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Thread: Operation GEAR: The Angel of Reckoning (R)

  1. #101
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    Hey, there. Let's get to work on this!

    “Is this it?” he excitedly exclaimed. “Could this be… the key to the ultimate DNA? The one that will make the truth about Pokémon strength reveal itself?”
    So, Colress's motives regarding the strength of Pokemon are the same in-game with a bit of a twist it seems.
    “I see you like this,” Finansielle coolly observed. “This is the incomplete DNA structure for a new strain of Pokérus our scientists are working on. We have a large part of it finished, but we just can’t get the last part right, and as a result, we can’t get it to function.”
    Using Pokerus no less, it's an interesting take on things and explains more so why he pursues the latent strength of Pokemon and makes it less vague.

    “Team Rocket has a lot of priorities,” the doctor offered as a feeble reply, though once he saw the death glares Jessie and James were shooting him, he hurried to correct himself by saying, “but one of those certainly is getting Meowth back, no doubt. What we want to find is something that can counteract the effect the Meteonite had on Meowth. Computer, is there anything of the sort in there? Anything that can counteract the Meteonite’s effect?”
    I like the concern Jessie and James show for Meowth, I also like the set-up for the enviable.
    “I just happen to have some Chargestones left over in storage from the mission in Unova. I can quickly construct a weapon that will get both Meowth and that Meteonite piece back.”
    Nice Easter Egg for anime fans.

    Turning his head to the right, he jumped when he discovered Nekou lying on the bed next to him, close enough that he could see her fairly clearly without his glasses. She seemed to have no concern about doing this, instead treating it as perfectly normal as she ran her fingers over his face.
    Nekou's nature never ceasing to be somewhat disturbing in scenes like these.....
    The Unown slowed their movements somewhat, as if considering what Meowth had said to them. After chattering amongst themselves for some time, they all turned to the Polaris team at once, and an Unown shaped like the letter ‘L’ floated down.
    Any sort of symbolism behind using the L Unown?
    Having become convinced by Meowth’s explanation of Polaris’s motives, the Unown withdrew and faded away. The brainwashed cat Pokémon then returned to the ones controlling him.
    Almost forgot Meowth was brainwashed and being used as a puppet.
    “So you decided to show up,” Avril taunted Olivia once the two groups came together. “Are you ready to see what a real challenge is like?”
    I'm loving Avril and Olivia's rivalry so far, speaking of which is Renzo a rival as well? I like to think of him as an unofficial antagonist-type rival.

    Ineffectively brushing aside his blue bangs from his face, Falkner sighed and answered, “Don’t think I didn’t notice them. I inherited this Gym from my father, but… as the Gym Leader, I am responsible for listening to the opinions of the people of my city. Polaris’s stunt yesterday made me begin thinking, and I decided I have to train to get stronger. That’s so I can be a better role model for the young people such as those in your sister’s class,” Falkner turned his head, “Matt Chiaki. Amanda’s become a good friend of mine since she came here to teach.”
    “I am going to temporarily resign my post as Gym Leader and go on a journey to train, much as my father did before me.”
    Your characterization of Falkner is something new to me, I see your expanded more on his past with his father and gave him a more authoritative, justice-like role in the sense he wants to come off as mature enough to influence people better.
    “Now, now, there’s no need for you two to get so worked up,” Falkner said with a smile. “I’m not going to leave until I’ve battled both of you, so you each get one shot at beating me. So which of you will be going first?”
    That certainly added a sense of urgency and end-all be-all to the battle.
    “Actually, let her go first,” she dismissively said, referring to Olivia. “I’ll watch how you battle her and then I’ll know all of your secrets.”
    Oh, Avril. She makes a nice rival, I wonder if her and Olivia will develop into frenemies. Speaking of which she has a Deino and Servine iirc. The Deino in-particular comes off as really extravagant a Pokemon to have, I wonder how she would find one in Johto of all places. Also if she picked Servine and Olivia got Oshawott, I wonder if the Tepig will go anywhere or just be left at that.

    While he did not dislike big cities, Giovanni found himself bothered by what Viridian had become. Even in his status as the head of Team Rocket, his hometown and the surrounding areas retained a soft spot in his heart, so Gabriella’s eager efforts to transform the city were something he could not abide, even if she meant well.
    Characterization and humanizing for Giovanni in the sense we get more depth and insight on his personal thoughts and he actually cares for Viridian a lot.

    “I see,” Giovanni answered. “So Goldenrod City is one of their major targets.”
    Foreshadowing, I had a feeling you would use one of the most largest, active cities in Johto.

    Holding the lapel of his sky-blue vest, Falkner addressed Olivia, “Young lady, confirm for me how many Badges and Pokémon you’ve brought here today.”

    “I don’t have any Badges yet, but I do have four Pokémon,” she replied.

    “I see. Because of League rules, which do not allow me to use more than three Pokémon against a trainer with no Badges, this will be a three-on-three Single Battle. I will not be permitted to switch out, and the winner will be the one who defeats their opponent’s final Pokémon. Are those rules acceptable to you?”
    I was actually planning to use this explanation in my fic. at some point, I really like it because it naturally makes sense that Gym Leaders aren't using their most strongest since gyms are meant to test the challenger. Not flatten them like pancakes.

    He was reduced to a shaking wreck, trembling all over
    Nothing wrong, I just like the description of "shaking wreck" implemented here.
    “Lillipup is totally overmatched…” Bunny observed, her face completely blank in terms of expression. “Was Olivia not ready for this?”
    So, Bunny doesn't have a naive, idealistic state-of-mind when it comes to things like this. That's good to know since I felt like Bunny might come off as a bit of a stereotype at some points but I'm liking the characterization of her so far in the story and her overall intelligence and maturity.

    With Lillipup still hanging on to her wing, Taillow launched herself into the sky. The additional weight presented by her Normal-type passenger did not affect her flight in any way. Reaching a point high into the rafters of the Gym, near the ceiling, Taillow lashed around and rocketed downward in a straight line. She turned only once she had nearly reached the floor, just to slam Lillipup into the floor without crashing herself.
    The imagery is exciting yet nerve-wracking in scenes like this. I particular, once again, like the innovative battling.

    Though she attempted to sidestep Taillow’s dive, Minccino still got grazed by it. While visibly hurt – some of her fur had been sheared off by Taillow’s beak – she held firm and somersaulted forward, catching Taillow with her tail and smashing Falkner’s Pokémon across the floor. Before Taillow could recover, Minccino ran forward and used her tail to deliver a second blow, this one tossing Taillow out of the battlefield and into a nearby pillar, where she slunk to the ground in defeat.

    “Taillow is unable to battle! The winner of this round is Olivia’s Minccino!”
    Taillow got knocked unconscious easily, no surprise there when I I did the first read through.

    “And you were worried,” Nekou scoffed at Matt. “She’s doing just fine for herself.”
    Nekou's caring nature and supportive fashion shines through, one of the things I like about her a lot.

    Minccino turned to the use of her tail once more, this time coating it in water and swinging it through the field of bubbles, creating numerous small, flashy bursts.

    “That looked like a Contest move,” Monroe said quietly.

    “That’s because it is one,” Nekou answered. “Simple but effective.”
    I was thinking the same thing, I like tell tale signs but not over-the-top little references to Olivia's other goal.

    Much to the surprise of both Olivia and Minccino, however, Mantyke kept flying forward until she reached one of the openings jutting partially into the battlefield, at which point she dove underneath the wooden floor.
    More creative battling situations are used, I really feel like I'm watching(Did I write watching? I meant reading) a battle straight outta the anime. It was quite engrossing.
    “She’s only one away now…” Avril quietly observed, her eyes widening. “I don’t believe it. She might actually win…”
    Subtle development for the rivalry, Avril seems to be recognizing Olivia's strength and potential as a rival.
    Olivia could tell, though, that Minccino’s energy was failing; bringing down both Taillow and Mantyke had taken its toll on the Normal-type Pokémon, but despite being noticeably short on breath, she stared back at Pidgeotto’s attempt at intimidation with defiance in her eyes.
    Might be me being nitpicking, personality moment for Pokemon like that are nice. It makes them feel more like Pokemon and soul-less battling machines without hearts, it's only natural they display traits like defiance in battle when driven into a corner or in a pitch.

    Inspired by what she saw in her Pokémon, Olivia approached her opponents in the same fashion. “Don’t ever give in!” she ordered. “Tail Slap!”
    Olivia certainly did charge in recklessly.....

    “Minccino is unable to battle! The winner of this round is Falkner’s Pidgeotto!”
    No surprise that Minccino was beaten easily.
    Unlike Minccino, he shrank back in fear from Pidgeotto.
    This is what I mean by personality, it's nice to see characterization like that even for Pokemon.

    Avril scoffed when she noticed Oshawott’s shell still hadn’t grown back. “There’s no way she’s winning this now. That thing doesn’t stand a chance.”
    Especially when you consider he only seems to know Water Gun and Tackle iirc and with no scalchop.....
    “Oshawott, don’t get intimidated now! We’ve got to win that Badge for my dad and show Avril a thing or two!”
    Rivalry moment is entertaining.
    By flapping her wings rapidly, Pidgeotto created a vicious wave of wind that washed over Oshawott, slashing him all over. He cringed under the harsh assault, attempting to shield his head with his stubby arms while the feelings of fear started to return.
    Oshawott must have an extremely slow reaction time to not have shot Water Gun, I was half-expecting Water Gun to be used only to be blasted away by Gust.
    “Oshawott is unable to battle!” the referee called while the Water-type Pokémon lay completely still on the wooden floor. “The winner of the round is Pidgeotto. All of the challenger’s Pokémon have fainted, so the winner is the Gym Leader, Falkner!”
    So, Olivia lost, somewhat surprised given I figured she had things all figured out and had some training prior.
    Olivia was smiling.

    “But really, it’s not a big deal!” she continued, her voice cheery but shaking. “I’ll just go to another Gym and get a Badge there. Thanks for battling with me.”
    So, Olivia hides her emotions, eh?
    “Isn’t it kind of hard to show things to a guy who’s not around anymore?” Avril blurted out.

    “Oh, **** no…” Nekou thought as her blood and that of everyone around her ran cold.
    That was a very, very amusing moment.
    Completely unaware of what she was actually doing and the circumstances around it, Avril kept going, saying, “I’m tempted to ask you the same thing. Showing Badges to a dead guy? If I’m going to consider you my rival, you can’t be crazy.”
    Avril's bluntness coupled with the natural sense of meanness she conveys in simple sentences like theses once again makes her an ideal frenemy rival.

    “Avril’s telling you the truth.”
    And we end on a cliffhanger with a big bombshell being dropped. My reaction to this? Basically it's "finally."



    For real though, this was an entertaining chapter. It felt short in-comparison to your other chapters, though I don't have a problem with shortness or lengthiness. As long as the content is entertaining to read I don't mind in the slightest. The battle between Falkner and Olivia was entertaining, I wasn't expecting anything as extravagant as the battle between Matt and Dahlia given it's just a low-level Gym Battle but it was entertaining and had some interesting stakes. When it came to Falkner, as a gym leader, I noticed your expansion with his father and how he talks more about Flying-types and doesn't really do it in similar vain to the games where his main aim is bird and bird Pokemon. Mantyke and Taillow were interesting choices, what inspired that? I was expecting to see Natu and Hoothoot over those two given they're more native to Johto and I figured Johto Pokemon would be used more so for these gyms, nothing wrong with it though. The unpredictability and variety is the spice of many points in a story, even minuscule aspects like Pokemon choices, without that a story can be bland. Lillipup and Minccino did well for themselves but I did not expect Oshawott to completely flop like that, I figured he'd get in at least one decently effective hit in. He seems to be rather lukewarm when it comes to battling still though, I thought Olivia would be a bit smarter with how she utilized her Pokemon. Like using Oshawott for a more weaker opponent and saving Minccino for last. Yeah, I wonder how this battle will impact Olivia's view of Oshawott, she didn't seem too angry or emotional at him over his failure. The battle was completely realistic as well, Minccino has been with Olivia vastly longer than the other two so it made sense. I already said this once but the versatility when it came to the tactic you used made the battle more interesting than it would have been if it consisted of simple direct attacking the whole time.

    The sucker punch at the end with Olivia finding out her father is indeed dead was interesting. I'm interested in what turmoil this will cause between her and Matt or, better yet, if she ever finds out the others knew Rich was dead. How will this change things? How will she react to being lied to for so long and Matt himself has guilt issues already. Speaking of which, I wonder if the delivery of Avril's lines in a somewhat mean fashion could cause Olivia to be angry at her for it in a way? Matt might have just kept the secret to himself the whole time since Olivia technically hadn't earned her first badge yet and that was Nekou's promise, to tell her when she earned her first badge. Even then there's not telling. Avril makes for a nice rival, she reminds me of Georgia as does her and Olivia's rivalry + interactions remind me of Georgia and Iris's. If Avril earns the first badge Olivia couldn't I could see this adding more fuel to the animosity between them and Avril's air of arrogance. She only had two Pokemon, one of which has a disadvantage to Flying, so I'm curious how the outcome of her battle will be. Not that I expect to see the battle, more-so get a mention of the outcome and final match-up. Though I could easily see Avril losing as well. With Falkner leaving that means Olivia will have to get another badge somewhere else, perhaps from a Kanto Gym Leader, like Jasmine, or she comes across Falkner during her travels? Also her first Contest is surely in the wake as well iirc, will her performance be impacted on the large bombshell dropped on her. So many question to answer, fun chapter. Didn't come across any awkward wording or grammar issues, you're probably one of the best in that regard I know. I give this chapter, even though I've never used a rating system before, eh.....7.2/10.

    Also wasn't too heavily invested in the TR and Polaris scenes, they were enigmatic and all. I just couldn't get too deep a feel for the ones outside the Colress one and the one in which Jessie and James show some endearing concern for Meowth.
    Last edited by Doryuzu; 4th March 2013 at 12:05 AM.

  2. #102

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    With their feet loudly banging against the hallway’s metal floor, Finansielle and Colress trekked deep into the Adenosine Base. She led him well into the tower at the center of the complex, and eventually they arrived at their destination, a cavernous laboratory as dark as the hallways outside.

    As they entered, Finansielle walked over to a vault in the wall and swiftly entered a passcode on the keypad next to it. A gust of cold air drifted out of it as it slowly opened.

    “Put the DNA Splicers in this freezer,” she instructed. “They’ll be safely preserved until we need them.”

    “Yes, my lady.” In accordance with Finansielle’s direction, Colress placed his briefcase on the nearby desk and opened it. He took great care, deftly grasping each of the fluid-filled cylinders containing a DNA Splicer with his gloved hands as he moved them into the freezer.

    Once the DNA Splicers were safely stored away, Finansielle sealed up the cold vault again, then slowly walked to a wide bank of computers sitting in the middle of the lab. “Have a look at this, Dr. Antimony,” she said, typing with one hand.
    Nice use of imagery in this open. I really love how atmospheric everything is and it's a great hook to draw the readers in.

    “Is this it?” he excitedly exclaimed. “Could this be… the key to the ultimate DNA? The one that will make the truth about Pokémon strength reveal itself?”

    “I see you like this,” Finansielle coolly observed. “This is the incomplete DNA structure for a new strain of Pokérus our scientists are working on. We have a large part of it finished, but we just can’t get the last part right, and as a result, we can’t get it to function.”
    Wonder how Finansielle could tell. *runs*


    “We’re looking for something that’ll get us Meowth back,” James coldly interrupted before Zager could answer. “That is what you’re going to say, right?”

    “Team Rocket has a lot of priorities,” the doctor offered as a feeble reply, though once he saw the death glares Jessie and James were shooting him, he hurried to correct himself by saying, “but one of those certainly is getting Meowth back, no doubt. What we want to find is something that can counteract the effect the Meteonite had on Meowth. Computer, is there anything of the sort in there? Anything that can counteract the Meteonite’s effect?”
    This scene made me laugh. Poor Zager, he's their supervisor but he doesn't know what to do faced down with two angry field agents wanting their friend back. James' line was perfectly in character for him too, I could see him saying it in his voice.

    “Now that is most excellent!”
    Good touch with the frequent use of "excellent".

    Matt yawned and slowly roused from his slumber. After everything that had happened the previous day, a good night’s sleep was very refreshing to him.

    Barely awake, he reached toward the table to his left, trying to collect his glasses so he could use the mask attached to them to replace his eyepatch. He got a sudden chill and froze up, though, when he felt like someone was watching him.

    “Look at me.”

    Turning his head to the right, he jumped when he discovered Nekou lying on the bed next to him, close enough that he could see her fairly clearly without his glasses. She seemed to have no concern about doing this, instead treating it as perfectly normal as she ran her fingers over his face.

    “W-what are you doing?!” Matt choked, utterly terrified at this bizarre situation.

    Ignoring his question, Nekou said to him, “Remember what you promised me? You’re going to tell Olivia about what happened to Rich after she wins her Badge today.”

    “I-I remember,” he nervously confirmed. “Now can you get out of my face?”

    “Just make sure you keep your promise,” she insisted, moving to within an inch of his face instead of moving away. “That would make me happy. And trust me, you want me happy.”
    I'd hate to think what would happen to Matt if Nekou wasn't happy. This seriously made me lol hard.


    “Were you two doing things together?”

    Olivia’s question, as sweetly and innocently as she’d asked it, made Matt freeze. Between Nekou’s ribbing, the fact that he was still hurriedly adjusting his rumpled coat and shirt, and the sight that both he and Nekou had come out of the room at the same time, he realized exactly what the implications suggested.

    “No! Nothing of the sort!” The exaggerated way Matt’s face contorted during his denial made both Olivia and Nekou break down laughing, and Bunny even chuckled a bit.

    “Relax, we’re just teasing you.”
    I lol'd hard at this. Amazing.

    “You know the stories they tell about this place, right?” Séduire mused. “They say that sometimes the Unown get angry and take people visiting the Ruins away. Some of them wake up in random places in the Tohjo Continent. They never find others.”

    “I think you might be starting to crack from observing RChannel,” responded Mercury. “Isn’t that just an urban legend?”
    Seduire is an /x/-phile?

    “Now!”

    “What was that?” Séduire looked around, unnerved by the fleeting, high-pitched voice she heard ring in her ears.

    “What are you talking about?”

    “Uno!”

    “Mercury, tell me you heard that!” The second hint of the mysterious voice left Séduire shaking.

    “I heard it this time,” Mercury responded, raising her hand in a prompt to her men to stop walking. “See anything?”

    “There!” Séduire exclaimed, pointing forward into the murky depths of the corridor.
    I don't know why, but this made me giggle.

    The Unown talk in this scene was oddly adorable, by the way.

    Matt briefly grimaced when he considered how early Olivia and Nekou were getting started for the day, but he quickly realized that they were actually right in the situation. Shaking his head, he took a bite of his bagel, which had an egg and a slice of cheese on it.
    Matt has excellent bagel taste.

    Yes, sister,” Helena added after a short pause while Monroe signed the conversation to her. “You should aim to strengthen yourself to honor your peers, not to shame them. If rivals cannot be friends with each other at the end of the day, what is the point of it all? That’s what I think.”
    I like Helena's thinking.


    “Watching them makes me feel old,” Matt mused to Nekou and Bunny as they approached the Gym’s entrance. “They’ve got everything in front of them still… I wish I had that chance when I was their age.”

    Intrigued by what that comment could mean, Nekou wanted to ask Matt about it, but as they had already entered the Gym by then, she didn’t get the chance.
    Poor Matt.

    “Let us through to see Falkner!” demanded Avril, showing far more directness in her attitude than Olivia did. “Or, just let me through. I don’t care about her.”

    “Aw, what’s the matter?” Olivia teased. “Don’t want me to see you lose?”

    “If anyone’s losing, it’s you! You could learn something from watching me!”
    More adorableness. I love those two bickering.

    “It makes me happy to know that she’s reaching out and connecting with others in such a way,” Matt admitted, casting a glance downward at the floor. “She’s grown up from the days when I had to shelter her from everything.” Looking back to Falkner, he then asked, “What do you mean about getting stronger, though? What will you do?”
    Matt confirmed for best brother.

    “Me!” both Olivia and Avril blurted out at the same time.
    Awww.
    “Actually, let her go first,” she dismissively said, referring to Olivia. “I’ll watch how you battle her and then I’ll know all of your secrets.”

    “Gee, aren’t you generous?” Olivia remarked, shrugging her shoulders.

    “Avril, thank you for resolving that yourself,” sighed Dominic.
    I laughed at Dominic's reaction.

    Giovanni was sitting in his chair in his office, scratching Persian’s head and observing the urban wasteland Viridian City had become through the grand bay window. As a native of the area and a longtime resident, he no longer recognized the once-verdant city. Viridian’s urbanization, much like that of Cherrygrove City in Johto, had come on after an increase in public demand for goods and services related to Pokémon training and battling following the announcement of the Frontier Society. The Angel Corporation, headquartered not far from Giovanni’s residence, had responded to this need by funding the development of resources related to these necessities, in turn leading to the overdevelopment of many areas as they transformed into hubs of industry.

    While he did not dislike big cities, Giovanni found himself bothered by what Viridian had become. Even in his status as the head of Team Rocket, his hometown and the surrounding areas retained a soft spot in his heart, so Gabriella’s eager efforts to transform the city were something he could not abide, even if she meant well.
    Introspective Giovanni is a thing needed so badly in more fanfics. Thanks for putting that in there, it's my favorite way to see him written, and seeing him wistful for his hometown and how it'd changed over the years was bittersweetly heartwarming.

    He felt his anger starting to rise due to his thoughts on the matter, and he subconsciously began squeezing the whiskey glass in his hand. Just before he could repeat his bad habit of smashing them, though, he was interrupted by the sound of his office door creaking open.
    Nice shoutout there.

    Persian meowed, and Giovanni turned his chair around, discovering Stacia walking slowly toward his desk.
    "Treats?"

    “Mister Giovanni, sir…” Upon reaching Giovanni’s desk, Stacia nervously handed him the black file emblazoned with the Team Rocket logo she had been holding in her arms. He opened the folder immediately to apprise its contents, and Stacia continued speaking. “This is intelligence we received from our undercover operative who has infiltrated Polaris.”

    “I see,” Giovanni answered. “So Goldenrod City is one of their major targets.”

    “Yes, it would appear so. I can draft potential responses.”

    “Do that immediately. I want to have courses of action on my desk in under twenty-four hours.”

    “Yes, sir.” Stacia bowed, then turned around and went to leave.
    Perfectly written exchange between the two of them.

    “I see. Because of League rules, which do not allow me to use more than three Pokémon against a trainer with no Badges, this will be a three-on-three Single Battle. I will not be permitted to switch out, and the winner will be the one who defeats their opponent’s final Pokémon. Are those rules acceptable to you?”
    I really love how you covered the issue of trainers who start in different towns. It's one that doesn't come up frequently and this seems to be a solution that makes sense.

    The gym battle between Olivia and Falkner was really dramatic, to say the least. The descriptions of her Pokemon were suitably cute- which made it all the more horrifying to see them taken down- and I loved her spirit throughout the whole thing. I also really love how descriptive the moves were, especially some of the harder-to-describe ones, and I really didn't see Mantyke coming. I didn't see Olivia's loss coming, either, and there's one more thing I didn't expect, something that completely blindsided me:

    “Thanks. Like I said, we’ll just look for another Gym and I’ll get the Badge from there instead. I mean, if I’m going to show my dad that I can get eight Badges, does it really matter which eight they are?”
    Oh, Olivia, no...

    “Isn’t it kind of hard to show things to a guy who’s not around anymore?” Avril blurted out.
    Oh God Avril why did you even go there?

    “Oh, **** no…” Nekou thought as her blood and that of everyone around her ran cold.
    Same.

    Completely unaware of what she was actually doing and the circumstances around it, Avril kept going, saying, “I’m tempted to ask you the same thing. Showing Badges to a dead guy? If I’m going to consider you my rival, you can’t be crazy.”
    D:

    “What are you talking about, ‘dead guy?’” Olivia laughed openly at Avril. “My dad just walked out on us, but I’m going to get him to come back.” Turning, she asked, “Right, Matt?”
    Oh, Olivia...

    Silence. Matt was shaking, and the words were lost in his throat. Only one thought ran through his mind – “Why did she have to find out like this…”
    Poor Matt...

    The dead silence between Matt and all the others besides Avril gave Olivia a strange chill.

    “…Avril’s lying, right?” Her voice was becoming influenced by the fear, and it was shaking.

    Still more silence.

    And then. Matt answered.

    “Avril’s telling you the truth.”
    D: D: D: D: D: D: D:

    Apologies for the smileys, I rarely use them in my reviews (or anything serious) but I had no better way to articulate in text the feelings I felt when the chapter cut off here. My heart sank and I was yelling at the screen.

    You also earned yourself a Most Heartbreaking Scene nomination for the 2013 Fic Awards, I can tell you that, because I don't think anyone will ever top what I read in those final paragraphs.

    Overall, excellent chapter, and your cliffhanger was nothing short of devastating. Fantastic work. I can't imagine what the next chapter's going to be like after this ending but I can tell you plan on taking us on quite the emotional roller coaster.

    "Poe was the first writer to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys, and those are some of my favorite stories."
    -Stephen King

    I write odd slice of life stories about Team Rocket. If that's your thing, give them a look:

    Alpha Male- behind every friendship is a story. Perspective contest fourth place winner.
    Secretary- A short and cynical tale of paperwork and sadism
    Survival- A novella about the unbreakable bonds between one man and his feline friend. 2011 Pokemon Big Bang story.


  3. #103
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    Okay, I'm sorry it took so long, but now I finally have a chance to review.

    This is...a surprisingly short chapter, at least when compared to most of your others. Still, plenty of good stuff within, so let's take a look.

    And right off the bat we have more COLRESS!!! I have to say, he's surprisingly lovable in the opening scene, given how childishly excited he is about his research. XD Speaking of which...

    “Is this it?” he excitedly exclaimed. “Could this be… the key to the ultimate DNA? The one that will make the truth about Pokémon strength reveal itself?”

    “I see you like this,” Finansielle coolly observed. “This is the incomplete DNA structure for a new strain of Pokérus our scientists are working on. We have a large part of it finished, but we just can’t get the last part right, and as a result, we can’t get it to function.”

    “And you want me to fill in those gaps?”

    “Exactly. You’ll find all the relevant data on the project in the computer’s databank, so please read it before getting started. I am giving you this facility and its staff and resources to have at your full disposal.”

    “You will not be disappointed, Lady Finansielle,” Colress promised with a grand bow. “I can have the work of completing this virus’s genetic sequence in no time.”
    Really great idea giving the Pokerus development to Colress, given how what it did in the games (boosting EV gain and thus making a Pokemon stronger) fits in with his motif PERFECTLY. I do have to wonder what Polaris' new strain will be capable of, however. I would guess Pokemon control, but that would be too easy, so I'll just wait and see what we get.

    Moving on, TR is planning their counterattack. Zager being threatened by Jessie and James is definitely a sign that things are getting serious. Although, why Giovanni wants Stacia (who, if I remember correctly, is his secretary) to draft up several response plans is a bit confusing to me. Wouldn't that be a bit above her pay grade, or am I just underestimating her?

    Back with the main group...

    “Look at me.”

    Turning his head to the right, he jumped when he discovered Nekou lying on the bed next to him, close enough that he could see her fairly clearly without his glasses. She seemed to have no concern about doing this, instead treating it as perfectly normal as she ran her fingers over his face.

    “W-what are you doing?!” Matt choked, utterly terrified at this bizarre situation.

    Ignoring his question, Nekou said to him, “Remember what you promised me? You’re going to tell Olivia about what happened to Rich after she wins her Badge today.”

    “I-I remember,” he nervously confirmed. “Now can you get out of my face?”

    “Just make sure you keep your promise,” she insisted, moving to within an inch of his face instead of moving away. “That would make me happy. And trust me, you want me happy.”
    Nekou in bed with Matt...oh dear. XD Her threat is also quite amusing.

    “You’re late,” Bunny said while running a hand through her hair. “What were you doing?”

    “Yeah, Matt, why don’t you tell her what we were doing?” Nekou’s teasing came with half-closed eyes and a catlike grin.

    “Were you two doing things together?”

    Olivia’s question, as sweetly and innocently as she’d asked it, made Matt freeze. Between Nekou’s ribbing, the fact that he was still hurriedly adjusting his rumpled coat and shirt, and the sight that both he and Nekou had come out of the room at the same time, he realized exactly what the implications suggested.

    “No! Nothing of the sort!” The exaggerated way Matt’s face contorted during his denial made both Olivia and Nekou break down laughing, and Bunny even chuckled a bit.

    “Relax, we’re just teasing you.”

    Somehow, Nekou saying this didn’t make Matt feel any better at all. He simply sighed and shrugged.
    Oh, boy. Matt just can't catch a break today. XD

    Although, next scene...Polaris getting the Meteonite from the ruins is going to be bad news. Their use of Meowth is a bit chilling, and makes me wonder how the TRio is going to get him back. Hopefully Zager's device works (although it's more likely to be a partial victory, if any at all...)

    Next it's time for the actual Gym battle. Olivia and Avri's squabbling is showing wonderfully how childish they both really are. The battle itself was pretty good, and I do have a couple of quotes I really wanted to pull out:

    Meanwhile, none of the others took notice, but Avril was staring intently at the battle and mumbling to herself.

    “She took out one. Okay, that’s no big deal. I can still handle this.”
    Okay, this is excellent development for Avril. Showing that she isn't arrogant and overconfident 100% of the time demonstrates that she is still human, despite her boasts.

    Despite having stubby arms and legs, Minccino was able to spring up at Mantyke as the latter floated in midair. Before Mantyke could respond, Minccino whipped the Water-and-Flying-type four times with her tail. The potential of a fifth strike was blocked by Mantyke finally rousing to action, washing Minccino away with a stream of bubbles.
    I know you're using game physics, but...how exactly does a Mantyke float in the air?

    I was actually surprised that Olivia lost the battle, and it makes me interested to see where she'll get her 8th badge from. And now for me to comment on the part that everyone's talking about:

    “What are you talking about, ‘dead guy?’” Olivia laughed openly at Avril. “My dad just walked out on us, but I’m going to get him to come back.” Turning, she asked, “Right, Matt?”

    Silence. Matt was shaking, and the words were lost in his throat. Only one thought ran through his mind – “Why did she have to find out like this…”

    The dead silence between Matt and all the others besides Avril gave Olivia a strange chill.

    “…Avril’s lying, right?” Her voice was becoming influenced by the fear, and it was shaking.

    Still more silence.

    And then. Matt answered.

    “Avril’s telling you the truth.”
    Aaaaaand the cat's out of the bag. I smell a significant bit of development coming soon for Olivia, and it's going to be interesting to see how she copes.

    Overall, this is great chapter. Not particularly long, but it more than delivers with decent content and a massive revelation at the end. Can't wait to see how this turns out!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    The first two scenes looks like both sides wasted no time getting whatever projects they’re doing. I laughed a little when Zager had to correct himself after noticing James and Jessie glaring at him.
    Well, we can always work in some little bits of humor here and there, right? I think it's always a relief to have.

    Nice brief appearance of the Unown there. The urban legend mentioned is one reason why you don’t want to mess with them, heh.
    But maybe it's not an urban legend?

    Minor, but I think you’re missing “Avril” between “sister” and “raised”.
    Looks like you're right there.

    Another minor nitpick, but I don’t think you can sigh while speaking. You can have Dominic sigh after speaking, so something like “Dominic said and sighed” or “sighed Dominic after saying that” works in my opinion.
    The way I'm using it, it's meant to imply both an exasperated tone of voice and the sigh coming after the main line of speech. I do see your point, though; maybe that isn't the best word to use when it comes to getting a clear meaning.

    Bunny cheering for Olivia is very cute. :3
    Yes, yes it is. ^^

    This sentence is a bit awkward in the beginning. First off, you have “enough” twice, so I think “Conveniently enough” isn’t needed. Second, I think you need “to” after “happened” to make the sentence flow better. So She happened to sink down enough to allow…” would make more sense in my opinion.
    Again, you're right. Not going to argue here, I make mistakes when it comes to wording. I just have to try to learn from them.

    I enjoyed reading the battle a lot and I admit to being slightly surprised Falkner using a Mantyke.
    I wanted to mix up Falkner's selection of Pokemon a bit, so I dipped into some less prominent Flying-types to pick some out.

    I felt bad Olivia lost, but glad she was thinking positive.
    This was in response to a very good piece of advice I received a long time ago. As I heard back then, I was making the rare losses my characters suffered huge, dramatic affairs simply because they lost. I realized that was a very good point, hence why Olivia at least outwardly tried to brush it off.

    As for Avril revealing Rich’s death, I’ll be honest and say finally the truth is revealed. Even though the way Avril said it is harsh, I was left wondering how long Matt and the others will keep that secret from her. I have an idea how Olivia’s reaction will be next chapter, but I’m still interested how all of this will play out (and still looking forward to the next chapter just so you know!).
    I think a lot of people are with you on all of those counts.

    Edit: Forgot to mention Giovanni's scene with his thoughts on Viridian City is a very nice moment of him there as the others had mentioned after I posted this review, haha.
    That scene wasn't in the plan for the chapter originally. I'm glad I added it.

    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post
    Lmao, this scene was both creepy and amusing. Way to go, Nekou.
    I think that more than anything else so far, that scene sums up her personality perfectly.

    Wouldn’t use “quietly” and “quiet” so close to each other.
    Good point.

    Wouldn’t expect anything less from a gym leader. Nice explanation and demonstration of strategy here.
    I imagine that Falkner would be a Gym Leader who would often educate his challengers on strategy, given his (often held) position as the first Gym Leader and the Gym Leader of a city with a school in it.

    I know you were trying to go for confusion on Olivia’s part, but with the way Avril’s dialogue is worded, it just make it sounds like Olivia’s dad really could have just walked out on them, and not died. Hope that makes sense.
    I see how you could take that meaning from it, but Olivia believes that that actually is the case plus he'll come back as soon as she accomplishes her goals. Avril directly questioned that part of it - the possibility of his coming back - and that's why Olivia reacted to it the way she did.

    Overall, a good chapter. There’s still a lot of mystery going on, and the biggest one of all is Olivia’s reaction to her father’s death. I feel terrible for her, but I’m eager to see what her reaction is and I want to see what her demeanor will be like after this.
    I hope what comes next will be pleasing to you.

    Thanks for reviewing, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Doryuzu View Post
    Hey, there. Let's get to work on this!
    I hope you won't mind me combining/skipping over some of your points to make sure the post fits. ^^; I'll do my best to get as much as I can.

    So, Colress's motives regarding the strength of Pokemon are the same in-game with a bit of a twist it seems.

    Using Pokerus no less, it's an interesting take on things and explains more so why he pursues the latent strength of Pokemon and makes it less vague.
    Right. I figured out pretty quickly that if anyone ever gave an official explanation of Pokerus in the games, it would likely be Colress. Pokerus connects perfectly to his research so expanding it into this point was easy.

    I like the concern Jessie and James show for Meowth, I also like the set-up for the enviable.

    Nice Easter Egg for anime fans.
    That team spirit is a cornerstone of what kind of characters they are, I think. I found it to be incredibly important to get that aspect across.

    The Chargestones are an especially nice Easter Egg in my opinion because not only are they referenced, they actually have a purpose for the story. You essentially get two nods to anime fans for the price of one.

    Nekou's nature never ceasing to be somewhat disturbing in scenes like these.....
    I'd have it no other way. She's unpredictable, let's say.

    Any sort of symbolism behind using the L Unown?
    Nothing just beyond the ease of describing its shape.

    Almost forgot Meowth was brainwashed and being used as a puppet.
    Good thing I brought it up again then. I didn't want to let those topics fade to the background.

    I'm loving Avril and Olivia's rivalry so far, speaking of which is Renzo a rival as well? I like to think of him as an unofficial antagonist-type rival.
    Glad you remembered him. He is a full-fledged rival just like Avril is, he just hasn't had the sort of intense, direct interaction with Olivia yet like Avril has.

    Your characterization of Falkner is something new to me, I see your expanded more on his past with his father and gave him a more authoritative, justice-like role in the sense he wants to come off as mature enough to influence people better.
    Expanding on my earlier point, I wanted to really play up a mentor-type role for him based on his image and position. He also has an unfortunately small amount of development in just about every canon, which leaves his potentially interesting backstory with his father and Violet Gym's past unexplored. That's something I wanted to try to get at at least in a small amount.

    That certainly added a sense of urgency and end-all be-all to the battle.
    Do you think it actually worked? I was a little worried that I might not have set it up enough and as a result it might come off as a bit of an asspull plot device to prevent her from simply fighting Falkner again.

    Oh, Avril. She makes a nice rival, I wonder if her and Olivia will develop into frenemies. Speaking of which she has a Deino and Servine iirc. The Deino in-particular comes off as really extravagant a Pokemon to have, I wonder how she would find one in Johto of all places. Also if she picked Servine and Olivia got Oshawott, I wonder if the Tepig will go anywhere or just be left at that.
    That would be a fair assessment to make of where I want to take Olivia and Avril's relationship, yes.

    Regarding Deino, I'm not sure if I mentioned it already but she's from Viridian City and caught it in Mt. Moon. Come to think of it, maybe I should consider creating some kind of list of where the migrated populations of Unova Pokemon took hold as a reference.

    I'm not sure what I'm going to do with Tepig yet, quite honestly. I have an idea or two for things I could do with it, but I don't know what I'll go with yet.

    Characterization and humanizing for Giovanni in the sense we get more depth and insight on his personal thoughts and he actually cares for Viridian a lot.
    That's an angle of him I really strongly wanted to explore. He's a villain, yeah, but I think he's a more complex character than just that. You could interpret it one of several ways - is he just looking out for furthering his own interests even now, or does he genuinely have a softer side?

    I personally think it's a bit of both, but you can draw whatever conclusion you'd like for yourself.

    Foreshadowing, I had a feeling you would use one of the most largest, active cities in Johto.
    Oh, of course. I've got a great plan in mind for what will take place there, plus I've got some surprises up my sleeve as well. I think you'll enjoy it.

    I was actually planning to use this explanation in my fic. at some point, I really like it because it naturally makes sense that Gym Leaders aren't using their most strongest since gyms are meant to test the challenger. Not flatten them like pancakes.
    It's actually practically canon now, thanks to Cheren in B2W2 expressing frustration at having to get used to using weaker Pokemon due to his position as the new first Gym Leader. All I did was go in and add a bit of detail to the mechanics of it; ie the number and strength of the Gym Leader's Pokemon changing based on how many Badges the challenger has. This enables the concept of any trainer beginning from any town and collecting Badges in any order - which also opens up another question you could draw from the games ("Does everyone start in the same place and get the Badges in the same order?") for me to mess around with.

    Nothing wrong, I just like the description of "shaking wreck" implemented here.
    Thank you.

    So, Bunny doesn't have a naive, idealistic state-of-mind when it comes to things like this. That's good to know since I felt like Bunny might come off as a bit of a stereotype at some points but I'm liking the characterization of her so far in the story and her overall intelligence and maturity.
    This is something I regret - I didn't put as much planning into Bunny's character as I should have before I got started. That said, I feel like I'm settling into something quite nicely with her. She's quite straightforward, but more in a matter-of-fact way and not in the intensely over-the-top way Nekou is. And, like always, she's the 'sane' one of the four.

    The imagery is exciting yet nerve-wracking in scenes like this. I particular, once again, like the innovative battling.
    It took quite a bit of effort to make a lower-level battle such as this interesting, so I'm very pleased you like it. It tells me my work paid off.

    Nekou's caring nature and supportive fashion shines through, one of the things I like about her a lot.
    That's one of the reasons I enjoy writing her so much. You had her acting completely strangely before in this very chapter, but when it's necessary she's serious and looks out for people who are important to her. Those contradictions really give her another dimension to her character, I think.

    More creative battling situations are used, I really feel like I'm watching(Did I write watching? I meant reading) a battle straight outta the anime. It was quite engrossing.
    Thank you! That's what I was aiming for, so I'm very, very glad to hear it worked.

    Subtle development for the rivalry, Avril seems to be recognizing Olivia's strength and potential as a rival.
    Correct. This was my way of bringing Avril some more development as was requested in the previous chapter's reviews. She's putting on a tough facade to Olivia's face, but right now, it's all about analyzing what she's up against so she can learn how to better it.

    Might be me being nitpicking, personality moment for Pokemon like that are nice. It makes them feel more like Pokemon and soul-less battling machines without hearts, it's only natural they display traits like defiance in battle when driven into a corner or in a pitch.
    I had a similar concern about the depiction of Pokemon, actually, so I introduced scenes such as this one specifically to address that. I feel I could be doing more, but this is a start for now.

    Especially when you consider he only seems to know Water Gun and Tackle iirc and with no scalchop.....
    Yeah, I think Avril only said what everyone was thinking at that point.

    Oshawott must have an extremely slow reaction time to not have shot Water Gun, I was half-expecting Water Gun to be used only to be blasted away by Gust.
    I very nearly did that, too. Honestly, I just felt the battle was running out of steam and I didn't want to drag it on, plus I figured Oshawott's nerves were really rattled by then.

    So, Olivia lost, somewhat surprised given I figured she had things all figured out and had some training prior.
    I'm glad as far as you being surprised, but I did have a purpose - my reason for thinking to have her lose in the first place was to turn away from the expected outcome after she was so confident about it. She was so convinced she would win that on some level she got herself in over her head.

    So, Olivia hides her emotions, eh?
    She's not just the cheery, outgoing girl she seemed like, let's put it that way.

    That was a very, very amusing moment.
    It was just so perfect for the context that I had to do it.

    Avril's bluntness coupled with the natural sense of meanness she conveys in simple sentences like theses once again makes her an ideal frenemy rival.
    It's a very practical thing for her. She means exactly what she says - she still sees herself as better than Olivia, but even then she wants Olivia to get stronger, because (in her reasoning) she can then use Olivia's strength to train herself.

    What makes this a bit unusual for her, though, was that she actually wasn't trying to pull an underhanded trick by revealing the truth to Olivia. This time, she genuinely didn't know what she was doing, because she didn't actually know Olivia was ignorant of Rich's death.

    And we end on a cliffhanger with a big bombshell being dropped. My reaction to this? Basically it's "finally."
    Yeah, it's a game changer.

    Let me go through the paragraph at the end of your review and pick out specific things I want to reply to.

    When it came to Falkner, as a gym leader, I noticed your expansion with his father and how he talks more about Flying-types and doesn't really do it in similar vain to the games where his main aim is bird and bird Pokemon. Mantyke and Taillow were interesting choices, what inspired that? I was expecting to see Natu and Hoothoot over those two given they're more native to Johto and I figured Johto Pokemon would be used more so for these gyms, nothing wrong with it though.
    Well, I figured his talking about bird Pokemon basically meant the same thing as Flying-types. He has Aerodactyl and Crobat in the Pokemon World Tournament in B2W2, and if you count Stadium 2, he has Charizard and Gligar, so I figured I had some freedom in choosing amongst the type itself.

    Keep in mind that Johto and Kanto now have Pokemon from all five existing main regions now. That said, I chose those for some diversity and surprise in what he used; also, Mantyke came to mind because it's the baby form of a Johto Pokemon.

    For curiosity's sake, the team I planned for him in full was the five regional birds (Pidgeotto, Hoothoot, Taillow, Starly, Pidove) plus a wildcard, Mantyke.

    The sucker punch at the end with Olivia finding out her father is indeed dead was interesting. I'm interested in what turmoil this will cause between her and Matt or, better yet, if she ever finds out the others knew Rich was dead. How will this change things? How will she react to being lied to for so long and Matt himself has guilt issues already.
    I'll just say that this will be one of the many things the next chapter will tackle. There isn't going to be a really intense focus on a single event like there was in this chapter, but it'll be in there.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if the delivery of Avril's lines in a somewhat mean fashion could cause Olivia to be angry at her for it in a way?
    That could be something curious to explore.

    Avril makes for a nice rival, she reminds me of Georgia as does her and Olivia's rivalry + interactions remind me of Georgia and Iris's. If Avril earns the first badge Olivia couldn't I could see this adding more fuel to the animosity between them and Avril's air of arrogance.
    That's good, I like how you're seeing it. I've got plans for Avril and their rivalry, too.

    Didn't come across any awkward wording or grammar issues, you're probably one of the best in that regard I know
    Thanks, that's really something. I'm honored. I actually smiled here when I read this.

    Also wasn't too heavily invested in the TR and Polaris scenes, they were enigmatic and all. I just couldn't get too deep a feel for the ones outside the Colress one and the one in which Jessie and James show some endearing concern for Meowth.
    That's okay, the scenes you didn't get into were mainly establishing/setup scenes for bigger events to come later. All you need to do is just be aware of the facts of what happened in those scenes.

    Thank you very much for the very detailed and extensive review! It was very, very good and I'm happy you saw fit to give me it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matori View Post
    Nice use of imagery in this open. I really love how atmospheric everything is and it's a great hook to draw the readers in.
    Thank you. I agree that a strong opening scene is important to get the reader interested right away.

    Wonder how Finansielle could tell. *runs*
    I think I wonder myself. The anime making him as ridiculously over-the-top as he is really helped here.

    This scene made me laugh. Poor Zager, he's their supervisor but he doesn't know what to do faced down with two angry field agents wanting their friend back. James' line was perfectly in character for him too, I could see him saying it in his voice.
    I really thought that scene captured all three of them pretty well, to be honest.

    I'd hate to think what would happen to Matt if Nekou wasn't happy. This seriously made me lol hard.
    That's something you'll probably find out soon enough.

    Seduire is an /x/-phile?
    ...I could see that. I really could see that.

    I like Helena's thinking.
    Not only is it good thinking, it might be more meaningful than you think...

    More adorableness. I love those two bickering.
    You'll definitely be getting more of that.

    Matt confirmed for best brother.
    He tries. It's not easy, but he tries.

    Introspective Giovanni is a thing needed so badly in more fanfics. Thanks for putting that in there, it's my favorite way to see him written, and seeing him wistful for his hometown and how it'd changed over the years was bittersweetly heartwarming.
    As I mentioned earlier, you could speculate on several motives for why he feels that way. But yes, I have to agree that a portrayal of him where he isn't just an all-out villain is very enjoyable to see. I like that approach to him myself.

    "Treats?"
    Yeah, that is most likely what was going through Persian's head at that point.

    Perfectly written exchange between the two of them.
    Thank you. I'm very confident in my grasp of the dynamic between them.

    I really love how you covered the issue of trainers who start in different towns. It's one that doesn't come up frequently and this seems to be a solution that makes sense.
    That's something I'm shooting for - to look at issues such as this and build upon the questions they raise.

    Oh God Avril why did you even go there?
    Like I've said, she didn't even know that what she was doing was actually wrong, because she thought Olivia knew already. As far as she knew, she was just being a ***** to Olivia, which was uncalled for in and of itself but isn't quite as bad as what ended up happening.

    Apologies for the smileys, I rarely use them in my reviews (or anything serious) but I had no better way to articulate in text the feelings I felt when the chapter cut off here. My heart sank and I was yelling at the screen.

    You also earned yourself a Most Heartbreaking Scene nomination for the 2013 Fic Awards, I can tell you that, because I don't think anyone will ever top what I read in those final paragraphs.

    Overall, excellent chapter, and your cliffhanger was nothing short of devastating. Fantastic work. I can't imagine what the next chapter's going to be like after this ending but I can tell you plan on taking us on quite the emotional roller coaster.
    Aw, thanks for being so kind, not just in your comments but for actually getting that much into the story.

    And you're right, you're in for an emotional roller coaster. I'd say that's correct...

    Quote Originally Posted by Morpher01 View Post
    And right off the bat we have more COLRESS!!! I have to say, he's surprisingly lovable in the opening scene, given how childishly excited he is about his research. XD Speaking of which...

    Really great idea giving the Pokerus development to Colress, given how what it did in the games (boosting EV gain and thus making a Pokemon stronger) fits in with his motif PERFECTLY. I do have to wonder what Polaris' new strain will be capable of, however. I would guess Pokemon control, but that would be too easy, so I'll just wait and see what we get.
    I'm glad you like how I'm using him so far; giving him the Pokerus indeed felt like a natural decision. You're a bit off on where they're going with it, but I don't think I need to tell you precisely where it's going right now. It should become clear soon enough.

    Moving on, TR is planning their counterattack. Zager being threatened by Jessie and James is definitely a sign that things are getting serious. Although, why Giovanni wants Stacia (who, if I remember correctly, is his secretary) to draft up several response plans is a bit confusing to me. Wouldn't that be a bit above her pay grade, or am I just underestimating her?
    She's not just a secretary, she's a second-in-command of sorts too. I suppose it's debatable if she filled that role in her canon appearances, but here - where Team Rocket isn't the vast empire it once was anymore - it's necessary for remaining members who are qualified to take up what work they can.

    Nekou in bed with Matt...oh dear. XD Her threat is also quite amusing.

    Oh, boy. Matt just can't catch a break today. XD
    This is nothing compared to what's about to happen, both humorously and seriously.

    Although, next scene...Polaris getting the Meteonite from the ruins is going to be bad news. Their use of Meowth is a bit chilling, and makes me wonder how the TRio is going to get him back. Hopefully Zager's device works (although it's more likely to be a partial victory, if any at all...)
    Let me just say that there's going to be quite a confrontation when this finally reaches its climax.

    Okay, this is excellent development for Avril. Showing that she isn't arrogant and overconfident 100% of the time demonstrates that she is still human, despite her boasts.
    This is the side of herself that she doesn't show others, which is why it took a chapter for her full personality to really be seen. She's overconfident, but not in the way that she thinks she's entitled to all kinds of success. She knows she has to work for it and she's calculating about getting there.

    I know you're using game physics, but...how exactly does a Mantyke float in the air?
    The anime has pretty much disregarded the old convention about Water-types/water-dwelling Pokemon needing to be swimming at all times, except for blatantly fish-like Pokemon. Marlon's Mantine both swam and flew freely in the air, Elesa's Tynamo flew around, and both Trip and Jessie's Frillish as well as all Jellicent seen in the anime have been capable of floating in the air. So to answer your question, it's just one of those things that happens in this world that obviously couldn't happen in real life but doesn't have any real deep explanation to it.

    I was actually surprised that Olivia lost the battle, and it makes me interested to see where she'll get her 8th badge from. And now for me to comment on the part that everyone's talking about:
    Regarding Olivia's Badge, there's going to be a hint soon about where it'll come from. Not a blatant one, but if you look out for it, it'll be there.

    Aaaaaand the cat's out of the bag. I smell a significant bit of development coming soon for Olivia, and it's going to be interesting to see how she copes.

    Overall, this is great chapter. Not particularly long, but it more than delivers with decent content and a massive revelation at the end. Can't wait to see how this turns out!
    Yes, it ought to be interesting. I have ideas in mind, I just hope they work out.

    Thanks for the great review!
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 21st March 2013 at 9:55 AM.

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        Spoiler:- Chapter 9 teaser:


        Spoiler:- Teaser for new arc:

    (Banner by Matori)
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    Well, I guess there’s not much more to say, besides that this chapter will be much shorter than the previous ones. Let the ride begin.

    -:-

    CHAPTER 9: Disconnection

    -:-

    Eight years ago, Olivia’s world was a very different place. There were no expectations to live up to, no disappointments to face, and no villains of any kind to disrupt her peace.

    What there was was the simple life of a child not yet tainted by the darker aspects of the outside world. There was her father, Rich, and her mother, Anabel – the two who made her existence everything a young girl could have wanted.

    It was her father especially who spoiled her. He could almost never say no to her, often resulting in the more serious aspects of raising her getting left to Anabel. Material goods weren’t the only thing Rich spoiled Olivia with, though; without fail, he always supported her and always did what he could to help her in anything she wanted to do.

    Those idyllic days would not last.

    ~:~

    Night brought the drawing-down of much of the activity in Violet City’s Pokémon Center. Besides the nurse, who was working behind the front desk, the lobby was empty save for Matt, who was sitting at and staring into a table in miserable silence.

    The air was deadly still, at least until Bunny emerged from the hallway to the lodging area and approached the table.

    “Hey,” she said, sitting down opposite him.

    “How’s she doing…?” Matt mumbled into the table, not even bothering to turn his eyes to Bunny.

    In response, Bunny sighed and closed her eyes. “Nekou’s in there talking to her, but the kinds of things she’s saying… I don’t think I want to repeat them.”

    “About me and how I let her down?”

    “You, me, Nekou, Avril, Rich himself… I would never judge her capable of such anger just by looking at her.”

    “It’s not just anger,” Matt corrected her, still not moving his dispirited gaze from the table. “It’s sadness, too. The kind of soul-crushing sadness that leads you to uncontrollable anger because you have nothing else left to resort to. I know it firsthand… I fear for what she’s going to be like tomorrow once the initial shock wears off.”

    “I’ve never seen you get as angry as she is right now…”

    “Before we ever met, when I was younger… the feeling of sheer hopelessness that drives you to carry your crippled, blinded sister into a blizzard, all but dooming you both to die in it, that’s how it feels. And then when you get saved and you think you have a way out, a way to save her, only to find out that you’re being used to carry out research into some really bad things… that’s how it really feels. I know what’s going on in that room because I’ve been there.”

    Bunny found herself at a loss for words, owing mainly to her exhausted state of mind. Between Olivia’s breakdown and the inability to help on the parts of both herself and Matt, she couldn’t deal with it.

    Luckily for her, and perhaps for Matt as well, the situation was abruptly interrupted by a familiar voice.

    “Well, well, you two… so our paths cross again this soon?”

    Bunny turned, and Matt finally lifted his head in response to what he heard. Dante was there, having approached the table.

    “Oh, Doctor Fan…”

    Though his smile faded only slightly, Dante didn’t wait for Bunny to finish before speaking himself. “Was just traveling through Violet on my way to my next destination and decided to stop in. Where are the other two who were with you?”

    “In our room here,” Matt replied, his voice still not reaching much further than a mumble. “Olivia’s not doing so well.”

    “Is that so? She’s sick?”

    “Not in the sense you’d think. She lost her match with the Gym Leader, and then some girl who took a dislike to her accidentally revealed what really happened to her father. And as you can guess, she isn’t taking it very well. Nekou’s in there trying to calm her down, but…”

    “Say no more.” His lighthearted demeanor gone, Dante turned half away from Matt and Bunny and stared toward the windows with a bitter look in his eyes. “When Amina died, I felt the same way. It takes time for someone who’s lost their only guiding star to find another one. I just hope for all of your sakes that it takes less time for her than it’s taken me.” Swiveling back to face Matt and Bunny again, he suddenly adopted an upbeat persona again. “Now about why I’m here. While I was staying at Mr. Pokémon’s home, I read some magazines he had and I came across something rather curious. One scientific publication, while discussing the migration of Pokémon from Unova to this country, theorized that some Pokémon believed to be native to Unova might also have been here before. I’m on my way to the Ruins of Alph to investigate one of the theories, and since we’re all here in one place, I would like to ask – Bunny, would you be interested in joining me on this research?”

    It took a moment for what Dante had said to fully reach Bunny because of his rapid flow of thoughts, but when it did, she jumped slightly. “That’s rather surprising. Why me and not Matt?”

    “I think he has more urgent matters to attend to than helping an old man walk around some ruins, especially after what you just told me. And don’t sell yourself short. I’d say you’ve got a great skill set. So what do you say?”

    “I don’t know. Aren’t the Ruins of Alph closed because of that meteor strike?”

    “Ah, but I’ve obtained special permission from the preservation bureau to go there. It’s really only closed off to the tourists and everyday trainers. Right now the bureau just wants to keep track of who goes in and out. Matters of organization, really.”

    “Well, if you say so, it ought to be interesting. Matt, do you think Olivia would be okay with me going away for a while?”

    “I hope so,” he blandly answered. “To be brutally honest, after how you couldn’t get through to her before, I doubt that’s going to change overnight. If you ask me, there’s nothing you could do to help her right now anyway.”

    “Do you really think so? I don’t want her to feel like someone else is abandoning her.”

    “She needs help from a source that isn’t me or someone she associates with me. That’s what I think…”

    -:-

    The next morning, Matt, Olivia, Nekou, Bunny and Dante converged at Violet City’s southwestern exit, a stone path flanked on both sides by boxed lanterns.

    “Well, this is where we part,” Dante announced as they arrived at the fork splitting the Ruins of Alph off from Route 32. “You keep up looking for Reshiram, Matt. I think it’s very important you find what you’re looking for.”

    “Thanks, I guess. Good to know I have some more support for this.”

    Leaning down onto his knee while still supporting himself on his cane, Dante moved to eye level with Olivia and smiled at the sullen, silent young woman. “And you. Don’t let your loss break your spirit and stop you from moving forward. Fight back against that despair, Olivia. Don’t get consumed by it.”

    Olivia’s only response was to move her eyes away.

    “I know we’ll be working together again before either of us knows it,” Bunny said while Dante stood back up, “but I can’t help but feel like I should still wish you guys luck out there. A lot can happen in a short time.”

    Briefly glancing over to Olivia, Bunny pondered saying something to encourage her, but decided against it due to Olivia’s reaction to Dante. Instead, she simply extended a hand to Matt, which he shook after only a short hesitation.

    “Thanks, Bunny. You be careful in there.”

    “See you soon, everybody!”

    Most of the enthusiasm as the two groups split off came from Bunny; she was the only one even bothering to wave goodbye. Matt and Olivia just turned away and walked off down Route 32, leaving Nekou to follow.

    -:-

    Jessie, James, Ariana and Dr. Zager all stared up at the screen in the scientist’s lab, their mouths open in looks of varying degrees of surprise.

    “You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

    Up on the monitor, Stacia looked back at them from Giovanni’s darkened office. She nodded in response to Ariana’s stunned inquiry, the glow from her own screen reflecting in her glasses.

    “That is the plan Mr. Giovanni has selected, yes,” the Team Rocket boss’s secretary confirmed.

    “Operation Atlas...” Zager repeated out loud. “…the mission to take on the weight of keeping this world the way it is… I must say, Stacia, even I never expected Giovanni to call for this.”

    “Hello, we’re still in the dark here!” Jessie interjected.

    “You can’t just expect us to know what’s going on,” added James. “Bring us up to speed, why don’t you?”

    “Operation Atlas is a top-secret plan the higher-ups in Team Rocket began drawing up after what happened in Unova,” Ariana explained. “This is pretty much the worst case scenario.”

    “We’re on war footing now,” Zager continued. “The purpose of this plan was to formulate a defense should Polaris appear in our homeland. Basically, exactly what is happening right now. Even if it’s for the sake of Team Rocket, we must defend this world from what Polaris is planning to do.”

    “So what do we have to do, exactly?”

    “Jessie, you and James will accompany Executive Ariana and return to Kanto,” Stacia answered. “Here, you will pick up Mr. Giovanni and together, all of you will meet with Pierce outside of Goldenrod City. That is where Polaris is planning to make a major move.”

    “We can do tha…” Halfway through his sentence, James caught on to what Stacia had said, and his voice escalated wildly. “The boss is coming to the front lines himself?!”

    “I told you, we’re at war now. This isn’t the first time Giovanni’s come out to participate in a mission himself, if you remember.”

    “I wonder if we’d still be in this position now if we’d gotten that Meteonite back then…” mused Jessie. “Will we still be able to get Meowth back?”

    “All equipment necessary for your mission will be supplied by Dr. Zager before you leave for Kanto, so that does not change.” Behind the glow of her glasses, Stacia narrowed her eyes. “Mr. Giovanni expects you here as soon as possible. I would strongly advise that you do not disappoint him. Farewell.”

    Stacia left an atmosphere of tightened nerves in her wake once she disappeared from the screen. An uncomfortable silence hung over the lab for what all four assembled would agree was far too long before James finally broke it.

    “I guess I’ll be the one to ask, then. What about the International Police and their files on us? As soon as the boss breaks his house arrest, they’ll crack down and take us all out.”

    “Don’t you worry your little blue head about that,” Ariana asserted. “When Operation Atlas was initially crafted, one thing we made sure to do was plan a provision for just a case like this. We’ve got someone in place to deal with that, and let me assure you, by the time we get to Viridian, there won’t be any traces left to prove what happened. The ability to rewrite history is great, isn’t it? Too bad we can only use it once, or it’ll be figured out…”

    “Are you finished?” Zager said with a sigh. “You three, start loading the equipment into the car. I’ll go over the map system and make sure your charts of the underground tunnels are up to date.”

    -:-

    After ending the video conference with Zager’s lab, Stacia left Giovanni’s office and slipped into the adjoining wardrobe room, where Giovanni was pulling on a black trench coat in front of a mirror.

    “I’ve… given them the mission,” she said to him, “just as you directed.”

    “Very good,” Giovanni replied, though he did not turn to her. “It is of utmost importance that every one of them understands the stakes here.”

    “Mr. Giovanni, sir… please forgive my insubordination, but I must ask. Are these measures truly necessary? They’re very dangerous… something could happen to you and then I…”

    “It is what must be done.” While adjusting his tie in the mirror, Giovanni continued on, explaining, “If we do not stand in Polaris’s way, who will? Team Rocket may not be what it once was, but we still have more resources available than anyone still able to resist their influence. The International Police will not be an obstacle, that virus Rosalie headed the development of will see to that. It will be between us and Polaris, with no interference – and if we lose, the result will be the same as if we did nothing. There is nothing to be lost by trying.”

    “But without you, I’m… Team Rocket is helpless!”

    “Team Rocket survived being led by that woman, so it can survive anything.” Having finished dressing, Giovanni turned to Stacia and set one of his hands on her shoulder, making her jump. “Remember, there is nothing that is impossible for Team Rocket. Keep that in mind while you’re in charge here.”

    With that, Giovanni stepped past Stacia and out of the small room. A small tear formed at the corner of her eye, but she quickly composed herself, pushed her glasses up on her face and followed him.

    -:-

    Sometime later that afternoon, the group had attracted the attention of a young girl dressed in a gray scout uniform. As a trainer herself, she had quickly challenged Olivia to a battle, which ended up seeing Olivia’s Minccino fighting against her female Nidoran. With Matt staying inside the HR-E – which was acting as their mobile campsite for the trip down Route 32 – only Nekou was out watching the battle, dividing her attention between that and working on her laptop.

    “Nidoran, Poison Sting!” the scout girl called to her Pokémon.

    The Poison-type Pokémon launched a wave of glowing purple thorns from her small body, but despite the hazard they presented, Olivia barely reacted.

    Simply staring straight ahead with a blank look in her eyes, she stiffly ordered, “Swift.”

    Nidoran’s Poison Sting was no match for Minccino’s counterattack; every needle was swatted away by one of Minccino’s stars. With the match at a stalemate, the girl changed tactics.

    “Double Kick!” she announced, switching to a direct attack.

    “Tail Slap.”

    Compared to the older, well-cared-for and better trained Minccino, the Nidoran had little chance. Her movements were fairly inept, owing to the fact that she was a relatively new Pokémon for her trainer. She kicked with her hind legs but Minccino easily evaded the attack, then countered by lashing the Poison-type with her tail repeatedly.

    Meanwhile, Nekou was busily typing on her laptop. Taking care to not make any mistakes in what she was doing, she said quietly to herself, “There we go. With HR-E boosting the signal, I can reach the satellite no problem, then work from there.” She then looked up and took note of the battle, paying particular attention to Olivia’s completely stoic expression, which dismayed her. “I wish I could do something…”

    -:-

    Deep in the Ruins of Alph, Mercury and Séduire pressed on, leading their team ever closer to the Meteonite. They’d subsisted on what supplies they had, but dividing basic hiking provisions of simple food and water between six humans and one Pokémon left all of them a little less than satisfied.

    “What’s the latest reading?” Mercury shouted to her aide with the scanning equipment.

    “Continue following this path,” he replied. “We are not far…”

    Before long, the hallway opened into a cavernous corridor where the sound of running water could be heard. The path continued straight on, but pushed even further underground.

    “We’re almost there!” exclaimed the henchman with the scanner. “It’s right ahead of us!”

    Just as the team stepped into the expanse, however, an Unown in the shape of the letter ‘Y’ materialized, startling Séduire and two of Mercury’s followers.

    “What’re you doing, jumping out at us like that?!” the girl yelled at the small, strange creature.

    “Hold on a minute,” Meowth drowned, before stopping to listen to the Unown’s cries. “It’s sayin’ that there’s someone upstairs that isn’t supposed to be in here.”

    “What?” Though she had been uninterested in the Unown at first, this turn got Mercury’s attention. “Meowth, tell it to get rid of them!”

    -:-

    Sunlight still shined through the doorway into the ruins’ entry hall, casting a glow on Dante and Bunny while they surveyed the walls.

    “Here, I’ve found something!” Bunny called out.

    Dante crossed the chamber as quickly as he could, then asked, “What? What is it?”

    “Have a look.”

    Using a small brush, Bunny carefully moved away the dust and dirt collected on the wall. A small part of an image was already visible, and as Bunny cleared away the years of grime obscuring it, an etching of an insect Pokémon with six wings came into view.

    “Volcarona!” Dante gasped in excitement. “I knew it!”

    “Volcarona?”

    “Keep cleaning the wall and see if there’s more.”

    Dante’s encouragement proved to be useful, as within minutes Bunny had cleared enough of the etching to reveal more images – namely, those of an exploding mountain, several people and Pokémon, and the Ruins of Alph themselves. Bunny could only stare at the wall and try to understand what she was seeing.

    “Volcarona… here?” she whispered.

    “These etchings confirm what I discovered,” Dante explained. “Volcarona is a rare Pokémon that was considered a sun deity by ancient people. It seems that a long time ago, a volcano erupted in Johto, and the ancient Tenganists fled to their temple – in other words, this place – for safety. Afterward, the sun didn’t shine because of the ash in the atmosphere... so Volcarona replaced the sun’s light with its own.”

    “But if Volcarona has been here all along, wouldn’t that mean Pokémon native to Unova have been in this country even before the migration project?”

    “That it would. I want to find Volcarona in these ruins to see if this theory is actually true.”

    While Dante and Bunny pondered their next move, the ‘Y’ Unown suddenly appeared, along with an ‘X’ Unown and a ‘G’ Unown. All three growled angrily at the pair they perceived as invaders.

    “Oh, what a bother,” Dante said with a sigh. “We’re not interested in having a fight with you.”

    The Unown paid him no mind, and attacked by issuing forth a flurry of energy spheres, with each Unown’s set taking on its own color. These three Hidden Powers fell short of their targets, striking the ground around Dante and Bunny’s feet.

    “They’re not listening… Bunny, I’m afraid we’re going to have to fight them.”

    Mirroring Dante’s action, Bunny started to reach for one of her Poké Balls, though something she noticed in the eyes of the Unown unnerved her. “Is something wrong with them?” she questioned. “Their eyes are so empty…”

    Dante could not even get a single syllable of a response out before roughly a dozen more Unown warped into the room. They immediately synchronized with the others, resulting in the whole horde’s power increasing substantially. The chamber filled with the Hidden Power energy each Unown called forth and rained down on the pair of humans.

    Thrown in opposite directions by the countless explosions, Dante and Bunny were forced onto and fell through individual trapdoors leading to two different places.

    -:-

    The next day brought events very similar to those of the previous one. Olivia had once again gotten into a battle with a young camper, and once again, Nekou was the only one watching the battle, even if she was still working on her computer.

    This time, the battle was between Olivia’s Lillipup and the boy’s Seedot. Both were about equal in spirit, and traded blows in a spirited rally. The Seedot had one disadvantage, though – her tactics, which mainly comprised of Bullet Seed punctuated by the occasional Quick Attack, failed to present much physical threat to Lillipup. As a result, Olivia’s Pokémon never became frightened, allowing him to wear out and ultimately defeat his opponent.

    “Oh man, I can’t believe I lost!” the boy shouted to the open sky after recalling his fainted Seedot. “I really thought I’d beat you!”

    Olivia, meanwhile, recalled Lillipup and stiffly walked up to the boy, all while remaining silent. She stared at him with an icy look, then pushed her open hand toward him.

    “Geez, you can’t cut me some slack? The trainers out here are getting more and more selfish with money lately!”

    The camper thrust a small handful of bills into Olivia’s hand, then turned sharply and stormed off.

    He didn’t notice Olivia mouth “thank you” after him.

    -:-

    Meanwhile, quite a distance away on the craggy hills of Route 45, Renzo staggered out of the shadowy interior of Dark Cave.

    “F-finally made it…” he said to himself. Being lost inside Dark Cave for several days had taken its toll on him, and the cold weather on Route 45 didn’t help. Pulling up his scarf to cover even more of his face than usual, he looked around in all directions, seeking the path forward to Blackthorn City.

    What he found crushed his confidence, however. The rugged landscape spread before his eyes offered no apparent way to advance north. Insurmountable cliffs, thick patches of tree cover and other obstacles created a treacherous, impossible-to-navigate route.

    Shivering under his poncho, which afforded him surprisingly little protection from the cold, Renzo staggered over to a nearby rock and sat down against it. The great difficulty of going north as he’d desired took away all his energy.

    “If this is where it ends,” he uttered, looking out over the vast route, “I’ll be along to give you your comeuppance sooner than I thought I’d be.” Peering down into his poncho, he addressed the spheres containing his Drowzee, Gurdurr and Cottonee, saying, “Sorry I couldn’t live up to what you three deserved… I did my best for all of you.”

    Feeling extremely weak, Renzo leaned back against the rock and shut his eyes; before long, he was out cold.

    No more than a few minutes later, however, multiple sets of footsteps came down the trail near Dark Cave’s entrance.

    “Come on, it’s just ahead,” a man’s voice shouted. “I swear I heard someone walking around.”

    The Tenganist prophet emerged from the corner near the cave, accompanied by two of her followers, one male and one female. They had three Pokémon with them; a pair of Donphan and a Stantler.

    “There, I see him,” announced the cloaked prophet. “Check and see if he’s alive.”

    Heeding their leader’s words, the man and woman ran to Renzo’s side and attempted to help him up.

    “Unresponsive,” the woman called back to her leader, “but he’s still breathing. He’s alive.”

    Gesturing to the Pokémon to move forth, the prophet declared, “We will bring him back to the base and heal him.”

    “Are you sure, my lady?” the man questioned. “Would that not be a risk?”

    “We cannot simply leave this young man here to die. If we did, we would be no better than Polaris… or that man Ghetsis… so, we must act. It is through acts of mercy to the innocent that we apologize for what we must do.”

    The prophet’s explanation sufficiently convinced her followers of her decision’s merits, so they lifted Renzo’s unconscious body onto their shoulders and moved him onto the backs of their two Donphan.

    -:-

    A vast, orange sky barely fouled by clouds spread out over Route 32 the next evening. Olivia sat alone on one of the hills that dotted the landscape near the route’s southern end, taking the sight in while locked in silent contemplation.

    Her reverie was only broken when Nekou walked up and sat down alongside her.

    “Hey, kid, how’re you doing?” she asked, offering Olivia one of the chocolate sticks she was eating, which the girl accepted. “You know, Roselia was great today against that fisherman’s Poliwag.”

    “Thanks…” Olivia mumbled, “…but I just… I just don’t get it.”

    “Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you?” Nekou was surprisingly sincere in her offer. “I’m a shoulder you can cry on.”

    “I just… don’t know what to feel. I’ve been battling these last few days because I wanted to find a reason for it… but I can’t… without my dad… I don’t understand it at all.”

    “You know, I don’t believe he’s completely gone, you know? I believe there are places people go when they die. He may have made mistakes, but I’m sure he was a good man. He’s probably watching you right now.”

    “Do… you really think so?” Olivia’s breathing was labored under the stress of the emotions she was suppressing, so she spoke very slowly.

    “Yeah, I do. If I might offer you some advice, though, you have to live for yourself. Find your own reasons for continuing on the path you’ve chosen. You want to keep being a trainer, right?”

    “I guess…”

    “Then find what makes you want to follow that path. You don’t have to follow anyone’s rules but your own, so live for your own reasons. That was something Maman taught me a long time ago, and my life has been so much better since then.” Looking out over the landscape, Nekou continued, “There’s only one way to get by in this world, and that’s by not letting others shackle you.”

    “But I don’t… my dad isn’t coming back, so I can’t fight to get him to come back…”

    “Just find something else you really want to fight for while not forgetting him. We’re all here to support you, so you’re not alone.”

    “You mean you’re here to support me…” This remark was tinged with bitterness, and Olivia turned her head away from Nekou.

    “You know, Olivia… it might not always seem like it, but Matt does care about you. He really does try to take care of you.”

    “What makes you say that? He lied to me all this time about where my dad was and now he’s been hiding instead of facing what he did!”

    “And I’m sure he feels horrible about that. But there is no doubt in my mind that he only sheltered you as he did because he believed it to be right. He only hasn’t been around the last couple of days because he doesn’t want to harm you further by making mistakes right now.”

    “How can I trust him again, though?”

    “You don’t have to. Not until he earns that trust again. But for now, I’m here for you.”

    “…am I a bad person for all those things I said back in Violet City? I am, aren’t I?”

    “You made a mistake, it’s not a big deal. I say, so what if you don’t have a perfect image? Perfect people, the ones who make no mistakes, have no flaws and have the world cater to them, those people are ****. This is an ugly world, so it needs ugly people like you and me to protect it. Do you understand?”

    “I… I think…” Suddenly, Olivia began tearing up. “Please don’t leave me.”

    “Don’t worry. I won’t.”

    Olivia and Nekou moved closer together so Olivia could rest her head on Nekou’s shoulder. Nekou then took out her music player, gave Olivia one of the headphones, and they started eating the chocolate sticks and listening to music together.





    END of CHAPTER 9

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  7. #107
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Well, I guess there’s not much more to say, besides that this chapter will be much shorter than the previous ones.
    Indeed, this chapter was very short.

    Eight years ago, Olivia’s world was a very different place. There were no expectations to live up to, no disappointments to face, and no villains of any kind to disrupt her peace.

    What there was was the simple life of a child not yet tainted by the darker aspects of the outside world. There was her father, Rich, and her mother, Anabel – the two who made her existence everything a young girl could have wanted.

    It was her father especially who spoiled her. He could almost never say no to her, often resulting in the more serious aspects of raising her getting left to Anabel. Material goods weren’t the only thing Rich spoiled Olivia with, though; without fail, he always supported her and always did what he could to help her in anything she wanted to do.

    Those idyllic days would not last.
    I like the enigmatic opening you present.
    In response, Bunny sighed and closed her eyes. “Nekou’s in there talking to her, but the kinds of things she’s saying… I don’t think I want to repeat them.”
    Nekou and Olivia's bond is still pretty cute to me, makes sense given she's and Olivia seem kinda similar.
    “Before we ever met, when I was younger… the feeling of sheer hopelessness that drives you to carry your crippled, blinded sister into a blizzard, all but dooming you both to die in it, that’s how it feels. And then when you get saved and you think you have a way out, a way to save her, only to find out that you’re being used to carry out research into some really bad things… that’s how it really feels. I know what’s going on in that room because I’ve been there.”
    The backstory on Matt is a nice touch.

    Bunny turned, and Matt finally lifted his head in response to what he heard. Dante was there, having approached the table.

    “Oh, Doctor Fan…”

    Though his smile faded only slightly, Dante didn’t wait for Bunny to finish before speaking himself. “Was just traveling through Violet on my way to my next destination and decided to stop in. Where are the other two who were with you?”
    Didn't expect to see Dante again in this situation.
    “Say no more.” His lighthearted demeanor gone, Dante turned half away from Matt and Bunny and stared toward the windows with a bitter look in his eyes. “When Amina died, I felt the same way. It takes time for someone who’s lost their only guiding star to find another one. I just hope for all of your sakes that it takes less time for her than it’s taken me.” Swiveling back to face Matt and Bunny again, he suddenly adopted an upbeat persona again. “Now about why I’m here. While I was staying at Mr. Pokémon’s home, I read some magazines he had and I came across something rather curious. One scientific publication, while discussing the migration of Pokémon from Unova to this country, theorized that some Pokémon believed to be native to Unova might also have been here before. I’m on my way to the Ruins of Alph to investigate one of the theories, and since we’re all here in one place, I would like to ask – Bunny, would you be interested in joining me on this research?”
    That was a throw around right there. Bunny leaving the gang to help Dante with his exploration? That's interesting, to say the least.....

    “Well, if you say so, it ought to be interesting. Matt, do you think Olivia would be okay with me going away for a while?”

    “I hope so,” he blandly answered. “To be brutally honest, after how you couldn’t get through to her before, I doubt that’s going to change overnight. If you ask me, there’s nothing you could do to help her right now anyway.”

    “Do you really think so? I don’t want her to feel like someone else is abandoning her.”
    I actually had the same thoughts as Bunny on the matter, wouldn't Olivia need as many people as possible in a situation like that? Close one's like Bunny and Nekou since she's still very sore at Matt?

    Leaning down onto his knee while still supporting himself on his cane, Dante moved to eye level with Olivia and smiled at the sullen, silent young woman. “And you. Don’t let your loss break your spirit and stop you from moving forward. Fight back against that despair, Olivia. Don’t get consumed by it.”

    Olivia’s only response was to move her eyes away.
    Olivia stoic behavior, I can't help but think this is meant to be somehow reminisce of her "growing-up" as a person in a way. Knowing that life isn't easy and things aren't gonna be a sugar-coated path for her in the long run. She's had hardships and been in intense situations before but still it shows a bit more in her character in the way she's upset now. Compared to the time she broke her bone where she was more moody so to speak.

    “Operation Atlas...” Zager repeated out loud. “…the mission to take on the weight of keeping this world the way it is… I must say, Stacia, even I never expected Giovanni to call for this.”
    New operation I see, a continued fight against Polaris and Team Rocket.
    “I told you, we’re at war now. This isn’t the first time Giovanni’s come out to participate in a mission himself, if you remember.”
    Another subtle Easter Egg.


    “Team Rocket survived being led by that woman, so it can survive anything.” Having finished dressing, Giovanni turned to Stacia and set one of his hands on her shoulder, making her jump. “Remember, there is nothing that is impossible for Team Rocket. Keep that in mind while you’re in charge here.”
    By woman, I'm assuming he's talking about Madame Boss, perhaps?

    With that, Giovanni stepped past Stacia and out of the small room. A small tear formed at the corner of her eye, but she quickly composed herself, pushed her glasses up on her face and followed him.
    I like how you add more dimensions to even characters like Stacia, she's a bit villain-ish as well as the whole Rocket organization, but she's still a person at the end of the day. There's more sides to her, she has weaknesses. She truly does care for Giovanni.

    Nekou was out watching the battle, dividing her attention between that and working on her laptop.
    I figured Nekou would be 100% watching, what with Olivia being in a fragile state of mind right now and only having one person she trusts completely with her .
    Compared to the older, well-cared-for and better trained Minccino, the Nidoran had little chance. Her movements were fairly inept, owing to the fact that she was a relatively new Pokémon for her trainer. She kicked with her hind legs but Minccino easily evaded the attack, then countered by lashing the Poison-type with her tail repeatedly.
    No surprise Olivia won TBH, Minccino does have a fair amount of experience.

    “Volcarona… here?” she whispered.

    “These etchings confirm what I discovered,” Dante explained. “Volcarona is a rare Pokémon that was considered a sun deity by ancient people. It seems that a long time ago, a volcano erupted in Johto, and the ancient Tenganists fled to their temple – in other words, this place – for safety. Afterward, the sun didn’t shine because of the ash in the atmosphere... so Volcarona replaced the sun’s light with its own.”

    “But if Volcarona has been here all along, wouldn’t that mean Pokémon native to Unova have been in this country even before the migration project?”
    More expansion on the mass Unova Pokemon migration, that's good to see.
    “That it would. I want to find Volcarona in these ruins to see if this theory is actually true.”
    Possible capture?

    Thrown in opposite directions by the countless explosions, Dante and Bunny were forced onto and fell through individual trapdoors leading to two different places.
    I'm genuinely interested in where they're gonna end up.


    Olivia, meanwhile, recalled Lillipup and stiffly walked up to the boy, all while remaining silent. She stared at him with an icy look, then pushed her open hand toward him.

    “Geez, you can’t cut me some slack? The trainers out here are getting more and more selfish with money lately!”

    The camper thrust a small handful of bills into Olivia’s hand, then turned sharply and stormed off.
    This scene gave me Sayaka Miki vibes for some reason.
    “We cannot simply leave this young man here to die. If we did, we would be no better than Polaris… or that man Ghetsis… so, we must act. It is through acts of mercy to the innocent that we apologize for what we must do.”

    The prophet’s explanation sufficiently convinced her followers of her decision’s merits, so they lifted Renzo’s unconscious body onto their shoulders and moved him onto the backs of their two Donphan.
    We get an appearance from Renzo as well, it feels like the scene jumps are pieces of a puzzle that are slowly being put in place.


    “There’s only one way to get by in this world, and that’s by not letting others shackle you.”

    “But I don’t… my dad isn’t coming back, so I can’t fight to get him to come back…”

    “Just find something else you really want to fight for while not forgetting him. We’re all here to support you, so you’re not alone.”
    Nekou and Olivia interactions are just such a treat imo, the two just work well together and mesh quite well.

    “You made a mistake, it’s not a big deal. I say, so what if you don’t have a perfect image? Perfect people, the ones who make no mistakes, have no flaws and have the world cater to them, those people are ****. This is an ugly world, so it needs ugly people like you and me to protect it. Do you understand?”
    Very powerful line and very strong way to end an "aftermath" chapter. I really mean it, I really liked that line.


    Anyway, this was mostly a set-up/impact chapter. We saw the after-effects of Rich's revelation as well as set-up for the future. I'll start off by saying the events that all are surely gonna intertwine together is gonna be quite the show. The three factions - Polaris, Team Rocket, and Tenganist - are all being set-up for something unavoidable and massive. Olivia's world crumbled down and we see her sadness, but from the debris of her world falling down I feel like she'll grow and be rebuilt a bit more as a stronger and more mature human being. That's the thing about feeling low, you can only go up when you're at your worst. Nekou is playing a role in that development, which is nice since, she is easily becoming my favorite character of the story personality wise. She's strong, confident, competent, and knows what's she talking about and supporting.

    I also like your handling of Olivia's training, training is tedious and can be a chore to sit through at times. I'm glad you just give us the sharp details of the battle at its climax and the ending and we don't spend immense amounts of time on battles with random trainers. Nothing wrong with training battles at times, it's just commendable you don't waste all your time on them. The chapter also felt like a "breather" after the action last chapter, it gives the readers some time to get everything in place and really absorb it all. Renzo's role in this chapter was strange, I wonder what and how he'll be involved in the Tenganist situation. Going back to the Olivia situation, Nekou telling her to find a second wind to continue on in her journey just makes me wonder if Olivia will figure that out. I somehow feel this second wind will come after she's achieved her first badge or around that time, whether it be before that or after. Not to mention Matt is her legal guardian, he'll have to earn that trust back.

    Bunny leaving for a while was unexpected too, I'm wondering how long she'll be gone and how the group will continue to operate without her.

    An enjoyable chapter overall, I couldn't comment on much and do my usual nitpicking because it wasn't that long. Still it was a nice breather and set-up for the inevitable.
    Last edited by Doryuzu; 21st April 2013 at 5:39 PM.

  8. #108
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    Shorter chapter than your usual ones but I don’t mind as there were still a few interesting stuff going on.

    Ah, so I’m right that Bunny will be leaving for a while. I too wonder how the group will operate with her (temporary?) absence. Like the scene with her and Dante discovering the etchings of Volcarona. The both of them separated doesn’t sound good, hopefully they’ll get out of their situation soon.

    Like Doryuzu, the Team Rocket scenes are good and I’m very interested in Operation Atlas. Knowing you, things are going to get serious ah yup.

    “You know, Olivia… it might not always seem like it, but Matt does care about you. He really does try to take care of you.”

    “What makes you say that? He lied to me all this time about where my dad was and now he’s been hiding instead of facing what he did!”

    “And I’m sure he feels horrible about that. But there is no doubt in my mind that he only sheltered you as he did because he believed it to be right. He only hasn’t been around the last couple of days because he doesn’t want to harm you further by making mistakes right now.”

    “How can I trust him again, though?”

    “You don’t have to. Not until he earns that trust again. But for now, I’m here for you.”

    “…am I a bad person for all those things I said back in Violet City? I am, aren’t I?”
    I feel this particular part you could add some description of Olivia’s emotions, mention facial expressions and actions (like hands clenching). Otherwise the last scene of them is bittersweet and glad Olivia shook off being stoic slightly.

    Overall a good chapter to settle some things down after the big reveal from last chapter. Looking forward to more!


    Tumblr | FFnet | Author's Profile| Archive of Our Own | Banner: Umi Mizuno
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  9. #109

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    Short but excellent!


    Eight years ago, Olivia’s world was a very different place. There were no expectations to live up to, no disappointments to face, and no villains of any kind to disrupt her peace.

    What there was was the simple life of a child not yet tainted by the darker aspects of the outside world. There was her father, Rich, and her mother, Anabel – the two who made her existence everything a young girl could have wanted.

    It was her father especially who spoiled her. He could almost never say no to her, often resulting in the more serious aspects of raising her getting left to Anabel. Material goods weren’t the only thing Rich spoiled Olivia with, though; without fail, he always supported her and always did what he could to help her in anything she wanted to do.

    Those idyllic days would not last.
    This is a really powerful intro passage and shows just how horribly messed up by the last chapter's reveal Olivia is. It also shows how Rich's sheltering, however well-intentioned, had horrible consequences- ones he probably never honestly thought would be an issue.

    “It’s not just anger,” Matt corrected her, still not moving his dispirited gaze from the table. “It’s sadness, too. The kind of soul-crushing sadness that leads you to uncontrollable anger because you have nothing else left to resort to. I know it firsthand… I fear for what she’s going to be like tomorrow once the initial shock wears off.”
    boy do I know that feel. Poor Matt. I felt like this scene really showed just how horrible he feels about letting Olivia down like he did.

    “Say no more.” His lighthearted demeanor gone, Dante turned half away from Matt and Bunny and stared toward the windows with a bitter look in his eyes. “When Amina died, I felt the same way. It takes time for someone who’s lost their only guiding star to find another one. I just hope for all of your sakes that it takes less time for her than it’s taken me.” Swiveling back to face Matt and Bunny again, he suddenly adopted an upbeat persona again. “Now about why I’m here. While I was staying at Mr. Pokémon’s home, I read some magazines he had and I came across something rather curious. One scientific publication, while discussing the migration of Pokémon from Unova to this country, theorized that some Pokémon believed to be native to Unova might also have been here before. I’m on my way to the Ruins of Alph to investigate one of the theories, and since we’re all here in one place, I would like to ask – Bunny, would you be interested in joining me on this research?”
    Dante's respect for Bunny is a detail I really like because it shows he's found respect for Matt's friends and I think that drives home the point of just how much respect he has for Matt as well. I also like how Matt seems to understand Olivia needs her privacy and space at the moment and gives that reason for being okay with Bunny leaving the group for a while.

    “And you. Don’t let your loss break your spirit and stop you from moving forward. Fight back against that despair, Olivia. Don’t get consumed by it.”
    Powerful words, really.

    Up on the monitor, Stacia looked back at them from Giovanni’s darkened office. She nodded in response to Ariana’s stunned inquiry, the glow from her own screen reflecting in her glasses.
    Very very cool description there.

    “Hello, we’re still in the dark here!” Jessie interjected.

    “You can’t just expect us to know what’s going on,” added James. “Bring us up to speed, why don’t you?”
    I can see them reacting like this perfectly. It's very in character for them.

    “I told you, we’re at war now. This isn’t the first time Giovanni’s come out to participate in a mission himself, if you remember.”
    Good reminder for those not familiar with the anime.

    “All equipment necessary for your mission will be supplied by Dr. Zager before you leave for Kanto, so that does not change.” Behind the glow of her glasses, Stacia narrowed her eyes. “Mr. Giovanni expects you here as soon as possible. I would strongly advise that you do not disappoint him. Farewell.”
    You don't want to know what happens if you disappoint him...

    “Don’t you worry your little blue head about that,” Ariana asserted. “When Operation Atlas was initially crafted, one thing we made sure to do was plan a provision for just a case like this. We’ve got someone in place to deal with that, and let me assure you, by the time we get to Viridian, there won’t be any traces left to prove what happened. The ability to rewrite history is great, isn’t it? Too bad we can only use it once, or it’ll be figured out…”

    “Are you finished?” Zager said with a sigh. “You three, start loading the equipment into the car. I’ll go over the map system and make sure your charts of the underground tunnels are up to date
    I love the banter between Ariana and Zager. It's cute.

    After ending the video conference with Zager’s lab, Stacia left Giovanni’s office and slipped into the adjoining wardrobe room, where Giovanni was pulling on a black trench coat in front of a mirror.

    “I’ve… given them the mission,” she said to him, “just as you directed.”

    “Very good,” Giovanni replied, though he did not turn to her. “It is of utmost importance that every one of them understands the stakes here.”

    “Mr. Giovanni, sir… please forgive my insubordination, but I must ask. Are these measures truly necessary? They’re very dangerous… something could happen to you and then I…”

    “It is what must be done.” While adjusting his tie in the mirror, Giovanni continued on, explaining, “If we do not stand in Polaris’s way, who will? Team Rocket may not be what it once was, but we still have more resources available than anyone still able to resist their influence. The International Police will not be an obstacle, that virus Rosalie headed the development of will see to that. It will be between us and Polaris, with no interference – and if we lose, the result will be the same as if we did nothing. There is nothing to be lost by trying.”

    “But without you, I’m… Team Rocket is helpless!”

    “Team Rocket survived being led by that woman, so it can survive anything.” Having finished dressing, Giovanni turned to Stacia and set one of his hands on her shoulder, making her jump. “Remember, there is nothing that is impossible for Team Rocket. Keep that in mind while you’re in charge here.”

    With that, Giovanni stepped past Stacia and out of the small room. A small tear formed at the corner of her eye, but she quickly composed herself, pushed her glasses up on her face and followed him.
    I really love this scene for a lot of reasons. It shows a little more of Gio and Stacia's professional relationship, and also that there's more to the two of them than it would seem at first glance. This kind of character depth is amazing.

    Sometime later that afternoon, the group had attracted the attention of a young girl dressed in a gray scout uniform. As a trainer herself, she had quickly challenged Olivia to a battle, which ended up seeing Olivia’s Minccino fighting against her female Nidoran. With Matt staying inside the HR-E – which was acting as their mobile campsite for the trip down Route 32 – only Nekou was out watching the battle, dividing her attention between that and working on her laptop.

    “Nidoran, Poison Sting!” the scout girl called to her Pokémon.

    The Poison-type Pokémon launched a wave of glowing purple thorns from her small body, but despite the hazard they presented, Olivia barely reacted.

    Simply staring straight ahead with a blank look in her eyes, she stiffly ordered, “Swift.”

    Nidoran’s Poison Sting was no match for Minccino’s counterattack; every needle was swatted away by one of Minccino’s stars. With the match at a stalemate, the girl changed tactics.

    “Double Kick!” she announced, switching to a direct attack.

    “Tail Slap.”

    Compared to the older, well-cared-for and better trained Minccino, the Nidoran had little chance. Her movements were fairly inept, owing to the fact that she was a relatively new Pokémon for her trainer. She kicked with her hind legs but Minccino easily evaded the attack, then countered by lashing the Poison-type with her tail repeatedly.

    Meanwhile, Nekou was busily typing on her laptop. Taking care to not make any mistakes in what she was doing, she said quietly to herself, “There we go. With HR-E boosting the signal, I can reach the satellite no problem, then work from there.” She then looked up and took note of the battle, paying particular attention to Olivia’s completely stoic expression, which dismayed her. “I wish I could do something…”
    I think the fact that Olivia is still able to do things like battle, but silently and emotionlessly, is more tragic than her being unable to function altogether. I'm happy this hasn't affected her skills as a trainer, but at the same time I got the definite impression she's just going through the motions of living at this point.

    Deep in the Ruins of Alph, Mercury and Séduire pressed on, leading their team ever closer to the Meteonite. They’d subsisted on what supplies they had, but dividing basic hiking provisions of simple food and water between six humans and one Pokémon left all of them a little less than satisfied.
    Knowing Meowth and his status as a cat I have to wonder how much of that food he consumed. At least they're feeding him.

    Just as the team stepped into the expanse, however, an Unown in the shape of the letter ‘Y’ materialized, startling Séduire and two of Mercury’s followers.
    How is something so adorable so terrifying?

    While Dante and Bunny pondered their next move, the ‘Y’ Unown suddenly appeared, along with an ‘X’ Unown and a ‘G’ Unown. All three growled angrily at the pair they perceived as invaders.

    “Oh, what a bother,” Dante said with a sigh. “We’re not interested in having a fight with you.”

    The Unown paid him no mind, and attacked by issuing forth a flurry of energy spheres, with each Unown’s set taking on its own color. These three Hidden Powers fell short of their targets, striking the ground around Dante and Bunny’s feet.

    “They’re not listening… Bunny, I’m afraid we’re going to have to fight them.”

    Mirroring Dante’s action, Bunny started to reach for one of her Poké Balls, though something she noticed in the eyes of the Unown unnerved her. “Is something wrong with them?” she questioned. “Their eyes are so empty…”

    Dante could not even get a single syllable of a response out before roughly a dozen more Unown warped into the room. They immediately synchronized with the others, resulting in the whole horde’s power increasing substantially. The chamber filled with the Hidden Power energy each Unown called forth and rained down on the pair of humans.

    Thrown in opposite directions by the countless explosions, Dante and Bunny were forced onto and fell through individual trapdoors leading to two different places.
    I guess the Unown listened to Meowth, then.

    Olivia, meanwhile, recalled Lillipup and stiffly walked up to the boy, all while remaining silent. She stared at him with an icy look, then pushed her open hand toward him.

    “Geez, you can’t cut me some slack? The trainers out here are getting more and more selfish with money lately!”

    The camper thrust a small handful of bills into Olivia’s hand, then turned sharply and stormed off.

    He didn’t notice Olivia mouth “thank you” after him.
    It was a relief for me to read this and see Olivia is still in there somewhere.

    “If this is where it ends,” he uttered, looking out over the vast route, “I’ll be along to give you your comeuppance sooner than I thought I’d be.” Peering down into his poncho, he addressed the spheres containing his Drowzee, Gurdurr and Cottonee, saying, “Sorry I couldn’t live up to what you three deserved… I did my best for all of you.”
    Despite his earlier behavior, this actually made me feel sorry for Renzo. Although he really should have gone into that cave better prepared.

    “We cannot simply leave this young man here to die. If we did, we would be no better than Polaris… or that man Ghetsis… so, we must act. It is through acts of mercy to the innocent that we apologize for what we must do.”
    Interesting bit of background on the Tenganists there.

    A vast, orange sky barely fouled by clouds spread out over Route 32 the next evening. Olivia sat alone on one of the hills that dotted the landscape near the route’s southern end, taking the sight in while locked in silent contemplation.

    Her reverie was only broken when Nekou walked up and sat down alongside her.

    “Hey, kid, how’re you doing?” she asked, offering Olivia one of the chocolate sticks she was eating, which the girl accepted. “You know, Roselia was great today against that fisherman’s Poliwag.”

    “Thanks…” Olivia mumbled, “…but I just… I just don’t get it.”

    “Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you?” Nekou was surprisingly sincere in her offer. “I’m a shoulder you can cry on.”

    “I just… don’t know what to feel. I’ve been battling these last few days because I wanted to find a reason for it… but I can’t… without my dad… I don’t understand it at all.”

    “You know, I don’t believe he’s completely gone, you know? I believe there are places people go when they die. He may have made mistakes, but I’m sure he was a good man. He’s probably watching you right now.”

    “Do… you really think so?” Olivia’s breathing was labored under the stress of the emotions she was suppressing, so she spoke very slowly.

    “Yeah, I do. If I might offer you some advice, though, you have to live for yourself. Find your own reasons for continuing on the path you’ve chosen. You want to keep being a trainer, right?”

    “I guess…”

    “Then find what makes you want to follow that path. You don’t have to follow anyone’s rules but your own, so live for your own reasons. That was something Maman taught me a long time ago, and my life has been so much better since then.” Looking out over the landscape, Nekou continued, “There’s only one way to get by in this world, and that’s by not letting others shackle you.”

    “But I don’t… my dad isn’t coming back, so I can’t fight to get him to come back…”

    “Just find something else you really want to fight for while not forgetting him. We’re all here to support you, so you’re not alone.”

    “You mean you’re here to support me…” This remark was tinged with bitterness, and Olivia turned her head away from Nekou.

    “You know, Olivia… it might not always seem like it, but Matt does care about you. He really does try to take care of you.”

    “What makes you say that? He lied to me all this time about where my dad was and now he’s been hiding instead of facing what he did!”

    “And I’m sure he feels horrible about that. But there is no doubt in my mind that he only sheltered you as he did because he believed it to be right. He only hasn’t been around the last couple of days because he doesn’t want to harm you further by making mistakes right now.”

    “How can I trust him again, though?”

    “You don’t have to. Not until he earns that trust again. But for now, I’m here for you.”

    “…am I a bad person for all those things I said back in Violet City? I am, aren’t I?”

    “You made a mistake, it’s not a big deal. I say, so what if you don’t have a perfect image? Perfect people, the ones who make no mistakes, have no flaws and have the world cater to them, those people are ****. This is an ugly world, so it needs ugly people like you and me to protect it. Do you understand?”

    “I… I think…” Suddenly, Olivia began tearing up. “Please don’t leave me.”

    “Don’t worry. I won’t.”

    Olivia and Nekou moved closer together so Olivia could rest her head on Nekou’s shoulder. Nekou then took out her music player, gave Olivia one of the headphones, and they started eating the chocolate sticks and listening to music together.
    I loved this scene. It's great to see Nekou being a sister to Olivia and being understanding. And I think Nekou telling Olivia she wasn't bad for saying those things in Violet City, and that it was okay for Matt to have to regain her trust, was very important, because it's so rare to see girls being told it's okay to be angry or distrusting of people. Nekou is AWESOME for telling Olivia the things she did, and it makes her that much more amazing as a character.


    Great work on this chapter as always!

    "Poe was the first writer to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys, and those are some of my favorite stories."
    -Stephen King

    I write odd slice of life stories about Team Rocket. If that's your thing, give them a look:

    Alpha Male- behind every friendship is a story. Perspective contest fourth place winner.
    Secretary- A short and cynical tale of paperwork and sadism
    Survival- A novella about the unbreakable bonds between one man and his feline friend. 2011 Pokemon Big Bang story.


  10. #110
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    “Before we ever met, when I was younger… the feeling of sheer hopelessness that drives you to carry your crippled, blinded sister into a blizzard, all but dooming you both to die in it, that’s how it feels. And then when you get saved and you think you have a way out, a way to save her, only to find out that you’re being used to carry out research into some really bad things… that’s how it really feels. I know what’s going on in that room because I’ve been there.”
    Eh, I know you were trying to be impactful here, but the dialogue sounded unnatural here. It sounds more like narration than dialogue.

    One scientific publication, while discussing the migration of Pokémon from Unova to this country, theorized that some Pokémon believed to be native to Unova might also have been here before. I’m on my way to the Ruins of Alph to investigate one of the theories, and since we’re all here in one place, I would like to ask – Bunny, would you be interested in joining me on this research?”
    I’m guessing Unown? Either way I like how you explore this theme with pokémon from different regions showing up everywhere.

    “Team Rocket survived being led by that woman, so it can survive anything.” Having finished dressing, Giovanni turned to Stacia and set one of his hands on her shoulder, making her jump. “Remember, there is nothing that is impossible for Team Rocket. Keep that in mind while you’re in charge here.”
    For once I get the sense that Team Rocket is actually the good team here. I don’t know if that’s what you’re going for, but I like the tone I got in this scene.

    Indeed, this was a short chapter. My favorite part was probably Olivia’s reaction. Her solemn attitude while fighting battles was portrayed perfectly, and the conversation with Nekou that followed about wanting to battle for her dad was heartbreaking. Her also asking Nekou not to leave was heartbreaking. I only hope that Matt will face up to her soon, because she needs it.

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


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 3 released 11/22/14 |


  11. #111
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doryuzu View Post
    I like the enigmatic opening you present.
    More of a little bit of backstory to lend weight to what happened at the end of the preceding chapter, really.

    Nekou and Olivia's bond is still pretty cute to me, makes sense given she's and Olivia seem kinda similar.
    That's pretty fair to say. There are some definite similarities.

    The backstory on Matt is a nice touch.
    The backstory actually wasn't something in my original outline for the chapter, in fact. It just happened naturally as I was writing the dialogue in that part.

    Didn't expect to see Dante again in this situation.

    That was a throw around right there. Bunny leaving the gang to help Dante with his exploration? That's interesting, to say the least.....
    This one was something I've wanted for some time now. I want this story to feel like it has a bigger scope by having more than one active, ongoing plot at once at times, and despite this one being somewhat short, I think it worked out. I also think it was good to get Bunny out and doing things besides tagging along, even if for a short time.

    I actually had the same thoughts as Bunny on the matter, wouldn't Olivia need as many people as possible in a situation like that? Close one's like Bunny and Nekou since she's still very sore at Matt?
    The reasoning is that Bunny was introduced to Olivia as being Matt's friend prior to their (Olivia and Bunny) meeting, while none of them knew Nekou before they all met her. Right at this point, Olivia won't respond to people she ties to Matt.

    Olivia stoic behavior, I can't help but think this is meant to be somehow reminisce of her "growing-up" as a person in a way. Knowing that life isn't easy and things aren't gonna be a sugar-coated path for her in the long run. She's had hardships and been in intense situations before but still it shows a bit more in her character in the way she's upset now. Compared to the time she broke her bone where she was more moody so to speak.
    Oh, she's moody here, she's just doing it differently. I suppose "stoic" is one word you could use, but she's not doing it out of any sort of maturity or anything - she's doing it here because right now, she's completely numb and not feeling anything.

    New operation I see, a continued fight against Polaris and Team Rocket.

    Another subtle Easter Egg.
    It's actually two Easter Eggs if you think about it; it's referring to not only Operation Tempest but the operation from the skipped episodes (which may have been named "Project Den.")

    There's a lot more to this than simply two organizations facing off; it's something you'll find out more about in time.

    By woman, I'm assuming he's talking about Madame Boss, perhaps?
    Yes, that's exactly right! I was a bit unsure on how to portray Giovanni's thoughts about her because I haven't heard the CD drama in which she appears, plus I've read some conflicting information on the subject, so I decided to simply contrast their personalities and build on how their relationship is commonly seen.

    I like how you add more dimensions to even characters like Stacia, she's a bit villain-ish as well as the whole Rocket organization, but she's still a person at the end of the day. There's more sides to her, she has weaknesses. She truly does care for Giovanni.
    Yes, that's something I definitely try to do with characters like her. "Still a person at the end of the day" is a great way to put it, and that's something I'm trying to do as often as possible.

    There are more sides to quite a few characters.

    I figured Nekou would be 100% watching, what with Olivia being in a fragile state of mind right now and only having one person she trusts completely with her .
    Perhaps "dividing her attention" was bit of a poor word choice; what she was doing on her laptop wasn't really taking up much of her attention. For her, it was something fairly simple.

    More expansion on the mass Unova Pokemon migration, that's good to see.
    I'm still deliberating on more ways to elaborate on it, but this was one of my earliest plans.

    Possible capture?
    Possible.

    I'm genuinely interested in where they're gonna end up.
    At least one of them is going for a trip, that's for sure.

    This scene gave me Sayaka Miki vibes for some reason.
    ...you know, I hadn't thought of that before, but now that you put the image in my head I'm seeing that scene from when she was on the train and dear God it all works too well.

    We get an appearance from Renzo as well, it feels like the scene jumps are pieces of a puzzle that are slowly being put in place.
    Yes, that's a good way to put it. There are some big plot chapters coming up in the near future that could be considered the puzzle these pieces are going towards.

    Nekou and Olivia interactions are just such a treat imo, the two just work well together and mesh quite well.
    I think I have just as much fun writing their scenes as you and the others have reading them. I mean, both of them have a good number of layers so their personalities interacting creates something interesting, I think.

    Very powerful line and very strong way to end an "aftermath" chapter. I really mean it, I really liked that line.
    Thank you. That line's a favorite of mine as well; I feel like it really captures both Nekou's worldview and her opening herself up to Olivia in order to give her help.

    Anyway, this was mostly a set-up/impact chapter. We saw the after-effects of Rich's revelation as well as set-up for the future. I'll start off by saying the events that all are surely gonna intertwine together is gonna be quite the show. The three factions - Polaris, Team Rocket, and Tenganist - are all being set-up for something unavoidable and massive.
    You don't know how right you are. There's something coming, and it's going to be big.

    Olivia's world crumbled down and we see her sadness, but from the debris of her world falling down I feel like she'll grow and be rebuilt a bit more as a stronger and more mature human being. That's the thing about feeling low, you can only go up when you're at your worst. Nekou is playing a role in that development, which is nice since, she is easily becoming my favorite character of the story personality wise. She's strong, confident, competent, and knows what's she talking about and supporting.
    That's an interesting way of looking at it, and I think that view works. Olivia's definitely in the course of hitting rock bottom, and some of the ideas I've got in mind for where she'll go from there are things I think you'll like.

    I also like your handling of Olivia's training, training is tedious and can be a chore to sit through at times. I'm glad you just give us the sharp details of the battle at its climax and the ending and we don't spend immense amounts of time on battles with random trainers. Nothing wrong with training battles at times, it's just commendable you don't waste all your time on them.
    I'm definitely glad this worked out as I hoped. After some of the earlier chapters got bogged down in full-length battles, that was something I wanted to avoid for a character-driven chapter such as this.

    It's something you're going to see done more as the plot begins to shift gears. This is the stretch of chapters where things are going to begin changing.

    The chapter also felt like a "breather" after the action last chapter, it gives the readers some time to get everything in place and really absorb it all.
    Right. It's not time for a lot of intense action all at once just yet.

    Renzo's role in this chapter was strange, I wonder what and how he'll be involved in the Tenganist situation.
    Their two paths are mostly just going to be tangentially related for now; the next chapter ought to make that picture a little clearer.

    Going back to the Olivia situation, Nekou telling her to find a second wind to continue on in her journey just makes me wonder if Olivia will figure that out. I somehow feel this second wind will come after she's achieved her first badge or around that time, whether it be before that or after. Not to mention Matt is her legal guardian, he'll have to earn that trust back.
    I won't let on too much, but Olivia finding something meaningful enough to motivate her won't be resolved quite that easily. You'll see.

    An enjoyable chapter overall, I couldn't comment on much and do my usual nitpicking because it wasn't that long. Still it was a nice breather and set-up for the inevitable.
    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Shorter chapter than your usual ones but I don’t mind as there were still a few interesting stuff going on.
    Right here I should probably mention that the next chapter ought to be fairly short as well, at least according to how my notes lay out.

    Ah, so I’m right that Bunny will be leaving for a while. I too wonder how the group will operate with her (temporary?) absence. Like the scene with her and Dante discovering the etchings of Volcarona. The both of them separated doesn’t sound good, hopefully they’ll get out of their situation soon.
    Yes, Bunny's absence will be temporary.

    I'm glad you liked that part; it came out with a much faster pace than I thought it would have and I became a little worried that it wasn't actually going to work.

    Their situation... well, that'll be interesting.

    Like Doryuzu, the Team Rocket scenes are good and I’m very interested in Operation Atlas. Knowing you, things are going to get serious ah yup.
    Oh, you know me all too well.

    I feel this particular part you could add some description of Olivia’s emotions, mention facial expressions and actions (like hands clenching). Otherwise the last scene of them is bittersweet and glad Olivia shook off being stoic slightly.
    I considered that but I ultimately decided against it. Previously, it had been pointed out that I was force-feeding readers the thoughts of the characters by describing their emotions in overly detailed ways. With this scene, I decided to challenge each reader to imagine for themselves exactly how Olivia was feeling. If I spelled it out explicitly, I don't think you would connect with her as much, and my goal for this scene was to get the reader to really have to see things from Olivia's point of view.

    Overall a good chapter to settle some things down after the big reveal from last chapter. Looking forward to more!
    Thank you. I think you'll enjoy what's coming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matori View Post
    Short but excellent!
    Thank you.

    This is a really powerful intro passage and shows just how horribly messed up by the last chapter's reveal Olivia is. It also shows how Rich's sheltering, however well-intentioned, had horrible consequences- ones he probably never honestly thought would be an issue.
    The idea that Rich made some very big mistakes under the belief that they were the right things to do is going to come up again; it's something I've wanted to explore with him.

    boy do I know that feel. Poor Matt. I felt like this scene really showed just how horrible he feels about letting Olivia down like he did.
    If you think about it, he made exactly the same mistake Rich did by sheltering her so drastically. The difference though is that Matt did it because of his deference to Rich's wishes and his own inability to make hard decisions, not to mention that he truly did intend to follow Nekou's suggestion and tell her the truth. He was just too slow.

    Dante's respect for Bunny is a detail I really like because it shows he's found respect for Matt's friends and I think that drives home the point of just how much respect he has for Matt as well. I also like how Matt seems to understand Olivia needs her privacy and space at the moment and gives that reason for being okay with Bunny leaving the group for a while.
    I think Dante might see himself in Matt to some degree. If you compare what you know about the two of them, it does make a certain amount of sense.

    Powerful words, really.
    That's something else he'd know about. He was speaking from experience.

    Very very cool description there.
    I'm finding that the Team Rocket scenes often seem to come out as some of the most atmospheric. Would you agree?

    I can see them reacting like this perfectly. It's very in character for them.
    You don't know how much of a relief that is to hear after all that's been going on with their characters recently in the anime, seriously.

    Good reminder for those not familiar with the anime.
    I literally just realized something else - while it was intended to refer to the Meteonite mission and Operation Tempest, it also could be alluding to Mewtwo Returns.

    You don't want to know what happens if you disappoint him...
    Giovanni probably wouldn't deal out the punishment himself, he'd probably leave Stacia to do it. And that's likely to be the worst thing they could be left to face.

    I love the banter between Ariana and Zager. It's cute.
    It's partially due to how different the two of them are. They're kind of like Nekou and Matt in that one is fairly lighthearted and casual about themselves, while the other is serious and represses a number of his other emotions.

    I really love this scene for a lot of reasons. It shows a little more of Gio and Stacia's professional relationship, and also that there's more to the two of them than it would seem at first glance. This kind of character depth is amazing.
    Thank you for the compliment, first of all. I really feel honored to have gotten it.

    I think the best way to sum up what happened in that scene is to say that both Giovanni and Stacia have two sides to their relationship with each other: professional and personal.

    I think the fact that Olivia is still able to do things like battle, but silently and emotionlessly, is more tragic than her being unable to function altogether. I'm happy this hasn't affected her skills as a trainer, but at the same time I got the definite impression she's just going through the motions of living at this point.
    That's a correct impression, and I agree with your logic. I really wanted to show an image of her that was stripped of much of her humanity, having become an arguably better trainer but only because of how battling is the only thing sustaining her.

    Knowing Meowth and his status as a cat I have to wonder how much of that food he consumed. At least they're feeding him.
    Probably just however much they gave him, giving his current state.

    Also, they might be antagonists, but they're at the very least pragmatic and could even be considered good-hearted in a sense. Whether they cared for him genuinely or because they still needed his abilities, they still did it.

    How is something so adorable so terrifying?
    Perhaps because it was unexpected.

    I guess the Unown listened to Meowth, then.
    Yes, they did.

    It was a relief for me to read this and see Olivia is still in there somewhere.
    Building off of what Doryuzu said, let me just remind you that Sayaka was still inside of Oktavia...

    Despite his earlier behavior, this actually made me feel sorry for Renzo. Although he really should have gone into that cave better prepared.
    Renzo is a bit more complex than just a plain antagonistic rival. I think you'll like where his story goes.

    In the games, Dark Cave contains a completely disjointed distribution of Pokemon level-wise depending on which section of the cave you enter. Because of that I think it is reasonable to see it as a very dangerous hike he took on, since he had to cover all the areas of the cave.

    Interesting bit of background on the Tenganists there.
    That's just the beginning when it comes to them.

    I loved this scene. It's great to see Nekou being a sister to Olivia and being understanding. And I think Nekou telling Olivia she wasn't bad for saying those things in Violet City, and that it was okay for Matt to have to regain her trust, was very important, because it's so rare to see girls being told it's okay to be angry or distrusting of people. Nekou is AWESOME for telling Olivia the things she did, and it makes her that much more amazing as a character.
    I knew this scene would be well-liked. I had it in my head for so long before I finally got to write it and I fell in love with it myself.

    Nekou really empathizes with Olivia. It's another facet of her outlandish personality, really - Nekou doesn't want to see Olivia constrain herself by expectations placed upon her by others, because she knows that's only going to make it hurt more. The point of the 'ugly world needs ugly people' comment is that Nekou recognizes how ugly people can be - but she doesn't see it as something wrong. Instead, she sees it as something to be embraced, meaning she's telling Olivia that it's perfectly fine for her to be angry and distrusting if that's what makes her feel better in the end.

    I'm not trying to blow my own horn, but I really do love this scene myself.

    Great work on this chapter as always!
    Thanks, and thank you for the fine review!

    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post
    Eh, I know you were trying to be impactful here, but the dialogue sounded unnatural here. It sounds more like narration than dialogue.
    I can see why you'd say that. That was meant to be him starting to run his mouth and getting overly dramatic again, but I can see where it didn't come out quite as smoothly as I'd hoped.

    I’m guessing Unown? Either way I like how you explore this theme with pokémon from different regions showing up everywhere.
    Volcarona, though the idea of the origin of the Unown gives me some ideas I might want to explore.

    I guess the way I came up with this scenario was really simple, though. I'm going off of what HGSS initially presented us game-wise, which had Pokemon from all four generations to that point present in Kanto and Johto in some way. I knew Unova Pokemon would need an explanation for their presence, however.

    For once I get the sense that Team Rocket is actually the good team here. I don’t know if that’s what you’re going for, but I like the tone I got in this scene.
    Sort of. Their motives aren't entirely altruistic, but it could be argued that what the ends justify the means.

    That's a theme I want to explore more as the story progresses. From the viewpoints of the various factions driving the plot, do their goals justify what they do to pursue them? There's a lot of gray areas in terms of morality here, and few major players are either entirely good or entirely evil. Things on this note are going to get more complex going forward.

    Indeed, this was a short chapter. My favorite part was probably Olivia’s reaction. Her solemn attitude while fighting battles was portrayed perfectly, and the conversation with Nekou that followed about wanting to battle for her dad was heartbreaking. Her also asking Nekou not to leave was heartbreaking. I only hope that Matt will face up to her soon, because she needs it.
    He'll certainly try. Whether it works or not is an entirely other matter.

    Thank you for your review, and I'm happy you liked it!

    I have the teaser for the next chapter ready but I need to put it in another post. I'm not sure if it'll fit here, not to mention that it'll get lost.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 1st May 2013 at 9:38 AM.

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  12. #112
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        Spoiler:- Chapter 10 teaser:

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    HAPTER 9: Disconnection

    -:-

    Eight years ago, Olivia’s world was a very different place. There were no expectations to live up to, no disappointments to face, and no villains of any kind to disrupt her peace.

    What there was was the simple life of a child not yet tainted by the darker aspects of the outside world. There was her father, Rich, and her mother, Anabel – the two who made her existence everything a young girl could have wanted.

    It was her father especially who spoiled her. He could almost never say no to her, often resulting in the more serious aspects of raising her getting left to Anabel. Material goods weren’t the only thing Rich spoiled Olivia with, though; without fail, he always supported her and always did what he could to help her in anything she wanted to do.

    Those idyllic days would not last.

    I love this opening. It hits all the right points we need to know about Olivia and what is to come, while not being dragged out.

    Night brought the drawing-down of much of the activity in Violet City’s Pokémon Center. Besides the nurse, who was working behind the front desk, the lobby was empty save for Matt, who was sitting at and staring into a table in miserable silence.

    The air was deadly still, at least until Bunny emerged from the hallway to the lodging area and approached the table.

    “Hey,” she said, sitting down opposite him.

    “How’s she doing…?” Matt mumbled into the table, not even bothering to turn his eyes to Bunny.

    In response, Bunny sighed and closed her eyes. “Nekou’s in there talking to her, but the kinds of things she’s saying… I don’t think I want to repeat them.”

    “About me and how I let her down?”

    “You, me, Nekou, Avril, Rich himself… I would never judge her capable of such anger just by looking at her.”

    “It’s not just anger,” Matt corrected her, still not moving his dispirited gaze from the table. “It’s sadness, too. The kind of soul-crushing sadness that leads you to uncontrollable anger because you have nothing else left to resort to. I know it firsthand… I fear for what she’s going to be like tomorrow once the initial shock wears off.”

    “I’ve never seen you get as angry as she is right now…”

    “Before we ever met, when I was younger… the feeling of sheer hopelessness that drives you to carry your crippled, blinded sister into a blizzard, all but dooming you both to die in it, that’s how it feels. And then when you get saved and you think you have a way out, a way to save her, only to find out that you’re being used to carry out research into some really bad things… that’s how it really feels. I know what’s going on in that room because I’ve been there.”

    Bunny found herself at a loss for words, owing mainly to her exhausted state of mind. Between Olivia’s breakdown and the inability to help on the parts of both herself and Matt, she couldn’t deal with it.

    I like this dialogue too. I read the TV Tropes page on thisw story, and it says that this is part of a massive trilogy which itself is a sequel to another work, so I'm guessing there's a lot of backstory here.



    Sometime later that afternoon, the group had attracted the attention of a young girl dressed in a gray scout uniform. As a trainer herself, she had quickly challenged Olivia to a battle, which ended up seeing Olivia’s Minccino fighting against her female Nidoran. With Matt staying inside the HR-E – which was acting as their mobile campsite for the trip down Route 32 – only Nekou was out watching the battle, dividing her attention between that and working on her laptop.

    “Nidoran, Poison Sting!” the scout girl called to her Pokémon.

    The Poison-type Pokémon launched a wave of glowing purple thorns from her small body, but despite the hazard they presented, Olivia barely reacted.

    Simply staring straight ahead with a blank look in her eyes, she stiffly ordered, “Swift.”

    Nidoran’s Poison Sting was no match for Minccino’s counterattack; every needle was swatted away by one of Minccino’s stars. With the match at a stalemate, the girl changed tactics.

    “Double Kick!” she announced, switching to a direct attack.

    “Tail Slap.”

    Here's where we get to a part I dislike. I have never liked battled where the trainers just call out attacks. That wqorks in the games because they have to simplify the combat to make it more playable, but in a narrative you have so much more to work with. Try to make battles more interesting. Have the trainers try out more advanced tactics. In my story, there's a character who has worked out stretegies with his pokemon beforehand, and simply says "strategy number two" or the like depending on the situation. The pokemon already knows what to do.




    The Unown paid him no mind, and attacked by issuing forth a flurry of energy spheres, with each Unown’s set taking on its own color. These three Hidden Powers fell short of their targets, striking the ground around Dante and Bunny’s feet.

    “They’re not listening… Bunny, I’m afraid we’re going to have to fight them.”

    I don't think this scene has very much suspense to it. Everything is explained so matter of factly that I can't work up any excitement.

    Mirroring Dante’s action, Bunny started to reach for one of her Poké Balls, though something she noticed in the eyes of the Unown unnerved her. “Is something wrong with them?” she questioned. “Their eyes are so empty…”

    Dante could not even get a single syllable of a response out before roughly a dozen more Unown warped into the room. They immediately synchronized with the others, resulting in the whole horde’s power increasing substantially. The chamber filled with the Hidden Power energy each Unown called forth and rained down on the pair of humans.

    Thrown in opposite directions by the countless explosions, Dante and Bunny were forced onto and fell through individual trapdoors leading to two different places.

    DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!


    Meanwhile, quite a distance away on the craggy hills of Route 45, Renzo staggered out of the shadowy interior of Dark Cave.

    “F-finally made it…” he said to himself. Being lost inside Dark Cave for several days had taken its toll on him, and the cold weather on Route 45 didn’t help. Pulling up his scarf to cover even more of his face than usual, he looked around in all directions, seeking the path forward to Blackthorn City.

    What he found crushed his confidence, however. The rugged landscape spread before his eyes offered no apparent way to advance north. Insurmountable cliffs, thick patches of tree cover and other obstacles created a treacherous, impossible-to-navigate route.

    Shivering under his poncho, which afforded him surprisingly little protection from the cold, Renzo staggered over to a nearby rock and sat down against it. The great difficulty of going north as he’d desired took away all his energy.

    “If this is where it ends,” he uttered, looking out over the vast route, “I’ll be along to give you your comeuppance sooner than I thought I’d be.” Peering down into his poncho, he addressed the spheres containing his Drowzee, Gurdurr and Cottonee, saying, “Sorry I couldn’t live up to what you three deserved… I did my best for all of you.”

    Feeling extremely weak, Renzo leaned back against the rock and shut his eyes; before long, he was out cold.

    No more than a few minutes later, however, multiple sets of footsteps came down the trail near Dark Cave’s entrance.

    “Come on, it’s just ahead,” a man’s voice shouted. “I swear I heard someone walking around.”

    The Tenganist prophet emerged from the corner near the cave, accompanied by two of her followers, one male and one female. They had three Pokémon with them; a pair of Donphan and a Stantler.

    “There, I see him,” announced the cloaked prophet. “Check and see if he’s alive.”

    Heeding their leader’s words, the man and woman ran to Renzo’s side and attempted to help him up.

    “Unresponsive,” the woman called back to her leader, “but he’s still breathing. He’s alive.”

    Gesturing to the Pokémon to move forth, the prophet declared, “We will bring him back to the base and heal him.”

    “Are you sure, my lady?” the man questioned. “Would that not be a risk?”

    “We cannot simply leave this young man here to die. If we did, we would be no better than Polaris… or that man Ghetsis… so, we must act. It is through acts of mercy to the innocent that we apologize for what we must do.”

    The prophet’s explanation sufficiently convinced her followers of her decision’s merits, so they lifted Renzo’s unconscious body onto their shoulders and moved him onto the backs of their two Donphan.

    This is a gtood scene. I think it would better with more narration. It basically boils down to 'it was cold, he was tired and he layed down and was going to freeze to death. You could have made the situation seem far more dire. Describe the bitter, biting cold, show the hopelessness as he knows he isn't going to make it, that he's failed in whatever his quest was, and that he's dragged his pokemon to their deaths along with him.


    A vast, orange sky barely fouled by clouds spread out over Route 32 the next evening. Olivia sat alone on one of the hills that dotted the landscape near the route’s southern end, taking the sight in while locked in silent contemplation.

    I always like sky descriptions that start with the word vast.

    Her reverie was only broken when Nekou walked up and sat down alongside her.

    “Hey, kid, how’re you doing?” she asked, offering Olivia one of the chocolate sticks she was eating, which the girl accepted. “You know, Roselia was great today against that fisherman’s Poliwag.”

    “Thanks…” Olivia mumbled, “…but I just… I just don’t get it.”

    “Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you?” Nekou was surprisingly sincere in her offer. “I’m a shoulder you can cry on.”

    “I just… don’t know what to feel. I’ve been battling these last few days because I wanted to find a reason for it… but I can’t… without my dad… I don’t understand it at all.”

    “You know, I don’t believe he’s completely gone, you know? I believe there are places people go when they die. He may have made mistakes, but I’m sure he was a good man. He’s probably watching you right now.”

    “Do… you really think so?” Olivia’s breathing was labored under the stress of the emotions she was suppressing, so she spoke very slowly.

    “Yeah, I do. If I might offer you some advice, though, you have to live for yourself. Find your own reasons for continuing on the path you’ve chosen. You want to keep being a trainer, right?”

    “I guess…”

    “Then find what makes you want to follow that path. You don’t have to follow anyone’s rules but your own, so live for your own reasons. That was something Maman taught me a long time ago, and my life has been so much better since then.” Looking out over the landscape, Nekou continued, “There’s only one way to get by in this world, and that’s by not letting others shackle you.”

    “But I don’t… my dad isn’t coming back, so I can’t fight to get him to come back…”

    “Just find something else you really want to fight for while not forgetting him. We’re all here to support you, so you’re not alone.”

    “You mean you’re here to support me…” This remark was tinged with bitterness, and Olivia turned her head away from Nekou.

    “You know, Olivia… it might not always seem like it, but Matt does care about you. He really does try to take care of you.”

    “What makes you say that? He lied to me all this time about where my dad was and now he’s been hiding instead of facing what he did!”

    “And I’m sure he feels horrible about that. But there is no doubt in my mind that he only sheltered you as he did because he believed it to be right. He only hasn’t been around the last couple of days because he doesn’t want to harm you further by making mistakes right now.”

    “How can I trust him again, though?”

    “You don’t have to. Not until he earns that trust again. But for now, I’m here for you.”

    “…am I a bad person for all those things I said back in Violet City? I am, aren’t I?”

    “You made a mistake, it’s not a big deal. I say, so what if you don’t have a perfect image? Perfect people, the ones who make no mistakes, have no flaws and have the world cater to them, those people are ****. This is an ugly world, so it needs ugly people like you and me to protect it. Do you understand?”

    “I… I think…” Suddenly, Olivia began tearing up. “Please don’t leave me.”

    “Don’t worry. I won’t.”

    Olivia and Nekou moved closer together so Olivia could rest her head on Nekou’s shoulder. Nekou then took out her music player, gave Olivia one of the headphones, and they started eating the chocolate sticks and listening to music together.

    Excellent characterization. I love it.

  14. #114
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    This chapter is going to feature some scenes with elevated violence, nothing too bad but it’s probably worth noting nevertheless.

    -:-

    CHAPTER 10: The Beasts Within

    -:-

    “What’s that up ahead?” Séduire shouted, noticing that the tunnel just a short distance away from the team was filled with a glowing red light. “Is that it?”

    “That’s…” The one of Mercury’s followers who was monitoring the energy field in the ruins forcefully tapped his finger against his computer screen, frustrated by the momentary lag in its system. When the scan finally did complete, though, his eyes widened in surprise and excitement. “That’s it! The Meteonite is right ahead of us! Let’s go get it!”

    “You heard him, all of you!” barked Mercury to her other followers. “Get moving!”

    No more words were spoken between the members of Polaris as they rallied forth to their goal. With Meowth bringing up the rear, the team charged into the final chamber of the altered Ruins of Alph.

    In that chamber, right before their eyes, awaited their prize – a large, rugged stone, partially buried in the earth and cloaked in red light. It was the only source of illumination in the room, but gave off enough light to show how small the room was.

    “We found it… the Meteonite!” another of Mercury’s followers cheered. “Father is going to be pleased with our work for Polaris!”

    The follower carrying the tracking equipment curled his facial features and waved his hand in front of his nose. “It’ll be nice to get out of this musty air.”

    After nodding toward the Meteonite, Mercury took out a transmitter and turned it on.

    “Mercury…?” Séduire questioned, unsure of what was to come next.

    “I’m calling Getriebe and Jeunes at the Purine Base so they’ll be ready to receive us,” Mercury replied, anticipating Séduire’s question. “You just have Meowth get the Unown to send us there.”

    -:-

    A large, sleek jet, surprisingly nimble and silent for its size, sailed through the cold night sky over the border between Johto and Kanto.

    Inside the craft, Finansielle had an office that was furnished well enough to pass as one inside a building. The Chromosome was sitting at her desk at the far end of the cabin, facing a plush, cream-colored sofa, a glass table and a large video monitor. Behind her on the wall was a floor-to-ceiling, backlit Polaris logo.

    Finansielle was reviewing papers when one of her aides entered the office carrying a brown file folder. He took only a few steps inside before halting and waiting to be acknowledged.

    “What is it?” she asked after briefly pretending to not see him.

    “We have the report on Zinzolin’s actions in Violet City fully compiled, Lady Finansielle,” the man stiffly replied, handing over the folder as carefully as he could. “There is also a call for you.”

    “Patch it in,” Finansielle commanded, showing little interest in him while thumbing through the contents of the file.

    After bowing to his superior, the man pressed a small button on the lapel of his black suit jacket. The screen in Finansielle’s office immediately activated to display Mercury and Séduire.

    Finansielle smiled wryly. “You two, eh? I didn’t expect a call from two people I imagined would be underground for a while.”

    “Well we got done sooner rather than later,” Mercury replied, taking on a smile herself. “The Meteonite’s safe with us here in Goldenrod City.”

    “You will have to wait for some time before we’re ready to extract it, though. Actually…” Looking back in the file, Finansielle came up with an idea. “Mercury, you head to the Guanosine Base and help them out with the research they’re conducting there. As for you, Séduire… how would you like a little playtime with that boy of yours you’re so fascinated with?”

    Behind her mask, Séduire’s eyes lit up. “You want me to go get Matt? Finally?”

    “No, no, I don’t want him brought in just yet. His little traveling show is going to be headed through Azalea Town soon, which means they’re heading in the direction of Goldenrod City and the Purine Base. I want you to ambush them in Ilex Forest and give them some trouble. See if you can’t keep them out of Goldenrod City until the extraction of the Meteonite can be carried out. I don’t want any interference like what he did in Violet City.”

    “I’ll do what I can, Finansielle.”

    At that, Mercury and Séduire ended the call, causing the video link between the Purine Base and Finansielle’s jet to be severed. Her aide also quickly excused himself, leaving Finansielle alone in her office once more.

    “And so the game begins, just as I predicted. Matt Chiaki, let’s see if you can live up to your grandfather’s name.”

    -:-

    Nekou and Olivia stayed on the hill until nearly no sunlight remained, then returned to the campsite near where Matt had parked the HR-E for the night. He was still nowhere to be seen, so they assumed that he was still inside the mobile home and decided to make a campfire for themselves. Both of them contributed using their Pokémon; Olivia had her Lillipup gather sticks, which Nekou’s Zorua then ignited with Incinerate.

    Once the fire was finished, the two sat near it. Olivia just stared into the flame, while Nekou started looking through the book she’d taken from the library of Earl’s Pokémon Academy.

    When Olivia finally turned away from the fire, she noticed the book and immediately questioned, “What are you reading?”

    “This is an old book Matt’s grandfather wrote with his assistant. It’s got stories on their explorations and research into the ancient Tenganist people.”

    “And where did you get that?”

    While Nekou was describing the book to Olivia, Matt had stepped out of the nearby brush. He looked somewhat haggard, with unkempt hair and a bag under his visible eye. His step was unsteady as he stumbled over to where they were sitting and lowered himself to join them.

    “I think I asked you a question,” he pressed.

    “I borrowed it from the library,” Nekou answered, grinning.

    “Yeah, knowing you, you stole it like Dr. Fantomos’s vodka, but I can’t do anything about that now. Did you at least find anything interesting in it?”

    “Yeah, one thing, actually. He and Jacob Alexison, his assistant at the time, keep bringing up someone named Saeko Oryo in this book.”

    “I don’t know that name. I never met that person, nor did my grandfather ever tell me about her.” Looking past Nekou, Matt saw Olivia trying and failing to avoid glaring angrily at him, and his heart sank even further. “Olivia…”

    Without a word, Nekou moved back, allowing Matt and Olivia to have a clear line of sight to each other.

    “I don’t have anything to say,” Olivia lied, keeping her voice to a raspy whisper.

    “Olivia, please, listen to me.” Matt scrunched up his face, but water still formed at the corner of his eye anyway. “I didn’t want to hurt you, really. Please let me help you.”

    “And what makes you think you can help me after all of that?” No longer able to restrain her emotions, Olivia simply screamed as loud as she could with what energy she had, startling a sleeping flock of Pidove out of a nearby tree. “No, I don’t need your help, not after what you claimed was help before!”

    “But…”

    Olivia completely disregarded Matt’s attempt to speak and continued ranting. “You lied to me for five years about him! It’s your fault I thought I could get him to come back! No, just… no. I don’t need you. I’ll find my own reasons for going on. I don’t need you at all.”

    With the entirety of her pent-up anger spent, Olivia turned her back on Matt and Nekou and buried her head in her arms.

    “O-Oli…” Matt fell onto his back, his body suddenly overcome by an overwhelming exhaustion.

    “Just tell me one thing,” Nekou said, leaning over him. “Why did you do it?”

    “It was what Rich wanted.”

    “Oh, don’t give me that ********, Matt. You and I both know he wouldn’t have wanted it to go on for as long as it did. Why did you let it continue for five years?”

    “I thought…” Matt shut his eyes and sighed, resigning himself to the fact that he could not avoid Nekou’s questioning. “Innocence is something that should be protected,” he explained, making sure to speak loudly enough for Olivia to hear even if his voice was weak. “Nobody should be robbed of their innocence and thrust into the harshness of reality at a young age. I didn’t want her to have to grow up too fast like I did. I took it upon myself to preserve her youth for as long as possible, even though I knew it would inevitably end like this…”

    “You want to know what I think about that?”

    Cringing in anticipation of some harsh words, Matt replied, “I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

    “I think you did what you really believed was right, but you just ****ed up. Stop beating yourself up. Everyone ****s up at one time or another.”

    “What I did was worse than just a mere ****up, if you ask me.”

    Nekou leaned even closer to Matt’s face, locking her eyes steadily with his. “So why don’t you tell me why you think that?”

    “I…” Matt suddenly realized that Nekou was right. He had no real reasoning for thinking the way he did. “I guess I see what you mean… but still, I was just thinking about how it was for me. By the time I was her age I had to put myself aside to take care of Amanda. I didn’t want Olivia to have to have that same feeling of being alone and needing to grow up quickly. There’s still so much she should experience before then.”

    “You did what you had to do,” Nekou said, never breaking her gaze from Matt’s tired eye. “But you can’t stop living just because you missed out on things in the past. Live in the present the way you want without concern for the past or future, like I do. And Olivia’s not alone, because she has all of us. So you ****ed up by letting the past consume you, but it’s something you can get past.”

    “I guess you’re right… I’ll have to figure out some way to do better for her.”

    Just then, the tension at the campsite was interrupted by two sounds – approaching footsteps in the nearby brush, accompanied by gentle harp music.

    “Well I’ll be damned,” Matt uttered as he propped himself up. “I recognize that…”

    Olivia recognized it as well, and turned around in a hurry. “Nando?”

    A figure wrapped in a long green cape emerged from the foliage, with what was visible of his face within his flowing black hair spread into a gentle smile. The source of the music was the golden, Mew-shaped harp in his arms, which he continued to strum as he walked to the fire, sat down and removed his wide-brimmed green hat, which he set down on the ground.

    “It is a pleasure to meet you once again, Olivia,” he said, his soft voice flavored by a noticeable accent. “Matt, you as well. It has been far too long.”

    “So who’s this Casanova here?”

    Though Nekou had directed her sarcastic question to Matt, the man answered it himself. “I am Nando, the Pokémon minstrel,” he replied in a sing-song manner. “I met Olivia for the first time five years ago when she was with her parents in a far-off land.”

    “So what are you doing here in Johto now?”

    “As always, Matt, I am collecting both the Gym Badges and Contest Ribbons of this country.”

    “How many Badges do you have now?” Olivia asked, returning to the circle with the others.

    “Here, Miss Olivia, allow me to show you.”

    After stashing his harp in the tan-colored messenger bag slung around his shoulder, Nando produced a silvery-blue, oval-shaped case. When he opened it, a collection of eight symbols was arranged inside. They were a round disc with a ladybug pattern, a yellow diamond, a purple cloud shape with silver eyes, an orange fist, a gray octagon, a blue water drop, a flower in rainbow colors, and a yellow circle with a smaller circle inside.

    “Eight Badges, the number required to enter the Pokémon League,” Nando said. “Hive, Plain, Fog, Storm, Boulder, Cascade, Rainbow and Marsh.”

    “Wait…” Olivia got to within an inch of Nando’s Badges, examining each one carefully. “Aren’t half of these from Kanto?”

    “Ah yes, you see, the Pokémon League of the Tohjo Continent is shared between Kanto and Johto. You need eight Badges, but they do not need to be all from one region or the other.”

    “Olivia, you could get a Kanto Badge to fill that missing slot,” Nekou suggested while lounging on the ground. “There are a couple good Gyms in Viridian City and Pewter City.”

    “I’ll… think about that.”

    As he noticed Olivia’s downcast attitude, Nando’s smile faded into a blank look of uncertainty. “Miss Olivia, what is wrong?”

    “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    “Okay, I respect that.” Nando put away his Badges, took his harp back out and turned to Matt. “Matt, are you not pursuing the Gyms of this country as well?”

    By this time, Matt had finally properly sat up again. “I’m not interested in any of that. I’m following the Frontier Society path, only because I’m seeking something I think only trainers like the Frontier Brains can lead me to. Speaking of which, I saw your battle at the Battle Arcade.”

    “That was quite the competition,” Nando gently chuckled, his smile returning. “Did you partake in it as well?”

    “Yeah, and I learned things from watching you that helped me win myself. Now we’re heading through Azalea Town to get to the Gym for Olivia, then on to Goldenrod City for their Gym and the Battle Factory.”

    “I see. As I already have the eight Badges I require, I am traveling through the Frontier Society to prepare for the Pokémon League. I am going directly to Goldenrod City, then I will be heading to the Battle Café in the National Park, followed by the Battle Hall in Ecruteak City. I would recommend that you go to the latter as well.”

    “Why is that?”

    Nando shut his eyes and ran his fingers across the strings of his harp. “Ecruteak City is a beautiful place steeped in mythology. You will love it. Of course…” After opening his eyes, he continued, “…if you are looking for battles the Battle Hall has quite the reputation. It is famous for the intense tournaments held there, in which sixteen trainers face off in what is said to be the harshest challenge of the entire Frontier Society.”

    “I’ll have to look forward to it,” Matt said, bitterly staring into the fire.

    Turning his attention back to Olivia, Nando asked, “Miss Olivia, would you like to train with me for a short while? I have a new Pokémon I would like to practice with, and every bit of training will pay off for you at the next Gym.”

    Olivia did not immediately reply, and as she was facing away from Matt and Nekou, both became nervous that something Nando had said had upset her. Their fears were unfounded, however, as she looked fairly cheerful when she turned around.

    “Sounds like a good idea, actually. Can you show me who I’m up against?”

    “Of course. Pansage, make your entrance!”

    Nando pulled a Poké Ball from his bag and threw it, releasing a small, green simian Pokémon. A growth on his head took the shape of a small tree.

    Realizing this was a Pokémon she did not know, Olivia took out her Pokédex and scanned him.

    “Pansage, the Grass Monkey Pokémon. Type is Grass. It’s good at finding Berries and gathers them from all over. It’s kind enough to share them with friends.”

    “That Pokémon suits you,” Olivia commented, smiling for the first time in what seemed like forever to Matt.

    “Thank you. Now, who shall my Pansage be facing?”

    “Let me think… oh, I know. Lillipup, let’s play!”

    Olivia brought out her Lillipup to face Nando’s Pansage, and he shook out his fur after materializing, having not expected to be battling so late – not long before midnight, in fact. On the sidelines, Nekou quietly took note of Olivia’s choice and lowered her eyebrows.

    “And do allow me to say, that Lillipup is quite a fine choice for you, Miss Olivia.”

    “Thanks, but I think it’s better if I show you… Lillipup, Tackle!”

    Thinking that she could get a drop on Pansage by abruptly giving an order, Olivia sent Lillipup running forth at the Grass-type as fast as his small legs could carry him.

    Nando wasn’t fooled by her tactic, though. “Vine Whip!” he softly but sharply commanded.

    A long, rope-like vine emerged from Pansage’s wrist, and he snapped it in Lillipup’s direction, lashing the small Normal-type Pokémon back. Lillipup whimpered, but picked himself off the ground and remained in the battle.

    “If at first you don’t succeed, right? Lillipup, try Tackle again!”

    “I commend you for your courage, but if you do the same thing, so shall I. Pansage, repeat the motion!”

    This time, though, as Pansage’s Vine Whip careened through the air toward Lillipup, Olivia had another plan in mind. “Stop there and Bite it!”

    Skidding to a stop, Lillipup opened his mouth and bit down on Pansage’s vine with his sharp fangs. The shock reverberated back through the vine to Pansage, whose body shuddered.

    “Well, well, it seems I may have underestimated you a bit, Miss Olivia.” Turning his eyes upward to look directly at Olivia, Nando powerfully said, “I would say that means this is where we really get started!”

    -:-

    Deep underground in another portion of the Ruins of Alph, Dante worked his way down a dark hallway with only a small flashlight to guide him. His road forward was narrow, and his cane clattered loudly against the damp stone floor with each step he took.

    That narrow road soon led him to a spacious, circular chamber. Realizing after a quick glance around that his meager flashlight would get him nowhere in searching the area, he instead turned his attention to the walls near the chamber’s entrance.

    “Let’s see… there should be a sign right about here…”

    Dante ran his fingers over the runes carved into the wall while he stared at them, carefully deciphering their meaning. The same indications of Volcarona as the clues on the upper floor existed there, but this wall was covered in characters establishing a completely different context.

    After several minutes of study, Dante pulled away from the wall. “That was an easy puzzle. Volcarona, you’re going to be quite an interesting Pokémon to study.”

    After freeing up his hand by temporarily holding his flashlight in his mouth, Dante reached into his coat and produced a stark white Premier Ball. His Alakazam emerged from the sphere once it was thrown.

    “Alakazam, use Psyshock,” Dante directed, taking the flashlight back into his hand. “Straight ahead.”

    With a nod, Alakazam complied. He crossed the spoons he held, and a silver bolt of energy arced from where they met. That energy flowed straight into the darkness and struck something, which responded with a shrill cry.

    In an instant, the entire chamber was flooded with light as the Volcarona unfurled her vivid orange wings. Smaller embers flickered from the white fur covering her body, and she cried out angrily a second time.

    “Volcarona, I’m honored to be in your presence!” Dante announced, putting the flashlight away. “However, it will not be Alakazam I will be facing you with. Haxorus!”
    Dante’s Haxorus joined her trainer, Alakazam and Volcarona once he released her from her Poké Ball. She had to squint in the bright light radiating from Volcarona’s body at first, but quickly adjusted.

    “So, shall we now get started? I would like to study what you’re capable of!”

    -:-

    The next morning, a small amount of sunlight peeked through the perpetual cloud cover over Route 33, a short road connecting Azalea Town to the Union Cave. The rainstorms that regularly drenched the route had let up for the time being, so a few trainers were out with their Pokémon. It was a fairly dreary, humid morning.

    Off the main path, where the terrain started to morph into the mountainous landscape to the north, the detective named Looker emerged from behind a rock. Standing near the edge of a short cliff, he removed a smartphone-like device from his heavy brown trench coat and looked at it. On its screen were several colorful charts, all displaying fluctuating readings.

    “Just like the energy of that night on Route 29, it is,” he growled to himself. “Nearby has happened something with that energy…”

    Looker scowled, put the phone back in his coat, and jogged off in the direction of an entrance to the cave.

    -:-

    Meanwhile, on the Route 32 side of Union Cave, Matt, Olivia and Nekou – having split from Nando the night before – had arrived at a Pokémon Center outpost. At the main desk, they had just finished loading their Poké Balls into trays for the nurse to heal their Pokémon.

    “That’ll be five hundred dollars each for the two of you without a Pokédex.”

    “Five hundred?” Matt gasped. “You’re not even charging the same as the Pokémon Center in Cherrygrove?”

    “We don’t get as much traffic out here, so we have to meet expectations somehow.”

    “What does that…”

    “Matt, fork it over,” Nekou interrupted. “I ain’t got all day. A thousand.”

    “Should’ve figured you’d make me pay for you. I guess that’s the benefit of doing all my lectures, though, being able to pay for things.”

    Matt briefly exchanged his card with the nurse to pay the charge, and after she returned it to him, she set about moving the three trays of Poké Balls to the healing machines.

    “Nekou, do you think I’ll do okay against the Gym Leader in Azalea Town?” Olivia questioned, her voice quiet and wavering. “I’m afraid I might mess up again…”

    In an attempt to give Olivia some physical reassurance, Nekou put both of her hands on Olivia’s shoulders. “Failure isn’t something to fear, but you shouldn’t expect to fail either. Go in with confidence and I doubt you can be stopped. Remember what we talked about? Fight for your own reasons. Do that, and I have complete faith in you. Have you found a reason you want to keep going?”

    “I… I think so.” As she spoke, Olivia looked down at the floor, unable to even come close to making eye contact with Nekou. “I think I want to get better to put Avril and Renzo in their places. I can’t let Avril get far ahead of me, considering she likely got the Zephyr Badge… and Renzo just has it coming after our last battle.”

    “That’s the spirit,” Nekou said with a broad smile. “Now just let that drive you.”

    Matt had been standing by and listening quietly to the exchange. He was so caught up in paying attention that he didn’t notice the nurse return with the trays until she announced as much, making him jump in surprise.

    As Matt, Nekou and Olivia lined up at the desk to collect their Pokémon, however, the nurse’s Chansey came running from the storerooms in the back of the Pokémon Center.

    “Chansey, what’s wrong?” the nurse asked in response to her Pokémon’s excited chatter. “Something’s happened?”

    “Chansey! Chansey!!” the Pokémon kept crying, gesturing wildly in the direction from which she had come.

    “I think she wants us to follow her. Come on!”

    The nurse climbed over the side of her desk and ran after her Pokémon, with the others following after a brief moment. They were led back to a storage room, and as soon as the nurse looked inside, she screamed.

    “What happened?” Nekou immediately questioned the nurse.

    “Look inside!” she hissed.

    Matt and Olivia both found their muscles tensed as they edged around the door with Nekou to have a look inside the room. What they found left them staring, wide-eyed.

    The room was in shambles, looking as if it had been ransacked by a thief. Shredded boxes were thrown everywhere, shelves were knocked over, and food – both processed Pokémon food and raw berries – was scattered all over the floor. Perhaps the most unexpected piece of destruction in the room, however, was the large hole punched right through the floor. Dumbstruck, Matt, Nekou, Olivia and the nurse all slowly stepped inside.

    “Can’t say this is what I expected,” Nekou remarked.

    “What do you think happened?” Olivia wondered aloud as she examined some of the damaged shelves. While running her hand over the metal, she suddenly found something. “Nekou, come over here! I found some sign of… something!” As soon as Nekou approached her, Olivia grabbed her friend’s arm and placed her hand on the same spot that Olivia herself had been checking moments earlier. “See? Feel that right there.”

    “Oh, I feel it, that’s for sure. Only a Pokémon could have slashed into the metal like this. Good job finding it, Olivia.”

    “The Pokémon from Union Cave must have decided to break in here and steal our stored food,” deduced the nurse. “But why? They’ve never shown any hostility to us here before.”

    “That tunnel ought to go back to where they came from, right?” Matt asked, pointing at the hole cut into the floor. “We’ll go down there and investigate it. If it leads through Union Cave, we need to pass through there anyway.”

    “If you would, that would be awfully helpful of you. Just call me when you find out what happened, would you?”

    -:-

    In a far-off, isolated cave, Pierce stood quietly by, watching as the Tenganists prepared their equipment and Pokémon, for a purpose he was only beginning to understand. Each of their small band seemed to have their own task to carry out under the prophet’s direction, he observed, and the Pokémon they possessed covered an exotic range from multiple regions.

    Pressing a button on the side of the device strapped to his wrist, Pierce activated a video transmission to Zager’s laboratory. “Dr. Zager,” he said as the scientist’s rumpled visage took form on the screen.

    “Ah, Pierce, I was wondering when I would hear from you.” Zager’s already raspy voice was made even more raw-sounding by the static in the transmitter’s connection. “What’s the current situation?”

    “All the supplies have been delivered and the intelligence Giovanni wanted me to pass on has been given. I have to say, things have really escalated...”

    “Tell me about it. The fact they requested bombs when we told them Polaris is planning to do something in Goldenrod City using the Magnet Train surprised me.” Zager briefly turned away from the screen, but quickly returned. “Oh, I was meaning to ask you to investigate something for me.”

    “What?”

    “I recently received some unusual intelligence regarding the Tenganists from one of our operatives, and it’s quite suspicious. What caught my eye is that the name Saeko Oryo is all over it. This might be someone who is very important, so I want you to learn what you can about her and relay it to me right away. I want to get firsthand accounts of who this is from the Tenganists themselves.”

    “Understandable. I’ll do what I can and get back to you. Pierce out.” With his conversation terminated, Pierce turned his attention to the Tenganist prophet, who was in the center of the cave giving orders to her followers while holding her child in her arms. He approached her with slow, deliberate steps and stood rigidly before her, but did not speak. Instead, he merely watched her with his words stuck in his throat.

    Eventually she turned around and initiated the exchange herself. “Oh, it’s you. What is it?”

    “One of my superiors wants me to talk to you about something. Or should I say, someone. I’ve been informed of someone named Saeko Oryo, and I’d like to know if she is linked to…”

    Pierce got caught up in his own words and didn’t realize how the prophet had frozen up. He only took notice when, well before he even finished his question, she smacked him across the face with enough force to nearly knock him over.

    “Don’t you ever say that name here again,” she growled, while Pierce could only stare at her in shock and hold his face. “We will take everything you’ve given us and dissolve this alliance immediately if you make that mistake a second time. Am I making myself clear?”

    “What’s going on?” Emerging from one of the cave’s side passages, Renzo had already obscured his face once again using his scarf and hat. “I demand to know where I am!”

    “I take it you managed to heal him, Alesia,” the prophet said to the auburn-haired, apron-wearing young woman who had emerged next to Renzo.

    “With my power it was easy,” Alesia responded. “I fixed him up good and quick.”

    “Who are you people? Just where am I?”

    “We are the Tenganists,” explained the prophet, “a race targeted for extinction by Ghet… Polaris. Many of our dwindling numbers have banded together to fight for survival by any means necessary.”

    “You were badly battered and unconscious in the thin air up in the mountains when you were found,” Alesia continued. “Our leader brought you here and I healed you using my power of Transcendence.”

    “Transcendence?” Renzo wondered.

    “It is a special power from within that many of us possess, manifesting differently in each individual. Alesia’s is the power to heal injury and disease, so make sure you thank her for that. Now... you asked where you are. You are currently just north of Blackthorn City, just outside the city’s borders.”

    “I made it to Blackthorn! Finally!”

    “Are you sure revealing the location of this base is a good idea?” Pierce abruptly questioned.

    The prophet sharply turned to face Pierce. “This base is soon to be abandoned. Once our equipment is prepared, we will leave.”

    While Pierce and the prophet continued their discussion, Renzo looked to Alesia in confusion. “Just who is she?”

    “The symbol of hope rising from the ashes for us all,” Alesia replied, turning somber and reflective. “They say she was there when it all began. When Ghetsis annihilated the very first community in his campaign against our people, she was the only one to survive. As our people were systematically killed, she emerged as a symbol of hope to both protect us and empower us to fight back.”

    “Do you know who she is under the cloak?” Renzo was genuinely interested in Alesia’s story, and was concentrating intensely on it.

    “Only a few of us know who she really is, those who have been alongside her the longest. We just know her as the prophet of our people. If it wasn’t for her, we as a people would not exist anymore. We would have fallen into complete despair long ago.”

    Renzo glanced back up at the prophet, who was still speaking to Pierce. He could not put words to what he was feeling.

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  15. #115
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    -:-

    Matt, Nekou and Olivia were underground, having followed the tunnel from the ransacked room of the Pokémon Center into the main passages of Union Cave. It was a dank, dark place, and their exploration was guided only by the lantern Matt held, its light reflecting off the water dripping down the stone walls.

    “It feels like we’ve been down here forever,” Olivia complained. “I don’t like it here.”

    “You gotta deal with caves if you’re going to be a traveling trainer… because for some ****ing reason the government insists on building roads right through them.”

    Nekou’s cynicism made Matt smile, but he remained silent and focused on the path ahead.

    In short order, he spotted something lying on the ground, and held the lantern toward it.

    “What’s that?” Olivia ran ahead, picked up the object she’d spotted, and quizzically examined it. It was a hard, bulbous and yellow piece of fruit. “A Sitrus Berry?”

    “Doubtlessly something taken from the Pokémon Center.”

    While Olivia and Nekou talked, Matt continued shining the light around, looking to see if the thieves were anywhere nearby. At first there appeared to be no other living things around, but an insistent uneasy feeling compelled him to keep searching.

    When a threat finally appeared, though, it wasn’t he who saw it coming. Nekou was the one to react, pulling both Matt and Olivia out of the way of a flurry of rocks flung in their direction.

    “What was that?!” Matt gasped, falling to his hands and knees.

    “Watch your ****ing head, that’s what.” Nekou picked up the lantern and held it in the direction of where the rocks had come from, revealing four Geodude with dull, blank looks in their eyes.

    “Think those Geodude are the Pokémon we’re looking for?” asked Olivia. “Wait, no, they can’t be. The damage in the Pokémon Center looked like claw marks.”

    “Good deduction, Olivia. Something’s clearly wrong with these Geodude, though…”

    Looking over at the four Pokémon, Matt opened the eyepiece covering his artificial left eye. “There’s some kind of strange energy residue here that looks like it’s affecting them. Wait… this is just like what happened on Route 29 with the Pawniard!”

    What Matt failed to realize, however, was that Olivia still had deep fear of what had happened that day. His bringing it back up triggered those fears, and the color drained away from her face.

    “I’ll stop them,” she said, her voice shaking as much as the arm she held one of her Poké Balls in. “It won’t happen again…”

    Her Oshawott appeared from the Poké Ball and stood between her and the Geodude. Matt wasn’t thrilled by what he was seeing, though, and started to reach out to her.

    “Matt, stop right there,” Nekou scolded him, making him freeze up. “Don’t make the same mistake you made before. She can’t be sheltered forever.”

    “Y-you’re right…”

    The Geodude weren’t interested in anything the three had to say. To them, Matt, Nekou and Olivia were intruders, and with the energy of the Meteonite exaggerating their thoughts, they attacked again. This time, their four Rock Throw attacks were all directed at Oshawott.

    “Get out of the way and use Water Gun!”

    One advantage Oshawott decisively held over all of the Geodude was in terms of speed; though the four Rock-and-Ground-type Pokémon attacked as a group, Oshawott was able to effectively sidestep around each stone thrown his way before retaliating with a gush of water washing over all four.

    “Yeah, you go for it!” Nekou called out in encouragement, even as two of the Geodude managed to rise for more fighting. “Oshawott, you too! Both of you have this!”

    Nekou’s words prompted a smile from Olivia – her first in some time – as her spirit was uplifted. Off to the side, Matt watched with amazed respect for them both.

    The two Geodude who avoided fainting pulled themselves up with their strong arms and turned angrily to Olivia and Oshawott. One of them threw himself at the Water-type, attempting to hit him with a Mega Punch attack. Oshawott managed to dodge it only to step right into the path of the other Geodude’s Rock Throw.

    Olivia’s eyes widened and her breathing grew short as she watched Oshawott fall onto his back. He wasn’t downed just yet, but the violent impact of the stone Geodude threw at him left his entire torso bruised.

    “Oshawott…” she blankly whispered, her arm trembling by her side.

    Hearing his trainer say his name drove Oshawott’s determination to earn her respect, and he pulled himself back up from the ground. Olivia drew a quiet gasp as she watched Oshawott growl at the two remaining Geodude, as if he was daring them to attack.

    If it was a dare, it worked. The Geodude that had lunged at Oshawott did so again, his arm pulled back in preparation for another Mega Punch attempt. Oshawott handily sidestepped out of the way, but this time, he fully expected the other Geodude’s Rock Throw and immediately ducked to avoid it.

    Olivia felt an unexpected surge of confidence rising in herself when she saw Oshawott’s determination. It was enough to drive her to take charge and call out, “Hit them both with a spinning Water Gun!”

    Buoyed by the respect he perceived Olivia to be giving him, Oshawott resolved to decisively finish the fight and threw himself into a spiral motion. Neither Geodude anticipated such a move, so both fell to the torrent of water that spun through the corridor.

    “Impressive,” Nekou commented once the battle had concluded, pushing up her glasses as she spoke. “Even with such a distinct type advantage, taking four Geodude with just one Pokémon of your own is pretty good.”

    “Thanks!” Olivia replied, smiling broadly.

    “So what do you think? Will you try to give Oshawott more of a chance now?”

    Seeing the look of confusion Nekou’s question had left Olivia with, Matt stepped up to them and intervened, even though all he could manage was ineffectually asking, “What?”

    “I’ve been paying attention to Olivia’s battles since we left Violet City,” Nekou explained. “I noticed that she’s given every Pokémon she has but Oshawott a chance before now.” Olivia fidgeted, frowned and turned away as Nekou turned to her. “I’m not mad at you, Olivia, I just want to know what you’re thinking.”

    “I… I just…” Caught at a loss for words, Olivia turned her back on Nekou, only to realize that doing so made her face Oshawott, which prompted her to turn partially away from them both. “I’m still torn on it. I still haven’t gotten comfortable with all of this.”

    “That’s perfectly fine. Just don’t give up on Oshawott yet, okay? It hasn’t been that long.”

    “I guess you’re right…” Olivia listlessly uttered. “So much has been going on… it’s not like how I thought this journey would be.”

    “Let’s keep going,” Matt suggested. “If we focus on finding whoever stole the food from the Pokémon Center, maybe that’ll help.”

    “So you’ve got a good idea for once,” Nekou deadpanned.

    -:-

    With Ghetsis standing rigidly outside their cage, Anthea and Concordia sang in haunting voices that echoed in the room. Their book of Tenganist myth had been discarded to the sheets making up the floor of their prison, left open on the page of music that dictated the melody the two were reciting.

    “To think that it was this song all along,” Ghetsis sneered as they finished. “Team Rocket’s actions revealed the truth to us and we were too shortsighted to see it… Come!”

    By banging his cane on the floor, Ghetsis summoned Pestilence and Chaos to the room. They weren’t alone when they teleported in, though; with them was a third man, whose torn lab coat, tousled brown hair and broken glasses spoke to how poor a state he was in.

    “Confirm that that’s the song,” Polaris’s spokesman ordered the shambling wreck of a man.

    “What are you going to do with it?” the man demanded, spitting a small amount of blood as he spoke. “You drape yourselves in being noble warriors for the people, but this is just…”

    Stepping in front of the man, Ghetsis placed the end of his cane under his prisoner’s chin and used it to lift his head slightly. “I know everything about you and how to get what I want from you, so for the sake of your wife and son, Professor Elm, confirm that these two pieces of human trash are telling me the truth. Is this the song that unlocks the hidden power within the Bell Tower or not?”

    His spirit sufficiently broken by Ghetsis’s menacing threats, Professor Elm submitted to him and weakly nodded. “It is, but you can’t use it without…”

    “…the Clear Bell?” Ghetsis guessed, completing Elm’s sentence and terrifying the professor further. “You don’t need to worry about that. We’ve already taken care of it.”

    Just then, Darkness teleported into the room to join the other Shadow Triad members. He kneeled before Ghetsis, then said, “Lord Ghetsis, sir, we must begin preparations for your speech tomorrow.”

    “Very well. Elm, you and the two witches behind me will soon be vital parts of the beginning of my new and perfect era of humanity, so all of you just stand by and wait for that wonderful day to arrive.”

    -:-

    In a chamber beneath Giovanni’s Viridian City mansion, Jessie, James and Ariana stood in a line next to their car. They became even more stiffly official once he actually arrived, with Stacia following loyally behind him.

    “Hail Giovanni!” all three of them recited as their boss stood before them.

    “I trust everything is being handled according to the plans laid out in Operation Atlas?” Giovanni questioned.

    “Giovanni, sir, everything is exactly as you ordered it,” Jessie answered.

    “We have further information available for you once you get in the car, sir!” James added, eager to get in actions to earn Giovanni’s praise for himself.

    “Very well, let us have a look.”

    Ariana got back in the front of the car, while Jessie and James held the door so Giovanni could enter the back before they did. Once all four had entered the vehicle, James handed Giovanni the R-Pad.

    Team Rocket’s script ‘R’ logo briefly appeared on the screen, then a video feed of Dr. Zager materialized.

    “Hail Giovanni!” Zager declared the instant he could see his boss’s face.

    “Give me updates, Zager,” Giovanni demanded. “Exactly where do we stand at this moment?”

    “The Polaris cell in Goldenrod City has been infiltrated, according to our latest reports, but our mole hasn’t been successful yet in finding out who is in charge there. It’s been difficult to find out actual names with the higher-ups of Polaris using code names to hide their identities.”

    “What about the Atlas Program? Has it been effective?”

    “Remarkably so, Giovanni. By using our satellite, the field agent who helped create the program uploaded it into the International Police’s servers completely without notice. There’s now an undetectable piece of mutating code buried deep in their systems, erasing any and all evidence Team Rocket ever were recognized as criminals. They’re no longer an issue for us… now it’s truly us against Polaris.”

    “Excellent work. I’ll make sure to let Rosalie and her team know how well they did when I see them in Goldenrod City.”

    “Best of luck, Giovanni, sir.”

    When Zager disappeared from the R-Pad’s screen, Giovanni passed the computer back to James. Before Ariana could do more than start the car, though, Stacia appeared at one of the windows, prompting Giovanni to roll it down.

    “Please be careful out there, Mr. Giovanni,” she said, bowing to him and refusing to make eye contact at first. As soon as she realized that Jessie and James were watching, though, she turned formal again and pushed her glasses up. “I-I’ll look forward to hearing of your great success in defeating Polaris.”

    Stacia sharply turned away, preventing those in the car from seeing any of the emotion she might have been showing, and left the chamber.

    “You all done back there?” Ariana asked, craning her head to look back from the driver’s seat.

    “It’s finished, Ariana,” Giovanni replied while rolling the window back up. “We must get going.”

    “Alright, alright.” Narrowing her eyes and smirking, Ariana said, “You still make Zager say ‘Hail Giovanni?’”

    With that, Ariana hit the gas and drove off into the network of underground tunnels she’d used to arrive beneath Viridian City.

    -:-

    Matt, Nekou and Olivia spent quite some time searching Union Cave for evidence of the culprit behind the Pokémon Center burglary, but aside from several Sandshrew exhibiting the same strange behavior as the Geodude that Olivia defeated with her Roselia, there was little evidence aside from more dropped Sitrus Berries.

    All of that would soon change, as after finding several dropped Berries in close proximity to each other, they happened upon a bizarre scene – five black-and-blue-bodied mole Pokémon with large noses and claws, clearly affected by the same phenomenon as the Geodude and Sandshrew, were attacking a group of Zubat and Rattata. A large pile of Sitrus Berries was lying on the ground nearby next to an underground river.

    “What the hell is going on here?” Matt exclaimed the moment they came across the fight. “Look at those Sitrus Berries over there… I bet these Pokémon are the ones who stole them!”

    “No ****,” Nekou sarcastically muttered. “Seriously, though, the claws of those Drilbur match the claw marks on the shelves in the Pokémon Center.”

    “Drilbur?”

    Intrigued, Olivia took out her Pokédex and pointed it at the group of Pokémon.

    “Drilbur, the Mole Pokémon. Type is Ground. By spinning its body, it can dig straight through the ground at a speed of 30 mph.”

    Unfortunately for the three, while Olivia was listening to the Pokédex’s description, the five Drilbur had finished off their foes and turned their attention to the group themselves. One of the Drilbur, standing in front of the others, raised up his claw and shouted at them.

    “I think that’s the leader,” Matt deduced. “I’ll take care of that one. You two handle the others!”

    “Alright. Come on, Olivia, fight with me. It’ll be fun.”

    “Huh? Oh… alright, then. Roselia, Oshawott, let’s play!”

    “Marie, Dalian, you join those two!”

    To oppose their share of the Drilbur horde, Olivia sent Oshawott back out along with her Roselia to join forces with Nekou’s Sneasel and Gothorita. The four Drilbur they had to face stared at the team with the same strange, empty looks the Geodude had.

    “Olivia, I’ll take the lead,” Nekou quietly suggested. “You slip in and take them out when a window opens.”

    “Alright, I got it!” Olivia cheerfully replied.

    Nekou smiled at Olivia, then quickly turned back to the Drilbur. “Marie, use Ice Beam!” she commanded before the Ground-type Pokémon could attack.

    The two Drilbur closest to the direct path of the freezing beam Marie shot from her mouth jumped back to avoid being struck by it, bringing them very close to their two companions.

    “Just what I wanted,” Nekou whispered to herself with a smirk. “Dalian, mow them down! Energy Ball!”

    With her targets clustered together, Dalian had a much easier time aiming at them. She brought her arms together and formed a green sphere of energy, which she then threw at them. Two of the Drilbur tried to stop the oncoming Energy Ball by kicking up dirt with their claws, but their Mud-Slap shields failed to do anything. Dalian’s attack struck the four Ground-types with explosive force, scattering them in the dirt.

    “Do your thing, Olivia, it’s all yours!”

    Nekou stepped back and recalled Marie and Dalian, allowing Olivia the opening she had been promised.

    Without hesitation, she eagerly seized it, calling out, “Roselia, you use Energy Ball, too! Oshawott, follow it up with Water Gun!”

    The Drilbur were only beginning to regroup when another Energy Ball descended upon them, this one courtesy of Olivia’s Roselia. Only one of the four took a direct hit, but he was thrown into another of his companions and knocked her down as well. The whole group was then drenched when Oshawott let an even more powerful Water Gun loose on them.

    Three of the Drilbur fainted and collapsed, but the final one turned violently on Olivia. He stood on his toes, extended his arms to his sides, and flung himself at Oshawott while spinning in a vicious spiral.

    In a bid to stop the Drilbur’s Rapid Spin, Oshawott reached for where his shell would have been, forgetting that it still hadn’t grown back. He froze once he realized it wasn’t there, leaving himself completely open to being run down.

    “Oh… there’s no point in forcing this.” Taking Oshawott’s Poké Ball in her hand, Olivia quietly directed, “Roselia, cover for Oshawott and finish up. Oshawott, retu…”

    Hearing his trainer want to call him back caused something in Oshawott’s mind to snap. He pulled his battered, bruised body off the ground, and though he was trembling all over, he leveraged all the injuries he’d suffered against both the Geodude and the Drilbur as a way to call upon his full power. A bright blue aura surrounded him, and he cried out to the ceiling of the cavern.

    “…Oshawott?” Olivia said, taken aback by this sudden turn.

    “That’s Oshawott’s ability, Torrent!” Nekou exclaimed. “Water-type moves are stronger now that Oshawott’s near fainting, so go for it!”

    “Is that so? Well then… Oshawott, show that Drilbur what you’re made of! Water Gun!”

    Oshawott locked his fiery gaze on the last standing Drilbur. His eyes were so intense that if the Drilbur’s mind wasn’t warped by the Meteonite’s energy, the Ground-type would have been intimidated into fleeing. As he was unable to think clearly, though, he lunged at Oshawott while using Rapid Spin again – only to be swiftly and decisively cut down by the gigantic flood of water Oshawott unleashed.

    “O-oh, wow…” Olivia was barely able to speak with how stunned she was by Oshawott’s display of power. “That was pretty awesome, Oshawott.”

    Though he was exhausted from fighting so much, Oshawott grinned broadly and cheered for himself, having gained praise from Olivia.

    “Just awesome?” Nekou chimed in. “No, that was pretty badass. You keep kicking *** like that and Avril won’t know what hit her.”

    “Oh, you better believe it. Next time I see her I’m bringing it right to her.”

    Meanwhile, while Nekou and Olivia had been busy dealing with the Drilbur horde, Matt was engaged in a standoff with the fifth Drilbur. In keeping with his promise to Nikolai to use her more often, Matt had gone with Charlotte for the battle. There hadn’t been much in the way of actual fighting, however, just Matt’s Eelektrik and the wild Drilbur constantly jousting for position.

    “Electric-type moves aren’t going to work, so that makes Charge Beam and Thunder Wave useless… I guess in that case I’ll just have to try Headbutt!”

    Charlotte lunged headfirst through the air toward the Drilbur, who retaliated by curling up his body into the shape of a drill and spiraling right into her. Both got thrown back when they impacted each other, but Charlotte took a much more severe blow, being tossed several feet across the cave.

    Taken aback by this turn, Matt stared wide-eyed while Charlotte lifted herself from the ground. “That was Drill Run, I could tell… but that’s a Ground-type move, and Eelektrik has Levitate…”

    “That Drilbur’s ability must be Mold Breaker!” Nekou interjected, while watching the battle with Olivia. “Some Pokémon have rare, unusual abilities. That must be one of them.”

    “I see… thanks for the advice. Knowing that, Charlotte, go ahead and use Headbutt again!”

    The scenario repeated itself; within moments, Charlotte and Drilbur were heading straight for another clash of Headbutt and Drill Run. This time, however, Matt had a plan.

    “Acid Spray, quickly!”

    As part of using Drill Run, Drilbur had to cover his face, and thus couldn’t see when Charlotte twisted out of the way. He halted his attack and unfolded as soon as he realized he hadn’t hit his target, then turned around to face Charlotte – only to get a face full of the orange acid she choked up. Now blinded by the substance having splashed in his eyes, Drilbur was left completely helpless.

    “And now, Charlotte, use Headbutt one more time!”

    Charlotte lifted herself through the air and dive-bombed the Drilbur, slamming him into the ground. With the Pokémon effectively stopped, Matt reached into his bag, pulled out a Poké Ball, and threw it.

    Olivia, Oshawott, Roselia, Nekou and Charlotte all watched closely with Matt as his Poké Ball wobbled in the pit left by the Drilbur. Before long, it stopped, indicating a successful capture.

    “Well, we can consider this case closed,” Matt said. He picked up the Poké Ball that now contained his new Drilbur and put it in his bag. “There must be another of those Meteonite pieces somewhere nearby. Those Drilbur were acting just like the Pawniard and Bisharp did under its influence.”

    “That’s probably a safe bet,” Nekou agreed. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Polaris has something to do with this…”

    “What?”

    “Yeah, Nekou, what are you talking about?” the equally-confused Olivia asked.

    Before Nekou could answer, the whole cave started to shake, instantly cutting off the conversation.

    “The **** is that?”

    “An earthquake?” Matt stammered. “But why here?”

    “You guys, I think we better get out of here…”

    “That’s a good idea, Olivia,” Matt said, sending Charlotte back to her Poké Ball. “Come on!”

    They turned and started to leave, but before they could make it far, the nearby wall exploded in a cloud of dust and rock, creating a cloud that filled the area and a blast that threw all three of them down.

    “What… what was that?! Olivia!” The dust cloud obscured all sight, so Matt was left to frantically feel around blindly for his charge’s hand. He came across an arm fairly quickly and grabbed it.

    “It’s me, ***!” Nekou shrilled, pulling her arm out of Matt’s grip. “Don’t worry about me, find Olivia…”

    A great roar shook the passage, both blasting away the dust and causing Olivia to scream. She was collapsed with her back against one of the cave’s walls, with an Onix towering over her. Just like the Geodude and Drilbur, the Onix’s eyes were empty and soulless.

    “Oh, ****, not again.”

    “I’ll make a diversion of myself,” Matt volunteered, just about instantly. “As soon as I draw its attention, get Olivia out of there.” Without giving Nekou a chance to say anything about the plan, Matt pulled a Poké Ball from his bag and threw it, releasing a Hitmonchan that immediately braced for battle. “Rocky, use Drain Punch!”

    The boxing glove around Rocky’s right fist took became enveloped in spiraling green energy, and using his thin but surprisingly powerful legs, he dashed toward the Onix, jumped onto her near her tail, then used the rocks comprising her body to ascend and strike her in the head. His body was briefly covered with the same green glow as he leapt back afterward.

    Matt’s plan worked. The Onix angrily turned her gaze to him and growled in a voice deep enough to nearly cause another earthquake.

    Though his body was getting tense against his will, Matt continued with his intentions. “Was that painful for you?” he taunted while gesturing for Nekou to go to Olivia. “You’re a big Pokémon! Was one little punch all it took?”

    In the midst of the rumbling coming from the Onix, Nekou snuck around the edge of the passage and reached Olivia. “It’s alright, Olivia, we’re going to **** that Onix up. Don’t be afraid of it.”

    Despite her attempts to be quiet, however, the Onix somehow heard Nekou’s threat and shifted her glance back in Olivia’s direction. Once the Rock-and-Ground-type Pokémon saw Nekou and Olivia together, she roared in rage, whipped back around and raised her tail.

    “It’s my fault, get away!”

    Time seemed to slow down for both Matt and Olivia the moment Nekou pushed the latter away from her. Both of them could only watch in gut-wrenching horror as the Onix smashed her tail into Nekou right before their eyes, seemingly crushing her into the wall.

    “Nekou!!” Olivia tearfully cried out. “No, not now… I needed you…”

    “Not again… not again…” Matt kept repeating to himself, images of Eleanor’s death playing in his head like a wretched recording. He began convulsing and could barely stand, let alone coherently speak. “Not again… no, no, no, no…” Suddenly, he sharply lashed his head upward and trained a nearly insane glare on the Onix. “If that’s how it’s going to be… Rocky, show no mercy! Drain Punch! Do it repeatedly!”

    Seeing his Hitmonchan relentlessly striking the Onix gave Matt no catharsis; all he could think of was how he had once again been unable to stop an entirely preventable death. This time was more severe to him, though, a fact he realized when he looked down to see Olivia’s face covered in tears. He felt as if he had let two people die.

    Neither Matt nor Olivia could have ever expected what happened next.

    Nekou broke from the wall she had been crushed into, having somehow survived the blow, and fell forward onto her hands and knees before standing up hunched. Her arms hung loosely at her sides, and when she turned upward to face the Onix directly, her eyes were glowing yellow once again.

    “N-Nekou?” Olivia stuttered, blinking away her tears.

    “I have a bad feeling about this,” Matt nervously said.

    Snarling, Nekou lunged directly at the Onix, exhibiting nearly inhuman reflexes while doing so. She punched the Pokémon with a closed fist and actually hit with enough force to make her roar in pain. A sharp cracking at the moment of impact revealed the broken hand that came as Nekou’s price for such strength, but barely seemed to affect her.

    “We have to help her, Olivia, so use Roselia. Rocky, Ice Punch!”

    Quickly recalling Oshawott, Olivia took Matt’s advice and shouted, “Energy Ball!”

    Rocky was in position to simply turn around and strike Onix’s back with her fist enveloped in freezing cold air. Roselia, meanwhile, struck the Rock-and-Ground-type’s head with her Energy Ball, causing the Onix to convulse violently.

    Suddenly, Nekou – having already regained use of her right hand – screamed out and shoved against the Onix’s body with incredible force, causing the Pokémon to fall backwards and ultimately land with her huge head in the river. Between all of the damage from the Pokémon, the blows inflicted by Nekou and the water in the river, Onix could take no more and fainted.

    “She already healed that hand?!” Matt gasped. “We beat Onix, but that doesn’t make any sense…”

    It wasn’t over, however. The bizarre, animalistic rage consuming Nekou didn’t abate simply because Onix was defeated, and she lashed around, fixing her insane gaze on Matt. Unhindered by her hair, which had become long enough to nearly touch the ground, she rushed him, baring her teeth. He had barely enough time to reflexively hold up one arm to defend himself, and it being made of metal was the only reason she didn’t end up biting through it.

    “The **** has gotten into you, Nekou?! Snap out of it!” he pleaded.

    She responded by grabbing his shoulders and flinging him into the unconscious Onix, which shook him up more than it actually injured him. He stumbled up only to find her rushing him again, which he avoided by jumping out of her path in a panic.

    Her relentless assault didn’t let up, and in mere seconds she was on top of him again, attempting to slash at him with her hands. He barely managed to weave away, and he was forced to kick her away with his artificial left leg to open up some space between them.

    “Stop it! Please, no more! I don’t want this anymore!”

    Nekou was just in the course of recovering so she could attack Matt again when Olivia interrupted with her fearful screams. Olivia’s voice somehow got through to her, and even though she remained hunched and snarling, she stopped her vicious attacks and seemed to be thinking.

    “Be using Brick Break, Toxicroak!”

    Out of nowhere, a Toxicroak appeared and slammed his fist down on Nekou’s head, instantly knocking her out. She fell sideways into the flowing water of the underground river.

    -:-

    “There’s a phone call from the holy land,” Alesia said to the prophet, the two of them standing amongst a number of other Tenganists still preparing their Pokémon.

    “From the holy land? That can’t be good. Give me the phone, please.” After taking the phone from her subordinate, the prophet said into it, “What happened?”

    “An uninvited guest turned up here,” a male voice responded. “She just appeared in the temple, and seemed very confused. She thought she was in the Ruins of Alph.”

    “I don’t have time to figure out what’s going on. We’re busy preparing for our operation. If you don’t think she’s a threat, tell her not to tell anyone what she saw and have the old man send her back to the Ruins of Alph with his Abra.”

    -:-

    Nekou abruptly awoke several hours later, only to find herself staring at the ceiling of a darkened hospital room in a Pokémon Center. She was disoriented by her surroundings, and was left breathing heavily.

    “I see you’re finally awake,” Matt said.

    Startled, she sat up in her bed, discovering that he was the only one with her in the room, sitting next to the bed with his elbows rested on his knees. He wasn’t wearing his coat or carrying his bag.

    “G-get the **** out of my room. Stop watching me sleep.”

    “You weren’t sleeping. Please don’t push me away right now.”

    “What happened…?” The magnitude of the situation began to slowly dawn on her, and her voice became shallow and quiet. “Oh no, it… it happened, didn’t it?”

    “If by ‘it’ you mean you surviving what should have been a fatal injury and then turning into an animalistic killing machine… yeah, that happened. That detective, Looker, he turned up and knocked you out with his Toxicroak.” Matt sighed and closed his eyes. His head felt heavy. “You fell into a river in Union Cave and got washed out into Route 33. Olivia and I found you washed up in the rain and I kept you warm in my coat as we brought you here… to Azalea Town’s Pokémon Center. But none of that’s important. We’re all worried about you.”

    Nekou didn’t say anything right away, instead choosing to bite her lip and search for something to say. She wouldn’t make eye contact with Matt either, which was what him realize just how wrong things were.

    “Will these help you feel better?”

    Reaching into his bag, Matt produced Nekou’s music player and a can of beer, both of which he handed over to her right away. She immediately opened the beer can to sip at it, but still didn’t look at Matt.

    Suddenly getting a flash of intuition, Matt asked, “Are you worried about how Olivia took it?” Nekou nodded in response, prompting Matt to say, “Olivia was freaked out by what happened, I’ll be honest. But she’s worried too… I almost think she’s more worried about you than how she felt about it herself. She’s only not here because she was so tired she needed to sleep.”

    “You mean I didn’t attack her?”

    “No. In fact, when Olivia called out to you, it actually got through to you somehow.”

    This finally got her to look back at him, her eyes reflecting true fear – something incredibly rare for her. “I…I’m sick, I know… But I don’t know why that happens… and I’m embarrassed you all saw it… it’s my curse, nobody else should have to witness it…”

    “I could sit here and question how someone turns into a beast like that,” he said, shaking his head, “but I’m not going to. If there’s anything I can tell it’s that objectifying you like some sort of test subject is wrong. But let me ask you, why do you not want anyone to see it? You said you considered it embarrassing, right?”

    When Nekou nodded, Matt stood and began working to undo the buttons on his shirt.

    “Get the **** away from me!” Nekou shouted, pulling back on the bed. “You come at me and I’ll **** you up!”

    “I’m not doing anything of the sort,” Matt responded. “You said you were embarrassed because I saw what happened in the cave. I’m going to make up for that by showing you a shame I carry.”

    “What are you talking about? Why?”

    “Because I’m not going to judge you for what you suffer from, and I trust you to know something about me. It’s only fair that way.”

    “Wait, you’re not afraid of me knowing whatever secret you’re about to tell me?” Nekou questioned. She was incredulous that Matt was actually putting so much trust in her. “I wouldn’t do the same.”

    “I know you wouldn’t… but I also think there’s more to you than that. The feeling I get is that you would keep your secrets to protect yourself.”

    With that, Matt undid the final button and pulled the left side of his shirt open, revealing that the left side of his torso was covered in burn scars.

    Much to his surprise, though, Nekou didn’t seem fazed in the least by what she saw. “What did that to you?”

    “The same thing that made me lose my left eye burned up a whole lot more,” he explained in a sad voice. “When I was given this body to rehabilitate myself from those injuries, I got my face repaired… but I didn’t want to do the same for these. They remind me of my failures and of what I must be driven to find.”

    Nekou did not respond. She only looked away and tried to ponder all the things running through her head at once. Primary among them was her utter shock at her fear of being judged over her strange abilities not being validated. Acceptance was a rare thing for her when it came to that, and she had to fight with herself over whether or not to tell Matt any more.






    END of CHAPTER 10

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  16. #116
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    This was without a doubt one of the best chapters you've written. There were so many things that went on that I really liked a lot, Nekou's inner weakness being fleshed out and in such a vivid way, more character development for Olivia and coming to treat Oshawott a little bit better, Oshawott's personality, Nando's appearance, the Drilbur horde attack scene,(This wouldn't happen to be an allusion to the new battle feature in XY?) Renzo, the Rockets, the battle scenes.

    Strangely enough I found myself feel some relation toward Oshawott and his desire to prove his worth to Olivia during the battle scenes, his goal is to prove himself to her. You've done a good job of fleshing out his personality and desires, he's so adorable and relatable because he feels like a down-on-his-luck character doing his best to prove himself who fails at times(Pidgeotto, Gurdurr) but when his resolve was tested he truly did shine and seeing Torrent was a surprise. I also commend you on your explanation on some Pokemon having Hidden Abilities. But overall you can really tell Olivia is growing toward Oshawott and Nekou is encouraging that growth nicely.

    You certainly do have a knack for writing character interactions, some of my favorites throughout this chapter:

    “Just awesome?” Nekou chimed in. “No, that was pretty badass. You keep kicking *** like that and Avril won’t know what hit her.”

    “Oh, you better believe it. Next time I see her I’m bringing it right to her.”
    As for Drilbur's capture, that was unexpected. That reminds me, how many different Pokemon does Matt have? IIRC, he should have around 10-20 or so different one's. Though my memories a bit fuzzy on the matter.

    The Olivia scene with Nekou going wild and the color of her eyes changing really was something else, it almost reminds me of a certain character from Neon Genesis Evangelion. But wow that was really something else, the protection of Olivia before the Onix rammed her was an intense scene. Little did I expect Looker to actually have any Pokemon, let alone a Toxicroak. Nice allusion to his in-game Croagunk there.

    The heart-to-heart scenes between Nekou and Matt were nice, we have Nekou giving Matt some heartfelt words to make him feel better after the Rich fiasco and Matt doing something similar at the end of the chapter. It's a nice point, because it reminds the reader that despite both being mature and capable adults in their own rights they still have flaws and weaknesses at the end of the day. For one Olivia needs Nekou badly given her distaste of Matt for the time being, the fact Nekou was reduced to a snarling wild beast in front of her might be a bit of a game-changer for her.

    As for the Rocket scenes, Ghetsis, Renzo and Dante scenes, more exposition is welcomed so you did a nice job on those scenes and informing us of the ongoing stories from other views and how things are going on for them. Once again, I give you props on your training scenes like the one with Nando, training is good because it shows the growth of the Pokemon gradually and makes their future victories more believable. Though not directly training, the battle scenes with the subterranean Pokemon and Oshawott were entertaining to watch and it suffices as a nice way of Oshawott powering up during the middle of the plot.

    Nando himself, his explanation of the Battle Hall and his current happenings with his eight badges and Olivia's missing spot in her case was a nice way of having him appear while giving more purpose to his appearance. You portrayed his sing-song speak well and I felt like I was reading him directly out of the anime. Nice choice of Pokemon in Pansage, a Grass/Bug/sound-orientated Pokemon fits Nando well. The description of Vine Whip did seem a bit odd but it's nothing big to point out.

    By the end of it the three of them are in Azalea Town, that means Olivia is likely to take on Bugsy's gym soon. This was a nice chapter.

  17. #117

    Default

    I felt like this was one of your strongest chapters so far. The amount of character development you gave was amazing. I'm going to go through and talk about some of my favorite bits, but overall, I loved this whole chapter a lot.


    “What’s that up ahead?” Séduire shouted, noticing that the tunnel just a short distance away from the team was filled with a glowing red light. “Is that it?”

    “That’s…” The one of Mercury’s followers who was monitoring the energy field in the ruins forcefully tapped his finger against his computer screen, frustrated by the momentary lag in its system. When the scan finally did complete, though, his eyes widened in surprise and excitement. “That’s it! The Meteonite is right ahead of us! Let’s go get it!”

    “You heard him, all of you!” barked Mercury to her other followers. “Get moving!”

    No more words were spoken between the members of Polaris as they rallied forth to their goal. With Meowth bringing up the rear, the team charged into the final chamber of the altered Ruins of Alph.

    In that chamber, right before their eyes, awaited their prize – a large, rugged stone, partially buried in the earth and cloaked in red light. It was the only source of illumination in the room, but gave off enough light to show how small the room was.

    “We found it… the Meteonite!” another of Mercury’s followers cheered. “Father is going to be pleased with our work for Polaris!”

    The follower carrying the tracking equipment curled his facial features and waved his hand in front of his nose. “It’ll be nice to get out of this musty air.”

    After nodding toward the Meteonite, Mercury took out a transmitter and turned it on.

    “Mercury…?” Séduire questioned, unsure of what was to come next.

    “I’m calling Getriebe and Jeunes at the Purine Base so they’ll be ready to receive us,” Mercury replied, anticipating Séduire’s question. “You just have Meowth get the Unown to send us there.”

    The amount of characterization you gave the unnamed follower in one paragraph is really impressive and I think it says a lot about your skills as character development are concerned.

    A large, sleek jet, surprisingly nimble and silent for its size, sailed through the cold night sky over the border between Johto and Kanto.

    Inside the craft, Finansielle had an office that was furnished well enough to pass as one inside a building. The Chromosome was sitting at her desk at the far end of the cabin, facing a plush, cream-colored sofa, a glass table and a large video monitor. Behind her on the wall was a floor-to-ceiling, backlit Polaris logo.

    Finansielle was reviewing papers when one of her aides entered the office carrying a brown file folder. He took only a few steps inside before halting and waiting to be acknowledged.

    “What is it?” she asked after briefly pretending to not see him.

    “We have the report on Zinzolin’s actions in Violet City fully compiled, Lady Finansielle,” the man stiffly replied, handing over the folder as carefully as he could. “There is also a call for you.”

    “Patch it in,” Finansielle commanded, showing little interest in him while thumbing through the contents of the file.

    After bowing to his superior, the man pressed a small button on the lapel of his black suit jacket. The screen in Finansielle’s office immediately activated to display Mercury and Séduire.

    Finansielle smiled wryly. “You two, eh? I didn’t expect a call from two people I imagined would be underground for a while.”

    “Well we got done sooner rather than later,” Mercury replied, taking on a smile herself. “The Meteonite’s safe with us here in Goldenrod City.”

    “You will have to wait for some time before we’re ready to extract it, though. Actually…” Looking back in the file, Finansielle came up with an idea. “Mercury, you head to the Guanosine Base and help them out with the research they’re conducting there. As for you, Séduire… how would you like a little playtime with that boy of yours you’re so fascinated with?”

    Behind her mask, Séduire’s eyes lit up. “You want me to go get Matt? Finally?”

    “No, no, I don’t want him brought in just yet. His little traveling show is going to be headed through Azalea Town soon, which means they’re heading in the direction of Goldenrod City and the Purine Base. I want you to ambush them in Ilex Forest and give them some trouble. See if you can’t keep them out of Goldenrod City until the extraction of the Meteonite can be carried out. I don’t want any interference like what he did in Violet City.”

    “I’ll do what I can, Finansielle.”

    At that, Mercury and Séduire ended the call, causing the video link between the Purine Base and Finansielle’s jet to be severed. Her aide also quickly excused himself, leaving Finansielle alone in her office once more.

    “And so the game begins, just as I predicted. Matt Chiaki, let’s see if you can live up to your grandfather’s name.”
    Another great scene adding to an already solid opening of your story. I think Finansielle got some additional development in this scene, showing her personality a little better- she comes off to me as someone who lacks time for others and prefers being alone in her office with her work. Seduire's glee at the idea of hunting down Matt is also... kind of terrifying. In a good way.

    Nekou and Olivia stayed on the hill until nearly no sunlight remained, then returned to the campsite near where Matt had parked the HR-E for the night. He was still nowhere to be seen, so they assumed that he was still inside the mobile home and decided to make a campfire for themselves. Both of them contributed using their Pokémon; Olivia had her Lillipup gather sticks, which Nekou’s Zorua then ignited with Incinerate.
    dead from the cutes


    “This is an old book Matt’s grandfather wrote with his assistant. It’s got stories on their explorations and research into the ancient Tenganist people.”

    “And where did you get that?”

    While Nekou was describing the book to Olivia, Matt had stepped out of the nearby brush. He looked somewhat haggard, with unkempt hair and a bag under his visible eye. His step was unsteady as he stumbled over to where they were sitting and lowered himself to join them.

    “I think I asked you a question,” he pressed.

    “I borrowed it from the library,” Nekou answered, grinning.

    “Yeah, knowing you, you stole it like Dr. Fantomos’s vodka, but I can’t do anything about that now. Did you at least find anything interesting in it?”
    I love this exchange.

    “Just tell me one thing,” Nekou said, leaning over him. “Why did you do it?”

    “It was what Rich wanted.”

    “Oh, don’t give me that ********, Matt. You and I both know he wouldn’t have wanted it to go on for as long as it did. Why did you let it continue for five years?”

    “I thought…” Matt shut his eyes and sighed, resigning himself to the fact that he could not avoid Nekou’s questioning. “Innocence is something that should be protected,” he explained, making sure to speak loudly enough for Olivia to hear even if his voice was weak. “Nobody should be robbed of their innocence and thrust into the harshness of reality at a young age. I didn’t want her to have to grow up too fast like I did. I took it upon myself to preserve her youth for as long as possible, even though I knew it would inevitably end like this…”

    “You want to know what I think about that?”

    Cringing in anticipation of some harsh words, Matt replied, “I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

    “I think you did what you really believed was right, but you just ****ed up. Stop beating yourself up. Everyone ****s up at one time or another.”

    “What I did was worse than just a mere ****up, if you ask me.”

    Nekou leaned even closer to Matt’s face, locking her eyes steadily with his. “So why don’t you tell me why you think that?”

    “I…” Matt suddenly realized that Nekou was right. He had no real reasoning for thinking the way he did. “I guess I see what you mean… but still, I was just thinking about how it was for me. By the time I was her age I had to put myself aside to take care of Amanda. I didn’t want Olivia to have to have that same feeling of being alone and needing to grow up quickly. There’s still so much she should experience before then.”

    “You did what you had to do,” Nekou said, never breaking her gaze from Matt’s tired eye. “But you can’t stop living just because you missed out on things in the past. Live in the present the way you want without concern for the past or future, like I do. And Olivia’s not alone, because she has all of us. So you ****ed up by letting the past consume you, but it’s something you can get past.”

    “I guess you’re right… I’ll have to figure out some way to do better for her.”
    I think this scene is important because it's Nekou giving Matt a very big wakeup call and letting him know that even though he really messed up, his heart was in the right place. He needs to hear that he's not a bad person, just someone who's trying to do a good job but sometimes messes up, and he's lucky to be travelling with someone like Nekou who can fill that role.

    Nando's appearance really took me back, it's been a while since I've heard from him in this story, and I love how he lightened the situation some, because it was a nice refreshing turn of events.

    Deep underground in another portion of the Ruins of Alph, Dante worked his way down a dark hallway with only a small flashlight to guide him. His road forward was narrow, and his cane clattered loudly against the damp stone floor with each step he took.

    That narrow road soon led him to a spacious, circular chamber. Realizing after a quick glance around that his meager flashlight would get him nowhere in searching the area, he instead turned his attention to the walls near the chamber’s entrance.

    “Let’s see… there should be a sign right about here…”

    Dante ran his fingers over the runes carved into the wall while he stared at them, carefully deciphering their meaning. The same indications of Volcarona as the clues on the upper floor existed there, but this wall was covered in characters establishing a completely different context.

    After several minutes of study, Dante pulled away from the wall. “That was an easy puzzle. Volcarona, you’re going to be quite an interesting Pokémon to study.”

    After freeing up his hand by temporarily holding his flashlight in his mouth, Dante reached into his coat and produced a stark white Premier Ball. His Alakazam emerged from the sphere once it was thrown.

    “Alakazam, use Psyshock,” Dante directed, taking the flashlight back into his hand. “Straight ahead.”

    With a nod, Alakazam complied. He crossed the spoons he held, and a silver bolt of energy arced from where they met. That energy flowed straight into the darkness and struck something, which responded with a shrill cry.

    In an instant, the entire chamber was flooded with light as the Volcarona unfurled her vivid orange wings. Smaller embers flickered from the white fur covering her body, and she cried out angrily a second time.

    “Volcarona, I’m honored to be in your presence!” Dante announced, putting the flashlight away. “However, it will not be Alakazam I will be facing you with. Haxorus!”
    Dante’s Haxorus joined her trainer, Alakazam and Volcarona once he released her from her Poké Ball. She had to squint in the bright light radiating from Volcarona’s body at first, but quickly adjusted.

    “So, shall we now get started? I would like to study what you’re capable of!”

    .
    The timing on this scene really impressed me, as well as your use of imagery to describe the chamber. Dante seems like a really brilliant character and I always look forward to seeing him in this story.

    The next morning, a small amount of sunlight peeked through the perpetual cloud cover over Route 33, a short road connecting Azalea Town to the Union Cave. The rainstorms that regularly drenched the route had let up for the time being, so a few trainers were out with their Pokémon. It was a fairly dreary, humid morning.

    Off the main path, where the terrain started to morph into the mountainous landscape to the north, the detective named Looker emerged from behind a rock. Standing near the edge of a short cliff, he removed a smartphone-like device from his heavy brown trench coat and looked at it. On its screen were several colorful charts, all displaying fluctuating readings.

    “Just like the energy of that night on Route 29, it is,” he growled to himself. “Nearby has happened something with that energy…”

    Looker scowled, put the phone back in his coat, and jogged off in the direction of an entrance to the cave.
    LOOKER. I think this scene did a really good job capturing all of Looker's Looker-ness. He definitely reminded me of how he's been portrayed in recent Pokemon episodes and he's always a treat.

    Meanwhile, on the Route 32 side of Union Cave, Matt, Olivia and Nekou – having split from Nando the night before – had arrived at a Pokémon Center outpost. At the main desk, they had just finished loading their Poké Balls into trays for the nurse to heal their Pokémon.

    “That’ll be five hundred dollars each for the two of you without a Pokédex.”

    “Five hundred?” Matt gasped. “You’re not even charging the same as the Pokémon Center in Cherrygrove?”

    “We don’t get as much traffic out here, so we have to meet expectations somehow.”

    “What does that…”

    “Matt, fork it over,” Nekou interrupted. “I ain’t got all day. A thousand.”
    Never change, Nekou. Never change.

    “Nekou, do you think I’ll do okay against the Gym Leader in Azalea Town?” Olivia questioned, her voice quiet and wavering. “I’m afraid I might mess up again…”

    In an attempt to give Olivia some physical reassurance, Nekou put both of her hands on Olivia’s shoulders. “Failure isn’t something to fear, but you shouldn’t expect to fail either. Go in with confidence and I doubt you can be stopped. Remember what we talked about? Fight for your own reasons. Do that, and I have complete faith in you. Have you found a reason you want to keep going?”

    “I… I think so.” As she spoke, Olivia looked down at the floor, unable to even come close to making eye contact with Nekou. “I think I want to get better to put Avril and Renzo in their places. I can’t let Avril get far ahead of me, considering she likely got the Zephyr Badge… and Renzo just has it coming after our last battle.”

    “That’s the spirit,” Nekou said with a broad smile. “Now just let that drive you.”
    This was really quite adorable. I'm loving all of Olivia's development so far.

    In a far-off, isolated cave, Pierce stood quietly by, watching as the Tenganists prepared their equipment and Pokémon, for a purpose he was only beginning to understand. Each of their small band seemed to have their own task to carry out under the prophet’s direction, he observed, and the Pokémon they possessed covered an exotic range from multiple regions.
    The Tenganists sound really interesting, and I'm wondering more about them based on this. I like how you let the reader share Pierce's perspective with that line, discovering about them as he does.

    “Tell me about it. The fact they requested bombs when we told them Polaris is planning to do something in Goldenrod City using the Magnet Train surprised me.” Zager briefly turned away from the screen, but quickly returned. “Oh, I was meaning to ask you to investigate something for me.”
    The fact that shocks someone like Zager is really a sign this is something to keep an eye on.

    Pierce got caught up in his own words and didn’t realize how the prophet had frozen up. He only took notice when, well before he even finished his question, she smacked him across the face with enough force to nearly knock him over.

    “Don’t you ever say that name here again,” she growled, while Pierce could only stare at her in shock and hold his face. “We will take everything you’ve given us and dissolve this alliance immediately if you make that mistake a second time. Am I making myself clear?”
    I wonder why she's so upset. From what I've seen of her so far, it's clear she'd only act like that when particularly offended or angry, so clearly this Oryo person is a point of contention for the Tenganists. Her story just got a lot more interesting.

    “The symbol of hope rising from the ashes for us all,” Alesia replied, turning somber and reflective. “They say she was there when it all began. When Ghetsis annihilated the very first community in his campaign against our people, she was the only one to survive. As our people were systematically killed, she emerged as a symbol of hope to both protect us and empower us to fight back.”

    “Do you know who she is under the cloak?” Renzo was genuinely interested in Alesia’s story, and was concentrating intensely on it.

    “Only a few of us know who she really is, those who have been alongside her the longest. We just know her as the prophet of our people. If it wasn’t for her, we as a people would not exist anymore. We would have fallen into complete despair long ago.”
    This is really moving and I look forward to learning more of the Tenganists' story.

    “You gotta deal with caves if you’re going to be a traveling trainer… because for some ****ing reason the government insists on building roads right through them.”
    I always wondered about this myself. Nekou's explanation makes as much sense as any, I guess.

    One advantage Oshawott decisively held over all of the Geodude was in terms of speed; though the four Rock-and-Ground-type Pokémon attacked as a group, Oshawott was able to effectively sidestep around each stone thrown his way before retaliating with a gush of water washing over all four.
    You do a fantastic job, in your battle sequences, explaining technical aspects that are otherwise hard to illustrate. The technical parts of Pokemon battles are still important and you do well keeping them interesting and showing how they affect things.


    “Impressive,” Nekou commented once the battle had concluded, pushing up her glasses as she spoke. “Even with such a distinct type advantage, taking four Geodude with just one Pokémon of your own is pretty good.”

    “Thanks!” Olivia replied, smiling broadly.

    “So what do you think? Will you try to give Oshawott more of a chance now?”

    Seeing the look of confusion Nekou’s question had left Olivia with, Matt stepped up to them and intervened, even though all he could manage was ineffectually asking, “What?”

    “I’ve been paying attention to Olivia’s battles since we left Violet City,” Nekou explained. “I noticed that she’s given every Pokémon she has but Oshawott a chance before now.” Olivia fidgeted, frowned and turned away as Nekou turned to her. “I’m not mad at you, Olivia, I just want to know what you’re thinking.”

    “I… I just…” Caught at a loss for words, Olivia turned her back on Nekou, only to realize that doing so made her face Oshawott, which prompted her to turn partially away from them both. “I’m still torn on it. I still haven’t gotten comfortable with all of this.”

    “That’s perfectly fine. Just don’t give up on Oshawott yet, okay? It hasn’t been that long.”

    “I guess you’re right…” Olivia listlessly uttered. “So much has been going on… it’s not like how I thought this journey would be.”
    More amazing Olivia development. I like how you show that Olivia is a complex character- in this case, although she's confident in a lot of ways, she's still unsure in many others. She's a very well-rounded and realistic character.

    With Ghetsis standing rigidly outside their cage, Anthea and Concordia sang in haunting voices that echoed in the room. Their book of Tenganist myth had been discarded to the sheets making up the floor of their prison, left open on the page of music that dictated the melody the two were reciting.

    “To think that it was this song all along,” Ghetsis sneered as they finished. “Team Rocket’s actions revealed the truth to us and we were too shortsighted to see it… Come!”

    By banging his cane on the floor, Ghetsis summoned Pestilence and Chaos to the room. They weren’t alone when they teleported in, though; with them was a third man, whose torn lab coat, tousled brown hair and broken glasses spoke to how poor a state he was in.

    “Confirm that that’s the song,” Polaris’s spokesman ordered the shambling wreck of a man.

    “What are you going to do with it?” the man demanded, spitting a small amount of blood as he spoke. “You drape yourselves in being noble warriors for the people, but this is just…”

    Stepping in front of the man, Ghetsis placed the end of his cane under his prisoner’s chin and used it to lift his head slightly. “I know everything about you and how to get what I want from you, so for the sake of your wife and son, Professor Elm, confirm that these two pieces of human trash are telling me the truth. Is this the song that unlocks the hidden power within the Bell Tower or not?”

    His spirit sufficiently broken by Ghetsis’s menacing threats, Professor Elm submitted to him and weakly nodded. “It is, but you can’t use it without…”

    “…the Clear Bell?” Ghetsis guessed, completing Elm’s sentence and terrifying the professor further. “You don’t need to worry about that. We’ve already taken care of it.”

    Just then, Darkness teleported into the room to join the other Shadow Triad members. He kneeled before Ghetsis, then said, “Lord Ghetsis, sir, we must begin preparations for your speech tomorrow.”

    “Very well. Elm, you and the two witches behind me will soon be vital parts of the beginning of my new and perfect era of humanity, so all of you just stand by and wait for that wonderful day to arrive.”
    This whole scene gave me chills. I didn't expect Elm to be the captive at all, and Ghetsis' cruelty always startles me more every time. Ghetsis is a truly chilling villain and always leaves me wondering what horrible things he'll do next, since it's very clear his depravity knows no bounds.

    “We have further information available for you once you get in the car, sir!” James added, eager to get in actions to earn Giovanni’s praise for himself.
    This really made me smile. Even in a situation like this, James is like an adorable puppy looking for attention, and that's a really good detail you remembered there.

    “Remarkably so, Giovanni. By using our satellite, the field agent who helped create the program uploaded it into the International Police’s servers completely without notice. There’s now an undetectable piece of mutating code buried deep in their systems, erasing any and all evidence Team Rocket ever were recognized as criminals. They’re no longer an issue for us… now it’s truly us against Polaris.”
    That's actually a pretty brilliant plot. Hacker subplots make me really happy.

    “Please be careful out there, Mr. Giovanni,” she said, bowing to him and refusing to make eye contact at first. As soon as she realized that Jessie and James were watching, though, she turned formal again and pushed her glasses up. “I-I’ll look forward to hearing of your great success in defeating Polaris.”

    Stacia sharply turned away, preventing those in the car from seeing any of the emotion she might have been showing, and left the chamber.
    You really have to feel sorry for Stacia here. It's clear she wants to show some kind of concern but can't because it ruins her professional appearance.

    “It’s finished, Ariana,” Giovanni replied while rolling the window back up. “We must get going.”

    “Alright, alright.” Narrowing her eyes and smirking, Ariana said, “You still make Zager say ‘Hail Giovanni?’”

    With that, Ariana hit the gas and drove off into the network of underground tunnels she’d used to arrive beneath Viridian City.
    Ariana, this is why I love you.

    Overall, I think that Team Rocket scene was really well-written, and I think you did a good job capturing the mood of the situation as well as how exact and formal everything would be. Those little details are EXTREMELY important when writing about TR, especially animeverse where it's more clearly established as a paramilitary organization, and getting them wrong can really pull me out of a fanfic. You nailed all of them perfectly.

    I feel like the Drilbur battle scene was really well written- there's so much I loved in it that if I left my comments on everything, it'd take forever- but you handled the suspense of it really well and I think it was excellently paced and exciting, as battle scenes go. I also enjoy watching Olivia slowly warm up to Oshawott as a Pokemon. Using Acid Spray to blind the Drilbur was actually a really good strategy and one I'd never think of myself.

    Despite her attempts to be quiet, however, the Onix somehow heard Nekou’s threat and shifted her glance back in Olivia’s direction. Once the Rock-and-Ground-type Pokémon saw Nekou and Olivia together, she roared in rage, whipped back around and raised her tail.

    “It’s my fault, get away!”

    Time seemed to slow down for both Matt and Olivia the moment Nekou pushed the latter away from her. Both of them could only watch in gut-wrenching horror as the Onix smashed her tail into Nekou right before their eyes, seemingly crushing her into the wall.

    “Nekou!!” Olivia tearfully cried out. “No, not now… I needed you…”

    “Not again… not again…” Matt kept repeating to himself, images of Eleanor’s death playing in his head like a wretched recording. He began convulsing and could barely stand, let alone coherently speak. “Not again… no, no, no, no…” Suddenly, he sharply lashed his head upward and trained a nearly insane glare on the Onix. “If that’s how it’s going to be… Rocky, show no mercy! Drain Punch! Do it repeatedly!”

    Seeing his Hitmonchan relentlessly striking the Onix gave Matt no catharsis; all he could think of was how he had once again been unable to stop an entirely preventable death. This time was more severe to him, though, a fact he realized when he looked down to see Olivia’s face covered in tears. He felt as if he had let two people die.

    Neither Matt nor Olivia could have ever expected what happened next.

    Nekou broke from the wall she had been crushed into, having somehow survived the blow, and fell forward onto her hands and knees before standing up hunched. Her arms hung loosely at her sides, and when she turned upward to face the Onix directly, her eyes were glowing yellow once again.

    “N-Nekou?” Olivia stuttered, blinking away her tears.

    “I have a bad feeling about this,” Matt nervously said.

    Snarling, Nekou lunged directly at the Onix, exhibiting nearly inhuman reflexes while doing so. She punched the Pokémon with a closed fist and actually hit with enough force to make her roar in pain. A sharp cracking at the moment of impact revealed the broken hand that came as Nekou’s price for such strength, but barely seemed to affect her.

    “We have to help her, Olivia, so use Roselia. Rocky, Ice Punch!”

    Quickly recalling Oshawott, Olivia took Matt’s advice and shouted, “Energy Ball!”

    Rocky was in position to simply turn around and strike Onix’s back with her fist enveloped in freezing cold air. Roselia, meanwhile, struck the Rock-and-Ground-type’s head with her Energy Ball, causing the Onix to convulse violently.

    Suddenly, Nekou – having already regained use of her right hand – screamed out and shoved against the Onix’s body with incredible force, causing the Pokémon to fall backwards and ultimately land with her huge head in the river. Between all of the damage from the Pokémon, the blows inflicted by Nekou and the water in the river, Onix could take no more and fainted.

    “She already healed that hand?!” Matt gasped. “We beat Onix, but that doesn’t make any sense…”

    It wasn’t over, however. The bizarre, animalistic rage consuming Nekou didn’t abate simply because Onix was defeated, and she lashed around, fixing her insane gaze on Matt. Unhindered by her hair, which had become long enough to nearly touch the ground, she rushed him, baring her teeth. He had barely enough time to reflexively hold up one arm to defend himself, and it being made of metal was the only reason she didn’t end up biting through it.

    “The **** has gotten into you, Nekou?! Snap out of it!” he pleaded.

    She responded by grabbing his shoulders and flinging him into the unconscious Onix, which shook him up more than it actually injured him. He stumbled up only to find her rushing him again, which he avoided by jumping out of her path in a panic.

    Her relentless assault didn’t let up, and in mere seconds she was on top of him again, attempting to slash at him with her hands. He barely managed to weave away, and he was forced to kick her away with his artificial left leg to open up some space between them.

    “Stop it! Please, no more! I don’t want this anymore!”

    Nekou was just in the course of recovering so she could attack Matt again when Olivia interrupted with her fearful screams. Olivia’s voice somehow got through to her, and even though she remained hunched and snarling, she stopped her vicious attacks and seemed to be thinking.

    “Be using Brick Break, Toxicroak!”

    Out of nowhere, a Toxicroak appeared and slammed his fist down on Nekou’s head, instantly knocking her out. She fell sideways into the flowing water of the underground river.
    Oh, crap. I didn't see ANY of this coming- Onix's attack, Nekou's injury, or her flipping out. The way you wrote her rage was terrifying and makes me feel sorry for her- going through that must be a really frightening experience for her as well as those around her.

    Nekou abruptly awoke several hours later, only to find herself staring at the ceiling of a darkened hospital room in a Pokémon Center. She was disoriented by her surroundings, and was left breathing heavily.

    “I see you’re finally awake,” Matt said.

    Startled, she sat up in her bed, discovering that he was the only one with her in the room, sitting next to the bed with his elbows rested on his knees. He wasn’t wearing his coat or carrying his bag.

    “G-get the **** out of my room. Stop watching me sleep.”

    “You weren’t sleeping. Please don’t push me away right now.”

    “What happened…?” The magnitude of the situation began to slowly dawn on her, and her voice became shallow and quiet. “Oh no, it… it happened, didn’t it?”

    “If by ‘it’ you mean you surviving what should have been a fatal injury and then turning into an animalistic killing machine… yeah, that happened. That detective, Looker, he turned up and knocked you out with his Toxicroak.” Matt sighed and closed his eyes. His head felt heavy. “You fell into a river in Union Cave and got washed out into Route 33. Olivia and I found you washed up in the rain and I kept you warm in my coat as we brought you here… to Azalea Town’s Pokémon Center. But none of that’s important. We’re all worried about you.”

    Nekou didn’t say anything right away, instead choosing to bite her lip and search for something to say. She wouldn’t make eye contact with Matt either, which was what him realize just how wrong things were.

    “Will these help you feel better?”

    Reaching into his bag, Matt produced Nekou’s music player and a can of beer, both of which he handed over to her right away. She immediately opened the beer can to sip at it, but still didn’t look at Matt.

    Suddenly getting a flash of intuition, Matt asked, “Are you worried about how Olivia took it?” Nekou nodded in response, prompting Matt to say, “Olivia was freaked out by what happened, I’ll be honest. But she’s worried too… I almost think she’s more worried about you than how she felt about it herself. She’s only not here because she was so tired she needed to sleep.”

    “You mean I didn’t attack her?”

    “No. In fact, when Olivia called out to you, it actually got through to you somehow.”

    This finally got her to look back at him, her eyes reflecting true fear – something incredibly rare for her. “I…I’m sick, I know… But I don’t know why that happens… and I’m embarrassed you all saw it… it’s my curse, nobody else should have to witness it…”

    “I could sit here and question how someone turns into a beast like that,” he said, shaking his head, “but I’m not going to. If there’s anything I can tell it’s that objectifying you like some sort of test subject is wrong. But let me ask you, why do you not want anyone to see it? You said you considered it embarrassing, right?”

    When Nekou nodded, Matt stood and began working to undo the buttons on his shirt.

    “Get the **** away from me!” Nekou shouted, pulling back on the bed. “You come at me and I’ll **** you up!”

    “I’m not doing anything of the sort,” Matt responded. “You said you were embarrassed because I saw what happened in the cave. I’m going to make up for that by showing you a shame I carry.”

    “What are you talking about? Why?”

    “Because I’m not going to judge you for what you suffer from, and I trust you to know something about me. It’s only fair that way.”

    “Wait, you’re not afraid of me knowing whatever secret you’re about to tell me?” Nekou questioned. She was incredulous that Matt was actually putting so much trust in her. “I wouldn’t do the same.”

    “I know you wouldn’t… but I also think there’s more to you than that. The feeling I get is that you would keep your secrets to protect yourself.”

    With that, Matt undid the final button and pulled the left side of his shirt open, revealing that the left side of his torso was covered in burn scars.

    Much to his surprise, though, Nekou didn’t seem fazed in the least by what she saw. “What did that to you?”

    “The same thing that made me lose my left eye burned up a whole lot more,” he explained in a sad voice. “When I was given this body to rehabilitate myself from those injuries, I got my face repaired… but I didn’t want to do the same for these. They remind me of my failures and of what I must be driven to find.”

    Nekou did not respond. She only looked away and tried to ponder all the things running through her head at once. Primary among them was her utter shock at her fear of being judged over her strange abilities not being validated. Acceptance was a rare thing for her when it came to that, and she had to fight with herself over whether or not to tell Matt any more.
    This scene. Let me tell you what I think about it. This is really a good example of "saving the best for last", because while normally I'd call the second TR scene in this my favorite, I have to say this has topped even that for the sheer amount of character development you put into it.

    I feel like this is really important because for the last 9 chapters we've been watching the friendship between these two characters evolve, and this is a huge moment for their friendship- I think this is the first time we've seen this level of trust from them, on both sides. Matt brings Nekou two things she really loves, because he knows she's probably very frightened and needs something to comfort her, and him bringing the music player is a very subtle way of showing her she respects her if she needs some time alone, since her music player has been established as her method of shutting down the outside world. Nekou is reacting as I'd expect anyone to after being seen having the incident she just did- and as someone with an anxiety disorder, her reaction to having the group see her in that state hit REALLY close to home for me in a way very little else has, so excellent work on the realism there- and Matt is doing his best to show that she's in company.

    I feel like this was a really touching scene, especially in that the chapter ends with Nekou struggling with these new feelings of acceptance. You developed their characters- as well as Olivia's- so much in this chapter, and I think it's the satisfying ending to a chapter full of amazing development.

    With all the new questions that were raised in this chapter, I can't wait for the next one. Keep up the excellent work.

    "Poe was the first writer to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys, and those are some of my favorite stories."
    -Stephen King

    I write odd slice of life stories about Team Rocket. If that's your thing, give them a look:

    Alpha Male- behind every friendship is a story. Perspective contest fourth place winner.
    Secretary- A short and cynical tale of paperwork and sadism
    Survival- A novella about the unbreakable bonds between one man and his feline friend. 2011 Pokemon Big Bang story.


  18. #118
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        Spoiler:- Chapter 11 teaser:



    EDIT:

    Quote Originally Posted by Doryuzu View Post
    This was without a doubt one of the best chapters you've written. There were so many things that went on that I really liked a lot, Nekou's inner weakness being fleshed out and in such a vivid way, more character development for Olivia and coming to treat Oshawott a little bit better, Oshawott's personality, Nando's appearance, the Drilbur horde attack scene,(This wouldn't happen to be an allusion to the new battle feature in XY?) Renzo, the Rockets, the battle scenes.
    Really? Thank you! I'm happy you liked all those things, because even with as little confidence I had in this chapter as a whole, I still was very enthusiastic about a lot of those parts you mentioned. The development with Nekou was something I really wanted to get to (note the chapter title again now that you've read it), Olivia and Oshawott's been in the works since the start, Nando was good for some foreshadowing, and Renzo meeting the Tenganists is something that's going to go places, too.

    The Drilbur and Geodude battles were planned before Horde Battles were revealed for XY, but you could still look at them that way.

    Strangely enough I found myself feel some relation toward Oshawott and his desire to prove his worth to Olivia during the battle scenes, his goal is to prove himself to her. You've done a good job of fleshing out his personality and desires, he's so adorable and relatable because he feels like a down-on-his-luck character doing his best to prove himself who fails at times(Pidgeotto, Gurdurr) but when his resolve was tested he truly did shine and seeing Torrent was a surprise. I also commend you on your explanation on some Pokemon having Hidden Abilities. But overall you can really tell Olivia is growing toward Oshawott and Nekou is encouraging that growth nicely.
    Oshawott is a character who I felt definitely needed focused development. The way he came to be introduced into the story could have been something that felt forced if done wrong, so I had to give him a distinctive character arc to redeem his role on the team. I've got quite a ways to go with that, still.

    There is some more to be done on the subject of Pokemon with Hidden Abilities. This was just an introduction to it.

    As for Drilbur's capture, that was unexpected. That reminds me, how many different Pokemon does Matt have? IIRC, he should have around 10-20 or so different one's. Though my memories a bit fuzzy on the matter.
    He has many, yes, I don't know an exact number right off the top of my head but it's up there.

    Now may be a good point to mention that he simply rotates off-screen most of the time and Amanda takes care of his inactive Pokemon.

    The Olivia scene with Nekou going wild and the color of her eyes changing really was something else, it almost reminds me of a certain character from Neon Genesis Evangelion. But wow that was really something else, the protection of Olivia before the Onix rammed her was an intense scene. Little did I expect Looker to actually have any Pokemon, let alone a Toxicroak. Nice allusion to his in-game Croagunk there.
    That's a smart tree to be barking up, let's say.

    It's a relief to know that the impact of the scene came off as I intended. I wanted it to be unexpected and intense.

    On Looker, that's one thing I was disappointed the anime didn't use in their adaptation of him. Granted, it made sense because Brock had a Croagunk and Brock's Croagunk already had a rivalry with a Toxicroak in Saturn's, but Looker could have had some Pokemon of some kid.

    The heart-to-heart scenes between Nekou and Matt were nice, we have Nekou giving Matt some heartfelt words to make him feel better after the Rich fiasco and Matt doing something similar at the end of the chapter. It's a nice point, because it reminds the reader that despite both being mature and capable adults in their own rights they still have flaws and weaknesses at the end of the day. For one Olivia needs Nekou badly given her distaste of Matt for the time being, the fact Nekou was reduced to a snarling wild beast in front of her might be a bit of a game-changer for her.
    That was one of my personal favorite scenes (and your betaing helped me make it even better, so thank you.) It really gave me a chance to tackle the complexities of both of them as characters in a direct way that wouldn't take long to communicate. And of course, it sets the stage for their later development.

    Olivia's definitely got a lot of things to deal with. I think I should just say that.

    As for the Rocket scenes, Ghetsis, Renzo and Dante scenes, more exposition is welcomed so you did a nice job on those scenes and informing us of the ongoing stories from other views and how things are going on for them. Once again, I give you props on your training scenes like the one with Nando, training is good because it shows the growth of the Pokemon gradually and makes their future victories more believable. Though not directly training, the battle scenes with the subterranean Pokemon and Oshawott were entertaining to watch and it suffices as a nice way of Oshawott powering up during the middle of the plot.
    Thank you. I always like to have many different plots running concurrently to keep up the point that the world is a big place. And all of it's going to come together eventually, of course.

    I really feel like I'm getting more and more a grasp on how to handle training. This chapter really was a training chapter when you think about it in terms of immediate effect on the larger plot, but because so much else went on (Polaris and Team Rocket developing their plans, Renzo and the Tenganists, the character development) that you don't think about it much.

    Team Rocket weren't in the initial plans for this chapter. I put them in because I needed a transition scene and got a good idea for it.

    Nando himself, his explanation of the Battle Hall and his current happenings with his eight badges and Olivia's missing spot in her case was a nice way of having him appear while giving more purpose to his appearance. You portrayed his sing-song speak well and I felt like I was reading him directly out of the anime. Nice choice of Pokemon in Pansage, a Grass/Bug/sound-orientated Pokemon fits Nando well. The description of Vine Whip did seem a bit odd but it's nothing big to point out.
    I had considered waiting to use him until the Battle Hall, but I decided that his cameo appearance back at the Battle Arcade would have been too soon if there was that big a gap. He filled several good roles at once here - moral support, training help, revealing where Olivia can get her last Badge, telling Matt of the Battle Hall - so he fit in well in this chapter.

    Pansage I gave him mostly in mind of what it can evolve into. It'll go even better with his theme then. As for Vine Whip, I was trying to make it a literal whip.

    By the end of it the three of them are in Azalea Town, that means Olivia is likely to take on Bugsy's gym soon. This was a nice chapter.
    Good guess.

    Thank you for helping me beta and thank you for your kind comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matori View Post
    I felt like this was one of your strongest chapters so far. The amount of character development you gave was amazing. I'm going to go through and talk about some of my favorite bits, but overall, I loved this whole chapter a lot.
    Wow, thanks. I'm honestly surprised at how well received this chapter is.

    The amount of characterization you gave the unnamed follower in one paragraph is really impressive and I think it says a lot about your skills as character development are concerned.
    Interesting you would say that. I'm kind of tempted to expand him into a full-fledged character in some way, but I don't really have any ideas so I'm reluctant to do it. I don't know, maybe I'll figure something out.

    Another great scene adding to an already solid opening of your story. I think Finansielle got some additional development in this scene, showing her personality a little better- she comes off to me as someone who lacks time for others and prefers being alone in her office with her work. Seduire's glee at the idea of hunting down Matt is also... kind of terrifying. In a good way.
    That's a good way to interpret it. Finansielle is someone who is very complex - everything she does is to advance Polaris's goals in some way, even down to who she interacts with and when. Her role of carefully managing Polaris's finances could be said to have bled over into everything else, because every last one of her actions is carefully measured to give the best effect.

    Seduire, on the other hand, is very simple a character. She has one thing (or person) she really, really wants, and she'll stop at nothing to get it. Polaris is just a means to an end for her; she supports their cause because she'll get Matt as a result if they win, that's why she joined.

    dead from the cutes
    Get it where you can, it won't be common.

    I love this exchange.
    So do I. It captures a lot of her charm, I think.

    I think this scene is important because it's Nekou giving Matt a very big wakeup call and letting him know that even though he really messed up, his heart was in the right place. He needs to hear that he's not a bad person, just someone who's trying to do a good job but sometimes messes up, and he's lucky to be travelling with someone like Nekou who can fill that role.
    And this part captured a more underplayed part of her character - beyond all her strange behavior, she really is reliable and supportive when it's needed. I'm happy that you liked it, because it means that the ability of the character to interact with their differing traits is working.

    Nando's appearance really took me back, it's been a while since I've heard from him in this story, and I love how he lightened the situation some, because it was a nice refreshing turn of events.
    Yeah, he was very helpful. Otherwise, I think that scene may have gone on into endless angsting. Having him show up allowed the plot to move on and fit in some training as well.

    The timing on this scene really impressed me, as well as your use of imagery to describe the chamber. Dante seems like a really brilliant character and I always look forward to seeing him in this story.
    It's a good thing this scene was to your liking, because this is his last major appearance for a while. He's still going to have a big part to play, but he needs to take a back seat for now.

    LOOKER. I think this scene did a really good job capturing all of Looker's Looker-ness. He definitely reminded me of how he's been portrayed in recent Pokemon episodes and he's always a treat.
    I was inspired by some of his Chapter of N appearances, in fact.

    Never change, Nekou. Never change.
    She's never going to pay for herself when there are people to be exploited.

    This was really quite adorable. I'm loving all of Olivia's development so far.
    Prepare yourself, next chapter's going to be even more focused on it.

    The Tenganists sound really interesting, and I'm wondering more about them based on this. I like how you let the reader share Pierce's perspective with that line, discovering about them as he does.
    That's good. The Tenganists really are meant to be a mystery; there are several stories going on with them at once, and learning more about those will gradually unlock the bigger secrets of what is going on.

    The fact that shocks someone like Zager is really a sign this is something to keep an eye on.
    I wouldn't say it shocked him. He was more just simply surprised that the Tenganists of all people made such a request. I suppose you could say that's something similar, but his surprise was really more directed at who made the request.

    I wonder why she's so upset. From what I've seen of her so far, it's clear she'd only act like that when particularly offended or angry, so clearly this Oryo person is a point of contention for the Tenganists. Her story just got a lot more interesting.
    I'm sure this is obvious by now, but Saeko Oryo is not just the throwaway backstory character she initially seemed to be. I told you there were bigger secrets involving the Tenganists, and she has something to do with it.

    This is really moving and I look forward to learning more of the Tenganists' story.
    I hope you're sure about that. It won't be pretty.

    You do a fantastic job, in your battle sequences, explaining technical aspects that are otherwise hard to illustrate. The technical parts of Pokemon battles are still important and you do well keeping them interesting and showing how they affect things.
    Thank you!

    More amazing Olivia development. I like how you show that Olivia is a complex character- in this case, although she's confident in a lot of ways, she's still unsure in many others. She's a very well-rounded and realistic character.
    I try to aim for that whenever possible. The story really needs complex characters with the appropriate development.

    This whole scene gave me chills. I didn't expect Elm to be the captive at all, and Ghetsis' cruelty always startles me more every time. Ghetsis is a truly chilling villain and always leaves me wondering what horrible things he'll do next, since it's very clear his depravity knows no bounds.
    And the scary part is, he's not done yet. This is just the preparation for what he's planning.

    Elm falling into Polaris's grasp was foreshadowed by when he was mentioned earlier: he was first said to be going to Mr. Pokemon's house, then he went to the Ruins of Alph. Mr. Pokemon turned out to be a Polaris member and the Ruins of Alph were already under their control.

    This really made me smile. Even in a situation like this, James is like an adorable puppy looking for attention, and that's a really good detail you remembered there.
    I confess, I have an agenda here. I want to prove Team Rocket being serious and on Giovanni's good side doesn't take their personalities away.

    That's actually a pretty brilliant plot. Hacker subplots make me really happy.
    Thanks. I like it too.

    You really have to feel sorry for Stacia here. It's clear she wants to show some kind of concern but can't because it ruins her professional appearance.
    It's a little more complex than that, but I can't say much right now.

    Ariana, this is why I love you.
    She knows she can get away with talking back like that, and takes full advantage of it.

    Overall, I think that Team Rocket scene was really well-written, and I think you did a good job capturing the mood of the situation as well as how exact and formal everything would be. Those little details are EXTREMELY important when writing about TR, especially animeverse where it's more clearly established as a paramilitary organization, and getting them wrong can really pull me out of a fanfic. You nailed all of them perfectly.
    Thank you. This means a lot to me because one of my main goals with this fic - outside of telling the main story, of course - is to get Team Rocket correct. I want to salvage what I can of the lost Team Rocket VS. Team Plasma arc from Best Wishes! and use it to really show what Team Rocket really is.

    I feel like the Drilbur battle scene was really well written- there's so much I loved in it that if I left my comments on everything, it'd take forever- but you handled the suspense of it really well and I think it was excellently paced and exciting, as battle scenes go. I also enjoy watching Olivia slowly warm up to Oshawott as a Pokemon. Using Acid Spray to blind the Drilbur was actually a really good strategy and one I'd never think of myself.
    I was really worried about it coming off as rushed, so hearing such a positive review of it is quite a relief.

    Oh, crap. I didn't see ANY of this coming- Onix's attack, Nekou's injury, or her flipping out. The way you wrote her rage was terrifying and makes me feel sorry for her- going through that must be a really frightening experience for her as well as those around her.
    Then it did exactly what I wanted to.

    This scene. Let me tell you what I think about it. This is really a good example of "saving the best for last", because while normally I'd call the second TR scene in this my favorite, I have to say this has topped even that for the sheer amount of character development you put into it.

    I feel like this is really important because for the last 9 chapters we've been watching the friendship between these two characters evolve, and this is a huge moment for their friendship- I think this is the first time we've seen this level of trust from them, on both sides. Matt brings Nekou two things she really loves, because he knows she's probably very frightened and needs something to comfort her, and him bringing the music player is a very subtle way of showing her she respects her if she needs some time alone, since her music player has been established as her method of shutting down the outside world. Nekou is reacting as I'd expect anyone to after being seen having the incident she just did- and as someone with an anxiety disorder, her reaction to having the group see her in that state hit REALLY close to home for me in a way very little else has, so excellent work on the realism there- and Matt is doing his best to show that she's in company.
    I really don't know what to say, I'm so honored that you found so much to like in that.

    You're right that this is a very important scene. It's the first time they've ever actually openly trusted each other with little to no belligerence, but if you think about it, that's what is necessary right here. It's also a sort of role reversal; Nekou has had to be serious and support Matt several times, and right here you get to see that he can return the favor. His bringing her things that she can find comfort in also shows that he recognizes that she's more complex than she might seem. At first, if you were in his position you might see her drinking and use of the music player as simple pleasure seeking - which it is to a degree - but she also needs those pleasures, and you see here that he recognizes that because of his own experiences.

    I'm happy that you were able to find something to identify with and that you found its portrayal to be positive. That someone like her was not alone, that she had people who would support her even with her problems, those were major themes of that scene. You could also say that not being alone and having those near you for support was a major theme of the entire chapter, given how Nekou supported Olivia and Matt earlier as well.

    I feel like this was a really touching scene, especially in that the chapter ends with Nekou struggling with these new feelings of acceptance. You developed their characters- as well as Olivia's- so much in this chapter, and I think it's the satisfying ending to a chapter full of amazing development.

    With all the new questions that were raised in this chapter, I can't wait for the next one. Keep up the excellent work.
    Thank you very much. I hope that now that I'm past my block with this chapter, I will be able to deliver a good chapter soon.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 7th July 2013 at 7:54 AM.

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  19. #119
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    Sorry this isn't a huge review as everyone else pretty much said my thoughts on the chapter in greater detail (read through the chapter on the bus ride and wasn't able to do this review until much later). There are a few things I quite like, so I'll mention those.

    As the others said the development on the characters in this chapter are great. Nice to see Olivia warming up to Oshawott a bit more (don't think the little guy deserved the harsh treatment from before heh). Matt and Nekou's interaction at the end is a very enjoyable read too, shows the both of them are trusting/giving each other respect now.

    Backtracking a bit, Matt's explination in wanting to keep Olivia's innocence--yeah gonna agree with Nekou that five years is a long time. Still a good scene with them I like too. Also in that part good to see Nando appearing again and Pansage does fit him well.

    Nekou going berserk is quite frightenging. .__. Luckily Looker came in time to help. Kinda wonder where Looker went to next after that incident and Matt's reaction to Looker's sudden apperance, but I guess that'll drag on the chapter a bit more and wouldn't flow too well.

    The mention of Saeko Oryo in this chapter have me more interested in her, especially with the prophet's sudden outburst at Pierce when he mentioned her name. Dang.

    “An uninvited guest turned up here,” a male voice responded. “She just appeared in the temple, and seemed very confused. She thought she was in the Ruins of Alph.”

    “I don’t have time to figure out what’s going on. We’re busy preparing for our operation. If you don’t think she’s a threat, tell her not to tell anyone what she saw and have the old man send her back to the Ruins of Alph with his Abra.”
    Pretty sure the "she" being referred here is Bunny. If so

        Spoiler:- spoilers maybe?:


    Overall another enjoyable chapter there. Looking forward to more!


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  20. #120
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    “You will have to wait for some time before we’re ready to extract it, though. Actually…” Looking back in the file, Finansielle came up with an idea. “Mercury, you head to the Guanosine Base and help them out with the research they’re conducting there. As for you, Séduire… how would you like a little playtime with that boy of yours you’re so fascinated with?”
    I’ve gotta say that a strong point of your writing is your dialogue, especially with the Polaris characters. There’s enough formality to make it seem realistic, yet there’s some fun, playful dialogue in there to show how familiar they are with each other.


    “Pansage, the Grass Monkey Pokémon. Type is Grass. It’s good at finding Berries and gathers them from all over. It’s kind enough to share them with friends.”

    “That Pokémon suits you,” Olivia commented, smiling for the first time in what seemed like forever to Matt.
    I thought this was a cute moment. I’d like to know more about Nando, to be honest. He might be the thing Olivia needs to get back on track.

    “You gotta deal with caves if you’re going to be a traveling trainer… because for some ****ing reason the government insists on building roads right through them.”
    Tell me about it, Nekou. I think caves are worse than swimming.


    Nekou’s words prompted a smile from Olivia – her first in some time – as her spirit was uplifted. Off to the side, Matt watched with amazed respect for them both.
    I think you said that Olivia’s smile toward Nando was “her first in some time”, too, and it didn’t seem that long ago.

    This finally got her to look back at him, her eyes reflecting true fear – something incredibly rare for her. “I…I’m sick, I know… But I don’t know why that happens… and I’m embarrassed you all saw it… it’s my curse, nobody else should have to witness it…”
    Interesting. It seems similar to how the pokémon react to the Meteonite. I wonder if that has anything to do with it? Either way, it’s just another thing that adds to Nekou’s character.

    Overall, good chapter. Lots of mysteries still surrounding everything, but things are still happening and everything is clear. Well done.

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


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 3 released 11/22/14 |


  21. #121
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Sorry this isn't a huge review as everyone else pretty much said my thoughts on the chapter in greater detail (read through the chapter on the bus ride and wasn't able to do this review until much later). There are a few things I quite like, so I'll mention those.
    That's okay. I obviously appreciate any review at all.

    As the others said the development on the characters in this chapter are great. Nice to see Olivia warming up to Oshawott a bit more (don't think the little guy deserved the harsh treatment from before heh). Matt and Nekou's interaction at the end is a very enjoyable read too, shows the both of them are trusting/giving each other respect now.
    Both of these things are going to continue in the next chapter. Definitely keep an eye on Oshawott, and when it comes to Matt and Nekou trusting each other, there's more to that scene you haven't seen yet.

    Backtracking a bit, Matt's explination in wanting to keep Olivia's innocence--yeah gonna agree with Nekou that five years is a long time. Still a good scene with them I like too. Also in that part good to see Nando appearing again and Pansage does fit him well.
    I think it was important to show that main characters can make mistakes. Really, Olivia is guilty of it too, when you consider her reaction to Oshawott. I want them to be likable but flawed.

    Nando wasn't a major role, so I was a little worried that bringing him in this chapter might have been a mistake.

    Nekou going berserk is quite frightenging. .__. Luckily Looker came in time to help. Kinda wonder where Looker went to next after that incident and Matt's reaction to Looker's sudden apperance, but I guess that'll drag on the chapter a bit more and wouldn't flow too well.
    That incident with Nekou is a turning point, but I'm sure you could already realize that.

    Looker's actions are going to be clarified a bit in the next chapter.

    The mention of Saeko Oryo in this chapter have me more interested in her, especially with the prophet's sudden outburst at Pierce when he mentioned her name. Dang.
    That's going to come up again pretty soon. And I think you'll be very, very surprised as to how and why.

    Pretty sure the "she" being referred here is Bunny. If so

        Spoiler:- spoilers maybe?:
    Yeah, you're right.

    Overall another enjoyable chapter there. Looking forward to more!
    Glad you liked it!

    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post
    I’ve gotta say that a strong point of your writing is your dialogue, especially with the Polaris characters. There’s enough formality to make it seem realistic, yet there’s some fun, playful dialogue in there to show how familiar they are with each other.
    Yet, are they actually familiar with each other at all? I think that's a question you might be asking yourself sometime in the future...

    Thank you for the compliment, in all seriousness. I enjoy writing dialogue; it's really a great tool for establishing both setting and characters.

    I thought this was a cute moment. I’d like to know more about Nando, to be honest. He might be the thing Olivia needs to get back on track.
    He could certainly help. Maybe I can figure out some ways to work him in a bit more extensively than I initially planned.

    Tell me about it, Nekou. I think caves are worse than swimming.
    Oh, if this story was in Hoenn, I could only imagine what kind of things she'd be saying.

    I think you said that Olivia’s smile toward Nando was “her first in some time”, too, and it didn’t seem that long ago.
    You're right, and I could have phrased the lines better, but I feel like I should point out that the smile at Nando was described as happening "for the first time in what seemed like forever to Matt," meaning that one was framed just in his perception.

    Interesting. It seems similar to how the pokémon react to the Meteonite. I wonder if that has anything to do with it? Either way, it’s just another thing that adds to Nekou’s character.
    That's a curious observation. Obviously I can't say much right now, but it's something that's going to be revisited. Oh, will it ever be revisited...

    Overall, good chapter. Lots of mysteries still surrounding everything, but things are still happening and everything is clear. Well done.
    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.


    Just a few general updates:

    I'm still in the process of putting all the content on it, but I created a blog on Tumblr for chapter updates, author notes, artwork, and whatever else related to this.

    The next chapter is coming along decently; it's probably about half done or so, and the rest won't be too difficult once I buckle down and get going on it.

    (Banner by Matori)
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    Next: The Weight of the World (Part 1)

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  22. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    The following two links are to material that may help you if you need them.

    Backstory Post - Events prior to the beginning of Operation GEAR summarized

    Character page on TVTropes
    These were so helpful, you have no idea! No offense, but the way beginning of this series was basically just dialogue with no description. I found it very tiresome to read after the third chapter of the first XD, so I'm happy that I could just read your recent, more superior work.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    As you can see, this story has an R rating, which has been approved by Dragonfree after some rigorous testing. It will be tackling some darker material than what I usually do; among these subjects are cults, extremely unethical scientific experimentation, various types of discrimination, strongly implied sexual content and homelessness. In addition, war and mental illness may be touched on, there’s a plotline about a serial killer, and a plotline will have discussion of a character who was raped – before anyone jumps to conclusions about this just from reading that, I have literally put months of work and research into ensuring that the subject will be handled tastefully and respectfully, and I can promise that it is relevant, not simply included for edginess.
    I am very reassured to know that you did a lot of research before; it is promising when an author handles a topic with full consideration. We both have come a long way since we were teenagers, huh? I usually avoid anything rated R, as I'm a sensitive soul, but I'll put my full trust and faith in you.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    The young doctor, dressed sharply in an immaculate white lab coat, adjusted his glasses nervously as he surveyed the computers surrounding him. Many of the machines bore the same logo that was stitched onto the man’s breast pocket, a letter ‘P’ formed out of the red-and-yellow strands of a double helix.

    All around him were monitors of the situation unfolding in an operating room directly linked to his lab. He was in charge of what was happening in the other room, and had to address the scientists under his command through a microphone affixed to the desk. Large machines, many of them at least the size of a refrigerator, were clustered in one portion of the lab, while a small kitchen unit sat opposite them. There was also a lounging area that consisted simply of an old, rotting bookcase, drab sofa and decrepit television set; on the wall right next to the bookcase was a framed document assigning a doctorate to the man, whose name was Gabriel Zager. A tiny yellow spider Pokémon, Joltik, skittered hyperactively around the room.
    My jaw dropped to the floor reading this. It's like you are a different author, and it just shows how much you've grown since my departure. I can vividly picture what's going on around me. And the younger you claimed that any description would be "forced". Ha! Your future self clearly owns.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    He knew the operation in the other room was going horribly simply from the barrage of noise coming back at him through the terminal’s speakers. The sounds of several men rushing about the room could be heard, but even louder than that were the alternating sounds of a woman screaming and then briefly gasping to try and catch her breath.

    “Just keep at it, all of you,” the doctor said in an attempt to encourage his men, while nervously eyeing the screens monitoring the woman’s heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. “We’ve come too far now. There’s no turning back.”

    One of the other scientists, an even younger man of about twenty-one, suddenly came crashing through the doorway partitioning the lab and operating room from each other. Before Zager could ask him a single question, he had torn across the lab to the deep sink on the other side, where he loudly wretched up the contents of his stomach.

    “Are you alright?!” This was a bad sign, and the doctor knew it. He had been assured that the team he was commanding was comprised of very well-trained scientific and medical professionals, so to see one of those very same people unable to handle their own job struck him deeply.

    “It’s… it’s horrible...” The scientist was clearly deeply disturbed by what he had seen. He spoke in a shaking, terrified voice, and did not even turn to face his boss. “That thing is a monster… it’s parasitized the very fibers of her being… we never should have played God and done this…”

    “Get a hold of yourself, boy! Stop speaking in riddles!”

    “It’s not a riddle, Doctor Zager, it’s the truth… what we’ve done is create something completely and purely evil…”

    Intrigued and greatly worried by the fearful comments of his team member, Dr. Zager ran his hand across his thick, brown moustache in thought. To some degree, he realized that he should have known things would end in this way.

    Unfortunately, his pensive moment was interrupted when alarms started sounding, drawing him back to the computer bank. The woman’s heart rate was becoming irregular, and her blood pressure was spiking.

    “Finish what we started!” Dr. Zager barked through the microphone to the remaining scientists. “If she dies and the subject doesn’t survive, we didn’t accomplish anything! Her death will have been in vain!”

    A very short amount of time later, the woman’s screaming suddenly stopped, but it was replaced by an even more chilling sound – the shrill, monotonous screech of the heart monitor now reading zero.
    Wow, this scene really made me feel so bad for this poor woman; it was like my stomach knotted knowing she was suffering greatly, and most likely against her will. You clearly know how to make the reader feel. That's a really powerful skill...I hope you can offer me some critiques on my future chapters, so I can do this on the level you can. The word "barrage" doesn't fit here from my perspective, but I guess it could from a figurative stance.

    I think the best thing is I am also a scientist, a biology major, and I am twenty-one. So I identified with the young man who threw up greatly, especially because my stomach felt a little weird at the time of reading. It is like watching someone else throw up, and then you throw up too. Heh...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “Wait, wait…” a voice, belonging to another of Zager’s scientists, called out. Moments later, the sound of a small child crying started to filter through the speakers, leading the scientist to declare, “The child is alive! This subject actually survived!”

    “We are all dead men walking,” commented the man who had vomited in Zager’s sink as he lifted himself from the basin. “We have done something that will destroy us all.” He barely managed to get those words out before fainting.

    “So I see that Azrael has been brought into this world at last.”
    This is fascinating, and I'm already wondering who Azrael is and what is her purpose. A highly unethical, scientific experiment gone wrong? Exciting! Especially because I love science and science based characters and plot, even if it is a subplot.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “She is the key to all of our goals, so we have to do what we must. Gabriel, it’s about time you learned the truth. The true meaning about the purpose of Polaris… and the meaning of your mission, the Azrael Project.”
    So Zager's first name is Gabriel? I do think Dr. Zager is menacing, and it is nice I see him included in the story.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    The years had not been kind to the Polaris research team. As time passed from that fateful day in 1987, member after member fell away from the group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the scientist who had lost his composure in Dr. Zager’s lab that day was the first to go; he simply stopped attending work within a few months of the incident and disappeared, rarely being spoken of again as the result of some unwritten rule. Over the next few years, the others peeled off one by one, some quitting the organization for their own reasons, others simply disappearing without a word. Finally, at the end, Dr. Zager himself disappeared from Polaris’s ranks, following a series of highly disappointing reports on the status of the child created that day, Azrael.
    As a scientist, not surprised this happened.

    Ah, so this experiment took place in the past. That was unexpected. I wonder why these reports were disappointing, and I feel a sense of tragedy for Azrael alongside her birth mother.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Perhaps coincidentally, Dr. Zager’s disappearance was fourteen years to the day Azrael was born.
    Why is fourteen years a significant number?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Without the notice of the two scientists, a third man had slipped into the room behind them. He could be distinguished by his prematurely-graying hair, styled with two spikes on the right side, three on the left, and two long bangs hanging over his bespectacled face. Perhaps more startling, though, was the giant scar that formed a blood-red arc across his visage. His clothing was mainly shades of black and gray, though the coat he wore beneath his cape was outlined with yellow.

    Immediately, the two scientists, who were clearly subordinates of the third, stiffened up from nerves.

    “Well, no, of course we wouldn’t be, sir…” the first fumbled.

    “You know, you’re a terrible liar. I overheard everything. You’re lucky we’re on such a tight schedule, though. What you call a waste of Finansielle’s money is actually a vital project for Polaris’s plan, vital enough that it just got you off of a punishment for insubordination. What’s the status of Project J?”

    “There have been no responses thus far, sir,” explained the second of the underlings. “However, Project J has showed continued molecular stability and zero signs of degeneration.”

    “Excellent, that means it’s still perfectly preserved. Continue trying to reactivate it, and let me know if it…”

    The sound of beeping from the computer console interrupted the man’s sentence, but it turned his expression into one of excitement. Readouts on the screens that had previously displayed only straight, flat lines now were spiking and falling rapidly.

    “I… really? Project J… it’s communicating with us, sir!”

    “Switch over to real-time translation of those waves!”

    Sufficiently cowed by his superior’s joyous outburst, the first of the two scientists swiftly entered a command into his computer, replacing the wave patterns with lines of written text.

    “Hello? Where am… I?”

    “The laboratory of Polaris,” one of the men typed in response. “We’ve separated you from your body and kept you alive.”
    It moved a little too fast for my taste, but I find this fascinated. I wonder what body J has been taken from...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    There was a pause as the entity in the tank considered what it had been told. “What do you intend to do with me?”

    “Sir?”

    The leader of this rather odd team leaned over one of the computers and typed in his own comment. “We are going to see if we can create a new body for you and put you in it. We want to see if you will survive.”

    “Please, give me a new body! I want one! Give me a new body and I’ll work for you, even!”

    “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” the first scientist whispered out loud. “Project J is fully active.”

    “I must present this news at the next meeting of the Sacred Helix,” the leader declared, pulling a golden mask in the shape of a feline Pokémon from his black cape and affixing it to his face. “This development is an important day in the progress of Polaris’s goal.”
    I wonder what Project J is? This is very suspenseful, and I'm interested to know what the new body is.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    It was night in the Pewter City Museum of Science, and as such, the building was dark and empty. Only a single night watchman – a portly, gentle-looking individual - remained, and he was perfectly content to remain in his security booth watching the news on television and snacking absentmindedly from a box of doughnuts.
    I love that you chose this location as it is one of my favorites, and it was humorous the way this security officer was described. I'm smelling someone getting through security?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    His complacence was directly the reason why he did not notice the infiltrator who slipped into the museum.
    Called it! That poor sap is out of a job.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    On the wall next to him was a fuse box sealed with four screws; luckily for the thief, he had come prepared with a screwdriver. He wasted no time in using the tool to remove the screws, and once they were gone he removed the metal plate from the console, exposing the blinking lights of the fuses within.

    Quietly, the thief raised his right arm, causing the material of his bodysuit to make a stretching sound. The air around his hand crackled with static electricity, ending with a lightning bolt flowing from his palm into the fuses, overloading them and blowing out the entire museum’s power.
    ....
    These treasures were his objective, so he set about the process of taking them. Aware of an invisible laser barrier shielding the two orbs, he set his hand down on the edge of the exhibit platform, sending a surge of his electricity through it. The two pedestals supporting the pair of orbs each suffered a small explosion and collapsed, dropping the precious items down to the ground, where they were no longer within the boundaries of the laser barriers.

    Knowing that he could not reach the Adamant Orb and Lustrous Orb manually, the intruder searched around the room for something to use, ultimately settling on a yellow-and-blue hooked staff once wielded by an ancient king. This tool was originally placed next to a replica of a similarly-colored sarcophagus, but now, the burglar simply used it to carefully pull the orbs to himself. He collected the orbs one at a time, setting them carefully within the foam outlines inside his briefcase.
    Clearly, this guy knows what he's doing and isn't screwing around.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “The Legendary Pokémon said to have been sealed on Emeraude Island, Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus…” He chuckled as he shook his head. “It’ll have to wait, but your time will come…”

    Abruptly turning around, the enigmatic figure discovered another exhibit, one that excited him even further – a large capsule, roughly seven or eight feet tall, sealed at its top by an airtight lock.
    Didn't Dr. Zager have those three Pokemon at one point? It would be interesting to see if they make a comeback or reunion with him.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “So we meet at last, Zoroark…” The thief could barely contain the thrill in his voice as he slowly approached the capsule. “You’ve been trapped in there for so long, but please wait just a little longer. I promise to you that I will return and free you, and at that point, your reign will begin!”
    That was also unexpected, but in a good way. Zoroark being a ruler? I wonder in what way...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Both took a moment to analyze their visitor. Glancing over him, they did not immediately react, but when he removed his sunglasses to reveal his vivid green eyes, they realized who he was.

    “Pierce, what are you doing here?” the man asked, hushing his voice deliberately. “Things changed, don’t you know?”

    “And I’m here to tell you things have changed again,” Pierce forcefully explained, his deep voice almost shaking the room. “Jessie, James, Meowth, I have orders related to me from the boss to come here and pick you up. Do you have your Pokémon?”

    Jessie and James checked their belts; she had two Poké Balls, while James had one. After verifying this fact, they both nodded to Pierce, who replaced his glasses and turned for the door.
    Yay! I love the trio. I'm glad they are included.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “Shifting gears from the meteor shower,” said the voice of the newscaster on the television near the hot tub, “we now bring you an update on another story that’s been gripping the nation: the serial killer known as Kiss of Death.”

    Olivia, Nekou and Bunny had their conversation interrupted by the news report, but as they became interested in what the report had to say, they weren’t bothered.

    “The Kiss of Death killer has struck again. Melvin Clemens, a management director for the Angel Corporation, was found brutally murdered in his Viridian City apartment last night. Fitting with the pattern of her previous crimes, the scene was left completely, spotlessly cleaned of all signs of her presence. Only the horribly mangled body of Mr. Clemens was left behind, and all DNA evidence was removed, leaving only the signature imprint of the shape of the killer’s lips in the victim’s blood on him.”
    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Looks like the kiss of death has some extensive training, and I wonder if they are a part of Polaris or Project J? I like how they assume the killer is female, maybe that's a small detail I picked up but, as we know, assumptions are dangerous.

    The screen then changed what it displayed, replacing the newscaster with a bony-faced man whose rigid gaze was framed by thick eyebrows and thin, flat black hair. Olivia nearly jumped out of the water, as she recognized him immediately.

    “That’s Detective Looker!” she exclaimed, before explaining, “He helped us out five years ago! You know, back when my dad was still around to fight the bad guys…”

    “Don’t dwell on that,” Nekou said sharply, “let’s listen to what he’s got to say now.”

    “Developed have we a picture of definition on this most vicious serial killer,” Looker spoke on the television. “All of the murders being associated with this killer have exhibited the signs of sameness, yes. Always the victim’s body gets dropped and left behind in a terribly mutilated state of being, along with the calling card of the killer’s signature, her lips being cast in the blood of the dead one. All genetic evidence that would show leads is, sadly to be saying, destroyed at the scene of each and every committed crime.”
    Ugh, I wouldn't want to be the kiss of death. But who is the stupid reporter that keeps assuming the gender? There is no DNA evidence. Incompetent fools, or are they?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “You know, a story like that is kind of romantic in a sense.”
    Nekou's a little kinky, isn't she?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “Oh, he’s probably off jerking around somewhere, probably literally.” Nekou sighed and sipped her beer before adding, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get some pizza and leave him out of it. **** him if he doesn’t want to hang out with us.”
    You owe me a new keyboard; I spit my drink all over it. I'm just not used to characters like this. I think I'm going to really like Nekou.


    Though she was wrong, Nekou probably would have made the same joke even if she truly did know about what was going on four floors above them.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Bunny, now wearing a stately black-and-gray business suit, and Olivia, who was wrapped in a blue cape with silver lining, were waiting in the lobby of the resort. They were unable to leave until Nekou and Matt joined them, so they were conversing further between themselves.

    “So did you make up your mind yet, Olivia?” Bunny thoughtfully asked, genuinely curious about Olivia’s pending choice of starter Pokémon.
    Interesting that Rich would allow Nekou to be around his daughter so much; I don't think she is much of a role model.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    “I’m going to take Totodile,” the girl decisively declared, tapping her pink boots against the floor in an alternating fashion. “Cyndaquil is very cute, but I can’t just ignore the fact that Totodile is a Water-type. Surely, if I enter the Pokémon League and Grand Festival with a Water-type starter Pokémon, my dad will have to take notice, right?”

    Bunny nodded, but she could not find any words to verbally answer. Olivia bringing up her father, Rich, and his own preference for Water-types put Bunny in an awkward positon. She did not want to lie to Olivia, but at the same time, she felt an obligation to respect Matt’s wish to not tell Olivia of Rich’s death as well.
    Poiston should be "position". Ah, Rich being dead explains a lot. That detail I missed. And that's good that she decides to pick Totodile, it really is underutilized.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    At that moment was when what would be the first of many strange events took place.

    Olivia and the others were expecting to see an awkward, nerdy-looking man with glasses and brown hair, but he wasn’t there. Instead, the only person present in the lab was a woman, wearing her hair in a thick ball, who had a briefcase at her side. She seemed just as surprised to the group as they were to see her.

    “Professor… Juniper?” Nekou breathed, thoroughly confused.
    That's interesting. It isn't every day that you see that, and I'm genuinely curious on why Juniper of all people is in Professor Elm's lab.


    Initial Verdict:

    The description is absolutely perfect to me, it clearly paints a picture in my head. Best, it doesn't overwhelm me either.

    The words and general narrative flows beautifully although some parts were too fast, but it wasn't anything you need to change. It is just I would have liked some scenes of interest to play out more.

    I do have one major criticism. One thing I noticed from the first fanfiction of the series to now is the sheer amount of characters. Honestly, there have always been so many, and it is sometimes hard for me to keep track of them all. The amount of characters sort of makes it hard to follow an otherwise well-written fanfic. I'd make the character list smaller if you can.

    I'd also add a warning that people should be caught up with the Pokemon anime, if you haven't already; I haven't watched it in years, besides some choice episodes, and I was puzzled by some of the characters. I didn't know which characters were anime and which characters were OP. I had to search up the name to be sure.

    That's really the only major criticism I have, but I enjoyed it a lot even with this issue. So far, it is my favorite fanfiction on serebiiforums.

    It is like I time traveled and met the older version of you, a much more fleshed out, developed human being. Man, there is something really heartbreaking about this. I'm just really sad I didn't get the chance to see you grow, it would have been very rewarding to follow the whole series from the start, but I'll take what I can get. Add me to the PM list, please.
    Last edited by Silent_Vibrava; 9th August 2013 at 11:13 AM.




    Want someone to review your fanfiction? Wish granted. I accept fanfiction review requests so just PM me!

  23. #123
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent_Vibrava View Post
    These were so helpful, you have no idea! No offense, but the way beginning of this series was basically just dialogue with no description. I found it very tiresome to read after the third chapter of the first XD, so I'm happy that I could just read your recent, more superior work.
    The first XD is what you mean by "the beginning of the series?"

    Either way, it's a relief that you find it improved. That's always a persistent fear, that while I work hard it's just not getting better.

    I am very reassured to know that you did a lot of research before; it is promising when an author handles a topic with full consideration. We both have come a long way since we were teenagers, huh? I usually avoid anything rated R, as I'm a sensitive soul, but I'll put my full trust and faith in you.
    Yes, yes we have.

    It's not going to be like, hard-R the entire way through, but it's better to have that insurance because of some of the things that I plan to explore.

    My jaw dropped to the floor reading this. It's like you are a different author, and it just shows how much you've grown since my departure. I can vividly picture what's going on around me. And the younger you claimed that any description would be "forced". Ha! Your future self clearly owns.
    Wow, really? I don't know if I'd call it that good...

    I definitely agree that it's far better than what I wrote back then, though.

    Wow, this scene really made me feel so bad for this poor woman; it was like my stomach knotted knowing she was suffering greatly, and most likely against her will. You clearly know how to make the reader feel. That's a really powerful skill...I hope you can offer me some critiques on my future chapters, so I can do this on the level you can. The word "barrage" doesn't fit here from my perspective, but I guess it could from a figurative stance.
    I suppose it's not too much of a spoiler to ramble a bit here: it's a cult doing this, and she did volunteer for it at the beginning. She just had no idea it would go like this, so I suppose "against her will" still applies for either that reason or because she did it out of believing in their cause.

    I think "barrage" might actually fit, because the whole horror of the scene is on more than one level. There's the physical side of it, but something else I did was to deliberately leave out as much as possible about her herself. Notice that you never actually see her, are never given her name, and the only presence she has is the screaming - using what is given, the reader literally sees her as nothing but her role in what is immediately happening, with no actual identity. I realized that once I did that, any reader who picked up on it would realize that that was exactly the situation she is in, only seen as a physical tool whose identity is completely irrelevant in the eyes of some. Is it any wonder that the scientists reacted the way they did after seeing the true consequences of their actions?

    I think the best thing is I am also a scientist, a biology major, and I am twenty-one. So I identified with the young man who threw up greatly, especially because my stomach felt a little weird at the time of reading. It is like watching someone else throw up, and then you throw up too. Heh...
    Interesting... it's nice you were able to identify with the scene, even with how relatively intense it was.

    This is fascinating, and I'm already wondering who Azrael is and what is her purpose. A highly unethical, scientific experiment gone wrong? Exciting! Especially because I love science and science based characters and plot, even if it is a subplot.
    First: Those are very good things to be wondering. Eventually you'll see why...

    Second: Unethical experiments with strange goals are great, aren't they? It's a subplot now, but it'll come back to the forefront at the right time.

    So Zager's first name is Gabriel? I do think Dr. Zager is menacing, and it is nice I see him included in the story.
    I think you'll find him to be an interesting character, then. He's not quite as straightforward as he might seem.

    As a scientist, not surprised this happened.

    Ah, so this experiment took place in the past. That was unexpected. I wonder why these reports were disappointing, and I feel a sense of tragedy for Azrael alongside her birth mother.
    The reason why they were disappointing will be revealed, but not right away.

    And you're right to feel that sense of tragedy. Get it warmed up now because you'll be using it again.

    Why is fourteen years a significant number?
    Can't say right now.

    It moved a little too fast for my taste, but I find this fascinated. I wonder what body J has been taken from...



    I wonder what Project J is? This is very suspenseful, and I'm interested to know what the new body is.
    Project J's origin is something I'm probably not going to be able to explain for a very long time, but I will say that with enough work it can be pieced together.

    The new body isn't anything particularly notable, it's just a copy of the old one.

    I love that you chose this location as it is one of my favorites, and it was humorous the way this security officer was described. I'm smelling someone getting through security?



    Called it! That poor sap is out of a job.
    I have a soft spot for the Pewter Museum as well, so it was fun getting it in right away. Of course, that's probably not the only time it'll come up either.

    And yeah, I couldn't resist playing for a little humor with the security guard. He gave me too much of an opportunity.

    Clearly, this guy knows what he's doing and isn't screwing around.
    That's an understatement.

    Didn't Dr. Zager have those three Pokemon at one point? It would be interesting to see if they make a comeback or reunion with him.
    He did, but in all honesty, I'm thinking about going back and removing that part. It was meant to be foreshadowing for a future arc involving Meloetta and those three Pokemon, but then the Operation Tempest arc happened in the anime, which meant every idea I had ended up getting used. I still haven't figured out if I can salvage something from it to use.

    That was also unexpected, but in a good way. Zoroark being a ruler? I wonder in what way...
    In a way that it would be better if it didn't come back.

    Yay! I love the trio. I'm glad they are included.
    I hope you don't mind the interpretation of them I use. They're not strictly comic relief here; I took some of their serious nature from the Best Wishes series and merged it with their characterization from the Kanto arc.

    Ugh, I wouldn't want to be the kiss of death. But who is the stupid reporter that keeps assuming the gender? There is no DNA evidence. Incompetent fools, or are they?
    ...I actually never even realized that. That's a legitimate hole, and I'm going to have to figure out a way to cover it. I do have an idea I was developing for the future when the killer's identity and motive are revealed, but even using that doesn't logically go back and retroactively fill in the problem here.

    Wow, this one's really got me. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Nekou's a little kinky, isn't she?
    You have no idea.

    You owe me a new keyboard; I spit my drink all over it. I'm just not used to characters like this. I think I'm going to really like Nekou.
    Oh, things are just getting started with her. You might want to restrain from drinking while reading.

    Interesting that Rich would allow Nekou to be around his daughter so much; I don't think she is much of a role model.
    Now this is really something that's going to be explored in more detail. One of the themes in the characterization of Olivia here is that Rich tried to shelter her far too much, meaning that even though he meant well, she didn't really get much 'normal' real-life experience. Nekou's obviously not a great role model, but she has a bit more complexity to her than you might think, and in more recent chapters you'll come to see an interesting relationship develop between them.

    It's a little hard to explain at this point, but I think you'll see what I mean once you read some more.

    Poiston should be "position". Ah, Rich being dead explains a lot. That detail I missed. And that's good that she decides to pick Totodile, it really is underutilized.
    Rich being gone, and Olivia's naivete of that fact, is a major catalyst for that development I alluded to just now. Olivia is, at this point, in a position where she is falling toward rock bottom and is desperately trying to tell herself nothing is wrong.

    Totodile is also the one of the Johto starters that suits her the most.

    That's interesting. It isn't every day that you see that, and I'm genuinely curious on why Juniper of all people is in Professor Elm's lab.
    It does get a prompt explanation, don't worry.


    Initial Verdict:

    The description is absolutely perfect to me, it clearly paints a picture in my head. Best, it doesn't overwhelm me either.


    Oh, wow, thank you! I'm still not terribly confident in the description, so hearing that is a definite boost to my confidence.

    The words and general narrative flows beautifully although some parts were too fast, but it wasn't anything you need to change. It is just I would have liked some scenes of interest to play out more.
    Pacing is a challenge for me, so I must apologize for that. I often find myself grappling with scenes that feel too short yet would become bloated and endless if extended for longer. I'll definitely have to try even harder to improve that issue.

    I do have one major criticism. One thing I noticed from the first fanfiction of the series to now is the sheer amount of characters. Honestly, there have always been so many, and it is sometimes hard for me to keep track of them all. The amount of characters sort of makes it hard to follow an otherwise well-written fanfic. I'd make the character list smaller if you can.
    It's not that this isn't a valid point, I just want to offer a counterpoint to it - the way I'm reading your comment here, and I may be mistaken, is that you appear to be considering this strictly part of the same series I was writing in the past. This is actually a separate series that only follows in the footsteps of the previous one, hence why it follows a largely different cast, takes place years later and is completely different in terms of plot. Most of the previous events and characters aren't relevant anymore outside of a core few, which get brought up and revealed again in the context of the new story for newer readers.

    If I'm interpreting it wrong and you're strictly referring to the content of this one chapter, while I can see a few pieces I could have moved around here and there - such as the Kiss of Death introduction - overall I feel satisfied with it. I wanted to really establish the scale of what's going on right away.

    I'd also add a warning that people should be caught up with the Pokemon anime, if you haven't already; I haven't watched it in years, besides some choice episodes, and I was puzzled by some of the characters. I didn't know which characters were anime and which characters were OP. I had to search up the name to be sure.
    That's a good point, I'll have to consider it.

    That's really the only major criticism I have, but I enjoyed it a lot even with this issue. So far, it is my favorite fanfiction on serebiiforums.

    It is like I time traveled and met the older version of you, a much more fleshed out, developed human being. Man, there is something really heartbreaking about this. I'm just really sad I didn't get the chance to see you grow, it would have been very rewarding to follow the whole series from the start, but I'll take what I can get. Add me to the PM list, please.
    Oh, wow... thank you, really. I've been struggling a bit with motivation lately, but your review has really helped me feel encouraged to put in a lot of effort again. Just knowing that someone holds what I do in such high esteem really is humbling.

    I usually contact my readers via VM instead of PM, if that's okay.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 17th August 2013 at 10:12 AM.

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  24. #124
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    There’s a lot to get to here. The main warning this time is for panic attacks, self-harm and suicide threats.

    -:-

    CHAPTER 11: Hard Reset

    -:-

    The morning after the chaos in Union Cave, the sun bathed Azalea Town in its rays, with none of the previous cloud cover impeding it.

    The Pokémon Center standing at the center of the small town provided a stark contrast to its surroundings. It was a modern building among a village of wooden structures, a place far from the hand of progress that had worked so harshly on Cherrygrove City. Only the Poké Mart down the road kept it from being completely out of place.

    Inside, Olivia was sitting at a table in the common area with Looker and Silver. She was sipping tea and eating a biscuit, while Looker had a cup of coffee and Silver simply sat scowling, a glass of orange juice in front of him.

    “Mr. Looker,” Olivia questioned, keeping her eyes on the teacup in front of herself to avoid having to meet Looker and Silver’s gazes. “Why were you in Union Cave yesterday?”

    “Being there was a strange energy pulse in that area. Identical to it was the energy pulse that struck Route 29, so suspicious something there is, I suspect.”

    Olivia looked up slightly, though not far enough to meet either pair of eyes opposite her. “So Matt was right…”

    “Hm? What are you precisely speaking words about?”

    “He came to the same conclusion,” the sullen young woman explained. “I believe it, too. The Geodude, Sandshrew, Drilbur and Onix we saw all were acting strangely, just like the Pawniard and Bisharp on Route 29.”

    “Did you say Geodude, Sandshrew, Drilbur and Onix?” Silver interrupted. When Olivia nodded, he pushed for further confirmation by asking, “And no other Pokémon, you’re sure?”

    “Just those four species, I’m sure.”

    Silver quickly turned to Looker. “Geodude, Sandshrew, Drilbur and Onix are all at least part Ground-types. If no other Pokémon were affected, those energy pulses might only affect a single type of Pokémon at a time.”

    “You are suggesting the notion which I am thinking?”

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of Team Rocket’s experiments. She’s here, so there must be other Team Rocket members in Azalea Town, and I intend to take them all out.”

    “Duly noted,” Looker said, crossing his arms. “Olivia, what I am wondering to be asking you questions about is what I saw with my eyes when I first was encountering your friends yesterday. What are you possessing the ability to be telling me about that?”

    “I don’t want to talk about it…” Olivia answered, looking back down.

    “Please, I must be insisting on it. My investigation into these blasts of strange energy and what the kind of effect they are acting to have on the Pokémon of the local area would gain great aid from learning more true facts about what happened. Why and how can there be happening to be a person who acts sometimes with the natural savagery of a Pokémon that is wild?”

    “You should just arrest that woman,” Silver mumbled under his breath.

    “Be letting Olivia answer the question that is mine.”

    “I don’t know anything, even if I wanted to know!” Olivia finally cracked under the pressure of Looker’s questions, slamming her fists on her lap. “Actually I’m not sure I want to know. I want to forget yesterday ever happened.”

    Looker clasped his hands together and leaned forward, resting his head on them. “Would speaking of the things that make you feel good be a help?”

    “I think so.” Olivia took a deep breath, calming both her muscles and her speech. “Some good things happened yesterday. I got to train a lot with the Oshawott I got from Professor Juniper. Nekou was there for me, too. She wouldn’t stop encouraging me to do better. And Matt… well, he was there, I guess. I’m going to prove to him that I can be treated like an adult, like how he acts toward my dad.”

    “At least your father was a good man, unlike mine,” Silver spitefully interjected.

    “Be silent with your tongue, Silver, or I will be sending you away from here until interrogation has reached the point called its conclusion.” Softening, Looker continued by asking, “Olivia, please be trying to tell me about what took place in events at a point in time most immediately before Nekou’s descent into a state of being feral.”

    “Remember those Drilbur I mentioned? We had just finished fighting them. Nekou helped me fight off four of them, while Matt was battling the fifth. We finished battling them when suddenly this Onix that was affected by the Meteonite broke in and smashed Nekou against the wall. She started acting strange after that.”

    “So it is acceptable to be concluding that the energy pulse itself was not acting as the cause for her violent actions. That is good, because it would happen to be bad if humans were also in a position to be affected by those blasts.” Skipping a beat, Looker suddenly realized what Olivia had said and gasped. “Did you… did you speak from your lips the word Meteonite?”

    “Yeah, what about it?”

    “I will have to be making sure to tell myself to note that for future investigations.” What Looker didn’t tell her was just how major it was to know that the Meteonite was involved for him.

    He wouldn’t get a chance to, either, as Matt and Nekou came up to the table. Almost immediately, Olivia shrank back into her seat, her body shaking.

    Mindful to take great care in choosing his words, Matt gently asked, “Olivia, what’s wrong?”

    “You know what’s wrong,” she mumbled in response, keeping her eyes locked in the opposite direction of the two people who distressed her.

    Nekou turned to Matt, the two of them having anticipated Olivia’s mood.

    ~:~

    The previous night, after telling Nekou what had happened in Union Cave and doing his best to soothe her fears about it, Matt had gone back to his own room. In the light of a floor lamp next to the room’s desk, he was sitting at a painting easel, putting colors randomly on the canvas to create an incoherent display.

    He was so startled by his door opening that he nearly dropped the palette in his left hand. Spinning around, he saw Nekou staggering in with a pillow in one hand and a beer can in the other.

    “What are you doing in here?” he sharply questioned, though he quickly realized this was inappropriate and softened his tone. “Do you want to talk some more?”

    Nekou did not answer until after she threw herself down on the bed. “I don’t want to be alone. I get nightmares.” When Matt put the palette down and stood from the easel, Nekou shouted at him, “I’m not lying!”

    “No, I believe you…” Sitting down on the bed but facing away from her, Matt continued, “You must have some pretty bad nightmares, judging from how much you drink at night to escape them.”

    “How did you know that?”

    “I’ve had to do it sometimes myself. My nightmares are memories of the things I’ve seen, but I think there are some things I dream of that are memories of events I otherwise can’t remember anymore… if I might ask, what about yours?”

    Nekou put her beer can on the nightstand next to the bed, then rolled over onto her back. “They never make sense. I see and hear images and sounds that… they just don’t make any sense. It’s like a ****ing acid trip. Other times I dream of science, history, you know, textbook ****. That just goes on and on until my head explodes from it all. The one thing that’s always consistent is that I hear this woman screaming… and it just never ends.”

    “Do you think that they’re memories of something?”

    “I don’t know, and that’s what makes them terrifying.” Nekou pushed her bangs from her forehead, then closed her eyes. “Olivia’s going to be left with the same thing now. How the **** can she understand what happened if I don’t even understand it?”

    “I’m going to be blunt here,” Matt said, staring at the wall. “Preventing her from being haunted by what happened in Union Cave is up to you. She won’t want to hear it from me, and hearing it from you would give it some weight.”

    “You know, you’re right.”

    ~:~

    Matt nodded to her, and Nekou turned to Olivia, fixing a determined, eye-level gaze on the young woman.

    “Olivia, you don’t have to be afraid of me because of what happened yesterday, I promise. I’m never going to do anything to hurt you.”

    “That wasn’t you,” Olivia whimpered, still pulled back into her seat.

    “Maybe you’re right. But this definitely is.”

    Nekou sat down next to Olivia and embraced her, catching her off guard. She flinched violently at first, but as it sank in that Nekou was sincere about not hurting her, she calmed.

    “I promise I’ll learn to control that side of me. I don’t want to scare you or make you feel threatened.”

    “Please do,” Olivia responded, finally putting her arms around her friend.

    Matt had stood by silently during the entire exchange, not wanting to interrupt the sincere reconciliation between the two. Once he sensed it was finished, though, he changed the subject with a question.

    “Looker, why are you even here? Last I had heard of you, you were off in Kanto investigating the Kiss of Death case.”

    Looker sighed and crossed his arms. “Taken off the case, I happened to be. It has not seen wide reporting, but there occurred to be two more murders.”

    “Why would they take you off the case just because the killer struck again?” Matt wondered, not noticing Nekou briefly shoot a glare at him.

    “You see, the two victims, they were having something in common that they shared. They were both employees working in the employ of the Angel Corporation. Suspicious I became when I noted this about both men, because Melvin Clemens, the murder before them, he was involved as an employee of the Angel Corporation as well. But that wasn’t all. I made my decision to go back and look once more at the Clemens case once I came upon having this realization and I struck a discovery – he was employed at one of the highest salaried positions within the corporation’s umbrella, but in complete spite of the paycheck he received, Melvin Clemens was living his life in the state of bare bones poverty. Suddenly, and lacking in any sort of warning to me, I was removed from the investigation, halting my efforts to put my eyes on his financial records.”

    “Financial records? I thought this was a murder case alone.”

    “Three of the men whose lives met their end are connected through sharing the same place of employment, and one of them lived in a lifestyle that completely has contradictions against the kind of money he should have owned in his possession. I have a suspicion that the victims have a deeper link than just how their deaths came to pass in history.”

    Matt held his chin and pondered Looker’s information, which he had to admit sounded fairly suspicious. He intended to question the detective further about the case, but he never got to put words to any of his thoughts before Olivia interrupted.

    “What’s going on over there?”

    She pointed across the Pokémon Center lobby to the fairly large group of people clustered around the television mounted on the wall. A newscast was playing on it, but from the distance they were away from it, none of the group could hear what was being said.

    “Let’s go check that out,” Nekou immediately said.

    After Nekou slid out from the table, Olivia followed, and both Looker and Silver got up after them. Matt brought up the rear, but maintained a close distance to them. Once they were all around the television, they barely had a moment to hear what was going on before the newscaster disappeared and was replaced by Ghetsis.

    “Another Polaris broadcast…” A violent scowl appeared on Nekou’s face, one that she only faintly tried to pull back. “They’re stepping up their game. We’re running out of time…”

    “Greetings, people of the Tohjo Continent,” Ghetsis spoke, his voice ringing throughout the lobby. He held a clear confidence for the speech, with a sincere smile and an intense gaze. “I come before you today with a simple message. A plea, if you will. Every day, more people, many of them your own sons and daughters, fall by the wayside in the manipulative, elitist system known as the Pokémon League. Because of the heavy hand of oppression looming over this nation, generations of ordinary citizens have been fooled into believing in a lie crafted by the rich and powerful , the notion of anyone from any background being able to attain the goal called ‘Pokémon Master.’ How can the poor and those of modest means raise themselves up when the very mechanics supposedly meant to help them actually only advance the already wealthy and elite with handouts and breaks that put them on a higher level practically from birth?!” Ghetsis’s eye was narrowing, becoming more and more intense with every sentence of his speech, and just off camera, he tightly clenched his fist. “So I ask you, citizens of Johto and Kanto… no, it is not only I, all of Polaris asks you… step up, add your names to the ranks of those brave individuals who will fight in the name of justice. Soon, your chance will come to join our crusade. You must ask yourselves, in a world where seventy percent of new trainers never reach the Pokémon League, and ninety percent of those don’t collect more than seven Badges, is that fair? No, it is not! You must rise and speak to the powers that would keep you down with this lie, telling them that you will stand for the injustice no longer! We, Polaris, are your voice, and with every one of you who joins the battle for equal opportunity, that voice grows stronger. Goldenrod City will be the place. My minister of public relations will meet with you, the people, in a few days there to plot the course forward. Please keep your eyes on our public schedules for more details. Polaris will bring freedom and justice to the people when we usher in a new era of mankind, and it will be soon! Do not let yourselves be on the wrong side of history! Thank you for your time today, and we will be seeing you again very, very soon.”

    When Ghetsis disappeared from the screen, the crowd surrounding it instantly descended into a flurry of discussion.

    “What do you think they mean? A new era of mankind?”

    “You know, he’s right, though. I just saw a report on TV the other night that backs him up…”

    “I just heard that… what was it, like seventy percent of new trainers never even make it to the Pokémon League, and ninety percent of them don’t collect more than seven Badges? Is that what he said?”

    “There have been more and more trainers washing up at Pokémon Centers in cities all over the place unable to continue going. Between the cost of healing their Pokémon, rooms and supplies, it’s no wonder so many don’t make it…”

    Matt didn’t realize right away that Nekou had pulled Olivia away from the storm of speculation, with everyone else but himself following in kind.

    “Is it really true, though?” he could hear Olivia asking Nekou as he rejoined them.

    “There are a lot of trainers who don’t make the big time,” Nekou explained, “but you don’t need to worry about that because you’re not going to be a statistic.”

    Turning from their exchange, Matt noticed Looker standing with Silver, grimacing while crossing his arms.

    “What’s going on?” he questioned, walking up to the pair.

    “Goldenrod City is apparently going to take on the intensity of a field of battle in the forthcoming future… and the mission I am currently in possession of is taking place there. Escorting them out will be made harder and more difficult if Polaris causes a disturbance event in the population of the locality.”

    “Escort them? Who?”

    “Two prisoners jailed by the International Police whose cycles reached their opportunity for parole and return to life being ordinary. They both received negative judgments of their readiness and must be escorted back to the adjacent nation of Kanto for return to prison. One is the former tycoon of business Grings Kodai, and the other… the other’s your friend from the past, Jacob Alexison.”

    Matt nearly blacked out the moment Looker said the name Jacob Alexison, as a flood of memories came rushing back to him – none of them positive. He held his chest as if in pain.

    “Where he shot me still hurts every time I think about him…” he growled, “…but I’m going to need to ask you a favor. Let me talk to him before you ship him off.”

    “Yeah, I want to talk to Jacob Alexison too,” Nekou butted in, having wandered over with Olivia.

    A silence met them as Looker stared back, considering their requests. “Fine, I shall consent to giving my consent for such a plan,” he finally responded, “but you will be needing to make haste to Goldenrod City. I will not find myself waiting for you.”

    “That works out,” Olivia said. “All we need to do here is visit Azalea Gym…”

    “Is that how you will continue to grow closer together?”

    Surprised by the voice behind them, Matt, Olivia and Nekou all turned around sharply, only to discover Nikolai standing behind them with his hands in the pockets of his coat. He looked as listless as ever, and his sudden appearance provoked both Nekou and Looker to grimace.

    “Who is this guy?”

    Ignoring Silver’s rudely-put question, Nikolai walked right up to Olivia and lowered himself to see eye-to-eye with her. “I can feel it, even through the Poké Ball… your Oshawott is bursting with an incredible amount of energy,” he quietly but firmly said. “It’s got far more energy than before. You did the right thing and trusted it to indulge in its natural instincts.”

    “Th-thank you, I guess?” Olivia shifted her weight from one leg to the other and looked away from Nikolai’s intense gaze.

    “Wait, what even happened to you?” Matt questioned in confusion. “You were sick from the poison that ninja hit you with, and we took you to Violet City’s Pokémon Center for help, but then you disappeared.”

    “I recovered and departed…” As he spoke, Nikolai rose back to his full height and faced Matt. “Your Eelektrik… it is happier than it was before, too. You took my advice and used it…”

    “You’re right, I did. Your advice when we met before was sound.”

    “Is he talking to Pokémon that are still in their Poké Balls?!”

    “He is accomplishing just that,” Looker replied to Silver, though with his eyes closed. “That is a power that he is in possession of.” Turning away, the detective thought to himself, “This boy is here… and so is Ghetsis. There is a connection between Team Plasma and Polaris, but I lack enough evidence to prove any wrongdoing…”

    “Olivia, are you ready to go to the Gym?” Nekou put in, redirecting the conversation back to its initial topic.

    “Yeah, I think I am. And from there… Goldenrod City, where we all want to go.”

    -:-

    Colress’s gloved fingers flew busily over the electronic keyboard of his computer console, manipulating the data he was working with. On the main display screen, a double helix with some segments missing and relevant information regarding the strain of Pokérus he was engineering was shown.

    “Now, time for another stability hypothesis experiment.” A window containing an image of the Meteonite and its associated data appeared alongside the main window, prompting Colress to smile and say, “Very well. Apply the calculated dose of radiation.”

    Once Colress gave this order to the system and pressed the key to confirm it, three red arrows appeared between the two windows, indicating the flow of data from the Meteonite to the DNA structuring program. Within seconds, the helix began to glow, and the missing segments filled themselves in.

    Colress’s eyes went wide. Barely able to contain his excitement, he gestured widely with his arms and shouted, “This is it! I knew I could do what nobody else could! The mystery behind the true strength of Pokémon… and I, Doctor Colress Antimony, am the one to bring it to light! My genius made it possible!”

    All the windows shrank away, and Colress pulled a rectangular data drive from the console before turning and running out of his lab.

    -:-

    The three members of the Shadow Triad stood before Ghetsis, each of them holding one of his prisoners.

    “We have to go out to Ecruteak City to prepare for our mission,” explained the tyrant, firmly gripping the handle of his cane. “Bring Concordia, Anthea and Professor Elm to the transport and guard them with your lives. If anything happens to any of them, your lives literally will be the price. Do not fail me.”

    “Yes, Lord Ghetsis!” all three of the Shadow Triad replied.

    Ghetsis watched as the trio of ninjas dragged their captives off. Concordia and Anthea didn’t resist at all, instead merely hanging like ragdolls in the grip of Darkness and Pestilence. Professor Elm, however, tried in vain to fight his way loose, only for Chaos to sharply knee him in the back. Once Elm was doubled over in pain from the blow, Chaos followed his brothers.

    Satisfied that his followers had the situation under control, Ghetsis lifted his cane near his mouth and twisted the knob atop it to activate its communicator. “Zinzolin.”

    “Lord Ghetsis!” the old man responded from the other end, his voice giving away the surprise he felt. “I was not expecting to be contacted so soon.”

    “You’ve been. My plans are moving ahead to the next stage, and I am about to leave Polaris’s temple for Ecruteak City to begin putting the final touches in place. How prepared are you for the Goldenrod phase?”

    “You’ll be quite pleased to hear that we are fully prepared. All of our resources are in place. All that we need is for Getriebe and Jeunes to get the go-ahead from Finansielle to set the Meteonite extraction plan into motion. Once that starts, it cannot be stopped. As for my role, I am more than ready to take our message to the people in the most powerful way yet.”

    “You’re right, I am pleased. I’m taking the Shadow Triad along with me to Ecruteak City, so don’t let anyone foul up your work like you did in Violet City. Getriebe and Jeunes are relying on you…” Ghetsis stopped speaking briefly and smirked. “…and I’m relying on you even more. It’s absolutely vital that the people are hungry for what I will give them in Ecruteak City.”

    -:-

    To the west of Azalea Town lay Ilex Forest, an wooded expanse grown so thick with tall trees that within its boundaries, little sunlight reached the ground. Many local residents considered the forest’s environment that of a permanent night, and as Séduire lurked in the darkness, sitting in the branches of one of the trees, she found herself in full agreement.

    The amount of sunlight in the forest wasn’t of much concern overall to her, though. On her lap she had a small hand cannon. It was generating a holographic computer display for her, which she was casually flicking through with her fingers while talking to herself in an almost sing-song manner.

    “Oh, it’s just going to be so much fun when you get here, Matt. I’m going to have so much fun… breaking you by making you see that ***** and the girl go down… then I’ll take you back home with me and you’ll never leave me alone ever again…”

    The windows were displaying the different species of Pokémon currently in the area along with numerical readouts and energy charts associated with each one. One of the species Séduire scrolled past caught her by surprise, prompting her to go back.

    “Well then, look at you! I didn’t expect to see you around here… looks like I’m not the only one Matt will be having a reunion with, and for you to meet him, I don’t even have to work for it! You ought to cut him down to give me what I want without any prompting…”

    -:-

    Azalea Gym, located on the western side of the town, was a battling facility within a large greenhouse dome. As Matt, Olivia and Nekou entered, with Nikolai, Looker and Silver in tow, they found the interior to be a lush indoor forest, with many of the trees linked by threads of silk.

    “This place didn’t earn its reputation as a Bug-type Gym for nothing,” Nekou remarked.

    At the center of the structure, nestled snugly in the embrace of the surrounding foliage, was the battlefield. It was simply a field drawn in white paint on the grass, but it was still more than enough.

    Sitting in the stands just to the side of the battlefield was a teenage boy dressed in khaki-colored safari gear. He was reading a thick book and didn’t notice the Gym’s visitors as they arrived.

    Matt started to raise his arm to wave to the boy, but Nekou grabbed it and pulled it back down; he quickly understood why she did this, and said to Olivia, “Go ahead, it’s your turn.”

    Without responding to him, Olivia took Matt’s suggestion. She shakily stepped forward and called out, “I’m here for a Gym battle!”

    The boy almost fell off the stands because of how surprised he was, but he quickly composed himself, put down his book and jumped down onto the grass.

    “Hello!” he cheerfully greeted the guests. “Please forgive that, I got so wrapped up in my reading…”

    “Books are great, aren’t they?” Nekou blurted out.

    “Yes, they are! I’m glad you recognize that!” Putting his hands on his hips, the boy became more serious and shifted his attention to Olivia. “But I doubt you came here just to talk about books with me. You said you wanted a Gym battle, Miss…”

    “Olivia.”

    “Olivia, is that right? Pleased to meet you.” Extending his hand, the boy said, “My name is Bugsy. I’m called the Walking Bug Pokémon Encyclopedia, and I’m the Gym Leader here.”

    Olivia hesitated for a moment, but then shook Bugsy’s hand. Matt, Nekou, Nikolai, Looker and Silver all made their way to the stands, while Olivia and Bugsy went to their opposing sides on the battlefield.

    “Olivia, how many Badges and Pokémon do you have?”

    “No Badges…” Olivia answered, her voice suddenly becoming weak. “…but I do have four Pokémon.”

    “So then, as by the Pokémon League regulations, this will be a three-on-three Single Battle. I won’t be able to make substitutions, and if you beat all three of my Pokémon, you win. Of course, if I beat all three of yours, I win.”

    “Wait, no referee?” Olivia asked, having become confused immediately upon noticing the absence of one.

    “We’re really easygoing here in Azalea Town… if you noticed, we haven’t been touched much by the flow of time, while all the other cities have been to some extent. I’m the only one at this Gym, so it’s really my passion project. I want to create a shrine to Bug Pokémon with my own hands… and that’s why, in this Gym, everything that happens will depend upon your knowledge of Bug Pokémon.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “Every Pokémon I choose will be determined by your answers to questions about Bug-type Pokémon and moves,” Bugsy explained as he took out and opened a green Pokédex. “As the Walking Bug Pokémon Encyclopedia, it’s my job to ensure you leave this Gym knowing more about them than when you entered.”

    “Well, that’s unusual,” Nikolai muttered.

    “Every Gym is different,” Silver said. “I had to do this when I won the Hive Badge, too.”

    “Now please,” Bugsy invited, “send out your first Pokémon, and we shall begin.”

    “O-okay. Lillipup, let’s play!”

    While Olivia’s Lillipup took shape on the battlefield, Matt watched Olivia’s movements and listened to her voice. “She’s nervous, I can tell. I hope she can handle this…”

    “A Lillipup? I’m pleased to be getting the chance to battle a Pokémon from Unova. Now then, my first Pokémon will either be Kakuna or Pineco, depending on whether or not you answer this question correctly: of all Bug-type moves that directly inflict damage on an opponent, which of them delivers the weakest blow? Pin Missile, Leech Life or Twineedle?”

    “Pin Missile,” Nekou mouthed, playing along for herself.

    “I’ll guess Leech Life.”

    “Sorry, it was Pin Missile.”

    Olivia’s face sank as soon as Bugsy revealed that she’d answered incorrectly. “Damn it…” she whispered, her arm trembling slightly.

    “Now that the question is out of the way, because you answered wrong, this is who you face!”

    Bugsy threw one of his Poké Balls, and his Pineco materialized from it. The Pineco peeked out at Lillipup from the inside of his shell, wobbling warily in anticipation of what attack would come.

    “Let’s get this battle started!” Bugsy announced.

    Almost immediately, Olivia thrust her arm forward and shouted. “Lillipup, let’s put all that training we did to good use! Crunch!”

    Lillipup bared his fangs and started running toward Pineco, leaving only a short bark as warning.

    Seemingly not worried about Lillipup’s attack, Bugsy said simply, “Pineco, hold fast.”

    Following his trainer’s direction, Pineco stopped wobbling and stiffened up his body. As a result, when Lillipup bit down on him, he flinched only slightly. Crunch was largely ineffective on him.

    “What?” Olivia gasped. “Why didn’t that work?”

    “I guessed that your Lillipup likely only just learned Crunch from when you said you had done training, and then calculated that Pineco would be able to weather it. Seems I was right… now, Pineco, Rapid Spin!”

    Olivia and all of the spectators could only watch as Bugsy’s Pineco threw Lillipup across the battlefield by spinning around violently. Lillipup stumbled to his feet fairly quickly, but Olivia was visibly shaken.

    “Hang in there, Lillipup…” she said, her voice shaking. “You know, let’s try the other new move you learned. Work Up!”

    Regaining his footing, Lillipup barked twice while surrounded by a faint red glow. After the light faded, he glared at Pineco and growled.

    “Smart move,” Nekou observed. “One hit wouldn’t get through Pineco’s defenses, so what do you do? Get stronger.”

    Matt nodded his head in agreement, but remained silent, owing to his concern over Olivia’s actions.

    The meaning of Olivia’s use of Work Up wasn’t lost on the young Gym Leader, either. “Pineco, be cautious. Don’t let Lillipup get too close to you, otherwise you’ll get hit hard!”

    “So you know what that does…” Olivia said, clenching her fist. “Might as well show you what it looks like. Lillipup, Tackle!”

    “Keep Lillipup back with Venoshock!”

    Showing very little of the fear that often cropped up when he faced a challenging enemy, Lillipup rushed straight at Pineco. The Bug-type Pokémon was ready, however, and used his power to pools of sludge around himself. Narrow, jagged bolts rose from each pool, then descended to strike Lillipup back.

    “Difficult this will be if Pineco ensures Lillipup stays at the length of an arm,” Looker commented.

    “She’ll work it out,” Nekou countered, “you can bet on that.”

    Olivia was finding it a struggle to even figure out a way to try to overcome Pineco’s defenses. Work Up would have solved the problem of the Bug-type’s durable body, but if Lillipup could never reach him, that would be useless. Focusing on this problem left Olivia trembling and silent.

    After shaking the slime from Venoshock out of his fur, Lillipup realized he hadn’t heard any further commands and turned back to Olivia. Seeing the state she was in prompted him to bark at her.

    “Lillipup… what?” she asked, snapping partially back into reality.

    Lillipup barked again, then darted at Pineco once more, this time trying to run faster than he had earlier. Olivia picked up on what he was trying to indicate, going wide-eyed as soon as she realized it, but it was too late to avoid falling into Bugsy’s trap a second time.

    “Venoshock, again!” he called out.

    Lillipup was repelled from Pineco’s space by the toxic waves once more, but as soon as he regained his footing, he looked hopefully to his trainer.

    “You almost outran it that time… if this is what it takes, let’s do it. Take Down!”

    Lillipup smiled; his goal had been to convince Olivia that he could outrun the interference of Venoshock, and she picked up on it. This time, he didn’t just start running at Pineco, he first tensed his leg muscles, crouched and built as much strength as he could, allowing him to shoot forward like a bullet.

    “Venoshock, once more!” Bugsy ordered.

    The young Gym Leader was in for a rude surprise, however. Pineco called upon the poisonous attack a third time, but the bolts converged too slowly, and Lillipup ran right past them. Pineco was caught completely off guard and defenseless, and when Lillipup collided with him, he was sent flying straight into one of the trees surrounding the battlefield.

    Lillipup didn’t escape harm, though, as the sheer force of his impact on Pineco sapped a good deal of his remaining strength, leaving him panting.

    “Well played!” Bugsy said. “You got through my outer wall of defenses… so this is now a close-quarters battle! Pineco, Bug Bite!”

    “Lillipup… try throwing it with Crunch!”

    Recovering, Pineco rolled down and sprang off the tree, aiming to trap Lillipup with the mouth hidden under its shell. Lillipup was ready, however, and dodged the attack by rolling on his stomach along the ground. Once Pineco crashed onto the floor, Lillipup turned and lunged, grabbing the Bug-type in his mouth. He then spun around and flung Pineco back into the tree, but this time, Pineco fell off into the dirt and didn’t get up.

    Bugsy was briefly silent, having been left dumbfounded by the sudden reversal of his fortunes. It sank in quickly for him, though, and he recalled his fallen Pineco before smiling at Olivia. “That was something. I wasn’t ready for you to turn things around on me like that. Having seen what you’re capable of, I think you can stand up to my next Pokémon, which will be tougher.”

    “Tougher…?” Olivia whispered, the color draining from her face.

    “But first, we have to have the next question. Answer it correctly and you’ll face my Shelmet, answer incorrectly and you’ll face Illumise. Here’s the question: which of these is not one of Pinsir’s possible Abilities? Is it Hyper Cutter, Anger Point or Mold Breaker?”

    “Anger Point,” Nekou whispered without hesitation.

    “Let’s see…” Thinking back to her classes, Olivia recalled the effects of all three choices. “Hyper Cutter blocks any lowering of attack power… Anger Point maximizes its attack power when it’s hit critically… Mold Breaker ignores the target’s Ability… all three of them are good choices, but the one that doesn’t fit is Mold Breaker, so I’ll have to go with that.”

    “Sorry, it was Anger Point!” Bugsy revealed before taking up and throwing Illumise’s Poké Ball.

    “How did I mess that up?” Olivia thought to herself in panic. How did I mess that one up?”

    Bugsy’s Illumise took shape on the battlefield, and the firefly Pokémon immediately locked eyes with Lillipup. Sensing the strain Lillipup had begun feeling, Illumise waved her arm, as if she was daring Lillipup to challenge her.

    “Lillipup, be careful…” Olivia warned. “I… I think there’s something up his sleeve…”

    Lillipup nodded, agreeing with Olivia’s assumption. Though he was worn by his clash with Pineco, Lillipup was still sharp enough to realize the obvious trap in Illumise’s dare.

    “A smart prediction, Olivia. Walking into my first attack would have been a mistake. But you can’t just stand there and not move, right?”

    “That’s… that’s right.” Olivia answered while fidgeting around.

    “That’s because if you stand still, you’ll be caught in my other moves. Illumise, Thunderbolt!”

    Quickly recalling how she defeated Pineco, Olivia reasoned that the same strategy would work against Illumise. “Use Take Down and get out of the way!”

    Lillipup rushed forward just quickly enough to escape the electricity that burst from Illumise’s body. After ceasing her attack, the Bug-type Pokémon simply stood still, seemingly dumbfounded, and Lillipup forcefully crashed into her.

    It wasn’t until she saw Illumise bracing against the ground and barely moving that Olivia realized she’d been led into a trap.

    “Brick Break!” Bugsy called out.

    “Get away!” Olivia desperately ordered.

    There was no chance Lillipup could escape, however, and Olivia knew it. He was too close to Illumise to escape, having ended up falling for the trick of getting in close anyway. When Illumise punched Lillipup with a surprising amount of force for her small arms, he was thrown back and then crumpled to the ground. When combined with the injuries he’d suffered from the battle with Pineco, both from his opponent and self-inflicted through Take Down, the Brick Break was far too much for Lillipup to take.

    “Looks like we’re even now, Olivia!” Bugsy said from across the battlefield. “So who will it be next?”

    Olivia didn’t respond, instead falling into a hunched, limp stance as she stared at the ground, her hair obscuring her anguished eyes. Voices were tormenting her from inside her head.

    “ Someone who should not exist has no right to consider themselves entitled to anything more than the air they are lucky enough to breathe!”

    “Wow, you didn’t even take the good one, but then again, someone who’s childish in both body and spirit taking a childish Pokémon makes sense!”

    “How can the poor and those of modest means raise themselves up when the very mechanics supposedly meant to help them actually only advance the already wealthy and elite with handouts and breaks that put them on a higher level practically from birth?!”


    “No,” she mumbled, trying to fight back the memories that were forcing doubt onto her. “No, no, no, no, no…”

    Up in the stands, Matt and the others could see Olivia practically convulsing, and they were growing more concerned.

    “Nekou,” Matt quietly said, “are you really sure this is okay? I think she might be pushing herself too hard…”

    “I… I have confidence in her,” Nekou answered, although the nervous tone of her voice betrayed her words.

    “Her Pokémon want to fight for her,” Nikolai flatly muttered, “but I can feel that her internal conflict is leaving them unable to use their full potential…”

    Suddenly, a wide, broken grin intruded onto Olivia’s face. “I just have to overcome your Pokémon, one by one, right?” she said as she recalled Lillipup. “It won’t be hard to do that if I go with my strongest!”

    Olivia didn’t even bother to throw the Poké Ball when she decided on her next Pokémon, instead, she simply opened it in her hand. Her Minccino was that choice, and the Normal-type fretted about the dirt floor, completely failing to notice her trainer’s temperament.

    “All I have to do to show them I’m not weak is beat you and get that Badge!” Olivia punctuated her strange rant with a giggle, then added, “I get that Badge and then the others and then they all stop tormenting me and then they care about me and then…” Limply raising her arm to point at Illumise, she said, “Minccino, use Tail Slap!”

    “Thunderbolt!” Bugsy countered, as Minccino rapidly closed in on his Illumise.

    Illumise was one step ahead of her trainer, having already begun focusing her energy before he even finished issuing the command for Thunderbolt. She discharged an intense blast into Minccino’s body, causing the Normal-type Pokémon to wail in pain.

    “Minccino, don’t give in to it!” Olivia’s statement was equally an order and a desperate plea. “Get through and hit it, now!”

    Regaining her footing within the electrical torrent, Minccino pushed gradually forward.

    Bugsy could only step back in surprise and say to Illumise, “Keep it up! Push Minccino away!”

    Despite her best efforts, Illumise was already at her limit, and she could not force any more energy into her Thunderbolt. As a result, Minccino managed to force her way all the way up into the firefly’s face and then swung her tail around. The moment that Minccino’s tail connected with Illumise’s body, the overflow of electricity caused an explosion that violently separated them, tossing Minccino toward Olivia while sending Illumise flying into a tree.

    The two Pokémon stumbled up to face each other again, each nursing their own injuries – Minccino’s fur was burned all over by the electricity, while Illumise had a pair of bruises, one on her front from Tail Slap and one on her back from crashing into the tree.

    Unwilling to let Bugsy even get an opening, Olivia didn’t hesitate to continue her attack. “Use Swift right now!”

    Minccino snapped to her feet and swung her tail in Illumise’s direction, showering the Bug-type Pokémon with glowing stars. Illumise had no way to put up much of a defense, and was left to have her body cut repeatedly by the sharp-edged projectiles.

    “I get it now, I finally get it now…” Olivia said to herself in a hissing voice. She looked to the floor as her body convulsed, then continued, “…all I need to do is rely on my strongest Pokémon and I’ll overcome anything you throw at me!”

    Almost immediately, Nikolai stood up from his place in the stands, pulled his hat over his eyes and began walking off, muttering, “I can’t be here for this.”

    Looker and Silver watched Nikolai leave, but Matt and Nekou paid him no mind. They were much more concerned by the mental breakdown they both saw Olivia having in the middle of her Gym battle.

    “She’s going to destroy herself at this rate…” Matt whispered. “We’ve got to stop this.”

    “Minccino, Tail Slap!”

    “Illumise, counter that with Brick Break!”

    Nekou shook her head in disagreement, though she didn’t turn away from the battle as Minccino and Illumise physically attacked each other once more. “If we interfere now, what will that teach her, besides that every time she gets challenged, we try to shield her from having to face it?”

    “But… you see her down there. Do you not see how much this pressure is tearing her up?”

    “If it’s too much for her, she’s going to have to tell us that herself. She won’t ever trust you if you don’t first let her trust herself.”

    Matt shifted his view rapidly and repeatedly between Nekou and the events unfolding on the battlefield. He was struggling to decide what alarmed him more – Olivia thoughtlessly and mercilessly ordering Minccino to attack Illumise while she simply stood by grinning, or how much that sight horrified Nekou. She had been reduced to leaning forward where she sat, her face completely drained of color and her eyes reflecting a barely suppressed worry.

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  25. #125
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    “It’s about time we put an end to this,” Olivia said as Minccino and Illumise separated from striking each other. What she didn’t mention, however, was why she was suddenly eager to end her frenzy of attacks – her manic rush of energy was beginning to abate, and she could feel the crushing fear coming back worse than ever. As she fought the slowly-increasing urge to flee the battle and escape its pressure, she found her sight becoming cloudy. “I’ll end this… right now… Minccino, Wake-Up Slap!”

    Apparently unafraid of Olivia’s latest attack choice, Bugsy and Illumise simply stood by. Minccino lunged at her foe and delivered a fierce slap across Illumise’s face, but the Bug-type Pokémon barely flinched, much to the horror of both Olivia and Minccino.

    “You’ll have to think your moves through a little more thoroughly, Olivia. Bug-types resist Fighting-type attacks! Illumise, show her an effective way to use a Fighting-type move with Brick Break!”

    Stunned by how little of a reaction her move had gotten from Illumise, Minccino didn’t react fast enough to avoid the firefly’s Brick Break and ended up taking a punch right to the chin. She stumbled back several steps as a bruise took shape where she’d just been struck.

    Olivia realized that she had little time left to take Illumise down, as she was failing to keep the rising panic at bay. Reaching up toward her face with both hands, and with her eyes wide in a state of near madness, she screamed out, “Get rid of that Illumise NOW! Aqua Tail!”

    Bugsy didn’t give any command for a counter until Minccino was already in the air and descending toward his Pokémon, at which point he said, “Thunderbolt, Illumise!”

    Just as Minccino struck Illumise, the Bug-type cloaked herself in electricity. The water surrounding Minccino’s tail conducted the electricity up into her body, but when Illumise’s body got wet from it, the energy shorted, resulting in a violent explosion.

    “Did Olivia manage to beat it?” Matt wondered out loud. Like everyone else assembled in the Gym, he was fixed on the cloud of smoke left where Minccino and Illumise had met, and the stakes of the outcome were not lost on him. He was keenly aware that if Illumise emerged standing even after the exchange, Olivia would likely not be able to take any more. Glancing over to Nekou reinforced his belief, as her quiet, worried look reflected a similar pattern of thought.

    Perhaps with the exception of Olivia herself, whose focus was stunted from her increasing stress, it was unanimous among those in the Gym that one of the two Pokémon would surely not emerge standing from the blast. The opinion on which one it would be was divided, so as a result, it was a surprise to the onlookers to see both Minccino and Illumise lying on the ground, still and groaning.

    “Well then, a tie?” Bugsy said with a slight sense of bemusement as he recalled his fallen Pokémon. “You fought well there, Olivia. Your Minccino deserves praise.”

    Bugsy’s words were barely getting through to Olivia at that point, though. She was too dizzy, too weak and too panicked to even register the compliments she’d been given. When she recalled Minccino, however, Bugsy took it as a signal that she was ready to continue, and he readied his Pokédex once again.

    “This is the final question, Olivia. Answer it correctly and your opponent will be Kricketune, answer incorrectly and you’ll face my star, Scyther.”

    “He can’t be serious…” Matt uttered, hoping someone around him would notice. “Does he not see how stressed she is? They should at least take a break…”

    “Here is the question, listen closely: I am the tallest Bug-type Pokémon, as well as the heaviest. I’m also the heaviest Pokémon of my second type. Am I Yanmega, Scolipede or Crustle?”

    Olivia barely even heard the questions and choices, and she had even less capacity to consider an answer. Swaying around and just managing to stand on her feet, she replied, “Y… Yanmega…”

    Little of what came out of Bugsy’s mouth next even reached Olivia’s ears. She heard him say that her answer was incorrect, but she failed to register anything significant after that until his Scyther appeared before her eyes, which snapped her back to attention somewhat.

    “…so send out your Pokémon, Olivia. This is the last match in our battle – you’ve got one left, I’ve got one left, and the outcome of this will determine if you get the Hive Badge!”

    That was when it all went horribly wrong.

    The one thing Olivia hadn’t fully realized until that moment was that she was up against Bugsy’s strongest Pokémon with only one of her own Pokémon still left. Further, with the way the types of the remaining Pokémon in play matched up, there was only one choice she could make. Scyther, being a Bug-and-Flying-type, would make short work of a Grass-type like Roselia, and her moves would do little against the beast. That left Olivia with one option: Oshawott, who still hadn’t regrown his shell and as a result was left with only Water Gun and Tackle for an offense.

    “I can’t do it…” she quietly said in a broken voice while staring at the ground. In her mind, she was very aware of the exit door right behind her, but her shuddering, numb body wouldn’t move toward it. Her heart felt to her as if it would tear from her chest. “I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it…”

    “You little wimp. To think I even thought about respecting you.”

    Jerking her head up, Olivia saw Avril and Renzo standing before her. They weren’t actually present, but her downward spiral left Olivia unable to realize her hallucinations, which replaced everything that truly surrounded her.

    “When I watched you battle Falkner, I saw you stick it out right to the end,” the hallucinatory Avril continued, her hands on her hips. “But no… you’re so weak that you can’t even beat a bunch of Bug-types? And to think I’m the one who’s a student.”

    “I just… I couldn’t win, why is that such a big deal to you?!” At this point, Olivia’s mind was just about completely broken. A sick feeling was rising in her stomach. “I just couldn’t do it!”

    “If it’s not a big deal, why are you whining about it?”

    “I…”

    “Silence!” boomed the vision of Renzo. “You disappoint me, Olivia Lynn Mistbloom. I had hoped that you would prove to have earned at least some of your birthright… but you are a disgrace to your name. Your father never would have accepted this.”

    “Shut up! Don’t talk about him! What right do you have…”

    “He is right, Olivia.”

    Olivia stiffened and blinked through the tears filling her eyes. In an instant, Avril and Renzo were gone, replaced by a hallucination of Olivia’s father Rich.

    “Dad, what are you…”

    “I raised you to be my heir, Olivia. Even after I died I made sure your education would continue by leaving you in the care of Matt Chiaki… but when your time finally came to shine, you couldn’t even get one Badge. With my job, how could I accept such a thing?” Turning away from Olivia, the false Rich reached into his coat and put a large hat on. “This is goodbye, Olivia. We will not meet again.”

    As her vision of her father walked off, Olivia broke down and became hysterical. Tears poured from her eyes as she desperately pleaded, “No! Dad, don’t leave me alone! It’s not my fault! I didn’t… Matt didn’t teach me well enough, is that possible? It’s not my fault! I did everything I had to! I don’t want to be left alone…” Suddenly digging her fingernails into the skin on her face, she continued, “I’ll go with you! I’ll go where you are! It’s not my fault, so don’t abandon me!”

    And then, everything went black.

    -:-

    In a different part of the Adenosine Base fairly far from Colress’s main lab was another research facility. Papers and equipment were neatly arranged around the laboratory’s perimeter, while several tall, hexagonal tanks filled with blue liquid stood in the center. It was a professional but cold place, the general mood only broken by a Polaris banner hung on the wall and the photographs littering the work stations.

    In the back of the lab, Colress and three other scientists stood facing Finansielle, who was addressing them using a large video screen.

    “Casual day today, Lady Finansielle?” Colress jokingly said, noting that his superior was wearing her helmet, but not the rest of her armor.

    “I haven’t got time for lighthearted games, Colress,” Finansielle scornfully replied. “Business is very busy here. What have you called me for?”

    “Ah yes, I should get to that. With my genius, I have already solved the puzzle you gave me.” Turning to the other scientists, Colress took the data drive from his pocket and presented it to one of them. “On that drive is the entire genetic sequence of the Pokérus strain I was tasked with creating, as well as instructions on how to synthesize it. From here, creating it is an easy task.”

    “Well then, Colress, color me impressed!” Finansielle smiled warmly. “I see my investment in you was well worth it. Now tell me… what is the next step?”

    “I have begun drawing up plans to build a device that can use the modified Pokérus to unlock the true potential in all Pokémon, as the research you gave me instructed. The data’s instructions were correct – the system will need as much Pokémon battle data as possible, plus the Meteonite.” As he spoke, Colress made his way to a large computer console near the video monitor. “In order to procure those things, I will need to leave this base for a while. The researchers here will be able to create the Pokérus strain from my genetic map, while the Guanosine Base can build the machinery. All I will need to do is write the programming for the system’s software.”

    With that, Colress pressed a button on the console, causing a container on its top to open. From within he withdrew a computerized visor, which he then replaced his glasses with on his face. He then put his glasses in his coat and took out his tablet, which with a few touches illuminated the visor.

    “Where do you plan to head now, Colress?” Finansielle asked.

    “I will fly to the Purine Base first to help Getriebe and Jeunes secure their battle data and the Meteonite. After that, I have a plan to join Ghetsis in Ecruteak City, where I can gather more data for the system firsthand.”

    “I wish you luck, then.” Slightly lowering her head, Finansielle smiled again. “A new age is about to begin, Colress, and you will be alongside us spearheading it. Polaris’s promised land is not far off.”

    -:-

    Gasping deeply for air, Olivia awoke just as abruptly as she’d collapsed.

    Her vision took its time to refocus, but when she finally could see clearly again, the greenhouse roof of the Azalea Gym was what she saw. She suddenly became aware of the prickling of grass on her legs and realized she was still on the Gym’s battlefield. That shock sent a cold shudder coursing through her body, but her shuddering was restrained.

    The last thing she came to realize was that while she was lying on the ground, Nekou had her in a tight embrace.

    “Breathe.”

    Olivia had no capability to reply, so she just did as she was instructed and drew deep breaths in, one after the other. She turned her sunken eyes upward and saw the simultaneous worry and relief on Nekou’s face, as well as the small teardrops glistening on her glasses.

    “Is she alright?” Matt said, standing off to the side with Looker and Silver to give Olivia space.

    “She’s awake, hasn’t said anything yet though… give me the water.”

    Without another word, Matt tossed one of the water bottles from his bag to Nekou, and she opened it and raised it to Olivia’s mouth.

    “Get something to drink, it’ll help.”

    Olivia still couldn’t say anything, but the water wetting her throat was enough of a relief to restore her voice.

    “W-what…” she rasped.

    “Take it easy. You collapsed during the battle.”

    “I’m… still here?”

    “Yes. We agreed to not try to move you out of fear that it would make things worse.” Seeing Olivia beginning to recover brought a slight but warm smile to Nekou, though it faded somewhat as she recalled what she had seen Olivia doing during her breakdown. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”

    Olivia hesitated with the realization that there were witnesses to her hallucinations. “No… not… not yet.”

    “That’s fine. Tell me when you’re ready.” Nekou put her hand behind Olivia’s back and helped her sit up.

    As Olivia sat up on the grass, Bugsy approached with his Scyther. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you weren’t well. If I did, I would have put the battle on hold.”

    “Olivia, you don’t have to continue this,” Matt gently said, lowering himself to eye level with her after joining them. “There’s no shame in knowing when to stop.”

    “But at the same time,” Nekou added, “if you think you can keep going, we’ll support you. It’s entirely up to what you think you can handle.”

    “I started this. I have…” A clear image of her father appeared once again in Olivia’s mind. “I have to finish it.”

    “Then we’re behind you.”

    In nearly perfect unison, Matt and Nekou both stood and extended a hand to the girl, and after a moment, Olivia smiled and accepted their help to stand.

    “You want to continue our battle?” Bugsy questioned, intending to clearly confirm Olivia’s wishes.

    “Yes.”

    “I must say, I admire your courage. You must have something worth fighting for, if you’re able to keep standing. Very well, let’s take our places and resume.”

    While Bugsy and his Scyther walked back to their side of the battlefield, Matt and Nekou made sure that Olivia was alright before returning to the stands with Looker and Silver.

    “Very brave, she is,” Looker remarked.

    “She’s tougher than she lets on sometimes…” Matt replied. “I just hope this holds. She was talking to her father and at least one other person who wasn’t there…”

    Bugsy’s Scyther stood confidently in front of him, looking eagerly at Olivia in the hopes that the Pokémon he’d face would soon appear. His blades glistened in the sunlight shining through the Gym’s roof.

    “I can’t take it easy on you if you really want the Hive Badge, Olivia,” Bugsy said. “Scyther is my prized Pokémon, after all, and he’s the most fitting representative of what this Gym is about.”

    “I… I don’t want you to take it easy on me. I have to do this if I’m going to get stronger, because the Gym Leaders after you will just keep getting tougher…” Olivia trailed off as she briefly remembered Renzo and Avril, then added, “…and they aren’t the only ones, either. I have to do this.”

    “Then let’s both give it all we’ve got.”

    Olivia took out a Poké Ball and stared at it for several long seconds, thinking intensely about what she was about to do. “I know we haven’t necessarily connected all that well before... but I’m standing behind you this time, so please, do what you can to pull this off…”

    Olivia’s judgment about the situation she was in hadn’t changed, even though she had had the chance to reevaluate it from a slightly calmer viewpoint. She still knew that Roselia would be helpless against the likes of a Scyther, so it was Oshawott that emerged from the Poké Ball. The moment he realized that the Scyther before him was to be his opponent, he looked back and forth to his trainer in a panic.

    “Oshawott, calm down.” Olivia did the best she could to soothe Oshawott’s nerves, but hers were so taut that it proved to be a difficult task. “I believe in you, okay? So don’t be afraid.”

    “Another Pokémon from Unova, huh? I’ve got a Shelmet, but I haven’t seen too many others yet. This ought to be a fun challenge for us both.”

    “Where is that Oshawott’s shell?” Silver quietly asked, having taken notice of the implement’s absence from Oshawott’s stomach.

    “It broke a while ago and hasn’t yet regrown,” Nekou replied. “Just hope she doesn’t need it.”

    “Well then, let’s get started! Scyther, Fury Cutter!”

    “Try to get out of the way and then use Tackle!”

    Using his strong legs, Scyther sprang at Oshawott with his blades at the ready. Olivia’s Water-type was able to roll out of the way, however, leaving Scyther to strike at the ground instead. He then jumped up and collided with Scyther’s back, but the Gym Leader’s Pokémon only stumbled as a result.

    “Oh no!” Olivia gasped when she saw how close to Scyther Oshawott landed.

    “Yes, I’ve got you this time! Fury Cutter, again!”

    “Use Water Gun!” This was an act of desperation on Olivia’s part. She was aware of how limited her options were with only Tackle and Water Gun to use, and she was putting all the thought she could into ways to apply them.

    Luckily for her, Water Gun had an unintended effect she never would have thought of. Before Scyther could turn around to lash out again, Oshawott sprayed a jet of water in his face. Not only did this stun Scyther, but the force of the water also propelled Oshawott backward, putting distance between the two.

    “Oh, that was clever, Olivia,” Bugsy complimented, believing Olivia had deliberately intended to cause what had happened. “Scyther, Vacuum Wave! Catch it!”

    Before Olivia or Oshawott could react, Scyther crossed his glowing blades and then sharply separated them, sending a bright blue pulse of energy to engulf his Water-type foe. Oshawott was left to fall face-first to the ground.

    “You have it now, Scyther! Fury Cutter!”

    “Oshawott, be careful!” Olivia cried, seeing that Oshawott was seemingly trapped underneath the sickle that was bearing down on him. Her focus on the seemingly hopeless situation suddenly produced an answer, however, when she realized exactly how Oshawott was lying on the ground. Smiling, she quickly called out, “Oshawott, use Water Gun to power your Tackle!”

    Scyther was completely caught off guard by Oshawott abruptly rocketing off the ground by using Water Gun to propel himself, and ended up taking a blow right to the chin. The Bug-and-Flying-type Pokémon stumbled back and nearly fell, while his Water-type opponent managed to flip through the air and land neatly. A slash from Scyther’s Vacuum Wave was visible on Oshawott’s torso, but the rush he was getting from fighting back gave him enough resolve to try and ignore the pain.

    “So this is how an Oshawott with no shell actually stands up against a Scyther,” Silver uttered, unable to stop himself from getting drawn into the battle.

    “I must compliment you, Olivia,” Bugsy said, a wide, satisfied grin coming onto his face. “I don’t see too many challengers with the kind of fire you have… funny, considering you’re using a Water-type starter Pokémon, isn’t it? But let me show you something… Bug-types are weak to fire, I’m sure you know that. But did you know that Bug-types can fight with the same fire you’re showing me now? Scyther, Razor Wind!”

    Scyther straightened out his body and stood at his full height, looking down on Oshawott as he began to flap his four wings. A whirlwind took shape in front of him, rapidly growing in intensity.

    Both Olivia and Oshawott realized that using Tackle would mean willingly jumping right into the vortex, so without any order being necessary, Oshawott aimed a Water Gun at Scyther. It was, however, ineffective, as the whirlwind acted as a shield that blew away all the water. Compounding Olivia’s problems, Scyther then pulled back, allowing the twister to consume Oshawott. He was pulled upward through the funnel, with the violent winds cutting at him repeatedly, until he was thrown out through the whirlwind’s top and crashed to the ground, covered in cuts. The twister then continued on until it crashed into one of the trees, dissipating as it shredded the silk connected to it, bits of which fell near Olivia’s feet.

    “Vacuum Wave!”

    Scyther quickly followed up his successful Razor Wind by lashing Oshawott with another energy blast.

    With Oshawott left lying on the ground and panting, Olivia realized that one more severe blow would likely bring her second Gym challenge to another failure of an ending. She grasped her left arm as her body trembled; once again, the walls felt like they were closing in on her, and she felt trapped in more ways than one.

    One thing she didn’t count on was the situation completely changing.

    All of a sudden, a bright blue glow surrounded Oshawott’s body, and he stood back up, growling at Scyther as if he was more energized than ever.

    “That’s Oshawott’s Ability, Torrent!” Nekou exclaimed. “Bugsy weakened Oshawott so much that it activated!”

    “This battle just stopped being so one-sided,” Silver observed. “I’ve seen the use Torrent can provide with my Feraligatr.”

    Bugsy stood just as surprised as Olivia was herself. “I… thought I had this. I guess it goes to show that I still have plenty to learn… but first, I have to put an end to this battle! Scyther, Razor Wind once more!”

    While Scyther started forming the whirlwind again, Olivia understood what Bugsy’s logic was – neither Tackle nor Water Gun would get past it, so he was betting on her not having another move he hadn’t yet seen. She was, however, herself willing to gamble that Oshawott’s newfound energy would change the tide by itself.

    “Water Gun!” she commanded, discreetly crossing her fingers.

    The whirlwind was nearly up to full strength when Oshawott fired a blast of water at it, but in spite of that, it was easily sliced through by Oshawott’s attack, which was many times more intense than it had been before. With his vision blocked by his own preparation, Scyther could never have seen the Water Gun coming, and he took a direct, powerful blow to the head. Olivia’s eyes glowed as she excitedly watched her fortunes change.

    “She can win this with power like that!” Matt said, getting uncharacteristically excited.

    “I should have expected Torrent,” Bugsy remarked, “with the number of Totodile, Squirtle and their evolutions I see here. I guess I got thrown off by it being a Unova Pokémon… no matter. You put in a great effort, but I’m ending this! Scyther, use Vacuum Wave!”

    “Try Water Gun again!” Olivia reflexively countered, reacting nearly instantly upon Bugsy giving his order. She recognized that if she was to have any chance of overcoming Scyther, she would have to get around this latest attack first.

    In front of many pairs of anticipating eyes, Oshawott’s water blast and Scyther’s energy wave met. Torrent gave Oshawott the power he needed to equal Scyther’s offense but not to overwhelm it, so the two attacks explosively negated each other, sending a cloud washing over both Pokémon.

    Moments later, a bright light burst out from where Oshawott was standing within the smoke.

    “That’s…” Looker gasped. He was the only one of the spectators able to think quickly enough to speak, as the others were all enraptured by what was happening in front of them.

    Olivia knew what was going on, but she was so surprised that all she could do was watch. She thought back to the events earlier in the day and remembered Nikolai telling her that Oshawott was bursting with energy, a memory that left her smiling to herself.

    “All that training in Union Cave had a point to it, I guess,” she thought as she took out her own Pokédex.

    The light and smoke disappeared roughly simultaneously, revealing that Oshawott was no longer anywhere to be seen. Instead, standing in his place was a taller otter Pokémon, colored mostly in shades of blue and bearing a shell on each of his thighs.

    “Oshawott evolved,” Nekou smugly said. “Told you something good would happen for her.”

    “Dewott, the discipline Pokémon. Type is Water. Evolved form of Oshawott. As a result of strict training, each Dewott learns different forms for using the scalchops.”

    Olivia continued thumbing through the Pokédex to learn if Dewott had acquired any new moves. “Razor Shell and Aqua Jet… yes, I think I can do with those. Now that you’ve finally got your shell back, Oshaw… Dewott, let’s put it to use. Razor Shell!”

    “Fury Cutter!” Bugsy ordered, snapping out of his surprise at Dewott’s evolution.

    Dewott snapped one of the shells off his thigh and held it up, causing it to turn into an elongated blade, then lunged at Scyther. Scyther took a similar action, and soon, the two were locked in a vicious swordfight using their respective weapons. While Bugsy’s Pokémon was the more aggressive of the two, he was crippled by an unexpected disadvantage – Dewott’s smaller size enabled the Water-type to quickly dodge in and out of Scyther’s slashes, rendering the Bug-and-Flying-type Pokémon unable to land any of his strikes.

    Even though Dewott wasn’t getting hit, though, Olivia could tell that he also wasn’t going to get in any blows of his own. Looking around at her surroundings, she suddenly noticed the bits of silk at her feet and came up with an alternative idea. “Dewott, use Aqua Jet and go into the bushes, then keep moving!”

    Water surrounded Dewott as he rocketed away into the foliage surrounding the battlefield and disappeared. Scyther loudly snarled about the inconvenience, and Bugsy indulged his Pokémon’s desires with his next direction. “Go in after that Dewott, Scyther!”

    Scyther cried out and then lunged into the bushes as well, vanishing just as Dewott had done.

    For the next few minutes, an uncomfortable silence broken only by the sound of rustling leaves settled over the Gym as Dewott and Scyther chased each other in a circle around the edge of the battlefield. Olivia focused carefully on the sounds and where she perceived them to be coming from. Bugsy was certain she had something up her sleeve, but could only grimace in frustration as he was unable to figure out what it was.

    Suddenly, Olivia screamed, “Now! Come out!”

    Dewott darted out of the brush as soon as Olivia gave the command to do so, and Scyther followed moments later – only to be violently lashed to a halt in midair as his wings got caught in the sticky silk linking the trees he’d emerged between. Dewott was small enough to fit between the threads but Scyther wasn’t.

    “You led me into a trap!” Bugsy uttered in disbelief.

    “That’s right, I did,” Olivia answered, smirking deviously. “Now take this! Dewott, Razor Shell!”

    After snickering mischievously, Dewott armed himself, once again taking one of his shells in his right hand, and jumped at the trapped Scyther, first bashing him over the head with it. Dewott then spun around and delivered a devastating hit to Scyther’s chin, one so powerful that it tore Scyther from the silk and threw him up into the air.

    “Scyther!”

    Bugsy’s plea was in vain. As soon as Scyther crashed to the ground, he collapsed and did not get up. The battle was over.

    As the weight of the situation began to sink in, Olivia’s body became weak. “I… I did it…” she whispered as she fell to her knees. “I actually… didn’t fail…”

    Before Olivia even knew what was going on, Nekou was on the field embracing her. “I’m ****ing proud of you, Olivia! I told you you could kick the *** of a Gym Leader, and you did!”

    “Dewott!” her victorious Pokémon chimed in, having joined the pair.

    “Oh, Dewott, I’m proud of you!” Olivia slipped from Nekou’s arms and hugged Dewott as tears began flowing down her face. “I’m sorry I was so mean to you before! I really should… I should have believed in you from the start!”

    “Dew, dewott.” Seemingly disregarding the behavior Olivia felt she had to apologize for, Dewott instead reveled in the attention he was receiving.

    “Olivia.”

    Hearing Matt’s voice snapped Olivia to attention, and she stood and turned to face him. However, she said nothing and merely stared at him, conflicted about how to react.

    And then, he smiled. It was small, but for him it reflected significant warmth. “Good work. That proved to me how misguided I was with the way I treated you. You’re someone who is grown up enough to handle the truth, so no more lies. I’m going to respect you from now on. Not only that, I promise to do whatever I can to make your life easier, so just ask me if you ever need anything. My promise is to you now, not to a foolish idea of what I think will help you.”

    “Thank you,” Olivia graciously replied.

    “There’s not really much I can add to all of this, is there?” Olivia, Nekou, Matt and Dewott all turned to Bugsy, who had approached to join them. Scratching the back of his head, the Gym Leader said, “I just have to compliment you, Olivia. I’ve seen challengers lose their will and leave, but you didn’t do that… you stuck it out and overcame everything thrown at you. You deserve this.”

    Bugsy extended his hand to Olivia. In it was a round pin bearing a red-and-black ladybug pattern – the Hive Badge.

    -:-

    Hours later, after night had fallen, a clear sky full of stars hung over Goldenrod City. The metropolis stretched on for what seemed like forever, sprawled over most of Johto’s central peninsula with a densely populated, heavily developed area at its core.

    The bright neon lights shining from buildings, billboards and countless other structures gave the city the golden glow it was named for, and one could be fooled by it into thinking that the city was a man-made paradise. However, the stark reality was more like the typical negative stereotype of a big city, at least in the less-developed areas. Discarded trash was scattered about many of the streets, and numerous Pokémon considered pests, including Rattata, Grimer and the occasional Trubbish and Garbodor, were lurking about. The unsettling truth hidden by the fancy cover of the city’s central area wasn’t lost on Jessie, James and Ariana as they escorted Giovanni through the streets of the southern district, all four of them concealing their identities behind black trench coats and hats.

    “Look at this place,” Jessie whispered to James as they walked. She was observing the run-down conditions of many of the buildings, and her stomach turned to think of the people who had to live in them. “I lived this, and for everything I’ve done, this is what I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone. Not even that bratty twerp.”

    Subtly nodding in agreement, James added, “If we did take over, we’d definitely treat the people better than this. Just because we want to be in charge, that doesn’t mean we want to cause too much harm to who we rule. We’d take over but make sure people could live better than this.”

    “The city is like this because of the Angel Corporation’s developments,” Ariana bitterly remarked. The state of Viridian City was right at the front of her mind. “Ever since they started capitalizing on the Frontier Society, it’s been nothing but non-stop development everywhere.”

    “Hey, wait. Shouldn’t we do something about him?”

    At James’s notice, Jessie, Ariana and Giovanni stopped walking and glanced in the direction he was pointing. It turned out that he had noticed someone sitting on the sidewalk as they passed, and the young man’s physical state was a perfect example of the problems Goldenrod’s slums had. Dressed in a dirty brown coat and holding a cardboard sign, he was slouched against one of the buildings in a way that made it difficult to tell if he was awake, asleep or even alive.

    James leaned down to read the sign. “Lost four times at Goldenrod Gym. No more money for healing, food or lodging.”

    “James!” Jessie’s sudden call startled her partner, and he turned abruptly to look at her. “Give him this.”

    Jessie reached into her pocket for a roll of money that she then tossed to James. After catching it, he reached down to the failed trainer.

    “Hey, are you awake?”

    “Wh…what…?” the young man weakly asked, pushing his hat up so he could see.

    “Take this. Try to take better care of yourself.”

    The young man hesitated out of surprise before taking the money from James. “Thank you, really! This will get me into the Pokémon Center so I can heal my Pokémon and have a place to rest tonight!”

    “Think nothing of it,” Jessie said. “Just don’t spend it all in one place. Rest up and try training more before you challenge another Gym.”

    “I will. Just... thank you so much!”

    Jessie and James turned away as the young man stood up, but Ariana caught Giovanni furtively stopping him and slipping him some more money out of the corner of her eye. She smiled to herself before he could notice. Soon, the four were walking again.

    “That was kind of weird,” James commented to Jessie. “We used to be the ones with no money. Now we’re the ones giving it out.”

    “Well, that changed because we got the Boss to have faith in us, of course. After we got promoted, money wasn’t a problem anymore.”

    A sudden beeping interrupted Jessie and James’s conversation, and all four of them stopped walking in front of an alley. Ariana took a small GPS device bearing Team Rocket’s insignia from her pocket and looked at it.

    “This is the place,” she announced to the others.

    “Yes, yes it is.” Pierce had emerged from the alley without notice to join the quartet. “It is good to see that you’ve all made it here in one piece.”

    “Pierce, where is the base you were going to have prepared?” Jessie sharply questioned.

    “Right this way. Professor Rosalie, Trevor, Ada and I have been awaiting your arrival.”

    Pierce turned, crossed his hands behind his back, and began walking down the alley. Giovanni, Ariana, Jessie and James followed.

    -:-

    At around the same time, Matt, Nekou and Olivia were sitting at a table in a small, candlelit restaurant in Azalea Town.

    “Thanks for doing this for me…”

    “Olivia, please, don’t sound so down,” Matt said in an attempt to encourage her. “You did really well today, so we’re having a little celebration.”

    “Is there anything you want to do while we wait for the food?” Nekou asked Olivia.

    Olivia thought for a moment while petting Dewott, who was sitting contently next to her, then said, “I want to talk to my mom. Can you guys make that happen?”

    “I don’t see why not.” After taking his tablet computer out of his bag, which was sitting on the seat next to him, Matt tapped the phone icon on its menu screen and selected ‘Anabel’ from his contact list. He then handed the computer to Olivia while the phone function dialed.

    An animation of a telephone shaking over its cradle looped on the screen for some time, but when the line was finally picked up, it was replaced by a video stream of a pale woman with a somewhat sunken face and long, unkempt lavender hair.

    “…Olivia?” the woman said in surprise.

    “It’s good to see you, mom! Ask me how I’ve been!”

    “Where are you?”

    “Olivia, let me talk to her for a second.” Olivia tilted the computer toward Matt so the woman on the screen could see him. “Anabel, she’s with us, like always. Right now, we’re sitting down for dinner in Azalea Town.”

    “And do you want to know why?” Olivia asked as she turned the computer back to herself. “I got my first Badge today!”

    “Oh, is that so…? Well done, Olivia. I’m proud of you.”

    “And I know Dad would have been, too.” Anabel visibly recoiled at Olivia mentioning her father, but Olivia wasn’t fazed. “I know about what really happened.”

    “I’m sorry, Olivia. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you…”

    “I don’t blame you for it. I… I think I’m over not knowing the truth now.”

    “Our food’s coming,” Nekou interjected, having spotted their waiter approaching the table.

    “Olivia, keep going and be strong. Make your father proud. He’s always going to be with you.”

    “I will! Bye, Mom!”

    Olivia ended the call and handed the tablet back to Matt as the waiter arrived.

    “Two premium steaks, one medium with grilled onions and the other rare with garlic and chili powder?”

    “Rare’s mine,” Nekou said. “Nice, hot and raw, the way I like it.”

    “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me,” Matt sighed as he set up his own plate.

    “And one deluxe macaroni and cheese for the lady,” the waiter politely said as he handed the last plate over the Olivia. “Let me know if you need anything,” he added before leaving.

    “That looks good, Olivia,” Nekou commented.

    “My dad used to make something like this for me,” she answered, a strong hint of melancholy in her voice.. “He said it was something from where he grew up, Sootopolis City.”

    Matt and Nekou began eating, but Olivia didn’t touch her food at all right away. Instead, she spent the next few minutes sitting silently and staring at it.

    “I’ve decided,” she suddenly blurted out.

    “Decided? What do you mean?” Matt questioned.

    “I… I think I know what I want to do now. I mean, I don’t know why I want to do it yet… but I feel like I need to focus on Gyms and forget about Contests for now…”

    “I was wondering what had happened to those, actually,” Nekou said while spinning her fork in her fingers.

    “Are you absolutely sure you want to do that? When I first met you, you loved Contests.”

    Olivia returned an intense gaze into Matt’s eye. “I still do. But if I’m going to find what I’m meant to do, I have to focus on one effort at a time. Otherwise my attention will be spread too thin. Before I can worry about Contests, I have to really learn more about straight battling.”

    “That’s a very mature thing you’ve done, then, making such a decision by yourself. I think Nekou would agree with me on that.” Matt sighed again when he saw that Nekou was already eating and could only respond by nodding wildly. “My point is, you’re taking charge of your own future, and I couldn’t be more proud of you for that.”

    “Thanks… now, I think Nekou’s right, we should eat.”

    -:-

    Even later on in the middle of the night, a man in a Team Rocket uniform was hiding out in a cave somewhere and speaking to Dr. Zager using a computer contained inside a heavy briefcase. He wore a black beret over his green hair, which was styled into the shape of an axe blade on its side.

    “Proton, your mission is to defeat the Polaris member who has gone to Ilex Forest. We’ve received intelligence that one of their high-ranking members is there from our man on the inside of their Goldenrod operation. That might not be what you really have to worry about, though…

    Proton raised an eyebrow at Zager’s advice. “Explain to me just what’s going on.”

    “There was a burst of energy matching the Meteonite in the general area of Union Cave recently,” Zager elaborated. “I suspect Polaris is to blame for it, and if I’m correct, there may be more inciden…” The sudden sound of an alarm interrupted him, and he looked to his computers, only to quickly become visibly panicked. “Speak of the devil… they’re doing something right now!”

    “What now?” Proton demanded, his voice containing a slight growl.

    “Look at this.” Zager swiftly entered a command into his system, which caused a window containing a digital reading of the area between Azalea Town and Goldenrod City to appear on Proton’s screen. Part of the space depicted on the reading was marked with a bright red circle. “That’s another Meteonite burst. One just hit in Ilex Forest...”

    Before Proton could respond, the alarm sounded again, and a yellow dot appeared on the readout. Zager simply regarded this one with surprise, and he entered several commands into his computer to make sure he wasn’t seeing it incorrectly.

    “A temporal distortion... the Meteonite burst must have disrupted temporal energy flowing through Ilex Forest. This could be a precursor to the opening of a Time Gate…”

    -:-

    In the Pokémon Center, Olivia awoke with a start, clutching her stomach. Unable to move her legs much, she simply rolled out of her bed and crashed to the floor, waking Matt up. She barely missed falling on Dewott, who was sleeping next to her bed and also awoke with a start.

    “Olivia?!” he gasped, desperately trying to put on his glasses without catching them in his eyepatch. “What’s wrong?”

    “It… it hurts…”

    The noise stirred Nekou, and she dropped the beer bottle she had been clutching while sprawled on her bed. “What’s going on…?”

    “I’m… I’m…”

    Unable to speak further, Olivia suddenly vomited onto the floor and rolled over on her side. Nekou was up and at Olivia’s side in an instant, throwing two more beer cans aside from under the sheets as she sprang up. Dewott, meanwhile, cried out, unable to do anything to help.

    “Go get the nurse,” Nekou directed Matt while holding Olivia in her arms. “This is a Pokémon Center, but they should be able to help her.”






    END of CHAPTER 11

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