Limited time, limited abilities. Kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving.
Kephi for best non-human supporting character (serebii)
Best journey fic (bulbagarden)
Virokoe for best pokémon character (bulbagarden)
Best new pokémon-chaptered fic (serebii)
prologue - in the ice cavern
part one. sinnoh
ch. 1. time to start anew
ch. 2. at first sight
ch. 3. playing nice
ch. 4. vainglorious orphan
ch. 5. maps for the getaway
ch. 6. how to take a stand
ch. 7. the center of adrenaline
ch. 8. everybody's fool
ch. 9. a heavy dose of atmosphere
ch. 10. thousands of times over
LOVE AND OTHER NIGHTMARES
in the ice cavern
At the top of a dying stone cavern, graced with nothing but eroding pedestals and dripping icicles, Kyurem waits for her. She climbs the rugged, glacial steps with an unrecognizable strength born from sheer willpower. Tremors echo in the pervading darkness. A sharp piece of ice falls and strikes the ground next to her with a sickening crack. She moves forward. The little amount of energy she has is spent avoiding knee-deep cracks and the ice crystals.
The signs of danger escape her. A sense of grandeur is somehow missing, despite the presence of a legendary pokémon. She goes on, and the floor—smooth, glistening and dangerous—propels her forward rather than hinders her progress. The walls, covered with melting water and individual rock formations, slowly widen the higher she goes, as if to invite her.
Soon the cold hits her. It's the kind of cold you don't notice until it's already consumed you. Now the exertion forces her to breathe, and puffs of freezing air cloud her vision. When the draft dissipates, she sees statues levitating in front of her, blocking her path. The statues look like snowflakes, but they have gleaming blue eyes, and there is a soft blue mist surrounding them. She assumes that these ice-type pokémon don't see humans all that often. One of them reaches out to her with a crystal hanging from its underside, which is warm to the touch until it vanishes and leaves steam in its wake. The remaining cryogonal ignore her and float closer to Kyurem.
As the cavern's peak comes into view, it occurs to her that she's dreaming. The realization explains why she's unusually calm, yet lucid. She appreciates the dullness. She's always preferred the winter months for the fleeting, boring moments amidst her eccentricities. For some reason she's reminded of her younger sister, who begs for a pokémon each year. She is instead deemed too immature, and is given toys or books. Her younger sister would be jealous of this dream, and she would give anything to trade places with her sibling...
She's stuck in her reverie until Kyurem speaks to her.
“Annie Willems,” Kyurem says. The legendary pokémon's harsh voice almost destroys her balance. It knows her name, and she stares at the creature quietly, not least because she isn't sure how or, most importantly, why. Sharp, damning teeth jut out of its mouth. What's more menacing to her are its demonic eyes and wings, which are spiked with ice at the ends. Without these features, she doubts that Kyurem would be as foreboding as it wants to be. Its short arms are laughable and it wouldn't be so tall, were it not standing on two feet. This is the thought she holds on to.
“Here I am!” she says. Her body stays composed, her mind calm. Her parents had wanted to keep her wild personality contained, she remembers. When their wish was granted, they couldn't look at her without crying. She sighs with relief after hearing her normal voice, but she knows she'll wake up soon and—
“Do you know why you are here, Annie Willems?” Kyurem interrupts, turning its misshapen head and motioning toward no where in particular. But aside from the cryogonal looking on with anticipation, the cavern is the epitome of nihility.
"This is a nightmare disguised as a dream of sorts, I would say."
"That is not true. This is real," Kyurem says, its voice low, like an apprehensive growl. She had expected for it to say as much. "I've brought you here for one reason," it continues. "I am assigning to you a special task.”
The legendary pokémon lifts its head high unhurriedly, supposedly to gauge her reaction. What can she do but laugh at the absurdity of everything? She doesn't laugh because Kyurem has lulled her into a state of passiveness. For some reason she believes she's been encased in a sheet of ice taken from its massive body, and she's afraid she'll break if she makes the wrong move. She has no choice but to play along if she doesn't want her sense of well-being to stray further.
"And what's this important task you have for me?" she says, trying for a hint of sarcasm. Her words come out more like a stutter, and she's not sure what to make of it. The cryogonal buzz, and the noise grounds her to the present. The vague tremors stop, Suddenly it's just the two of them, and she feels lost once more.
"Tell me that you are paying attention, if you would." Kyurem sounds forlorn, weary and unamused.
"Of course I'm paying attention. You can't tell? Aren't you supposed to have great powers or something?"
"My powers have become weak. Do you know anything about my kind?"
"Is there more than one of you?" She shivers at the idea, but then maybe her little sister could have her own version of this dream...
Kyurem shakes its head. “I am a pokémon that values truth and ideals above all else, but the world is full of dishonesty. Humans and pokémon alike go out of their way to do what is easiest for them rather than what is right. ...To answer your question, I am completely alone in the matter.”
Kyurem's tone changes, a hint of sourness now mixed in with sincere concern. She blinks. She wants to think of examples from her own life in which she followed her beliefs and stayed true to herself, but her memory is, at best, scattered. Images merge together and skew her past. She can only remember specific things, such as random television commercials and the color of the sky before a storm.. She can, at least, Kyurem's aversion toward solitude.
Another icicle collides with the concrete, and the reverberation that follows summons an uncertain truth pertaining to her studies and desired career. Before fate twisted her in a different direction, she wanted to be a therapist... She wanted to help people overcome obstacles and reach impossible goals...
"I have been watching you, Annie Willems. This I will admit. ...I know you are sick. I know you have acquired a certain disinclination toward the concept of pokémon training, but I must ask you to endure a journey of your own.”
"What does that have to do with anything?" She makes an attempt to avoid Kyurem's gaze, but her neck is too stiff to move. Her sickness and disdain toward pokémon is something she believes is best left forgotten.
"I am asking you and many others like you, Annie Willems. You possess several traits that make you vital to this word. I need you to find and reform a team of pokémon that are dangerous to themselves and everyone around them."
"Reform... pokémon?" It seems absurd. Pokémon are powerful, yes, but she can't imagine them acting maliciously or being self-destructive.
"But what about—"
"Your life? What about your life? Aren't you working with limited time... and limited abilities?"
The emphasis it places on each syllable causes her to flinch. She bites her lip. When she wakes up, she will struggle to do something so simple as sitting up. She will struggle to express her emotions, chew her own food, hold objects and write her own name. She will gawk at her family and not have a clue about what they're feeling, even if it's obvious. She will not go to school anymore, or work toward her future.
It's only a matter of time until she dies.
"True," she says, sighing with resignation. There's not much else to add when Kyurem knows how to hurt her. The tremors return, mirroring the direness of their respective circumstances.
"If you do this for me, I promise to you a reliable, speedy recovery. And if you succeed, I will provide a cure for the underlying problem."
"You can do that?" she asks far too quickly.
"Yes. ...I will find a way."
If this is a dream, she will wake up disappointed when it's over. If not, she has a legitimate chance to start over. But there's no time to contemplate her choices, for Kyurem is not known to be a merciful god. She needs to answer fast or the chance will slip through her fingers, as dreams often do.
She tries to grin, but fails. "Will my first pokémon be a regular starter?"
At this, Kyurem frowns. "A... starter?"
"You're a legend and you don't know? I'm from Sinnoh. Trainers start with, uh, chimchar, a penguin, some grass-type... Pretty standard, really."
"I have chosen you not only for your personality and tactics, but also for your location. You will know the pokémon you must help when you see them. They are pokémon native to Unova, trapped in Sinnoh for varying reasons. Seek them out. Capture them. Redeem them before it's too late. And I will reward you with what you want most."
"I have nothing to lose, so..." She shrugs, unsure of what to say next.
"It's time to start anew, Annie Willems. Best of luck to you."
"Wait! I have a few more questions..." she says.
But an agreement from her is all Kyurem had wanted. “We will meet again soon,” it says.
The legendary takes a deep breath, and in less than a second she's blown away. The cryogonal, which seemingly appeared out of thin air, spit out ice beams and create a statue of her, as if they don't want her to leave. Then they aim the ice toward her and she screams, not from the danger, but from the familiar confusion in her muddled brain. It's the first true physical and emotional act she's portrayed in a long, long time.
She prays that it's just the first of many.