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COMPLETE: [Teen] Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant

Lv1 Author (Writer Wannabe)
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Cross posting my serebii review of Act 3 (let me know if you'd prefer just one post):

As usual let's start with the good stuff, and then move on to criticizing bits.

I liked training scenes and interactions in the early Act3 chapters. As before you did great job with Matheus. He is likable and fun to read, and quickly becomes my favorite character in your story.
“Well that’s hardly fair. Aren’t you supposed to be teaching me instead of punishing me?”
Matheus shrugged. “There’s all sorts of teaching methods. This one happens to be mine.”
I love this guy.

Another thing I liked were the short flashbacks to Lawrence's past at the beginning of each chapter. We know at this point where Cassia and Grom come from, but we didn't know what happened to Lawrence prior Unova. Now we are getting it, gradually, and it explains Lawrence's inward conflict and his opinions at the beginning of the story.

Lawrence & Cassia's relationship: I like how you didn't let their love story become the main focus, it would fit the story anyway, but it has its purpose (power of friendship/love - which is good choice for the classic Good vs. Evil story). I also like how it has vibes of teenage love despite them being young adults (it took them long to realize the feelings and they are still sort of awkward around each other and joking about it). This is because they actually are the youngest of the main characters afaik, so it is fitting.

Gardner's character development: Mostly liked that one. It is always interesting to see villainous character start doubting themselves and eventually realize they are unhappy and need to change their lives (it has been done thousand times before, but this is one cliche I will never mind or get tired of). However it felt a bit forced too. So Gardner really has been flawless servant for almost two decades, and only then he f*cked up? Also, he never encountered a ghost type begging for a bit of Life during all those long years (to take pity on)? That is kinda hard to believe.
As I said I liked it happening tho. It also allowed for us to see Arceus is indeed personally engaged in this conflict, even if s/he doesn't show up themselves officially.

And finally, Johto Journeys! Eh, I mean, Equivos Journeys!: This one was originally going to be a negative point, but Chapter 20 retroactively justified it. Let me explain what I mean here.
Most of the Act 3 has this feel of episodic show; we go through several places and meet many one off characters (including the villains). Yes, important things do happen - acquiring Aura, Hoopa exposition, Arthus learning who is enemies are (and what important little item they have), and him working on outsmarting the heroes in several ways. However we didn't need specifically water/rock village nor ice/fire community with insane Delibird and murderous Avalugg for that. Replace them with any other one off characters and the plot will remain basically the same.
Because of this it had the feel of a filler, but it turns out it served another (almost meta) purpose. The seemingly lower stakes ensured the showdown with Arthus in ch20 would be more tense and had a better impact on the audience.
Was this intentional?

And now, the things that didn't work for me.

Arthus' behavior: This guy suffers from what some call "villain decay" or "badass decay." He was introduced as completely ruthless, and and some points you let him kill others for merely speaking what he didn't want to hear. Gardner should have been killed three times by now (and he does much more than speaking up). Instead Arthus doesn't even punish the guy (not in his supposedly ruthless fashion, anyway) and just whines "How dare you!", multiple times - be very careful with this, it greatly undermines the image of cruel warrior villain. It is very difficult to see him as brutal killer after displaying such weakness.
Of course there is this excuse which Arthus always remembers to say aloud "If I didn't need you..." and variants of that. But that will only work if you prove that is the case and you better do so as soon as possible. Instead Arthus never needed Gardner at all (every important action during Act3 has been done by Arthus himself, with Gardner basically tagging along and refusing to obey an occasional order while insulting his boss... why is he alive again?).
I am serious about this, in a an analytic way: Exactly what couldn't Arthus do himself that warranted Gardner alive?
There was no place that only ghost types could enter; no obstacle that needed exclusively ghost type move/attack; no secret Hoopa-bottle-opening-artifact which would require an eye of Dusknoir to be created (sorry that sounds silly, it was just random stuff from the top of my head).
I feel like something like this should have come up, because now it looks like Arthus spared Gardner just so he could have his little redemption arc. Either that or kill Gardner off outright, which would send immediate message to the readers that Arthus means business kidz.
And nope, his off-screen kills and destruction of Virona don't really count, sorry :/ Those characters didn't even have names and existed in exactly one paragraph for the sole purpose of being killed anyway. Very hard to cry for them. I was moved more by that tiny Duskull (who was killed after Gardner was kind to it) than by entire Virona.
Killing nameless characters with no relevance to the plot is easy, but doesn't have much of an impact. And refusing to kill important character when their death would be actually plausible smells of Plot armor.
One last thing, nope Arthus didn't need Gardner even for the final trap/battle in ch20 because Arthus could have easily replace him with anyone else who is a capable fighter. Heroes were the ones who needed Gardner there (to betray Arthus). This makes Arthus' choices rather questionable, especially since he already knew he couldn't rely on Gardner's loyalty at this point.

Arthus' actions: This is basically related to above, but I noticed some plot holes as a result of Arthus' plan to get the Hoopa bottle:
  • took the bottle when Matheus was asleep - why didn't he kill them all and take Cassia if he had this opportunity? Then he could have fixed the Seal without giving the protagonists a chance to foil his plans (also why not take the Illusion stone at this point? Why bother with the whole Xatu act?)

  • double crossing Hoopa - why? What does he gain by this? This threatens his only means of restoring the Seal (even if Hoopa bluffed, why take such a huge risk? he is only one step from fulfilling his dream)

  • the whole Seal restoration while battling the heroes reminds me of Bond villains (even if he really wanted to confront them - he should have restored the Seal first undisturbed, and only then when invincible, finally go meet them)
To tell you the truth I am not sure how to fix these (provided you agree of course). I would kill Gardner off, but that seems out of question, because you gave him a purpose during the ch20 showdown. Or perhaps consider introducing us to Virona Pokemon properly before Arthus kills them off. Seeing some of the residents watch their children/parents/friends die as their home burns around them would make for quite a tragedy - perhaps you could go that way? Not sure.

As for plot holes, that is even more challenging. Not sure how much plot relevance will Hoopa have after this point; if none, you could perhaps change how their deal goes if you wanted to. No idea if there is other way for Arthus to obtain the bottle, or even if you would like to commit to the rewrite of that in the first place.

At any rate, thanks for fun read! Arthus disappointed a bit this time around, but I liked everything else you did, especially the chemistry and relationships among the protagonists. See you in Act 4!
 
The Hidden Author
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@canisaries
Sorry for the extremely late reply, but I love what you did with Arthus! In the story he technically has some streaks of whitish-grey fur due to his age, but it's a perfectly understandable mistake and nothing you should lose sleep over.

Now onto the reason I am posting. I've remained mostly silent here on the forums because I've been busy with two jobs in earning funds to go to college--I'll be moving to my college of choice next month, hopefully. With that and the inconsistent work schedule--along with the fact I haven't been sleeping as much as I should--I have only been working on writing off and on. But that isn't to say there hasn't been progress.

I plan on having the first chapter of Unequivocant's sequel story, The Legacy of Equivos: Culmination of Worlds, ready to post by the end of the awards season. That isn't too far away now, but I still have some work ahead of me. Once that story is finished, I will begin posting the first prequel story, PMD: Twilit Destinies, and then later this year, when it is finished, I will post the rewrite of PMD: Legends Unraveled and the sequel to Twilit Destinies, known as PMD: Legends Awakened. I aim to have all of this completed around the beginning of next year, hopefully in time for the next awards season.

Before I get too busy with my new stories, however, there are things that need to be addressed here in Unequivocant. @WanderingKalosan posted his review originally on Serebii, and is where I made my response, and there I listed several changes that were going to be made to the story--in particular, Arthus and Gardner's actions during Act 3. The most significant change will involve that portion of the story, along with a near-complete rewrite of Chapter 20 due to it. I aim to complete these changes while posting LECW. If you'd like to see what changes they are, see my post on Serebii for details.

Other changes are more minor, but I will go ahead and list them in the spoiler below.

  • Arthus' dialogue throughout Act 1 and 2 will be adjusted to be less comical and cliché and more refined. I aim to keep his personality relatively the same.
  • Some other lines of dialogue will be adjusted either for their strong messages (such as Lawrence's dislike of Arceism), or for their weak.
  • Arthus' wife, known as Cassia, will now be known as Elena. This is due to confusion I've had when talking with other readers about them, along with the fact I want Cassia's true identity to be more of a surprise when readers who previously read Twilit Destinies read Unequivocant--especially when I suggest they read those first.
  • Later on, there will be less exposition given by Arthus and Matheus about the events of PMDTD and PMDLA to have Unequivocant act as a proper sequel. Certain details will also be changed to better reflect the plotlines of the two stories.
  • Grammar and spelling will be fixed while I go through the chapters for adjustments.

With that, I'm off! Keep in mind that all of Act 5 will be transferred to LECW when I post, except for the ending with Arthus and Matheus, which will instead be spliced into Chapter 26!
 
whoa i finally changed my pfp again
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In the story he technically has some streaks of whitish-grey fur due to his age, but it's a perfectly understandable mistake and nothing you should lose sleep over.
Hm, true - I did have the description by my side and I intended to put the streaks there, but at some point that waned to just grayer fingers, toes and muzzle, which in turn got overshadowed by the lighting. However, adding streaks is easy, so here's a revamped version - hope it's closer to Arthus's image.

 
whoa i finally changed my pfp again
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Awards are over, so let me post the judging I did for this fic and its nominated character categories. Since I had four judging posts to write regarding this fic, get ready for a wall of text. Granted, a large part of it is just explaining how the story goes, so not all of it is pure feedback. Anyway, here goes.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant (Best Expansion)

Plot

Unequivocant is a story about a fantasy world of talking Pokémon nearing its Judgment Day. From the world of humans, a man named Lawrence Stephenson is sent to capture one of these Pokémon for research, but things go awry as communications are severed and the man finds himself turned into a Lucario. He ends up traveling the foreign world in the company of Cassia, a Gardevoir priestess of Arceus, and Grom, her Golurk guardian. Together, they must spread the word of Arceus to help and salvage the Pokémon in preparation for the upcoming end of days. This is no easy feat when the world is under the rule of a Guild turned evil in the hands of Arthus, a madmon Zoroark. That’s not the only problem, either - as Lawrence is no believer.

I haven’t read too many PMD fics (or fics in general), but I’m fairly certain that as far as PMD fics go, UE is among the more original. The human finds themselves in the world of Pokémon through technology rather than being summoned by a mysterious force, and it’s probably the closest tie to the PMD games’ stories outside the existence of a Guild.

UE plays out more like an original fantasy story rather than a PMD journey, and it’s one of the qualities I really like about it, having had Eddings books read to me as bedtime stories as a kid. Like said, I haven’t read that many stories, but I’d say travelling a pre-industrial magical world in the company of colorful characters is pretty standard for the genre. I would not call it cliché, partly since I just don’t have the authority to make that judgment with the little experience I have, but primarily as the story has a lot of twists and turns along the way and surprises up its sleeve. The kind of twists that you don’t see coming and then make perfect sense in hindsight, too.

What I also love about UE is the fact that it is clearly planned out. I never felt like I was reading filler - everything had a purpose, whether to further the plot, establish characters, worldbuild or foreshadow. This helps the story maintain mostly good pacing.

The biggest detriment to UE plot-wise is its ending. The story has an amazing, epic climax - but the problem is that the story still has a huge loose end to tie up, which results in a final small arc taking care of it. The previous climax being so bombastic and - I actually believe this is the best phrase to use here - of biblical proportions, the latter climax inevitably feels less impressive and more like just a necessary thing to get out of the way. The author has a plan to fix this later on, but judging is judging and potential unfortunately has to be left out of consideration.

Setting

The story takes place in a completely original world, Equivos, rather than any established locations from the PMD world. The author also has many more stories taking place in the same world, so the setting is very fleshed out. If I don’t remember wrong, there are three major continents: Serenita, Cretea and Deitae, the last of which only Legends are able to tread. The main characters travel around the two first continents, searching for towns to help and preach to, coming across many different kinds of biomes and climates. These environments and towns are very colorful, their wildlife and buildings usually described in a paragraph or two at the start of the scene and the main characters feeling the heat, cold, sand, sea air, shock of seeing a gigantic Trevenant move and talk, whatever it may be.

For an entire world, Equivos does seem somewhat small. The population of the whole place is only in quadruple digits, and while the main characters travel mainly on foot, their journey only takes about two months or so. Everybody appears to speak the same language and have a similar culture. It somewhat makes one wonder what makes this world so special to Arceus, the creator of many.

Writing Style & Technical

As mentioned before, UE is a fantasy story and reads a lot like you’d expect one to. There are a few select spots later on in the story where the prose’s style changes, but these are specifically in turning points and used to contrast each other, so it’s a spice rather than an unintended ingredient.

The story is told in third person and with a narrator I guess I should classify as limited. The narrator has access to all thoughts and actions, but doesn’t share absolutely everything - naturally, as that would spoil the twists pretty fast. In every scene, there tends to be a character (sometimes two) whose viewpoint is focused on, and most chapters have scenes focusing on both the protagonists and the antagonists. This keeps things refreshing and engaging and lets all of the major characters have their own turn.

As for grammar or spelling errors, there’s usually 1-7 in each chapter, but they’re all minor, so minor that the average reader probably won’t even notice half of them. There are no errors that would make the message unintelligible.

Characterization

The most important characters of UE are Lawrence (protagonist), Cassia (deuteragonist/supporting), Arthus (antagonist/villain). These are the ones that most frequently get picked as the viewpoint characters in scenes. Other important characters are Grom the Golurk (supporting), Matheus the Lucario (supporting) and Guildmaster Gardner the Dusknoir (antagonist/supporting). Aside from Gardner, they get little or no viewpoint spots, but this is justified due to Grom’s speech and likely thought being limited, and the fact that Matheus has secrets to hide (and is a major character in other stories already, iirc). In addition to the ones mentioned, there are a bunch of minor characters with varying roles and levels of importance, so many that I probably couldn’t list them all off the top of my head without forgetting a few. However, they’re still all distinct in the way that I can remember their contribution to the story and their general personality, so I’d call UE’s character distribution balanced.

With a cast so large, the characters obviously won’t be fully fleshed out 3-dimensional people described with the accuracy of a psychologist, and to me that’s fine. I don’t consider it a detriment to UE as a story, but I’ll likely get back to it in the character judging. I’ll have all the space in the world to talk about Lawrence, Cassia and Arthus there, too, so I’m skipping my thoughts on them here. As for the rest of the character cast, I can’t recall any major inconsistencies. If I had to pick the weakest character, it’d probably be Hanson, who feels somewhat hollow as an antagonist when compared to Arthus and Gardner. However, I can say that no character came off as needlessly unlikable or grating, so no issues on that front.

---

Lawrence Stephenson (Best Protagonist)

Lawrence Stephenson is the protagonist of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Unequivocant. He’s a Pokémon behavior specialist working for a huge company called Valence Tech. He is chosen by the president of the company to be sent to a world populated entirely by Pokémon and bring one back. But upon arriving, the connection is lost and Lawrence finds himself turned into a Lucario. He goes on to travel the region with an Arceist priestess named Cassia. This means conflict, as Lawrence doesn’t believe in Arceus. He dislikes the religion in general, too, as they treat Pokémon as people, when his own experiences say they’re only savage animals.

Originality & Depth

Personality-wise, Lawrence is basically an everyman. He looks ordinary and talks like any average person, if a bit introverted. He’s not really unique or memorable based on any quirks or characteristics, so I can’t say he leaves that much of an impression as a person or stands out. For the purpose of the story, this is fine and probably even for the best, as there are lots of events and other characters that require focus and get it. But judging the character alone, putting it under a microscope, I have to admit that Lawrence is somewhat bland.

I would not call Lawrence badly written, however. His actions and emotions make sense in the situations given. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he fails. He has good qualities and flaws. On the spectrum of Gary Stu-ness, he's in the Plain Jon half.

Lawrence's motives are introduced and explained mostly by his dialogue and internal monologue. Sometimes the questions and realizations he has are voiced by the narrator. His emotions are either shown through his dialogue and actions or told by the narrator. The latter, however, typically only happens for more abstract feelings or when the emotion has already been established through the more subtle first way.

Role & Development

The most important part of Lawrence is his attitude towards Arceists and views on Pokémon intelligence, which is what he has his arc (haha) with. As mentioned before, at the start of the story, he dislikes Arceism. Its philosophy seems to claim Pokémon are equal to humans, when Lawrence has worked with the Pokémon of his world and seen them to be basically animals. Later on it is revealed that Lawrence was an Arceist when younger, but he never seemed to receive any responses, answers or help from the god of legend, so he lost his faith and quit.

Lawrence has many an argument with Cassia and other believers about Arceus. His reasoning is logical from his standpoint: there’s no proof of Arceus existing that he’s seen, he thinks bad things would not happen with a benevolent, all-powerful god around - all familiar arguments atheists use. However, prophecies are told and their content matches the events happening. Matheus appears - a Lucario who says he has met Arceus himself, and received immortality from him. The Arceist Tome provides Pokémon with helpful advice and peace of mind.

Lawrence accepts that Arceism can bring much good - faith in the future, courage to stand up to the Guild and so on. Lawrence also grows much closer to Cassia, receiving and giving comfort when the other is upset. He realizes what the Arceist Tome says about Pokémon is meant for the sentient Pokémon of Equivos, not the wild ones in either world. With the contradiction to his own experiences out of the way and proof of Arceus’s existence piling up, Lawrence’s mind is opened and finally changed. He believes Arceus exists, and eventually learns to have trust in him, too.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing from there on. After a great tragedy befalls him, he has a crisis of faith. He rages at the heavens for a so-called benevolent god for allowing that pain to meet him. With grieving and deep pondering, though, he learns to focus on the good he’s been given and realizes his loss is only temporary, as all will be well in his afterlife. He turns out to be more right on the “temporary” part than he thought, which naturally strengthens his faith and trust in Arceus even more.

Lawrence’s emotions are human. Sometimes he’s irrational and hypocritical, realizing this afterwards and regretting it. He misses his parents and his homeworld, fearing he’ll never see them again. His feelings on being an outsider based on spending a long time as a non-believer in a mostly Arceist region help him bond with Cassia, who also feels cast out (more on that in Cassia’s own character post). He wants to help people and do the right thing. Lawrence is a good person.

Entertainment Value & Summary

Lawrence is not a hilarious jokester or a vile hateable jerk, but he is relatable, making the reader root for him. I wouldn’t say I was at the edge of my seat, cursing the author for putting him through physical and emotional pain, but if I only considered characters like those good ones, my standards would be impossibly high. For Lawrence’s internal conflicts about Arceism, I was interested in seeing his reasoning for keeping or changing his views, but I’d say that was more about curiosity on how the subject would be handled than feeling a deep connection with the character. Then again, I can be a pretty big cynic at times and unable to connect to characters I read about.

Whether Lawrence deserves the title of Best Protagonist… well, it’s hard to say without comparing him to other nominations, and that’s not supposed to be done until the discussion. Is Lawrence a bad protagonist? Not at all, far from it. Could he be better? Yes. Is he the best character within Unequivocant itself? To me, no, I’d pick Cassia for that.

The most objective statement for judging I can give is probably the fact that UE is not primarily character-driven as a story. This means that there are likely characters nominated that have more depth due to their story’s type allowing for more development. From another angle: when I think “Best Protagonist”, I don’t think Lawrence Stephenson. While I don’t really find anything wrong with him, he hasn’t made that strong an impression on me.

---

Cassia (Best Deuteragonist)

Cassia is first introduced as a Gardevoir priestess of Arceus, discovering the protagonist, Lawrence, who’d just arrived in her world. She looks like an ordinary Gardevoir, save for her bright blue eyes. Cassia’s duty and calling is to spread the word of Arceus to any town that has lost touch with the god. By her side is her guardian Golurk, Grom, who can only speak variations of his own name, but Cassia understands him, having travelled with him for so long.

At about one third into the story, it’s revealed that Cassia’s not actually a Gardevoir, but a Zoroark in illusionary disguise - the same species as the tyrant Arthus, the villain of the story. This is no coincidence, as it turns out Cassia’s actually Arthus’s daughter (adopted, but still a descendant of his lineage). She shares Arthus’s ability to control Life, the energy of living beings. However, in personality, she’s his opposite - kind, altruistic and a little shy, though always wanting to speak up if someone’s being mistreated.

Development & Depth

Right after the chapter where Cassia’s true identity is revealed, her backstory is told in three chapters taking place in the past. It starts off with her as only a Zorua, growing up under the loving care of Arthus. For years and years, Cassia only sees good in him, but eventually she has contact to the outside and learns what kind of person Arthus really is - a mad tyrant full of murderous rage planning to overthrow Arceus himself. Distraught, she ends up running away with the help and company of her reprogrammed (read: strongly bashed in the head) guardian Grom.

In the outside world, she’s taught to survive in the wild by an immortal Lucario Matheus, and to teach and study Arceus by Arianne, an elderly Gardevoir. She receives a mask with which she can hide her blue eyes and therefore identity, allowing her to occasionally assume a hidden alter ego and fight off the oppressive Guild in towns with Pokémon in need.

Her development isn’t solely in her backstory, however. Being related to a person as vile as Arthus took its toll on her, making her ashamed of her true identity and her power over Life. She has to disguise herself as a Gardevoir as Pokémon immediately grow fearful and distrustful of her in her real form. However, as she grows closer to Lawrence who accepts her as she is, she finally finds the courage to be her real self to the public.

Cassia’s motivations and actions are consistent and logical within the story. I can’t remember any really out-of-character moments. She can lose sight of the situation due to worry or anger as people do, but she’s worked on the latter part as it only makes her more like Arthus. Her emotions are shown through dialogue, monologue, body language and actions, as it should be for a good character.

With Arceism as a central art of her life, she’s quite passionate about the religion. She feels insulted by Lawrence being dismissive of Arceus, saying he doesn’t exist and disliking his followers. She still keeps trying to change his mind or at least to understand him, and in the end her efforts pay off.

Cassia also has a hobby of drawing. She was taught to do so by Arthus, who also enjoyed it. This made her want to quit, but she was snapped out of it by Arianne Gardevoir. During her journey, she always has her drawing supplies. She’s gotten quite good at it, though humble as she is, doesn’t think much of it.

Role

Cassia provides guidance and moral support to Lawrence, helps him grow as a person and ultimately believe and trust in Arceus. She’s the one Lawrence first meets and who explains him many things about Equivos, her world. Cassia is also a capable fighter in combat, taking part in any fights the heroes find themselves in. In summary, she definitely fits the role of deuteragonist.

Originality & Entertainment Value

Cassia is not the sole one of her kind as a character, but at no point did she seem clichéd or like I’d seen her too many times before. She’s got too much depth to just describe with one trope.

Cassia is my favorite character in UE due to her likability and relatability. She wants to do what’s right and help people, but still has her insecurities. Her presence makes a scene more engaging to me and has me rooting for her.

---

Arthus Zoroark (Best Antagonist)

Arthus Zoroark is a tyrant in charge of the Guild turned evil in Unequivocant. In the story’s beginning, he breaks out of the cocoon he’d been sealed in for the past 2000 years and singlehandedly taking control of the Guild.

Arthus’s goal is to usurp Arceus as a god and create a world where people can do no wrong, taking away choice. He was the adoptive father of Cassia, another main character, but Cassia ran away from him after discovering his cruelty and his plans.

Arthus has an ability only few have: control over the force called Life. This makes him able to drain his opponents’ life force or travel through the veiny Life deposits that run underground across the world he dwells in, Equivos.

Depth

Like all good villains (well, some exceptions exist), Arthus has an actually reasonable motive. Having suffered in the hands of evil Pokémon himself and caring very much for his family, he wants to eradicate evil from the face of the earth. However, being convinced that you're on the right path and that anyone you kill can be brought back later is a recipe for quite a nasty person. Arthus, while claiming all the death and suffering is a necessary evil, clearly does get amusement from bossing around his subordinates, even murdering them to gain some spare Life.

Separate from his anger and sadism, though, Arthus can be very sweet and caring. Upon murdering his adult descendants right after breaking out of his cocoon, Arthus finds their baby Zorua, apologizes and takes her in. This Zorua would grow up to be Cassia. For the maturing Cassia, Arthus is the most loving of fathers, even if out of her sight he still remains the madman Equivos sees. When Cassia finally discovers the side hidden from her, she runs away, causing Arthus great rage, rage at Arceus, but deep down, maybe also at himself…?

Arthus’s feelings and motivations aren’t revealed in the narration as much as the other characters’ - well, partly because he likes monologuing a lot anyway, but it does leave a bit of room for speculation. Is Arthus really doing all of this for his family? Does he only say that to try to excuse himself? Does he consider all of his acts actually necessary, or does he do some just, as TVTropes would put it, for the evulz? This ambiguity can be considered either a good or a bad thing, in the end it’s really up to the reader.

Development

Arthus is a villain specifically because he does not change and refuses to. At the start of his life, he was a hero as well, but after seeing and feeling enough pain, he turns to a path of darkness. His backstory is mostly given via exposition in UE, though, as it’s not his story but more of the other characters’. (He is getting his own in the future, but I’m here to evaluate Arthus only based on UE, so that’s what I’ll do.) Shortly put, he sacrifices his relationships to his close ones (and sometimes the close ones themselves) in order to get closer to achieving his goal. He blames these losses on others, but the others naturally don’t agree. They only see a hypocrite in Arthus: a Pokémon against those who murder and destroy, only to continue to be one himself.

Role

Arthus directly or indirectly causes the majority of the problems our heroes encounter. He’s the reason so Guild is what it is right now and why Arceism has almost entirely been wiped out. There's no question about his position of antagonist.

Originality & Entertainment Value

Arthus is a pretty standard cartoon villain when putting aside his softer side: cunning, proud, bossy, snarky. However, this is what makes him entertaining to read. If the archetype didn't work at all, it wouldn't be one. It runs the risk of wearing out its charm, sure, but that's where Arthus’s caring side comes in to bring variety to his actions and emotions.

There's also the fact that Arthus does have some really cool moments at times. The most obvious example being the very opening scene, but there are also the different ways he utilizes Life and the tricks he pulls.

Arthus ticks a lot of boxes for what we think when we say “villain", and he's definitely the antagonist in UE. He may not be the most surprising or outlandish character for the position, but he's a joy to read, at least to me.

---

Arthus and Cassia (Best Character Interaction)

Arthus Zoroark, the tyrant in charge of the evil Guild, is the adoptive father of Cassia Zoroark, a priestess of Arceus. Arthus adopted Cassia when she was only a baby Zorua after breaking out of his two-thousand-year-prison and killing her parents, which were descendants of his. Arthus sees that Cassia is too young to have yet been defiled by friendship with the Lucario, the species Arthus holds disdain for after their betrayal, and takes her under his care.

Arthus raises Cassia with lots of love - reading her bedtime stories, drawing with her, training her to create illusions and to defend herself in combat. Cassia looks up to him as her father and essentially her only contact. However, when she’s eighteen years of age, she finds out what her father really does when he goes away: oppressing and killing anyone who opposes him or even mere innocents. Her world view shattered, she confronts Arthus about it. Arthus justifies his actions the same way he justifies them to himself - all the murdering he does is fine, as it brings him closer to his goal of usurping Arceus and recreating the world to allow no choice of evil, bringing peace and happiness to all. Cassia, like most others, is not convinced, leading Arthus to lock her in her room. She manages to run away, however, and ends up becoming a priestess of Arceus, the very god Arthus loathes.

For three years, the two don’t meet each other, but the events of the story eventually allows them to meet each other again. Naturally Cassia still hates her father, especially so having seen the work of his Guild at grassroots level. Arthus still wants Cassia back, however, as he still loves her as his daughter, demanding her to be kept alive and safe by his subordinates. He has too long a history of losing family.

Depth & Development

Relative to the story’s length, Arthus and Cassia don’t get that much screentime together. Three chapters are dedicated to Cassia’s backstory, one of them focusing on her childhood and eventually her escape from under Arthus’s care. Later on, they meet briefly during a fight, and for longer after they’ve survived a temple collapse with heavy wounds, separated from the protagonist. Arthus returns to his Guild headquarters, where Cassia later regains consciousness. As she’s weak and in no condition to fight, he can talk to her and try to convince her of his cause once more. Again, though, she only hears hypocrisy, and Arthus is forced to have her imprisoned. She escapes with the help of another antagonist turned good, and if I don’t remember wrong, she doesn’t meet Arthus again. She can’t, either - not before her own death, anyway, since Arthus dies before the end of the story.

Basically almost all of their interaction is on the page, but there’s one detail that implies more depth on Cassia’s part of the relationship. When the protagonist, Lawrence, is searching through Cassia’s bag after her supposed death, he finds a mirror. From the inscription on it, it seems to have been a gift from Arthus to Cassia. Her taking it and keeping it with her for all those years suggests that she still treasures the good memories they had together and wants to see some kind of good in her old man.

Originality & Entertainment Value

A villain having a child on the side of good is no new concept, but I can't say I felt like I’d seen this interaction a million times before at any point. Both sides must adapt to being put against the other. Ultimately, the two want the best for everyone, so it's interesting to see how one will try to convince the other and how the other will respond. In the end, they remained separate still, but will that stand for eternity once death allows them to see each other again? Will Arthus learn to regret his choices? Will Cassia forgive him? We can only speculate.

Role

I think the only effect the relationship has on the story is that Arthus doesn’t kill Cassia whenever he’d have the opportunity, something he’d certainly do if she wasn’t important to her. The two sharing species is a source of conflict for Cassia, both internal as external, and Arthus is the most widely known (and possibly the only one besides Cassia) Zoroark and widely despised and feared, forcing Cassia to hide her true from with illusions. Illusions and her ability to use Life are also helpful during the story. However, these are more about hereditary physical attributes, so they don’t really count as roles in terms of interaction.
 
The Hidden Author
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I haven’t read too many PMD fics (or fics in general), but I’m fairly certain that as far as PMD fics go, UE is among the more original. The human finds themselves in the world of Pokémon through technology rather than being summoned by a mysterious force, and it’s probably the closest tie to the PMD games’ stories outside the existence of a Guild.
Agreed, and this almost makes me want to give it a different title than 'PMD', and relegate it to being more of a descriptor than anything.

UE plays out more like an original fantasy story rather than a PMD journey, and it’s one of the qualities I really like about it, having had Eddings books read to me as bedtime stories as a kid. Like said, I haven’t read that many stories, but I’d say travelling a pre-industrial magical world in the company of colorful characters is pretty standard for the genre. I would not call it cliché, partly since I just don’t have the authority to make that judgment with the little experience I have, but primarily as the story has a lot of twists and turns along the way and surprises up its sleeve. The kind of twists that you don’t see coming and then make perfect sense in hindsight, too.
Yeah, outside of the Pokemon theme, this would be pretty usual fare. But thanks to Pokemon and the efforts I made to make the plot interesting, I try to keep things different.

What I also love about UE is the fact that it is clearly planned out. I never felt like I was reading filler - everything had a purpose, whether to further the plot, establish characters, worldbuild or foreshadow. This helps the story maintain mostly good pacing.
Filler was something I expressly wanted to avoid. While yes it is nice to help develop characters, it comes at the cost of time and development of the plot--neither of which I can really afford, given my current state in life. Still, it is good to see I managed the story well.

The biggest detriment to UE plot-wise is its ending. The story has an amazing, epic climax - but the problem is that the story still has a huge loose end to tie up, which results in a final small arc taking care of it. The previous climax being so bombastic and - I actually believe this is the best phrase to use here - of biblical proportions, the latter climax inevitably feels less impressive and more like just a necessary thing to get out of the way. The author has a plan to fix this later on, but judging is judging and potential unfortunately has to be left out of consideration.
I've already discussed this, so I feel no need to elaborate. Expect my changes and the sequel story by the end of this or next week, however.

For an entire world, Equivos does seem somewhat small. The population of the whole place is only in quadruple digits, and while the main characters travel mainly on foot, their journey only takes about two months or so. Everybody appears to speak the same language and have a similar culture. It somewhat makes one wonder what makes this world so special to Arceus, the creator of many.
That was a drawback I could see coming. I guess it's partially due to the fact that there isn't much filler--I didn't have the opportunity to showcase more developments or populations. To be fair, most of the population is gone at this point in Equivos's history, but the fact still stands.

As for its importance to Arceus...that may come into play in a later story, but certainly not with what I have planned now.

As mentioned before, UE is a fantasy story and reads a lot like you’d expect one to. There are a few select spots later on in the story where the prose’s style changes, but these are specifically in turning points and used to contrast each other, so it’s a spice rather than an unintended ingredient.
One area I can think of is in Chapter 18, where Lawrence's Aura awakens. That was a fun section to write.

With a cast so large, the characters obviously won’t be fully fleshed out 3-dimensional people described with the accuracy of a psychologist, and to me that’s fine. I don’t consider it a detriment to UE as a story, but I’ll likely get back to it in the character judging. I’ll have all the space in the world to talk about Lawrence, Cassia and Arthus there, too, so I’m skipping my thoughts on them here. As for the rest of the character cast, I can’t recall any major inconsistencies. If I had to pick the weakest character, it’d probably be Hanson, who feels somewhat hollow as an antagonist when compared to Arthus and Gardner. However, I can say that no character came off as needlessly unlikable or grating, so no issues on that front.
I'm gradually improving in my character-building as I write--I actually intend Twilit Destinies to be primarily character driven, so it'll hopefully help me develop characters more.

As for Hanson, I plan on including a chapter at the beginning to act as his backstory--sort of similar to what I did with Cassia, but more compacted as glimpses of his longer past. That will hopefully, somewhat resolve this issue. Plus, he won't have Gardner or Arthus to compete with in 'Culmination of Worlds', so that ought to help.

Personality-wise, Lawrence is basically an everyman. He looks ordinary and talks like any average person, if a bit introverted. He’s not really unique or memorable based on any quirks or characteristics, so I can’t say he leaves that much of an impression as a person or stands out. For the purpose of the story, this is fine and probably even for the best, as there are lots of events and other characters that require focus and get it. But judging the character alone, putting it under a microscope, I have to admit that Lawrence is somewhat bland.
I can agree, and was rather surprised to see Lawrence be nominated. I designed him to be a character people can place themselves, with quirks and traits to make him suitable for the purpose of the plot; he is meant to be a human window into the Pokemon world I created.

Lawrence is not a hilarious jokester or a vile hateable jerk, but he is relatable, making the reader root for him. I wouldn’t say I was at the edge of my seat, cursing the author for putting him through physical and emotional pain, but if I only considered characters like those good ones, my standards would be impossibly high. For Lawrence’s internal conflicts about Arceism, I was interested in seeing his reasoning for keeping or changing his views, but I’d say that was more about curiosity on how the subject would be handled than feeling a deep connection with the character. Then again, I can be a pretty big cynic at times and unable to connect to characters I read about.
I will definitely get into a louder sort of personality with Matheus during Twilit Destinies. I've been itching to write a reckless main character for a while.

Whether Lawrence deserves the title of Best Protagonist… well, it’s hard to say without comparing him to other nominations, and that’s not supposed to be done until the discussion. Is Lawrence a bad protagonist? Not at all, far from it. Could he be better? Yes. Is he the best character within Unequivocant itself? To me, no, I’d pick Cassia for that.
Lawrence is fine, but he only really works in the plot. I plan on developing him a bit more with the few additional chapters I have in mind for the sequel, but it won't be much. At least he's a perfectly average guy with a perfectly average standing as a character.

The most objective statement for judging I can give is probably the fact that UE is not primarily character-driven as a story. This means that there are likely characters nominated that have more depth due to their story’s type allowing for more development. From another angle: when I think “Best Protagonist”, I don’t think Lawrence Stephenson. While I don’t really find anything wrong with him, he hasn’t made that strong an impression on me.
Agreed; Unequivocant is plot-driven more than anything, with character-driven elements thrown in to provide depth. Twilit Destinies will be sort of the opposite; it will primarily be character-driven up until the final few chapters, where the tensions rise and it goes into plot-driven territory.

Right after the chapter where Cassia’s true identity is revealed, her backstory is told in three chapters taking place in the past. It starts off with her as only a Zorua, growing up under the loving care of Arthus. For years and years, Cassia only sees good in him, but eventually she has contact to the outside and learns what kind of person Arthus really is - a mad tyrant full of murderous rage planning to overthrow Arceus himself. Distraught, she ends up running away with the help and company of her reprogrammed (read: strongly bashed in the head) guardian Grom.
I quote this only to say that this made me laugh and still makes me smile. It's funny cause it's true!

When Cassia finally discovers the side hidden from her, she runs away, causing Arthus great rage, rage at Arceus, but deep down, maybe also at himself…?
Hmm...maybe.

Arthus’s feelings and motivations aren’t revealed in the narration as much as the other characters’ - well, partly because he likes monologuing a lot anyway, but it does leave a bit of room for speculation. Is Arthus really doing all of this for his family? Does he only say that to try to excuse himself? Does he consider all of his acts actually necessary, or does he do some just, as TVTropes would put it, for the evulz? This ambiguity can be considered either a good or a bad thing, in the end it’s really up to the reader.
I chose to have Arthus primarily voice his thoughts to himself, partly as indication of his insanity, butalso to make it so I wouldn't have to write what's really going on in his head--which likely isn't good, at any rate. It was also because I didn't really have a clear visual on how he is, but after a rather stunning idea I had while planning Twilit Destinies, I definitely know how his mind works.

As for this...maybe he needs his own scene where I go into his thoughts? He's already had his development, but maybe he can have this sort of scene just after he meets with Cassia, where he thinks about why he's doing this and if he really gets a buzz with death. I know the answer to that, of course, but the readers need one to prevent ambiguity. There's little enough about how Arthus works after his two-thousand year imprisonment that I ought to experiment with that.

A villain having a child on the side of good is no new concept, but I can't say I felt like I’d seen this interaction a million times before at any point. Both sides must adapt to being put against the other. Ultimately, the two want the best for everyone, so it's interesting to see how one will try to convince the other and how the other will respond. In the end, they remained separate still, but will that stand for eternity once death allows them to see each other again? Will Arthus learn to regret his choices? Will Cassia forgive him? We can only speculate.
Interesting point. I agree that the part about forgiveness would be best left in the future for when Cassia does eventually pass away. Now after reading your thoughts, I regret not having Cassia meet Arthus at least one more time. Maybe it could be during the climax, where Arthus manages to reach the glade of the Tree of Life, only to see Cassia standing in his way. They talk, and Arthus becomes hesitant. Lawrence comes in and goes to attack him, convincing Arthus that he has to into the Tree of Life after finishing him. This is where Matheus would pin him and spark their ultimate departure.

I'd have to experiment with writing this, but it would grant Cassia a last look at her adoptive father and would also involve her more in the climax of the story--almost tying it up better since she's a major character as well. I'd almost want to do the same for Gardner upon thinking about it, but I'd imagine he would've left once the others hopped inside. Besides, he's already burned his bridge to Arthus and cares mostly for himself; I doubt we'd gain much seeing him interact with Arthus a final time.

Thank you very much for your thoughts, canisaries, and I hope to see you again in my future works.
 
The Hidden Author
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I'm nearly finished with my edits through Act 3, and I aim to be finished with them by Sunday, along with the first chapter of Legacy of Equivos: Culmination of Worlds, and, later, Twilit Destinies! However, when reviewing potential changes, I came across a rather strange fact that ultimately makes sense. Let me explain.

Part of the reason I'm making such large scale edits--such as changing narrative style and entire scene rewrites--is so I can keep truer to the characters while also developing them further. One character I wanted to focus on in particular was Gardner. His character arc is a rather simple one, but due to some...complications through Act 3, I had to rewrite some of his scenes toward the end. Ultimately, I wasn't happy with it, and I tried rewriting it again. The reason why is because Gardner has a rather drab and dour personality, and even if he gets development, I have to keep that consistent. And after considering this, my (so far one) awards review and previous reviews, I've come to a realization:

Gardner isn't necessary to the story.

I'm sure some of you would agree, and other would wonder why. First off, throughout Act 4 (post-temple collapse), anything he does could conceivably be completed by Arthus (IE: Escaping the ruins with Cassia) or Cassia (escaping and collecting the Tome and Prison Bottle). From a role standpoint, he is unneeded and could easily be replaced by better characters.

What about Act 3 (post-Cassia's Backstory)? He...quite frankly doesn't do much. Sure, he dwells on his loyalty with Arthus, and has an encounter in Jareth--and in my rewrite, he actually helps Arthus obtain the Prison Bottle. But in the grand scheme of things, he's just in for the ride, and his actions in the Arceist temple to reverse Grom's change could conceivably be done by Cassia.

While the last two acts can be reasoned out of, what about Act 2? He arguably has the biggest role there in uncovering Cassia's identity and being a hunter. Well...not so much. Most of his scenes involve him talking to Arthus, often about how to find Cassia. Even in Chapter 9, he's just there to beat Lawrence up a bit so Arthus can finish him off. Why can't Arthus himself be hunting them? Sure, he's searching for a way to fix the Seal, but with Martre researching and three prime targets (a Lucario, his daughter, and former bodyguard), he'd surely see that as reason enough for delay. He would be the one to reveal Cassia's identity in the midst of a fight, and Matheus would come in with Grom to save the day, as usual. Gardner isn't really needed here either.

The large, encompassing issue is that he isn't a true antagonist or supporting character. He was originally designed to be a foil to Arthus in that he chose to move away from his violent ways instead of spiraling farther into them, so in a snses he was supposed to be a part of Arthus' arc. Instead, he became the main antagonist in Act 2 and an iffy individual in Act 3, then supporting in Act 4. The problem is that he doesn't have a personal reason to be doing what he does; he's doing it all because Arthus ordered him to. He has no personal vendetta against Lawrence, Matheus, or Grom. Cassia, maybe, for hiding for so long, but considering his nature, I'd expect him to give up if it weren't for Arthus' persistence. He has no connection to the protagonists, and his relationship with Arthus is shaky to deal with--especially considering he has little bearing on the plot that he himself is needed.

The same can be said for Grom, to an extent, but unlike Grom, Gardner isn't entertaining. Grom is full of a child-like sense of wonder and has unique qualities, such as his inability to speak. Even if he doesn't contribute much to the plot save for rescuing Cassia and Lawrence in Act 2 and destroying the temple in Act 3--along with some character development for Cassia throughout the story--there are other ways for those things to happen with Pokemon like Matheus or Arthus. Gardner doesn't have the same thing going for him. He is a dour and irritable antagonist with a sarcastic sense of humor--which, when compared to Arthus, is quite poor. Not to mention he doesn't have any special qualities save for his gem and his gas transformation--both of which haven't been used to a great extent.

With Gardner, Zacheus can also be struck out. Zacheus is primarily there to act as a pitiable character for Gardner and to show how he changed over the course of the story; he contributes practically nothing for the plot. Sure, in Act 5 he blasts a hole in the wall of Facility D, but Lawrence could easily do that with a large enough Aura Sphere.

With them out of the way, the main cast is Lawrence, Cassia, Grom, Matheus, and Arthus--all of which are liked in their own way. The only character aside from them who is there sheerly for plot is Martre, but considering that Arthus needs an alternate Pokemon to search for the Seal as he takes care of what Gardner would be doing instead (except for Guildmastership; leave that to Martre), Martre simply needs to be there.

This is the only major change to the story as far as I know. Scenes have been changed throughout, along with the narrative style for showing everyone's thoughts to make it more active. Certain details have also changed to better reflect the prequel stories, such as the origin of Cassia's mask, or Arthus' and Matheus' past. The story will end up having Arthus and Cassia picking up the slack with Gardner gone, and I think we can agree that seeing more of them is better than seeing more of Gardner. This also cuts down my main cast in Legacy of Equivos from 7 to 5, with Lawrence, Cassia, Sheffield, Erica and Hanson staying around and leaving Zacheus and Gardner out, ultimately making it easier to write.

If you bothered to read my wall of text, thanks. With the extent of these changes, I would alsmot encourage a second read-through if you can help it, but as the main plot hasn't been changed, I wouldn't blame you for not doing so. I'll hopefully see you Sunday with the update and the first new chapter of Legacy of Equivos.
 
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Alright, I know I said I would have the changes up today, but the rewriting has taken a little longer than expected. I'll try to have them up by Friday morning, but I can't guarantee anything. Just know that Arthus has a lot more focus as the villain with these changes, and some more character traits from Twilit Destinies have carried on into it--I'd really recommend rereading the villain scenes if only to see how different Arthus is.

Also, after further consideration, I have decided to keep Gardner, but instead have him replace Martre in his informational role. He will also have a better Guildmaster background and prove more suitable for Arthus then before. No, there won't be a big character arc from him, but he'll get his time to shine in battle--you'll see if you read!
 
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Okay. Post rewards things. I'll start off with my chapter-by-chapter as I read them comments I make when reading through things. Don't know how much of it is valid with all the changes, though.

C1
- Initial is confusing. I assume awakening is later explained
- A bit strange to me to compare both the eyes of the antagonist and the eyes of the descendant guy as ice
- This got dark fast
- This guy is insane
- But not too insane. I think him introducing it as a Zorua is slightly passive?
- If he wanted to purge his lineage of cross breeding why doesn't he kill the Zorua too? Or even imply he wants to? Unless the implication is that isn't truly his goal?
- This aged dude must be easily amazed if he's still amazed by this fact after an implicitly long time
- Calem is abruptly introduced by name by the narration
- Corny dialogue
- it's imperfection because it's its
- Why make the armbands, then?
- And he can introduce warp evolution.
- What. You'd think the Zorua would react to the illusion fading but no.
- Kind of also puts him in a strange perspective. He's this brutal guy. But he has a soft side. But he doesn't want anyone to know it.
- So I take it Arthus is still known behind it even though the Dusknoir is the figurehead?
- "Let’s say what lies Arceus has come up with" - Typo
- Expanding it all legendwise
- And a confusing ambiguous ending.

C2
- Various parts where the accented e is used or not used with no apparent consistency- What's with -- vs —?
- These people still remember BabelFish? Damn.
- Guess Oak didn't trademark the term Pokedex.
- Just hanging up on his parents. Rude.
- What games?
- Wait if Valence was formed from the old Poketch company why is it mainly operating in Sinnoh?
- Would also like to think its big Poketch like features would be in the 1.0 version. Or a consolidation of the two products.
- "potentially-delicious products" huh?
- Do like this worldbuilding with all the digital card culture xtuff. Too bad it'll probably be wasted.
- Keyword Unity.
- So if we have religion pushers here I assume there are multiple ones? Or just the one true religion?
- Ha. Reminding me of some of my own concepts there with the religion bits.
- Likin this dude already from his unique place and personality
- Why trust Lawrence with all this? I'd like to think the questions would be asked beforehand. And there's an implicit trust in him to ask in the first place.
- "Will the Pokemon treated humanely?" <- Typo.
- Uhhh 2000 feet? It hits like 54C down there.
- "held Lawrence’s supplies suddenly refused to go forward" <- Typo.
- Pretty insane wormhole warp seqquence.

All in all I liked the first two parts. That said it says something about being more interested in the villain than the protagonist. All the latter's setup gets thrown out because u r pokey man now.

-----

C3:
- You tellin me that they killed Lucarios so dead that people forget what Lucarios are?
- shown from the trees <- Typo
- Lot of staring going on.
- covered his fact with <- This guy, covering up the facts!
- Well SOMEBODY is being made to stand out with those eyes.
- Goofy that they use their species name as their last name. What happens when they evolve?
- This raging atheist. I find it kind of weird he doesn't believe considering the likes of Dialga, Palkia, etc. almost wreaking havoc on his home region several years ago.
- SANTA CLAU-er, ARTHUS ZOROARK IS REAL
- Interesting bit working guilds into the rescue teams.
- Everyone is evil, so EVERYONE DIES.
- Wait is this guy so dumb that he goes crazy from a prophecy then goes on to try to fulfill said prophecy?
- And killing/moving around people who obstruct his view. Pretty hardcore.
- If Cassia doesn't like talking about Arthus, then why did she become someone who goes around talking about Arceus and by extension him as well?
- Arthus: "Everyone's dead. Everything's the same. That's order enough."

C4
- Like the first little bits of this chapter where Lawrence proves his worth, and when it's followed up on later.
- "maybe on to somethin" <- Typo
- Random quote end in the bit where Lawrence wonders about Cassia's origins
- How were they all instantly alerted?! I like the variety of them shown, though.
- Nothing like a flying Golurk.
- "I won't die doing what's right!" <- Is she saying she's in the wrong?
- Gardner is such a tryhard. Trying to be evil and vicious just to keep up an image.
- Wait, Mewtwo is around? Think about that for a moment. How could Mewtwo be around? It was cloned from Mew by humans. In a world of Pokemon, its existence is technically impossible.
- Cassia a traitor with blue eyes? Hmhmhm...but then how did she teleport? Do Zoroark have magical powers beyond normal in this ficverse?

C5
- The singular eye of Gabite, huh?
- Who needs Darkrai or some magic Zoroark to have bad dreams
- Odd. Was thinking the guy just didn't believe but he became jaded I guess. Which led to straight-up atheism because he thought if God existed he couldn't make anything like this.
- Could Grom even hold the Pokedex without crushing it?
- Is that suspicion? Or jealousy?
- Mentally unstable paranoia, party of two.
- I'd like to think Arthus would view Lawrence as a potential ally, but I guess his need to flaunt his power overtook him. Liked the guy at first but man he's off his rocker now. Which is good, because villains are supposed to be unlikeable pricks.
- Same can't be said for the other two, though.
- "made everything on fire!” <- I like this line. I'd probably like it more if it was one of the kids saying it.
- A masked Zoroark? Hey there "Marth", how's it hangin?
- Man, a thought occurred, and if this turns out to be some sort of parallel world where Erica is Cassia I'm gonna be like wat.
- You know I was half expecting her to tell the same story Arthus told her way back when. Would've been a nice callback, but a children's story is fine too. Probably better.
- Really like Lawrence's excuse here.
- Guess this clears up that these really are magical Zoroark with ~~special abilities~~. Not sure how I feel about this.

C6
- Can't help but wonder if you invented Life just so Zoroark has a counterpart to Aura. Which is already kinda life in canon.
- "its food and little else," <- It's/its mixup
- Pft. She is barely hiding it at all.
- "he wondered I there was some sort of connection with Life" <- Typo and ha. Typed the above before reading this big
- Noticed a trend in villains. They love having power, they flex it on those below them, and are all stupidly ignorant.
- So Arthus is going mad. Makes sense.
- "he made to himself to reject Arceism" <- missing period
- Nice lie that is the truth, Cassia
- That is cute but disturbing that the bunnies will be brought in and taught to feed on Life
- Tree is so supermassive he can enclose Grom?! Interesting revelation about him, though. He used to work for the Guild, huh?
- tfw people rhyme own and form. Guess it's not meant to.
- And all Lawrence gets is being enigmatic at.
- You know I made the Marth joke too without reading this far, but it's actually what's happening too.
- Big golem playing with tiny bunnies by chasing them.
- Cassia nearly blowing it really hard and really stupidly
- "Considering how honest Cassia has been" <- Sudden present tense? Also wonder how he'll feel when the reveal comes.
- You are mad! I read it in a raspy supervillainy voice.
- Nice imagery with the web bits.
- “Slow down, slow down! You’re going to crash!” and this in a saturday morning villain voice. Points for having metal sled dogs though.
- And with that argument after their heads were bounced they really do seem like goofy villains
- "Valder and Derak felt finger brush down their back" typo

C7
- Wait I thought it reasonably well known Arthus was loose
- Like the rusting Metagross idea. Gives an impression of Pokemon needing to look after themselves, which he is not.
- Little creep? What is he, 14?
- Someone forcibly working with them. Nice.
- Hypocrites. Cassia and Grom freak out over their own secrets after Lawrence tried to protect his
- Like the thoughts bits with Lawrence.
- AND SHE IS RIGHT BACK TO IT AGAIN. What the hell, stupid not-Gardevoir?!
- They took it...way better than I thought.
- Like how she hints at her true nature too
- Parallel world theory chances went way up with the song.
- I even wrote that before his wondering if they were the same
- Have a hard time reading Arthus. Like some scenes he has a humanizing breakdown. Other times he's acting like a goofy Saturday morning villain.
- Other Duskull? So is that a mistake or is it a subtle hint he's just in a Dusknoir body and not really one himself? It would explain the unnatural body.
- The fear of Poke God...
- Case in point, Arthus acting like a SatAM villain being a jerk to his subordinate just because he can..
- Wow. Wasn't expecting a mutiny scene so soon. Which is mostly a vessel to put over Gardner.
- Nice way of explaining a type weakness. That doesn't matter because stupid Zoroark magic.

C8
- "I can remember at least seven regions" <- You know this makes me wonder. How are regions 'discovered'? Are they treated like countries in this context? Why wouldn't he know more about the greater scope of the world? Case in point, we're taught about all the countries and the world as a whole, so why would it be limited to just Seven Official Main Series Regions?
- (in reply to if each is a continent) "Well, yes, but one of them is more like a few islands"< - Hold it right there! Johto and Kanto are right next to each other and therefore on the same continent! Therefore, this is blatantly untrue even if we consider everything else to be a single continent! Well. Not so much a mistake as it could be Lawrence being a dumb.
- I see this fic, or at least Lawrence, subscribes to the idea that you must be ten to do the Gym Challenge. Even when you're canonically 11 or 14 or 16 or whatever else. It leads into a funny reaction at least.
- I like this concept. Haven't read a ton of PMD fics, but I'm pretty sure it's not that often you see the designated Transformed Human talk about the human world in such great detail. Or for that matter learning about the Pokemon world.
- Lawrence being triggered. Damn.
- Instantly putting the foot down. I don't think I like Cassia very much.
- “I just feel…connected to him, somehow.” <- Well if I remember it right in your multiverse it is the fate of Lucarios and Zoroarks to have a connection with each other.
- A nice way of him looking at it while still keeping his (somewhat excessive) view.
- Heh. Nice callback with the crepes, and him actually making them too.
- Just casually killing.
- This ruby will self-destruct.
- Uh, hello? Dumdum? You just thought Erica is remarkably similar to Cassia. Of course there's stuff to go back to. Don't take the furry route, man!
- Hm. Was expecting Grom to be a wild Pokemon who became civilized, not one who got the speech knocked out of his brain.

C9
- Sometimes Arthus is a serious villain. Othertimes he seems like a comical supervillain, burning up a flower for the sake of doing so.
- Lawrence wheein' and dealin' again as always. Liking him more and more.
- I see they failed places to avoid 101.
- Interesting stuff covering eating Pokemon.
- <stuff about the pinap juice>
- Lonny asking for it, sheesh.
- Wait, how did Lawrence know this about Machamp? From his time in Unova or whatever?
- Liked the arm wrestling scene, and interesting way to ease Lawrence in channeling his Aura.
- Comparing them to Team Rocket? Dayum. No respect for Galactic. Or Plasma v2.
- So what happened? Did Mored suddenly pass out from being too drunk, or did Lonny do something to him?
- What an abusive wife. Throwing stuff for no reason.
- What a suspicious person. A cloak. Able to understand Grom and take control over him.
- Now we're hearing about a silver-furred Lucario in this next scene after. How interesting~ If a bit ehhhh for making up special colors.
- Was amused by Gardner being taken off-guard by Lawrence's derpiness.
- glaring at the Dusknoir.!” <- Punctuation screwup
- And the reveal. Lawrence being so much of a derp he doesn't believe it.
- Gardner's self-superiority here is amusing. Though I can't believe Lawrence is actually buying into it.
- "Arthus" "Doesn't knock" <- 10/10
- And Grom is supercharged!! Sick!!
- Arthus being a supervillain again, getting rid of perfectly good minions in a rage. I'd laugh if this ends with him having killed off so many of his subordinates he has none left to defend himself with.
- No you didn't get me. I'm surprised that guy got got, though.

So this arc was mostly plot progression and character development/establishing. Some recurring bits in it, like Cassia trying to hide herself and the chase.

~~~~~

C10
- Arthus fell p hard,
- That feel when you don't get a name before you can illusion. Imagine if you just fail at illusioning. You'll be nameless forever.
- “I’d rather not have her discover my…admittedly, weaker side.” <- Interesting he considers letting everything go to hell his weaker side. Here at least.
- Neat parallel between Arthus and Lawrence. Both had something happen to them that made them lose faith in Arceus. Of course they're both fairly irrational about it in their own ways.
- Like this scene between Gardner and Arthus. It actually gives them personality.
- The 2004AU scenes are a bit confusing for a couple reasons. Cassia points to a tome as if to indicate being unable to talk, but she can talk. It's said she's getting used to talking, but her phrasing/sentences don't indicate this. Like she could be stumbling over or misusing words.
- So wait what happened there in that scene? Did she make an Eevee or conjure some sort of spirit with Life? I take it if the former Arthus' words about not being able to make things wasn't exactly true, then?
- While I like the backstory behind Life and Aura you made, I'm not sure how I feel about this. Then again if taken at absolute value, it is delightfully ironic that Arthus hates Lucario and yet if it wasn't for him they presumably wouldn't be able to use Aura either. Doesn't seem the case from the bit that follows about him learning how to use it, though.
- Quite a few tiny little scenes in this chapter. Like one explaining Cassia's love for drawing. Seems she still respects Arthus in a way, at least what he taught her.
- Wait. Cassia was around in 2000 AU presumably a newborn, is three in 2004 AU (which is understandable if her birthday hasn't happened that year yet), then twelve in 2014 AU? How does that line up?!
- You going to go into more detail on why Cassia was drawn to the Tome?
- Transition between these scenes is weird. Days later, several days later...what's what?
- I take it Pokemon evolve through age in this?
- Guess this answers my question about last names from before.
- I'd like to think he would wean Cassia into the real world of DEATH rather than dropping her out of the world of illusion all at once, but as has been established, Arthus isn't that smart.
- So Grom is an acronym, eh? Interesting coincidence that ended up all he could really say, makinng for a good cover story later. Like his personality here too.
- Once more, how does Mewtwo exist here?! It's a manmade Pokemon, not one that was created naturally! Ugh. Always bugs me.
- Wait, the price of using the Seal? Nothing was mentioned about that, just potential consequences for the Legends being absorbed into it themselves.
- “Seriously, where do you hear about these things?” <- This line kind of feels out of character for any of his personalities.
- Using his voodoo magic to know what they're talking about and preventing Grom from speaking about Matheus, but not preventing him from talking about him as the Usurper? Huh?
- Gregorian Scrolls? Counterparts!
- Hm, I wonder how long Cassia knew about the illusion she was in? Certainly since it was dispelled briefly, but maybe even before that?
- Man, the Guild must have fell hard too if they were at this point two years ago actually going after criminals. While stirring things up themselves too, but still.
- I like Searle. He's a jerk like some of the Guild Pokemon have been shown as, but has some morals as shown from him not liking Arthus much.
- Felt it would've been a nice consistency if the Alakazam really did appear in the scene four years ago.
- What if the nice person Cassia sees is who Arthus really is?
- To do that, everyone must die, then be resurrected by me, without the choice to do wrong. <- This evil plan is SMT as hell.
- If Arthus was a cruel as the Tome said he was <- Typo.
- he adopted her after killing her true parents <- There's a few lines earlier in the chapter where he is referred to as her adoptive father in the context of something she was doing. Since the revelation only takes place now, it might make sense to change those up.
- Heh. I enjoyed the fight scene here. Brief, but getting the point across that Arthus had taught Cassia well. So well it led to her being able to escape.
- A ghost being smacked by a door?
- “I don’t care what sort of feelings Lord Arthus has for you; you are staying here.” <- This line feels a bit contradictory, Arthus' feels are that that she must stay there.
- Guess Cassia knocked the evil out of Grom as well as the speech.
- Arthus is most inattentive, heh. Not even seeing the signs of a ten foot golem falling over.
- Hey, she's not wrong. He does come across as killing because he's mad at times. Maybe mad in more ways than one.
- Can't blame Arthus for getting super pissed off here, at least.

Big marathon of a chapter, here. Really all over the place at times, but adequate in what it gets across.

C11
- And meeting not a Legend, but a legend. Come to think of it though, isn't it awkward for eared things to wear hats?
- Hm, Matheus manipulated all this, huh? I wonder just how much he manipulated...
- Odd way of teaching patience.
- "closed is eyes" <- typo
- Hm, so he really is a Legend. Maybe that explains the silver fur.
- Like the tying in the lake fairies.
- "amazed by all the Life surrounding her" <- is life a keyword that's always capitalized because I don't think it should be here.
- This really does sound kind of SMTish. "God said it was okay so LET'S EAT FISH".
- More Life exposition. Still not sure how to feel about this. It's well developed, can say that much, like tying it into Aura proper.
- You probably could've alluded to Cassia's hunger a bit more here. It's mentioned a couple times but it only comes into play after she starts eating.
- Like the bit where Matheus is impressed at packrattishness.
- Arthus going full on creeper in the nightmare.
- and that he had a choice to change the world, just like Arthus wanted. Instead, he destroyed it <- May wanna fix this wording, since it seems like he chose to destroy the world.
- Huh, a nightmare not caused by Arthus using voodoo magic powers!
- He’s going wild! <- I know this probably isn't what you meant, but I like the concept of a Pokemon losing its sanity or whatever and becoming classified as a Wild Pokemon.
- Interesting tying Grom into Arthus' overall goals.
- a world where you are forced to do good <- SMT as hell.
- since its what let you be with me <- It's/its mixup.
- So wait, I don't get why he's rejecting the stone. Is it the thing that's taking away his willpower and emotion, yet also the speech part of his mind? That's what I'm inferring, that she gave him it back by removing the stone, that's the only way this makes any sense.
- The brace expositing scene is so short. It seems to be a recurring thing especially in Part X, but I feel this one could've been worked into the scene where the brace was coming off.

C12
- Psychic door-opening, huh?
- series of lanterns hung from the ceiling, unlit, but with large candles inside. <- Slightly awkward line.
- Speaking of the candles they get lit, the Gardevoir says she doesn't want them lit, but there's no mention of them being unlit?
- It’s more difficult for Dark Pokemon like yourself, but it can be managed <- This line is a bit confusing. It's implying that Dark types can read minds too, but a later line in the chapter suggests this is referring to reading Dark types minds.
- he likely wouldn’t have the care for himself <- Typoish
- How'd Arianne find out about Cassia and learn some of this stuff anyway?
- The first tome! Now there's something interesting.
- Interesting worldbuilding when it comes to berries being a food source.
- The religious zeal is strong in those who believe in it.
- And so the descendant of the Usurper said, "You're a piece of shit and I'm going to surpass you in drawing"
- I guess Arceus while very similar to monotheistic God did not teach to honor thy father.
- His wife had died over two-thousand years ago; Arthus is still dwelling over her death. How did he feel after so long? How badly did he want to see her again? <- I like this line. It's hinting at her true compassion in even caring about Arthus in some way, if only through basic empathy, even after he's shown to be a scumbag.
- I mean it does fit too. Using his works for the benefit of all means for all, including those who have forsaken him.
- Wait, what would Samuel do if somebody chanced upon the spot?
- Huh. Ghost Pokemon are literally ghost Pokemon, huh? Don't dislike this...
- So what do they do to dispose of the bodies of people he took Life from?
- Connection for the idea for the disguise was already there, but confirmed! Wait, actually, now that I think about it. If she really wanted to disguise herself why didn't she use a false name too?
- Calling it as I'm reading it at the part where Cassia's left to teach on her own: she's coming back to tragedy.
- Yup, she ded yo. Especially with all those famous last words. Last words before her life is turned upside down. Though I was kinda expecting her to just happily pass, not presumably get a vision and go to fulfill it.
- Red flame erupted from her calls <- Call me maybe.
- Also was expecting it'd be the guild, not some random evildoers. But then again, it kinda fits with the story and works in an ironic way. Arthus wants to eliminate evil, she's eliminating it too but for real.
- Okay, almost.
- Yeah. With her teaching forgiveness can definitely see the themes, and possibly her ultimately forgiving even Arthus.
- Grovly voice? She really is "Marth"
- A very nice and sweet ending to the chapter, but feel it's a bit strange for it to be taking place two years later.
- Though I also like the callback to the beginning. Conflicted over this...

This arc was a bit different.

~~~~~

C13
- And we're right back to comically over the top Arthus, cutting trees and killing subordinates for no good reason.
- So he's literally trapped in a Lucario's body? And Arthus instantly jumps to the conclusion he's an alien? Wonder where this is going to go.
- Why hasn't anyone stood up to him yet, anyway? Surely even an uber powerful mega magic Zoroark has his limits to being overwhelmed.
- A manipulator in the darkness, hmmm..
- Glad Lawrence calls out Cassia for lying to him while at the same time demanding answers from him.
- Without opening is eyes <- Typo
- Okay, never mind. It immediately starts dumping on Lawrence for rightfully calling Cassia out. Really don't like how she's being treated as a perfect little princess who can do no wrong, though on the other hand it is because most treating her like that are Arceusmongers. Am hoping for it to go full SMT and for Lawrence to say "screw both sides"
- Whatever the creator does is right, and thus, what the would-be creator does is right as well. <- Hey, Arthus is seeing how screwed up this is.
- Nice Tamato soup callback/consistency.
- At least Cassia is taking responsibility rather than being sheltered by those who think she can do no wrong.
- Tricking him into being knocked unconscious? Rude.
- Can see signs of Matheus being an extremist too. Well, more like he's shouting he is.
- Er, sudden shipping bits? pleasedontgofurryman

C14
- Huh. So I forget, was an explanation as to why he didn't Pokemon before given?
- Cassia suddenly so touchy feely with Lawrence. This came pretty out of nowhere.
- Peo-Pokemon...well, I guess people too are deadly serious about making Lawrence believe in Arceus again.
- He shook his head n disbelief. <- Typo
- Isn't Palkia just the space ruler?
- I see Gardner has a heart after all, awwww. And he's starting to realize on his own just how messed up Arthus has gotten.
- “We saw his signature in our copy of the Tome. Why?” <- She's asking why for no reason or context here.
- The argument kind of struck me as strange, with Lawrence almost shoehorning in his atheism unprovoked.
- various tunnels poked in an out <- Typo.
- Wait she can come up with a decently new illusion on the fly but won't change one that's established?
- Water Pokemon bullying Rock types, huh? Ha. Amusing.

C15
- The religion aspect of this is built okay, but it's missing something...I guess other religions. There's the One True Religion then there's no religion. I mean despite what people love to do the Sinnoh myths are more Shinto than anything else.
- Good to see consistency in Matheus' training. Surprised no one is watching Cassia though.
- A book that disappeared in the real world, huh? Now that has caught my interest.
- Like how even further justification for disliking Arceus is how not even Diamond/Platinum/whoever was in his faith.
- Hints that Arceus isn't exactly really that great...
- Around this part are spots where Aura and Life aren't capitalized
- You can't create Aura by yourself" <- Missing start quote
- Hey, Mange is back! In a cute scene too.
- The Creation Trio?! Always bugs me to see fanon terms used in something like that
- Wait the almost everyone in Sinnoh at least believes in the Arcean Texts, so that sentence is a bit weird,
- Development into finally accepting Arceus' existence. And yet still logically calling its benevolence into question.
- THE REBELLION IS HERE
- "No Guild Pokemon in sight, Aerav. <- Missing end quote.
- to wander scavenge the rivers! <- Mangled wording
- Let's shush him up <- Really, dude? Shush? You're a big nasty boss Pokemon and you're using shush?
- Choke on the water you spray and die! I like it!
- "Ready? Cassia asked, <- Missing end quote again
- Yo, Lawrence learned Rollout! Fucking sick, dude!!
- Heh. Was wondering if the Illusion Stone was really fake given what Cassia said, and it is. Still it might not have been given all the magic voodoo that goes on in this fic.
- Another prophet, huh? Wonder why the Guild didn't know of them?
- Well that was an abrupt ending.

C16
- Man, why's Cassia get three whole special chapters dedicated to her and all we get from Lawrence are these brief flashbacks?
- Good consistency showing the hatred for Zoroark.
- Heh, like the hesitation before Watchog. One of these things is not like the other! One of these things is a not commonly used Pokemon!
- Huh. Okay I get this but then what's Yveltal doing just dicking around for 20 years after awakening from the cocoon?
- Nice, Pokemon finally waking up to the inequalities.
- Okay that explains things about Yveltal but man, serious YHVH vibes from Arceus right now. Or old testament God.
- “You ready to go? “ <- Extra space
- avoiding the Assault, <- Random capitalization?
- My current theory on the voice talking to Gardner: it is a shadow, the true self.
- Sickening feeling in his chest as he's contacted. Like it.
- We’re you a very active Arceist <- we're.
- Man this really is old biblical stories. And being taken the same way as some of them, too.
- Heh. She was acting all offended on him supposedly knowing Pokemon behavior, and yet here she is openly admitting he does know it.
- “You… you really think all that?” <- Extra space? There's another nearby too.
- Well…I figured out that that you’re a Zoroark <- that that
- Arthus again showing why he's off his rocker.
- Kind of a weird ending, but nice plot progression. If a bit strange since he didn't really want this as established by previous chapters.


C17
- Failing stealth 101 there man. Volume off!
- DEATH BY MACE. Or Repel. Hey nice featuring those
- Where's your god now? The power of humanity saving Lawrence there.
- Nice to see Lawrence's smarts being put to use.
- Lawrence gettin some payback.
- Didn't peg Grom as the remorsely teasy type
- I thought Matheus had a kid and therefore did get along with at least one lady, or are my wires crossed?
- Lawrence suddenly acting like he might catch cooties.
- Matheus you died and came back to life, what the hell kind of reaction is that
= region contrasts
- Sounds like an awful lack of individuality to me or that he associates Arceus with being good and selfless
- interesting thoughts about consequences of returning
- walked up the iron bars of the gate <- typo
- Funny enough cold can extinguish fire. So freezing the flame works. Chilling end of the scene though, pun only partially intended
- Guess floating isn't a thing with Gardner.
- Wow, Arthus is just being a ridiculous supervillain now with casual murder and talking down to even Gardner. Credit where it's due, Gardner does get pissed.
- He can devolve things with his voodoo magic too? Why doesn't he do that more often then? He seems crazy and psychotic enough to do so.
- Like the conclusion Gardner comes to as well. Not just dropping everything and turning, for lack of a place he can be, but ready to do so if he finds another place he can be.

C18
- Zealots. At least his father gives a good reason.
- Yes that's exactly what guards should be doing. Standing with their backs to those who might be coming in.
- Nice he who fights with monsters moment, and especially with a Delibird of all things. Priceless turning that of all things into a vicious leader.
- Why'd they help this guy then just get all deadpan with him, anyway?
- I like this guy's style, if not his methods and justification. If you want something do it yourself! Don't rely on just praying for help! The power of huma-Pokemon!
- Like how it's explicitly stated this dude is just hiding behind the big Avalugg.
- That bizarre twist when PMD1's plot actually is happening in how a human's presence is ripping apart the world. Except all we have to go on at this point is this Xatu's word.
- Of course with his demand and a contradictory statement from before saying Arceus brought Lawrence here, we've reason to be suspect of it. Yet with mention of dimensional disturbances being fixed, it could be partially true.
- “Why can’t they just use wood?” <- Hello, dumdum? Fire burns wood. If you want to imprison Fire Pokemon you don't use a material they can just destroy ezpz!
- What's with elderly Pokemon being the leaders or the ones to come forth? Noticed that a bit like with the Typhlosion here and Aerav last chapter. Is it just a hierarchal thing or just you writing that way?
- This is an interesting contrast to the previous area. Previously there were type advantaged Pokemon ruling over their natural enemy. Here they were living in harmony. Until the type disadvantaged rose up.
- Clumsy girl.
- As nice as the scene afterwards is, how it's set up is pretty ridiculous. Feel it could've been placed better, I guess. Just something to note for future works.
- Fan of trippy scenes so I liked the aura awakening one.
- straight into the chest of the Fresnic Delibird <- Not just Fresnic Delibird, THE Fresnic Delibird.
- The creature exploded in a burst of blue-white light, sending shards of ice spraying everywhere. <- FATALITY. Freaking insane.
- Hm, so people are rising up against Arthus. In a misguided way and not at all what I expected.
- Cassia has to love you back. <- No end quote. Commentary wise, insert joke about how you can't leap, etc.
- That feel when the first kiss between a couple is when one is unconscious. Cheek mind you but still.
- Man, tfw even Matheus is being convinced by a Xatu. I guess it moves things along and puts him in a more humanizing light.
- A small hint that Arthus might lose all control and let his Life go berserk?

C19
- Grom lifted a chunk of dirt <- His line tied to this has un unnecessary linebreak
- Wait so is it mud or dirt Matheus fell into?
- There's one paragraph where there's like four uses of the word paws. Come up with something else!
- I don't get it. Why's it harder to lock onto something living yet an inanimate object is perfectly fine? Would expect the other way around.
- Matheus winced, then rubbed his eye. <- Yo he's a pirate now!
- Misdreavous <- Typo, remove the O
- Thought it was the same Trevenant as before because that would do a lot to explain Gardner avoiding the forest. Then it died.
- Speaking of, no you fool you're the other potential traitor you're gonna die!
- the lovers growing loser to each other <- Gary was here, Lawrence's a loser.
- it’s neck <- Typo again

C20
- So some random Oddish doll survives but everything else dies?!
- Dang. Thought the Xatu tied to him, but didn't think this was Arthus himself. Though he'd be more the type to just kill him ASAP.
- Also man he's like a pissed off dad.
- Shit getting so real so fast.
- Super tall temple if ultimate Hoopa can fit in there.
- You know things are serious when someone speaks in a certain unique way.
- Gardner outright stating his plans for betrayal right in front of Arthus.
- Something about this triple fights triple conversations scene bugs me.
- Gardner so tsundere.
- And now we're seeing the real Grom! Before a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Arthus is as expected a jerk. Also most inattentive. So caught up in his cartoonish villainy he didn't notice an out-of-control titan smashing up the place.
- Victory! But at what cost? So, now what?

~~~~~~~

C21
- Getting biblical again with the opening.
- Like that Arthus' line actually is kind of a positive one. Shows that Matheus still cares even after everything that has happened, and is giving him the diginity of an honorable eulogy.
- Then paying his respects. I like it.
- Pretty much justified rage. But man, Lawrence's aura going out of control, he could go hyper!
- I like that Matheus actually responds - or more accurately does not - to Lawrence's accusations. Finally, some progress on this front.
- No disinfectant for wounds here, I suppose.
- Arthus/Tursha haunting him even in death. Also heh, just noticed the anagram.
- Lum Berries as good medicine, eh? Makes sense.
- Endless haze of shade is kind of a strange description.
- Like the bit about stars here..
- He shifted is arm <- Heh. And just when I thought the beta reader change drastically improved things or at least I was too out of it to catch typos, I catch this.
- Going right from a jungle to a desert? Seems legit.
- Get a bit of backstory on the guild here. At least, I think this is what it's about. I just wrote "backstory" on my phone's notepad with no context I could pick up.
- Just say the magic words and he'll tell you? Please? No! In the name of Arceus, silly!
- It claws clamped around <- Typo

C22
- Like that Matheus is being humanized here.
- Again with the dark side of the Arceus. Worded oddly there too
- I like the bit about him concluding immortality wasn't worth it, for having to watch the world get wrecked twice by the same guy.
- I was the reason Cassia--Arthus' wife--died <- Interesting twist. Arceus and others, even he himself parade that Arthus was responsible. But here we have exactly not that being proclaimed.
- canyon walls of Dusknoir guild <- No "the". Maybe not necessarily a mistake, but Guild isn't capitalized like it's always supposed to be in this either.
- His servant, Gregorius Gengar? How interesting. I wonder if that was just a cover story for Gregorius pulling the strings? Sure seems that way with the context given.
- Pastor Lawrence, huh? Sounds fun, and a valid reason for doing so too. If slightly abrupt, though fine in the context of what's been going on.
- That trust is what separates Arceists from Arthus <- Okay and just when I think we're getting somewhere, we get the same old same old about how Arceus must be correct, comparing the nonbelievers to one of the most twisted Pokemon ever to walk Equvios.
- The mask he'd remembered only minutes before? It seemed more like a few moments, unless he was digging in the bag forever.
- How does he confuse a long rod with a small mirror?!
- Isn't a harsh protector a kind of guardian as well? Not really the best wording choice. Get what you're going for but still.
- Man, can unfortunately understand what he means by Cassia being at peace, though not personally myself thankfully.
- instead trust Arceus to somehow remove them <- I still can't get behind this. It's coming across as having so much faith to the point of being blind, really. Especially since Arceus has been implied to have caused some of those troubles.
- "She trustsed in him completely to save them...and herself. <- And yet she ded yo. Forsaken. I know I'm taking cheap shot after cheap shot here, but man.
- Getting away from that, aww. A love letter intended to be read when he's back.
- Though it segues into immediate acceptance of Arceus as his Lord and Savior. Kind of feel this could have been more gradual, really. I do like him resolving to pick up where Cassia left off in her memory, but yeah. That's just going a bit too far, especially him feeling immediate peace with himself.
- Why are you suddenly in good mood <- Typo.
- Again, I like Matheus. He's a reminder that the Legends aren't infallable. He's really humanized, and ugh. But I really do like the themes going on in him, showing the power of an individual to make a difference.
- Dang, poor Slugmas in this world.
- Hope you're gonna give an explanation as to why the ladder is surprisingly cool!
- Heh. Recognized as a Lucario-Yet-Not immediately. Also like the detail of the Guild just not being able to stand the place.
- I also like their initial opinion here. It makes sense in the story. Even how the whole bit about getting them to like prophets again is handled - despite it being a bit hasty in execution.
- Er, wow. A bit cliche that Vignon drops dea-becomes inert on the spot just like that right after getting to see Matheron for the last time.
- And finally they've come full circle. Literally.
- all while Lawrence relieved the same trek <- Huh? Typo?

C23
- Oops. Nearly forgot about Martre. Let's see if he becomes a villain doing things FOR SCIENCE. Would explain the sled tracks and stuff burning last chapter.
- Yup, and it seems that he might know, too.
- Hey, Mange is back too!
- Mange cautiously search for food <- typo
- And everything's gone to total chaos.
- Martre taking no crap, though. Like this scene, it shows how Arthus' death has arguably made things even worse while showing there's still hope and good about. Relatively speaking.
- Whump whump whump? What kind of ending to the scene is that?!
- Hey, Gardner's alive! Hey, why didn't Gardner turn into gas to escape before?!
- flipped him onto his back <- No end period here.
- Well this was a sudden twist. I'm not sure I like it though, it cheapens everything to say "oh hey they're alive after all"
- Oh, that explains the ending of the last scene.
- Huh. was expecting Gardner to be personally killed by Martre, but I guess not.
- Dang, that feel when Arthus can become the big hero.
- Now we have Martre here believing in Arthus. But man, though it'd be the other way around. Thought he would be the one who doubts him alongside Gardner and they might stage a potential coup.
- Have I mentioned how much I like Gardner? He's not necessarily evil, he's always staying true to himself. Whichever side that takes him towards. Especially with his resolve here. It's exactly the themes I was hoping to see from this.
- And ending on a slightly creepy note.

C24
- Super nice opening scene to this chapter.
- Kind of feel a description of Zacheus as he said to look at him would be nice!
- "No one understands meeeeee!!" What a villainy motivation.
- I never done any of this <- Typo
- Man as SMT as his plan is, yeah. It's ironic how he's rebelling against God yet his plan is more indicative of the Law side of things.
- Incoming justification...hey, who wants to bet his father makes a surprise return?!
- Feel this scene is a bit...ehh. Some of it is conveying what was already known, except as told by Arthus.
- Banished to the Xilo Mountains? And there in the plot proper there was another Dark Prophet. Hmm, wonder if that'll come up again?
- Why is she listening. Why is Cassia just sitting there listening
- I went to search for Gregorius’ tomb in Xilo. After weeks of combing through the mountains, we found it <- Who is we?
- The Edge of Despair? That's a...edgy name. Pun not intended but I have no idea how to say it otherwise.
- he insisted that I use the edge first <- Edge isn't capitalized. Be consistent, yo.
- tfw they're super rude to Matheus. This also doesn't really explain why Arthus was cold towards Matheus too implicitly. The last he said in the story he was waiting for him to return.
- A Zoroark being outslyed? Damn.
- He glared at Cassia. “No good comes from it.” Cassia glared in response. <- He glared, she glared, kind of odd when they're formatted the same way and not like "she glared back" or whatever. Why is she still listening?
- So he can Men in Black things too with his magic voodoo powers? So why didn't he use them to wipe Cassia's? At least as soon as he got her back? This guy is insanely incompetent at being a villain.
- from doing evil what that’s exactly what you do <- Typo. Could be her being that mad too, but you have to make that clear if so.
- Oh, so that puts things in perspective. If Matheus had stuck around he might've been the price of the edgy Edge, hence why he feels he might be responsible.
- Minutes after this breakdown, Arthus calms, and between deep breaths, he says, <- Abrupt present tense.
- Okay, now it seems like he's going to Men in Black her. Oka-wait, not okay! What the hell, Arthus?!
- Associating her courage to rebel with Arceism. Typical.
- Gardner strangely felt sorry for her. <- Is that that strange that he feels sorry, or is this a wording mixup?
- What kind of a leap of logic is that? May have forgotten but did Gardner ever say he hated her for descending from Arthus, you know, the guy he loyally served for a long time?
- Kill to Pidgey with one stone. <- Dr. Kill to Mr. Pidgey. Come in, please.
- proselytizing <- What a word. But one I'd expect someone like him to use.
- help bring the Guild back to the power it ought to be <- Back to the power it ought to have.
- Just how many self-portraits does this dude have?
- But why would you bring me this? Why betray the Guild? <- He already told you that!!
- all she had for companions was a scrawny Torracat <- Unless this is her voodoo magic Life powers, how did she know about the Torracat let alone it being scrawny when it was never brought up to her? The first time she knows/sees it on screen is in the tunnel.
- B-But I thought Dusknoirs do have mass/weight. Actually are pretty hefty, too.

C25
- Love how logical Gardner is here, even if it is partially out of self-preservation
C25
- Cassia forcing Gardner to accept Arceus to earn her trust? That's too much
- and the worked together
- Why does Cassia suddenly make a bewildered look out of nowhere when she is the one who's talking?
- The once vibrant life <- Huh? Not the best way to describe it.
- Again, I like Gardner here. Convincing Cassia to fight without her mask and bring honor back to Zoroarks.
- Hey it's these two clowns again! I like everyone's reaction to Gardner. The citizens and everyone else just not knowing what to think.
- Uh, what? Why is Gardner suddenly singing Arceus' praises and saying the Tome is the key to unifying Equivos? No one did anything to convince him of this at all. And where did the concept of unifying it even come from?
- Again with the double fight scene going back and forth. They just read as two separate 1v1s that interupt each other. I feel in cases like this specifically, there could be a bit more interaction between/teamwork rather than just pairing off. It's especially awkward because BOTH end with the hero character being in a tough spot, getting taunted, and taking a shot that allows the other to finish them ofl.
- There's nothin like a fistful of lightning.
- And now we have Pokemon acting super irrationally towards the two. Just to set up a scolding scene. Like, seriously?
- And then from there bashing even Matheus. Like I thought you/he was going for an angle for potentially being able to forgive even him, but then he goes and says he is the only one that you should never forgive.
- Ha. Poor Zacheus. There's nothing like a clear misunderstanding of in between all this stuff I don't really get.
- The joking and reminsicing was nice.
- Soon, he'll take the life of every Pokemon here <- Earlier in the chapter there was a line where Life was capitalized in this sense. Inconsistency!
- What, she isn't going to preach here?
- Man, it'd be funny if the story ended with Unbound Hoopa just telling everyone to screw off and everyone dying.
- Heh, now that is far more amusing than a mere parlor trick. It's a fun little parallelism to Arthus having to sacrifice his most precious love too.
- all of Arceus' work will be for nothing. <- This is pretty terrifying to think about. He is the one who set all this up, after all, including everyone but his followers dying.
- None seemed willing willing to give their most precious love <- Give up their most precious love? Either way this sounds a bit awkward.
- Was a bit strange to see Matheus suddenly called the Guildmaster given that term is usually reserved for Gardner in this story.
- The scene immediately after was a bit confusing since what happened to Matheus was ambiguous, and he wasn't said to have been ringed up. Then he's right there with them all after being deimmortalized and aged.
- bringing all remaining Pokemon of Equivos to the Realm of the Keeper <- Oh, fuck me dead. The world's being destroyed and they're all going to Lawrence's world.
- Yup. Here we go, finally all that setup from the second chapter is becoming real again.


C26
- Well this is getting more insane. The Arcean Texts implied to originate from Equivos?
- Man that phone must take a while to time out if he can keep it ringing for that long
- Wait I thought Matheus not being a Legend would be better, considering the superweapon won't work on him. I mean Matheus sort of says this too, but Cassia still hates it. Silly girl, I guess.
- Lawrence's Pokedex continued to ring <- Pretty big mistake here, Lawrence answered the phone in a previous paragraph, and it's STILL RINGING.
- I like the bit about Matheus/Aleron comparing his two identities. Kind of reminds me of some sort of superhero thing.
- Cassia had repeatedly gone on about not wanting to use Life in any fashion in a few previous chapters. But here she uses it for good without hesitation.
- Uhhh a ringing phone is typically caused by someone making contact. So who called him in the first place?
- Finally back! And hey, I like this scene. When we last saw Hanson he was being shown as fairly ruthless, but he's shown to care in some way here - insofar as regretting a model employee got zapped in a wormhole
- The engineers nodded briefly and run through <- Typo
- He looked behind him, his gin fading <- Another one.
- Oh okay nevermind, Hanson right back to being kind of sinister.
- Wait, why are the Usurper's henchmen thanking Arceus for their safety?! What the hell?!?!?!!! If any actually did so aloud Arthus would've killed them on the spot!
- Oh, I guess he's killing them anyway. Never mind then. But still a strange thing.
- Arthus can't count. This is the fourth time he's come to stop him: the three incidents he's mentioned were the first three. If it really was three though, it's confusing phrasing.
- Yo, Aura lightsaber! Sick!
- I love that Arthus is so inattentive he hasn't noticed Matheus' physical changes and questioned what's happened
- as if, somehow, this storm was an ending <- Kind of an awkward line here.
- Hey, character throwbacks. Hi Aerav. Say, what happened to Mange anyway? He isn't even mentioned as the Guild explodes.
- And the Trevenant giving some words that yeah, it's not over yet. It should be but still.
- Oh okay, a real reason for it to be continuing. Even if Valence kind of comes across as a last minute threat.
- Man as much as I rip on somethings, you can give some damn good imagery. Particularly with the apocalypse happening.
- There's an accidental double spaced line somewhere in the bit where Lawrence is trying to save Matheus
- Matheus is described as a silver blur at one point but he's no longer silver
- And yes, last minute threat is a go. Also none of those Pokemon are False Swipers, terrible for capturing.
- Now we get the trippy scene where YHVH meets and praises his creations and subtly implies Lawrence's world is going to be judged in the same way.
- Interesting implying Arceus creates other worlds over time.
- And most of all, "Would I be seen as benevolent and just if I had killed someone becasue of their unbelief in me?" <- Hello? YOU LITERALLY JUST DID THAT. You had your minion kill countless Pokemon because of their unbelief in you!
- I mean he's giving them choice, but this really doesn't seem like a fair choice. It's pretty disturbing when you think about it. Arceus creates all these worlds and demands faith in him, a lifetime of suffering follows those who do not. Given some of the things that have been hapening, one can reach the conclusion that he makes those who don't believe suffer.
- Lawrence just straight-up submitting to God's will instead of making the choice that needs to be made for the good of all. This is disturbing. And yet it was the right thing to do, what the hell.

All in all with all this? I've concluded this world is well built, but man is it a shithole to live in.

C27
- Missing period and a double space when Lawrence rubs his eyes.
- Kind of a bit strange to be describing the glove at first.
- a long, messy brown mess <- Hair is messy when it is messed.
- Self control suddenly from Lawrence
- Man, Hanson is sleazy. Using the Equivos Pokemon as advertising and not their own products?
- I just blew through the rest of this without stopping repeatedly to write stuff down. Plot progression, catching up, whatever. Liked the scene with Erica but man. RIP her.
- Well I thought this fic was going to get away clean without going furry. But I guess not. Hell he's gone full on "fuck the civilized world"

##########################################################################

And this is as far as I read. I don't feel like reading any more even though I'm so close to the end. It's the first thing in forever, possibly ever, that's made me feel like this. So congratulations, I guess.

I was originally going to just post my awards review in full. And I still am. But to not be lazy, and because I want to rant some more about it, let's get right to it, shall we? The religious aspects of this fic are poison. It straight up actively harm anything it touches, like a King Midas of crap. The extreme insistance on pushing it makes it come across as more disturbing and annoying than anything else.

In my review in the awards I somewhat sarcastically called Arceism in this fic a Mary Sue. But I mean thinking about it more, it's not necessarily wrong. Yes, a concept as a Sue! And I hate that term too! I mean, it's as infalliable as one, and anyone who hates it is obviously misguided, wrong, and/or a villain.

It's a shame too. I like a lot of things about this fic. The world is nice. The characters are quirky but generally likeable. Even the religion itself is built well. But other than that? How it's presented actively brings the fic down as a whole.

And now for my awards reviews.

Main Review
Well when I think PMD I think furry. But what I was not expecting was to be reading a fic that is so heavy on religion. And I have to dedicate a few paragraphs to it because man is it flawed.

To start out, it is built well. It's the "Arceus is the one true god!" bit that a lot of fics/works go with, but actually pulls it off fine. It has a pseudo pantheon known as the Legends below it, which includes the legendaries and some special Pokemon. For some reason, Mewtwo - you know, a manmade Pokemon - is part of the Legends too. In a world where it can't really exist. That nitpick aside, the religion was built well, and there's all sorts of quotes and passages from its Tome that sounds very biblical.

That said, I'd like it more if it wasn't so ridiculously one-sided in its portrayal. The two characters who are the primary nonbelievers - the protagonist and main antagonist - both lost their faith for ridiculous reasons and get painted in a negative light for it. The protagonist in particular thinks that there is no way Arceus could exist because he would never make such things - although to be fair the world is built so that in his world it is the only god not known to actually exist, so he has reason to doubt it. A fair chunk of the plot is dedicated to those around him helping regain his faith. It's gradual enough at least, going from ridiculous and sometimes random blurts of "Arceus doesn't exist!" to acknowledging that but thinking him malevolent or otherwise being irreligious to full force. The antagonist on the other hand more believes that Arceus is unjust and seeks to Usurp him to create a world with no evil in it. It's SMT as hell and I would've loved it if there were balance. The content portrayed in the religion is pretty standard monotheistic god stuff, and yet in spite of some of the more questionable things it's never questioned. Or the bigger zealots. There's like one scene where a wild Basculin is killed for food and the justification is "hey god said it was okay". Like, that's just unnerving and could've been a good foundation for some moral ambiguity, but it doesn't even touch on that. Then there's the insane leaps of logic to accepting Arceus.

Perhaps the biggest instance of this is a big paragraph where it more or less goes "unova sucks and is full of selfish people because it is irreligious, everyone loves each other in sinnoh though!" When you take this and the fact that Sinnoh is said to be the only place in the Pokemon world that is super religious, you realize that the author is unintentionally implying all the world but Sinnoh to be a crapsack. In second place is when Lawrence still is hesitant to trust in Arceus - rightfully so since his almost-girlfriend and their automaton pal just died - and a bit of going through the former's things later, he's all but singing his praises and the fic says he's immediately feeling much better. Like even giving pushing religion, couldn't it have been more gradual? It was fine before this, with key incidents being the cause of him taking bounds forward (even if it is heavyhanded). This was just absurd to me, though.

The worst part about it is that all of the stuff that makes it the religious aspects kind of disturbing is all there. Most particular is when Arceus himself shows up, and it's implied those who don't believe in him in any of the worlds he creates are bound to a life of misery. He says he gives freedom of choice, but taking it that's like going "sure you CAN choose not to believe in me, if you like eternal suffering". Yet none of that is ever followed up on. Even taking it as a pro-religious fic, it left me shaking my head anyway and doesn't mean it's good writing. I mention all this because it's relevant to the characters later on.

That's part of the setting, so let's segue into that proper. I like it, even with the religion portrayed as so infallible it arguably qualifies as a Mary Sue. Or at least Christploitation. The creator built a very vivid world, and even made a map of it all like old fantasy novels might. It's in a way a sort of Journey fic - more Journey than some, in fact. I mean, think about it. It's about traveling an entire region with a purpose in mind. Each city in the region is given its own time in the spotlight. There's stories to tell like the town of Water types oppressing Rock types, the town run by a false prophet, the forest of ghosts watched over by a Trevenant, and the jungle town we don't learn much about because everyone dies in a fire before we get there. And of course the Guild that is central to the setting - originally founded to help Pokemon but twisted at the fic's start into one trying to make their lives a living hell. Specific attention is brought to how much of a craphole it becomes over the years of its occupation by the Usurper, being fixed up later due to a plot development. This is by far the strongest point about the fic. It feels like a living breathing world, and very little is glossed over. Being a relatively small world also helps in that regard, since the whole of it gets to be seen. It feels like every chapter is meaningful because of this. The fic's solid description also helps in building the world.

The concept of Life in this fic, an ability to manipulate a Pokemon's life energy, bears mentioning. It always bugged me in one sense - I repeatedly referred to it as voodoo powers that exist just to make the antagonist (and Cassia) special. I think at one point I even said I thought it was so Zoroark have a counterpart to Aura. Some of it is okay and straightforward, like the simple act of infusion or stealing it, or traveling through the roots of the Tree of Life. Other things it can do seem pretty out there, like memory wiping or affecting dreams. Yet I can't really count this as a fault. It's built and established well. There's a big backstory as to how Arthus came into being able to manipulate it, and it's part of the world in-general that Ghost Pokemon in particular can naturally use. Speaking of Aura, since it already is very similar to Life in canon, it's written as something similar but coming from the bonds shared with other living creatures. Which is fair enough I suppose.

In short, the setting is fantastic and there's not a lot to fault about it. Even the bits about Unova when it becomes relevant are well-established and built, as far as the fic's logic is concerned at least.

As implied, one mostly strong point about the fic is its description. Aside from a few spats of repetitiveness (like using paws four times in one paragraph) it does this very well. For example it at one points goes into great detail about how Life veins are used (the roots of the Tree of Life), painting a really fantastic picture. And when the apocalypse is going down, there's very vivid descriptions of how the Legendary Pokemon are destroying the world. And again, as much as I have (and will) said against it, all the religious quotes from its Tome are written very well and reads like it could well come from a bible. So in other words, Writing Style is solid enough too.

Now let's get to the Plot.

From the protagonist's side of things, this is very similar yet different to how PMD is generally handled. A human is transported to a world of Pokemon - in this case through SCIENCE - becoming one in the process (later revealed to be by Arceus to test him). However, that's just not what this fic is about at all. It's really about Cassia Zoroark and her quest to spread the word of Arceus to save the Pokemon of Equivos whose faith was destroyed by her adoptive father before the Day of Desolation where the world will be destroyed. I like thepremise, really. As I said, it kind of becomes a Journeyfic as a result of it. They go from place to place so Cassia can preach, so especially the first two-thirds episodic in nature against the overarching plot.

Well, most of the first two-thirds. There's a huge break about halfway through consisting of three chapters that's dedicated to Cassia's backstory. I felt...well. Considering other backstories were only spoken about or given a few scattered short scenes at best, this sticks out in the grand scheme of things. These were originally dubbed as Special Episodes before being worked into the fic proper. They bother me in how they effectively give her preferential treatment.

Getting back to the plot and the preaching. One thing I do like about it is that the stories in them are mostly intended to be taken as life lessons rather than word of what actually happened. Kind of like real religious stories! One that's plot critical due to being tied to Lawrence is about a gardener who planted a bunch of seeds, became impatient, and left before they grew into an entire forest. Already been over how it's handled in the plot, that said. And yeah again, each place in the world has its own story to tell.

All the while there's a subplot of Cassia trying to make Lawrence rekindle his faith, as well as Arthus advancing his plans, hunting down the protagonists, and aiming to rekindle his father/daughter relationship with Cassia. Another thing I liked ties into characters, most of the important ones have their own little subarcs and goals in mind. Not as much as SOME special characters get, but still.

I feel one moment that kind of cheapened things was they set up this big dramatic death scene for not just one character, but several others as well - up to and including Cassia and Arthus. And this doesn't happen late in, it occurs two-thirds of the way through. It's a really fantastic and emotional moment, and makes tons of sense that Arthus gets done in by his own hubris and inattentiveness. The chapters that follow are very interesting - showing Lawrence coping with the loss but ultimately not going down the road that Arthus took to become mad at it (in more than one way) and resolving to pick up preaching where Cassia left off. There's even an antagonist in the back ready to pick up the slack in Martre Metagross. However like three chapters later it turns out they survived after all. It never really explores life without them after the resolve is made, a big chunk of it is dedicated to backstory stuff or getting to the point where they can try to. Then they're back, chapters focusing on how they survived and met back up!

I think something that really drags the plot down too are the final few chapters, dealing with the problems from returning to Unova. I mean it is something that needs to be addressed, but the issue here is that it goes way too long. New characters get introduced along the way for this new really final arc, and I feel it easily could've been half the length that it is. I'd initially wanted to power through it yesterday, then was like "wait there's FIVE MORE CHAPTERS in unova??" I've only skimmed them over (aside from the RR one) as of writing this.

That said the core plot is fine. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination. It could've even been great, but the flaws keep it held back. Ditch the one anchor and shorten the last bit, and it would be great.

Finally, let's talk about the characterization of the fic. Got a lot to talk about here. I think what I like most about it is that it does a very good job of reusing its characters rather than inventing new ones - villains of the day aside. Several times in the fic I found myself going "hey, it's so-and-so again!" They all get about as much screentime as is necessary for their roles. Most go through some sort of development as well. In theory this would be one of the fic's stronger points.

I think where this fic shines best with its characterizations is with its side-characters. I actually found myself more invested in them at times than the main characters themselves. Like during that moment where a bunch of characters were thought to have died, I found myself feeling legitimately disappointed that Gardner was gone of all things. He was just in the middle of development and it just got cut short. So props for making me feel that there.

Yeah, Gardner Dusknoir, a character who hasn't even been nominated. This guy is a really strong character. He has very clear motivations and reasons behind his actions. He's fairly consistent the whole way through. Most of all, his development happens gradually and makes sense. There's no huge bounds along the way, though even he's not exempt from being caught in the religion trap. The other problem is that a lot of the development comes from an actual voice in his head, the identity of which is never revealed. Alongside him was Zacheus, aka Mange the Torracat. I loved scenes with him, a Guild Pokemon with a heart who is constantly abused by others, eventually becoming a semi-important force in the story towards the end.

The main characters...mmm. It was hit and miss with them for me. Matheus, a Legendary Lucario, was probably my favorite, again despite not being nominated. Despite being mighty and holier-than-thou at times, he serves as a good mentor to Lawrence. The scenes with their interactions were generally enjoyable, especially the ones immediately after their comrades' deaths. What I liked most about him was despite being a Legendary Pokemon, he was very humanized. He had many regrets in life, and was seeking to right the wrongs he felt he was responsible for.

Grom the Golurk was a bro, despite reminding me of Warcraft and being unable to speak due to effective brain damage except in past scenes and the scene where he regains consciousness. Lawrence was generally enjoyable. Very mixed feelings about Cassia and Arthus however, and I'll get to them when relevantly looking at them.

One of the things that bothered me early on about the antagonists is how Saturday Morning Cartoonish they came off as at times, mostly early on. Arthus in particular, but I'll get to him when relevant. I also spotted quite a few character inconsistencies and things that made little sense.

Now, one of the big reasons why I went into that big spiel about the religious bits is that almost any bit of characterization related to religion is absolutely insane.

As a small example, in the small bit where Lawrence is taking up Cassia's mantle of preaching the word of Arceus, he comes to a town where they do believe but they're distrustful of his prophets due to an incident involving Matheus a millennium ago. The man, the myth, the Legend himself shows up and reassures the old Darmanitan he met all those years ago, and gives a speech (removing Lawrence's chance to do so) about equality and forgiveness. Then he adds that only Arthus should not be forgiven. However several chapters ago when Arthus was thought to have died as well as hinting in previous dialogue, he showed that he himself could forgive him. In other words, this is almost certainly a character inconsistency. Or at least unexplained.

Probably the one that annoyed me the most ties into the Lawrence/Cassia interaction. Early on she gets pissed off at him and demands answers when it's clear he's being so secretive. Like straight up refusing to associate with him anymore until he does. He does. But when her secret is revealed he becomes hurt himself, and calls out some of her hypocrisy. Then the fic goes completely in on him, painting him as being completely 100% in the wrong. She's the priestess of Arceus after all and she just wanted to hide her identity and Pokes might think bad of her and she can do no wrong.

And the funniest? When a group of Pokemon working for the antagonist and by default should hate Arceus, suddenly start thanking him after sailing through a fierce storm. As he's destroying their world and said antagonist had them guide him there in order to kill Arceus and remake the world. I'm surprised Arthus doesn't kill them in response either, though he does end up killing them anyway.

Also really finally. Technically, there's quite a few flaws and typos that I spotted. The inconsistencies might qualify as well.

So in summary, I guess I can summarize Unequivolent as "good, but could've been so much more". And yeah, the religious bits had me shaking my head at times and at the worst of them I felt actively harmed the fic. Like there's nothing wrong with a pro-religious story, but it has to be done well. If the goal of this fic was to be pro-religious, it didn't do it very well as far as I'm concerned.

Lawrence
Lawrence:
- Depth:

There's two key things about Lawrence: the fact that he feels an outcast, and the fact than he used to be an Arceist. He became an outcast because he stopped believing. More of this fic's religious nonsense at work there.

The reason he stopped believing in Arceus? He had a bad experience with some Pokemon, the scriptures said to treat them like humans, and he thought there was no possible way they could be intelligent like this causing him to dismiss it entirely. Now there's nothing long with a traumatic incident, but he went completely hardline from it. I saw a post in the topic that said this is similar to how Charles Darwin actually became an Atheist. Which still doesn't really mean it's awkward, and is also kind of disturbing when you think about how the fic treats nonbelievers.

As I mentioned a few times in the summary of the fic, I feel his development as learning to accept Arceus as his Lord and Savior could have been handled better and more gradually in soe places. Like the main one I mentioned and second worst instance of religion pushing. What if he just decided to carry on in Cassia's memory, did get a chance to preach, and felt good about it? Eventually leading into him singing Arceus' praises, instead of just doing it right away? Like, this is an example of how life without them could've gone. But even with this small interval gets squandered.

The fic can be heavy handed about it, too. It's almost formulatic in how it happens. Something major happens in the story, he thinks about it a bit, and his way of thinking adjusts. Now this arguably isn't a wrong way, but two things. First, the way his thoughts are presented makes it feel kind of forced at moments - insane leaps of logic coming into play. Second, it feels like these incidents are the sole cause rather than gradual events happening and this being the catalyst that puts it over the top.

One thing that does develop over time is his aura as a Lucario. He has no connections to other people, but by developing one with Cassia he gains the ability to use it, and training with Matheus helps him develop in-combat as well. It's a nice little bit and realistic that he shouldn't be used to his new body right away.

At times I was hoping he didn't go furry in the end with the was his thoughts were going...though I really should have been hoping he didn't go religious zealot. He went both in the end, sadly - even got magic powers to transform from a Lucario to human and back because of blind faith. No, not kidding. Arceus asks him what he wants to be when heading back to his world and he thinks human. Cassia says she'll follow Lawrence, then he says he'll leave it up to Arceus. Which is the "proper" answer and another test.

- Originality:
Well, credit where it's due: despite how it's handled, I don't think I've ever seen a fic with a raging Atheist as a main character before. He works for a spinoff off the Poketch company with a super amoral president. And yes, while he is the average PMD turned human protagonist, he's brought there by the power of SCIENCE instead of whatever mysterious force. Well actually technically he was helped by a mysterious force, but still.

- Entertainment Value:
I liked him. He's a fairly solid character. I'm going to go over this more in a bit, but he plays a strong supporting role on Cassia's journey, helping her with bartering in particular to get by on little coinage. Something that did bug me was his sudden raging Atheist outbursts. Like I said, some came out of nowhere, throwing out "Arceus doesn't exist!" which in the context of an argument was ad hominem.

He also talks about the human world in great detail when prompted. A nice little bit to see Pokemon reacting to it.

One thing that does help him as being protagonist is that his thoughts and motivations are frequently shown. This is one way of developing him and explaining his actions, helping the reader cheer for him more. Even if I was cheering against the inevitable the way the fic went. That said, they can be telling more than showing at times.

By the end I didn't like the person he developed into. Like with that Arceus thing I mentioned in depth. The answer was fairly obvious and he even came to the conclusion that he'd need to be human to have a chance of helping the Pokemon from Valence. Like I thought he was going to be resolute, knowing what has to be done. Still the same person he was at heart but with a newly rekindled belief. But nope - just submitting to the lord's will. I...guess it's consistent with how the fic handles things, at least?

- Role:
As I've mentioned before, Lawrence is the protagonist in the technical sense of the term only. His importance and contribution to the story is being there to support Cassia and fulfill a prophecy to bring the Pokemon of the doomed Equivos to his world. That's about it.

I mean there's nothing inheritently wrong with this. There's been stories where the main character is along for the journey for another. However, those stories, the good ones anyway, still at least try to treat them as the main characters. This fic fails to really make Lawrence that. They get to do things, Lawrence is mostly just there. There's his growth to accepting Arceus as his lord and savior, sure. But if you wanted to look at it in an extreme context, he could be seen as just another conquest for Cassia - an ultimate challenge for her to convert.

There's the Valence stuff at the very end where he does get to do things, but as mentioned this is kind of last minute. Like I could almost see this fic without him, and that's a scary thought. And not good for a protagonist.

Cassia:
Cassia:
- Depth:

Cassia is a well-rounded character. She has likes and dislikes, strengths and flaws, backstory and present development, quirks and more It's hard to say she doesn't have depth.

Early on in the fic, she hid her identity when in combat, being a mysterious Zoroark who often fought evil-doers and helped Lawrence early on. It's FE Awakening as hell. The amusing thing about it is this isn't really concealed in the fic - like it doesn't spell it out, but it's fairly obvious if you're paying attention. It's acceptable. Aside, from a small author's note it was supposed to be a surprise, so I'm not sure what to think of this. Then again it did somehow surprise one reader.

What bugs me most about her relationship with Lawrence is how it only has growth spurts rather than being gradual. Literally, there's only three core phases to it: at first when they're friends if slightly uneasy for various trust related reasons. A very short time after Lawrence forgives her for her deceipt where she IMMEDIATELY becomes touchy feely with him and love develops from there. Then stronger love after she comes back from the dead, so to speak.

- Originality:
Again, credit where it's due: priestesses of religions are somewhat uncommon in Pokemon fanfiction. Being the daughter of a major antagonist who has inherited his power and seeks to defeat him is nothing new. The relationship of said antagonist truly caring about her the whole time is relatively uncommon, however. More on that later, but this gets a pass.

- Entertainment Value:
Ugh.

Just, just ugh.

I want to like Cassia. I really do. But there's so many things about her that bother me. For one, being the priestess of the unfalliable religion almost makes her immune to criticism in the fic, even though she does have flaws that are acknowledged. Second is how holier-than-thou she can be at times as mentioned. Like compare to Lawrence. There's implications that though he is a raging Atheist, he would still be willing to accept a religious friend (instead they all left him). Cassia continues this trend, refusing to associate with him unless he reads part of the Tome. She says she's been good friends with non-believers, but this is never really shown. Or the aformentioned identity concealing hypocrisy incident. Or her relationship with Arthus, but I'll get to that when relevant.

Then there was the scene in the village of Ice Pokemon who overthrew the Fire types because of a false prophet's words. Her identity is accidentally exposed, and she runs away crying. Like, if I was supposed to feel sorry for her there, I wasn't. The premise is really artificial (her adoptive father is the face of Zoroark, and he is super evil, so everyone hates Zoroarks!) and her reaction was so extreme I actually misunderstood the scene at first, because it didn't register just how absurd it was. She can kind of have extreme reactions like that, especially as it pertains to Arthus. Part of her character? I suppose. Still felt artificial, though.

I mean it kind of is. There's a lot of talk about destiny and being connected to Lawrence and stuff. And this actually does turn out to be the case, something orchestrated by Arceus.

I guess what I'm saying is that while I like the concept of her character in-theory, and she is likeable. I don't even mind her when she's preaching one bit. Like if this were outside the context of this fic I'd definitely give her a recommendation. But how she's presented in the fic annoys me. To wit when she "died" I didn't feel much for her. Gardner and Grom I mentioned. To mention Arthus early I found it amusing for a certain reason.

I'm very mixed on Cassia. Sometimes she entertained me. Sometimes she did not. Still other times I wanted her off my...page I was reading on?

- Role:
The real main protagonist of this fic.

She's the one who drives the story. It is with the exception of the final five, about her journey across Equivos to enlighten the masses who've lost their faith. She has a braindamaged automaton guardian and eventually meets Lawrence who helps her along the way.

She has an entire three chapters dedicated to her backstory. Whereas Lawrence - you know, the main character - only talked about his backstory and got just a few short flashbacks at the start of a few chapters. This isn't necessary bad in itself - other medias have done similar things where the main character is supporting the real main character. That said, it still bothered me: like even one full chapter for Lawrence would've made things more even, and makes Cassia look like she's getting preferential treatment.

In her role she is technically okay. But with Lawrence's lack of anything, I really feel one way this fic could've been way better is if she were the main character. The interruptyness and placement of Act X would be solved this way. And the identity concealing thing? Make it a point of tension.

So yeah. She's a protagonist in a deuragonist role. It's just that she way outshines the protagonist which isn't hard to begin with.

Arthus
Arthus:
- Depth:

Arthus is a ruthless antagonist. He's willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goal of Usurping Arceus and creating a world where evil cannot exist. He came to this after suffering many tragedies at the hands of evil Pokemon and fate. It's SMT as hell, except removing free will is more God's thing in those games. He's cunning and powerful in a direct fight, what with the magical voodoo powers he sacrificed much for that essentially drains the life essence of a victim. Or can be used for good, but he rarely does it in this way. And if he does (like warp digivolving Gardner Duskull into a Dusknoir) it's for his own benefit.

On the other hand, Arthus is also a very good father to Cassia. He's nothing but nice to her, raises her in a secluded environment, and teaches her everything she needs to know about being a Zorua and Zoroark, and when he finds out she has inherited his gift of Life, teaches her how to use that too. Yet he worries what people would think if he found out about this. When interacting with her, especially in Act X, he shows off a kindhearted side strongly implied to be that which he lost ages ago.

Still other times his reactions seem to contradict both of these. Like how he orders all his subordinates to commit as much evil as they can for...reasons? Making people lose faith in Arceus? And have faith in him, the person who's responsible for their oppression? It's implied to be a secret that he's returned, but this is contradicted by several other things. He himself also kills on a whim, becoming the very thing he hated.

Now there's two interpretations here. The first of these is that he's an inconsistent character. The second and the one supported by the fic is that he's insane.

Like, literally. That was the first impression I got from him. Nobody normal would act the way he does, being brash, boisterous, and overdramatic. He comes across as a cheesy supervillain at times. The only problem with it is that antagonists in general early on come across like that - which made me think it was a quirk in general - but Arthus does so consistently the whole way through and, especially from Gardner, it's even mentioned he's going mad. A short list of things he does...

- Kills subordinates because they fail him and thinks that's the same as betrayal
- Kills subordinates out of general fear of betrayal
- Kills subordinates for no good reason
- Messes with people's dreams because he can
- Makes Lawrence believe in him through his dreams just to prove his existence. Insecurity?
- Has the power to mindwipe people with his voodoo life powers but only selectively uses them
- Concocts an elaborate plot to pose as a wise Xatu who meets a lone Lawrence, ultimately luring him into a trap
- Monologues. Like, a lot. Sometimes even when he's alone.
- Picks and destroys a flower

This dude was apparently trapped in Yveltal's cocoon for two millenia, apparently Matheus' idea. So no wonder he's not all there. He's freed and allowed to run roughshod when it's freed about 20 years before the fic starts (or 21, there's some confusion) while it flies around with its thumb up its ass waiting for the day to kill everyone. His first act is to kill all his descendants because Lucario polluted them, except for Cassia for some reason.

My only problem with it is that a bit more could have been done to make clear that he's not all there. It's really easy to misinterpret it as him being inconsistent. I mean we're told he's going insane, but that could easily be glossed over and show don't tell.

I think my favorite thing about him is that he has a very clear flaw as a villain. It's there, it's arguably stupid, but it's used to amazing effect and costs him several times. That is, he's so driven and caught up in himself that he's inattentive. Like during the scene where he "dies", his "demise" is caused by failing to notice what's going on around him. What's going on around him? Oh, just a automaton going out of control and bringing the temple he's in down around him. Earlier in the flashback Act X he also doesn't notice the signs of Grom having fallen over, either. His real demise is caused by a similar thing: he's so caught up fighting Matheus that he fails to notice the Lucario's physical changes from not being a Legend anymore. This would certainly fit an insane individual, too.

This also leads to narrow-mindedness. He has the ability to save the world from destruction by capturing Yveltal within the Seal (a relic that can contain Legends up to and including Arceus), and this is brought up to him Yet he dismisses the idea because he just thinks he can get rid of Arceus.

In some ways, he has more flaws than some of the main characters. At least those that are there, acknowledged as bad, and get a chance to be explored.

- Originality:
A dude who wants to tear down God and become the new one in his place? Heard that before, but not sure how common it is in Pokemon. Certainly, it's uncommon that he has legitimate problems with the deity and has true good intentions in mind. Amusingly enough he has no parallels with Lucifer. That dubious honor goes to Mewtwo, surprisingly. Props there.

- Entertainment Value:
Solid enough here. I was very mixed on him at first, but on thought and analysis...you know what? He's pretty great and memorable.

- Role:
He's the reason why Equivos is the way it is. He poses a direct threat to it...though he's also going to save it, in a way.

As repeated ad nauseum my biggest issue with it is this fic's treatment of religion. This could have been a FANTASTIC instance of gray morality. Arceus is going to destroy the world he created because...he's God and it's his right, don't question it because the fic doesn't either. Arthus would preserve it at the cost of everyone's capacity for evil. Yet he's painted in nothing but the worst light. Who cares if he was a good father? He's EVIL.

Early on Arthus mostly has his subordinates do his dirty work, namely Gardner. As the fic shifts into its second third, he takes up a more active role - appearing for the first time to the heroes near the end of the first third and later concocting said elaborate plan as a disguised Xatu. He kind of does whatever the hell he wants while leaving things to his subordinates. Who he's shown to occasionally abuse, leading to Gardner seeing that he's gone mad and eventually turning on him. Hey, another way where he kinda caused his own downfall! He recognizes power where he sees it though, such as offering Martre the chance to lead in Gardner's place.

If you look at Arthus in the right light, he is a solid enough antagonist. He's definitely high up there. That said you do need to interpret him right - if you don't (and as I mentioned that is a possibility), you see a character that's all over the place. I'll cap this part off with this, probably the most insane thing he's ever done on-screen in the fic.


Cassia/Arthus Interaction
Cassia and Arthus interaction:
Ugh.

I can't say this is good.

Like here's the big thing holding this interaction back for me: Cassia's side. She shows absolutely no desire or regrets about turning on him the moment she finds out who he really is. In fact she wants to do her best to avoid being like him, which would be okay if it wasn't so absurd. Hiding her heritage is one thing. But she doesn't even want to draw at first because Arthus taught her that, until she's convinced to surpass him.

Say what you will about Arthus, but when it came to Cassia he was nothing but a great father. None of this means anything to her though. He's evil after all so none of that means anything to her. She's like a rebellious teenager who hates her parents, except she's around 20. There's no internal conflict at all besides the excessive desire for non-association that borders on unrealistic paranoia.

The interactions from Arthus' end are top notch. He mentions Cassia as having betrayed him, like so many others, yet at heart all he wants to do is reconcile with her. He kind of feels he failed his own son way back when and is almost using Cassia as a proxy/second chance. Which he does a fantastic job of. One thing I was especially amused by was in the same scene where they "died", he was furious at her for associating with a filthy Lucario, coming across pretty much like an angry father would. That said he does care, and makes a point of saving her when escaping.

And Cassia? Refuses to believe he cares. Like there's not even the slightest hesitation in her heart about anything. She just assumes that's a fake him. EDIT: Did forget about that mirror, but that's really easy to gloss over. Didn't even make a note of it.

I think one of the more interesting things from Arthus' end is that even though he has been stated to have the power to alter memories, he doesn't use it on Cassia. On one hand, he could just be dumb. On the other, he might not want to. But on a third, the author might've just slipped up and forgotten to address this.

One scene that really bothered me was a scene following the reveal they were alive. He goes into his tragic backstory of how he came to wield Life and how it entailed sacrificing his wife. I just imagined Cassia sitting there the entire time impatiently (which struck me as really weird that she would) until it ended and she freaked out about it. No sympathy at all. She isn't even thankful that she saved him. Honestly, it made me feel sorry for the guy, and it's a big part of the reason why I don't really like Cassia. She treats Arthus like garbage in a way that I can only reasonably describe as having been brainwashed by the Tome. Does the fic follow up on this? Of course not, he's opposing God, it's JUSTIFIED.

This interaction is lopsided and suffers for it. Here's three things, just one of them would've improved it.

- Cassia actually feeling conflicted over it, caught between the kind Pokemon who raised her and the twisted bastard he is when interacting with others.
- Cassia's unending belief in others (see: Lawrence) thinking Arthus could be saved, too.
- A bit of gray morality actually being employed and showing that her extreme dissociation isn't necessarily wholly right.

But it has none of that. She has no conflict, doesn't believe he can be saved, and she's portrayed as being in the right to kick him to the curb. I'll close with this quip: for a religious fic, I guess its Tome has no equivalent of, "Honor thy father and thy mother."

EDIT: Yeah, and it doesn't really have much effect on the overall story, either. Mostly due to Cassia's non-association, except in how said non-association has shaped her to some extent.

So yeah. There you have it. I see a lot of changes have been made since then and don't care to go back and check what's what, really, given my issues with the fic are with a lot of its fundamentals. Am disappointed to see one of my favorite characters from it nearly get the boot, though.

Also one really final thing, a lot of comments I noticed from others stem from how there's a lot of issues with information being withholden due to the prequels. Seems you're fixing at least some of that, though would recommend better planning for things like that in the future.
 
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Cross posting my Act 4 review...

I am going to have fewer comments this time around, mostly because it felt like a breeze compared to Act 3.

Btw. You mentioned your intention to redesign the story with Act 4 being the end and Act 5 being reworked into a sequel. I didn't start Ch27 yet so feel free to use my review as an opinion of person who doesn't know what follows.

As usual let's start with the good points. Overall I liked this very much. Everything came together in the "prophecy has come true despite all odds"-style ending. The good guys overcame the more powerful villain and saved a lot of lives in the process. It is not exactly super original, but it is good in a classic tale of good versus evil ("The hero's journey" variant) way: Young hero sets out on a journey, meets beautiful kind princess and a wise elderly wizard/sage and after series of trials they overcome the evil sorcerer through their virtues and power of friendship/love.

I came to like Lawrence, Cassia and Matheus (and poor Grom) because they were likable. I came to dislike Arthus for his murderous nature, misguided nihilistic attitude and utter hypocrisy. And in the end as expected, I see the heroes I like emerge victorious and have their reward while the villain fails in his insane quest and he is going to be punished. I half expected another twist or reveal since you have proven you do not shy away from those - but no the second part of the story was told straight, which I think is fitting for this classic format. (Then again perhaps I speak too soon. There is Act 5 / sequel coming up after all.)

So basically I am saying is that plot and characters delivered; I don't have much criticism except a few nitpicks below. Lawrence and Cassia end up together and have their little happy end, as was foreshadowed for the start (I didn't believe for s moment she and Arthus died in that temple since there were two full acts of the story remaining... but you probably didn't expect the readers to believe that anyway right? That would be quite a downer ending.) Matheus gave his life in a heroic way for a cause he believed in. All of that was very in character and fitting the story finale.

I didn't expect Arceus to finally show up officially, even though it was heavily implied that he/she were personally (if subtly) intervening during the entire conflict. That was very brave of you. The story had some heavy spiritual/religious themes going on right from the beginning, but literally meeting THE GOD OF THE ENTIRE MULTIVERSE in person is quite a different level. I imagine some readers might have felt a bit awkward reading it, especially since you draw a lot from judeo-christian Bible (the Apocalypse/Revelation book). However I think it was handled rather tastefully. We do not stay with Arceus for long either, merely to get some answers from him/her on some questionable aspects of their plans - Arthus being allowed to run around free, eventual fate of the Pokemon who died etc.

I originally expected Unova / human world (and Hanson) to play much bigger role, but I don't mind they didn't. The story worked on its own, focusing on just one world, with Unova being an answer to the Equivos' crisis.

Now, on the negatives… no worries I don’t have many :p

This one is probably WIP, but Act 4 finished the story leaving a lot of threads hanging. We don’t know what happened to sentient Pokemon who arrived in Unova and how they dealt with Hanson. Did Lawrence remain in his Lucario form (or did maybe Cassia turn into human?)

I suppose this is addressed in Act 5 right? If so maybe you will eventually shuffle some scenes around and expand Ch26 so we can see what happened to all the characters?

Another thing is that Arthus seemed to fall for Matheus’ distraction too easily. Arthus wants to get to the Tree of Life ASAP – decades of his planning and his wife and son’s revival depend on it, and yet he goes chasing Matheus? Just let the Lucario run for the woods, and go to your destination to fulfil your plan! This would work better is Matheus would have a good reason or some plot coupon to have Arthus chase him for that, or the fight would happen in such a way it would slow down Arthus on his way to the tree. Just my two cents.

I also have a couple of objections to some of the things Arceus said and did and some of their reasoning, but I am a bit afraid that could escalate into OT religious discussion so let’s prevent the potential flame war by PMing me in case you are interested in hearing that.

All in all, fun read with colourful characters in rich setting. I had a couple of complaints regarding the villain here and there but ultimately it is well written classic with adventures and character arcs. Certain early twist was a nice touch to shake up the relationships somewhat and keep them dynamic throughout the whole plot.

Thank you for sharing this! (Going to continue with Act 5 anyway because I want to know what followed in Unova :p )
 
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Note: I had a lot more to say, but an accidental click led to me losing all of my multi-quotes.

Of the reviews I've gotten so far, yours is the only one that calls out the religious aspect of it for being bad. And if you think that's the only problem, then that's fine.

I don't want to talk much about this, but I will tell you right now that I don't plan on changing it. This is one of the core facets of the story nd of my own personal beliefs: that there is one right religion and true happiness can come from it if you are willing to believe. That is not a popular mindset in this current day and age, and I can certainly see why people would be against it. But I will not introduce much moral ambiguity into this because this is one of the few things in life I do not think has it.

With that out of the way, let's get to answering some questions and clarifying points:
Arthus goes after his descendants more for their association with Lucario rather than an actual bond with them. This isn't inherently shown in the story, but I plan on showing some reasonings why in my revisions.

I've provided clarifications on most of your questions down below. I did not answer any involving the inherent nature of the story or the fact that religion is considered the answer in these cases--mostly. Some really do rub me the wrong way, but I have tried to be tactful about it.
  • The whole 'special e' and '--' thing is mostly due to my word processor; I can't easily input the proper way of writing Pokemon even if it occasionally worms through, and the double hyphens sometimes don't convert to dashes.
  • I plan on removing the detail where Lawrence listens to game soundtracks and instead replacing it with simple instrumental music he doesn't really play video games anyway.
  • I have only depicted Arceism in the story because that was what is most dominant in Equivos and in Lawrence's view. I haven't considered other religions especially in the core Pokemon world because it simply wasn't important. Maybe some future story where that is important, but not now.
  • Facility D being 2000 feet under is a bit much and I will probably change it to something like 200 feet.
  • The Electabuzz and Machoke in the beginning are simply ignorant and never saw a Lucario--they were gone for the past 20 years.
  • Anything involving the Arceist Tome mostly came after Arthus' incarceration, so he wouldn't know about any prophecy. There would be a fleeting mention of it in a scripture before it was compiled, so no one save for a select few would have known.
  • Mewtwo has an alternate origin. Simply put, he was created by Arceus alongside Mew to be a Legend, or an example to the mortal Pokemon to follow. While I wanted to keep his origin of being 'Monmade', it just didn't end up working out.
  • Life for Zoroark being equivalent to Aura for Lucario was...somewhat there, but I mostly made it as something to be inherited after Arthus' actions, which was vital to initially activate the Seal of Creation. More on that later.
  • The Buneary that live with the Trevenant would be cared for by the Phantump gathering food--they wouldn't be expected to live like ghosts.
  • I'm considering removing that one drawing mistake with Cassia for sake of the twist not being so obvious. Yes, he identity of being a Zoroark was meant to be an early twist.
  • I mostly wrote the whole 'seven regions' line for Lawrence to make the story future-proof, that way it can be read in light of other generations without being outdated.
  • On Kanto and Johto, we consider Europe and Asia to be different continents, yet they are technically connected. And the whole islands thing is in reference to Alola, nowhere else.
  • By this point, I can tell you don't like 'furry' stories. Perfectly understandable opinion, but not something I plan to act on.
  • Lawrence is a behavioral specialist, so he'd know how Machamp inherently act in certain situations--just like many other Pokemon.
  • Team Rocket can probably be replaced with Galactic or Plasma in hindsight.
  • Nah; Mored was simply dazed from being thrown out by his usual punching bag.
  • As much as I like 'Arthus--Doesn't Knock', I simply couldn't keep it in my revisions.
  • For Zoroark, it takes time and experience to make quality, clear illusions. Life, however, can be used to cheat a bit and make them better--hence why the Eeevee became similar to Arthus' after Cassia unintentionally used Life.
  • I fixed up the year inconsistency already.
  • Yes, Pokemon evolve with age and maturity, with special cases for Pokemon that evolve through friendship and trading--along with other, rarer types.
  • Gardner is corporeal unless he wills himself to become gas, which takes mental and physical endurance. Hence, getting smacked by a door is possible.
  • When it comes to eating the Basculin, I think it is just an inherent mindset in the Pokemon fandom to see Pokemon as pets rather than animals. I mean, certain Pokemon obviously eat others, yet we just gloss over that. In my interpretation, wild Pokemon are little more than animals in the world, and certain Pokemon need to eat meat to survive. Civilized Pokemon may have evolved out of the need for it, but there is still that drive in certain ones. I've already talked about this before, so I won't repeat myself.
  • Arthus concluding Lawrence is from another world is handled better in my revisions.
  • I think you're being rather unfair on Cassia being defended from being called out. Just like Lawrence, she had a perfectly legitimate reason to be afraid: she's a Zoroark, and everyone she'd teach would immediately associate her with Arthus because he is such a looming figure in the mythology of the world, and would refuse to listen, or worse, attempt to kill her! It's just that unlike with Lawrence, where he had no one to stand up for him, Cassia has Matheus, so it seems unfair--when it isn't. Matheus is just the middle ground in helping him realize they both acted in the wrong for certain things.
  • Palkia is indeed ruler over space, so it is his business to ensure that there are no anomalies--such as random wormholes ripping between dimensions.
  • I can come up with an alternate reason for not changing the Watchog illusion--such as it fitting Lawrence's figure and that it would be suspicious for two Gallade to be present.
  • I never said that the protagonists of D/P/P were nonbelievers. Only researchers and other people in different countries were.
  • Lawrence only gets flashbacks because he simply doesn't have the content in his background to justify it. It was enough of a deviance to have Cassia get three devoted chapters, and that was mostly because there was a lot more than I originally thought of in planning.
  • I've been meaning to explain what Yveltal's been doing for 20 years, and I think I'll take the opportunity in my edits to do so.
  • Technically the volume on the phone in Lawrence's possession during the flashback was silent; it was the actual button click that was too loud.
  • Matheus helped raise his nephew, not his own son; he's never had a wife or children.
  • No, Arthus can't devolve things; I think during that scene he was referring to taking away the gem he uses to contact Gardner as well as his position as Guildmaster--along with weakening him by stealing his Life.
  • Matheus was asking a rhetorical question when it came to the iron door; he'd be idiotic not to know that fire burns.
  • Matheus fell into mud; he was right at the edge of the lake when Grom pushed him.
  • Aura Spheres can lock onto living targets better because of their Life; it acts as a homing beacon if the Lucario in question prepares.
  • Matheus is obligated as a Legend to answer any question made in the name of Arceus with serious intent--hence why he reluctantly obeys.
  • Matheus is meant to be a unique Legend in that he wasn't born one; he earned it, but at a price.
  • I ought to have Lawrence have the opportunity to teach in Furnek, or even in Saunte with Cassia. Maybe even both?
  • When it came to the twist about Cassia and Arthus' survival, some saw it coming miles away--like you did with Cassia's identity in Act 1--or some don't, like you. I can't appeal to everybody, but the reason I executed this twist was to have Lawrence have a test of faith to confirm his beliefs--as well as for Matheus to reflect on his failures.
  • I read a summary on SMT (Shin Megami Tensei, yes?) and Unequivocant is more the opposite, and in my opinion, more correct, interpretation.
  • My revisions already make Arthus' backstory more spread throughout and ready for the prequel stories. This exposition scene will be changed to flow more naturally between Arthus and Cassia and will touch on a suggestion of yours.
  • I'm removing his mind wiping ability that was mentioned; it was put into place for an old plan in a story, but I removed the character for it and ultimately it is useless and provides complications such as the one you brought up.
  • Dusknoir are able to float, so their weight wouldn't be felt the same way.
  • To be fair, when the Saunte Pokemon see Cassia, they still associate her with Arthus, so of course they'll be antagonistic--and Matheus, once again, has to step in to make things right.
  • As with all the Legends, Matheus has a specific title given to him. In this case, he is known as the Guildmaster Pokemon for being the creator of the Guild; one other example being Yveltal for being the Destruction Pokemon.
  • The Arcean Texts did not come from Equivos; they just had passages referring to Equivos' eventual coming.
  • Technically the call Lawrence is receiving isn't a standard call; it is being sent from a beacon of sorts, which can continue sending a signal for however long necessary until Lawrence can be within range of a dimensional weakness. Hence why it has a long duration. And after he accepts it, the beacon would alert Facility D that there's contact, therefore allowing them to speak with him.
  • Is there anything wrong with Hanson being a sinister man? I mean what am I supposed to do here? This story is literally about dichotomy.
  • Those Pokemon thanking Arceus for safety weren't actually Arthus' henchmen; they were regular joes that did hold a belief in Arceus--if small--but Arthus wasn't aware of it. I can make that a bit more clear.
  • Arthus is actually referring to Matheus preventing him from using the Seal to take Arceus and/or activate it to complete the change at the cusp of it happening. The previous instances weren't like that.
  • Matheus might be weaker and have a duller sheen, but I'd hardly call that noticeable.
  • He meant individuals without warning, not the population of the world after warnings. Besides, he had told everyone long ago that anyone who did not believe and follow him would be punished, so if they had bothered to listen to Cassia, they'd be alive.
  • No, Arceus does not actively make those who don't believe suffer; non-believers make their own suffering with their own poor choices toward others, who can react in negative ways. And if you had read the end of Chapter 31--which will be made into the end of Chapter 26--you would have learned that there is a chance for non-believers to redeem themselves provided that they accept Arceus in the afterlife. Just like Arthus does.

And with that out of the way, I'll refer to the review itself. Honestly, I don't want to answer most of them over public posting because they are my own personal beliefs and--dare I say it--not very popular in the world, mainly because religion is seen as a negative and restraining thing, when it really isn't if the right one is found and it is practiced the way it should be. If you really want me to answer, then contact me over PM. Otherwise, let's leave it be.

I had a lot to say about your comments, but as most of it came down to my own personal values and beliefs when writing this story, I don't feel the need to say anything. Just know that this is a story about dichotomy and true right and wrong, not moral ambiguity. Some of the greatest stories we have in existence have dichotomy, such as Lord of the Rings or Narnia. It is simply no longer popular to write such stories, so by writing one, I am obviously not going to please everyone. Just know that my future stories save for the sequel of Unequivocant won't focus so heavily on the religious aspect of Equivos, primarily because they take place before true Arceism was a thing, as the Tome hadn't been compiled.

I will take your criticism involving typos and certain non-religion-related comments into my revisions. Other than that,I will simply say this story is not for you.

P.S. Gardner is a good character, but after trying to rewrite the villain side of the plot with his character development, he proved too troublesome with Arthus in play. That is the primary reason for the change.
 
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A debate on religion would go nowhere, but it has nothing to do with my criticisms. I've no issue with it or lack thereof personally anyway. But in the context of this fic, this is my issue: If you want to push your beliefs? That's perfectly fine. If you want to write a fic about them? That's also fine. But it does not necessarily make for something that is well-written. And this is not written well. I'm not criticizing your beliefs, I'm criticizing poor writing. That is what my criticism of this fic is about.

As I've mentioned, many characters have traits that contradict each other or seemingly only exist to push the message. Some plot points also feel this way, like the bit about how Unova vs Sinnoh. In other words, they feel forced. It's not just me feeling this, either. Someone in the awards topics commented on the missed potential of Arthus, that never came to be due to the religion message being "pushed hardcore", and how he was pushed to fit the needed mold.

I'm not saying that your beliefs can't make for good writing no matter what. But if you wanted this fic to be about "true right and wrong," things should have been written far more unambiguously - unintentional stuff that could be interpreted differently included. That in itself would go a long way.
 
The Hidden Author
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All chapters of Unequivocant have now been revised and updated! Please read the first post to see what these changes are, and if you so choose, read them for yourself! Almost no chapter was untouched, especially on the villain's side.

With that, this story will be moved to the archives on October 14, 2018. I thank you all for reading this story, and I hope you will join me for my future works!
 
The Hidden Author
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I haven't done much writing lately save for preparing the first chapter of Twilit Destinies for posting, mostly because I've been sick with a cold and a muddled mind. But as I've been trying to think of what I want to write, I've come to a realization about the sequel, Legacy of Equivos: Culmination of Worlds--which is explained in the spoiler.

As you all know—if you’ve been reading my posts and author’s notes—I’ve been hard at work on the sequel to Unequivocant and all the revisions required to have it connect with the prequels, the upcoming PMD: Twilit Destinies and its sequel, PMD: Legends Awakened. Before I was willing to work on them, I first wanted to write the revisions of Unequivocant, which I finished just recently, which helped inspire some new ideas, such as Arthus’ new split personality.

However, one thing I did not look forward too quite as much was the sequel to Unequivocant, known as Legacy of Equivos: Culmination of Worlds. It would be formed from the last five chapters of its predecessor and include over five more, and was meant to help tie up some loose ends that the original epilogue for Unequivocant didn’t allow for. It was a good idea—until reality set in.

To put this in perspective, I worked two jobs the entire summer, leading up to fifty hour work weeks. Before this, I worked zero, since I was in school and a minor every previous summer, which made it harder for me to have a job anyway. So, life hit me like a truck, and this was at the same time I wanted to get Unequivocant’s revisions finished—and let me tell you, that is a slog all on its own. As rewarding as it was when I finally got through it, there’s a reason I barely worked on it while I was employed, tiredness aside: revisions are boring most of the way through.

Not to mention that, for religious and personal reasons, I intend to take a hiatus in January or February. Before I got my jobs, I thought I could quickly finish the revisions and set straight to work on writing and posting. By now, my plans were to have Twilit Destinies in its final act. I had the outline ready all the way back in June, and it’s only now that I’m writing it! I have very limited time now to write both the prequel stories, not to mention these few extra chapters at the end of Unequivocant.

So, with only personal reasons, there is a good argument that I should stop working on the sequel and get to work on the prequels, which in my eyes are a more important project. But let’s get down to the details, shall we?

The core reason why I even wanted to write more chapters for Unequivocant was because the epilogue left plenty to interpretation, such as ‘spoiler’, how Cassia and Lawrence got engaged and eventually married, how they hide from Valence after escaping, and how Cassia grows used to her new human body. I wanted to expand n those ideas and more fully complete the story. That, along with a vast difference in tone and location compared to Unequivocant, justified it.

But over these past few days, as I’ve been sick with a cold and unable to write due to a muddled mind, I got down to thinking on if I really need to write it. And I’ve come to the conclusion that no, I don’t need to write it.

Let me tell you where I originally envisioned the story to end: Chapter 30. You know, the big battle with the Haxorus and the discovery of how Hanson learned of Equivos. But the final scene is always what I envisioned: Lawrence and Cassia sitting together at the prow of the ocean liner, watching the sunset in their human forms. Anything after that was an afterthought and a story on its own.

So that begs the question: do I need anything after that? Sure, it would be nice to see how Cassia and Lawrence adjust to Sinnoh and ultimately hide from Valence. It would even focus more on their romance. It would flesh them and the characters around them more, all well and good.

Which is precisely why it should be by itself. The story the sequel would be telling would hinge more on the characters once they escape Valence. That’s not how the rest of the story is, which is primarily plot-driven, as I’m sure you can tell. If I try making a character-centric story out of a plot-centric one, it might get messy—especially if I splice them together as I originally planned.

There are also some other factors to account for. One: I am a fantasy writer trying to write in a modern setting. If any of you remember my first draft of Chapter 2, or Lawrence’s intro, you know how well that turned out. At this point, I don’t want to write a large-scale story focusing on a mostly-modern setting unless I’ve had practice doing it, which I can’t afford with having to write two fantasy stories. Sure, I’ve gotten better, but I can think of a far better place to put such a story: Unequivocant’s true sequel.

While writing the plot outline, I always thought Legacy of Equivos to be a midquel, so to speak. The real sequel to Unequivocant would take place fifteen years in the future, in a world where the Equivosians are now scattered across the land, all hiding from Valence as they hunt them down. All the while, a certain orphan boy undergoes a sudden transformation into a Zoroark on his fourteenth birthday—and is subsequently saved from Valence authorities by talking Pokemon. The Zoroark-boy is none other than the son of Lawrence and Cassia, who had been captured by Valence over twelve years before and was separated from their son by a raging river—where he was hit on the head and suffered memory loss after he shifted to his human self. Now left unable to change back, he would go to rescue his parents and ultimately the rest of Equivos’ legacy.

Normally, I’d keep this all hidden, but since I won’t have time to write it before I leave, I feel no harm in telling you. This, to me, is a solid premise, and would make for a great story like Unequivocant—but it would ultimately overshadow Culmination of Worlds.

I’ve been on this tangent for long enough, so let me get to the point: now is not the time for the sequel story. It very much will exist in the future, but it could just as easily work as flashback chapters for this true sequel I have in mind, where the setting and plotline mesh together. I can keep chapters 27 – 30 as part of Unequivocant, while I can leave the epilogue to be expanded on when the time comes. For now, I don’t see an issue in delaying that story, and thus, will not work on the sequel until after my hiatus.

For those who don’t want to read through my long-winded explanation, The Legacy of Equivos: Culmination of Worlds, the sequel to Unequivocant, will not be worked on at this time, and instead will be integrated back into Unequivocant and, at some point, a full-fledged sequel set years into the future. Thank you for your understanding.

The new chapters will be reposted at the same time as Twilit Destinies' debut.
 
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