umbreon with a decidedly less tough ledian. But it seems like it worked out okay, so yeah. Glad you liked it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    This was a really cute read! I really like the whole idea of winning with your favourites. When a friend who recently got back into Pokemon for the first time in 10+ years asked me to rate his in-game team, I tried to explain that maybe that would matter in competitive, but any team would be able to beat the game. But a Pachirisu won the VGC World Championships one year, right? Dang, I really could learn a thing or two from Karen!
    Yeah, I remember that, and then Karen's “that is only the selfish perception of people” line being appended to it in some Tumblr or Twitter post or something, which was in fact the inspiration for this fic. The pachirisu won because the person involved thought of a creative new strategy, and the lovely thing about fic is that your battles can be much more creative than any in-game strategy, so from that point I more or less knew exactly what I'd write.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    I really liked the whole setup and execution of this fic. Setting Karen up to talk to what (I think) amounts to a university club (not counting the rest of the crowd she draws) is pretty neat. And honestly, how many uni students think they have it all figured it, anyway? (Which, hoo boy, I love the details about how nobody there can really be that good if theyr'e there to begin with, but hot dang will they make up for it with trivia and one-upping each other.) I love that you focused on a trainer whose partner would be seen as irredeemably weak, and Karen holding them up as proof of her point.
    They're all such students, aren't they? I say that with love, I think, but it's true that they can so often be kind of infuriating. I can't take credit for the setting – the prompt specified that Karen should be giving a speech at a university, which is something I should probably make clear in the introduction, actually – but I'm glad to hear that I pulled it off well, at least.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    The whole battle section really was fun - I as a reader could definitely relate to the crowd sitting up a little straighter when things were getting serious! I liked the strategy involved, and how Karen was leading Sam to figure things out. The personalities of the Pokemon really shone through, which I just love about your writing.
    Thank you. Honestly, it's the monsters that drew me to the games, and I like to make sure the monsters stay central in my fics, so I'm always happy to hear that the pokémon I write have personality. Also that Karen's teaching thing worked; I'm actually terrible at helping people to figure things out, so I wasn't sure whether or not Karen would wind up suffering the same problems. Fortunately, it looks like she didn't.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    I also just really enjoyed all the general headcanon things consistent throughout your fics. Trainers letting all but their closest Pokemon go after their journeys, using cryptic commands, the idea of pro trainers. They add a lot of depth, and I appreciate how those little hints make the world feel so much bigger.
    That's part of why I keep them going! Even if I don't have the space in every fic to explore each of these little worldbuilding things, they add texture to the world and give the impression of systems working and cultures unfolding and all that in the background. So the more ideas I come up with, the richer each successive story gets. Hopefully.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    “Growls” should be “growled.”
    Right. I've written everything in the present tense for a couple of years now and it was difficult to go back to the past tense for this story; I thought I'd corrected all the erroneous leftovers, but there's always one more mistake than I think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    I get what image this was going for, but the wording feels awkward. I think making the second part more passive might work, like “Comet’s feet dangling,” but I’m not really sure how to construct the rest of the sentence.
    Sure, I can probably work something out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    I notice this sometimes happens in your fics, where a space is missing between paragraphs. Maybe it's because there's a page break on whatever word processor you're using, and don't notice the spacing as a result? Might be a thing to look out for!
    It's because I mark new paragraphs when I'm writing by indenting, rather than putting a line between paragraphs, and I add all these extra lines in manually when I post – which pretty much inevitably results in me missing one or two, somewhere along the line. I guess I could start putting them in when I type things into OpenOffice, but I have weirdly strong convictions about what looks aesthetically pleasing on a word processor and can't stand leaving blank lines, and if I'm going to be staring at one for hours on end I find it's easier just to give in to my inner typography goblin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic
    Thank you for yet another lovely read! This is a lovely fic that reminds me of what makes this series so much fun - that you can use and win with your favourites, the importance of strategy, and just how fun these battles can be.
    Thank you for reading! I'm really glad you liked it. Unfortunately, I still haven't found a way to stop garbodor becoming too fragile to continue on the team as the opponent pokémon start hitting levels 45-50, but even if I can't necessarily always win with my favourites, I'm delighted to be able to write about it and still feel true to the spirit of the games.
    GO HOME
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    IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

  6. #6
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    “We're always looking for something else, a pokémon that will best complement the strengths and weaknesses of our existing team. And yet some of the best trainers in the world have made a career out of limiting themselves.”
    Really nice quote here. And I think that hit home for Sam in a different way—sure, she loved Comet, but even she knew that having a Ledian for a partner limited her one way or another. So to see that same Ledian taking the spotlight both in the battle and in the fic in general was great, and did a lot in homing in on what Karen’s infamous quote actually meant.

    I appreciated how you presented Karen here the most, in that even in the midst of battle, she was still the mentor teaching invaluable lessons to trainers who wouldn’t admit that they needed it. Sure, I may have had the same misgivings as Sam when Karen so conveniently selected her because she had the fewest recorded wins, but there was always a point to Karen’s actions that really did a lot for the story. And sure, I might have had the same doubt as Connie about Karen giving Sam and Comet the win to prove her point, but the sincerity in Karen’s intention was more important, I think.

    I also really liked how you didn’t go with the cheesy, I-believe-in-my-Pokemon-100% route with Sam. Like I said above, she knew there were limitations to Comet being a Ledian, and I thought those breaks about her catching herself from thinking about Comet’s weaknesses were really good in presenting her as a less-than-ideal trainer.

    So yeah, not much else to say other than great job! It was a really good read, and I liked where the story went and what it did.

  7. #7
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    Heh, this is an interesting little one-shot. It's a nice homage to the games, where a huge theme revolves around how strong pokemon aren't always the best pokemon, and you've got some neat little ideas in here to help flesh that out. Karen going around, representing the Elite Fourand offering lectures to up and coming trainers at universities... Well, I feel like that'd be a real job of someone in the Elite Four, honestly. I mean, no one really expects them to sit in their throne room waiting for challengers all day every day, right? They've gotta be doing something with their time. This seems like a good use of it.

    The audience's reactions are realistic. It would've felt a tad cheesy to have the audience roar at the end and not question whether Karen threw the battle, and really, it wasn't even a battle. It was a demonstration for strategy and whatnot. And interesting strategies those were, I must say. I kinda wish I read more battles of yours; you'd write them pretty well, as you do practically everything else, lmao. Anyway, Sam feeling upbeat at the end and having more confidence in a pokemon she thought was weak beforehand was heartwarming to read. :3 Nice job with this one.
    don't let me be lonely.

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