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EVERYONE: Reverberations of Time

Stuck
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Reverberations of Time


A mystery story about the meaning of coexistence


In 2001, a 12-year old trainer named Kris sets out on an atypical journey that defies expectations. 20 years later, a boy of the same age, called Ernest, investigates the truth behind something horrific. How are the two stories intertwined?


Clarifications:

1. This fanfic switches perspective every chapter. Odd-numbered chapters follow Ernest's story, while even-numbered chapters follow Kris'.

2. The story is not battle-driven and is rather heavy on dialogue and inner thoughts. I hope that it still provides an enjoyable ride.

3. As you can guess, Kris is the female protagonist from Pokémon Crystal, but her story is really a sequel to the main events from the Johto games. Ernest is a completely original character.


Table of Contents

Prologue (below)
Chapter 1

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7

The prologue is based on the opening of Pokémon Crystal, which I've long considered unexplained. The narrator is neither Ernest nor Kris, and you can guess who it is if you watch the opening.


Prologue

I am in a field, taking a rest from a long run. My body may be made of plentiful water, but I rely on food and rest all the same. The creatures around me play happily; particularly endearing are a Pichu and Wooper, who are too focused on each other to notice my presence.

But this serenity comes to a grinding halt as my mind is suddenly engulfed. I hear their mysterious voices, transmitted to me via radio waves:

COME NOW. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.

What is it they want of me? I dare not question their judgment, so I dash toward their location without having rested. As I start running, the playful Pichu and Wooper finally notice me, puzzled by what they see. Little do they know that my destination is the ruins: the only place where they agree to reveal themselves. Oddly, they have never summoned me before…. Rather, they have manifested in my dreams, from which I only recall feeling a strong connection to them.

RUN FASTER.

I am already running at maximum speed… And yet the urgency of their words gives me increased stamina. I am running faster than I ever have, and soon enough I enter the ruins. But where do I even begin looking in this maze of a place? There are multiple chambers which lead to yet more rooms.

"Where are you?"

ENTER THE PORTAL.

A portal? Where is it and where does it lead? As I scan the ruins, chamber by chamber, I finally notice a crack in the walls. It seems much too small for me to go through, but when I get closer, my whole body is absorbed. What I see before me now is like nothing I have seen before, or at least remember. It is their world, which goes beyond my grasp.

YOU HAVE FINALLY COME.

"You could have made it easier for me. I'm exhausted."

THOSE WHO SEEK ISOLATION ARE NEAR.

"Who are they?"

YOU WILL SEE.

"This doesn't help me very much."

THE TIME FOR ANSWERS IS NOT NOW.

"What do you expect me to do with this information?"

FIND THE ONE.

"Whom?"

YOU KNOW.

They must mean the one that Ho-Oh has wanted me to find for a very long time.

"I very much doubt that such a person exists. I have never seen one."

YOUR OWN FAITH IS VITAL.

"You have to tell me what this is all about."

BOTH SIDES ARE AT RISK.

"Both sides… Does that mean what I think it does?"

FIND THE ONE THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

"So, you already know who that is? Then tell me."

WE CANNOT INTERFERE.

I am expelled from the confounding world with great force. The first question I ask is…

How much time do I have?
 
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Chapter 1


"Welcome to the Pokémon world; my name is Oak. This world is filled with remarkable creatures, about which there are still many mysteries my colleagues and I investigate every day. But enough about me. Your name is… Ernest, correct?"

It's that dream again. I keep having it only to be disappointed when I wake up. Why is my mind subjecting me to this cruelty?

Prof. Samuel Oak was a great man without whom the Pokédex project would have never come to fruition. And if that had been the case, I would have known very little about Pokémon. And the reason for that is…

They've been gone for 19 years, since before I was born. All people say about it is that a strange plague wiped them out one after the other, until none were left. Mom doesn't like it when I ask her questions about this. She says that the less I know about Pokémon and their fate, the better off I will be.

"The past is the past, and enough people have been burdened by it. You deserve better."

As I came to learn two years ago, it wasn't just Pokémon that died, but also the likes of the late Oak who lost the will to live. That also goes for great grandpa Kurt, who was a friend of Samuel's.

"The only thing he lived for was creating Poké Balls, which he considered pivotal to shaping the relationship between a trainer and their Pokémon," Mom once said.

I still don't understand that sentence, but suffice to say that it doesn't matter now. Poké Balls no longer serve any purpose, or do they? All I know is that people around me refuse to say much of anything about Pokémon, but it is easy to tell that there is still a deep sadness lying beneath the surface. Most people seem to have moved on, but not without feeling blame for it. I have no idea what the world was really like before it changed so drastically, and I can only wish I had lived in another era. Pokémon must have been fascinating creatures based on the information documented in the Pokédex. A world with only humans… is bland, even to someone like me who doesn't know any better. I don't care for most people, if I'm being honest with myself.

But I don't dislike my life, to be sure. Since Mom works at home and is a little overprotective, she has been homeschooling me. Why is that a good thing? Because the world out there is dreary and void when you really think about it. In contrast, Mom has preserved some of those qualities her own childhood was filled with, so I don't need anyone else but her and granddad Vincent. He is an enthusiastic guy when it comes to technology, but I like him just for being a good friend and making me laugh. But his work usually keeps him busy, and it goes past that these days…

My thought process is rudely interrupted.

"Ernie, you should have been ready 15 minutes ago. Get a move on already."

Those last words have a rough edge to them, but Mom's tone is actually soft, as if there were still time to spare. Still, I'd better focus on the trivial task of waking up right now. As I do so, I still wonder what Mom has been doing with her custom Poké Ball knowledge. Only an oblivious fool wouldn't notice that she's been awfully busy working at Silph Co. recently, along with Grandpa. He has worked in Saffron City for about 30 years now, but Mom only moved here after her grandpa died. For me, Saffron is the only home I know, and in fact, I've never left it.

"For pete's sake, how long will it be till you come eat your breakfast?"

"I'm coming. No need to get your panties in a bunch over something so banal."

I go down the stairs and sit down at the table in front of Mom. There are delicious pancakes already prepared, no doubt made with almond milk just as I like them. But before I can take a bite...

"Such cheekiness. I hope you never use such language with other people, but that doesn't make it okay to do so with your own mom."

I've clearly hit a nerve, as evidenced by her shaking head. She has a point: I've been pretty agitated lately.

"Sorry. I can't help it, but I'll try."

She doesn't seem pleased but is willing to let it slide. She shrugs her shoulders and pours juice, only to change the subject.

"As you know, I no longer have time to home school you. I want to start looking for a proper school."

I've been dreading this moment. True enough, she has far less time for me these days. But isn't it cruel to send me out there all of a sudden?

"That doesn't seem fair when you haven't even explained what it is you're doing now."

"I'm helping Grandpa with a project. I can't say anything beyond that."

And I can't stand it when she puts on the secretive act. That is not the Mom I know.

"Then I am not going to any school for boring kids."

She is staring at me now, her eyes widened. Quite carefully at that.

"I don't recall asking for your permission."

So that's that? I need to convince her somehow, but she is already giving me an annoyed look.

"I know that this project of yours is about Pokémon. I want to help."

"Last I checked, you were a 12 years old kid. Cut the attitude and stop pretending that you're an expert on anything."

Her head is shaking again. She looks older than her usual self, who isn't even 30 yet.

"I may not be an expert, but I want to study about Pokémon. A school doesn't offer that education."

A perfectly good comeback, I'd like to think.

"Why should it? Pokémon are gone… The kids of today need to focus on what they can do, which has nothing to do with Pokémon. I wish you'd understand that already."

Understand? Why would I?

"I think you're a hypocrite. You have never done anything but create Poké Balls long after the plague. That tells me that things aren't as simple as you'd have me believe."

Wow, I can't believe I've just said that to my own mom. She looks even more frustrated with me right about now.

"A hypocrite? That's alarmingly disrespectful and shows how little you really know. My primary job is to be your mom and your way of showing gratitude leaves a lot to be desired."

Her voice has become intimidating. I need to lighten up the mood sooner rather than later.

"I… didn't mean to say that, sorry. My point is that you're moving onto something else now, and there is probably a good reason for that."

She stands up and looks at me from above.

"I will tell you about it when the time is right. But you are absolutely going to school – no questions asked. That is the best way for you to apologize."

I resist the temptation to roll my eyes, since I know better than to get deeper into a debate. Mom can be scary when I don't control my mouth. And besides, I can handle going to school… while carrying out my investigation. She may be keeping her trap shut, but Grandpa is far worse at lying through his teeth. I just need to find the right time to ask him a few questions while Mom isn't watching my every move. That isn't likely to happen soon, though.

"We are going to Saffron Academy first. I expect you to be on your best behavior, and it goes without saying that you are not to mention Pokémon. Finish eating and get dressed properly."

Oh joy. The academy has always been this place I could go to if Mom finally decided it was time for me to be a normal kid, but I honestly could not care less about meeting new friends. So what's the point? It's just a way for her to do whatever it is she's doing without worrying about me. She may have found a way to distract me, but I'd be damned if it were that easy.
 
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Hah, first this time!

Technical Accuracy/Style
Very little wrong on the technical side of things. There's this:

curating Poké Balls
which I'm sure ought to be "create" (curate, v. to act as a curator of; to look after and preserve). Some of the information is given in a slightly clunky way. I wouldn't bother telling the reader Mayson's name at all - and given that this is from Ernest's perspective it's an odd detail for him to give. Likewise just referring to "great-grandfather Kurt" would probably have been a bit smoother.

Setting
There's a lot of talking heads here. The minimal setting is largely appropriate for the Prologue. When it comes to Chapter One it's almost confusing. The narrative transitions from dream/inner monologue to presumably the breakfast table so slyly you'd only be able to infer the what's happened from the context of the dialogue. Take out the breakfast line and it could be happening anywhere.

Plot
So far it's serviceable. I think the dearth of scene-setting in Chapter One doesn't do any favours for drawing the reader in. The idea of pokémon being wiped out could go either way at this point - it's one of those concepts that can easily come across as gimmicky if it's not thought through. At the moment I question whether Ernest could really regard the world as bland without pokémon, since that's the only world he's ever known. What has he got to compare it to? It's not like he's being told tales of how great everything used to be.

I think you would have been better off telling the reader that the Prologue is from Suicune's point of view. Since you say in your preliminary notes that the chapters alternate perspective, I assumed it was a human perspective.

Characters
A bit of a mixed bag. Ernest does come across as a reasonably believable twelve-year old boy. I think his vocabulary is perhaps a touch advanced for his age. Arguably you could say he's on the precocious side, which isn't impossible, but would be something to keep an eye on. Mayson comes with similar comments. I like that she's got a sharper tongue than most Pokémon fanfic mothers (Who tend to just say mushy things and feed the protagonist their favourite pancakes), but some of her dialogue rings truer of older sister, to my ear.
 
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Thanks for the remarks.

1. I've replaced curate with create and used your advice for the way Mayson and Kurt are mentioned.

2. Added some lines about the breakfast scene: "I go down the stairs and sit down at the table. There are delicious pancakes already prepared, no doubt made with almond milk just as I like them. But before I can take a bite..."

(Yes, I realize that you criticized the pancake thing. But in this case it's a way to soften the blow.)

3. I've moved the author's note so that it appears before the start of the prologue.

4. Ernest has read about life before the plague, and he can tell that people are pretty unhappy. He doesn't need them to admit it. And obviously, he is very curious about Pokémon and is frustrated that he never got to see them.

5. Ernest is precocious, yes. He's also been home schooled, so he doesn't really know what it's like to be a normal kid. He arguably wants to mimick his mom's speech pattern.

6. Mayson is quite young (29), and she is more fed up with Ernest's attitude than anything else. She has a lot on her plate these days.
 
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"You can order me around and I'll disappoint you!"
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1. This fanfic switches perspective every chapter. Odd-numbered chapters follow Ernest's story, while even-numbered chapters follow Kris'.
2. The story is not battle-driven and is rather heavy on dialogue and inner thoughts. I hope that it still provides an enjoyable ride.
These two, I'm not sure if we need them set out for us, I think the reader will be able to infer what's going on, it's also much more subtle if you simply subtitle chapters with the name of the character before it starts, it's how most novels do it.

4. The story is child-friendly, insofar as the Pokémon movies are. In fact, Takeshi Shudo's storytelling in the first three movies is an inspiration to some extent.
This is rating information, it's not really needed unless you have a 'teen +' fic, and even then it's not really required unless you have an especially explicit 'mature' fic.

The prologue is based on the opening of Pokémon Crystal, which I've long considered unexplained. The narrator is neither Ernest nor Kris, and you can guess who it is if you watch the opening.
Again, the story should be clear enough so that you don't need to explain or mention this.

But this serenity comes to a grinding halt as my mind is suddenly engulfed.
This line feels like a bit of a contrast in comparison to the more simple prose you set out before it, it's a bit jarring as a reading experience.

am already running at maximum speed…
Do, humans have a 'maximum speed'?

YOU HAVE FINALLY COME.

"You could have made it easier for me. I'm exhausted."

THOSE WHO SEEK ISOLATION ARE NEAR.

"Who are they?"

YOU WILL SEE.

"This doesn't help me very much."

THE TIME FOR ANSWERS IS NOT NOW.

"What do you expect me to do with this information?"

FIND THE ONE.

"Whom?"

YOU KNOW.

They must mean the one that Ho-Oh has wanted me to find for a very long time.

"I very much doubt that such a person exists. I have never seen one."

YOUR OWN FAITH IS VITAL.

"You have to tell me what this is all about."

BOTH SIDES ARE AT RISK.

"Both sides… Does that mean what I think it does?"

FIND THE ONE THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

"So, you already know who that is? Then tell me."

WE CANNOT INTERFERE.
A kind of vague build up, a bit of a cliche for a prologue, but I suppose it's alright as it's setting things up.

I still don't understand that sentence, but suffice to say that it doesn't matter now. Poké Balls no longer serve any purpose, or do they? All I know is that people around me refuse to say much of anything about Pokémon, but it is easy to tell that there is still a deep sadness lying beneath the surface.
I think this is a nice piece of scene setting.

"That doesn't seem fair when you haven't even explained what it is you're doing now."

"I'm helping granddad with a project. I can't say anything beyond that."

"Then I am not going to any school for boring kids."

"I don't recall asking for your permission."

"I know that this project of yours is about Pokémon. I want to help."

"Last I checked, you were a 12 years old kid. Cut the attitude and stop pretending that you're an expert on anything."

"I may not be an expert, but I want to study about Pokémon. A school doesn't offer that education."

"Why should it? Pokémon are gone… The kids of today need to focus on what they can do, which has nothing to do with Pokémon. I wish you'd understand that already."
Sadly a lot of this section suffers from 'plane of disembodied dialogue'. You simply need to to put some more worldbuilding here, and actually go into the characters emotions and reactions, instead of just letting them talk as if the prose is some kind of script.

Mom can be scary when I don't control my mouth.
Perhaps show the Mom getting angry instead? Instead of just stating in?

This fic has a rather interesting premise, but it needs more worldbuilding, I have a feeling a fic like this would thrive off it. There seems to not be emphasis on that so far, at least not in the first chapter. I think setting up your intention for the story more and develop the world and the setting. It's alright if the plot slows down for a bit, as for the most part, this is information that the reader needs to get invested in the story.
 
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Do, humans have a 'maximum speed'?
Suicune does, and he's the narrator. That is part of the reason why I felt the need to spell out the connection to the game's opening. Not to mention that Crystal is an old game and I don't expect every reader to be familiar with its more obscure aspects (the opening isn't explicitly tied to anything in the game itself).

I'll try to work on my worldbuilding. But as far as emotions go, I personally think that Mayson's tone makes it obvious that she has little patience for Ernest's retorts. And since the first chapter is meant to introduce Ernest more than anything else, I haven't gone into describing his environment just yet.

I've now added some descriptive language in between the dialogue lines.

These two, I'm not sure if we need them set out for us, I think the reader will be able to infer what's going on, it's also much more subtle if you simply subtitle chapters with the name of the character before it starts, it's how most novels do it.
They're just there to tell the reader what to expect. And I don't agree that subtitles are more subtle; I do want the reader to think for a few seconds before the narrator's identity is obvious. The headline color is there as an identifier, too.
 
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Chapter 2


"Wake up, dear."

I see an old lady right in front of me. A tad on the large side, but her radiant face stands out despite her age. I slowly open my eyes and straighten my back.

"You don't want to miss your stop, do you?"

A rhetorical question if I ever heard one. I'm a little embarrassed now.

"Oh, of course not. Thanks for waking me up, lady."

She smiles and immediately cuddles her Snubbull that I only now notice. I take a moment to look at the scenery across the window. If we're close to New Bark Town, then this must be Route 29. There is a grassy patch not far from our position, and if my eyes aren't deceiving me, I detect a family of Sentret feeding a lone Hoppip. It's a heartwarming sight of the kind that always lifts my spirts up.

I hear the lady's voice again.

"You aren't a Pokémon trainer, are you?"

Is it that obvious?

"No, but I am on my way to meet Prof. Elm. I hope that he agrees to give me a starter Pokémon today."

"Oh? But only New Bark trainers are supposed to get a starter from Elm. You're from Violet City, aren't you?"

"That's true, but…"

I figure that it would be easier to show her the e-mail than to explain it myself. She looks confused when I take out my Pokégear.

"What's this, dear?"

"Please read it. It explains everything."

Confused, she takes out her glasses and holds the device up close. Of course, I remember the words by heart.

"Dear Kris,

Thanks for your interest in my research. I will be happy to meet you at my lab whenever you can visit.

Best regards,

Elliot Elm"​

The old lady takes her time, even though there isn't much to read. Her Snubbull looks bored, eyeing me closely.

"I see. It seems that you managed to get Elm to take an interest in you. Whatever did you say to him?"

"Nothing much. Just that his ideas about the effects of Pokémon walking alongside their trainers fascinate me, and I would love to help him prove that he's right."

"Pokémon walking alongside their trainers? Why, my Snubbull is always around me. What's so special about that?"

"Are you a trainer?"

"Don't be silly, dear. My Snubbull needs to stay clean at all times."

"And you aren't on a journey, correct?"

She laughed a little too loudly.

"Of course not."

"So I don't think that the two situations are comparable."

"Whatever you say, dear. So I take it that your parents approve of your going on a journey as a new trainer?"

That… isn't really something I'd like to answer truthfully, and her calling me "dear" is getting a little annoying.

"Oh, yes. All of my neighbors have already left home, and my parents want the best for me."

I wish that were true.

"How wonderful. Well, if you're on your way to Elm's lab, I believe that the next stop is your destination."

"Yes, I know. Thanks so much for making sure that I don't miss it."

I reach out my arm to pet her Snubbull, who bites my finger.

"Ouch!"

"Oh, Nelly. That is no way to say goodbye. Apologize at once."

Nelly looks somewhat scared. Eventually, she comes closer and licks my wound that she inflicted. I wish I could say it wasn't a forced gesture. It's pretty cute, though.

Before I know it, the bus comes to a stop.

"Farewell, dear. Don't begrudge Nelly, now."

"I won't. Bye!"

As I descend from the bus, the windmills around the houses immediately get my attention. Kids are running around happily with a pair of adorable Teddiursa cubs following suit… The pastoral atmosphere is amazing. I guess it's true: The wind here truly is a pleasant sign of a fresh new start. And boy, do I need it. That lie I told that lady… It's a big one. Well, I am sure that Dad wants me gone, but he didn't seem too pleased when I told him about going to meet Elm. He called it a ridiculous idea.

"You stupid girl. You flunked all of your exams at Earl's academy… If your own teacher doesn't think that you have what it takes to be a trainer, why would a stranger waste his time on you? You're a failure."

I couldn't tell if Dad was drunk when he said that, but does it matter? I've learned that he is most honest when he can barely walk his way to the bedroom. I can never forget what he said when I was about seven years old…

"It is your own bloody fault that I lost her. It was you that should have died, but your mom paid the price for your worthless self. She died knowing that there was no point to your life."

No, no… I could never believe something so crazy. I did not ask to be born; mom wanted me to live. I… will let her exist through me, and believe that I can make her proud.

Suddenly, I hear someone call out my name.

"Kris? Are you Kris?"

A brown-haired girl stands before me. She looks to be around my age, but taller. Her outfit is a bit unorthodox, especially that bulbous hat. I wouldn't want to wear that, but then again, kids at school would often mock my kippah. I appreciate the bold style.

"Yes. How do you know my name?"

"I am Prof. Elm's assistant. He told me that you were coming."

"Oh, nice to meet you! I didn't know he had such a young assistant."

"Well, now you do. How was your ride?"

"It wasn't too long, and I managed to get some rest. Hey, what's your name?"

"Lyra. And right behind me is Snout, my Marill."

The blue mouse emerges to give me a smile. I instantly approach him.

"Nice to meet you, Snout."

Lyra picks him up before I can touch him.

"Snout doesn't like it when strangers get so close. Sorry!"

But Snout seems pretty comfortable to me. I give him a kiss on the cheek, making him blush.

"Oh, that's okay. I already got one Pokémon upset in the last 10 minutes, so I figure that Snout here wants me to feel more welcome."

Lyra doesn't seem too pleased about that. Hmm, maybe she's overly maternal?

"We should really get going. Prof. Elm has other things to do today."

"Oh? Could I ask what he is busy with?"

"The new champion is coming back home. We are preparing a huge party to honor his victory. Exciting!"

"A new champion? I think I heard one of my neighbors talk about Lance losing to someone recently. Who is he?"

"Ethan. He's a childhood friend of mine, and I really do need to get going so I can arrange the party. And you must be eager to meet Prof. Elm, right?"

Ethan? I remember that name from the reports about Team Rocket being stopped. First they mentioned the incident in Mahogany Town, where Lance and a young boy helped foil Team Rocket's plan to force the Magikarp in Lake of Rage to evolve. At that time, the boy's identity was not disclosed. But a few days afterwards, it was revealed that his name was Ethan, and that he had singlehandedly defeated the entire organization at Goldenrod's Radio Tower. Apparently, they were attempting to contact their ex-leader as well as send out the evolution-inducing radio waves all over Johto. The latter would have been excruciating! Evolution is a gradual process, and according to experts such as Prof. Elm, forced evolution could result in a disease.

"Kris, are you with me?"

"What? Oh, yes. Let's go."

Ignoring Lyra's somewhat condescending tone, I start following her and Snout along the pavement. There are hardly any cars around and I am guessing that it won't take too long to get to the lab. But my mind is elsewhere: I hope I get to meet this Ethan. He is about my age, I assume. How amazing that someone so young could be so accomplished… I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous.

"Don't worry. We're very close." Lyra shouted from ahead of me.

"Great. Say, how long have you worked for Prof. Elm?"

"For about two years. He asked me to be his assistant for the Pokéwalker project. You know about that, right?"

"Oh, yes. They told us about it at the academy. It's a project conducted all over the region, which was meant to determine if walking with Pokémon without battling could increase their potential. And you proved that it could!"

"Yep. You know your stuff, but it isn't that simple. We proved that growth is very slow when done this way, as in slow compared to regular training."

"Maybe you've missed something?"

"I think I know about this more than you do."

"Just thinking aloud, sorry."

As someone who doesn't share Ethan's lofty goals, I am not sure I want to even battle on a casual basis. As Dad said, I have shown absolutely no affinity for battling. Something about battles simply gets me agitated. The journey I want to take… is one I need for a happier life. I just want to get away from Dad, and maybe, just maybe, understand Pokémon a little better.

And that means never letting Poké Balls separate us.
 
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Another chapter before I go on (a hopefully short) hiatus as a result of my stupid laptop needing a repair.


Chapter 3


We're on our way to Saffron Academy. I'm fairly nervous and for whatever reason, Mom is too busy driving to say anything. So I'll do the talking.

"Mom, is it true that the Saffron gym and dojo were demolished to make room for the academy?"

She pauses before answering, her eyes still on the road.

"Yes, but that has nothing to do with the purpose of the academy, which is teaching students about the world of today."

I don't want to leave it at that.

"Why were the gym and dojo shut down?"

"You know why. Don't act dumb."

"You used to tell me things about the past. Now you get annoyed every time I ask."

She looks at me, no longer annoyed. She might even be sad.

"You're right. It's complicated, and right now I just want you to adjust to the academy. That should be our priority."

Wait, what?

"I thought we were were just going to look around. Aren't you getting ahead of yourself?"

"I said that we were going to look for a school, but really, this is the best choice. I want you to have the best academic experience."

"I was happy with the life and education you gave me. This isn't fair."

"What isn't fair is that I didn't make this decision years ago. I was young and naïve."

She is young for a mom, having turned 29 just recently.

"I think that you did make the right call and we should just go back home."

"That isn't how it works. Now stop this guilt trip."

A long silence follows. Having nothing more to say, I just look at the heavy traffic and the herd of people running around with suitcases along the sidewalks. I hate this; I can deal with our more homely neighborhood, but even then, I only wander the streets when there is no one around. Mom says that she made a mistake in telling me stories about her life as a young kid in Azalea Town with her grandpa and Dopey, the family pet Slowpoke. They were so happy until one day, when she was just 10, it all stopped. Dopey had a brief yet painful death, the other Slowpoke followed and eventually, Mom came to learn that every single Pokémon was gone. Just like that, her life was turned upside down.

What exactly was I supposed to do with this information? The world I know is a shadow of its former self and people are just pretending that it's all okay. All I can think about is what if I had lived before this ugly change.

"There is a lot on your mind, isn't there, Ernie?"

Mom snaps me out of my usual daydreaming.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"That isn't good for someone your age. Trust me, the academy will do you good."

I have no witty comeback, which doesn't matter since we're about a minute away from the entrance gate. Yay.

"We're going to meet your homeroom teacher first. She'll get to know you a bit and tell us what to expect from your classes this year."

"They're going to be easy. You've taught me well, Mom."

She smiles. Soon enough, she pulls over and steps out of the car. I reluctantly follow suit.

"The teachers' lounge should be near the entrance. We're going to see Mrs. Leroy soon; she's a lovely person from what I gathered over the phone."

I have nothing to say again. As soon as we enter the building I see students running down the stairs or gathering around each other. Like a Combee hive, so to speak. Mom and I get past them and make our way to the lounge, where several teachers are chatting over a cup of tea - except for one.

"You must be Mayson and Ernest Orn. Welcome!" a blonde lady shouts.

"Hello, Mrs. Leroy. Excuse us for the lateness; traffic was awful," Mom replies.

"No problem. I'm just glad to meet you two."

Mom's eyes tell me to say something, but I can't even think of what to say to a complete stranger I want nothing to do with.

"Excuse my son; he's the shy type."

Mrs. Leroy smiles. She looks nice, but it's too soon for me to come out of my shell. I sit down at the table to get this over with already. Mom and Mrs. Leroy laugh about my hastiness, but then they join me.

"Well, let's get to business. I will be Ernest's homeroom teacher, which also means that I will be teaching him geography. The other subjects are math, language, science, computer science, social studies and physical education," the blonde teacher says.

"Social studies and physical education are not his strong suit, if to be honest," Mom laughs. Really now?

"What about geography? We're covering South America now," the blonde asks.

"Does that include Guyana?" I ask almost instinctually. Mrs. Leroy looks surprised and Mom sighs. I guess I need to explain.

"I learned a bit about Guyana while I was reading about the mythical Pokémon Mew."

Mrs. Leroy stops smiling. I must have said too much.

"What Ernest means is that Guyana is one of the countries we covered at home, but there is probably a lot more to learn about it."

Way to put words into my mouth, Mom.

"I know from your mom that you really like to study about Pokémon. Right, Ernest?"

I nod.

"I understand that, but you see, most of our students aren't like you. They know very little about Pokémon."

"Why?"

"It's complicated. Let's just say that not everyone is as accepting as your mom is."

Mom's eyes no longer say anything. She just stays silent, but I have to say something.

"I think everyone deserves to know about our history, and Pokémon were a huge part of it."

"Ernest, that's enough," Mom interjects predictably.

"That's okay; I can answer his question. You're absolutely right that history is important, as far as the past is relevant to the present. Sadly, Pokémon are gone and have nothing to do with the world anymore. So the kids of today are better off learning other things and not worrying about the past."

Mom gives me piercing eyes. She knows that I want to have a debate, but warns me to drop the subject.

"Now then, I'm sure you want to meet your classmates. Shall we go?" Mrs. Leroy adds as if to assert her victory.

Suddenly, another woman comes out of nowhere.

"Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear your conversation. My name is Giselle, and I will be Earnest's computer science teacher. Nice to meet you two."

Giselle? A fitting name for a brunette, but shouldn't I call her by her last name?

"Hi," I answer weakly.

"Earnest really likes computers. I bet that he is going to love your class," Mom says a little too eagerly.

Giselle looks intrigued.

"I can spot a bright kid from miles away. We have a special club for advanced students, and my gut is telling me that Earnest here will fit right in."

This is embarrassing. I don't know programming or anything special, so I doubt that I can live up to her expectations. I prefer math by a long shot.

"That sounds cool," I say lamely before Mrs. Leroy interferes.

"Thank you, Ms. Bernard. Earnest will see you tomorrow, and now there is a certain social studies class we don't want him to be late for."

I wave goodbye at Mom and Giselle, but the latter insists on shaking my hand.

"See you tomorrow, kid."

She leaves something in my hand, and it is the last thing I would expect: a Cubone earring.
 
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Chapter 4


Lyra and I are very close to Elm's lab. We've been quiet ever since we headed out from the bus station. I… feel nervous. What if Elm doesn't want to give me a starter Pokémon? I've decided that no matter what, I will be honest about my intentions, which means…

"Well, here we are. This is the lab."

It is a good thing that Lyra is here, because my mind is betraying me. The lab's exterior is impressive, but there is something homely about it. Granted, the entire town exudes this feeling.

"Good. I can't wait to meet Prof. Elm."

Lyra just presses forward with Snout in her arms. She really is in a hurry, isn't she?

"Let me call him for you. I think that he may be upstairs in his home."

"His home is upstairs? That must be convenient."

Lyra goes outside, so I guess that the stairs aren't indoors. To pass the time, I look around. An assistant is staring at his computer and seems too busy to notice me. Before long, I see a little blond boy wearing glasses, who approaches me somewhat hesitantly.

"Hey, are you Dad's special visitor?"

"Why yes, I am. My name is Kris. What's yours?"

"Roger. I'm Daddy's head assistant."

I can't help but chuckle.

"Your dad must have a lot of faith in you. How do you get along with Lyra?"

"She's pretty cool, but I have to boss her around because she's scatterbrained."

Something tells me that the truth may be a bit different, but I admire his confidence.

"You might not be giving her enough credit, but you're lucky to work together."

He doesn't seem to agree, so he changes the subject.

"You're here for Chica, aren't you?"

"Chica? You mean Chikorita? I am actually not sure which starter is the best choice for me."

"There is no choice! Cinder and Toto aren't around anymore. Ethan picked Cinder, and that thief stole Toto."

"What thief?"

The boy just shrugs his shoulders. Obviously, he doesn't know anything about the thief's identity.

"Poor Toto. We all miss him."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe… Toto will come back someday."

"Ethan will bring him back! I know he will."

Suddenly, I hear a man's voice.

"Now, now Roger… Don't distract Kris with a sad story like that. This is an important day for her. Pleased to meet you, Kris."

The famous Prof. Elm is finally here, with Lyra and Snout right next to him. He is tall, slender and youthful looking, none of which come as a surprise.

"Likewise, professor! Thanks so much for having me."

"Don't mention it. It is about time Chica found a partner."

"But how did you know I wanted a starter?"

"I can read between the lines. You're a bit too young to only care about research papers, aren't you?"

"I do care about your research. I was hoping to discuss it, too."

"Well then, shall I introduce you to Chica first?"

"Absolutely!"

Elm takes out a Poké Ball and summons a Chikorita. My new partner… is an energetic little thing. She runs towards me and sniffs me. A bit bossy, but I already like her.

"Chica is smelling your scent. A person with a bad odor isn't right for her."

"I hope I meet her standards… The ride here might have taken its toll on my hygiene."

But Chica seems satisfied. She rubs against me and I caress her leaf gently.

"You two will get along, I'm sure. I have a nose for this kind of thing."

"Go on, hug her!" Roger exclaims.

I pick up Chica and look at her eyes. I can tell that she is scanning me still, looking for validation of my desire to be with her. That's okay… I understand the hesitation. It's how I feel about people, too.

"Chica, will you be my partner?"

She shows me a small smile, as if to say that she is giving me a chance, but I'm on close watch. Fair enough!

"Don't forget her Poké Ball," Elm adds.

"I don't need a Poké Ball. Chica and I will walk together."

"You can do that even with her Poké Ball present. That is what Ethan and Lyra do."

Lyra nods. Snout is playing with Chica without a care about our discussion.

"But… I don't want her to ever be alone."

"She wouldn't be alone. The Poké Ball system allows Pokémon to be together in cyberspace."

"Cyberspace? What's that?"

"A virtual simulation where Pokémon play with each other. It is better than wild life because they don't have to live in fear of predator Pokémon. The system is designed to create each Pokémon's ideal habitat."

"But… that isn't the real world. Isn't an imaginary world a little sad?"

"Oh, Kris… You're a stubborn one, if you don't mind my saying. I think that you may have gotten the wrong impression from my papers."

Okay, I expected this attitude… But I can still hold my own.

"Have I? Isn't being with Pokémon all the time the best way to bond with them?"

"It isn't practical if you want to train several Pokémon. You can't watch them all forever."

"I think I can, professor. Please let me prove that to you."

I finally notice that Lyra is looking at me intently. She seems a little annoyed, but she finally joins the conversation.

"Oh professor, I think that Kris may have a point. I only have Snout, myself, but I'd like to catch more Pokémon and test Kris' theory."

Catch Pokémon? I wouldn't use that term for what I have in mind…

"Isn't it great, Kris? We have the same goal now."

"Yeah. I'm glad that you share my opinion, Lyra."

"I am curious to see if you're right! Wouldn't it be wonderful if trainers really could be with their Pokémon all the time? Has any person accomplished that before?"

That's quite the change of tune from what she told me on the way here. What gives?

"There is no record of that. In fact, before Poké Balls were invented, people had been limited to having a single partner," Elm clarified.

"Maybe they never tried training more than one?" I asked.

"I doubt it… People have always been curious, especially when it comes to Pokémon. You are not the first to come up with this idea…"

"Professor, please don't discourage us. What's the harm in trying?" Lyra interjects.

"All I'm saying is that the smart thing for Kris to do is take Chica's Poké Ball just in case. And in fact, she should take a supply of Poké Balls for her journey."

"Okay, I will. But I am not going to use a single one."

"So stubborn… Just put them in your bag, young lady. What would your parents think of me if I didn't give you such basic advice?"

That last line was poignant, for reasons he couldn't know.

"So Lyra and Kris are rivals now?" Roger inquired, prompting Chica and Snout to stop playing.

"No way! I'd like to think that Kris is my colleague now. But first thing's first… We really need to finish the preparations for Ethan's welcome home party. Roger, will you give me and Rebecca a hand?"

"Who's Rebecca?" I wonder aloud.

"She's Ethan's mom. And the best cook in town!" Roger exclaims.

"I see. Could Chica and I stay for this party?"

"Of course! After all, Chica is dying to see Cinder again," Lyra says.

"Great! Thanks for having me."

Lyra stops smiling. I can't help but think that she may have been putting on an act during this conversation.

"Well, it's settled. Ethan is coming back this evening and we will all be there to congratulate him for his feats. That sure is exciting, isn't it kids?" Elm summarizes.

Lyra, Snout and Roger leave the lab to make their preparations. I am curious to meet Ethan, but the reason I came here is Chica. I hold her again to let her know, without speaking, that we are going to have a great journey together. Hopefully, I can truly start anew and forget about the past.

***​

After an extended playtime outside the lab, Chica falls asleep in my arms. I need to pass the time, and from a cursory glance through the window, it doesn't seem that Prof. Elm is doing much other than organizing books. Maybe we can talk some more? I'll go inside again and approach him.

"Professor, do you have a minute?"

He turns away from the library and looks at me.

"Hmm, certainly. What's on your mind?"

"Could you tell me what made you think of the Pokéwalker project?"

"Sure. Have you heard of the previous trainer that entered the Hall of Fame?"

"Yes, his name is Red. I don't know much about him, though."

"Actually, Red is his nickname, while Ash is his official name. I guess that Red is his preferred name, though. Anyway, about three years ago Prof. Oak told me that Red had encountered a Pikachu near Pallet Town, and this Pikachu refused to stay inside its ball."

"Really? So some Pokémon dislike cyberspace."

"Don't get ahead of yourself. That Pikachu is very much the exception to the rule."

Sometimes the exception proves the opposite rule.

"But that Pikachu proved something, right?"

"It seemed much more powerful than you'd expect from its species. That gave me the idea that walking might have a positive effect on a Pokémon's potential, hence the Pokéwalker project which I created to collect data on Pokémon trained this way. However…"

"None of the participants showed the same effect as Red's Pikachu did, right?"

"Right. They definitely grew closer to their trainers, and they also attracted rare wild Pokémon. But their battle skills were unaffected, so Pikachu may be an anomaly. Both Prof. Oak and I don't have a good theory about this, and it doesn't help that Ash – I mean Red – is gone."

"Gone?"

Before the professor can respond, I hear a voice from behind. Turning around, I see a woman about Prof. Elm's age and a black-haired boy wearing a mixture of red, yellow and black clothing.

"Professor, you sure know how to make my son feel special. Let's not talk about the previous champion today of all days, shall we?" the mom says light-heartedly.

"Mom! The world doesn't revolve around me," the boy says.

Talk about an awkward moment. Prof. Elm seems embarrassed, and I… can only assume that the boy in front of me is Ethan. His attire is nowhere near as fancy as you'd expect from a champion, but then, he is barely older than I am.

"My apologies, Rebecca. We were just talking about the Pokéwalker business to pass the time before Ethan's arrival. Speaking of Ethan, you know how proud I am of you, right?"

"Of course. You were at a loss for words when we talked right after the Hall of Fame induction," Ethan says in an embarrassed tone.

"I'm just joking, you know," Rebecca replies. "I could blame the professor for not making it to Indigo Plateau, but then I wasn't there, either. And through no fault of my own!" She seems to be in good spirits despite her complaints. I can't help but be jealous of Ethan for yet another reason; even without Rebecca, he has so many people that care about him.

"I am not going to apologize for not telling you that I was going to Indigo Plateau, Mom. It was a stressful experience as it was. Now, could we stop talking about me and acknowledge that we are not alone here?" Ethan retorts and then looks at me, expecting an introduction.

"Oh, where are my manners? Kris, these are Ethan and his mom, Rebecca. Ethan and Rebecca, Kris here is Chica's new trainer," the professor says while looking at all three of the rest of us.

"Nice to meet you two," I say with a smile. Chica is still resting.

"Chica's new trainer, huh? You know, Chica was my first pick, but she didn't want me because I was too dirty for her," Ethan jokes to break the ice a bit. I keep smiling.

"I think she made a mistake, then. Congratulations on your victory."

Chica wakes up as soon as I've finished stuttering. She seems pissed.

"Oh, look who's up. I get the feeling that she's mad at me for not coming to visit more often."

Chica is tackling him. What's that all about? I thought he was joking about the smell business.

"Chica, that's enough!" I shout.

"Don't worry. This impulsive one just wants me to send out Cinder," he says while summoning a fairly striking Typhlosion that towers over Chica and soon hugs her. At first I worry that there might be an accident, but Cinder has no flames on his back since he's just resting now.

"These two really loved each other and still do," the professor explains for my benefit.

"And I'm the bastard that separated them," Ethan laughs again.

"Ethan, what sort of language is that?" Rebecca tells him off.

"Whatever. Kris, you should know that my name is Gold. Only the folks in New Bark call me Ethan."

"Because that's your real name!" Rebecca exclaims. A touchy subject?

"Gold is an interesting choice. What made you think of it?" I ask.

"I'll let you know after dinner!"

"Not before you take a shower and find some clean clothes. We don't want Chica to be upset, do we?" Rebecca says with a smirk.

"Sure. I'll see you two later, then," Ethan adds before heading off. Cinder stays behind with Chica.

I don't know what the dress code for this dinner is, but I do have a nice sweater I could wear. Not that any eyes will be on me... I like how Ethan – okay, Gold – is so down to earth. I was expecting someone wise beyond his years with zero patience for the likes of me. Could we actually have a few things in common? Will he judge me for not wanting to be a "real" trainer that battles and catches Pokémon? Does it matter?
 
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Chapter 5


I've been at the academy for three days now, and boy, has it been a dreadful experience. The place may be huge, and the cafeteria food isn't too shabby, but the dull teachers don't really teach me anything interesting that I don't already know. And my classmates? They're either being immature with each other or worrying about exams. I try to go unnoticed, but I can barely resist the urge to get my teachers to acknowledge the truth, which is that the world used to be far better than it is now.

There is one source of hope, though. That earring… Why did Giselle give it to me? When I approached her after class on the second day, she just smiled and told me to come to the "computer lovers" club this Saturday, which is tomorrow. Right now, I'm just waiting for Grandpa to pick me up from school, while Mom is busy doing who knows what. He's late, and I'm forced to sit on the bench with two other kids.

"Hey, four eyes," a black-haired boy from my class shouts at me from the adjacent bench. I just give him a surprised look; he may not be big, but he looks rugged and fierce.

"Yeah, you. I sort of remember your name, but it's so dumb," he mocks. Charming.

"Well, I don't know your name, so I'm honored that you remember mine," I reply.

"You think you're clever, huh? You're a mama's boy, is what you are."

"Have I done anything to you?"

"You think you're so special – that you're better than the rest of us. Snap out of it."

"How do you know what I think? I haven't said a word until now."

"Which says it all. You're a stuck up nerd," he says and then gets up, walking up to me. "I don't care for snobs, quiet or loud. You're no better than me, understand? If you don't, I'll make ya."

He grins smugly for a while and then leaves. The other kids don't seem to care about what has just happened. What the hell should I do about this? I'd be lying if I said he didn't give me a fright, and yet I don't even know his name. A while back, Mom told me that she didn't want me to go to school because I might get bullied. I guess it's easy for her to forget that, since I'm the one being attacked now. Damn!

After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself, Grandpa finally shows up in his blue car.

"Hey there, my one and only grandson. Hop in," he tells me. I pick up my bag from the bench and walk toward the front door of the car.

"Hi, Grandpa. I was worried that you might not come." He starts driving again toward his house, and not a minute too soon. Even the drivers behind are losing their patience.

"Now, that's silly. I was just held up a bit longer than planned."

"I can imagine. Even Mom is working overtime out of the blue. You two must be onto something, huh?"

"Nice try. Let's talk about school instead." I was naïve to think that he would be more honest than Mom.

"Eh. Classes are okay, except for physical education which wore me out."

"How's your math teacher?" He gives me a glance while keeping his eyes on the road.

"A bit too chatty. She spends too much time on trivial stuff."

"Trivial to you. Remember that your background is special." Thanks, Sherlock. I didn't ask to go to school.

"Whatever. Actually, there is one teacher I find interesting – the computer science teacher."

"Oh? I didn't know you were interested in computer science."

"Well, that is not the reason she's interesting. I can tell you why, but only if you don't tell Mom." He pauses, as if to think what could go wrong.

"Now I'm intrigued. Fine, it will be our secret as long as it isn't anything crazy."

"She gave me a Cubone earring on my first day. I think she was trying to tell me something."

"Tell you what?"

"I am not sure yet."

He keeps thinking, while waiting for the pedestrians to clear the road. A woman and her baby are taking their sweet time. "Have you talked to her since then?"

"No. I had a class with her two days ago, but it was just about RAM and stuff. When the lesson was over, she invited me to her club for advanced students."

"Advanced? But your Mom only taught you the basics about computers, right? You don't even have one at home."

"Giselle, the teacher, doesn't seem to care. I think the club has to do with the earring." He sighs.

"Keep me updated. This sounds a little weird to me, but we'll see."

"Okay. And you'll remember your promise, right?"

"Yeah, yeah. Your mom doesn't have to know everything, and she has enough on her plate."

Enough on her plate? What the hell are they working on? It's clear that neither one of them will tell me.

"In other news, I'm going to cook a lentil casserole for dinner. I'll let you pick the movie."

"Timegate Traveler. I know where to find it online."

"What's that about?"

"A world where Pokémon control people. Their leader is a Ledian of all things. Sounds cool, right?" He chuckles and gives me a smile.

"Where do you come up with this stuff? Not that I mind. I'm looking forward to our Ledian overlords."

I smile back, but the casual feeling doesn't last long as I ponder if a movie like that is fitting for the era we live in.

***​

It's a new day and I'm back in the academy – just for Giselle's club, fortunately. Last night was pretty great, if only for the casserole and Grandpa cracking jokes during the movie. Mom joined us toward the middle, and luckily, she didn't seem to mind the subject matter.

I needed the distraction from my problems… I deliberately didn't mention the bully to either one of them because I didn't want them to worry about me, as much as I'd like to make Mom regret her decision. Perhaps that boy wasn't completely wrong about me; I do consider myself better than the other kids, who barely know a thing about the most exciting aspect of our world. So what if Pokémon are extinct? That is no excuse. At the same time, those kids are not responsible for their ignorance; their parents and teachers are. Maybe they need someone like me to fill in the blanks for them. I like that idea... Here I go again, considering myself special.

Before I can untie my thoughts, I need to find out what's going on with Giselle. The academy is almost empty, as Saturday is a day off except for some of the clubs. I feel more at ease walking along the hall when I don't have to worry about taller kids blocking my path. There sure are a lot of classes on the first floor alone. All I care about is the computer lab.

"Good morning there, kid. I was beginning to worry that you might not show up." Giselle emerges from behind me, holding a cup of tea. I guess that she made her way from the teachers' longue.

"Good morning, Ms. Bernard."

"Now, now… Didn't I tell you to call me Giselle?"

"You did on the first day, but then the other kids in class referred to you by your last name."

"Those kids aren't members of our club," she smiles mysteriously. I can't read this woman at all, but then I can only read my family.

"This club… How many members are there?"

"Just three, including you and me."

What?

"I'm confused. You couldn't find more students who like computer science? You chose me as soon as we met."

"How odd indeed," she keeps smiling while sipping her tea. "Well, what are we standing around for?"

She gives me a signal to enter the lab. Still confused, I may as well find out what this is all about. Giselle soon opens the door, but the room is empty.

"Is our third member late?" I ask her.

"Nope. He's right on time," she replies and proceeds to unlock another door I never noticed during the regular class two days ago. The hidden room is fairly small, and there is indeed another person inside. He's a chubby kid who is giving me a wave, as if we know each other.

"Ernest, meet Alan. Alan, meet Ernest," Giselle says.

"Giselle has told me a lot about you. I'm so excited that we have a new member at last!" Alan exclaims, puzzling me more.

"Hi. I actually don't know anything about you," I say weakly.

"Alan here is the best programmer in the academy, and he's been helping me with a secret project. One that I'm sure you will find interesting," she explains in her mysterious way.

"That's right. A year ago Giselle enlisted me to resurrect the PBS system that was created in ancient times."

"PBS? Ancient times?" I ask in a bewildered tone.

"Come on, Alan. There is no need to confuse him even more. Ernest, PBS is an acronym for the Pokémon Battle Simulator, which does exactly what the name says – simulate Pokémon battles via a computer game. This system was created in Pokémon Tech, which is where I studied when I was about your age. That was not in ancient times!"

"Then when was it?" Alan grins.

"Didn't your mom teach you not to pry when it comes to a woman's age?" she retorts without a note of amusement.

"A battle simulator, eh? But if it was already created… a while ago, then what is it you're working on?"

"Making it more realistic, of course! The old simulator just had Pokémon follow turn-based commands. That may make for an interesting game, but we care about realism!" she says with passionate eyes.

I pause to consider what she's saying. A way to simulate battles as realistically as possible, when the subject matter no longer exists? Isn't that morbid? I have to explain my reservations, but I'll try not to sound judgmental.

"Well, the idea sounds cool, but battles aren't the reason why I care about Pokémon. Above all, I want to understand their history, and most importantly – what happened to them." Giselle doesn't look surprised, but Alan is not pleased.

"Then go become a professor or something. History is boring," he says derisively.

"Alan, cut that out. What Ernest is saying is perfectly reasonable, and I didn't invite him to help with programming shenanigans. This club is not just for PBS development."

"I'm confused. So what is the reason you invited me?" I ask.

"The beta of PBS 2 has attracted quite a bit of attention from people all over the world. We've opened a bulletin board for people to discuss, well, Pokémon. There are thousands of posts already in just one month, and reading them all is no easy job."

"So you want me to do it? Are those posts interesting?"

"Most of them are garbage, if to put it bluntly. But my gut is telling me that there has to be something of interest. Don't ask me what – that's for you to find out."

Finally, she gets to the point. Alan has lost interest in the conversation and has gone back to typing, which doesn't bother me. I think I understand Giselle's reasoning: About 15 years ago, the government passed a law to keep the Internet Pokémon-free for the sake of "keeping the youth focused on the future." There were a lot of protests, but ultimately most people were in favor of the proposed law. That all happened before I was even born, so the Internet has been useless when it comes to my Pokémon studies. But some movies can still be found on sketchy websites, perhaps because they're meant to be viewed as pure fiction.

"This bulletin board must be using special encryption so that the government can't detect it, right?" I ask to verify my conclusion. Giselle's eyes widen; I guess she didn't expect me to say anything like that.

"Correct. Even the PBS 2 is encrypted, or the website would have been taken down in a day. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in, but I have dedicated many years to this project and now it's a reality."

"Impressive. I'm skeptical about random posts, but I don't have anything better to do in my spare time and I figure that something is bound to come up."

"Your enthusiasm is absolutely contagious," she laughs. "Then let me show you to your computer and load the bulletin board for you. You'll need a user name and a password."

"How about Espeon Orb? I'll let you pick the password, since I'm doing this for you and all." She nods and types away. The screen turns green; this bulletin board looks like computer software from the 80s, which I've seen in some movies.

"Here you go. The password is TechCubone96."

"Cubone? That reminds me: Why did you give me that earring?"

"That was just my way of hinting at there being more to me than meets the eye. Now that the earring has served its purpose, I want it back," she says very seriously. She can be a bit scary sometimes.

"I don't have it on me. I'll bring it for our next session, okay?" She nods, but her mind seems to be elsewhere.

"I'm guessing that you had a Cubone back in the day, didn't you?" I ask to confirm another suspicion. I've also worked out that she's about 37 if she was around my age in 1996…

"Yes, I did. He was my special partner, but we're not going to talk about my past today."

"Fair enough. I'll get started, then." Alan stares at me. I guess he has something to say.

"I hope that you can get this side project over with quickly so that you can at least be my beta tester." He already has plenty of beta testers…

"Only if you're nice," I retort. He has no comeback, so he turns around with a frustrated face. Hey, he had it coming.

I guess that this club… is quite a bit more than I expected. I have no idea if I can learn anything from a bulletin board, but I'm excited to have something to do that I care about. It stands to reason that someone is going to use a secret forum to speak up about what happened, right? I can only hope so.
 
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The Hidden Author
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Well, about time I got to reviewing this!

Plot/Story:
So far its fine, but I do have some issue with having the precursor story in between what seems to be the key story; it would have done better separate from it, that way there isn't as much confusion amongst readers. I understand that you warned readers at the beginning, but it still doesn't change the fact that you essentially have two stories in one that have relatively little to do with each other. I can tell that there will be a connection at some point, but right now it feels rather...unnecessary.

Besides that, I'm rather curious about the reasoning of banning all things Pokemon. Sure they want the next generation to focus on things that affect them at the moment, but couldn't that have just been made a school policy? Couldn't parents enforce that? Was it really needed to make a law out of? There's plenty of sorrow for the loss of Pokemon, but I think many people would want to remember their Pokemon by talking about them instead of hiding them away.

Grammar/Structure:
Nothing wrong here as far as I can tell. Spelling, grammar, it all checks out.

Characters:
Pretty believable so far, and think today I'll focus on the interactions between Ernest and his mom. You do well in showing the contention between them, I'll give you that. The thing here is we don't see what they are doing while they're talking; in most cases, people aren't just sitting or standing. They're doing something alongside it, whether it be facial expressions, hand gestures, or some other complex interactions. I'd imagine that his mom would have more exhausted expressions, considering how much she's worked, and the insistence of Ernest leaning what she does. Ernest would appear curious and potentially fidgety, and seeing these two sorts of energies interact not just in words but in actions would make this better as well.

Setting:
Its really...nonexistent. There's hints of it within the characters' dialogue, and glimpses when your describing what a character is doing, but outside of that it's not even there. We're seeing characters and hearing what they say, but it's over a blank backdrop. The setting is the stage where the actors tell their story, and it is a crucial part to establish the atmosphere of what is happening; there's a difference with a bully threatening you in a bright, cheery school instead of a dark, dreary one.

This can become ten times better if you add some settings into the mix. Trust me.

Style:
Unlike most stories I see, you chose to go into present-tense. While there's not really an issue with that, it can be hard to keep things consistent with your wording, so its generally recommended to keep with a past-tense perspective. At least you chose to use a first-person perspective to go with it; third-person would have made things a tad confusing.

Overall:
You are telling an interesting story, but certain plot points are odd, and the lack of setting is pretty noticeable. Some better justification for the law banning Pokemon-related substance and paragraphs describing the setting would make this better to read...on top of maybe doing something about your odd format of posting chapters.
 
Stuck
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I know that I need to work on setting descriptions. I personally get bored with too much focus on setting, but I admit that I've used it too scarcely.

The ban is something I plan to delve into soon, although it's important to remember that Ernest only knows so much about the world surrounding him. As for the "odd posting format", that is not something I want to change. Both Ernest and Kris are the protagonists and the format is supposed to make the reader think that the notion of "past" and "future" may not be that clear cut. Even if that intent is unclear, I don't see how the format is confusing; I've had people tell me that they like it.
 
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The Hidden Author
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Okay, I can understand the posting format. Really it was a personal preference. If it works for you, then by all means, keep doing it.
 
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Hey, so this story has anachronism, cosmic mysteries and alternating narrators so I basically had to read this. Also being similar to my own stuff means that some of my critiques might be "this is how I would do it" more than the usual "this is how to maximize your style's potential" I prefer to go with. So take everything below with a few grains of salt.

I'm going to tackle the prologue first, followed by the Ernest chapters followed by the Kris chapters and some general things.

The prologue: I'm inclined to agree with Pavs(?) that you don't need to be terribly clear up front about who narrators are and what the pattern is, especially since it's pretty clear and simple. As for the "recreate the game opening" trick, I 100% did it in all of my early stories and I understand the appeal. Especially for a game as largely forgotten as Crystal where the introduction doesn't even feel like a novelization so much as a strange cosmic opener. I quite liked it, but I read it yesterday so I can't quite put my thoughts together as to why. The initial imagery of nature and a god(dess?) just casually looking on was nice, as well as the mundane descriptions Suicune uses for their own nature. I remember it being long enough to get my attention without dragging on at all. So pretty perfect length.

Ernest's chapters are... not so good. I don't know whether or not you intended to write him that way, but he came off as high-functioning austistic to me (which I also am). That means odd fixations, reduced ability to read people and odd but sometimes unusually insightful thought processes. Also a ton of swearing in a lot of cases. Problem is, all of those are also side effects of homeschooling so I'm unsure how to differentiate. Where I'm going with this is that Ernest is awkward and out of place, as well as constantly messing up social situations. This makes him, at least to me, a bit unsympathetic. You can have unsympathetic protagonists but reader's aren't really obligated to care about them. So here I'd try and balance Ernest out by showing him in his element or with genuine strengths aside from "he likes Pokemon and is bad at social situations," which so far is essentially all of his character. The former makes him hard to root for and the latter...

...the latter felt nice at first. But at some point it became a bit ridiculous when society went way overboard on punishing people who care about a thing that happened ~20 years ago (as far as I can tell in-universe). People generally don't respond to tragedy by deciding, en masse, to just pretend it didn't happen. 9/11 was about as long ago in the real United States and even questioning the sanctity of the moment or the "Never Forget" slogan is enough to get you dragged for a week on cable news. Same goes for all the other "Never Forget" moments in U.S. history like The Maine, Pearl Harbor, Reagan, etc. Even things like slavery don't get the "children should really care more about the present than the past" treatment in education except from a handful of fringe groups.

And the ability to wipe it from the Internet? That's literally only possible if your Kanjoh either runs the entire globe, has sealed itself off and uses a nationwide intranet like North Korea, or has a powerful firewall and national censure bureau like China and the mentions of protests and public opinion suggest that isn't the case. So at some point the banning of Pokemon-based discussion felt more like a parody of the plucky underdog who wants to prove the adults wrong than a genuine instance of the trope.

Also what happened to global ecology from that? Wouldn't there be mass poverty from the upheavals to industry, agriculture and everything else? How did society keep functioning when something very, very vital to the world died? Pokemon die-offs aren't like a hypothetical scenario where all pet cats and dogs died; this is a situation where most animals and some plants on the globe died. We wouldn't have humans left in ten years, much less living in nice cities with an internet connection.

So the Ernest chapters are weighed down by the giant mess that forms the concept behind them and the unlikeability of the protagonist.

The Kris chapters are some of the best new journey fic material I've read in years. I like her: she's stubborn, but she also has clear thought processes and redeeming qualities. And the backstory, outside of the little-bit-over-the-top drunk ramblings of her father (who actually says "Foolish child" in real life? It sounds like a proverb or a fictional villain monologue) feels realistic. And I like the little touches throughout it with the Pokewalker project, the story being a direct sequel in a lot of ways to GS, Chikorita being moody and adorable and not entirely accepting of her trainer, Ethan's personality... everything. Almost everything in the Kris chapters feels so good and it just makes the Ernest ones a bigger pain to get through.

On that note, your chapters all feel really short. I'm not sure what the actual word count is but I always find myself wondering if they're actually, really over when I get through them. I'd make them longer so you can actually capitalize on the time it takes to pull a reader in before pushing them right back out.

I think this has potential. But you really need to think about the Ernest chapters to make it great all-around.
 
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@Agenda Thanks for your review.

1. I'm glad that you like Kris' story at least. The other readers don't comment on it as much.

2. Ernest is my take on a homeschooled kid who hasn't had any friends and keeps hearing stories about creatures from the past. He may not be relatable to the average reader, but hopefully that will change as he gets to engage with the world.

Where did he swear? I wouldn't consider "damn" swearing, especially when he isn't actually saying it to anyone. Is there a better way to express frustration?

3. The government has banned Pokemon discussion in the local language (I am not comfortable calling it Japanese, but you get the idea); other countries have their own laws. I understand your argument, but to me, this isn't like 9/11 where a relatively small number of people died and the political circumstances haven't changed by much. Pokemon going extinct has left the world in such a shock that most people don't want to talk or hear about it, and the conspiracy theories that ran rampant on the Internet did not help anyone.

But in hindsight, I definitely should have elaborated on this in the chapter a lot more than I did. Hopefully you'll read Chapter 7.

4) The ecology aspects are a bit tricky for two reasons:
a. To Ernest, the world is alive and well and having him think about agriculture would be rather contrived. I can come up with an explanation for how pollination still works (fungi), but would that really be interesting world building?
b. The only use of Pokemon for livestock that comes to mind is Miltank for their milk. People can do without milk, and they don't seem to be eating Pokemon to begin with. What economy is there really to speak of? The people operating Pokemon Centers and Marts? I am more interested in addressing the fates of gym leaders, and even then, I can only do so much of that without derailing the plot.

5) The chapters have been getting longer. The last two chapters were around 2,500 words, but I admit I should have added more to Chapter 5. Did you feel that Chapter 4 was too short?
 
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So, I looked at my notes and started to see the number of little annoyances really pile up. This means that either this story needs some serious polishing, or more likely, it's a side-effect of my not being the target audience. I'm much more inclined to believe it's the latter. I suppose I could sum up most of those note-complaints as one issue - I find the story juvenile. That's not necessarily a problem in and of itself. A lot of Harry Potter is juvenile. The same can be said of The Twits, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Land of Green Ginger - they're all stories that have their merits. It really depends on what you were going for.

With that in mind, it seems more sensible to pick out critique that has got little to do with whether I like the maturity level of the story or not. First up, the prose is usually very competent, with the main issues really being a case of silly spelling errors and odd inconsistencies in the spelling of names. That being said, there is a kind of flatness to the narrative. There's next to no worldbuilding except when it impacts on the missing pokémon idea, and hardly any setting. It's all very clinically written, which is something that sticks out when it's not just Ernest's perspective but Kris' that has this feeling. There are some moments here and there that break this rule. I liked the addition of a bus to New Bark Town - it's a little thing, but it's amazing how many Pokémon stories refuse to have any kind of mundane infrastructure. Likewise the Pokéwalker adaptation was interesting. Sure, it's kinda silly even by Pokémon standards but I think this can be ignored for the sake of trying to give a game mechanic some sort of "real-world" equivalent.

I wonder if the narrative really needs to be as stripped down as it is. I said I didn't have a problem with it in the Prologue, and I stand by that, but quite apart from the flatness the story tends to be dumped. Kris' conversation with the old lady isn't exactly an elegant way to establish the bullet points of her motivations. I had something not dissimilar to that in Chapter One of my story for a long time, and readers never really bought it. In hindsight, they had pretty good reasons for that. What this boils down to is that I don't think this briefness really adds anything. It's probably to blame for Agenda's impression that the chapters were short. They certainly felt short when I read them.

The voices of the characters are ... odd. The kids consistently seem to speak and act more adult than the adults. In part I'm prepared to write that off as coming under the "juvenile" banner - a favourite trope of kids and teen fiction is to make the adults as clueless as teenagers think they are. But the irony is that even their childish moments come across as old. If you had said Ernest was fifteen I wouldn't have batted an eyelid.

I agree with Agenda's dislike of Ernest, though I wouldn't peg him as at all insightful. Frankly, I think he's a twerp, with a teenager's twerpiness. He has a thinly-veiled contempt for almost everyone else (Noting how he thinks of people as being in herds or hives in Chapter Three), and the kind of lofty view on education that's easy to have when you don't have to worry about paying bills. His smugness is something I've come across more than once in homeschooled kids. He never misses an opportunity to be inwardly scathing (The irony of a kid obsessed with rebelling over pokémon raising eyebrows at someone wanting to recreate a battle simulator) It's all actually quite sharply written (Age issues aside), but it doesn't make it much fun to spend time in his head.

Kris isn't quite so obnoxious as Ernest, though she does have her moments. I find her voice less jarring - though, come to think of it, did you state how old she was supposed to be - in a sense that it's kind of on a par with Lyra. Ethan, too, doesn't necessarily seem too old, even if by comparison his mother is filling more of a teenager role. I think in the case of her - particularly in Chapter Four - it's more the very stripped-down narrative rather than the character herself which lets down the chapter.
 
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A story about kids accomplishing adult-like feats is inevitably juvenile to some extent. The franchise is rooted in this premise and I don't reject it.

Beth Pavell said:
with the main issues really being a case of silly spelling errors and odd inconsistencies in the spelling of names.
I'd like to see an example, please. No one has mentioned this before and I use a spell checker in addition to proofreading.

If you're referring to the lack of capitalization for "mom", "dad" and "grandpa" in the early chapters, I've fixed that now.

The voices of the characters are ... odd. The kids consistently seem to speak and act more adult than the adults. In part I'm prepared to write that off as coming under the "juvenile" banner - a favourite trope of kids and teen fiction is to make the adults as clueless as teenagers think they are. But the irony is that even their childish moments come across as old. If you had said Ernest was fifteen I wouldn't have batted an eyelid.
Ernest is supposed to be precocious intellectually and he mimics his family's speech; if he seems 15 to you, that is perfectly the intention. With Kris I was trying to balance her being a normal kid with her strong ambition to go on the journey she wants for herself. I should probably make her speak a bit more her age, but in terms of her behavior (reserved but assertive when needed), that is just how I envision the character. Lyra is already a researcher and has a haughty attitude toward Kris.

I really don't see how the adults are clueless. I'd say that some of them, namely Rebecca and Giselle, are more enthusiastic because they have more to be happy about right now.

The main points that I'm taking from your review (other than an apparent disdain for the story) are that Ernest should be more likeable and that I should avoid information dumps. Will do.
 
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Chapter 6

Prof. Elm, Chica and I are heading to the celebration party in Gold's honor. Chica is walking right next to me, occasionally looking up to see what I'm doing. I wonder if she knows where we're going and why. Apparently, a chunk of the locals have already gathered at Rebecca's yard for the great feast. The walk shouldn't be too long, which is good since December evenings are pretty cold and my sweater and jacket just don't cut it.

"Professor, how well does everyone in town know each other?" I ask.

"Oh, this is a quaint small town and we're all fairly close. As my wife tends to say, anyone who lives here doesn't get to have privacy for too long," he laughs.

"Cool. People in Violet City are also very hospitable, but it's a much bigger community than yours. So I'm only familiar with the people in my neighborhood."

"Violet is an interesting city, to be sure. It is only second to Ecruteak in terms of honoring past traditions. Have you been to Sprout Tower?" he asks.

"Just once as part of a school tour. It's beautiful, and I love the idea behind learning to live with Pokémon in harmony. I sort of doubt there was ever a 100-foot-tall Bellsprout, though!"

"Ha ha. That sort of thinking is probably best left for local legends, but who knows. There hasn't been a lot of research on how Pokémon have changed over centuries. It is conceivable that Bellsprout used to be taller, or that at least some of them were. 100 feet tall sounds farfetched, but maybe over 5 feet? More than twice their current height."

His words leave me dreamy-eyed, as if this day weren't already the best ever. Chica can tell that I'm happy, so she is, too. And that makes me even happier.

"Pokémon changing over centuries… That sounds so exciting! Is that something you've worked on at all?"

"Not really. I used to study regular evolution patterns, but my interests shifted to Pokémon breeding and the Pokéwalker project, as you know."

I nod. I can't help but admire this guy, who is smart, curious, kind and even rather handsome. I wish Dad were even a bit like him. I'm sure that Mom was, but that is small comfort given that I never got to know her.

"We're almost there. I think I see Roger waving at us," he points out. Sure enough, that is Roger. I wonder if he's waiting for his dad or me. He's a good kid; maybe we'll get to talk some more.

"Kris and Chica, over here!" he yells, ignoring his dad.

I wave back and give him a smile. It's time to join the festivities, Chica.

***​

There are about 50 people in Rebecca's yard, all busy eating delicacies while talking with those around them. There is an assortment of tables organized as one big rectangle, but Roger is taking Chica and me to a separate table where Gold and Lyra are sitting, with Snout in Lyra's arms and Cinder resting comfortably on the grass.

"I've found them!" Roger tells the other two excitedly. Gold smiles, while Lyra waves.

"There sure are a lot of people here, huh?" I ask rhetorically.

"Yep. Rebecca has been working really hard to make this night one to remember," Lyra notes. "But Ethan here is too shy to give a speech."

"Hey, I'm just a kid still. Don't put pressure on me," he says with a note of frustration.

"Kris, what can I get you and Chica to eat?" Roger asks.

"What's the best plate on the menu?"

"Cinnabar volcano burgers!"

"Volcano, huh? What vegetables are they made of?"

"All of them! There's lots of chili, hence the volcano," he answers eagerly.

"Sounds good, especially for Chica," I laugh. He rushes toward a long table with all the food and drinks, leaving me with Lyra and Gold while Chica is trying to wake Cinder up. No success there.

"So you two have known each other for years, right?" I ask, catching Lyra's attention.

"Yep. We've been good friends since I moved here when I was about five," Lyra says happily. Gold just nods; there seems to be something on his mind. Before long, Roger returns with a plate of two burgers for me and Chica.

"Thanks, Roger. Have you eaten yet?"

"I couldn't help myself while I was hanging the decorations," he laughs.

"But you haven't had cake at least. I hope you aren't full," Lyra adds in a motherly fashion.

I signal Chica to stop jumping up and down on Cinder's back and have something to eat. She eagerly runs toward me while I'm cutting the burger into chewable pieces.

"Here, bon appetit!" I tell her. Gold eyes us.

"You two have really hit it off after just a few hours, huh?" he says. I smile.

"I've been waiting to get a Pokémon for a long time, but I've been around them at Earl's academy," I explain.

"Earl? Oh right, I ran into him right before my first gym battle. What is the big guy like?"

"Very jolly, but also serious about teaching kids to be strategic trainers," I answer. Lyra raises an eyebrow.

"From what I've heard, none of his students made it to the Hall of Fame," she notes.

"Hey, the Hall of Fame isn't everything. The Battle Tower is a great place for battles, too," Gold corrects her.

"Oh, I didn't mean to say that the academy was the best way to learn about battling," I clarify awkwardly.

"So have you finished your studies?" she asks. Chica finishes eating and plays with Snout, having given up on Cinder.

"Kind of. I've passed all the regular tests, but the battles… were too hard," I reply.

"Hard how?" she keeps asking. I don't know how to answer that without embarrassing myself. Is she doing this on purpose?

"I don't know. Battles make me nervous and I really didn't want to command Pokémon that weren't even mine," I say after pondering. Lyra looks surprised.

"I get what you mean. It doesn't seem right to use a Pokémon that isn't yours," Gold chips in.

"Like that thief who stole Toto!" Roger stands up and exclaims. This is clearly a touchy subject.

"Yeah, like him. I'm sorry that I couldn't get Toto back, but…" Gold stops mid-sentence.

"But what?" Roger asks. Lyra looks annoyed.

"Come on, Roger. Cut Ethan some slack on his big night," she says. I can't help but agree.

"That's okay. That thief… I call him Silver, and he isn't that bad a guy," Gold explains. "He never introduced himself. I came up with Silver because of his belt; I would have called him Red because of his hair color, but that name is already occupied."

"Wait, so how well do you know him?" Roger asks.

"I've battled him several times to get Toto back. I lost the first few times, but I did win when he challenged me in Goldenrod City while I was trying to stop the broadcast."

"So what happened?" Lyra asks. It seems that she only knows so much about Gold's journey. How close are they?

"Well, he helped me save the Radio Tower's director and find Team Rocket's interim leader, Archer. I doubt that I could have done it without him." So Gold wasn't the only one responsible for stopping Team Rocket. The media didn't mention Silver at all.

"He stole Toto, but he fought against much bigger thieves. I wonder what that is about," I note.

"That doesn't change a thing! He is just as bad as they are," Roger counters.

"Let's just drop the subject, okay?" Lyra says agitated. Rebecca comes close to our table.

"Kris, right? I'm glad you could join us. I see that Chica is enjoying my cooking," she says with a smile. She's an attractive woman who certainly knows how to host a party. The guests seem to adore her, probably for being a single mom that raised such an exceptional son.

"Thank you so much, Rebecca. It's great to be here," I reply. She keeps smiling.

"Now then, Ethan, you haven't said so much as a word to the other guests. At least send out the rest of your Pokémon so that everyone can admire them," she tells her son.

"Okay, but they don't like people staring at them. The minute they don't feel comfortable, I'm returning them to their balls," he tells her off. Then he stands up and takes out four Poké Balls, clicking on their buttons in quick succession. Four creatures emerge next to Cinder: Scizor, Smeargle, Umbreon and a white, avian Pokémon I don't recognize. They all look so cool!

"Go on, send out the last one," Roger says in mild amusement.

"Yeah, as if. A red Gyarados is not a good fit for a party," Gold laughs. Meanwhile, people have noticed the new guests and are excited. Smeargle and Umbreon hide behind Scizor, while the mysterious egg-shaped critter is flying happily.

"I saw them on TV! That Togekiss was a real star against Lance's Dragonite," a tall man yells. I guess that a lot of people watched the championship battle, but I didn't. The man sits down when Gold doesn't answer him; he clearly doesn't enjoy the attention.

"Togekiss? Is that a newly discovered species?" I ask.

"Kind of. I got a Togepi egg from Mr. Pokémon, who got it from the Kimono Girls in Ecruteak City. It's a very rare Pokémon, and it was by coincidence that Prof. Elm figured out how it evolves. Long story short, it evolved into Togetic after the Radio Tower incident, and then again right before I entered Indigo Plateau," Gold says.

"Amazing. So how did it defeat Dragonite?"

"It's a Fairy type. They're pretty good dragon slayers in general, but even so, Lance's team were a real hurdle," he says.

"Don't be so modest, Ethan! You showed that Lance guy who's boss!" the tall man from before yells again. Gold sighs, while Cinder finally wakes up to join his friends. Chica and Snout greet them, too. It's funny how Cinder and Scizor tower over all the others.

"Your Pokémon are so cool," I tell him.

"They're my loyal partners. We'll always be together," he says smiling. An elderly woman approaches us. She's eating a piece of cake.

"Ethan, my boy, what do you want to do now? You've already achieved so much in just a year," she tells him. Gold pauses.

"Have you considered replacing Lance as the champion?" she asks after he stays silent.

"No, I could never do that. I want to keep traveling with my friends," he answers.

"Oh? Travel where?"

"I'm thinking of Kanto. There are some great places to visit there, and the gym leaders are tough," he says.

"Kanto is an interesting region. Very different from rural Johto," she notes. "I can't imagine that the gym leaders will be much of a challenge for you, though."

"Battles aren't just about the challenge, and besides, there is a very strong trainer I want to meet."

"You mean Red, right?" Lyra asks, while the woman looks curious.

"Yes. Red has been my role model ever since I heard about him bringing down Giovanni. I realized then that age means nothing," he says while petting his Umbreon.

"Of course age doesn't matter. Why, I'm in my 70s, but I feel as vibrant as ever. Anyway, I hope that you don't rush off to Kanto first thing in the morning, eh?"

"Don't worry about it. I've promised Mom to stick around for at least a week."

"Wonderful. I'll see you later, then," she says and turns back. She almost stumbles over Chica, who is too preoccupied with her playtime to notice where she's going. Awkward.

"I don't know about you guys, but I could use a slice of cake right about now," Lyra says. "Shall I get you plates?" We all nod excitedly. She comes back after a few minutes and we enjoy the delicious flavor of a black forest chocolate cake. We let the Pokémon have some, too. Before long, the guests start leaving, as it's already past 10 pm. Prof. Elm approaches, looking ready to leave.

"Okay, Roger. It's bedtime for you."

"Geez, why should I go to sleep while everyone else is still up?" Roger mopes.

"They're older than you are, and in case you hadn't noticed, they're going home," the professor retorts. "Now Kris, it's way too late for you to start your journey today. How about I let you sleep on the sofa in my lab?"

"That sounds great. Thank you!" That is a load off my mind, but I was afraid to ask him.

"Thanks for coming, everyone. It's been fun," Gold tells us. His Pokémon other than Cinder are back in their balls by now. "And thank you, Lyra and Roger, for making this happen."

"I did all the work, really," Roger laughs. Lyra is giving him the evil eye.

"Like hell you did. Even I can't take the credit for Rebecca's hard work," she says. "Anyway, it was worth every second! Even if you were pretty quiet, Ethan."

"I don't like being in the spotlight, that's all. And I told you to call me Gold."

"Hey, if you don't want to feel important, don't change your name just because people all over the region know you now," she says. He doesn't have a good comeback.

"Fine, call me Ethan. But not you, Kris." I nod, while Lyra stares. This is so awkward.

"Okay, you kids. Let's get going, and Ethan, don't forget to bring your Pokéwalker device tomorrow. I want to see all the juicy details about your journey," the professor says and Gold nods. I signal to Chica that we need to get going, and she follows me reluctantly. She could probably keep playing all night if we humans weren't in the way…

"Goodnight, everyone," I tell Gold, Lyra and Rebecca. It's time to go to sleep.

***​

It's morning now. Chica is resting comfortably on my blanket, and I'm thinking ahead about our journey. I haven't planned nearly enough, not least because I didn't even know that I would receive a starter. The only thing I know is that I am not going back home. I did have enough sense to bring a supply of potions and repels just in case; there is no way that Chica will get hurt on my watch. After thinking back and forth, I realize that I have to be spontaneous. What's the worst thing that could happen?

Roger and his dad enter the lab. The former is his usual perky self.

"Rise and shine, ladies!" Roger shouts.

"For heaven's sake, Roger. They're free to sleep for as long as they'd like."

Chica looks pretty pissed. She did not want a wake up call.

"Sorry. I just thought that Kris was already up," Roger says.

"That's okay, I was. And we should get going now," I reply.

"Hey, Kris… I want to keep in touch with you. After all, you're going to do important work for us and it's my job to monitor your progress!" Roger says seriously. I can tell that he just wants to talk.

"That's a great idea! Here, let me write down my Pokégear number," I say and take out a pencil. "You can call me whenever about anything," I smile.

"Sure, when I am not too busy with other projects," he smiles back. Prof. Elm looks amused.

"Kris, two things: First, I've prepared you some food for your trek to Cherrygrove City. Second, your Pokéwalker device is ready," the professor says.

"Awesome. Professor, you've been really great to me, and I'm just some girl from another city. I could never thank you enough."

"Now, now, don't make me feel emotional. You are not just some girl and you deserve a great start as a new trainer," he smiles. "Just promise me that you won't do anything reckless. Use those Poké Balls when needed, and train that Chica of yours."

"I won't do anything reckless, don't worry," but those balls... Let's not rehash that debate. It's best to just smile.

***​

Well, it's time to head off. "Are you ready, Chica?" Her eyes tell me that she certainly is. The Pokégear map should help me navigate my way out of town. We start walking along the pavement Lyra and I used to get to the lab yesterday. After we get to the bus station, we'll get on the first bus and stop mid-way to see the wild Pokémon from up close. We just need to be careful not to attract attention; the last thing I want is to get into an unnecessary battle.

Suddenly, I see Gold running toward us. "Kris, wait up!" I stop, while Chica looks confused.

"I didn't get a chance to wish you good luck on your journey," he says.

"No worries, and thanks. I hope that you find what you're looking for in Kanto."

"What I'm looking for? I don't really know what that is."

"You said that you wanted to meet Red, right?

"Yes, but he isn't the only one. I'm also looking for Silver, to thank him for his help against Team Rocket. I didn't mention this to Roger, but I believe that Toto is pretty happy where he is."

"You should tell that to Roger. I've only known him for a day, but it's obvious that he's very worried about Toto."

"You're right. Hey, what are you looking for?"

I pause. I don't like being asked this question because I don't have a good answer that satisfies people.

"I just want to get to know Pokémon better. To do that, Chica will always be on my side, and so will any other partner that comes along."

"That's a great answer. Lyra told me that you don't like Poké Balls, so I guess this is the reason for that. Just be careful, okay?"

"Funny, the professor said the same thing just an hour ago. What should I be careful of?"

"Trust me, even Johto has its share of dangerous wild Pokémon and criminals. You need your Pokémon to keep you safe, and that means training them."

Criminals I understand, but why would wild Pokémon be dangerous? He's exaggerating, but he has good intentions.

"Don't worry, I'll be fine. Hey, do you want to share Pokégear numbers? That way we can keep tabs on each other's journeys."

"Sure, give me your Pokégear and I'll ring mine so that both numbers are saved." I take the device out and he dials his number. Done.

"Great. Well, we should get going. Enjoy the break before you leave, okay?" I say.

"Will do. I'll be bored out of my mind, but I'll be a good son for now," he laughs.

"Your mom is pretty great. I hope you know that," but then, he couldn't know what it's like not to have a mom at all.

"Sure do. Anyway, feel free to call me about anything – especially training. I want to see Chica as a Meganium next time we meet." As he says that, Chica tackles him. She must want another hug from Cinder. Gold knows this all too well, so he summons his trusted starter, who lifts Chica up to say goodbye. Heartwarming, really.

"Get a room, you two. Kris needs to get going," he says.

"Yeah, we shouldn't miss our bus. Bye Gold, and let's remember to stay in touch!"

He nods and signals Cinder to put Chica down. We move in different directions, but I know that we'll meet again. What sort of person will I be by then?
 
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The Vulture Queen
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Chapter felt a little longer than the last few, even if basically nothing of plot significance happened. Which is sort of the problem here. There was an update and I can't tell you anything meaningful I learned about the protagonist or anything that really happened on her journey, beyond a bus ride at the end that didn't strictly need to be in the story at all.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it and well-written filler like this has a place, but usually the point of it is to expound upon characters and learn more about how they react to things. That didn't come through here. Only thing I really learned was Gold's team, which doesn't seem plot significant.

That said, it's a nice reflection of Red's GSC team. Mostly gift Pokemon or 'mons that show off Johto-specific elements (Steel and Dark types), with Smeargle sort of being the odd one out. But it's underused in fan fic, especially for serious trainers, so I'll take it.

The walk shouldn't too long,
shouldn't be

Chica looks pretty pissed. She did not want a wake up call.
Tip for writing good non-verbal pokemon characters: describe their body language. How did Kris know Chica was pissed? What was she doing? What noises was she making? Scent changes? The bayleef/meganium line have dex entries talking about scents so it might be cool to have her signal things with emotion-coded pheromone blasts. Find something cool and unique about the evolutionary line you're reading, study real life lizard behaviors, etc. It makes for better battles.

Overall, a good chapter, if a purposeless one.
 
Stuck
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Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it and well-written filler like this has a place, but usually the point of it is to expound upon characters and learn more about how they react to things. That didn't come through here. Only thing I really learned was Gold's team, which doesn't seem plot significant.
I respect your opinion, but I'd say that the chapter serves the purpose of giving Kris and Gold a reason to interact in the future, as they were strangers before and are headed in different directions. There is a certain plot point I originally wanted to cover here, but I realized that it would unfold more naturally later. There is also some foreshadowing, but I don't want to spell it out.

Lastly, Kris' reaction to life in New Bark Town, including her thoughts on Prof. Elm and Rebecca, sheds light on how unhappy her own life has been. At least that was my intention.

That said, it's a nice reflection of Red's GSC team. Mostly gift Pokemon or 'mons that show off Johto-specific elements (Steel and Dark types), with Smeargle sort of being the odd one out. But it's underused in fan fic, especially for serious trainers, so I'll take it.
Both Smeargle and Scizor were inspired by this artwork.

Tip for writing good non-verbal pokemon characters: describe their body language. How did Kris know Chica was pissed? What was she doing? What noises was she making? Scent changes? The bayleef/meganium line have dex entries talking about scents so it might be cool to have her signal things with emotion-coded pheromone blasts. Find something cool and unique about the evolutionary line you're reading, study real life lizard behaviors, etc. It makes for better battles.
I'll keep that in mind, but in this case I was just thinking of Ash's Chikorita literally looking pissed.
 
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