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Thread: Communication (PG-13)

  1. #26
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    Aaaaheeeeee....x_x I'm quite sorry for dawdling with my review, so here goes. *cough*
    So far, I like this a fair bit better than your first story, just because Solonn was such a great character an now this fanfiction focuses on him. ^.^ Your description is quite simply, beautiful as always.

    *cue brain failure at this point*

    Fear not, I'll be reading this regularly. *scuttles away*

  2. #27
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    SnoringFrog: Glad you like it so far.

    metal_chimaera: Yikes, you know someone like Sanaika? That’s kind of a scary thought—I hope this person doesn’t give you too much trouble!

    Typhlogirl: Yes, all the names are original. They all have their origins in Alvayan, a fictional language.

    Years refer to… years. There are no numerical levels, per se, in my pokémon stories; the concept’s a bit looser, a bit more context-sensitive. The pokémon gain techniques and evolve when they have achieved the raw elemental power necessary to facilitate these advances. The power requirements differ between species and also usually among individuals, as well. There are a number of factors which build this power, and which of these facilitate evolution differ between species. Some of these are already established: power gained through experience, power gained from an elemental stone, et cetera. However, in the case of several species, the power necessary to gain command over new techniques and evolve may also be built by age—in that way, you were right on the money. Solonn, though nineteen, is not the equivalent of a level nineteen snorunt in the games (he would be higher, actually). However, in his species, at least, age can pay a role in advancent just as levels would. Perhaps, then, it could be said that in the context of my stories, aging can do the equivalent of raising levels in the instance of some species, at least.

    Chaos Absol: Oh, yes, you shall go on the PM list.

    Cs32: Snorunt and glalie age at a somewhat slower rate than humans in the context of my stories. I would place Solonn as roughly the equivalent of a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old human; biologically speaking, at least. Psychologically, however… well, it’s a bit harder to reckon that by age in comparing his kind to ours, especially considering that psychological development rates also differ within each species.

    Pinecone Tortoise: Funny? That’s good to hear.

    Alseides: Yeah, snorunt and glalie are not exactly served up as “mascot” material, are they? I’ve always seemed to gravitate more towards things that rarely see the limelight, though; they hold more mystique for me. So, generally speaking, those are the things I will write about. The big, popular characters are almost never my favorites. Things that get constant exposure and have so many aspects of who and/or what they are revealed and explained have never interested me as much because they give me little or nothing to wonder about regarding those things. I like wondering.

    Scrap: The fact that you say that this story thus far exceeds The Origin of Storms means a great deal to me, as I had been concerned about being able to follow that story with something at least as good. Fear of the old sophomore slump, you know. I hope that this story can continue to live up to and/or even go beyond its predecessor.


    Once again, thank you to everyone who has read and/or reviewed so far.

    _________________________

    Chapter 3 – The Deal


    There were a number of things that Solonn felt upon his release from the capture ball. First came sheer relief, both at no longer being drained and paralyzed (he distantly wondered how he had recovered so completely and suddenly) and, to a greater degree, at just being out of that ball—he’d found its particular style of confinement too surreal. He had been conscious all the while that he’d been contained within that sphere, but had seemed not to actually exist. It was as though the great ball had reduced him to nothing more than a mind without a body, impossible though it seemed to him that such a thing should be. Trying to make sense of it seemed to achieve nothing more than a sore head, and so Solonn pushed that particular matter aside for the time being.

    With the mysteries of the capture ball no longer first and foremost on his mind, Solonn’s focus shifted to the human who stood just a short distance in front of him. Since his captor was no longer wearing the heavy clothing that had protected her from the cold of Shoal Cave, she looked somewhat smaller now, and with her head no longer covered by a hood, he could now see her brown, shoulder-length hair.

    The next thing that Solonn noticed about his present situation was that the environment into which he had been brought was too warm for his liking. “Er… excuse me,” he said as he looked up at the human. “It’s a little too warm in here… could you do anything about that?”

    The human merely stared at him in response.

    Solonn repeated his request. This time, his captor cocked her head a bit and smiled at him, but she still did not answer, nor did she make any move to change the temperature.

    It was then that Solonn realized that the human was not understanding a single word that he was saying. This didn’t make sense to him; every time before that Solonn had encountered a member of another species, they had been able to understand him just like those of his own kind were. Why, he wondered, was the human any different?

    Solonn wondered then if she might understand him if he were to speak to her using a human voice. As he considered it, his mind brought forth the memories of her voice as he had heard it back in Shoal Cave, and he felt quite sure that he could pull off an imitation of that voice.

    With that confidence, he was about to give it a try—but then he stopped himself. He had just been struck by the realization that doing these “impressions” was what had gotten him swept up into this situation to begin with. It was because he had revealed that talent that he had gotten mixed up with Sanaika’s gang and that now—it hit him all at once—he would likely never see home again.

    In sudden panic, Solonn began to tremble, and the human responded to this right away. “Oh, poor little guy,” she said, looking upon him with a pitying expression as she knelt down upon the floor in front of him. “It’s okay; you have nothing to be scared of.”

    She opened her arms to Solonn, which only confused him. She then wrapped her arms around him and tried to lift him up, but he was quite heavier than she had expected. Solonn, meanwhile, did not like what she was doing. For a moment, his instincts took over, and he tried to wriggle free of her grasp. He just barely managed to stop himself short of biting her.

    Finally, sensing both the futility of her efforts and the snorunt’s aversion to what she was trying to do, the human gave up and let go of Solonn. Shaking the coldness of her contact with the ice-type from her hands, she stood and went to fetch a pillow from the bed. She placed it on the floor as something on which Solonn could sit and perhaps be more comfortable. The snorunt ignored it completely, giving her a penetrating stare.

    The human sighed. “Okay. I’ll tell you what: I’ll go and get you something nice, something that I promise you’ll like. In the meantime, I’ll give you a chance to get acquainted with a couple of your new friends. You’ve already met Aaron and Brett, but I have three other pokémon friends. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to meet Sei until she gets out of the pokémon center; she’s been pretty sick. But you can go ahead and introduce yourself to these two.”

    She removed two capture balls from her belt and released their occupants in twin surges of white light. A skarmory materialized at her right, while a claydol appeared at her left. There was something strangely disconcerting on a very primal level about the former, but Solonn couldn’t quite place what that something was.

    “This is Raze,” the human introduced as she pointed at the skarmory, “and this is Ominous,” she said, pointing at the claydol. “Oh… I forgot to introduce myself, didn’t I?” she realized aloud with a small giggle. “My name is Morgan Yorke. Anyway, these pokémon are some of my best friends, and I just know that ultimately you and I are going to get to be really good friends, too. See you in a few minutes!” she said, then left the room.

    For a moment, the other two pokémon just stared at Solonn, and he seemed unable to do anything but stare back. He quickly began to wish they would stop it, particularly with regards to Ominous—it was just more than a little unnerving to him to have that many eyes staring at him from the same face.

    All those eyes left no room on Ominous’s face for a mouth; therefore, it was quite a surprise for Solonn to hear the claydol speak to him then—although it didn’t sound to Solonn as though Ominous was actually saying anything. Their voice consisted of a rapid-fire series of low-pitched, hollow-sounding noises. Solonn got an immediate sense that he could never replicate that voice, no matter how he tried.

    “With your brain, nitwit!” Raze suddenly squawked, interrupting the claydol.

    Ominous winced, closing all of their eyes in unison. <I apologize,> they said. <I should not still be forgetting about that…>

    A second after Ominous had spoken, Solonn realized, astounded, that he’d not actually heard their words. Rather, even while their actual voice had rattled on incomprehensibly in Solonn’s ears, the words the claydol was conveying had sounded within his mind, just as one of his own thoughts would do. Solonn wasn’t quite sure what to make of this phenomenon.

    <As I was attempting to say,> Ominous proceeded then, <the name by which Morgan called me is not my actual name. My true name is Oth.>

    “My name really is Raze, though,” the skarmory said, sounding less than happy about it. “I was born in this house, and that’s when Morgan gave me that name. I don’t think it’s such a great name, but…” She ruffled her magenta-feathered wings in the skarmory equivalent of a shrug. “So, what name did she give you?” Raze asked then.

    “Er… I don’t know,” Solonn admitted. “My real name is Solonn, though.”

    <She must not have given him his new name yet, then,> Oth supposed.

    “Maybe she isn’t going to give me another name,” Solonn said.

    “Oh, she’ll give you one,” Raze said. “Maybe you’ll like it, and maybe you won’t. But you’ll be grateful for it, and also grateful that you got landed with Morgan and not some other coordinator, because with some coordinators, you would just get called ‘Snorunt’.”

    “…Coordinators?” Solonn had never heard of such a thing.

    Raze cocked her head at Solonn. “You have a lot to learn,” she said.

    “Then you have a lot to explain,” Solonn countered. “What’s a coordinator?”

    “Well, a coordinator is your human coach and partner for the contests,” Raze explained. “And before you ask: in a contest, you just basically have to show off your powers. You use them in ways that impress humans. In your case, that means you can’t just blow a couple of snowflakes at them and expect to win.”

    Somehow, the idea of “showing off” for the humans was less than appealing to Solonn—in fact, it rather reminded him of being ushered off by Kashisha to show off for her friends. “Wait, why would I want to do this, anyway?” he asked. “What’s in it for me?”

    Raze’s yellow eyes suddenly widened with glee. “I’ll show you!” she said eagerly, then speedily crossed the room. “Come here!” she beckoned, standing before a bookcase that was just a bit shorter than she was. After a moment of skeptical hesitation, Solonn complied. “Have a look at these!” Raze said once the snorunt had joined her, inclining her head toward something sitting on the bookcase’s top shelf.

    “I can’t see up there, Raze,” Solonn said.

    “Oh… oops,” Raze said with a small, embarrassed laugh. Somewhat awkwardly, she used her beak to pick up the thing that she was trying to show to Solonn, then set it down on the floor between herself and the snorunt.

    Solonn peered at the object that had just been placed before him. It was a large, flat, plastic case. Through its transparent lid, he could see a collection of twelve small trinkets: colored ribbons, each adorned with a little metal medallion. The case also contained slots for eight more of these ribbons.

    “The red ones are mine,” Raze said, positively radiating pride, “the yellow ones are Oth’s, and the green ones are Sei’s. Now, yours, if I’m not mistaken, are gonna be blue.”

    “Hm.” You sure are assuming a lot, Raze… Solonn thought. It was going to take more than just a bunch of ribbons to convince Solonn that these “contests” were anything of which he should like to have any part. “So,” he spoke up after a long moment’s silence, looking up from the ribbon case and right into Raze’s eyes, “this is what Morgan keeps us for?”

    “Well, yeah, pretty much,” Raze answered. She then put the ribbon case back up on top of the bookcase, taking one last moment to admire her ribbons before turning her attention fully to the snorunt once more.

    “So… suppose I didn’t want to be a part of these contests… would she take me back home, then?” Solonn asked.

    There was a prolonged silence. Raze and Oth exchanged awkward glances.

    “Well?” Solonn pressed.

    <Solonn…> Oth began hesitantly. <Morgan had been seeking a snorunt to train for entry into contests for quite some time. She has spent many an hour composing routines and strategies for you… I do not imagine that she would want her plans to go to waste.>

    “Well, maybe she can just go find some other snorunt for the job,” Solonn suggested. “Someone who actually wants it.”

    <I do not believe you would really want that,> Oth said. <You do not truly wish for another snorunt, possibly one of your friends, to be taken from his or her home just so that you can return to your own.>

    Solonn stared agape at Oth for a moment. The claydol was completely right; Solonn did not even try in the slightest to contradict them.

    “This… this is your home now, Solonn,” Raze said, knowing the consolation to be futile even as she offered it. “You’ll get used to it eventually; I know you will.”

    “Yeah, of course you can say that,” Solonn muttered, not really bothering to make himself inaudible. “You were born here.”

    “I—” Raze began to counter, but she couldn’t quite find the right words with which to respond and thus abandoned her comeback with a sigh.

    It was then that the door opened as Morgan returned, and she was not alone. Accompanying her was another human female, slightly taller and with shorter, darker hair.

    “There he is,” Morgan said as the two entered, indicating Solonn with her hand. “What do you think of him?”

    “Oh, he’s adorable,” the other human remarked. She stooped slightly to come a bit closer to the snorunt’s eye level. “Hi,” she said in a friendly tone. “Let me introduce myself. I’m Eliza, Morgan’s mother.” She extended her arms to Solonn with an expecting gaze.

    “He doesn’t do hugs,” Morgan informed her.

    “Oh… Well, that’s all right,” Eliza said, withdrawing her arms and straightening her posture. “What’s his name?” she then asked.

    “I’ve decided to call him Azrael,” Morgan replied.

    Solonn gave her a funny look. That’s really the best you could come up with?

    “Oh, that’s lovely,” Eliza commented.

    Morgan smiled in response to her mother’s remark. She then brought a small, polystyrene bowl forward, holding it out in front of Solonn.

    Distracted by the arrival of the new human, Solonn hadn’t even noticed that Morgan had been holding the bowl. He now stared at it with uncertainty, edging somewhat closer to it in order to get a look inside. He saw that the bowl contained something that looked more or less like snow but was bright blue in color.

    “This is for you,” Morgan told him. “Try it, it’s really good.”

    Solonn gazed into the bowl for another second or two, then turned a skeptical gaze toward Morgan.

    “Go on, it’s tasty. I promise you’ll like it,” Morgan tried to assure him.

    Still wearing an expression of doubt, Solonn nonetheless took the bowl from Morgan’s hands. He continued to hesitate for another long moment before unenthusiastically dipping his hand into the blue snow, scooping some of it up, and putting it in his mouth. The blue snow had a flavor that he could never have imagined—he conceded to himself at once that it was good as Morgan had said it would be, if not moreso.

    However… the knowledge that his life had become one whose sole purpose was to perform tricks for people’s amusement like some kind of jester and that there seemed to be no way to return to the life that he’d previously known was now attending heavily upon him and leaving a rather unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach. He did not feel like eating. With a despondent sigh, he set the bowl down and turned away from Morgan.

    “Hey… are you feeling okay?” Morgan asked worriedly.

    Solonn did not respond to her, neither then nor following her several subsequent attempts to get through to him. More than once, she tried to tempt him with that blue snow, but he continued to refuse it. He could not change this new life, but for a while, at least, he could try to ignore it and pretend that it wasn’t happening.

    * * *

    The remainder of that evening consisted of an awkward pattern of failed interactions between Solonn and his would-be coordinator. Morgan attempted time and time again to converse and be friendly with him, but each time, she was met with resolute silence from the snorunt. After each unsuccessful attempt to socialize with him, she would leave him alone for an hour or so before giving it another go, only to fail to get through to him yet again.

    The human did, at least, leave Solonn out of the great ball through the night, for which he was grateful. Perhaps, Solonn considered, she had thought that this would offer her new pokémon some time to grow more accustomed to his surroundings. However, the snorunt instead viewed it as a potential opportunity to flee from the human’s custody while she slept.

    Unfortunately, he found out very quickly that escape was not an option. The door was rendered an impassible barrier by a sliding lock, one that was installed in the door at a height that was beyond Solonn’s reach. If not for the fact that Morgan’s bookcase contained small, pewter pokémon statues rather than books, he might have been able to stack up a few volumes as a means by which to reach that lock.

    The room’s sole window was positioned within Solonn’s reach, but it didn’t offer an avenue of escape, either; Morgan’s room was upstairs in a two-story house. Though by no means enjoying his present situation, Solonn wasn’t inclined to escape it by falling to likely injury and possible death.

    Having given up on finding a way to slip out, he just sat there on the windowsill, staring out through the window at its view of an alien environment. This was not his world, not his place…though he couldn’t deny that he found it fascinating, even rather lovely to behold as he watched the light show put on by the cars that moved past the house.

    Though tired in many ways, most of which were not physical, Solonn found that he could not sleep. His eyes remained open and fixed on the city outside, watching as the rising sun brought a new day over the border of the horizon.

    A couple of hours later, Morgan stirred nearby in her bed, awakening. Sighing, Solonn turned away from the window at last, wondering in which ways the human would try to reach him today.

    He received his answer quite shortly. Morgan left the room for a few minutes, then returned with more of that blue snow and set it down in front of him. He accepted it this time and ate nearly all of it, but only because he was earnestly very hungry. The human smiled at him as she took away the empty bowl, then left to have her own breakfast.

    It was when Morgan next returned that she attempted to step up the level of interaction between herself and her new pokémon a little more.

    “I’ll bet you’re wondering why you’re here, aren’t you?” she said, her tone clearly intended to sound as kindly and non-threatening as possible. “Well, you don’t have to worry. It’s not going to be anywhere near as scary as you might think. In fact, I bet you’ll have more fun than you’ve ever had before.”

    Morgan then proceeded to illustrate her intention to enter Solonn in contests, not really telling him anything that he hadn’t already heard from Raze and Oth the evening before. He pretended not to pay any attention to her, though in reality he was absorbing her every word. It seemed that he was simply unable to tune out a foreign voice.

    The day progressed, and Morgan continued to tell Solonn of the ideas she had conceived with regards to the routines that he could employ in contests. As she spoke to him, he had to admit to himself that she didn’t sound as though she truly had any malevolent intentions for him. She wasn’t really coming across to him as a human version of Kashisha; she seemed only to possess a friendly desire to invite him into her strange little hobby, not a desire to prey on him in any sense.

    Whether Morgan’s intentions were benign or not, Solonn nonetheless was still not too keen on the idea of making a spectacle of himself, having learned all too well how doing such sometimes earned the wrong kind of attention. There was also still the matter of his captor’s purported unwillingness to let Solonn leave if he so wished, which made it rather difficult for him to very readily accept any sort of friendship or partnership with the human. Hence, as the evening found Morgan offering to initiate the first steps in Solonn’s training, he refused her efforts to bring him into the role that she had chosen for him in silent protest of his detainment.

    That night, Solonn sat in the moonlight once again, contemplating his situation as he perched upon the windowsill and gazed outside. Lilycove bore no resemblance to the world that Solonn had known. This left him quite certain that he was very far from home, too far for him to feasibly make it back there by himself.

    His eyes fell upon the bed where the human was peacefully sleeping. Solonn wanted to leave, to return home, but this creature would not allow him to do so.

    Wait, though… how do I really know she wouldn’t? the thought occurred to him then. Raze and Oth had implied that Morgan had no intention of letting him go, but the human herself had never said anything along the lines of, “You’re never leaving. You’re mine forever.” Morgan had never specifically mentioned anything at all regarding whether or not Solonn could ever depart her custody. Moreover, she didn’t even know that her new snorunt desired to be returned to his home.

    What if she actually knew that I want to go back home? Solonn wondered. He could really only speculate as to what her response would be, though, for the problem remained that she was, for whatever reason, unable to understand his speech. He could not communicate with her.

    …Although, maybe he could. He had, after all, still not tried to see if Morgan could understand him if he were to speak like a human. However, he was still hesitant to attempt it, for the memory of what the last use of his mimicry had earned for him was still fresh on his mind.

    The fact remained, though, that Solonn would likely never know how Morgan would really respond to his desire to be returned home unless he shared it with her. As he thought about it, it began to seem to him that he was doing himself more of a disservice by not giving it a try than by taking the risk.

    Furthermore, Solonn questioned if there really was that much of a risk involved with exposing his talents in order to speak with this creature. True, he had gotten into trouble the last time he had presented them. However, as he considered once again, Morgan was no Kashisha, at least not as far as he could tell, so perhaps it wouldn’t be like last time. Perhaps Morgan would simply hear him out and give him what he wanted without making him sorry that he’d reached out to her.

    But then, Solonn found himself considering what Oth had told him: I do not imagine that she would want her plans to go to waste. Morgan truly seemed to him to have her heart set on entering contests with him, and he suspected that she would not so readily abandon those aspirations. Solonn could tell her that he wanted to leave, but as long as she held these intentions for him, what chance was there, really, that she would let him go?

    That’s when the idea hit him: maybe, just maybe, a deal could be struck.

    Solonn carefully gauged the distance between the windowsill and the bed, then sprang from his perch. The mattress yielded with a bounce to Solonn’s weight as he landed, yet Morgan slept on, snoring slightly. Solonn gazed at her from the foot of the bed. Her sleeping form glowed softly through the darkness with the heat of her body, giving her an almost spectrelike appearance.

    Solonn made his way toward the concentrated glow that surrounded the human’s head almost as if it were a beacon. Morgan’s face was half concealed by a few errant strands of her hair. Solonn moved them aside, revealing the serene face of his captor. It was interesting, he thought, how a creature whose practice was to abduct people from their homes could look so incredibly benign. The snorunt then reached down toward the human’s face again, this time drawing his hand slowly across her cheek.

    Morgan stirred, but only very slightly. Solonn had assumed that the contrasting coldness of his hand against her warm skin would be sufficient to awaken her but now realized that he should have recognized her as a heavy sleeper when his jumping on the bed had failed to wake her up. He began prodding her in the temple, hoping that that would end her slumber. If it didn’t, he was prepared to do whatever was necessary to awaken her. He was not averse to giving her a small bite if that was what it took.

    Luckily for Morgan (at least compared to the biting that she would have received otherwise), Solonn’s current efforts succeeded in waking her up, albeit only because one of his prods missed its mark somewhat and found its way into her left eye.

    “Hey!” she responded at once, awakening instantly but not quite fully. She lifted her head slightly from the pillow, grumbling incoherently and rubbing her sore eye for a moment, then shook her head a bit in an effort to more fully awaken, yawning loudly as she did so. She then shifted and turned, sitting up slightly more and craning her neck awkwardly in order to try and get a look at what could have possibly just poked her in the eye. Her still-blurry sight just managed to make out the pointed silhouette of the snorunt standing beside her. The light from Solonn’s eyes partially illuminated his face and reflected brightly off of his teeth, giving him a rather eerie appearance.

    “Hello, Morgan,” he said quietly, nearly whispering, in a voice that wavered slightly but sounded like Morgan’s voice nonetheless.

    Morgan blinked sleepily at the snorunt for a second. “…Hi,” she said finally, the word almost lost in its emergence in the near-simultaneous release of another great yawn.

    Then she realized to whom and what she had just replied.

    In an instant, she was wide awake, sitting upright and staring with greatly widened eyes at the pokémon beside her. For several seconds, a vocal response of any sort to the situation failed her. Finally, she managed a half-gasped, “What?”

    “I said hello,” Solonn repeated, his voice deceptively calm.

    Morgan remained silently agape for a brief while before she seemed able to get her next words out. “…But… no, you can’t…”

    “Yes, I can.”

    “But… how?” Morgan asked, her voice sounding rather strained.

    “…I don’t know how I can,” Solonn admitted uneasily.

    Morgan took a moment to digest that silently. “This is a dream,” she then decided aloud, and began to turn away from Solonn and back toward her pillow.

    “No, it’s not,” Solonn said. “And you know it’s not.” He leaned over her slightly so that the light from his eyes washed over her face. “But if you want to be sure, I can bite you. It’d hurt, and I’m sorry it would, but you’d be sure you were really feeling it, I promise you.”

    Morgan sat up once again. For a second, she was leveling a look at Solonn that suggested that she wanted to accuse him of lying, but that gaze faltered almost as soon as it had formed. She turned slightly, seeming less than willing now to look him right in the eyes. “It’s okay, Azrael. You don’t have to bite me. I… I believe you.”

    Solonn nodded slightly. “Good. That’s good,” he said, his words followed by a small sigh of slight relief. There went the first obstacle—Morgan seemed to have accepted that she could now understand his speech. Hopefully, she could now be counted on to hear him out. “…But Morgan? My name isn’t Azrael. It’s Solonn,” he then said.

    Morgan’s expression momentarily turned to one of surprise, but quickly relaxed once more. “It shouldn’t surprise me that you have your own name,” she said, sounding a bit apologetic. “I bet a lot of pokémon do. Like Sei; she told me hers the first time she evolved, and I’ve been calling her that ever since. Before that, I’d been calling her Enchantress…”

    Morgan gave a faint chuckle. “I liked that name, but she told me not to call her that anymore, so I don’t. Now, Ominous… Sei told me what their real name was, and so I asked them if they wanted me to start calling them Oth from now on—that’s their name—but according to Sei, they said not to. I think they might have been worried about hurting my feelings by turning down the name I gave them; they’re such a softie, really…”

    “So… you mean you can understand Sei, too?” Solonn asked, a bit surprised.

    “Yeah. But that’s only because she’s a very powerful psychic-type. She has really advanced telepathic skills, and that’s how she can make me understand her.”

    “Oth has telepathy, too. Why can’t you understand them?” Solonn asked.

    “…I actually didn’t know that they had telepathy,” Morgan said, sounding surprised.

    Oth must be hiding it from her… Solonn realized. He found himself beginning to wonder why they would do so, and also began to worry slightly that he perhaps shouldn’t have told Morgan of their telepathy since Oth apparently desired to keep that matter a secret.

    Morgan, meanwhile, had found herself able to make eye contact with Solonn again. Her expression was now one that spoke of burgeoning amazement. “…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be goggling at you like this,” she said as she seemed to realize the way that she was looking at Solonn. “It’s just… God, this is so incredible. I thought pokémon had to use telepathy to make themselves understood.”

    “Guess you were wrong,” Solonn said simply.

    “Guess so.” Morgan gave a soft laugh and smiled, her expression suggesting pride (although why Morgan should feel proud, Solonn couldn’t figure out; it wasn’t as though she were to credit for his ability to speak to humans, after all).

    The human’s features shifted suddenly, becoming strangely unreadable. “Hey. Could you do me a favor, though?” she asked.

    “What?”

    “Do you… do you have to sound like a human when you talk?” Morgan asked. A very odd look came over her face as she realized something. “Do you have to sound like me? How can you sound like me?” she demanded, sounding rather alarmed.

    “Shh! Try to keep quiet; I don’t want your mother to wake up,” Solonn said. “And I already told you: I don’t know how I do it.”

    “…Sorry,” Morgan said, lowering her voice significantly. “But anyway, could you just… um, not sound like me? No offense, but it’s… kind of weirding me out. Why don’t you just use your normal voice from now on, okay?”

    Solonn was about to respond, to tell Morgan that she would no longer understand him if he stopped using that human voice. But then something caught in his mind: Why should what voice I use make a difference in whether or not anyone understands me? He could understand how the abilities of a psychic could make the understanding of speech possible by entering the mind and tricking it into hearing words it recognized. He, however, was no psychic, and he knew it.

    A different voice should still only produce the same words, he reckoned; it shouldn’t have the power to transform those words into others. If a creature, like this human, could not understand his words, he should have to use different words to be understood. Their words. Their language.

    The gears of his mind momentarily stopped turning as epiphany struck him like a falling stone. The only way Morgan could be understanding him was if he was, in fact, speaking her language instead of his own. And that was precisely what he was doing.

    Solonn was stupefied. For the life of him, he could not fathom how this could be possible. That he could spontaneously be able to fluently speak a language that he did not, could not know, a language of which he had only heard a couple of handfuls of words, was a staggering, almost paralyzing notion to him.

    He swallowed hard, and his mouth went immediately dry afterward. He was fond of wondering and loath to resist the urge to do so, but the desire to understand this matter was so savagely desperate that he could hardly stand it.

    If he had belonged to some other species, he might have begun crying in his astonishment. As it happened, though, his tears were not in service to his emotions, as was the case for all of his kind. His struggle to make sense of himself could only convey itself through the trembling of his body and the wavering of the light in his eyes.

    “Is… is something wrong?” Morgan asked, sounding more than a little concerned.

    Solonn met her gaze, the earnest care behind the human’s eyes managing to register within his mind despite everything else going on behind his own eyes at the time. He tried to respond but couldn’t quite decide what to say, especially since he wasn’t quite sure of how he should say it. He should be able to use his own voice, he tried to reason silently—it had to be the language and not the voice—but he still just couldn’t quite believe it.

    “It’s okay,” Morgan said. “If you’re not comfortable talking to me in your own voice, you don’t really have to.”

    Solonn closed his eyes. “No,” he croaked softly, continuing to use Morgan’s voice, his throat feeling as though it were trying to seal itself shut. “No, it’s… it’s not that.”

    To prove that that wasn’t the issue, he determined that he would have to try and speak to Morgan with his own voice while still speaking her language. He would just have to find his way around the mental block that was created by the notion that he was doing something that should not be possible.

    Solonn took a deep breath and forced himself to return Morgan’s gaze once more. “…It’s nothing,” he finally managed. Conscious as he presently was of the seemingly impossible thing that he was doing, the release of his every word felt almost as if he were pushing a boulder out of his mouth. Get a grip, he tried to command himself, you’re supposed to be talking to her for a reason, remember? “Listen…” he began slowly, all too self-consciously. “I’m sorry I woke you… but we need to talk.”

    Morgan nodded. “Okay. What about?”

    “Well… it’s about those contests…”

    “You don’t want to do them, do you?” Morgan said. “I’ve kind of gotten that impression.”

    “…What?” Solonn was taken aback—he had not expected that the human would have recognized his desires. “No… I mean, I’d rather not, but… I’ll do them.”

    “Azr—Solonn… you don’t have to. Seriously, if you don’t want to…”

    “No, it’s okay,” Solonn insisted. By the initial impression that he’d gotten from Raze’s and Oth’s words, he had imagined that Morgan would take great offense to his wishes to have nothing to do with the contests if she were to learn about them and would vehemently refuse to relinquish her plans for him. Yet here she was, ready to give up her intentions for him without any sign of a conflict. Solonn now found himself feeling quite guilty about his unfavorable preconceptions of her.

    He sighed. “I know… I know you’ve been planning hard for a long time for this… and I know it means a lot to you. It’s… it’s not a big deal. Really. I’ll do it—but only on one condition.”

    “What?” Morgan asked, sending a troubled, doubtful look into Solonn’s eyes.

    Solonn took another deep breath. “Okay. Raze and Oth… they showed me their ribbons. Four each. That’s… that’s how many I have to get myself, isn’t it? Four?” he asked. Morgan nodded. “Okay. After I get the fourth one—you have to promise me, Morgan—after I get that fourth ribbon… you have to let me go. You have to take me back home. Promise me, Morgan. Or I won’t do it.”

    “Oh, Solonn…” Morgan’s gaze turned from merely troubled to earnestly sad, earnestly sorry. “If you want to go so bad, I’ll take you home right now. I’ll get Ominous out of their ball and wake them up, and we’ll teleport there right—”

    “No!” Solonn interrupted her. His guilt had increased greatly—not only was Morgan fully accepting of his wishes regarding the contests, she was even completely ready and willing to take him right back home… and he had imagined her as immovably, irreconcilably possessive of him, as a creature who would never release his life from the grip of her own.

    “No… I said it’s okay, and I meant it,” he insisted, trying his best to convey a firm conviction in spite of the way his voice was shaking. “I’ll do this. I don’t mind, I really don’t, just as long as I know I’ll be going home when this is done. That way… that way, we can both get what we want.” He swallowed. “It’s only fair, don’t you think?”

    There was a long silence. Morgan just stared at Solonn until a strangled sound, the prelude to a sob, escaped from her throat. In the next moment, her eyes filled with tears, which then fell forth in streams that shone in the moonlight as they ran down her face. Solonn had never seen such a thing in his life; he couldn’t help but stare in wonder at it.

    Morgan nodded then, but that action was overshadowed by a sudden, forward motion that was halfway between lunging and collapsing. Her arms encircled Solonn, and she pressed her forehead against his. The snorunt stiffened, initially surprised by and resistant to the unexpected embrace, but he managed to get himself to relax quickly enough.

    “Okay,” Morgan said, half-whispering. “If you’re really okay with this, then we’ll go ahead with it. And then afterward, I’ll take you home. I promise.”

    Solonn nodded, acknowledging Morgan’s apparent acceptance of his terms. He had imagined that he would be greatly surprised should the deal go through. Now, however, he couldn’t believe that he’d honestly expected that it wouldn’t. Morgan cared as much about his wishes as her own; that much was now certain to him. She was perfectly willing to give him what he wanted. In return for and appreciation of that—and as an apology for harboring such harsh preconceptions, too, though he did quite a good job of convincing himself that his sense of guilt had very little to do with it—he would give her what she wanted. In his mind, it seemed only fair, after all.

    The definite impression Solonn got from the human was that her word could be trusted. One day, she would take him home. But until then… It was now, with the initial panic at the prospect of never returning to the warren having gone and passed, that the opportunities of Solonn’s situation dared at last to come forward and present themselves to him. Until the day arrived when he would return to Virc-Dho, perhaps he would get to encounter and experience more strange things, more wonders of which he could never have conceived. This, he reckoned, could be interesting…

    _________________________

    Next time: In entering into the lifestyle of a contest pokémon, a new era of Solonn’s life begins… See you then!

    - Sike Saner
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 11th December 2013 at 2:39 AM. Reason: Revisions.

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  3. #28
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    Hmm now we get a snorunt that can talk to humans, wants four ribbons, and then wishes to go home? ..I like your way of thinking! Very nice chapter indeed.
    Come March 9th, get ready to rock!

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    I like it! You really got a handle of the pokemon and human personalities you've got there. Solonn, for a Snorunt with an unusual power, is very realistic, very interesting and very cute. And congrats for having an original plotline that uses contests instead of battling. It works. Here's hoping you update this soon!

    Pinecone Tortoise.
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  5. #30
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    Wow! It was great, as always! It was long and very descreptive. I really like Raze, by the way. The name and all. Heh. ^_^

    So she was a coordinator... I thought her as a trainer. Four ribbons. I wonder will the story end after those?

    Anyway, great chapter, I think it was the best so far. And thanks for the notification. Remember to PM me when teh next chapter is up as well!
    Until then, see ya!
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  6. #31
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    I didn't find any mistakes...

    But, holy crap! A pokemon that doesn't get all happy and giddy about being captured! I'm loving how real you seem to be keeping this despite the fact that almost none of the elements you're using actually exist. And you writing... It's superb. Everything has been well described flows perfectly. I'm trying to think of better ways to praise you since I don't get to put a mistake here and I like to fill up that space, but great job. I look forward to reading the next chapter and you can keep me on the pm list; I might have not checked today if you hadn't told me. Anyways, great chapter(as always).
    Is all the innocence of once seen gone? Can it ever truly be recovered? Fighting to the end, will the shadows always overcome? Or will the flames of the past reclaim their lost goals?

    Still here, still a lurker; as always.

  7. #32
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    nice chapter... Solonn's first experience with the human world was well described, and somewhat realistic. Keep it up.
    Part-time Fanfic writer, Full-time crank.

  8. #33
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    Hi! I read the Origin of the Storms, and loved it. And this, this is even better. It seems that the more you write, the better you get. But what are Morgan's pokemon, and what are each's contest specialty?
    Join the Probopass cult now, and receive a year's supply of chocolate-scented toothpicks!

  9. #34
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    I don't trust Morgan, somehow...

    Maybe I'm just paranoid, or maybe it's my own fault after several months of writing Zeffy's character. XD

    I was really interesed in the part where Solonn realizes his oddity in speaking languages...you pulled that off brilliantly, I thought.

    And OMGWTFBBQ A SKARMORY! *attaches herself to Raze and drools all over her* I love those, as if you already couldn't tell. <<;;

    *sets up her hobo cardboard box and a blanket* Wake me up when the next chapter is here. :P

  10. #35
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    *applauds*

    Well done. Another very well written chapter. One point I absolutely LOVED was the fact that Solonn didn't go all happy-to-be-captured. That would have been frustrating. I'm incredibly glad you did the other option. ^_^

    Yes, this chapter was very, very good, and Morgan seems nice, but I agree about Scrap's point, I don't totally trust her, no-ones perfect!

    Anyway, I will be very excited to read about the way you will describe contests...looking forward to it!! Don't keep me in suspense!!

    Remember to PM me when the next chapter is up...I don't want to miss it!!

    -

    P.S. Azrael. God I LOVE that name. ^_^
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  11. #36

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    *whistles*

    I've read both chapters, and I have to say: very nice.

    What kind of Pokemon is Sei, anyway? I'm rather curious.

    Anyway, I too am wondering how the heck Solonn's managing to communicate in English with Morgan, though I'm sure, that will be revealed in time. Communication now seems like a very apt title - I liked it before, but it makes more sense now. I do have my guessed though, and I'm probably wrong. My thoughts are that Solonn perhaps used the move Mimic (Inherited or something from his parents) to "Mimic" the English language... plus you stated that Solonn's "English" voice sounded exactly like Morgan's, which would make Mimic a more viable option.

    Just an odd thought.. Ahmm.

    All the Pokemon characters seem to be developing nicely, Morgan, too, for that matter. I like her, and she does seem to be a very kind person worthy of Solonn's trust. The deal - I wonder how that would go through. Will she let him go, or not. Or for that matter, will he want to leave.

    I've read a few chapters in Origin of Storms, so will this story lead up to the times that Origin of Storm's takes place in? Or is it going to stop before that. .. Just thinking about all the human's suddenly dieing... ... Yeesh.. that still freaks me out, when I think about it. (I did like that in Origin of Storm's by the way. Very creative ... and... "Disturbing" in the cool kind of way).

    I couldn't find any typos, or anything to complain about in this chapter, though I did manage to find a typo in Chapter 1, that I had missed before.. How I missed it, I'll never know:

    Here, in this frigid underworld which other races of Pokémon almost never dared to enter, and which Humans did even know existed
    How about "and which humans didn't even know existed?"

    Great job, and keep Pming me with the updates... I'm enjoying this story immensly. And thanks for answering my questions from before.

  12. #37
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    I enjoyed it... a lot, Ms. Saner.

    I can reflect on how Solonn's feeling during the whole chapter and that made me feel sorry for the little guy. Despite Morgan's personality, she has got me in suspense because I don't trust her.

    I can picture Solonn being out there, mimicing everybody... I think that would be funny. *Pictures Solonn doing an impression of a parody version of Kelly Osbourne* Hahaha!

    What kind of Pokemon is Sei, anyway? I'm rather curious.
    I think that she might be a Gardevoir.

    Despite a couple of spelling and grammar mistakes, you've backed that up with great descriptions and length.

    Overall score so far: 5/5
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  13. #38
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    I don't trust that Claydol... Why doesn't it reveal it's telepathy? I bet it uses it to cheat in contests...

    Either that or Scrap is right and Morgan is evil, or I'm overly suspicious. In any case, it was a brilliant chapter; I think you portrayed Solonn's emotions and feeling realisticly and well. I love that little Snorunt... only... can't they float? I suppose, you can't really float down from a window that high anyway.

    As for Sai, I think she's a Grumpig or Chimechgo, because they're the more cute psychic types, IMO at least.

    Speculation:     Spoiler:

  14. #39
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    Wes: Well, I didn’t want to go the battles ‘n’ badges route, plus I thought that contest performances could offer nice opportunities for creativity, so, yeah, the choice was pretty easy for me. Although I will say that the idea of the looming, head-biting guy from The Origin of Storms performing for pretty ribbons initially amused me to almost no end… X3

    Pinecone Tortoise: Yeah, when I gave Solonn an unusual ability, I was very conscious of not giving him an inflated head about it. No “OMG I CAN TALK I IZ TEH SUPER POKE!!!!” I also didn’t want for his ability to be perfect; he can’t do claydol language, and there are others he couldn’t pull off, either. So, why certain languages and not others? Hmm…

    GoldenHouou: Glad you like the name Raze. I had a bit of a hard time naming her; that name just popped up almost at the last minute. I figured that Morgan would likely give her either a standard human name or else a name that would apply to the way that Morgan would see the skarmory, considering the kinds of names her other pokémon had. For a long time, I couldn’t seem come up with anything that really seemed to fit—and then, out of nowhere, I thought of Raze, as in “razor”. It was nice, and it didn’t seem too out of the ordinary, so I went with it.

    kaizer63: Yes. I was adamant about Solonn giving a crap about being abducted from home with no explanation. X3 After all, it’s not like he didn’t have a life before being captured. He was certainly not just sitting around in the cave, waiting to be captured for his life to begin. Heck, he didn’t even know that humans actually existed before encountering Morgan.

    EvilKeckleon: There were a number of routes I could have taken in describing Solonn’s introduction to the domain of humans. Glad you liked the one I ended up choosing. ^^

    Infinite Master Sceptile: Okay:

    Morgan’s Pokémon

    Aaron
    Species: Sceptile (male)
    Non-contest pokémon (capture specialist)
    Contest specialty: None

    Ardan (Brett)
    Species: Manectric (male)
    Non-contest pokémon (capture specialist)
    Contest specialty: None

    Raze
    Species: Skarmory (female)
    Contest pokémon, flying transport pokémon
    Specialty: Cool contests

    Oth (Ominous)
    Species: Claydol (genderless)
    Contest pokémon, teleporting transport pokémon (usually only used for teleportation if Sei is unavailable)
    Specialty: Tough contests

    Sei Salma (Enchantress)
    Species: Sorry, not telling yet! X3 *dodges bricks*
    Contest pokémon, teleporting transport pokémon
    Specialty: Smart contests

    Solonn Zgil-Al (Azrael)
    Species: Snorunt (male)
    Contest pokémon
    Projected specialty: Beauty contests

    At present, Morgan has not yet acquired a cute contest specialist.

    Scrap: Solonn’s epiphany regarding his abilities was one of those scenes which I was extremely insistent on doing justice. I’m emphatically glad to hear that it carried itself well. ^^

    And yes. Skarmory = love. ^^ *hands Scrap a giant skarmory plushie*

    Typhlogirl: I’m glad that you like the name Azrael; I rather like it, too. ^^ Solonn, however, isn’t too fond of it… XP

    Saffire Persian: What is Sei? …You’ll see! *dodges more bricks*

    Regarding the mimic technique: Curiously, I actually had never thought of that possibility before. As for where his ability did come from… well, I’ll not say yet, but I will say that they did indeed come from somewhere; he didn’t just spontaneously become “magical” or anything like that.

    Yes, this story does precede The Origin of Storms. As to how close to the actual time of that story it extends, I will not yet say. Suffice it to say that Solonn doesn’t die prior to that story, though.

    *notices typo* Yes, the effect is kind of different when you use the DIRECT ANTONYM of a word… X3; *dies laughing and resurrects self to fix typo*

    Brian Powell: Oh, my God… Solonn as Kelly Osbourne! XD *dies laughing* Speaking of voices, I haven’t really quite decided whose voice Solonn’s own, natural voice would actually sound the most like.

    Elemental Charizam: Aw, Oth is untrusted… It’s going to cry.


    So far, no one has pegged Sei’s species. Don’t worry, though—you’ll meet her soon enough…
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 29th August 2011 at 6:53 PM.

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        Spoiler:


    Still, I'll happily await the next chapter to find out.

  16. #41
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    OMFG!! Morgan!

    O_o That was the name of my first Sapphire Character. O_O!

    And she had a sceptile too! O_o

    Are you stalking me?

    :3

    Anyway, I loved that chapter. *huggles Solonn plushie* Kinda sad, kinda inspiring as well. I think Sei is prolly a     Spoiler:


    MUCH LUFFS TO YAH SIKE!

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  17. #42

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    *throws a brick up and down in hand*

    What? You won't tell me!? I understand. Though I feel like guessing now, even if I don't nail it on the head, or you won't tell me. I'll go with my first guess, which is a     Spoiler:
    . *cough* Glad to know Solonn's abilities DO come from somewhere. Perhaps if I actually read all the way through Origin at a timely pace, it will prove to shed some light. Of course the sentence you wrote about him here:
    Although, I will say that the idea of the looming, head-biting guy from Origin performing for pretty ribbons initially amused me to almost no end…
    caught my attention. I'm guessing you mean that literally. *Glances at Glalie's teeth*.

  18. #43
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    Awesome as always Sike. ^^

    I LOVE Morgan's pokemon especially     Spoiler:


    The blue snow thing was strange, but I'm guessing Morgan mixed some blue pokeblocks with the snow right? I couldn't imagine any other way of it being blue... Unless it was a crushed up blue popsicle. XD

    Anyway, the description of everything in ths chapter was mind-boggling. I can't wait for the next chap!

    *Hopes Sei is an Espeon*

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sike Saner
    Pinecone Tortoise: I also didn’t want for his ability to be perfect; he can’t do Claydol language, and there are some others he couldn’t pull off, either. So, why certain languages and not others? Hmm…
    Body language perhaps? Or pokemon that communicate through scent? Or speech simply impossible for a Snorunt's tongue to produce? Not all languages are verbal.

    Pinecone Tortoise.
    I wish you peace and love. God bless us all.

  20. #45
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    Hey SS, I have only read the fisrt chapter, because I am raelly busy at the moment, thinking up fics to publish and all for my charity drive, as juggling well as my outside life as well. I promise to post again when I finish. And you never have to ask me to review, 'cos you've been pretty good to me here, so just reciprocating.

    Ok, people have already said what really needs to be said, as in description being great, as well as not taking away from the flow which is important. I cannot really tell too much about the plot, as I have only gotten through the first chapter, but rest assured I will eventually get around to it! Congrats on doing well for your second fic, and this is better than the origin of storms, even though I do miss the wobbuffet!

    hey, wanna consider submitting a fic or two, see if I can get them published for you? Join my effort!

  21. #46
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    Scrap: Well, the good news is that neither you nor anyone else shall be kept in suspense regarding Sei for terribly much longer, chapterwise at least.

    xXSaberXx: Yes. I am stalking you. XP Just kidding, of course.

    Saffire Persian: You put that brick down! X3 Like I said, Sei’ll be revealed fairly soon.

    And, oh, yes. Solonn’s is a species which ranks VERY high on the list of things you don’t want to bite you. Pleasant, huh? X3

    Dark Latios: The “blue snow” is blue raspberry shaved ice. There’s a shaved ice stand just a block or two from Morgan’s house.

    Pinecone Tortoise: Yes, that is indeed a large part of why. Some languages cannot be readily replicated due to nonverbal nuances or else being exclusively nonverbal. There are furthermore some spoken languages which are simply too complex for him. However, I will say that not all of the languages that he can’t replicate fall into either of those categories. So, hmm…

    mindripper: Ah, glad to see you are enjoying this. ^_^ Also glad to see that you find this to be a step up from The Origin of Storms; as I have mentioned before, I had been concerned about falling into the sophomore slump.


    By the way…    Spoiler:



    There will be a slightly longer wait for the next chapter than usual. But don’t worry—Chapter 4 should still make it out within the next two weeks. In the meantime, I will be doing a number of things, namely working out the final tweaks in the new chapter while also reading the nominees of the Summer Fiction Awards.

    So… you might want to get a snack. X3
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 31st March 2009 at 2:08 AM.

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  22. #47
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    Hello everyone.

    Chances are you expected this post to be a new chapter, no?

    Well, so did I.

    Chapter 4 is presently completed, and I should be posting it right now. However, there has come a development which has basically thrown a giant monkey wrench in that endeavor.

    For some inexplicable reason, my computer will no longer load SPPf, nor will it load serebii.net. (And yet, it has no qualms whatsoever about loading other sites... What the frell, seriously?) It's the old "Cannot find server" message every time.

    I am posting this from one of the public library's computers. The library, unfortunately, only allows patrons one hour of internet usage per day. This, therefore, will cut a huge dent in my posting rate. Should order fail to be restored where my computer is concerned, and should the library cease to be a viable option, this could, concievably, cost me my membership here...

    In the meantime, I will continue writing and preparing future chapters, so that if and/or when I am finally able to update, perhaps I can make it up to you all for the delay with even more fresh material right around the corner.

    My apologies to all of you, and also to any whose fics I have been reviewing or have planned to review; I will, of course, try to get my reviews to you where and when I can.

    Sincerely,
    Sike Saner
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 31st March 2009 at 2:21 AM.

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  23. #48
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    Wah! Not those 'technical problems' again! Like they haven't done enough!

    But, still, you got my understanding when it comes to placing fics like these. I, for one, had a problem placing fics here before because of some hackers (curse them!). Plus, you have my patience.

    EDIT: Wow! Six people gave you five stars already... no, wait. Make that seven.
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    Starring Black Jack, a veteran pokemon trainer who saves the lives of others while breaking necks of his enemies in cold blood. You want action? You got action!
    (If you want to see Pokemon Impact 4 be rewritten, PM me and tell me why.)

    Goldenrod High (Chaptered Comedy Multishipping fic PG13) Updated: 02/12/09
    Who says school is just for learning? ^^

    Check out my other stories, and everyone else's in the Completed Fics forum!

  24. #49
    Chaos Absol Guest

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    It's too bad about the computer thing.I think I've had that before, I had to put the forums in my favorites for awhile to get to them.

    Well, I think Cei is a Gardevoir as well because it just looks better then Alakazam(no effense).I can't wait for the next chapter, and I hope your computer gets well soon!

  25. #50
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    Earth
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    Yay! Despite the best efforts of that heartless entity that is technology, I have managed to break through the challenges of late and bring you the next chapter. I am more relieved than I can adequately express, let me tell you…

    A huge and emphatically sincere thanks goes out to Saffire Persian, without whose efforts I may not have been able to give you this chapter. And thanks also for the wonderful theme song!

    Now, without any further ado, here’s Chapter 4!

    _________________________

    Chapter 4 – Spell of the Spotlight


    The following morning brought a choice.

    “All right, Solonn. The contest hall here in town will be holding two normal rank contests—those are the ones for newcomers—in the upcoming months,” Morgan said. “There’ll be one in three weeks, on the twenty-fifth, and then there’ll be another one two months afterward, on August twenty-fifth. Now, if you start your training now, you could enter into the earlier one, but you might want to wait until the August contest so that you can get more practice in and be more prepared. But it’s your call, Solonn.”

    “I’ll go for the earlier one,” Solonn said at once. In his mind, it was no question at all—the sooner he got started with these contests, the sooner, he reckoned, he could be done with them and return to his home.

    Morgan nodded. “Okay, then.” She would have preferred for him to wait until the later contest, believing that the extra time to prepare would have done him quite a bit of good. Nonetheless, she chose to respect Solonn’s choice and allowed his decision to stand.

    * * *

    That afternoon, Solonn’s contest training began in earnest. It was initiated in a way that Solonn found quite odd: Morgan offered him a small, indigo-colored cube and told him to eat it, saying that it would help him to do well in the contests.

    Solonn looked at Morgan as if she were crazy. “How is this thing supposed to make any difference in whether or not I win?”

    “Well… what it does is it refines your appearance. These pokéblocks will help you look as healthy and as… er, handsome as you can look. Making a good visual impression on the audience and judges is very important.”

    Solonn continued to gaze skeptically at the human. Whatever, he decided finally, and took the pokéblock from Morgan, devouring it quickly. The little candy was… okay; it was kind of good, except that it had this funny, sort of sour aftertaste. That was really the only fault Solonn could find with the pokéblock, though, and it was really only mildly unpleasant—at first. Then he found the little candy cube beginning to disagree with him… and then to strongly disagree with him…

    Morgan looked on with pity and poorly concealed revulsion as the snorunt’s body rejected the pokéblock. However, that undesired reaction did not dissuade her from attempting to feed Solonn another of those indigo candies later that evening. Solonn resisted at first—he wasn’t exactly eager to throw up again, after all.

    “This one’s different,” Morgan tried to assure him. “I made more than one formula since I didn’t know which you’d do best with. Unfortunately, they just so happen to be the same color—but I promise you, they’re not the same. I even got rid of all of the other kind, so there won’t be any mix-ups.”

    Solonn stared warily at her for a long while, his stomach threatening to go sour at just the mere memory of what the last pokéblock had done to him. Then, with a sigh of resignation, he accepted this identical-looking yet supposedly different pokéblock. Immediately, he discovered that Morgan had indeed been telling the truth—this little indigo cube was different from its predecessor. The flavor was one that Solonn immediately and greatly liked, and it didn’t have the disagreeable aftertaste of the other pokéblock. Seconds passed, and it showed no threat of sickening him. Solonn looked up at Morgan with an approving smile.

    Morgan smiled back. “Ah, so this one’s a winner, huh?” Solonn nodded in response. “Good! Okay, then. You’ll be getting two of these a day until they’ve done as much for you as they can,” she told him.

    This was certainly an aspect of contest training that Solonn didn’t mind in the least. However, he remained skeptical that merely eating candies was going to sufficiently prepare him for any sort of competition. He wondered what else the human might have in store for him in order to get him ready for these contests, these things which were the sole obstacle impeding his return home.

    * * *

    Around noon the next day, Morgan departed and returned a short while later accompanied by a heretofore unfamiliar presence.

    “Solonn, this is Sei Salma, an alakazam,” Morgan said.

    The pokémon at her side bowed, her blonde mustache twitching slightly as she smiled warmly. <A pleasure to meet you, young sir,> the alakazam said, her telepathic “voice” simulating a slightly gruff contralto that Solonn guessed was also the sound of Sei’s actual voice. <I understand that you and Ms. Yorke have a most unique relationship, yes?>

    “…What?” Somehow Sei’s statement had come across to Solonn in a way that she had certainly not intended.

    <You are able to speak to Ms. Yorke in her own language, are you not?> Sei elaborated.

    “Oh… Yeah, that’s right,” Solonn confirmed, albeit a bit hesitantly.

    <Ms. Yorke and I were discussing this on the way here. We’ve arrived at a conclusion regarding your abilities with which I know you’re already very much in agreement. It’s best that other humans do not discover your abilities, don’t you agree?> Sei asked.

    “Yeah,” Solonn said. “I’d really feel better if as few people knew about this as possible.” By “people” he was referring not only to humans but to other pokémon, as well. He was very mindful of not letting just anybody learn what he was able to do. In fact, he really would have preferred for Morgan to ask him for permission before revealing his secret to Sei…

    <I understand your concern,> Sei said then, <but I assure you, Ms. Yorke had your best interests in mind when she informed me of what you’re able to do. She wouldn’t have told me otherwise. Furthermore, you have my word that I will not reveal your secret to anyone without your consent… And yes, I have just read your thoughts. I do try to tune such things out for the sake of courtesy, but…> She shrugged. <Sometimes thoughts are simply too strong to block.>

    A mind-reader… Solonn figured then that, courteous or not, Sei would have probably absorbed the knowledge of his abilities sooner or later, either from Morgan or from himself, without having to be told of them.

    <The privacy of those who have no form of mental defense is something my people take very seriously,> Sei assured him earnestly. <We wouldn’t be trusted very well by the majority of other species if we didn’t stay out of their minds as much as possible. Even with our measures to respect their privacy in place, many species still do not trust us.>

    Whether or not that was meant as a guilt-trip, it certainly worked as one on Solonn. “…Sorry,” he said. “I’m sure you don’t mean to pry into anybody’s business.”

    Sei gave a relieved, satisfied smile. <Now. Since protecting the confidentiality of your skills is of such great importance, I’m offering you a means by which to speak more securely with Ms. Yorke.>

    “And what would that be?” Solonn asked.

    <This.> There was a brief flash of light in Sei’s eyes.

    <Well? What do you think?> Morgan asked.

    <What do I think of… Hey! How are you using telepathy?> Solonn asked—then, with a jolt, he realized that he, too, was speaking telepathically.

    <Sei. She’s connected us via her own mind,> Morgan explained. <That way, we can talk with each other without anyone figuring out that… well, that we can talk with each other, get it?>

    <…I think so,> Solonn said, still somewhat bewildered at the notion of being able to communicate in a psychic fashion. There was something about it that made him feel oddly powerful yet at the same time rather vulnerable, as well. He wondered if he would have agreed to try this method of communication if he had known beforehand that it would involve his mind being opened and shared in such a way.

    <This method of conversing is undetectable to humans,> Sei told Solonn then, <and it’s the humans from whom you should be most concerned with protecting your secret. You see, pokémon who are able to speak to and be understood by humans are quite rare, and humans often look upon rarity as something from which they can gain some form of personal profit. If certain humans learned of your abilities, they would seek to exploit you for their own ends. I can guarantee you that you would not find such exploitation to your liking.>

    Solonn cast a troubled gaze at Morgan. <Is this true?> he asked. Morgan had come across to him as trustworthy, but now Solonn found himself wondering if she was merely a rare exception in a species which generally could not be trusted.

    <Yes,> Morgan said, sounding rather ashamed. <Solonn, I would never want to see you exploited like that.>

    <Well, I wouldn’t want that, either,> he said, shuddering slightly. He turned toward Sei. <Okay. I’ll accept your method,> he said. <Thanks.>

    <Think nothing of it,> the alakazam said, and with that she severed the psychic connection between herself and the other two.

    The method of communcation that Sei had just made available was a welcome convenience indeed. As Solonn thought about it, something dawned on him: he wondered if the telepathic link could be used to enable Morgan to communicate with her other pokémon. After all, Sei’s telepathic abilities could trick the minds of those conversing into hearing words they understood, thus eliminating the language barrier between Morgan and her pokémon. Why hasn’t Sei offered this to the other pokémon? Solonn wondered silently.

    To Solonn’s surprise, Sei turned her gaze upon him and then shrugged her plated shoulders. “Because they never asked,” she said simply, using her natural voice this time, speaking to Solonn in alakazam language. The snorunt only stared at her in response, apparently not knowing quite how to reply to her statement.

    Sei then let out a long sigh. <Whew… It seems I’ve still got a bit of recovering to do before I’m quite up to speed again…>

    “You want to return to your ball for a while?” Morgan asked her.

    <Mmm… yes, I think so,> Sei answered. <I could do with a little time out of this poor, downtrodden flesh,> she added with a laugh.

    Morgan chuckled. “All right, then.” She removed an ultra ball from her belt and recalled Sei with a beam of red light. The alakazam smiled wearily at Solonn before dissolving into energy and being drawn into her ball.

    “I just don’t understand how anybody could stand being inside one of those things,” Solonn said with a small shudder, eying the ultra ball as it was minimized and reattached to Morgan’s belt. “It’s just so… ” He trailed off, unable to come up with a truly fitting description of what it was like in the great ball.

    “So, you really don’t like being in a ball, huh?” Morgan asked. Solonn made a small, negatory noise in response. “Well, okay. You don’t have to go back in there if you don’t want to.”

    Solonn smiled at her. He was sure that with no need to dread a return to the great ball, the time that remained to be spent here with Morgan would be much easier to endure—and perhaps even enjoy.

    * * *

    Several hours later, Solonn stood outside with Morgan and Sei Salma in the backyard. Though evening was approaching, the sun was still hot enough and bright enough to bother Solonn. Sunlight differed from the artificial light inside the house; it possessed its own peculiar kind of harshness, even in lower quantities.

    There wasn’t much that Solonn could really do about the heat, but he did at least have one option that might make him able to more easily to tolerate the lighting. He made his way across the yard at once to stand in the shade of the large sitrus tree that stood tall in the backyard. Much better, he thought with satisfaction.

    Morgan and Sei crossed the lawn to join Solonn. Sei promptly took a seat, leaning back contentedly against the trunk of the tree and opening a magazine. Meanwhile, Morgan came to stand before the snorunt, and then presented a small, cylindrical plastic case. She opened the container and produced a cyan-colored disc from it.

    <I’ll bet you’re wondering what this is, huh?> Morgan said, making use of Sei’s telepathy. <Well, this is a technical machine, Solonn. From it, you can gain a new technique.>

    An elemental technique being obtained from a little plastic disc. It wasn’t the most ridiculous concept Solonn had ever heard of, although it did come very close.

    <Now, we may not even need to use this,> Morgan continued. <Let’s find out if we do… Solonn, could you show me the strongest ice-type technique you know?>

    <The strongest? I guess that would be this.> Solonn called on the power of his element. The glow of his eyes intensified momentarily as he gathered the ice-type energy that he would need for the technique. A second later, the elemental charge coalesced between his hands, then fired forth as a jagged, electric blue beam that blasted a flurry of frozen leaves and twigs from the branches above as it streaked off toward the sky.

    <Ice beam, huh? Okay, then it looks like we will need to use this.> Morgan knelt before Solonn, then popped open a compartment on one end of the technical machine case and slipped the disc inside. <There’s another, stronger ice technique that you’ll need to pull off your routine,> she said as she closed the compartment once more. <You’ll get that technique from this.>

    Solonn eyed the case with uncertainty, his gaze caught and held by the lens that seemed to stare right back at him from the end of the case that faced him. <…This won’t hurt, will it?>

    <No, it doesn’t hurt,> Sei said reassuringly. <I’ve received one myself. It’ll be a funny feeling, but one that won’t last long. You have nothing to fear from it.>

    <Oh. Go ahead, then,> Solonn permitted Morgan.

    With a quick nod of acknowledgment, Morgan set about activating the technical machine, bringing the lens to bear on Solonn’s forehead and pressing a button on the top of the case. It whirred to life, but apart from that nothing seemed to be happening at first—the beam projected by the case was invisible, and its initial impact was intangible.

    Then, with a rather strong shudder, Solonn found himself overwhelmed by a sudden surge of power. The feeling was similar to that which accompanied the summoning of certain of his ice-type techniques, only it was stronger and seemed to all go straight to his head rather than spreading throughout his entire body. It escalated into a giddying rush, and when it reached its abrupt end, he found himself feeling incredibly lightheaded.

    Solonn teetered comically for a moment, nearly falling onto his butt before managing to shake himself out of his dizzy spell. <That was weird,> he remarked. <So, that’s it? That’s all it took?>

    <Mmm-hmm. You’ve just learned the blizzard technique,> Morgan confirmed as she removed the now spent and colorless disc from the front compartment and set it aside. <Go on, try it out—but be careful where you aim it, though; it can be pretty nasty.>

    <…Wait, blizzard? Are you serious?> Solonn asked incredulously. Morgan nodded, smiling brightly. Even so, Solonn was still too bewildered to try out his new technique for a moment. It just seemed all too incredible that a simple disc could bestow any sort of power upon him, but to think that it had just given him one of the highest powers of his element…

    Though he remained skeptical that he would succeed, Solonn decided to go for it. Once again, he gathered elemental energy. He felt a sizable thrill as the surge of power defied his expectations and answered his summons, then manifested itself in a blast of icy wind and snow.

    As the blizzard howled forth, Solonn realized with a jolt of horror that he’d forgotten to aim the attack—its present course, he realized, might well result in a decent-sized hole being blown in the Yorkes’ back fence by the fierce ice technique. Fortunately, though, the blizzard was rather underpowered, and as a result the mini-snowstorm petered out before it could wreak havoc on the fence.

    Solonn stared briefly at the small pile of snow that now sat contrastingly upon the green grass, watching as it began to melt in the heat of the June afternoon. That thing actually worked… He then laughed to himself, pleasantly bewildered.

    <Not bad,> Morgan remarked. <That was just a little one, but with practice, you should be able to pull off a much more impressive blizzard. And wait ‘til you see what you can do when you combine that with other techniques!>

    <You can actually do that?> Solonn asked, intrigued. He had never seen multiple techniques used in combination, not even by glalie.

    <Oh yes,> Morgan said. <In fact, artful combination of techniques is what contests are really all about. A good, creative, graceful presentation is what comes out on top every time. Now,> she went on, opening the technical machine case once more, <there’s another one of these that you won’t necessarily need, but it could still do you some good. Do you want to go ahead and take it now, or do you want to wait a little while before you take another one?>

    Solonn considered the matter for a moment. He decided that there was really no reason to turn down this offer to gain a new technique. He determined also that a delay in accepting it meant a delay in training. The more training he could get in before the twenty-fifth, he figured, the better his chances of getting that first ribbon and thus taking that first step toward his return to Virc-Dho. Hence, he decided that he would not wait.

    <I’ll take it,> he told Morgan. <Let’s do this now.>

    The human nodded in acknowledgment and pulled another technical machine from the case, a fuchsia-colored disc this time. Solonn watched as the disc was loaded into the front compartment and activated, wondering what sort of new power it would impart upon him as he anticipated the rush of technical acquisition once more.

    The process of absorbing this technique felt quite different than its predecessor had. The sensation of connecting with the raw power of his element was absent—it was not an ice-type technique that was being bestowed upon him this time. Solonn could not even begin to guess the alien element of his new power, for the rush in his head that accompanied its acquisition was gone almost as swiftly as it had come.

    <So what technique did that one give me?> Solonn asked once the sensation of learning the new ability was gone completely.

    <Light screen,> Morgan answered. <It’s mostly a defensive technique, but there are also some pretty cool things you can do with it that are just for show. Try and call one up now,> she suggested. <It’s not as difficult or powerful a move as blizzard, so you should be able to pull it off now pretty easily.>

    <Okay.> Seeking the new, unfamiliar element within him, Solonn found the root of his new power, then called forth his new technique. There was a peculiar but not unpleasant sensation that tingled very briefly in his head. Then he saw a bright pink aura form around each of his hands. He watched with fascination as it spread out very swiftly from them into a force field that surrounded him completely.

    <Wow… this is pretty neat…> Solonn said as he gazed upon the wall of psychic energy that now surrounded him. <Wait, though… how do I get out of this thing?> he wondered aloud.

    <Oh, you don’t have to get out of it. You’re not trapped in one place by that thing. It’ll follow you as you move,> Morgan said.

    Solonn decided to test that claim for himself. Sure enough, as he walked across the lawn, the shield that surrounded him maintained itself and remained with him through his every movement. Then, unexpectedly, the light screen simply vanished.

    <What happened?> Solonn asked.

    <A light screen can only stay up for a couple of minutes at a time,> Morgan explained.

    <Oh. So are there any more of these I can use?> Solonn asked with a glance at the case.

    <I’m afraid not. Nearly all of the techniques you’ll be using come naturally to you—your routine will mostly be ice-based. Anyway, it’s not really very good for you to learn so many of these moves in one sitting. You could get a nasty headache,> Morgan said.

    Solonn found himself rather disappointed to hear that he would apparently not be gaining any more new abilities anytime soon. <Well, okay then,> he said. <So now what?>

    <Hmm. Right now, I’d say, nothing,> Morgan replied. <You’ve really had enough excitement for one day. You may not feel like it right now, but physically, you’ve just had quite an experience. You’ve instantly learned two moves that usually take pokémon several years and lots of hard work to learn. Give it a little while, and you’ll probably start feeling pretty tired. So let’s just take it easy for the rest of the day, all right?>

    Solonn nodded in assent. In truth, he would have liked to go ahead and continue preparing for the upcoming contest, but his energy seemed to have begun to wane from the moment that Morgan had said it would do so.

    <Your training will really start tomorrow,> Morgan then told him. <You see, there are three rounds to each contest. Each one is different, so you’ll be training in different ways.

    <For the first round, we’ll just go out on stage along with all the other contestants, and the audience will basically just compare all the pokémon contestants based solely on their looks, and they’ll all vote on which one they think looks the best. You don’t really have to train for that; the pokéblocks pretty much take care of that aspect.

    <The second round will be your solo performance. This is where you’ll be showing your techniques, combining them to make nice effects, et cetera. Don’t worry too much about it—you’ll be rehearsing your routine plenty every day. You’ll get it down just fine.

    <Now, the third round is a battle,> Morgan told him. <Have you ever battled another pokémon before? You know, just for fun.>

    <Yeah,> Solonn answered, <but not very much, though.> He recalled the matches that Zilag and a few of his friends had often held just for sport against one another. They had never really seriously hurt each other; they’d mostly just wrestled, with only the occasional, half-hearted bite or headbutt thrown in here and there. Ice-type techniques had also sometimes been thrown around in those matches, to little effect, of course. On several occasions, Zilag had invited Solonn to take part in this sport, but Solonn had only occasionally obliged. By and large, Solonn had been unenthusiastic about battling, even though he did sometimes win those matches. As far as he’d been concerned, it had merely been something to do in the event that there’d been absolutely nothing else to do. It hadn’t exactly been his idea of fun.

    <That’s okay,> Morgan assured him. <Some experience is better than none. Besides which, contest battling is really not the same as battling anywhere else. Your goal won’t be to hurt the opponent so much as to upstage them. You don’t even necessarily have to ‘beat’ the other guy as long as you manage to look better during the match. I’ll let you practice battling against a couple of the others here. Raze’d definitely be up for it—don’t worry, she won’t use any steel moves on you. Her style’s a little different than the one you’ll be using, but you’ll still get the gist of how to handle yourself in one of these matches. All you have to do is to keep your poise and battle with grace.>

    Solonn nodded in acknowledgment, mentally reviewing what Morgan had told him that he could expect. It seemed that there was more involved with being a contest pokémon than he had initially imagined. He hoped that the span of time separating him from that first contest would be sufficient for him to adequately prepare himself for this first task that lay before him. The sooner he could get that first ribbon, that first step behind him, the better.

    * * *

    Each day that followed brought diligent training. Solonn spent many hours rehearsing his solo performance and practiced battling techniques with Raze and even once with Sei Salma. He also continued to receive two pokéblocks each day until Morgan told him that he had received the maximum benefit possible from the little candies, meaning that there was no point in giving him any more of them.

    Solonn had assumed that these measures were the only ones that would need to be taken in order to prepare him for his debut. However, there came a night five days before the date of the next contest when one last suggestion was offered to him with the claim that it could improve his chances of winning.

    He was sitting on Morgan’s bed, waiting for her to return from an errand. When the human returned to her room, the first thing she did was to take a capture ball from her belt, maximize it, and release Oth from within it.

    “All right,” Morgan said to the claydol. “It’s time for you to check him out and see if he’s ready.” She gestured at Solonn.

    Ready for what? Solonn wondered what in the world could possibly be going on as Oth brought themself before him. Without any form of explanation or warning, the foremost of the claydol’s eyes dilated dramatically, and a pale red beam lanced forth from it and struck Solonn. The snorunt almost cried out but then realized a split-second later that there was no pain. Very puzzled, he merely stared at Oth as they expanded the beam and swept it up and down over his body.

    Mere seconds later, Oth ceased their scan, terminating the beam of light. They turned toward Morgan (which seemed strange to Solonn given the fact that surrounded by eyes as Oth was, that action was not really necessary) and nodded as well as a claydol could manage, inclining their entire body slightly in her direction.

    Morgan smiled. “Good news, Solonn. Ominous says you’re ready.”

    “That’s nice, but ready for what?” Solonn asked in a quiet voice. He and Morgan had decided that it was safe enough to converse openly while within Morgan’s room so long as they kept their voices down. Solonn had also decided, though not at all hastily, that Morgan’s other pokémon could be trusted with his secret, and so he didn’t mind Oth’s presence there as he spoke with the human.

    “Ready… for this!” Morgan reached into her pocket, extracted something from it, and held it out in her hand for Solonn to see. Nestled in her palm was something small in a blue wrapper. “I’d been looking around town for one, and I finally managed to scare one up.”

    Solonn gazed at the proffered object for a moment, then turned a questioning gaze up toward Morgan.

    “This,” Morgan explained, “is a rare candy. These give pokémon something of a boost. According to Ominous…” Morgan paused as a thrill of excitement flitted visibly across her features. “Well, this’ll give you just enough of a boost to make a huge difference. With this… you could evolve.”

    Solonn’s eyes widened. “…That thing can’t possibly cause evolution!” he said, laughing.

    “Oh, yes it can. So what do you say? Are you ready to do this?” Morgan asked.

    Solonn hesitated to answer. Part of him still couldn’t believe that evolution could be induced by a piece of candy, but the part of him that did believe was possessed of a fair share of apprehension. “Is there any particular reason why I need to evolve?”

    “Well, you don’t necessarily have to do it, but it might work out to your advantage to go through with it,” Morgan said. “Your routine is based almost exclusively on your ice-type powers, after all, and glalie have more finely-tuned abilities where their element is concerned. They can handle ice-type techniques more easily than snorunt can.”

    Solonn agreed with that point; he knew it from experience. Members of his species did not truly come into their ice-type abilities until they achieved evolution. Among other purposes, the glalie of Virc-Dho used their greater elemental prowess to keep their unevolved counterparts in check.

    He had no doubt that he certainly could execute his routine with greater ease as a glalie, and he was certainly concerned with succeeding in the upcoming contest. Still… this was a physical transformation that was being suggested. This was not something to be taken lightly—particularly not where his kind were concerned. Snorunt who evolved too early in life ran the risk of being corrupted by incomplete instincts, as had happened to glalie like Kashisha. Furthermore, the changes involved with transformation into a glalie were such that it was almost like a change into a different species altogether. Those of his kind were born as snow-eating bipeds who could become limbless, floating predators.

    “The choice is yours, Solonn,” Morgan told him gently. “I won’t make you evolve if you don’t want to.”

    So… am I really ready to evolve? Solonn asked himself silently. Well… technically, I probably am, he answered himself. He was indeed at about the age that his people considered the safest and most appropriate time to start considering evolution. In fact, once they got to be very much older than he was now, they found themselves actually having to make a conscious effort to stop the process from simply occurring on its own. So Solonn was old enough to evolve, and hence there wasn’t much of a risk of corruption.

    But… do I really want to go through with this now?

    Solonn couldn’t answer that question, though he tried. He wished that he had been given more time to consider this rather than having such a major decision dropped on him out of nowhere at nearly the last minute. In the end, he could only lower his gaze and sigh in response.

    “You don’t want to do it, do you?” Morgan asked. Solonn shook his head vaguely in response. “That’s okay, Solonn. That’s perfectly fine.”

    “Okay.” Solonn’s eyes followed the rare candy as Morgan put it back in her pocket. “Hey. Hold on to that. Just… you know, for whenever.”

    Morgan nodded in acknowledgment. “Sure thing. If you ever decide that you want it, just let me know. Do you want back in the ball?” Morgan then asked Oth. The claydol nodded in their curious fashion and was subsequently recalled.

    “All right, then,” Morgan said. “Now, don’t worry about your decision, okay? Like I said, you don’t really have to evolve to do this. You’ll do just fine.”

    Solonn sincerely hoped that Morgan was right.

    * * *

    In what felt to Solonn like no time at all, the twenty-fifth had arrived. All at once, the task at hand was upon him, and he was swept up by it into a situation that, as it came to be, made him realize that nothing could have truly, completely prepared him for it.

    Next thing he knew, he found himself riding in an automobile for the very first time. As he gazed out through the window, the view before him of the scenery rushing by mirrored his perceptions of this experience. Hurtling irresistibly forward through these moments, he scarcely had a chance to take it all in.

    The vehicle came to a halt, and as he was unbuckled from his seat and brought out into the parking lot, Lilycove’s contest hall seemed to blossom into being before him right out of thin air. It was huge, and it loomed larger still with each step that brought him closer to its entrance.

    Solonn immediately found himself in awe as he passed through the front doors into the contest hall’s lobby. All around him, humans of widely varying appearance stood, accompanied by pokémon partners the likes of which Solonn could have never conceived.

    Morgan led him into a queue, and there they waited for their turn at the desk that sat at the front of the line. After a fairly short wait, they made it to the desk, where the receptionist asked Morgan to present her contest pass. Complying at once, Morgan produced a card and handed it to the human behind the desk. The receptionist held on to the pass for a few seconds; Solonn couldn’t see what she was doing with it, for the desk exceeded his height.

    When the receptionist gave the pass back to Morgan, she took a moment to peer over the edge of the desk at the pokémon who accompanied Morgan. “Oh, now isn’t that a cutie,” she remarked airily, flashing a very bright smile.

    Solonn returned her gaze with a slightly skeptical look. Cute? I’m not cute

    “You may now proceed,” the receptionist then said. Morgan smiled at her, then led Solonn out of the lobby and toward the backstage area.

    Several minutes of doing nothing but waiting followed. The other contestants were gathered along with Solonn and his coordinator, anticipating the impending events with varying degrees of patience. A television mounted in the corner showed the scene that awaited the contestants. With an incredible amount of noise and a level of enthusiasm that was almost tangible, even transmitted through that television screen, an audience was filing into the seemingly endless rows of seats and declaring their eagerness for the show to begin.

    The spectators’ wait was not prolonged much further. The voice of the announcer came blaring forth, the audience quieting somewhat while he spoke.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” boomed his greatly magnified voice, “get ready to witness the hottest up-and-coming faces in the Hoenn contest circuit! The normal rank beauty contest shall now begin!”

    “It’s time,” Morgan informed Solonn in an excited whisper, then began guiding him before her as they made their way to the stage in an orderly procession along with all the other contestants.

    As Solonn emerged onto the stage, he was greeted by an unbelievable level of light and noise. The number of humans gathered just to look upon him and the other contestants was staggering—Solonn had never seen so many people in any one place before.

    He had not expected that the spectators would be quite that many in number…

    The coordinators and their pokémon partners formed an orderly line across the stage, facing the audience. One by one, the announcer stopped before each team and introduced them, then moved on down the line to the next team. Before long, he arrived at Solonn and Morgan.

    “Next up, hailing from right here in Lilycove, it’s Morgan Yorke and her snorunt, Solonn!” the announcer said. Just as had greeted the introduction of each team before, a peal of applause rose up for Solonn and Morgan. Part of Solonn wondered what they were applauding, exactly; neither he nor any of the other contestants had actually done anything yet, after all.

    “Now it’s time for you to cast your votes,” the announcer told the audience after introducing the last few contestants. “Who will make it to the next round? You decide!”

    Solonn found himself unable to count the moments that passed as the audience cast their votes. His awareness of being scrutinized by innumerable eyes only intensified now that that was literally what they were doing. He didn’t see that on a colossal screen behind him, a close-up view of each of the pokémon in turn was presented to the audience—he might have been surprised, to say the least, to see a gigantic image of his own face staring back at him.

    Finally, the votes were all tallied, and the results appeared on the screen behind the contestants, who all turned to see who among them would proceed to the next round.

    “Look!” Morgan exclaimed. “There we are!” She pointed to the upper right corner of the screen; Solonn saw that he and Morgan were indeed pictured there. They had made it through the first round. With that obstacle out of the way, Solonn followed Morgan with a funny little detached sort of thrill as they and the other contestants returned backstage to get ready for the second round.

    The small television backstage presented Solonn with a view of the performances of the contestants who had been slated to go on before him. For a crop of newcomers, their performances were generally quite competent; none of them thus far had made any mistakes in their routines, at least not as far as Solonn could tell. He found a few of the performances kind of boring despite their technical integrity and correctness of form, but there were a couple of the others that really stood out.

    Those performances easily held Solonn’s rapt attention—and also managed to stoke the doubt within him further. As the last of the performances preceding his own turn on stage came to a close, he found himself attended by an unbidden question of whether or not he had truly, sufficiently prepared himself for this.

    That question followed Solonn out onto the stage as he was called forth. It was much darker as he emerged this time than it had been during the first round, but he could still see the crowd, could still make out all those faces. Solonn had been told what to expect since his training had begun, yet Morgan’s descriptions of what this experience would be like seemed awfully weak and ill-fitting when held against this moment, these surroundings, the expectations held by all these people whom he now had to impress…

    He came to stand in the center of the stage, and a single, bright spotlight fell upon him as the music that Morgan had chosen to accompany his routine rose up, seeming to emanate from the very walls of the contest hall itself. Under the ray of white light bearing down upon him, he felt overemphasized to dimensions far greater than his own, yet at the same time also all too aware of just how small he was compared to the vast, scrutinizing crowd.

    A moment later, the spell of the spotlight abated enough to allow Solonn to realize that he had missed his cue. With a jolt, he hurriedly cast the hail technique up into the air above him. The summoned hailstones began falling at once, but at twice the normal intensity and not at all in the pattern he had rehearsed—it was fortunate that this was a solo performance, for had Morgan accompanied Solonn on stage for this round, she would have had to take cover from his bungled first move.

    Solonn winced inwardly at the mistake and tried desperately to make some sort of recovery with his next move. He called upon powder snow and felt the most infinitesimal relief as it bowed to his will according to plan, its winds sweeping up the falling hail in a gently turning, tamed cyclone. Solonn’s creation partly obscured his view of the audience, for which he felt a wave of gratitude spread throughout his nerves. However, he knew that with his next maneuver, he would have no choice but to forfeit that comforting veil of ice and snow.

    Sighing softly, Solonn kept the powder snow blowing as he slowly expanded the vortex of snowflakes and hailstones around himself while the music began to swell in a slow crescendo. The winds swept around him in a growing spiral, and as the cyclone widened and thinned out, the multitude of humans before him filled his sights once more.

    Don’t pay attention to them, Solonn urged himself silently, just pretend they’re not there… He fought against an urge to close his eyes as tightly as he could and shut out the sight of the audience, for he knew that showing signs of his nervousness could count against him in the judges’ eyes. He was also finding himself dealing with a burgeoning desire to simply cut his performance short and run.

    Trying with a growing desperation to keep a hold of the fraying ends of his nerves lest they unravel completely, he called upon the next element of his routine—the one which had given him cause for doubt at several points during the course of his training. He still couldn’t believe that he had gained one of the highest powers of his element in a single moment’s rush that one afternoon, disbelief that had caused him to struggle all the more in his efforts to master the technique.

    Incredible though it still seemed to Solonn that he even possessed that ability, the fact remained that he did indeed possess it and was required by his routine to execute it adroitly. Don’t think about what you’re doing, he tried to remind himself, just do it… At the music’s cue, Solonn executed his strongest technique, unleashing a blizzard to join his dancing cyclone.

    The blizzard howled forth, stirring the spiraling snowstorm into a frenzy as it was meant to do… but then, most disobligingly, its winds began to falter. Solonn swore that he could feel his heart fall utterly still as the blizzard, along with the other elements of the cyclone that had woven themselves into its winds, petered out right before his eyes. As if in slow motion, snowflakes, sleet, and hailstones alike all fell to the stage.

    No… Solonn lamented silently. He was all too certain that his chance to obtain the ribbon and thereby surmount the first step toward his return to Virc-Dho had died along with his enchanted snowstorm. The elements of his musical accompaniment suddenly bled and merged into a formless din in his ears, while the spotlight seemed to swell to an abnormal brightness for a moment before being swallowed up in a sudden, all-consuming darkness, taking the stage, the audience, the surrounding noise, and Solonn’s consciousness along with it.

    _________________________

    Next time: Solonn faces a decision that stands to change his life forever… See you then!

    - Sike Saner
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 11th December 2013 at 2:41 AM. Reason: Revisions.

    Current Chapter: Chapter 18 – Remnants

    COMPLETE
    Communication banner: Saffire Persian | TOoS banner: CHeSHiRe-CaT

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