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TEEN: PMD: Hard Mode (Summer 2020 One-Shot Contest Entry)

The Walrein

New Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2019
Messages
18
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23
Swearing, Violence, Death

Note: This fic previously had edits to fix formatting issues regarding the font and '***' separators that were made after the deadline. For the sake of fairness to everyone else who managed to get their fic in on time, I've reverted it to its original state of posting, with the exception of the content warnings, which were also edited in later.

PMD: Hard Mode

It was a typical Saturday afternoon. I was sitting in front of my computer in my bedroom, switching between the dozens of open tabs on my computer with the deftness of a maestro on the piano.

Click!
According to one of the few news sites I bothered reading, the car Elon Musk launched into space was falling out of orbit. Huh.

Click! I brought up a list of upcoming Fall 2020 anime and immediately switched to another tab in disgust. Why was garbage-tier harem isekai crap like ‘Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?’ getting a third season, while we were still waiting for the second season of actually good anime like Made in Abyss? (Okay, so technically ‘Is It Wrong etc.’ wasn’t isekai, but still…)

Click! None of the new PMD fics on Fanfiction.net looked any good – like that was a surprise. Eevee protagonist, Riolu protagonist, and, oh, an Oshawott protagonist for a change. How ‘creative’.

Click! Apparently Elon Musk’s car was expected to land somewhere in South Dakota. That might be the most exciting thing that’s happened here in years.

Click! Hey, Studio Shaft had a new anime out this season. Looked like it was going to be yet another teenagers-train-to-fight-monsters-at-magic-high-school show, though. Ugh.

Click! Just for fun, I opened up one of the Fanfic.net PMD stories, then immediately clicked away when the protagonist got hit by truck-chan. Great, the PMD writers were starting to copy the isekai writers now. Seriously, there are like ten million different ways to die, why does it always have to be a car crash? I mentally vowed that if I ever got killed and sent to another world, you can bet cars would have nothing to do with it.

Click! There was a warning that Musk’s car was going to land somewhere in Aberdeen. Hey, that was where I-

Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster slammed through the roof of my house and crushed me into the ground, killing me instantly.

***

When I regained consciousness, I found myself floating in a featureless white void. I seemingly had no body, but could still think and feel. Some strange intuition told me that that this was no dream or hallucination, but that this odd state of being was simply a new kind of reality.

Greetings, human. A rich voice suddenly inserted itself into my sensorium. Well, former human now, I suppose…

“Who are you? What’s going on? Why am I a ‘former’ human? And where the hell am I?” I thought back, having no other method of communication.

Respectively: Not important, you died, you died, not important. More important question: What species of Pokemon do you want to be?

What species of Pokemon? What the- hold the fuck up! Some of those questions were kind of important! Like, is this the afterlife, or am I in some sort of computer simulation? If the former, and I can exist without a physical brain, does that mean neuroscience is a giant crock of shit and dualism’s real?”

Ugh, fine. If you really want answers, no, you’re not in a simulation, you’re technically in sort of an afterlife right now but it’s nothing like any of the ones proposed in any of your human religions, dualism is real but neuroscience is still valid, it just so happens that by divine coincidence the state of your soul is perfectly mirrored by the physical state of your brain.

Really? That sounds both extremely unlikely and an incredibly kludgy and inelegant system of metaphysics if true.”

Look, I didn’t come up with this system, okay? I just have to work with it. But to get back on task, seriously, what kind of Pokemon do you want to get turned into? I’d give you the standard personality test, but we both know you’re the sort of person who’d just game it to get what they want anyways.

Wait, are we seriously doing the whole PMD thing here? Like, from the video games?”

Yes, seriously.

“How does that even work- like, did Game Freak or Chunsoft or Tajiri or whoever actually have some sort of magic portal to another realm that they based their games off of?”

No. By sheer coincidence they simply happened to make games almost perfectly portraying many details of a metaphysical reality they had no logical way of knowing about.

Is that sarcasm, or-”

It’s not sarcasm.

But that makes even less sense than the whole brain-soul thing! Are you sure this isn’t some weird post-singularity simulation crap?”
Yes, I’m sure. No, I have no real way of proving otherwise, but I think you’ll see after a quick cost-benefit calculation that you should be behaving as if everything happening to you is completely real anyways.

“Fine, whatever, on the approximately zero point zero zero zero one percent chance that my actions actually still matter, I’ll provisionally accept and behave as if everything’s real.”

Wonderful! Now, do you want to be a Riolu, an Eevee, a Pikachu, a Charmander, or one of the other starters?

“...hold up. What makes you think I want to be any of those options?”

Oh, so you want to be a Vulpix, then? Oops, I knew I’d forgotten something! Just let me know if you want to be regular or alolan forme, and we can be-

I don’t want to be a Vulpix, either.”

Really? Then what do you- ah! I suppose you must want to be something really creative, like a meowth or maybe even a skitty!

No! I don’t want to be any of the clichéd, overused species the games force you to be! If I’m going to actually do the whole PMD protagonist thing, I at least want to be something original, not something that’ll constantly remind me I’m living in some sort of nightmarish bad-fanfiction-based afterlife!”

Such as?

I don’t know… maybe Voltorb? Don’t think I’ve ever seen one of them as a protagonist before.”

A Voltorb? I could arrange that, but… are you really sure that’s a wise decision?

What, you think not having any limbs and blowing up at the slightest touch would be enough to stop me?” I mentally scoffed. “I can beat any of the PMD games in my sleep, even the ‘challenging’ 99-floor bonus dungeons! Hell, I can even beat actual roguelikes like Nethack and Tales of Maj’Eyal! Come on, bring it!”

I have a feeling you’re not taking this very seriously, but as you wish. Enjoy your new life as a Voltorb…

***
Everything changed, and I suddenly found myself staring up into a blue sky with white puffy clouds instead of a featureless void. I could feel myself bobbing up and down, and realized I must be floating on the ocean. My instinctual attempts to try to move my arms, legs, and head had no effect. All I could really do was move my eyes, which I mastered just in time to see myself getting pitched forward onto a sandy beach by the motion of the water. Waves gently splashed against me until I finally got enough control of my body to wiggle myself back and forth slightly, just enough that I could put myself in a position to survey the rest of the beach.

Standing thirty or so feet away from me was a creature clearly recognizable as a Totodile, wearing a blue handkerchief around their neck and carrying a large satchel. If this was anything like the games, I supposed they must’ve been my destined partner. I wasn’t thrilled about them being such a common species, but at least they’d help balance out my existing weaknesses in the ‘having hands’ department.

“Holy crap, is that a Voltorb? We’d better blow it up at a distance before it hurts anyone!” the Totodile said, pulling a rock out of their bag.

Hey, wait a minute-

“Good idea!” another voice said, and I noticed a Tyrogue standing further back from them, bending down to pick up a large hunk of driftwood. A moment later, I felt the Totodile’s pitched stone glance off my shell, producing a dull ache in my side. I tried to call out in pain, but nothing came out. Why couldn’t I- Oh, crap! Voltorb didn’t have mouths! The Tyrogue hurled the chunk of wood at me with surprising force, knocking me on my back.

I frantically twitched back and forth until I managed to rotate upright again, during which time I felt two more rocks bounce off me. Come on, Voltorb had a base speed stat of a hundred! If I could just figure out how to actually move, I’d have no trouble evading these pathetic attacks! But it was like trying to play one of those goofy Youtuber-bait games like QWOP or Surgeon Simulator where the whole point of the game was how difficult the basic controls were. I couldn’t manage to do more than slip and slide a few inches on the coarse sand, which didn’t seem to be the optimal sort of terrain for a Voltorb to travel on, anyways.

The stones and other projectiles were starting to seriously hurt, and I could feel an odd tension building up inside me, like my guts were rubber bands getting wound tighter and tighter. Fuck, was I going to actually explode? Had to think of something fast- if only there was some way to communicate with these idiots! I squinted as a hurled stick nearly poked my eye out, and- aha! That was it! My eyes! I could still control them as well as I could as a human! Wasn’t it some sort of science-fiction cliché that the protagonist would show off the Fibonacci sequence or something when needing to prove their intelligence to aliens?

I carefully blinked once, waited, blinked once more, waited, blinked twice in a row, then three times, then five, then eight, then thirteen. Crap, this was going to take too long! Maybe I should’ve gone with the first prime numbers instead? But then the Totodile ceased their barrage of missiles and squinted down at me in confusion. “Hey, is it just me or is that Voltorb blinking in some sort of pattern or something?” they asked.

“Hey, I think you’re right!” the Tyrogue said. “Maybe it’s somehow actually sapient!”

Yes, finally! Now I just had to-

“Intelligent Voltorb must be even more dangerous than regular ones! We have to kill it faster!” Totodile declared.

The Tyrogue nodded. “You’re right! Get out the iron barbs!”

NO! But there was nothing I could do. The duo renewed their attacks with a vengeance, this time throwing sharpened metal darts at me. Soon, the tension inside me grew to more than I could bear, and then my whole world was consumed in a flash of light.

***
Back so soon? My, you really are skilled to have saved the world so quickly! Did you have fun?

I was back in the featureless void again. “How was I supposed to know that Voltorb were considered kill-on-sight in this world?” I snapped.

Oh, so you didn’t save the world yet? That’s too bad. I did try to warn you, though…

Yeah, yeah. Do I get another chance?”

Of course! I assume you’ll be picking a more sensible species this time?

If by ‘sensible’ you mean cookie-cutter garbage like Eevee or Riolu, absolutely not! This time, I’m going to be a Koffing, and this time, you’re going to put me somewhere where I have a chance to learn the controls first before getting ganked by trigger-happy idiots!”

A Koffing, hmm? Very well, then...

***
I immediately found myself in the PMD world again, this time hovering several thousands of feet in the air. A stab of panic shot through me once I realized how high up I was, but it quickly receded once I realized I was in no danger of falling. Looking around, I noticed I was over a beautiful valley filled with groves of young trees and a sparkling, crystal-clear river running through it. On either side of the valley, majestic snow-capped mountains rose and receded into the distance. It was a breathtaking sight, literally, and I felt a cool rush of air go into my mouth – one of which I thankfully had, as a Koffing.

And then I immediately expelled it back out again, wheezing and coughing. My lungs – or at least, what felt like my lungs, but was probably my whole entire body – burned. What? Did I accidentally inhale some of my own smoke? Was that even a thing that could hurt a Koffing? If I was exhaling some sort of gas into the air, I couldn’t see it.

After spending a few moments loudly wheezing, I took another deep breath and immediately began to hack and cough again. What was going on? Was I being attacked somehow? I figured out how to move by expelling jets of air from different pores of my body, and rotated in all directions, but I was completely alone. A fresh fit of coughs assailed my body. My lungs slash entire inner body cavity was seriously starting to feel pain, now. Had I swallowed a bug – if regular bugs even existed in this world? I’d have thought I was much higher than where bugs would usually fly. Wait, maybe there just wasn’t enough oxygen at this height?

I descended as quickly as I could, but if anything, my coughing fits only seemed to grow worse. I was now hovering over the river. It was like something straight off a bottled-water label, ridiculously pure and sparkling. Damn, this burning- I tried to swallow a little of the river water to relieve it, but instantly spat it back out, wailing in agony. The water stung like acid! Was it actually a river of acid, or-

And then it hit me. The pure water, the fresh valley air – those things must be toxic to Koffing like me! I had to find some industrial smog to breathe, stat! But in every direction I looked, there was nothing but pristine, unspoiled wilderness as far as my eyes could see. Curse this idyllic pre-industrial paradise! Wait, ozone was toxic, right? Did this world have an ozone layer? Maybe if I flew high enough, I could breathe normally? I reversed course and shot upwards as quickly as I could, maybe ten feet a second or so. It felt agonizingly slow, and I could feel myself growing weaker and weaker after each fresh fit of wheezing. How high up was the ozone layer, anyways? At least more than five miles, I guessed, given that I’d never heard about the climbers on mount Everest having to deal with ozone poisoning. Fuck, I wasn’t going to get there in time.

I tried holding my breath, but as soon as I did that I stopped moving upwards. I guess I needed to inhale air to expel it out my pores again. After a few moments, I felt dizzy and short of breath. My vision began to dim. Apparently I still needed oxygen in this body. Great. I inhaled and immediately began to cough again.

There was one last hope – maybe, just maybe, one of those mountains would have volcanic activity and be belching out some sort of sulfuric gases that would allow me to breathe. I willed myself towards the nearest mountain, forcing air out of my pores as hard as I could. But it wasn’t enough. My vision continued to dim. Before I got anywhere close to the mountain, I felt myself slowly start to plummet from the air like a leaky helium balloon several days after a party. My body came to rest against the soft grass, sagging like a deflated kickball. Black clouds consumed my vision. Done in by fresh air… how humiliating…

***
I was back in the void once more. “Hey! You put me somewhere I’d have no chance of surviving!” I railed at the mysterious voice.

I did make sure to put you far away from any other Pokemon as you requested, though! And it’s not as if there are really that many places a Koffing could survive in that world… Now, are you going to choose a Pokemon that at least has limbs this time?

“As a matter of fact, yes,” I said. “This time, make me a Nosepass!”

A Nosepass, hmm? Very well. And I’ll make sure you start right outside Wigglytuff’s guild, so you’ll have nothing to complain about…
***
When vision returned to me, I found myself looking straight at a large building in the shape of a Wigglytuff, with the silly sentry grate in front of it for looking at visitor’s footprints. I was resting just to the side of the main path into the guild, only about twenty feet or so away from the main entrance. For a moment, I waited to see if I’d get pummeled into dust by random Pokemon or feel my life-force start to slip away from not being in a strong-enough magnetic field or some bullshit like that, but nothing happened. This was it! I was finally going to start my PMD adventure! All I had to do was walk through the entrance of that guild!

I tried to take a single step towards it. Nothing happened. ...what? Nosepass walked on two legs – very short and stumpy ones, but the process shouldn’t be that much different from walking as a human. I could even feel my legs underneath me with my proprioception. Exerting all my willpower, I tried again to take a step. Nothing!

It was then that I remembered a certain fact from Nosepass’s pokedex entries: They could only move three-eights of an inch every year! But, come on, that was ridiculous! It couldn’t be true here… could it? For the rest of the day, I attempted to move in every different way possible. Pokemon of all species walked in and out of the guild, ignorant of my plight. Soon, I discovered that each time I ordered my legs to move, they actually did shift forwards by an imperceptible amount. By the time the sun had set, I had managed to drag my legs a full inch forwards. Ha! Take that, pokedex! Now I just needed to do that about 239 more times…

The sun rose, set, and rose again. Day and night blurred together. Ever so gradually, I crept forwards, ever forwards. Never tiring, never growing bored. Fifteen feet. Dead leaves, red and orange, blew across the path. Ten feet. Snow fell on the ground, then melted away. Five feet. I was so close now! Just a few more steps, and I’d make it into the guild! I could already just barely hear the edges of conversations floating up from the entrance. Then, something odd happened. Chatot was flying towards the guild as usual Toxicroak keeping up behind him, but then he landed a few feet short, and turned towards me.

“This Nosepass is starting to get in the way of traffic into the guild. Toxicroak, please move it somewhere else.” Wait, what?

“Meh-heh-heh! Sure thing!” Toxicroak said, then set both his rubbery toad hands on me and lifted me into the air. Then, he began to carry me in the exact opposite direction from the guild. No! NO! Let go of me! I struggled futilely, kicking my legs out at speeds only I could perceive. It didn’t matter. After a few seconds, Toxicroak set me down in exactly the same spot I’d started out in. “Next time, be more careful where you’re walking, little guy!” he said, giving me a patronizing pat on the head. Errrrrrrrgh! If I only I could move, then-

The toad turned around and hurried into the guild after Chatot, totally ignorant of the utter disaster he’d caused. Well, fine then! I’d just have to redouble my efforts! Nothing could stop- hey, what’s that red thing in the corner of my vision? And why’s it getting larger so quick-

A tiny meteor fell from the sky and slammed into me, destroying me utterly.

***
Well now, have you gotten that all of out your system yet? The voice said. Ready to give up and become a normal Pokemon? I’ve got a nice, shiny, Riolu body lined up for you!

NEVER!” I roared. “This time, I’m going to be a-”

***
I was hovering above the canopy of a large forest, about twenty feet over the tallest tree. No, fifty feet over the tallest- a hundred feet- two hundred feet… How did I stop rising? I didn’t have this problem when I was a Koffing! The balloon string dangling beneath my drifloon body whipped from side to side as I tried one maneuver after another, but nothing was working. Five hundred feet, a thousand feet. Come on, this was ridiculous! There had to be something I could- Two thousand feet. Three thousand feet. A migrating Fearow flew close to me, and I reached out with my string only for it to pass straight through him. Stupid normal-type immunity! I continued to rise, and rise, and rise. Four thousand feet, five thousand feet, a mile, two miles…

Then, my ascent began to slow down. This ghost body was difficult to control, but something I was doing had to be working! I was still gaining altitude, but if I could slow myself just a little-

POP!
***

I crawled along the forest floor, antennae waving in the air, mandibles clicking. Being a Durant was great! All the thorns and brambles in my path could do nothing against my steel carapace, none of the other forest Pokemon dared to bother me, and none of the real bugs could do anything to me either. All I had to do was find a way out of here, and then I could get started on saving the world or whatever it was I was supposed to be doing in this realm.

Foliage rustled, and a column of my fellow Durant emerged from between two bushes. Hey, maybe one of them would know where to go! “Excuse me, but do any of you know-”

“Why are you just standing out here alone? Where’s the rest of your patrol?” the lead Durant cut in, mandibles snapping harshly.

“Uh, I’m not really part of a patrol. You see-”

“Deserter! She’s a deserter!” one of the Durant screeched.

“What? No, I’m not-”

“Kill the deserter!” the head Durant cried, and sprung forwards, ripping off one of my antenna with a single swift attack.

All the other members of the column rapidly moved to surround me. “Kill, kill!” they echoed, attacking from all sides with well-coordinated strikes.

“Stop! You’re making a huge mistake!” I called, but they all ignored me. Between my flailing ineptness at fighting in this form and their large numerical advantage, there was no hope for me. Within under a minute they completely demolished my body, and began dragging my mangled form away even as the last of my hemolymph bled out into the soil.

***
I materialized over Treasure Town beach in the form of a Shedinja. There were no clouds in the sky, and a strong breeze was-

And then I was suddenly back in the white void again. “Wha- what even got me that time? I was there for like one second!”

Er, you see… you know that any flying-type attack at all will knock out a Shedinja, right?

“Yes…”

And you know that ‘Gust’ is considered a flying-type attack, right?

Yes.”

Well, that breeze coming off the ocean
was pretty strong-

Oh, come on! Seriously!?”

***
I schlepped my liquid body away from the pool of lava at maximum speed. This time, I managed to make it a full thirty feet before having to turn back as my skin began to harden. Okay, so maybe being a Slugma wasn’t such a wise idea...

***
Treasure town beach again. I slowly toddled towards the ocean on my stubby Poliwag legs. I’d never been much of a swimmer as a human, but with my new body, it should be- aaarrrrgggh! It burned! The water burned! Why!? As I staggered back, I recalled that salt water was bad for amphibians. Really? Pokemon completely ignored normal science in a million different ways, but this was the one time where Arceus or Mew or whoever had decided to follow strict biological realism? A large wave crashed down on me, and the receding water pulled me out to sea, sealing my fate.

***
My dorsal vessel was throbbing, pumping hemolymph at breakneck speeds. I was doing it! I was actually doing it! I was about to complete my first mystery dungeon! I’d overcome the odds as a Caterpie, battling through room after room of mindlessly enraged grass-type Pokemon. Now there was only one Fomantis standing between me and the final stairs. I had run out of string shot entirely, and I couldn’t muster the energy to use another bug bite. But I had one last trick up my completely-metaphorical sleeve: I’d used some of my string to tie a wonder orb to my horn. I just needed to land one headbutt to shatter it against my foe, and pray that it was actually useful.

I weaved left and right as the Fomantis hurled deadly-sharp razor-leaves at me. Possessing only four legs on a body that really should have had many more, I wasn’t quick enough to dodge the attacks entirely, but it was enough so that the leaves struck my exoskeleton at an angle, glancing off. And my Fomantis foe was even worse in the mobility department. They tried to get out of my way at the last minute, but with their stubby legs it was futile. My head slammed into them with full force, breaking the wonder orb against their face. WHOOOOOM! It was a blowback orb! The Fomantis flew back and collided with the far wall of the dungeon, then crumpled to the ground.

Ha! My luck was finally turning around! I strolled triumphantly towards the stairs, then halted partway. Something was happening. There was some sort of strange energy welling up inside me, pressing against my exoskeleton in every direction. Crap – I must be evolving! I had to make it to the stairs before I was trapped here as a Metapod forever! I lunged stair-wards with new purpose, but each step was harder than the last, as the energy slowly broke down my muscles from within. Come on – just three more steps… two more steps… one more- NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Fully evolved now, I bounced back down the stairs as Metapod, now completely immobile. Out of the corner of my vision, I noticed the Fomantis I’d defeated slowly get up again, then stalk towards my helpless form with a vengeance…

***
Luckily, the only consequence of dying in a dungeon was that you got kicked back to the entrance! A helpful passerby dropped me off at the nearest guild, where I spent a few boring months waiting around before finally evolving into a Butterfree. I’d joined a team and we’d gone on several missions together already, and I was getting stronger and stronger with each one. We were only one mission away from achieving silver-rank, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I flew into our team’s headquarters, a crude but sturdy treehouse, carrying a bag of items from Kecleon’s market.

“I finally saved up enough to get that Swift TM! That should help a lot with hitting those double-teaming Volbeat in Mistwater Grove!” I declared.

Simipour and Gligar shared a look. “Ah… we were thinking that you might want to sit this one out,” Simipour said.

“What? Why? I’ve been looking forward to this all weekend!” I protested.

“Actually, what Simipour means is that we think you should retire. Like, now,” Gligar said, earning a glare from her friend.

I suddenly felt faint. “Retire? What are you talking about? I’m… I’ve been doing pretty well, right?”

“No, no, you’ve been doing great!” Simipour said. “It’s just that… well… don’t you think you’re getting a little old to be adventuring now?”

Old? I’ve been a Butterfree for all of thirty days!”

“Right, and you’re very healthy for a Butterfree of your age. But, you know, one’s health can change very suddenly when you’re getting on in years...”

“Or weeks, in your case,” Gligar added.

“Gligar! Be sensitive!”

My bag of items fell to the ground, completely forgotten. “Wait, wait, wait. Are you telling me I’m about to die of old age!?” I cried.

“Well-” Simipour started.

“Yes. That’s exactly what we’re telling you. Sorry pal, but Butterfree just don’t live that long. And we can’t afford to deal with you dropping dead of a whatever-weird-bug-organ-passes-for-a-heart attack in the middle of our most important mission to date.”

“N-no! You don’t understand!” I cried. “I’ve never told you this before, but I’m actually a human! I have a destiny! Surely I can’t just drop dead from being too old!” My hemolymph was pounding throughout my body, my wings trembling.

Gligar shook his head, then turned to Simipour. “He’s already going into the ‘senile delusions’ phase. I told you we should’ve tried to break this to him earlier.”

“I’m not delusional! I can prove it! I- EERRRRRKK!” I gasped, and collapsed to the floor. My vision went black. The last thing I could hear was Gligar and Simipour arguing about who would pay for the funeral.
***
Once more I found myself in the white void. Well, that sure looked fun! I’m sure you must’ve had enough time there to think of a whole bunch more unpopular Pokemon you want to try out being, so what’s next?

“You know what?” I said. “No. I’m done with this. I give up. You win. No more Pokemon without limbs or mayfly life spans or bizarre biological requirements or single hit points for me.”

Oh, so you’re finally going to be one of the normal protagonist species now? Well, it’s about time! I’ll go warm up this nice Cyndaquil body I’ve picked out for you-

“No, that’s not what I meant,” I growled. “What I mean is, this time, I’m finally going to be a Pokemon with usable hands. Then I’ll be unstoppable. Make me a Geodude.”

You think not having had hands was your problem? Fine, I’ll make you a Geodude, but don’t be surprised when you end up right back here…

Oh, I think you’re the one who’s going to be surprised this time! This time, I have a plan...”
***
It had become clear to me that no normal methods were going to suffice for my ultimate victory. This world was simply too cruel and hard for that. No, what I needed to do was cheat. I should’ve realized it all along. I had one special advantage over all the PMD game protagonists I could exploit: Unlike them, I had no amnesia, and thus could bring all my vast stores of human scientific knowledge to bear. I would become this world’s equivalent of Aristotle, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein all combined into a single person. After becoming the most respected scholar in the land, surely I’d have enough resources and prestige to get people to listen to me when I told them I was a human, and then I’d be able to assemble a team of the greatest explorers in the world to finally defeat… uh… whatever world-ending threat I was supposed to be stopping.

When I awoke, I first found myself in a cave in total darkness, but that was no obstacle for me. Exercising the incredible patience I’d learned as a Nosepass, I very cautiously felt out every square inch of the terrain around me, so as to avoid simply falling into an underground lake and drowning or some crap like that. Eventually, I found a way out of the cave, but rather than immediately leave, I waited and watched the patterns of weather and Pokemon movements outside for many days, until I was felt safe that I could venture out without suddenly getting caught in a sudden hurricaine or Tauros stampede or whatever.

After exploring the area around the cave for a while, I found a large road running through the area. I was then able to join a group of travelers on their way back to a major settlement. We were attacked by wild Pokemon two times, but I was able to apply the combat skills I learned as a Caterpie and then Butterfree adventurer to fight them off, having made sure to have fully practiced all my moves and abilities earlier. When we arrived in town, I took on a job as part of a stone-masonry crew, using my natural terrakinetic powers to summon rocks and work them into shape. It didn’t pay much, but I didn’t need much to live, either. During my time off, I took courses at a local library until I learned how to read and write the written language of this world.

Soon, I had everything I needed to revolutionize the world: A ream of paper, a large pot of ink, a few quill pens, and a quiet place to write in. I wasn’t entirely sure how closely the laws of physics here matched those of Earth, so I decided that my first great work would be on mathematics, the truths of which held for all realities. Research at the library had confirmed that the inhabitants of this world knew of nothing even remotely like calculus, so that would be where I started. I dipped quill into ink, then pressed it to paper, to write…

Uh…

How exactly did calculus work, again? Something to do with adding up rectangles drawn under a squiggly line? I stared at the blank page as I racked my brain for my long-suppressed high school math class memories. Come on, come on! I could remember the exact base stats for over hundreds of different Pokemon species, the descriptions of every single spell and feat in the D&D 3.5 Player’s Handbook, and the complete script of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Why not this?

For the next several hours, I scratched out equations and crudely drawn graphs, using up much of my (rather expensive in this world) paper, but to no avail. It was gone, completely gone. Well, fine then! Calculus wasn’t the only advanced mathematics I had once theoretically known! There was also linear algebra, which, uh… involved adding up rectangles with numbers drawn inside them? Maybe? Oh, crap...

There did, however, turn out to be one thing I remembered about math…

***

“Behold! All five fundamental mathematical constants clearly related in a single equation!” I cried, whipping a sheet off a chalkboard with the formula “1 + e^(i * П) = 0” written on it in large font.

The gathered Pokemon stared at in what I hoped was dawning revelation of my clear mathematical genius. Finally, the Klinklang spoke: “What *click* is that *clank* ‘e’ supposed to *click* represent?”

“The ‘e’? It’s, uh, the base of the natural logarithm! Equal to two point...” I mumbled something under my breath, “...three exactly!”

“The base of the what logarithm?” a Salamence wearing a monocle and black mortarboard asked.

My gravely voice began to betray a touch of uncertainty. “Uh, you know… the natural logarithm? Like, the logarithm which is… most natural?” I ventured. The gathered scholars looked distinctly unimpressed.

“Forget the ‘e’, what’s the ‘i’ stand for?” a Noctowl hooted.

“Oh, that’s simple! It’s the square root of negative one!” I said, more confident this time.

“Don’t *click* be *clack* absurd! You can’t *click* take the square *clack* root of a *click* negative *clack* number!”

“Er… yes you can? It’s called an ‘imaginary number’, and-”

“Imaginary numbers!” the Salamence scoffed. “Clearly this whole thing was a waste of our time. I’m leaving!” The other Pokemon seemed to agree, and got up as well.

“Wait, stop! You’re missing out on the greatest mathematical finding of the century, I swear!” I pleaded.

“Maybe it would help if you started by showing us how the equation is derived?” the Noctowl asked.

“Uh… to tell the truth, I was sort of hoping one of you guys would figure out how to derive it.”

The last Pokemon out shut the door with a resounding slam.

***
Okay, that was a bust. So much for mathematics… As day after day went by, I racked my brain for all the other human knowledge I might know. But it was all equally hopeless. What I remembered of the periodic table could fit in a tic-tac-toe board. I had no way to prove any of the things I knew about biology, and didn’t have the slightest clue how to create a microscope to fix that. None of my half-remembered physics formulas came even close to being confirmed true in this world with the simple experiments I performed. Pokemon already seemed to know that the planet revolved around the sun instead of vice versa, so my one possible contribution to astronomy was out.

So I changed gears. If I couldn’t make use of humanity’s scientific output, maybe it’s cultural output would serve me. I knew the plots of hundreds of different stories which had done very well back on Earth. Perhaps if I adapted them to this world, I could become a famous author. But, as I soon found out, execution of ideas was as important as the ideas themselves when it came to writing, and I simply couldn’t execute. All my attempts came out as bad as the poorly-written Pokemon fanfictions I used to mock. No one had ever told me writing was hard! I couldn’t even get a reputation as an ‘ideas-mon’ because most of the innovative sci-fi ideas I knew of – time travel, robots, teleportation, space travel – either actually existed in this world already, or had already been thought of before. The one thing I did which was even sort of successful was introducing the ‘choose your own adventure’ genre, which only made me a modest amount of money before other, better writers started turning out their own CYOAs.

It was then, and only then, that I realized there was one other category of knowledge I had that I could use to succeed in this world: Nobody here had ever heard of a ‘Ponzi scheme’ before…

***
“So… you’re like a bank, then?” the Lopunny asked, ears tilted. “I give you my money and you keep it safe for me?”

“No, no, I’m even better than a bank!” I declared. “I take your money and give you back more money than what you gave me! Given enough time, of course...”

“It sounds shady, but trust me, it actually works!” a Heracross said. “I’ve already made over a thousand poké from this!”

The Lopunny puzzled this over for a moment. “Wait, really? But, where does the money come from?”

My rocky face split open with a large grin. “Let me tell you about a little something called a ‘hedge fund’...”
***
“Alright, form a line everyone, form a line!” I called. A large horde of Pokemon had gathered outside my recently-purchased office, drawn in by tales of easy cash.

“If I give you ten-thousand, I get back two-thousand every month, right?” a Sawk said, shoving their way to the front of the mob.

“Don’t waste your time with that guy’s chump change! Take my hundred-thousand poké instead!” a Feraligator declared, knocking the Sawk aside. I winced as fists and claws started to fly.

***
“Hey, shouldn’t I have gotten five-hundred poké from you this weekend?” an Electabuzz shouted through the window of my office as I frantically packed my bags.

“Yeah! You promised me two-k this month, and that hasn’t shown up either!” a Medicham railed. Geez, and I thought that Medicham were supposed to be Zen-like monks that weren’t supposed to be concerned with material possessions…

“People, people, please! You’ll get your money! I just need to make a short, uh, business trip to the grass continent first!”

“That makes sense! I bet there are lots of hedges on the grass continent!” a Lopunny said.

***
With all the money I’d earned from my scam, I was able to arm myself with the best equipment and friends money could buy, and soon became the head of the most successful exploration team on the continent. After a series of adventures, I found myself and my comrades facing down the ultimate threat to this world: Dark Heat, the physical manifestation of all Pokemon’s anxiety and distrust combined with the physical manifestation of global warming, or something along those lines. I hadn’t really paid that much attention to the lore, to be honest. But I did posses the one weapon capable of stopping them: The legendary zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-one shot orb.

My teammates had managed to take out the foul being’s fire shield, giving me a clear shot with the orb. I hefted it in my hand (I knew having hands would be useful for saving the world!), preparing to throw it and end this once and for all.

But then Dark Heat spoke: “Human. I know your secret.”

What? I had never told anyone here I was a human. “Don’t listen to him, Graveller! Just throw the orb!” Blaziken urged.

“Hold up. How do you know I’m a human?” I asked.

“I know many things,” Dark Heat continued. “You’ve accomplished a number of impressive feats here, haven’t you? You’ve found true friends with little effort, defeated gods and legends, and gotten away with a whacky scheme that didn’t even work in the world you came from. All this without even having been a member of this world for more than a year or so. All this power, all this fame, all undeserved…”

“Wait… are you saying...” No. NO! It couldn’t be! My grip on the orb loosened as my eyes widened in horror.

“Graveler? Just do it! Do it now!” Blaziken called.

“But, on top of all that, you weren’t transported to just any world, were you. No, you were reborn into a world based off of your favorite video game series!” Dark Heat thundered.

The zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-one shot orb fell loose from my hand. No, no, it was true! My amazing PMD adventure… was a shitty isekai anime! I was no better than the protagonist of crappy power-harem-fantasies like In Another World With My Smartphone or Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon! Utterly defeated, I couldn’t even attempt to dodge as Dark Heat grinned and fired a beam of pure energy that totally annihilated me.

***
I was back in the void again. I told you being a Geodude wouldn’t work out, the voice said, evidently quite smug.

“Oh, shut up.”
THE END
 
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kintsugi

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tl;dr: lmao

---

I thought this was a lot of fun and I'm glad that one of the entries was bold enough to go the comedy route. In general I think your scene description has improved a lot for this one, and the comedic timing on the jokes is solid as always. The brick joke featuring Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster fucking killed me. Truck-chan. I cannot.

I think maybe it would've been better to split out some of the longer/slower loops--the voltorb/koffing/butterfree ones are long, most of them are medium, and then shedinja/poliwag/slugma were all really short and back-to-back, when I think they could've been more effective if they were scattered between the longer iterations. It's all about timing! But otherwise I think the description and pacing on this is really solid.

But that makes even less sense than the whole brain-soul thing! Are you sure this isn’t some weird post-singularity simulation crap?”
Yes, I’m sure.
Dropped a paragraph break here

I suppose you must want to be something really creative, like a meowth or maybe even a skitty!
Treasure town beach again.
I don't really touch the capitalization debate with a fifty-foot pole but for these you used the capitalized versions (capitalized species names + "Treasure Town" respectively) elsewhere, so I figure for consistency you'd want to pick one or the other.

“Hey, I think you’re right!” the Tyrogue said. “Maybe it’s somehow actually sapient!”

Yes, finally! Now I just had to-

“Intelligent Voltorb must be even more dangerous than regular ones! We have to kill it faster!” Totodile declared.
*wheeze*
I am beyond glad to see that the ridiculousness of some pokemon being classified as non-sapient was taken to its logical extreme here.

I felt a cool rush of air go into my mouth – one of which I thankfully had, as a Koffing.
Kind of awkward phrasing imo? I think:
> I felt cool air rush into my mouth--a mouth that I thankfully had, as a Koffing.
or something would read a little more cleanly.

wheezing and coughing
heh

My lungs slash entire inner body cavity was seriously starting to feel pain, now
Parallelism here kind of confused me with the verb tenses:
> My lungs slash all the organs in my inner body cavity were seriously starting to feel pain, now
> My throat slash entire inner body cavity was starting to feel pain, now

Had I swallowed a bug – if regular bugs even existed in this world? I’d have thought I was much higher than where bugs would usually fly.
The tenses here feel weird--"I'd have thought" implies that there are situations where the narrator isn't thinking this. Something like:
> Had I swallowed a bug--did regular bugs even exist in this world? But even if they did, surely I was much higher than where bugs would usually fly.
would clear that up imo.

Crap – I must be evolving!
weird switch into present tense here

and the complete script of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Why not this?
Italics on Monty Python and The Holy Grail got dropped.

The gathered Pokemon stared at in what I hoped was dawning revelation of my clear mathematical genius. Finally, the Klinklang spoke: “What *click* is that *clank* ‘e’ supposed to *click* represent?”
wheeze. lol
I like the natural conclusion that this takes, how this genius rational character soon realizes that advancements didn't happen in a vacuum. You have this neat way of braiding together compelling ideas and humor that I really appreciated.

Perhaps if I adapted them to this world, I could become a famous author. But, as I soon found out, execution of ideas was as important as the ideas themselves when it came to writing, and I simply couldn’t execute. All my attempts came out as bad as the poorly-written Pokemon fanfictions I used to mock. No one had ever told me writing was hard!
haha love the salt here--it's a thin line between jokes and satire, and I think you walk it perfectly.

I was back in the void again. I told you being a Geodude wouldn’t work out, the voice said, evidently quite smug.
I think having these in separate paragraphs would help your ending land better.

I liked this story and, as always, struggle to provide coherent/deeper thoughts on fics that are primarily comedic in nature--but I laughed several times and really liked the concepts you poke at here, so whatever you were aiming for worked out really well here imo.
 

System Error

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All right! This one seems fun from the get-go, so let's get right into it.

- Shoutouts to one of the silliest anime names ever.
- Well of course you're finding nothing but SHIT on fanfiction.net. It's 90% Ash trash and PMD furry stuff that's popular there.
- Truck-chan? I wouldn't put that past Isekai writers, sadly.
- Okay. Well then. Of all the ways to open a fic, I was not expecting it to be Elon Musk crashing his Tesla into the protagonist, killing him instantly.
- Getting pretty metaphysical here, although taken in funny ways.
- A voice that gets right down to business too. And one that's cool about it, too! I always hated the personality test, one of the many things I hated about PMD.
- Although, that feel when PMD is the prime Mystery Dungeon, and not Shiren the Wanderer, an actual quality Mystery Dungeon game.
- Spacing messup around here.
- Well he has a point. Another one of the many reasons I dislike PMD is that the options are mostly popular (read: pushed) Pokemon, many of which are furry fulfillment.
- PMD is easy as hell except when it's punishing you for not grinding, EXPLORERS, so really, he has a fair point. How many times has he ascended in nethack, anyway?
- WOW, RUDE. Pokemon attacking others on sight because of predisposition. It is prejudice, I say!
- Well Voltorbs can say their own name, so I imagine they have some electronic way of speaking. I think they talk in PMD anyway.
- That feel when frickin logic is coming into play too much in my games!!
- I'd like to think the voice just sent them near the biggest idiot heroes possible. My headcanon is that they want to force them to be furry or popular or both.
- D-O-G-A-R-S-FUCK YOU!! I imagine is the voice's logic at this next one.
- Hey, Koffing would be a good pick. Although, mind, where would Koffing even exist in a pristine PMD world, if that's the logic behind where they can operate?
- That is totally ironically a roguelike sort of death. A very spiteful one.
- I get the feeling this voice is a jackass genie. Who wants to force them to be furry or popular or both.
- Oh fuck. Oh no. Fuck no. Asshole Wigglytuff himself. He's already dead.
- Well, I was not expecting this to go in this direction. Taking the Pokedex, horribly flawed and nonsensical, that literally. Okay so I was, but I thought the direction it was going to take was always facing north.
- Uh, so why didn't he talk at all during that sequence.
- This voice is a fucking racist. It's calling all those non popular Pokemon not normal.
- How do Drifloon even survive if that's how they act?
- I'm now choosing to interpret this guy as having died and gone to hell for some unknown reason, and the voice is actually the devil torturing him.
- Or, her, maybe, as the Durant scene shows. Hey, maybe he/she can be alternatively both.
- Yes, locking that in. Because really, this world is so hostile to "non-normal" Pokemon that it can't be anything but intentional.
- Like the Slugma scene, case in point. They shouldn't even be able to exist, yet they do, and they just die.
- Okay, I'm going to have to call the voice the fuck out at this point. Poliwag's line IS a popular line, just lower key! See: Misty's Politoed, Red's Poliwhirl, etc. The latter even made it one of the most popular Pokemon in Japan in Gen 1!
- And it's a Caterpie of all things he's finally allowed to do anything in. He even gets to die in a dungeon and go back! Until, Hell's excessive Pokedex obsessed realism kicks in - actually this isn't even the Pokedex.
- I mean Machop was a choice, so why not its fellow partner in trade evos?
- Amnesia was the dumbest plot point in PMD.
- Well so far the laws of physics have been obsessively following that of Earth. But this is Hell, so I'd say they're going to fail.
- Yeah, it's hell. Selective amnesia. Damn.
- that feel when they don't even know imaginary numbers
- Getting seriously meta with the fanfiction trolling.
- A scammer, ha. Perfect.
- Shoutouts to nonsense if interestingly different final bosses. Dark Heat, a pretty edgy name to go with it.
- 0.00001%? I like those odds!
- Whacky? A typo of wacky?
- Also Graveller/Graveler mixups.
- were you. <- The question is, no question mark?
- And in the end, he just gets one-shotted. He really that much of a chump despite all he got to do that?
- Well it did work out, he just got beat by himself at the very end.

A guy who hates isekai in an isekai, which may possibly be Hell itself. Yes, he's a self-centered egoist who died in a freak accident and went to Hell. That said, the voice doesn't seem to be any sort of Satanic archetype, and more like a trickster deity like Loki - the voice did mention not making the system. He also mentions a cost-benefit system, which is linked to money of course, and can be interpreted as being linked to things like the toll of the Sanzu River. That's my literary analysis and I'm sticking to it. Certainly I'm reaching too deep with that, but hey, that's the fun of it. And I mean, why else would it be that bad? I doubt it'd be any better if he caved and did it with a "normal" Pokemon. It probably would've found some other way to be torturous.

A ridiculously silly comedy story, very refreshing stuff! Contrastingly to kintsugi, I was amused at the long series of failure scenes all in a row. The fanfiction bashing was pretty gold, which could've been more meta if it was a bad trashy story. Which, is really hard to nail down in a way to make it logical and clearly satirical, mind, so a good one is better in that regard. And which, it kinda was bad and trashy in-universe at the very end.

If I have some criticisms, it's that it's almost too wacky. My Hell interpretation aside, it does go a bit too far with questioning how Pokemon could survive by killing him in many different ways. It's something that if you look beyond the comedy (and don't look as far as I did), it can come across as bizarre worldbuilding. Parodial of the Pokedex perhaps, but bizarre to follow it so close. Also not sure how the popularity/pushing of Pokemon in the real world applies to the logic of being "normal" in this one, although that might be the point (especially if this is Hell). And some things like the selective amnesia seemed to exist only to make jokes. But other than those minor peeves, liked it! Best of luck in the contest!
 

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Oh, this fic was hilarious! I had a good fun time the whole way through.

I loved the protagonist's determination to pick the most impractical pokemon possible, and the slow grudging intervals by which they agreed to make marginally more sensible choices. I really enjoyed that they were consistently bitten in the ass by overly-literal interpretations of nonsense pokedex entries; having that anchor to canon made the repeated deaths feel like fair play instead of just the whim of the author. Watching them make wilfully bad decisions was some great comedy, and I feel like the way they bent a little more each time they got hit with the consequence stick worked really well to make their narration come off as funny jerk rather than just plain jerk. It's a tricky balance to strike, but you nailed it.

The twist at the end was absolutely fantastic and a great take on the theme. I think you pulled it off really well: I did not see that reveal coming at all and it punched me in the face like the fist of god, but it was foreshadowed from the beginning and well-supported by every single event in the fic.
 
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