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Thread: Out Of My League

  1. #1
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    Default Out Of My League

    Rating: PG-13
    Genre: Adventure/Comedy
    Status: Ongoing

    A/N: I have too many projects to start another one, but what can I say? The heart wants what it wants. Because I'm juggling multiple projects, updates might not be too regular, but I'll do my best.

    A lot of you probably don't know me, because I generally tend to write Shipping Fics, and even when I get out of the Shipping world, I tend to write non-Pokemon fics. But I hope my foray into non-Shipping Pokemon-related stuff makes for an interesting read.

    This will also be posted on my fanfiction.net account. And, I feel the need to say this because of the way this fic is written, Milly is not a proxy for me. I don't agree with all of her opinions.

    I'd love to hear your feedback on this, because this project is a little odd and certainly a first for me.

    PM List:
    -Sid87
    -jstinftw!
    -DuSkullMan
    -PatriotWolf

    Index:
        Spoiler:- chapters:


    Out of My League

    By Mildred A. Gleason


    *****

    Disclaimer
    Upon request, some names and identifying details have been changed in the interest of privacy protection.


    *****

    Dedicated to Daph, of course—for the times she put up with my bullshit and, more importantly, the times she refused to.

    *****

    Prologue.

    I sat back in the office chair until I heard a squeak which informed me that if I leaned any further back I’d tip over. “I don’t like it,” I said.

    My editor, Cathy, clutching a pencil between her fingers from the other side of her desk, sighed. “And what exactly don’t you like about it? It’s cute, it’s pithy, it gets across the idea that the story’s going to be about the Pokemon League without being too obvious about it—it’s just what we need in a title.”

    I twisted my face into a grimace. “But it’s a little too pre-packaged if you know what I mean,” I explained. “I mean, it’s just to the point where it sounds kind of generic. And anyway,” I added in a low mutter, “it’d be more accurate to call it ‘Out of My Mind.’”

    “Pre-packaged is a good thing,” Cathy returned. “It lets people know what they’re getting into.” She rolled her eyes. “It’s not like we haven’t been over this before, Milly.”

    And we’d probably keep going over it. I scooched my chair a little closer to her desk. “…Did you by any chance get the list of titles I suggested?” I asked, attempting a casual air.

    She wrinkled her nose as though I was referring to some nasty thing living in the wall of her shower. “I did,” she answered distantly.

    “…Well?” I prodded, knowing what the answer would inevitably be, but determined to incite it.

    “They were, in a word,” she said, wrinkled nose tilted high up in the air, “…awful.”

    “Oh, come on!” I exclaimed, sitting upward so rapidly that the office chair I was on let out a squawk as it rocketed upright. “‘Please Don’t League Me?’ ‘League Me Alone?’ That stuff is gold!”

    “More like fool’s gold,” Cathy responded dully. She reached over to a stack of papers until she found the one she was looking for and the flipped it over to the back, reading it over with a crinkled forehead. “And those weren’t even the worst you came up with,” she said, in disbelief as to how that was even possible. “I mean, ‘If I League Here Tomorrow Will You Still Remember Me?’” she read incredulously. “Seriously?”

    I regarded her carefully for a moment. “…Why don’t you like good music?” I demanded coldly.

    She took off her glasses and rubbed her temples. “We’re not talking about good music—we’re talking about bad puns.”

    I shrugged. “But that’s the point. They’re supposed to be bad. That’s what makes them funny.”

    “Yes, but, and follow me on this,” she said patiently, “to the people who don’t get that they’re purposefully bad they just end up looking… bad.”

    I pursed my lips, unable to think of a comeback. It’s very annoying when she’s right.

    And she wouldn’t leave it there, either. “Do you recall the article you wrote for the Goldenrod Gazette profiling breeders that got approximately no attention at all?” she asked. When I nodded glumly she continued: “And… what was that called again?”

    I sighed. “‘Extra! Extra! Breed All About It,’” I answered. “But that’s not my fault. Breeders are just boring. A title can only do so much.”

    “And what about your piece on Pokemon Centers, hmm?” she continued, ignoring me. “The one that got mentioned on news stations as far away as Sinnoh and made it into last year’s anthology? I believe it was called: ‘Who’s Paying For It?: The Price of Free Centers.’ And… what did you want to call it?”

    I grumbled something.

    “What was that?”

    “…‘Bad Medicine and Chansey Budgeting,’” I said more clearly. “Either that or ‘There is No Nurse Joy in PokeVille.’” I fidgeted in my chair. “Anyway, you’ve made your point already.”

    “Right,” she said, a triumphant gleam in her eye. “So why don’t you do your job and let the marketing folks do theirs—making your book look as good as possible.”

    “Alright, alright,” I muttered. “‘Out of My League’ it is. I don’t suppose you could add ‘Out of My Mind and Out of Fruit Snacks’ after it?”

    “We’ll see,” she said in a tone that I knew meant ‘no.’

    For a moment neither one of us said anything. There was nothing but the click, click, click of the Newton’s cradle she always kept on her desk for some reason I’ve never been able to figure out. Perhaps she wants to be driven insane.

    “Well, now that that’s sorted out, you’ll need to see Teddy down in legal,” she said, an acidic little smile at the fate she was consigning me to on her face. “He has a lot to say to you.”

    “I can imagine,” I said glumly.

    “And I’ll be calling you shortly about setting up an interview at the Radio Tower,” she said, smoothing back her mostly-grey-with-a-hint-of-amber hair. “I’ve been playing phone tag with Mary for the better part of a week, but I think they’ll be able to squeeze you in some time shortly before or after the release.”

    “Oh… wonderful,” I answered in non-sincerity mode. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy interviews. I love interviews even when they’re nerve-wracking. It’s just that the whole exercise takes on a different shade when the other person gets to ask the questions. That makes it seem somehow unfair.

    “Don’t do that thing where you undertalk for the first half of the interview and then overtalk all through the second half,” she counseled, in the same tone my mother used when I was six to beseech me not to talk with my mouth full. “Just keep it nice and even. I’ve got a good feeling about this one, Milly. If it sells well then we might have a series on our hands—you could do the same treatment in Kanto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, maybe even Unova.”

    “Wouldn’t that get kind of…” I mentally scratched out ‘boring’ and substituted with, “repetitive?”

    “Not if you’re doing your job right,” she added pointedly.

    I tilted my eyes heavenward, but decided not to make an argument about a hypothetical situation. After all, maybe this book will only be bought by my family members and those in need of a hefty drink coaster. No sense in worrying about now. “Right,” I answered.

    She turned over to her computer screen as though to indicate she was done with me, before imparting one last chore. “And get going on some kind of introduction to it. It doesn’t have to be long, but we just need a little more foundation here at the beginning.”

    “Sure,” I said, getting up and patting down my jeans to make sure I hadn’t stupidly dropped my wallet. “I’ll send you a prologue right away.”

    “…And don’t make me look bad in this one!” she added shrewishly as I made my way out the door.

    “Of course not,” I called back, and sauntered out of the offices of Johto United Press. I tried to recall then, just when and how this modest little project spiraled completely out of my control.

    I can’t say with certainty exactly where it started because it sprung up from different directions. Oh, the eight-part interview series I’d been hoping to do with Johto’s gym leaders seems like an easy place to put the blame. And I can’t say that that wasn’t a huge part of it. But that was practically a fluff piece. I knew I wasn’t the best choice for a context-less set of interviews with trainers who actually know what they’re talking about. I’m a zero-badge-winning trainer. I probably would’ve ended up asking them if they enjoyed skiing or if they were dating anyone. Pure human interest, almost nil Poke-interest.

    For my money, my aforementioned article on Pokemon Centers is more to blame than that. When you get right down to it, the Pokemon Center system is a safety net for the many, many minors hoboing it around the country chasing the dream of being the very best. My article questioned the sustainability of a free system like that and critiqued what I saw as out of control spending (did you know there are some Pokemon Centers with saunas and free massages? Screw my local spa! I’ll just put on a backwards baseball cap and claim I want to be a Pokemon master! Pass me a loofa and some fancy bath salts.)

    But despite my bitching, moaning and occasional kvetching about the bloated system and where the funding could and should be going… I must admit that, deep down, there is something very necessary about it. I mean, forget the very basic function of healing Pokemon. What we’ve got here are a bunch of scraggly little ten-year-olds running around completely unsupervised—many of them on their own for the first time in their itsy-bitsy lives. They need a safe place like a Pokemon Center as a shelter from the dangers of the real world, which include humans, wild Pokemon, and their own stupidity.

    And because of that, the whole thing got me questioning the wisdom of letting a bunch of prepubscents drop out of school to take up the art of vagrancy. Foolish, I know! But I’m hardly the first person to bring that up. There are whole groups focused on taking down the Pokemon Journey tradition, or at least mandating that the licensing age is raised from ten—Parents Against Underaged Training and the Stay in School Campaign are just two that I could mention. And, of course, the other side has their own advocacy groups: Parents of Future Pokemon Masters and Coordinators For a Better Tomorrow being the two major ones.

    It’s a divisive issue and, really, it has “Mommy wars” (a phrase that gets some journalists salivating) written all over it. But who’s to say which one is the worse parent? The one who lets her kid leave home at ten with nothing but a Totodile between him and the evils or the world or the one who keeps him in a gated community with a tracking chip lodged in his stomach? …Probably the tracking chip one, because that’s kind of messed up, but still! Is it worse to be underprotective or overprotective? History seems to weigh in on this on a case by case basis… and sometimes with disastrous results.

    But is the league challenge worth the risk? Is teaching kids the values of hard work, friendship, and map-reading worth sacrificing their safety (and not teaching them any more than basic arithmetic)? I’ve met people who, win or lose, credit the league with the people they are today. Just the same, it doesn’t always turn out that way. I’m not even talking about the heavy stuff—the real tragedies that can happen along the way. Let’s save that for later, when I have the time and space to be really good and angry about it. Some people neglected their education for a dream they’ll never fulfill—some people are still obsessed with that dream long after its obvious to everyone that it’s too late.

    Some people, and this is a completely random example, got lost in the forest and ran home crying to Mom with a scraped knee and a permanent terror of many-legged things with feelers.

    No one you know, I assure you.

    But what was I to do with this concept? Interview some newbie trainers? Didn’t sound like something I’d want to do. I’ve gone on record many times as saying that children smell. That they are covered in a layer of dirt and viscous slime—like grubs. Not yet fully metamorphosed into their adult forms.

    I do not say this to children themselves, because I do not wish to be kicked in the shins or have flaming shit left on my doorstep. You understand, I’m sure.

    And, alright, all that about children is probably an overstatement. There’s many a lovely, well-adjusted school-aged kid out there who doesn’t pick his nose or neglect basic hygiene. But even talking to one of them didn’t seem like it’d be enough. I was curious about the trainers, but it was more than the trainers I was thinking about. What about the road they traveled? Their Pokemon? The obstacles along the way? What can you say about something that is essentially a professional sport that’s overrun with children? What do you say about the League? How did it get here, why is it this way, and will it always be this way?

    I never thought I’d actually put on my boots and walk that road again, even if it was just as an observer. Though, I don’t know how much of the road you could even say that I walked initially. Route 34? A little bit of the Ilex Forest? I’m not even sure my childhood journey even counts as a Pokemon Journey. But yet, I seemed to be poised to go over that trail so many others had passed through.

    I wasn’t going to do it. I really wasn’t. Because I don’t like, you know, children, or walking for prolonged periods, or camping in the woods, or wild animals, or pollen, or uncarpeted surfaces or anything really. But I kept collecting information. I kept planning. Not seriously! Oh no! This was just a… hobby. Just something to take my mind off my real projects. I wasn’t going to really take it up.

    …And then, somehow, at the end of all that not-at-all-serious research and preparation I found myself with a mountain of data I couldn’t justify not using, a fully drafted and accepted proposal, a generous advance, packed bags, and the dumb realization that this was going to happen.

    “Oh, and make sure to get someone to go with you,” I recalled Cathy telling me over the phone many months ago when the project was just beginning in earnest. “You should know by now that you’re not interesting enough to sustain a narrative by yourself.”

    “Thanks for the reminder,” I croaked grimly, my throat a husk of nerves and bad health.

    “Good luck out on the trail,” Cathy trilled. “Be careful a Spinarak doesn’t crawl into your sleeping bag and lay eggs there.”

    I’d like to think I responded with something pithy and clever, but in all likelihood I probably just let out an inarticulate groan and hung up.

  2. #2
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    Okay. Let me begin by complimenting your writing. It is very professionally written and and be read well. You're obviously a very talented writer. Now onto the actual story. I really like her, and I love how you describe her character. She seems like a very interesting person, especially as this story progresses. Im kind of hoping for the next chapter to see exactly where this is going. The way you presented this is different from most every other Pokemon Fic I've read, so I applaud you on that as well.

    A Great read, please continue.

  3. #3
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    If you don't get many reviews for this, I think you can chalk it up to people feeling jealous after reading just the first few lines.

    This is exceptionally good, in so many different ways.

    Before Milly even started her inner monologuing, I was already taken with her. It really didn't help that all the titles she'd proposed made me smile real hard too.

    The issues you raised about the basic foundations of the pokemon world and how obviously problematic they can be are such brilliantly wicked observations. As well as providing insight into Millys' down-to-earth character, many of the points really were 'oh snap' moments of realization.

    For a moment it almost felt like you were destroying years of collective naivety about this beloved fandoms uncontested truths, about the sustainability of poke-marts, letting kids travel alone, real world dangers. Honestly, you had my inner child close to tears at how I could have ever accepted these things so easily before.

    However, the real world counters you used to show how these unusual conventions might exist in a more grounded universe actually seemed far more interesting than what we have now.

    The grammar, spelling and structure are all sublime. Not once did I find any error or line that took me out of the narrative.

    While I don't want to overload you with praise or anything, your dialogue really was buttery smooth and a joy to read through. It actually felt like two, distinct people having an actual human conversation. Compared to some of the fics I've read out there, I can safely say this is the element that'll leave me in shock for the next few weeks.

    I kind of want to find something I can fault you on, just so I don't go and give you a big ego. I'm still searching but I'll get back to you if I find anything.
    Last edited by Sabconth; 16th August 2012 at 4:09 AM.
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  4. #4
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    Very interesting concept and a good prologue that is well written. Good to see a realistic look at the Pokemon World and your take on how some parts of it work. I hope you manage to juggle all your projects because this looks good and I'd like to see more of it in the near future.


    When a desperately outgunned criminal underworld make a plan to save themselves from the authorities, they awaken something that should have stayed asleep. It's up to three ordinary trainers to save Unova from this new threat.

    A fanfic coming to Serebii soon!

    Preview Quote: “Since Team Plasma broke up eight years ago, Unova has had nothing but peace and prosperity, which is good for the average man, but it means that the authorities have more time and attention to focus on us. Time is running out; in another year we could all be in prison. We need a weapon. A weapon powerful enough that mere policemen and even Gym Leaders can't stop us."

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skiyomi View Post
    A/N: I have too many projects to start another one, but what can I say? The heart wants what it wants. Because I'm juggling multiple projects, updates might not be too regular, but I'll do my best.
    Ah, you're braver than I. I have a few things I'd like to be working on besides just my fic here, but I hate bogging myself down. Maybe I'll try to take some inspiration from you and do it anyway today.

    This will also be posted on my fanfiction.net account. And, I feel the need to say this because of the way this fic is written, Milly is not a proxy for me. I don't agree with all of her opinions.
    I have no idea what a "Milly" is yet, but what's your opinion on FF.net? Is it worth the time to post stuff there? Is it hard for newcomers to get recognized? This has nothing to do with your story; I'm just curious.

    And we’d probably keep going over it. I scooched my chair a little closer to her desk. “…Did you by any chance get the list of titles I suggested?” I asked, attempting a casual air.
    I'll be honest, and this is 100% just me...but italicizing things in the middle of a story always reads as weird to me. I know it's commonplace to use it to show quotable inner thoughts or (as you're doing) inflection, but it feels like when I see italics, my eyes are drawn to it and I tend to focus out on the words around the italics. I'm not sure about other readers, but I know I already tend to read dialogue with inflections, so the italics seem extraneous to me. But, like I said, that's just my personal flavor.

    “Oh, come on!” I exclaimed, sitting upward so rapidly that the office chair I was on let out a squawk as it rocketed upright. “‘Please Don’t League Me?’ ‘League Me Alone?’ That stuff is gold!”

    “More like fool’s gold,” Cathy responded dully. She reached over to a stack of papers until she found the one she was looking for and the flipped it over to the back, reading it over with a crinkled forehead. “And those weren’t even the worst you came up with,” she said, in disbelief as to how that was even possible. “I mean, ‘If I League Here Tomorrow Will You Still Remember Me?’” she read incredulously. “Seriously?”
    This whole exchange was priceless. And those titles....are REALLY bad. Point to Cathy.

    I regarded her carefully for a moment. “…Why don’t you like good music?” I demanded coldly.

    She took off her glasses and rubbed her temples. “We’re not talking about good music—we’re talking about bad puns.”
    If I leave here tomorrow...that's Garth Brooks? Yes? Or no? It's sad that [I think] I know that.

    I sighed. “‘Extra! Extra! Breed All About It,’” I answered. “But that’s not my fault. Breeders are just boring. A title can only do so much.”
    I actually kind of like that one...

    “And what about your piece on Pokemon Centers, hmm?” she continued, ignoring me. “The one that got mentioned on news stations as far away as Sinnoh and made it into last year’s anthology? I believe it was called: ‘Who’s Paying For It?: The Price of Free Centers.’ And… what did you want to call it?”

    I grumbled something.

    “What was that?”

    “…‘Bad Medicine and Chansey Budgeting,’” I said more clearly. “Either that or ‘There is No Nurse Joy in PokeVille.’” I fidgeted in my chair. “Anyway, you’ve made your point already.”
    Okay, the Nurse Joy one is bad, but I kind of like the Bad Medicine one. The actual title used sounds like some sketchy, one-sided political crap that I'd expect John Stossel to report on.

    BY THE WAY, this is obviously well-written and VERY fluid and incredibly engaging, because I AM ARGUING FOR/AGAINST THE TOPICS BROUGHT UP IN THEIR DIALOGUE. So excellent work that.

    “We’ll see,” she said in a tone that I knew meant ‘no.’
    Does "we'll see" ever NOT mean "no"? Not a critique; just an observation on a realistic narration by you. I do that to my wife all the time. "Maybe. We'll see". It always means "No."

    For a moment neither one of us said anything. There was nothing but the click, click, click of the Newton’s cradle she always kept on her desk for some reason I’ve never been able to figure out. Perhaps she wants to be driven insane.
    I'm curious about the narration here. Everything to this point has been past tense (at least that I can recall), but here we get "I [have]" and "she wants", so the narrator (and Cathy) are both obviously still alive and around at the time that Milly is relating the story. Will the narration be catching up to the present day? Is Milly just recalling one previous conversation here? Just wondering. I think that it would be really interesting to see a past tense narration leading up to meeting with the present tense narrator.

    “Oh… wonderful,” I answered in non-sincerity mode. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy interviews. I love interviews even when they’re nerve-wracking. It’s just that the whole exercise takes on a different shade when the other person gets to ask the questions. That makes it seem somehow unfair.

    ...

    “Not if you’re doing your job right,” she added pointedly.
    Just re-emphasizing my older point...the italics on "other person" and "you're" there threw me. Maybe I just need to get used to them.

    “…And don’t make me look bad in this one!” she added shrewishly as I made my way out the door.
    I'm all about making up words, but shouldn't that be "shrew-like"?

    “Of course not,” I called back, and sauntered out of the offices of Johto United Press. I tried to recall then, just when and how this modest little project spiraled completely out of my control.

    I can’t say with certainty exactly where it started because it sprung up from different directions. Oh, the eight-part interview series I’d been hoping to do with Johto’s gym leaders seems like an easy place to put the blame. And I can’t say that that wasn’t a huge part of it. But that was practically a fluff piece. I knew I wasn’t the best choice for a context-less set of interviews with trainers who actually know what they’re talking about. I’m a zero-badge-winning trainer. I probably would’ve ended up asking them if they enjoyed skiing or if they were dating anyone. Pure human interest, almost nil Poke-interest.
    Oh, here's the present tense narrator again! Yay!

    For my money, my aforementioned article on Pokemon Centers is more to blame than that. When you get right down to it, the Pokemon Center system is a safety net for the many, many minors hoboing it around the country chasing the dream of being the very best. My article questioned the sustainability of a free system like that and critiqued what I saw as out of control spending (did you know there are some Pokemon Centers with saunas and free massages? Screw my local spa! I’ll just put on a backwards baseball cap and claim I want to be a Pokemon master! Pass me a loofa and some fancy bath salts.)
    What a lovely [psuedo-]subtle introduction of real-world socio-political ideology into the pokemon world. It IS very socialist, if you think about it, I suppose. Also, a nice job mocking the Ash Ketchum-like tropes of the pokemon world without being too bitingly insulting.

    But despite my bitching, moaning and occasional kvetching about the bloated system and where the funding could and should be going…
    Nothing of note here: this made me look up whether there should have been a comma after "moaning" or not. I assumed there was, so I looked it up. Apparently it is a huge controversy. Who'd have thunk it? I, personally, prefer that comma, but I guess either way is technically correct. So good work giving me a homework assignment in the morning.

    It’s a divisive issue and, really, it has “Mommy wars” (a phrase that gets some journalists salivating) written all over it. But who’s to say which one is the worse parent? The one who lets her kid leave home at ten with nothing but a Totodile between him and the evils or the world or the one who keeps him in a gated community with a tracking chip lodged in his stomach? …Probably the tracking chip one, because that’s kind of messed up, but still! Is it worse to be underprotective or overprotective? History seems to weigh in on this on a case by case basis… and sometimes with disastrous results.
    Oh, what a beautiful correlation to the stupid, stupid things that society gets hung up on and uses to keep us all mentally divided against each other. Very well-thought to introduce issues like that into the pokemon world.

    But what was I to do with this concept? Interview some newbie trainers? Didn’t sound like something I’d want to do. I’ve gone on record many times as saying that children smell. That they are covered in a layer of dirt and viscous slime—like grubs. Not yet fully metamorphosed into their adult forms.
    I know you said Milly is not a proxy for you, but this describes me very well. I feel bad for mentally calling Milly a hipster earlier.

    And, alright, all that about children is probably an overstatement.
    Ugh, I hate "alright". I get that it has developed some traction in this modern lazy society, but I will personally never accept "alright" as a word that should be in a written document unless it is trasnscribing written conversation (something like: She typed "alright" into her text to let him know she was okay with it). It's really not a word. In narration, it should always be "all right".

    There’s many a lovely, well-adjusted school-aged kid out there who doesn’t pick their nose or neglect basic hygiene.
    Suddenly I'm on the grammar train. You follow the singular "kid out there who doesn't" up with the plural "their nose", which doesn't correlate. You should just say "his" (or, yes, "his or her", but that always feels unwieldy to me).

    I wasn’t going to do it. I really wasn’t. Because I don’t like, you know, children, or walking for prolonged periods, or camping in the woods, or wild animals, or pollen, or uncarpeted surfaces or anything really. But I kept collecting information. I kept planning. Not seriously! Oh no! This was just a… hobby. Just something to take my mind off my real projects. I wasn’t going to really take it up.
    Not that the other parts didn't, but this bit of narration felt SO REAL to me. Just adding in bits like "you know" or "Not seriously! oh no!" makes it sund more colloquial and REALLY make me feel invited into Milly's head. Wonderful work.



    -So this was a lot of fun to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the narration (I love first person narration, and my biggest regret about Brothers' Bond is not having used it myself). The characters were fun and witty and personable, and genuinely felt like people I want to read more about. I'm curious as to where the story will go from here and what the main thrust of it will be about. If you coordinate any sort of PM list, please put me on it. I would appreciate that.


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  6. #6
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    Thanks so much, all of you! I'm glad to see interest in this concept, because both the concept and the tone had me rather concerned from the start.

    Before Milly even started her inner monologuing, I was already taken with her. It really didn't help that all the titles she'd proposed made me smile real hard too.
    I'm glad to hear that because I was afraid people might not like her. I wasn't sure how well a character criticizing the very structure of the Pokemon universe would play on a Pokemon board @_@

    Ah, you're braver than I. I have a few things I'd like to be working on besides just my fic here, but I hate bogging myself down. Maybe I'll try to take some inspiration from you and do it anyway today.
    I'm afraid it's not bravery @_@ more like impatience and lack of impulse control. 24-hours before I wrote this I was planning on writing the next chapter of my main story.

    I have no idea what a "Milly" is yet, but what's your opinion on FF.net? Is it worth the time to post stuff there? Is it hard for newcomers to get recognized? This has nothing to do with your story; I'm just curious.
    I've got kind of mixed feelings about fanfiction.net. It's probably the place with the biggest audience, so throwing in your hat there can be a good move if you want to reach a lot of people. But because of the size, it can take awhile to get noticed. For example, I get an amount of reviews for my Slayers stuff that I feel very grateful to have, but Pokemon? My Pokemon stuff doesn't get as much attention. You could chalk that up to Pokemon having a larger group of writers and therefore having quicker turnover when it comes to fics, or me simply having written more Slayers fics than Pokemon fics, or perhaps that my Pokemon fics aren't as good as my Slayers fics. Or all of the above.

    I also have a lot of problems with the restrictions fanfiction.net puts on the site. Petty things, like not allowing you to use your own section dividers or disallowing many symbols and getting rid of all links. Though, I will say they've made a few recent updates that I've liked, I generally don't like how they run things there. But if you like stats as much as I do, fanfiction.net is great for that. You can keep track of how many reviews/favorites/alerts your story has received, sure, but you can also see how many hits each individual chapter gets (even what countries the people reading are from). There's a lot of goodies like that there.

    ...So... hard to say. I find it worth my while to post my stuff there even if I'm not completely thrilled with the site, but I know other people have greater problems with the site than I've had. I haven't had any problems with trolls there; others have. I haven't had any problems with my content being removed unfairly; others have.

    I'll be honest, and this is 100% just me...but italicizing things in the middle of a story always reads as weird to me. I know it's commonplace to use it to show quotable inner thoughts or (as you're doing) inflection, but it feels like when I see italics, my eyes are drawn to it and I tend to focus out on the words around the italics. I'm not sure about other readers, but I know I already tend to read dialogue with inflections, so the italics seem extraneous to me. But, like I said, that's just my personal flavor.
    Then you might be a little distracted with my writing, because I am an italics maven. I fully cop to the fact that I do go overboard sometimes with my italics. I don't really think this chapter is an example of me doing this, but yeah, I do have a propensity for italics.

    If I leave here tomorrow...that's Garth Brooks? Yes? Or no? It's sad that [I think] I know that.
    Actually, I was thinking about the opening line from "Freebird."

    Okay, the Nurse Joy one is bad, but I kind of like the Bad Medicine one. The actual title used sounds like some sketchy, one-sided political crap that I'd expect John Stossel to report on
    Bad Medicine sounded a little too legit, which is why I had to add Chansey Budgeting after it just to make it bad. I'm not fully satisfied with the Nurse Joy one, though... it is bad and it's supposed to be bad, but... it seems more like regular-bad instead of funny-bad to me. Never found a replacement though...

    I'm curious about the narration here. Everything to this point has been past tense (at least that I can recall), but here we get "I [have]" and "she wants", so the narrator (and Cathy) are both obviously still alive and around at the time that Milly is relating the story. Will the narration be catching up to the present day? Is Milly just recalling one previous conversation here? Just wondering. I think that it would be really interesting to see a past tense narration leading up to meeting with the present tense narrator.
    It's kind of an odd case here, because this scene from the prologue happens after the events of the rest of the story--because, see, by then she's finished her draft and is discussing titling with her editor. From here on, things go back further in time.

    Suddenly I'm on the grammar train. You follow the singular "kid out there who doesn't" up with the plural "their nose", which doesn't correlate. You should just say "his" (or, yes, "his or her", but that always feels unwieldy to me).
    I'm usually better about doing that. I'll go and fix it after I finish posting this.

    As for "shrewishly" and "alright," both are in my dictionary. I understand you having a pet peeve about "alright" coming into more common use, and, trust me, I have my own set of language-based pet-peeves; but, to be honest? I don't have a problem with "alright" at all. It's the older-than-dirt "lazy" vs. "evolving language" argument, and I tend to side with the latter most of the time. You're free to dislike it and not accept it, but, well, what can I say? Alright is alright by me.

    If you coordinate any sort of PM list, please put me on it. I would appreciate that.
    I'll put you on that right away.

    Once again, a big thanks to all of you for reading and commenting! I'll try to keep myself focused so the fact that this fic is third or forth-banana to my other projects won't show as much.

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    Hey! This caught my eye as I was browsing through the fanfiction forum and decided to give it a chance. I give a lot of fanfiction on this forum a chance, so I suppose that's not much of an accomplishment. What is an accomplishment, however, is that I was able to stomach reading the first paragraph of the story. And the second. And so on and so forth. And I actually paid attention the whole way (I think you understand by this point that I don't generally give a lot of fanfiction the same treatment nowadays, but it's now clearly stated in case you didn't).

    I didn't think about the Pokemon team(s) I should be building, I didn't think about editing the week old episode for my Pokemon Podcast that I should be editing, or the fanfic I should be writing, nor did I think about my sister knocking too loudly outside the bathroom door (hahahwhut?). Instead, I only thought about the words I was reading, and then I thought about how I wish the Prologue wasn't done, because I want to keep reading.

    And now I just realized that this could very possibly be the most clever, well-written, most discrete build-up to a Pokemon Journey-esque fic I've ever read. And if it is this (not sure if it is yet), I will definitely be extremely happy.

    I'm not a super reviewer; I don't notice small grammar mistakes or anything like that. I take in ideas, concepts, possibilities, how much I actually like the way you write, and I try to review from that, and since I've pretty much said my piece on those things, I'm just going to say good luck! I'm so excited for this story! You've definitely made a reader out of me, and I can't wait for the next installment!

    *off to go click the subscribe button* Also, that PM list... I'd like on please. (:

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


    Guess who claimed Luxray?!

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    Thank you very much! I'm glad I was able to take you out of real life's many distractions for the short space of this chapter I hope I can keep that going. I'll go ahead and add you to the PM list.

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    Since you're starting up a PM list, can I be on it as well?


    When a desperately outgunned criminal underworld make a plan to save themselves from the authorities, they awaken something that should have stayed asleep. It's up to three ordinary trainers to save Unova from this new threat.

    A fanfic coming to Serebii soon!

    Preview Quote: “Since Team Plasma broke up eight years ago, Unova has had nothing but peace and prosperity, which is good for the average man, but it means that the authorities have more time and attention to focus on us. Time is running out; in another year we could all be in prison. We need a weapon. A weapon powerful enough that mere policemen and even Gym Leaders can't stop us."

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    Absolutely! I'll add you right now.

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    I would also like to be added, thank you.

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    Gotcha. I'll go ahead and add you ^^

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    This is genuinely the most exciting read I have had in a long time. Much of it reminded me of classic Hollywood movies. You have the journalist, the editor and the banter. The first exchanges of dialogue were great, and once I immersed myself in Milly's inner monologue, I was immediately pulled in by what I was reading.

    If this had been a non-Pokemon story, I would have called you out for being too safe. The opening, while a very well-written prologue, is something I've seen time and time again. Amusing, yes. Groundbreaking, no. Nevertheless, I applaud you for applying the concept to the Pokemon universe. Now, that's something I haven't seen done before. For that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The little digs you made at things relating to the series amused me to no end.

    The only issue I have is the title. I understand it's named after the piece Milly is writing, as an ironic nod to the story within a story premise, but I don't think it quite does justice to the overall story itself. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't have bothered reading this fic nor would I have clicked on this thread had I not seen it was written by you. Your skills as a writer precedes expectations, so I knew it would be a great read, but for me the title on its own showed no indication of that. Perhaps, I'm being too harsh, but that's just my opinion on the matter. It seems a little too generic for my tastes. [This coming from someone who has a chapter title is named "Out of Her League" in her own fanfic. I'm such a hypocrite, so feel free to ignore me on this xD] Then again, it was better than the other options Milly suggested. Haha.

    And can I just say, I love Milly. She is, for the lack of a better word, outstanding. You mentioned that you were worried about readers disliking her character for being so critical of the Pokemon world, but I have to say, that is all the more reason why I like her even more so. Well, she also reminds me a little of myself, so perhaps I'm a little bias in that regard. Oh, and Cathy is fantastic too. The way she put down all of Milly's title choices was just brilliantly delivered. What an editor does best. I can honestly say I am looking forward to more from Milly and Cathy.

    ♥ Giving away ORAS demo codes.
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    Thank you! I'm glad both the scene and the more essay-style stuff worked. I really want to keep a balance between the two as I write.

    Yeah, I suppose there's nothing groundbreaking about the prologue. It's really meant to be a nice gentle introduction to the concept than anything. An explanation chapter that's trying desperately to pretend that's not what it is X_x

    Well, I can't say I don't agree with you to some degree over the title. I mean, the meta-commentary from Milly on it pretty much follows what you're saying. Thing is, this piece always had to have the same name as Milly book... because this isn't a "story within a story." This will be written out as her book, straight out--there's only one story. So it wouldn't make sense for it to have a different name. In order to change the name, I'd need to change the first scene. If I didn't want to do that, then the very best I could do would be to write a subtitle to it.

    ...And to be honest, I didn't come up with anything better in the titling brainstorming process.

    I wonder if people will still like Milly later when she's interacting with different people and some of her... um... quirks appear... but I suppose I'll find that out when I get to it! I'm glad you liked Cathy, but despite her being the only one to share the stage with Milly in the prologue, she's not a main character.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skiyomi View Post
    Well, I can't say I don't agree with you to some degree over the title. I mean, the meta-commentary from Milly on it pretty much follows what you're saying. Thing is, this piece always had to have the same name as Milly book... because this isn't a "story within a story." This will be written out as her book, straight out--there's only one story. So it wouldn't make sense for it to have a different name. In order to change the name, I'd need to change the first scene. If I didn't want to do that, then the very best I could do would be to write a subtitle to it.

    ...And to be honest, I didn't come up with anything better in the titling brainstorming process.
    Ah-ha, I foolishly dug myself into a hole with "the story within a story" comment. I feel like an idiot now xD;;

    You probably won't believe me now, but I knew your intention was to write it as Milly's book. Gosh, despite being a writer myself, I fail at wording things sometimes. For shame! Obviously, you can't change the title now nor should you. The scene is perfect as it is. For some reason, I didn't write this in my last comment (I thought I did), but I was going to suggest you add a subtitle for the piece. It's ultimately your choice. I'm not going to push it and frankly, it doesn't particularly need it. I work in the Journalism sector, so I clearly I still have my work head on. Ah, I'm taking this fic a little too seriously. Don't mind me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skiyomi View Post
    I wonder if people will still like Milly later when she's interacting with different people and some of her... um... quirks appear... but I suppose I'll find that out when I get to it! I'm glad you liked Cathy, but despite her being the only one to share the stage with Milly in the prologue, she's not a main character.
    But I like quirks in characters. It's what makes them interesting.

    Audience reaction is just part of the fun when it comes creative writing.

    Oh, what a pity. Well, I suppose, what with it being Milly's book, Milly bound to be center stage. There's nothing wrong with that.

    By the way, I would also love to be on the PM list if that's quite aright. I'm not sure if I will be a constant reviewer, but I will certainly be reading.
    Last edited by Meowth City; 21st August 2012 at 9:54 AM.

    ♥ Giving away ORAS demo codes.
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    XD Don't worry, I believe you. I find it hard to find the terminology to describe what this is anyway, so I get why you used that phrase. I'm going to consider a subtitle, since I don't think it would be out of place in this kind of story, but if I can't come up with anything that works, I'll leave it as it is.

    Heheh. Well, I suppose "quirks" might just be my way of saying "character flaws," but we'll see how it shakes out when I get there. Flaws can make a character fun, anyway.

    I'll go ahead and add you to the list

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    Chapter 1. Daphne and Roy.

    I cupped my home phone in my hands and let out a sigh. I’d intended to call earlier in the day, I really had. But I kept thinking of other things I had to do and it had just… been swept to the side. Now, with my cardboard-flavored pizza long finished and night falling, I knew I had to get this over with or it would be put off until tomorrow again.

    My hand drifted over to the number keypad and I momentarily enjoyed the novelty of dialing a number that I could actually remember instead of using my contacts feature. I held it up to my ear and let it ring.

    After the second ring, the channel opened. “Hello?” said a voice on the other side.

    I took a deep breath and summoned up some insincere energy and cheer. “Hi, sis!” I chirped. “How you doing?”

    There was a long, suspicion-laden pause. Finally the voice replied: “Milly… are you doing another book?”

    I froze. Somehow I’d tipped my hand from the start. “…Why would you think that, Daph?” I asked in a would-be casual voice.

    “Because you don’t call me ‘sis,’” she reasoned. “So I thought maybe you were trying to introduce me or something. You know, as a character.”

    “What? No! I would never do something so… so cheap and lazy!” I insisted in mock-offense. I paused for a moment. “…But seriously, I am doing another book. Wanna come along? Or are you busy?”

    I prayed she wouldn’t be busy. I hadn’t bothered to make a list of coercible traveling companions yet because it was clear that Daph would top the list. If she said no, then I’d need to make a list.

    “Umm… maybe, actually,” Daphne answered, ballooning my hopes. I heard a rustling from the other end of the line that might’ve been her shuffling through her day-planner. “I’ve got to do a wedding at the end of the week, but after that I’m pretty much free. This isn’t another ghost thing, is it?”

    My loyal reader(s?) will recall my sister Daphne accompanied me during the writing of Haunts of the Pokemon World, playing the dual-role of photography expert and sole voice of reason.

    “Nope, not at all,” I answered. “It’s actually about the Pokemon League.”

    “Really? You?” she asked in a tone I’ve decided not to let offend me. “Well, I guess that could be interesting,” she admitted. “Will I get to use any of my frequent flyer miles?”

    I sucked in air through my teeth. This was the part of the pitch I’d been most worried about, beyond the prospect of Daph simply being too busy to come along. We’d flown to all the major continents during Haunts of the Pokemon World, but for this subject…

    “I’m afraid not,” I admitted. “We’ll basically be visiting points of interest all around Johto… but we’ll be walking.”

    “Seriously?” she asked. “You don’t even like hiking. Why can’t we drive?”

    “Well, we’re trying to get that real Pokemon journey experience,” I explained, shifting position in my armchair so that my legs were underneath me. “And trainers just starting out don’t drive.”

    “Rich older ones do,” Daphne pointed out.

    I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, but if I was going to talk about the rich kid Pokemon trainer experience, then I’d just buy some rare Pokemon, pay someone to train them, sit back and sunbathe poolside. That doesn’t make a great book.”

    “But it would make a good teen drama,” Daph quipped.

    I groaned. “They probably already have one like that. But that’s not the point, anyway. Do you think you could—”

    My words were cut off by heavy breathing, as though someone on the line had their mouth too close to the receiver. I say “someone,” but it was more like “something.” It was a high voice, strange and ethereal. There was a rasp to it—a dread.

    “…What the hell is that?” Daph asked, voice heightening in concern.

    “Just a second,” I apologized. I turned to glare into my darkening house. “Misdreavus! Get off the line! That’s not funny!”

    The breathing stopped. There was a click from upstairs as though the phone by my bed was being slotted back into its cradle.

    There was dumfounded silence from my sister’s end. “…Why is your Pokemon using the phone?” she finally asked.

    “Oh, Misdreavus is just trying to convince me that dead people are calling the house,” I said, running a hand through my hair in mild annoyance.

    “I see,” Daphne responded. “That’s… terrifying.”

    “I know, right?” I said. “I couldn’t sleep for days until I figured out that—”

    “Not that,” Daphne interrupted. “I just imagined what would happen if Snubbull figured out how to order pizza.”

    I tried to picture the blubbery little snaggle-toothed monstrosity. “He would eat until he died,” I concluded. “But he would die happy.”

    “Anyway, my badly behaved ghost and your fat dog aside,” I launched back in, “what do you say about taking the old Johto journey with me?”

    There was a tense silence. “Well…” she trailed off. “Okay. I suppose I can’t let you out there all by yourself to get eaten up by an Ursaring.”

    “Of course,” I said, after I’d finished my silent cheer. “If anyone’s going to get eaten by an Ursaring we should do it together.”

    “Hey, I was just thinking,” Daphne cut-in, ignoring my proposed Ursaring death-pact, “Can I bring Roy along?”

    I let out a scoff before I’d managed to properly contain it. “Him? Doesn’t he have to work?” I asked, not caring a wit for Daphne’s boyfriend’s work schedule but caring much more than a wit over an excuse not to bring him along.

    “He got let go from the Poke Mart a few weeks ago,” Daphne answered regretfully.

    “What? No. I can’t imagine them letting such a valuable worker slip away,” I deadpanned. “But surely someone with his skill-set will find a new job in no time. I hear McMiltank’s is hiring. I wouldn’t want to get in the way of him landing his dream job.”

    “I think he could actually be a big help to you, Milly,” Daphne insisted. “He went on a Pokemon journey when he was younger. And like a real journey. Not the thing you did that didn’t even last a week.”

    “I don’t see why we’re making arbitrary judgments on what is and isn’t a journey,” I blustered.

    But I knew there was really no getting around the Roy-issue. And it’d be worth it just to get Daph to come along. I tried to console myself with the idea that if there did happen to be an Ursaring attack, they’d probably go for Roy first. After all, he eats a lot of beef jerky. He’s probably much more delicious than me or Daphne.

    “Alright, fine,” I relented. “He can come too.”

    *****

    Consider graduation. At the end of high school and college it really means something. It’s the culmination of a lot of time, effort and money—a worthy achievement. Elementary school and junior high graduations, however, always seemed to me to be just an excuse for parents to dress their kids up in embarrassing clothes and take pictures of them. Turns out I was wrong. Elementary school graduation ceremonies aren’t a waste of time at all. After all, for many of the graduates, it’ll be the last diploma that they’ll ever get.

    Despite the fact that trainer’s licenses can be received as early as age ten, the most common age of new trainers, according to the multi-regional Juniper-Hvam study, is twelve. These would be the kids whose parents insist that their children, at the very least, develop a few math skills and basic reading comprehension but don’t value education enough to make them go anywhere beyond that. Or perhaps they do value education more than that, but just want their kids out of the house before they enter the grotesque stage of puberty? If that’s the case, then it’s not like I can really blame them for that.

    Grade-school graduation as a standard is not as silly as it sounds. Oh, sure, most well-paying jobs are still situated at the higher end of the education spectrum. But among low-paying jobs, more consideration is given to applicants that at the very least completed grade school, and even more to those who made it all the way through junior high without bugging out to catch ‘em all.

    Let us consider Roy a sort of exhibit A; a trainer with a very tiny leg-up on those who started at age ten; a trainer whose last school experience over a decade ago was in the fifth grade.

    When Daphne first started dating him he kept talking about studying up, about taking some equivalency tests and saving up for night school—about getting out of his dead-end income bracket somehow.

    I don’t hear a lot of talk from him about that nowadays, and I’m not exactly holding my breath to see him in a graduation gown and a mortarboard. I’m far more used to seeing him in the same attire he was wearing as Daphne and I walked into his apartment so that we could all go out shopping for supplies for our expedition around Johto.

    He wore a grey sweatshirt with a faded red insignia for some sports team I was only vaguely aware of and a pair of jeans that looked like they were on their sixth day. He sat on the floor, a game controller in his hands. A glance at the television screen didn’t tell me what game he was playing, only that it involved shooting people and then humping their corpses.

    “G’morning, Roy,” Daphne greeted him, striding over and giving him a kiss on the cheek.

    “Hey, Daffy,” he returned, grinning at the attention.

    I wrinkled my nose. I’d always hated that little pet-name of his. Just what sort of term of endearment is “Daffy” anyway? It sounds more like an insult than anything. I just hope he doesn’t decide to go around calling me “Millipede” or “Silly Milly” or some such thing. But then again, Roy probably isn’t likely to label me with any terms of endearment. Lucky me.

    “Long time, no see, Roy,” I said, trying to be polite.

    “Yeah,” was all he said.

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what she sees in him. …Alright, that’s a lie. I at least know part of what she sees in him—such as the lightning-fast metabolism, the noticeably-in-use gym membership, the silky hair not entirely ruined by the gobs of hair gel he puts into it, and the prominent hazel eyes. But despite Daphne’s eye for… aesthetics, I know deep down that she’s not shallow enough to date Roy solely because of that. I’m just not sure what, if anything, of value lies beyond.

    Certainly it couldn’t have been neatness. All around the main room of the apartment were empty bowls and glasses. A coffee mug with the remnants of milk and cereal from that morning’s breakfast signaled that dishwashing couldn’t be put off for too much longer.

    There was an empty box of pizza on the floor too—greasy around its cardboard edges. I wanted to use it as an excuse to be hypocritically grossed out by the way Roy kept house, but instead the smell from it just made me crave pepperoni.

    “We going out to lunch first or the store?” Roy asked, perhaps reading my mind.

    “Lunch,” I answered immediately, not taking my eyes off the pizza box. “Let’s go to Pippa’s Pizza.”

    “Nah, I had pizza last night,” Roy answered, holding down a button on his game controller to shut the console down.

    My stomach growled wildly. “I had no idea,” I responded.

    *****

    We didn’t get pizza because why should the person paying for the meal have any say in where it comes from? Instead I found myself girding my burger from the Snubbull sitting in the booth across from me, wedged between Daphne and the window. It stared intently over the arm I’d placed protectively between my plate and the dog. It licked its pink jowls covetously.

    “…Don’t you think that would be nice?” Daphne was saying.

    “What?” I asked, snapping to attention. What can I say? Burger-girding takes a lot of focus.

    “I was saying you guys should bring out your Pokemon too,” Daphne repeated. “That way we can all eat together,” she added, chewing on a fry.

    “No way,” Roy answer, his burger halfway to his mouth. “I’m not going to feed my team this junk,” he continued, taking a large bite into the burger and letting a mixture of melted cheese and onion grease slide the meat down his throat.

    “Umm…” I hesitated. I fished around in my purse for the Poke Ball. “I suppose we can give this another try.”

    “Miss!” Misdreavus cheered as he burst from his container in a flash of light. As always, his hair seemed to be blown by wind from some other plane of existence, independent of this world’s atmospheric conditions.

    Daphne’s Snubbull glared at Misdreavus, apparently annoyed that he wasn’t edible.

    “Now, don’t you reanimate anyone’s food this time,” I ordered him. “And for the love of all that’s holy, stay out of the girls’ bathroom.

    Misdreavus let out a noise like a backwards sneeze that I hoped indicated that he intended to be good this time. The way he eyed the crowd worried me, though. It had an air of “Oooh, fresh meat!” about it.

    “Still having trouble getting him to behave?” Daphne asked, stroking Snubbull’s fat-folds idly.

    Roy nearly choked on his burger. “That thing’s a guy?!” he asked.

    “Yeah, he’s a guy,” I answered. Even for the relatively brief period of time I’d owned Misdreavus, I’d gotten too used to this question to be properly annoyed at the assumption anymore. For Misdreavus’s part, however, he blinked his long eyelashes at Roy and narrowed his pupils icily.

    “If there were only girl Misdreavus, then there would be a lot of baby Misdreavus,” Daphne added, attempting to be helpful. The problem with that argument is that most people are pretty uncomfortable with the thought of ghosts breeding in the first place.

    “If he’s a guy, then why do you dress him like that?” Roy asked. His mouth hung open suspiciously, as though he was convinced I was trying to purposefully emasculate the poor creature to push forward some hyper-feminine agenda. He crossed his legs under the table, as though fearing his potent manhood might force me into a random act of castration.

    All I’m saying is that attitude is a little rich considering his girlfriend started her photography career by dressing up her very male Snubbull like a fairy princess.

    “I didn’t dress him any way,” I answered coldly.

    “What about that necklace?” he asked, gesturing with a fry.

    “It’s a chain,” I insisted, using the term that I most hoped would restore my Pokemon’s challenged manliness. “And anyway, that’s part of his body. It’s how he absorbs nutrients.”

    “Well… it’s still weird,” Roy trailed off, ending his flawless argument with a slurp of his straw.

    “Misdreavus is a little weird,” Daphne agreed with a smile, “but in the best possible way.”

    Misdreavus beamed at her. She probably didn’t know it, but with that comment she’d likely put herself last on his list of people to dick around with. I was pretty sure Roy had landed number one. But then again, I think I’ll always be Misdreavus’s favorite.

    “What’s really weird is that you have that thing in the first place,” Roy countered, addressing me. “No offense, but you seem like a Bellsprout would be about all you could handle.”

    “Actually, she used to have a Bellsprout,” Daphne put in.

    “Used to?” Roy asked as I winced. “What happened to it?”

    “I… forgot to water it,” I admitted in a mumble.

    “You what?” Roy repeated, mortified. “You’re saying you killed a Bellsprout?”

    “I didn’t kill anything!” I retorted. I’d like to say that my anger wasn’t guilt-based, but that would be telling a lie—and telling a lie would make me feel guiltier (and therefore angrier). “It just got a little…”—I searched around for the right word—“wilted. Mom made me give him to a shelter and that was that.”

    I sunk morosely onto the table, beyond caring at this point that Snubbull was clawing his way toward my pickle spear. “Anyway, it’s not my fault. I was ten. Give me a break—it’s not like kids that age are that conscientious. People give their kids pets hoping it’ll teach them responsibility, without thinking that the pet might prefer that his new owner was already responsible.”

    Roy shrugged. “I handled my Pokemon just fine when I was twelve, and that’s not much older.”

    “Well, good for you,” I snapped. “Anyway,” I went on, trying to brighten up by drawing my self-esteem from the present instead of the past, “Misdreavus is a much better fit for me.”

    “Misdreavus!” Misdreavus cooed from the midair.

    “See, Misdreavus and I have a symbiotic relationship,” I explained. “Since his kind nourishes themselves on fear, I don’t even have to take time out of my schedule to feed him. He gets all the nutrition he needs from my neuroses.”

    “That’s not a symbiotic relationship,” Daphne corrected, a little too amused. “That’s a parasitic relationship.”

    I opened my mouth, but suddenly found myself stuck for a response.

    Misdreavus looked at me doubtfully. “Miss?”

    “Hey, she gets something out of it,” Roy commented. “She gets to pretend she knows something about Pokemon.”

    I resisted letting out a sigh. It didn’t surprise me that we’d come to that. After all, Roy had pretty much made up his mind about both my writing and my knowledge of Pokemon from a rather biased, second-hand account of my article on Pokemon Centers. I like to think of this as a good thing because it means I can write whatever I want about him and he won’t read it.

    “Seriously, mind telling me why you’re the one writing a book about the Pokemon League instead of someone who’s actually, like, won badges and stuff?” Roy pressed.

    I ran my finger through the ring of condensation that my glass had left on the table, smearing lines of it into no discernible pattern. “There have been a lot of books about the League written by winners. I figure there’s room enough for one by a loser.”

    I looked up at him in time to see him shaking his head slightly at me. “Besides that,” I went on, “it’s not like I’m writing a guidebook or anything, so being a champion battler really isn’t the point. I’m not writing this book to give people advice on how to be better competitors or how to beat the leaders.”

    He raised his eyebrows at me. “Why else would you write it?”

    Over the past few months I’d read every book I could get my hands on about the Pokemon League. There are plenty of historical accounts of the establishment, but the bestsellers have always been personal accounts of high-level trainers, either talking about their experiences in a biographical sense or giving advice to would-be champs. The problem is that most people see the League as a thing that exists only to be beaten—any information that doesn’t pertain to beating it is superfluous. To think of it as a historical institution, an economic driving force, or the master shaper of our society is… well, a waste of time, isn’t it? Why would someone even bother when they could be jotting down trainer’s tips?

    “For context,” I answered.

    “Context?” Roy repeated, puzzled.

    “Yes, Roy,” I affirmed, nonchalantly slapping Snubbull’s paw away from my fries. “Context.

    *****

    A few frantic packing, unpacking and repacking-filled days later and I found myself trying in vain to get into a comfortable position on my bus seat. Daphne and I had decided to let Roy worry about getting the gear the woman at the camping store had convinced us to buy for our trip into the luggage rack.

    I hadn’t slept the night before and was hoping to get some sleep on the bus. It was going to be a long, long trip New Bark Town. In the midst of my discomfort I was starting to regret not flying us there. But the distance hadn’t seemed worthwhile, and New Bark didn’t even have an airport so we’d have ended up driving at least part of the way. So I’d decided a Grey Houndoom bus was our best option.

    “It still kinda seems like cheating,” Daphne complained, sinking down into the seat next to me. “I mean, you were the one who said from the start that we had to walk it—like real trainers.”

    “We will walk,” I insisted, “once we get there. We’re only just driving to the starting line, that’s all.”

    “New Bark, really?” Daphne asked, wrinkling her nose. “It’s just such a small place. Even if we wanted to start at Violet City since it’s supposed to have the easiest gym, we could just go up Route 35 and head toward the Ruins of Alph and then just circle back through.”

    I nodded grimly. This had been my original idea and it would’ve cut the time we had to be on the road by a not insignificant amount. But we weren’t on the little quest to shave seconds off our commute. We were there to be thorough, damn it. At least, that’s what I’d told my coffee this morning when it tried to talk me into skipping New Bark Town altogether. In the delirium of early morning, coffee can be very persuasive, but I managed to resist. Barely.

    “New Bark may not have a gym, but it’s still important,” I replied. “It’s one of those small towns that’s managed to pump out quite a few well-known competitors, including our last champion. And anyway… that’s where Professor Elm is.”

    “And he knows we’re coming?” Daphne asked. She’d made it clear in the past that she didn’t think surprise interviews were completely fair. I have grudgingly admitted that she has a point.

    “Yeah. Already set up the interview,” I answered.

    I looked around at the filling bus. We’d be sharing the same air for the next sixteen hours and I wasn’t sure if I liked the look of all of them.

    “I just figured it’d be a good idea to start with the starters,” I finished lamely. Funny, but it didn’t seem like a good idea anymore.

  18. #18
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    I wish I had more to say than "I really liked this chapter" but. That's all I can really say. I really enjoyed the chapter! I didn't see any flaws, just good things!

    So it is a Trainer Fic, done in the most interesting way possible. I am. Just. Applause.

    Snubbull and Misdreavus are the best! I can't wait to see what other fun things they bring to the story. And Roy; he was a trainer. I bet he has a pretty boss team. Can't wait for those Pokemon to be introduced!

    Anyways, unless I think of something later, great job! I read this the day it came out, but I got swamped with work and the Autumn Friendly, so I couldn't really review. But this was a very good 1st Chapter.

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


    Guess who claimed Luxray?!

  19. #19
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    I'm not the kind of rater who can give really good, in-depth rates, and I also don't think I can rate each chapter well (for example, I rated your "The Kingdom of Illusions" fic as a whole, not per chapter), so I'll rate the prologue and the first chapter in this post, by mentioning things about this I like. I like the entire fic so far, I don't really see many things that are wrong so far, so I can't give a lot of criticism. However, I can give you compliments, both ones with personal bias and ones that are more general. Giving really good reviews is a bit Out Of My League! XD

    - I like the fact that someone in the Pokemon world FINALLY mentions the fact that ten year olds wandering around through the Pokemon World should not be normal, no one in the anime even mentions it...
    - I like the fitting article titles in the prologue.
    - I'm a Misdreavus fan, that Pokemon got little screen time in the anime, so that's also a good thing. "Misdreavus cheered as he burst from his container in a flash of light. As always, his hair..." It's also a male Misdreavus, I don't think many fanfiction authors who use a Misdreavus in their fics make it a male one.
    - As far as I can see, you made no spelling or grammar mistakes, that's a good thing.
    - I like the idea of walking and not using a car. As said in the fic, it's more Pokemon Trainer-like.
    - When you mentioned the idea of this fic in our VM conversations, it already seemed unusual and original to me. And it's indeed original, and it's nice so far!

    I also have a very small bit of criticism for you.
    -
    Misdreavus looked at me doubtfully. “Miss?"
    Why doesn't it say "Mis"? It's Misdreavus, not Missdreavus.

    This post didn't really add much useful information, so sorry for that! But you are doing well so far, continue the good work! I'll be reading the new chapters you'll upload and then leave a rate every few chapters, whenever I have enough to say to make my post worthwile.
    Last edited by AquaMilotic; 24th September 2012 at 5:01 PM.

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    Thank you both very much for the comments! I'm glad the Pokemon I introduced came off well.

    I'm not sure when I'll have the next chapter update done, since Diary of a Dragon and Possession are both pulling forward in terms of importance. @_@ This is what I get for having too many fics going at once.

    Why doesn't it say "Mis"? It's Misdreavus, not Missdreavus.
    It's not at all unusual for Pokemon to elongate parts of their name, so I see no problem with adding the extra s. Plus it's a purposeful and pointed contrast to the fact that he's male.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skiyomi View Post
    “He got let go from the Poke Mart a few weeks ago,” Daphne answered regretfully.
    That's really nicely done, subtle character-building. I already have an image of Roy in my head (Especially with the name Roy already leading me to think of a character from The Office, which works even better).

    Thoughts up to this point since I finally found a reason to just stop reading: At first, I wasn't sure how well-developed Milly and Daphne's relationship was becoming from this scene until I thought about it: they love and cherish each other and are very close, but Daphne PERHAPS doesn't entirely respect Milly's job (OR is slightly jealous of it...I can't quite tell yet; there seems to be some extremely low level of resentment or...something negative I can't quite put a finger on). Milly feels like the younger sister in that she seems somewhat cowed by Daphne (Daphne lets her real self through when she speaks; Milly seems to force laughs or come at her ideas a bit sideways). So yes...I may be WAY OFF in any of my thoughts, but this section is doing a better job of establishing their relationship than I thought at first. It's all very subtle and insidious.

    Not sure what to think of the Misdreavus scene on the phone and the subsequent discussion about Misdreavus and Snubull. I actually hadn't originally pictured Milly as someone who even OWNED a pokemon, so there's one interpretation of mine that was way off.

    These would be the kids whose parents insist that their children at the very least develop a few math skills and basic reading comprehension, but don’t value education enough to make them go anywhere beyond that.
    Something threw me here about the commas. There should be commas around "at the very least". They aren't mandatory commas, but they really make that read a little better in my opinion. And there avtually shouldn't be a comma before "but" since there is no subsequent subject. It's just a compound predicate which doesn't require a comma.

    Other notes from along the way: I'm assuming Roy is going to be the dopey comic-relief of this group, but I also don't FULLY trust Milly as a narrator, so it's possible he's a better/more reliable character than she is letting herself believe.

    "McMiltank's" was a bigger groaner than most of Milly's unused headlines from the prologue. But in a fun way.

    I like the Juniper-Hvam study reference. Lovely realistic world-building.

    Grade-school graduation as a standard is not as silly as it sounds. Oh, sure, most well-paying jobs are still situated at the higher end of the education spectrum. But among low-paying jobs, more consideration is given to applicants that at the very least completed grade school, and even more to those who made it all the way through junior high without bugging out to catch ‘em all.
    I guess kind of like you with "alright" (but I still hate it! ), I'm not a big stickler for "You shouldn't start sentences with a conjunction!" There are some instances where I think it sounds perfectly fine and more dramatic to do so. I'm not sure if this is one of those, though. My brain really wants "...end of the education spectrum, but among low-paying..." to flow into one line. Conversely, I could TOTALLY see there being a full stop after "completed grade school" and starting the next sentence with the following "And" because I already get a sense of a longer pause there. Maybe just the way my brain read the paragraph, though.

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what she sees in him. …Alright, that’s a lie. I at least know part of what she sees in him—such as the lightning-fast metabolism, the noticeably-in-use gym membership, the silky hair not entirely ruined by the gobs of hair gel he puts into it, and the prominent hazel eyes. But despite Daphne’s eye for… aesthetics, I know deep down that she’s not shallow enough to date Roy solely because of that. I’m just not sure what, if anything, of value lies beyond.
    This is why I like Milly as a narrator. She really is unreliable and kind of a jerk. She tries to rationalize Daphne as somehow more than shallow, but it's SHE who can't see anything of note from Roy other than his physique and physical appearance. Jealousy? I get a feeling of it.

    “I didn’t kill anything!” I retorted. I’d like to say that my anger wasn’t guilt-based, but that would be telling a lie—and telling a lie would make me feel guiltier (and therefore angrier). “It just got a little…”—I searched around for the right word—“wilted. Mom made me give him to a shelter and that was that.”
    All the pokemon talk to this point has been quite entertaining. The thought that Bellsprout need to be watered is interesting and creative (you'd think that as long as you let them out of their ball regularly, they'd have enough sense to get their own water, but perhaps they are not spectacularly intelligent pokemon). The whole gender discussion of Misdreavus was very astute (I, like Roy, am always amazed to discover that they can be male). The Snubull is already pretty adorable. I've had fun reading about them. I am still curious, to this point, how "capable" pokemon are in this iteration. Are they communicative? Do they poke-speak? Are they self-aware (The Snubull doesn't seem to be, but Misdreavus certainly does, so perhaps there are levels of intelligence and thought processes based on species)?


    -GreyHoundoom was every bit as fun/lame as McMiltank's. I love that stuff.

    Overall, this was pretty fun. Like I said, right now, I'm getting the biggest kick out of Milly's vain, judgmental narration. I look forward to see her proven wrong early and often.

    I'm sure I'd have more to say if it wasn't 730am and I started this an hour ago. I think I'm going to go back to bed. But I look forward to the next installment, of course!


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    First off, Sid87, I just want to give a big thanks to you for commenting on this. I know you've been nightmarishly busy lately, so it means a lot

    That's really nicely done, subtle character-building. I already have an image of Roy in my head (Especially with the name Roy already leading me to think of a character from The Office, which works even better).
    Thanks! And ha! I've only ever actually seen, like, two episodes of The Office, so I didn't have that reference in mind.

    Thoughts up to this point since I finally found a reason to just stop reading: At first, I wasn't sure how well-developed Milly and Daphne's relationship was becoming from this scene until I thought about it: they love and cherish each other and are very close, but Daphne PERHAPS doesn't entirely respect Milly's job (OR is slightly jealous of it...I can't quite tell yet; there seems to be some extremely low level of resentment or...something negative I can't quite put a finger on). Milly feels like the younger sister in that she seems somewhat cowed by Daphne (Daphne lets her real self through when she speaks; Milly seems to force laughs or come at her ideas a bit sideways). So yes...I may be WAY OFF in any of my thoughts, but this section is doing a better job of establishing their relationship than I thought at first. It's all very subtle and insidious.
    I definitely think you're on to something about their relationship. I'd call it more weariness of Daphne's part than actual resentment. She's more straightforward and less neurotically driven than Milly is, and as a result, has spent a portion of her lifetime basically talking Milly down from metaphorical ledges. I think that might be what's coming through here.

    Not sure what to think of the Misdreavus scene on the phone and the subsequent discussion about Misdreavus and Snubull. I actually hadn't originally pictured Milly as someone who even OWNED a pokemon, so there's one interpretation of mine that was way off.
    I could see why you'd think that because she honestly doesn't strike as someone who would be good with Pokemon because... well, she isn't. I think part of the thing here is that I always consider ghost types to be a little different in terms of their intelligence, behavior and moral compass than other Pokemon, so it's not quite the same as her having another type.

    Something threw me here about the commas. There should be commas around "at the very least". They aren't mandatory commas, but they really make that read a little better in my opinion. And there avtually shouldn't be a comma before "but" since there is no subsequent subject. It's just a compound predicate which doesn't require a comma.
    Agreed on both counts. I'll go back and fix that after I finish this reply.

    Other notes from along the way: I'm assuming Roy is going to be the dopey comic-relief of this group, but I also don't FULLY trust Milly as a narrator, so it's possible he's a better/more reliable character than she is letting herself believe.
    You're right to distrust Milly as a narrator. I'm a little hesitant to answer that assessment of Roy--I would consider him more an opposing viewpoint, perhaps closer to a rival or even a quasi-antagonist than anything. But the fact that Milly is narrating will certain skew him toward that role if she can pull it off... and... well... his own behavior too can be at fault.

    I like the Juniper-Hvam study reference. Lovely realistic world-building.
    Thanks! It's a weirdly meta study-name, though, because Khristine Hvam is Professor Juniper's English voice.

    I guess kind of like you with "alright" (but I still hate it! ), I'm not a big stickler for "You shouldn't start sentences with a conjunction!" There are some instances where I think it sounds perfectly fine and more dramatic to do so. I'm not sure if this is one of those, though. My brain really wants "...end of the education spectrum, but among low-paying..." to flow into one line. Conversely, I could TOTALLY see there being a full stop after "completed grade school" and starting the next sentence with the following "And" because I already get a sense of a longer pause there. Maybe just the way my brain read the paragraph, though.
    I'm glad you're not one of those people that's a stickler for that... because honestly I think it's one of the most schoolmarmy complaints a person can make that pretty much ignores a lot of great literature (inculding the Bible).

    I'm going to have to think over your suggestion here, because I've gone over both my version and your version about three times in my head and, while I dislike neither version, mine feels more natural to me. But that's probably because it was composed to my voice and to my pauses. I might have to do some sentence massaging there in some other way, though, because I see your point (largely about the first period you mention. I don't want to turn the last comma into a period... but if I change one and not the other, it becomes a pretty unweildy sentence). I'll give this one some thought.

    This is why I like Milly as a narrator. She really is unreliable and kind of a jerk. She tries to rationalize Daphne as somehow more than shallow, but it's SHE who can't see anything of note from Roy other than his physique and physical appearance. Jealousy? I get a feeling of it.
    Overall, this was pretty fun. Like I said, right now, I'm getting the biggest kick out of Milly's vain, judgmental narration. I look forward to see her proven wrong early and often.
    Ha! You've got her dead to rights. She is self-obsessed, quick to judge and rather... appetite-driven at times. To her credit, though, I think she has a degree of self-awareness about her faults... not always, but often.

    All the pokemon talk to this point has been quite entertaining. The thought that Bellsprout need to be watered is interesting and creative (you'd think that as long as you let them out of their ball regularly, they'd have enough sense to get their own water, but perhaps they are not spectacularly intelligent pokemon). The whole gender discussion of Misdreavus was very astute (I, like Roy, am always amazed to discover that they can be male). The Snubull is already pretty adorable. I've had fun reading about them. I am still curious, to this point, how "capable" pokemon are in this iteration. Are they communicative? Do they poke-speak? Are they self-aware (The Snubull doesn't seem to be, but Misdreavus certainly does, so perhaps there are levels of intelligence and thought processes based on species)?
    The intelligence level is probably going to vary quite broadly based on species. I usually consider ghost Pokemon pretty intelligent, and even to some degree capable of direct communication (if only with someone psychically gifted) and able to use more influence even when they can't communicate directly. Snubbull would have basically the intelligence of a dog, perhaps a little higher--but smart in ways dogs can be smart, i.e. in getting things they want.

    Milly was originally going to have a Gastly, because that line contains some of my favorite Pokemon and I wanted her to have a Ghost Pokemon that she got in the course of her last book. But I'm already writing a story where someone has that line, so I wanted to do something a little different. I already feel like I've gotten a lot of mileage out of changing my plan to Misdreavus.

    -GreyHoundoom was every bit as fun/lame as McMiltank's. I love that stuff.
    XD I'd imagine more's on the way!

    Once again, thank you so much for the comments! I wish I could say the next installment will be up and running soon, but there are a lot of Halloween-based writing projects I'd like to take up, so those will probably be keeping me occupied this month. Though, who knows? Maybe I'll encounter a rapid increase in productivity. A girl can hope!

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    Chapter 2. Small Town.

    I have a theory about places like New Bark Town. You know, the kind of closed-off, out of the way and above all tiny communities that would be rendered completely insignificant to the rest of the world if it weren’t for the fact that someone absurdly famous was born there. Such places often become infused with a sense of wonder and mysticism. They can become a source of… anything, really—morality, common sense, and even, strangely enough, reality. I remember shortly after Lyra Soulis took down the Elite Four to become Johto and Kanto’s new champion, there were a bunch of articles about her and about New Bark. In its rush to praise the then-tween champion, the Violet Examiner expressed its gratitude that someone from “the real Johto” had beaten the league. I hope it was as big a surprise to Lance as it was to me that Blackthorn City is part of the fictional Johto.

    Small towns get a lot of credit for shaping these brilliant men and women—for teaching them values and self-reliance and hard work and a love of the simple life. Big cities, on the other hand, are, as we all known, bubbling cauldrons of indolent sin and decadence that can only instill in their residence a leech-like craving for the blood-toil of others. That’s the narrative. And when writers at my own beloved Goldenrod Gazette described New Barkian champion Lyra Soulis as being from “the heart and soul of Johto” (I get it, Mike. Hilarious. Puns are my department.) they weren’t just stroking New Bark’s small town ego. They were playing into that narrative.

    The ironic thing, and something I’m sure you’ve figured out just from the newspaper names I’ve tossed around, is that some city folk preach this as gospel with as much fervor as people who actually live in small towns. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps they see places like New Bark town as manageable, safe and quiet after the noise and slog of places like Goldenrod. I often hear people claim that someday they’re going to leave the city and retire in a place like that, but I know they’ll be back. They won’t be able to sleep without the sweet lullaby of car alarms.

    As I stared into the scant main street that constituted downtown New Bark, with such thrilling attractions as the corner store and a dentist office, I knew exactly why young people who leave such towns are so determined to be successful. It’s so they never have to come back to places like this again.

    I had been bored on the bus, but it was the kind of boredom I could deal with. I’d mentally planned out my interview with Professor Elm, played every single car trip game I could remember with Daphne, and complained every half an hour about the fact that reading in moving vehicles gave me a headache. But getting out of the bus was something else. It was as though New Bark Town itself had wrapped me in a cloak of dullness. It was quiet… except for…

    It was the windmills! The goddamn windmills! They were all over the place on raised white platforms coated in chipped paint. They filtered the waning light of the day, casting long shadows as they turned and turned. They were probably ear-splitting up at propeller-decapitation distance, but from where I was standing all you could hear was a low thwooph-thwooph-faaa. The sound was endless. Monotonous. Maddening. I glared up at the offensively rural things, tapped my sneakers together and muttered, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” It didn’t work. I was still in New Bark Town.

    “So,” Daphne said, enviably and mysteriously fresh as a daisy as she stepped out of the bus, “what do we do now?’

    “Well,” I began, deciding not to suggest murder-suicide pacts even as I stared into the swirling blades above, “I’ve got to get to my interview with Professor Elm. I guess you guys could just hang out at the Pokemon Center while I’m gone.”

    “There is no Pokemon Center in New Bark,” Roy corrected me, huffing only slightly as he hauled our luggage from the top of the bus. “Everyone knows that.”

    I grimaced. This was one of the few areas I figured Roy would know what he was talking about. “That doesn’t make sense,” I whined, hoping to argue away the facts. “So many kids come down here to get their starters. What do they do without a center?”

    “There’s a healing machine at Professor Elm’s lab,” Roy explained.

    “Well, that’s great and all, but it doesn’t exactly help all those newbie trainers looking for a place to stay,” I countered sourly. In my defense I think everything between my knees and my shoulders had gone numb from my tenure on the bus seat. And in all honesty my lodging concerns were less for the newbie trainers and more for the stupid twenty-something writer who had hoped to forego sleeping in the woods for at least one more night.

    Roy shrugged. “People don’t go on Pokemon journeys to not go camping,” he pointed out.

    “Fine,” I snapped. “Then hang out in the Poke Mart.”

    Roy raised his eyebrows at me. “Do you think a town without a Pokemon Center really has a Poke Mart?”

    It’s possible I deserved that.

    “Then go to the corner store and buy some fruit snacks or something,” I suggested, getting a little frustrated. I couldn’t stop staring at twin windmills that stood in the distance. From my vantage point they looked like two swirling eyes bent on hypnotizing me into a senseless, sleepy trance.

    “We already have all the food we can fit into our bags,” Daphne pointed out, struggling to lift her overstocked backpack.

    “Then just… I don’t know, check out the windmills or something!” I said, waving a dramatic hand in the direction of the spinning blades.

    “What are we supposed to do with windmills?” Roy asked flatly, as though disappointed that I hadn’t laid out a tourist schedule for him and Daph for the periods in which I would be busy doing book-related things.

    I said nothing for a moment, trying not to think of razor sharp edges and Roy’s neck and the things he could do with windmills. Finally I suggested with a dark little chuckle, “If you brought a sword than you could tilt at them.”

    “…Why would I tilt at windmills?” Roy repeated, in a tone that suggested that he was certain I was losing my mind and was readying himself to tackle me should I make any sudden or violent moves.

    “Never mind,” I said, feeling the sense of depression that falls when someone doesn’t understand my jokes. An idea occurred to me and I brightened slightly.

    “Our illustrious champion Lyra’s family home has got to be around here somewhere,” I said, turning to Daphne. “Maybe you could check it out? Get a picture or something?”

    Daphne found this much more agreeable than picking a fight with seemingly innocent windmills and Roy couldn’t find a reason to disagree, so I let them scoot off carrying all of the gear beyond the carry-on bag I’d brought on the bus.

    I didn’t even bother to get out the assortment of maps I’d gathered in preparation for the task ahead. New Bark was small, and Elm’s lab had to be the biggest building around. I didn’t imagine it would be hard to find.

    Perhaps it was the talk of fighting windmills that made humming the main theme from the musical version of Donphan Quixote irresistible. I stuck my chin out in the direction I thought I’d find the lab, finding renewed determination in the song.

    “My destiny calls and I go,” I sang quietly to myself as I struck out in the direction of a large (by New Bark standards) building with an impressive array of antennae on the roof.

    *****

    My first look at the interior of the Elm Laboratory reminded me of home more than I’d expected. Oh, of course, my home is not strewn with smoking vials of chemicals, or surgical kits or pens of napping Pokemon. But my office space is lousy with loose books, old snack wrappers, notebooks of scratchy handwriting and every bit of wall space is layered in post-it notes. In those aspects, Elm Lab was similar. I’ve frequently tried to justify my messy surroundings at home by saying it’s appropriate to a literary-minded person such as myself. I’d always thought of science-types as being neater, more organized. But as Professor Elm himself stepped forward to greet me, his pockets jammed with notes to the point that some spilled out onto the floor as he walked, I knew I was in for a different type of science guy.

    “Oh, Miss Gleason,” he said with a smile as he stepped over a pile of books on move inheritance. He snapped off the gloves he’d been wearing before offering his hand for me to shake, so as to not smear me with Girafarig embryos or whatever it was he’d been working with. “I’ve been expecting you. Sorry for the mess,” he added sheepishly. “I’d say I’m in the middle of something, but I always am.”

    As I drew back from the handshake I got a good look at him for the first time in person. Of course, I’d seen him on TV, but of course everyone looks weird on TV. At least, that’s what I told myself the last time I appeared on the Morning in Johto show—because my forehead cannot possibly look that big in real life.

    In any case, my first instinct is to say that Professor Elm was young… which isn’t quite accurate. He’s certainly young if your idea of what a Professor should be looks like Professor Oak, but other than that… not really. I get the feeling that, despite that, he gets called “kid” at professorial conferences. If he wants to avoid that kind of commentary, he should probably shave off the bare beginnings of a goatee. But then again, that might be there to counteract the only slightly premature receding hairline. Or perhaps Professor Elm simply keeps himself too busy to bother shaving.

    “I won’t stay too long,” I assured him. “I know it’s close to dinner, so I’ll keep my questions to the point.” Admittedly this wasn’t entirely for his benefit. The squished sandwich I’d had on the bus lo those many hours ago hadn’t hit the spot for long.

    He adjusted his glasses so the light from the ceiling flashed off of them for a second. “Oh, it’s no trouble. I’m sure you can imagine. what with getting wrapped up in one project or another. that I’m used to having meals at irregular times.”

    “…But is your family used to it?” I asked uncertainly.

    He gave a little laugh. “Well, they don’t complain too much anymore,” he answered.

    …Which didn’t necessarily mean they were okay with it. I couldn’t help but notice that Professor Elm’s aqua dress shirt bore no marks of being ironed, so perhaps Mrs. Elm has her own quiet revenge for the lack of order in their lives.

    “Well, anyway,” Professor Elm said, clapping his hands together, “should we get started? I hope you don’t mind conducting our interview here in the lab.”

    “It’s alright with me,” I answered as he hefted some stacks of paper off of two folding chairs. “So… working on anything interesting lately?” I asked as I sat down in the newly cleared chair across from him

    It had been more of a polite question then anything. I don’t know exactly what I expected him to say in response. Maybe something like, “Oh, you know—science stuff!” and then he’d move on to the questions I’d really come there to ask. But no, he brightened at the question, and I realized with a dull sense of dread that he was going to give me a real answer—and not a brief one at that.

    “Oh, it’s a fascinating area of research,” he enthused, taking the seat opposite me. “I’m working in conjunction with the Pewter Museum of Science on a subject that crosses over both my field of expertise and theirs.” He paused. “You’re familiar with mechanics of breeding, right?”

    “Not as frequently as I’d like to be,” I answered. It was a sad, weak little joke, but he didn’t even seem to recognize it as one.

    “Well then, you at least know that all breedable Pokemon that have been categorized thus far all reproduce in more or less the same way,” he went forward. “Oh, there are individual rituals based on species and not all species can breed with all other species. But what I’m getting at is that all the Pokemon whose breeding patterns we’ve studied reproduce through egg-laying.”

    “Now, humans on the other hand, as I’m sure you’re aware, give birth to live young,” he added. “What’s always struck us as rather odd, among scientists who specialize in Pokemon breeding, is that there is such uniformity to Pokemon reproduction, even among those who bare more biological similarities to human beings in some ways than to other Pokemon species.”

    “Take Miltank for example,” he continued, waving a hand expressively in the air. “It’s a classic example of a mammalian Pokemon. It’s warm-blooded, has a four-chambered heart, has hair and, of course, the smoking gun here is the eponymous mammary glands.”

    I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, catching a toe on some scattered notes on the floor as I did. It struck me as strange that this conversation had turned into a more scientific and verbose version of the time I’d gone on a tour of Moo Moo Farm and overheard a thirteen-year-old boy snicker to his friend something along the lines of “Miltank has titties.”

    “Now, I know we all enjoy Moo Moo Milk,” Professor Elm added with a small smile as he casually wrote off the Moo Moo Milk-intolerant segment of the population. “But the actual intent of the milk is to nurse the Pokemon’s young, just as humans nurse their offspring. Such an ability is largely obsolete in an oviparous creature whose young derive their nutrients from the yolk. Miltank’s ability to lactate has largely become a means to acquire a beverage instead of a vital strategy for passing on sustenance and immunity to its offspring.”

    I felt we were straying somewhat from the point, so I opened my mouth to recalibrate the conversation. He spoke again, though, before I could get a word out.

    “Now, why, you ask, would Miltank possess this feature more associated with live birth than egg-laying?” Elm continued, though, for the record, I did not ask. “Well, that’s where the researchers and paleontologists at the Pewter Museum come in. We’ve theorized that perhaps at one point in history there was a split among Pokemon between those who gave birth to live young and those who would lay eggs, but that over time natural selection favored egg-laying and the more mammalian Pokemon that we have today are examples of creatures whose ancestors were placental mammals, but who adapted to become egg-laying ones.”

    “Fascinating,” I said in a brittle voice—and in a way it was—it just wasn’t terrifically relevant to the mental list of questions I wanted to ask. “But I wondered—”

    “Oh, we’ve yet to make our case completely,” Elm said, as though this answered the question I’d yet to ask. “But the fossil record does show a tremendous lack of fossilized eggs among the ancestors of mammalian Pokemon, and that certainly suggests we’re on the right track. If it does turn out a shift happened, then I have to wonder what prompted the shift. My current theory is that the uniformity of the breeding system allows for more cross-breeding between species of Pokemon, which in turn gives them all a better chance of reproductive success.” He beamed at me, his face slightly shiny with the sweat of a discovery yet to be made. “After all, to have the kind of breeding compatibility that can allow such disparate creatures as a Skitty and a Wailord to breed is something quite spectacular.”

    “Yeah…” I said, finally getting to cut in as he took a breath. “My real question about that is how they found out those two could breed in the first place. I mean… who tried to get them to do it and how drunk were they?”

    He looked slightly taken aback by this. “It’s all just in the spirit of inquiry, I can assure you,” he said, futzing with his white jacket in an attempt to shake out the wrinkles.

    Ah, the good old spirit of inquiry. It makes for a great excuse in my field as well as his because it makes the asking of questions a right …as in “the public has a right to know.” When you boil the phrase down it basically becomes “I want to know because I am nosy” but nosiness sometimes gets a bad rep. Humans are curious creatures by nature.

    …And it is that curiosity that sometimes pushes us to the point of putting two drastically different sized animals in a cage to try to make them breed. Hmmm.

    In that moment I couldn’t say what exactly had led to Pokemon changing their breeding patterns to egg-laying (if Elm’s theory is correct), but I knew that even if humans hadn’t started it, they’d reinforced it. You can be a trainer without having at least a second-hand brush with the world of breeding, and many of the best trainers get downright obsessed with it. It’s all to pick the best potential parents to create the best potential offspring. Species can be bred with other species to pass down moves that a Pokemon might normally not be able to learn. Immunity, strength, speed, talent and temperament… the keys to these lie in genetics. Natural selection has been replaced with very unnatural selection.

    Of course, all this breeding a better Pokemon business has consequences. Pokemon are asked to breed more frequently than they would in the wild in pursuit of that perfect combination. Eggs are abandoned or destroyed if they do not fit the standard the trainer or breeder is pursuing. There are some that see this as a necessary process; something that’s merely being done on a larger scale than nature could manage on its own—and that it has yielded incredible results. The Pokemon of today are not like the Pokemon of yesteryear.

    But there are still others who balk at the process. Goldenrod Mayor Andrea Rawlings has referred to the activities of the highly lucrative breeding centers that take residence in the city as “nothing short of Poke-Eugenics.” I get her point, but I rather think she’s defanging her own argument with that term. Eugenics is far too serious and frightening a word to stick a “Poke” in front of.

    I shook my head. The politics of breeding and eugenics. And to think, I’d just wanted to have a pleasant little chat about starters.

    Starters. I blinked and saw my way in.

    “So… under your theory,” I began, “would any of the Johto starters have had ancestors that gave birth to live young?”

    He looked somewhat crestfallen, as though I’d blundered into some very inconvenient examples. “Uh… well, no,” he admitted. “Totodile, Chikorita and Cyndaquil all have traceable ancestors that we have egg-fossils of. As a matter of fact,” he added, brow furrowing slightly, as though hitting upon a troubling fact, “Cyndaquil sort of puts a wrench in the whole thing. It’s one of the precious few Pokemon with mammalian traits that we’ve found eggs for from its ancient counterparts. There are those who say that this discredits the entire theory, but I and my colleagues believe that Cyndaquil’s monotreme ancestors are the exception and not the rule.”

    “I see,” I said, making a big show of fidgeting in my chair and looking around the lab. “You wouldn’t happen to have any starters here, would you? I’d love to get a look at them.”

    He brightened after this brush with inconvenient facts and I knew the subject had been successfully changed. “Back here,” he said, standing up and gesturing toward a white-painted wire pen on the floor of the lab next to a desk with a computer monitor.

    I scurried over to take a peek. I have to tell you, dear readers, that after the dense science talk about Pokemon breeding in antiquity and after my not so lovely thoughts about selective breeding, I needed a pick-me-up. The no-holds-barred injection of pure, unadulterated cuteness from that pen did the trick.

    I immediately took out my Silph-Phone and snapped a picture of the little things—so much younger and smaller than the starters I usually see kids leading through Goldenrod. Totodile and Cyndaquil were napping in the corner, with Totodile curled around Cyndaquil leeching the fire-type’s warmth to heat its cold, reptilian blood. Chikorita trotted up to the edge of the pen as soon as I got there, as though it had learned to expect treats from approaching humans. I quickly sent the photograph to Daphne, texting an “awww!” message consisting of more w’s than someone with my literary training really should include. I’m not ashamed of the extra w’s. I am, however, slightly ashamed of the multiple exclamation points.

    “Cute, aren’t they?” Elm asked, walking over to the cage with his hands in his pockets. “I’m expecting some kids from eastern Cherrygrove to be bused down this weekend. So I won’t get to enjoy this trio’s company in my lab for much longer.”

    “Kids?” I repeated, having satisfied myself enough with virtual cooing so as to not need to coo out loud. “How many?” I asked.

    “Two as of now,” Elm answered, leaning against the sturdy pen. “But a third might sign on before the week is over.”

    “Huh,” I said to myself. “How do they decide who gets to pick first? Is it based on when you sign up?”

    “That’s what it defaults to,” Professor Elm answered, pulling an only slightly linty treat from his pocket and fitting it through the wire cage to the waiting mouth of Chikorita, who chowed down on it greedily. “But only if the new trainers can’t work out the order among themselves.”

    For some reason I’d never thought of the choice of three being changed to a choice of two or even no choice at all depending on how many trainers showed up. In movies and television shows about trainers it always seems to be about that epic choice between the three.

    “It’d suck to wind up not getting your first choice just because someone else signed up before you,” I said, half to myself.

    “Well, some trainers aren’t quite sure what they want and are happy to let others narrow it down for them,” Professor Elm pointed out.

    “Yeah, I guess so,” I answered, as a thought suddenly occurred to me. “Plus I bet if they go second that they can just pick the Pokemon that their friend’s is weak against.”

    “…That actually happens more often than you’d think,” Professor Elm admitted, scratching at his cheek somewhat nervously.

    “Kind of a dick move,” I couldn’t help but observe.

    “Well… there are some who’d describe it more as good strategy,” Elm said, voice heightening slightly.

    “I suppose so,” I admitted, feeling a sudden instinct for controversy rise within me. “So,” I asked him slyly, “strategically speaking… which one’s the best?”

    “The best?” Elm repeated, slightly taken aback by the directness of the question.

    “Yeah,” I replied. “Even Professor Oak defers to you on the subject of Pokemon abilities and you’ve been passing out Johto starters to trainers for more than a decade. In your expert opinion, which Pokemon is the best pick?”

    Chikorita seemed to be paying quite a lot of attention to Elm at this point. Even Totodile cracked an eye open and Cyndaquil lifted its head to hear the answer.

    Elm waved a hand of surrender at me. “Oh, I can’t make that decision,” he said. “They’re all wonderful Pokemon and each could do very well under the care of the right trainer. I don’t think there’s one right choice. It’s all about which Pokemon is best for which trainer.” As an afterthought, he added, “…and which trainer is best for which Pokemon.”

    “I see,” I asked, slightly disappointed that I couldn’t goad him into taking a hard line, but not at all surprised by that fact. “You know… come to think of it, wouldn’t it be easier to find the right Pokemon for the right trainer and vice versa if you offered more types as starters?”

    He gripped the top bar of the cage and sighed. “It’s been a suggestion for years, actually. In fact, there’s a group of Connoisseurs up in Unova that’s quite emphatic about it. And there’s certainly some merit to the idea that not everyone’s ideal Pokemon is one of these three.” He took off his glasses and cleaned them against his white jacket. “But you’ve got to appreciate the simplicity of the system we have here—the kind of simplicity that works well. The three-starter system allows us to provide a balanced and rather self-contained choice. There’s a network at work here. Fire is weak against water, water against grass and grass against fire. Even young trainers who haven’t learned the more complicated terms of type match-ups can understand how these three work together, and, from that springboard, they can go forward to learning about the other types.”

    “Not to mention that we already have a sophisticated breeding system for supplying these three Pokemon. Expanding the system would require a lot of thought and work. The thinking is that if a trainer does not wish to have any of these starters, that they could catch a Pokemon of their own, or buy one,” Elm explained.

    He leveled a calculating look at me. “I take it your first Pokemon wasn’t a starter, Miss Gleason?”

    “Me?” I asked, tearing my gaze away from the creatures in the cage. “No… uh… actually mine was a Bellsprout,” I confessed.

    “Ah, so you’re a grass-type fan, then?” Professor Elm asked pleasantly.

    “Chika!” the Chikorita in the cage called cheerily.

    “Uh… not really,” I said, wincing. “I don’t have the Bellsprout anymore.”

    At this comment, the Chikorita in the cage lost all of its budding affection for me and went to skulk in the back of its cage by the water bowl.

    *****

    The local corner store at the very least had a microwave and a frozen food section, so an unevenly cooked assortment of hot pockets made up our last meal before we hit Route 29. There were no tables or chairs around, so we simply sat on the sidewalk outside the store, bathed in fluorescent light and listening to the mostly muffled sound of the cashier’s radio on the other side of the shop door.

    As Daphne reached over to wipe a bit of stray marinara sauce from Roy’s cheek, I looked for about the sixth time at the photograph Daphne had furnished me with.

    It seemed like such a normal house. Blue pointed roof, polished wooden door, red mailbox, trash at the end of the driveway… there was no halo of greatness about it that said it was the house of a champion. Of course, perhaps that was because it was really the former house of a champion. Yes, Lyra maintains her address there, but the fact is that she’s been living in Saffron for the better part of a year now. Who can blame her for not spending too much time around here? Anyway, I understand it that she’s currently dating Fintan Gallagher, lead singer of the Saffron-based, fire-type themed boy-band The Charming Manders . I tell you this not because I enjoy celebrity gossip or even because I think it will still be true by the time this book is published—I don’t—but because I’d like to consider this a little time capsule of information.

    Celebrity teen romances, I tell ya.

    Small towns do not always have small people. There are people like our champion Lyra who have immense talent in a game that we seem to have decided as a society is of the utmost importance and value. And there are people like Professor Elm who can wonder deep and occasionally incomprehensible things about the essence of life itself—thoughts which probably result in something lasting and life-changing enough to justify skipping a few dinners. Lyra left. Elm stayed.

    When Daphne had handed me the photograph of Lyra’s disappointingly ordinary childhood home, she told me that she and Roy were not the only ones visiting the site. Several through-hikers from Blackthorn City were crowded around the house. They’d passed Daphne their camera to take a group picture in front of the place, after clearly sensing there was an expert in their midst. They’d been wandering about uncertainly, she said. It was like they wanted to play tourist at the house of the champion, but there was nothing to tour.

    It wasn’t surprising to hear that people wanted to see the place—for trainers to pay homage to the current talent-to-beat. New Bark could’ve capitalized on it. They could’ve had guided tours, historical sites, they could’ve set up an infrastructure including hotels and restaurants to encourage people to book their vacations down here. They could’ve built a friggin’ rollercoaster.

    But they didn’t. Making the place interesting would’ve been sort of a betrayal of the simplicity they claimed. Charming, quaint and salt-of-the-earth… these qualities start to lose their authenticity when polished with a veneer of tourism. It becomes boxed up, pre-packed, fake.

    I knew in that moment that I would’ve taken fake any day over what New Bark had to offer me. I also knew for a fact that, in the coming days as we would strike out onto the hiking roads and spend our nights in tents eating meals cooked over a wisp of flames and a pile of sticks, that I would soon long for the creature comforts and high society of even New Bark town.

  24. #24
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    It was a nice read, I enjoyed it. There's not that much I can say in this mini-review, but oh well:

    I liked how you included Lyra as the new champion.

    Professor Elm seemed in-character, anime-wise.

    I also like how you mentioned the typical game standard of picking starters that are strong against your friend's starter.

    “That’s what it defaults to,” Professor Elm answered, pulling an only slightly linty treat from his pocket and fitting it through the wire cage to the waiting mouth of Chikorita, who chowed down on it greedily. “But only if the new trainers can’t work out the order among themselves.”
    Why are those Pokemon in a cage? That's just mistreatment! For some reason, in the anime, Poke Balls are fine, but putting them in a cage? Sorry, but why are they in a cage instead of a Poke Ball?

  25. #25
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    Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Yeah, I chose to make Lyra the champion for this one. Last time I had a choice I went with Ethan, so it seemed only fair.

    Why are those Pokemon in a cage? That's just mistreatment! For some reason, in the anime, Poke Balls are fine, but putting them in a cage? Sorry, but why are they in a cage instead of a Poke Ball?
    ...Umm... pardon my tone, but mind explaining to me just how the hell that's mistreatment? In the real world, people have small animals that they keep as pets in cages all the time so that they can't hurt themselves unsupervised. Hell, in the real world we keep babies in pens for that very reason reason. Would you expect me to keep them running free in a lab full of dangerous implements that they could hurt themselves on? And they're not in their Poke balls because they still need to be out for some excercise and social time. I'm absolutely mystified as to why you think keeping them in the close-off suspended animation of the Poke ball is somehow kinder than putting them together in a pen that's big enough for them to play in together.

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