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Thread: love and other nightmares

  1. #1
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    Default love and other nightmares

    Limited time, limited abilities. Kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving.

    Nominations
    Kephi for best non-human supporting character (serebii)
    Best journey fic (bulbagarden)
    Virokoe for best pokémon character (bulbagarden)

    Awards
    Best new pokémon-chaptered fic (serebii)

    PM List
    1. jstinftw!
    2. PhalanxSigil
    3. Sidewinder

    Index

    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


    prologue
    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.

    Kyurem howls.

    “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.

    "Yes."

    "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.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 22nd June 2015 at 12:13 AM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  2. #2
    Join Date
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    LOVE AND OTHER NIGHTMARES


    // PART ONE. SINNOH \\

    *

    Find what you love and let it kill you.
    – Charles Bukowski


    *

    chapter one
    time to start anew

    *

    I've been dreaming about things best left to the imagination. One day I became vulnerable, slipped into a coma and met a legendary face-to-face. I make jokes about Arceus, but I think He's been forgetting about me since the day I was born. Kyurem is just fitting a role I wish had been filled sooner.

    I feel some kind of pressure on my body. I see a light, which means I must still be dreaming. And sure enough, there comes my starter, ready to fight our first official battle. Fire burns in my throat as I yell commands I don't know much about. I make my other pokémon fight too, not for money, but for the respect I've lost. I'm not sure who I'm trying to impress at this point. I suppose it doesn't matter.

    More light appears. My starter runs after me, mouth agape as I'm picked up by an unknown figure. The gesture is nice, but it isn't getting me anywhere useful.

    This is happening because I rarely went to the doctor when I was young. My parents would drag me screaming across the floor and out the door if a visit was necessary. I had chronic ear infections and sore throats, but I insisted leaving them alone. I could still talk and sing, after all. I could dance, watch television and play games. Kids know better than adults sometimes, I told my parents. It'll go away. You'll see. The problem did go away—without antibiotics, ongoing ear tubes or injections. My parents shrugged.

    My parents shrugged, like I'm shrugging now. As Kyurem said, it's time to start anew. I stir. I ignore the inordinate amount of painkillers, anti-convulsants and medicine for blood pressure levels. I can't tell if my stomach rumbles because I'm hungry or full from the IV fluids. The fog in my brain disappears. As if by instinct, I grab my forehead, feeling for knots, an ache of sorts. There's nothing. I had hoped to wake up, of course, but I thought I'd be more restless when I did.

    Looking up, I see an excited face, a head bobbed to the side and a hand waving back and forth. The thin blonde hair I see is like my own, as well as two emerald specks that speak volumes. The voice I hear is female, and, best of all, familiar.

    “Annie!”

    The sudden loudness startles me. My mind attempts to slow down and examine my other senses. A soft, cottony gown caresses my skin down to the knees. There's wires lying across my body, along with needles in my right hand and a tube up my nose. My breath hitches, because none of this is a sign of good fortune.

    I try to talk to my mother. “I... I...” My mouth is dry. I need answers, but my words come out raspy and wrong.

    “Oh, honey, don't try to talk. Here. Have a glass of water...” My mother hands me a cup. I sit up and take it with shaking hands. I gulp down its contents and close my eyes. After a few moments, I open them again out of fear.

    “Where am I?” I ask. It's a common question, right? And an honest one.

    “We're at Sandgem Medical Center, honey.” My mother frowns, the corner of her eyes tearing up, then continues, “Y-You were... We thought you...”

    My mother's distress is clear. I gaze around the room and see a television portraying two lillipup dancing in some cartoon I watched when I was four. One other person blocks my view, taking away my distraction. It's my father.

    “Dad? What's going on?”

    He sighs and rubs his neck. He doesn't seem keen on explaining either, but I need it. “Annie, you had a stroke. You had a ruptured blood vessel in your brain, then went comatose. They said... They said you wouldn't wake up.” He walks up to me, takes my hand. “It's a miracle, Annie, as you would say. Or something like it.”

    At this, I smile. “Thank Arceus. He's such a wonderful being, isn't He?”

    “That's my girl.” He gives me a crooked, tired smile. “Really, though. You were alone when it happened. I'm sorry we weren't there... It was the middle of the day and we were working... You called your mother and she couldn't understand anything you were saying. When you went silent, she heard a crash and came home right away. We've been waiting for months, Annie. The doctors sounded so sure, and they were preparing for you... to leave us. None of us were expecting this. I don't—I don't know how else to put it.”

    “That's all right, Dad.” I look away from him. I've always seen him be calm, never so nerve-wracked. The story itself should leave some impression, but I don't remember any of it.

    “Their tests couldn't have been wrong, but they say the bridge between your brain and your body stopped working. Three days ago they said it was only a matter of time till you woke up. “ He peers at me, his face twisting into a frown. “It's cliche, but—could you hear us? Did you want to blink when we asked, but couldn't? Is it too soon to—”

    “Dad. Please!” His behavior disturbs me. I need time to think, but it's still difficult. I assume it'll be like that for a while, but making anyone else comprehend such a fine concept would be impossible, so I don't try. Instead I try to come up with a response. No, I couldn't hear them. Their motions and words were separate, distant from my own.

    I heard Kyurem. I heard things about a bet, a lifetime challenge in exchange for life itself. If I were my normal self, I'd be getting dressed and heading out already. But I'm not my normal self and I don't know where to start. And I don't know how to give my father the truth, so I settle for otherwise. Lies can spawn miracles if you're careful enough.

    “Ah, well... I'd rather not talk about it. It was like being stuck inside my own head and not being able to do anything about it, you know?”

    My mother comes into the conversation again. She had been wiping her face with a nearby napkin. “Whenever you're ready, then. And you don't even have to tell us. Do that therapy stuff you always talk about.”

    “Well...” It's true, I want to be a therapist—what will become of that goal now?—but my techniques never quite work on myself. I smoke cigarettes to relieve tension, but other than that, I'm the put together person. I'm the fun, kind, loving daughter and friend, and I'm here to play the part. “I'll work on it. Promise.”

    “Of course,” my mother says. “We're proud of you. You are nothing short of extraordinary. This is proof of that.”

    “Typical Mom thing to say,” I say, crossing my arms. “Can't you think of anything more fantastical? Say I was born out of the womb at age twenty. That'd make a great story.”

    “I have no idea whose daughter she is,” my father says, chuckling. “Do you?”

    “Not a clue...” my mother says, one last tear rolling down her chin. “But look. We brought you something.” She stands up, goes to the other side of the room. As she rummages through her backpack, I can tell they've been here for days, maybe weeks. I scold them mentally as my mother hands me a picture, frayed at the edges and smeared with blue marker in the middle.

    “This was your favorite picture when you were little,” she says. “You liked it so much you drew on it so no one else would take it.”

    I take the frame from her and fumble with it as a joke. I turn serious when I actually see who—and what—is in the picture. There's me, younger, with pigtails and overalls like I were a farmer in the desert, and a baby deerling, just as small.

    “We had a deerling?”

    “Why, yes... You don't remember? Well, maybe in time you will. We had her before you were born, and she passed when you were four. You would always play with her, and sleep with her...”

    I once had a pokémon. But I don't even like pokémon. Why would I have one as a pet? I recall a night with heavy rainfall, which is unusual in Sandgem Town. That night, I rescued a pokémon. I'm certain that my resentment started when that pokémon ran away before I could make sure it was safe and healthy. Well, at least I know the deerling was real. The picture exists, so the deerling must be hiding in my memories, somewhere... I only remember Kyurem, and I'm sure the deerling wasn't a threat to anyone, least of all a child. This would take work. This would take a lot of consideration.

    “About that... About pokémon...”

    “Yes?”

    I finger the blue marker on the picture, then the deerling's fur, which of course feels nothing like fur but rather like loss. I only wish they hadn't removed the glass from the picture frame. I did cut my skin once while trying to replace a hung-up picture. But I was little, then! I don't appreciate the reminder of my own fragility and I mourn for the chances I couldn't take before today.

    “Well...”

    *

    So I tell a convoluted version of my story. The doctors interrupt three times to check my vitals, my eye movement and other important things Kyurem has taken care of. I'm healthy, the white coats say... They don't know how it happened, but there's no denying it. I even spin another tale when the doctors come in. I say I'm off to fight the demon pokémon, Giratina, so I can save the earth and become a hero. They say I've already earned that title by just living.

    My parents, though confused, don't show as much surprise as I thought they would. They stop me in the middle, too, to ask what spurred my interest in pokémon. Was it the picture? Did I have visions in my comatose state? No, no—this was a secret I had kept for years, my yearning for travel and traveling companions. I didn't have the heart to leave my family and friends behind, but these events, this stroke had inspired me. What could I do but follow my dreams?

    “Annie,” my mother says with a stern tone. My mouth closes, lips curved downward. “If this is what you want to do, we won't stop you. You're an adult. But what about your schooling? It's February. The winter is almost over. Maybe you should wait until the end of the year, or until the end of your degree...”

    I consider this for her. I wish Kyurem had specified a time frame, but no. He had been as vague as I would expect a legendary to be. The legendary sees all, controls all, but contributes nothing besides end results. If I take chances, I might end up where I started. So I shake my head and say, “No. I don't graduate for another two years. I can't wait that long. What if... What if this happens again? At least I'll have learned some therapy techniques and journeyed!” I manage a smile.

    “Yes, well... It's possible... Annie, don't say that, please,” my mother says. She turns and leaves the room, only stopping to open the door.

    I turn to my father. “Hmm. Did I make her mad? It's like I'm four again. Guess I can't go on a journey, after all.”

    “She'll be all right. She can treat Renee like a baby next.”

    “Where is she, anyway?”

    “Staying at her friend's house. She's been looking for support elsewhere. You know teenagers... Don't like their parents.” He shakes his head. “She didn't exactly enjoy seeing you like that either.”

    “I can imagine.” I imagine my sister, her friends cradling her like they'd cradle an young child. Renee's ambitious, but fragile. I have high expectations of her, but I'm not sure she'll ever live up to them. If a journey didn't involve danger, I'd encourage her to come with. Alas. “I'll tell her the news before I go.”

    “I think she'd appreciate that.”

    I nod. “What do you think about all this?”

    He pauses before answering. “It's your life, not mine. You're not ten-years-old anymore, so that's a plus,” my father says, grinning. “When you were ten, you were still chasing buneary and pidove out of the yard with a stick in your hand...”

    Now that I think about it, my silly actions were most likely done in response to the deerling's passing. I had been bitter and angry, and had never quite recovered... The death had crushed my dreams. It's nonsensical for me to do that anymore, though, even if it is part of my personality. If I have to help pokémon feel better, threatening to hit them in the forehead with a weird object isn't the best idea. Instead I can give my pokémon gifts that will remind them of decent memories rather than horrid ones.

    “That doesn't sound like me at all,” I say, keeping my chin up. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

    My father goes to sit and folds his hand together, lost in sudden concentration. “You've just woken up and it's like things never happened,” he says.

    I don't know what to say to that. I feel the exact same way, a bit more surprised and a little less like a phenomenon.

    *

    The doctors tell me to eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water and record any peculiar symptoms on a chart they give to me before I leave. Exercise is crucial, too, but I know I’ll be doing a lot of that, mentally and physically.

    One doctor has a problem, not with me, but with my treatment plans. There are no treatment plans. He's not convinced that I'm safe. If I’m going to venture into the wild, then I need to be one hundred percent prepared.

    So for an entire day I’m stuck inside a room with several clinicians of varying types. There’s a speech therapist, a woman with brown hair, dyed to avoid dreaded grey hairs. The physical therapist is also a woman, because that's what I had requested. The lone man in the room is an occupational therapist, and he seems to be the most boring man in the world. He's the one who said I need to get tested before I'm released officially.

    The room, tiny and cramped, doesn't make me feel at home. The three of them mumble to each other and give each other strange looks, as if to ask who’s brave enough to step in first. The speech therapist is the brave one. I had been hoping to fight back against the occupational therapist as soon as possible, but I guess he’ll have to wait.

    “Okay, Annie,” she says with a wispy voice. “We'll have to go to the radiology lab later and have some tests done there, but they’re booked right now. Here, we’re going to check your speech and cognitive abilities…”

    “Well, that’s what the title speech therapist implies,” I say, folding my arms. Why am I with old people that want to treat me like a kid? ...Never mind the fact that I wanted to be four-years-old again less than a day ago. Why can’t I be at the store, wasting twenty dollars on beef jerky instead?

    “Well, yes, but some things are out of my control, such as those tests I mentioned.”

    Fair enough. “What kind of tests will I need?” I ask.

    “A CT scan will locate any lesions in your brain, and thus present to us the underlying cause of possible aphasic disorders. It will also show us any leftover internal bleeding, which we will address immediately if found.”

    I wait for her to go on. She doesn’t. “Is that it?” I ask.

    “Yes, Annie. It is. Simple, right?”

    “You said tests. That’s just one test.”

    “The other neuroimaging tests we might use for aphasia are inappropriate for your situation.” She sighs. Someone must have warned her, saying I’d act this way. Dealing with a patient that recovered out of the blue can't be easy. “Are you ready to get started?”

    “I guess so.”

    “We will evaluate several components of language, such as spontaneous speech, naming, repetition, comprehension, reading and writing. Do you think that sounds okay?”

    “I can’t say I’m qualified to answer that question, but I can try if you really want me to.”

    She nods her head, then writes something down on the blank sheet in front of her. I suppose that means I’m being tested already, even if I’m not answering any tough questions. She must be assessing my conversational abilities.

    “Well, go ahead and elaborate for me,” she says.

    I clear my throat for emphasis. It seems like as good a time as any to do so. “Aphasia encompasses the inability to communicate through speech or written language. I assume you want to test both.” I pause. No one answers. “That’s a yes! Write that one down.” The speech therapist covers her paper with her flabby arms. She prompts me to go on. “Okay.” Hmm. This is tough. I know little about the subject. “Do I have to do this?”

    The other woman in the room coughs. The speech therapist pulls out a piece of paper from underneath her scoring sheet and passes it to me. “Please tell me everything you can about this picture, Annie,” she says.

    It’s a picture of three people standing in a kitchen. A young boy is peering into a cookie jar while the mother isn’t looking. I make a joke about my sister stealing cookies from the cookie jar, but no one laughs. “Oh, and there’s a random girl in the corner with a shinx,” I say. “It looks like they’re about to go outside and play fetch or something.”

    At this, the speech therapist smiles. “Thank you, Annie. Can you show me where your shoulder is?”

    “What?” She repeats the question. “It’s right here,” I say, pointing toward my shoulder confusedly. I glare at the occupational therapist again for making me go through such an ordeal. This is more tiresome than any pokémon journey.

    “And could you blink your eyes two times, please…” she says, writing something down about my performance.

    I blink my eyes twice, thinking about how my father asked me why I didn’t blink when I was comatose. I don't want to be comatose again, but this lady is here, rubbing it in my face that yes, I was comatose

    “Can a stone sink in water, Annie?” she asks, tapping her pencil ion her clipboard. Are delayed responses recorded? Minus one for me, if so.

    “Yes.”

    We go on like this, with her asking about complex ideas, simple ones, then complex ones again. It's as if she’s trying to work my brain into a frenzy, kill it, then revive it with some kind of machinery I’m not aware of. She asks me to recite the alphabet, single words and entire sentences. Next she shows me several pictures, so that I can identify colors and numbers. Soon she challenges me. Posters full of what looks like Braille are brought in and I’m instructed to decipher them like it’s no big deal. At the end, I’m asked to write elaborate stories about shoes, trees and other mundane objects. I write about a deerling stuck in a tree, like it’s a glameow needing a firefighter’s help getting down and put back into my arms. At the end of the story, I’m given a new pair of shoes as some sort of condolence present, though nobody died.

    “I see no reason for further testing,” the speech therapist declares.

    Being smart is boring sometimes.

    It's the physical therapist's turn. I can’t escape them, the therapists. They’re not too thrilled to be with me either. I’m not sure why they chose the professions they did. The occupational therapist in particular looks like he’s fit for an office job, where he can be boring in all the right ways.

    “Annie,” the physical therapist says. “Are you—”

    “Are you going to give me a massage? That’s what you guys do, isn't it?” She looks like she could use a nice massage herself, but I don’t say that. “If not, I feel fine—”

    “Strokes are like car accidents,” she interrupts. “Even if you feel fine now, the damage may come back to haunt you later. It could be too late to heal at that point. I'm here to prevent that from happening.”

    “Ah.” Her voice strikes me into speechlessness. If I took the test for aphasia now, I’d fail. “Okay. So. We’re in a small room.”

    She looks at me, confused.

    “How do I, you know, move?”

    “Well, give me a few moments and I'll let you know.” But she just had a whole hour to figure it out! I need to go! I need to start my journey for some godforsaken reason I can’t grasp quite yet.

    The clock ticks by. “Uh,” I say, still at a loss for words.

    “Okay,” she says. Isn’t she going to introduce herself? Now that I think about it, the speech therapist didn’t either. The only man in the room better show some respect. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

    Simple. “Two.”

    “Good. Can you touch my finger with your finger?”

    I can, and it feels like I’m bumping fists with a baby. Or maybe my sister. She has small hands for a girl too. The physical therapist has me do this two more times in two different locations, once further away and once closer to my nose. I’m not sure if this is a trick test or not. Then she moves her finger as she asks me to touch it, and I do so, going as fast as I can, as instructed. We do this five times.

    After that, she pulls out a small hammer-like object. Where did that come from? She tests my ankle reflexes as well as my knee reflexes, and I can’t help but giggle. I’m not doing this to be annoying.

    “Take your shoes off, please,” she says.

    I do so, and she measures the shape of my foot. Apparently I have a normal foot, since she nods. Then it’s like I’m inspected for weapons, as she moves her fingers along my arms, my hands, my legs.

    “Don’t look so glum,” she says. “You’re passing the test so far. I’m testing your body structure as well as making sure there’s no weakness anywhere.” She puts her hand against the back of my head. “Move your head against my hand, please.”

    I do so, though not too hard, in case she’s got it out for me and she’s going to pull her hand away, causing me to make a fool of myself. The idea is that if I have my eyes closed, my balance will either remain intact or make me fall over, depending on the strength of my arms.

    We go on like this, much like I did with the speech therapist. It’s not a fun test, nor is it boring, since it at least requires me to think, listen and pay attention to my movements. It’s better than being in a coma, but it all reminds me, again, that I've not stretched my muscles for months.

    At last the physical therapist nods and has nothing more to say. My strength is fine. My reflexes are fine. My bones are intact, doing their jobs, whatever. Good. Now can I get out of here and go home? I plan to leave shortly after, but still.

    The answer is a big, fat no. The occupational therapist sits across from me at the tiniest table I have ever seen. If I didn’t mention how tiny the table was before, I should now. It might just be because he’s a bigger person and takes up more space, but I look around, nervous. There’s something odd about his presence, but I can’t quite place my finger on it, nor do I want to.

    “My name is Dr. Holster,” he says, reaching out his hand. I shake it. Rough and smooth, like he could be both a knife fighter and a lover. “Occupational therapy focuses on your hobbies, activities, jobs, schooling... “ He trails off, looking at some papers and sorting through them with his thumb. “It looks like you’re in school. Sophomore year. Psychology?”

    “Yes. I’m a therapist.” Or I wanted to be, before Kyurem came to me. Of course, I can’t say such nonsense or he'll throw me into an asylum. It would be unwelcome compared to sending applications to a graduate school. All that required paperwork... Letters of recommendation, resumes, transcripts…

    I’ll never get to do any of that now.

    I distract myself by judging the man in front of me. Dr. Holster. He's wearing a plain black suit with a white undershirt, perfectly cuffed, and his tie is blue. Neat goatee, wire-rimmed glasses, recently cut brown hair with shaved sideburns, the works. Yeah, he definitely needs an office job so he can stare at a computer screen all day. He must be a lonely man. How can you be lonely in a world with pokémon? I suppose you put them in your pokéballs, or you don’t like pokémon at all.

    “Any minors?” he asks.

    “Mathematics and philosophy.”

    He looks perplexed. “Two minors? That's quite the challenge.”

    “No. Cognitive science, with an emphasis on philosophy and mathematics classes on the side. But no one knows what that means, so I say what everyone understands.”

    He smiles a crooked smile. Ah, so he does have personality. “Though math and philosophy can confuse people even when separated.”

    “Logarithms and differentiation.” I name some topics off the top of my head. “Trigonometry is hard if you don’t have the right mindset for it. Philosophy is only hard if you don’t want to accept anyone else’s views.”

    “What are your views, Miss Willems? That might help me work with you better.”

    ...I'm the kind of person Kyurem hates. I’m selfish. I do what is good for me, even at the expense of other people. I am impulsive, because I'm inclined to think that my desires are going to help me succeed someday—in what, I don’t know. Therapy? Not anymore. I guess I’ll succeed in raising thickheaded little animals with special powers instead.

    “It’s a secret,” I say.

    He's not deterred. “And work?”

    “I work at the Little Scrafty Bar. The name is serious. It’s a little bar.”

    “Do you work alone?”

    “Not allowed. But if someone’s in the bathroom or something, I have a weapon on me… just in case.’

    “Would you say you’re skilled in self-defense?”

    “Not at all. I’m clumsy, I guess. But it’s comforting.”

    “Anything else?”

    “I scare away customers with stories of my life, so I stay reserved. You know, for the money.”

    “You don’t seem reserved now,” he says. He takes off his glasses and rubs them with his cuffs. I wonder if that’s a sign that I’m intimidating him. I look at the speech therapist, who has a perturbed look on her face. Dr. Holster’s comment must have been an understatement.

    “Yeah. I’m alive. That’s something to cheer for, I guess.”

    “And you’ve chosen to go on a pokémon journey. In Sinnoh.”

    “What’s wrong with Sinnoh?” Are there high crime rates? Rough winters? Either way, I don’t have much of a choice but to stay and fight him on this one.

    “Oh, nothing.” Good. That’s what I want to hear. “Some people like to see newer sights, not places they could go to for vacation.”

    “A journey is a tough, serious vacation.”

    “Something like that. All right, so here’s what you’re going to have to do…”

    He goes through a list, and it looks like I do need his help. Anyone could benefit from it, to be honest, but he’s persistent. As as a stroke patient, I’m at-risk for more strokes and other health concerns. He doubts I know how to take care of myself in an emergency, and it’s true. I don’t.

    At the end of the meeting, the physical therapist and speech therapist say I’m not eligible for their services. I’ll be all right as long as I don’t have another stroke. If I have problems for some reason or another, I need to return to Sandgem Town immediately.

    Dr. Holster keeps me even later and expands his list.

    “If you’re going to be my sidekick for this journey, I need to know your name! I keep thinking of you as, you know, an occupational therapist. OT. And that’s not right,” I say.

    “Oh, Miss Willems…” He folds his hands and leans backward in his seat. “You’ve forgotten my name already?”

    “Well, no, but I’d like to know your first name. We’re going to be friends from now on.” As long as he stops looking at me with that boring face of his. All jokes aside, though, I’m going to need him in the upcoming months. Maybe even for years.

    “Are we? That sounds a little scary.” He chuckles. “Well, dear, my name is Gregory.”

    I ignore his quipping. “Greg for short?”

    “Just Gregory is fine. Makes me seem younger.”

    “I know what you mean.... The name Annie makes me sound like a two year old for life. Do OTs do anything for that?”

    Another chuckle. “I don’t think so. Knowing you, though, you’ll make these tasks fun.”

    I shake his hand again. I’m looking forward to this new part of my life.

    *

    I put things into motion as soon as I can. The first step is to visit my school adviser. The adviser tells me which classes I’ve failed due to my prolonged absence: sociology of death, psycholinguistics, psychopharmacology... It would be hard to raise my GPA, but not impossible. Personal statements for graduate school will have to be well written if I want to make an impression, he says. I forget how long I was comatose, but this puts the time frame into some sort of perspective. I wait until he’s done spewing the bad news, then I give my own. I’m dropping out. There’s no argument. We both know it's the better option.

    My parents wish I would finish my degree. They feel it was all a waste because I spent so much money going to college only to leave without having learned everything about psychology. They feel it was all a waste.

    “I don’t think that’s true,” I say. “Psychology matters in everyday situations. Right now, for example,
    I’m using structured statements to tell you how I feel without offending you. I’m trying to make you feel better by expressing myself in the best way possible.” I know the reasoning behind personalities and motivational forces. Those are applicable traits to have for traveling in dangerous territory, right?

    My parents nod.

    “We won’t doubt you, Annie,” my mother says. “But with the hospital bills on top of student loans…”

    “I know,” I say. “You can’t pay anymore.”

    “Well, pokémon training presents a lot of opportunities to earn money. She’ll be all right,” my father says, rubbing my mother’s shoulders in a reassuring way. “She has a savings account she can pick at too.”

    This is true, because I refuse to spend money like a reckless teenager. It's different when you're a trainer, though. Trainers have to use pokédollars to buy traveling equipment, nonperishable foods and other necessities. Gregory's occupational therapy starts here. He allows me five thousand pokédollars per week, which is manageable. Seeing if I'm capable of converting my money is the hard part. I do the estimates in my head, ensure that a Master Ball Bank is in most towns and withdraw my money. The exchange rates are less than favorable, but I have no other choice.

    I buy a decent backpack that feels comfortable on my hips. I choose a light, dry diet consisting of pasta, rice, cereal bars, beef jerky and a bag of nuts. Soon I also have a canteen, as well as some matches, a first-aid kit and a spare pair of clothes. Pokémon Centers offer hotel rooms to trainers, so a sleeping bag isn't needed. Finally, I get waterproof socks and hiking boots, which I’ll have to break in before I go.

    I think I’m set. I’m not. There’s more for me to do, says my oh-so-wonderful occupational therapist.

    He wants me to stay in Sandgem Town and practice hands-on training. I’m impatient, but I have to do what he says if I want to improve. During the first couple days, we light fires in the north end of town. We walk around and he points out pieces of tinder that will do the job. Along the way we search for both thin and thick pieces of firewood. Branches on trees won’t work unless they snap immediately, without resistance. He makes a bow, a drill, a socket and a coal catcher, all with forest materials alone. The fire starts after he goes over a few more instructions. And then it’s my turn. I try, but even after further instruction, Gregory tells me it'll take time. I can only hope that a fire-type pokémon will show its face early on.

    Next comes finding clean water. Maybe I’ll need a water-type, too, but I’m not sure how Kyurem plans these things. Gregory advises me to drink more water if there’s high winds, and more due to my stroke risks. I take notes. Always sleep near a spring or river. Follow wild pokémon if I'm lost. Collect rainwater if possible. Purify the water first, or boil it for ten minutes to get rid of harmful bacteria. This is better than starting fires, but I refuse to drink the water until Gregory approves it. Just in case.

    Socializing comes last. For this, I ask him to wait. I’ve learned so much in a few days, I need a break. And it’s true. I need some time alone. One last night in my favorite Sandgem Town landmark: Leavanny Park.

    *

    I slept in my mother’s bed every night after being coming home from the hospital. I feel sorry for my father, who's been sleeping on the couch. I know it hurts his back, but my old room is where I fell into the coma. I don’t need to go in there. The room would remind me of the terror of that day, the not knowing whether you’re dying or if something’s wrong at all. When you’re mentally or physically sick, life tricks you into thinking nothing’s wrong at all. It’s okay to lose your balance. It’s okay to have hallucinations. It’s okay to call your mother and scream at her until she comes home to determine something’s wrong for you.

    But Leavanny Park is fine. There are no reminders in Leavanny Park. I mean, the swing set and the monkey bars and whatever make me wish I was young again. But I'm an older sister and an independent daughter. That means I have to do adult things, which, for me, means saving pokémon in dire need of saving. Kyurem needs to explain that further, whenever I see it next. Which I hope is soon. The passiveness I felt in that dream… I shiver just thinking about it. It’s February and I have a jacket on, but that’s not the point.

    The point is that winter is almost over. I may not feel that passiveness for a long while. Summer will come, I'll go wild and no one will be able to keep up with me—not my family, nor Gregory. Gregory will discover, most of all, what it's like to be with me, in person and over the phone. Either way, he has no idea what he’s getting into.

    The winter, harsh but truthful, shows me that this world is useless. My body, especially after recent events, is useless. I should convince myself that the doctors, my family and Kyurem don't exist. I should convince myself that they act as ploys to make my mind and body cooperate. What if I could will everyone away? What if I willed myself to walk through a black void with no destination known? What if that didn't mean death, but merely living inside a world I constructed?

    These ideas come to me through my senses, from my surroundings. That’s what Leavanny Park does to me. The monkey bars tell me to let go. The slides tell me I’m a roller coaster of eccentricities. Going home would mean abandoning the last night alone with my shadow.

    If only I could will everyone else away. I can't, not even if I ignore the phone during my journey and not even if I forget their faces. If only my body could remain here, while my mind traveled and reformed the pokémon… Then I’d do more than anyone else possibly could. Infinity is a terrible word unless you’re using it to describe yourself.

    I need the comfort that infinity brings. I don't know why the physical world exists, after all. Why would a mind need to imagine millions of civilians spread throughout a planet limited in size? At least when I was in a coma I didn’t need comfort. I had no senses, but I didn’t ask myself, “Why aren’t things normal?” And then there’s another sad question: exactly how much did I miss out on? It would take years of dividing myself until I could make up for the time I lost. A mathematician never dreams of a line so short than it cannot be divided into two shorter lines, nor of an angle so small it cannot be bisected. But what about my body? May it be split in half, and then may it be split in half again, then again, so that I am the smallest piece in everything?

    If I’m following Epicurean philosophy, I could do that. To him I have three souls: the lowest in my diaphragm, the second in my chest and the highest in my head. To him my soul consists of fine, smooth and round atoms, which are also atoms of fire. Imagine, a fire that might really appear like that… In my lungs these atoms give me air; in my heart these atoms give me emotion; in my brain these atoms give me thought. Life lasts as long as I breathe these atoms. In and out. In and out. Involuntarily during rest and voluntarily during speech. Perhaps Kyurem only gave me more of those atoms and called it a day.

    But my mind is racing and making me think too much. The mind could be a substance, not like a drug or alcohol, but oh, boy, I could go for a cigarette right now.

    I know that thoughts aren't made of matter, nor do they have any impact on the concept of time. In this, at least, I am limitless, as long as I don’t consider myself inferior as well.

    ...It’s getting late. I go home. On this journey, I’ll just have to make sure I’m as happy, as full, as knowledgeable as only I can be.

    *

    “So basically I'll be a trainer without a pokémon,” I say to Gregory the next day. He's just asked me to travel and interact with other trainers for one day. This, of course, makes no sense to me. What about my starter? “I won’t accept the traditional starter, so don’t try to pull that on me.”

    “Why not?” His expression is skeptical, as if he were going to give me a pokémon as a present today.

    “I have my reasons,” I say. How cryptic can I be while still getting away with it?

    “Ah, you want to catch your first pokémon on your own…” Gregory nods. “I see those kinds of trainers a lot.”

    “Yeah. That’s it.”

    “All right.” He pulls out a pokéball, a plain red and white one. A plain pokéball for a plain man. “I’ll let you borrow my snivy.”

    “Your what?”

    “My snivy. His name is Nate.” Gregory presses the pokéball’s middle button, making the sphere enlarge. He presses it again, releasing its contents. A green, bipedal lizard appears. Nate has dull, reddish eyes and a contrasting yellow crest. His short tail reminds me of a three-leaf clover. He rubs his underbelly and flickers his blood red tongue.

    “A… snivy. Right. It’s yours.”

    “Yes. He's my starter. He's the most behaved out of all my pokémon, and he’s quiet around strangers. He shouldn’t bother you at all.”

    “And his name is Nate.”

    “Yes.”

    “Why would you give him a human name? Can’t you be more creative than that?” I ask, folding my arms.

    “It was just the first name I thought of. Does it matter?” He shrugs and hides his face away from me. He seems offended, but I can’t tell for sure.

    “Yeah! I mean… Seriously, Gregory, pokémon and humans co-exist, but not to that extent!”

    “He’ll be good for you.” He bends down and scratches the snivy underneath its snout. Nate smiles and lets out a stifled giggle. He really is quiet. I wouldn’t be able to understand him if he talked, anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t matter. “Anyway,” Gregory continues, “I want you to record your experiences. Write down any reaction you think is relevant. Do you want me to go over the chart?”

    He hands the chart to me, and I spend a good five seconds looking it over. “Nah,” I say.

    “All right,” he says. “Be good to Nate. Nate will be good for you.”

    “I get it!” I say. But what about my own starter? Where am I supposed to find him? Or her? Well, I'll worry about that later.

    I grab Nate by his little paws and drag him out of my house. We go down the driveway. At this point I remember that Gregory is a strange man and shouldn't be left alone in my house. I go back, say goodbye sheepishly, lock the door. And then we’re off.

    *

    In total, I battle five trainers. That's enough for one pokémon in the span of twenty-four hours. I lose once, but I don’t consider it official or fair. Nate is weak to fire-types and he’s my only option. At times I find myself lost just watching him fight, then I come back to reality. I’m a part of this too. That fact sinks in when I collect my prize money and shake the hand of my opponents. Some of them talk about us battling in the future with evolved pokémon and a bigger team.

    Nate does well, though. He listens to me as if he’s been with me for years. His attacks are swift and he can take a hit. I only wish he'd talk to me and make things more interesting.

    “Are you tired?” I ask him. We sit on a bench underneath a lamppost and watch trainers hang their heads low as they pass us. They must have fainted pokémon or not money left to spare. It’s such a shame, but it seems like the battling section of the day is over.

    Nate nods to me and rubs his belly for emphasis.

    “Being hungry and tired are not the same thing, buddy,” I tell him. “But I’ll take you to get food and rest anyway.”

    After a few minutes of rest, we make our way to the the Pokémon Center at the end of the route. The lobby is full of trainers showing off. I join the crowd, accidentally bumping into a large, angry luxray in the process. It must have just lost a battle. I make a mental note to stay away from it.

    The snivy's not mine, but he might as well be, considering his display of loyalty. He stands on his tiptoes and appears taller than the others, or at least tries to. He pounds his chest in a proud manner. Everyone claps and asks him to demonstrate some attacks. I’m prepared to join the showing off session until I realize we haven’t eaten yet. I tell them to bug off and go to pick on another pokémon. But then I see Nate's joking side when he taps the luxray on the shoulder and then runs away. My mouth opens in shock. Nate is a happy, healthy pokémon. There are no dangers here—unless you count the luxray chasing him around the middle of the lobby.

    Another trainer advises me to rent a room for the night before the Pokémon Center is full. I march straight to the counter, where I meet a pink-haired lady named Nurse Joy. I’ve heard stories about how every Pokémon Center nurse is related. Each family member is assigned to take care of a whole town. It's the same for every region, or so I've heard.

    She checks me into my room, offers me the key. “Room 233, on the second floor!” she says in a too happy tone.

    The night itself is peaceful, but I can’t sleep. I’ve done that for so long, after all, so I write fake therapy notes. Nate is my patient and I need to come up with a treatment plan for him. His pride is too prideful, he’s too short for a snivy and he has a complex speaking. But I wish Nate were a little more sinister, so that I could see what I'll be dealing with. I cross out the treatment plan that says he needs some kind of light therapy. I lay on my side when I’m done, scratch the snivy’s tail and watch his chest move as he sleeps.

    It might just be the joy I get out of simply living, but… I could get used to this.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 30th May 2015 at 5:18 AM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  3. #3
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    This is really good stuff! I just want to say that I really like your writing style, and how believable Annie is. It's really cool how realistic you're taking this journey thing too; that's somewhat uncommon from what I've seen. It's so inspiring to read hahaha. Also, the Kyurem thing was really cool! Definitely had me hooked. If there's a PM list, I'd love to be on it, but I'm subscribing anyways, so that'll work too. xD Good job with this! I'm so excited to see where you go with this. I hope this isn't going to be one of those dead end fics hahaha

    Feel like you need a little more Pokemon in your life? Tune into our show!
    EPISODE 55 - SLOWPOKE HOLIDAY
    Looking for something Pokemon-related to listen to while playing through Pokemon XY? This episode is for you!!
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    Guess who claimed Luxray?!

  4. #4
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    Okay, this has to be one of the most fascinating journey-fic openings I have ever read. I haven't had a chance to comment on any of your stories before-hand, but I've always liked what I've seen. Might as well start with this one.

    Since there are two "chapters" here, I won't be explicitly quoting the material. However, I will try to talk about as much as I can.

    First, the prologue.

    You...actually had me kind of worried for a second. For a good bit of the chapter, ESPECIALLY after the explicit mentioning of Kyurem, I was reminded just a bit too much of Clichéstorm. Sure, Annie was extremely likable and goofy, but then again, so was Hilda in Ysavvryl's story.

    That is, until the bombshell. The twist that Annie was dying was absolutely out of nowhere in the best way possible. The almost dream-like nature of her meeting with Kyurem and their conversation could be easily equated to a dream in a coma, or a near-death experience, and I freaking love that! That part of their conversation was easily the highlight of the two chapters for me.

    Her "briefing" on her mission and the "wager" of sorts were also very interesting, but still simple enough to wrap my head around. Journey in Sinnoh, catch Unova pokémon, save your own life. That works. But, again, what made Annie's acceptance of the task memorable is her simple line, "I have nothing to lose." She knows it's outlandish and crazy, but she really doesn't have a choice in the matter. So freakin' cool!

    Then onto Chapter 1.

    Again, the parts of the chapter that aren't actually related to pokémon are, at least for me, the highlights. Learning how she was going to function as a trainer was good, but it's all stuff we've read before. That can't be helped, though, as most journey-fics start the same. What kept me going, though, were all the bits related to the consequences of her stroke. (By the way, you get bonus points for using a legitimate source of a prolonged coma. Nice touch.) Her dropping out of college, the constant worrying over relapses, the fact that she wouldn't want to sleep after being in a coma, it all builds her character so well!

    ...Which leads to my one issue with this chapter. The supporting characters. Admittedly, I haven't seen a whole lot of them so far, but from what's there, I'm not interested in them at all. Maybe they're just there for the beginning, but I'd love to know more about them, especially Annie's parents.

    But really, I'm nitpicking. This is a fantastic start to a journey-fic. The premise is interesting, and Annie is probably one of the most fascinating characters I have ever seen on Serebii. I definitely want to come along for the ride. If there's a PM list, put me on it!

    -Phalanx, out.
    Pokémon: Convergence

    "Dimension-hopping shenanigans." Need I say more?

    Next Chapter: Chapter 5

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

    Mother of the Cave

    One-shot about an aggron watching over her den...until poachers appear and screw everything up.

    Next Chapter: N/A

    I'm still taking criticism for this story.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jstinftw! View Post
    This is really good stuff! I just want to say that I really like your writing style, and how believable Annie is. It's really cool how realistic you're taking this journey thing too; that's somewhat uncommon from what I've seen. It's so inspiring to read hahaha. Also, the Kyurem thing was really cool! Definitely had me hooked. If there's a PM list, I'd love to be on it, but I'm subscribing anyways, so that'll work too. xD Good job with this! I'm so excited to see where you go with this. I hope this isn't going to be one of those dead end fics hahaha
    Thank you! I think Annie's one of my most well rounded characters, and I quite like the first person. I have up to chapter 6 written and about 75% of the fic outlined, so I don't -think- it'll be a dead end fic.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhalanxSigil View Post
    Okay, this has to be one of the most fascinating journey-fic openings I have ever read. I haven't had a chance to comment on any of your stories before-hand, but I've always liked what I've seen. Might as well start with this one.
    I like hearing that people have read my other work and are continuing to read. Thank you. :~)

    You...actually had me kind of worried for a second. For a good bit of the chapter, ESPECIALLY after the explicit mentioning of Kyurem, I was reminded just a bit too much of Clichéstorm. Sure, Annie was extremely likable and goofy, but then again, so was Hilda in Ysavvryl's story.
    I've never read that fic but I do know Ysavvryl is well known around here.

    That is, until the bombshell. The twist that Annie was dying was absolutely out of nowhere in the best way possible. The almost dream-like nature of her meeting with Kyurem and their conversation could be easily equated to a dream in a coma, or a near-death experience, and I freaking love that! That part of their conversation was easily the highlight of the two chapters for me.
    I'm glad you like the twist. I wanted to incorporate a certain disease I've dealt with in a family member, and Annie seemed to be the perfect fit for it, as horrible as that sounds. I'm mean to my characters.

    Her "briefing" on her mission and the "wager" of sorts were also very interesting, but still simple enough to wrap my head around. Journey in Sinnoh, catch Unova pokémon, save your own life. That works. But, again, what made Annie's acceptance of the task memorable is her simple line, "I have nothing to lose." She knows it's outlandish and crazy, but she really doesn't have a choice in the matter. So freakin' cool!
    Nothing to lose indeed.

    Again, the parts of the chapter that aren't actually related to pokémon are, at least for me, the highlights. Learning how she was going to function as a trainer was good, but it's all stuff we've read before. That can't be helped, though, as most journey-fics start the same. What kept me going, though, were all the bits related to the consequences of her stroke. (By the way, you get bonus points for using a legitimate source of a prolonged coma. Nice touch.) Her dropping out of college, the constant worrying over relapses, the fact that she wouldn't want to sleep after being in a coma, it all builds her character so well!
    Thank you! I haven't experienced comas myself so I'm glad it seems to fit well.

    ...Which leads to my one issue with this chapter. The supporting characters. Admittedly, I haven't seen a whole lot of them so far, but from what's there, I'm not interested in them at all. Maybe they're just there for the beginning, but I'd love to know more about them, especially Annie's parents.
    Gregory and Nate will come back, but probably not her parents. I explore parents in another fic and it's not my favorite subject to touch.

    But really, I'm nitpicking. This is a fantastic start to a journey-fic. The premise is interesting, and Annie is probably one of the most fascinating characters I have ever seen on Serebii. I definitely want to come along for the ride. If there's a PM list, put me on it!
    Done. Thank you for commenting.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  6. #6
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    Illinois, USA
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    LOVE AND OTHER NIGHTMARES


    chapter two
    at first sight

    *

    On my own time, I visit the library. Kyurem had mentioned Unovan pokémon, right? He didn't think it was a good idea to say what species they'll be, what their personalities are or anything else. All I know is that, here in Sinnoh, Unovan species aren't common. So I sit at a hidden table in the corner and read there. I don't want to take the books out of the building in case my parents or Gregory see them. I wouldn't have an explanation for that.

    I memorize Unovan pokémon by their physical features rather than their specialties and typing. Things like that won't matter, but what if I end up with a dark-type team? Well, stranger things have been known to happen. I find out, for example, that snivy is a Unovan pokémon. I'll have to ask Gregory about his origins and traveling expertise, if we ever grow that close. He doesn't seem entertaining, but he could be a knowledgeable ally. Then again, I'm not sure if Kyurem would approve of exposing his secrets...

    In the midst of my thoughts I skip a page. I turn back, am surprised by how emotionless these pictures look, yet there's some variety. There's a black and white dancing pokémon wearing bows. Next in line are her evolutions, followed by a green ball of psychic power that reminds me of jell-o. And then—a water- and flying-type pokémon? Fighting an electric-type with that thing would be a nightmare, but an interesting challenge. With the countless choices here, though, I can't foresee a specific partner or team.

    I close the book and sigh. I'm leaving tomorrow. Everything from here on out will be due to luck, or fate, whichever exists. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet.

    *

    As promised, I confront my younger sister before I go. I'm ready to walk out the door at a moment's notice, with sneakers strapped on, backpack closed tight and a pokéball in hand. I do this because I'm expecting my sister to fall on her knees, begging me to stay like the little kid she no longer is. Ah, well. What will be will be, I think, and I call Renee downstairs.

    “You're leaving already?” she says, her voice quiet. She's putting her blonde hair in a bun, but at the realization she lets it fall lazily on her shoulders.

    “Yeah. Gotta go before it's dark.”

    “It's nine in the morning, Annie.”

    “Tell me about it.”

    Renee manages a small smile. She walks down the last set of stairs and stops at the railing, holding on to it for dear life. “I can't wait to go on my own pokémon journey someday.”

    “Start at twenty. You can be a late bloomer like me. They'll all look at you like you're tough at first, then when they see you have just a caterpie, they'll deadpan.”

    “I'd be embarrassed, actually...” Renee says, blushing.

    I fidget with the pokéball in my hand. “I'm ready for it,” I say, and I'm not even sure what I mean. I'm being myself for the sake of my sister—random and (hopefully) amusing.

    “Good to know you won't let them bring you down,” Renee says. I can see the tears coming. “Seriously...”

    “Hey, now. Don't cry.” But it's too late. Renee's sobbing and close to hyperventilating from the pressure of saying goodbye. I sigh. If my sister ever went on a journey, how would she deal with accidents? How would she deal with in-the-moment dangers? I want to stay and see Renee's confidence grow, but I don't have the time. “I'd like to think that the worst is over. So I don't see what you're crying about. Gonna miss me? Fine! Write letters to me and invest in a flying-type to send them to me. Sleep in my room if you want to.”

    “I-I can do that?” Renee says, sniffling.

    “Yeah. Why not?”

    “Just last month you said—”

    “Shush. Forget about that. That was just me showing some sisterly love.”

    “In the worst way possible...”

    “Exactly.” I pause. “Did you know we had a deerling once?”

    “No.”

    “I don't remember much either. You were even younger. But I bet I used to be mean and tell it to knock you over when you were learning to walk. Sorry about that.”

    “Annie!” Renee gasps.

    I laugh. I set my belongings down, knowing I'll have to pick them back up in a minute. I hug my sister for a long time, squeeze her, then let her go. “I'll keep you guys updated,” I say. I know I'm lying, but I can't help but reassure her. “When you meet my pokémon, you'll be glad I was gone. They'll be the cutest things you've ever seen.”

    “Caterpie aren't cute.”

    “Says you.” In truth, I don't think a caterpie could be all that menacing. I'm safe. “Well, I guess I'll be going now... I already said good-bye to Mom and Dad, so...”

    Renee nods and runs upstairs to hide her face from further embarrassment. I shake my head. When I saw Renee for the first time after waking up, the meeting hadn't been as happy as I thought. Renee's eyes sparkled, but she anticipated that I'd leave again. And I'm not the type to send messages home or call every day... Maybe I could try harder and make exceptions, but my hands are full and I haven't even stepped out the door.

    For Renee and my parents, it will be as if I never woke up to begin with.

    *

    Route 202, my first destination, my first travel escapade, isn't as daunting as it should be. In fact, it's downright annoying, because I'm challenged to a battle right away.

    “Hey!” a young boy calls to me almost as soon as I see the route sign. He runs up to me, chimchar in tow. Oh, no. That ball of fire behind him tells me he’s looking for a pokémon battle, I just know it. I know the rules: eye contact and a verbal challenge means I have to battle or give up my money.

    “Oh, hey,” I say, hoping my disinterest will encourage him to go away.

    “I just got my starter! What about you?” He keeps running up to me, then stops short and stares at me. “Oh... You seem a little older…”

    “How old are you, kid?” I smirk at him. Maybe my age can be an intimidating factor.

    “Ten.”

    “I’m twenty. Respect your elders, please.”

    “But I want to battle someone! Char Char is so new, and…”

    “Wait.” I reach forward with my arm and place my hand over his mouth. “Char Char?”

    The boy, with his mouth covered, looks frightened. I let go and he stammers, “M-My starter… My chimchar.”

    The boy's worse than Gregory, it seems. “Uh huh. Well, kid, I have no pokémon, so move along now.”

    The boy’s confidence comes back. “But I challenged you to a battle! You can’t turn that down.”

    “Ah, let me pull out an imaginary pokéball, release my imaginary pokémon and we can have an imaginary battle. How does that sound?”

    “Uh,” the boy falters. “Sounds like you owe me some money.”

    “Is that how it works?” I say. I finger my wallet in my pocket and realize I only have four hundred pokédollars on me. I’ll have to forfeit half of that. It was smart of me to leave some of it in the bank in case something like this happened. Not that I expected something like this to happen almost immediately.

    “Yeah! You didn’t know that? And you’re old!”

    “How am I supposed to fight without any pokémon, kid?

    “You don’t. You give me money.”

    What a cunning twelve-year-old boy. What a devious, conniving, evil twelve-year-old boy. I hand him the two hundred pokédollars and shoo him away.

    When he disappears with a disappointed chimchar, I take out my cell phone and find Gregory’s number. I call him and wait for the phone to ring. My not-so-stealthy self tails the young boy in case I find out I wasn’t supposed to give him my money after all.

    Finally, Gregory answers.

    “Annie? Are you in trouble already? You know you’re supposed to use your pokédex emergency button for that—”

    “No! I’m not in trouble,” I say, rolling my eyes. As if I’d get into trouble within five minutes of leaving Sandgem Town. “I think I just got robbed.”

    “Annie, getting robbed means you are in trouble—”

    “I mean… Is it legal to take someone’s money if they don’t have pokémon?”

    “Oh. No starter yet?”

    Well, he sure calmed down fast. “Nope.”

    “Ah. Well, it’s legal. Sorry Why don’t you have a—”

    I end the call before Gregory has a chance to ask me about my starter.

    We had agreed to keep in contact as I travel. He explained to me that he has a psychic-type and can teleport to me in an instant as long as his pokémon has an item of clothing to track my scent. I left behind a pair of shorts that no longer fit and besides, it's too cold for shorts, anyway.

    “You can summon me, day or night, in case of an emergency,” he had said.

    Well, isn't this an emergency? I need a pokémon—and fast. For me, it's harder than it sounds. I can't think of anyone else on a journey who's this restricted. Six pokémon in this giant, vast region are waiting for me. They could be anywhere. I might be broke by the time I find my starter....

    I wonder if I can catch a temporary starter until I find a pokémon from Unova. I hadn't been able to ask Kyurem these questions and now I'm regretting it and cursing Arceus under my breath. Then there's the matter of commitment. When you catch a pokémon, you keep it. You raise it and take care of it. You don't dump it when it seems convenient.

    ...Geez. Morals and ethics are terrible things. I have to do this on my own.

    I start my search. Sandgem Town's sandy terrain gives way to a forest-like area with shifting patterns of light. I look to the sun-dappled sky, shielding my eyes with my hands, to see starly flying in a group and singing their morning calls. I see some perched on scattered oak tree branches, too, and I stretch to see if I can find a different flying-type among them. There isn't one.

    Gregory warned me about tall grass. Dive in and prepare to meet a horde of pokémon. Well, I'm more prepared now than I've ever been, if I do say so myself. I meet some bidoof, which choose to gnaw on my shoes instead of fleeing. I kick them off as gently as possible. Their teeth chatter with vigor and I'm afraid for my feet, even if they're covered with shoes.

    I run away and ram straight into a tree trunk covered with moss. It feels sticky and wet beneath my fingers, and I use a water bottle from my backpack to wash it off. There's no way I'm going to catch my starter with dirty fingers.

    Dirty clothes are inevitable, though. So I take desperate measures and crawl through the grass on my hands and knees, hoping there's not a small bug-type I miss. Instead I bump into an unsuspecting shinx when I'm not paying attention and I take a scratch to the face. How could it not have heard my rustling? Not to mention the cries I let out after my knees dropped against sharp pine cones and hard acorns.

    “Great,” I say, rubbing away the slight blood on my face. “One hour into my journey and I've been robbed by trainers and attacked by wild pokémon...”

    My voice trails off as I hear a musical instrument. It sounds like the violin, or maybe like the cello. I don't get to figure it out, since the noise stops when I finish speaking. I say nonsense words and the music goes on, a melodic masterpiece if I've ever heard one. I move through the route, looking for the source, and eventually I run into a kricketot.

    “You're not from Unova,” I say, disappointed.

    The pokémon's antennae perk up and rub together, creating more music. I hum along and the kricketot seems joyful and content with me until the two of us encounter a battle. The trainers are yelling and the kricketot seems to like the loudness, so it leaves me alone and joins the chaos.

    “I'm going to look stupid doing this, but...” I say to myself, then I get down to business. I look under a grey rock, surprised by its heaviness despite its small size. There's nothing there but a group of caterpie, which makes me feel homesick.

    I avoid rocks after that.

    Climbing trees is another option, but I snap a fragile branch and fall a few feet. I'm bruised but I try once more. I'm in stunky territory now, scared out of my wits. To get out of there I have to give a long winded speech about how there's some delicious pecha berries on the bushes below. They listen, and I get the hell out of there.

    The sparkling azure of a nearby stream invites me next. I step in and swim with my clothes on, as I don't need anyone to steal them. All the water-types are from Sinnoh. At least their water gun attacks are ineffective here.

    It takes days of avoiding trainers, eating by myself and stalking water-types for easy, clean drinks. But I finally find my starter.

    The pokémon—another insect—stands on eight legs. Its body is mostly colored a reddish shade of purple, aside from its green abdomen and black rings randomly spread around. Its yellow-and-black eyes are dull and the hump on its back reminds me of old people.

    I recognize it as a venipede.

    The venipede is relaxing by a tree trunk, feeling moss with its antennae, as if there's something interesting about the texture or smell. I suck in a breath, afraid to exhale and scare it away. It could scamper up the tree and trap itself, but I'm too slow to catch up. And if it runs into the bushes, then I'm doomed.

    “I knew he wouldn't let me go on forever without a pokémon, but what do I do now?” I whisper to myself. It's a bad habit I've developed after being on my own and stuck in my own mind for too long.

    The venipede stops moving. “I'm not stupid. I can hear you,” it says. I assume the bug-type is a male due to its deeper voice. I hadn't expected pokémon to have individual voices like humans.

    In fact, I didn't expect to understand pokémon at all.

    “Y-Yeah... I mean, I don't think you're stupid, but sometimes I do this thing...” I trail off. I'm talking to a pokémon and I'm making myself look ridiculous at the same time.

    “Uh-huh. Who's he?”

    “He?”

    “Whatever asshole you were just mumbling about.”

    His profanity throws me off even more. Already I can see he's crass. If I can unravel his secrets right away, I'd make great progress...

    Before that, I have to answer him.

    Should I tell him about Kyurem? Lying isn't the way to begin a friendship, but there's the issue of secrecy... Well, to hell with it. “You know. Kyurem,” I say. At best, he'll think I'm crazy. At worst, he'll take me seriously and Kyurem will punish me.

    Gambling isn't my strong suit, but I get lucky.

    “Oh, so you're one of those religious fanatics that think Arceus is the only fucking thing worth living for,” he says.

    “You know me...” I say, almost breathing a sigh of relief.

    “I don't know you. And I'd rather not. Besides, what makes you think Kyurem is male?”

    I know legendaries are usually genderless. How can I explain that Kyurem had sounded male? That would be a dead giveaway.

    The venipede spares me this train of thought and continues, “I'd prefer to think of Genesect as female myself.”

    “Why?”

    “Her figure reminds me of a human female.” He stares at me. “Much like yourself, actually. ...Now you just ruined the image for me. Fuck you, too.”

    I smile at him. “You're welcome.”

    “So are you going to whip out your almighty team and fight me or what? Trainers like you always show off to us weaker species.”

    I emerge from my hiding spot and face him. “What makes you think I have pokémon?”

    “You can understand my speech. Only veteran trainers are capable of that.”

    “I-I actually don't have any pokémon...” I admit. I lift up my arm in a victory pose. “But I have my fists! And my spirit.”

    The venipede laughs. “You're a loser coming to take on more than you can handle. Well, you
    have to fight me if you want me on your team, which is a fucking joke, because you have nothing to fight me with. Not to mention I'm not afraid to kill you.”

    I huff. The venipede is also dangerously perceptive. We've known each other for ten minutes at most and he's already threatened my life. I take a few steps back. My mortality is what hurts most, after all. Kyurem hadn't made this mission seem dangerous or threatening, but now that I think about it, it's meant to be this way. This is a huge risk I'm taking and I'm not even sure if it's worth it...

    The venipede is a bug-type, though. They aren't known to be that powerful, and if I'm in deep trouble, I can call Gregory as a last resort.

    I regain my confidence and nod.

    “Hah! Suit yourself.” His antennae perk up eagerly. He had been using those when I found him too... If I could restrain them somehow...

    He lunges at me. Since he has more legs, it makes sense for him to kick off easier, but I'm not prepared. I'm barely able to dodge him by the time he reaches me with his take down attack charged. He isn't able to stop himself before he crashes into a tree. With this I see my only chance of winning. I have to wear him down or make him hurt himself. It's a battle of endurance.

    The venipede uses a long range attack next. Out of his antennae come two sharp needles aimed toward me. I drop to the ground and stay there, hoping he can't control their direction. With a little training, he might be able to, but as it is, they disappear in the underbrush behind me.

    “You're such a pro at dodging,” the venipede says, rolling his eyes. “When will you do something?”

    “Uh...” It's a fair question, one I should ask myself. I don't have special powers or body structures that do amazing things if I will them to. I only have my brain and even that is limited.

    “Gonna pray to Arceus? You should know there's no poison-type legendary. There's just me. How's that for preaching?”

    “Poison-type? You've got to be kidding me!” I jump back to my feet, shivering at the revelation. Why hadn't I studied Unovan pokémon like I'd study math? “I've been using what I learned in school to figure you out at first glance. Physical appearance—not remarkable! No grandiose thoughts, no religious fantasies—no signs of mania! But you said you would kill me... I guess you'd do that with poison.”

    The venipede looks at me. “Huh? You say something?”

    “Yeah! You were... Oh,” I say, seeing now what the venipede has been working on during my rant. He had put down black spikes around my feet and in the rest of the clearing we were in. The spikes are stuck in the ground and anyway, I'm not sure I want to pick them up. Suddenly I wish I had stayed home and that Kyurem had left me in a coma.

    “Toxic spikes,” the venipede says. “Touch them and you'll die a slow death. Step over them and I'll lay more.”

    “How do poison-types even exist? Seriously... How do I get out of this?” I say, thinking aloud again.

    “You don't.” He smirks. “I'll be going now.”

    “Wait!” I cry. He doesn't listen. I call again as he crawls away. “Wait! I need you!”

    Another sinister laugh. “Good fucking joke. Try another one.”

    “I mean it,” I say, quieter this time. This isn't just another encounter. This is something like fate or destiny or whatever word people usually attach to these incidents. At first sight, I know we can succeed. “I need you.”

    The venipede comes back to me, his movements sluggish. “You know I could stick a poison sting in your heart and you'd die in a minute or less?”

    There's a reason he's setting these snares. There's a reason he cusses out of anger. I just have to find that reason and pray to Arceus I don't die in the process. “Yeah, but you haven't done it yet,” I say.

    “Don't test me,” he says, but he won't look at me.

    It hits me, then. “You're afraid to kill me, aren't you?”

    “Don't test me!” he says again. “There are things worse than death, and not all poison is fatal.”

    There are worse things in life than being surrounded by a lethal pokémon attack, but at the moment, I'm having trouble thinking of some. I find it hard to believe that my entire life belongs to this creature and he doesn't even know the sentiment's true extent. I can let the venipede disappear so I can escape, or I can continue to battle and die. Either way, I lose.

    “Just come with me,” I say, inching closer to the circle's edge. I take out a pokéball and reach out my hand. “I noticed you can't control your movements very well. I can fix that.”

    “I'm sure.”

    “...I can train you. You're stuck if you stay in a forest like this, aren't you? And you won't live forever either.” This sounds familiar. Limited times, limited abilities. I try not to cry as I continue, “I can make you stronger. I swear it.”

    The venipede could say one thing and mean the opposite. Only the pokéball can answer. I throw it at him and watch as he's enveloped in a red light. I can feel my adrenaline running wild as the pokéball shakes once, twice and then... it stops. The toxic spikes around me disappear as well, and my immediate reaction is to fall on the ground. I need to come to terms with what just happened before releasing my starter.

    “My starter,” I say. “Kephi...”

    *

    “Kephi? What kind of fucking name is that? Sounds girly.” That's his greeting when I let him out of his pokéball. At least it's not another threat. I'll have to work on the swearing, though.

    “What?” I reply, dumbfounded.

    “I can hear you from inside the pokéball,” Kephi says, his voice slow, as if I'm having trouble hearing. “That's what you called me before you fell asleep. The bugs picked at your skin while you were lying there.”

    “Don't make me return you,” I say with a wave of my hand. The minimized pokéball in my hand makes me feel that much safer. If his emotions go haywire, I can control them in a flash. “If that's what I called you, then that's your name! Splendid. It rhymes with spaghetti. If you've ever having an existential crisis, just remember that important fact.”

    Kephi snorts in response. “Because you don't have enough brain cells to think of a proper nickname while you're awake,” he retorts.

    It's not far from the truth. Kyurem, with all its strength and power, couldn't have possibly restored the decayed human cells in my body. What the legendary did, though, is unclear. I don't prefer to question it, lest I want to end up back in the emergency room, my family crying by my side.

    It occurs to me that Kephi could be there, too, now that he's mine. The thought makes me smile. Not that the bug- and poison-type particularly cares for me, but he seems to have faith in an honor code I'll have to learn about. That honor code is all I have to hold on to, anyway, as I walk into poisonous territory.

    “Hey!” he cries. “Look at me when I'm talking to you, dumbass!”

    “Huh? You say something?” I say, mocking him. “My neck would break if I had to look down all the time.”

    Kephi only mumbles to himself. His pride and his ego are bigger than his body parts combined. If he evolves, of course, he could tower over me, but then I might not be able to control his actions as well. With more speed and accuracy, he could trounce me with ease. I need more teammates. I need a full team of six, and by then I hope it'll be a happy team with no clashing personalities or interests. I have a hunch that surprises are waiting for me, however.

    On the way to Jubilife City, I have Kephi train against wild pokémon. He's under the impression that I want him to get stronger, but I want to see what happens when his emotions flare. The amount of effort he puts into attacks tells me that he's angry. He's cunning in the way he performs tricks and lays traps to defeat his enemies. He guilty about something I can't name, because no matter what he says, he won't kill. Not even for food.

    I test that last idea. We're five minutes away from the city—I can see the skyscrapers and the sun setting behind us—but I want to know. He's beating a kricketot senseless and screaming, “Damn piece of trash! How does this feel? I'll rip apart your organs and roast them above a fire-type's hot ass!”

    “Okay,” I say, clapping my hands to get his attention. “Finish it!”

    He stops and turns to me. His confused expression makes me regret my command. “Finish what? This thing doesn't have an ounce of courage left in it.”

    “You said it, not me,” I say, pretending I don't mind. “That you'd tear him into pieces, that is.”

    “Already done.”

    I observe his handiwork and try not to cringe. The kricketot's eyes are black and his stomach has a dent in it. “He looks well put together to me. A bit bruised, but otherwise fine,” I say. Next, I have to make him think of a further goal. “Are you hungry?”

    “No,” Kephi says, looking back and forth between his prey and his trainer.

    “Well, I'm hungry,” I prod.

    “Get your own damn food.”

    “Nuh uh. I'm your trainer, remember? You don't serve me, per se, but... you could at least feed me.”

    He shakes his head. “Too close to the city. I'm not an idiot. Humans prepare and process pokémon meat before they eat it.”

    That chunk of knowledge is important, but I can't put my finger on it yet. At any rate, I know he won't kill—not for himself, and not for me. It's a huge relief. I press the button on his pokéball and the object grows in my palm. “We'll get food. You did a good job,” I say, and with that, he's gone.

    *

    I come from a quaint town where adults encourage gossip and social interaction, but I'm greeted by a distant Jubilife City gatekeeper. The gatekeeper waves me away, telling me vague things about the city. Jubilife City was carved from a mountain, so I should look out for pits in the roads and falling boulders near the route entrances. I thank the gatekeeper with my widest smile, determined not to let the dreariness effect me.

    To my left is the global terminal, where trainers can gather and trade pokémon if they aren't satisfied with what they have. I can't imagine trading Kephi to an unsuspecting trainer. I turn away. Straight ahead is the television station—the satellites on top are indicative of that. That could be interesting, but not now. I go to the Pokémon Center instead.

    It's my first time in a Pokémon Center lobby as an official trainer. Gregory had gone to great lengths to receive my training license from Professor Rowan. I held on to it for dear life when I saw it. The last thing I needed was to get into trouble with the police while a legendary pokémon watched me from afar. Now I fumble with it in my pocket as I approach the counter.

    The pink-haired Nurse Joy, at least, is eager as ever. “How can I help you?” she asks with a smile.

    “Hi! I need a room for the night,” I say, not bothering to make small talk. I need to get Kephi in another room as soon as possible so that I have the chance to ask a few questions. “And I need my venipede healed.”

    “All right,” she says, taking Kephi's pokéball.

    Nurse Joy is about to leave when I intercept. “Do you mind? I'm kind of in a hurry. Your chansey can take care of him, right?”

    Chansey is Nurse Joy's assistant pokémon, capable of doing whatever a human nurse can do. It has a human-like figure of sorts, and most are raised in a hospital setting from birth.

    “Oh, yes,” she says. “One moment.”

    I tap the counter with my fingers and wait. Kephi might hate me already if he knows what I'm thinking. I keep my thoughts away from him and I keep my voice low when Nurse Joy returns.

    “I didn't mean to be rude,” I start. “I don't want my venipede to know I'm talking to you.”

    “Ah! Most trainers don't realize that pokémon can hear from inside their pokéballs. I'm impressed.”

    “Yeah...” I don't mention how I know pokémon language for some reason.

    Curiosity forms on the nurse's face. I suppose it was inevitable. “How come you don't want your pokémon to...?” She trails off, hushing herself effectively.

    I look around. The lobby is empty. I motion for Nurse Joy to join me on one of the couches in the corner. When we're seated, I go on, “This might sound stupid, but it's true. I didn't know Kephi was part poison-type when I was catching him.”

    “Does that bother you?”

    “I... I think so. I mean, I'm not sure.” Kephi has more experience than he lets on, but I don't know how to construct that terrible idea in a sentence. “I just wanted to know... Is there a way to, like, I don't know... Can you suppress his poison-type moves? For protective reasons.”

    Nurse Joy folds her hands in her lap. “Ma'am,” she starts, her frown obvious, “even if that kind of operation were available, I wouldn't recommend it. I could see that as an extreme breach of trust, which would breed resentment between pokémon and trainer. That kind of resentment usually leads to the pokémon being released, or the pokémon acts out.”

    “So the answer is no.”

    “That's right.”

    “It's just... He can't control his poison-type attacks very well,” I say. The toxic spikes had disappeared upon his return, and he hadn't simply thrown a poison needle in my eye. Something had to be wrong. “I don't want to worry about him every single second of every single day.”

    “Well, if an attempt is made, the likelihood of your venipede surviving would be slim. And anyway, you'd be hard pressed to find a nurse in this region who would feel obligated to perform that kind of operation.”

    I lay my head down on the back of the couch and sigh. “He's gonna be a handful. What have I gotten myself into?”

    “I can't say I see venipede everyday, or new trainers with poison-types...”

    “Exactly. What have I gotten myself into?”

    “Make sure he thinks you're stronger, even if you're not. Collect the gym badges and he'll respect you more. If you need to, release him and catch him in a specialized pokéball from Jubilife Condominiums. And always carry antidotes as a precaution. They'll cure any type of poison,” Nurse Joy explains.

    That's helpful to know, but it's easier said than done. We're silent after that, and soon the chansey comes back with Kephi scuttling on the floor. He demands food. Nurse Joy hasn't heard him talk up until now, but she's not surprised by his foul mouth. She gives the room key to me and says goodnight to the both of us.

    The room is comfortable enough. It's nothing too extravagant, but it works for one or two nights. Kephi asks me where the hell the food is and I pull it out of my backpack.

    “When did you buy that?” he asks. “We went straight to the Pokémon Center!”

    “Uh—”

    “You had this the whole time, didn't you?”

    Again, he's too perceptive. “I bought it while you were being healed.”

    He doesn't believe me, but he doesn't have a comeback either. I throw the poffins and berries on the floor, too tired to care about the mess I'll have to clean in the morning. It's been an exhausting day. I stay up long enough to return Kephi to his pokéball. I recall sleeping with Nate, but he's a calm and controlled pet. Kephi is a spiteful, hostile... poison-type pokémon. I almost think of him as a monster, but he's a wimpy bug-type at the same time. I just don't have a grasp on him. Not yet.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 12th March 2015 at 3:36 PM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  7. #7
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    Chapter one is kind of an interesting, transitional chapter. I was surprised to find out that Annie's illness was kind of a one-time traumatic event, rather than something chronic. The way she was describing things in the prologue made it sound like she was conscious and aware of her illness--able to sit up, even. Here we learn that she's been in a coma after a stroke. Was the stroke just the recent culmination of health issues she's had for most of her life, or was the coma what Annie was actually referring to in the prologue?

    In any case, it's nice to see a bit of how Annie gets along with her family. I imagine they'll be more important later on than they normally are in a typical trainer journey, although in what way I can't predict yet. Annie spends a lot more time thinking about them, even when they aren't there, than the average journeyfic protagonist, anyway.

    Like I said, this is a fairly short, lackadaisical chapter. Nothing wrong with that; it's mostly about characterization and giving us a bit of a better understanding of Annie's life situation before she moves on to her actual journey. Which I suppose I'll get right into...

    I guess Kyurem's only given Annie the ability to speak with the pokémon he wants her to catch? Otherwise it seems like she ought to have understood what the kricketot was saying or chatted with Nate a bit.

    I don't understand why Annie thinks Jubilife is full of distant people. It's not that it wouldn't be, necessarily, only that I don't get anything from the narration to indicate why Annie thinks that's the case. The gatekeeper being kind of weird seems like too little evidence to base a statement about the whole city on! What about Jubilife and its people makes Annie think they're distant?

    The conversation with Nurse Joy came across as very strange to me, for two reasons.

    The first and less serious is the part where the nurse asks if Annie's worried because poison-types are often used for evil. To me this appears to come out of nowhere; I don't understand the logic of asking that at all. It would be like someone being nervous about holding a gun and someone else asking, "Oh, are you uncomfortable because a lot of people use guns to commit crimes?" The thing itself is inherently dangerous; it seems weird to jump to "well she's worried because other people do bad things with this" rather than "well she's worried because she's worried about what this thing might do to her/is capable of." (Also there's apparently some kind of ingrained prejudice against poison-types? There's nothing wrong with it, but I found it surprising because there's nothing in canon to indicate that and it's all handled very matter-of-factly here, like it's something you should be expecting.)

    More pressingly, though is the part where Annie asks about the de-poisonifying operation. That strikes me as a pretty horrifying thing to ask; Annie's talking about dramatically and irrevocably changing something about her pokémon, without asking him whether it's okay first. Like, that's a pretty giant step to make. I can dig it if it's just that Annie's really scared and this seems a logical course of action to her, even though it's really very wrong. But the thing is, the narrative didn't really treat it as the awful, shocking thing it sounds like to me, so if that's what you're going for, it didn't really work out for me. (Or maybe it just didn't strike you yourself as being all that big a deal! That's fine, I'm just trying to get across why I was so thrown off by it.)

    It'd be one thing if Annie had first told Nurse Joy something like, "Kephi seems really unhappy about the fact that he's poison-typed and I was wondering if there was some way to help him with that" or otherwise indicate that Kephi was the one who was interested in somehow not being a poison-type anymore. But she doesn't do anything to justify it, and based on what the nurse has just said, she's assuming that Annie is the one who's uncomfortable with the situation. That turns her question into something along the lines of a person saying, "You know, I'm kind of uncomfortable with the fact that my friend is male. Do you think it would be possible to get a sex change for him so he wouldn't be male anymore?" Kephi's typing strikes me as something that is straight-up not her business and what she's proposing to do about it is kind of horrifyingly invasive. It doesn't matter whether she actually intends to go through with it or not; just asking the question and giving the indication that you're thinking about the situation that way is really awful. Remember that Annie's given the nurse no indication that Kephi himself has any problems with being a poison-type, or even that this procedure would be performed with his consent.

    Buuuut nonetheless the nurse doesn't seem all that flustered by it; she says she could see it as a breach of trust, which, yeah, kind of a gigantic breach of trust? I wouldn't get over someone else scheduling me for surgery that I didn't want in a hurry, that much is for sure. The fact that the nurse treats this as a legitimate question, though, without any indication that she's shocked or even a little put off by the question, makes it seem like the narrative agrees that this is totally a sensible thing to ask, and unfortunately it's just too risky for Annie to actually try it. Again, if you were going for "Annie has made a big error in judgment here," that would be one way to indicate it. And like I said, I don't think you were at all intending for the line to come across that way, but it was definitely a big "do not want" moment for me, so I thought I'd mention it.

    The other reason why the line gave me trouble is it seemed to come out of left field. I didn't realize that Annie was that seriously bothered by the fact that Kephi was a poison-type. She's surprised to learn that he's a poison-type, but doesn't sound really horrified by it, and shortly thereafter she's going on about how much she loves him, banters with him after catching him, and seems to be training him fairly normally. With that in mind, to have her start going behind his back, asking whether Nurse Joy can remove his poison-typing seems like a big shift in attitude. When did she get to be that afraid of him, and how did she seize on the idea of removing his poison typing to make that problem go away? By the end of the chapter, Annie states that she "almost thinks of him as a monster," but I don't get this sense of fear and revulsion from her behavior at all.

    It's not that Annie doesn't have reason to be worried about Kephi; he did say he was going to kill her, after all, and didn't hesitate to attack, even if Annie's now convinced herself that he wouldn't actually murder her or anyone else. And if you wanted to get across how terrified she was, asking nurse joy to get rid of his poison sacs would definitely be a fine way to show that! It's just that Annie's behavior during the rest of the chapter doesn't line up with the idea that she's really and truly afraid of the venipede, at least as far as I can see.

    Kephi himself I like, though. If you were worried about your characters sounding the same, it's certainly not a problem here; at least in this chapter, Kephi carries his own voice just fine. He makes a great starting pokémon in that I can see him making a lot of waves with Annie as well as the rest of her pokémon in the upcoming chapters.

    I see from your signature that you've got Annie's team all planned out (or... at least partially planned out). That elekid has me curious; perhaps she ends up catching some pokémon besides the ones Kyurem mandated after all?

    OH NEVER MIND

        Spoiler:


    I guess after that I have a better idea of how the story's going to work out in the long term, but in the short term there's still plenty of questions left to answer. Keep it up.

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek View Post
    Chapter one is kind of an interesting, transitional chapter. I was surprised to find out that Annie's illness was kind of a one-time traumatic event, rather than something chronic. The way she was describing things in the prologue made it sound like she was conscious and aware of her illness--able to sit up, even. Here we learn that she's been in a coma after a stroke. Was the stroke just the recent culmination of health issues she's had for most of her life, or was the coma what Annie was actually referring to in the prologue?

    In any case, it's nice to see a bit of how Annie gets along with her family. I imagine they'll be more important later on than they normally are in a typical trainer journey, although in what way I can't predict yet. Annie spends a lot more time thinking about them, even when they aren't there, than the average journeyfic protagonist, anyway.

    Like I said, this is a fairly short, lackadaisical chapter. Nothing wrong with that; it's mostly about characterization and giving us a bit of a better understanding of Annie's life situation before she moves on to her actual journey. Which I suppose I'll get right into...

    I guess Kyurem's only given Annie the ability to speak with the pokémon he wants her to catch? Otherwise it seems like she ought to have understood what the kricketot was saying or chatted with Nate a bit.

    I don't understand why Annie thinks Jubilife is full of distant people. It's not that it wouldn't be, necessarily, only that I don't get anything from the narration to indicate why Annie thinks that's the case. The gatekeeper being kind of weird seems like too little evidence to base a statement about the whole city on! What about Jubilife and its people makes Annie think they're distant?

    The conversation with Nurse Joy came across as very strange to me, for two reasons.

    The first and less serious is the part where the nurse asks if Annie's worried because poison-types are often used for evil. To me this appears to come out of nowhere; I don't understand the logic of asking that at all. It would be like someone being nervous about holding a gun and someone else asking, "Oh, are you uncomfortable because a lot of people use guns to commit crimes?" The thing itself is inherently dangerous; it seems weird to jump to "well she's worried because other people do bad things with this" rather than "well she's worried because she's worried about what this thing might do to her/is capable of." (Also there's apparently some kind of ingrained prejudice against poison-types? There's nothing wrong with it, but I found it surprising because there's nothing in canon to indicate that and it's all handled very matter-of-factly here, like it's something you should be expecting.)

    More pressingly, though is the part where Annie asks about the de-poisonifying operation. That strikes me as a pretty horrifying thing to ask; Annie's talking about dramatically and irrevocably changing something about her pokémon, without asking him whether it's okay first. Like, that's a pretty giant step to make. I can dig it if it's just that Annie's really scared and this seems a logical course of action to her, even though it's really very wrong. But the thing is, the narrative didn't really treat it as the awful, shocking thing it sounds like to me, so if that's what you're going for, it didn't really work out for me. (Or maybe it just didn't strike you yourself as being all that big a deal! That's fine, I'm just trying to get across why I was so thrown off by it.)

    It'd be one thing if Annie had first told Nurse Joy something like, "Kephi seems really unhappy about the fact that he's poison-typed and I was wondering if there was some way to help him with that" or otherwise indicate that Kephi was the one who was interested in somehow not being a poison-type anymore. But she doesn't do anything to justify it, and based on what the nurse has just said, she's assuming that Annie is the one who's uncomfortable with the situation. That turns her question into something along the lines of a person saying, "You know, I'm kind of uncomfortable with the fact that my friend is male. Do you think it would be possible to get a sex change for him so he wouldn't be male anymore?" Kephi's typing strikes me as something that is straight-up not her business and what she's proposing to do about it is kind of horrifyingly invasive. It doesn't matter whether she actually intends to go through with it or not; just asking the question and giving the indication that you're thinking about the situation that way is really awful. Remember that Annie's given the nurse no indication that Kephi himself has any problems with being a poison-type, or even that this procedure would be performed with his consent.

    Buuuut nonetheless the nurse doesn't seem all that flustered by it; she says she could see it as a breach of trust, which, yeah, kind of a gigantic breach of trust? I wouldn't get over someone else scheduling me for surgery that I didn't want in a hurry, that much is for sure. The fact that the nurse treats this as a legitimate question, though, without any indication that she's shocked or even a little put off by the question, makes it seem like the narrative agrees that this is totally a sensible thing to ask, and unfortunately it's just too risky for Annie to actually try it. Again, if you were going for "Annie has made a big error in judgment here," that would be one way to indicate it. And like I said, I don't think you were at all intending for the line to come across that way, but it was definitely a big "do not want" moment for me, so I thought I'd mention it.

    The other reason why the line gave me trouble is it seemed to come out of left field. I didn't realize that Annie was that seriously bothered by the fact that Kephi was a poison-type. She's surprised to learn that he's a poison-type, but doesn't sound really horrified by it, and shortly thereafter she's going on about how much she loves him, banters with him after catching him, and seems to be training him fairly normally. With that in mind, to have her start going behind his back, asking whether Nurse Joy can remove his poison-typing seems like a big shift in attitude. When did she get to be that afraid of him, and how did she seize on the idea of removing his poison typing to make that problem go away? By the end of the chapter, Annie states that she "almost thinks of him as a monster," but I don't get this sense of fear and revulsion from her behavior at all.

    It's not that Annie doesn't have reason to be worried about Kephi; he did say he was going to kill her, after all, and didn't hesitate to attack, even if Annie's now convinced herself that he wouldn't actually murder her or anyone else. And if you wanted to get across how terrified she was, asking nurse joy to get rid of his poison sacs would definitely be a fine way to show that! It's just that Annie's behavior during the rest of the chapter doesn't line up with the idea that she's really and truly afraid of the venipede, at least as far as I can see.

    Kephi himself I like, though. If you were worried about your characters sounding the same, it's certainly not a problem here; at least in this chapter, Kephi carries his own voice just fine. He makes a great starting pokémon in that I can see him making a lot of waves with Annie as well as the rest of her pokémon in the upcoming chapters.

    I see from your signature that you've got Annie's team all planned out (or... at least partially planned out). That elekid has me curious; perhaps she ends up catching some pokémon besides the ones Kyurem mandated after all?

    OH NEVER MIND

        Spoiler:


    I guess after that I have a better idea of how the story's going to work out in the long term, but in the short term there's still plenty of questions left to answer. Keep it up.
    Hey, thanks so much for commenting. I guess in my own little head canon, there's lots of stereotypes against poison-types. I think they'd be hard to handle since they're unruly and/or unable to control their attacks, etc. I guess I wanted to show that without blatantly saying, "The pokemon world thinks lowly of poison-types." It's kind of similar to how I see people on this forum say dark-types are all evil and such. I will go back and edit, though, so don't worry. I also wanted to show off that Annie is a very invasive person, but I didn't emphasize that enough, clearly.

    As for other little points, Annie's parents probably won't make an impact. Renee will, though. And yeah, Rennio and Ezrem will definitely play a role in this story, too. As for the elekid explanation, Annie justifies it by saying his evolution is from Unova, so he must be hers (plus the way she retrieves him tells her he must be hers). I'm sure you'll forget I just said that by the time it actually happens, lol.

    EDIT: Oh, and Annie's illness is... complicated? I can tell you what it is over PM if you want. It's an often-overlooked problem that develops in childhood, and, if unidentified and if the symptoms are left untreated, can lead to problems such as stroke, heart attacks, etc.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 7th November 2014 at 2:22 AM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  9. #9
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    I guess in my own little head canon, there's lots of stereotypes against poison-types. I think they'd be hard to handle since they're unruly and/or unable to control their attacks, etc. I guess I wanted to show that without blatantly saying, "The pokemon world thinks lowly of poison-types."
    That's cool, and the attitude is totally coming across. Just curious, though, why do you think that poison-types would have more trouble controlling their attacks that pokémon of other types?

    EDIT: Oh, and Annie's illness is... complicated? I can tell you what it is over PM if you want. It's an often-overlooked problem that develops in childhood, and, if unidentified and if the symptoms are left untreated, can lead to problems such as stroke, heart attacks, etc.
    That's cool. I was just confused because the prologue made it seem like she had something chronic, something that had been keeping her bedridden, while the description of the events in the first chapter made it sound more like she'd just had this stroke and fallen into a coma, without having had previous symptoms. The specific identity of the condition isn't so much what I was concerned with as that I couldn't tell whether it was something chronic or

    Which reminds me (of something completely unrelated):

    If you need to, release him and catch him in a new pokéball from Jubilife Condominiums.
    Why would catching Kephi again in a different pokéball (from anywhere) help Annie out? Or was "pokéball from Jubilife Condominiums" supposed to imply luxury ball or some other specialty brand?

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek View Post
    That's cool, and the attitude is totally coming across. Just curious, though, why do you think that poison-types would have more trouble controlling their attacks that pokémon of other types?
    It would be more of a moral problem than anything. For example, would a nice, well put together poison-type pokemon want to risk inflicting an opponent with the poison status, especially without knowing whether or not the opponent's trainer has the means/time to cure their pokemon? I mean, not all poison is lethal, but every poison has negative effects. I would imagine a morally competent pokemon not using their poison-attacks much, and thus... when they do use them... it's not easy to control. For pokemon without any ethical reasoning, I imagine they'd be blinded by whatever makes them unethical, and would blindly use any type of poison without thinking of consequences. Hope that makes sense.


    That's cool. I was just confused because the prologue made it seem like she had something chronic, something that had been keeping her bedridden, while the description of the events in the first chapter made it sound more like she'd just had this stroke and fallen into a coma, without having had previous symptoms. The specific identity of the condition isn't so much what I was concerned with as that I couldn't tell whether it was something chronic or
    The underlying problem is chronic. The stroke was merely a byproduct of that chronic illness, and the strokes can either become chronic or not depending on whether or not the underlying problem is identified. My mother unknowingly had this disease all her life and suffered 2 strokes when she was 36 before she went brain dead and passed, for example. Annie is a little luckier.

    Which reminds me (of something completely unrelated):


    Why would catching Kephi again in a different pokéball (from anywhere) help Annie out? Or was "pokéball from Jubilife Condominiums" supposed to imply luxury ball or some other specialty brand?
    Friend Ball. I forgot to mention it specifically... I suck. :~)

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


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    Fantastic chapter! I know I sound really lame with such a simple review, but I don't really have too much to comment on besides how much I liked it. I love the characterization in the story, keeping each character believable and substantial.

    However, my only qualm is the same as Negrek's. The thing with the poison came sort of out of nowhere. There wasn't really any hinting before she got to the Center that she had even thought about this, which is something you would usually dwell upon for some amount of time. And Nurse Joy's somewhat nonchalance about it seemed sort of odd. Young trainer who obviously just started her journey asks a professional health care worker to perform an operation that is fatal to the Pokémon? Even if it was an innocent question, I would have expected more reprimand from her. And the build-up for it within Annie was near nonexistent, so it really just came out of nowhere and left me wondering "Where did this even come from?"

    And you have answers for this, which is good since that indicates that you did actually think these things through, but maybe try to include things like that within the chapter. I would have loved to see these things explained in any detail within the chapter.

    But yeah, I still really enjoyed this chapter, and I can't wait for more! I noticed the Tepig in your sig and I'M SO EXCITED. I can't wait to see how that plays out, and its personality!

    Feel like you need a little more Pokemon in your life? Tune into our show!
    EPISODE 55 - SLOWPOKE HOLIDAY
    Looking for something Pokemon-related to listen to while playing through Pokemon XY? This episode is for you!!
    Released: 12/11/14


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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jstinftw! View Post
    Fantastic chapter! I know I sound really lame with such a simple review, but I don't really have too much to comment on besides how much I liked it. I love the characterization in the story, keeping each character believable and substantial.

    However, my only qualm is the same as Negrek's. The thing with the poison came sort of out of nowhere. There wasn't really any hinting before she got to the Center that she had even thought about this, which is something you would usually dwell upon for some amount of time. And Nurse Joy's somewhat nonchalance about it seemed sort of odd. Young trainer who obviously just started her journey asks a professional health care worker to perform an operation that is fatal to the Pokémon? Even if it was an innocent question, I would have expected more reprimand from her. And the build-up for it within Annie was near nonexistent, so it really just came out of nowhere and left me wondering "Where did this even come from?"

    And you have answers for this, which is good since that indicates that you did actually think these things through, but maybe try to include things like that within the chapter. I would have loved to see these things explained in any detail within the chapter.

    But yeah, I still really enjoyed this chapter, and I can't wait for more! I noticed the Tepig in your sig and I'M SO EXCITED. I can't wait to see how that plays out, and its personality!
    Thanks! And yeah, maybe I can put that section in a later chapter, after Annie dwells on it more. I'll be editing the chapters before moving forward I think, so look forward to that.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


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    Just thought I'd let you know, in between all the ORAS I'm playing, I'm really glad I found time to read through the chapters. The little edits you put in definitely make a huge difference in our understanding of Annie. The small little add-ons and tweaks are much appreciated, although I noticed a few silly typos here and there. I probably should have made note of them. I might go back and edit this post later with those typos but, nonetheless, even though I read the same three chapters, I enjoyed myself. Can't wait for the next chapter!

    Feel like you need a little more Pokemon in your life? Tune into our show!
    EPISODE 55 - SLOWPOKE HOLIDAY
    Looking for something Pokemon-related to listen to while playing through Pokemon XY? This episode is for you!!
    Released: 12/11/14


    Guess who claimed Luxray?!

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    LOVE AND OTHER NIGHTMARES


    chapter three
    playing nice

    *

    I consider Nurse Joy's advice. She's an expert, after all, having seen more pokémon species and more types of trainers than most. Her compassionate eyes, her airy voice... How could she be anything but sincere?

    So I get to work. I think I've already established dominance in Kephi's eyes, but he might be faking it until he can strike. I wouldn't put it past him, the devious little creature. I threaten to put him in his pokéball if he disobeys and I reward him with snacks if he behaves (which isn't often). He scowls at me and asks to train. I won't let him, not until he stops swearing and spewing poison on the streets for innocent people to step in. Besides, if he levels up enough to evolve, then I might lose control. It's best to keep him pacified for as long as I can, with the occasional training session to release pent up tension.

    Nurse Joy also suggested I complete the gym circuit. There's no gym leader in Jubilife City, but it's an option for the future. I never thought about what I would tell my teammates if they asked me about why I was traveling, but this would be a decent excuse. I can exercise my therapeutic techniques and heal their pain while still being a traditional trainer. It could be fun, if all goes well.

    A trip to the pokémart is necessary too. The clerk is confused when I buy handfuls of antidotes. I say I have a poison-type pokémon as a starter and then he nods. Kephi asks what the hell that's supposed to mean. I smile and continue browsing. The TM section looks tempting, but I can't risk that just yet. I can't imagine teaching Kephi an attack that could wreck the city in less than a day. I fill my backpack with more pokéballs instead, convinced that my future teammates will be just as hard to capture.

    Finally, I make my way to Jubilife Condominiums. Nurse Joy had mentioned something about catching Kephi again, as if it were that simple. She didn't know what I had gone through to catch my starter, nor had she asked. I learn about friend balls, which make a pokémon feel calm when returned. I sell my regular pokéballs, lose profit and buy the promising friend balls. I swear not to use them until I have another pokémon on the team, in case Kephi attempts to run away.

    ...I'm not sure what to do next. There's that sense of homesickness in the pit of my stomach again. It's not surprising, considering I've never left home for longer than two weeks at a time. There was that trip to Johto where I saw the famous kimono girls and Olivine City beaches. Even then, I was with my parents and Renee had just learned to walk. Kephi tells me that we need a bit of a culture shock. I agree. After asking around for a while, we find the most foreign restaurant in town.

    “This is fucking stupid,” Kephi gripes as soon as we're seated. “Why do I have sit in a baby highchair?”

    “Because I said so,” I say, taking the menu from the waiter. “The waiter demands it.”

    “Ah...” he says, shy as a mareep. “That's right.” He has a slight accent, but I can't place it.

    “Bullshit,” Kephi goes on. “They should have specialized pokémon seats. Trainers only pass by here every single—”

    “So what would you recommend?” I ask, interrupting Kephi.

    “Oh,” the waiter says. He had been listening to a venipede's complaints lest he wanted poison as a tip, or he prefers filler words. “The Cinnabar Burger is a classic. The Olivine Shrimp dinner is another favorite, or the Lumiose Steak, cooked well-done..”

    “The burger sounds nice. Get him”—I point to Kephi—“a glass of water.”

    “You drag me in here, put me in this spot, and you don't order me food.” He sighs.

    “Erm.” The waiter clears his throat. “What is your pokémon saying? He doesn't look happy.”

    “He's always pouting, especially when he's tired. Don't worry about it.” I shoo him away. He bows and complies.

    Kephi grunts, but doesn't say anything decipherable. I chalk it up to the idea that he might not be hungry and he'll be fine, but I'm definitely thinking of ways to make him swallow that water. Even if he spits it out, it should dilute some of the poison inside of him.

    ...On second thought, it might not be a good idea. If he has no poison in his body, then there's nothing to sustain him and keep him alive. Why hadn't I taken at least five courses in pokémon anatomy with Nurse Joy? Well, there would be other chances. Not that I'm willing to remain sedentary to rediscover schooling.

    When the waiter returns with our drinks and food, I try to snatch away the glass of water and knock it to the floor by accident. I give the waiter my friendliest grin, and then I say, “I need some wine.” If Kephi can get away with having poison in his body, so can I. With him, I'm invincible or something like it. Knowing Kyurem is watching solidifies this fact for me. I can see myself buying several bottles of lambrusco already, along with a decorated glass to take sips out of.

    “If you need to loosen up a little,” the waiter says, slow and deliberate, “might I suggest you visit the television station on the north end of town? A daily lottery is held around this time of day.”

    “Okay. Forget the wine. That sounds better for my health, though hazardous for my wallet,” I say as I cut up the burger and give a small portion to my pokémon. Kephi scrutinizes the burger by crawling over it, then he eats it. I don't dare ask what he's doing.

    And that's how we end up at the Jubilife TV Station less than an hour later. Before we leave, I give a generous tip, making sure Kephi doesn't touch it out of spite.

    *

    On the way to the Jubilife TV Station, we see three men dressed as clowns giving away free cotton candy. The clowns give us directions when we're caught staring, and even Kephi is ashamed to have been interested in child's play.

    The tall buildings are nothing like those in Sandgem Town. I could live in a city like this, if circumstances allowed. Daily events are a thing and even the color of the pavement is vibrant. In my trance I almost walk toward the next route, but I redirect myself and reach the station before nightfall. I consider going back to the Pokémon Center to rent a room before they're booked, but this adventure is far more interesting.

    The interior design of the building looks more like a lounge than a TV station. There's people about, sitting at the tables with cards and chessboards. The gallery on the right hand wall entices the two of us more than a simple game we could play between cities when we're bored.

    The framed pictures depict legendary pokémon such as dialga and palkia, the creators of time and space. They're well known in Sinnoh. I'd heard bedtime stories about them when I was little until I demanded that my parents to come up with something new and exciting.

    The legendaries are new and exciting to Kephi. He uses the suction cups on his legs to attach to the walls and crawl upward, onto the paintings themselves. Behind him he leaves a trail of slime, which attracts the attention of everyone in the room.

    “Excuse me,” calls the lady behind the counter. I turn and expect to see Nurse Joy standing there, ready to heal my venipede's strange behavior, but it's not her. “Please refrain from ruining the gallery. There's some wipes and disinfectant over here to wash that...” she says, running a hand through her dark blue hair. Bug-type pokémon must be an everyday occurrence for her.

    “Right,” Annie says. “Sorry.” I grab Kephi by the sides and struggle to break his grasp, but somehow I succeed and carry him under one arm over to the counter. “Want to watch him for a minute? He's a romantic sweetheart. He'll tell you nice things.”

    “That's fine,” the lady says, regaining her composure. “My name is Felicity and I'm in charge of the first floor. I'd appreciate if you could cooperate with me,” she adds, handing me the cleaning supplies.

    “Yeah, yeah,” Kephi says, rolling his eyes. “Forget her. Ask about the lottery.”

    “Want to win some money, huh?” I say, patting Kephi's head as a warning to keep calm. “We would like to play the lottery. Can you direct us that way?”

    “Oh, you can play right here!” Felicity says. She points toward the gallery. “After you clean that, of course.”

    “Hurry the fuck up,” Kephi says. “Clean up after your pokémon.”

    I stick my tongue out at him, earning an undignified glare from Felicity, but I do as told. As I spray away the dirtiness, I think it could be worse. It could have been poison. ...It could still be poison. The thought makes me scrub twice as hard, also making me glad I have any arm strength at all. Being with Kephi is better than lying in a hospital bed, even if he does act like the boss sometimes.

    “Okay! Done,” I say. “Time for the—”

    “You lost!” Kephi says, laughing. “Hah! Your Kyurem god fucking hates you.”

    “What?”

    “The winning ID is 41122 today. Your trainer ID is 62453, according to the license in your pokédex,” Felicity explains. “Feel free to try again tomorrow.”

    I grab Kephi by the sides again, ignoring the movement of his hairy legs. “Thank you for your time,” I say. “My venipede appreciates it as well.”

    “Like hell I do,” he snarls.

    “See? He's an angel.”

    I take him to the corner of the room, away from where Felicity and the other visitors can see us. There's only a television here—surprise, surprise—but that's not what's on my mind right now. I take out my pokédex, which doubles as my training license. As soon as the device switches on, it displays numerical data about my ID and the number of pokémon on my team. If I could just learn more about Kephi...

    “Bingo!” I say. I haven't messed with the device until now, but pushing random buttons seems to lead me to the right place. “Venipede, the centipede pokémon... Bug-and-poison-type. Nicknamed Kephi. One foot tall—you're short, aren't you?—and eleven pounds. Level twenty-one... Wait a second.”

    According to my pokédex, Kephi is stronger than any wild pokémon in the surrounding area. That, and he's three years, two months old. Not only could he have crushed me during our battle, but also he might have adopted those skills from a previous trainer. This tells me that he was holding back for an unknown reason. He's hiding something too. Something big. Maybe something terrifying, since it's a secret to begin with.

    “Kephi...” I search for the words. “Did you have another trainer once?”

    The venipede's been inching toward the television. He pauses and one of his antennas twitch, giving him away. That's all I need as a confirmation.

    “What's it to you?” he says, moving forward again. He's about to slime the television when I pick him up and make him look me in the eyes. “What's wrong with you today? Are you a psychic-type pokémon in disguise?”

    “No!” I say. I have to stay calm, but it's hard when I've discovered this early on. I'm making progress—good or bad, I don't know. “I'm not. You're older and stronger than most pokémon around here. Not to mention you're from Unova. There's a story behind your evil, scheming ways,” I add with a smile.

    “Evil is a strong word. Besides, if your pokédex is so smart, why haven't I evolved yet?”

    I open my mouth to speak, but I have nothing to say. I set him in my lap, instead scolding him again for getting me in trouble with Felicity. I wish the library visit had told me more than just pokémon appearances. Types, specialties, evolutions, attacks... They're important, too, and I had completely overlooked them. That was my fault.

    “Look at the TV.”

    “Huh?” I say, snapping back to reality.

    “Look at the TV! The pokédex is even more brainwashing.”

    He's right, to a certain extent. Trainers can get preoccupied with statistics if they're not careful. Kephi is more than a statistic. I make a mental note to have a heart-to-heart talk later, or as close to it as I can manage. I listen to my only pokémon and peer at the screen. Commercials are playing. I wonder if I missed the show Kephi was talking about, but then I see something much better than any famous actor. My jaw drops immediately.

    I see a pokémon—a pokémon from Unova.

    “How did you know I—” I'm cut off by the fact that Kephi is no longer in my lap. So he needed a distraction. He didn't know about Kyurem's request. I almost forget the Unovan pokémon as I rest my head against the back of the couch, relieved. “Wait a minute. Get over here, mister! Watch this!”

    “Would you believe anything I told you to do?” Kephi scowls, scuttling his legs beneath him though it doesn't get him anywhere. I catch him before he goes too far.

    “Yes! You're brilliant,” I say, eyes now glued to the screen. “Want to make a bet?”

    His eyes glower. “Go on.”

    “See the feline pokémon right there? That's our next teammate.”

    Kephi bursts out into laughter. He struggles to catch his breath before saying something about how ridiculous I am for wanting a famous Jubilife star on the team. I gaze back and forth between the two Unovan pokémon. I recognize the feline as a purrloin, with its cream-colored patches of fur surrounded by dark purple tufts of fur. Its deep green eyes dazzle in the spotlight, and the sharp violet markings about its eyes gleam with just as much excitement. I can see the appeal, but I can't help but ask what makes the purrloin so popular.

    “That's Virokoe,” Kephi explains. “Trainers who passed by my route would watch him on their phones. Dear Mew, they would get so upset when their batteries died and they missed a show...”

    “Who cares? I say he's perfect. Let's go.”

    “Where are we going, exactly?” Kephi demands, though he has no real say in the matter as I carry him and search for the stairs.

    “We're gonna find him,” I say.

    “Our group is going to overflow with masculinity if you do that.”

    I let out a harrumph but don't respond. I'm quiet, seeing that I have to pass Felicity to get upstairs. I offer a wave in Felicity's direction and then sprint out of the other woman's sight. “She was so mean to you. I hate playing nice.”

    “You're wasting your time, anyway.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Why am I explaining this to a human?” Kephi sighs. “The commercial was already filmed. There's no guarantee Virokoe's here.”

    “Oh.” My head droops in embarrassment. I check my phone. “It's nearing midnight too. How are we supposed to find him?”

    “You don't.” He grins.

    “Jerk,” I say under my breath. “I bet you know something. You're just not telling me.”

    “What do I get out of it?”

    I stop in the middle of a step, caught off guard. If I'm not careful, I'll regret it. “You can sleep outside of your pokéball tonight.”

    His antennae twitch. “Virokoe may or may not hang around the school every morning. Also, he may or may not have to be on stage until the afternoon.”

    “You mean I have to walk by that lady again so I can get out of here?” I whine, turning around and already starting to backtrack.

    Kephi makes a vague, derogatory remark about my intelligence and refuses to talk after that. I don't mind. It keeps him out of trouble, though I'm tired of getting slime rubbed on my arms due to carrying him so much in one day. I wonder if my promise will end up a disaster, especially if he's some kind of sleepwalker.

    I'm surprised when he falls asleep in my arms. I'm even more surprised when I place him on the side opposite of me in bed and he lets out a peaceful grunt. I assume he won't notice if I return him to his pokéball, but I won't take my chances. I tuck myself in and lie on my back, thinking of Virokoe and Felicity, Kephi and Renee, my parents and Gregory. I hope to dream about them, but by the time my eyes close, I've forgotten the world as a whole.

    *

    “You've got to be kidding me.”

    “You mean I can't take care of myself now that I'm a trained pokémon?” Kephi gripes, imitating my tone from yesterday.

    “It's almost noon. Where is Virokoe at noon? You didn't wake me up, you somehow opened the door and you got breakfast by yourself. What if someone snatched you up and you got separated from me?” I'm tempted to ask why he came back at all, but I keep my mouth shut.

    Kephi swallows another mouthful of cinnamon oatmeal, ignoring me. “That wouldn't be a bad thing,” he says finally.

    “That's human food,” I reply, pointing at the bowl.

    Fuck off. I'm sick of berries and poffins.”

    We bicker back and forth like this until he's finished eating. By the time he's done I suspect he had eaten more than he could handle, as his movements are slow and sparse. I swear I'll stop spoiling him eventually, but for now, I carry him to the pokémon trainers' school across the street. I hope I'm not too late to capture Virokoe. Not that I have a plan of how to capture the a famous pokémon star in the middle of a crowded street, but I don't dare let the purrloin slip away.

    The crowd is enormous, moreso than I had been expecting. Either the building can't hold all its students inside, or there are that many people here to see Virokoe. I hope it's the former, because it's difficult to capture a pokémon in front of adoring, obsessive fans. Not that I'm planning on stealing him or anything drastic like that, but the thought had crossed my mind.

    Inching closer, I can hear the shouts. A few women yell about Virokoe's cuteness, while the men are trying to hold the feline in their arms so that they can be in the spotlight. Little kids, presumably the students, jump up and down to get a glimpse of the excitement, but to no avail. Kephi laughs at everyone, but I can't hear him over the noise. He wanders off to the other side of the crowd, and I wonder again why he doesn't just run away. Well, now's not the time to think about that. I've got a pokémon to catch.

    The view is better on the other side. Two men play tug of war with the purrloin and end up ripping out a patch of fur. Virokoe hisses and claws at one man's face, then he claws the other man's leg as he's dropped to the ground. He runs, ducking to get between peoples' legs. In a matter of seconds he's safe inside the school building.

    The screaming subsides and is replaced with disappointed moaning. I ask around and learn that only students are allowed inside. I listen to a story about a twenty-five year old woman sneaking in, but she got caught and no one's seen her since. Then there's a spiel about how wonderful Virokoe is, and how he's so sweet, he goes to visit kids in his spare time. I scramble away, trying to figure out a plan of action.

    I wait until the crowd dissipates, making sure Kephi doesn't get kidnapped by anyone. He's my priority until I'm able to get inside the building. The story had given me an idea—an unpleasant one, but an idea nonetheless—and I'm prepared to go through with it. Due to the sickness I've endured, I've lost muscle tone and weight, and that should be enough to make me look like a teenager.

    When I approach the front door, the teacher, a short man with shaggy brown hair, puts up a hand to stop me from entering. His suit sleeve falls below his wrist and reveals a watch that looks more expensive than anything I've ever seen. I think I'm trespassing. The man seems to agree as he tells me that I need to be a student, or leave.

    “I-I'm here to be a student! Sir!” I say, saluting him as if I'm going to war.

    “Oh, for fuck's sake,” Kephi says, earning himself a glare.

    “And why do you, miss, think you have what it takes to be a student?” he asks, gazing at the two of us.

    “Sir, I have this venipede here, and as you can see, or hear, he's not in the best frame of mind.” I'm lying, at least. I go on, “He's part poison-type, and that's dangerous! But I can't bring myself to release him. I'd like to learn your most well known tactics so that I may raise him to be a scolipede.” I mentally curse myself for working in a lie at the last minute, but my words seem to work as the man scratches his chin and steps aside.

    I think I'm in the clear until he says, “There are some prerequisites, of course. How old are you, miss...”

    “Annie Willems. I'm, uh, fourteen. And a half.”

    The man nods. “Miss Willems, I assume you are literate?”

    “Yes. I can read and write at a college level.” There's the truth again.

    “And your pokémon?”

    “I just have Kephi here. Like I said, he can't battle as well as I'd like. His pragmatic skills are a bit... off,” I say, then I give my venipede a light kick in the side before he can say anything in protest.

    “Miss Willems, we only accept those with potential talent. Does your venipede have any special talents?”

    I can feel my face burning up, and it's not from a fever like I'm accustomed to. Kephi has a way with words and poison, sure, but that's about it. Neither facts are likely to grant us admission into the school. What else can I work with? What do I know about Kephi? Kephi won't kill others, not even for personal gain... Kephi has had another trainer... Kephi touches everything in sight...

    “Oh!” I say, clenching my fists in excitement. “My venipede is also literate.”

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “He can write with his antennae. Isn't that right, Kephi?” I bend down to see him face-to-face. He snarls at me, but doesn't say anything lest the man can understand pokémon speech.

    “With your permission, I wish to have proof of this. For the records,” he says.

    He invites me inside. I wonder if Virokoe has sponsors that donate to the school. The interior design is much fancier than that of the television station or the Pokémon Center. The kids sit on comfy leather chairs, the desks are large enough to fit at least five encyclopedias and there are no windows. Scattered throughout the room are drawing boards filled with scrawly handwriting. I can only stare in shock at the brilliancy of it all—that is, until my pokémon headbutts me in the shin.

    “Pay attention. I'm not doing this for you.”

    “Yes you are,” I say, waving my hand at him. I stride to the top left corner of the building, where there's a small, square sandbox.

    Before I can ask what's going on, the man explains, “This is where the students practice their calligraphy. It's very important, being able to sign your trainer's license and your gym badges.”

    If I'm being honest, I haven't signed my trainer's license, nor did I know about gym badges being signed. I suppose that's how trainers keep them from getting stolen or mixed up, but that's besides the point. While these students learn about calligraphy, I'm learning about the darker side of the world. I feel important for a moment, and I feel even more redemptive when I see Virokoe run underneath the nearest desk...

    The man clears his throat.

    “Go ahead, Kephi. Show them what you've got,” I say.

    Kephi scoots himself forward, to the edge of the sandbox. The man holds a stick in his hands, tapping it against his arm in anticipation. I'm just as nervous, if not more, because I'm not sure what Kephi can do with his antennae. I've seen him be touchy and feels-y with his food, with me, with objects... Sand can't be much different, right?

    Well, I realize I'm half-right when Kephi demonstrates the control he has over his antennae. He moves them up and down to put as much pressure on the sand as needed, but then he stops and asks what he's supposed to be writing.

    “Good question.” I think for a moment. I can't imagine him knowing the alphabet, let alone a whole word, but he might know the concept of numbers. “Show the number five.”

    “Well, I have one...” He trails off and concentrates his efforts. He draws two more sticks, which are straight and parallel to each other. He's in the middle of the fourth line when he stains the sand a dark red. “Shit.”

    “What?” I say, leaning over to survey the damage. I don't see the problem.

    “Miss Willems, did your venipede spew poison into our beloved calligraphy—”

    So that's what the stain is. “No! I mean, yes. But he didn't mean it. He can't control—”

    “Don't underestimate me, bitch,” Kephi interrupts, pointing his antennae at me.

    Kephi!” I yell, surprised. I lift my hands in surrender, and partly out of fear. It seems that Kephi's frustration and anger toward himself triggers his abnormal behavior. It would be a nice thing to know if not for the stares the students are giving me. To make things worse, the man is enraged.

    “Get out of my school, please,” he says with as much sanity as he can muster. He stretches out his arm, motioning toward the door.

    “But what about—” What about Virokoe? Virokoe isn't mine to grab. Virokoe has a life. Virokoe is better off where he is. If that's true, though, I'm not sure why Kyurem has brought us together. “Sorry, sir. We'll leave.” I make my way out of the building, Kephi following close behind. I get one last look at Virokoe, but he's too preoccupied with the students' special attention.

    Outside, Kephi seems more heartbroken than me. He sulks as he tries to climb the windows.

    “Don't leave slime there too!” I say, pulling him away. “What's your problem?”

    “I was with a human before and I still can't coordinate my attacks! Thanks for pointing out that lack of skill back there.”

    I sit down on the pavement and lean my back against the brick wall. The texture is uncomfortable, but it's nothing compared to the Kephi's internal struggle. “It's okay. We'll get Virokoe another way.”

    “After that, you better teach me some attacks. Goddamnit.”

    “So you don't mind another teammate?” I stifle a giggle, afraid to rile him up further.

    “It'll help get you off my back sometimes.”

    “Probably.” I pause. “This past trainer of yours...”

    “He wasn't a trainer.”

    This piques my interest. “Were you a... pet?”

    “Something like that. Ask me again and I'll stab your feet,” he says, rubbing his antennae against me.

    I don't think he's serious, but I won't chance it. Instead, I wonder how else I can find Virokoe. In the morning, he visits the pokémon trainers' school. In the afternoon, he's busy being an actor. At night, he sleeps at home. I strike the first and last options out of my mind. The first had failed, and the last fails because I don't know where Virokoe lives. That information is most likely private.

    I smile. It's a simple process of elimination.

    “Come on. We're gonna wait at the studio.”
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 12th March 2015 at 4:26 PM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Cebu, Philippines
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    I'm so glad I took some time off of Alpha Sapphire to read this. I've read through it like, 3 times already haha.

    Kephi is slowly becoming one of my favorite Pokémon in fan fiction. I love how you're depicting their relationship in this chapter. It does a good job of showing how Annie is constantly trying to keep Kephi at bay, but we still can see her internal struggle with doing so, and her fear of him. You sacrifice nothing on either fronts.

    As for Kephi, it's really cool that you show how Annie has warmed up to him a bit. He's still the same angry as he was at first, but we see him really accept Annie as his trainer. I think it would be interesting to find out if this is because of Annie herself in context with his past "owner"(?), or because of the Pokeball's loyalty mechanism. But he's a great character imo, and I love him.

    Also, I really like how you've incorporated the actual Pokemon World. We see her interacting and commenting on things not exactly pertaining to her journey so much as to simply existing because they exist in the world. The Pokemon World is such a vast place, and you've really used it to your advantage. I can't wait to see more of this.

    As for Virokoe, I'm extremely curious as to how she plans on capturing a movie star. I have no clue how you're going to pull this off, but I cannot wait to see!

    As always, good stuff. I really really cannot wait to read more. Keep up the good work!

    Feel like you need a little more Pokemon in your life? Tune into our show!
    EPISODE 55 - SLOWPOKE HOLIDAY
    Looking for something Pokemon-related to listen to while playing through Pokemon XY? This episode is for you!!
    Released: 12/11/14


    Guess who claimed Luxray?!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Illinois, USA
    Posts
    776

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    Quote Originally Posted by jstinftw! View Post
    I'm so glad I took some time off of Alpha Sapphire to read this. I've read through it like, 3 times already haha.

    Kephi is slowly becoming one of my favorite Pokémon in fan fiction. I love how you're depicting their relationship in this chapter. It does a good job of showing how Annie is constantly trying to keep Kephi at bay, but we still can see her internal struggle with doing so, and her fear of him. You sacrifice nothing on either fronts.

    As for Kephi, it's really cool that you show how Annie has warmed up to him a bit. He's still the same angry as he was at first, but we see him really accept Annie as his trainer. I think it would be interesting to find out if this is because of Annie herself in context with his past "owner"(?), or because of the Pokeball's loyalty mechanism. But he's a great character imo, and I love him.

    Also, I really like how you've incorporated the actual Pokemon World. We see her interacting and commenting on things not exactly pertaining to her journey so much as to simply existing because they exist in the world. The Pokemon World is such a vast place, and you've really used it to your advantage. I can't wait to see more of this.

    As for Virokoe, I'm extremely curious as to how she plans on capturing a movie star. I have no clue how you're going to pull this off, but I cannot wait to see!

    As always, good stuff. I really really cannot wait to read more. Keep up the good work!
    Hey, thanks for reviewing. I love writing Kephi so much. There's something about characters that swear... And actually, Virokoe is a boy. I planned to have him as a girl but I was afraid I hit too many feminine stereotypes to write that comfortably.


    LOVE AND OTHER NIGHTMARES


    chapter four
    vainglorious orphan

    *

    If we're gonna break into a commercial shoot, then we have to look the part.

    I dress with an eagerness that puts even Kephi off guard. It's almost as if I had anticipated something exciting like this before starting my journey. A green halter top matches with my long pink skirt, which has a pokéball design stitched on it. I figure the latter will be a hit. The skirt is a collector's edition set out by the Hoenn Elite Four when they hired their second female trainer. (How odd it is, I think, that I'm so involved with foreign affairs these days.) I have a sleeved shirt and matching stockings to change into later, or tomorrow, if things today go wrong. And unfortunately, I'm stuck with my white sneakers, since I don't have time to buy high tops or even a decent pair of flats.

    “Let's go!” I say with enthusiasm, but it's more difficult getting my venipede to be anything but annoyed.

    “I am not putting on a mask to disguise myself,” he says, standing his ground. I'm pushing him out the door, or at least trying to. He won't budge.

    “What about—”

    “No bows. No ties. No hats.”

    “You can't walk into a place of fashion and not be fashionable, Kephi. It's just not right,” I retort, putting my hands on my hips.

    “Put me in my pokéball, then. I want no part in this.”

    I consider his offer, but I won't let him get away like that. Virokoe is going to be his teammate, not some passing fancy. He's not going to get an autograph and then never see him again. I hope they'll be together for months—even years—to come.

    For now, though, I'll humor him. I return him, showing clear disdain as I do so. I set my eyes on the television station once more and march there with fervor. I earn some strange looks along the way, but I don't let that bother me. I justify my actions and say it's for the greater good—or so Kyurem would like to have me think. Besides, to me, they're jealous. They want to be as courageous as me. Too bad I'm one of a kind.

    That realization has pushed me through trial after trial. If I can make Kephi and Virokoe think the same way, they have a fighting chance against whatever demons haunt them.

    *

    I figured the hard part would be getting past Felicity, but she isn't working today. A man has taken her place, not seeming too enthralled with the prospect. I sneak by, or rather traipse through the lobby as if I'm practicing for a scene, yelling random lines about a bath product. He doesn't even glance at me. I feel not only beautiful, but also professional.

    The set is nothing surprising. Folded chairs are lined against the walls, with some placed a few yards in front of the stage. The director and producer sit in front of the stage, yelling out orders. Others put props in their place and decorate the stars with makeup. I curse myself for forgetting makeup, but it's not like I have money to waste, anyway.

    I peer from the top of the stairwell, wondering if someone will notice me anytime soon. I'm scouting for Virokoe when someone comes up behind me and asks if I'm lost. I say no, no I'm not lost. This is my first time filming and I'm nervous, I'm not sure if I look okay, or if my colleagues won't enjoy me or my work for some reason—

    I rant for five minutes straight before I'm left to my own devices again. I thank the stars above for giving me a talkative personality and a durable mouth to go with it. I brush off my skirt as if I had gotten it dirty on the way here, and I step forward. My sneakers don't leave much of an impression, which I'm grateful for as well. I stand behind the two occupied chairs and ask where Virokoe is. I have a question for him and it can't wait until after the shooting.

    Luckily, I don't have to go far for Virokoe. He's behind the curtains, getting the last of his touch-ups done. He looks stunning and absolutely thrilled with the idea of being stunning, what with his smile that refuses to disappear. The pink markings above his eyes are more pronounced, and the fur on his face is symmetrical. His cream-colored body shines in the light, as if those patches were created by the sun itself.

    I clap my hands together to get Virokoe's attention. He snaps his head in my direction, a confused expression on his face. Of course. I hadn't prepared for this, but Virokoe has never seen me before.

    “Hi! My name is Annie,” I say, brushing the excess powder off off the feline's small black nose.

    “...Thank you,” he says, then sneezes. His caretaker tells him not to worry—his appearance is still intact. After a few dull moments, I realize Virokoe isn't too keen on introducing himself. Not that he needs to. “Are you new or something?”

    “Oh.” I hadn't thought that far ahead. “Yes. Like I said, my name's Annie. I was assigned to... help you with anything you need.”

    “But everyone helps me with what I need,” he deadpans.

    “Well, I'm going to pay extra attention to you. I'll be your servant or something,” I say, grinning.

    “Everyone's my servant.” Virokoe shakes his head. “If you're not here to praise me, go.”

    My brow furrows, but I fix it before Virokoe notices and decides I'm not a potential trainer. It seems Virokoe's sin is vanity. I'm guilty of that, too, though I don't take it to the extreme. I have to set myself aside in favor of my pokémon, or I'll never be able to reach anyone's heart. That's what I had learned in all my years of wanting to be a therapist. Nothing's changed except faces, names and circumstances.

    “Sorry to bother you,” I say. I pet the top of Virokoe's head, which proves to be a mistake. Virokoe instantly succumbs to a tantrum as he jumps off of his chair and runs around in circles. He cries about how the commercial is ruined, ruined! It takes a group of people to calm him down, to say they can redo his fur and make it appealing again. They resist picking him up, though, lest they want him to claw their eyes out. Eventually they have no choice but to settle him down with force.

    I flee before I'm kicked out.

    I hide behind the room's door and take deep breaths. I hadn't meant to leave a bad impression from the get-go. I had tried to be friendly, but it'll take a bit more than that to earn the purrloin's approval, it seems.

    I release Kephi as my backup. He materializes in a flash, unperturbed by the unfamiliar surroundings. The light bounces off of his bright eyes and he's about to curse when I hush him by clapping a hand over his mouth.

    “I found Virokoe,” I say, then I remove my hand.

    “Am I supposed to care?” he snarls, but despite himself, he turns around and surveys the scene. Virokoe's panting and holding the sides of his head like it's about to explode or detach from his neck. “You did a number on him, and it's only day one.”

    “Tell me about it.” There's no use denying it. I'll just have to make it up to my pokémon, once I learn Virokoe's likes and dislikes.

    “Don't be rude, bitch. Did you ever think that you're not meant to have Virokoe on the team? Go catch another purrloin.”

    “Purrloin are from Unova. We're in Sinnoh. Nice try.”

    “I wouldn't mind going back.” It occurs to me that he remembers being in Unova, and I have yet to figure out how he got to Sandgem Town in the first place. I'm about to question him when he adds, “There's a reason Virokoe got so famous.”

    “Oh?”

    “His parents were stars too. When they retired, poachers stole them. No one paid the ransom and the police's endeavors failed, so they were forced to become battling pokémon. You're gonna scar him for life if you do the same to him.”

    I sigh. Not only does Virokoe need less of an ego boost, but also he's going to resent his team for the rest of his life. My vision of Kephi and Virokoe interacting with each other in a beneficial way goes out the window. “We'll have him come willingly,” I say, my voice betraying me.

    Kephi laughs. “He's a vainglorious orphan ready to lock us all away in his dungeon at a moment's notice,” he says.

    I don't appreciate the lack of support. It's all I can do to keep herself from throwing him at Virokoe and letting him have a taste of his personality. Instead I peer at the box against the far wall, the one with decorations and accessories inside. I motion for Kephi to follow. He does, but regrets it when he realizes my plan.

    “Don't,” I say, snapping my fingers at him. “I need you for this!”

    Kephi mumbles something inaudible under his breath. He continues growling as I dress him with a bow tie around his neck and a small, infant-sized sock on each of his eight legs. I say it's a mixture of cuteness and seriousness. If Virokoe values beauty and dedication, then this is the best route to go down.

    “Put anything else on me and I'll suffocate you.”

    I don't doubt it. Suffocation doesn't require killing, after all. I crouch down to my knees and whisper a few commands in his ear. I want him to repeat the steps to me, but he's off on his own, initiating the mission before I can get him to talk.

    He makes his way over to the stage, where Virokoe pouts in his chair. He's being dolled up again and doesn't seem to want anyone else bothering him. Sensing this, Kephi uses his antennae to rotate the top hat back and forth, as if it's crooked. He's about to approach Virokoe when the makeup artist yells that he's done. Virokoe takes that as an invitation to hop out of the chair, snatch something behind the curtains, and flee to the other side of the set. I watch as he places a shiny object behind the garbage can, making sure to look around and ensure no one is eavesdropping. He leaves, and the production starts.

    Kephi's lost among the chaos. Virokoe is mewling, the human actors are singing and the filmmakers are moving around to achieve the perfect angle. I consider letting him be an unexpected part of the commercial, but I can't imagine that story going over well with the police. The lack of security members hovering around is unnerving enough as it is. Jubilife City must really trust its residents to not have to protect the station, or maybe that's the lobbyist's job.

    I wave Kephi in my general direction again. He sees me, but isn't able to scuttle through the crowd to get to me. I cover my face in embarrassment, wondering why my tiny bug-type can't be more inconspicuous. I try pointing toward the garbage can Virokoe had been at, and he manages to roam over there and claim Virokoe's object as his own. The sparkle is enough to catch anyone's eyes, but the workers are too preoccupied watching the star of the city.

    As Kephi brings the object over to me, I get a closer look. It's a necklace that has a black rim with a lilac-colored pendant lodged in the middle.

    “This must mean something to Virokoe. ...Let's keep it,” I say, pocketing the necklace. Kephi stares at me in disbelief, and I blush at the idea of being caught red handed in front of someone I'm supposed to set a good example for. “We'll give it to Virokoe later!” I add in an attempt to redeem myself. “It's a bargaining tool. I-I'm not going to sell it or anything!”

    I wait for him to express himself with a myriad of curses, but all he says is, “How devious.”

    It's too risky to wait until the production finishes. I don't know how long the filming will take, and besides, I can hear Kephi's stomach growl from a mile away. As if he hadn't sneaked off on his own to get breakfast this morning. It's nearing four o'clock and leaving to eat gives Virokoe just long enough to freak out over his missing necklace. He'll go searching for it, and he'll find me outside the television station, ready to strike a bargain.

    As predicted, Kephi's hungry. What I don't expect is just how much he can eat. He's barely up to my knees and he doesn't weigh much but he can scarf down a salad faster than I can skim the menu and pick what I want. I order him a second salad in case he wants it, and I buy five cans of tuna and the most expensive food bowl in the pokémart for good measure.

    And as predicted, Virokoe tries to bolt out the television station's front door. Once he realizes that it's a slow revolving door, he screeches. The people near him have to hold their ears lest they want to experience hearing loss.

    We watch from a bench on the other side of the street. It's turning dark, and the streetlight is on, illuminating our presence. I pull the necklace out of my undershirt and let it glow. It captures Virokoe's attention in a flash, and immediately he bounds over to us, gasping for breath.

    You!” he says, then his eyes widen. He licks his paws nonchalantly and tries again. “I remember you. I saw you earlier.”

    “Yeah. You did. And I saw you... misplace this,” I say, fingering the necklace.

    “Stop! You're... dirtying it,” he finishes. I almost laugh at Virokoe's attempts to be civil.

    “Sorry.” I fold my hands in my lap. “Is that better?”

    “...Yeah.” There's a pause, awkward and stagnant. “Why did you take it?”

    “Well, we didn't exactly start off on the wrong foot. I wanted to make it up to you!” I say, flashing him my friendliest smile. It worked with Kephi, so why not Virokoe? Being nice—even if it's fake—can go a long way. Kill them with kindness, or so they say.

    “Oh?” Virokoe looks away. “And how are you going to do that.” It's not a question, and if it is, he already knows the answer.

    “Well, ah, see, that's a long story,” I say. I lean forward and cup my chin with my hands, still smiling. “See my venipede here? He's from Unova. So are you.”

    “You don't want money?” His ears flatten against his forehead in embarrassment.

    “No...”

    “That's all I have,” Virokoe snaps. “Take it or leave it.”

    “No! I don't need money. I'm a trainer—”

    “Trainers need money just as much as anyone else!” Virokoe says. He sits down, knowing this argument could escalate and last longer than necessary.

    “Okay. Fair enough. You can give me money and you can be my pokémon.” There. I've said it, and I can't turn back. Virokoe is from Unova, is more than stubborn, and needs help before he spirals out of control, according to Kyurem. I can't feel guilty for letting him go back to his life of filming and corrupting fame.

    Virokoe's jaw drops. “What?”

    “I'm a foreign pokémon collector,” I tell him. “And you're foreign. You're perfect. Splendid. And all those other great synonyms.”

    “I am perfect,” Virokoe starts, “but that's why the TV wants me. Because I'm fresh, new and exciting.”

    “You can be that and more if you can with me.”

    His brow arches in confusion. “Go on.”

    “I'll train you. Those people you work with... What do they really know about pokémon? I'm a trainer. I can understand you better than anyone ever could.”

    “What do you know about acting?”

    “Nothing. She's a wreck to watch,” Kephi chimes in, topping off his entrance with a chuckle.

    “Kephi, you're not helping,” I say. I won't return him to his pokéball, though, unless I want to give Virokoe yet another reason to say no. “Virokoe, listen to me. You're a star in Jubilife City. What about the rest of the world? I'm traveling from city to city. Literally everyone will know your name if you'd just come with me.” Never mind the fact that I don't want Virokoe to be famous at all, but I can deal with that another time.

    “Tsk,” Virokoe says, shaking his head. “I don't think so.”

    “Your Kyurem god still hates you,” Kephi echoes. I pet him on the head and rub him roughly, sending a silent message that I'll deal with him later too.

    I try a different approach. I have to acknowledge all aspects of the situation if I hope to win Virokoe over. “Do you like collecting things?” I ask.

    “As if that wasn't obvious enough. More belongings, more fame. More fame, more money.”

    “And do you find a lot of treasures in Jubilife...?”

    “Don't think you can persuade me that easy. No, I don't.”

    “You could collect a lot more with me, in peoples' homes, in other cities, in landmarks like the Old Chateau...”

    “And the money?”

    “Don't tell me you get to keep the money you make,” I say. I'll be surprised if I'm right. Pokémon holding money when some humans struggle to succeed financially? The idea is absurd.

    “It goes to the station. And the directors... and producers...” Virokoe's voice grows quieter the more he talks.

    “If you come with me, all my money goes to you and my other pokémon.”

    “No.”

    “Huh?”

    “Forget the venipede. He can take my place if I leave.”

    I clamp a hand over Kephi's mouth before he can speak. “Then I'd be right back where I started! He's foreign too. I need him. Besides, he's not beautiful enough, don't you think?”

    “When was the last time you gave him a bath?”

    I haven't given him a bath yet. “Just yesterday.”

    “He'd need one every day. I'd need one every day.”

    “He doesn't like baths.”

    “Then he won't fit the role.”

    “I'm sure they'll find someone else,” I say with a grin.“It's so easy, isn't it? Finding replacements.”

    Virokoe's eyes squint, as if light is invading his retinas. “My parents,” he says. “You know about them.”

    “You could say that.” It's time to be sincere and soft, not manipulative (though I don't have any other choice). “Virokoe, they don't care about you. They just need someone to say a few lines. They just need someone to bat their eyelashes in front of the camera.”

    “Give me a bath every day.”

    “I can do that—”

    “I wake up at eight o'clock sharp. I eat at nine-thirty, no later and no sooner. I eat two meals a day. Catnip for breakfast, tuna for dinner. Seven o'clock sharp! Bath when I'm done. My bedtime is eleven o'clock. If I don't fall asleep in fifteen minutes or less, you did something wrong. I don't care about the rest, as long as people are looking at me.”

    I let out a breath I didn't know I had been holding, unsure if I can remember the list that fast. “Plenty of people will look at you, don't worry.” I hope it's a lie, if only because no one outside of Jubilife can recognize Virokoe, or I'll be accused of theft. Speaking of which... “Why are there no guards in the TV station?”

    “I got them all fired.” He extends his paws. “Necklace, please, or you're next.”

    I hand it to him and watch him put it around his neck. “Where'd you get it?”

    “Saw a hairdresser wearing it behind the curtains. I took it when I could. I needed something to keep me sane after you tussled my fur.”

    I laugh. “Can I do it again?”

    “No,” he says, but there's a hint of duplicity in the way he says it.

    That's fine with me. Two pokémon down, four to go.

    *

    I take Virokoe to the Pokémon Center, Kephi trudging behind. It seems he was taken aback by my behavior during the Virokoe exchange. I'll have to make it up to him later. I hope my journey isn't always like this, having to shove one pokémon away in favor of another.

    Nurse Joy, of course, knows of Virokoe. She exclaims that she's never seen the star in person, but boy is it ever an honor to serve someone of that caliber. I pretend I'm a worker at the television station bringing him in for a checkup, and Nurse Joy complies, more than willingly.

    I sit on the bench nearest to the counter, intending to overhear whether Virokoe reveals himself as a stolen pokémon. Nothing of the sort happens. There's only Nurse Joy throwing compliment after compliment in Virokoe's general direction. The feline's purrs of contentment can be heard as far as the front door of the lobby, too. Embarrassed, I change seats.

    I bring Kephi with me. Kephi, who's been uncharacteristically quiet up until this point. It had been another long day—we already need a vacation, it seems—so I think maybe he's just tired. I pet him on the head, as I had done earlier rather roughly, but this time it's gentler and done with affection. He says nothing, not even a muttered curse.

    Everything is wrong and yet nothing is out of place.

    “Kephi, what's wrong?” I ask in a singsong voice, picking him up and facing him in my direction so that he's forced to stare at me. His dull, golden eyes look past me.

    “I want you to know,” he says, “that there is nothing special about you.”

    “Oh.” My heart falls. So he is angry with me. “I never said I was special, though.”

    “I came with you to get stronger, because that's what you promised me. We've yet to have our first battle. We're not in a city with a gym. You barely grasped what the term starting pokémon meant before you went on another wild goose chase. It was crazy enough to fight a poison-type with your bare fists, but taking a pokémon away from his whole life is the straw that breaks the camerupt's back or whatever the fuck that saying is.” He takes a deep breath. I'm about to respond, but I'm not sure what I can do. I'm spared when he continues, “I'm not done talking, bitch. I came with you and you threw me away on a whim already, like I'm only as significant as what kind of cereal you had for breakfast. I hate you and your stupid decisions that don't count for anything.”

    “Kephi, it's not like that at all and you know it.” But clearly, he doesn't know it. It's just the first thing I can spit out of my mouth before he delivers another tirade. He's angry, upset, beyond that, beyond sarcasm and profanity. He's bitter and no type of poison in his body can seep into his organs and numb the pain.

    When I decided to be a therapist, I never imagined working with patients on a personal basis. I expected once-a-week sessions, once-a-month follow-up meetings and outside work that would let me think now and act later. Kyurem had taken the rug out from under me, and I had fallen into a pit that led me straight to opposite of what I had wanted. It's not that I dislike Kephi, or Virokoe, or my other potential pokémon. I've just spent so long believing pokémon are invisible. Inferior. I can't help but forget they're not far from being human.

    I know it's not Kephi's fault. It's not particularly my fault either. It's the way I was raised. After the deerling's death, I became gloomy. I was told to strive for something more than a grand pair of boots and a team of monsters that could carry me over mountains, rivers and forests. Kephi, too, must have had a past that haunts him, a past that makes him lean toward violence and quarrels. A past that reminds him of morals in certain situations but not in others.

    “Kephi,” I say again, “what did your old trainer do to you?”

    He smirks. Before he can tell me or refuse to tell me, Nurse Joy announces Virokoe's presence, bringing along yet another moment of awe.

    “The prince has arrived,” Kephi murmurs.

    “Prince?” Nurse Joy says, her voice piquing at the end of her question. “This mane is fit for a king!”

    I take Virokoe from the nurse with a quizzical expression. “King? Don't flatter him too much.”

    Hey!” Virokoe cries. “We're not having this argument. I come from a royal family, so that makes me something like a king.”

    At this, Kephi bursts out into laughter. “Oh, that's priceless,” he says.

    I frown, more concerned with Kephi's offhand comments than Virokoe's vanity at the moment. I can't let Nurse Joy see my disappointment, though. “So, yeah, a king...”

    Nurse Joy pauses, then says, “It's not too far from the truth. Virokoe's parents were highly regarded until—”

    “Oh,” I say, hugging Virokoe closer to my chest. “We don't need to go into that with Virokoe around.”

    “My parents would accept nothing less than for me to be a rich, beautiful and successful purrloin!” Virokoe interrupts. “You will refer to me as such, or you'll be my jester rather than my trainer.”

    “Trainer?” Nurse Joy says. “I thought—”

    “Virokoe's, ah, considering another line of work,” I explain quickly. “But yes, thank you for the enlightenment. Intriguing. Don't worry about Virokoe though. He's... in good hands.” And with that, I thank Nurse Joy again and retreat from the conversation. Kephi follows, but I don't miss how he looks back before the Pokémon Center's doors shut.

    Outside, Virokoe cries, “Put me down, you cretin!”

    I obey, afraid to put a dent in our relationship so soon, as I had unknowingly done with Kephi. Virokoe licks his paws and puts them down on the cement with care, as if something will pop out from underground and scratch his skin.

    “So, uh, guys,” I say as a halfhearted attempt to earn their attention. “We need to get out of the city. Fast.”

    “Why?” Virokoe says.

    “If people see you, they'll get suspicious. They'll search for you and report you as missing. I think that's how it works, anyway.”

    “What about the workers?”

    “What about them?”

    “Are you dense? They didn't say goodbye to me.”

    I sigh. “They're not supposed to know you're leaving, Virokoe. Do you even care about them?”

    “...No.”

    “Then it's settled.” I pull a map of Sinnoh out of my backpack. “Canalave City is close by, but that gym is too tough.” I grin when Kephi's head snaps up, then I run my finger along the map to the north. “Floaroma Town? Do poison-types like flowers?”

    “I'm not a fucking combee,” he says, his grin fading.

    “Right. ...We'll go there some other time. Oreburgh City sounds best. That's where the first gym is, and we won't get bombarded by rabid wild pokémon or something.”

    “Dramatic, aren't we,” Virokoe comments.

    I set my backpack on the ground, pulling out a coat and putting it around Virokoe's body. Virokoe struggles against the cloth. I keep my grip firm and say, “It's gonna get even more dramatic if you don't hide yourself with this. Let's get going...”
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 12th March 2015 at 5:18 PM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  17. #17
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    Finally caught up, and here's my review for chapter four

    He won't budge.
    Because he's suction cupped to the ground!

    “Put me in my pokéball, then. I want no part in this.”
    I'm sure you knew I would love Kephi. His sarcasm, swearing, his whole personality is wonderful. But that gruff statement I quoted really sums him up for me. He's like a grumpy old man

    I rant for five minutes straight before I'm left to my own devices again
    Really seems like something I could see you doing

    “Everyone's my servant.” Virokoe shakes his head. “If you're not here to praise me, go.
    Have Kephi slap him in the face

    “Stop! You're... dirtying it,” he finishes lamely. I almost laugh at Virokoe's attempts to be civil.
    I really like what you're doing with Virokoe's personality. Hints of OCD supplemented by a superiority complex. He'll probably be even more combative than Kephi, seeing as how he's used to so much structure and order and Annie basically Forrest Gump's her way through every situation thus far. I mean, I get why she's doing it and why she's not abandoning these Pokemon (because apparently they need reform), but as time goes on I'm starting to like her Pokemon more than for some reason haha

    'm not done talking, *****. I came with you and you threw me away on a whim already, like I'm only as significant as what kind of cereal you had for breakfast. I hate you and your stupid decisions that don't count for anything.
    Two things. First, the way he says bitch, and how often really makes me thing his previous trainer said it to him a lot. Hell, you could probably tell me more about the phenomena than I could, but I believe its something like the same negative reinforcement inspires the receiver to inflict the same thing on others. Not sure what its called but I think what's being demonstrated. Second thing, as surprisingly sentimental Annie can be, I really am kinda surprised she isn't treating Kephi with more care. I know she has thing thing to do but christ, it's not worth it if it comes at the cost of making Pokemon feel like ****. Annie is pissing me off. You're doing an awesome job

    “[i]Hey[i]!” Virokoe cries
    Formatting error

    “If people see you, they'll get suspicious. They'll search for you and report you as missing. I think that's how it works, anyway.
    Seems like something that should be obvious to her since she's twenty years old. Right? Or was that Kephi speaking?

    “I'm not a ****ing combee,” he says, his grin fading.
    Wow he cracks me up. I had no idea you had such a flair for comedy lol. Seriously though, it feels really effortless and natural. Great job!

    PM List please!

    An Ancient Treasure, a Terrible Price. Take the Risk, Eat the World
    (Final Chapter added 05-15-2014)

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    All Hail the Six Kings...
    Chapter Three added (03-31-2015)

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    I'm sure you knew I would love Kephi. His sarcasm, swearing, his whole personality is wonderful. But that gruff statement I quoted really sums him up for me. He's like a grumpy old man
    I FREAKIN' LOVE WRITING KEPHI. Actually, I think Sai, Annie, Kephi and Ezrem have been my favorites to write. You know, all the characters that make you want to jump off a bridge.

    Really seems like something I could see you doing
    Get out of my head. You know me too well.

    I really like what you're doing with Virokoe's personality. Hints of OCD supplemented by a superiority complex. He'll probably be even more combative than Kephi, seeing as how he's used to so much structure and order and Annie basically Forrest Gump's her way through every situation thus far. I mean, I get why she's doing it and why she's not abandoning these Pokemon (because apparently they need reform), but as time goes on I'm starting to like her Pokemon more than for some reason haha
    Annie's not quite the angel she appears to be. Let's just go with that. I have no idea why, but that's how she's turning out. You know that moment when your character takes over your writing for you? Yeah, she does that.


    Two things. First, the way he says bitch, and how often really makes me thing his previous trainer said it to him a lot. Hell, you could probably tell me more about the phenomena than I could, but I believe its something like the same negative reinforcement inspires the receiver to inflict the same thing on others. Not sure what its called but I think what's being demonstrated. Second thing, as surprisingly sentimental Annie can be, I really am kinda surprised she isn't treating Kephi with more care. I know she has thing thing to do but christ, it's not worth it if it comes at the cost of making Pokemon feel like ****. Annie is pissing me off. You're doing an awesome job
    Annie is, well, very philosophical. Her philosophy is basically to enrich her own life as well as she can, even at the expense of others. HOORAY HEDONISM! It makes you like her.

    If--I say if and I'm the writer LOL--Kephi's old trainer said things like that, and Kephi picked it up, Kephi would be living vicariously. Annie's the one giving negative reinforcement. She tries to stop it, just not very hard. There's also another reason he still swears, but it won't be revealed till much later. I can't believe I'm putting so much depth into swearing... I blow my mind sometimes.

    Seems like something that should be obvious to her since she's twenty years old. Right? Or was that Kephi speaking?
    Yeah, I'm not sure why I put that...

    Wow he cracks me up. I had no idea you had such a flair for comedy lol. Seriously though, it feels really effortless and natural. Great job!
    LOL Well, I'm glad you think it sounds natural. I don't think I'm funny, just random. So it helps.

    THANKS FOR REVIEWING, PAIR.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  19. #19
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    LOVE AND OTHER NIGHTMARES


    chapter five
    maps for the getaway

    *

    Morning breaks over the luscious route. Cool wind ripples into the ponds and pink streaks of the sun illuminate the tree canopies. Shinx and starly roam here, in sync despite their type differences. The pleasant tunes of kricketot are available for passers-by willing to listen.

    Unfortunately, Route 203's relaxed atmosphere has little effect on my team.

    I'm not used to paralyzing silence. I should be accustomed to it, considering how the stillness of a mind careening toward death is not to be taken lightly. But Kephi's fighting wild pokémon without so much as a grunt, and I refuse to interfere and tell him what to do. I specialize in fixing violence; I don't support differing battling styles. He's hasn't said much aside from the occasional, inaudible mumble. It's unnerving, being unable to hear his voice when he's so close by.

    Virokoe, by contrast, won't stop talking. I can handle the ramblings in small doses, but when he asks a question every two sentences, it's hard to pretend you're listening. No, I didn't see him on television before I stepped foot in Jubilife City. And no—yes—I love how sharp and clean his claws are.

    By the time we're halfway to Oreburgh City, I'm exhausted. Somehow, Kephi isn't. I can't help but take pride in him, especially in the fact that he hasn't poisoned his enemies too badly. He has sent some official trainer battles Virokoe's way to spite him. Virokoe complies, thinking he can blind the other pokémon into submission. When it doesn't work, he cries surrender for the sake of beauty and neatness. Then I send Kephi in, who obliges with a mean smirk but takes care of the battle nonetheless.

    I wish nighttime could be a daily refuge, but it isn't. Nighttime is supposed to give us a reason to rest, but Virokoe wasn't kidding when he said he followed a strict schedule. Providing food is easy, but finding a decent pond to bathe in isn't. Virokoe complains about the water's pureness and licks himself, which makes him all the more grumpy. An eleven o'clock bedtime is doable, but Virokoe struggles to fall asleep and stay asleep. I'm woken up at the crack of dawn to a scratch on the face and some demands for a chair to sit in, because the grass is too fuzzy and uncomfortable.

    I think I'm horrible for this, but I'm glad I don't see any more pokémon from Unova right away. If Kyurem had condemned me to start with a full-fledged team, I'm not sure I could have handled it. Also, Kephi would have a fit if I caught another pokémon so soon, even if I tried to justify the addition.

    I can't complain too much. I have food and clothing, and we have a destination in mind. I know what we'll be doing in Oreburgh City and I've accepted the fact that there will be a few surprises on the side. Both Kephi and Virokoe are healthy, and they aren't at each other's throats yet.

    Yet.

    ...It’s Kephi who throws the first insult.

    “You’re like a motherfucking glameow, only much worse,” he says.

    They had just finished a battle. A less-than-friendly bidoof had managed to draw blood from Virokoe’s leg. The perfectionist spent twenty minutes sprinting around the makeshift arena, begging Kephi for help. Kephi obliged, but not without a roll of the eyes. He scared away the bidoof with a hiss and expected some form of gratitude. When he doesn’t get what he wants, he knows how to make you hate yourself for it.

    “And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Virokoe says, ignoring his wound for an entire moment.

    “It means you’re a fucking baby, acting all prissy and mighty and whatever else. Your evolution line is notorious for its hideousness, too,” he adds.

    I figure I have to step in before the situation escalates, but it’s already too late. Virokoe pounces on him, pinning him to the ground with minimal effort. I cover my eyes instead of watching the events unfold. Kephi’s just being nice, I know. He could pummel Virokoe in an instant if he wanted to. He shoves the purrloin out of the way, then grabs him by the scruff with his mouth. I’m afraid he’s going to poison him, but it would be out of line. Virokoe screams and tries to kick him away, but to no avail. Kephi drags him over to the nearest pond and tosses him in the water. When I hear the splash I wonder if Virokoe can even swim, but it’s the least of my worries. The true disaster will happen when the next opportunity to attack presents itself.

    Virokoe emerges from the bottom of the pond, which tells me he can swim, unless the pond isn’t deep enough for concern. He thrashes about, his voice too tired for more yelling.

    “Okay, Kephi, I think you’ve made your point,” I say. “Wanna go fix what you started?”

    “Not really,” he replies. He goes to the nearest tree and closes his eyes.

    “This isn’t nap time! Go help him before the dirty water gives him an infection or something,” I say. It’s the only logical excuse I can think of that he’ll listen to, anyway, but he doesn’t budge. His chest rises and falls roughly, as if he’s having the worst kind of dream.

    I grind my teeth in annoyance. As a trainer, I suppose it’s up to me to make peace. I walk over cautiously, in case he leaps out and thinks I’m the enemy rather than Kephi.

    A dark shadow forms in the water and proceeds to pull Virokoe under.

    I shout his name, but he doesn’t reappear. It could be a joke or the real deal, but I take off my shoes and skirt as quickly as possible and dive in, ready for whatever awaits me.

    Okay, I am not ready for a powerful water-type pokémon with psychic powers to ambush me and pull me under too.

    I weigh my options, careful not to let out any air from my mouth, though there's not much to hold. If only Kephi would help... If only I could fight the water-type myself... If only Virokoe had a pokéball...

    Nothing is holding on to me. That’s the problem. There’s nothing to struggle against, no solid mass to look at with terror-filled eyes. Still, I can't let the culprit take us to the bottom of the pond, otherwise we won't make it back up.

    I make a sad attempt at swimming toward the shore, but I don't make much progress. Trying harder, I'm able to defy the psychic power just a little bit, as if the culprit isn't fighting with much effort. I thrust my arms toward Virokoe, swimming in great strides for both our sakes.

    Virokoe goes limp in my arms and bubbles foam at his lips. Grabbing him combines the two psychic attacks into one and only serves to strengthen it as a whole. The culprit—a frightened golduck—intensifies its hold. I groan in pain and gasp for breath. Virokoe is unfazed. Unconscious.

    An impending sense of doom strikes the corner of my thoughts, but I can't let that happen. I've not even touched the surface of my pokémon's horrors. Despite my reluctance, I'm interested, determined and I want to make a difference. I just have to get out of this pond, away from the golduck and to where Kephi is, so that he can watch over us while we sleep...

    Don't sleep. Don't sleep—not yet. There is one last chance. I tighten my arm around Virokoe's waist with one arm, and with the other I rummage through my pockets for my pokédex. I open the device and it flashes at me, indicating a loading screen. I press the emergency button as soon as I can.

    A red light appears. The message has been sent. I could sleep now, but that would mean letting go of Virokoe's body and my own life. At this point, I can only pray that he's still alive.

    Don't let go. Don't let go—not yet. So says Arceus, since my thoughts are drowning just as well. I'm suffocating, or dying, for what seems like the second time. Kyurem hadn't told me about dangers outside of my team. I'd have to talk to it later, or whenever it summoned me again...

    Not yet.

    Every breath is worse than the last.

    ...Calling Gregory was my intention, but I'm surprised to see him when he shows up. He surveys the scene quickly and speeds to the shore, out of the golduck's reach by the time it notices him. The golduck swims toward him, but stops, as if it'll have to release us if it wants to strangle new prey.

    Gregory returns soon enough. Behind him is a majestic serpentine pokémon that glides in the water like it's lived here all its life. He nods to it, hinting at an unknowable command. The serpentine twists itself round and round, creating a frightening vortex. The golduck swims out of the way, having to let go of us in the process. I feel a sense of freedom, but my lungs are still aching and I imagine Virokoe's are too.

    Gregory sinks down toward us and wraps his arms around my stomach. I cling to Virokoe for dear life, trying not to pass out. I need air. We need air. Gregory knows this, and he goes as fast as he can, leaving his pokémon behind. He's not worried about it and neither am I. Virokoe, though...

    The air that meets us at the top is cold, but refreshing and needed. I inhale and exhale in the span of a second, over and over again. Gregory takes Virokoe from my hands and places him on the ground gently. I can only think that Virokoe would hate Gregory right now if he were awake to see this.

    “Your purrloin is breathing,” he says, his ears pressed against the purrloin's chest. No CPR needed, no emergency room visit. It's just that—he's fine.

    Not unhurt and unscathed, but fine.

    *

    “Gregory,” I manage to say eventually. We've been sitting in silence, waiting for Virokoe to regain consciousness. “Thank you... I mean, without you—”

    “Hey, now. It's hard to fight an enemy when you're inexperienced,” he says, rushing over to me next. He puts his hand behind my neck and lifts me up, allowing me to breathe easier. “The golduck didn't do too much to you guys. It wasn't feral, just scared at having its territory invaded.”

    “Why does it live on a trainer route, then?” I say, pointing out his contradiction.

    He shrugs. “I don't know about its past. Maybe it enjoys playing tricks, just like you enjoy getting into trouble.”

    “I don't mean for these things to happen, you know.”

    “I'm messing with you. Humor makes everything better.”

    His sense of humor isn't very endearing. I change the subject. “What 'bout your pokémon?”

    “Spectra? She'll be all right. She's strong.”

    “You have a Nate... and a Spectra? Doesn't even match. What species is it, anyway?”

    “She's a milotic. Quite rare, even in her native land.”

    I almost feel my lungs seize up again. “Native land?”

    “Milotic are from Hoenn,” he says, as if it's the simplest concept in the world.

    Well, I would have been more alarmed had he said Unova. Still. Gregory has two foreign pokémon, and I haven't met the rest of his team yet. A list of similarities between us seems to be growing. I wonder... I wonder... but I refuse to wonder.

    Gregory can't be a chosen one. He can't be.

    As if on cue, Spectra rises from the surface, doing a flip as a victory pose. “I did it!” she cries. She's a beautiful creature, and athletic enough to take out an evolved enemy with psychic powers to boot.

    But she's foreign, and it's not that that alone is unforgivable. It's just... downright suspicious.

    My thoughts are thrown out the window as Virokoe sputters and water drools out the side of his mouth. I run toward him and drop down to be by his side, not caring about how wet my clothes are and how slow they make me. It's a relief, knowing my pokémon is okay, but I know the troubles aren't completely over. Virokoe does a good job proving this when he jolts to his feet, asking where that little bug is, meaning Kephi.

    “Uh,” I reply. I know he's hidden in the shade on the opposite side of the clearing, but there's no way I'm about to spill that information.

    “The nerve of him... I'm mad, Annie. Doesn't he know that dirty water is my worst enemy! Why, I oughta—!”

    His fake threats are cute, but I can't enforce them if I want him to change. “Virokoe, calm down. It's okay now.”

    “It's not okay now!” he whines. Since he can't fetch Kephi, he settles for me. He climbs up my legs, his claws ripping into my soaking pants, and I'm about to protest. I could have saved those if he hadn't decided to crawl on me like my bug-type. I topple over and fall to my back due to the unforeseen weight on my chest. He turns around and lifts my shirt. My skin is gleaming, and dear Mew, I'm embarrassed. I push him off, but he doesn't mind. “You look pathetic too,” he says.

    I don't want to look at Gregory after that, but all he says is, “Your purrloin—Virokoe, is it?—is pretty mad at your other pokémon.”

    Gregory doesn't know I can understand pokémon yet. It's bad enough that my pokémon think it's weird, but I can't have him asking questions as well. “O-Oh... I know.”

    “Observant.”

    “Yeah... Aren't all trainers?” I manage a grin though I hate lying to him, especially since he saved me. I have to emphasize that part. “Thanks for coming again. Really. I don't like playing the damsel in distress, but...”

    “You were in such a dire situation when I came, I'm surprised you didn't call me sooner,” he admits. He rubs the back of his head. “You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. Don't worry about it. If you had called me without trying, well... That would have spoken volumes too.”

    I get his point, and the demands of the situation hit me harder than a brick. I knew I could have died there, but now that I'm not dead, I see that my mortality will fool me until it wins someday. I have so much left to do, and I can't defend myself, nor do I have cooperating pokémon who can protect me or themselves. Not yet, anyway. For a passing moment, I wish Gregory was my martial arts master, not my occupational therapist.

    It's then that Kephi decides to waddle over and see how everybody's doing. He sounds husky, as if he's just woken up. “I've said it before... I'll say it again...”

    “Kephi, shut it,” I say, but it's a mistake. Gregory's eyes widen. “He started this mess,” I tell him. “He's a mischievous pokémon.”

    “As often seen in poison-types,” Gregory says, nodding. “And purrloin are part dark-type. Annie, are you sure about this team?”

    “I ask myself that all the time.” In my head I'm planning a crazy tale in case he asks me where I caught them. In the last two weeks I bought Kephi off of a foreign trainer and Virokoe was a late parting gift from Renee. Then I realize he has some explaining to do, too, so he doesn't ask. I'm almost disappointed.

    We're distracted by Virokoe's new rant topic, anyway. At some point he wandered off and he's now focusing on Spectra, going so far as to stand on the edge of the pond to get closer to her. “Amazing! It's usually humans that have hair, but it looks stunning on you! And your tail—like a mermaid's! Are you half-mermaid, half-pokémon? Please tell me about yourself!”

    “Wow,” I breathe. It's the first time I've seen him pay attention to someone other than himself. He hasn't thanked the milotic yet, but he had been unconscious when we were rescued... Has he not noticed how he almost died? How can you not notice? ...Can Virokoe teach me to act and feel the same way?

    “Hold on. You haven't seen anything yet,” Gregory says. He sits down next to me, as if we'll be here a while. Kephi's in the area, but I doubt he's listening. I call him over and turn toward the talking duo.

    “If you want to know me,” Spectra starts, “you gotta know that Gregory thinks I'm the troublemaker of the team! I can't say why. Maybe it's because I was ugly when I was a little feebas”—at this, Virokoe gawks—“or maybe it's because I'm a recluse of sorts.”

    “You say that, but we're communicating right now, aren't we?” Virokoe says. He says it with such vigor I think he'll swim over to Spectra and sit on her back just to hear better.

    “No, we're not. I'm just imparting important information about myself to you. Anyway, according to every Nurse Joy, I'm the smartest pokémon she's ever known. To be quite honest, I couldn't care less what anyone thinks.”

    “You should—”

    “Stop interrupting me. I just need to know that I have this power. Not a physical power, though that's a thing too. I have the power to make anyone have a good day. No one understands it, so I refuse to socialize with anyone, but if everything is going fantastically for you, it's my doing. I'm admiring you from afar and it's a flaw but I'm a luvdisc at heart. The expressions I see from people are priceless. I slip away when the infatuation subsides. Don't tell Gregory I said any of this, by the way.”

    “I won't...” Virokoe promises, and it's the nicest I've ever seen him act around others. Unfortunately, I can't come up with a deeper meaning behind Spectra's speech. I can't ask Gregory about it unless I want to expose one of my many secrets. I expect him to just tell me, but it's Kephi who makes a move first.

    “What the fuck is going on?” he says, scooting past us and toward our pokémon. I grab him before another catastrophe ensues. He resorts to yelling. “Hey, moron! Your trainer's right here!”

    “She knows,” Gregory says, laughing at my struggle. He rubs the area between Kephi's antennae, which is apparently a sweet spot I never knew of. Kephi coos and calms down.

    “You're a natural,” I say. “On the level of Arceus, even. I suck at this.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Sorry, but Spectra lost me completely. I've never seen my pokémon act this way. Either of them,” I say, rubbing Kephi like he did. He scrambles away, but he doesn't appear to be malicious anymore. My trainer's touch must not be as delicate as Gregory's.

    “Spectra has that effect on people.”

    “Care to enlighten me?”

    “It's a combination of two attacks: charm and captivate. Charm has to do with the physical sense. Milotic are regarded as beautiful pokémon, and so anyone can fall in love with him at any time.”

    “Okay.” I put up my hand to make him stop for the moment. “Virokoe is so vain, he doesn't care about anyone else. And you're saying a mere pokémon attack can change his personality in an instant?”

    “Hmm. I suppose so. I've only seen her fail on pokémon not attracted to females.”

    I sigh. “Okay, so Virokoe likes girls. Anything else interesting?”

    “Charm is temporary. When we leave, Virokoe will be back to normal.”

    “Great.” But not really.

    “Captivate targets emotions. Virokoe appreciates potential, so Spectra told him about her intelligence and special powers. She makes all the pokémon swoon, or whatever you kids would say.”

    “Gregory,” I deadpan, “you're not that old.”

    “Soon I will be.”

    “Ugh. Gregory...” I cover my face with my hands. Gregory's having a midlife crisis on me, and Virokoe's being himself, but yet he's not. I'm not sure what to do about the former. At least I know it's Spectra using a conceited attack on Virokoe, forcing him to give her compliments as she caters to his fancies. If I could keep Gregory around (which I can't), she could be extremely useful for Virokoe's recovery.

    Virokoe needs confidence, not an overactive ego. There's something about the way Virokoe carries himself around that irks me. His parents had a hand in it—I know this much. They wanted him to be perfect. There's nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself, but I find it sad that Virokoe didn't have more freedom. How do I put this? I think that, ever since Virokoe has been able to think for himself, he's loathed himself. He acts weak because he's been spoiled all his life, but I know he can be vicious. He eats light meals to keep his model figure, but he refuses to starve himself. He puts on a proud face, but the bravado fades the instant he's outmatched. Virokoe doesn't feel like his outward behaviors reflects the potential he has inside. And without that potential being used, does it make sense for him to treat death the way he did?

    That's what I think, anyway, but what do I know? I thought consulting my map of Sinnoh for our getaway plan had been a decent idea, and it only got us into insurmountable trouble. At least Virokoe's content, and so is Kephi. I guess that's all I can ever ask for.

    There's got to be something I can do right now, before Gregory leaves. I have to prove I can be as useful as he is.

    Well, the whole reason I had wanted to catch a new pokémon so fast was so I could put Kephi in a friend ball. The earlier a treatment plan is set in place, the better. And it just so happens that I found a pokémon native to Unova in the first real city I came across. I have to take advantage of this chance.

    “Hey,” I say, tapping Gregory on the shoulder, “you're not leaving yet, are you?”

    “I don't know,” he says with a hint of joy. “Would you be able to handle it if I left?”

    “Weren't you just the one babbling about my traveling expertise?”

    “Of course,” he says. “I'm joking.”

    “You need a better sense of humor.”

    “That, I can agree with.” He pauses and checks his watch, which I notice has a picture of Nate. “I can take you to the Oreburgh Gate, but then I have to go. I have an appointment at three.”

    “What if I called you in the middle of an appointment?” It's a legit question, one I had thought about more than once.

    “Someone else would take my place at the appointment, I suppose. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but no one could replace me in an emergency. I know you and your team best. Or... I should know your team best.”

    I turn away, ashamed. “I should have called you when I caught my starter. I'm sorry.” To be careful, I don't specify who my starter is. It gives me the chance to lie later, if need be.

    “It's okay. What did you need?”

    I tell him about Jubilife Condominiums and their friend balls, and all the trouble Kephi's got me into so far. He nods, listening, as loyal as he can be, and then he pulls a pokéball out his pocket, releasing Nate.

    The snivy takes a look around, and when his gaze catches me, he runs up to me and hugs me. Well, at least that's one pokémon that's happy to see me sometimes. Last time I saw him, he hadn't talked much, and this time, he's quiet, too, even with Gregory around. As if he can read my thoughts, Gregory says that Nate prefers to sing, but will speak when he has something important to say. That, unbeknownst to Gregory, had saved me a great deal of grief. If Nate were my pokémon, I'd be proud to have him.

    “Kephi,” I say, turning to the venipede, “I'm gonna give you one last chance to be as violent as you want. Get it out of your system or whatever.”

    “This better be fucking good,” he says, his eyes on me.

    I hand him his pokéball, the plain red and white boring and unhelpful thing it is, and tell him to break it. I make it very, very clear that I'm not releasing him. I just want to spice things up a little and give him a snazzy ball. As an example, I throw a friend ball in Virokoe's direction, and since he's caught off guard, he's sucked inside. I don't expect him to break out. The ball dings and when I release him, he's even more pacified and astonished by Spectra's presence. I hope Kephi doesn't notice the difference.

    He doesn't. “Whatever,” he says, and then he gets down to business. He rolls himself into a ball and spins around the clearing until he gathers enough momentum to destroy the ball in one hit. In a matter of moments, several broken, mechanical pieces scatter around us. Kephi is technically a wild pokémon once more.

    “And you wanted to be a therapist?” Gregory asks, referring to the violence.

    “Don't judge me,” I say, shaking my head at him. “Don't tell me you'd restrict a battling pokémon from, well, [i]battling[i/].”

    “...Fair enough.”

    The battle between Nate and Kephi ends up being a blow to Kephi's pride, since Nate wins with relative ease. The type disadvantage doesn't even play a part. It's as if Nate isn't fazed by the prospect of poison at all. He avoids using grass-type attacks, instead sticking with physical force. His tail sends Kephi flying into the bushes more than three times, and Kephi can only growl out of frustration. I try to send out commands, but he won't listen. Even if he does listen, he performs two attacks to make up for the fact that, oh, Arceus, he had listened to his trainer. I remember what Nurse Joy had said, and collecting gym badges doesn't sound bad if it means he'll settle down.

    By the time Kephi's weakened, caught in a friend ball and then released, he doesn't care that he lost. Emotion can be seen in his eyes, which is unusual—he must feel different, but if he does, he won't admit it.

    I watch him as Gregory directs me toward Oreburgh City. The trainer path winds back and forth, and Kephi uses his new found energy to walk the way that will give him the most exercise. Gregory's a little skeptical about the friend balls, not having had much experience with them himself. Of course. He's never needed them like me, has he? Perhaps he's not part of Kyurem's mission, after all. I can't pry into his dreams or anything, but I can scrutinize the hints given to me.

    Eh. I figure contemplating the effects of a friend ball is not only easier, but also more productive.

    Soon enough, we reach the entrance to a cave.

    “This is the Oreburgh Gate,” Gregory says.

    We step inside. It's dark, and Kephi's sprints straight to the walls and sticks to them, climbing upward. I can't tell if he's leaving behind slime, but I wouldn't put it past him.

    “How muchhave you battled, anyway?” Gregory asks me, observing my venipede with an odd look.

    “Not too much,” I admit.

    “Maybe it's best he does get exercise.”

    “Make up your mind.”

    “Next time.” A half-goodbye. “I have to go, but I'll give you a fair warning before I do.”

    “...I've caught two pokémon, one poison-type and one dark-type. Then I got attacked by a water psychic thing and was rescued by an old man I just met. And there's more?”

    What I like about Gregory is that he can take a joke, even if he can't tell them himself. He grins and replies, “Well, I just wanted to say... Watch out for the Oreburgh mines. A disaster recently happened there and no one's particularly happy about it. I wouldn't disturb them, even if it is the most fascinating part of town. ...That's all.”

    “That's all? No asteroids hitting the earth? The champion of Sinnoh isn't coming to challenge me to a battle?” No other emergency that makes me think about death? It seems too good to be true.

    “None of that.”

    “Okay.” I'm relieved—not that I expected those things to happen for real, but knowing my luck... “I'll let Kephi exercise and I guess I'll let you leave.”

    “Sounds like a plan.” He walks up me, wraps his arm around my shoulders in a half-hug, and steps away. It's awkward, seeing him be friendly while respecting professional boundaries. He bends down toward Virokoe and whispers something in his ear I can't decipher. He giggles, though, so I'm not too worried. Gregory must have said something about Spectra. Finally he pets Kephi between his antennae one last time, and then he releases a new pokémon. I don't get a good look at it, but it's short, stands on two legs and holds its painted tail for dear life as it teleports itself and Gregory away. Another foreign pokémon? I almost call for him to come back.

    Even if Gregory is one of Kyurem's chosen ones... Even if Nate and Spectra are suffering, though I love them as if they were my own... Well, there will be plenty of chances to think about it later. Other mysteries are waiting in Oreburgh City for us. I'm apprehensive, but it's time for us to go too.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 12th March 2015 at 6:31 PM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  20. #20
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    Feb 2012
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    Arkansas
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    Shinx and starly
    Lord knows I have no right correcting anyone's grammar, but shouldn't Starly be capitalized? Since it's the name of a species? Or am I just a moron?

    In hindsight, I should have grown accustomed to it by now, considering the stillness of a mind careening toward death is not to be taken lightly
    Beautifully written. Not only does it paint a clear picture, but it also delves deeper into her personality and way she looks at her life. I like that she shrugs it off and in a sense doesn't even take it seriously. She's poking fun at the situation while also explaining what's going on at the same time. I hope that makes sense lol, as now I feel like I haven't explained my thought correctly haha

    When it doesn't work, he cries surrender for the sake of beauty and neatness.
    Virokoe is such a ****ing *******

    “It means you’re a ****ing baby, acting all prissy and mighty and whatever else. Your evolution line is notorious for its hideousness, too,” he adds slyly
    and that is why Kephi is so ****ing fantastic

    Virokoe screams and tries to kick him away, but to no avail. Kephi drags him over to the nearest pond and tosses him in the water.
    Virokoe is going to slit his throat at the first opportunity.

    . I take off my shoes and skirt
    I'm not an expert on female clothing, but how would a skirt hinder her in the water?

    Flailing my arms around
    I'm confused. All the stuff before what I just quoted, and after what I previously quoted is a lot of stuff when considering that Virokoe was pulled under the water. What I'm getting at is that a six or so sentence gap between the reaction and the first action seems like a bit too much. I wasn't really feeling the urgency in the situation. Especially if Viokoe didn't have breath then it would be a life or death situation very quickly. Just one deep reflexive inhale would almost certainly be life threatening. Make sense?

    An impending sense of doom strikes the corner of my thoughts, but I can't let that happen. I've barely touched the surface of my pokémon's horrors, and despite my reluctance, I'm interested, determined, wanting to make a difference even in the smallest of ways. I just have to get out of this pond, away from the golduck and to where Kephi is, so that Virokoe can shake him awake and let me sleep...
    Once again, wonderfully done. Great job at conveying her feelings and showing the urgency. That's what I'm talking about. Nice!

    And BTW, I have it on good authority that a Golduck would never do that to someone! He's only got one arm but I trust him! lmao

    When I can, I press the emergency button.
    That's a wonderful idea. lol of course Pokedex's would have them but I can't believe why I never thought of it. It's those kind of ideas that I love seeing from you. It adds a dose of realism that I really enjoyed

    “She's a milotic
    Ah okay, that makes sense. Your description of it was nice, but for some reason I couldn't picture it well enough to realize what it was. and what attack was it using?

    Doesn't he know dirty water is my worst enemy!
    That deserves an award right there. Hilarious. Really cracked me up

    “You were in such a dire situation when I came, I'm surprised you didn't call me sooner,” he admits. He rubs the back of his head sheepishly. “You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. Don't worry about it. If you had called me without trying, well... That would have spoken volumes, too.”
    Confident, humble, affectionate...I am really starting to like this guy

    “Captivate targets emotions. Since your Virokoe appreciates natural talent and potential, Spectra told him about her intelligence, special powers, and whatnot. She makes all the pokémon swoon, or whatever you kids would say.”
    Incredibly inventive. I love that you're thinking outside of the box on moves. Nicely done!

    “Don't tell me you'd restrict a battling pokémon from, well, [i]battling[i/].
    Formatting error

    It's dark, and Kephi's sprints straight to the walls and sticks to them
    I also like that you're not forgetting to randomly include species specific characteristics. Little things like that really add to the experience. Nicely done pair!

    “How muchhave you battled, anyway?”
    Formatting error

    Even if Gregory is one of Kyurem's chosen ones
    That seems like exactly what's going on, but knowing you, you probably have some change up in the works that's going to want to make me bash my head against the wall. Awesome chapter, can't wait for the next one

    An Ancient Treasure, a Terrible Price. Take the Risk, Eat the World
    (Final Chapter added 05-15-2014)

    -Thanks to PopPrincess_Lyra for the banner above, and Sworn Metalhead for the banner below -


    All Hail the Six Kings...
    Chapter Three added (03-31-2015)

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Lord knows I have no right correcting anyone's grammar, but shouldn't Starly be capitalized? Since it's the name of a species? Or am I just a moron?
    I never capitalize species' names unless it's used as a name. Where the hell have you been?

    Virokoe is going to slit his throat at the first opportunity.
    With what? His claws? RAWR!

    I'm not an expert on female clothing, but how would a skirt hinder her in the water?
    Well... I don't know... I never wear skirts. :C

    I'm confused. All the stuff before what I just quoted, and after what I previously quoted is a lot of stuff when considering that Virokoe was pulled under the water. What I'm getting at is that a six or so sentence gap between the reaction and the first action seems like a bit too much. I wasn't really feeling the urgency in the situation. Especially if Viokoe didn't have breath then it would be a life or death situation very quickly. Just one deep reflexive inhale would almost certainly be life threatening. Make sense?
    Makes sense!

    And BTW, I have it on good authority that a Golduck would never do that to someone! He's only got one arm but I trust him! lmao

    YOU'RE KILLIN' ME!

    That deserves an award right there. Hilarious. Really cracked me up
    drama queen alert

    Confident, humble, affectionate...I am really starting to like this guy
    Geez, finally someone loves Gregory. HE'S ADORABLE. And you're right, I will eventually make you want to bash your head against a wall. Sorry in advance, but not really.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  22. #22
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    I have definitely had a hard time posting (with school, Pokémon, life's unfortunate requirement of me being a functioning, social human being), but I also definitely read these chapters within a day of their release.

    I really enjoy where you're taking these characters. You really start to see the flaws in Annie's approaches, and her own personal cluelessness to her callousness. She thinks she's doing the right thing, which is commendable, but it's easy to see that while she's over her aversion to Pokémon, she still hasn't quite embraced them as individual beings. It's strange that someone who's been going to school to try and learn to connect with others is having a hard time actually implementing it, especially because she notices this as well. I think that's really great writing. I feel so bad for Kepi; he's still my favorite. Virokoe's such a pain hahaha.

    The whole thing with Gregory caught me off guard. Like, yeah, I'd have put something together too in terms of the kyurem's mission thing, but to be actually suspicious of him? There's a reason for this, I know it, and I'm dying to find out. I really hope he's a good guy in the end but wouldn't just be the most amazing thing if he weren't? I'm thinking too much about this. xD

    All in all, great stuff. Been a while since you last posted a chapter and I'm dying of depravation. I love this series and I would be crushed if this were to end prematurely. It seems a Gym Battle is coming up real soon here. I can't wait to see how you decide to handle that. Will Annie lose the first time she challenges? Will she do some special (actual) training first? Will Virokoe actually hold his weight in battle? Who even is the Gym Leader? All these questions!!!

    Feel like you need a little more Pokemon in your life? Tune into our show!
    EPISODE 55 - SLOWPOKE HOLIDAY
    Looking for something Pokemon-related to listen to while playing through Pokemon XY? This episode is for you!!
    Released: 12/11/14


    Guess who claimed Luxray?!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by jstinftw! View Post
    I have definitely had a hard time posting (with school, Pokémon, life's unfortunate requirement of me being a functioning, social human being), but I also definitely read these chapters within a day of their release.

    I really enjoy where you're taking these characters. You really start to see the flaws in Annie's approaches, and her own personal cluelessness to her callousness. She thinks she's doing the right thing, which is commendable, but it's easy to see that while she's over her aversion to Pokémon, she still hasn't quite embraced them as individual beings. It's strange that someone who's been going to school to try and learn to connect with others is having a hard time actually implementing it, especially because she notices this as well. I think that's really great writing. I feel so bad for Kepi; he's still my favorite. Virokoe's such a pain hahaha.

    The whole thing with Gregory caught me off guard. Like, yeah, I'd have put something together too in terms of the kyurem's mission thing, but to be actually suspicious of him? There's a reason for this, I know it, and I'm dying to find out. I really hope he's a good guy in the end but wouldn't just be the most amazing thing if he weren't? I'm thinking too much about this. xD

    All in all, great stuff. Been a while since you last posted a chapter and I'm dying of depravation. I love this series and I would be crushed if this were to end prematurely. It seems a Gym Battle is coming up real soon here. I can't wait to see how you decide to handle that. Will Annie lose the first time she challenges? Will she do some special (actual) training first? Will Virokoe actually hold his weight in battle? Who even is the Gym Leader? All these questions!!!
    I've been focusing on my other fic, Survival Project, which actually crosses over with this one in some ways. Now that that's 100% complete, though, I can probably think about this fic again. I only have one chapter to release before I have to start writing again.

    Also, whenever someone mentions Gregory... I laugh... Take from that what you will. I love your comments though, so thanks!

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  24. #24
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    LOVE AND OTHER NIGHTMARES


    chapter six
    how to take a stand

    *

    “We're gonna watch a movie tonight.”

    It's a simple declaration, one that makes Virokoe and Kephi throw a fit for their respective reasons. Twenty minutes have passed since Virokoe was supposed to take a bath, and Kephi's beat as it is. Why make him stay up for two more agonizing hours? Well, they'll have to toss me into the dimension world if they want to go rid of me that easy.

    “It'll be fun. We can bond over it and everything.” With that, I pull a chocolate bar out from my pocket and show it to them. “Eat what you want, say what you want, do what you want.” They stare at me blankly. “Be nice about it,” I add as Virokoe comes to sniff the sweets in my hand. I don't mention that the chocolate melted thanks to the sun, and it kind of got ruined during the whole lake spectacle. He's too perceptive, anyway, saying that the wrapper is wrinkly and it smells like old cabbage. He pouts and walks away.

    That doesn't deter Kephi, though. He comes up to me, rubs his antennae against the top of the paper before grabbing hold of it and swallowing it in one gulp. “Thanks,” he says. “Midnight snack. Goodnight.”

    No! You can rest your eyes while I give Virokoe a bath, but no sleeping yet.”

    “Stupid humans and their sleeping schedules.”

    “Hey, I have one too!” Virokoe snaps, his fur prickling as if he's about to pick a fight in the middle of an expensive Pokémon Center room.

    “Oh, no you don't,” I say. I step past them and into the bathroom, knowing Virokoe will follow. He trots along beside me, describing the exact temperature the water should be. I don't have a thermometer, so I figure I'll give it my best shot lest I want a face full of purrloin claws. I pull the lever and let the water flow. When I think it's warm enough, I put the drain down and tell him to wait just five more minutes, and then he can wash up.

    “Next time, start a little earlier,” he says. “If we were in Jubilife, you'd be fired on the spot.”

    “If I got fired, I'd be grateful,” I retort. He walks away with a huff and lays down on his towel, one that he picked out from a batch Nurse Joy offered us. The nurse didn't seem to mind Virokoe's picky attitude, but I felt obligated to apologize for it anyway. Now I feel obligated to apologize again. “Just kidding, of course.”

    “Yes, I'm sure.”.

    “I tried hard to get you to come with me, didn't I?”

    “If the television stage workers changed from day to day, I would never have gone with you.”

    How blunt. It hurts to know he only came with me because there weren't enough people to give him attention. It makes me wonder what will happen when he's bored of me, or when he realizes the team isn't going to play along with his fantasy world. Maybe Kephi's right in the way he speeds us along. The faster the recovery, the sooner the journey is over. Or is it vice versa? The fact that I have to pick a movie is first on my mind. Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day, and early morning is best when it comes to adaptation and learning.

    “Hmm,” I say. The second wind I experienced when we reached Oreburgh Gate is disappearing fast, it seems. I gather Virokoe up in my arms and place him in the bath slowly, in case he has a tantrum about the temperature. He purrs with contentment. “Do you use human body wash and everything?” I ask him, eyebrows raised.

    “No,” Virokoe says, glaring at me. “There better be something for pokémon up there,” he threatens, referring to the rack hanging from the knob.

    I look and, thank Arceus, there's a body wash with the scent and color of green apples, made specifically for pokémon. It's probably not the fanciest bath he's ever had, but I'm not about to complain and set him off. I clean him as well as I can, let him lick wherever until he's satisfied and then I use the hair dryer. After leaving it to him to finish up, I decide to check on Kephi.

    I'm not surprised to find him halfway up the television, covering it with his gross slime. His slime is becoming worse than the prospect of poison. I pull him off for what seems like the millionth time, and scold him so fast that I'm not sure what I'm even saying.

    “That's it,” I say, gasping for breath. The motion reminds me of earlier today. “You're staying up whether you like it or not. I know what we're watching now too.”

    I flop down on the bed, fetching the remote and forcing Kephi to lay next to me. Virokoe joins us soon and ends up taking half of the bed's space. I tell him to move, but he's hesitant, saying he's used to moving around a lot when he sleeps. I'm expecting bruises in the morning.

    As the night wears on, mixed feelings set in between all of us. We rent and watch Being John Malkovich, a comedic fantasy movie about people finding a portal that lets them see through an actor's eyes. They're able to read his thoughts, see through his eyes and everything else. Kephi yawns once in a while, Virokoe squeals at the movie's premise and I jump out of bed to block the vulgar scenes. My pokémon have to stay as innocent as possible.

    It's little late for that, but it's the thought that counts.

    *

    Heeding Gregory’s warning soon proves to be impossible. I don’t want to explore the mines, not unless given an incentive. Rocks and minerals and whatever else aren’t my thing. They’re too concrete and physical. Only abstract concepts interest me, and even then, they have to stimulate my brain to really get me thinking.

    There’s always an exception. My exception comes in the form of yet another pokémon from Unova. Not only is Kephi going to hate me for this, but also the saying about curiosity killing cats has no relation whatsoever to Virokoe. Kephi's antsy and anxious to battle; Virokoe's deprived and dust is getting on his skin. Kephi's ready to sit down and eat; Virokoe's ready to strut down the street.

    I had figured taking them to the pokémart wouldn’t cause any harm. There, I could buy food and Virokoe could talk to anyone who would listen. I was wrong. I’m wrong a lot these days, and I’m not sure if my luck has always been this rotten or if it’s just something every trainer goes through. Either way, I have a new target pokémon. Kephi and Virokoe are unaware of this, and it’s best to keep it that way for the time being.

    My first impression of the tepig: he’s an absolute sweetheart. He’s waiting in line, alone, murmuring a grocery list to himself with a fixed expression. I’m behind him and I can hear part of the extensive list. He needs rage candy bars, lava cookies, slowpoke tails, and Arceus knows what else. Something tells me he isn’t here because he chose to be. He’s here on someone else’s behalf. For a moment I wish he were here for me. There’s no way Kephi or Virokoe would act like that without provocation.

    I fiddle with the can of catnip in my hand. It occurs to me that one can isn’t going to please Virokoe, and I forgot about Kephi until now. For all I know, he’s stuck inside a freezer, unwrapping packaged foods. I can see my purrloin, at least. He’s trying to converse with someone who ignores him in favor of browsing hygiene products.

    Watching two out of three pokémon isn’t bad, right? I can’t babysit them every single second of every single day.

    It's the tepig's turn. The clerk recognizes him and bends down to rummage through the shelves underneath the counter. The clerk pulls out three boxes tied with ribbons, then hands them to the tepig. The tepig shuffles them onto his back. Though his stomach slides against the floor, he moves out of the way, toward the automatic doors at the entrance.

    I realize that if I stay in line and check out, the tepig has a chance to escape. I don't know where he's going, so hunting him down afterward isn't an option. I call after him, and he stops to look at me as if I'm crazy.

    “Uh, hi,” I say. Why do the meetings with my pokémon always have to be so awkward? “You dropped something.” I give him the catnip and vow to pay for it as soon as I can. I can't forgive myself if the first thing I do with the tepig is let him steal food, even if it is for a good cause.

    “Oh,” he says, a perturbed expression on his face. “I don't know who ordered that, but they're weird. Thanks.”

    “Ordered?” I motion toward the counter. “This isn't a restaurant.”

    The tepig sneers at me. “You must be new to town.”

    I had only been making myself look stupid to egg him on, but giving me the benefit of the doubt was nice. “Well, you could say that...” I say.

    He gives me a once over. “Are you a trainer?” he asks.

    “Is it that obvious?” I reply, covering the pokéballs on my belt like it's no big deal.

    Confused, he says, “Not at all. It was a lucky guess, if anything.”

    I shake my head. “You don't just get something like that right on the first try,” I say. I imagine I'm attracting attention from the crowd with my loudness, but I'm struck by the tepig's seriousness. Given my age, he should have suspected me to be a mere foreigner or a tourist before a trainer.

    “Well, I just got it right, didn't I?”

    “Are you part psychic-type? I bet you are,” I say, putting my hands on my hips and leaning in to hear his answer.

    This seems to strike a chord. “No,” he says, lowering his head. “I'm a fire-type. And when I evolve someday, I'll be part fighting-type.”

    A fire-type! Kephi's scared to death of going near the heat and Virokoe acts like a single scorch mark is the end of the world. I, on the other hand, am willing to risk alighting a few loose strands of hair if it means I can be warm at night. I'm no good at setting up camp; the flames die before half the night has passed. Hopefully my days of creating fires in the most absurd ways are over. That is, if I can get him to come with me.

    But of course, he plans on evolving someday, unlike my other pokémon. I can tell by the seriousness in his voice. I can work out that kink later on.

    “Dojo-like fighting-type? Or the fighting-type that kind of just throws out insults at everyone?” I ask.

    “Yeah...” he says, trailing off. “I'm leaving now. It was nice meeting you, or whatever.”

    He escapes and leaves me in the dust all at once. I'm torn between not being able to locate the tepig or losing the two pokémon I already have. I pace back and forth, confused as I've ever been, like I'm in a coma again. No one ever teaches you how you think for yourself in school, and my parents were wary of helping me make important life decisions. Thanks for nothing, guys. I'll count on Arceus for this one, and I can't even tell you what the creature looks like.

    “Sir,” I say, rushing the counter, “please take care of my purrloin and my venipede. I just remembered something important I need to do. Don't let them leave, and if they try, lock them up or something. Boxes are okay. Chains are not. Oh, and here's one hundred pokédollars for catnip.” At this point, I'm thinking I'll be the weird one who orders catnip and eats it, if it means being in the tepig's world.

    I chase after him.

    It's difficult to pick him out of a crowd. Oreburgh City is bustling with people I know are tourists judging by how they're going north one second, south the next. The cobbled street is hard below my feet, reminding me that I need to invest in some better boots. When I come to a crossroad—my first literal crossroad—my eyes scan the sign in front of me. I head left without comprehending what I read.

    The road to the mines, at least, is near deserted. There's the tepig, me and another man, short and wearing a red construction hat and a coal-colored outfit to match. The man guards the entrance to the mines, holding a shovel in his hand like he's uncomfortable with the object, yet it's a necessity. Never mind him, though. The little orange pig—I'll name him soon—is my goal.

    I slow my walk to a near halt to make myself look casual. I wave to the man and he smiles back, but it's not a happy smile. Another necessity he's destined to fulfill. Arceus has no greater plans for him, at least not for today.

    After I pass him, I jog over to the tepig, who seems eager to reach his nearby destination. He's humming to himself and wiggling his behind back and forth to his own designated rhythm. The boxes on his back sway back and forth with him. There's my excuse. I yell for him to be careful.

    “You again?” he says, stopping. “Hmm.”

    “You bet! With me being a trainer and all, I have to see what kind of pokémon are here.” The tepig glowers at me. He's offended by my statement, and I can't tell why. “I mean... I bet there are lots of rock-types, steel-types... Right?”

    “No.”

    “Water-types?” My grin fades. I should probably just leave if a golduck is here.

    “No.”

    I breathe a sigh of relief. “More fire-types?”

    “Soon.”

    “You're the most cryptic tepig I know.” Granted, he's the only tepig I know, but I'm not about to admit that and demean his species like I already have.

    “And fighting-types too,” he says. Ah, right. He mentioned his evolution line being part fighting-type. Does that mean he's close to evolving? If so, I need to intervene sooner rather than later. “I'm one of the last remaining pokémon in the mines,” he adds, and that changes everything.

    His tone scares me, but I can't back down now. “I didn't know,” I say. “I'm sorry.”

    “You really are new to Oreburgh. But don't you read the news? Watch television?”

    “...I watch movies.”

    He sighs. “Not good enough. Anyway, it happened about a month ago.” I expect him to keep going, but he doesn't. He keeps plodding along to wherever, and to whomever remains. I motion for him to continue. “Sorry. I'm thinking.”

    “Oh... Go ahead,” I say. Finally, I have a pokémon that thinks things through before talking. I wonder how Kephi and Virokoe are reacting to my absence. I could see them throwing a party. If I brought the tepig along, we'd ruin the fun, and not just because of his stoic attitude.

    “Well, I'll tell you how the city used to be. Since you're not the brightest and all.”

    “Fair enough,” I said, not taking the insult to heart.

    “I'm sure you haven't noticed, but there are vents all over town. The vents allow steam to escape and fresh air to enter the mines. This clears the mines of any poison gas, which is, historically speaking, the bane of coal miners. We take care of the mines as best we can to protect everyone.”

    “I get it.” My best guess at this point is that poison wafted throughout the mines and killed several inhabitants.

    “Regional professors shipped me over from Unova with a bunch of other tepig, along with some torchic from Hoenn. The professors selected us for our fire- and fighting-type combination. We were told we could work in the mines when we evolved. So I haven't been here long, but I've observed and shadowed former workers and formed bonds with them. ...Then I learned about a feral hippopotas living underground and causing trouble whenever possible.”

    This isn't leading anywhere good, and to top it all off, the wreckage is becoming more obvious as we walk. There's crushed bulldozers lying on their sides, caked blood spots, piles and piles of rocks, and more. People roam about, trying to repair things, but their shoulders are slumped and their frowns obvious. They aren't energized or motivated at all.

    I stop the tepig and tell him I'm going to sit down. “If you want to finish educating me, stay here,” I say. Whatever he's seen, it's been enough for one lifetime.

    “Okay,” the tepig obliges. He sets down his food packages and plants himself away from me. “The hippopotas broke equipment, cost the town a ton of money and scared many workers away. Eventually it was asked to leave. As a result, it created a giant earthquake attack, which demolished the mines and trapped a lot of workers inside. We... weren't able to get to them in time. We prepare ourselves for revelations and breakthroughs, not accidents.”

    “I don't think it was an accident.”

    The tepig nods. “Anyway, after that, I lost my entire sense of purpose. What right did the hippopotas have to do that? What about my friends, my future? I... loathe ground-types and I loathe this earth for giving them so much land and prosperity. Someday I'm going to create an army of fire- and fighting-types and get my revenge on them.”

    And there it is—the tepig's full backstory, and his crafted goal. He doesn't sound determined, but I know that a flat, slow tone of voice is indicative of depression and sluggish thoughts.

    “What will that accomplish?” I ask him.

    He sighs. “It gives me something else to do. And this time, it'll feel so good when it's all over.”

    It's clear to me that the tepig isn't satisfied where he is. I look around again, taking in the scenery, or lack thereof. Blood, hopelessness and remnants of the past surround us. That's about all I can take, so I glance in his direction without making it seem like I'm waiting for him to say more.

    On one hand, the tepig could be happy here. Rebuilding his home can act as positive reinforcement for decent behavior and contentment. There's a future inside the mines, sure. But that doesn't guarantee it will be a pleasant one, especially if the workers can't fathom a reason to regain what was lost. So if not, what happens? Without a sense of purpose, he might act out his plans. He could become more violent and desperate for revenge. He could shut himself away from the world, become pessimistic (more than he already is), or never come up with a long term goal again. Is this something I want to deal with?

    It is.

    “Hey,” I say, smiling. “Do you really want to stay here?” That's something I have to hear from him. Even with my inner monologue ramblings, my thoughts are aimless without a confirmation from him.

    “What kind of question is that?” he says. “I have to.”

    I shake my head. “No, no. That's not what I asked.”

    “...Oh.”

    “Having to be here is your duty. It's an obligation. What you want is different. When you think about what you want, the ideas come to you in fits of passion. You feel happy, or feel that you might be happy, under the right circumstances.”

    The tepig doesn't answer. He fumbles through the packages of food, opening them and then closing them again. If he had fingers I imagine he'd be counting and distributing rations. He's using this rouse to disguise his thinking process, or he's feeling guilty about not getting the food to the others on time. I'm not about to interrupt him either way. I walk away to give him some space.

    I whistle because, wow, am I ever bored. The view isn't appealing, and I don't want to help lest I screw something up. Arceus knows I'd make the mines collapse again. I miss Kephi's comebacks and Virokoe's perkiness. When we're a team, they can fill in each other's silences. Virokoe will rant while Kephi battles, and the tepig will come up with elaborate stories and strategies. And so on. There won't be any time to relax.

    After about an hour of wandering, I look at the tepig expectantly. He lowers his head in shame. He hasn't come to any sort of revelation. Why had I expected him to alter his whole life based on a short lecture given by a stranger? He walks past me, delivers the food and gets right down to work. He's powerful, and I can tell he prides himself in his strength. His back can carry long slabs of metal from one side of the mines to the other, making the boxes he had carried before look like nothing.

    I have a feeling that Kyurem is somewhere, watching with signs of disapproval etched onto its face. I don't like the image, so I turn my head from side to side, trying to track down the tepig again. I find him near the man with the red helmet. He looks like he's faring better than before.

    I walk up to the two of them and offer a smile. “Hi, Tepig!” I say, waving. “Who's your friend?”

    “...He's not my friend,” he says. “This is Roark. He's the city's gym leader.”

    So this is a man who's lost a lot in a short amount of time. No wonder he looked forlorn earlier. I reach out my hand and he shakes it, saying, “It's nice to meet you, ma'am...”

    “Annie Willems,” I say. “I'll be challenging your gym at one point. My pokémon insists on it.”

    “The pokémon controls the trainer? That's a new one,” he says.

    I shrug my shoulders. “I just want to see the sights. We're not the greatest match. And that's quite the understatement.” I've never met a gym leader before. Are they supposed to guide new trainers in the right direction? Well, Roark doesn't tell me to release Kephi for both our sakes, so I guess he's not interested in being a role model today. “Anyway, Tepig, can I come by tomorrow?” I ask, bending down to see him face-to-face. “I'd like to talk to you more.”

    “Nobody talks in this city. You get work done.”

    “This little guy is one of the most dedicated pokémon I've ever seen,” Roark agrees.

    The tepig just scowls.

    “Well...” I say, my eyes scanning the two of them. “I'll help you out tomorrow, all right? I'll bring along helpers.” The words leave a foul taste in my mouth. Virokoe, working outside the spotlight? The image is laughable. And Kephi would do more harm than good.

    The tepig seems skeptical, but agrees. I say goodbye. I can't believe I'm letting him go and risking never seeing him again. A lot can happen in a day.

    *

    I'm pleased to see that the clerk took my request to heart. My pokémon behave by sitting on the conveyor belt and handing the clerk the next item to be scanned, then priced. It's the first act of teamwork I've seen them do. I go up to them, and they stare at me, perplexed by the idea of me returning at all.

    “I'm sorry!” I say, out of breath. “I needed to run a few errands.”

    Virokoe harrumphs, and Kephi's eyes are as dull as ever. The clerk informs me that I owe a fee of five hundred pokédollars to pay for the damage done to one of the display cases. Virokoe had knocked over a tower of soup cans to gather a crowd.

    “Your purrloin didn't even help clean up,” the clerk says, “but he did make up for it, so...” At least he's good-natured about it.

    I apologize for the inconvenience, pay him and get out of there before my pokémon can cause more trouble. Virokoe seems eager to move on to the next part of the city and is disappointed when I lead the team back to the Pokémon Center. We take the elevator to the second floor and enter our room. I lock the door behind me and ask why they had to go and be so naughty.

    “We were good. We didn't battle,” Kephi says. “Can't do that without a trainer around.”

    “Suck up,” I say, not having the energy to argue with him.

    “If I wanted to suck up, I would have fought and gotten some reward money to pay for my teammate's insolence.”

    “What did you just say?” Virokoe says, scowling at the bug-type.

    I'm glad to be around my pokémon again. There's something about their bickering that makes me forget my own problems. “Yeah, Kephi,” I say, crossing my arms, “what did you say?”

    “You're a great trainer. Might you buy me some of my own catnip next time?” he says. He goes over to the side of the bed and struggles to attach himself to the sheets hanging off the edge.

    I sit down and pick him up. He's heavier than usual. Then I cover my face in shame when I realize the implication of his question. “Dear Mew,” I say. “I forgot to get you something.”

    “Damn right you did,” Kephi snarls. “My intestines are twisting themselves in an attempt to find the tiniest scrap of food.”

    “Catnip in the bowl, please!” Virokoe cries.

    I look at the clock. It's not even time for his dinner. He just wants to torture Kephi. I point this out and add, “We can eat the leftovers from our party last night.”

    “Sure!” Kephi says, feigning enthusiasm. “Caramel apple sticks and butterscotch candy wrappers make for delicious meals.”

    I smile without trying. “Oh, Kephi. If only you knew how adorable you are.”

    Kephi had been crawling toward the pillows, but he stops. “Fetch me a fucking burger. Now.”

    “All right,” I say, motioning toward the television. “I'll make it up to you. But if you're gonna swear like that, I'm gonna make you watch television.”

    “The horror of it all.”

    My venipede already has an odd vendetta against the television, but I know a way to make him madder. I pick up the remote and flip through the channels until I see a man standing in front of a map of the Sinnoh region. He's holding a microphone and spewing out facts about the weather. “You can watch the news,” I say, placing the remote on top of the stand. “No amount of slime can help you this time.”

    My venipede gapes at me, as if wondering how I, his trainer, could be so rude. I shrug my shoulders at him, thinking it could be worse. I could wake him in the middle of the night just to rile him up with promises of a gym battle. On second thought, it's not a bad idea. I smile to myself as I close the door.

    I make my way downstairs. The Pokémon Center is such a blessing. If they didn't exist, I'd have to make another trip to the store, buy something cheap, and then find an oven or a microwave. Kephi wouldn't be able to stand the waiting time.

    The lobby is full, yet empty. Trainers roam back and forth, worrying about their hurt pokémon. There's nothing to distract them because the walls are bare. The walls have no paintings, no maps, no educational posters designed to help the newbies. There's a couch or two, but that's hardly comforting. The mess hall is a trainer's only solace right about now. I head in there, not daring to look at the Nurse Joy on duty. She's not the same nurse I talked to about Kephi's operation, but the conversation's been weighing on my mind. How could I have been so foolish and selfish? Kephi would throw his morals out the window and kill me if he found out.

    The least I can do is get him some food. It's seven o'clock, and so the selection is scarce. I build him a grilled chicken sandwich just the way he likes it, with ranch, pickles, three strips of bacon and extra onions. The person behind me in line taps his foot and checks his watch before sighing. I glare at him and make an angus steak burger for myself, though I don't know what I want on it and so it takes twice as long.

    Satisfied, I head back to the room, and am half-surprised when I see the two of them haven't moved from their designated spots on the bed. My pokémon, well-behaved for the second time in one day, are immersed in whatever the news reporter is saying. I have to wave Kephi's plate in front of him before he takes notice of me.

    “Come on! Just put it on the table,” Kephi says.

    “Yeah, because you care about ranch getting on the sheets,” I say, testing my purrloin by waving my own burger in his face too.

    And then I hear it.

    “...Sinnoh region may be in danger...”

    “Huh?” I say instantly, as if the television had addressed me by name. So now, not only am I in danger, but the whole region is as well? “That's got to be a joke...”

    It isn't.

    My eyes follow the movement of the weather chart first. Blotches of red, orange and yellow cover the screen. If this is accurate, there will be massive ice accumulation all over Sinnoh. But news reporters are notorious for being wrong on a day-to-day basis... I listen as the news reporter goes on.

    The weather in Snowpoint City predicts a winter filled with category five ice storms. The city is experiencing strong winds, which have caused trees to block trainer routes. Power lines have fallen as well. Should this continue, temperatures will drop and outages can occur. We ask everyone not to underestimate what's to come and to prepare to stay inside when November comes...”

    I hit the power button on the remote as fast as I can, but it's too late. Kephi and Virokoe now have new expectations for this journey, and they're stuck with a trainer who's at the heart of the whole mess. A trainer who's in over her head and doesn't know what to do about it.

    “Well, then,” I say, clasping my hands together. “Eat up. We'll do something fun after.”

    “Your idea of fun is pathetic,” Kephi says. “Don't try to deny it.”

    “Okay. I won't.”

    Kephi raises an eyebrow, but doesn't say anything. Clearly he had been asking for some sort of sassy response, but I have none. I'm trying not to shake as it is. I should have taken lessons from the tepig about how to take a stand for myself in lieu of others.

    Tepig...

    I had been so confident before the news. I have a name prepared for him already. I don't dare think it or say it aloud, in case he refuses to join my team. If he refuses, which I have accepted is a possibility, then a catastrophe will occur.

    I just have to do my best. That's all anyone ever asks for, right?

    ...No one cares about what others want. You can search and search the deepest crevices of your mind for some semblance of humanity, but you won't find any. For my sake, I want to succeed. As most people would believe, failure is not an option.

    “Hey, guys?” I say, turning from my team to face the mirror hanging on the hotel door. My hair needs a good brushing and my eyes are frantic. My clothes are streaked with dirt.

    Virokoe looks up, his fur tidy. He's the exact opposite of me, composed and reassured. “What? You have something to say to me?”

    “Yeah, I do,” I say. “You're wonderful.”

    “Tell me something I don't know.”

    “I mean it.”

    Virokoe blinks.

    “Holy shit. Spit it out already,” Kephi says, but not without a roll of the eyes.

    “I have someone I want you to meet,” is all I say. Soon we're out the door and heading to the mines, where the tepig had led me earlier. Somehow I know he'll still be there, working his tail off even though he doesn't have to. My pokémon ask me questions, but they don't register in my brain. I give them automatic answers and brush them off with halfhearted gestures.

    I think about those ice storms. I think about what it means for me. For my pokémon and my family. For people I haven't met, but want to meet on the off chance they might amaze me. I'm generally an optimistic person, but not when it comes to immortality.

    It hurts because I know more than others do. There's very few things that can cause such a winter disaster, after all. What about a legendary ice-type pokémon, for instance?

    Kyurem...

    I'm not surprised. For me, a storm is always coming.

    *

    “Oh, no,” Kephi says as soon as he spots the fire-type from afar. “No, no, no.”

    “Kephi, I haven't said anything yet.” I sigh, exasperated. They had given up asking me questions about five minutes into our trip. They must not have been that interested, after all.

    “You don't have to. I know exactly where you're going with this.”

    “Uh...” I say, my voice trailing off. The tepig is the only one working now that it's night, so I suppose my goal is obvious. This is going about as well as I had expected.

    “Are we going to a cleaner place?” Virokoe says as he stands on his tip-toes and makes minimum contact with the ground.

    “Don't run off, or you're sleeping outside tonight,” I warn him.

    The tepig calls over to us. “Is something wrong?” He's carrying three thick pieces of wood on his back, and he stops to talk to us as if the weight doesn't faze him at all. “Why are you guys arguing?” he asks.

    I rub the back of my head, embarrassed. “Aren't you going to ask why I'm here?”

    “No. I already know that you have a strange habit of stalking others.”

    “...What?”

    Kephi bursts out into laughter and says, “On second thought, this guy might not be so bad...”

    “He's terrible!” Virokoe cries, going up to the tepig and inspecting him. “His eyes are an ugly shade of brown, which doesn't match his orange fur.”

    The tepig's expression hardens. He moves his back so that a piece of wood touches a patch of Virokoe's cream-colored fur, causing him to flinch. “And your fur is the color of a pearl, which only bothers to be beautiful in order to hide the bits of dirt at its core,” he says.

    It's been five minutes and already both of my pokémon want to beat up the tepig, albeit for separate reasons. Virokoe's about to pounce. I recall him to his pokéball, but not before the tepig drops the pieces of wood.

    “Nothing to be afraid of,” I say, waving the pokéball around. “He's gone.”

    “I wasn't scared. I was preparing to fight.”

    Oh, boy. I can picture another golduck scandal happening, this time with a fire-, fighting- or ground-type pokémon. Gregory was right when he said I had a knack for picking up the least tame pokémon types. I'd call him and ask him to soothe the tepig, but I can't count on him for everything. Then again, it might not be so bad, considering the biggest threat is yet to come.

    “Well, anyway...” I bend down to see the two pokémon. I pet Kephi between his antennae, hoping he likes it. “Kephi, you're right. I want the tepig on our team.”

    The tepig's face twists into something indecipherable. “I didn't know this,” he says.

    “We don't need you,” Kephi says, pulling away from my touch. Now that my intentions have been confirmed, he's irritated. “Move along, asshole.”

    “Well, I should have known better. Why else does a trainer pursue a pokémon like me? Hmm...”

    “Don't flatter yourself, kid.”

    “Kephi...” I say in an even tone. I'm about to return him to his pokéball, but then I risk losing all his trust. That is assuming, of course, that I have any of his trust at all. Virokoe doesn't mind his pokéball, but Kephi...

    The tepig continues talking to himself as he says, “This girl did ask me to think about what I want...” My eyes widen. So he had been listening to me! Now if only I could get him to tell me what he wants. I nod to him, encouraging him to go on. “You know that Roark guy? The gym leader?”

    I feel Kephi's body tense up with excitement. “What about him?” he asks. “We're gonna kick his sorry ass into the ground.”

    “Good. I look forward to it.”

    “You didn't seem to like him when we talked,” I agreed.

    “Look, he tries hard, but he doesn't try hard when it counts. He never helped my friends,” he says. “He let them die.”

    “I'm sorry—”

    “No, he should be sorry. He's trying to rebuild the mines, but...”

    “It doesn't bring back the dead.”

    “Right.”

    I appreciate the tepig's tolerance for bluntness. He's gonna need it if he's around Virokoe and Kephi. I can't help but sigh, however, because I know where this is going. Kephi isn't going to like it.

    “So, what you want is for us to beat the gym leader,” I say.

    “Yeah. He needs a reality check. He's the first gym in the circuit, but he makes it hard to get by,” the tepig explains.

    “Do you... want to fight on our team?” I say, but I know I'm pushing my luck.

    “I've tried to beat him. I'm not strong enough because of the type disadvantage, and no one wants to join an army with a lowly tepig as a leader. That's why I want to evolve...”

    “We don't want to force that,” I say, interrupting him. “We'll take care of it. And if we do?”

    “I'll think about joining your team.”

    “No guarantees?”

    “No guarantees.”

    “Now wait a fucking minute,” Kephi says. He must be confused, not knowing the tepig's story, but something tells me he wouldn't care if he knew. “I'm beating the gym for myself, not for you. If you so much as interfere with my battle, I'll fill this whole goddamn town with poison gas. We'll see if that helps you grow a spine.”

    The tepig's response is quick. “So you're a pokémon with no respect for others, least of all yourself. How charming.”

    “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Kephi snarls, scuttling forward in a menacing manner.

    “Kephi, don't make me do this,” I say, holding up his friend ball. I could release him after, hoping he'll be tamed if he's recalled. The ball isn't so powerful that it can erase every bit of animosity inside him, though.

    “Is that your quick fix for everything?” he asks, not bothering to look at me. “Someday you're not gonna be able to do that shit and you're gonna feel like you're in hell once I'm done with you.”

    “Just calm down, and I won't have to do it.”

    “I am calm!”

    “Doesn't seem like it,” the tepig chimes in.

    “You think you're better than me just because you're a fire-type?”

    “Well, the element of fire is certainly better than what you can do...”

    Kephi, with all his anger and the insults that follow, has no argument for that. Even he can't overcome a type disadvantage like that. Even if he has the power of poison at his disposal, there's very little that can put out a raging fire. The tepig's just happened to run into one of the few things that can beat him. That obstacle's name is Roark.

    “So it's settled then,” I say happily, but inside I feel lazy and drained. “We'll fight Roark tomorrow. We'll do our best for you, won't we, Kephi?”

    “Whatever.”

    I go over to the tepig and whisper in his ear, “How'd you do that? He totally gave in to you.”

    The tepig shrugs. “Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”

    “Don't set Kephi on fire, please.” I stand up and tell him I'll be back tomorrow. “For real this time,” I add.

    “...See you then.”

    *

    That night, I can't sleep. How can I get any rest with the ice storms lurking in the shadows?

    Kephi's curled up on a pillow. Even his snores sound angry. Virokoe's sprawled out over half the bed, and I only wish it was his kicking that kept me awake.

    I leave and go back to the mines. There's no tepig to be found. I traipse through the area, surveying the damage once more. I ignore the sharp cracks of concrete below me, which are only made pleasant by the occasional blade of grass peeking through. I bend down and pick up one of the blades, rubbing it around in my palms until it disintegrates. It certainly feels real enough. As if I'd been doubting its existence at all. Because if the mines hadn't experienced that catastrophe, this little bit of the external world wouldn't have had a chance to grow.

    Sometimes I think Kephi isn't real, or Virokoe, and soon, I suspect the tepig will join that solid abyss I've created for them. They're extensions of my world meant to teach me a lesson for being an impulsive, irrational girl traveling on some fake path to self-righteousness. I'm not cut out to be a therapist. I don't think people can change, not completely. I might care about Kephi, but I can't imagine him staying in my life once he's cured. I use the term “cured” loosely, since most psychological issues can only go into remission. Kephi will always wonder whether to kill in the heat of the moment. Virokoe and the tepig won't be any different.

    When I think too much about things like this, I wish evidence proved Arceus's existence. It'd be nice if Arceus existed, though if He did exist, someone might have stolen His powers by now. I'm not a thief, but I would have stolen His powers by now. Then this journey would have ended days before it began. I would have warped to Kyurem's ice cavern and destroyed it without a hint of remorse. I'd be healthy, not tied down by death.

    Again, I miss Sandgem Town. I miss Renee, my mother and father. I can't say I know why. Renee is sweet, but she brings me down. She knows what she wants, but has no drive. My mother and father became detached a long time ago, when they realized I was fragile. They became scared. They wanted me to live a life with no regrets so much, they kept their mouths shut even when I begged them to help me.

    My breath hitches. Oreburgh City isn't the place for me. It's too industrialized. The air is thick and smells of smoke. Floaroma Town would have been a better choice. It always feels like spring there; no ice can be seen for hundreds of miles. There would be newborn bacterium in the soil. That bacterium would naturally release serotonin, which can elevate moods and decrease anxiety. I'd dig in, get my hands dirty. I'd make Kephi and Virokoe roll around in the hole. They'd feel a sort of euphoria they could find just about anywhere, if only they had been looking.

    I look down. I imagine the tepig standing at my side. He knows, and I know, that the concrete could break apart even more. There won't be enough grass to act as a cushion. I can't say for sure what would happen then, but I have a hunch.

    I'm not afraid of falling.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 12th March 2015 at 11:16 PM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 7/8 released 5/28/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | chapter 10 released 6/21/15 |


  25. #25
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    You remember how I said in my first review that the non-pokémon sections of the story were my favorite parts in the prologue and first chapter? Yeah, you've done quite a bit to change my mind.

    This fic has gone from interesting to completely engrossing. I seriously can't get enough of this story, and the nice part is, I have no idea where it's gonna go from here. And that's a good thing.

    Some overall stuff before specifically covering the latest chapter. Annie is still a really fascinating character. Her attempts to placate her pokémon while also trying to keep a grip on them are a very nice touch, and also lends well into her motivation to become a therapist. Gregory is starting to become a really interesting character, and I'm very curious as to what purpose he was sent here for. You've made it very clear that he may be on a mission like Annie, but I have no idea what it is. Again, a good thing.

    I also have no idea what Kyurem is trying to do. He seemed to want to help Annie in the prologue, but now he's bringing an ice storm to Sinnoh? I can't get a good read on him, and I love it.

    Now onto the pokémon. At least, Annie's pokémon. I won't talk about Gregory's until we see more of him. I'm guessing from the text and you sig that the tepig will be joining the team at some point, and so far, he's...okay. We haven't seen all that much of him right now, but at the moment, he's very serious compared to the other pokémon right now, and because of that, comes off as a little boring. I'm sure that'll change as we see more of him, but the others left much more of an initial impression on me.

    Virokoe, on the other hand, is fabulous. And yes, both literally, and in that sense. His temper tantrums over the littlest of annoyances are absolutely hysterical.

    And Kephi...is my favorite character in the entire fic. Of all of the humans and pokémon you've created, he easily provides the most depth of anyone. We can see every last bit of his sarcasm, sadism, and frustration oozing out of him in every line of dialog. Also, the fact that he's in a friend ball at the moment is a very nice little twist, and I'm really interested in how, due to the ball, he'll begin to change and warm up to Annie. I don't know if this was intentional, but I'm already starting to see it, at least a bit.

    Anyway, enough gushing. Let's dive into chapter 6.

    “Yeah, I'm sure,” he says sarcastically.
    In sticking with his pretentious personality, maybe change the "yeah" to a "yes." Small little detail, but I think it fits Virokoe a little better.

    I should probably just leave if a golduck is here.
    ALso, what tense is this chapter supposed to be in? You tend to flip-flop a bit from present to past. I'm guessing it's supposed to be present, so things like

    “Fair enough,” I said,
    stand out a little bit. I'd suggest going through the chapter to find little things like this.

    I should probably just leave if a golduck is here.
    She's never gonna live that down, is she?

    “We were good. We didn't battle,” Kephi says. “Can't do that without a trainer around.”

    “Suck up,” I say, not having the energy to argue with him.

    “If I wanted to suck up, I would have fought and gotten some reward money to pay for my teammate's insolence.”

    “What did you just say?” Virokoe says, scowling at the bug-type.

    I'm glad to be around my pokémon again. There's something about their bickering that makes me forget my own problems. “Yeah, Kephi,” I say, crossing my arms, “what did you say?”

    “You're a great trainer. Might you buy me some of my own catnip next time?” he says. He goes over to the side of the bed and struggles to attach himself to the sheets hanging off the edge.

    I sit down and pick him up. He's heavier than usual. Then I cover my face in shame when I realize the implication of his question. “Dear Mew,” I say. “I forgot to get you something.”

    “Damn right you did,” Kephi snarls. “My intestines are twisting themselves in an attempt to find the tiniest scrap of food.”

    “Catnip in the bowl, please!” Virokoe cries.

    I look at the clock. It's not even time for his dinner. He just wants to torture Kephi. I point this out and add, “We can eat the leftovers from our party last night.”

    “Sure!” Kephi says, feigning enthusiasm. “Caramel apple sticks and butterscotch candy wrappers make for delicious meals.”

    I smile without trying. “Oh, Kephi. If only you knew how adorable you are.”

    Kephi had been crawling toward the pillows, but he stops. “Fetch me a ****ing burger. Now.”
    See, THIS is why I love your characters in this story. The banter between Kephi and Annie is absolutely hysterical, and Virokoe butting in only from time to time adds just enough of his little flair. Honestly, I'm actually kinda worried about the tepig joining the team and changing this amazing dynamic. I know you'll do something great with it, but this is just so perfect!

    [i]then[i]
    Missing a slash of the last box there.

    “Oh, no,” Kephi says as soon as he spots the fire-type from afar. “No, no, no.”
    Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

    “You don't have to. I know exactly where you're going with this.”

    “Uh...” I say, my voice trailing off. The tepig is the only one working now that it's night, so I suppose my goal really is obvious. This is going about as well as I had expected.

    “Hopefully we're going to a cleaner place,” Virokoe says, standing on his tip-toes so that he makes minimum contact with the ground.

    “Don't run off, or you're sleeping outside tonight,” I warn him.

    The tepig calls over to us. “Is something wrong?” He's carrying three thick pieces of wood on his back, and he stops to talk to us as if the weight doesn't faze him at all. “Why are you guys arguing?” he asks.

    I rub the back of my head sheepishly. “Aren't you going to ask why I'm here?”

    “No. I already know that you have a strange habit of stalking others.”

    “...What?”

    Kephi bursts out into laughter and says, “On second thought, this guy might not be so bad...”
    I love this bit. Not as much as the other big chunk, but still a great deal.

    “Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”
    I never thought I'd see this joke pop up in a story in my entire life. Well freaking done.

    When I think too deeply about things like this, I wish evidence proved Arceus's existence. It'd be nice if Arceus existed, though if He did exist, someone might have stolen His powers by now. I'm not a thief, but I would have stolen His powers by now. Then this journey would have ended days before it began. I would warp to Kyurem's ice cavern and destroy it without a hint of remorse. I'd be healthy, not tied down by the prospect of dying.

    Again, I miss Sandgem Town. I miss Renee, my mother and father. I can't say I know why. Renee is sweet, but she brings me down. She knows what she wants, but has no drive. My mother and father became detached a long time ago, when they realized I was fragile. They became scared. They wanted me to live a life with no regrets so much, they kept their mouths shut even when I begged them to help me.

    My breath hitches. Oreburgh City isn't the place for me. It's too industrialized. The air is thick and smells of smoke. Floaroma Town would have been a better choice. It always feels like spring there; no ice can be seen for hundreds of miles. There would be newborn bacterium in the soil. That bacterium would naturally release sertonin, which can elevate moods and decrease anxiety. I'd dig in, get my hands dirty. I'd make Kephi and Virokoe roll around in the hole. They'd feel a sort of euphoria they could find just about anywhere, if only they had been looking.

    I look down. I imagine the tepig standing at my side. He knows, and I know, that the concrete could break apart even more. There won't be enough grass to act as a cushion. I can't say for sure what would happen then, but I have a hunch.

    I'm not afraid of falling.
    Jeez, this section hurts to read. I think I speak for everyone who reads this when I say that I really want her to succeed now. Not that I didn't want to beforehand, but this just cemented it. It's real now.

    This chapter was really, really good. It may have taken a bit, but you've absolutely hooked me. I can't wait for the next chapter.

    -Phalanx, out.
    Pokémon: Convergence

    "Dimension-hopping shenanigans." Need I say more?

    Next Chapter: Chapter 5

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

    Mother of the Cave

    One-shot about an aggron watching over her den...until poachers appear and screw everything up.

    Next Chapter: N/A

    I'm still taking criticism for this story.

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