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TEEN: Flying in the Dark [COMPLETE]

The acest of trainers
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Here for the review game!

Of all your stories, I think this is the most readable. The format really helps things flow naturally while also keeping someone hooked. Internal thoughts are really your fortay, and this is a big internal thought exercise in a way, two character studies unfolding side-by-side. It is intriguing, it is well-written, and I am excited to read more. But this is a character piece, so I am going to focus on them.

Of the two, Markus is easily the more interesting. He is a complex and intriguing character, with a lot of backstory, depth and contradictions already that make him intriguing to read. His heartbreaking story in the fourth letter about losing his starters was gripping and devastating and shows why you are our queen of the feels. The prison schedule in the sixth was a great way to shine some more light on him and get some exposition out of the way, and I think these letters have a great balance between necessary exposition and working it into the story. It is to his benefit that Haley is the one that approached him, so he is answering her questions.

Haley is not a bad character, but she also is not as entertaining. I think my issues with her boil down to her age and naivety. She is 18 but kind of acts younger - I would've thought 15/16, but that might just be because every 13 y/o on this site is fighting apocalypses and crime lords XD. She clearly has her own secrets, and the little hints at her backstory show a dark past that I am sure will be mined to great detail eventually. I guess I am just a bit peeved at it being constantly hinted at but information is only drip fed, and her personality makes it a tad more aggrieving than it could be if she was perhaps craftier with how she writes. It is not to doubt your ability - her letters are clearly written in a particular style and voice, and it is utterly believable. It is just to the story's detriment how believable it is. I did however like her analysis of her Pokemon in the first letter and how they got their nicknames/the defence of Seybs name - it was very sweet and the most relatable and warming part of her story. Her capture of the Noibat was an entertaining read and a nice little contrast to the grim prison setting that came later. My biggest advice around her would be to get the balance between exposition/hints at the past and her travelogue right. She seems to dump things into segments (past, current), when it could be more interesting to have her thoughts more erratic and move between the present and the past when relevant, if that makes sense.

My main gripe at the moment is that I don't really know why they are talking to each other. I believe there is more to it, and apologies if things are clarified in later chapters, but by the end of the sixth I am not sure the attraction. Haley clearly wants and needs an outlet for her thoughts, and Markus clearly needs company, but both are potentially hiding their true intentions and it is a bit bothersome wondering why they are - but hey, I guess it means I'll keep reading :p

Two smaller things. One, the little blocks of description in Haley's letter, such as of Anistar in her first one, are fine but I feel don't add much asides from the world building. I don't quite get why she is telling him all about Kalos' past and that, and some of the description can feel a bit stilted opposed to the thought chains. Secondly, I noticed both characters, mostly in the first four, had a habit of stating things kind of directly about their personality. I think it works for Haley, and Markus pointing it out was a nice touch, but he does it himself. Warning he could embellish things in the second letter felt unnecessary, and really has only been directly referenced with the story of his birth. I think I'd rather guess if he was an unreliable narrator or not. And in the fourth chapter, him saying "...Did I steal them? Did I bribe or threaten Professor Sycamore?" again felt unnecessary, and I think if he was going for vague or mysterious or threatening, saying that Sycamore didn't report him would have been enough.

Overall, I liked it and I look forward to reading more. Most of my gripes are minor and likely just personal issues, and some of them (namely Haley's personality) highlight how much thought you've put into writing such clear and distinct characters. but if you want to discuss Haley with me some more, I'd happily do so. Keep up the good work, and I hope to binge the other letters soon!
 
shame personified
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Here for the review game!

Of all your stories, I think this is the most readable. The format really helps things flow naturally while also keeping someone hooked. Internal thoughts are really your fortay, and this is a big internal thought exercise in a way, two character studies unfolding side-by-side. It is intriguing, it is well-written, and I am excited to read more. But this is a character piece, so I am going to focus on them.
Hmm, I'm surprised, but I'm glad you like it! I thought you wouldn't like the format, actually, or Markus's verbose, long-winded, circular writing style for that matter. XD

Of the two, Markus is easily the more interesting. He is a complex and intriguing character, with a lot of backstory, depth and contradictions already that make him intriguing to read. His heartbreaking story in the fourth letter about losing his starters was gripping and devastating and shows why you are our queen of the feels. The prison schedule in the sixth was a great way to shine some more light on him and get some exposition out of the way, and I think these letters have a great balance between necessary exposition and working it into the story. It is to his benefit that Haley is the one that approached him, so he is answering her questions.
Glad to hear, especially the bit on the balancing between exposition and the story itself. It's really easy for this story to just... not have any semblance of plot. This is my most slice-of-life oriented fic, so it's not crazy or anything, but it's there!

Haley is not a bad character, but she also is not as entertaining. I think my issues with her boil down to her age and naivety. She is 18 but kind of acts younger - I would've thought 15/16, but that might just be because every 13 y/o on this site is fighting apocalypses and crime lords XD.
Lmao. Sorry, I find an 18 y/o girl acting younger than her age much more believable than a 13/yo girl fighting crime lords and apocalypses. ;) But no, I understand that her writing style can probably come off as more childish and immature than you'd expect. I think she's different from Markus in that her "dark secrets" are more of a label she's put on them, whereas Markus can spend hours and hours depicting with logic why he's awful/why his past was awful.

My biggest advice around her would be to get the balance between exposition/hints at the past and her travelogue right. She seems to dump things into segments (past, current), when it could be more interesting to have her thoughts more erratic and move between the present and the past when relevant, if that makes sense
I thought writing that way would end up making her letters more confusing, but... It seems it just gives her letters more of a "letter" feel, so I guess that fear was unfounded. Huh.

My main gripe at the moment is that I don't really know why they are talking to each other. I believe there is more to it, and apologies if things are clarified in later chapters, but by the end of the sixth I am not sure the attraction. Haley clearly wants and needs an outlet for her thoughts, and Markus clearly needs company, but both are potentially hiding their true intentions and it is a bit bothersome wondering why they are - but hey, I guess it means I'll keep reading :p
It's not really obvious why they're talking to each other, no. I mean, you can read how Haley came to find out about Markus's existence in the early letters, but that reasoning... isn't very good reasoning. I'll be interested to see if you read more and what you think - the not obvious reason is present in the later chapters that are up, and the biggest reason for Markus isn't revealed yet.

Two smaller things. One, the little blocks of description in Haley's letter, such as of Anistar in her first one, are fine but I feel don't add much asides from the world building. I don't quite get why she is telling him all about Kalos' past and that, and some of the description can feel a bit stilted opposed to the thought chains.
To give off the impression that she's intelligent and she knows what she's talking about, namely. (Even if she doesn't.) Though I agree that letter could probably use even more tidying up, heh.

Secondly, I noticed both characters, mostly in the first four, had a habit of stating things kind of directly about their personality. I think it works for Haley, and Markus pointing it out was a nice touch, but he does it himself. Warning he could embellish things in the second letter felt unnecessary, and really has only been directly referenced with the story of his birth. I think I'd rather guess if he was an unreliable narrator or not. And in the fourth chapter, him saying "...Did I steal them? Did I bribe or threaten Professor Sycamore?" again felt unnecessary, and I think if he was going for vague or mysterious or threatening, saying that Sycamore didn't report him would have been enough.
Hmm... The quotes you gave me I wouldn't consider as blatantly pointing out their personalities, but it makes sense. I'll try to be more conscious about them.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
 
letter 12
shame personified
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that feeling when your last two updates for this fic have been within a month of moving :') i guess i just gotta move every month or so to keep up a good schedule, huh? okay, i did spend a whole two months writing a spin off with massive spoilers i can't release until the fic's over, but...

FLYING IN THE DARK

[letter twelve]

*

July 29

So you’ve declared that we dispense with the proper letter etiquette in its entirety, is that right? Now, I’d consider myself a fool if I were to object to your amicable suggestion, but I would, at least, like the air cleared regarding this matter so that the two of us might avoid future misunderstandings. I find that the main drawback of our writing exchange is the lengthy, agonizing wait for your reply should I have reason to believe I’ve upset you. It feels like another form of punishment when I can only offer any sort of consolation from a distance.

This may come as a surprise to you, but it had not occurred to me before that dwelling on my thoughts as opposed to simply conveying them has been a source of distress for us. It has always been the case for me that my mind reacts far too fast for my body to keep up. Naturally, then, writing each and every word that passes through my head becomes an impossible task. On the other hand, choosing from the endless list of things I could say to you… Haley, it becomes overwhelming, and all the dredged up memories and emotions that follow easily equates the writing process with declaring war on myself if I don’t tread carefully.

Perhaps you speak the truth when you say the date lingered in the back of my mind when I put pen to paper for my last letter. Who can say for sure? My memories of July 10 already dissipated and merged with all the others I’ve gathered during my 34 years on this earth. If I now try to summon them to the surface, to the level of conscious thought, I’ll be reminded of a past that feels not like my own, as per usual. My brain essentially works as an infallible machine: I input some information and a series of vague images, reassembling the remaining puzzle pieces. Then, my brain spits the completed puzzle back at me, but in the form of a movie, as if I created the moment rather than lived in it.

As a general rule, people consider their birthday a day to reflect on the past and future. And whereas most people wait around for the remedy to the disappointing realization that life doesn’t happen as planned, you, Haley, analyzed the structure of your life, deigned it unlivable, and assumed control of what came next. Change was guaranteed to you because you took matters into your own hands. The world appears slightly less mysterious to me when I realize how anyone is capable of maintaining enough ambition needed to pursue a path similar to your own.

You may notice how I didn’t mention the future when referring to myself. I trust you understand why. Given my… unique situation, I suppose I can’t berate myself for not utilizing alternatives to my self-destructive behaviors, but sitting in prison fails as a valid excuse when I rightfully belong here. At any rate, I wouldn’t concern yourself with how scarce or full my letters are. To reiterate an agreement we did manage to reach, this particular form of communication limits our usefulness to each other.

At this point today, I have been awake for less than two hours. I thought it appropriate to dedicate my allotted free time this morning to articulate all of these challenging facts to you, hoping that last night’s sleep would offer clarity and smoothly guide me through the transcribing process. (On the topic of recognizing what the future may hold and acting accordingly, this is what I can manage more often than not.) Alas, the steps required to retrieve and consume a mere bowl of cereal at breakfast absorbed more of my energy than I care to admit. And so, to ensure that I can complete the tasks demanded of me in the afternoon, I shall have to set the pen down temporarily.

July 30

Yet another morning has arrived when it seems to me that no time has passed at all. An immense wave of solemnity washes over me as I write this to you, like it always does each time I stop and realize how severed my connection to the rest of the world is.

I am aware of how I could have continued this letter without a single mention of the exhaustion that took hold of me yesterday. It’s my wish to instead inform you of how much time has passed—as you have done for me previously; there’s no reason to not indulge in simple honesties—and how I spent the afternoon hours mulling over possible ways to perfectly convey to you a sight which captured my interest. Namely, how the sunlight filtered in through the bars of my cell throughout the morning and into the late afternoon. But I’ve regrettably convinced myself that no existing term or phrase within the Kaloseux language can compare. I know that the view of the sun is foreign to nobody, but when only the night ever comforts me with its cloak of darkness permitting the world to fade away, I thought I’d attempt to preserve this rare daytime repose—even for just a short while.

I should address a concern of yours before I procrastinate by discussing several unrelated subjects for the second letter in a row. Your question: heads or tails? My answer: heads, I suppose, since dragons represent the tails side of the coin and I’ve not interacted with any species of that type. Fairies relate to the rehabilitation aspect of my life, at least. I’m still skeptical of the whole concept, but by all means, go ahead and humor me with a flip of the coin to see if I’ll get lucky.

You might just want to reconsider, Haley, physically sending the coin my way. I wouldn’t argue against you updating me on the coin flip outcome in your next letter through words instead. While I greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness in wanting to provide me with something tangible, something which could combat how illusory my world tends to be, my concern lies with the prison itself.

I’d like to preface this next point with a disclaimer: in no way has the prison’s protocol for mail dictated what I have and haven’t written to you. I discussed before the logic behind what prevents me from elaborating on certain things.

And now, my warning: prison workers assigned to the mailroom sift through all envelopes, both incoming and outgoing, in search of potentially dangerous information they must report to the warden. Most likely, these employees find their job far too tedious to take seriously. Committing to scrutinizing each and every letter on the off chance one contains a hidden code must sound dreadfully unappealing, and so, I trust that partway through they resort to skimming. This estimation, of course, doesn’t account for gossip and other nonsense which humans indulge in whenever possible.

So even if they choose not to pry deeply into our particular correspondence, no doubt the presence of your coin will be obvious after they do a quick frisk of the envelope, whether it’s still sealed or not. I have no doubt, too, that they’ll deem the coin harmless. But there is no guarantee that they’ll allow me to add the coin to my small pile of personal belongings for safekeeping. The guidelines for gifting inmates with currency, even an amount of insignificant value, are largely unknown to me.

Simply put, Haley, I would just hate to see you part with such a cherished item for my sake—only to have it intercepted and seized by the prison workers. Perhaps you can revisit the idea when the days comes that I’m able to break the seal of your letters myself rather than have them handed to me ripped, void of any semblance of privacy? Hmm… They may return the envelope to you without notifying me of its arrival, perhaps… Overall, however, your kindness could cause you more trouble than expected.

Presumably, these mailing guidelines eluded you when you looked into the matter of exchanging letters with an inmate. Or if you’d learned these guidelines but had forgotten them, I hope that what I outlined above helps you decide whether it’s worth it to gamble. You might already be aware of these facts and are willing to take the gamble, in which case my rambling’s been for naught. …Yes, that’d make sense, I suppose. Heads or tails, is a game of chance by itself, after all, one with its own stakes involved for you.

So, about that fairy invasion program I spoke of in my last letter… Not long ago, the program’s director asked that a book outlining the effects of rehabilitation be distributed among the prisoners. Written by a Sinnohan researcher who focuses his work around industrial areas like Oreburgh, the book’s style is dense, akin to what you’d read in a social work college course. It mostly follows a case study done on one trainer’s torkoal. The fire-type had contracted a disease which destroyed its ability to battle effectively. The trainer, torn on what to do, consulted a specialist who recommended the torkoal be sent to the region’s main coalmine. There, it could help burn coal and earn back a sense of purpose which would, in turn, restore the quality of life it had lost due to the disease.

Given this rehabilitation method was a potential hazard for the environment, I can’t fully approve of it. The reasoning behind it makes enough sense, however. Motivation is a powerful factor, and if the pros outweigh the cons, then so be it. Take what you can get and run away without looking back. Or that’s the motto of my cellmate, at any rate.

Lately I’ve refrained from mentioning my cellmate and other prisoners, for they are of little significance to me, if I’m honest. Their voices resemble white noise, and they learned quickly that pestering me accomplishes nothing unless their goal is to get the cold shoulder treatment. Regardless, I’ve caught my gaze moving in their direction more often than usual since the warden announced the program. Gauging their reactions, the general consensus seems to be one of complete apathy, though I saw a few displays of fleeting hopefulness.

Bouncer (my cellmate, if you remember, which I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t) is the only one on our unit I’ve seen that’s still trying to shoo away his bitter feelings in favor of the possibility that the program can indeed provide some relief for his miserable self. His jokes and insults have come to a halt. It seems like he’s not anywhere in the vicinity when in reality he’s just quiet. I often see him bent down, staring at the cemented floor, and contemplating, as if life is no longer a game to him. Even Eyeball, the prisoner in the cell across from ours who is normally the one to indulge in such behaviors, looks at him with a twinge of pity etched in his face.

When I first was assigned as Bouncer’s cellmate, he accosted me over which part of the bunk bed he wanted to claim, of all things. I merely nodded, murmuring that he could do as he pleased, though I had more trouble forming words at the time compared to now. His argument, expressed more as a threat, was that he’d always be able to hear or see by the moonlight whether I was about to sneak up and harm him.

The inability to glimpse the moon while lying and winding down from a long day is a downside to allowing Bouncer to decide for me. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important. There are nights where I experience a lucid dream in which I’m paralyzed, face up on the bottom bunk, left to stare at Bouncer’s hand, bleeding and sprawled over the side. Every time, exactly four drops of blood fall and roll down my cheeks like tears before I’m freed. My imagination upon awakening brings me to a place where I was the one who inflicted Bouncer’s wound, and that the dream was anything but a delusion. The comfort that the sight of the moon brings hardly compensates after a terror like that grips me.

If I had the guts, I’d ask Bouncer, “When it comes to the healing process, what if the pros outweigh the cons?” A person of sound mind would shake their head and prod into the logistics of that question. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, how these programs are made for people who are comfortable in their sadness, even if they do say they wish for it to disappear. So which would I rather have, the chance to dive into the unknown or the fake safety of familiarity I constantly withdraw myself into?

Bouncer, surprisingly, might muster the courage necessary to let rehabilitation overshadow his inner demons. I myself could not choose, if you were to seriously demand an answer from me. …I do not want to choose, though I am afraid I already have. I feel that I am taking advantage of an eighteen year old girl (yes, you, of course you) just by talking to her; I feel as if I were to meet you face-to-face, I could simply breathe in your direction and unwittingly poison you in the process.

You are brave for following through on your ambition to travel, Haley. I could not do it to the extent that you are, for I fear crossroads, both literal ones and figurative ones, and I cannot stand most of the people I would see—man, woman, child, tall, small, big, they’d all look and sound the same to me. Hence why I cannot choose; I’m simply not in a position to do so.

You expressed a faint, newfound inclination to stop writing about your journey. That idea is based off of yet another misunderstanding, Haley. The less I hear about the outside world, the easier it would be to ignore it, according to your logic. And I wholeheartedly agree with that rationale. Whether I withdraw into myself regardless is another question entirely, but not one to concern yourself with as you take time out of your travels to write to me. There are more pressing matters for your thoughts to attend to, such as how to react to the veiled information you’ve uncovered about the League.

No doubt there are ways to support the pokémon training hobby while simultaneously discouraging the League’s deceptive behaviors. Adopting from a licensed breeder, regional or otherwise, is not the way to go about it. (You can relay this fact to Mr. Kenneth Chitenay that this is exactly what I did if you so wish, though do expect an insult or two sent my way in response.) Who knows what kind of trainer Enmity could’ve been raised with if I, and thousands of other trainers, hadn’t entertained the League’s breeding industry?

What’s done is done. What’s done has allowed breeders to take advantage of innocent children and ignorant adults alike, but still, it’s done. Perhaps your grandmother has at some point endorsed the League’s harmful protocol for breeding. Perhaps she hasn’t. Perhaps she takes a more unconventional method and sidesteps the rules without breaching her contract, or plans to present an argument to those of a higher rank than her. I, of course, lack the resources to say one way or the other with any certainty.

I wish her—or anyone in that position—the best of luck should they try to convince the League to alter their current guidelines and rules for licensed trainers. Most of what the protocols the League follows has a root in legends created over a millennia ago. Petaya berries, for example, only bloom at night, and stories have claimed how their growth is thanks to all the energy absorbed and accumulated from pokémon sleeping in the surrounding area of the plants. Some of the first trainers based their team’s diet around the belief that a pokémon’s power could be boosted for battle if they consumed enough of this energy. And beliefs, because they are so deeply ingrained within a person’s core, are strong enough to influence concepts that should purely rely on logic and reason.

The thought of GMO berries makes much more sense if you consider legends like that as well. What better way to prevent weakening the false belief of boosted power than making the boost in power a reality—even at the expense of hurting a pokémon in the long term?

Again, there are ways to avoid the League’s pitfalls. Organic yache berries are too cold for my taste, but they naturally help pokémon build up a resistance to the detrimental effects of ice-type attacks—a perfect side dish for your birds, if I do say so myself. And while Kenneth Chitenay is indeed associated with the Devon Corporation, you could wear brand name clothing from companies detached from the League. Collect broken pokéballs left behind by trainers that failed to capture a ‘mon, fix them, and reuse them to save you from buying for retail price. Alternatively, sell them at your own price. Write something that isn’t a letter and publish it, though I suggest a bit of research alongside this option. Map out the region and a proposed gym circuit, if cartography is one of your interests, and sell to passersby.

…If it wasn’t obvious by my ability to spew nonstop facts about the breeding industry, I worked as a breeder’s assistant, once upon a time. My addiction ruined the chance I had to continue on for an actual career, and in hindsight, that was a positive outcome. When I looked for a breeder outside of Kalos for a zorua, I chose to forgo the research process and simply hoped that Unova encompassed better morals to pass on to trainers and prospective employees. That hope meant nothing, just as it means nothing for most of the prisoners here in any situation.

When I asked Enmity’s Unovan breeder the steps to take once he hatched, the instructions given to me were mortifying. Don’t create a reliable, long lasting heat source for him despite newborns being unable to regulate their own body temperature? Don’t offer a plush as a surrogate mother? Don’t worry about the rest of your team teaching the newborn how to hunt? The list could go on, but already my lips are trembling and my fists clenching. I’d engaged in all of these directions as a breeder’s assistant, and reality told me that doing the opposite of each of these things is most ideal.

We’ve discussed this before, I believe, or correct me if I’m wrong. Not that my foggy memory is the focus of this particular conversation, but see, a breeder’s primary goal should always be to reserve a pokémon’s animalistic traits, even if the intent is to rear them for trainers. This goes for any species, really, on the off chance that the pokémon either ends up in the wild rather than with a trainer or is released later on in its life.

It’s specifically important for zorua and other fox-like equivalents—fennekin and vulpix, Kantoan or Alolan—to retain their instinctual fear of humans. Mind you, that has nothing at all to do with inducing fear into a pokémon to ensure they obey you in or outside of a battle. Excuse me for the blatant stereotyping, but a feral dark-type feeling safe enough to roam around a crowded city would cause more ruckus than bargained for. The same goes for fire-types, though those critters tend to scare easier.

Disclaimer: I tried my best with Enmity. Although I knew the reasons why some options were favorable compared to others, I wasn’t the slightest bit trained. Mistakes must have been made. His diet as a newborn could’ve been tweaked, or maybe he wasn’t kept warm enough. My three starters weren’t around to help him learn to hunt, and I didn’t trust a wild pokémon to do the job, so I improvised, acting like a supervisor and letting him learn on his own while I intervened only when his life was at stake. Had I done anything differently, could I have averted his muteness?

…I have many years to dwell on the consequences of what I did or didn’t do for Enmity. You’ve hinted at my being released in the near future, but that anticipation is reserved for those awaiting trial, those who have a chance of being announced not guilty. I put myself in this hole for a good while, Haley. Someday, though. Someday. I don’t know what will happen on that someday, but it’s nice to know it exists if I can manage to hold on long enough.

The heads side of your coin features a clefairy, right? Tails is dragons? I could dig through the first half of my letter, but my energy is quickly diminishing as the day ends and the mail carriers will be dropping by early in the morning. I should try to sleep. Flip heads, flip fairies and I’ll do the best I can to move on from… everything. Flip tails or, well, never mind that. Just flip heads for my sake, or say you did. An immeasurable amount of fairy dust will have to be sprinkled over me to make up for the courage I lack, but we’ll make do.

Sincerely,
Markus (yes, Markus, for you)
 
Last edited:
The Vulture Queen
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Hey, so you know me. You know my style. I don't care much for single-chapter reviews since I don't like taking a look at prose line by line, as you and others do.

I've been thinking about Aether's thread on fan fiction pacing as of late and very much thought about it while reading this. Truth is, I remember almost nothing about this story beyond some minor character details and the basic plot. So a good half of this chapter was spent trying to remember what on Earth was going on. But, I understand, if you had added a quick recap in the story itself it would've thrown off older readers. So maybe a "last time in FitD" in spoilers would've been good if you want to wait several months between updates.

In terms of the chapter itself, my love of Markus endures. His mental illness was expounded upon more here, in a mix of the direct and indirect. That was good. I identified with some of it, since parts of it were a good description of general depression (although I understand he has more at play than that).

I like how you address breeding in this fic as largely unethical. It explains, in part, why there aren't just more captive bred Pokemon running around in the world, and why capturing animals from the wild is viewed as the "ethical" option.
 
shame personified
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Hey, so you know me. You know my style. I don't care much for single-chapter reviews since I don't like taking a look at prose line by line, as you and others do.

I've been thinking about Aether's thread on fan fiction pacing as of late and very much thought about it while reading this. Truth is, I remember almost nothing about this story beyond some minor character details and the basic plot. So a good half of this chapter was spent trying to remember what on Earth was going on. But, I understand, if you had added a quick recap in the story itself it would've thrown off older readers. So maybe a "last time in FitD" in spoilers would've been good if you want to wait several months between updates.
That's a good idea! I know there can be large gaps between my chapters sometimes, so it makes sense. I can't reasonably expect you or anyone to remember all the details or re-read to get back in the loop. Hopefully, there just won't be another large gap between chapters, but, you know, life happens.

In terms of the chapter itself, my love of Markus endures. His mental illness was expounded upon more here, in a mix of the direct and indirect. That was good. I identified with some of it, since parts of it were a good description of general depression (although I understand he has more at play than that)
Indeed, he's got some dissociation issues going on along with depression. Mental illness of any kind, though, is a bitch. Pardon my language. ;P

I like how you address breeding in this fic as largely unethical. It explains, in part, why there aren't just more captive bred Pokemon running around in the world, and why capturing animals from the wild is viewed as the "ethical" option.
Thanks! Been tryin' to add more worldbuilding to my fics, this being one of the ideas I came up with for this particular fic.
 
letter 13
shame personified
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My apologies for the delay in updates (again) and, maybe even worse, coming in with such a short update. (I'll be jumping to the next letter right away instead of another fic of mine, promise.) I got the idea for this letter when re-reading the fic and it'll set a precursor to some other letters in the future. Related: I polished up some of the language when re-reading and edited out huge chunks of the prison schedule and the Haley/Kenneth training scene based on feedback. I can't say thanks enough for all the comments, even years later. xD

Anyway, I finished this a couple days ago, but I waited to post until today, July 10, for Markus's birthday! I missed it last year by a few weeks, and no way in hell was it gonna happen this year. Summer seems to be the time of the year I get really inspired for this fic for some reason? Hehe.

FLYING IN THE DARK
[letter thirteen]

*
August 5

Hey, Mark,

Uh. I wrote the above without thinking. Does it sound too casual? I can imagine me saying that in a voice like… hey, Mark, we need to talk, all serious like. Don’t worry! That’s not actually the case—not in the urgent sense, anyway. I need to talk to you in the sense that I don’t want you to go, don’t want you to disappear on me. That’s what I did to my family, and that’s what you did to your pokémon, but it doesn’t mean we need to keep up tradition and do it to each other.

I’m doing a lot of things without thinking. And by that I mean you can have my lucky aluminum coin anyway. I wasted a lot of your time, and I’m sorry for that. That spiel of yours about how coins aren’t allowed in prison? Well, it seemed awfully familiar, so I pulled your old letters from the depths of my backpack. Again. And as expected, you mentioned to me back in May that coins are taken away from you guys, because anyone can sharpen them on the walls and hammer out an escape tool.

If my coin gets “lost” in the mail system with this letter, it’s fine. Seriously. I’ll take the risk of you reading this, and I’ll take the risk of you not reading it. Plus the risk of my coin not finding its way back to me as a return to sender thing. I’ll write you another letter, one you’ll receive for sure, okay, Mark? Because what I won’t risk is having you worry. I’ll simply wait a few days until I’m in a better mood. I hope that doesn’t come off two-faced. We all have our bad times. Our bad days. I seem to be having more of them lately, like I did when I lived at home, but the phase should pass and I’ll get over it. That’s what my mom always insisted on for any emotion she didn’t approve of. Typical teenage angst and pride and ego, et cetera.

I had a dream last night. I’d call it a nightmare, but it was borderline, if you only count nightmares as having dead bodies, gore, blood, apocalyptic shenanigans… First of all, have I ever told you it’s a murkrow, of all things, that delivers your letters to me? Half dark-type! Seems uncalled for, if you ask me, like the wardens in Laverre are taunting me. I had enough of that nonsense with my family and Olympia, you know? So I’m not bothered. You know I have a soft spot for flying-types, and he’s a real cutie. There’s a scar on the tip of his beak I see when I pluck the envelope from his mouth—he enjoys a quick tug of war game before cawing in defeat and returning home—so I know it’s him each time.

What’s he got to do with anything, you ask? You won’t ask if you don’t get this. Come on, Haley. Use your brain for once. He was in my dream… and it was pitch black… but I could see everything. Every nook and cranny in the bald cypress trees dominating Lumiose’s Route 14, every ripple in swamp water even more dully colored than a tirtouga’s shell… Dream me must’ve stolen the dream murkrow’s night vision, I guess. The dream murkrow was out and about, scouting out the recipients of your letter (me and Kenneth, of course) like he was specially trained for. Except he was flying in the dark, so he had no way of realizing he wasn’t anywhere close to us. He got caught in an ariados’s web and untangled himself, but had to drop your letter in the process. Up until then, he had a glint in his eye, and it went away once he landed on the forest floor and searched frantically for what he’d lost. The light of the moon didn’t reach him in the air, let alone on the ground. Not helpful at all. Grudgingly, the dream murkrow let out a sad sigh and turned to fly again, probably back to you guys at Brun Way, but he shook his head, unsure of which direction to head in then, either.

But he tried. And who’d he run into along the way? Ribbons! …Why my natu wasn’t with me, I don’t know. Dream me might’ve written her own letter and stuck a taboo gift inside. And Ribbons, he had a human voice, squeaky but clear. He told the dream murkrow that he didn’t want me to be found. That in the future, the dream murkrow should stay away. That I was being put in danger because of who the dream murkrow was sending letters for, and that’d be you, Mark. You.

To make matters worse, the dream murkrow flew back toward Laverre, and I could follow him but not talk to him or make him pay attention to me. He squawked at the guards when he arrived, relaying Ribbons’s message, and then, Bouncer and Eyeball showed up. (I think they did, anyway. The men called themselves your roommates inmates.) And even they asked to switch cells.

You… asked me if I knew what Kai and them would say to me if they could communicate with me normally like most pokémon can with seasoned trainers. This is the last thing I would’ve expected. I mean, it wasn’t real… or maybe it’s not real just because I don’t understand my pokémon yet?

Still. As you know, this is an argument I’ve heard time and time again, from a bunch of sources apparently claiming to know me better than I know myself. And to them I just wanna say, look where I am now! Out in Lumiose, the driving force of Kalos, with all its bustling crowds and traffic humming beside you as tourists and residents alike parade up and down the city’s various boulevards. Kids drawing with chalk on the sidewalks, old people plopped down on park benches and chucking sunflower seeds at the local fletchinder, stray glameow sidling against buildings to find a hole or alley to crouch into…

Well, I’d go on a lot more, but what my mind keeps wandering back to is Professor Sycamore’s lab. I passed by it. Did a double take and everything because the story of your starters hit me all over again! Closed off by a tall, casual metal fence, I couldn’t see any fennekin or froakie or chespin, just some potted berry bushes with burn marks on the rim. One of the pots was even overflowing with water.

So I think it’s safe to say Professor Sycamore’s raising a batch of starters right now. I couldn’t help but stare and imagine myself working up the courage to ask Professor Sycamore about you. Or stealing the starters for myself, like you did. No doubt I could comfort them, give them a good life, and… Okay, there’s some doubt there, so I won’t finish my thought. Anyway, in the end, Kenneth had to grab me by the arm and lead me down the street, lecturing me about how people don’t take too kindly to a random girl getting in their way.

Now we’ve rented out our room in the local Pokémon Center and unpacked our things, knowing we’ll throw it all back into our backpacks a couple mornings from now. Once he’s done in the shower, we’re gonna give the Restaurant Le Nah a try. I hear half the building’s a battlefield, with a strong glass wall separating the dining area but still allowing people to peer in. It sounds like a theater, doesn’t it? Trainers challenge each other there all the time, and loser owes them dinner, probably.

I might try my hand at a battle and head to Prism Tower afterward, just because I don’t want Olympia’s badge to be the only one registered in my name. And defeating Kalos’s electric-type master could be enough to restore the confidence that’s slipped away without me noticing. I’ll let you know what’s up either way.

Just in case the coin falls out of the envelope or it doesn’t click right away, I flipped for real. The coin landed on heads! Fairies win! You made a promise to keep trying if I did that, and I’m not lying just to see it happen. There’s enough “this or that” confusion in this letter, and to even the playing field, I’ll promise to be more hopeful in my next letter about it.

Talk to you again soon,
Haley
 
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It's been awhile, to the point where I hope I can string reasonable thoughts together, here.

In spite of her negativity, Haley's seem to have made some progress stomping around Kalos. I'll give her that. There's a couple of locale-related nuggets stuck in here to elicit that vague memory of "yeah, that was a thing in Kalos," from me (the Route 14 swamps, Restaurant Le Nah, which needs to higher a better advertising firm, I imagine).

Now for writing style: I'm going to disagree with Haley as far as the negativity comment goes. I didn't get anything overtly negative from the way you wrote this. Her voice is strongest in the "teenage angst" line and "look where I am now!" part. Haley's usual rambling style of letter-writing does seem to be dialed back for this particular one. Perhaps best exemplified when she cuts herself off to talk about Sycamore's lab. But it's present in full force when talking about the aluminum coin. You channel that sense of tunnel vision for it well. Likewise, the recap of the dream feels, despite having full stops, like something that was relayed very quickly. I hope that's what you were going for. What I think was missing was Haley's own interpretation of this. Maybe I misread it, but that seems conspicuously absent. Like, your style here opted purely for play-by-play with no color commentary, so that gets a confused eyebrow raise from me.

Overall, though, short but still sweet, despite Haley's insistence otherwise. However...

flying in the dark
... I can't let this one go. Rrrrrrrrroll credits! *ding*
 
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Now for writing style: I'm going to disagree with Haley as far as the negativity comment goes. I didn't get anything overtly negative from the way you wrote this. Her voice is strongest in the "teenage angst" line and "look where I am now!" part. Haley's usual rambling style of letter-writing does seem to be dialed back for this particular one. Perhaps best exemplified when she cuts herself off to talk about Sycamore's lab. But it's present in full force when talking about the aluminum coin. You channel that sense of tunnel vision for it well. Likewise, the recap of the dream feels, despite having full stops, like something that was relayed very quickly. I hope that's what you were going for. What I think was missing was Haley's own interpretation of this. Maybe I misread it, but that seems conspicuously absent. Like, your style here opted purely for play-by-play with no color commentary, so that gets a confused eyebrow raise from me.
For her, negativity would be a thing she's not normally comfortable showing because of her family life growing up. Family life's been skipped over intentionally many times, though, so I don't expect readers to remember that.

Amidst her boundless energy and rambling, yeah, the negativity is easy to miss (or I can also see it being easy to think that, in comparison to Markus's letters, "negative" is not an accurate adjective). Though she's always been trying to be honest with Markus, she'll still go to lengths to avoid complaints and negativity and the like becoming overbearing. The dream cutting off in particular would be from her simply not wanting to talk about it much, also emphasized by her not caring if this letter actually reaches Markus or not. I'm not sure if these ideas came across well in the letter itself? It was tough, trying to contain everything in a rather small amount of words, especially for a character like her. xD So if this explanation doesn't help, let me know, haha.

Overall, though, short but still sweet, despite Haley's insistence otherwise. However...

... I can't let this one go. Rrrrrrrrroll credits! *ding*
I approve. XD Hehe. Thanks for the comments! <3
 
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FLYING IN THE DARK
[letter fourteen]

*

August 7


The trip to Lumiose kicked our butts. I thought we’d sidestepped the Frost Cavern’s grasp, but no, the snow dust followed us all the way to the junction of Routes 15 and 16. The silvery coating had dissolved by the time we spotted the ground circling Lumiose’s fish hatchery, which was overrun with litter. So we knew we were on the right path for a while. We should’ve gone west, past the fish hatchery, but eventually we steered northward and did a double take at a massive graffiti mural of a scrafty holding its own can of spray paint. Somehow, we’d wound up at the Lost Hotel…

Could it be that you know of the place, Mark? The building gave off a bleak aura much like a barebones skeleton might, what with the coat of algae snaking around its lower half, crossing over into a dewpider nest settled on the ledge of the broken first floor windows. The thatched roof was missing aside from one section ringed by charcoal remains. I think the arsonist(s) were nearby: a bunch of teens wearing ripped caps and baggy tank tops sat by a bonfire, chugging Cryogonal Ices. They cheered over a scuffle between two litleo, who inhaled the nearby flames and spit them back out at each other.

I mean, maybe they’re good kids—am I old enough to call them that?—but how laidback they were with each other in a place like that… I wonder if they’re renting out the Lost Hotel for free, doing whatever else thugs do to avoid the public’s stink eye. Like, the place could be serving the opposite purpose a halfway house would, helping them prepare for the criminal life and actual jail time up in Laverre.

Me and Kenneth just… nodded to each other and turned around, careful not to grab their attention by running. And even though I was really, really tempted to, I didn’t dare open my mouth to get Kenneth’s opinion on the situation until we were out of earshot. But he ignored me and opted to push on forward. We were losing daylight, after all. So he suggested we search for a shortcut back to Route 16 to try to make up for lost time.

We edged past a thicket of white bark trees for an hour. The whole way, Kenneth shushed me every time I tried to spark a conversation, afraid I’d alert any wild pokémon who might wanna jump out and fight us when we least expected it. That’d only slow us down more, he argued… or maybe he knew what I wanted to chat about and had no interest in it. I hummed a song to try to block out the thugs’ laughter that kept worming its way into my head instead.

As embarrassing as it is to admit it, seeing such a close group of friends having fun made me cringe. Sure, it’s likely they’ll regret associating with each other in the future, but they looked so engrossed, so carefree, I doubt that’s a worry any of them have as I write this. Whatever happens, not everyone gets to experience that sort of camaraderie, you know? And some people even avoid it! Those people always anticipate drama or disagreements which’ll spoil the magic of simply basking in each other’s existence.

Mind teaching me the art of forgetting, Mark? Because I know that feeling all too well myself.

Okay, that’s a tasteless joke. But it’s fine, right? I’ve got nothing to sweat about, not when the human brain can hold unlimited memories! Those thugs are monopolizing my time and energy now, but they won’t be in an hour, tomorrow, maybe even in five minutes. I’ll shove them away in favor of bigger and better memories. And I won’t fuss about whatever my brain does with them after that.

Mark, I’m not sure I’ve told you this before, but your lost memories… aren’t lost. Not the way you think they are, anyway. They’re just waiting for the right cue that’ll signal them to rush back to you. Even if you can’t recall them with the snap of your fingers, they’re still lodged in your brain somewhere, resting, hiding, soaking up your other memories and accumulating to construct the vast thing that is who you are. Besides, memories are committed to changing small details here and there, to bestowing all our past pains and joys and whatever else with free rein to form a brand new memory not recognizable to us—though we don’t hesitate to trust it anyway…

Right, I’m back after setting my pen down for the day. Speaking of memories, here’s a good one: Kenneth’s actually kinda cute when he’s flustered. Oh, we made it to Route 16, but our “shortcut” led us straight to the edge of the lake owned by the fish hatchery we should’ve stuck near to begin with. Accepting we’d just have to suck it up, around the gravel shoreline we went, only stopping to dispose of driftwood that found its way into our shoes. Two krabby pincers stuck straight up in between the pebbles, and Kenneth picked them up. He pretended to sharpen them with a knife. Uh, for context, apparently we can repurpose them into silverware—you know, to save money or sell to trainers on the road who might’ve forgotten to pack their own. Trainers younger than me especially lack foresight like this, Kenneth says.

The lesson shifted into a story about how he was lucky enough to unearth a clamperl pearl at the bottom of a pond next to his home in Rustboro. Then he blathered on about his hunt for more pearls so he could make a necklace for his mother until he… screamed. It was no big deal, promise! He’d spotted a lombre flailing about in the water, and since it was so small and shaped like a human, he mistook it for a kid drowning.

Realizing the situation wasn’t life or death after all, Kenneth’s eyes widened, and he stuttered before he scowled and kicked at the ground. I got the impression he thought he should’ve caught on to the lombre’s identity earlier, then he was embarrassed he didn’t for some reason? But yeah, the blush on his face was priceless! I wish you could’ve seen it.

And wouldn’t you know it, Kenneth’s scream caught the attention of a hatchery worker crouching on a weatherworn dock at the far end of the lake. He’d been talking to a fisherman—probably a casual, if the dude’s flashy Lake of Rage tie-dye shirt was anything to go by—who was parked on an ice cooler, a thin rod leaning against it. The hatchery worker waved to him real fast before plucking a lure ball from his belt and flung it into the water. Out popped a lapras! The lumps on its shell didn’t look too cozy to ride on, but the hatchery worker hopped on. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled out something about staying put.

We stood there awkwardly, wanting to map out our route from Aqua Fisheries but not quite trusting our sense of direction anymore. Kenneth apologized for the scare straightaway when the hatchery worker finally reached us. The lapras bent its head back and barked in response. Of course, Kenneth couldn’t let it go that easy. The first thing he learned when he moved to Aquacorde, he said, was that noise pollution can drown out communication between water-types. Talk about a perfect getaway vacation spot! I’ll have to remember to ask Kenneth more about it later.

Anyway, we’d just figured out seating arrangements on the hatchery worker’s lapras when the he pointed out Kenneth’s accent.

“Hoennese, right?” he said. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sneezed and maybe he was allergic to Kenneth. “I doubt I’m wrong. But no water-type, eh?”

“Traitorous, I know,” Kenneth said, glancing away.

“And unfamiliar with lombre, I see.”

I poked Kenneth on the shoulder. “Wait, but you have Heigani,” I said, then turned to the lapras’s owner. “Heigani’s a corphish. He hasn’t evolved yet, and I can’t say I was planning to go swimming today.”

He mumbled something I couldn’t hear.

“Something wrong?”

“Nah. Was gonna spit some quip about your friend not being a member of Team Aqua, but the moment’s passed.”

That got a chuckle out of Kenneth. “Hope you’re not assuming Team Magma instead,” he said.

I just looked on, blinking stupidly as usual. Didn’t I say I wanted to be cultured, Mark? Does that involve learning about all regions, not just Kalos? My gut says yes. Kenneth’s living proof of how things can overlap, after all!

“Seriously, though,” the hatchery worker went on, “it’s hard to travel Hoenn without two or more water-types on hand. Do consider Aqua Fisheries if you ever need one, yeah? That goes for you, too, young lady, if you think you might ever find yourself there.”

“Oh, uh. I’ll stick with my birds, thanks.”

I felt a nip on my toes and had to choke back a scream of my own. A poliwhirl poked its head out of the water, gurgling merrily at the hatchery worker. He dipped his hand under the surface to scratch the water-type’s belly as he went on about how owning more than one water-type is ideal. Carrying a human’s weight long distances can get overwhelming after a while, especially when it comes to dodging cruise ships and ocean liners. It’s like that even for pokémon trained for stamina—just like with Ribbons and his flying back and forth from the prison!

Oh, and I also learned dual water- and flying-types like ducklett and mantyke exist? But adding another pokémon to my team this early into my journey seems irresponsible in a way… Well, I mostly wanted to brag about how dedicated Aqua Fisheries is to educating anglers and trainers on how to properly handle water-types! Their curriculum takes everything into account, from diet to freshwater and saltwater differences to locating clean bodies of water on the road. I was so impressed I did, in fact, agree to schedule an appointment with them if I change my mind.

After the lapras dropped us off at the dock, the fishermen started scowling because our footsteps scared the fish away. One reeled in their fly, a tacky looking piece of plastic resembling a yanma, and replaced it with a live baby weedle pulled from a tackle box. I thought I might puke, but the hatchery worker pat the lapras on the back, lamenting over a hook that had caught onto its underbelly by accident once. His face brightened plenty as soon as Kenneth asked for a tour of Aqua Fisheries. How could he not notice the weedle, Mark?! Writing this now in hindsight, I suppose both of them are just… used to it. I can’t fault them for that. So let’s press on, uh, like they did.

Aqua Fisheries was a decent sized, dome-shaped building. A taupe sign with rich blue letters pointed to where the main office was, along with a quarantine tank area, laboratory, and live feed facility. I anticipated waiting a couple hours for Kenneth, so I had to ask: “This is really cutting it close to sunset, no? We’ll have to find a hotel to stay in when we get to Lumiose, you know, and the place is huge!”

“I already checked,” Kenneth replied, pulling a curled up map halfway out of his pocket before sliding it back in. “Jaune Plaza’s less than a mile beyond the gate, and there’s plenty to choose from there.”

I folded my arms, annoyed he hadn’t shared that piece of info with me earlier. We could’ve trekked the long, scenic route around the lake and enjoyed it instead of embarrassing ourselves. But the ordeal over and done with, and there was nothing I could do but my back and let him know I’d be in the shade, writing. Off he went, totally oblivious! It’s like he has a switch he can flip on and off when it comes to reading other peoples’ reactions.

Honestly, I was wound up that day, and irritable. I hadn’t slept well the night before because of a nightmare, one that I… don’t need to go into the details of here. I’m sure you understand, Mark. You always do.

I was so tired I had a lapse in judgment and randomly decided to write my grandmother after all. I just know I’ll get scolded over how I haven’t talked to Mom and Dad and Joey since I ditched Anistar, but that’s fine. She’s obligated to do that as my grandmother, not because she doesn’t understand why I’d rather not spare even five minutes for a call.

You know, Mark, I had an idea. Can I tell my grandma more about you? Yeah, I’m asking permission first this time, because learning from mistakes is a thing. Plus, no doubt she’ll see you in a different light when she hears what you’ve done for me! Then she might be able to hook you up with a job when you’ve finished your sentence! It might not be for a while, but she’s one of those workaholics who couldn’t have chosen a better field and would prefer not to retire till the day they die. If you taught her everything you taught me about the League, maybe you two could even boot up your own private practice and sign me up if my own job hunt in the future is unsuccessful.

I wrote the basics to her—how Ribbons and Seybs are doing, how Kai’s adapted from his wildlife days, that kind of stuff. Like I said, I didn’t give her the details about the League on your behalf. But I did ask her why Seybs’s predatory instincts hadn’t kicked in even being exposed to a pidgeotto’s natural habitat.

Ugh. Tons of flying-type trainers would kill to be able to handle their pokémon without fear of having a piece of their flesh bit off in retaliation, yet here I am, unsettled by how comfortable he is on my shoulder. Restless whenever we’re on the road and he curls under my ponytail like he wants to block out the sunlight.

I’d just wrapped up my grandmother’s letter in an envelope when Kenneth sauntered over, chin tilted upward thoughtfully. After he nearly collided with the tree behind me, I asked how the tour had gone.

“Oh, I wasn’t paying attention to it much,” he admitted. “I had a few questions about their connections in Hoenn. To see if I could get a lead on where my dad might be.”

“I thought he was a space astronaut kind of guy?”

Kenneth’s face scrunched up. “That’s… accurate enough, I suppose,” he said. “I figured maybe they knew a friend of his who could tell me the details of whatever mission he’s off on.”

“Any luck?”

“No, but they had a whole list of names of Team Aqua members plastered on the wall to warn water-type trainers.”

I didn’t know what else to add, so I said, “Yeah. Kaloseux history is touchy, too. I’m sorry.”

Holding up the krabby pincers from earlier, he said, “The best people can hope to do is pick up the broken pieces and keep moving forward, right? So, Lumiose it is.”

It occurred to me that we might’ve gone our separate ways then and there if he’d found his lead. Convincing him to stay would’ve been impossible, not to mention selfish. I mean, why would he stay? I’m a random girl he met on the back of some random Mamoswine in the middle of a random wintry route, and he’s got more important things to worry about: his family. The very thing I’ve been avoiding.

If it wouldn’t burden you too much, Mark, I wanna challenge myself in my next letter to you. I’ll… confess more details about my family. Not the kind of details that give you a brief impression like I’ve already given you, but the nitty gritty kind. It’s not fair to you that I keep skirting around the topic, forcing you to read it and guess at more.

I’d tell you more now, but I feel I’m slipping too much into the past lately, and I want to go out. Do something. Explore Lumiose properly, not largely mope around for the sake of leaving our Center room like I have the last few days since we got here. I refuse to let that become a pattern. Fairies won in the coin flip! And the bet was that you’d keep trying. I’ll join you on that adventure, all right?

~ Haley
 
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Well, guess you're up for the review game, but still... I AM HERE! Now, maybe it's because this letter was longer than some of the last ones, but this felt like an even more scatterbrained Haley letter than usual. Like, it was really all over the place zig-zagging from one subject to the next without giving me any real tim to think about or process what had just happened. I don't see anything wrong with that, but I was thinking about it the entire time I was reading the letter. I like the expansion, of sorts, that you give to Route 16 and what, if I'm remembering the games correctly, is just some simple house you go to for a fishing-related item. Having it be a fishery with ties to the 7.8/10 too much water land of Hoenn is unique and ties in that loose Kalos-Hoenn association that Gen VI had going for it but didn't explore all that much. I confess I was a bit confused about the whole Team Aqua thing going on in the exchange Kenneth had... but that might've been intentional? Since Haley was confused too, anyway.

Also, maybe I'm crazy but this letter feels... out of order compared to the last one? Like, it's sent two days later, but the last one seemed to establish that she was already in Lumiose... but now we're hearing about the journey to Lumiose. I don't know. I get the feeling she's in Lumiose, still, and is just recounting the journey, but the way it's worded made it feel like it was just happening instead of something she was reminiscing on.

Nitpick aside, the other big part of the chapter was the whole asking permission to talk to her grandmother about Markus. I can't imagine the guy saying yes, at this point. Haley's gotten him to lower his guard a bit, but Markus is still the cautious type and I can imagine him shooting the idea down or at least giving another one of his spiels about why he doesn't deserve that kind of attention and especially not some sort of work opportunity courtesy of Haley's grandmother. Along those lines, I found it curious that, after the brief discovery of the Lost Hotel, she didn't reflect more on her exchanges with Markus since she came away deeming the kids she found there future criminals and finding their presence unsettling. Markus is a convict, after all. I guess that's just Haley's mind at work.

I will spare the rambling about memories and synaptic pruning b/c I'm still fighting off a sinus infection and I've rambled enough already. Instead, I'll end with this...

Those people always anticipate drama or disagreements which’ll spoil the magic of simply basking in each other’s existence.
Aka my thoughts when it comes to trying to interact with anyone on the internet. ^^;
 
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Well, guess you're up for the review game, but still... I AM HERE! Now, maybe it's because this letter was longer than some of the last ones, but this felt like an even more scatterbrained Haley letter than usual. Like, it was really all over the place zig-zagging from one subject to the next without giving me any real tim to think about or process what had just happened. I don't see anything wrong with that, but I was thinking about it the entire time I was reading the letter. I like the expansion, of sorts, that you give to Route 16 and what, if I'm remembering the games correctly, is just some simple house you go to for a fishing-related item. Having it be a fishery with ties to the 7.8/10 too much water land of Hoenn is unique and ties in that loose Kalos-Hoenn association that Gen VI had going for it but didn't explore all that much. I confess I was a bit confused about the whole Team Aqua thing going on in the exchange Kenneth had... but that might've been intentional? Since Haley was confused too, anyway.
WOO I'M GLAD YOU'RE HERE! And as far as word count goes, this letter isn't longer than most of Haley's (aside from letter 13, which was meant to be short because she writes it knowing that it may or may never reach Markus anyway). I can see the scatterbrained part of it, though, for sure. A lot of it has to do with the tension she feels welling up inside of her, so to speak. Even if she's not writing about it, she's experiencing it as she's writing it... if that makes sense.

The Team Aqua thing was just a joke about how Kenneth couldn't possibly be a member of Team Aqua if he doesn't have a water-type or multiples of them. It was indeed supposed to be subtle, but I guess it was too subtle. xD

Also, maybe I'm crazy but this letter feels... out of order compared to the last one? Like, it's sent two days later, but the last one seemed to establish that she was already in Lumiose... but now we're hearing about the journey to Lumiose. I don't know. I get the feeling she's in Lumiose, still, and is just recounting the journey, but the way it's worded made it feel like it was just happening instead of something she was reminiscing on.
Yeah, you're right in that she's in Lumiose and recounting her journey there. Letter 13 lists out things she wants to do in Lumiose, but letter 14 ends with her saying she's not had the energy to do anything (and, if she's not done anything, all she'd have to write about that isn't meandering introspection is the journey to Lumiose). I'll see what I can do to make the timeframe clearer, thanks! :)

Nitpick aside, the other big part of the chapter was the whole asking permission to talk to her grandmother about Markus. I can't imagine the guy saying yes, at this point. Haley's gotten him to lower his guard a bit, but Markus is still the cautious type and I can imagine him shooting the idea down or at least giving another one of his spiels about why he doesn't deserve that kind of attention and especially not some sort of work opportunity courtesy of Haley's grandmother. Along those lines, I found it curious that, after the brief discovery of the Lost Hotel, she didn't reflect more on her exchanges with Markus since she came away deeming the kids she found there future criminals and finding their presence unsettling. Markus is a convict, after all. I guess that's just Haley's mind at work.
Heh, guess we'll see what he says! You've got his character pretty down pat. And as for her not reflecting more, she was trying to avoid that too, to not re-visit the anxiety it gave her (which she blatantly talked about trying to discard so it didn't consume her). That, and yeah, her mind is a scattered one. :V

I will spare the rambling about memories and synaptic pruning b/c I'm still fighting off a sinus infection and I've rambled enough already. Instead, I'll end with this...

Aka my thoughts when it comes to trying to interact with anyone on the internet. ^^;
I hope you feel better now! And lol, you and me both. Thanks for the comments, your ramblings always give me good insight into how I'm portraying my characters and if my scenes hit the goals I wanted them to or not. <3
 
Kawaii desu ne
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Hey, I finished reading all the letters just now. And they are brilliant! I really liked Haley. And specializing in flying-type Pokemon feels unique, I haven't seen that in fics much. And Markus is a great character too. He is very well-developed and his backstory is really interesting.

And the way you describe everything is totally awesome. I loved the way Anistar city and it's culture and history was explained in the earlier letters, the description was brilliant over there.

And I also like the friendship between the main characters. Markus giving Haley wise advice, and Haley trying to encourage him and bringing some optimism in his life was nice to read.

Overall this story is really good. I had read stories that involve interactions through letters in the past, but they were all crack fics. This is the first time I read something serious in this format and it's brilliant. :)
 
shame personified
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Hey, I finished reading all the letters just now. And they are brilliant! I really liked Haley. And specializing in flying-type Pokemon feels unique, I haven't seen that in fics much. And Markus is a great character too. He is very well-developed and his backstory is really interesting.

And the way you describe everything is totally awesome. I loved the way Anistar city and it's culture and history was explained in the earlier letters, the description was brilliant over there.

And I also like the friendship between the main characters. Markus giving Haley wise advice, and Haley trying to encourage him and bringing some optimism in his life was nice to read.

Overall this story is really good. I had read stories that involve interactions through letters in the past, but they were all crack fics. This is the first time I read something serious in this format and it's brilliant. :)
Oh, yay! I'm glad you like it! <3 Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I'm especially happy to hear the description is good and the character interactions; that's where most of the work goes into in this fic, after all!
 
ready as i'll ever be
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hey mom i'm really late and this is just chapter one but ilu

letters one and two

I'll explain why I'm writing to you later. I need to get your attention as soon as possible.
aha! Idk why this makes me giggle so hard, but I love that it's a meta prologue writing trying to get our attention by explaining things later that also technically works because it's a first person narration about someone trying to get someone else's attention by explaining things later

By the end of my journey I'll be that person who's heard all kinds of stories...
I dunno if this is new to the story since I last read it years ago but this is a really, really cool character motivation and it fits with what I envision of Haley so far really well

I don't leave room for questions or daydreaming, but I have been known to stray far from any given topic. If anything, I will be an enigma of sorts, a puzzle you'll have to figure out since I can't quite do it myself. Are you still interested in talking to me?
This line was really cool to me. It cements Mark Markus's character firmly, and also puts him firmly at odds with all the daydreaming that Haley was doing in her previous letter, in addition to the conflict between Haley's sheltered and coddled life vs Markus's (presumably) not. I wasn't sure how you were planning on pulling off a plot in an epistolary format with this premise, but hey, here is the early conflict and it's over something basic and natural. I'm a fan.

Mark's writing is... distinctly unsettling to me. I can't really pin down why; there's something about the formality of how you've written his words and how he's totally cool unloading this cynical view of culture on this girl that he's literally just started writing to and how he's openly bragging about how he speaks in puzzles and half-truths. Part of it is the quiet, unspoken confidence here -- he's just willing to start lecturing ham about cultures all of the sudden, which I found particularly ironic since he pretty much got shafted by human culture to end up where he is. Irony is sad! It also reads like honest, genuine writing from someone stuck in prison (or ok let's be real I have no experience in how that would go, so it's how i think it should sound), which sort of just makes it even more uncomfortable to read, in a good way.

Each culture bounces ideas off of another, and then the cultures alter themselves according to what they've learned. I will not give specific examples. I will leave it to you to experience the many cultures here in the Kalos region.
actually nope I figured it out; the real reason I get uncomfortable reading Markus is because he sounds just like those textbooks that say that it's obvious to see that A becomes B or the final proof is left to an exercise to the reader after lecturing for pages and pages.

And yet all of this in a good way, if that makes any sense at all? He's enjoyable to read because of, not in spite of, how wary I am of him -- sort of like reading Lolita but minus all of the terrifying pedophilia undertones

Haley's voice is more your standard fare, but I think it really works here. She's naive and optimistic, but there are some genuinely beautiful phrasings that she starts pulling out when she describes Anistair. Her voice is definitely distinct from Markus's, which is pretty key for this fic, but I think you're pulling it off in spades.

Dunno. Character-based writing is where you shine, so honestly it makes perfect sense that you'd try something crazy like this. Undoubtedly you've got big crazy plans for the next few chapters; I'll be popping back in soon!
 
shame personified
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hey mom i'm really late and this is just chapter one but ilu
it's ok bb i hope u come back for more someday

aha! Idk why this makes me giggle so hard, but I love that it's a meta prologue writing trying to get our attention by explaining things later that also technically works because it's a first person narration about someone trying to get someone else's attention by explaining things later
honestly sometimes writing this does feel like i'm writing a meta fic and it feels weird

I dunno if this is new to the story since I last read it years ago but this is a really, really cool character motivation and it fits with what I envision of Haley so far really well
It's from the original, but all my reviewers so far seem to agree her voice is a lot stronger in this version.

This line was really cool to me. It cements Mark Markus's character firmly, and also puts him firmly at odds with all the daydreaming that Haley was doing in her previous letter, in addition to the conflict between Haley's sheltered and coddled life vs Markus's (presumably) not. I wasn't sure how you were planning on pulling off a plot in an epistolary format with this premise, but hey, here is the early conflict and it's over something basic and natural. I'm a fan.
I'm glad it feels natural! With the kind of person Haley's writing to, it just seems inevitable that conflict would arise early.

Mark's writing is... distinctly unsettling to me. I can't really pin down why; there's something about the formality of how you've written his words and how he's totally cool unloading this cynical view of culture on this girl that he's literally just started writing to and how he's openly bragging about how he speaks in puzzles and half-truths. Part of it is the quiet, unspoken confidence here -- he's just willing to start lecturing ham about cultures all of the sudden, which I found particularly ironic since he pretty much got shafted by human culture to end up where he is. Irony is sad! It also reads like honest, genuine writing from someone stuck in prison (or ok let's be real I have no experience in how that would go, so it's how i think it should sound), which sort of just makes it even more uncomfortable to read, in a good way.

actually nope I figured it out; the real reason I get uncomfortable reading Markus is because he sounds just like those textbooks that say that it's obvious to see that A becomes B or the final proof is left to an exercise to the reader after lecturing for pages and pages.

And yet all of this in a good way, if that makes any sense at all? He's enjoyable to read because of, not in spite of, how wary I am of him -- sort of like reading Lolita but minus all of the terrifying pedophilia undertones
Interesting side effect of his writing style. There's always the sense that something's off about him, though, so it makes sense. O: And lol, I'll consider the Lolita comparison a compliment (indeed without the actual pedophile part existing).

Haley's voice is more your standard fare, but I think it really works here. She's naive and optimistic, but there are some genuinely beautiful phrasings that she starts pulling out when she describes Anistair. Her voice is definitely distinct from Markus's, which is pretty key for this fic, but I think you're pulling it off in spades.

Dunno. Character-based writing is where you shine, so honestly it makes perfect sense that you'd try something crazy like this. Undoubtedly you've got big crazy plans for the next few chapters; I'll be popping back in soon!
Yeah, Haley's voice comes a lot easier to me. Markus lets me be wordier than usual, I guess. :V Thanks for reviewing! I rather like this crazy story and its characters myself.
 
Don't Look Away
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Dear diamond


Merry Christmas. So ironically enough, I ended up being your secret Santa even though I’d already promised to read this story a long time ago. So hey, two birds with one stone.


So, I’d actually read the first nine chapters of this a while back but I wasn’t able to read the last few up till now. Back then I had a few grammatical notes to take notice of but...I’ve lost it. But I will point out that aside from sometimes having mixed up sentences I noticed something interesting.


So I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Pokémon names you use until Kenneth was introduced. There, you showed that Pokémon names were different depending on the region and particularly you used names like Yamirami for Sableye.


The weird thing to me is that if you’re going with Pokémon names being in the language of the country then isn’t it weird that Kalosians use the Pokémon English name instead of French? I mean you don’t have to, but it’s just a slight inconsistency I noticed.


So with that aside, I’ll be doing a chapter by chapter review with a focused centered more on the story, characters and themes I noticed.


The theme that mainly jumped at me is the idea of facades, regrets and secrets and how they shape our lives.


Letter 1 & Letter 2


So the theme of facades comes up as soon as the story starts. Haley and Markus are very quickly presented as two opposite ends. Haley is a young and naive girl whose wide eyed about the world and is so focused on the idea of leaving her home that she doesn’t realize just how complicated things are.


On the other end you have Markus. A jaded prisoner whose had to deal with a lot in life. The minute we get into Markus’ backstory it’s clear that his life has been fraught with grief and regrets. I particularly like how you mentioned his brother getting overcome by their mother’s “flame” as a metaphor for post partum depression without outright stating it.


Then there’s the subject of Markus’ life, which does have some parallels with Haley’s side as they were both kids trying to find a place to belong, tho Markus himself was a lot more forward.


But Markus’ story isn’t what you’d expect, he’s gone through a lot of shit, some of it just to survive, others just to feel something other than guilt and grief over what happened to his starters.


I’d like to get a bit more into how you subvert the typical trainer story (as you usually do) but I think that’s something better saved for later.


Letters 3 & 4


In letter 3 we get Haley’s full backstory and we also get to see more of her “dark” side so to speak. Her parents and her whole family (or I guess Anistar itself) has a facade of trying to be a normal family and a memorable city but it all has a darker tinge tonit. Haley’s parents are a couple who rushed into their relationship and are unwilling to admit that they have to go their separate ways (partly for their religion), Anistar presents itself as a city with great culture but it’s falling apart in parts and (at least to Haley) is smothering.


Of course, Haleybherself isn’t safe from this. She acts like she’s more innocent than she is yet at the same time lives with the desire to go out there and be a daredevil, but not for herself but to prove her family wrong. Haley wants to challenge the facade she’s been made to follow so she’s prone to doing things that could end badly all in an attempt to feel like she’s in control of her life. Which is what eventually leads to her doing her journey.


Markus on the other hand...yeah he’s got a lot of shit to work through but at least he’s there to give Haley some guidance. It’s clear there are a lot of things he’s hiding, but he does care about her to the point of wanting to help her and give her advice.


I do have to admit, the way you describe his starter’s death is both gruesom and unsettling, which gets across Markus’ own feelings at the time. Here you start off by showing how it’s harder to take care of a Pokémon, you can’t just leave them in their pokeball because that’ll influence the level of trust they’ll develop towards their trainer and could also potentially kill them.


This letter is also when you start questioning some of the cliches of Pokémon. I do think you might take them to a bit of an extreme, especially since I think there comes a point where gritty realism can be too much. But either way you raise good questions such as what truly is inside of a pokeball or how much a Pokémon can truly care for their Trainer (something that comes back in later letters).


Letters 5 & 6


Well here we get to meet Kai, Haley’s eternal conundrum. Admittedly the way Haley catches him went a lot better than I expected and I particularly liked your description on how Haley went about using her surroundings to help in catching Kai.


Kai himself is an interesting contrast to Seyb’s and Ribbon’s because while Seybs has been with Haley since she was younger and Ribbons is an experienced Pokémon, Kai gives Haleyba different perspective, something that comes up later when Markus points out how getting a wild Pokémon to bond with you is a different beast to using especially raised Pokémon.


Of course we also get the Olympia battle in this chapter which...kind of drags a little. Thebstart and end of it works pretty well but the description starts dragging during the middle part of the battle. I’ll admit that Haley did do better than I expected, tho I guess Olympia herself was going easy on her.


Markus’ side this time was actually pretty interesting to me. It’s ironic how you continue the theme of interlacing his and Haley’s stories by having Markus give more detail in his relationship with Enmity in the same chapter that Haley obtains Kai.


Markus and Enmity’s story was saddening, if only because you get n idea of what could’ve been if Markus had just turned his life around. But it’s hard to really escape your demons, especially when you’ve grown to a point where you’re trying to hide yourself and escape from the past as much as possible, this Markus constantly falls back on old habits, which is what eventually rips him and Enmity apart.


The other thing I liked is how Markus goes into detail about prison life and some of the other people in there. These helps give the prison more weight and fleshes it and the people in there more, which in turn gives us a bigger view of who Markus is by taking the way he relates to his inmates. I’d say it makes Markus more interesting by contrasting his closed off demeanor with the others who are trying to forget about their situation by adapting to it while Markus just accepts it and lives by stewing in his own feelings of regret.


At this point if’s also become more noticeable where the character’s styles lie. Haley’s letters are a lot more direct and focus more on describing events and Haley’s feelings, where as Markus are more pensive essays that mostly focus on describing things in detail but with a certain detachment, Markus is very attentive and pays attention to everything but he also doesn’t really get close to anyone, in fact he ends up using the things he describes as platforms for his ideas and musings.


Letters 7 & 8


These chapters go back to the theme of facades, especifically when concerning Pokémon and our perceptions of them, in this case psychic types.


Letter 7 stars off by continuing with the Olympia’s storyline, now by having Haley learn of the other side of psychic types and how they can be mischievous and also trick people’s mind, to the point that a powerful psychic type could even kill a human very easily. It paints a grim picture that understandably unsettled Haley, as she has her own psychic type.


This is later expanded on by Markus’ memory with the Claydol and Hypno and how they played tricks on him to the point of shattering his psyche. The Hypsnos’ vision in particular is an odd bit of irony but also showcases how Markus dreamed of defying everyone’s expectations on him, only to end up exactly how they expected.


It adds an added twinge of unease when it comes to psychic types and their potential.


Of course we also get two more interesting additions to the story in these letters. There’s the issue of Ribbons and Haley pushing him harder than she should, which I’m sure could have consequences later, as well as uncertainty in what kind of Pokémon he’ll grow to be.


Letter 7 also introduces Kenneth, who’ll be a recurring character from this point onward. Though much like Markus, I also didn’t exactly like him when he was first introduced, he certainly seemed more dangerous than he actually was, but it all ties into the whole facades thing I pointed out earlier.


Letters 9 & 10


Markus’ world certainly does a number of Haley and in general letter 9 isn’t a good experience for her. For one it’s the first time Haley goes through a trial that makes her realize things aren’t as easy as they seem. Her relationship with Kenneth is also interesting in that thenteo are basically cohabitating because neither of them truly wants to be alone but they have such clashing personalities that it’s pretty funny for Haley to show a more irritable side of herself.


Letter 9 in general is an interesting combination of many things. Not only is this the chapter where the aformentioned Pokemon names happens but in general you give a lot of interesting world building details when it comes to both the town, the region itself and even how Pokemon are raised and how different personalities can affect their bonds. Plus you also give more information of Kenneth that makes him come off as a more nuanced character with his own share of secrets and insecurities that he’s trying to hide.


The subject of Ribbons is also interesting as it clearly makes Haley reevaluate her Pokémon and her relationship with them, thus shedding some of that wide eyed idealism she had and giving way to a less confident and uncertain aspect that she usually tries to hide.


It’s also interesting how Haley tells him about Markus, which I originally thought was going to end up worse than it did. Kenneth does have a point in that Markus, much like himself, is hiding a lot of stuff from it and it is understandable for him to worry about Markus taking advantage of her. Granted, Kenneth literary just met her and shouldn’t really jump into her choices, especially since she’s in more immediate danger with him than with Markus.


Markus himself takes the news surprisingly well, though he’s still keen to point out Kenneth’s own hipócrisy here. However I think the most interesting thing about letter 10 is the explanation on how the league domesticated Pokémon.


This revelation is a real doozy because, again, it goes against pretty much everything Pokemon usually stands for.


Granted it all stems from your desire to give a more realistic explanation of why Pokémon would stick with humans even though they stuff them in balls and force them to fight each other, yet they only grow more loyal. It shows a more twisted side to the league and the act of training in general. It also makes you second guess everything about Haley’s own situation regarding her Pokémon and her grandmother who’s a breeder.


Again, while I think it falls a little too far on the gritty realism aspect, it does out the very concept of the Pokémon League under a microscope and how much of a blood sport it truly is.


Granted the Letter also presents us with a true look at the cracks in Markus’ facades. He spouts poética about different subjects all for the sake of hiding his own insecurities and avoid confronting his demons. But he also genuinely opens up with Haley and while he says that he isn’t interested in developing a new sense of self esteem he certainly is letting her more as their conversations progress.


Letters 11 & 12


Out of all of the letters I think 11 are 12 are the ones where Haley and Markus really break down a lot of their walls. In 11 Haley has become more pensive, no longer able to keep up her bubbly and gentle nature now that she’s properly had time to travel. Markus’ words about the league certainly don’t help and it’s clear that they’ve made her reconsidered everything about her Pokemon and her life.


It certainly recontextualizes everything we’ve heard about Seybs and it does get her to wonder whether or not she truly has a connection with her Pokemon. Your stories usually explore how Pokemon have their own personalities and lives that are as rich and complex as humans, so for her to just go around on a journey and expecting them to follow along feels a lot more selfish now.


That selfishness comes through in regards to her reaction towards Seybs’ possible issue. On the one hand I get why Haley doesn’t want to return to Anistar. But on the other hand, for someone claiming to have such a deep bond with her Pokemon, she doesn’t think twice about having to ditch Seybs there if it means not having to go back to her family.


You sprinkle in a few more world building details here and there like how companies sponsor trainers just by wearing their products, which does tie more into how corporate the matters with the league are. Though it is kind of strange how they’d settle for any old trainer doing it as opposed to someone who might actually become big.


I think it’s also fitting to point out Haley’s and Markus’ relationship here a little more. While Markus hides a lot of things still, he does seem to be the more attached one of the two, it’s clear that talking to Haley is helping him in some level and that in general he likes having someone to talk to. Conversely, it isn’t til letter 11 that it feels like Haley’s truly started to understand Markus. A lot of the time before this it’s felt like she had some sort of romanticized ideal of what their relationship will be like, which also led to her not truly understanding much of what Markus was saying, with what little she did understand getting bogged down by her habit of adding herself into things even if the situations she goes through aren’t the same as the things Markus has gone through.


But here Haley starts showing more self-awareness and it’s the first time she takes so long to write a letter, where as previous chapters seemed like her writing things out all at once. Here it seems like she took her time more, and her words, while still grounded in her young, inexperienced mindset, feel like they have been thought out a lot more.


Markus for his part also opens up more and you can kind of see him a bit flustered here, it’s starting to get to him just how attached he’s gotten to Haley and how easily he could loser her if he does or says the wrong thing.


His musings about his cellmate are also pretty interesting and they reveal more of Markus’ pensive side as well as his own guilt and regret over his actions. Not only does he feels that he deserves to be there, he’s fully taken into the idea that he’s an evil person.


I also am interested on the details regarding Fairy types and how they’re using them to help prisoners in rehab. It makes sense but I also can’t shake off the uneasiness of the fact that they’re basically using Pokemon to push back people’s issues. Granted, animals can be used in that way in the real world, but it’s not really solving the problem, even if it’s a nice sentiment.


Letters 13 & 14


Well, it’s the last two letters but they’re both about Haley so I’ll be brief. One thing I noticed in the last few letters is how Haley’s are usually relatively short and to the point, whereas Markus’ tend to deviate to different topics and turn into essays. It’s a nice little detail I noticed that ties into their mindsets.


However, much like how I pointed out for letter 11. Here Haley is starting to show more of Markus’ traits. While her letters still mainly focus on the events around her, she’s taken on more of his pensive style and tendency to go into her own thoughts, particularly in letter 14 when she thinks of just how little she understands about the world and how she doesn’t really have a clear cut goal for herself. It’s clear that Haley is starting to think differently of herself and the course she’s taking in life, though I do hoe it doesn’t lead her down a bad path.


Over all, Flying in the Dark is a story that’s overflowing with style. Using a letter format to showcase your protagonists does come with some flaws in that the supporting characters don’t really get to be as fleshed out. Conversely however, it gives us a direct link to Haley’s and Markus’ heads and allows us to really get to know them and learn more from them as they learn from each other. Plus the idea of two people learning to understand and open up with each other is a tried and true one.


I’ve gone on a long about the whole thing with facades and regrets, but I think the story’s main goal with that is that we all have hidden sides. We all have faces that we show to others, and while these faces allow us to live our lives they also keep us from truly understanding each other and might even cause us to be misunderstood. For example, Haley’s so dead set on her own vision of Anistar and the people in there that she has trouble realizing how much more privileged she is than Markus, sure she has her own troubles and she does say she understand it, but I don’t think she fully does either.


It’s true Markus that Haley slowly starts realizing how people hide themselves and the things that lie beyond the surface, which is fitting considering that Markus himself used to both have a Zorua and is famous for distancing and manipulating others view of him. Which in turn is also very ironic considering that Markus is easily the most emotionally honest of the characters. Sure, he drip feeds his feelings and thoughts, but when he does they come from a place of experience and someone who’s spent enough time in his head to understand just how he’s affected by the world.


I also think that Flying in the Dark is your more ambitious story. While LaON is a more straight forward journey fic with a focus on psychology and rehabilitation and SP/PP are stories about individuals coming together and learning to help each other out, this one has both of those themes while also adding up all the others I’ve talked about and also taking time to world build and ask a lot of really interesting and philosophical questions about concepts that we’ve taken for granted in regards to the Pokemon World.


So, to cut an overly long review short. I’m sorry that it took me so long to read this, but I really liked i and I really like the way you write this story. I can see why it takes a while to get chapters out, I’d imagine you spend a lot of time just thinking about what’ll go into each chapter and truly conveying it all and I think that’s what makes you one of the best writers here (no offense to anyone else of course).


So with all that said, Merry Xmas and here’s hoping for the next letter.


Gratefully,

Flaze
 
The acest of trainers
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Submitting my half of the word wars prize! I promised to do 7 and 8, but since I have promised to review for ages, I chucked 9 and 10 in there.

To start with, the things you do well with this story are evident in these chapters. Namely, Haley and Markus continue to be excellent characters with two distinct voices that they never waver from and never cross on. I applaud you for crafting two such diverse characters and making both so compelling and intriguing. I was pleased to see more progress in Haley's story and that we are seeing more of the region through her, and I liked how Markus was able to balance that by adding in stories from his life relevant to where she was going.

Your prose and descriptions are as swell as ever and the story remains a pleasure to read, even though the last two chapters did rather balloon in length (but hey, I can hardly talk!)

I was left with several concerns though. The biggest, to me, is Haley's transcription of every conversation. I know this is a common trope of letter/diary writing, but I have always been bothered by the direct narration of things that have happened hours or days prior to the time of writing. I think she noted at one point she had recorded things, but it still strikes me as odd that Haley would quote Kenneth on everything all the time. His story about his Numel was very moving and a nice character revelation, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief over the fact it was in a letter.

Another issue that struck me was the use of the letters to add world-building and commentary. Not uncommon I suppose for a letter, but the talk about the 3,000 year old war and medicine transportation, and then Markus' rant about the league in L10, threw me from the story. Reading L10, that all struck me as new information, but when I reached the part about the Haunter and the shopkeeper, I realised I have actually read this chapter before. The first half of the letter just didn't sink in at all. Some of these world building elements I don't think are entirely necessary when the story is otherwise very character focused, and I personally would prefer to see the story remain on what's happening to and between Markus and Haley. His story about the fairy types and the rehabilitation was a nice element that showcased more of his life behind bars and helped balance out the huge progress in Haley's journey; more of that would be preferable than just non-relevant ramblings about various parts of the world.

These letters introduced us to Kenneth. I should amend my earlier praise, as you have added a third character who stands out as his own personality and does not overshadow or infringe on the story. It's nice to have someone for Haley to work with, but I don't quite buy how integral he has become to both characters so immediately. Markus was writing about his concerns from the get-go, which fits with his nature, but then in L9 and 10 both he and Haley are talking about how important Kenneth has become almost immediately. I feel like there may be a scene or something missing, but I also feel like it might have been a storyline better suited for further down the track. It just feels that his importance in the storyline and their relationship has been a bit forced in.

Ultimately, its still a really enjoyable story.Your prose remains your greatest asset, and your flow between the two characters ensures that the crux of the story - two people sharing their feelings and life experiences through letters - works. I just think that some of the elements around those character details, the world building elements and this new conflict with Kenneth, either needs some cutting down or some more depth. I am sure there are answers or contradictions to this criticism in the rest of the story, and I will aim to keep reading a lot sooner than the distance between this and my last review!
 
shame personified
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Dear diamond
Heh, putting your Secret Santa review in the form of a letter is pretty cute, especially for this story, I gotta say.

So I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Pokémon names you use until Kenneth was introduced. There, you showed that Pokémon names were different depending on the region and particularly you used names like Yamirami for Sableye.


The weird thing to me is that if you’re going with Pokémon names being in the language of the country then isn’t it weird that Kalosians use the Pokémon English name instead of French? I mean you don’t have to, but it’s just a slight inconsistency I noticed.
I'm certain I had some reason for choosing Japanese names over French ones, but yeah, it really doesn't make sense, does it? Lmao. Since Kenneth's Pokémon aren't all that important to the story, changing their names probably won't be a big jarring deal. Thanks for reminding me!

So the theme of facades comes up as soon as the story starts. Haley and Markus are very quickly presented as two opposite ends. Haley is a young and naive girl whose wide eyed about the world and is so focused on the idea of leaving her home that she doesn’t realize just how complicated things are.


On the other end you have Markus. A jaded prisoner whose had to deal with a lot in life. The minute we get into Markus’ backstory it’s clear that his life has been fraught with grief and regrets. I particularly like how you mentioned his brother getting overcome by their mother’s “flame” as a metaphor for post partum depression without outright stating it.


Then there’s the subject of Markus’ life, which does have some parallels with Haley’s side as they were both kids trying to find a place to belong, tho Markus himself was a lot more forward.


But Markus’ story isn’t what you’d expect, he’s gone through a lot of shit, some of it just to survive, others just to feel something other than guilt and grief over what happened to his starters.
I'm glad the opening worked! The original had Haley's voice kinda more similar to Markus's, and it felt really off, so them being extremely different from the get go is something I wanted to remedy this time around.

In letter 3 we get Haley’s full backstory and we also get to see more of her “dark” side so to speak. Her parents and her whole family (or I guess Anistar itself) has a facade of trying to be a normal family and a memorable city but it all has a darker tinge tonit. Haley’s parents are a couple who rushed into their relationship and are unwilling to admit that they have to go their separate ways (partly for their religion), Anistar presents itself as a city with great culture but it’s falling apart in parts and (at least to Haley) is smothering.


Of course, Haleybherself isn’t safe from this. She acts like she’s more innocent than she is yet at the same time lives with the desire to go out there and be a daredevil, but not for herself but to prove her family wrong. Haley wants to challenge the facade she’s been made to follow so she’s prone to doing things that could end badly all in an attempt to feel like she’s in control of her life. Which is what eventually leads to her doing her journey.
Yeah, the "at least to Haley" part is pretty important. Is it accurate, how she presents things? Or Markus, for that matter? Or is it all based on perception, or some mix of things? That's one thing I love about the epistolary format - it's hard to tell.

Markus on the other hand...yeah he’s got a lot of shit to work through but at least he’s there to give Haley some guidance. It’s clear there are a lot of things he’s hiding, but he does care about her to the point of wanting to help her and give her advice.


I do have to admit, the way you describe his starter’s death is both gruesom and unsettling, which gets across Markus’ own feelings at the time. Here you start off by showing how it’s harder to take care of a Pokémon, you can’t just leave them in their pokeball because that’ll influence the level of trust they’ll develop towards their trainer and could also potentially kill them.


This letter is also when you start questioning some of the cliches of Pokémon. I do think you might take them to a bit of an extreme, especially since I think there comes a point where gritty realism can be too much. But either way you raise good questions such as what truly is inside of a pokeball or how much a Pokémon can truly care for their Trainer (something that comes back in later letters).
Things being taken to an extreme is pretty fair, especially when you contrast Markus's words to Haley's actual experiences. Then again, it's all about perception. If the same gruesome stuff happened to Haley, no doubt she'd react and relate her experiences differently than Markus, hehe. Still, I agree I could tone it down a little, especially this early in their correspondence, really.

Letters 5 & 6


Well here we get to meet Kai, Haley’s eternal conundrum. Admittedly the way Haley catches him went a lot better than I expected and I particularly liked your description on how Haley went about using her surroundings to help in catching Kai.


Kai himself is an interesting contrast to Seyb’s and Ribbon’s because while Seybs has been with Haley since she was younger and Ribbons is an experienced Pokémon, Kai gives Haleyba different perspective, something that comes up later when Markus points out how getting a wild Pokémon to bond with you is a different beast to using especially raised Pokémon.
Thanks! I like the capture scene as well. And it's nice to hear that Kai/Seybs/Ribbons are portrayed pretty well; it's certainly different writing them than it is my other Pokémon characters in PP and LaON.

Of course we also get the Olympia battle in this chapter which...kind of drags a little. Thebstart and end of it works pretty well but the description starts dragging during the middle part of the battle. I’ll admit that Haley did do better than I expected, tho I guess Olympia herself was going easy on her.
Noted, re: dragging on a little! Olympia was indeed going easy on her.

Markus’ side this time was actually pretty interesting to me. It’s ironic how you continue the theme of interlacing his and Haley’s stories by having Markus give more detail in his relationship with Enmity in the same chapter that Haley obtains Kai.


Markus and Enmity’s story was saddening, if only because you get n idea of what could’ve been if Markus had just turned his life around. But it’s hard to really escape your demons, especially when you’ve grown to a point where you’re trying to hide yourself and escape from the past as much as possible, this Markus constantly falls back on old habits, which is what eventually rips him and Enmity apart.
Yeah... It'd be one thing for Markus to ruin his own life, but his actions continually have affected others. That's one thing I've been trying to show here. Poor Enmity ahhhh ;~;

The other thing I liked is how Markus goes into detail about prison life and some of the other people in there. These helps give the prison more weight and fleshes it and the people in there more, which in turn gives us a bigger view of who Markus is by taking the way he relates to his inmates. I’d say it makes Markus more interesting by contrasting his closed off demeanor with the others who are trying to forget about their situation by adapting to it while Markus just accepts it and lives by stewing in his own feelings of regret.


At this point if’s also become more noticeable where the character’s styles lie. Haley’s letters are a lot more direct and focus more on describing events and Haley’s feelings, where as Markus are more pensive essays that mostly focus on describing things in detail but with a certain detachment, Markus is very attentive and pays attention to everything but he also doesn’t really get close to anyone, in fact he ends up using the things he describes as platforms for his ideas and musings.
These are pretty accurate and succinct descriptions of the characters, as usual! I always appreciate that in your reviews.

It adds an added twinge of unease when it comes to psychic types and their potential.


Of course we also get two more interesting additions to the story in these letters. There’s the issue of Ribbons and Haley pushing him harder than she should, which I’m sure could have consequences later, as well as uncertainty in what kind of Pokémon he’ll grow to be.
Indeed, Ribbons will be important as a psychic-type, heh. And Haley will learn a thing or two about properly caring for others in a way that helps them and not just herself.

Letter 7 also introduces Kenneth, who’ll be a recurring character from this point onward. Though much like Markus, I also didn’t exactly like him when he was first introduced, he certainly seemed more dangerous than he actually was, but it all ties into the whole facades thing I pointed out earlier.
It's easy to make negative judgments of people from the get go. For Markus, it's especially because he can't readily protect Haley if something goes wrong, since Haley is so naive and trusting.

Letters 9 & 10


Markus’ world certainly does a number of Haley and in general letter 9 isn’t a good experience for her. For one it’s the first time Haley goes through a trial that makes her realize things aren’t as easy as they seem. Her relationship with Kenneth is also interesting in that thenteo are basically cohabitating because neither of them truly wants to be alone but they have such clashing personalities that it’s pretty funny for Haley to show a more irritable side of herself.
Lol, I do enjoy writing their little squabbles. :V


Letter 9 in general is an interesting combination of many things. Not only is this the chapter where the aformentioned Pokemon names happens but in general you give a lot of interesting world building details when it comes to both the town, the region itself and even how Pokemon are raised and how different personalities can affect their bonds. Plus you also give more information of Kenneth that makes him come off as a more nuanced character with his own share of secrets and insecurities that he’s trying to hide.
I suppose this means I did well cutting down on the training scene, woo!

Markus himself takes the news surprisingly well, though he’s still keen to point out Kenneth’s own hipócrisy here. However I think the most interesting thing about letter 10 is the explanation on how the league domesticated Pokémon.


This revelation is a real doozy because, again, it goes against pretty much everything Pokemon usually stands for.
And since then, I've come up with new ideas about how the League could've domesticated Pokémon, ones less gruesome... Oops.

Granted it all stems from your desire to give a more realistic explanation of why Pokémon would stick with humans even though they stuff them in balls and force them to fight each other, yet they only grow more loyal. It shows a more twisted side to the league and the act of training in general. It also makes you second guess everything about Haley’s own situation regarding her Pokémon and her grandmother who’s a breeder.


Again, while I think it falls a little too far on the gritty realism aspect, it does out the very concept of the Pokémon League under a microscope and how much of a blood sport it truly is.
There's definitely good sides to the League still, but yeah, Markus is a bit more... pessimistic than most, and a complainer to boot. It doesn't matter how much Haley loves and trusts her grandmother; when someone else she loves and trusts paints such a dark picture around her grandmother, she's bound to question it.

Letters 11 & 12


Out of all of the letters I think 11 are 12 are the ones where Haley and Markus really break down a lot of their walls. In 11 Haley has become more pensive, no longer able to keep up her bubbly and gentle nature now that she’s properly had time to travel. Markus’ words about the league certainly don’t help and it’s clear that they’ve made her reconsidered everything about her Pokemon and her life.
Good, I'm glad the change is noticeable. They were kinda open from the start, but the story should have them continually opening up their wall barriers more and more.

It certainly recontextualizes everything we’ve heard about Seybs and it does get her to wonder whether or not she truly has a connection with her Pokemon. Your stories usually explore how Pokemon have their own personalities and lives that are as rich and complex as humans, so for her to just go around on a journey and expecting them to follow along feels a lot more selfish now.


That selfishness comes through in regards to her reaction towards Seybs’ possible issue. On the one hand I get why Haley doesn’t want to return to Anistar. But on the other hand, for someone claiming to have such a deep bond with her Pokemon, she doesn’t think twice about having to ditch Seybs there if it means not having to go back to her family.
Yeah, Haley's lacking just a tad in self-awareness. :V I plan to revisit Seybs's "issue" down the line, too.

You sprinkle in a few more world building details here and there like how companies sponsor trainers just by wearing their products, which does tie more into how corporate the matters with the league are. Though it is kind of strange how they’d settle for any old trainer doing it as opposed to someone who might actually become big.
My thought process here was that the amount of people who could become big is pretty low, so letting anyone advertise is less expensive and offers them more exposure.

I think it’s also fitting to point out Haley’s and Markus’ relationship here a little more. While Markus hides a lot of things still, he does seem to be the more attached one of the two, it’s clear that talking to Haley is helping him in some level and that in general he likes having someone to talk to. Conversely, it isn’t til letter 11 that it feels like Haley’s truly started to understand Markus. A lot of the time before this it’s felt like she had some sort of romanticized ideal of what their relationship will be like, which also led to her not truly understanding much of what Markus was saying, with what little she did understand getting bogged down by her habit of adding herself into things even if the situations she goes through aren’t the same as the things Markus has gone through.
"Romanticized ideal" sounds pretty nice. There's enough gruesome sadness in Markus's letters that she can't totally ignore reality, but she's been able to push it aside until recently.

Markus for his part also opens up more and you can kind of see him a bit flustered here, it’s starting to get to him just how attached he’s gotten to Haley and how easily he could loser her if he does or says the wrong thing.
Yeppp. ;~; This'll be really, really important soon, too. Cough.

His musings about his cellmate are also pretty interesting and they reveal more of Markus’ pensive side as well as his own guilt and regret over his actions. Not only does he feels that he deserves to be there, he’s fully taken into the idea that he’s an evil person.


I also am interested on the details regarding Fairy types and how they’re using them to help prisoners in rehab. It makes sense but I also can’t shake off the uneasiness of the fact that they’re basically using Pokemon to push back people’s issues. Granted, animals can be used in that way in the real world, but it’s not really solving the problem, even if it’s a nice sentiment.
The Markus letter I'm about to post today should satisfy your interests, then~

Letters 13 & 14


Well, it’s the last two letters but they’re both about Haley so I’ll be brief. One thing I noticed in the last few letters is how Haley’s are usually relatively short and to the point, whereas Markus’ tend to deviate to different topics and turn into essays. It’s a nice little detail I noticed that ties into their mindsets.
It's interesting because I thought the opposite of their letters, but I guess it's just because Markus says little with more words.

I also think that Flying in the Dark is your more ambitious story. While LaON is a more straight forward journey fic with a focus on psychology and rehabilitation and SP/PP are stories about individuals coming together and learning to help each other out, this one has both of those themes while also adding up all the others I’ve talked about and also taking time to world build and ask a lot of really interesting and philosophical questions about concepts that we’ve taken for granted in regards to the Pokemon World.
The epistolary format's certainly given me a lot to consider. Combine that with the slice-of-life factor and the story could've gone - and could go - pretty much anywhere. I'm glad you've enjoyed this little project of mine so far!

So, to cut an overly long review short. I’m sorry that it took me so long to read this, but I really liked i and I really like the way you write this story. I can see why it takes a while to get chapters out, I’d imagine you spend a lot of time just thinking about what’ll go into each chapter and truly conveying it all and I think that’s what makes you one of the best writers here (no offense to anyone else of course).


So with all that said, Merry Xmas and here’s hoping for the next letter.


Gratefully,

Flaze
The review was more than worth the wait! I'm hoping to cut down the time in between updates, for real, and hopefully that doesn't diminish the quality. The characters do mean a lot to me and I want to do them justice. Thanks again! And Merry Christmas, again. ;P

Submitting my half of the word wars prize! I promised to do 7 and 8, but since I have promised to review for ages, I chucked 9 and 10 in there.
Oh, sweet, thanks! I've finished reading for my part and will have a review for ya soon.

To start with, the things you do well with this story are evident in these chapters. Namely, Haley and Markus continue to be excellent characters with two distinct voices that they never waver from and never cross on. I applaud you for crafting two such diverse characters and making both so compelling and intriguing. I was pleased to see more progress in Haley's story and that we are seeing more of the region through her, and I liked how Markus was able to balance that by adding in stories from his life relevant to where she was going.

Your prose and descriptions are as swell as ever and the story remains a pleasure to read, even though the last two chapters did rather balloon in length (but hey, I can hardly talk!)
Glad to hear these things worked out and that you liked them! I do enjoy writing Haley and Markus's interactions, so! It's nice to hear when others enjoy them, too. Yeah, the ballooning length is kind of a worry in that that's not really realistic for letters. We'll have a couple more long ones intertwined with short ones, then the rest of the fic will basically be really short letters For Reasons (TM).

I was left with several concerns though. The biggest, to me, is Haley's transcription of every conversation. I know this is a common trope of letter/diary writing, but I have always been bothered by the direct narration of things that have happened hours or days prior to the time of writing. I think she noted at one point she had recorded things, but it still strikes me as odd that Haley would quote Kenneth on everything all the time. His story about his Numel was very moving and a nice character revelation, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief over the fact it was in a letter.
Hmm, I try not to transcribe every single one, but the actual transcribed ones do end up sticking out like a sore thumb even if I keep them short. Kenneth I tend to transcribe more than others because he's a recurring character. I'll keep this in mind, thanks!

Another issue that struck me was the use of the letters to add world-building and commentary. Not uncommon I suppose for a letter, but the talk about the 3,000 year old war and medicine transportation, and then Markus' rant about the league in L10, threw me from the story. Reading L10, that all struck me as new information, but when I reached the part about the Haunter and the shopkeeper, I realised I have actually read this chapter before. The first half of the letter just didn't sink in at all. Some of these world building elements I don't think are entirely necessary when the story is otherwise very character focused, and I personally would prefer to see the story remain on what's happening to and between Markus and Haley. His story about the fairy types and the rehabilitation was a nice element that showcased more of his life behind bars and helped balance out the huge progress in Haley's journey; more of that would be preferable than just non-relevant ramblings about various parts of the world.
Fair enough! I'll work on keeping them more relevant to whatever's happening to them. Some I've related simply for thematic reasons, and the whole "I want to learn/teach about the world" schtick each has going on, but I can see how it gets to the point of too much. Hopefully in letter 15, which I'm posting tonight, I avoided this issue better.

These letters introduced us to Kenneth. I should amend my earlier praise, as you have added a third character who stands out as his own personality and does not overshadow or infringe on the story. It's nice to have someone for Haley to work with, but I don't quite buy how integral he has become to both characters so immediately. Markus was writing about his concerns from the get-go, which fits with his nature, but then in L9 and 10 both he and Haley are talking about how important Kenneth has become almost immediately. I feel like there may be a scene or something missing, but I also feel like it might have been a storyline better suited for further down the track. It just feels that his importance in the storyline and their relationship has been a bit forced in.
Sweet, re: Kenneth adding to the story instead of hurting it. That was a real risk, I think, with the other risk being him fading into obscurity rather quickly because it's hard to implement him consistently, lol. Kenneth becoming close to them immediately feels in character for me, as Haley and Markus became close to each other almost immediately, too. I agree another couple scenes would've reinforced the idea and made it more believable, though. Don't know what scenes I'd put yet, but! Something to think about, and you gave me an idea as to where, so that's a good starting point, thanks!

Ultimately, its still a really enjoyable story.Your prose remains your greatest asset, and your flow between the two characters ensures that the crux of the story - two people sharing their feelings and life experiences through letters - works. I just think that some of the elements around those character details, the world building elements and this new conflict with Kenneth, either needs some cutting down or some more depth. I am sure there are answers or contradictions to this criticism in the rest of the story, and I will aim to keep reading a lot sooner than the distance between this and my last review!
Thanks for the comments! They were really helpful.[/quote]
 
letter 15
shame personified
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FLYING IN THE DARK
[letter fifteen]

*​

August 11

Forgive me, Haley, but before I venture into the crux of this letter… I’m curious as to your opinion on the sight I described? The sight regarding sunset outside of my cell window? I ask additionally that my request is not thought to be overwrought with hidden pleas. By no means does each minute detail need a response, but of this, might an exception be made? I am enduringly open to feedback, if you believe we can elevate our friendship somehow, or if I can attempt to expand upon the content of my letters as an act of gratitude for your showing me your world. Simply put, my first attempt at reporting my own present to you… Well, I’m not sure how I fared.

I do suppose that’s not all. Did you mention Enmity in the letter to your grandmother, by any chances? If so, what of his upbringing, if anything? The information I related to you was scarce, at best, what with the strain in my hands tightening as a result of summoning memories of him. It felt like even an insignificant fountain pen wanted to jump away from me. Perhaps, though, your grandmother could disclose some knowledge as to why he became mute. And why my efforts to extract just one articulated sound out of him failed staggeringly.

Right, one last thing. I apologize sincerely for being such a bother, Haley, but should I or should I not expect your lucky coin to arrive? It is not like to you to forgo explanations when our letters speak of calls to action. I am not entitled to an explanation, per se, and I’ve discussed myself the various reasons why keeping your coin would be an understandable choice—a smart one, even—but you are undeserving of mere assumptions made on your behalf.

There is the matter of me overthinking, of course. My ambivalent mindscape—which continues to shape itself into a new prison cell, one more akin to solitary confinement with the ghost of yourself as an unwanted cellmate—wishes to adopt your optimistic reasoning for its own. The consequences of your coin remaining unsent, or suspended within the grasp of the justice system, may mean that I am missing words from you, a postcard, a picture, something, any of which would admittedly send me into an unreasonable fit of guilt.

Logically, fairies won the coin toss whether or not I can gaze upon the victor side’s embossed clefairy, yes? And as we agreed together, I must persevere despite the multiple faces of adversity looking down on me. Therefore, I must hold up my end of the bargain. I consider this rational line of thought a first step. In reality it may be my second, or third, or fourth, but I fear I have been too preoccupied with self-pity to notice. I will not make such a destructive mistake again.

I concluded one reason as to why you might refrain from mentioning the coin again, and other aspects of your journey. Sometimes, words simply crumble under the weight of their speaker’s expectations. Translating cherished memories and images into words risks tearing straight through the initial spell they bore into you. Selfishness is entirely warranted in that case.

What I’m trying to get at also is the forthcoming narrative about your family life. For a man whose face you have not seen or voice you have not heard, it is a tall order to expect the more gritty details of what is a very private matter for most. Still, my ears are always open, or, more accurately, my eyes are always glued to your handwriting, your gushing verbiage and encompassing anger, shame, sadness, glee, any and all of it. The daily distractions of prison life hover around me as mere white noise. Here, you must choose what matters. And I chose a long time ago.

Now, for an interesting predicament of my own, I have a new cellmate of sorts—but not of the inmate kind, or even the human kind. Valerie, with the Brun Way Correctional Center’s blessing, assigned Rowe the granbull to as a… service pokémon, I guess is the appropriate title. It’s unclear to me how a mutt was approved for such a monumental task. He dons a mean face and two protruding, knifelike teeth, combined with what looks to be a tattooed collar on his neck but, I’m told, is a natural part of his skin. Even as a former breeder, the evolutionary purpose for this escapes me. Five seconds of guesswork led me to ponder this mock collar as an allusion to being a trained pokémon. I shook my head at the notion.

Valerie, who had made an appearance herself to introduce us, frowned with an intensity unbecoming of a fairytale devotee. She squeezed Rowe’s plain pokéball in her hand, her slim fingers streaking the metal. I stood up from my bunk. Rowe’s ears balked at the sound of the mattress grating, and as if the granbull reminded her of the protocol, Valerie then announced an imminent cell search.

“To ensure there’s no dangerous objects with which you can break Rowe’s pokéball,” she said, “or strike him physically.”

The guards check our cells daily. I could use my fists and my legs, conditioned to avoid atrophy through the daily drills required of all prisoners. Surely she knew this? From his corner, Bouncer sneered audibly, indicating that he had similar thoughts, perhaps with a bit more obscenity to them.

Only after the cell search did Valerie interview me personally, implying that her job description involves being suspicious of the same people she claims should trust her. A sour taste coagulated in my mouth as she requested intimate details of my past for her notes, what I hope to achieve in life once my sentence is over, and irrelevant questions which allowed her to observe my demeanor. She might as well have shown me Rorschach blobs drawn from octillery ink, what with how ambiguous and open ended her questions were. If she ascertained that I lied to her, or withheld information from her, she didn’t let on. Her jet black eyes pierced right through me, reminding me of the legendary Deoxys—Kenneth might welcome this analogy, by the by—especially when she shifted and the sleeves of her pixie getup wiggled as if she possessed more than two arms. I’m shivering now after having written that…

As a foreigner, I don’t suppose Kenneth is the type to consider old superstitions? I admit to not asking, despite the opportunity to do so during our interview, but Valerie strikes me as faithful to the modern view of fairy-type lore constructed by the Kaloseux. Either way, fairy-type lore overlaps and contradicts itself an incredible amount to the point where, like a religion, the basis for two people’s faith might never match exactly. Pit Kenneth and Valerie together, both of them experienced chiefly with culled words, and I daresay the ensuing debate would involve contradictions at every turnabout. Yet each contradictory fact would be supported, anecdotally or empirically or otherwise, leaving the debaters to start questioning a part of their worldview anew.

Indeed, I’ve been doing my homework—on fairy-types, I mean. Isn’t it puzzling, how the League hesitated to classify fairies in their own unique category type as long as they did? What’s worse is the lack of research available for the majority of fairy species, not for a lack of interested professors, but rather because of the League refusing to fund experiments and discouraging the academic field from taking initiatives on the issue themselves. Normal-types no longer designated as such reference the core ancestral belief that fairies are humans capable of shapeshifting. All evidence to the contrary floated in the ether, adamantly ignored by society’s pervasive zeitgeist.

For example, did multiple shapeshifting humans conspire to take on the appearance of a granbull to lead real humans to the false conclusion that they are justifiable as a species? Theorists swept this issue under the rug, blinded. As long as reality countered their personal philosophy, never mind the fact that not a single fairy-type species was discovered in isolation, only in groups.

There existed, too, the issue of the fairies’ role in death. The first fairy detected was a togepi, burrowed in the legendary Ho-Oh’s nest and close to hatching. Residents of Johto, and Ecruteak City in particular, built the nest for when Ho-Oh finished its journey in the skies and returned home. Because several thousand years had passed without a sighting of Ho-Oh, however, and because of Ho-Oh’s fabled ability to revive the dead, it is unsurprising that one Johtonian grew desperate in their faith. The togepi’s finder found it fruitful to try to eliminate the togepi before it hatched in the hopes that Ho-Oh would rush to its rescue. Then, as the legends claim, residents recently felled by an unknown disease—transmitted through migrating gligars’ ejected poison seeping into the city’s water source—could maybe live again.

Alas, the togepi’s finder could not prevent its birth—at least, not entirely. The togepi took its first breath halfway out of the egg and could not break free any further. Deemed an undead demon whose presence implied faithless trickery, the togepi earned more scorn with its cheerful demeanor and healing abilities. Johtonians refused to elevate its status to that of a pokémon. A man, his name lost to the ages and called Mr. Pokémon today, vouched for acknowledging the togepi species, at which point the fairy-type, overcome with love and affection, evolved to take flight in the skies alongside Ho-Oh.

Others who acknowledged the togepi, and new fairy-types identified afterward, pondered their connection with legendary pokémon. Whether they accepted the shapeshifting human or ability to defy death theory, only legendary pokémon could account for such phenomena. Scripture centered around Dialga and Celebi told of how they required the help of fairy-types to manage the flow of time so that their massive powers didn’t intersect. The gloomier view of fairies did not dissipate, however; folklore set in the Distortion World featured Giratina with fairy-type cronies.

Once fairies were cast from the legendaries’ godly world because fairy-type legendaries sufficed alone, their memories were erased. Thus, neither the existence of legendaries, nor their role in the wonders of the world could be confirmed by communicating with fairies. What cemented the fairy-type’s classification as pokémon was the collective belief of the Kaloseux that humanity would disgrace itself if it continued to show disdain for creatures that contributed to the world’s balance alongside the legendaries. After all, Xerneas and Yveltal had taught them that all things were united through their capacity to both live and die; what existed at any given moment, existed for a reason, and had to be subsequently endured.

According to more cynical skeptics, the legendaries smote fairies, rather than handed them off to paltry humans to be useful elsewhere. In that case, the legendaries might have praised us slighting the fairies further, thankful that we realized the importance of their divine decisions. A book published long ago—lost in the rubble of Geosenge after a forest of trevenant declared the town their home—proposed that Arceus locked away fairies in one of its plates in anticipation of them abusing their powers to revolt against humans out of anger. But humans did not have the power to tame pokémon just yet. They could do little but compile charms that would protect them against death.

You relayed Kaloseux war history to me early on in our letter exchange, Haley. I suppose it’s relevant here. Xerneas, with his fairy typing and legendary status, possessed the power to sway society’s groupthink in a positive direction. A widely accepted reason for its slumber in the aftermath involves its overuse of fairy-type energy to distribute it evenly among all of its children so that they could lead meaningful, contributory lives. Yveltal performed its duties as the god of death and gladly suffered the brunt of any true evilness rooted in the fairies’ hearts. Then the king’s floette perished in battle, and fury erupted throughout Kalos once more.

I… digress. The fairies’ curative abilities, whether innate or borne of Xerneas’s sacrifice or something else entirely, ushered in the situation I find myself in now. In the middle of one of Valerie’s educational lectures, I learned that fairies naturally speed up the evolution process for other pokémon. The scientific background surrounding this claim is unclear to me, but an image of Enmity flashed in my mind. He didn’t quite tower over me yet, but he was stronger, more cunning, and suddenly he showed off a toothy grin instead of his usual stony stare. Valerie nodded to me. An atypical surge of rage pushed up past my throat, congesting me with the irrational betrayal of her pretending to understand an intimate facet of my life.

When calmness rendered me logical once more, a theory occurred to me. Emotions like anger, should one ruminate and roll around in it, dirtying themselves with the pang of perpetual victimhood… Well, in layman’s terms, if such antagonism curbs a human’s growth, I fail to see why that couldn’t be the case for pokémon, too.

Now I struggle to see Rowe, and the other fairies parading around the ward, as more than just another trickster. That their full history remains unresolved, much like Enmity’s, emphasizes how if the world cannot have answers then neither can I. That the world turns its head away with outright indifference snatches from me any reassurance in the prospect of locating Enmity someday. The connection is hard to grasp, let alone bear.

And yet. I haven’t interacted with Rowe much. Isn’t it only fair to give him a chance, as I did with you?

Admittedly, I fear it will be a burden. Based off of the data in Valerie’s report, she plans to teach him specific attacks that will assist in shaping my rehabilitation. There’s a silver lining here, in that she does not lump all of us prisoners together, jeering at the insufficient use of the death penalty. She views us as unique people with remarkably different histories, desires and beliefs. Nevertheless, her scrutiny left me on edge. I envisioned you staring at me in earnest, listening to me the same way you always do—with tenderness, and without a hidden agenda.

The League’s designated attack names, as it turns out, are as misleading as I suspect Valerie is. Despite sponsoring a primarily youthful sport, attack names come across as threatening. What I have revealed to you about genetically modified berries and crafted elixirs, all of that came later, several millennia after we claimed pokémon as our captive partners. It astonishes me how well the League’s subtle precedent for prioritizing strength over companionship has withstood the test of time.

“Play rough” utilizes fairy-type energy, and context means everything. In battle, said energy condenses itself and is best wielded offensively. The lack of an arena causes the pokémon to turn defensive instinctively, primed by fighting more than interacting with its trainer in a lighthearted manner. But Valerie concluded—wrongly, mind—that I would acquiesce to engaging in brief sparring sessions with Rowe. Because I trained pokémon in the past, she reasoned, I inevitably immersed myself in hands on coaching. While the majority of trainers resort to such a tactic to gain perspective on the sport they’ve dedicated a good portion of their lives to, or to force their pokémon to control the intensity of their attacks, I did not.

Chespin, as you might remember, often challenged me of his own accord, to the point where I had no interest in initiating combat myself. Besides, common sense asserts that dislocated joints and bruises which inhibit my movement are impractical aspects of a journey… unless you prepare in anticipation of injuries for yourself alongside your pokémon. But most youth don’t.

This is not to mention the plethora of mental pain I obsessed over. To risk adding physical pain to the pile was unfathomable.

I didn’t correct Valerie’s assumption. I didn’t want to explain my aversion to even the most innocent of interactions with pokémon, or my accumulation of hapless experiences on the road. Other attacks—a new may be required here so as to not insinuate the rehabilitation program’s intentions—seem fitting and appropriate, if only in limited instances. What the League deems as a “headbutt” is, for Valerie’s purposes, meant for deep pressure therapy. A technique devised for inmates prone to anxiety, pressure applied to certain body parts relieves muscle tension and enough calmness for the inmate to hopefully formulate solutions to problems.

“Frustration” and “return” exist in the context of rehabilitation to build empathy and rapport. The former teaches Rowe body language to express if I relate to his negative feelings. Conversely, the latter teaches Rowe to mirror my positive feelings. It is hard not to chuckle when you imagine me as a granbull, isn’t it? If anything, I exhibit more foxlike mannerisms than doglike ones.

Alas, is this recount of attacks you’re already familiar with on some level boring you? I’ll wrap this up. “Outrage” and “payback”—attacks which a trained granbull is likely to know, Valerie explained with that alien voice of hers—will be untaught. It is best to reserve his memory capacity for other, rehabilitation-focused concepts, according to her.

Those, however, are powerhouse attacks, with no defensive components to them. Rowe’s attack known as “roar” is not so useful offensively, only defensively in the case of calling out for help if anyone is in danger. Similarly, all rehabilitation pokémon learn “protect” as another security blanket for emergencies. I’ll forgo another rant on the perceived risks of being in the presence of criminals, most of which are not violent or no longer have the means to engage in brash behavior. I’d considered, perhaps, that Rowe will accompany me post-rehabilitation, but that demands too far a look into the future I am not ready for.

If your lucky coin were in my possession after all, Haley, it occurs to me that Valerie could have mistaken it for a fairy warding charm. Of course, I would’ve hidden it the moment I retrieved it for safekeeping—thievery is commonplace here, not violence—but with my small cell, Valerie would have inevitably come across it… and confiscated it. Whistles now replace Brun Way’s dinner and role call bells for the sake of avoiding a fairy’s wrath. Part of role call itself, too, is embarrassing due to the same logic. Valerie instructed the guards to ensure no inmate’s clothes are inside out. I could go on. Bread and better—these staples are forbidden for their lurid association with fay superstition, so there goes my number one breakfast choice. All of this, Valerie pressed, needed to start the day a rehabilitation fairy step foot into the prison. And so it did.

Is this the power of a gym leader? What an inane question. It has to be, or her decree would not stand. Mix her status with the incessant mysteries surrounding pokémon, and no one wants to risk the repercussions of confrontation. Like as not, too, the warden is a close acquaintance of Valerie’s, or at least someone adequately studious so as to realize the benefits fairies can contribute to in this place. I do not see her regularly, and so, I am not the best judge of her character.

In general, I know I still am not giving the rehabilitation program’s vision a fair shake. My gripes concerning society’s willful blindness toward us is blatantly repudiated with the implementation of Valerie’s services, are they not? This fact is moot to me. Stigma runs rampant anyway, and the League is not a formal body of government which possesses the agency to sway a thoroughly rooted public opinion. The Kalos republic does have the influence, the authority, the power to create and carry out productive projects, while simultaneously sending a message to the region at large. Yet it chooses to turn a blind eye just as well.

Honestly, I am equally unimpressed with the lack of imagination with respect to Valerie’s tactics. In the midst of one particular visit, she gathered us inmates in the common area, where Eyeball insists on watching judo matches between gallade every Thursday evening. A sylveon trailed beside her, its ribbons coruscating in spite of the dim lighting. Instead of speaking, Valerie motioned for her sylveon to display what they likely rehearsed beforehand. So, the sylveon formed a clouded sphere of energy from its mouth, causing a fair amount of the inmates to assume a protective stance—as if they could fend off a pokémon with their bare hands.

The shadow ball, Valerie said, represented the darkness in all of us, the same darkness she hopes to overcome with us. On cue, the sylveon emitted its natural fairy-type energy, overbearing the previous attack with crackling flashes of dramatic light. If all goes well, that light will reside within us by the program’s conclusion, figuratively speaking.

When Valerie opened up the floor for questions, I wanted to inquire about move tutors, because she undoubtedly has connections with an army of League workers. So, how are they selected? How motivated are they to spend time on a prisoner’s future welfare? Have you, by chance, come across a middle-aged move tutor specialized in starter techniques, whose name and current whereabouts I don’t know but I know he did have quite the curly mustache?

For a moment, I imagined him here, that lofty voice of his spouting a grand vision of the future when in the shadows, he is free to distribute drugs to men as vulnerable as I was. And, for a moment, I imagined sliding backward, any semblance of progress I might’ve made so far receding to locate a more worthy vessel.

I promise I shook away the doubts, Haley. Not fast enough, but eventually, I reclaimed what is mine. And naturally, I’ll let you know how things play out when I meet Rowe. Our initial greeting indicates he will adjust to a new setting, then struggle to stave off boredom. Anxiety attacks are not an issue with me, and I make every effort to outwardly suppress my gloomy disposition. On the rare occasion my shoulders are slumped noticeably low, Bouncer and Eyeball glancing at me serves as nothing but an annoyance.

Even worse is when they call attention to my misery but decline to offer consolation beyond that. Now they know, now they’ve exposed me, and now they can hold my weakness hostage and use it against me later. A second option is to empathize, although in a prison, rife with inescapable suffering, it behooves us to deflect anyone else’s lest it crushes us.

Eyeball’s been sleeping less since Valerie first stepped foot in his cell. I don’t know his story still—his cell interview consisted of hushed, inaudible whispers—but something tells me he can’t live a moment without it haunting him. He groans throughout the night, scratching at the prison walls, then the floors and the bars when he gives up on the comfort his cot should offer him. His eyebrows, once alert and sharp and skeptical of the world, have lost their edge; half his time is spent with eyes closed, to bask in blissful blackness. His service pokémon, a jigglypuff, will sing lullabies to him and hopefully restore some peace to him.

If he weren’t my cellmate, Bouncer’s rehabilitation situation would have me laughing myself to tears. He’s in here for gang activity, if I’ve not mentioned it before. Trampling across Camphrier with full graffiti cans at their fingertips, they showed no respect for the town’s high rock walls or ancient, timber frame buildings. His gang attempted to recruit vulnerable, poor kids at every opportunity, even going so far as to show up at their schools to taunt and threaten them with bodily harm. Bouncer claims that a few members were exceedingly serious and followed kids into foreign regions once their pokémon journey began if they refused to join the gang.

Rowe would be perfect for Bouncer, what with that gruesome expression eternally plastered on his face. Alas, Valerie instead assigned him a swirlix, a fluffy cotton ball with its dopey tongue always sticking out. I hope for its sake that it masters Protect sooner rather than later, just in case, given Bouncer’s escalating impatience about this whole rehabilitation ordeal. A soft body like that could withstand a punch, no doubt. It’s just that to be dropped in the middle of an environment as miserable as this makes it easy to absorb more misery, as I said.

…But then, don’t I revel in society’s fear of us with this sort of logic?

No, the real question is, would you have written to me if I’d turned out to be a murderer? An abuser? …Anything or anyone I’ve said I am when it’s not the truth?

I’m sorry to end this letter right where it started, but it’s an honest question, Haley. If you didn’t know, but found out later down the road, around now, would you cease our correspondence? I… suppose it’s a tall order, asking you for an honest answer. But I’d take one, and I promise I’ll react in kind. That is to say, I won’t overreact, as I am so wont to do.

Let me know. No answer would suffice, too, or rather, no answer would say it all, and yet… please, let me know.

Sincerely, and desperately,
Mark
 
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Don't Look Away
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combined with what looks to be a tattooed collar on his neck but
It's honestly kind of funny how you got around the collar thing by making it part of its skin, though it does lead me to wonder what evolutionary purpose that would have. Markus comments that it's meant to signify how it's domesticated but there are Granbull in the wild after all. I think the anime gets around this just by having Granbull's neck be black instead of it being a collar.

The former teaches Rowe body language to express if I relate to him negative feelings
Shouldn't it be "If I relate to his negative feelings"?


It certainly seems like Markus is opening a lot more to Hailey now, in fact he seems kind of desperate in this latest letter. It makes sense though, he finally feels like he can open up to her and that he has someone that values him and worries about him. But it does worry me that Markus could end up becoming too dependant on Hailey and that could lead to her being put off.

The focus on this chapter, and the part that I found most interesting was on explaining the lore behind fairy types. It's kind of strange to see you writing chapters that essentially focus solely on giving out lore, but the format for your story fits pretty well with it. It also highlights who you've put more focus on your worldbuilding for this story, particularly small comments about how Gligar deposited their poison in rivers and how that caused people to develop sickness or how that wild herd of Trevenant ended up causing landslide sin Geosenge. Their aside comments but they help add extra depth to your world. Particularly the fact that you go out of your way to include Pokemon as a part of it.

That doesn't compare to how you explained fairy types here. I really liked your interpretation on why they weren't considered a separate Pokemon group and the fact that people from Kalos were the ones that pushed this change is also a neat nod to the games. Amusingly though, it seems like some interpretations of fairy types compare them to angels or demons, based on how some people see them as agents of the legendaries both good and bad. Granted, you still tie them back to their Welsh and Celtic roots by adding in the different superstitions and how fickle they can be if they aren't appeased.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Markus letter if you didn't try to shatter another concept about the league, particularly in how hypocritical they, and gym leaders, can be in their actions. Whether it'd be giving aggressive sounding names to moves that are supposed to be part of a clean sport or giving out Pokemon to prisoners who are meant to be rehabilitated while still treating them as if they're a danger to the Pokemon that are supposed to help them. The latter one specifically fits great with Valerie who's always come off as an unsettling character to meet.

And well, now I'm just waiting to see what Hailey has to say to Markus' requests.
 
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