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TEEN: Seiren

Discussion in 'Writers Workshop' started by canisaries, Jun 9, 2018.

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    canisaries

    canisaries trying my best

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    what's up gamers this time things happen in this fic crazy i know right

    rated... teen? i'm not sure if some things would warrant a mature rating, but i don't think mature when i think this chapter, so i guess rated teen for now. there's a lot of language and mentions of violence.

    anyway let's go and yes that is a prism reference in the title

    ---

    CHAPTER 8
    Pallet Patrol


    ---
    At last, the limousine arrives. The luxurious black vehicle draws bewildered looks from the people passing through Pallet Town Square. Why would anyone important come here?

    I put away the book whose back cover I was pretending to read and exit through the glass door. The air changes from warm and paper-scented to cold and damp. I grab my arms and shudder even if I know I dressed properly for the weather.

    But it was time for me to get out of that bookstore, anyway. My feigned browsing of the books there fooled most, but one weak-chinned employee caught on to my act. He didn’t throw me out just yet, but I think he only left to get himself some backup. Gods know a lanky nerd like him would need it.

    After walking for a while towards the limo, one of its doors open. A floating winter coat bounces out. It slides through the air to me while the limo drives off in the background.

    “Hi!” it chirps.

    As I smile and wave back, it reaches me, bringing a tingling to my left wrist. The real life form inside the coat shines through between the lowered hood and the zipper - an inkay with a star marking on its mantle. The star glows faintly yellow.

    “Enjoy your trip?” I ask Shirlee before she gets to opening her yap again.

    “Yeah, this place looks so different from the big cities… even Undella. Is this really the town square?”

    “Yeah, this is… this.”

    The inkay spins in the air, taking in the stony, quiet opening. “Wow, it’s so small and it looks like, so old, too...” Words one usually doesn’t hear in an admiring tone.

    “I’m not really sure why you want a tour of this place, there’s not really anything impressive in this town...” I say, still holding on to the hope of this boring, cold wanderfest being cancelled.

    “Because it’s your town, silly,” she laughs and playfully bumps her forehead onto my chest. Ow, there was a button there… “Of course I wanna know what kinda place raised a sweetie like you!”

    That would probably be my basement... “Alright, then,” I sigh. “We should start moving, it's just gonna get colder if we don't.”

    “Where are we going first?” asks Shirlee, swaying with excitement.

    “I’ll tell you when we're there. Come on.”

    ---

    Two days after the night at her hotel, Shirlee told me she could meet me again the next day and that this time she wanted to see my hometown. I started preparing almost immediately. I knew I’d have to give her a full blown tour of Pallet to make it seem like I was a ordinary local of the place. While I am a local, I’m far from ordinary and barely ever venture into town without good reason. Even then, I just use the same couple of straightforward routes I know and love to quickly get in and swiftly get out.

    This is why I had to turn to Abe. When I asked him if he could show me some maps of his, he fell quiet and stared at me like I was a smokin’ hot girl suggesting we make out. Extremely willing, but extremely suspicious.

    Nevertheless, he busted out his Pallet maps and told me all about the most prominent buildings when asked. Of course I only remembered a few parts of what he said, but I figured it’d be good enough. I wouldn't seem normal if I knew too much, either.

    Abe was clearly overjoyed during the entire conversation, even if I wasn't any warmer than I usually am, which is not at all. He probably saw the thing as an actual brotherly bonding experience. Gonna suck for him when he realizes I only consulted him out of convenience. If he ever does.

    I keep my hands in my pockets to minimize heat loss in the miserable weather as I lead Shirlee through the planned path. For each place of interest, I share the few facts I remember about it, let the inkay ogle it for a while longer and then move on to the next one. It's rather boring, but at least when I’m talking, she isn't.

    “We have a bunch more shops around here,” I narrate as the numerous neon titles and signs with percentages roll into view. “The school kids like to come here on breaks to buy snacks and such as it's cheap and close.”

    The mention of edible things make my organs groan. I turn to Shirlee. “Hey, you hungry? There are some restaurants here too. They're not that fancy, though, so…”

    “Oh, psh, it's fine! I don't need any kind of fancy treatment. Just take me someplace tasty and filling.”

    “Seafood?”

    “Hrmm, we ate seafood last time…”

    “Well, pizza then?”

    “No, that's too greasy…”

    I silence a sigh. “Subs?”

    “Oh, subs sound good. Let's go there!”

    “Alright, follow me.” I turn and begin to walk.

    “Wait!” someone yells. A young girl?

    Rapid steps descend upon the gravel of the street. Four tiny legs gallop as fast as they can, a bushy tail wiggling behind and two long ears swaying in front. That’s a sentret. It has a little saddlebags on its sides and a scarf around its neck. Well… if you can call what sentret have a neck.

    It stops before Shirlee, catching its breath. “E-excuse me, lady,” it pants, “but are you Shirlee?”

    Shirlee swiftly floats down to the little mon’s level, tentacles raised. “Uhh, keep it down, but...” She smiles warmly. “Yeah.”

    “Oh my Gods!” the sentret whispers. “This is great! I’m such a big fan! And, and my sister is too! Oh, I’m so honored to meet you, and, like, I hope I’m no trouble --”

    “Don’t worry, you’re not,” Shirlee assures, whispering herself. “As long as you don’t call the paparazzi.”

    “Oh, no, I wouldn’t, ever! Those are awful!”

    “Aw, thanks. Say, would you like a picture with me?”

    “R-really? I-I mean yeah!”

    The sentret digs a phone out of its saddlebag and shuffles next to Shirlee. “Uhh...” The mon tries holding the phone out in front of the two, but its arms prove too stubby.

    Shirlee notices the girl’s predicament and jumps to her aid. “Hey, Red, can you take a pic of us?”

    Well, I have to, don’t I. “Oh, yeah, sure...”

    I take the phone the sentret offers to me and snap a photo I hope is decent enough. Man, it’s a good thing I practiced this a while ago. I give the phone back.

    “Thanks, this is awesome!” the sentret beams. “You’re gonna make my sister so happy, too! A-and she really needs that, she’s been so nervous lately because she’s gonna evolve soon...”

    Shirlee’s smile changes. I know what that is. That’s a fake smile.

    Just a second later, however, it regains its authenticity. “Honey, I wish your sister the best of luck, and you too.”

    “Thank you so much, you’re amazing! I-I’ll get out of your hair... mantle now.” The sentret returns its phone to its bag and begins hopping away. “B-bye!” it still says from afar, waving its tail.

    “Bye!” answers Shirlee, waving back. “Aww, such a sweet kid...” She turns to me. ”Ah, sorry about that. Let’s go get those subs now.”

    “Ah, yeah. Let’s.”

    ---

    Shirlee keeps her gaze on the table as she downs the last bite of her sandwich. With the end of her telekinesis, the buzz in my wrist sizzles out.

    She’s been like a deflated balloon ever since that encounter with the fan. Whatever’s got her down must be the key to destroying her… I have to get her to tell me what it is.

    I lower my mostly-eaten sub on the tray. Shirlee had ordered only a half-length for herself, but I was hungry enough for a full one and figured this was an acceptable reason not to mimic her actions so closely.

    “Shirlee, can I ask you something?”

    “Hm?” Her eyes meet mine, but return to the table in a second. “Sure, what is it?”

    “Are you feeling alright? You’ve seemed different ever since that sentret left.”

    “Ah… have I? Sorry…”

    “Does it have something to do with what she said about her sister evolving?”

    Shirlee falls silent. Then, she sighs.

    “It’s… it’s dumb,” she mumbles.

    I lean forward. “You can tell me. I won’t judge.”

    “Eh...”

    “If it’s bothering you, I wanna know what it is. Please.”

    She stays quiet and still for another while. I wait patiently, knowing it'll pay off any moment now.

    “I’m getting everstone surgery soon,” she finally spits out. “And I’m nervous about it.”

    Everstone…? So inkay evolve?

    True, I never asked or found out otherwise… but somehow she came across as a single-stage to me. I guess evolution doesn't naturally cross humans’ mind that much, anyway.

    So… why doesn't she want to evolve, then? Is it bad somehow? Is there something wrong with her next stage?

    “Oh, getting nervous is perfectly natural!” I comfort her, keeping my voice down as she probably wants this to stay secret. “But… why don't you want to evolve?”

    “Wh… are you kidding?” She frowns. “Do you not know what malamar are like?”

    Shit, I probably should know, since I claim to be such a big fan. But I don't know. So what do I say…

    Agh, I’ve hesitated too long. I need to go with the truth. “No… sorry, I don't.”

    “Well, that explains it,” she sighs, looking back down. Her face wrinkles in disgust. “Malamar are these… tubby, ugly, slimy, evil-looking garbage bags of… grossness. Nothing like inkay - inkay are small and cute and have happy colors and beautiful voices.” The sleeves of her coat wrap around her. “Only inkay have any kind of chance at being liked by the public.”

    She stares into my eyes. “I’m around the age where wild inkay evolve. Or the civilized ones that aren't careful. I’ve felt the symptoms that usually come. I want to eat more, I feel kinda moody, and most importantly, I’ve had odd urges to sleep upside down. Sometimes I wake up that way despite the tricks I try to keep it from happening, and I freak out and have to find a mirror. Every time so far I’ve been relieved to still be the mon I fell asleep as in the aquarium, but I can't count on that always happening. That's why I need the everstone. So that I can stop worrying.”

    Huh.

    I guess she does have more to her life than just her fame and riches.

    Anyway, time to ruin it all.

    “So you inkay evolve into this… malamar by… sleeping upside down?”

    “Well, not just sleeping. It can also happen during stress or other strong emotion, as long as you're upside down. That's why I dropped all cartwheels and flips from my choreography.”

    I see. I see. All very interesting information. Very interesting indeed…

    “Yeah, so, when I get that everstone, I can sleep in peace,” she continues, a faint smile on her beak. “It's just that I’m nervous about the surgery itself. Anders and everyone else keeps telling me it's super safe, but, like… it's still cutting me open and shoving some gravel in. While I’m only one anaesthetic failure away from feeling it all. It's so scary. But I have to do it. It's gonna make my life so much easier.”

    Silence returns. Well, as silent as it is in a sub shop with people chatting and ordering, machines chinging and beeping, a host on the radio announcing which song will be next and a bright lamp buzzing above.

    I wonder how I should approach this. I need to comfort her, sure, but what would be the best way? I don’t know what to say except generic, elementary shit… damn, I guess this is a downside of avoiding deeper relationships for so long.

    Or… I do have one deep relationship. What if I pretended she was… my lord?

    I study the dejected inkay. Her big eyes and blue body are somewhat similar to His. Okay. So, underneath that coat is my lord, and He’s going to a necessary surgery. Also, He’s momentarily a female inkay and named Shirlee. Right. Here we go.

    I raise my hands and lower the palm up on the table, about halfway into its full width. Shirlee gives me an odd look.

    “Shirlee, hold my hands,” I say calmly.

    She eyes my palms, then hesitantly places the clubs of her sleeved tentacles on it. The touch is wet and cold - something that would discomfort the average human, but to me, it's an even stronger link to the one I devote my life to. Briefly, I miss Him, but I brush those thoughts away and concentrate back on the matter at hand.

    “I know it's scary,” I start. My voice feels so oddly… true.

    “It's not easy to just… release control of your body and have someone you don't know do complicated things to it while you’re not there to watch them. I understand that, it's a natural fear.

    But these doctors have done surgery after another. They know what to do. They know some patients are scared, too, and they're used to that. They're being paid by you and they're there to serve you and keep you healthy. If they didn't want to do that, they wouldn't have become doctors. And if they don't do that, you can sue their ass.”

    Shirlee shows a shy smile.

    “Anyway… what I’m saying is that you're gonna be fine. It's gonna go over well, and you're not gonna have to worry about evolving ever again. And I’m gonna be there by your side as much as the doctors allow it. I’ll be there at… hold on, when was this surgery?”

    “4 pm, Monday.”

    Monday? Oh fuck, ahh, ah shit, I’m gonna have to be fast. Well, I’ll get back to that in a while.

    “I’m gonna be there on Monday 4 pm and I’m gonna ease your worries the best I can. That's a promise.”

    Her smile evolves to a full one. “Thanks, Red.”

    I nod and let go of her tentacles. The illusion fades - she’s no longer my lord in another skin. I just barely salvage my smile before it can slip off my face.

    ---

    After I finished my sub, we picked up where we left off in our tour. For every sight to see, I shared some facts like before, but all the downtime I now used to craft and develop the plan to strike her down once and for all.

    We leave yet another spot of interest, and… ugh, arrive at one I actually do have personal experience with. Its front-extending wings are like arms welcoming its lost child back. Its single clock-eye in the middle judges me, scolds me for not attending lessons in time, even if I haven't studied here for two years and no classes are held at this hour.

    The high school.

    Do I really have to come here already? Is there nothing else to talk about on the way? I glance around, but there are only apartments. They’re not even visually interesting, just chunks of white bricks and windows.

    “Oh, is this your school?” asks Shirlee. Well, that eliminates any chance of a stall.

    I inject some artificial cheer straight into my veins and turn to her. “Yep!” Oh, not that cheery, tone it down a notch. “This is Pallet Town High School for Humans.” Didn't always have that last bit. “The school I w- go to.”

    “It's big,” remarks Shirlee. “How many students go here?”

    “Something like 600, don't know the exact amount.”

    “Huh… can you show me around?”

    “Well, uhh…” I kick the snow lightly. “There's not much to see from outside, and they don’t like it too much when you lurk around after hours…”

    “Oh, I see… well, it was cool to see, at least. What's your school day normally like?”

    Looks like I’m just going to have to take this trip down Memory Lane. And by trip I mean actual tripping, because this is going to be about as fun as concrete smashing me in the face.

    “Well, I… usually arrive at the school about fifteen minutes before class starts to make sure I’m on time.” Fifteen minutes late on a good day. “I hang out with my friends before the teacher comes in.” I pass the smokers outside, holding my breath to keep the fumes from attacking my lungs. If some new kid riffs on me for it, I grab him by his filthy collar, throw him on the ground and tell him not to do that again if he likes his fingers. Maybe spit on him, depends on how I feel that day. “Class starts, and I try my best to keep up and take notes. Eventually the lesson ends, and another begins…”

    I don't know what the hell she's expecting to hear, really. School isn't exactly riveting for the average student.

    “Is the food at lunch good?” Shirlee asks, her interest not crumbling by even a bit.

    Guess I’ll just lie about the food too, it's not like she's going to investigate. And with no will to look into things, there's nothing else that could tell her I’m lying my ass o-

    “Red?”

    Did someone call my name just now?

    ...No, I must have misheard. Anyway, on with the lies. “Oh, the food’s fantastic. It's like it was home-cooked. Best part of any student’s day, I guarantee --"

    “Red!” the same voice yells.

    “Hey, Red, I think that guy wants you,” says Shirlee right after, looking behind us. “Is he one of your schoolmates?”

    A spear of dread pierces my heart. With stiff limbs, I turn around. This… this can’t be good.

    A lanky boy around my age and a bronze ninetales approach us. The boy has shaggy black hair with a large, bleached quiff. And his face… well.

    His face is a face I have seen many a time marred by bruises made by my own fists. A face I have seen cry and beg me to stop and whimperingly accept its fate when I tell it that a deal's a deal and the terms were clear. And it's a face that's looking mighty pissed right about now.

    Oh Gods. Is there any way to save this? Any way to avoid this? Wait! Maybe if I --

    “Shirlee!” I whisper, tugging at her sleeve. “We need to go! This guy’s dangerous!”

    “O-oh I’m dangerous? I’m dangerous now?” Tamaki yells, skittering closer. Shit, he heard me.

    “Red, who is this?” asks Shirlee, unnerved and to my horror, making no motions to leave.

    “I’ll tell you who I am,” Tamaki weighs in before I have the chance to think of a good lie. “I’m the guy who was the designated punching bag of this fucking psycho over here!”

    I stare Tamaki directly in the eye in the most threatening way I can - maybe he still has some fear left in him. “Tamaki, please...” I say through my teeth.

    “That won’t work anymore,” growls the ninetales, whipping its tails. “He’s had two years. He’s evolved, just like me.”

    That must be Renny, then. Tamaki mentioned him sometimes, a vulpix friend. Fuck, another voice to the choir. I need to get Shirlee out of here and think of something to tell her.

    I grab her tentacle again. “Shirlee, we really should g-”

    She yanks it away from my grasp. She looks scared. Oh fuck. Now I’m equally horrified.

    “So what have you been doing since you left the school, huh?” Tamaki demands, arms raised. “How many felonies have you committed, you lunatic?”

    Well… at least six, probably more, I’ll have to check what counts as a felony…

    You should make three more right now.

    No! No, stay away! You're gonna make everything even worse!

    There's no one around and you already know how to make bodies disappear…

    I feel denim against my fingertips. They're reaching for the knife that isn't there. I curl them in a fist.

    You don't need a knife…

    Yes I do! I mean I would! But I’m not going to kill anyone, no matter how… no matter how cornered I feel!

    “Really? Not even gonna answer?” Tamaki spits. “I would've thought you had a lie for everything.”

    Look at his whiny fucking face. Kill him! Kill that little runt who's trying to talk back to a king like you! Wrap your hands around his throat and strangle him! Let's see him try to talk back then!

    The world is trembling. No, I am. Oh Gods. This is a nightmare. Everything… everything is going wrong. This can't be real, this has to be a dream --

    “You! Lady!” What’s happening now? Tamaki’s turned to Shirlee? No, stop. Fucking stop! “Get the fuck away from this guy and never look back! He's not safe to be around!”

    Tears have formed in the inkay’s eyes. She looks at me, cowers away like a bellsprout from a fire and begins to slide away.

    “Shirlee, no!” I shout, dashing for her, but she speeds up. I have to run full speed after her.

    Cobblestone rushes past below me, shadows from the streetlights emerge and withdraw. The coat I chase eludes me like a ghost, never getting closer.

    “Shirlee, please, let me explain!” I scream. Despair is in that voice, real despair. The fear of losing Him. Again.

    Shirlee flips around and slows her pace. For a split second I gain some hope, but it’s all gone as I see exactly how pissed she looks.

    “Explain what?” she shouts, tears of anger in her eyes. “It’s pretty Gods-damn clear what’s happened here. You lied to me. You lied to me about you going to school, and you certainly lied about what kind of person you really are!”

    “But that...” Uh, what’s my excuse? “That was all in the past! I’m different now!”

    “Are you? Because you didn’t say one word of apology to that guy! And he was pretty clearly upset over what you’d done!”

    I… I should’ve said sorry? Would that have made it okay? Well, more okay?

    “I’m leaving now,” she says. “Don’t follow me anymore.”

    She regains her speed, and I need to accelerate again, too, but this running’s starting to get to me…

    “Shirlee!” I shout with my last remaining breath, then stop to catch more. My lungs are rupturing. I can’t go on.

    Shirlee, ignoring my call, only continues to shrink in my view until she turns a corner and disappears entirely.

    My head droops. All I see is cobblestone and the legs and arms of a failure.

    Is… is this it? Is this how my entire quest ends? Cut short by some whiny kid? He’s gonna be the reason He’ll be gone from me for… who knows how long? I’ll be alone and unhappy and I’ve already been like that, for so long… I… I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do that with no end in sight.

    Tamaki… this is all Tamaki’s fault. He ruined everything. He came and destroyed what I had for no reason. I bought what I did to him. He agreed to the terms. No telling anyone. He took the money. It was his choice. I didn’t even do anything wrong or bad this time. Why am I being punished? What gives him the right? Nothing!

    Or…

    He just took the payment in advance.


    For his last deal.

    Because I’m going to fucking kill him.

    ---
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
  2. AetherX

    AetherX literally the worst

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    Here from the Review League as requested. Thanks for your patience. So I know you only requested the most recent chapter, but I hate reviewing chapters in isolation, so I read the whole thing (which was honestly pretty easy since this story is well written and enjoyable). This review will ideally be vaguely about the fic as a whole but mostly focused on the most recent chapter. Hope that's cool. I don't think I ever read Agápe? So keep that in mind.

    SHE WANTS THE D

    Okay real review I promise:

    Should be "make out." Tense switched to present. Good line btw.

    This is a sort of subjective "technical" thing, but I always prefer to treat internal monologue as if it were dialogue in terms of line spacing. As is you're switching between Tamaki talking, Red talking to himself, and then Tamaki talking again all in the same line. If you had a new line for each "speaker" then it would be more like this:

    Which I think is slightly easier to read, but honestly the way you had it has its benefits too (with Red's monologue acting as a pseudo dialogue tag).

    Referring to his own voice as "that voice" is a great way of showing how he's kind of split his real self from the front he's putting on for Shirlee. You're really good at writing this kind of stuff. Honestly your prose is excellent with lots of great metaphors and whatnot.

    The whole thing about the deal Red and Tamaki made kind of confused me because the previous line mentioning it made me think Red was beating him up and taking his money (from chapter 6):

    Makes sense now in retrospect, so I'm not sure it's worth changing. Thought I'd mention it though.

    What I do want to mention is that you've improved massively. I think this is the first review I've done for you since the first few chapters of Hunter, Haunted and the difference is night and day. Much cleaner prose, really good job subtly implying character depth, all that jazz. What stands out most is a slight shift in tone. I'm not sure how much of that is on purpose or if the tone will shift darker in upcoming chapters, but it made a noticeable difference in my enjoyment. This fic seems to be embracing how a lot of aspects of your world are just a little silly (Nidoking in leather jackets, Omanyte watching YouTube, etc). I hope I'm not being rude, I do think it's a good thing. This fic is slightly more... comedic? Still has the dark undertones that come with a sociopathic protagonist, but it's a little easier to get engaged.

    Like Fonz, for example. It's funny and heartwarming to have this kind of wholesome dad character in a story that's ultimately about a violent murderer. Him wearing the shirt for Helix was adorable. Speaking of which, what kind of symbol of diversity is Shirlee in regards to non-humanoid Pokemon if she doesn't even sell non-humanoid merch? fuckin' cardboard pop stars co-opting social justice for fame grumble grumble...

    From a somewhat meta perspective, I think this fic suffers just a tad when viewed in isolation. I know, in fanfic nothing is ever viewed in isolation, but I'm going to prattle on about this anyway because that's just how I do reviews :p What I'm talking about is primarily the relationship between Red and Helix. It's sort of the... emotional crux of the story? It's what drives Red to embark on this whole manipulative quest in the first place. And the fact that he loves Helix enough that he specifically doesn't go with his usual method of slice and dice says a lot. Knowing TPP lore and specifically reading your other stories sets a lot of the backdrop already, but when you look at the fic on its own, it comes across as just barely not enough. The prologue is excellent and absolutely necessary for the story. Dragging that relationship out any longer could very well have messed up the pacing, so I'm actually not sure what I'm getting at here. I guess it just comes across that Helix doesn't really give a shit about Red, like, at all. I know that's the whole point because he's distracted by Shirlee, but it still feels a little odd. Maybe a little more early dwelling on how shut out Red feels. Re-skimming, you do have some of that, so maybe I'm talking out of my ass. Just felt a little dry given that it's the prime motivating factor. Adding more could mess with the pacing, so I'll leave that up to you. The curse of writing prequels/sequels/a shared universe. You can never escape it.

    It's kinda tricky to give feedback on chapters like this, right before a big turning point. It would be easy to criticize pacing or tone, but what happens next is really going to be what justifies everything. For example, it's refreshing to read about Red using cunning to get his way rather than violence. Adds a lot of depth to his character. Straight up killing Tamaki would be kind of disappointing after all that effort, but depending on how you did it (or if he doesn't end up killing Tamaki) it could all work out anyway.

    Anyway, good shit. Let me know if you have any questions!
     
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  3. canisaries

    canisaries trying my best

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    It is more than cool, it is frigid, it is zero Kelvin. Absolute legend. Thank you so much uwu

    good

    No, really. Agápe has its middle be completely different from this story - Shirlee doesn't even meet Red until the climax, where he's anything but friendly. Red's techphobia isn't explored at all and the plot is really stilted. How Seiren will end will tie way better into the oneshots between it and HH, too, which is important for kickstarting Red's personal arc with Helix in HH. Anyway, moving on...

    Fixed, and thanks! I had fun with that.

    Good to hear! I'm planning revisions to HH, so I'll keep this in mind when I revisit it. I didn't think the difference would be that big, though - especially as the difference between Agápe and HH was already so huge.

    Yeah, Seiren has kind of a ridiculous premise to begin with, so I couldn't just go in it with a straight face. I had to play with the world in order to make the whole letter thing seem more plausible and so that I don't have to explain everything in a 100% believable way. I'm also just more comfortable writing with a lighter, more casual tone.

    Thanks for reading!
     
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  4. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

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    I finally finished chapter four the other night, and while I expect I'll blaze through the rest of the chapters I need to catch up on while taking the bus to and from work this week, I wanted to drop a review for Trying Again now to tide you over.

    The main events of consequence this chapter were the results of Red's 'advice' and the setup for Red's next encounter. I was expecting Shirlee's video to be about as standard as it turned out to be, and not the wrathful tirade Red erroneously expected, and you've done a decent job of contrasting hopes and reality peppered with bile, so that we might be amused by Red's nonsense. I like that he's even directly critical of Helix at this point, so consumed as he is by vitriol. Good idea to build up to it with the 'Chatter' message, too. Having said that, I think it sort of peters out, with the reader being taken away from the video long before it actually ends. I might've liked Shirlee to end on some very positive note, on which Red could gag.

    As for the setup for Red's next encounter, I'm prompted to mention again that I believe you could do with abstracting less significant events a little more. I mention this because of the segment where Red leaves the knife at home —

    That's 52 words right there, and it doesn't really do anything more for the story than could be done in nine words:

    I advocate trimming content down in this fashion wherever justifiable. It's good for flow, it's good for conservation of readers' attention, it's good pretty much as long as you aren't losing anything that's actually necessary or at least significant to character. In this case, Red's love of his knife is already a known factor, and it comes up again almost immediately besides as he reaches for it where it isn't.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing Red's machinations escalate, particularly if he gets himself into more and more bizarre situations. He's a fool for not thinking that he might soon be trying to explain to Fonz and Helix why Shirlee has turned up at their house or he was seen on social media with her or whatever such thing! I will very much enjoy it if something like this comes to pass and he realises to his own shame and anger that he's only increased the intensity of Helix' obsession with Shirlee~

    Some misc notes:

    I continue to enjoy the little pokémon elements like MewTube, even though it's essentially an aesthetic affectation for the most part. My favourite such instances are the ones which require nonhuman elements, like Fonz wearing Helix's shirt for him.

    I see Red has an actual anatomy text. No wonder he uses such precise and specific terminology, but wow, his fascination with meat and gristle borders on fetishistic.

    "Shirtlee." That's hilarious.

    I hope to leave my next review after a much shorter wait than last time! Thanks for your patience, Canis.
     
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  5. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

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    Alright, so I know I said I'd read the rest before reviewing but it's just not in my nature not to review after reading a chapter. That, and I'm worried I'll forget the things I would have said if I don't write them down immediately, and if I write them, I may as well post them.

    So, chapter five! The bloodlust and prawns chapter.

    This one was funny.

    If you're going for dark comedy, then chapter five probably landed as many amusing moments as the previous chapters put together. They could use some polish still, but Red's snark was genuinely entertaining this time around. In particular, the reveal of his loss of coat, the "please. I hate you so much I refuse to think of you as a cephalopod" nonsense, and his sheer rapture just from seeing a beartic up close.

    There's more prose here that I think could be trimmed down, but I noticed some decent abstraction this time, so that's a good development.

    I was surprised to learn that Red is eighteen this chapter. Isn't he like... the head of a household? Was he ten during TPP in your canon? How has he spent the intervening eight years, anyway?

    The moment where he's gifted the phone could have had more to it. It felt a little abrupt.

    Red talks more about pokémon being inferior to humans, the creators of the first kingdom. It's interesting to see this 'worldbuilding but it doesn't quite mesh with his reverence of Helix and his intense admiration of Arktos' teeth. I guess I'd like to learn more about this, even if it's honestly super weird and gels poorly with my own conception of pokémon. Also, Red's philosophy turns up a bit as he rambles about strength. He really is a complete disaster, isn't he? Yikes.

    I'll get to chapter six before too long, see you then!
     
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  6. canisaries

    canisaries trying my best

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    Red did have a lot more to play off this time, so I'm not surprised. Glad you enjoyed!

    I'm beginning to feel cheated by one of my readers who'd told me before I didn't describe enough actions. >:I

    Yeah, Red's living setup is a strange one, and I typically avoid bringing it up in-story in fear of raising just more questions and having to pause the story to explain those, too. What's happening is that Red's house is actually owned by his (and Abe's, allegedly) mother, who in turn lives at her friend's place due to her tense relationship with her son(s). Ever since Red dropped out of high school, he's been living the NEET life, though he doesn't see himself that way as he takes care of Helix. Abe is still going to high school as he has actual plans for his future. Non-apocalyptic ones. Fonz does short term manual labor every now and then for extra income. Certain zapdos friends ease the electricity bill with their contributions.

    It sounds weird and it is, but it's like that due to TPP factors. Just like most other weird nonsensical stuff I desperately try to make sense of.

    The phone is returned to in the next chapter once they get back to the hotel. Wondering if I should possibly wait until then for Shirlee to give it.

    I think there's more on this too in the following chapter. Stay tuned.

    Thanks for the review!
     
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  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 9
    canisaries

    canisaries trying my best

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    okay well this took more than just 10 days which it usually does to get a chapter done but i blame uni

    rated teen for violence and language aight let's go

    ---

    CHAPTER 9
    Learning to Crawl


    ---
    I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it. I’ll kill him. I’ll kill the ninetales. No one is around. They weren't planning on meeting me. No evidence. They’ll simply vanish.

    Gods, I’m actually getting excited… my blood is swirling in my ears, my hands are quaking with anticipation. Every step on the cobblestone echoes for miles. The darkness makes way for me. The stars above spectate from afar. They know who I am.

    Is that them? That’s them. That’s Tamaki, that’s Renny. Their backs are to me. They haven’t heard me yet. I’m going for Tamaki’s neck. He’s the one I want dead. The ninetales is just a witness I’ll need to eradicate. No! What am I saying? I must kill the ninetales first. Tamaki won't do shit to me, he's just a human and a pathetic one at that. The ninetales, though, has teeth and fire. I’ll jump at its neck, restraining both of those. Its fur might get hot, but I have my coat for insulation. I doubt the mutt can generate too much heat while choking, anyway.

    I’m getting closer. Five meters, four, three, two, they turn around, pounce!

    “What the fuck?” Tamaki shouts. I’m squeezing your worthless friend's throat with both arms, that's what. It's twisting and gargling as the oxygen in its lungs depletes and precious blood flow to its brain is snuffed out. I hate how its fluff is cushioning the hold, though… but not enough. I’m too strong and it’s too weak. I would've expected it to put up more of a fight, but I guess its vulpine leanness is working in my favor…

    “Get off him, you fuckin’ psycho!”

    Hands touch my sides and attempt to pry me off. As if they could. You're up against years of exercise, runt. Yea, you take those off. Accept you have no cha- “Fuck!”

    I let go to yank away the fingers crawling on my eyes, falling down on my back in the process.

    “Dick move, Tamaki!” I snap, rubbing my poor eyes. Didn't take him for a dirty fighter…

    “What the hell is wrong with you?” Tamaki yells. I can hear the ninetales gasping for air in the background. “Why would you do that to Renny? He’s never done anything to you!”

    Ah fuck. What do I say now? Nothing? Maybe I could at least make myself seem a little less homicidal. Or vulpicidal. Whatever.

    “Wanted him to... pass out so he couldn't stop me from kicking your ass next,” I reply, sitting up. My ass is getting wet from this snow. Eh.

    “Why? Because I stopped you from going through with some sex crime?”

    “Tamaki, for fuck’s sake, I am celibate and not even straight.” I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but that's actually insulting, sheesh.

    The ninetales’ gasps switch to coughing and finally to normal, if exhausted, breathing. It paces to me, claws clicking on the cobblestone and its head held low. It shows its teeth and -- whoa! Watch it with the fire!

    After puffing that small but clearly hot flame in my direction, it hmphs and walks off, black smoke leaving its nostrils.

    “Let's leave,” it says to Tamaki. “This guy's crazy.”

    Tamaki nods and joins his friend. “Did he really say he was celibate?” I can hear him ask after a few meters of walking.

    My heartbeat slows and with that, all the stress of today crashes down on me at once. I collapse onto my back under all its weight. I sigh.

    Well, what now? Am I just gonna get up and walk home and resume that painful existence where the one I care about most treats me like air?

    The twinkling stars above in the dark velvet sky stay silent. Yeah, I guess only I can answer that question.

    ---

    I close the front door behind me and nearly collapse. The only thing preventing it is the sheer relief of finally being out of that frigid hell. The cold bites through damp clothing rather fast.

    “That you, Red?” Fonz asks from out of sight.

    “Mm-hmm.” I hope he heard that despite how weak it was.

    “Good,” he replies. I can hear him get up and walk to me - and look, there he is. The big purple quill-backed kaiju with the jacket. That's him. Gods, I’m tired.

    “Listen, I wanna talk to you,” he says. Ughhh.

    “Can we do it on the bed after I take my clothes off?”

    “Uhh.”

    “Because my clothes are wet, Fonz.”

    “Oh, yea. Meet me there, then.”

    He leaves me be for the duration of my sluggish change of clothing. The button-up and jeans are replaced by a t-shirt and sweatpants - proper home resting gear.

    As I trudge through the living room to an awaiting Fonz, I give the sofa one glance. My lord's on it as usual. He looks back at me. I quickly turn my head. I don't even want to see Him like this - it hurts too much.

    While I’m now warm, dry and comfy, I’m still exhausted, and when Fonz closes the door to our room I instantly fall onto the bed. I flinch as something pricks my arm.

    “Ah, sorry. Must've hidden itself in the blanket,” says Fonz as I pick up the withered yet still sharp quill and place it next to the water tank. I lie back down, far more careful this time.

    “So…” Fonz picks up a part of the quill-proof cover, lowers it onto the bed and lies down on it. “I wanna know what you've been up to.”

    I had a feeling you did… ugh.

    “Like, who’s this new friend of yours?” he continues. “With the limo and all that? And where were you just now?” He lowers his voice. “Are you involved in something illegal?”

    Actually not this time, which is surprising. I sigh. “Well, if it makes you feel better, we’re not friends anymore.”

    “Did something happen today?”

    I stare at the ceiling. “You know how I had some… trouble in high school?”

    “Yeah?”

    “This friend of mine, sh- he wanted a tour of Pallet. I’d lied to him that I still went to high school, to sound normal, and then when we were out, Tamaki from my class showed up… you can guess the rest. And now they never want to see me again.”

    “Hmh… was Tamaki the one you…?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Ah. I see.”

    He’s quiet and I’m quiet. I guess the conversation’s at a pause. I take the time to enjoy the softness of the bed beneath my tired limbs.

    “You seem upset about it,” speaks up Fonz after a while. “I don’t think I’ve seen you upset about what other people think… ever. Excluding Helix. Was this friend important to you?”

    “Yeah, he was… very important.”

    “Is there anything you could do to get him back?”

    “I… don’t know. I honestly don’t know.”

    Another spell of silence.

    Fonz sighs. “Well, why exactly was he upset? What were his specific issues with the situation?”

    “Hmmh… he was upset I'd lied to him,” I speak slowly, tasting every syllable. Fonz nods in the background. “I told him I'd changed, but he pointed out I didn't say anything good to Tamaki…”

    “Isn't that your chance, right there? If you went to apologize to Tamaki and showed it to your friend, he might believe you really have changed.” He pauses. “Assuming you have.”

    I'd say I had, but Fonz knows me better. Apologizing to Tamaki, though… “Good idea, except for the part where Tamaki despises me - for good reason - and would never forgive me. And how would Sh- my friend even find out about it?”

    “Well, you have that new phone of yours he gave you. You could take a pic or video of you and Tamaki looking friendly together and send him that.”

    “Eh, I don’t know...”

    “Can’t hurt to try. And, well… it's the right thing to do anyway. Like it or not, Tamaki does deserve an apology.”

    I grimace. I hate it when I have to say I'm sorry when I’m not. Which is every time, really.

    “Alright, you've convinced me,” I sigh. “But I'm gonna be a dick to you if and when it doesn't work.”

    “As if you needed a reason,” he replies, smiling.

    ---

    It sure was a good thing this whole fiasco happened on a Thursday - had it been today, I wouldn't know where to go to find Tamaki. But as today's a Friday, he has to go to school like every other student.

    The high school looks much more familiar in daylight. Dark red bricks arising from the dirty white snow… gods, does it feel good not to have to go here anymore. Unlike all these other people. Suckers.

    But now begins my stakeout, which will probably end up making me the sucker here, as Tamaki can get out at any time between one and four o'clock. He was out late last night and he always tries to make it to school on time, so I excluded midday from the range. No way they've made the days that short after I left.

    In any case, I'm gonna have to kill up to three hours of time, and that'll suck. But it just might get me close to Shirlee again, so it's worth it.

    It's a few minutes before the lesson around 1pm ends. I've arrived just in time.

    I sit on the bench next to the main entrance, at the end without the piece of gum attached to the side. It amazes me how people can call themselves moral and then do shit like this. Maybe I kill people, but I don't ruin a public space just because I can't be fucked to walk ten meters to a trash can. That's the real insanity there.

    The school clock isn't sufficiently visible from this angle and wristwatches don't pair up with winter, but luckily my phone has my back. I click its screen alight every now and then, waiting for the moment of dismissal. Before long, it comes, and I head further into the yard to have a view of all the exits.

    For the first minute or so, nothing changes, but then a door opens. The first student has left - or is possibly just grabbing some fresh air, maybe. She’s not Tamaki, though, so I keep waiting.

    The count of leaving student per minute increases rapidly. I check each face and hairdo, but none are a match. Same goes for each exit. After a few minutes, the flow dwindles to a stop. Doesn’t seem like Tamaki gets out at this time today, then.

    I don’t want to spend the next 75 minutes out here in the cold, so I return to the main doors and enter. Oh, the lobby… every Monday after school, I’d meet Tamaki here and we’d walk to a secluded spot… Monday was our day. I chose it so I could last the week with my bloodlust sated, and he agreed since Mondays sucked anyway.

    I sit on one of the benches and study my reflection in the mirror wall opposite to the entrance. I haven't changed that much in two years. I think the extent of it is just my hair getting longer and muscles a bit larger. Not that the latter's visible with all these clothes on, anyway.

    I suppose Tamaki's changed a lot more. He's dyed his hair and grown some balls. I wonder what caused that. Just dwelling on what I did for months after I'd left? Maybe he got together with that girl he was trying to impress. He did get a lot of money from me to buy her shiny things.

    Wondering about Tamaki's motives keeps my mind busy until the time for lessons to end comes once more. I exit and return to my sentry spot, ready to run to Tamaki if and whenever he appears. People start leaking out, and… is that him? That's him, right?

    I set a course for the young man. He's got some people with him… has Tamaki made friends, too? He's really pulled himself together.

    He notices me approaching, showing his face fully - yep, that's him - and quickly looks away. Don't ignore me! I’m clearly coming to you…

    “Hey, Tamaki!” I call. He breaks into a run, leaving his group behind without a word. Psh, not so tough now with your firefox friend away.

    Careful not to slip, I dash and gain on Tamaki. “I just wanna talk, calm down!” I shout behind him. No effect. I'll do it the hard way, then.

    “Sorry about this,” I say to win myself some moral points and leap right at him. My chest collides with his back as my arms wrap around his torso. In a second, we tip over, with him luckily breaking his fall with his arms. Given his grunt, though, it can't have been too painless. I roll off him.

    “What the fuck, dude?” he wheezes. “What do you want from me?”

    “I told you, I just wanna talk.”

    “What, you came back to mock me?” He clambers up. I follow suit, ready to catch him if he tries to flee again.

    “It's nothing like that. I came back to apologize.”

    “What?” he yells. From the tone of his voice, he clearly heard what I said, but has trouble processing it.

    “I'm sorry,” I say. “I'm sorry for what I did two years ago, that was fucked up. And I'm sorry for what I did last night.”

    Murmurs reach my ears. I glance around and notice a few people have gathered to watch. Well, I guess this is one of the rare times when more witnesses are better, so I'll let them be.

    “What do you mean you're sorry?” Tamaki asks, now quieter than before. “You're Red. You're never sorry.”

    “I'm not that Red anymore. I've tried as hard as I can to leave him behind. I've had some success, but as you saw last night, I'm not quite there yet…” I shake my head. “I still lose my temper at times, and when you showed up and exposed my secrets to that companion of mine… I got scared. Scared of her leaving for good. I don't do well with fear, so it turned to aggression, and you know what happened next.”

    Agh, this sounds so scripted out loud. It is, but they're not supposed to know.

    My ears pick up a few sentences from the noise of the growing crowd.

    “Who's that?”

    “Is that Red?”

    “Shit, why is he here?”

    “Should we go inside?”

    It appears they don't trust me. Well, I wouldn't if I were them, but I have a brain.

    “...Wait,” says Tamaki after his long pause, eyes narrowing. “Are you only here to get back with your girl?”

    Ah, fuck. Tamaki’s gotten smart. Hmm. Perhaps if I…

    “Tamaki, I won't lie to you. It is part of the reason.”

    He sighs and turns away, but I interrupt.

    “But that doesn't mean I'm not genuinely sorry for what I did. And I feel guilty from not coming to apologize sooner. Losing my friend got me thinking about all this again, and now I want to make up for it. Or, well, I know I can't make up for what I did, it was too much. But I just want you to know I'm sorry.”

    Dammit, I'm starting to repeat myself. I hope he sees it as a strength rather than a fault…

    Tamaki pauses yet again. I can see people behind him… with their phones up. Are they filming? What the hell? Is privacy completely dead?

    Tamaki’s looking around too. He looks nervous. Camera shy? I can get that.

    He sighs. “Red,” he starts, eyes locked into mine. “Do you truly mean all this?”

    Am I winning him over? Yes! “Of course! I’m done lying, Tamaki. You deserve an apology. I came here because it was the right thing to do.”

    “Alright, alright...” Tamaki says, raising a palm. He sounds… defeated? “I… understand.”

    “You do?”

    “I believe you, Red. I accept your apology, and… I forgive you.”

    “You do?” I repeat, this time with twice the shock. The audience was taken by surprise, too, if the gasps say anything.

    “I mean, people can change. I don’t think it’s fair to keep a grudge over something the other clearly regrets.”

    A laugh of relief leaves my throat and I grin. Thumping arises from around us - clapping of gloved hands. What, really? I guess this was a real spectacle to them… but who cares, I won! I’m gonna get Shirlee back! Or, well… I might. Depends on if she’ll even look at my messages.

    I keep smiling, though. Gotta keep up the illusion.

    “You two should hug!” a stray voice yells. His suggestion receives instantaneous backup in the form of ‘yeah’s and ‘woo’s, which in turn eventually morph into chanting.

    “Hug! Hug! Hug! Hug! Hug!”

    Ugh, I am so glad I left this place.

    Nevertheless, I open my arms and offer Tamaki what the crowd wants. He looks discomforted, but finally abides. The other students cheer as our arms wrap around one another. Someone yells us to kiss next. I probably would if I had to, but it seems like things have already worked out. Now all I need is that picture…

    Our bodies separate, and Tamaki raises his arm to the crowd.

    “Alright, show’s over,” he yells with a faint smile. “You can all go home now.”

    Quiet laughs come as a response, followed by shuffling as the people turn away and scatter. Tamaki steps closer to me again.

    “Can I talk with you in a more private spot for a bit?”

    “Oh, totally,” I reply, foreseeing a suitable moment to ask for a photo. “I was actually gonna ask that of you…”

    Tamaki heads for the left side of the school, and I follow. When his friends start making motions toward us, he halts them with a raised palm.

    I'm grinning like an idiot, but I can't help it. This went way better than expected.

    As we start to get far enough from the front yard, Tamaki slows down. I can start talking now.

    “So, this is pretty crude,” I laugh, pulling out my phone, “but could I just get one pic of us two together? It would really go a long way in getting me another chance with my frie-”

    Tamaki turns around and pushes me back. I nearly slip. “You've got some fucking nerve, you know that?” he hisses as I regain my balance. His face and tone are furious.

    “What do you m…”

    “Quit the act already! You're not sorry. And even if you were, I'd never, ever forgive you. Do you even understand the damage you did to me? It wasn't just bruises and nosebleeds. I go to therapy nowadays. You fucked up my life, and the moment my future starts looking okay, you show up.”

    Psh, what? You came to me on that street. You're the one fucking up my plans.

    “You come here and you get a big crowd and you put me up on the spot so that I have to ‘forgive’ you or I'll look like a dick and ruin what I've worked for two years to attain. Yeah, very clever. Is that what you want to hear? Are you satisfied? Or will you keep going till I snap and jump off a bridge?”

    What is he even talking about by now? Are those… tears in his eyes?

    “Oh, and still you keep that innocent look on your face. Like Tamaki's the bad guy here. Tamaki's the fuckup. Red hasn't done anything wrong because there's no proof. That's how you think, isn't it?”

    I try to come up with a response, but I can't. I can barely tell what’s happening.

    Tamaki straightens his back. “So, no. No, you can't have that pic. I'm not gonna help you ruin another person's life.” He walks past me, back towards the yard.

    I speed after him. “Tamaki, please --”

    “Do not fucking follow me!” he yells, stopping me. “I’ll call the cops on your ass if you do.”

    But… I need to get that picture. Just one picture, It can’t be that bad! Maybe if I’m really fast...

    I open the camera and run to Tamaki. As he turns to no doubt yell some more, I slip an arm over his shoulders, hold out the phone, smile and snap a pic.

    An elbow shoves into my chest, blowing the air out of my lungs. My knees lose their strength and give out beneath me. I barely manage to hold onto the phone while I fall.

    “Crazy son of a bitch...” mutters Tamaki as he walks off.

    I take a few seconds to breathe out the pain, shins getting wet from the snow beneath. Finally, I check the phone. Back to home screen, into gallery, latest photo…

    Shit, it’s as I feared. Tamaki just looks disgusted. This is worse than no pic at all.

    Well, what now? I have nothing with which to prove Shirlee I’ve changed. All I can do is say the same shit I already did when she ran off, and clearly that doesn’t work.

    I sigh heavily. All this effort and no payoff. Just like this whole Shirlee thing in general. I’ve just been kicked around and made a fool of, and my lord still treats me like nothing. Should I simply give up for good? Lock myself in my room so that I don’t end up shoving my knife somewhere it shouldn’t be, and stay there until He comes to His senses?

    Wait… wait a minute. Didn’t people… didn’t people film me and Tamaki?

    Yes, they did! That means someone has a video of my apology! That means… that means I gotta run really, really fast to catch someone like that while they’re still near the school!

    I wobble onto my feet and break into a run. Don’t go far now, folks! Red’s on his way.

    ...wow, way to give them a reason to get away even faster.

    ---
     
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