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Thread: Survival Project (PG-13)

  1. #176
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post
    “Something like that,” I said sarcastically. The revelation that I had come to felt even better knowing that Sai was here to witness it, but I wouldn’t admit it.
    Something is off about the bolded part, but I'm not sure what it could be.

    “Okay, Kuiora,” said Sai, though he didn’t appear to know what to say next; he was talking for the sake of talking. “Uh, just like we planned, all right? Start off with a bite attack!”
    I like Sai here so far, with his attitude toards Ezrem and his fibbing to Whitney. He's been seeming more childish than usual. Or maybe child-like.

    And indeed it was. The croconaw immediately spat out a spray of water, hitting her target dead on, since the clefairy was right in front of her face, her mouth.
    I see what you were going for with the "her face, her mouth". But it just doesn't quite work for me. Maybe it just needs more words? "her face, and by extension, her mouth"?

    It was a legit pokémon attack, one that had occurred in several battles before today, and one that would continue to appear for all of eternity.
    I think the use of "legit" here is a bit too colloquial for me. I would just go "legitimate".

    Up until now, I hadn’t noticed the urge that my body had had to evolve for ages, now. It was a peculiar sensation that other sentret in my clan had reported having in the past, but they never dared act on it. It was the sensation of feeling like you were about to burst out of your skin at any moment. Your eyes bulged at random times, wanting to pop out of your body and watch from the outside as the inside of you was turned completely inside out. Your ears were hearing sounds that didn’t really exist—it was the inner cry of the soul that they were hearing, but they didn’t know that. Only the heart knew, and I had kept it from reacting all this time, but no longer.
    Great paragraph for two reasons: One, I always feel the physical trauma that evolving MUST come with is too down-played, and two, the the part about the sounds and the soul. Great stuff.

    When the evolution was completely, I immediately looked behind me. My bushy, important tail was no longer there. Of course, I still had a tail—I was expecting this—but it was a longer tail. A natural tail. One that wasn’t blessed. And that was what mattered.
    The whole chapter was obviously leading up to this moment, and it was extraordinarily well handled. Great paragraph there.

    “Ah,” Sai said sheepishly. “I don’t know… I’m sorry! I didn’t expect to win! Well, I was hoping to win, of course, but I didn’t want to make you cry! Can I tell you some jokes or something?”
    So weird.

    -I have to admit, this chapter perplexed me; I really thought this story was done with gym battles and basic trainer storying. It seemed we were full-steam ahead into whatever it was that made Sai run away, especially since he no longer has his previous badges. So I was curious to see another chapter focusing on winning a gym badge. Obviously the crux going forward HAS to be the relationship between Sai and Team Rocket, right? I would think.

    I thought the Senori evolution stuff was very well done and powerfully written. Good work with that, as always!
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  2. #177
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 18 ; [SENORI]
    crescendo

    *
    Three cheers for symbolic titles?

    Sometimes, I thought that life was defined by the distance between what you wanted and what you needed. I especially felt this way at the pokémon fan club, where the solution to all of my problems came to me in the most unexpected instant, in the most unexpected fashion. Who knew that a human could solve what they had no knowledge about? Who knew that fate would bring such an opportunity to me? I surely didn’t. I just knew that I needed to move on from my past, and that I wanted to do it in the least painful way possible. The pokémon fan club had provided me with some insight I never would have thought of myself; it helped me realize that the distance I originally thought of as so far apart was as close as it could possibly be!

    As Sasha and Marty brought us back to Sai, and as we shortly thereafter made our way to the gym (before Sai went completely insane over breaking the rules once again), I felt like I was at home. I felt as if I were in the forest and experiencing every part of nature as sharply all over again; this was how I knew my answer was correct.
    I just caught that "before Sai went completely insane" part here, and it immediately gets me thinking. Did something happen off-screen? Sai didn't seem to be "going insane over breaking the rules again" last chapter.

    There was something odd about the clouds moving in our direction that sent shivers down my spine. The few trees in the city swaying in the wind made me think they were speaking to me. There was a silence that emanated from the cracks in the pavement below my feet; it was a distant echo of the times that I was alone. The memories were muffled by all of our footsteps; they were only tearing loose in an attempt to break my shell. What would they find? I could only guess that they’d find my resolution of thinking it was best to stay away from my clan, and then, the memories would try to bring me back to the nightmare that I had already lived through once. Well, I had already vowed not to live there again—the dead, the result of my carelessness, hung below me, muttering to themselves in discontent. While I was deeply sorry and forever would be, I had to do this for myself.
    Well, that was... something. Sure looks like Senori's feeling introspective today.

    And why did I believe evolving would help, anyway? The reason was simple, and almost agonizingly so. I would be getting rid of the one thing that every sentret of my clan cherished most about themselves.

    I would be getting rid of my tail.
    I think some hairs could be split here. Furret does kind of have a tail, it's just pretty much fused into the Furret's body.

    When all sentret were born, we held a ritual to bless it. It was a blessing that we hoped would bring about great growth and prosperity to this important part of the body. We even made a point to say that we didn’t want the sentret to evolve, just so they could keep this vital part of them forever. We always had contests to see whose was longer and therefore most efficient in helping the clan succeed—this was how Ari and me were chosen as the leaders. And if I were to lose my tail, no longer would the leader in me be telling me to stand on it and keep an eye out for others, to keep an ear out for danger, just like I had done so many nights in the forest, including the one that ruined me. I could instead look at the path right in front of me rather the one that was miles away.
    Now that, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense. Perfect explanation for why the tail is so important.

    And it just so happened that were heading to the gym at this very moment. The timing couldn’t have been any more spectacular.

    I willed my heart to stop pounding, but it ignored me.

    *

    “You’re back again, huh? It’s been a while. You must have been doing a lot of training,” Whitney observed when we approached her for another battle.
    Boy, that's an understatement.

    “Something like that,” I said sarcastically. The revelation that I had come to felt even better knowing that Sai was here to witness it, but I wouldn’t admit it. I was still bitter toward him for leaving at all, and I was still curious as to where on earth he was. My next goal would have to be finding this out, since once I evolved, I would be prepared to deal with him and his emotions even more fully.
    Minor corrections: "The revelation that I had come to feel."

    Sai glared at me for a moment, which just made me grin at him. “Yes, we’ve trained a lot for our rematch,” he lied.
    Is it really all that much of a lie, though? They did have to learn some skills while surviving in the wild without Sai.

    “Well, we can start the battle whenever. We will again use two pokémon each,” Whitney said, pulling a pokéball out of her back pocket. She thrust it forward, revealing the same pink pokémon that had fought and won last time.

    “Clefairy! I’m here!” it cried as it emerged.

    “Can I fight?” Ezrem chimed in, pulling on Sai’s pant leg.

    “No?” Sai said, as if the answer was obvious.

    “Rude… Well, then, what about Rennio?” Ezrem said, now pulling on the elekid’s arm, making him panic in retaliation.

    “I won’t do that to him again if he doesn’t want to fight,” Sai said firmly.

    “On a more serious note,” I said, glaring at Ezrem and taking Rennio from him, “can I fight, Sai? We’re all so eager to fight for you, as you can see!”

    “Kuiora first,” Sai said, just as firmly. “She asked me earlier. She wants a rematch against the clefairy, and I don’t blame her. But you can fight second, okay?”

    “Okay,” I said after a few moments, thinking that this was acceptable. As strong as Kuiora was, I didn’t think she could beat both of the gym leader’s pokémon. They seemed far too powerful and their strategies were better than her’s, though perhaps she had come up with something in all of the time we had spent doing practically nothing near Ilex Forest.
    Ezrem is kind of adorable here. This scene is a pretty nice way to quickly look at the personalities of all of Sai's Pokemon minus Atis.

    Senori might be hoping too hard for Kuiora to fail, though. I get the feeling Kuiora might actually pull off a big upset.

    Minor error: "their strategies were better than hers."

    “Yes! Thank you, Sai!” Kuiora cried ecstatically, taking her place in the middle of the arena. She stood her ground in a position that made me immediately question my previous beliefs about her. Maybe she really could beat both pokémon, and then, I wouldn’t have a chance to fight. Well, my trainer’s decision was already made. I would just have to wait it out. Of course, if I didn’t fight now, there would be other opportunities—but why would I want to wait any longer than I had to?
    I wonder if we'll get to see that conversation Sai and Kuiora had in a future chapter. Based on Kuiora's enthusiasm here, I bet it was quite something.

    “Okay, Kuiora,” said Sai, though he didn’t appear to know what to say next; he was talking for the sake of talking. “Uh, just like we planned, all right? Start off with a bite attack!”

    Though she appeared perplexed by his confusing words, she obeyed, and pounced at the clefairy with lightning speed. The clefairy didn’t even have time to move, nor did Whitney have time to call out an attack. Kuiora bit down on the clefairy’s arm, causing the fairy to cry out in pain.

    “That’s so you can’t use your metronome attack this time! No electricity will be coming from those little paws,” the croconaw said through gritted teeth.
    Why do I feel like Kuiora might be tempting fate here somehow?

    I laughed and marveled over Kuiora. How had she gotten so fast in a short amount of time? And not only was she faster, but she looked more determined. She looked… wiser, older. Just what had happened to her while Sai was gone? Whatever it was, I was suddenly glad that I didn’t have to worry about her being off on her own anymore. If I didn’t end up having a chance to fight against one of Whitney’s pokémon, this battle would at least still be worth it.
    I like the evolution - no pun intended - of Senori's thoughts regarding Kuiora and this battle.

    The clefairy tried to use its good arm to cradle the bad one, but its arm just wasn’t long enough to reach over to the other side. Its bad arm hung there, limp and slightly bleeding, apparently now unusable, just as Kuiora had intended.

    “I see how it is,” the clefairy said, wincing.

    “You do? Show me what you’ve got, then!”

    “Clefairy, don’t let it get you down! Use growl!” Whitney ordered.

    The clefairy obeyed. Though its voice clearly showed that it was in pain, it grunted and then let out a high pitched howl that made even Kuiora (and the rest of us) take a few steps backward. It was unfathomable to see such a tiny creature let out such a ferocious sound, but apparently it was possible. And the clefairy’s plan worked—it had regained its self-confidence, and was ready to fight again.
    Interesting tactic there. Not the kind of thing I would have thought of.

    “Now use pound!” Whitney cried.

    Though the clefairy had one arm out of commission, the other was still perfectly fine. The clefairy proved this by charging at Kuiora while she was out of commission herself. The fairy used its good arm to punch Kuiora in the stomach over and over, causing the croconaw’s feet to slide backward against the gym floor with each and every hit.

    “Good! Try a doubleslap now. Keep her confused.”

    The clefairy obeyed by jumping off of the ground. Keeping itself suspended, it was now slapping its paws into Kuiora’s face, making it move back and forth, back and forth. Kuiora was clearly shown to be dizzy when she tried to swipe away the clefairy with her own paws, but kept missing and swiping the air instead.

    “Kuiora,” Sai said, uncertainty still in his voice, but a hint of excitement, too, “use water gun! It’s a perfect chance!”

    And indeed it was. The croconaw immediately spat out a spray of water, hitting her target dead on, since the clefairy was right in front of her face, her mouth. As the stream of water grew longer, the clefairy was thrown further backwards, as it could not escape the flow. Whitney had to even move out of the way before getting hit, and the attack finally ended once the water gun and the clefairy struck the wall outside of the arena.
    The action is definitely going well here. This battle is simple, but it's flowing at a fast, exciting pace.

    Sai's behavior is once again a little disturbing, though. He's returning to normal but so slowly that he still seems out of sorts. Something feels off.

    “The pokémon got knocked out of the arena,” Sai observed. “Does that mean Kuiora wins?”

    “That would work in an official tournament,” Whitney said, smiling weakly, “but not here. Clefairy, you can get up, right?”

    “Oh,” Sai said, clearly bummed that the battle would go on.
    That little touch of Sai being disappointed over the battle continuing is a really nice bit.

    As Whitney had predicted, the clefairy was able to stand up, but just barely. After feeling the impact of a limp arm and the full force of a water gun attack done by an evolved pokémon, it looked like it was going to faint at any given moment. It had a lot of spirit, though—I could give it credit for that.

    “All right, Kuiora,” Sai said. “One more water gun and you should win.”

    Kuiora nodded. She thrust her head backward, preparing to shoot another stream of water. When she brought her head forward, a blast of water shot forth as well, heading straight for the clefairy.

    “Clefairy, dodge it!” Whitney said, a hint of worry in her voice.

    The clefairy dodged it in a peculiar way. Instead of moving out of the way, the clefairy suddenly grew… smaller. It happened in tiny increments. Every time the clefairy changed size, an afterimage was left behind, and it disappeared as quickly as it came. By the end of the move, the clefairy was hardly visible, and the water gun ran right above its head, missing completely.

    “Clefairy, why did you use minimize? That may make you smaller, but it makes you hurt a lot more!” Whitney whined. Once again, she looked like she was about to run into the arena, but she restrained herself by keeping her arms folded above her head, and by spinning around on her heels.
    I was about to say that Clefairy was using Minimize without an order. I'm glad you didn't let it become an error.

    “It was the only way I could dodge,” a voice even higher pitched than the previous growl said. “I can barely move…”

    “Oh, dear,” Whitney said, placing a hand in front of her mouth dramatically.

    “Well, bite isn’t going to work,” Sai said, “and water gun isn’t too likely to hit. Try… stomping on it? Knock it out once and for all!”

    “Okay,” said Kuiora happily. She walked over to the clefairy casually, staring down at it when she reached her target. She smiled and lifted her foot, and at that moment, the clefairy started growing larger again, bit by bit. This time, afterimages of the tiny clefairy were present every time the fairy grew a little bigger. Just when the clefairy was about to reach its full capacity, Kuiora brought her foot down as hard as she could on the clefairy’s head, causing it to fall forward on its stomach with a thud.

    The clefairy did not get up.
    Nice use of tactics here. The Stomp-targeting-Minimize move is not seen very often at all.

    I thought that stomping on the clefairy was a little harsh, but I didn’t say anything. It was a legit pokémon attack, one that had occurred in several battles before today, and one that would continue to appear for all of eternity. The clefairy simply had to suffer the fate of being a pokémon, just like the rest of us. Just like I would be doing soon enough, I hoped.

    And I did get that chance. It was surprising to all of us, but Kuiora stepped down from battling as soon as she defeated the clefairy.

    “I got my revenge, just like I wanted,” was all that she said. But Kuiora—the one that I knew, anyway—wasn’t ever likely to turn down a battle. So this was entirely new. Not unwelcome, but definitely new. Still, I appreciated the notion, and I congratulated her and told her that I would win the battle.
    That is indeed a little strange for Kuiora to back off willingly. It struck me right away.

    “If you don’t, I’m still able to battle, right? I’ll pick up the pieces for you,” she said.

    “Don’t worry. I never lose,” I said, feeling confident. In that moment, I honestly couldn’t remember a time that I had lost a battle—one that consisted of fighting, anyway. I was sure that it had happened, but it wasn’t going to faze me. Not today.

    “What if you really do lose, though? It can happen! Even I’ve lost!”

    “If I lose, then you’ll have witnessed the single most unlikely thing to ever happen,” I said, grinning. As much as I wanted to—in order to keep everything a surprise—I couldn’t hide my excitement. This was my answer, my salvation. And it was going to happen now, in front of Sai, in front of my—our—team.
    Senori's going to lose, I get the feeling now...

    I eagerly leapt out into the arena, waiting for my opponent to appear. After a few moments, though, it didn’t look like Whitney was going to send anyone out. I looked at her, confused, and saw that she was trying not to cry.

    “My poor clefairy!” she lamented, burying her face in her hands, sobbing.

    “Uh,” Sai said quickly, “Kuiora won fair and square. A gym leader should know that, yeah?”

    “I do, don’t you worry. We can still win!” she said, now wiping her eyes. She recalled the clefairy and took out another pokéball out of her back pocket. “Go, Miltank!”

    When it emerged, I thought that the miltank… Well, at least it lived up to its name. It was a cow, so it provided milk, and it looked like a tank. Yes, the thing was huge compared to me when I was on all fours. It was at least two feet taller, and considerably wider and thicker. It was mostly pink, though not as pink as the clefairy had been. Its belly was a cream color, and there were six well-placed protrusions on its belly that I thought were called utters, I wasn’t sure. Its ears and its feet were black, and it had a pink tail with a black ball on the end of it. I vaguely wondered if a miltank’s tail was as important to the species as it was to my sentret clan. The creature also had notable white horns on top of its head, which could have been important as well.
    Senori's description of Miltank is at once hilarious and fascinating. Excellent work.

    “Miltank!” it cried. Apparently, Whitney’s pokémon had a thing for announcing its name to the world when they approached a battle. Well, that was all fine and dandy, I thought, though I wondered if it ever confused Whitney into thinking she couldn’t understand pokémon—if she could even understand pokémon at all, anyway. The human species was certainly an odd one.

    “Okay,” Whitney said. “We’re going to try to end this as quickly as possible. Miltank, use body slam!”

    Ouch, I thought. If I thought that Kuiora’s stomping attack was bad, since she was a big pokémon herself and particularly powerful, then this was terrible. Not only was the miltank probably stronger than Kuiora, but it was at least twice her weight. I braced myself for an awful attack.

    The miltank ran toward me, its utters and body fat flapping along the way. It was an amusing sight to see, but I couldn’t let my guard down already. I got down on all fours, frowning and yet reveling in how big of an adversary I had to face. Well, that was just fine—if my opponent had to look tougher and be larger than me, then it was giving me all the more reason to evolve in the middle of the battle.
    I just noticed that you're using "utters" instead of the correct word for what a cow has, which are "udders." I didn't catch it the first time.

    When the miltank was close enough to me, I hopped in its direction, landing on its head and using its head to bounce forward and back onto the ground behind it. The cow took a few moments to stop its momentum, but when it did, it turned and looked at me furiously.

    “How dare you evade my attack!” it said, charging at me once more. But I did the same thing again, successfully dodging. Not only was the opponent fearsome, but it had quite a temper as well. Very fortunate. The scene reminded me of heading into that lady’s house and trying to escape the broom that she so eagerly swung at me with.
    So that incident WAS important! Impressive job bringing back trivial details with bigger meaning than previously.

    “I’m just doing my job,” I said, teasing. I put my finger up to my head as if to say that was an obvious answer, and that the miltank was rather dull. The move only served to infuriate the cow further.

    “Use your own body slam, Senori!” Sai ordered.

    “My attack is just called slam, thank you very much,” I said defiantly. Still, I did the same thing that the miltank had been doing before, though I was much quicker due to my smaller size. This also meant that the miltank couldn’t jump over my head, or even move in any direction to get out of the way in time. My body blasted against the miltank’s, causing it to lose its breath as it was knocked backward. I noticed that I didn’t move him much, but the impact was still there, as the pokémon’s shoulders had drooped a little and it appeared less confident.
    Unless you are referring to Miltank with the generic "him," that cannot be refused to refer to Miltank, as Miltank is a female-only species.

    “Good job, good job. Use slam again,” commented Sai.

    “Yes, yes,” I said, mimicking him. I didn’t say so, but I was glad for his praise, his attentiveness. It would, hopefully, serve me again sooner rather than later.

    I prepared to use my slam attack once more when Whitney shouted, “Miltank, use defense curl!”
    Oh no, I know what's coming. This can't be good.

    I should have known better than to attack the miltank when it was using defense curl, since it was one of my own moves that had proven to be very useful in the past. With the miltank’s size and weight, the effect was all the more difficult against my small frame. I was running to the cow when it was putting itself into a rolled up position, but I was going too fast to stop myself—one of the disadvantages to being fast. When my body collided with the miltank’s—just as before—this time it was me who was knocked backward. The miltank’s body was rock hard, and I now had a throbbing headache. I grabbed my head, knowing it was futile, but hoping it would stop soon.

    “Okay, Miltank, I think it’s time for your signature move. Rollout!” Whitney commanded, and all hints of her crying self were gone.
    And it makes sense for that crying self to be gone, because this is exactly what I've been waiting for all along, Miltank's Rollout.

    “What’s rollout?” I asked myself, afraid to soon find out. Since we were both normal-type pokémon that hadn’t quite reached the threshold where we could learn the elemental moves discussed at the pokémon fan club, I was expecting for every ordered attack to be familiar and similar to my own. This, however, was completely new to me.

    I waited for the miltank to obey, but it stayed in its ball-like position. It looked daunting just like that, but it was even more damaging to my self-confidence when it started rolling toward me, and at a remarkable speed I wasn’t anticipating from the larger pokémon. Stunned, I wasn’t able to dodge the rollout as it crashed into me, forcing my body to bend back so that I was leaning against my tail in an awkward position. The miltank continued to flatten my body as it tumbled over my stomach, my face, my ears. Out of every body part I had, the tail hurt the most. And it went without saying that I was sick of my tail hurting. It signified pride. It signified strength, and I was tired of pretending that it was an object I didn’t really own just because it was in a location that I couldn’t always see.
    That was painful to read because of it making you envision the suffering Senori's going through. Nice work tying back the significance of the tail, though.

    I had to evolve now, or never.

    Up until now, I hadn’t noticed the urge that my body had had to evolve for ages, now. It was a peculiar sensation that other sentret in my clan had reported having in the past, but they never dared act on it. It was the sensation of feeling like you were about to burst out of your skin at any moment. Your eyes bulged at random times, wanting to pop out of your body and watch from the outside as the inside of you was turned completely inside out. Your ears were hearing sounds that didn’t really exist—it was the inner cry of the soul that they were hearing, but they didn’t know that. Only the heart knew, and I had kept it from reacting all this time, but no longer.

    The miltank must have realized what I was about to do, no doubt, since the sensation was so strong within me. It had unfurled and been watching me carefully for the last several moments. It looked entirely unhappy, unpleased. Now, however, it was rolled back up into a ball, and it was heading straight toward me, faster than ever. I had time, though, since it was all the way on the other side of the arena.

    “I’m not going to let you do that, darn it!” it said harshly.

    “Senori, dodge it, and quick!” Sai said.

    But I wasn’t planning on dodging it. No, I didn’t want to dodge it. I wanted to stop the attack dead in its tracks. I had to prove that strength lay hidden inside of me somewhere else, and not just in my tail. I had relied on it in battles and in other situations too many time in the past. I didn’t want that anymore.
    I really hope Senori's overconfidence will not be something he regrets.

    I stood exactly where I was, facing the miltank, keeping my body as straight as I could, not allowing for any twisting or the desire to turn away. I thrust my arm and my paws forward, and waited.

    “Senori, what are you doing? Dodge it!” called Sai.

    “Nah,” I said, grinning and hoping he could see it. He would just have to trust what was to come. He seemed accustomed to trusting people, anyhow—almost too much. So I could follow myself, just this once, and then I would never obey another command from my trainer again.

    Finally, the miltank reached me and collided with me once more. Instead of allowing myself to be flattened like a pancake yet again, I pushed at the big ball, keeping it suspended on the ground. I grimaced; I was using every ounce of my body, every ounce of my power, just to keep this miltank here. And for what? I wasn’t attacking it or causing damage, so this was simply delaying the battle further. I supposed that I was causing the miltank to waste some of its energy but I didn’t know if that would be enough.

    “I… won’t let you… stop me!” I cried through gritted teeth. I couldn’t see miltank’s face as it rolled, but judging by the sudden increase in power at my words, I could tell that it was more angry than ever.

    So I had proven to myself that I had strength somewhere else. It was an enlightening feeling, to say the least. Who knew that I had it in me? Now, I had to figure out how to give myself a chance to evolve. The miltank, given the chance, was going to try to stop me at any cost… I had to keep it distracted somehow, someway…

    And in a battle, the best way to do that was to let the opponent pokémon recover from getting hurt.

    I started letting the miltank push me back on purpose, letting it believe that it was finally beginning to overpower me. It was quite the opposite, but of course I didn’t say so—I was controlling the situation entirely. I looked behind me, seeing how close we were to the wall. It was still quite a stretch to get there, but I could manage. I let the miltank push me back even faster now, and the fury emanating from the cow vanished—it really thought that it was winning. When we were close enough to the wall, I moved my feet to the left and then jumped out of the way completing, allowing the miltank to smash into the wall, just as planned.

    I didn’t waste any time after that. I let go of my inhibitions, and all of the inner energy inside of me that I had been keeping contained in a bottle of sorts. Through my eyes, I could see that I was beginning to glow. I didn’t dare look down anymore—my old body was old news. Surprisingly, the transition didn’t hurt at all. I could feel my body grow longer, more slender. My arms—which had felt sometimes like an odd pair of wings in the past—were now shaped like normal arms, with longer paws. My ears grew shorter, which pleased me as well, as maybe now my hearing wouldn’t be so sharp, as that had also been a prominent feature in my clan… I wondered how my insides were changing, but it didn’t matter, as long as everything significant was present. As far as my color went, I couldn’t tell if I’d still be the dark shade of brown that I had always been. I would have to look in a mirror later, or, preferably, have Sai tell me.
    That was awesome. All of it. I'm glad Senori's confidence paid off, and it paid off in such a great read.

    When the evolution was completely, I immediately looked behind me. My bushy, important tail was no longer there. Of course, I still had a tail—I was expecting this—but it was a longer tail. A natural tail. One that wasn’t blessed. And that was what mattered.
    Can you explain Senori's opinion regarding his new tail a bit more to me? I don't fully understand why he feels the way he does about it.

    I looked at the miltank, who was staring at me vigorously. It had stood back up and kicked at the wall a few times while I was finishing. While I was fully happy with myself, it wasn’t happy for me at all.

    “Senori,” Sai said. “You evolved! Wow…”

    Ah, yes, and then there was the spectating crowd. I looked back at him, waving to him with my new arm, which felt awkward, but I was sure that I would get used to it. For now, he seemed content, and that was what counted to me.
    Senori, don't get too cocky yet... finish off Miltank first.

    “Miltank, I know things aren’t looking too good, but you can do it! Use rollout,” Whitney said. The hint of urgency had returned to her frail voice.

    Miltank huffed and obeyed, returning to its ball-like form. As he headed toward me, I swished my tail around, reveling in the fact that it was a soft tail now, not one made of any substance at all.

    “Use a new attack or something, Senori!” Sai said.

    I chuckled. “Just because I evolved doesn’t mean that I forgot all of my attacks or anything,” I said, also reveling in the fact that my voice was the same.

    All the while, the miltank was charging toward me once more. Yes, I was treating the miltank like a joke, now. I knew there was no hope for it.

    When it was close enough to take seriously, I focused my senses. While my hearing was still intact, everything else had enhanced. I started intently at the miltank. When I thought it was best to perform a body slam, I did so—and my prediction was dead on. I hit the miltank with the full force of my new body directly on its head, stopping not only the rollout, but the entire pokémon itself. I returned to my original position, watching the effects take place. The miltank was grabbing its head and going around in circles, dizzy and confused.

    “All right,” Whitney said. “That’s enough. A gym leader knows when she’s… lost…” Before she even finished her sentence, she had already burst into tears. Her sobbing echoed throughout the entire gym, it was so loud.
    Well then. I didn't expect Whitney to start crying like this, even if she does so in the games.

    “Ah,” Sai said sheepishly. “I don’t know… I’m sorry! I didn’t expect to win! Well, I was hoping to win, of course, but I didn’t want to make you cry! Can I tell you some jokes or something?”

    “Jokes won’t work, you jerk!” she cried as she returned the miltank to its pokéball. I watched it as it was immersed in a flash of red, thanking it for its time and effort silently.

    Next, Whitney pulled one last thing out of her back pocket. She peered down at it in her hand for a moment before she flung it in my direction. It landed on the ground in front of me, so I picked it up in my new paws. The object was shaped like a golden diamond with silver edges. The gym badge certainly lived up to Goldenrod City’s expectations, I thought.

    I ran up to Sai—rather clumsily, I must say—and handed it to him.

    “I believe it’s your win, not mine,” he said cheerfully, petting me on the head, “but I suppose I can hold onto it for you.”

    “If the miltank had made me use any body parts that I couldn’t control yet, I would have been doomed. You flatter me,” I said just as eagerly.

    “Jerk,” Whitney said again.

    I looked at the others, gouging their reactions. Atis looked proud, though he didn’t say anything and kept himself behind everyone else. Kuiora didn’t appear as jealous of the attention as I thought she’d be. Rennio was beyond relieved that I took over his fighting position—when our eyes met, I could tell that he was saying thank you.
    Interesting that Atis was there the entire time, not to mention that he appears to be proud of Senori.

    As for Ezrem…

    “How about a good math joke?” he said. “That always cheers everyone up. So, say this gym leader and her opponent have two pokémon. The opponent loses no pokémon, while the gym leader loses both. How many pokémon does the gym leader have now?”

    “Ezrem?”

    “Yes?”

    “Shut up,” I said, but nothing could ruin my mood. My voice betrayed me; I was trying not to laugh.
    Okay, that was actually pretty funny.

    We had not only won a gym badge from Whitney, but money. The first thing we did with our money was buy a new backpack, new food, new water, more clothes for Sai. He spent it all in one place, as usual—back to his old self. The second thing was purchased was a night in the pokémon center to celebrate. It was a major step up from being out in the wild, I had to admit.
    I hope I'm off base with this unsettled feeling I'm getting.

    Sai was sitting on the bed, looking happy yet strained at the same time. Wasn’t he glad that we had won? Wasn’t he glad that we could move on to the next part of journey? I got on all fours—finding this position much more preferable to standing on my tail, as if I were constantly watching for danger—and went over to Sai’s new backpack. I dug through it, looking for something. When I finally found it, I wobbled over to the boy, and handed it to him.

    It was the bottle of medication that he had brought back with him Atis had told me about it, and I agreed it was peculiar… but not unwelcome.

    “Won’t you stay with us this time?” I said. “We were worried when you left...”

    Sai took the bottle slowly, turning it over in his hands for a very, very long few moments. He looked at me, smiling sadly, and he patted me on the head.

    “I’ll try to stay,” he said simply.

    And that was what I wanted. This Sai—the loyal one, the excited one, the happy one—was the one we loved and wanted to stay with us. Though he was reckless and his emotions ran higher compared to all of the other people and pokémon I’d met, it wasn’t anything that we couldn’t deal with. Yes, this was the Sai I wanted to protect and serve at the same time. This was the Sai that, with my new form, I wanted to continue growing as a leader with.

    That night, when we were all sleeping, with Atis on the top bunk and with everyone else on the floor, I went up to be on the bed with Sai. He just smiled at me, said his mind was racing, as usual, and he couldn’t sleep… as usual. I didn’t say a word; I rolled myself into a tiny ball and curled up next to his side, silently telling him that I hoped that he meant what he said what he told me he would stay with us.

    It was the most comfortable that I had ever been.
    I love how warm that ending feels.

    Of course, there's something much deeper beneath the surface going on. I think there's enough to go on to make a clear guess as to what's going on with Sai, though I'll refrain from doing so for now. I have the feeling that something very important is going to happen soon.

    I thought this chapter felt a lot like a return to form after the Absent Sai story arc. Those chapters weren't bad, but they felt vastly different than what came before them. This chapter felt like ones from before Sai ran away.

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  3. #178
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    Dragonicwari

    Is that suppose to be completed?
    And this stared?
    Yes and yes. Fixed.

    While I can completely understand what your saying, this felt awkward to read for whatever reason. It's probably just me, so don't worry about it
    Yeah, I don’t know what is wrong with it.

    Sid87

    Something is off about the bolded part, but I'm not sure what it could be.
    Me neither.

    I think the use of "legit" here is a bit too colloquial for me. I would just go "legitimate".
    I didn’t even consider whether or not legit sounded colloquial at all. Interesting.

    -I have to admit, this chapter perplexed me; I really thought this story was done with gym battles and basic trainer storying. It seemed we were full-steam ahead into whatever it was that made Sai run away, especially since he no longer has his previous badges. So I was curious to see another chapter focusing on winning a gym badge. Obviously the crux going forward HAS to be the relationship between Sai and Team Rocket, right? I would think.

    I thought the Senori evolution stuff was very well done and powerfully written. Good work with that, as always!
    Yes, I did this on purpose in the hopes that I would be, uh, paralleling Sai’s moods. Sai’s moods and demeanor go up and down constantly, and I was hoping to portray that with speeding up and slowing down and then speeding up the plot again. If it didn’t work, oops. But yes, the plot will move forward from here on; a couple more things just have to happen first.

    Thanks for commenting.

    The Great Butler

    I just caught that "before Sai went completely insane" part here, and it immediately gets me thinking. Did something happen off-screen? Sai didn't seem to be "going insane over breaking the rules again" last chapter.
    No, nothing happened off-screen. It was just a reminder that Sai’s gone crazy in the past and Senori didn’t want it to happen again.

    Minor corrections: "The revelation that I had come to feel."
    Fixed, as well as the other error.

    Is it really all that much of a lie, though? They did have to learn some skills while surviving in the wild without Sai.
    I guess that’s true, yeah.

    Sai's behavior is once again a little disturbing, though. He's returning to normal but so slowly that he still seems out of sorts. Something feels off.
    Is his behavior ever not disturbing?

    That is indeed a little strange for Kuiora to back off willingly. It struck me right away.
    She’s changed quite a bit.

    I just noticed that you're using "utters" instead of the correct word for what a cow has, which are "udders." I didn't catch it the first time.
    Well, I feel dumb. Fixed.

    Unless you are referring to Miltank with the generic "him," that cannot be refused to refer to Miltank, as Miltank is a female-only species.
    Oops.

    Can you explain Senori's opinion regarding his new tail a bit more to me? I don't fully understand why he feels the way he does about it.
    I wrote in the chapter that Senori’s clan appreciated the sentret tail. They “blessed” it because it was their main tool in tracking food and watching for predators at night. Senori was hoping to get rid of his tail so he would break his main connection to his old clan. He feels this way about his new tail because there’s nothing special about it at all. It’s just a normal furret tail that can’t help him do the things that he once cared to do for his clan.

    Of course, there's something much deeper beneath the surface going on. I think there's enough to go on to make a clear guess as to what's going on with Sai, though I'll refrain from doing so for now. I have the feeling that something very important is going to happen soon.

    I thought this chapter felt a lot like a return to form after the Absent Sai story arc. Those chapters weren't bad, but they felt vastly different than what came before them. This chapter felt like ones from before Sai ran away.
    [/quote]

    A couple more important things have to happen soon and then we’ll be full force into the Sai story arc.

    I would read my response to Sid87’s similar response to “this chapter felt a lot like a return to form”. It was done on purpose. Thanks for commenting as always~

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  4. #179
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 19 ; [RENNIO]
    ephemeral


    *

    I had been to small village, large villages, cities, towns that wished they were cities. I had been to the sea, the desert, the highest bridge in the world. I had gone from region to region. It was all the same when you thought you could die at any moment, when you couldn't help but wonder what was wrong with you.

    What could have been, what should have been. That was what my life consisted of. I was limited, when I wanted to be limitless. I no longer wanted to fear every threat that came my way. I no longer wanted to let Annie creep into my thoughts. I no longer wanted to let Ezrem's words make me think I had to accomplish something amazing.

    What could I do about it? Well, I had already spent enough time learning about other people and pokémon. It was entirely another thing to learn from people and pokémon. Everyone came in and out of my life in such a wild, quick-paced fashion because they were meant to heal me in some way. It was finally time for someone to teach me to think differently about life.

    I mostly thanked Senori for this. When Sai disappeared, I was crushed. I fretted over him day in and day out, wondering if he was okay. I thought it was like Annie's situation all over again. How could he do that to me, when we had just become partners? At least Senori helped me out. He told me I was having guilty delusions along with delusions of grandeur. I thought everything was my fault, yet I thought I was invincible. My reasoning: since such a terrible event occurred in my life, it simply couldn't happen again. Senori showed me that that was a lie. I had to accept that another terrible event happened. I had to accept that it didn't happen because of my lack of battling power.

    Sai came back, and I was ecstatic. Even though he said we were going to the gym right away, I swear it didn't matter to me in that moment. And then, at the gym, Senori's fight inspired me. If he could find a way to escape his past, then so could I. I felt like I was home.

    Home...

    That was where Ezrem wanted to be.

    I approached Sai about this. I had to find a way to get him there, once and for all.

    This would be step one, the beginning of my change.

    *

    I woke up early the morning after the successful gym battle. I was full of energy and determination. Sai was awake too. I used this chance to talk to him, though he was murmuring to himself about something.

    “Sai,” I whispered to him, since Senori was lying at his side with closed eyes.

    He turned his head to look at me. “Yes, Elekid?”

    “Won't you call me Rennio?” If he was going to listen to my thoughts and take them to heart, he had to know who I really was.

    “I don't consider that your name,” he said plainly. “Did your old trainer give you that name?”

    “Yeah,” I said, smiling at the positive memory of Annie. “That's why I want you to call me too. Especially if you're not going to give me another name...”

    “It would be even worse to give you another name. You can call yourself what you want,” he said.

    I allowed myself to change the subject. “I wanted to talk about me and Ezrem,” I said. “Our goals for the future...”

    “The future?” Sai said. Annie always had had a goal in mind, but it seemed my two trainers were the exact opposite of each other.

    “Yeah. Me and Ezrem have been looking for home. We really want to get there someday.”

    “Where's home for you?”

    “Unova. Rufflet are from Unova, and apparently so were elekid... once upon a time...”

    “Oh,” Sai said, my statement having no effect on him. “I don't know where that is.”

    “There are maps and ships and planes! Plenty of ways to get there,” I said in one breath.

    “Why didn't you go there after your trainer died?”

    “We're pokémon,” I said, my voice soft. He had stung me with his blunt choice of words. Did he have any social skills at all? “We can't do that by ourselves. That's why we need you.”

    Sai thought for a moment. “So you want me to bring you to this Unova place, huh?”

    “That's right! I'd do anything to go there! And so would Ezrem, if you'd let him be on the team,” I said. This conversation was invigorating, in a way.

    “What would you do?”

    “I'd... battle for you. Ezrem would, too, if you needed him,” I repeated. “I'll stop being a baby. I'll really try... and I've never even tried before—”

    “Stop,” Sai interrupted. I froze. “You don't have to try for me. Either way, I can't fulfill your request.”

    “Why not?” I said, my heart falling in my chest.

    “I can't leave the region.”

    “Why not?” I asked again.

    “It's... complicated. If I left the region, people would hunt me down and do unimaginable things if they caught me...” Sai said. He lay down, seeming forlorn and desperate.

    “So you'll never leave Johto?”

    “No,” he said, “but maybe I can get you guys there. I can't make any promises.”

    “That's good enough!” I said. Senori stirred in his sleep. I continued quietly, “I promise I'll fight for you from now on. We're leaving for the next town soon, right? I'll fight in a trainer battle. You'll see.”

    But Sai wasn't impressed. “Like I said, you don't have to fight for me. In fact, you not fighting probably helps.”

    “What? That doesn't make any sense...”

    “I can't explain. But do what you want.”

    “Okay.” I didn't push him any further. He was being mysterious and confusing as it was, and I had completed my goal, anyway.

    He looked at me peculiarly after I stopped talking. Even when my eyes shifted back and forth between him and the room, he didn't look away. His eyes were a dark shade of blue. It almost made him look crazy, as if he were feeling intensely wound up inside. He seemed to be longing for something. That's the best way I can put it.

    To break the silence, I asked, “Will you... feed me sometime? My old trainer used to feed me... It's been a long time since anyone's done that... I just want it done, for old time's sake, you know. I'm sorry if that's weird.”

    At this, Sai laughed. “I feed you all the time. Every day, in fact. So I don't know what you're talking about.”

    “Feeding me. Like… a baby.”

    Sai chuckled again. “You aren't a baby, but maybe that could be your prize for fighting.”

    I was satisfied with his answer. That would be my motivation to fight. “I have one last question,” I said.

    “Go for it.”

    “Why did you leave us? We were so worried about you...”

    "...Senori said the same thing.”

    “Because it's true.”

    “I can't tell you,” he said. “I had... business to take care of. If I could have taken you guys along, I would have put you all in your pokéballs or something. Be glad you stayed where you were.”

    “Why? Being a wild pokémon was no fun at all,” I said, shuddering at the idea.

    “Maybe one day, you'll come with me, and you'll regret you ever did.”

    And that was the end of our conversation. I understood my trainer even less now.

    *

    Our next destination was Ecruteak City. I was nervous as we set out because of a promise I didn't even have to keep. Sai walked quicker than he normally did, which didn't help.

    “So, uh, why are we flying through the cities?” I asked him, trying to keep up the brisk pace. It wasn't working. The others were moving along just fine, though.

    “We are flying through the cities because that's what I was ordered to do.”

    I lagged slightly behind. I could afford it as long as I could see the group. Again, I compared Annie to Sai. Annie went on a journey because she wanted to. Sai was on a journey though he didn't want to be. Annie was a free spirit. Sai was tied down by... something. Someone. Yeah, that sounded about right. It didn't make things any clearer.

    I went up to Senori and asked him how long they had been traveling.

    “Maybe... three months? Four months?" Senori said after doing the math in his head.

    “Do you know why he's going so fast?”

    “No one knows. You're not alone.”

    “Well—”

    I bumped into Ezrem. I stumbled backward, mumbling that I was sorry, though he should have been watching what he was doing.

    “Oops,” Ezrem said, grinning. “But really. I'm trying not to let your mind wander too far. It's too small and fragile to be out by itself, don't you think?”

    “That's not very nice,” I said, huffing and crossing my arms.

    “You're the baby,” Ezrem said. “Enough's gone wrong as it is. Don't try to bring any more drama into our lives.”

    I didn't respond. Soon I would tell Ezrem about the talk I had with Sai. I would tell him how we were closer to home than we had been in years, since Annie never seemed like she was going to finish her journey. (I wouldn't have left, but Ezrem was another story.) He would be so thrilled, I just knew it! And after I told him, nothing would be able to bring his spirits down.

    Things were quiet for a while after that. We kept going and only dared to speak up when we were hungry. Sai, being the good trainer that he was, fed us. He told us, however, that we should walk and eat at once, because we were running out of time. Dusk would start setting soon, he said. The sun was as bright as ever, but I listened anyway.

    When dusk really did come, Ezrem approached me again.

    He was about to say something when I said, “I told him about Unova and everything.”

    He closed his beak and then opened it again. “I don't know if Unova is really home or not. I mean, rufflet live there and all—so did elekid—but who says we'll like it there?”

    “Ezrem?” I was unsure of what he was saying. He was going to change his mind now?

    “Home could be just about anywhere. We could take life for what it is and end up in a happy spot nonetheless. Do you get what I'm saying?”

    “...So you want to give up the plan?”

    “No. If we can get to Unova, we should go. I'm just saying I'm not as excited about it as I once was.”

    I sighed in relief. I had only followed in his footsteps because he was so much smarter than me and because I was always lost on my own. If even he didn't know the path to success, I wouldn't stand a chance.

    “Yeah...” I mumbled. “To get Sai to think about it, I told him I'd fight again.”

    “You did?” Ezrem said, his eyes growing wide.

    “I did,” I said, then added, “I meant it.”

    “Then what am I focusing on my own self-pity for? Let's find a trainer!”

    I didn't have the heart to tell him no. Truthfully, I didn't know if I was ready or not anymore. We had seen trainers pass by already and Sai hadn't spoken to any of them about a battle. Either he had forgotten, or he really thought fighting wasn't the best plan for me. I couldn't believe that. How else was I supposed to earn respect for my evolution line?

    Ezrem ran up to several trainers. He pointed to them, then to Sai. Most of them blew him off, in a hurry to find shelter before the sun set completely. When he got tired of being ignored, he started kicking them in the shins. I couldn't help but laugh. That kind of behavior was so... Ezrem-like.

    “Is that your rufflet?” one trainer said.

    “No,” Sai said, “but he likes to follow me around. He wants me to battle you.”

    “I can battle you,” the trainer said excitedly. “Let's make it interesting, okay? If I win, I get the rufflet. If I lose, you can keep him.”

    Sai stared at the other trainer. Was he really going to use Ezrem as a bargaining tool? My heart raced. I definitely wasn't willing to participate anymore.

    “I don't want to make bets today. Ask him,” Sai said.

    “Tell him it's a deal. I have faith in Rennio!” Ezrem said.

    I waved my arms at him frantically. “Ezrem, just because you're having an identity crisis doesn't mean you can gamble your life away!” I cried.

    “He says okay,” Sai said.

    “All right,” the boy said, licking his lips. “Let's do this.”

    And so it started. While I was sweating profusely, Sai and the other boy took their positions, turning the surrounding clearing into an arena.

    “Go, Arcanine!” the boy cried.

    I wasn't mentally or physically prepared for my opponent. The pokémon resembled a dog that was at least three times my size. It had a cream-colored mane covering its neck, head and legs, along with random black stripes on its mostly orange body.

    As a greeting, it growled.

    “You've got to be kidding me,” I said weakly.

    “I believe in you, Rennio!” Ezrem called from the sidelines. “What have you got to lose, anyway? Your life? You got that for free!”

    I glared at him, ungrateful for his fake support. I tried not to let my thoughts succumb to death. Rennio has come back to the world, and whatever.

    “Elekid,” Sai said, “show me what kind of moves you have, okay?”

    “Right,” I said, putting myself into an intimidating stance. I couldn't back down now, though I wanted to crawl to Sai and beg him for forgiveness. I had gotten myself into this mess and it was up to me to get out of it. I would still have to smack Ezrem later for putting me and himself into such a life-threatening situation.

    I ran at the arcanine, unsure of what attack I would use. It had been so long since I battled I apparently forgot the meaning of strategy. The dog crouched downward, opening its mouth to show off its fangs. I slid down on my knees, going under its head and landing underneath its belly. I felt somewhat safe here, but I kept on fighting. I kicked its underside with as much force as I could, causing the arcanine to yelp. I fled to my original spot before he could crush me in retaliation.

    “That was my low kick attack,” I said, making sure Sai could hear me. Of course, this left an opening for the arcanine to attack me.

    “Arcanine, use take down!” the boy called.

    Before I knew it, I was crying out in pain, not expecting any sort of impact. I held my stomach, swaying back and forth, hoping the cradling motion would send the terrible sensation away.

    “Don't talk to me!” Sai said. “Use any attack.”

    I nodded. Sai enjoyed being a spectator, but at least he checked in here and there to keep everything controlled.

    I continued using my low kick again, but the arcanine knew what to expect. Every time I got close, it hopped out of the way with extraordinary speed. I dodged its take down—but just barely, due to the combination of my opponent's size and my own nervousness.

    Eventually I decided to stop playing games. I would use an attack that simply couldn't be avoided. As I focused my mind, I recalled what it was like to use my swift attack. I felt pure as I released a series of bright, solid stars toward the dog. The arcanine maneuvered around the volley of stars, but I shot so many of them that it got hit more and more often.

    The arcanine growled again. I scolded myself, wondering why pokémon got aggravated during battles. It wasn't my fault, right? But the angrier the arcanine was, the more powerful its attacks would be... This battle wasn't over.

    Apparently, Sai noticed this. “Use thundershock, Elekid!”

    When I released a loud, crackling streak of lightning, I felt immensely grateful. I had done it. I had really done it—and by my own free will! It wasn't done for self-defense, and it wasn't done for the sake of doing it. I was in the middle of a real battle. I smiled as the electricity engulfed the arcanine.

    The attack backfired. The arcanine had been underestimating me, and now it was going to unleash its fury.

    “Arcanine, use flamethrower!” its trainer cried.

    Flamethrower was the strongest fire-type attack anyone could use. And since the arcanine was a fire-type itself, it would be even worse. It was simple logic that even I, in my anxious state, could follow.

    Fire.

    I remembered Ezrem and I remembered I was the last elekid and I remembered instances in which I had seen hurt pokémon... None of these memories were pleasant, though I cherished Ezrem dearly.

    The arcanine drew in a deep breath, and I swear it was grinning at me as it did so. Its head drew back, and when it burst forward, so did numerous flames. I stood there. I wasn't ready to die or be hurt... I still had so much to do...

    “Rennio, you have to do something!” Ezrem cried, flapping his wings up and down. But he knew I wasn't going to do anything. He flapped his wings not to get my attention, but to fly over to me. He braced the flamethrower attack with one lone wing.

    I watched as Ezrem was shrouded by the fire. It hurt me, as if I was the one being hit. I couldn't imagine what agony my friend was going through. The whole thing reminded me of Annie and the forest fire. It was as if the world conspired against us at all times.

    When the attack ended, Ezrem shrieked. He hopped around like an imbecile, holding on to the wing that had taken the most damage.

    “What's going on here?” the boy cried. “The rufflet wasn't supposed to battle! I can't believe this. You just hurt my shiny pokémon...”

    "...Shiny?” Ezrem said, toppling over. I was probably the only one who could hear his muffled confusion.

    “Battle's over,” Sai said, rushing over to us.

    “Shiny?” Ezrem repeated. “That's what I am? That's why everyone's after me? Because I'm shiny?”

    “I need to get him to a Pokémon Center,” Sai said, picking up Ezrem in his arms and holding him carefully.

    “This isn't over yet! The bet is still on!”

    “The bet is over! No one wins,” Sai said firmly. Without forfeiting his money he turned toward Goldenrod City, motioning for all of us to follow.

    And so we went back to the city, with me being the farthest behind.

    *

    It took about an hour to get back to the Pokémon Center. Ezrem was shouting out indecipherable obscenities the entire time. I wasn't sure what being shiny meant, but evidently it was something special.

    When Sai handed Ezrem over to the nurse, she asked what had happened.

    “We ran into a tough pokémon,” was all Sai said, his head drooping low. He was out of breath, but was doing a good job at not letting it show.

    “My goodness,” she said. “It looks like he got burnt. I'll have to take a closer look at him. Please wait in the lobby, and I'll come get you as soon as I have more information.”

    “Thank you.”

    The running, the encounter with the nurse, the waiting... It all went by like a blur to me. I had gotten Ezrem hurt, badly so. I hadn't meant to, I really hadn't. My fear of death was supposed to be my problem, not his! He shouldn't have run into the arena so selflessly. He shouldn't have taken the blow for me. It should have been me who got burnt. At least he was alive. Still, I was overcome by guilt.

    “It's okay...” Sai said, noticing this. He pat my shoulder. “Rennio, you did a good job,” he added.

    “Rennio...” I said to myself. Sai had said my actual name.

    I started crying, both from happiness and sadness. Until now, I hadn’t thought such a thing was possible.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 16th January 2016 at 3:45 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


  5. #180
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    Sorry it took me so long pair. <3!

    Sometimes, I thought that life was defined by the distance between what you wanted and what you needed.
    Wonderful way to open a chapter. Really sets the tone

    I would be getting rid of my tail.
    ARGH! I hate that I saw your banner before it actually happened!

    Ezrem said, now pulling on the elekid’s arm, making him panic in retaliation.
    Retaliation read really weird for me. Such a combative word, and even though Ezrem is grabbing him, I feel like a word like response would read better

    This time, afterimages of the tiny clefairy were present every time the fairy grew a little bigger.
    Very nice description of the effects of minimize. I certainly wouldn't have portrayed it that way, but it works better than anything I could have come up with. It's almost like the game if I remember correctly. The shrinking, then a flash of multiple outlines. Though I could be wrong. Anyway, nicely done

    “If I lose, then you’ll have witnessed the single most unlikely thing to ever happen,” I said, grinning
    Sounds like something Dorian would say lol

    “Okay, Miltank, I think it’s time for your signature move. Rollout!” Whitney commanded, and all hints of her crying self were gone.
    Your version of Whitney seems pretty preachy, so it works I guess. Ordinarily though, I'd advise against using such a long sentence in the middle of battle. You dig?

    my old body was old news.
    For some reason, not only does this perfectly describe evolution from a Pokemon's POV, but it's my favorite sentence in the chapter. awesome

    “Use a new attack or something, Senori!” Sai said.
    LOL, I can see a normal, inexperienced trainer saying something like that, but with Sai, it means so much more than confusion and excitement to me. It goes to show that once again, he's out of his element, and has only the slightest idea what he doing. I may be out of sorts here, but that sentence really showed me more of Sai.

    Chapter 19

    when you couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with you
    You're such an annoyingly amazing writer, you know that? Anyway, the portion I quoted is something I feel like any person could sympathize with, and I really responded to it

    I thought it was the Annie situation all over again, except without the fire!
    Feels like an odd place for an exclamation point. read weird to me

    Plenty of transportation modes!”
    That made me lol

    “It’s complicated. I have—had—people following me… If I left the region, surely they would hunt me down until the end of time… and do unimaginable things…”
    The pauses really added to the gravity of what Sai was talking about, so good job on that. I'm not sure if this is the second, or third time you've mentioned that Sai thinks people are following him, but it's infuriatingly mysterious, and I really, really like it

    “Maybe one day, you’ll come with me, and you’ll regret you ever did.”
    I still say he's a ****ing robot and needed his electricity fix, but whatever, I'm just going to go sit and play with my theories in the corner

    because that’s what I was ordered to do.”
    There it is again. NVM, I forgot that you had a bachelor's in being cryptic haha

    “Ezrem, just because you’re have an identity crisis doesn’t mean that you can gamble your life away!”
    That line struck me as so sad for some reason

    I continued trying to run under the arcanine and using low kicks, but this time, the dog knew what to expect.
    I really can't imagine a worse opponent for Rennio. Really though, that sounds awful. The expression and words he used when it happened were spot on and it gave a perfect peek into his mind and emotions. You should be proud of that

    “Shiny?” Ezrem repeated. “That’s what I am? That’s why everyone’s after me? Because I’m shiny?
    Thank god, I was hoping he'd get to it soon, so this is a real relief lol

    Hmm, yeah, two great chapters as usual. The one with Senori expanded on some theories I had about him in a surprisingly touching way, and I've felt like evolution was something that was due for him, so I was quite pleased by that. You lead up to it really casually and naturally too, which is something that can be quite hard to do. With chapter 19, the biggest standout for me was Ezrem's realization about his shiny status, which is apt to inspire all sorts of even more awfulness from him that he already has. It's off, even though the chapter was Rennio based, I found myself examining the other characters more. Interesting

    Anyway, awesome job as usual, and I look forward to the next chapter

    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)

  6. #181
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    I read the chapter, but I didn't do a breakdown as I went, so I'm just going to give my thoughts.

    You did it again; you took one of the characters I was disinterested in and evoked feelings from me. And Renny really started having his own voice this time. He came off as more innocent and naive, yet full of heart and desire, even if his courage and strength can't match them. I told you my earlier problem with Rennio was he didn't sound like a "new" character yet that really seemed set-apart from early Senori or Atis, but I think you did build him as his own character here.

    Ezrem remains a mystery; he threw himself in harm's way to save Rennio? I wouldn't have seen that coming before. It was heartfelt to see that kind of move from him. Perhaps he felt too guilty for goading Rennio into such a dangerous battle, but still... it seems different than what I've imagined.

    There was some writing here I didn't think flowed well and some lines I had to re-read to follow well. One example in particular is:

    So I could tell anyone that what could have been tasted like sand, which made me ache for something to drink as my conscious dragged me across a desert of regret. What should have been tasted like salt water, which made ships roar out to the stars in the dead of night, hoping to be answered so it wouldn’t have to feel so alone on the big blue sea.
    I had to read that about a half dozen times in several different inflections to figure out what Rennio was saying.

    A section that hit me hard:

    “I can’t tell you,” Sai said quietly, finally looking away. “I had… business to take care of. If I could have taken you guys along, I would have. I would have put you all in your pokéballs or something. But be glad you stayed where you were.”

    “Why? Being wild pokémon when we belong to a trainer is no fun at all,” I said, shuddering at the idea all over again.

    “Maybe one day, you’ll come with me, and you’ll regret you ever did.”
    That... is Sai TOTALLY admitting he *IS* going to leave again at some point, right? I was shocked by that, but I guess Sai has never lied to his pokemon before, so why would he lie about that? Still... is it foreshadowing? Or just Sai being dreadful? Can't decide!

    Another very good chapter, as per usual. I'm... GUESSING Ezrem is next? It seems a while since we've heard from him.
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  7. #182
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    Just read the first chapter and I absolutely love it. There is nothing more for me to say.

  8. #183
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    May 2007
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    Sidewinder

    Sorry it took me so long pair. <3!
    You’re cute, so I forgive you.

    ARGH! I hate that I saw your banner before it actually happened!
    I’m sorry! I waited two weeks to release the banner.

    Your version of Whitney seems pretty preachy, so it works I guess. Ordinarily though, I'd advise against using such a long sentence in the middle of battle. You dig?
    Makes sense. I’m reading the pokémon adventures manga right now and they always talk so much during the middle of the battle, it’s weird. So… I dig.

    LOL, I can see a normal, inexperienced trainer saying something like that, but with Sai, it means so much more than confusion and excitement to me. It goes to show that once again, he's out of his element, and has only the slightest idea what he doing. I may be out of sorts here, but that sentence really showed me more of Sai.
    It does show Sai. You’d think that after all this time he could manage a simple battle, but nah. He’d rather stay on the sidelines and do nothing.

    You're such an annoyingly amazing writer, you know that? Anyway, the portion I quoted is something I feel like any person could sympathize with, and I really responded to it
    WHY THANK YOU.

    The pauses really added to the gravity of what Sai was talking about, so good job on that. I'm not sure if this is the second, or third time you've mentioned that Sai thinks people are following him, but it's infuriatingly mysterious, and I really, really like it
    This is probably the third or fourth time now. He’s a paranoid dork.

    I still say he's a ****ing robot and needed his electricity fix, but whatever, I'm just going to go sit and play with my theories in the corner
    Sai takes great offense to this. *CRY*

    There it is again. NVM, I forgot that you had a bachelor's in being cryptic haha
    Oh, so THAT’S what I’m going to college for.

    I really can't imagine a worse opponent for Rennio. Really though, that sounds awful. The expression and words he used when it happened were spot on and it gave a perfect peek into his mind and emotions. You should be proud of that
    Exactly what I was going for. Fire-type pokémon? Bad memories. Fully evolved? Doesn’t even know how to battle a caterpie. It makes for great tragedy.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Sid87

    You did it again; you took one of the characters I was disinterested in and evoked feelings from me. And Renny really started having his own voice this time. He came off as more innocent and naive, yet full of heart and desire, even if his courage and strength can't match them. I told you my earlier problem with Rennio was he didn't sound like a "new" character yet that really seemed set-apart from early Senori or Atis, but I think you did build him as his own character here.
    I feel vaguely proud of this right now.

    Ezrem remains a mystery; he threw himself in harm's way to save Rennio? I wouldn't have seen that coming before. It was heartfelt to see that kind of move from him. Perhaps he felt too guilty for goading Rennio into such a dangerous battle, but still... it seems different than what I've imagined.
    It seems everyone was too quick to judge Ezrem as a “bad” character.

    That... is Sai TOTALLY admitting he *IS* going to leave again at some point, right? I was shocked by that, but I guess Sai has never lied to his pokemon before, so why would he lie about that? Still... is it foreshadowing? Or just Sai being dreadful? Can't decide!
    That really is Sai admitting it. Strange, huh? Guess we’ll see what happens.

    Another very good chapter, as per usual. I'm... GUESSING Ezrem is next? It seems a while since we've heard from him.
    Who else could it be? Mr. oh-god-I’m-shiny-what-the-**** will come through next.

    Thanks for commenting!

    UberHexagon

    Just read the first chapter and I absolutely love it. There is nothing more for me to say.
    I’m glad you like it! Hope it inspires you to read the rest of the fic when you have time…

    | 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


  9. #184
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 20 ; [EZREM]
    mentality

    *

    It was unbelievable, the way the world had been keeping such a huge secret from me. This was how everyone repaid me for all the damage I had done? I wanted to deny it. I had started trying to be a good pokémon... I was staying away from Kuiora, because she was so much better than me and I didn't want to taint her further... I was trying to help Rennio by encouraging him in my own way... I literally took the heat for him and everything!

    At least Sai displayed some affection toward me. He backtracked to the Pokémon Center despite his hurry to reach Ecruteak City... He handed me to the nurse as she said my wing was burnt.

    My head was reeling, and I may have vomited once or twice. My one wing ached. As for the other one... Well, I wouldn't have minded it being amputated if it meant the pain would subside.

    The nurse brought me into the back room. There were plenty of beds, some filled with sick pokémon, others empty and cleaned. Next to each bed stood a large machine used to heal pokémon in need.

    I was certainly a pokémon in need, but the nurse didn't hook me up to the machine. She set me on a metal counter and told me to relax. She said everything was going to be okay. I couldn't believe her. Her voice sounded too sad.

    “Everything will be okay,” she said again. She stepped out of the room and returned with a glass of water. “Drink this. Keep yourself hydrated,” she said, holding it so I could take a couple sips.

    She went over to the far wall, grabbed a pair of gloves and put them on. I flinched as I thought about her messing with my wings, but at first she only mumbled to herself about how my feathers had been charred off, and how the skin underneath appeared pale. Eventually she reached toward me. I braced myself, but I felt nothing.

    “Does that hurt?”

    “N-No,” I managed to say.

    “I see,” she said. I swear she sounded sadder. Great. “I'm going to examine your airway,” she added calmly, “and I'm going to check your breathing. To make sure everything's functioning properly.”

    I could deal with that. I breathed normally. It hurt when I exhaled, as part of the flames had struck the lower part of my neck.

    “Your airway seems fine,” she said. “But the wing...”

    And it all went downhill from there.

    *

    The nurse cradled me in her arms as she brought me to Sai.

    When he saw us, he said, “Well? What's wrong with him?”

    I wanted to choke him and tell him there was nothing wrong with me. It just so happened that everyone else thought the opposite.

    “The base of Ezrem's neck and his one wing have minor burns. The other wing, however... The other wing has sustained servere third degree burns...” Her voice trailed off. Her grip on me tightened.

    “So? What does that even mean? What are you trying to say?” Sai said, motioning for her to go on. He was such an impatient little boy, one with a soft spot for me!

    The nurse sighed. “Third degree burns are also called full thickness burns. This is because they destroy the entire outer layer of skin, along with the layer of nerve fibers underneath. He can't feel pain,” she said, “which is fortunate. But these types of burns can't be treated over time, even with our machines here. I'm sorry, but he may not be able to use his wing anymore.”

    I froze. I had expected terrible news, but I hadn't expected this. I was a flightless bird, but now I wouldn't be able to suspend myself in the air... A part of me that had been with me since I was born would lose its meaning. It was inconceivable. Impossible.

    Sai said, “He may not be able to? Is there any other way?”

    “I can't be certain, but it's possible.”

    “What is it!” I blurted out. I would do anything she asked

    “Skin grafts are an option. Skin grafts are used to permanently replace destroyed tissue. They are very expensive, however, and would require Ezrem to remain here for a long while in order to recover.”

    Sai paused. The nurse was about to prod him when he said, “I'm a trainer. I don't have a lot of money.”

    Of course he didn't. I knew this. And though he didn't say it, I knew we were low on time.

    “There's another way, though,” she went on. “If he evolves, the nerve fibers may be replaced and he could use his wing again. It may not be as effective, but it's better than nothing.”

    I would do anything she asked—except for that.

    I promised Annie I wouldn't evolve. I mean, I only made that promise because I wanted to go home and I was willing to agree with her on anything. I had planned on evolving when I was on my own, too, but it was my fault she was gone now. I was obligated to keep her memory alive. To do that, I needed to be a rufflet for the rest of my life.

    “Okay,” Sai said. It wasn't okay. He looked at me apologetically. “What else can we do?”

    I tuned out the conversation. I didn't want to hear it.

    *

    I lost the use of use of my wing for a stupid cause. That's not to say I regretted saving Rennio. I simply shouldn't have pushed him to fight.

    And then, there was the secret.

    How could I not have known? Really. Why hadn't Annie told me? She probably didn't care, but she always believed that one should be aware of one's identity. Why hadn't Rennio told me? Did he even know? And what about Kuiora? Now that I thought about it, she had been close to telling me before we got interrupted once. ...I was just glad she didn't have to see me this way.

    My mind continued spinning as we headed toward Ecruteak City. Again.

    Sai carried me as we walked, as if he thought my legs were incapacitated as well. Maybe he felt sorry for me. Well, I didn't want his pity anymore! But I didn't make a sound. No one else did, either, though I might have heard Rennio crying.

    We came across the same clearing where the incident had taken place. Sai set me down and asked Kuiora to come forward, and for the rest of the group to move.

    I soon found out what the nurse had said about healing my burns, however, when we had reached the same clearing where the incident had taken place. Sai had stopped here on purpose and set me down. He asked for Kuiora to step forward, and for the rest of the group to back off.

    “Kuiora...” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. Could she still think I was special? Probably not.

    She nodded. She released a soft stream of water that struck me in the neck and then my burnt wing. The wounds were fresh! It wasn't a pretty sight.

    “What was that for?” I said, hugging my body.

    “The nurse said you have to take cool baths,” Sai explained. “Aren't we to have a water-type on the team?”

    I didn't feel lucky.

    Next Sai handed me two pills, similar to the ones he took himself. “For the pain,” he said. I opened my mouth and he stuck them on my tongue. I nearly vomited again, trying to swallow them without water.

    “And now,” Sai said, “we put some cream on it.”

    He rubbed the cold cream onto the damaged areas. I wondered how loud my screaming would be if I could feel the full aftereffects of the third degree burns. Those third degree burns, it seemed, were taunting me.

    Sai pulled out the bandages from his backpack. There weren't enough to get me through the entire route, assuming I would be wild and shake them off. He placed a square-shaped patch on my neck, then wrapped the other two wings. He had to try at least three times before he got it right, though.

    “Sorry,” he said. “I've never done this before.”

    “It's okay. Me neither.”

    When he finished, I tried flapping my wings, which only made me cringe. This morning, I told Rennio our schedules were full. My main worry at that point involved going home. Now I was worried about being a useless, shiny flying-type pokémon.

    Sai offered to carry me, but I shook my head. I wanted to—needed to—talk to Kuiora and Rennio.

    I nudged Kuiora in the side and she lagged behind everyone else to be with me. She did this without so much as looking at me. Was it all in my head?

    “What do you want?” she said in a tone that confirmed my fears.

    When I didn't answer, she turned to leave. I pecked her on the tail and she acquiesced, sick of the passive-aggressiveness.

    “Do you want to know,” I said, “what's worse than a legendary pokémon that has a short temper, is a bit smite happy and has no developed sense of humor?”

    “Uh,” she said. “Sure?”

    “What's worse is a legendary pokémon that has a shorter temper, is very smite happy and has a highly developed sense of humor."

    “I don't get it...”

    “Even the legendary pokémon can be as stupid as us! They can destroy others and get lost in their own minds. It's such a catastrophe.”

    “Ezrem, are you okay?” she said. “I mean, I know you're not okay. But even before this, you weren't acting like yourself.”

    “I'm special to you, right? I'm invincible, just like the rest of your worshiped friends. Who cares?” I said, knowing I was being difficult. I couldn't gather the strength to be anything else.

    I care!”

    I couldn't stand it. I wanted her to care, yet I didn't. I glanced at the rest of the team and thought about bothering the others.

    “What about you, Atis?” I said, hopping over to the fighting-type pokémon. “Do you care?”

    “I guess so...” So he had been eavesdropping. As anticipated from our shyest teammate.

    “What do you think about me? Am I evil?”

    “W-Well, I've never seen you do anything bad... like hurt anyone or anything...” Atis said, walking slower now.

    “Decent humans beings don't do such things. But I'm not decent nor am I a human being. You lose.”

    “Ezrem...” Kuiora started, but she didn't go on.

    “Calm yourself, Kuora,” I said. “You are not allowed to interrupt.”

    “You're my friend! I'll interrupt if I want to. Why don't we go further back and talk it out a little?”

    It was inevitable, but I didn't want to talk it out a little anymore. Torn, I kept spouting out nonsense about how everyone in the world had been keeping a secret from me.

    “I finally figured it out,” I told her. “I'm a shiny pokémon. Isn't that fantastical?”

    “Ezrem, it's not a bad thing. That's one reason why I've liked you all this time, and—”

    “But you must be mad, right? I didn't know I was shiny, but I presented myself as a legendary anyway. That's some deceitful stuff, don't you think?”

    “Yeah, I'm angry. But I can't stay angry at you, considering the state you're in.” She stared at my wounds. “I've been angry before. I learned from it. I don't want to be that way again, especially not with you.”

    “You should be angry. Angrier than you've ever been.”

    “Why? What's so bad about being a shiny pokémon?” she asked, genuinely curious.

    Why? I told her why. I told her everything. I told her about making Rennio believe he was the last elekid on the planet just so he would become attached to me. I told her that being a shiny pokémon suddenly made me feel like the only rufflet in the world. I told her I felt lonely and I wanted to bring someone down with me. I told her I missed being a monster. I told her I wanted to be the same monster I was when I killed my trainer with fire. I told her how ironic it was that I should get burned myself.

    “And that,” I concluded, “is why you should be mad at me. I am a terrible pokémon. I know it, and I can't stop it, though I've tried.” On second thought, I added, “I'm going to explain this to Rennio. Not today, but soon.”

    Kuiora's face became red, the corners of her mouth turned down as low as I had ever seen them.

    “You killed your trainer? You told Rennio that?” she said weakly.

    “Yes, I did,” I said, smiling for effect.

    She noticed my theatrics. She knew me too well. “I don't want to be angry. Don't do this,” she said.

    “You should hurt me. Kill me. I deserve it.”

    “No, Ezrem! I won't!”

    She persisted on refusing my offer until Sai quit moving. He must have heard part of the conversation thanks to Kuiora's frantic screaming. I couldn't see his face, but his fists were clenched. I feared for the worst.

    He came over to me and picked me up by my bad wing. I thrashed about, trying not to scream so he would think I was as strong as I had ever been. When I realized I wasn't getting anywhere with the stubborn boy and his stubborn pokémon, I let myself go limp.

    “Let's get this straight,” he said, keeping his firm grip on me. “You are not on this team. I broke the rules for you, but you still aren't on this team. I don't know what you told Kuiora, but you won't antagonize my pokémon if you're going to follow us around. I only let you follow us because of Rennio. Do you understand?”

    “Yes,” I said, ashamed. I wanted to be on this trainer's team and now, I might have forever ruined my chances.

    “Besides,” Sai said, setting me down, “he cares a lot about you, and so does Kuiora. You should listen.”

    “Okay,” I said. My witty comments were set aside.

    It was strange, in a way, having Sai be the one to set me straight. His rejection offered me some solace. With Rennio and Kuiora, I wanted them to hate me and love me. The battlefield known as friendship was not the greatest place to be that day.

    Kuiora didn't give up after Sai's lecture. She came up to me, asking, “Do you know what the most important thing in this world is?”

    “If you say friendship, I'll stab you."

    “Despite everything, I know you wouldn't do that.” She smiled. “It is friendship, though. I used to only want legendary pokémon as my friends, so I ignored everyone else. I regret it and I'd like to start over. I won't even consider you legendary if you think it's a bad thing, okay?”

    I looked down at myself. I had red feathers. I was the color of passion and violence. ...I was the color of fire. It fit me perfectly. I asked her what color I was supposed to be.

    “Blue,” she said. “I've seen pictures. That's how I knew.”

    “I see,” I said. “You still want to be with me?”

    “I do.”

    I sighed. “I'd like to spend more time together too,” I admitted. “Arceus knows there's another rufflet that could love you better than I will, but you can deal with my pathetic self, I suppose. So... what are your plans? Between now and forever, I mean.”

    Kuiora giggled, and I knew all was well.

    *

    I had another battle to face. In some respects, this would be the harder battle. I knew Rennio better than Kuiora, but he didn't know me. That fact alone made me want to open up to him, but I wasn't completely ready. Not yet.

    “Rennio!” I said, leaving behind a smiling Kuiora.

    He snapped his head in my direction. I could see tears in his eyes. He was crying over me, it seemed... Usually he cried about himself... I mentally scolded myself for making him cry, though I had tried to be heroic, or at least something less than sinful.

    “E-Ezrem!” he said, embracing me. I winced at my body's reaction, but I made no attempt to pull back.

    “You're squishing me,” I said. He let go. I ruffled my feathers to make myself feel more comfortable. The medicine made things better.

    “Sorry,” he said. “I'm sorry for everything... I tried to battle, I really did. But that attack was too powerful for me. And look! I was right! It got you burned, and it's all my fault...”

    “Rennio...” I said, “do you know why I jumped in front of that flamethrower?”

    “No... Not at all.”

    “Because I wanted to. What would happen if you got injured?” I said. I wasn't about to pull the last-elekid-in-the-world trick, though. “My best friend would have been badly hurt. And that would have made two of us very, very sad. I wanted to prevent that. Taking the blow was only the natural thing to do.”

    “I am sad!”

    “I know, but it's not so bad. I actually... prefer to be this way, you know?”

    “You... do?” he said, wiping his eyes. “Who would ever want to be hurt?”

    “Think of this way. I'm strong, right? And these burns are a setback, yeah. But when I defeat a fearful pokémon like that arcanine, others praise me and my efforts.”

    “I... guess I get it...”

    “Do you, Rennio? Praise is a wild thing. Praise can be sung from one corner of the nation to the next. Praise makes people build honorable statues. Usually, famous songs fade away, statues crumble, and more people die. But I would live on as a monument of pride. People would tell campfire tales and make others shudder, mothers would scare children into thinking I'll punish them if they're bad, scholars would think of me when they wonder if power can have too high a price, and both the pious and the wicked would pray to to their gods, asking for my judgment instead. That, my dear Rennio, is legacy. So yeah, I don't mind these burns one bit.”

    “O-Oh,” Rennio breathed. His voice was barely above a whisper.

    “Exactly.”

    “Are you sure, Ezrem? You rant like this all the time,” he pointed out.

    “I'm very sure.” It was odd, the way he would believe me in any other context.

    “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked. “I'm not a water-type or anything, but surely there's something...”

    “Ask Sai to change my bandages next time.”

    “Okay. Anything else?”

    “Rennio, I am miserable and perfectly happy about it. You don't have to do a thing.”

    I wasn't happy, but in that case, it was a necessary, warranted lie. Without that lie, Rennio would never get rid of his guilt. The other lies I told would be taken care of somewhere further down the line.

    Rennio said nothing. The conversation was short and it was done. We weren't anywhere close to Ecruteak City. That was our real destination, but I felt I had reached a new part of my life. There were going to be hard times and good times, of course, but I'd deal with it. The worst was over and I was becoming more and more aware of myself. Those two facts would help me become a better pokémon and a better teammate.

    I thought of Annie. She had said that when she pictured herself, it was like looking at the night sky and thinking her life was made up of pictures within the stars. She would then connect the dots and everything would make sense. For me, the lines had been filled in.

    Up until the incident, I was nothing but a liar. Now I was nothing but forgiven.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 7th May 2016 at 3:46 AM.

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    | flying in the dark |
    | the epitome of obscurity and innocence, combined |
    | letters 9 released 11/06/15 |


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  10. #185
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    “Calm yourself, Kuiora,” Ezrem said, speaking for me. “I am clearly having an identity crisis here, and you are not allowed to interrupt.”
    The speaking for me part confuses me... Ezrem is speaking for... Ezrem?
    Last edited by Dragonicwari; 3rd March 2013 at 11:50 PM. Reason: Tag error



  11. #186
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonicwari View Post
    The speaking for me part confuses me... Ezrem is speaking for... Ezrem?
    That part was supposed to be part of a different chapter. Oops.

    Fixed.

    | 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


  12. #187
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    Great story, can you please add me to the pm list?
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  13. #188
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    Since I'm two chapters behind, I'm only going to give some general thoughts on each one instead of my usual picking apart.

    Chapter 19: Excellent, very solid starting section. The first few paragraphs are written with a fine selection of words, and Rennio's thoughts are very clear as a result. Sai is, as usual, mysterious - but the picture about what's going on regarding the people who are following him is gradually becoming clearer. I think we're also getting some ideas on how the team might progressively break up over time, now that the Unova thing has been brought up. Sai's comments on why he left are worrying. That he speaks of being "ordered" to fly through the cities further reinforces a theory I had regarding his origin. The battle was fairly short, but it was well-written and advanced the plot appropriately. Finally, the ending was heartwarming, even if it came at the cost of Ezrem getting burned.

    Chapter 20: The first two paragraphs give us a good, continuing grasp on Ezrem's conflicted character. He does genuinely want to be good, but he clearly cannot shake some of his dimmer views of Sai, perhaps with good reason.

    ...aaand it finally happened. One of Sai's Pokemon got really effed up bad. It was only a matter of time. I see this being a major event that changes just about everything at least as far as Sai and Ezrem go. It already looks like I might be right. Let me guess: Ezrem's struggle with the issue of evolution is going to continue to trouble him, isn't it?

    Sai's attempts to care for Ezrem are rather touching, even if they are crudely done on his part. He's trying, and that's what matters.

    I didn't understand Ezrem's breakdown fully until he made the comment about feeling like the only Shiny Rufflet, comparing himself to what he made Rennio believe. Then it hit me with the force of a truck.

    Wow, um... Sai really didn't hesitate to put Ezrem in his place. That said, though, Ezrem deserved it with all the stunts he was pulling leading up to that.

    Ezrem's inner monologues about colors and their meanings are quite intriguing.


    And done. I really liked both of these chapters, so please don't think otherwise because of these brief reviews.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 11th March 2013 at 10:24 AM.

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  14. #189
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    I'm trying to squeeze this in on my break, so I'm just going to review my thoughts on it rather than do a big breakdown.

    If I didn't know any better from the fact that you've written this in advance, I'd say that this was the chapter where you stabbed back at all of us readers for saying Ezrem was evil or villainous or malicious. He's still a bit... off... here, but he's more reasoned out and apologetic.

    The scene with Ezrem and the nurse was INCREDIBLY touching, and you really conveyed her shock and mourning (for lack of a better word) well through just Ezrem's point of view of her demeanor and voice. I felt more for Ezrem through her reactions to caring for him than I did at any other point in the chapter. It wasn't overstated at all--it's pretty much just Ezrem saying she sounded sad--but the words you used in her dialogue and the actions of getting water for him all came together really well to paint her picture.

    Ezrem's loyalty to Annie in the sense that he doesn't want to evolve even when it could save him is an interesting point, and really the key moment for "Ezrem feels things!" as far as I was concerned. Even when he saved Rennio, I was sure there was a manipulation behind his motivation, or at least just self-preservation. But when he shuns the prospect of evolving out of respect for Annie's memory... that was a brilliantly subtle way to REALLY show that he cares.

    The subsequent scene on the road to Ecruteak, I thought things got a bit weird. Ezrem started seeming a bit loopy, and I wasn't sure what the impetus for that was. Was it the medication? Was it the crashing around him of his deceits? It wasn't really clear to me. He just started acting weird. Suddenly he cared about what Kui and Atis think of him? And he's, at turns, being aggressive and strangely passive. It was just weird to me, and I kept re-reading things to make sure I was picturing it correctly. That said... the feeling of wanting someone to both be mad at you and care for you is a strangely universal one--the need to just know others strongly consider you--so I loved your usage of that emotion.

    We get another glimpse of Sai as borderline unfeeling when he was flinging Ezrem about by one of his injured wings. It harkened back to his beating of Senori at the beginning where he was capable and willing to inflict pain on innocent (as innocent as Ezrem gets) pokemon.
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  15. #190
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    Quote Originally Posted by pokerock4 View Post
    Great story, can you please add me to the pm list?
    Yes, yes I can.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Finally, the ending was heartwarming, even if it came at the cost of Ezrem getting burned.
    I'm glad you thought so. I didn't actually want a sad ending, as Ezrem would hate that.

    ...aaand it finally happened. One of Sai's Pokemon got really effed up bad. It was only a matter of time. I see this being a major event that changes just about everything at least as far as Sai and Ezrem go. It already looks like I might be right. Let me guess: Ezrem's struggle with the issue of evolution is going to continue to trouble him, isn't it?
    Yes, you're right. It'll come up in a few more chapters. And yes, it really was only a matter of time till Sai messed up big time... though I'm not actually sure this is particularly Sai's fault. Ah, well.

    I didn't understand Ezrem's breakdown fully until he made the comment about feeling like the only Shiny Rufflet, comparing himself to what he made Rennio believe. Then it hit me with the force of a truck.
    I thought it might. It sounded like a great idea when I first thought of it. SO EMOTIONAL

    Wow, um... Sai really didn't hesitate to put Ezrem in his place. That said, though, Ezrem deserved it with all the stunts he was pulling leading up to that.
    Yep, Sai has a temper like that.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sid87 View Post
    If I didn't know any better from the fact that you've written this in advance, I'd say that this was the chapter where you stabbed back at all of us readers for saying Ezrem was evil or villainous or malicious. He's still a bit... off... here, but he's more reasoned out and apologetic.
    Lmao, nah, this was planned from the very beginning, have no fear.

    The scene with Ezrem and the nurse was INCREDIBLY touching, and you really conveyed her shock and mourning (for lack of a better word) well through just Ezrem's point of view of her demeanor and voice. I felt more for Ezrem through her reactions to caring for him than I did at any other point in the chapter. It wasn't overstated at all--it's pretty much just Ezrem saying she sounded sad--but the words you used in her dialogue and the actions of getting water for him all came together really well to paint her picture.
    I'm glad you liked this scene because I wasn't sure about it when posting.

    Ezrem's loyalty to Annie in the sense that he doesn't want to evolve even when it could save him is an interesting point, and really the key moment for "Ezrem feels things!" as far as I was concerned. Even when he saved Rennio, I was sure there was a manipulation behind his motivation, or at least just self-preservation. But when he shuns the prospect of evolving out of respect for Annie's memory... that was a brilliantly subtle way to REALLY show that he cares.
    Hmm, we'll see where he goes with this evolution thing, eh?

    The subsequent scene on the road to Ecruteak, I thought things got a bit weird. Ezrem started seeming a bit loopy, and I wasn't sure what the impetus for that was. Was it the medication? Was it the crashing around him of his deceits? It wasn't really clear to me. He just started acting weird. Suddenly he cared about what Kui and Atis think of him? And he's, at turns, being aggressive and strangely passive. It was just weird to me, and I kept re-reading things to make sure I was picturing it correctly. That said... the feeling of wanting someone to both be mad at you and care for you is a strangely universal one--the need to just know others strongly consider you--so I loved your usage of that emotion.
    I think it was just the reality of the situation crashing down on him all at once.

    We get another glimpse of Sai as borderline unfeeling when he was flinging Ezrem about by one of his injured wings. It harkened back to his beating of Senori at the beginning where he was capable and willing to inflict pain on innocent (as innocent as Ezrem gets) pokemon.
    I'm glad you remembered this.

    Thanks 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


  16. #191
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 21 ; [ATIS]
    cynosure

    *

    If there was anyone in the world I didn't want to be—aside from my hitmontop self—it was Ezrem. Though valiant, he was incredibly reckless. Running into an attack like that... I wouldn't have done it. And finding out he was a shiny pokémon... I knew how rare and valuable they were to collectors, trainers and hunters. To be wanted by so many people must have been unbearable.

    As we waited in the Pokémon Center for Ezrem to heal, I thought about what it would be like to not know myself. What if I didn't know my origins? What if I didn't know how I felt about humans? What would I have and who would I be?

    There were some things I didn't know, of course. Ezrem's situation had given me some ideas about where to go after I left Sai. I could work in a hospital for humans or volunteer my time to charities, and then I could explore other hobbies I might be interested in. As long as I was around people who appreciated my efforts, I would be fine.

    Before I went, I needed to repay Sai for all that he had done for me. Though he didn't live up to all my expectations, it didn't mean I totally hated being on the team. He gave me shelter, food and entertainment, as well as a lesson or two on what it meant to be human. But training had put such a great strain on him that I wondered if he would go back and change what happened. All those rules, all those breakdowns... None of them could have been healthy for him.

    I had to give up on making his life better. That was up to him, not me.

    “Sai,” I said quietly, not wanting to disturb the peaceful atmosphere. When he didn't answer, I poked him in the shoulder.

    “Yes, Atis?”

    “I...” My voice trailed off. I wanted to ditch the team and I wasn't sure how to construct this idea in a sentence. “Well... Do you remember when you gave us a choice? You made us say whether we wanted to stay or go...”

    Sai's stare lingered. I swallowed and twiddled my hands around. Finally he said, “Yeah. I remember. Why... do you bring it up now?”

    The pause in his voice sent shivers down my spine. When he talked, I was used to him being brash, so sure in what he was saying, even if he regretted it later. But now he was uncertain. He had to have known what was coming.

    “I think... I've made my decision,” I said, not daring to look at his heartbreaking eyes.

    “You want to leave, don't you?”

    I nodded. The others didn't hesitate on offering their opinions.

    “So you're doing something for yourself, huh?” Senori said. He smiled at me and I forced myself to smile back.

    “Atis!” Kuiora said. “We haven't settled our competition to see who's strongest!"

    “You're stronger than me now, I assure you,” I said, trying to sound as bold as Sai.

    “You think so?”

    “Yeah. I never fight, so...”

    “You're still going?”

    “Sorry,” I mumbled.

    “Atis, I would've liked to learn more about you. I'll be sad to see you go,” said Rennio.

    “Thank you,” I said, surprised. Preventing the young pokémon from inheriting my abnormal views was for the best, though.

    Sai had yet to respond. He was barely scraping by, it seemed. I sympathized with him, but I knew what I was talking about when I said training wasn't just a walk in the park.

    “When would you like to go?” he said after a while.

    “Soon,” I said, “so I can get out of your way—”

    “Atis,” he interrupted, “do you know what day it is?”

    I froze. It was a Wednesday, but that conclusion was next to useless. “N-No,” I managed to say.

    “Earl told me all about you,” Sai said. He paused, then continued, “He told me you came to him in the middle of June. You were a... tyrogue, I think. You were with him for three years. If you were still with him today, this would mark the beginning of the fourth year.”

    Even I hadn't remembered this. Did Earl really say those things about me? Did he really care that much? I never doubted that he was a caring man, but I was dumbfounded anyway. I was feeling loved at a time like this...

    “It's the middle of June, isn't it?” I said.

    “It's not the exact date, but it's close.”

    “Why does it matter?”

    “Atis,” Kuiora scolded, “don't you know what that means? It's your birthday!”

    I let her believe what she wanted. I knew what a birthday was, and it definitely wasn't this.

    “Professor Elm celebrated the day me and the other pokémon joined him. He said the year was full of good memories of us growing up. We should celebrate before you go!” Kuiora went on. I blinked. “It's a must,” she added, “and I won't take no for an answer.”

    I laughed. Kuiora's childish self was shining through. I'd sincerely miss it.

    “I think she's right,” Sai said. “Please stay until we get to Ecruteak City. We'll celebrate there.”

    “O-Okay,” I said. It seemed that Goldenrod City held too many bad memories for him. I could deal with being on the team for another few days, anyway. It would give everyone time to adjust to the idea of me being gone.

    *

    The next two days went by quickly. I tried my best to keep up, though my mind was muddled as I pondered over my next journey. I'd be starting out in Ecruteak City, but I didn't know what the the place had to offer besides the renowned burned tower. At least Kuiora could have fun with the stories surrounding the building.

    As we traveled, I was concerned by Ezrem's outbursts. He yelled at Kuiora and, to a much lesser extent, me. Sai had to to intervene. His sudden fury made me cower and only cemented my decision. I knew the answer to my previous question too. If I didn't know myself as well as I did, I'd go crazy and attempt to destroy every promising opportunity in my life.

    Everything after that was quiet. I saw Ezrem and Rennio talking, but I couldn't hear them. Kuiora's face was twisted in a scowl, but her movements were carefree. Senori passed me an all knowing smile once in a while, as there were no more words to be said between us.

    The night before we reached Ecruteak City, I woke up to see Sai sneaking off. I was too dazed and tired to follow him, but I took note of it. His walk was slow, too, making me believe he was just thinking. Yeah, he was just... thinking. I convinced myself of this and went back to sleep. He would be there in the morning.

    *

    I let out a sigh of relief when I woke up again and saw him resting against a tree. To have him disappear would have put a big dent in our broken team. No one noticed where Sai had gone. I'd find out where he went later.

    “So,” Sai said as we went underneath the city's entrance gate, “what do we want to do for Atis's birthday?”

    “Have lots of cake,” I said before Kuiora could butt in.

    “Don't forget presents,” Senori offered.

    “Okay. Cake and presents,” Sai said. “To the pokémart.”

    He stopped and peered around, taking in his surroundings. There were plenty of sturdy, oriental buildings with dirty windows and graffiti on each side. The pavement was set up in a grid-like pattern, and along the roads were high, triumphal arches that were built to honor the city's founders. I saw the burned tower, which, though it had been damaged, was the tallest structure standing.

    We had to peer inside a couple restaurants and the dance hall, but we eventually found the pokémart and ventured inside. The pokémart's interior design reminded me of the pocket knife Sai had bought, and suddenly I was scared of what kind of gift he'd give me.

    We went up and down the aisles. Sai picked up random items, but he put them back where they belonged after scrutinizing them. Soon he reached the electronics section, where he picked up a camera.

    “Do you like taking pictures, Atis?” he asked.

    “I've never taken any... I don't know.”

    “Is it something you'd like to do? You can take pictures of us and take them with you.”

    “Yeah... Right. I'd do that,” I said, smiling. Usually Sai put himself at the center of his world, so I was interested to see him act with thoughtfulness.

    “It's settled,” Sai said, handing me the camera. “This will be your present from all of us.”

    Kuiora cheered. Rennio explained to Ezrem what happened, since he wasn't paying attention. Senori was quiet. I took the camera from Sai and we went to the counter to buy it.

    *

    “Now we need a cake,” Sai said as we came out of the store. “We'll go back to the restaurant we saw.”

    Inside, chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The lighting was dim, giving off a relaxed atmosphere. The walls depicted special paintings of ho-oh and lugia, Johto's legendary pokémon. Kuiora was practically glowing with excitement as we were seated. Sai and Senori were confused, since we had never been to a formal restaurant before. Overall, though, I enjoyed myself.

    I noticed, however, that cake wasn't on the menu. I chuckled when Kuiora looked at it upside down, asking what the funny shapes on the paper were.

    “Kuiora doesn't know how to read,” Ezrem said teasingly.

    “Neither do you!” Rennio retorted. Kuiora gave him a high five. It was difficult, since their hands were different in shape and size.

    “Well, what are you gonna get, Atis?” Senori asked. “I can't read, either.”

    “Aren't you confused as to why I can read?”

    “Nah.” Knowing him, he recalled how I came from a school. It seemed like such a long time ago that the three of them had come to whisk me away just to fight at the gym...

    “I see,” I said. “They have cupcakes. I guess that works...”

    At that precise moment, the waiter came to our table, asking us what we wanted.

    “Just cupcakes. One for Atis, of course”—he pointed to me, and then the others—“and one for Kuiora, Senori, Rennio, me... I suppose Ezrem can have one. Yeah. Cupcakes.”

    “Atis is the only one who should get a cupcake, Sai!” Kuiora said, rising from her seat. “It's his birthday.”

    Sai ignored her and nodded to the waiter. The water was confused, presumably because this was a restaurant that specialized in hamburgers, not desserts. That, and the fact that Sai burst out the order in one breath. His odd self was continuing to show. How had he never been to a restaurant at some point in his past?

    When the waiter left, we talked about random things. Rennio was the first to bring up the paintings on the walls, asking if there was a painting of an elekid. I explained to him how ho-oh could revive dead beings, while lugia hid itself beneath the ocean's depths. I didn't see the electric-type, and I told him that. He looked disappointed.

    “Hey, now,” Ezrem said. “Let's all think about the cupcakes. I want to order so many cupcakes, my internal organs will start a revolution and leave.”

    “Haven't they already done that? Kind of, anyway,” Kuiora said. She covered her mouth as soon as she finished. “Sorry,” she added, her voice muffled.

    Ezrem blanched. “Yes, I suppose they have. Darn it. ...I guess I'll have to settle for one cupcake.”

    “Cupcakes aren't healthy for you,” Sai said.

    “Cake isn't any better. I say we still get a cake. We can split it into parts, and then—”

    “And then you can con everyone into giving you their piece?” Senori said, interrupting him with a grin.

    “Yes! You get me, Senori. I am so lucky to have someone who knows me as fantastically as you do,” Ezrem said.

    “Divide the cake evenly so everyone gets a piece,” I said.

    “But what if I tried to divide the cake by zero?” he said loudly. “Let's say this cake really exists, but no one owns this cake. It just exists. If I divide it by six, so there's one piece for everyone, then there are six pieces. If I divide it by zero, then the cake still exists. It may be mathematically impossible, given that limits exist. But who is to tell me that I cannot divide this cake by zero?”

    I blushed at his response. I didn't know how to answer. Luckily, Kuiora did for me.

    “You, Ezrem,” she said, “are a smart pokémon.”

    “I would hardly say so,” Senori said, folding his arms.

    “Annie used to tell you that math stuff, didn't she?” Rennio chimed in, winking at Senori to keep the furret calm.

    “Do you want to hear another math joke? I know you do. Let's say—”

    The waiter returned with the cupcakes, successfully shutting up the flying-type. The waiter set one down in front of each of us. I thanked him, even if he couldn't understand me. Sai said nothing, and I silently scolded him for his lack of manners, not having the courage to say it out loud.

    I looked down, nervous. Now was as good a time as any to start using my camera. I picked it up and embraced the welcoming feeling of cool plastic on my hands. Was it appropriate for me to take pictures of my friends so I could remember them? I didn't see why not... I just didn't want to give them the impression that I regretted leaving. ...I'd think about it later.

    So I took my pictures, one by one. Sai's picture showed him looking at his cupcake as if he were studying an alien creature. I caught Kuiora in the middle of her first bite. Her jaw hung open and the cupcake lay unassuming on the table in front of her. Senori, though, beat her to the first bite. Ezrem was messy in his picture, as he had white icing all over his beak by the time the cupcake was gone. And Rennio held the cupcake delicately, as if he were trying very hard not to squish it before consumption.

    Soon I had a picture of everyone. I could have asked to take a team picture, but I was too nervous. I didn't want to disrupt the peace. Besides, I didn't want to be in a picture myself.

    “Ah,” Ezrem said, patting his stomach with his functioning wing. “That was good. It's been a while since I've had sweets.”

    “It's definitely better than berries,” Rennio agreed.

    “Berries aren't so bad!” Kuiora cried. “Cheri berries are good, at least.”

    Ezrem waved her off. “Whatever you say,” he said. “Well, Atis, I hope you liked your presents. I wonder if there's more?”

    “W-What?”

    “If there's more, I should warn you that some gifts are better left unopened. I'm mostly referring to the gifts that explode in your face upon opening.”

    “That's... nice. Thanks for the warning...”

    “Anytime,” Ezrem said.

    Senori glared at him. “Don't worry, Atis. There's nothing else.”

    “Actually, there is,” Sai said. His voice was quiet, perhaps the quietest I had ever heard it.

    “Oh? Please, Sai, enlighten us,” Senori said.

    “It's for Atis only. For now, the day is over. Let's go to the Pokémon Center.”

    Sai didn't have enough money to buy everyone their own room, and he apologized for that. In the end, it wouldn't mater to me. It was weird, though, knowing this was the last time I'd see everyone together in a Pokémon Center room. I glanced at the top bunk, wondering if I would sleep there one last night, listening to the breathing of those below me...

    Sai regarded me dubiously. He peered over at me every few moments, as if savoring his time with me, all the while knowing there was more to come. I shuddered. It was awkward, those eyes that gave me mixed emotions. I was sure he was the only one who had such passion in his eyes.

    As we prepared to end the night, Sai announced, “I'm going out with Atis. Say your goodbyes... I'll be letting him go.”

    Everyone stopped what they were doing to come up to me. Senori nodded to me and nuzzled up to Sai, telling me that he'd take care of the boy for me. Ezrem stood up on his feet to peck me on the head. He whispered about the exploding gifts and I let out a stifled laugh. Rennio pushed Ezrem out of the way. I smiled at him and told him I wished I had gotten to know him too. And Kuiora, with her enormous size and weight, just had to hug me. I thought she was going to crush my body in the process.

    Sai didn't say anything. I expected him to say goodbye later on, and I felt the sensation I got when the two of us knew something that no one else did. He went to the door and held it open, motioning for me to step outside. I did so, but I didn't forget to look back one last time at my teammates.

    The walk to... wherever... was silent. Sai seemed just as lost as I was. I saw the entrance to Ecruteak City and figured he was going to release me into the wild. The night sky and lit moon loomed above us. There were very few people out at this time, which made me feel like we were the only ones in the world. We passed the front gates. I was already backtracking through my journey, and I speculated about how far I would go until I was satisfied.

    We reached an area that appeared familiar to me, though Sai had taken a turn that led us into a more forested section. Trees lined my peripheral vision, while a small clearing lay ahead. Berry bushes marked a dead end.

    “Atis,” Sai said. “Yesterday, Senori told me you didn't quite know what you were going to do after this. So I thought about it for you. I... remembered... someone that can help you. She will take you somewhere nice. I, ah, already told her you would come with her, so it's a little too late to say no right now. You can always say no later, I suppose, if you want to...”

    I stood there. I found his voice even more unnatural than it had been earlier. I couldn't place it, but the pauses were starting to make sense. This was different from when he gave answers in other situations. When he talked about himself or his past life, he was being honest, even if vague. But this...

    He was lying to me. And I didn't know why.

    Anxiety welled up within me. Again, I remembered when he deserted us. Had he gone to this mysterious lady? It seemed that he didn't find comfort in her company, either, so perhaps he felt the need to lie about her... Not that this made me feel any better... In fact, it made me despise whatever disaster was waiting for me.

    My concentration broke when a strong gust of wind blew in my direction and knocked the camera out of my hand. It clattered to the ground and I scrambled to make sure it was okay. When I retrieved it, I saw that Sai was unaffected by the wind.

    Soon I felt lightheaded, ill and tired.

    Sai frowned as he noticed my sudden distress. “Earl told me all about you,” he went on. “He told me you were an obedient pokémon that always acted with a clear head and a clear conscience. He said you were smarter than he could ever be. Though you were shy, he always took it as a sign that you were breathing in the air and thanking life for every opportunity thrown your way. As we traveled, I could see he was right. I was proud to have you on my team. Earl also said that someday, you would want to accomplish great things. I suppose that now is the time.” He paused. I flinched. “I know you've always wanted to be alone. I respected that, but I wish we could have spent more time together. I will wish that always. You can say that you won't miss me, but I'll think about you every day.”

    As he spoke, I sobbed, not only because of his heartfelt confession, but also because something was happening inside of me and it felt terrible. I was sick to my stomach, as if I could start retching at any moment.... I couldn't think straight and it was difficult to breathe... My limbs seemed to be paralyzed, so I couldn't run away... I wanted to believe Sai would help me, but he did nothing. He knew this was going to happen. Was he really my trainer, the one I had trusted all this time?

    My head spun. Whatever was happening to me... It was happening fast. I fell backward, hearing Sai sob too. Before I could question his enigmatic betrayal, everything went black.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 7th May 2016 at 3:47 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


  17. #192
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 21 ; [ATIS]
    cynosure

    *

    If there was anyone in the world I didn’t want to be (next to my hitmontop self, of course), it was Ezrem. Though valiant, he was being incredibly reckless. Running into an attack like that… I could never dream of doing it. And finding out he was a shiny pokémon… Well, it was a shock to me, too. Of course, I knew what shiny pokémon were, thanks to Earl. Their rarity and value were very well known to me; some of the kid’s dreams were to find one for themselves one day. So I knew what kind of trauma it would cause to find out you were one of them—to be wanted by so many pokémon lovers in the world would be unbearable.

    While we were waiting in the pokémon center, I thought about what it would be like to not know myself as well as Ezrem. What if I didn’t know whether or not I hated my species? What if I didn’t know how I truly felt about humans? What would I have? Who would I be? In a sense, I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with the life that I was given. I didn’t know where I would go once I left Sai.
    I think I would offer as a counterpoint to Atis's point here that perhaps he would be more relieved if he was in Ezrem's position in terms of self-awareness. He seems very stressed from the knowledge of his own identity and trying to figure out where he belongs, so maybe it would be a relief for him to believe a simplified story instead of the truth.

    But Ezrem’s situation had given me some ideas. Maybe I could offer to work in a hospital—one for humans, and maybe pokémon—so that I could help people who truly needed it. Maybe I could volunteer—the term that Earl had pinned down for my job at the pokémon academy—my time to charities and assisting others. I would be around people whose lives didn’t revolve around pokémon, which was what I wanted, and I could explore other options—reading, poetry, games that involved skill and strategy—on the side.
    How many people are there that have lives that don't revolve around Pokemon, really?

    He has good thinking here though. Atis doesn't seem to have much of an ego, so a job where he helps others is well suited to him.

    Yes, I had ideas now, which is more than what I had ever had before. It was time to go. It was time to help Sai out, and repay him back for all that he had done for me… And he had done a lot, despite everything. He gave me shelter, and food, and entertainment, and he taught me what it was like to be human… It was tough, being human, there was no doubt. Though he didn’t live up to all of my expectations, it didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy our time together. I only hoped that he thought the same, but I couldn’t be sure. I believed that I was one of his problems. The art of pokémon training put such a great strain on him that I wondered if he thought he could go back and change it all. All those rules, all that pain, all those breakdowns… None of it could have been healthy for him.

    If I could rid Sai of one of his problems, I could do that.

    “Sai,” I said quietly as we waited, not wanting to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the healing building. When he didn’t answer, I poked him in the shoulder gently. He looked thoughtful and stressed when he looked at me.

    “Yes, Atis?”

    “I…” My voice trailed off; I wasn’t sure how to go about this. “Well… Do you remember the time you gave us a choice? You made us say whether or not we wanted to stay or go...”

    Sai was quiet and his stare lingered. I swallowed and twiddled my hands around, nervous. Finally, he said, “Yeah, I remember. Why… Why do you bring it up now?”

    The pause in his voice—it sent shivers down my spine. When he talked, he was always so brash, so sure in what he was saying, even if he regretted it later. In the moment, he knew what he wanted to say, and he said it with such admirable boldness. But now he was stopping his speech, and it made me wonder—

    “I… I think I’ve made my decision,” I said, not daring to look him in those heartbreaking eyes of his.

    “You want to leave, don’t you?”

    I nodded, still refusing to look his way. The others, however, weren’t afraid to glare or peer at me, depending on their sudden views.
    I can't say I'm surprised he made this decision - there really wasn't much doubt in my mind he'd choose to leave - but that doesn't mean it doesn't take the wind out of my sails all the same. From my perspective, I can't honestly say that I understand Atis's logic, but when I put myself in his position and adopt his thought process, I grasp it a lot more.

    Now for the reactions...

    “So, you finally decided something for yourself, huh?” Senori said. He smiled at me, albeit sadly, and I forced myself to smile back.

    “Atis,” Kuiora said, “we haven’t settled our competition yet to see who is stronger out of the two of us!”

    “I can assure you,” I said, trying to sound as bold as Sai, “that you are stronger than me now.”

    “You think so?”

    “Yes. I never fight, and I don’t hone my skills. You do—all the time.”

    “You’re still going to leave? Don’t you want to get stronger?”

    “I want to get stronger,” I admitted, “but not in the physical sense.”

    “Atis, I don’t know you enough to say you should stay or leave,” Rennio said, “but I would have liked to learn more about you. I’ll be sad to see you go.”
    I choked up a little, I must confess.

    “Thank you, Rennio,” I said, surprised at his wanting to learn about me. I wondered what he would have thought about me, what with my abnormal view of not wanting to be all that a pokémon can be. In the end, I decided that this, too, was for the best.

    Now, all that was left was to wait for Sai’s response. He continued to look at me, and I cast my eyes upward to see him. I knew that I would have to do it sooner or later, and it was as good a time as any. Those dark blue eyes still looked sad, but I was entirely convinced that it was only because Ezrem was in the back of the pokémon center, hurt and probably scared for his life. I didn’t envy him, but I empathized. And I was sympathetic for Sai, thinking that it even though everyone looked forward to being a trainer, it wasn’t a walk in the park when all was said and done.

    “When would you like to go?” was all that Sai said.

    “Soon,” I replied quickly, believing that his response was his way of telling me that he was glad for my departure, “to get out of your—”

    “Atis,” he suddenly interrupted. “Do you know what today is?”
    I stopped there, because my blood ran cold. This can't be a good thing.

    I froze. Today was the day that Ezrem got hurt, and today—hopefully—would be the day that I left this team for good. I couldn’t think of any other possibilities.

    “N-No,” I managed to say.

    “Earl told me all about you,” Sai said. He paused, seeming lost in thought. He seemed to be doing that a lot today… Eventually, he continued, “He told me that in the middle of June was the time that you came to him at the pokémon academy as a... tyrogue, I think it was. He said that you were with him for three years. If you were still with him today, this would mark the beginning of the fourth year.”

    I stared at him, dumbfounded. Even I hadn’t remembered this. Did Earl really care about me so much that he remembered the exact day that I came to him? And he cared enough that he told my future trainer all about me! I mean, I never doubted that he was a caring man, but it still came as an eye opener to me. The beauty of loving pokémon seemed to shine through at times like this…
    I was right, it's a game changer for Atis's relationship to Sai, but even further, it affects his relationship to Earl as well. Curious.

    “It’s the middle of June, isn’t it?” I said, finishing his thoughts for him.

    “Yeah,” Sai said. “It’s not the exact day, but it’s close.”

    “Why,” I couldn’t help but say, “does it matter?”

    “Atis,” Kuiora immediately scolded, “don’t you know what that means? It’s your birthday!”

    My birthday? I knew what a birthday was, and it certainly wasn’t this. Nevertheless, I didn’t protest, and let her believe what she wanted.

    “Professor Elm always celebrated the day that me and the other pokémon at the lab joined him. He said that the year was full of good memories of us growing up,” Kuiora went on. “This means that we should celebrate before you go! It’s a must, and I won’t take no for an answer. If you want,” she added, winking, “we can even celebrate the fact that you admitted I’m stronger than you.”
    I'm surprised at how well the Pokemon are taking this, though Ezrem is excluded from the group right now and might have a different kind of reaction when he finds out.

    At this, I had to laugh. Kuiora’s childish self was really shining through, and I admitted to myself that I would miss it. I was sure that I could find a childish character just about anywhere in the world, but no one could be better at it than her.

    “I don’t know what a birthday is,” Sai said peculiarly, “but I think she’s right. We should celebrate before you go.” He stopped again, thinking. “Please stay with us long enough to get to Ecruteak City again. This place has brought… interesting memories, but the celebration’s location should bring only good ones. And as you know, we have to tend to Ezrem, too.”

    “O-Okay,” I said, knowing I could manage just a few more days with them. It would give them time to accept my leaving and adjust to the idea without facing the pain that I was already gone, anyway.

    It was the least that I could do, I thought, considering the bad news that soon followed.
    ...I should have known everything was going too smoothly.

    The next two days went by slowly and quickly at the same time. It was slow in my mind, because I was still befuddling myself over the fact that I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what my next actions would be. Clearly, I would be starting in Ecruteak City, but I didn’t know what the renowned city had to offer besides burned towers that once housed the legendary pokémon that created Johto. As fascinating as that was, the stories weren’t going to get me anywhere. They would be good for Kuiora, at least, though she had probably already heard the stories a thousand times before, knowing her.

    The trip was quick—literally. With Sai carrying Ezrem in his arms and with his swift pace, we were making great time. We had reached the same clearing where the incident took place by the middle of the first day. We took a break, however, to temporarily tend to Ezrem’s wounds. Why Sai had waited until we reached the clearing again was beyond me; if it were up to me, the wounds would have been taken care of in the pokémon center. But I was in no position to judge Sai, no matter how odd he seemed.

    As we went on, there then was the point where Ezrem was having his so called identity crisis, and he went off on Kuiora and—to a much lesser extent—me. Sai had to interrupt, and his sudden fury made me cower, as always, and it only made me glad that I was leaving. I would only partly miss his rollercoaster emotions. The situation did serve, however, to prove to me what happens when someone doesn’t know themselves—they go crazy, and can only be tamed by the goals they have set for their future. I continued to sympathize with the bird, even though he had caused many problems for me in the past. He did help me to know, after all, that I didn’t want to be someone like him.

    Everything after that was quiet. I saw Ezrem and Rennio talking, but I couldn’t hear them. And Kuiora seemed both furious and pleased at the same time, but I didn’t question her. Senori passed me his famous all knowing smiles at me from time to time, as there were no more words to pass between us. All that needed to be said was said during the mock battle at the pokémon fan club. That was fine with me.

    The night before we reached Ecruteak City, I woke up just in time to see Sai sneak off. I was too dazed and tired to follow him, but I still took great note of it. His walk was slow, too, making me believe that he was just… thinking. Yeah, he was just thinking. I convinced myself of this and went back to sleep. He would be there in the morning.

    *

    And he was there in the morning. This brought about a great sense of relief to me. To have him disappear on me again would have put a big dent in our plans and an even bigger dent in our broken team. No one asked where Sai had gone the previous night—it would only be until much later that I would find out.
    Simultaneously, that last line gives me both relief and nervous pause. Until I reached it I really thought he did run away again, but the ominous note that Atis attaches to finding out where he was makes me really nervous.

    “So,” Sai said as we walked past the front gates that indicated we were now entering the city, “what are you supposed to do on a birthday, anyway?”

    “Have lots of cake,” I said before Kuiora could butt in and say something completely out of line.

    “Don’t forget presents,” she said, getting her own word in, anyway.

    “Okay. Cake and presents. Uh,” Sai said, stopping to rest for once. He peered around, taking in his surroundings. There were plenty of tall, well made oriental buildings around, and they looked like they were recently—and frequently—cleaned, to keep away graffiti and the harshness of nature. They were also thoroughly taken care of in the sense that, up close, I couldn’t see a single hole in any of the walls. The pavement below our feet was set up with a grid-like pattern, and along the roads were high, triumphal arches—I had learned that structures like this were meant to honor the rulers who had built the city in the past. The towers in the back of the city, of course, stuck out among anything, as they were among the tallest. One of them was noticeably burned and broken, while the other’s embattlements at the top still looked strong and loved.

    This was obviously a city that took care of its buildings, and therefore its people. It looked like a very efficient and suitable place for me.

    “Okay,” Sai said again, breaking my focus of the city. As he said this, someone approached the gate, motioning us to move out of the way so he could get past. We took a few steps forward, with Sai mumbling in discontent over the idea that someone had pushed him around yet again. Afterward, however, he was thrilled and inspired.

    “Good thing we have money again, or this would be impossible,” Sai went on happily. “Clearly, the first place we should go is to the shopping center.”
    I get a very bad feeling out of the sudden mention about money. It's probably nothing, but it raises a suspicion in my mind that I'd rather not entertain.

    And so that was where we went. We had to peer inside several buildings that were open to the public, seeing a restaurant and a dance hall in the process, but we eventually found it and ventured inside. The shopping center wasn’t nearly as huge as the mall in Goldenrod City, but it still brought back memories, and I vaguely wondered what Sai had done—or would eventually do—with the pocket knife he had bought. And I hoped that he wouldn’t think such a thing was a perfect gift for me.

    Luckily for me, he didn’t think so. He went up and down the aisles, picking up peculiar items, just as he had done before, but he always put them back where they belonged. Soon he reached the electronics section, and he picked up a small, cheap camera.

    “Atis,” he said, “do you like taking pictures?”

    I was nervous so I nodded but then said, “I’ve never taken any before, so I don’t know…”

    “Is it something you’d like to do? Won’t you remember us with it? Pictures can show you just about anything, right?”

    “I could. Right. I could do it,” I said, now smiling. Sai was being thoughtful and considerate toward me, and only me, when often he put himself at the center of his world. I was grateful for that, even if I couldn’t show it. It only made me wonder further, though, about what kind of person he associated himself with back at home.

    “It’s settled, then,” Sai said, handing it to me. “This will be your present from all of us.”

    Kuiora cheered, Rennio was explaining to Ezrem what the situation was, and Senori was quiet. Would I like to capture this moment forever? I took the camera from Sai, and we went to the counter to purchase it.
    That was rather cute. I smiled.

    “Just cupcakes. One for Atis, of course”—he pointed to me, and then the others—“and one for Kuiora, Senori, Rennio, me, and I suppose Ezrem can have one too. Cupcakes.”

    “Atis is the only one who should get a cupcake, Sai!” Kuiora said, rising from her seat. “It’s his birthday!”

    Sai ignored her, and nodded to the waiter, who looked confused. Since this was a restaurant that specialized in hamburgers (since that was what the menu mostly consisted of), I assumed that he didn’t get many orders like this. Not to mention the quick, informal tone and words that Sai used to order. His odd self was continuing to show, and I wondered how it was possible that he had never been to a restaurant before, not only with us, but in his past.
    This awkwardness on the group's part is adorable, too. It works perfectly for them.

    When the waiter left, we all sat there, talking about random things. Rennio was the first to bring up the pokémon facts on the table, asking if there were any about his species. I looked over the table, seeing that apparently, the legendary ho-oh could revive dead people and pokémon, while the rare bird called skarmory could replenish its steel feathers by itself. There were other etchings, but these particularly stood out to me, showing that there was always a second chance in life. I didn’t see anything about the electric-type, and I told him that. He looked disappointed.

    “Hey, now,” Ezrem said. Though he was burned by the neck, his voice sounded normal, and I was sure everyone was thankful for that. “Let’s all think about the cupcakes. I want to order so many cupcakes so that I can eat until my internal organs start a revolution and leave.”

    “Haven’t they already done that? Kind of, anyway,” Kuiora said, though she covered her mouth as soon as she said it. “Sorry,” she said, her voice muffled.

    Ezrem blanched. “Yes, I suppose they have. Darn it,” he said, quickly returning to his cheery self. “I guess I’ll have to settle for one cupcake.”

    “Cupcakes aren’t healthy for you, anyway,” Sai said.

    “So? Cake isn’t any better. I say we still should have gotten a cake somehow. We could have split it into parts, and then—”

    “And then you could have conned everyone into give you their parts?” Senori said, interrupting him with a grin.

    “Yes. You get me, Senori. I am so lucky to have someone who knows me as fantastically as you do,” Ezrem said sarcastically.

    “You could just... uh… divide the cake by zero, and then keep it forever for yourself,” I said. Stupidly. I knew that you couldn’t divide by zero, but I wanted to keep the two from fighting, knowing that they weren’t particularly fond of each other. Apparently, Ezrem knew this, too.

    “How is it logically impossible to divide by zero, anyway?” he said. “Let’s say this cake really exists, but no one owns this cake. It just exists. If I divide it by six, so there’s one piece for everyone, then there are six pieces. If I divide it by zero, then the cake still exists. It may be mathematically impossible, given that limits exist. But who is to tell me that I cannot divide a cake by zero?”

    I blushed at his response. I didn’t know how to answer, and I didn’t even know if the question was directly aimed at me! Luckily, Kuiora answered for me.

    “You, Ezrem,” she said, shaking her head, “are a smart pokémon.”

    “I would hardly say so,” Senori said, folding his small arms.

    “Annie used to tell you about all that math stuff, didn’t she?” Rennio chimed in, winking at Senori to keep the sentret—no, furret—calm.

    “Do you want to hear another math joke, then? I know you do. Let’s say that my long lost brother”—I cringed at his reference to him being a shiny pokémon—“collects ghouls in his home. Yeah, you heard me, Senori. Don’t you look at me like that. He collects ghouls. Now, let’s say that two thirds of these ghouls are—”

    Ezrem was, thankfully, interrupted by the waiter who had returned with all of the cupcakes. He set one down in front of each of us. I thanked him for it, even if he couldn’t understand me. Sai said nothing, and I silently scolded him for his lack of manners, not having the courage to say it out loud.

    I looked down, nervous. Noticing the camera at my side, I decided that now was a good a time as any to start using it. I wouldn’t be able to look at the pictures right away, but with time, I would know that I was taking good ones without having to even see them before judging.

    I picked it up in my hands again, enjoying the welcoming feeling of cool plastic on my hands. Twisting it around in my hand, I wondered if it would be misleading for me to take pictures of them. If I took pictures of them, it meant that I wanted to remember them forever, and maybe they would think that I wanted to stay, after all. I didn’t want to give them that impression, but I did want to remember them at the same time. I supposed that even if they thought I would want to stay, there would be undeniable proof at the end of the day: my departure, and, unlike Sai’s return… Well, there would be no return for me.

    So I took my pictures, one by one. In his picture, Sai was looking at the cupcake as if it was an alien creature that he was studying. Highly appropriate, I thought. I caught Kuiora in the middle of her first bite; her jaws were hanging open and the cupcake lay unassuming on the table in front of her. Also appropriate—I would remember her power this way. Senori actually took the first bite, though, and it reminded me of his leadership. Ezrem was messy in his picture, as he had white icing all over his beak by the time his cupcake was gone. And Rennio, I could tell that his hands would look delicate as they held the food in his picture, as if he were trying very hard not to hurt it in the process of eating it. Impossible, but an admirable struggle.

    And that was it—I had a picture of everyone. I could have asked for everyone to gather next to each other so we could all be in a single picture, but I was too nervous to ask. I didn’t want to disrupt the peaceful, hunger satisfied atmosphere that we had at the moment. Besides, I didn’t want to eventually develop these pictures and see me. I was afraid of seeing that I had made the wrong decision.
    The interactions among the characters are excellent here, as are the emotions you've written. Very, very well done. You've got a great writing style in this section - everything is cleanly written, and your words are chosen smartly and effectively.

    “Ah,” Ezrem said when he was finished, patting his stomach with his functioning but battered wing. “That was good. It’s been a while since I’ve had any sweets.”

    “It’s definitely different from berries,” Rennio agreed.

    “Berries aren’t so bad!” Kuiora said, folding her arms. “Cheri berries are good, anyway.”

    “Whatever you say, whatever you say,” Ezrem said, waving her off. “Well, Atis, there were your presents. I sincerely hope you enjoyed them. And I wonder if there are any more for you.”

    “There’s… more?” I said, thinking that it was unlikely—and particularly unfavorable—for there to be more.

    “Who knows? If there’s more, then I’d like to warn you that some gifts are better left unopened, anyway. I’m mostly referring to the kind of gifts that explode in your face upon opening.”

    “That’s…” I started, swallowing, “well, nice. Thanks for the warning…”

    “Anytime,” Ezrem said, and I saw Senori glare at him from across the table.

    “Don’t listen to him, Atis,” Senori said. “There’s nothing more.”

    “Actually,” Sai interrupted, “there is.” His voice was quiet, perhaps the quietest that I had ever heard it.

    “Oh? Please, Sai, enlighten us,” Senori said, looking at him suspiciously.

    “It’s for Atis only to know. For now, the day is over. Let’s go to the pokémon center.”
    Something is suspicious here...

    Sai still didn’t have enough money to buy everyone their own room, and he apologized for that. I didn’t mind—in the end, it wouldn’t matter to me. It was odd, though, that it was the last time that I would see everyone together in a pokémon center room. I looked up at the top bunk, wondering if I would be sleeping there tonight, listening to the breathing of those calm heartbeats below me…

    Sai was regarding me dubiously. He peered over at me every few moments, as if savoring his time with me, all the while knowing that there was more to come. I shuddered. It was an awkward stare he gave me, and those eyes that gave me mixed emotions would probably give me those same feelings every time I remembered them. I was sure that I would never see the dark glow of his eyes in anybody ever again, that was how unique they were to me.

    When everyone was settling into their sleeping positions, muttering to themselves in tired discontent, Sai announced, “I’m going out with Atis for one last time. Say your good-byes… as I will be letting him go.”

    Everyone stopped what they were doing just to come up to me. Senori simply nodded to me and went back to his position on the bed, with me thinking that it was rather cute to see the two of them so close together.

    Since he couldn’t use his wings well enough, Ezrem stood up on his clawed feet to peck my on the head. He whispered in my ear, “Don’t forget about those exploding gifts.” I let out a stifled, forced laugh.
    I'm only interrupting this so-far-great scene to point out that you typed "my" where "me" should be.

    Rennio pushed Ezrem out of the way, and as a reward I smiled at him, telling him that I wished I could have gotten to know him, too. He didn’t have anything else to say. I knew what he was thinking, anyway, despite our lack of connection.

    And Kuiora, with her enormous size and weight, just had to hug me. I thought she was going to crush my frail, skinny body in the process. Thankfully, she let go soon enough, and said good-bye in the least confident voice I had ever heard from her.

    Sai didn’t say anything. Due to our past experiences together, I was wholly expecting him to say something later—in private. My gaze lingered on him, the sensation of us knowing something that no one else knew taking over. I got the vague feeling that he knew something that I didn’t, but I ignored it. After a few moments, he went to the door and held it open, motioning for me to step outside. I did so, looking back at the others one last time before watching the door close shut, which started this first new chapter of my life.

    The walk to… wherever was silent. I wasn’t even sure where we were going, and supposedly, neither did Sai, as he was always peering this way and that every few seconds. We were seemingly making our way back to the entrance of the city. The night sky and lit moon loomed above us. There were very few people out at this time, which made me and Sai feel like the only ones in the world, with us being of the light and the city being of the dark. Nevertheless, we continued on, and we passed the front gates, just as we had done early this morning. I was already backtracking through my journey, and I speculated about how far I would go until I was satisfied.

    Eventually, Sai stopped. We had reached an area that appeared familiar to me, though Sai had taken a turn that led us into a more forested section. Trees lined the peripheral parts of my view, while a small clearing lay ahead of us, with bushes marking a dead end.

    “Atis,” Sai said. “Yesterday… Senori had told me that you didn’t quite know what you were going to do with your life after this. So I thought about it for you. I… remembered… someone that can help you. She will take you to a place where she thinks she can help you. I, ah, already told her that you would be coming with her, so it’s a little too late to say no right now. You can always say no later, I suppose, if you want to…”
    Hmm... this is curious...

    I stood there, finding his voice even more unnatural than it had been earlier. I couldn’t quite place it—such was often the case with this boy—but the pauses in his words were finally starting to make sense. This was different from when he was giving me answers in other situations. When he talked about himself or his past life, he was at least being honest with us, though he kept his answers discreet for protection’s sake. But this… He was lying to me.

    He was lying to me, and I didn’t know why.

    Suddenly, anxiety welled up within me. Shifting around uncomfortably, I remembered when he had temporarily deserted us. Had he gone to this lady he kept speaking about? It seemed that he didn’t particularly enjoy her company, either, so perhaps he felt the need to lie about her. Not that this made me feel any better. In fact, it only made me automatically despise whatever disaster was waiting for me.

    My concentration was broken when a strong gust of wind blew in my direction and knocked the camera out of my hand. It clattered to the ground, and I chased after it quickly, afraid of it being unusable and unable to be developed. When I retrieved it, I looked up, still feeling the wind blow against my skin. I noticed, however, that Sai seemed unaffected. His hair remained in one spot, and his body didn’t threaten to blow over with the force of nature.

    And soon, I started to feel lightheaded, ill, tired.

    Sai frowned as he noticed my abrupt distress.

    “Earl told me all about you,” Sai went on, just like he had said at the pokémon center. This time, he didn’t pause; he let it all out, word by word.

    I listened, wondering if his voice would be louder than the beating of my heart.

    “He told me,” Sai started, “that you were an obedient pokémon that always acted with a clear head and a clear conscience. He said that you were smarter than he could ever be. Though you were shy, he always took it as a sign that you were simply breathing in the air and thanking life for every chance you could do that. As time went on in our journey, I could see that he was right, and I could see that I was proud to have you on my team. He also said that someday, you would want to accomplish great things. I suppose that now is the time…” I flinched at his pause yet again. “I know you’ve always been outcast from the rest of us by your own wishes, and I respected that, but I wished that we could have spent more time together. I will wish that always. You can say that you won’t miss me, but I’ll think about you every day.”

    As he spoke, I began sobbing, not only because of his obviously heartfelt words and my consequent confusion, but because something was happening inside of me and it felt terrible. I was sick to my stomach, as if I would start retching at any moment. My head was about to split open. I wanted to believe that Sai would help me, but he did nothing. He knew this was going to happen. He knew it. I wanted to believe that this was really my trainer, the one I had trusted all this time…

    My head kept spinning, spinning. Spinning.

    Whatever was happening to me was happening fast. Soon, I was falling backward, hearing that Sai was sobbing, too. Before I could even question his enigmatic betrayal, everything went black.
    I... I'm not sure what to say. I think I need to think about this more. I know something serious just happened, I just need to wrap my mind around it.

    I know I say this a lot but I really do think this was one of the best chapters yet, if not the best one. You've always done well with the emotional punch of the story but this chapter took it to another level; I could really feel like I was right in Atis's shoes the entire time.

    I noticed you mentioned in the PM that this is the beginning of the end here. It certainly felt like it, with the marked escalation in everything. I'm ready.

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  18. #193
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I think I would offer as a counterpoint to Atis's point here that perhaps he would be more relieved if he was in Ezrem's position in terms of self-awareness. He seems very stressed from the knowledge of his own identity and trying to figure out where he belongs, so maybe it would be a relief for him to believe a simplified story instead of the truth.
    Eh, that could be true. I didn't really think about it.

    How many people are there that have lives that don't revolve around Pokemon, really?
    In the pokemon world? Not many.



    I can't say I'm surprised he made this decision - there really wasn't much doubt in my mind he'd choose to leave - but that doesn't mean it doesn't take the wind out of my sails all the same. From my perspective, I can't honestly say that I understand Atis's logic, but when I put myself in his position and adopt his thought process, I grasp it a lot more.
    Ah, I'm glad you can understand it a bit better that way. I know it's a hard decision to accept right away.

    I choked up a little, I must confess.
    Cute.
    I'm surprised at how well the Pokemon are taking this, though Ezrem is excluded from the group right now and might have a different kind of reaction when he finds out.
    I think they take it well because they understand.



    I get a very bad feeling out of the sudden mention about money. It's probably nothing, but it raises a suspicion in my mind that I'd rather not entertain.
    It's probably not much. The money thing is just an important aspect to show his "sickness" (and yes, that's a hint).


    The interactions among the characters are excellent here, as are the emotions you've written. Very, very well done. You've got a great writing style in this section - everything is cleanly written, and your words are chosen smartly and effectively.
    Glad you liked it.
    I... I'm not sure what to say. I think I need to think about this more. I know something serious just happened, I just need to wrap my mind around it.

    I know I say this a lot but I really do think this was one of the best chapters yet, if not the best one. You've always done well with the emotional punch of the story but this chapter took it to another level; I could really feel like I was right in Atis's shoes the entire time.

    I noticed you mentioned in the PM that this is the beginning of the end here. It certainly felt like it, with the marked escalation in everything. I'm ready.
    Glad you're ready. You'll be even more ready as soon as you wrap your head around what just happened, LOL.

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  19. #194
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    You know... I had a Tab open for this story, and then my laptop had to restart at some point and I lost it. Then I forgot about it, and then I remembered it! But here I am.

    So Sai had his inevitable heel turn, but not in any way I could have seen coming. I'm curious as how Sai... poisoned?... Atis without his knowing. I didn't see any visual cues in there like Sai touching Atis' cupcake or Atis noticing a sharp sensation when Sai touched him or anything like that. So I wonder how that happened to Atis.

    There's a part of me that wonders just how devious this plan might be, and what the camera has to do with anything. It doesn't seem like Sai would so carefully have selected a camera for a present if Atis was never going to be able to develop the pictures in it (the story doesn't READ as though this is a digital display camera, so I'm assuming by the description that it is a simple disposable camera), so what's the clue there? Can't say I fully have an idea on that one yet.

    Some of the interactions in this chapter seemed a bit weird. Ezrem, especially. With his math jokes and talk of exploding gifts... he just seemed all over the place, and his dialogue didn't strike me as especially inspired. It just struck me as frenetic and odd. Rennio's voice was cute and endearing. Kuiora was heartfelt. Senori... I guess you set up what you did with him where he had his "knowing moments" with Atis, so he didn't have to have much of a voice, though I'd have preferred something... maybe some delayed gratitude for helping him reach his evolutionary state? Maybe some show of mutual respect? So all-in-all, maybe it was just Ezrem who was weird to me.

    Sai's voice was strong, though we had Atis explicitly telling us why and how. And that's not a bad thing because it suits Atis' character to do so. Atis is unsure, nervous, anxious, and suspicious, so for him to NOT acknowledge changes in Sai's voice would be out-of-character. It really worked for Atis to be describing that, and it raised the tension of everything.

    I'm harkening back a lot to the "I am always sick" chapter because that, obviously, is supposed to be setting up what is happening here. I don't see it, though. The thought I'm having is... if Atis wasn't going to leave, Sai wouldn't be doing this here. So it's not like he's trading pokemon for his medicine or well-being. Unless his eventual goal is to do this with all the members of his group when their journey is complete (which seems likely, I guess). So... hm. Not sure.
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  20. #195
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid87 View Post
    So Sai had his inevitable heel turn, but not in any way I could have seen coming. I'm curious as how Sai... poisoned?... Atis without his knowing. I didn't see any visual cues in there like Sai touching Atis' cupcake or Atis noticing a sharp sensation when Sai touched him or anything like that. So I wonder how that happened to Atis.
    There's a very simple explanation that will be explained in the next chapter.


    Some of the interactions in this chapter seemed a bit weird. Ezrem, especially. With his math jokes and talk of exploding gifts... he just seemed all over the place, and his dialogue didn't strike me as especially inspired. It just struck me as frenetic and odd. Rennio's voice was cute and endearing. Kuiora was heartfelt. Senori... I guess you set up what you did with him where he had his "knowing moments" with Atis, so he didn't have to have much of a voice, though I'd have preferred something... maybe some delayed gratitude for helping him reach his evolutionary state? Maybe some show of mutual respect? So all-in-all, maybe it was just Ezrem who was weird to me.
    Eh, I guess I'm not used to writing characters like Ezrem so he's all over the place for me. And you're right, I could have added something between Senori and Atis. I'll remember that.

    I'm harkening back a lot to the "I am always sick" chapter because that, obviously, is supposed to be setting up what is happening here. I don't see it, though. The thought I'm having is... if Atis wasn't going to leave, Sai wouldn't be doing this here. So it's not like he's trading pokemon for his medicine or well-being. Unless his eventual goal is to do this with all the members of his group when their journey is complete (which seems likely, I guess). So... hm. Not sure.
    That is his eventual goal. All I can really say is that Sai was meant to do this with Atis (or someone else) a long time ago, but, alas, he tends to break the "rules".

    | 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


  21. #196
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 22 ; [KUIORA]
    epitome

    *

    I had heard many stories in the past, but the ones I remembered and told others held the most significance.

    Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved a boy—and then the boy left and she didn't want to love him anymore. Though Sai was slowly regaining my trust, he hadn't quite reached the pedestal I had put him on all those months ago, when he cradled my emotions and told me I was the strongest pokémon he knew.

    There were too many questions surrounding the boy, and no answers. I looked to my stories for answers, but I didn't like any of them. Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl—and when the girl died by his hands, he couldn't stop loving her. Or vice versa. It could happen, right? I believed that if I sought my trainer's secrets, I would be in danger. If I didn't go after them, however, he too would be in danger.

    There was also the story about Ezrem, who was important when it came to friendships and teaching me about what it means to be ordinary and flawed. Ezrem had burned down Ilex Forest and killed his trainer, just as the man in the story mourned his losses as the town accused him of starting the deadly house fire. That story's ending told me Ezrem would be permanently ruined by his recent wounds. I worried for his safety and his health, but there was little I could do.

    I was conflicted about him as well. I wanted to believe he was a good pokémon, but he was set on proving otherwise. He had done unforgivable things, but he was trying. This fact made all the difference. I hoped a legendary pokémon would watch over him and keep him from suffering more.

    Finally, there was the story about a girl who stole herts and never returned the favor. It occurred to me that I was a con, too. Sai cared for me and so did the rest of the team, but I hadn't shown them the respect they deserved. I focused on getting stronger instead. Thanks to the ceremony with Lynn and Comerhi, I realized that everyone was special in their own way. I was working on being as supportive as I needed to be, though I feared it was too late and karma was already coming for me.

    It was strange, being surrounded by the truth. I had convinced myself that death was a myth, that I was invincible. I had been lying to myself, though the truth was right in front of me. The legendaries wouldn't lie to me, I knew. I just didn't want to believe them.

    A story's ending could be undone...

    That had to be true too.

    *

    Atis's departure came as a shock. I felt the same sensation I had before leaving Professor Elm's lab. Although I hadn't cared for the other pokémon, it was the familiarity that had made me comfortable there. And although Atis was quiet, his presence made everything calm and peaceful. Without him here, I could only see a large, empty hole that couldn't be replaced.

    No one was able to sleep that night. We were thinking about our own life decisions. We were all silently asking Sai where he had gone with Atis, and what they had said to each other. Our thoughts might have consisted of consolation once, but now, they were full of fear as we wished that we had known earlier what we knew at this moment.

    Sai came into the Pokémon Center room in a rush. He slammed the door and sobbed loudly, supposedly distressed over losing a pokémon on the team he tried hard to build. We couldn't pretend to sleep anymore, so we got up and offered kind words to Sai. We hugged him, gave him his medication and made him lay down. We sat in a circle around him on the bed and told jokes to each other, but there was one thing we didn't joke about as Sai cried all night.

    *

    The sun was peering in through the window on the far wall of the Pokémon Center when Sai announced, “We're... continuing with our journey. We're going to the gym.”

    We were exhausted and emotionally drained, but no one protested. Sai stood up from the bed and opened the door, almost pushing us out of the room.

    “Watch it, pal,” Ezrem said, frowning. That was all he retorted with, though, which was unusual for his talkative self. Senori didn't even have the energy to glare at him.

    We made our way to the Ecruteak City pokémon gym. Sai walked slow, as if he were waiting for Atis to jump out of the bushes with a new perspective on life. The sun was fully visible in the sky now. It was just a speck in the daytime, and it was cold, distant and brighter than it had any right to be, especially when we were so consumed by dark feelings.

    The gym had a more appropriate atmosphere for our team. It was eerily quiet, with three striking blue lights illuminating the main hallway. The man in the back stared at us like only a heartless man could. There was no trick to this place. I made sure to scan the hardwood floors for any traps, just in case.

    Sai approached the man with caution. He kept his distance as he spoke. “Hello...” he said. “I'm here to face the gym leader. Is that you? If you don't mind, I'd like to fight now instead of making an appointment.”

    The man lifted his arm, his sleeve falling down to reveal pale skin. He snapped his fingers and six more lights appeared in various locations. We could see him better, and he appeared less scary. He had spiky golden hair with a blue headband around his forehead, and a matching blue shirt with yellow cuffs. He wore plain jeans and even a smile! I scolded myself for being frightened. I should have known better than to believe in ghost stories.

    “Hello,” he said. “My name is Morty—”

    “Marty? Is that you?” Sai said, his jaw nearly dropping to the floor.

    “No, no. I assume you're talking about the boy who came by saying he'd challenge me soon. Our names are similar, but that is not me.”

    “Oh,” Sai said, his body relaxing. “I don't have to be afraid anymore, I suppose,” he added with a chuckle. “The Marty I know wouldn't hand me a gym badge even if I beat him ten times over.”

    “Ah, yes. That would be a troublesome gym leader,” Morty agreed.

    “Yes...” Sai said. He paused. “Can we battle now, then?”

    “Sure. We will use two pokémon each,” Morty said. “I look forward to seeing your strength.”

    Sai gestured toward me. “Kuiora, do you want to battle?” he asked.

    Honestly, I didn't want to. I was tired and sad and I wanted the others to be stronger than me for once. I wanted to help Atis, wherever he was. I appreciated Sai's effort to let me fight first in every gym match, but it had to come to an end. I shook my head.

    Sai nodded, as if he understood my reasoning. “Rennio probably isn't ready to fight. Uh, I'll use Senori, since he's evolved.”

    “Sure,” Senori said, running on all fours to the center of the arena.

    “A normal-type, huh? I'm sure you'll use some interesting moves,” Morty pondered, stroking his chin with one hand. He maximized a pokéball in his other hand and threw it forward. Out popped a ball of purple dust, one that had hands and the ability to float around.

    “What... What is that thing?” Senori said.

    “Who knows?” Sai said, shrugging. “But you're going to beat it, okay? Use tail whip!”

    The battle was underway. Senori sprang toward his opponent, a gleam of weary determination in his eyes.

    “Haunter, stay there,” Morty ordered with an air of confidence about him.

    Morty's command made Senori stop before he fell for a trap like I had.

    “What are you doing, Senori?” Sai called. “That would be a free hit! Tail whip!"

    “Okay,” Senori said carefully, not wanting to upset his trainer any further. If it were me battling, I would have done the same.

    Senori prepared to swing his tail. When he collided with the haunter, however, his tail went straight through, as if it were a—

    Oh. The haunter was a ghost-type. That explained the layout of the gym and the leader's odd demeanor. But I didn't know normal-type attacks couldn't hurt ghost-types in any way, shape or form.

    “You're joking,” Senori muttered to himself.

    “Hmm. Try again! Tackle!”

    The same thing happened. This time, Senori's entire body went through the haunter. He landed on the other side of the arena. The haunter looked completely unfazed.

    Senori growled and said, “Sorry, Sai, but my new form is useless here.”

    “Exactly,” Morty said. “You should have done your research before you came here. I hope you have something else going on in that head of yours, or this battle is as good as over.”

    “I knew that already, but I had forgotten. I'm... a little out of it. If Atis were here,” Sai said, hanging his head, “I bet he would have warned me. He would know those kinds of things because he was a part of the school. He would...”

    “Sai...” I said, tugging at his pants. He peered down at me but didn't see me. His eyes were stricken and confused.

    “Ghost attacks don't effect normal-types, either. You've got some advantage. Not enough, though. Haunter, use sucker punch!” Morty cried.

    Fortunately for the haunter, Senori was in close range. It drew a massive amount of dark energy to one of its floating hands and caused a shadow to appear in front of the furret. Senori was about to dodge when the haunter struck him in the stomach. Before he flew backward, the dark energy transferred to the haunter's other hand, and it struck Senori yet again.

    “Senori!” I said as he lay there. “Are you sure none of your attacks would work?”

    “I don't know elemental attacks!” he said forcefully, rubbing his stomach. “So yes, I'm sure.”

    “Sai,” I said, poking him, “you should call Senori back. He'll get beat up!”

    “You think so?” he said, as if he hadn't seen the haunter punch Senori. “Okay, Senori. Return.”

    “If you call the furret back, you only have one pokémon left,” Morty explained.

    “I'd rather lose than let him go on like that,” Sai said. He still didn't sound like his normal self. His voice was worse than it had been last night. “Senori, return,” he said again.

    “Ghost-types are no joke, especially since this guy's a gym leader,” Senori said, running to us. “You should use whoever's strongest here.”

    “But Rennio doesn't want to fight.”

    “That's right. Sorry...” the young pokémon said.

    “And Ezrem is injured. He isn't even my pokémon. Kuiora,” he said, turning to me, “you need to fight. If Atis were here, I guess I'd try using him... He's smart enough to figure something out...”

    “Sai,” Senori said sternly, “I know you're sad that Atis left, but you can't let it bother you this much. You're in a gym battle, for crying out loud! Get yourself together.”

    “I agree. Don't forget about your goals now!” I said, trying to be as encouraging as possible, though I didn't know the full extent of his goals. “Can't we have a normal gym battle for once?” I added, exasperated.

    “You don't understand. You don't understand what I did to him. You don't—”

    “I think that,” Morty interrupted, returning the haunter to its pokéball, “this battle is over. Come back when you are ready.”

    And with that, he left us with our belittled and horrified trainer, but not before turning off the lights.

    “Sai? What did you do with Atis? You didn't hurt him, did you?” I said, deciding to ignore the gym leader. We could always come back later, as he said. Sai would have to deal with breaking the rules once more.

    “I didn't really hurt him. Someone else did. They're going to hurt him more, just like they hurt me,” Sai said in one breath.

    “Who did, Sai? Where is Atis?” Senori all but demanded.

    “I need to go. He's in... Mahogany Town. After all this time, I know exactly where it is! I don't want to know where it is, but I know where it is,” Sai said quickly. “Look, I need to go. Stay here. Don't follow me.”

    He dashed out of the building, leaving all of us behind. We tried to search Ecruteak City for him, but he was nowhere to be found.

    This was it. He had left us once again. It wasn't Rennio's fault. It wasn't anyone's fault, really, but we didn't want to be wild pokémon again. ...Well, a story's ending could be undone, right?

    “At least we... have a lead this time,” Rennio said, trying to keep from crying. “Are we heading to Mahogany Town?”

    “I have a feeling that none of us know where it is,” Ezrem said, “but yes, Rennio, I believe that is where we are going.”

    We stood there, slinking our shoulders and tired bodies, imagining how far Mahogany Town might be. It could have been anywhere, even in another region. We didn't have a guide, food, water, money or a trainer. Without any of this, we couldn't find him. All we had was each other, and just barely.

    Our pathetic team, for the moment, was the epitome of loss.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 7th May 2016 at 3:49 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


  22. #197
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 22 ; [KUIORA]
    epitome

    *

    I had heard of many stories in the past, but the ones that I remembered in my mind, along with the ones I told the others, seemed to be of most significance.

    Once upon a time, there was a girl named Kuiora who loved a boy named Sai—and then the boy left her and she did not love him anymore. True. Not fiction. Fact. I had lost a ton of respect for Sai when he had disappeared on us, and he was slowly starting to gain my trust back, but he hadn’t quite reached the pedestal that I had put him on all those days ago, when he cradled my emotions and told me that I was the strongest pokémon he had.
    I have to admit, this beginning catches me just a bit off guard. The "once upon a time" story reads like it could be the feelings Kuiora now has about Sai's actions earlier in the story, but given the entire context, this almost reads like something Kuiora would say some time in the future, as if there was a timeskip of some kind and the characters were looking back on the events of the story.

    Maybe I'm jumping the gun with trying to reach a conclusion.

    Still, the story made me wonder. Did it have any unknown relation to Sai? Did he feel that it was his duty to leave us and do whatever he had to do? Was he affiliated with any legendary pokémon that gave him the chance to go on a journey with us? There were so many questions surrounding the boy, and no answers. I thought that perhaps the story could give me answers, but I didn’t like any of them. It meant that one of us would die—probably me, if I chose to go after him. It would be just like the story. Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl—and when the girl died by his hands, he could not stop loving her. The roles were reversed, but they could still ring true. I believed that if I sought to figure out my trainer, then I could potentially be in danger. I didn’t want that, but Sai was irresistibly mysterious and indispensable to me.
    Yeah, this really reads like Kuiora narrating her thoughts in some sort of epilogue. There must be some meaning here that's just going over my head.

    I do like the way Kuiora is explaining her thoughts, though. They are presented in an intelligent, articulate fashion that is pleasant to read. Also, the comments about the story that she keeps referring to relate quite well to the relationship between her and Sai, though that's part of what I don't understand - they relate so well that they contribute to the feeling that the story Kuiora is speaking of is her relationship with Sai.

    And then… there was the story perfectly related to Ezrem, who was also an important part of my life when it came to friendships and teaching me more about what it means to be extraordinarily ordinary. He had recently told me that he burned down the forest and killed his trainer. In the story, a man was mourning his losses, and at the end, the town had accused him of killing his own wife and child by starting the house fire. It sounded perfectly applicable, almost scarily so. Again, I didn’t like the story’s ending. It meant that Ezrem would die of the burn wounds he had received lately. I worried incessantly for his safety and health once I figured out the connection between him and the stories.
    Wait, I think I'm beginning to see a narrative here...

    Despite my worry, I was still conflicted about him. I wanted to believe that he was a good pokémon, but he was dead set on proving otherwise. And the things he had done were… unforgivable, to say the least. But he was trying. This, I could tell, and it made all the difference. I could deal with him and his trickery if it meant that he was going to try harder for me and everybody else. I hoped that whatever legendary pokémon was watching over him would keep him from dying.
    Wait, is he trying to earn forgiveness or to be a bad Pokemon? I don't fully grasp Kuiora's thoughts here.

    Finally, there was the story about the thieving girl who stole hearts and never returned a single favor anyone gave her. While Ezrem was probably thinking that it was about him at the time (and I may have agreed with him… at the time), I believed that the story was about me. I was a con, a stealer of hearts, too. Sai obviously cared for me and so did Senori and Atis and everyone else, but I never showed any respect or love toward them. I only cared about myself getting stronger. Well, thanks to the ceremony with Lynn and the starmie, I had realized that everyone was special in their own way, and I was working on trying to be as supportive of others as I could possibly be. I feared for the karma that awaited me, but I hoped that the legendaries would find me to be inexorably invincible.

    It was strange, being suddenly surrounded by the idea of death. I had told Ezrem that it was all a myth meant to scare children like me, but I had been lying. It was right in front of me, all the time, in these stories… and I knew that the legendaries wouldn’t lie to me. I just didn’t want to believe them, no matter how much I cherished them.

    A story’s ending could be undone…

    It had to be true.
    I'm seeing some definite narrative threads now, and I'm not entirely sure I like where they're going. There's some bad stuff about to go down, isn't there?

    The usage of stories as they relate to the characters is a good idea. It illustrates clearly what kind of paths each of them are very possibly set on.

    It came as a shock to me when Atis left. It gave me the sensation that I had felt when I left Professor Elm’s lab. Although I hadn’t cared for the other pokémon, it was the familiarity that had made me feel comfortable there. And even though Atis was almost invisible to me, due to his quiet nature, his presence made everything feel more calm and peaceful. Without him there, I could only see a large, empty hole that couldn’t be filled.

    Apparently, Sai was thinking the same, too.

    It was safe to assume that no one was able to sleep the night that Atis left. We were all thinking about our own decisions to stay. We were all thinking about where Sai had gone with the hitmontop, and what they were saying to each other. Our thoughts had altered after seeing Sai leave, seeing Ezrem get burned, and seeing a fellow teammate leave. Before, the thoughts consisted of consolation. Now, they were full of fear and the sad feeling of wishing that we had known earlier what we knew at this moment.

    Well, since none of us were sleeping when Atis left, no one was sleeping when Sai returned, either. He was in a rush when he closed the door. He was clearly sobbing, and we all believed we knew why. He was distressed over Atis leaving, over losing a pokémon on the team he had tried so hard to build. I vaguely wondered why he didn’t force Atis to stay with us, but I knew that it wasn’t in Sai’s best interests to do so.
    After thinking more about what happened previously, I'm really beginning to feel that what Kuiora/the Pokemon feel is disconnected from what Sai is actually doing. I can't help but see a bit more of a sinister overtone against what's happening, even though I truly don't want to.

    For example, Sai crying is one thing, but I note very cautiously that Kuiora said they all believed they knew why he was doing so. His being in a rush could very easily be due to doing something he didn't want to be caught doing, just as much as it could be out of sadness.

    When Sai’s demeanor was finally more serene, he immediately announced, “We’re continuing with our journey… We’re going to the gym.”

    The sun had just started rising and peering in through the shut window on the far wall of the pokémon center room. We were all exhausted and emotionally drained, but no one protested. Sai stood up from the bed—where he had been all night—and opened the door, almost pushing us out of the room.

    “Watch it, pal,” Ezrem said, frowning at the boy, but that was all he retorted with, which was unusual for his normal talkative self. Senori didn’t even seem to have the energy to glare back at him.

    We slowly made our way to the Ecruteak City pokémon gym. Sai was walking slow compared to his preferred swift pace. The sun was fully visible in the sky now. It was just a speck in the daytime, and it was cold, distant… It was brighter than it had any right to be. It still seemed to be dark in my heart. Our hearts.
    There is something very strange going on here that goes far deeper than just what we saw of Atis's departure.

    The gym had a more appropriate atmosphere for our team. It was eerie and shallow, to say the least. The gym was almost completely dark, with only three striking blue lights on either side. It was enough to illuminate the leader that stood in the back of the room, looking at us emotionlessly, as if he were nothing but a lifeless, heartless man. The simplicity of it all sent shivers down my spine. I found it odd that there was no trick to this place. The Violet City gym was intentionally open for flying-type pokémon. Azalea Town was purposefully made into a forest to encourage growth, and in Goldenrod City, there had been a maze. Here, there was nothing but a few lights, brown hardwood floors, and a… man, if you could even call him that.

    Even Sai approached the “man” with caution. He kept his distance as he spoke: “Hello… I’m here to face the gym leader. Is that you? If you don’t mind, I’d like to fight now instead of making an appointment.”

    The man lifted his arm, his sleeve falling down to reveal pale skin underneath. He snapped his fingers, and six more lights were suddenly lit up in various locations. We could see him a lot better. He had spiky golden hair with a blue headband around his forehead, and he had a matching blue shirt with yellow cuffs. He wore plain jeans, and now, he looked more alive and human. He was even smiling! I slapped myself for falling for the joke and letting him scare me. I should have known better than to fall for the tricks of a man who obviously wanted us to believe in ghost stories that I already knew were fake. Though the odd connection between my team and some stories made me really wonder if they were fake.

    “Hello,” he said. “My name is Morty, and—”

    “Marty? Is that you?” Sai said, his jaw nearly dropping the floor.

    “No, no. Morty, not Marty. I assume you’re talking about the boy who just recently came by to say he would be challenging me soon. Our names are similar, but that is not me.”

    “Oh,” Sai said, his body relaxing. “I don’t have to be afraid anymore, I suppose,” he added, chuckling. It made me smile. “The Marty I know wouldn’t hand me a gym badge even if I beat him ten times over.”
    There's another strike in the corner that says Sai has severe social issues for whatever reason, if he has trouble with associating names to identities.

    “Ah, yes, that would be a troublesome gym leader,” Morty agreed.

    “Yes,” Sai said. There was a pause. “Can we battle now, then?”

    “Sure. We will use two pokémon each,” Morty said. “I look forward to seeing your strength.”

    Sai looked over to me. “Kuiora,” he said, “do you want to battle?”

    If I was being honest, I didn’t want to. I was tired and sad and I wasn’t particularly focused on being stronger anymore. I wanted to help Atis, wherever he was. I appreciated Sai’s efforts to make it a point to let me fight first in every gym match, but he had to come to an end. I shook my head no.

    “Okay,” Sai said, nodding, as if he could read my thoughts. “Rennio probably isn’t ready to fight yet. Uh. I’ll use Senori, then, since he just evolved.”

    “Sure,” Senori said simply, running on all fours to get to the middle of the arena.

    “A normal-type, huh? I’m sure you’ll have some interesting moves up your sleeve, then, if that’s the case,” Morty pondered, stroking his chin with one hand. He maximized a pokéball that I just noticed was in his other hand, and he threw it forward, bringing forth what looked like a spiky ball of purple dust… one that had hands and the ability to float around.
    I don't think Senori is going to win, due to type disadvantage. In fact, I'm willing to venture a guess as far out as Sai losing and that being the major event that pushes him toward some final break.

    “What… What is that thing?” Senori asked.

    “Who knows?” Sai said. “But you’re going to beat it, okay? Use tail whip!”

    And like that, the battle was underway. Senori sprang toward the purple cloud of dust, a gleam of weary determination in his eyes.

    “Haunter, just stay there for a moment,” Morty ordered calmly.

    This made Senori halt his momentum. He was able to come to a complete stop before running into the haunter and falling for whatever trap the gym leader was trying to pull.

    “What are you doing, Senori? That would be a free hit! Tail whip!”

    “Okay…” Senori said carefully, probably not wanting to upset his trainer any further. If it were me in the battle, I would do the same.
    I don't see this ending well at all. Something bad is coming, I know it.

    “Are you sure you want to do that? If you call the furret back, then you only have one pokémon left,” Morty said.

    “I’d rather lose once than let my pokémon continuously get hurt for no reason,” Sai said, though he still didn’t sound like his normal self. His voice sounded forced and hurt more than it had when he had been crying last night. My heart ached for him. “Senori, return,” he said again.
    This situation is going to explode very soon, I can feel it. Sai's just so far out of it now that I think we may have passed the point of no return.

    “You should use whoever’s strongest here,” Senori advised. “These ghost-types are no joke. They’re really tough, and they’re probably even more tough than usual since they belong to a gym leader.”

    “But Rennio doesn’t want to fight, right?” he said, looking at the elekid.

    “That’s right. Sorry… I have to prepare myself yet again…” the young pokémon replied.

    “And Ezrem is injured… He’s not even my pokémon… Kuiora, you need to fight, okay? If Atis were here, I guess I’d try using him… He’d be smart enough to figure something out…” Sai trailed off, lost in thought. He appeared to be out of commission yet again.

    “Sai,” Senori said, “I know you’re sad that Atis left, but you can’t let it bother you too much. You’re in a gym battle, for crying out loud! Get yourself together!”

    “I agree. Don’t lose sight of your goal now!” I said, trying to be as encouraging as possible. “Can’t we have a normal gym battle for once?” I added, exasperated. I found that Senori was much better at handling these sorts of things and that I’d have to work on it.

    “You don’t understand. You don’t understand what I did to him. You don’t—”
    Oh dear God, here it goes.

    Now might be a good point to mention that I didn't actually realize Atis was poisoned at the end of the previous chapter. I thought he was having a strong emotional reaction that manifested itself physically.

    “I think that,” Morty interrupted, returning the haunter to its pokéball, “for the moment, this battle is over. Come back when you are ready.”

    “Sai? What did you do with Atis? You didn’t hurt him, did you?” I said, ignoring the gym leader. We could always come back later, as he said. Sai would just have to deal with breaking the rules once more. I watched as the gym leader turned and disappeared in the shadows, turning off the lights yet again. We were shrouded in darkness.

    “I didn’t really hurt him. Someone else did. They’re going to hurt him more, just like they hurt me,” Sai said frantically. He was speaking so quickly that Senori and I were having trouble keeping up.
    Wait, what? Now I'm really suspicious...

    “Who did, Sai? Where is Atis?”

    “I need to go. He’s in Mahogany Town. After all this time, of course I know exactly where it is! I don’t want to know where it is, but I know where it is,” Sai said, out of breath. “Look, I need to go,” he said again. “Stay here. Don’t follow me.”

    Just like he had during the Goldenrod City gym breakdown, he turned and dashed out of the building, leaving all of us behind. And just like before, when we left the place and searched all over for him, he was nowhere to be found.

    “At least we have a lead this time,” Rennio said thoughtfully, trying to keep from crying. “Are we heading to Mahogany Town?”

    “I have a feeling that none of us know where it is,” Ezrem said, and I nodded to him, “but yes, Rennio, I believe that is where we are going.”

    We all stood there, slinking our shoulders and tired bodies, wondering where in the world Mahogany Town was. It could have been anywhere. We didn’t have a guide, or food, or water, or money, or a trainer. Again. Without any of this, we couldn’t get anywhere, anyway. All we had was each other, and just barely.

    Our pathetic team, for the moment, was the epitome of loss.
    Now with Mahogany Town involved, I feel safe in guessing now that Team Rocket is involved in this somehow, and Sai has ties to them in some way. I suspected it from his breakdown in Goldenrod City but I haven't felt truly confident in putting it out there until now.

    This chapter answered some questions, while at the same time raising plenty more. I don't know what more I can really say - at least we have a clear plot thread to drive us through to the end, and some idea of what may happen next. Beyond that, I'm just along for the ride and enjoying every minute.

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  23. #198
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    This story is still alive right? I've really enjoyed it so far. I even made an account on this site just to write this comment mang, hook me up with an update.
    Last edited by hl23; 21st April 2013 at 9:42 PM.

  24. #199
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I have to admit, this beginning catches me just a bit off guard. The "once upon a time" story reads like it could be the feelings Kuiora now has about Sai's actions earlier in the story, but given the entire context, this almost reads like something Kuiora would say some time in the future, as if there was a timeskip of some kind and the characters were looking back on the events of the story.

    Maybe I'm jumping the gun with trying to reach a conclusion.
    It makes sense. I think it's more poor writing on my part, since it confuses you. Sorry about that.





    Wait, is he trying to earn forgiveness or to be a bad Pokemon? I don't fully grasp Kuiora's thoughts here.
    In a sense, he's trying to do both. He's trying to be a bad pokemon because he knows he doesn't deserve good things but he still wants those good things and to be forgiven... if that makes sense.


    For example, Sai crying is one thing, but I note very cautiously that Kuiora said they all believed they knew why he was doing so. His being in a rush could very easily be due to doing something he didn't want to be caught doing, just as much as it could be out of sadness.
    Yes, I'm glad you pointed this out. His pokemon are totally out of the loop in terms of knowing what's going on.


    There's another strike in the corner that says Sai has severe social issues for whatever reason, if he has trouble with associating names to identities.
    I wouldn't read too much into this, I just thought Morty and Marty's names were similar and thought it would be a quirk to add in there. Morty could barely be seen because of the darkness, too, so it's not a visual thing.

    This situation is going to explode very soon, I can feel it. Sai's just so far out of it now that I think we may have passed the point of no return.
    You like to point out all the suspense that's going on, and I guess that's good. XD It means I'm doing something right...


    Now might be a good point to mention that I didn't actually realize Atis was poisoned at the end of the previous chapter. I thought he was having a strong emotional reaction that manifested itself physically.
    It wasn't meant to be clear at the time.

    Now with Mahogany Town involved, I feel safe in guessing now that Team Rocket is involved in this somehow, and Sai has ties to them in some way. I suspected it from his breakdown in Goldenrod City but I haven't felt truly confident in putting it out there until now.

    This chapter answered some questions, while at the same time raising plenty more. I don't know what more I can really say - at least we have a clear plot thread to drive us through to the end, and some idea of what may happen next. Beyond that, I'm just along for the ride and enjoying every minute.
    Yep, Team Rocket is involved, that's for sure.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Quote Originally Posted by hl23 View Post
    This story is still alive right? I've really enjoyed it so far. I even made an account on this site just to write this comment mang, hook me up with an update.
    Yes, this story is still alive. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  25. #200
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 23 ; [SENORI]
    armageddon

    *

    Sai's breakdown in Ecruteak City had to be the worst of them all. His eyes were insatiably wild, as if they were about to roll into the back of his head and make him pass out. Instead he ran off, struggling with wobbly knees. He screamed about how Mahogany Town was such a wretched place, and then came along obscene words about what he would do to it if he ever got the chance. It seemed Sai was only violent because he deemed it necessary to be so, since I could never picture him doing it out of malice.

    Sai darted off too fast, as if to make a point about us not following him. I could understand, though, wanting to put to an end the city that had apparently ruined his life. Still, I felt guilty about his second disappearance. I was responsible for Sai's overall well-being, but I knew no more about how to control him than I did my own life.

    We knew where he was going. That was our only consolation. It would have been ever better if we knew how to get there.

    “The fact that none of us are human is really a catastrophe. Then again, if we weren't pokémon, we wouldn't be in this mess,” I said. I was trying to keep everyone's spirits up, but I was failing.

    Ezrem shook his head. “I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to be human, just to go somewhere,” he said.

    “Agreed,” Rennio said woefully.

    Kuiora remained quiet. I knew she loved being a pokémon, but it would've been nice to not be helpless and reliant on a trainer.

    We stood awkwardly at the gym's entrance, ignoring passers-by. It was strange for a pack of pokémon to be out and about by themselves. It was good that no one could understand us talking about our missing trainer, or perhaps they could call the police, like Marty had threatened once.

    And then it hit me. Marty. Marty knew Sai and his untamed personality. As soon as that boy saw us, he would question us and do something about the situation. The search could lead to some unfavorable consequences, but at this point, I was desperate.

    “It's risky,” I said to the team, “but I think I know who to find.”

    *

    The most obvious place to look was the Pokémon Center. That was where most trainers decided to rest, after all. Inside, the four of us disregarded stares as we went from room to room, knocking on each door. We split up, though Rennio stayed by my side because he wasn't sure what Marty looked like. Some people answered, and when I didn't recognize them, I bowed in apology and moved on. In the end, no one found Marty.

    “It was a good idea,” Ezrem said. I was grateful for his presence. “But it didn't work.”

    “And we don't have time to wait for him here, do we?” I said. I rubbed my chin, making it seem like I was thinking. I was spacing out, but it was okay to pretend for once.

    Next we checked the fancy restaurant and the pokémart. We scoured the entirety of both buildings, but we got kicked out for causing a disturbance or, more realistically, for being considered wild pokémon.

    We were more lost than we were before.

    “Ecruteak City has a lot of history behind it, right?” Kuiora said.

    “Right,” I said. Even I knew about the towers in the north without the croconaw telling me.

    “That means there's lots of visitors, right? Like... Professor Elm was famous, so people would come to New Bark Town just to see him. I think they stayed in hotels. Maybe Ecruteak has something like that.”

    “A brilliant idea, Kuiora,” Ezrem said, hopping over to her. He was getting along well without the use of both wings. “Let's go find one.”

    I hadn't wanted to explore unknown buildings, in case we weren't allowed in, but Kuiora had a point when she said Marty might be there. I nodded and went along with them. So we went to each building, choosing to look in the windows rather than trespassing. We saw normal houses, more restaurants, a dance hall... I saw Kuiora take a peek into the towers, though she clearly knew they weren't part of a hotel. She reminded me of when I tied to get Sai to quit stalking others, but I wished we could do that all over again. Back then, things somehow made more sense than they did now.

    Eventually, Rennio spotted the hotel, saying he recognized the bellboys walking up the stairs with trays in their hands. We rushed in eagerly and avoided anyone who might call security on us. Again, we went from room to room, knocking and hoping.

    By some great stroke of luck, we found Marty on the third floor. He opened the door and looked around confusedly. I went up to him and stood on his shoes to get his attention. He rubbed his eyes, and I assumed he had just woken up.

    “A furret?” he said, then yawned. “And a croconaw... I've seen that rufflet before. Sai's team?”


    I nodded furiously. “Sai isn't here,” I said, even though he couldn't understand me. I had to say it to make it feel real.

    Marty was fully alert now, anyway. “What the hell?” he said in a whisper. “What are you guys doing here?”

    “Sai isn't here,” I said, holding back tears. They had snuck up on me when I least expected them. I motioned for Marty to come with us.

    “Do you need me for something?” he said, not moving an inch.

    I pulled him harder. The rest of the team looked up ta him pleadingly, unable to articulate a single sound.

    “I don't know what you want... I'm sorry... Here, maybe Gracie will know,” Marty said. He got away from my grasp and disappeared for a moment. He returned with the fire-type pokémon I had fought way back when. She had evolved since then. She had maroon-colored eyes, and her body was longer and more slender, though her cream-colored fur hadn't changed. She shot flames out of her head at us, as if to shoo us away.

    “You've grown,” I said stupidly. How could I start a conversation about a crazy teenage boy who had disappeared on a whim?

    “You too,” Gracie said. “What do you guys need? This is a little, um, different...”

    “Our trainer is... missing. He went to Mahogany Town, and we have no idea where it is. We were hoping Marty would know. We only know him and Sasha...” I said, trailing off. I hadn't realized I was talking as fast as Sai had been. It seemed that I had adopted some of his idiosyncrasies.

    I smiled widely when she replied, “We've been there once or twice. I'm sure we can take you there.”

    “Oh, geez, this is great. Thank you so much,” I said, attempting to hug her.

    “Watch out for the fire-type,” Ezrem said, grabbing the scruff of my neck.

    "Ahem,” I said, leaving that clumsy situation just to head into another one. “I don't mean to be pushy, but can we go now? We don't want him to get himself hurt or lost.” I didn't say he had done it once before.

    “Of course,” she said. “One minute.”

    *

    Gracie somehow conveyed the situation to Marty, who told Sasha what was happening. Gracie led all seven of us out of the hotel and took us to the eastern edge of town. I had a feeling that the only reason Marty was listening was because it was his own pokémon. If it weren't for Gracie, we wouldn't be going anywhere at all.

    When we reached a gate, Gracie pointed to a sign and signaled for Marty to look at it.

    That was when Marty got angry.

    “Are you kidding me? Sai went to Mahogany Town and left his pokémon here?” he said. Suddenly I didn't want to be the leader of the team. Ezrem could take the heat for this one.

    “Marty,” Sasha said serenely, “maybe he had a reason to go. We don't know anything yet. Let's get his pokémon to him.”

    “Fine,” Marty muttered, walking ahead of us now.

    Sasha turned to us. “I'm sorry about him, guys,” she said. “We'll find Sai. It'll be all right.”

    Despite everything, I had to admit I wasn't optimistic this time around. Sure, I was certain that we would find him, but I wasn't so certain about us being glad when we did.

    We went on. The guard waved at us, and it was a relief to not be given menacing looks. Sasha waved back and smiled. She was always kind to us, exceedingly so. It was preferable to her brother, who had quite a temper and easily held grudges toward others. I remembered hearing Marty's story at the pokémon fan club and was somehow happy he was here, anyway. More than anything, he cared about us, even if we weren't his.

    I caught up with Gracie, excited by this revelation. “I know why Marty was so keen on battling us before,” I said. It seemed like a perfectly pleasant way to start a conversation.

    The quilava flinched. “You do?” she said. “I don't... I don't know what you're talking about.”

    Marty interrupted the beginning of our talk. We had reached a crossroad, where we could either enter a cave or surf through a narrow river. I could already see the other side of the latter path. I could deal with Gracie being distracted if it meant Sai was over there.

    “Well, there's no way I'm spending a week in a cave for Sai's sake,” Marty said, sighing. “So we're going over the river.” He drew a plain pokéball from his belt and threw it casually into the water. A massive water-type floated to the surface. It had long blue fins that resembled a flying-type's wings. A pair of antennae sat on its head, swishing around with the joy of being released. Its beady black eyes looked at us expectantly

    “She can help us, guys,” Marty said. “Marin, I need you to do us a favor. Do you think you can carry all of us?”

    Marin analyzed the group. Her face scrunched up when her gaze met Kuiora's. “The croconaw can swim,” she said sourly, and then she smiled.

    “Fantastic,” Sasha said, stepping toward the edge of the river. Marin got close enough to her, so she could climb on her back without falling over.

    Marty did the same. “Do you want to go in your pokéball, Gracie?” he asked.

    “No,” the fire-type said. “I have to get over my fear sometime, right?”

    So the quilava was scared of water. It was typical for a fire-type. I thought maybe that was why she flinched at my presence, but soon I would learn that that had nothing to do with it.

    Kuiora lowered herself into the river. She started to mention the last time she could swim freely, but then stopped. After that, the rest of us hopped on Marin. Gracie stood on her hind legs behind Marty, and I went next to her. Rennio and Ezrem sat in Marty and Sasha's laps respectively.
    Sasha noticed Ezrem pretty quickly. “Your poor wings,” she said. “What happened to you?”

    Ezrem didn't answer.

    “Hmm,” Marty said. He avoided looking at Ezrem, as if his wounds were too much to bear. “I suppose we're off.”

    Marin turned around so that she was facing our destination. A few seconds later she was wading through the water at a peaceful pace that kept us all balanced.

    It occurred to me that it could be a long ride, so I said to Gracie, “But yeah, I know what Marty went through. He told the pokémon fan club everything.”

    “Oh,” Gracie said simply and without emotion. She was shy, and perhaps I was pushing too far, but I needed something to distract me from Sai.

    “Do you know anything about it? You're part of the family, after all. Marty's father was... Well, he was abusive.”

    “...I was originally supposed to be a pet. I was in the house when he did terrible things. It was because of that man that Marty left home. He doesn't like his father... as you could probably guess,” Gracie finished.

    Though she was speaking more, she was being vague. A part of my heart instantly ached for her, knowing now that was fearful of touching in general. I almost slapped myself because I hadn't seen the truth sooner.

    “Well...” I said, not wanting to force her to admit anything she didn't want to. I hated talking about my clan, and similarly, she probably hated talking about Marty's father. “Would you be a pet again if you could?”

    “It doesn't matter to me either way,” Gracie said. “It's just... Marty can be overwhelming. You know how he's acted with your trainer. He acts the same with everyone, even if the trainer doesn't seem too bad. Sasha's the only one who can keep him sane.”

    Gracie didn't know that I knew what was going on inside her head. I felt like I was invading her mind and making her spill all of its contents against her will, when in reality I was doing no such thing. We were also betraying Marty's privacy. We were talking about a very intimate part of his past, and right in front of him, no less.

    To avoid feeling more guilt, I kept quiet. It was Gracie who intentionally went on and said, “I wish that he'd leave it alone and let me forget.”

    “You'll move on,” I said. “I don't know how exactly, but you will. I did, too, so I know you can.”

    “Thanks...” Gracie said.

    The trip was relatively quiet from then on. Sasha murmured something about Ezrem's wings occasionally, and she checked on them often to make sure the bandages were tight. Marty made a comment about dropping Rennio in the water and accidentally electrocuting us all. Kuiora accompanied us on our journey with gurgling sounds as she enjoyed her swim.

    I thought about Gracie. I thought about myself, my team and Sai. I originally thought that nothing bad could happen to me, that once I was banished, my story was the most unique in the world and no one else's could ever compare. Like most older pokémon, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. When I met Sai, I realized I'd been a total idiot and that I needed a lot more focus in my life. I worked hard as his pokémon, and when it dawned on me that my heart wasn't necessarily my best friend, I tried even harder to beat it. I evolved and got rid of my tail, my last connection to the clan. Now, as Sai's relocation was a hair's breadth away, I felt that everything I knew was wrong, that my perspective was utterly indefensible, and that there are no objective standards for anything anyone could imagine, including the concept of age. When you think about it, you see there's not much creativity there. Humans and pokémon alike created age as a hierarchy of artificial goals because we wanted to be able to explain how the world works.

    To redeem myself I could only spend the remaining time in my life with my team. To do that, I needed Sai to come back safely.

    *

    Mahogany Town seemed pleasant enough. It looked like the humanized version of a forest. I would have loved to spend more time there, if we weren't on the lookout for our renegade trainer. The buildings were built with green-colored bricks and topped with black roofs. The grass seemed well taken care of, especially since there was no pavement. Several carriages lined the makeshift roads building, with a crowd of people waiting for their turn to buy whatever goods they could.

    Not a single person looked like they wanted to be somewhere else in the world. We, of course, effectively ruined that trend. We wanted to be at the Ecruteak City gym with Atis again, while Marty, Sasha and Gracie most likely wanted to lay cozily in their hotel room.

    “Let's start looking,” Marty said. As expected, his mood was growing lower and lower by the minute.

    Sasha took over the hard part for Marty, saying that Marty would talk bad about Sai and then we'd never find him. She spoke to anyone who would talk back, asking them if they had seen a boy of about sixteen years passing by. Some people told her to get back in line, and others told her there weren't many teenagers in town.

    “Skinny but decently tall, black hair, blue eyes... Plain clothes...” she said, adding anything that would make Sai stand out. His personality would surely stand out, but...

    Finally, someone answered nonchalantly, “I saw a boy like that. Hard not to miss him when he's shovin' everyone out the way. He went to the lab over there.” The woman pointed to a lone metallic building to the east.

    “Thank you,” Sasha said, bowing curtly. She strode over to the laboratory with us, as if she too were in a hurry.

    “Of all places, he sent Atis to a lab?” Ezrem scoffed. “Maybe Atis left us to be a lab rat.”

    “Shut up,” I said. “Sai wouldn't do that, and Atis wouldn't agree with him if he did.”

    Ezrem coughed. Rennio shrunk back and stood behind the bird. Kuiora glanced at the building in awe, never having seen something more creepy yet fascinating. Gracie didn't react, and Atis... He wasn't here with us. He was in this building with Sai.

    Marty barged right on in, fists clenched. He wouldn't hesitate punching Sai in the face if given the opportunity. My team was more reluctant this time, but we couldn't back down now.

    The first floor was anticlimactic. I didn't know what we expected to see, but what we got was an empty floor with a simple counter, much like the ones we saw at Pokémon Centers. A fountain stood in the middle of the room, with house plants and chairs surrounding it. There was a guard blocking the upstairs.

    Marty approached the guard and said, “Excuse me, but we were told our friend came through here. We really need to see him. Would you let us through?”

    “Sorry,” the guard said in a husky voice with the slightest hint of an accent, “but no one is allowed upstairs. Authorized personnel only.”

    “Like hell the guy's authorized to be in a place like this,” Marty said, eyebrows raised with suspicion. “He can barely tell his right foot from his left.”

    “If he was able to get upstairs,” the guard said firmly, “then he was authorized.”

    Marty grit his teeth. “I didn't come all this way to be told that Sai is mysterious and that I should let him stay that way. Let us through.”

    “The answer is no.”

    “Marty...” Sasha said, about to lightly touch him on the shoulder, but it was too late.

    Marty gestured Gracie to attack. She obeyed him, dashing forward and knocking the guard backward. His head hit the tile floor and he groaned. Marty thanked her and stepped over the guard. Though we were stunned, we followed.

    The second floor stunned us further. Along the walls were several computers and full desks where people sat, wearing white coats. They experimented with the vials in front of them, then held their clipboards and scribbled on them with their pens furiously. A large machine hung from the ceiling in the center of the room. Part of it was connected with the ground and a cot. On the cot lay a purple snake-like pokémon, and it writhed in pain as a man took notes next to it.

    Soon the machine buzzed and there was a ton of screaming.

    “Keep going until you find him!” Marty yelled to us.

    We scrambled to the second set of stairs. The scientists looked at us with curiosity, and once they figured out we were intruders, they panicked and demanded we be destroyed. On the third floor, it was quieter, aside from the heavy breathing of two pokémon fighting to the death. A serious practice match was taking place in a field marked by white chalk. Blood stained the floor and dripped from the pokémons' mouths while the trainers looked on, unscathed.

    “What the hell is going on here?” one of them asked.

    “I swear... If I see Sai touch one of these pokémon like those bastards, I'm gonna pound his skull in,” Marty said. Sasha didn't protest as her hand was raised over her mouth in shock. They had caught up to us without our noticing.

    ...There was something wrong with this laboratory. There was something even more wrong with the fact that our trainer was associated with it. More and more questions arrived as we went on.

    “Attack the intruders!” said an unfamiliar voice. Behind us we saw some scientists pursuing us.

    The two battling men nodded to each other. One said, “You heard the guy. Attack 'em, Granbull!”

    “Join him, Sunflora!” cried the second man.

    “Oh, this is such a joke,” Marty said, rolling his eyes. “You mean to fight with two injured pokémon? I'm just trying to find someone. Out of my way.”

    “No can do,” said a scientist behind us. He released his pokémon along with the other scientists with him. I didn't bother to get a good look at our opponents. I wanted to find Sai, leave and forget any of this had ever happened...

    “Senori,” Marty said harshly as he released Halcyon and Marin, “go find your goddamn trainer. Tell Sai I'm gonna beat the crap out of him. Me and Sasha will be fine here.”

    “Sure...” I said. “Come on, guys!”

    I darted forward and crossed the arena. The granbull tried to catch my tail in between its teeth, but I narrowly escaped. The sunflora aimed for Ezrem, but the flying-type used his beak to make the grass-type shrink back and cradle its own wounds. Kuiora and Rennio got by without a problem, unless you counted Rennio's sobbing as problematic.

    “I want Annie!” he cried, then stopped moving. Kuiora picked him up and carried him the rest of the way. Rennio realized his uselessness and suddenly begged to fight.

    “Not now,” Ezrem said.

    The fourth and fifth floors were standard rooms with more desks and machines. On these floors were individual offices for the people who worked here. The enclosed walls offered us some privacy and the chance to crawl by without being noticed. Kuiora let out a sigh of relief, but that was the only sound anyone dared to make.

    We traipsed through each and every floor, scouting for Sai. Pokémon chased us and tried to trick us, but to no avail. As confused as we were, we knew tricks when we saw them. And by the the time the other scientists saw us, we were already on the way to the next floor. We couldn't be stopped, except we intentionally stopped around the seventeenth floor. The seventeenth floor imitated a modernized living room. There was a leather couch with a wooden coffee table in front of it, as well as some house plants in each corner, giving the room a rather relaxing atmosphere.

    We were anything but relaxed, however. Where was Sai? Why was he a part of the laboratory? Where was Atis and what kind of tests were they running on him? We had been asking for so long... Weren't we entitled to some answers by now?

    The answers lay beyond the next door. I could tell because there were no more stairs. There were no more chances. And from the light that was pouring through the bottom, it seemed that the door led outside.

    “Well, guys,” I said, out of breath, “he's here. Or not. Whichever you prefer.”

    Sai indeed was at the top of the building. Physically, he was unharmed, but he wasn't alone and that seemed to bother him as he swayed back and forth. Atis stood, shuddering, about ten feet in front of him, along with a woman I didn't know. She was short and small in stature, but she had a firm grasp on the fighting-type's arm.

    “You have some friends here to see you,” the woman said, eyebrows raised.

    “Mother, please—” Sai tensed up. His eyes went wide with amazement as he saw us.

    Why wasn't his mother in Vermilion City, his hometown? Was that another lie he told us? She didn't look like him, either. She had green eyes and brown, highlighted hair.

    “You've grown, Sai,” the woman went on. “You have such loyal pokémon now... just like you always wanted.” She squeezed Atis's arm, and he shook harder. “And you look even more like your father than before. You've got the same wild, lonely look in your eyes. Are you still lonely, Sai?”

    “Stop it!” Sai snapped at her. “I want Atis back. Give me Atis back right now...!”

    “You willingly gave me the hitmontop. You let us poison him so we could capture him. And you're telling me you want to take it all back?” she said, a taunting tone present in her voice.

    I gasped. Sai couldn't have have been so unnaturally cruel...

    “I am,” Sai said. “I thought... I thought I could abide by your rules, if it meant I could be free. I can't do it, though. I won't.” His words sounded more reassuring, but I was beyond confused. I stood there with the others, frozen in place.

    “You were ordered to prepare pokémon like this and to give them to us. You've done exactly so. We thank you for it.”

    “No! I want him back! I've seen what you guys do to pokémon. You call yourself Team Rocket and say you're trying to make the world a better place, but I've seen what you do! It's nothing good. Nothing good at all. I won't put Atis through that. I won't—”

    “And then you will never see the light of day again. That was the deal, was it not? I created this project to save you, Sai, and to give you a life you've always dreamed of...”

    “I never wanted this! I never did. I only did it because you promised me things would get better. But they never got better! Not even for a second!”

    “It's not my fault you believed me,” the woman said evenly, but her words didn't match the ruined expression on her face.

    “You promised...” He sobbed as he pulled out the knife he had bought in Goldenrod City. He held it toward her, as if he'd been waiting for this moment all his life.

    “Are you going to hurt me, Sai? Just as I've supposedly hurt you?” she asked.

    “Why not? You like weapons. You love them so much that you named me after one. How nice of you,” he said sarcastically between sobs. “Give Atis back. I don't want to have to use this.”

    The woman frowned, but she let go of Atis and put her hands in the air. Atis ran quicker than I had ever seen him run before. I saw real terror in his eyes as he approached. I went up to him and hugged him, but he said there was no time for a reunion.

    “We've got to get Sai out of here,” he said. “Before he goes crazy. Please, Senori, you've got to talk to him and... and...” He trailed off, unable to continue.

    Sai wasn't fond of this woman, but she knew more about him than any of us did. “If she knows Sai,” I said slowly, “maybe she can help us.”

    Sai heard me. “Don't talk to her! She's tell you all the bad things I've done. Even if what she says isn't true, she's won. She always wins...” Sai said, his arm twitching as he stared directly at her.

    “Sai,” his mother said. “Just as you weren't allowed to be close to your pokémon, I'm not allowed to be close to you. I'm your mother. Why else would I act like this toward my only son? I don't want to do this. Please understand and put the knife down.”

    “No,” Sai said. “I won't. I'm done listening to you.”

    “...Then you will pay for it.”

    “Please, Senori,” Atis begged again. “You have to do something.”

    I felt as if I lived to help Sai, but... he already seemed too far gone.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 7th May 2016 at 4:11 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 9 released 11/06/15 |


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving |
    | prologue rewrite released 04/03/16 |


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