TEEN: The Long Walk

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  1. #1
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default The Long Walk

    Well, it's been a while but I'm finally ready. This is a resurrected fic from years back - I've finally got round to properly planning a plot and character development. It's intended to be a more mature take on the journey fic without necessarily being dark or violent. Rated Teen just to be sure.

    A couple of points before I get started: First off, the story is broadly anime-verse, but with some inventions and additions of my own. However, the only assumption I've made while writing is that the reader is familiar with pokémon. Fans of the games and manga won't be left out in the cold!

    Secondly, I do make edits in response to feedback, and from now on I'll be adding a Version History spoiler at the beginning of each chapter with brief notes on changes I've made, for the benefit of anyone interested.

    And finally, I've had a few questions off-forum about world building - at the bottom of some chapters you'll find an Atlas spoiler with a few comments, all of which are entirely supplementary.

    Credit Where Credit's Due
    I believe the term is "beta reader" - I don't like that term much, but my buddy and beta reader `Silver deserves a mention and shares the credit for the finished chapter

    Part One - Growing Out
    Chapter One - Choices
    Chapter Two - A Real Trainer
    Chapter Three - The Girl from Cherrygrove City
    Chapter Four - Over Hill, Under Hill
    Chapter Five - Matters of Grace
    Chapter Six - Azalea Town
    Chapter Seven - Better Judgements
    Interlude - The Beast of the Sea
    Chapter Eight - Two is Company
    Chapter Nine - Scary Shiny Glasses
    Chapter Ten - The Question

    Prelude (Version 1.1)

    I …

    It was the first thing that Bulbasaur thought, every time he was recalled. I. Me. The thing that is me, that is not another thing. This sort of circular thinking was rather more difficult to frame, outside. Here, it was obvious - something thought, and that thinking thing is me. It was a strange thing; once you know what ‘I’ means, all other thinking comes easily.

    It was peaceful, here. It was always peaceful here. Within the circles of the Poké Ball, he didn’t have a body. The thinking I was all there was, the ineffable sense of me, the me that remained even when nothing else did. Away from the constant sensation of the world, from the experience of having a body, he could rest in a way that just wasn’t possible outside the Poké Ball. If he chose to, he could perceive some of what was happening in the world. Sometimes he could hear his trainer, talking to him.

    It was peaceful, here. Within the circles of the Poké Ball, Bulbasaur dreamed his chlorophyll dreams.

    I …
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 18th April 2014 at 07:21 AM.

  2. #2
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Version History:


    Part One - Growing Out


    Chapter One - Choices
    (Version 1.3)

    If I go back, he'll just say that I quit again.

    It was early morning, and the Pokémon Centre was near-deserted. The sky outside was just clouding over, and the few trainers who had stayed the night were heading out west towards Violet City. The Centre nurse loafed aimlessly about the lobby – hers was a small Pokémon Centre, serving the quiet roads east of Route 30.

    A solitary trainer remained, seated heavily on a threadbare pouffe by one of the low lobby tables. A young man in his early twenties, he had a serious expression on his face as he stared unseeingly at the Poké Ball in his hand.

    I can't go back. I was bored out of my mind.

    That thought had been running around his mind since he had left home. He laid down his Poké Ball on the glass top of the table. His reflection stared back at him – an oval face, with calm dark eyes. A head of tightly-curled black hair framed his features, half-hiding his ears. Narrow framed glasses rested on his nose, sightly bent out of shape from long use.

    “What's the matter, young man?” a cheery voice asked.

    “Hmm?” he replied, slightly startled. Nurse Joy stood looking down at him with an air of mild compassion. Preoccupied with his thoughts, he hadn't noticed the nurse's approach. “Oh. Nurse Joy. It's nothing. You needn't worry about me, not with all your pokémon to attend to.”

    “Any other time, and you might be right. But I have no pokémon resting here right now. Besides, you look like you could use somebody to talk to.”

    Joy sat down opposite and laid her cap down on the table. She shuffled around a bit to get comfortable.

    “What's on your mind? Come on, you can trust me!” she added in a sing-song voice.

    “Y'know, I'm sure I can,” he replied with a wry smile, “Though you're something of a stranger to me, and me to you.”

    “Is that what bothers you? Well, my name is Christine, since all my family are called Joy. I guess I'm not a stranger to you any more, am I?”

    “Alright then, Christine Joy, you win,” he said, smiling at the absurdity of her logic, “My name is Josh. I'm from Mulberry Town, if you know it. I've not been travelling for very long, just started out really ... I was never interested in pokémon. Well, not pokémon training, anyway. There's not a lot of opportunities in Mulberry Town. I've done a fair few office jobs, temporary work. All administering something very ordinary and irrelevant. Anyway, a few months ago I was filing some stock reports or something and I guess I just snapped. Quit. No more pushing paper around for arrogant middle-managers ...”

    “What was it that changed?” Joy asked.

    “Nothing changed, and that's the point,” Josh replied, “It was so terribly … boring! I just didn't care about what I was doing, and what I was doing was just so boring. I certainly didn't have to think much,” he added bitterly.

    Josh picked up his Poké Ball again, weighing it in his hands pensively. “I thought that being a pokémon trainer would at least be interesting. My dad got Bulbasaur from a Kanto League breeder when I was fifteen. Bulbasaur always seemed to like me most, so he became mine after a while.” he trailed off into silence. Bulbasaur's Poké Ball seemed to feel heavier this morning.

    “What do your parents think about your journey?” Joy asked after a while.

    “Dad wouldn't come to see me off. He went to work instead.” Josh said quietly. He had waited an extra hour before finally leaving the house, just in case. But Dad had gone to work, just as he'd promised. Because he thought his son was a quitter, that he would be back in Mulberry Town within the week. Josh couldn't bear to go home, to see that stern face looking back at him. Dad wouldn't be angry. Worse, he'd be disappointed, shaking his head in quiet vindication.

    I can't go back. I can't prove my dad right.

    *


    Later that morning, Josh swung his multi-pocketed messenger bag over his shoulder and left the Pokémon Centre. He’d left a little note on the counter to say thank you to Nurse Joy. She didn’t need to be compassionate towards passing trainers and he appreciated the effort. She had told him the closest Pokémon Gym was in Violet City if he wanted to challenge the Gym Leader, but he didn’t quite feel ready for Violet yet. Josh didn’t like cities very much. He liked being close to trees, like the ones that lined the road east of Route 30. They were sprightly beeches and chestnuts, full of pidgey that fluttered onto the path to scratch about in the dirt. As he tramped tirelessly westwards, Josh smiled at the milder March weather. It was a good day for walking, especially with the outfit he’d developed after years of long walks.

    Sturdy brown boots, that was essential. A good pair of boots would last for miles and miles. You could walk all day anywhere without as much as a blister. Sturdy trousers too, black, but that was just his preference. This pair had four nice, big pockets in for carrying bits and pieces like snacks and water. Like many trainers, he carried his only occupied Poké Ball on his belt.

    Tramp, tramp, tramp. Josh thought there was something relaxing about walking. The simple purpose of getting from one place to another, he supposed. The March weather was still a bit chilly, and Josh was glad of his jumper. Black, like his trousers. Or at least, it was supposed to be. Wear had turned it grey, and thinner than it used to be. Over the top of it he wore a dark brown jacket, partly to keep out the wind but also to keep Bulbasaur’s own snacks on hand.

    As he walked, Josh thought about Mulberry Town. He wondered how everyone was in his absence. Most of his friends had begun to settle down, moving on to more ordered, settled lives. Quite probably, they were getting on as well as they ever have.

    The sound of shrieking broke his reverie. Up ahead the path veered off to the left, obscured by thickening trees. Muffled sounds of feminine rage were coming from around the bend, getting ever closer. A pack of rattata scrambled around the bend, frantically trying to carry a backpack between them. And for good reason, as Josh saw with surprised fascination that they were being pursued by a girl boiling with fury.

    “Get back here with my bag you thieves! Brigands!” she yelled, accompanied by much fist-shaking. Josh seized a rock and hurled it at the gang, by sheer luck catching one clean in the face. The rattata promptly scattered in all directions like little purple comets. The girl retrieved her backpack with a mixture of triumph and embarrassment, shyly throwing him a grateful look. She was definitely an older girl, probably in her mid-twenties. Josh was struck by her willowy figure and ever–so-slightly clumsy movements as she quickly checked her backpack’s contents. She was wearing a burgundy coat with coffee-brown trousers along with a duo of pouches on her belt – all very sensible travel wear that would have faintly impressed Josh were he not distracted by something else entirely.

    “Thanks … I can’t believe those rattata managed to steal my backpack,” she said, still acutely embarrassed, “I didn’t expect them all to work together like that. Why are you looking at me like that?”

    “Your surname isn’t Joy, by any chance, is it?”

    And there it was. For though her dress sense and temper were nothing like the nurses who so diligently ran Pokémon Centres everywhere, this girl looked exactly like a young Joy. The same bright blue eyes, the same shape of the face, almost the same hairstyle. Her expression, however, was now of annoyance.

    “Why, whatever gave you that idea? My eyes? My hair? Perhaps my shapely nose? You didn’t need to ask for confirmation!”

    “Faulty assumption,” Josh replied before he could stop himself, “For all I know you could be completely unrelated and by sheer chance look like a Joy.”

    The young Joy stood and glared at Josh, hands on hips. Then she noticed the Poké Ball at his belt. “Hey, you have a pokémon! Why didn’t you just battle the rattata instead of blindly throwing rocks?”

    “I … don’t know,” Josh confessed, “It didn’t occur to me to battle with Bulbasaur.”

    Joy sighed. “You are at the same time the strangest and most interesting person I’ve met all week. The least I can do is offer you a little of my supplies. Care to join me for lunch?”

    *


    Ten minutes later, Josh was beginning to notice something else distracting about this strange Joy. He watched with a kind of vague interest as she tore apart a cheese sandwich like she hadn’t eaten in days. By contrast, Josh ate very little. Frankly, he wouldn’t have even bothered eating lunch had he not been invited to share.

    “You never told me your name. Here. Have some fruit.” Joy said between mouthfuls of cheese.

    “It’s ok, I don’t usually get round to lunch. It’s Josh, I’m from Mulberry Town if that means anything.”

    “Don’t be silly, you should always eat three meals when you’re on the road. Mulberry Town, that’s not a big place, is it?”

    “Not really, no,” he replied, quite impressed that she managed to get such a coherent sentence out while simultaneously finishing what was left of her lunch. “I only know half of your name. What do I call you?”

    “Evelina. Evelina Joy. Tea? This really is good for you, you look like you could do with some antioxidants.”

    “I have my own, thanks. So what takes a young Joy away from a Pokémon Centre?”

    Evelina sipped at her tea for a moment and said nothing, giving Josh an intense look as if she intended to nail him to the spot with her eyes alone. Josh just blinked calmly at her in return. “I’m taking the Gym challenge,” she said defensively. “It’s not that I don’t like looking after pokémon, I just don’t want to be in a Pokémon Centre all my life!” Evelina folded her arms defiantly, as if daring Josh to disagree. Josh considered this, wondering what Evelina’s mother had to say about this choice.

    “Well, technically I’m taking the Gym challenge too. But it’s not something I’ve been dreaming to do. Bulbasaur and I, we’re just going to see where it takes us. So we’re on the way to Azalea Town, I think. I heard there was a Gym there, and it’s next to the forest. It sounds like as good a place as any to try and earn our first Badge.”

    “Uh-huh. So you’ll be wanting plenty of practice before challenging the Leader, right? Come on, battle me!” Joy cried, drawing a Poké Ball from her pocket. “One-on-one, no time limit. What do you say?”

    Josh automatically hesitated. Bulbasaur was in good health, that was true, but his only offensive attack was Tackle. He wasn’t sure that was enough for a battle. Josh knew a little battle theory, but he had no real practical experience. Blast it, he thought. I’ll have to start battling sometime.

    Josh expanded his own Poké Ball in answer. “Go, Bulbasaur,” he said, tossing the ball underarm, “Battle’s on!”

    “Go Ledyba!” Evelina yelled. The five star pokémon hovered in front of Bulbasaur, waving its arms aggressively. Bulbasaur growled back at it and thumped the ground with a foot.

    “Ledyba? I thought they didn’t like battling away from their swarm?” Josh asked.

    “Not this one! We’ve been together for a long time now. You’d better believe she’s ready for battle! Go, Tackle attack!”

    “Out of the way!” Josh yelled instinctively. Bulbasaur leapt aside as Ledyba buzzed by, throwing up sand in her wake. He charged at Ledyba, trying to tackle her in turn, but Ledyba was too fast and climbed out of the way. “Stand your ground, Bulbasaur! It has to come to you sometime.” Josh ordered. Bulbasaur growled up at Ledyba dancing in the air above it.

    “That’s what you think. Ledyba, show them your Supersonic!” Ledyba opened her mouth wide, and a piercing ringing noise washed over Bulbasaur. Josh could just hear it too, a discordant squeal that set his teeth on edge. Ok, ok, I can figure this out. Leech Seed will slow it down!

    “Bulbasaur, Leech Seed!” he cried, but Bulbasaur was shaking its head and didn’t seem to hear him. “Leech Seed, I said!” he yelled. This time Bulbasaur heard the command and fired a seed from the tip of its bulb into the air. The seed spun away several feet from Ledyba, not even coming close to a clean hit.

    “This is our chance! Finish this with Comet Punch!” Evelina ordered with triumph. Her pokémon crashed into Bulbasaur with a barrage of punches from all six fists. Dazed from the attacks, Bulbasaur could only retreat and try to turn away from the worst blows. “That’s enough, Ledyba. We’ve won” Joy said. “I don’t want to hurt Bulbasaur more than I need to.”

    Josh sighed and held up his Poké Ball. As his dazed pokémon was drawn back into the ball, he gave Ledyba a resentful look. He was sure it was the wings that gave Ledyba the edge to win. Evelina was already industriously packing away her things.

    “You’ve got a good heart, Josh. I know one when I see it. You did well to battle like that. Just remember to train hard if you want to win.” She straightened up and stuck out her hand. Josh took it without a smile but shook with as much grace as he could muster anyway. “Maybe I’ll see you again,” Evelina said. She looked Josh in the eye. “Don’t give up.”

    Atlas:
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 16th January 2014 at 03:39 PM.

  3. #3
    Never alone <3 Elphie jasonwolf's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    This is the first time I've reviewed anything, so yeah.

    On a personal note I do adore the prelude. I love the philosophical thought provoking intros that get people thinking about ideas before the story. Also you make it very obvious that you are from England with your word choice. This isn't bad, but you make it your own by making it all British.

    Now moving along the concept of an older person becoming a trainer is a very solid basis. In everything else everyone wants to be a trainer, and if you aren't you are pathetic. At least characters care very much for their pokemon making them central to their lives. You're character has treated them simply and not been a bad or excellent trainer, but more so just an owner. You keep a simple tone throughout the chapter and it complements how simple of a character you've given so far. He's a normal guy in his twenties who doesn't want to spend his life in an office, and for now not much else. That's great if you do more later with the character, which I'm sure you will.

    When you introduce Evelina, and props on the name its nicely original, you do pick up the pace slightly, but I still feel your main character is in his slow thoughtful pace while Evelina and the rattata are running around like Tom and Jerry. A little bit more reaction on Josh's part may be useful. He appears to just stand there with his head cocked to the side like an interested puppy. Josh's awkward lack of pokemon skill is sensible, but I hope it doesn't devolve into him acting like a noob trainer from a generic travel fic.

    The Joy character is a bit cliche with the idea of rebelling against her family's traditional job, but you handle it well. I very much like your pokemon pick. Very original. Ad for the battle it does feel a bit congested, and fast. Personally I don't work with direct attack calls ((ie. Bulbasuar, leech seed)), but they do work. I suggest giving some more thought to combat with Josh having to think about what his pokemon can actually do. Does he even know all his Bulbasaurs moves? Does he know typing? Basic things other trainers take for granted.

    Honestly I see no issues in this, but it needs to somewhere for it to get really good. This first chapter is a solid intro, but you gotta keep it up.

  4. #4
    .______. Elysia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Hi, I mentally promised to do this a while ago and then didn't. Sorry!

    As a note, I respectfully disagree with jasonwolf's suggestion that you're "making it your own by making it British." While being from the land of F YEAH MURICA, I think it's preposterous and a bit arrogant to say that our way of spelling things is the right way, and that to use any other method of spelling is incorrect, so erring from that template is wrong. The English language is a bit stupid and quite varying, and your way of doing stuff is still correct, and to call one absurd method more correct than another is... absurd. That is all. :>
    [/mini rant] Nothing in your introduction tipped me off to your being British anyway, haha. Perhaps this is all because I grew up reading British books and lost points on my first grade spelling test that was all about spelling color/neighbor/armor/whhhyyyyy

    Glad we cleared that up.

    That being said, your philosophical introduction is a bit interesting. I'm not going to outright call it bad, although I had a hard time following. Nameless narrator identifies himself (I think male?) with a pronoun identified as 'he,' and then promptly resumes calling that thing a he for the rest of the prologue/prelude. Furthermore, we're impressed with this big sense of peace, which is not necessarily wrong, but I think you could use a stronger hook. I'm not talking about having stuff blow up or making it all really dramatic; clearly, if you'd wanted to do that, you wouldn't have had an introspective prelude on the action of sleeping in a pokeball. However, as with all pensive introductions, you still have to draw the readers in somehow, and for me, this one wasn't quite there (I mean, I was drawn in on the fact that, hey, this guy thought it'd be awesome to write an inner monologue about sleeping in a pokeball, but I assume most people wouldn't be as oddly fascinated by that as I am?). As it is, I think your intro could do with a little more umph, something to get us thinking and be like, "hey, this story isn't going to be about snoozing all day; I'm going to go to the next chapter!" That doesn't mean making kersplosions everywhere or anything. I think that if you're going to do a philosophical introduction, go big or go home. Give us something to think about then, and if it's not going to be a chunk of action, you'd better sell that pokeball monologue pretty darn well. XD

    On another note. This. The word 'this' is sort of a vague pronoun and I honestly can't follow:
    He always thought this, every time he was recalled.
    Like, is he thinking 'I/me' every time, which is weird because why wouldn't he unless fragmented mind what, or is 'this' referring to another abstract concept that you haven't told us? If it's the latter, might I suggest elaborating on that concept and making it into your maybe-philosophical meandering?

    Oh, hey, Pokemon Centre; I probably missed colour in the prelude or something haha

    Okay, so you love using vague pronouns and introducing their proper noun forms several paragraphs later. I take that as a stylistic choice more than anything else, so while I don't approve per se, I'm not going to berate you on pronoun usage like I did in the paragraph above because I assume this one was at least intentional. However, this being pokemon fanfiction, I honestly did assume that the 'she' was a trainer trying to get to a pokecenter, and I got a bit confused when it was Joy in the end. Again, that's more my fault than anything in the story, but perhaps you can consider pronoun use in the future?

    Also, not sure how the paragraph blocking works in fanfiction, but I was told to start a new line every time someone else speaks/acts. I find that with the double-spaced format for fanfiction, new lines at every piece of dialogue stretches the page a bit, but I also couldn't figure out the rhyme or reason to the times you sometimes skipped lines during dialogues. Um. Be consistent?

    But like actually. Pronouns and paragraphing. Passage below in a spoiler because it's a bit large and you know what it is, because you wrote it, so the only reason I'm quoting all of it is because I couldn't find somewhere neat to cut.

    The paragraph break here really fooled me. I didn't notice the lack of end quote after "nails," so I assumed that Josh had finished speaking and then there was another unexplained first person narrator woaaah whaaat? I had to double back and realize that the narrative all fit in with Josh to realize that, hey, this is all just his speaking. So moral of the story, watch your pronouns and paragraph breaks?

    Anyway. Enough nitpicking. I really like how you are dealing with older characters without feeling like you're just hammering them in to the story to fit; hopefully, you can use the vastly different mindsets of college-aged students to, say, ten year-olds well in your story. Really guarantees your promise of mature but not dark, and I'm excited for that. ^^

    I didn't quite follow the flow of the end of chapter one, though. I felt that the battle was forced in to the narrative a bit too quickly, and that you hammered it in the end so it could all fit in. They were just having tea and character building and then fwam, battle time. What got me the most was Evelina's purported leaving the fic for the time being. Everything about her encounter screamed future companion to me, from the "ohhai I'm a damsel in distress halp" to the "but wait I'm actually a better trainer" to the mild level of attraction that the hormonal guy feels toward her. And while I applaud you grandly for avoiding the "the first person I see on the road shall become my new best friend forever" cliche, I have to ask what Evelina's purpose is, then. At this point, it seems as if she only exists to get rescued by Josh and then give him tea, advice, and a battle, and then she disappears into a plot hole for the rest of the story? (Again, seeing as this is chapter one, I have no right to make the assumption that she leaves; I'm just calling it now) I do, however, feel as if her leaving is a bit forced--again, they were just having tea, and then battle and then goodbye forever. I get that the life of a trainer moves quickly and whatnot, but the pacing itself felt a little off here.

    Nothing here has stuck out to me as "omg this is the best fanfic ever" (um, that sounds really blunt now that I look back on it, but I just want to say that this is chapter one and I don't expect that from fanfiction anyway?), but for some reason, I'm still intrigued enough to want to keep reading, so you clearly did a good job somewhere in here, even if I can't quite pin it down. This is meant to be praise and not some sort of back-handed compliment, haha. I did enjoy reading, though, and I look forward to seeing more. Mature journey fics without grimdark ftw. ^^

  5. #5
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Hurrah, reviews! Thanks jasonwolf, Elysia, for taking the time to do that, I appreciate it.

    Well, this first chapter was written more or less unplanned and then edited - the cracks show a bit more clearly than I realised.

    On a personal note I do adore the prelude. I love the philosophical thought provoking intros that get people thinking about ideas before the story
    That being said, your philosophical introduction is a bit interesting. I'm not going to outright call it bad, although I had a hard time following.
    I almost cut the Prelude a few times. It's nakedly self-indulgent and I recognise that it's not the best hook to draw you in. I'm glad that you guys found it interesting nevertheless. I hadn't noticed the muddled pronouns - thanks, I can iron that out. Perhaps I can explore pokémon psychology - well, Bulbasaur's psychology - more in this ...

    So moral of the story, watch your pronouns and paragraph breaks?
    Point well taken. The paragraphing does need some ironing out. On the introduction of Nurse Joy, yeah, maybe if I'd made "nurse" into "Nurse", would that be less confusing?

    About the battle. I'm going to say now that I find writing battles the hardest part of pokémon fanfiction, so thanks for the constructive comments on that part. I did write the battle that short, but if it looks like it's been cut down then there's a problem, methinks. Hmm, yes, perhaps the end is abrupt.

    I'd best not ramble on forever - I could say something about everything in your reviews! I had intended to post another couple of chapters this week, but what with Uni work, and now wanting to make some changes that's probably not going to happen. Thanks again for the reviews, I've got a lot to think about now!

  6. #6
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Version History:


    Chapter Two - A Real Trainer (Version 1.3)

    “Alright Bulbasaur, once more. Tackle!”

    Bulbasaur spun around to face its opponent, a tenacious spinarak. Its trainer was a boy from one of the little villages on the outskirt of the pine forest. He was an impetuous young lad, full of dire threats and boasts of power. It wasn’t lost on Josh that he was battling a truant schoolboy. Apparently the lad had been waiting in the woodland ready to ambush a passing trainer. Josh watched Bulbasaur charge over the loose litter of brown pine needles with a smile. Bulbasaur had grown used to battle in a matter of days and he seemed to enjoy it.

    “Tackles won’t stop Spinarak! You’ll be sorry you came across me!” the boy yelled. He hopped excitedly from foot to foot. “Spinarak, Poison Sting!”

    “Ignore it, Bulbasaur. You can take it,” said Josh, arms folded.

    Spinarak skrittered to the top of a dead log and spat a stream of bright slivers at Bulbasaur. Bulbasaur redoubled his charge, head turned away from the stings, eyes narrowed. With a leap and a battle cry he knocked Spinarak from its perch with a flying tackle. Spinarak tumbled off downhill and crashed into a pile of browned leaves, uttering weak cries of “Spinna … spinna …”

    “That’s victory, kid,” said Josh.

    “No it’s not! Spinarak isn’t done yet, he’s still going!” the kid shouted back at him.

    “Kid, its legs have gone limp. You’ve lost this battle, let it rest.”

    “We hadn’t lost a battle in weeks till you came along! That pokémon isn’t fair! Spinarak, return!”

    Josh shook his head with disapproval, watching the truant boy run off downhill on the woodland path. He’d been getting this kind of response more often than he’d like these past few days. Some kid would challenge him and refuse to take no for an answer, then find some excuse to blame him for their loss. Bulbasaur was enjoying the exercise, but Josh found himself wishing for a trainer skilled enough to think their way through a battle.

    Bulbasaur loped back up the hill, still full of energy. As Josh rubbed his head and bulb, Bulbasaur rumbled his contentment. Josh had always thought his pokémon was special. Bulbasaur was greener than usual for his species, his bulb a rich mossy colour. The irregular olive markings on his face looked a little like a starburst exploding across his brow. Time out in the fresh air was working its subtle magic – Josh was sure Bulbasaur had put on another pound or two since they had begun their journey. Josh sat himself down on a log, absent-mindedly feeding Bulbasaur nitrogen supplements. The journeying itself wasn’t bad, at least. Clean air. Independence. Walking among trees that have been left to grow as they please. Mulberry Town wasn’t a tree-friendly place. Trees were seen as safety hazards, to be cut back and tamed well before old age could leave them rotten and hollow.

    “But we haven’t learnt very much, have we old friend?” he murmured.

    “Bulba?”

    “These battles are too easy for you. You’ve had no room to grow. Too easy for me too …” Josh thought about the past two weeks, and all the times he and Bulbasaur had battled. All too often their opponent wouldn’t think about what they were doing. He found himself wistfully remembering the young Joy they had met on the way to Route 30. Now she knew how to handle her pokémon! He remembered her zest for what she did, the fierce practicality of her manner.

    “Do you remember our match against Joy? With her ledyba? I wish we could have another battle like that,” Bulbasaur leapt back and barked indignantly. “Don’t give me that look. I don’t want you to be hurt. I do want you to learn with me. Wouldn’t a victory you had to fight for be worth more than a victory that didn’t test you at all?”

    Bulbasaur still looked rather uncertain. Josh heaved a sigh. His pokémon was easily pleased, that was the problem. It was his own fault. Pokémon pick up on the habits of their trainers, and Josh had never been seriously competitive before.

    “Come on. It’s getting late; we had better get to the next Pokémon Centre before dusk.”

    *


    Route 32 runs southwards from Violet City, following the sea on the east and skirting the hilly forests to the west. The coastward road is well-maintained but long, crossing by fishing villages and travel lodges, but on the western side is the route less travelled, splitting into hilly forest paths that connect isolated highland villages. The villagers cultivate small orchards and plantations, powered by their own little solar or wind generators. Through those pine forests Josh walked on, trying to find a path passing north of Union Cave. The sun slid down in the sky, bringing a cold evening just as the forest path gave way to a village lane, bordered by raspberry canes on either side. A middle-aged woman in rough gardeners wear stood gazing pensively at the canes.

    “Excuse me?” Josh called, “Whereabouts is the Pokémon Centre?”

    “You’re a little late. The Centre closed down ten months ago,” she replied, still concentrating on the raspberry canes.

    “What? But it’s on the map …” Josh said, feverishly searching his pockets.

    “I’m afraid news from here takes a while to get to the outside world. Maps tend to be a little out of date.”

    Josh pinched the bridge of his nose and heaved a sigh.

    “Fantastic. This poses a problem …” The woman turned to look at him for the first time. She had shoulder-length blonde hair, and a kind, quizzical expression. “You see, I was hoping to stay at the Pokémon Centre for the night. I have no camping equipment and could have done with using the Centre cafeteria …”

    “You shouldn’t try and stay out in the woods tonight,” the woman replied, her face all concern, “You can stay at the house for the night; my husband will make room for you on the sofa.”

    “Would you do that? I could pay you for the night.” said Josh.

    “Oh, nonsense! I would not dream of it! You can call me Mary, by the way.”

    “I’m most grateful for this” said Josh as Mary led him down the lane, winding round to a house tucked away behind a prickly hedge. The house was a sprawl of small extensions, some quite old, others obviously modern. The front door had a fresh spray of sugar pine fastened to it, opening to reveal a hallway as eclectic in age as the exterior. Mary led him inside, kindly but firmly insisting that he remove his boots. From the end of the hallway came an array of familial, domestic sorts of sounds. A man stepped round into the hallway, drying his hands on a kitchen towel. Tall, with a neat brown moustache he threw Josh an appraising glance.

    “Another one for dinner, Greg,” said Mary, “The lad was trying to stay at the old Centre.”

    Greg gave an approving nod. “Come on through,” he said. The kitchen was scrupulously clean, except where it was populated by Mary’s two small daughters. They pestered Josh with questions all the way through a huge dinner despite their mother’s admonishments. Josh tried to answer them all as best he could, trying not to seem aloof. Greg said little but his wife couldn’t be hospitable enough. Eventually Josh just had to ask the question that had been bothering him all through the meal.

    “It’s really nice of you to offer me all this, but how is it you have this much to spare?”

    “The fridge broke again,” one of the girls piped up.

    “Mouth closed when you chew, Stephanie,” said Greg in his slow voice, “Our solar generator hasn’t been working as it should. Some mornings I wake to find the battery dead, and then there’s nothing to power the irrigation lines. It’s no big problem for an orchard owner, but we’ve got raspberries. They need their water.”

    “We’ve been over the generator a hundred times. There’s nothing wrong with it. And it’s our electrical power for the house, too. The food needs eating, you feel free,” said Mary with a smile. Josh sat in thought for a moment. There was something vaguely familiar about the story.

    “It happens in the mornings? So you’ve never found the battery dead halfway through the day?” Josh asked. Greg shook his head wearily. “I’ve an idea. I’ll watch your generator tonight and see what happens. Call it payment for your kindness.”

    “Oh no, you don’t have to pay us, son. I was going to do the same myself tonight in any case,” Greg replied hastily.

    “Sir, I insist. At the least I can be an extra pair of eyes for you. What do you say?”

    “Well, if I can’t change your mind. We’ll go out at ten.”

    *


    It was nearing midnight, and Josh had been half-hidden behind a bush with Greg for nearly two hours. The solar generator lay seven or eight yards in front of them, a concrete shed at the centre of a web of wires. This far away from the cities, the moon cast enough light to see by. Josh thought he could see shadows moving oddly in the tree line behind the shed. Was it a trick of the dim moonlight? Was it something moving?

    Josh glanced back at Greg crouched stock-still beside him. He seemed to have a similar brand of quiet stoicism to his own father. Dad never said very much, at least not with words. No, Dad communicated with body language, with its own vast lexicon. Except, of course, when he was angry. Then he had plenty of words to shout.

    The shadows under the trees were still moving oddly, as if trying to convince Josh that they had never moved at all … and then, low whines, drawn-out like stereo feedback, sounded out across the clearing.

    “Did you hear that?” he whispered to Greg. Greg nodded slowly, trying to see where it came from. Then, shadows detached themselves from the treeline, gliding into the clearing. One hovered above the shed, silhouetted against the sky. It looked like a sphere with two crescent shapes on either side. “Magnemite!” Josh said in an excited whisper. Of course! It now made sense!

    “HEY!” Greg roared, scaring Josh out his skin. In an almighty cracking of bush branches he jumped out of their hiding place, torch brandished at a trio of magnemite that were following the wires to the generator shed. They pivoted on the spot in alarm, staring inscrutably at Greg with their wide eyes, unblinking in the light of the torch beam. Then as suddenly as they had arrived, they scattered in different directions.

    “You too, laggard!” Greg bellowed. There was one left, still hovering defiantly. Josh jumped up, filled with a strange excitement. He snatched at his belt for Bulbasaur. “Go Bulbasaur! Time to battle!”

    Out popped Bulbasaur in a blaze of light, blinking curiously at the magnemite hovering before him. Magnemite swooped, but Bulbasaur leapt at the metallic pokémon without hesitation. The two collided in mid-air, Bulbasaur landing on his feet with a thump. Magnemite hesitated, as if startled.

    “Another Tackle, go!” said Josh. He was confident Bulbasaur could win a battle of Tackle attacks. His pokémon duelled with the magnemite, trying to wear down its resolve as they leapt and dodged. The magnemite swooped in high from the left and it looked as though it might score a dead on hit. Josh opened his mouth to order Bulbasaur to dodge though he knew it would be too late.

    Out from under Bulbasaur’s bulb whipped a green vine that swatted magnemite aside. Bulbasaur spun round with a growl, extruding another and seizing magnemite with both vines. Magnemite started to whine, growing quickly in volume and pitch till it passed beyond hearing. Supersonic! Josh thought. As he frantically tried to think of a way to counter-attack, he saw Bulbasaur slowly glare up at the magnemite in his grasp.

    “Could it be …?” Josh whispered. With a deft flick of its vines Bulbasaur flung the magnemite into the generator shed. There was a sharp ping of metal on concrete – and then the magnemite was drifting to the ground, spinning drunkenly. Josh plunged his hand into a pocket, grabbing the first Poké Ball he found.

    “Go!” he yelled, throwing it clumsily over arm. The ball spun erratically in flight, glanced off the dazed magnemite, sucked the dazed Pokémon inside, fell to the ground. There was dead silence but for the sound of the Poké Ball rattling fretfully as the button light flashed on and off.

    … ping!

    “I caught it.” Josh picked the now-silent ball up. The plastic felt cold in his hands. “My first capture.” Bulbasaur wandered over and sat himself down next to his master, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. As Josh looked at the ball shining in the moonlight, for the first time since leaving Mulberry Town he felt like a real trainer.
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 29th January 2014 at 12:24 PM.

  7. #7
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

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    Chapter Three - The Girl from Cherrygrove City (Version 1.2)

    The sun slid down in the sky, bringing a cold evening. The wind tasted of sea-salt as it came gusting in over Route 32. Up in the branches of a sturdy ash, a girl sat giving the landscape a critical look. North and south ran the road – tarmacked, and cobbled on either side to accommodate the frequent foot traffic. Westwards, a dirt track led to the uplands and then to the pine forests of the hills. To the south and east the trees thickened, marching on until they became the Union Wood. Somewhere hidden in a fold in the land lay the village of the same name, and the last Pokémon Centre of Route 32.

    Evelina huffed ruefully. It was no good. Both she and her pokémon were tired from the day, her hair was full of salt, and she needed a hot meal. Whether she liked it or not, she’d have to spend the night at Union Pokémon Centre.

    A soft yowl from above made her look up. Her meowth has found his way into the higher branches of the tree, where he now stood smirking shiftily down at his trainer. He had an air of coiled spring about him, with the ragged whiskers and scarred face of a cunning old street tom. Evelina looked back at the landscape, pretending to take no more notice of her pokémon. She swung a hand casually down to her sock, watching Meowth out of the corner of her eye.

    “Return!” The recall beam struck Meowth mid-leap. My turn to smirk now, Evelina thought. Hiding the Poké Ball in her sock had paid off this time. She wasn’t sure why Meowth insisted on playing this game. He was never disobedient in battle, and even if she missed him the first few times he would always return to his Poké Ball in the end. Maybe the street tom was just making a point.

    Evelina clambered down from her tree and headed off down the southward road. The twilit air was filled with the sounds of pokémon bedding down for the night – pidgey muttering in the trees, wild mareep calling to one another in the fields. An ekans eyed her suspiciously from the long grass before slithering away on business of its own. Evelina took no notice. She was just too tired, stumping rather than striding down the road, her boots clacking on the cobbles. She was beginning to regret her decision to go looking for krabby among the rock pools that morning at low tide. The clashing waves had nearly drenched her to her skin as they foamed about the rocks. A waterproof jacket had staved off the worst of it, but even so her hair felt like it would crackle if she tried to run her fingers through it.

    The world turned to shades of grey in the gathering dusk. The gibbous moon replaced the sun, and the shadows under the trees deepened to a charcoal black. Union Wood was now as dark as a cave, though the ribbon of the road stood out starkly in the moonlight. The sight of dark shapes flitting around in the air made Evelina pause her march. Their flight was rather erratic, but there were definitely three pokémon circling above her head. They were being careful not to silhouette themselves against the sky, keeping to the shadows cast by the trees. Something about their interest made Evelina want to reach for her Poké Balls … instead she reached for her Pokédex.

    Be-beep!

    “Zubat, the Bat Pokémon. Zubat rest in caves during the day, and emerge at nightfall. Zubat have been known to attack solitary travellers on the road.”

    Just a trio of zubat stretching their wings, she told herself, biting her lip. There’s no reason to think that they’ll attack. Maybe they’re just curious. Yes, just three curious zubat, just stretching their wiiings! – something swooped past her ear, leathery wings flapping madly as it tried to land. She shrieked and beat it off. She grabbed a Poké Ball – Meowth’s Poké Ball – and popped it open with shaking hands.

    Meowth instantly swiped at a passing zubat, hissing with rage. “Double Team!” his trainer called out, and he leapt to obey. Evelina saw Meowth copy himself six, seven, eight times, fending off the zubat with precise Cut attacks. In the moonlight she could hardly follow the battle. The ringleader swooped in again. Meowth climbed his trainer like a tree and took a flying leap off her shoulder, claws outstretched and howling. He collided with the zubat, bearing it to the ground, raining down Fury Swipes.

    “That’s enough Meowth. To me,” Evelina called, her voice shaky. The other zubat had fled in the face of Meowth’s ire. Meowth backed off reluctantly, returning to his trainer for a scratch behind the ears. Evelina saw his chest rising and falling rapidly, though the proud tom tried to hide it. He was tired, but he’d found energy to battle when she needed him to.

    “Well fought, you. Take a rest, huh? Let me take care of you now.” Meowth didn’t protest as she recalled him to his Ball. Too tired to argue. Evelina took a deep, shuddery breath and headed off again at a jog. Her tired legs gave no protest, the adrenaline coursing through her giving her one last push. The night pokémon rustled in the undergrowth – but reassuringly, the click of a zubat’s echolocation was nowhere to be heard.

    Presently, she came to a fork in the road. On the right, a wooden signpost pointed towards Union Cave. Left, and Evelina could see the village of Union Wood twinkling invitingly half a mile down the road. Union Cave will have to wait, she thought, and took the left-hand path.

    *


    Union Pokémon Centre fronted onto the village green, right in the heart of Union Wood. The Centre was some four hundred years old, converted from the village coaching inn. Built from stone and ancient oak, it was the kind of building that was just too old and strong to be knocked down. Where once the pub sign hung above the door, now there was fixed a large red P, backlit sharply with a halogen lamp. In all other respects, however, the inn looked much the same as it had for centuries - a quaint 16th century relic repurposed for modern times.

    Friendly yellow light splashed from the windows and open doors. Inside, what was once the bar area was now a wide lounge, lit by electric sconces and backed by the main desk. Instead of the familiar crisp white plastic common to most Pokémon Centres, the desk was the remains of the old bar, an oaken construction worn smooth down the years by the hands of countless people.

    A few scattered trainers were hanging out in the lounge when Evelina entered. A flatscreen TV murmured on the left-hand wall, while behind the main desk the Centre nurse was idly filling out paperwork. Well, there was nothing for it. Evelina gritted her teeth and approached the desk. Looking up, the nurse’s smile remained steadfastly pasted onto her face, but Evelina spotted the tiny double take, the flicker of recognition in her eyes.

    “Good evening,” she said. No ‘How may I help you’, Evelina thought.

    “My pokémon are exhausted and so am I. I need a bed for the night, if you have one.”

    “I’ll see to your pokémon now.”

    “And the bed?”

    “I think we have one available,” Joy replied, unhelpfully. The two Joys stared at each other. Evelina decided that she’d had enough.

    “Look I know what you’re thinking. And you know I know what you’re thinking. So why don’t you just say it? I’m too tired to play family games.”

    “You’d be the girl from Cherrygrove City? Gabriella’s eldest.”

    “My name is Evelina. I am a pokémon trainer, and I need a bed. Am I going to sleep here tonight or not?”

    “There is space,” Joy snapped, “Hand me your pokémon. I’ll check them out – not that I should have to.”

    “Sure you don’t want to check my trainer’s license first?”

    Joy ignored the sarcasm and took the proffered Poké Balls, smile still glued to her face. Some of the other trainers had noticed the hostility at the desk and were guilelessly eavesdropping. Evelina gave them a full hands-on-hips glare, daring anyone to pass comment. No-one did. She leant on the desk drumming her fingers for a moment. She’d seen that look before. It was the same look she’d got at the Violet City Pokémon Centre. It was the same look she’d got from any number of relatives, when all the other girls were getting ready to go to nursing college.

    Well, here was another aunt who certainly wasn’t going to be her best friend. She might as well make the best of it. The other trainers still watching her out of eye corners, she smartly vaulted the desk, signed herself in, and helped herself to a locker key. Despite her scowl, Evelina was beginning to feel more optimistic. Her aunt may well at this moment be on the phone to the Cherrygrove City Pokémon Centre, but gossip was endless. Right now, what mattered was a hot dinner and a shower.

    *


    Half an hour later, Evelina sat sprawled in the shower, smiling to herself. Blessedly hot water ran in rivulets down her shoulders. Salt and sweat swirled away down the plug, and so too did the accumulated annoyances of the day. For now, in the steamy sanctuary of the shower, life was simple and uninterrupted. Later, it wouldn’t be, but Evelina was sure she could put off being annoyed again until after dinner. For now, life was simple.

    The shower room door opened and closed, somewhere beyond the veil of steam. Evelina ignored it. She was thinking about the adventure ahead. Azalea Town wasn’t far now, not with Union Cave so close. A short jaunt through the Cave, then across Route 33, and she’d be on the doorstep of the Azalea Town Gym. Evelina giggled with excitement – another Gym, and another Gym Badge!

    She could do with catching another pokémon, if she was to challenge the Azalea Gym. Not because she was liable to lose with Ledyba and Meowth. Bug-type pokémon weren’t going to have a type advantage over her pair of scallywags. No, rather it was because she hadn’t caught a pokémon since starting her journey. Meowth she’d caught a little over a year ago. Ledyba had been captured when she was sixteen. Each of her pokémon was special in their own way … Ledyba, aggressive and confident. Meowth, old and cunning. If she was to catch another pokémon, it would be a pokémon that was special in some way.

    Not to worry, Evelina thought. I’ll know it when I see it.

    Atlas:
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 16th January 2014 at 03:44 PM.

  8. #8
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Chapter Four – Over Hill, Under Hill (Version 1.1)

    Joshua


    Josh was sulking. Rain hammered down in silvery sheets and went gurgling away down the rocky paths. It drizzled off the ends of tree branches and dripped off pine needles. It whipped capriciously under shelters. Sat under the damp eaves of a hemlock, Josh watched the downpour sullenly. The paths north of Union Cave had proved more difficult than his map suggested. He had planned to cross over the mountain in a few hours, and so come to Route 33 well before sunset. The weather, though, had other ideas.

    Thunder rumbled overhead. It should have been a clever plan. The road through Union Cave looked to be longer and just as difficult as taking the mountain path on his map. It made perfect sense to take the mountain path. To be stymied by a rainstorm – a rainstorm that had seemingly blown in from nowhere – was completely ridiculous.

    The pokémon he shared the shelter with wasn’t helping, either. Nestled snugly in the branches of the hemlock, a hoothoot watched him unblinkingly with its round, red eyes. The rain didn’t seem to have bothered it at all. Josh scowled up at it.

    “Did you get up early just to watch me get soaked?” Hoothoot just hooted insolently back. Josh’s brow furrowed again. He was beginning to suspect that the owl was laughing at him. There was nothing to laugh at, damn it. Two, maybe three miles to the west the path ran until it came to the top of a wide valley. A swift stream ran through it, but there were steps carved into the rock – good, safe steps. It was called the Granite Pass, and going downhill it would have been possible to be in the next village well before nightfall - if it hadn’t rained.

    Just as Josh was considering throwing something at the hoothoot, the rain slackened off. Thunder still rumbled further up the mountainside, but here on the lower slopes the downpour slowed to a scattered drizzle. Josh emerged stiffly from beneath the tree. There was still enough time to reach the Granite Pass before nightfall. Reaching to his belt, he unsnapped a Poké Ball from its clasp. Time to get to know his new pokémon.

    “Out you come, Magnemite,” he said. Magnemite didn’t seem to be surprised by its capture. It just hovered, gazing blankly at its trainer.

    “Er. So. Magnemite,” said Josh, “Looks like I’m your new trainer. No hard feelings over being caught, right?”

    Magnemite stared back.

    “We could be good friends, you know. Just ask Bulbasaur.”

    Stare.

    “I thought we could walk to the pass together,” Josh said. “Get to know each other, sort of thing. Er.”

    Stare.

    “In a creepy way, you’re kind of cute really,” he said desperately.

    Magnemite listed to its left. Josh tried to work out whether that meant Magnemite liked the compliment. Its constant stare was beginning to make his eyes water. He glanced down the slope to check on the weather. When he looked back, Magnemite was determinedly making its way up the mountainside.

    “Hey, where are you going?” Josh shouted, “Get back here!” His pokémon made no answer, except to spin on its axis a couple of times. Josh growled in frustration and gave chase. His boots kicked up against the rocky ground and he stumbled as he ran. He fumbled for Magnemite’s Poké Ball as he leapt up a steep slope. Damn it! Who would have thought a Magnemite would be so swift?

    “You stop right there, you screwball!” he yelled. “Do you hear me – ow!” Josh slipped on the wet leaf litter and fell hard. The Poké Ball went bouncing away down the slope. Magnemite watched in wide-eyed interest as its trainer frantically ran to retrieve the Ball. Breathing heavily, Josh wagged a threatening finger at his errant pokémon.

    “Mag-nemiiiite,” it droned in return and was off again, winding randomly through the dripping pines.

    Josh bared his teeth. Right, that tears it, he thought. He half-sprinted, half-leapt up the mountainside, dodging tree-trunks and ducking branches. A listing spray of sugar pine dumped a shower of rainwater down his neck. Cursing breathlessly, Josh trod heavily on a large rock and sent it tumbling away. “Geo!” it complained, swinging its fists. He skidded to a halt on a pile of needles, suddenly right in front of Magnemite.

    And leapt.

    “Gotcha!” he shouted in triumph, seizing his pokémon with a flying tackle. The pair tumbled and bounced wildly down the mountain until a pine log halted them with a jolt. Josh lay on the damp ground, clutching Magnemite firmly. His body started to register complaints – aching legs, thumping chest, banged head. A hollow boom split the air apart. Lightning flashed.

    “Oh dear …”

    The storm was closing back in.

    *


    The thunderstorm rumbled down the mountains, lashing the slopes with sheets of water. The raindrops hit the ground so hard that they bounced back an inch or more. Black clouds brought on an early night. Lightning flashed, turning the forest into a stark tableau of dark trunks and silver rain.

    The storm had been hanging around the uplands for days, gathering in power as it went. Now it dumped its accumulated strength in one go, joyously throwing everything it had at the hillsides. Pokémon huddled under logs and boulders to wait it out. At the eastern end of Union Cave, the tallest pine in the forest was split in half by a lightning strike. Granite Pass was a torrent of white water.

    In the midst of it all, a trainer zigzagged through the forest, lost.

    *


    Which way was west?

    Josh squinted through the gloom. Raindrops clustered on the lenses of his glasses blurred his vision. He played the beam of his torch left and right, looking for a landmark, any landmark, that might give him a clue as to where he was. The illumination from the brief flashes of lightning was no help at all – all he saw was a barcode forest, ranks of dark pines stretching in every direction.

    Not for the first time, Josh cursed the mountain path. He cursed Magnemite too, for its disobedience. Somehow during the chase he must have lost his bearings. In the dark of the storm he had no idea which way he had drifted, east or west, north or south. By the light of his torch he saw a cut-out view of the forest, a circular peep-hole filled with rain.

    Which way was west?

    He headed downhill, on the basis that would eventually take him down to Route 32, or 33. Downhill was the only recognisable direction at this point, anyway. Josh shivered. The rain had soon soaked him through to the skin, and now his old jumper sat heavily on his shoulders. He could feel his socks squelching in his boots, though the pounding rain drowned out all sound.

    For the umpteenth time that day he slipped on a patch of scree. In the dark he couldn’t see where to place his weight and so went tumbling down the slope yet again. Fresh scratches raised on his hands, with aching head he stumbled up to his feet. The torch hadn’t broken in the fall – at least that was something.

    An unpleasant tight sensation was growing in his chest. This is ridiculous, Josh thought, I’m never lost. But there were no landmarks! Nothing to recognise, nothing to steer by! Josh heaved down a few steadying breaths. Alright, calm down, he told himself. Keep heading downhill. He methodically panned his torch around again, and his heart leapt. There, further downhill, a gap in the forest! He was closer to the foothills than he’d thought.

    Heading towards the gap with renewed purpose, Josh tried to wipe the rain from his glasses. It made no difference – the drops just smeared and were replaced in seconds anyway. The thunder seemed to grind and roar ever louder. Josh paused, confused. Was that thunder? He strained to hear past the lashing rain. It sounded deep, throaty, not like the hollow boom of thunder.

    A particularly bright lightning strike lit up the forest. For a few seconds Josh could see clearly. About twenty feet away, a fully-grown onix was watching him and roaring. Josh spat out a curse and fled. An onix! A bloody territorial onix! He risked a glance behind – it was following, still roaring. What was an onix doing out in a thunderstorm?

    He changed direction, half-running, half-leaping downhill. Picking up speed, he laughed breathlessly. Try and catch me now, boulder-boy! The laughter died in his throat as the onix went crashing by like a runaway train, smashing trees like matchsticks as it went. It turned, head held low to the ground. It opened its mouth wide, and screeched.

    The noise was awful. Josh clapped his hands to his ears, and screamed.

    Josh wasn’t sure how long the Screech went on for. His eardrums throbbed. Onix lay motionless amid the ruined trees, watching him. Josh wondered why it hadn’t attacked. What was it trying to do? He looked past the onix to the tree-gap, looking for a nest or lair of some kind. The rain eased off a little, and scarce feet away, a flash of lightning revealed …

    … yawning depths, sheer cliffs, a black chasm …

    Josh hurriedly threw an arm around a broken tree trunk.

    “Unk,” he managed. He clutched the broken trunk like a child clinging to his mother, shut his eyes and waited patiently for the world to stop spinning. Eventually, the ringing in his ears dimmed a little, and he dared to let go.

    “You were trying to warn me about the cliff, weren’t you?” he said. The onix seemed to relax. Josh supposed that meant it had understood. It was an imposing pokémon, even in the gloom of the storm – a good thirty feet long, and darker coloured than most of its species. Its body was rounded rather than rugged, smoothened from years of tunnelling. The look it gave Josh was somehow old, like a stern but kindly grandfather.

    It slithered a little way along the cliff. It turned back, staring expectantly. Josh followed cautiously, taking care to keep the onix between himself and the cliff face beyond. The old pokémon led him down a ledge that wound down the sheer side of the mountain. It kept glancing back to make sure that Josh was still there, seemingly unafraid of the yawning depths.

    Eventually, the onix stopped at an apparently random spot. It coiled itself up a little, its massive bulk only just squeezing onto the path. Without warning, it roared and smashed its way into the cliff face. The ground rumbled and shook, the night filed with the elemental sound of rock grinding on rock as it squirmed through the mountainside.

    Josh cautiously shone his torch down the tunnel. Tremors vibrated up from far underground. He hesitated, nervy at the prospect of following down an onix-burrow. He mentally shook himself. This old onix had stopped him from walking over the cliff edge, hadn’t it? There was something in the look on its face – that grandfatherly expression – that suggested it knew very well what it was doing. Josh slid himself into the tunnel, took a deep breath, and was gone.

    *


    Deep underground, Josh headed for the light. Slithering down an onix-burrow turned out to be a difficult, undignified, grubby business. Josh had laughed to see a light other than that of his torch. Relieved, tired and sore, he slid down the last few feet into …

    … a wide, airy cavern. A myriad of little pools dotted the cavern floor, perfectly still, mirror-flat. Each pool was limned with the phosphorescent glow of colonies of cave-bacteria, shimmering blue and green. Stalactites hung from the ceiling in their hundreds.

    “Oh my …” Josh breathed. He’d heard stories of underground lakes in obscure corners of Union Cave. He wandered among the pools like a man in a cathedral. The shimmering waters threw shifting shadows across the cave. Light danced capriciously among the stalactites. Josh stepped around the pools with reverent care – to disturb mirror surface would be unthinkable, a sacrilege.

    Union Cave! The old onix did know what it was doing. Exhaustion was catching up with him. Josh blinked hard, trying to focus on staying awake. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to lie back and rest for a few minutes. Just for a few minutes, he thought as he closed his eyes, and fell into a dreamless sleep.
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 17th November 2013 at 09:49 AM.

  9. #9
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Version History:


    Chapter Five – Matters of Grace (Version 1.1)

    Joshua


    A grey dawn broke over Route 33. It was a pale, shivery sort of morning, cloaked in the subdued calm that comes after a storm. The sun rose lethargically through shredded clouds that hung high and wispy above the world.

    Tucked under a bush, Josh lay in that content, fluffy place between sleeping and waking – not quite asleep, but not quite awake either. The morning air had a fresh, washed out smell, the smell you only get after rain. Sensations filtered in one by one – the rustling of leaves, hoppip piping, the feel of the sleeping bag.

    A fuzzy thought rose in Josh’s brain. But I don’t own a sleeping bag …

    Reluctantly, Josh made himself wake up properly. After a brief squint around for his glasses, he sat up and took a first look at the morning. He was lying in a grassy hollow, sheltered from the wind by a thick tangle of bushes. His clothes had been left to dry in the breeze, thrown over an A-frame fashioned from hazel sticks. Josh stared blankly at them. Vague memories of last night floated through his mind. Exhaustion. Finding a way through Union Cave. Coming to Route 33.

    A metallic glint caught his eye, and Josh looked up at Magnemite hovering, and watching. For some reason best known to itself, it was slowly orbiting the campsite. The expression on its strange, artificial face was as inscrutable as ever.

    “So you’ve decided to hang around then?” Josh asked sharply. Magnemite gave no answer. It was not, on the whole, a complicated creature but it had stayed by its trainer’s side all through the night. Dead on his feet, his trainer had fallen straight into a deep sleep. In the grey half-light before sunrise a group of zubat showed rather a lot of interest in the sleeping trainer. Magnemite decided it didn’t like that. It flicked electricity at them until they gave up and flew away. Something in Magnemite’s electronic mind sensed that its trainer was annoyed with it. Magnemite decided to wait for an order, so it could obey and then its trainer wouldn’t be annoyed any more.

    Despite himself, Josh softened a little. Magnemite had been out of its Poké Ball all night and it hadn’t wandered off. Maybe it was warming to him after all. That little magnet pokémon was a mystery.

    The sleeping bag was another. It was a business-like affair; warm on the inside, tough and waterproof on the outside. The bag was dull green in colour, unadorned except for a single logo. It looked like a stylised Poké Ball superimposed on a black background, surrounded by a laurel wreath. A pokémon ranger’s bag? Josh thought. The events of last night were still a little hazy. He could only assume that he had met a ranger last night, and borrowed this sleeping bag.

    As he dressed and got ready to make a move, he sorted through the memories of the last twenty-four hours. They had a curiously unreal quality, as if being lost and wet and frightened had happened to someone else. In the calm of the morning, with the smell-after-rain rising off the turf, it was hard to really recall the heart-thumping fear of having nearly run off a cliff after being apparently chased by bull onix. And the memory of the cave, the magical dancing lights shining from mirror-perfect pools – that too felt like it had been something merely dreamt, or hallucinated.

    Josh smirked wryly to himself. Damp clothes feel real - laying eyes on a natural wonder does not. That seemed like it should be the other way round. He swung his bag over his shoulder, hefted the now repacked sleeping bag, and went to look for the road.

    *


    The road to Azalea Town is a short one, running past wide fields until it bends north to meet the eaves of the Charwood. A trainer was hurrying west along the track, passing over the last few miles of the Route. His Magnemite trailed after him - stopping occasionally to stare at things - and by mid-morning he’d left the fields far behind.

    Josh was feeling almost cheerful. Over the last few miles his clothes had dried out properly and he was confident that Azalea Town was no more than an hour away. On the right sparse evergreen woods lined the path; on the left rose a low outcrop of red clay. The smells of pine resin and wet clay mingled pleasantly in the cool air. He’d just stopped to read a signpost when a boisterous voice called out: “Yo trainer! How many Badges do you have?”

    This was shouted down by a young man up on the outcrop. He was about Josh’s own age, though taller and broader.

    “None,” he called back, “Why do you ask?”

    “None at all? Aww, you’re kidding me?”

    “None as yet,” Josh shrugged.

    “Well, whatever,” the guy slid down the steep clay with perfect balance. For some reason he’d decided to walk about as though he’d just come from the beach – light blue hoodie with a funky wave design, three-quarter length shorts, even sandals, for heaven’s sake. His blond hair had a fashionably salt-damaged appearance, “You’ll do anyway.”

    “I’ll do for what?” said Josh.

    “A battle, trainer, a battle. You won’t win, but you’ll do for practice.”

    “Practice. And what, exactly, guarantees you victory?” Josh asked coldly.

    “Trainer, you’re lookin’ at an alumnus of the Dewford Island Gym!” he said with a smirk, “Name’s Tyler Bradshaw, remember it, ‘cause it’s a name for a champion!”

    Dewford Island. Josh had been there once, for a holiday. They had laughed at him, because he was skinny and nerdy, and he couldn’t swim, much less surf, because he had a bulbasaur and not an aron. And then one of the pretty surfer girls had asked him out as he sat drinking bad coffee, with her friends laughing at him and waiting to see if he’d fall for it. Josh spotted the trap easily, but it didn’t matter. He was still entertainment.

    “I accept your challenge. One-on-one, no time limit.” he said, unsnapping Bulbasaur’s Poké Ball.

    “Hah! One-on-one it is, trainer,” Tyler said, “Go Machop!”

    “Battle’s on Bulbasaur!”

    Tyler’s Machop slowly pounded a fist into its palm in an attempt to intimidate Bulbasaur. Its oversized muscles rippled smoothly under grey skin. “Careful,” Josh ordered. Machop looked hale and healthy – Josh wasn’t sure what it could do. Bulbasaur paced at a safe distance, growling.

    “Machop! Start it off,” called Tyler, suddenly serious, “Karate Chop!”

    Machop closed the distance at a run, arrow-quick. Bulbasaur deftly ducked under the first swing, and caught a backhand blow under the chin from the other hand. He threw himself into a roll and thumped back with a Tackle. Bulbasaur leapt again but Machop neatly dodged with a backward-roll.

    “Keep your distance,” Josh said, “Leech Seed!”

    Bulbasaur fired the Leech Seed high on a classic looping trajectory. Machop side-stepped, darted in, and kicked Bulbasaur’s legs from beneath him. Bulbasaur landed heavily and fired again. This time the seed was batted way with a casual flick of the hand.

    “Bullet Punch!” Tyler ordered. Machop blurred and smacked a fist into Bulbasaur’s side. A smirk was starting to form on Tyler’s face as he watched his pokémon dart in and out. Josh smirked inwardly. Got you.

    “Leech Seed, fire it flat!” he called. Bulbasaur crouched and let fly as Machop stepped in for a Karate Chop. The seed whistled in and struck Machop on the arm, putting out a mass of tendrils and binding the arm tight.

    Machop flailed its arm and tugged at the tendrils, but the seed held fast. The smirk had gone from Tyler’s face – Josh could see Tyler knew as well as he did that the Leech Seed would sit there, quietly sapping away Machop’s energy until Bulbasaur chose to reclaim it. And now Machop had dropped its guard …

    “Vine Whip!” The vine made a loud crack as the blow connected. Bulbasaur didn’t give his opponent time to recover, smacking his other vine into the back of Machop’s legs and scything it down like a stalk. Machop rolled to dodge one lashing vine only to take a stinging blow from the other.

    “Machop! Use your Karate Chop and block the blows!” Tyler called.

    “Keep up Vine Whip! Beat it down!”

    Josh watched the battle clinically. Tyler’s pokémon fended off Bulbasaur’s Vine Whips with its forearm, blocking some blows, deflecting others. It can’t keep up this attrition, Josh thought. Bulbasaur can reclaim the Leech Seed at any time to heal himself. This battle is mine.

    “Grab the vines and pull, Machop!”

    Machop’s hands shot out and seized Bulbasaur’s vines, faster than Josh had thought possible. So fast. Bulbasaur tried to tug free as Machop tightened its grip. A triumphant look flared in its red eyes. It yanked hard, dragging Bulbasaur to the ground. Bulbasaur howled in pain.

    The Leech Seed unwrapped itself from around Machop’s arm and flew back to its maker, bringing the stolen energy with it. Bulbasaur hauled himself to his feet and growled his defiance. Fierce pride welled in Josh’s chest. Just look at that tenacity! Tyler was saying something, but Josh wasn’t paying attention. The sight of Machop running in - fist drawn back for a Bullet Punch - snapped him back to the battle.

    “Tackle!” he commanded, but Machop connected first. Bulbasaur Tackled in turn, but Machop simply rolled to its feet and thudded a Low Kick into Bulbasaur’s side. Machop drew back its hand and swung. Bulbasaur, too tired to dodge, caught the Karate Chop behind the ear.

    “Bul!” he grunted almost resignedly, and lost his footing for a last time.

    Josh held out Bulbasaur’s Poké Ball and recalled his unconscious pokémon. You tried so hard. Tyler was laughing. Josh’s heart sank. He’d really wanted to beat Tyler, to wipe that smug look off his face. They were so close to defeating him.

    Tyler was still laughing at him. “Aww, man! Did I not tell you that I would win?”

    “Calm down,” Josh told him, “You just won.”

    “No, no, no, trainer. You lost, and I crushed you!”

    “You could at least win with grace. The is such a thing as sportsmanship, you know.”

    “Yeah, yeah, it’s funny how losers only ‘win with grace’!” Tyler said scornfully.

    Josh began to frame a biting comeback, but thought better of it. It wouldn’t matter how clever it was - Tyler would just laugh all the more. You don’t have to lose with bad grace just because he wins without it, he told himself. He glanced round at Magnemite still hovering at his shoulder. It was staring steadily at Tyler. The patient intensity of its gaze struck Josh as somehow hostile. It whined its low, discordant stereo-feedback whine.

    “Come on, Magnemite,” Josh told it, “Let’s go into town.” He turned his back to his grinning opponent. Magnemite followed reluctantly, hovering backwards so as to maintain its stare.

    “Hey trainer!” Tyler called after him, “How does being a loser taste? Does it taste bitter?” Josh shut his ears and ignored the cat-calls. He walked quickly, taking long strides down the red clay path till he was well out of earshot. Tyler’s derisive laughter was still ringing in his ears. Josh wondered why that guy bothered him so. Guys like Tyler were common in this world, as far as he could see. They were the people who, as teenagers, had risen to the top of their little social ladder, and had stayed there. They were the people who were, in short, the cool kids.

    Such juvenile class distinctions didn’t matter any more. Josh was twenty-one. He hadn’t considered himself a boy for a long while now, and it had been longer still since the casual scorn of his peers had got under his skin, as it had that one summer on Dewford Island. Maybe it was that, despite the fact that Josh was no longer a nerdy boy but a young man, Tyler was still acting like a boy of sixteen.

    If I ever meet him again, I will defeat him. And I will do it with grace.

    Josh found himself standing atop a low rise in the land. On the right, the Charwood marched on towards the north. The path struck out west, away from the eaves of the wood down the hillside. There, it became a country lane, bordered left and right with farmer’s fields. Beyond, perhaps a little over half a mile down the lane, Josh could see the outskirts of Azalea Town. Smoke was rising from chimneys, smudging the pale morning sky.

    Which means the Azalea Town Gym isn’t far away … or my first Gym battle.

    Atlas:
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 16th January 2014 at 03:47 PM.

  10. #10
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Version History:


    Chapter Six – Azalea Town (Version 1.2)

    Evelina


    The claw raked Ledyba hard across the face. She buzzed shrilly and corkscrewed away. A second Scratch attack ploughed a deep furrow into the dirt as she climbed out of her assailant’s reach. The battlefield was a rough rectangle in the dirt, little more than a clearing in the thickly clustered trees. The glass ceiling of the Gym broke the morning sun into beams that lanced down through the budding treetops.

    Ledyba hovered in a sunbeam, her gauzy wings flickering ethereally against the light. Her flight was slightly erratic – the telltale sign of the lingering effects of poison. Evelina glanced across to her opponent, a young man in cargo shorts, wielding his bug net like a poleaxe. He wore the worryingly earnest expression of a true bug maniac. He seemed to vibrate slightly, as if the sight of two Bug-types battling on the same field was altogether too much excitement.

    “Comet Punch!” Evelina ordered. Finish it quickly!

    “Dig, Paras!”

    Paras promptly disappeared in a cloud of dirt. Evelina growled in frustration as Ledyba hurriedly pulled out of her dive. Still stalling for time! She wondered how long Ledyba could last under the sinister effects of Poisonpowder. Paras resurfaced at the edge of the field, clicking its mandibles and chanting “Parasparasparas!” excitedly.

    “Tick, tick, tock!” its trainer called, “You can fly, but I can dig! What will you do now, Miss Joy?”

    Seize the initiative! Evelina could hear her heartbeat drumming dully in her ears. This was where a real battle was fought – on the edge, where neither trainer knew what the other was planning, where strategies fell away and it was just you and your pokémon. She smiled a glinting smile. Seize the initiative!

    “Let’s finish this, Ledyba. Tackle, come in fast and low!” Her pokémon curled into a swift dive and sped across the battlefield. Paras’ trainer stabbed at the air with his bug net.

    “Now, my pretty Paras! Rock Smash!”

    Paras thrust out its claw like a spear, enthusiastically mimicking its trainer’s stance. As Ledyba bore down, the little mushroom pokémon sprang up to meet it.

    “Protect!” Evelina yelled joyously. A shimmering green bubble flashed into existence around Ledyba, flickering on-off just for a second. Paras bounced off the Protect as if it had been flicked away, flailing its little limbs desperately. Ledyba intercepted elegantly and pummelled it with a flurry of Comet Punches. The attack made a neat little thrrrdp as it connected.

    Paras landed heavily on the dirt, its eyes even glassier than usual. It had fainted dead away. “Paras is unable to battle,” called the referee, “The victory goes to the challenger, Evelina!”

    Evelina let out a squeak and assayed a little jump on the spot. “Yes! We did it, Ledyba! Come here for an Antidote!” As Evelina carefully sprayed Ledyba’s carapace with Antidote, the referee headed across the battlefield. He looked – and dressed – much younger than he was, with his outdoorsy shirt-and-shorts, boyish mop of dyed purple hair and yellow neckerchief. Leaning casually on his own bug net, he gave Evelina an appraising look.

    “I’ve got to admit, Miss Joy, I had my doubts about you. But you fought a good battle – you’ve earned the right to battle me for the Hive Badge. I’ll take your challenge as soon as your Ledyba’s fully recovered.”

    “Thanks, Bugsy, but if I may I’d like to delay our battle,” Evelina answered, wiping off excess Antidote, “I’d like to catch a third pokémon. Good girl, Ledyba. Return for now, huh?”

    “If that’s what you want. I’ll be waiting. Ah, a new challenger? Welcome to the Azalea Town Gym.” Bugsy said, looking over Evelina’s shoulder. The newcomer was leaning casually against a tree with his arms folded. His clothes were travel worn, and there was a leafy twig sticking out of his hair, but Evelina still recognised him.

    “Omigosh, you’re that new trainer, the, the guy with the bulbasaur from Route 32! How’ve you been?”

    “A friend from the road huh?” Bugsy said, “I know how that goes. If this is your first Gym, let me explain my rules to you. In order to challenge me, you must first battle one of my Gym Trainers …”

    Evelina headed for the exit, leaving the Leader to his explanation. She wondered how long the bulbasaur trainer had been watching. Maybe the whole time – the heat of battle tended to tunnel her vision.

    “… your battle performance against my Gym Trainer will allow me to decide how to test you in a Gym Battle-”

    “Er, I appreciate your welcome, but I wonder if I might catch up with a friend, sort of thing. Excuse me … er, Evelina?”

    He remembered my name? “Yes?” she said aloud. The young man had broken into a jog to catch up.

    “That was a clever tactic you used back there. Luring Paras in and then using Protect.”

    “Oh, thank you! But it wasn’t a tactic. At least I didn’t plan it. But thank you.”

    “It was a clever tactic,” he repeated. His solemn tone made Evelina smile.

    “I’m sorry, but I’ve rather forgotten your name,” she said hesitantly.

    “Cook. Joshua Cook. Well, just Josh.”

    “Evelina Joy. But you already knew that,” she said with a self-deprecating shrug, “Call me Eve.”

    The two trainers stood in silence for a moment. Evelina kicked her heels idly in the dirt. A hush had fallen on the woodland Gym.

    “Have you got a spare moment?” she said, “There are some nice cafés in town, if you’re interested?”

    “Sounds good to me,” Josh answered, “It’s a nice morning for coffee.”

    *


    All along Old Village high street, the azalea was in bloom. The high street is an airy boulevard, where ivy climbs the picturesque timber-and-stone buildings so iconic of Azalea Town. Wrought-iron lampposts line the cobbled streets, bearing bright little banners that flutter and snap in the wind. Everywhere you look, the azalea blossoms in the sun – thousands of little star-shaped blooms shining magenta, orange and white.

    Evelina and Josh sat in the shade of an awning on the café patio. They’d tucked their bags beneath their seats, and the warmth of the late morning sun had forced Josh remove his old grey jumper. Eve had unzipped her jacket and was enjoying the westerly breeze that blew from across the river. She sat with her chin resting on her hand, gazing dreamily at the street. Azalea Town in the springtime was so pretty. Josh was leaning back in his seat, a curious little half-smile on his face. He still hadn’t noticed the twig in his hair.

    “It’s a charming sight, don’t you think? Old Village. Quite a nineteenth-century charm.” she said.

    “Yes … it’s nice to see a pedestrian town centre. High streets should be for walking. You were right about the café,” he added, “It’s in a lovely spot.”

    “A welcome change after Union Cave, huh?”

    “I didn’t come through Union Cave. Not all of it, anyway. I took the mountain path.”

    “You did not! There was a storm over Union Cave last night!” Eve said accusingly.

    “Don’t I know it. I had to go down into the Cave and walk on to Route 33. I was so exhausted, I’m still not quite sure how I managed it.”

    Eve gave him a surprised look. In last night’s downpour it would have taken an excellent woodsman to find a way over the hills. “So how did you find your way back into the Cave?” she said.

    “I had to slide down an onix burrow. Which rather explains the state of my clothes.” he said apologetically.

    Eve’s hand flew to her mouth, stifling a small gasp. She had to admit, she was a little impressed. Not many people would dare go poking around an onix burrow, storm or no storm. “You went down an onix burrow to get out of the rain,” she said with a giggle.

    Josh waved his hand vaguely in an embarrassed ‘it is what it is’ sort of gesture. There was a fine cut on his palm that he apparently hadn’t bothered to put a plaster on. At that moment, a notepad-wielding waiter materialised, asking for their orders.

    “What? Oh, er, medium black coffee please,” said Josh.

    “You mean an Unovera, sir?”

    “What?”

    “An Unovera, sir.”

    “Is that a black coffee with no trimmings?” Josh demanded.

    “Um. Yes sir?” the waiter returned hopefully.

    “All right, a medium Unovera, then.”

    “We don’t have medium, sir,” the waiter said kindly, “We have piccolo, medio, grande, and troppo grande.”

    Josh gave the waiter a cold stare. Beside him, Eve had her hand pressed firmly over her mouth, jaw clenched to keep in the giggles. There were little tears at the corners of her eyes.

    “Grande,” he sighed, “A grande Unovera. Please.”

    “Cappuccino grande,” Eve managed. She coughed a few times to clear the last of the giggles. Josh looked at her sidelong, but there was that curious half-smile on his face nevertheless. We’re actually having a nice time, she thought.

    “You know Eve, I noticed something about you, back at the Gym. First thing you did after you won was to reach for an Antidote,” he hesitated, as if unsure of what to say next, “Why did you decide to be a trainer? I mean, you obviously care for pokémon. But you could do that as a nurse. Er.”

    Eve drew breath for a defensive tirade … and then she saw the worried half-smile and stopped herself. He’s just asking, she told herself. Do you really want to snap at him? She gave him a brittle smile, feeling a little foolish for being defensive.

    “What you have to understand about us …” she began, “Look, it’s like this. For the girls in our family, pokémon medicine is what we do. When I was little, after school I’d be helping out in the clinic before I did anything else. I’d be working half of my weekend in the Pokémon Centre. All the other girls enrolled straight into nursing college the moment they left school. And as soon as they graduate, they’ll become pokémon nurses, pokémon doctors, Pokémon League breeders,” she heaved a heavy sigh, “A Joy lives her entire life for someone else. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a worthwhile life, but … I’m twenty-three. I want to live for myself for a while! I want to see some of the world. I want to achieve something that’s just for me. I don’t need to be the Champion. I just … want to be my own woman.”

    Josh was still patiently listening. “You probably think this is all kind of stupid -” Eve started.

    “No, no, I get it. You want to make your own choices,” said Josh.

    The waiter glided up, their coffees in hand. He set Josh’s Unovera in front of him with exaggerated care. Eve couldn’t help but glance across at it – yep, black coffee with no trimmings. The waiter hadn’t dared to bring any biscotti. She took a long sip of her cappuccino. It wasn’t very good.

    “So aside from climbing down onix burrows, what have you done since I met you?” she asked.

    “Well, I caught a magnemite. Though I didn’t intend to at the time,” he replied, “It was up on Route 32, in the western highlands. Er. Whatever this magnemite was doing up there in the first place, I’m not sure …” It was beginning to dawn on Eve that he was conscientiously trying not to look at her face. She casually raised a questing hand -

    - and discovered a splendid foam moustache clinging to her lip. There was a moment of silence as she hastily brushed it away with the back of her hand. Josh’s face twitched into a smirk.

    “Serves you right for drinking cappuccino,” he quipped dryly.

    Eve started to giggle. It really wasn’t funny, but right now she was prepared to laugh at anything. Josh started to giggle at her giggles, and soon they were both laughing freely, tension and nerves washed away by a foam moustache.

    “So what’s this magnemite like? Is it a good battler?” said Eve.

    “I have no idea. I’m not even sure what moves it knows.”

    “I know how to find out,” said Eve, pulling out her Pokédex. It was a slim model, brushed-silver in colour. She pushed a large blue button near the bottom and flipped it open.

    “Is that a Pokédex?” Josh asked, watching as Eve drew out the stylus.

    “Yep. The HANDY912i, as it happens. Hand me Magnemite’s Poké Ball? Thanks.” She fumbled for a moment and slid out a wafer-thin screen from the right hand side of the Pokédex. It flashed into life, glowing orange-red with a number of arc-like shapes drifting gently around the edges. As Eve held it over the Poké Ball, the shapes converged and spun purposefully.

    “The Poké Scanner retrieves data from the Poké Ball,” Eve explained, shuffling her chair round so Josh could see, “You can see Magnemite’s ID number, gender, its Ability, and look – its moves.”

    “Tackle, Supersonic, Thundershock and Sonic Boom,” Josh read out. “Oh, and the Magnet Pull Ability.”

    “Not a bad set of moves for the little guy. Here, let’s take a look at your bulbasaur!”

    As they sat and talked in the sunshine, Eve decided that she rather liked Josh. He was full of half-smiles and dry quips – and he listened, really listened. It was as if he was carefully taking notes as she spoke. She told him about her meowth and his sly habits. Halfway through, he finally noticed the twig stuck in his hair. Eve just kept chattering on, pretending not to notice him surreptitiously pull it out.

    “So next I’m going to catch a new pokémon, I think. How about you?”

    “Well … I was going to challenge the Gym but I think I’ll work on my strategy first. Magnemite’s never been in a battle. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure it really listens to me.”

    “Why not go challenge the Gym anyway? If you want to know whether Magnemite listens to you, there’s no better way than just battling!” said Eve, “Look, what’s the worst that can happen? You lose. You can always go back and try again, and either way you’ll have learned something about Magnemite.”

    Josh drummed his fingers on the table. Eve could almost see the cogs turning in his head as he thought it over.

    “Hmm. I can’t fault that logic,” he said eventually. He finished what was left of his Unovera. “Alright! I guess I’m off to challenge the Gym then.”

    “Yay!” Eve said, a little louder than she’d intended, “I do have one question then.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Can I join you?”

    *


    To a pokémon trainer, a Badge is not just a pin. The capital letter is important. It is proof of a trainer’s skill, emblematic of the long walk to the Pokémon League. In a way, earning a Badge is a highly tangible achievement. Earn eight Gym Badges, and you earn the right to compete in the League. That was the way it always was. A Badge doesn’t gain or lose value in the way a diploma might. An employer may argue over the value of a university education, but a Badge is always a Badge.

    There was an orchestral movement that summed this all up. Which symphony it was from, Eve could never remember, but she knew it by its popular name as the Pokémon League Anthem. Endlessly adapted and remixed, it played in Pokémon Gyms and in the Halls of Fame. Opening ceremonies of the regional tournaments were accompanied by the full magnificence of the Anthem. For Eve, it was musical shorthand for the pride and glory of success fairly earned. It was music to be inspired by.

    “Hmm. Hm-hm-HM-hm-hmm …” she’d been absent-mindedly humming the Anthem as she and Josh made their way back to the Gym. Josh was somewhat quieter – deep in thought, now and again he had murmured cryptically to himself. Probably strategising, Eve thought.

    No music played to greet challengers at the Azalea Town Gym. Inside the dome of the Gym, a busy silence reigned. Bugs rustled suspiciously in the undergrowth and peered down from treetop perches. On the battlefield Bugsy had gathered together his Gym Trainers, many of them leaning on bug nets in mimicry of their leader. Bugsy’s face cracked into a confident smile when he spotted Josh.

    “So challenger, you’ve come back! Nice to see you too, Miss Joy. Can I assume that you want to battle one of my Gym Trainers?” he said.

    “You can,” Josh said, “I’m here to challenge the Gym.”

    “Step up to the field, then. Benny, you’ll represent the Gym this time. What’s your name, challenger?”

    “Cook, Joshua Cook. Of Mulberry Town.”

    Benny took up position on the other side of the field. He was much younger than Evelina’s opponent had been, still very much a boy in his straw hat. The other Gym Trainers formed a ragged line behind him with a rattle of nets and bait boxes. Benny was casually tossing a Nest Ball up in the air and catching it.

    “Careful, Josh,” Eve said, “He may be young but he’s still a Gym Trainer.”

    Bugsy took the judge’s place at the edge of the field. Eve couldn’t see Josh’s expression as he selected a Poké Ball from his belt.

    Crack!

    The click of the clasp unsnapping rang in the expectant silence. Josh was rolling the reduced Poké Ball around his fingers.

    “This battle between the challenger, Joshua Cook of Mulberry Town and Benny of the Azalea Town Gym is about to commence! Each trainer will use one pokémon! A Gym Battle is at stake!” Bugsy called.

    Booip!

    Josh expanded his Poké Ball. Eve thought she saw him fumble at the button for a moment. Was that a moment of nervousness?

    “Begin!”

    Atlas:
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 4th April 2014 at 06:12 PM.

  11. #11
    .______. Elysia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Whoops, it appears I've missed quite a bit! I'll kind of group these by chapter so it makes more sense. Apologies in advance; I won't be able to give nearly as much in-depth feedback on all four chapters as I did for the Prologue.

    Chapter Two -- The battle with bulbasaur vs spinarak was quite entertaining in itself, although I've got sort of mixed feelings on Joshua's emotions/thoughts that you had running behind it: on one hand, it was pretty cool to see his mature, adult-ish thoughts compared to the reactions of the hotshot kid, but on the other, the whole "gawd I'm just too talented for this game it's so easy ;-;" felt a little rushed. Magnemite's battle and subsequent capture felt like it came in a little too quickly as well, but other than that, this chapter had some really nice action going for it, and the battles were entertaining.


    Chapter Three -- One thing I want to bring up is your capitalization. I'm not one to force my conventions on anyone else, but I was sort of wondering why you don't capitalize pokemon but you do capitalize Bulbasaur/Poke Ball/Pokemon Centre? I've seen good arguments for capitalizing one way or the other, but I was wondering what your logic was for only doing some and not all, haha.

    On another note, I like the dynamic that Eve has with the other Nurse Joys. I foresee a good deal of "this is what my family expects of me" vs "this is what I actually want" to get fleshed out in Eve's character in the future, and the thought of that makes me positively giddy--it's a promising intersection of very real, very human problems with the pokemon world, and it's not a sort of realism that we tend to see in fanfic that often. It's nice to see that Eve is carving her own path, and I really like how she was reflexively angry at the other Joy, because that reaction is so utterly human. I'm really liking where this development seems to be headed, and it's only chapter three, haha. On another note, super glad that Eve seems to be a recurring character rather than just a one-off gimmick. ^^

    Each of her pokémon was special in their own way … Ledyba, aggressive and confident. Meowth, old and cunning. If she was to catch another pokémon, it would be a pokémon that was special in some way.
    This paragraph, however, read a little awkwardly for me. I get that Eve might want to collect special pokemon (it would fit with the above character development/her wanting to stand out from the rest of her family), but the so-called unique traits that she mentions when describing her pokemon aren't very special at all. Aggressive and confident seem like pretty standard character traits, and the old and wily cat even more so. You seem to have created a universe in which the pokemon have fairly different personalities, so what exactly makes these two particularly unique? I'm sort of nit-picking here, haha, but it seems odd that she places such a high esteem on a trait that almost seems like a given--it'd be like saying "I want to catch a pokemon that has eyes," sort of.


    Chapter Four -- Lots of pretty writing, but I got the feeling that we didn't go very far. I liked the idea that magnemite didn't go leaping into Joshua's arms just because it got captured, but then we sort of just ran around in the thunderstorm and Joshua fell asleep. I'm not saying that you need to have bam bam bam action action action fighting character development bam all chapter every chapter, but this one sort of got bogged down in description a little. On that note, the prose was very pretty, haha.


    Chapter Five -- The mysterious magnemite is actually quite adorable, and I like it a lot.

    And enter obligatory jackass rival. Once again, the battle was nice, but I do hope that Tyler expresses some characteristics beyond colossal jerk--he seems a little flat and unnecessarily like an asshat as it is. I'm not saying that he needs a secret heart of gold or that all of his development needs to come in chapter five, but it'd be nice if he had something more going for him than just hating on Joshua. Otherwise, his (inevitable, and probably late) defeat at the hands of Joshua isn't going to feel very fulfilling, and he's going to come across as a fairly one-sided character. Your not-so-nice people still have to be people as well.


    Chapter Six -- Ah, so our heroes rejoin after a while. Still not sure if they're going to become the token travelling pair or not, but I'm pretty glad that they didn't start travelling from the moment they met; it's a lot more realistic that they parted ways back after their first battle. Also, the coffee jokes made me giggle. The conversation seemed to delve a little too far and too fast into the personal realms for a pair of people who've only talked twice (hi, my name is Eve, and I'm going to share my deep dark secrets behind why I don't want to be like my family as well as my own desire to be sort of questionably selfish even though we just met!), and this sort of conversation feels like it should come a little later, and probably not casually over coffee, but it was nice nonetheless.

    Anywho, sorry for the rushed feedback, but this was a rather enjoyable read. Looking forward to more! ^^

  12. #12
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Hurrah, feedback! Always nice to see. Ok, so, responses! I won't comment on everything lest it end up sounding like a list of excuses, but I appreciate and read it all so thank you

    Chapter Three -- One thing I want to bring up is your capitalization. I'm not one to force my conventions on anyone else, but I was sort of wondering why you don't capitalize pokemon but you do capitalize Bulbasaur/Poke Ball/Pokemon Centre? I've seen good arguments for capitalizing one way or the other, but I was wondering what your logic was for only doing some and not all, haha.
    Funny you should bring that up, it's something I've been thinking about of late. So far it's been a matter of force of habit - when I tidy it up, I intend keep the names of owned pokémon capitalised, unless they're nicknamed. Josh calls Bulbasaur Bulbasaur, hence it's a name. Attacks I'll keep capitalised to avoid any potential confusion - for example, if for some reason I want to refer to a sonic boom that isn't a pokémon attack.

    On another note, I like the dynamic that Eve has with the other Nurse Joys. I foresee a good deal of "this is what my family expects of me" vs "this is what I actually want" to get fleshed out in Eve's character in the future, and the thought of that makes me positively giddy--it's a promising intersection of very real, very human problems with the pokemon world, and it's not a sort of realism that we tend to see in fanfic that often.
    I get that Eve might want to collect special pokemon (it would fit with the above character development/her wanting to stand out from the rest of her family), but the so-called unique traits that she mentions when describing her pokemon aren't very special at all
    Aww, thank you! I was rather anxious to get the interactions between Eve and her family right. I'm glad to see that it rang true with someone! As for her opinion of pokémon, well. Each Chapter I try to write from perspective as consistently as possible (I have some edit to make to tidy up inconsistencies as it happens). The idea was supposed to be that Eve thinks they're special, even though Meowth isn't particularly special (Ledyba arguably is, since as a species they are usually timid). I guess it didn't translate as well as I'd like.

    The conversation seemed to delve a little too far and too fast into the personal realms for a pair of people who've only talked twice (hi, my name is Eve, and I'm going to share my deep dark secrets behind why I don't want to be like my family as well as my own desire to be sort of questionably selfish even though we just met!), and this sort of conversation feels like it should come a little later, and probably not casually over coffee, but it was nice nonetheless.
    Yeah ... I do take the point. All I can say is that I've had one or two conversations like that ... which is a lame excuse for an author to use. My best friend and I bonded over a conversation like that, so it was that sort of feeling I was trying to recapture.

    So glad that someone's enjoying my scrawlings!

  13. #13
    Moderator AceTrainer14's Avatar Forum Head
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Here from the Review Game. Chapter Six was nice; you have a good vocabulary, which is an extremely handy thing when writing, and you have decent descriptions that flow nicely in the story and do not feel forced in. From one chapter alone I was able to get a sense of both characters, which is a pretty good thing to achieve. At some times though, especially around the cafe sequence, it did feel a tad rushed like you did not want to spend long on the scene. Having little relaxing sequences liking sipping coffee and chatting can make for a nice break in a story, so for any future chapters I would recommend slowing things down a bit and spending more time building up these little backstories. Also, I am not sure if this is how you write usually, but the sentence layout threw me a bit whilst reading, which one sentence being separate from any other and then several being bunched together and ever changing. I would suggest either separating every sentence or leaving the whole story as block text, not wavering between the two. However, I think it is a nice story that I will try and read all of at some point (I read the first chapter to help get an idea of things), and it makes a nice break to have a story about ordinary trainers with a bit of romance instead of the usual dramatic journey fics, and having a character as a Joy is a nice touch as well.

    ^^^^ The GalacticVerse Bibliography (Thanks to Blazaking for Banner) ^^^^

  14. #14
    Wordsmith Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Version History:


    Chapter Seven – Better Judgements (Version 1.3)

    Joshua


    “Go, Venonat!”

    “Magnemite, go!”

    The hollow bangs of their Poké Balls opening echoed sharply in the still air. Josh's mind whirred as he analysed the situation. Venonat. Bug/Poison-type. Excellent type advantage-

    “Show them your Sleep Powder, Venonat!”

    Venonat shook itself violently, throwing out a billowing wave of glittering blue dust. Unconcerned, Magnemite hovered motionless as the cloud spread rapidly over the battlefield.

    “Sonic Boom!” Josh ordered. The shockwave sliced across the field with a deep crack, whirring through the Sleep Powder and washing over Venonat. As it cried out in pain the glittering cloud boiled and whirled angrily, sweeping back onto its maker. Caught between the Sonic Boom and its own Sleep Powder, Venonat stumbled about in confusion.

    “Venonat!” Benny cried, “Come on buddy, stay awake!”

    “Thundershock!”

    Magnemite almost casually threw an arching bolt of electricity at the drowsy Venonat, shocking it badly before it could work out what was happening. The smell of ozone cut through the strange sweet smell of burned Sleep Powder. Benny was beginning to look worried. He was starting this battle on the back foot, and Josh could see that he knew it.

    Josh watched Benny's Venonat pull itself together and chirp gamely in its echoey voice in spite of its injuries. His own pokémon drifted passively, little yellow sparks snapping lazily off the edges of its magnets. Looks like Magnemite knows it has the advantage, too.

    Benny's face screwed up into a frown of concentration. “Alright challenger, you got me good there!” he said, bouncing impatiently on the balls of his feet, “But you won't win that easy - Venonat, Psybeam!”

    Venonat bounded high into the air from a standing start. Bright kaleidoscopic rays burst from its eyes, zigzagging crazily through the air in a whirl of weird colour. Magnemite watched it from the corner of its eye.

    “Dodge it!” Josh yelled. Magnemite ignored him. The Psybeam struck home, haloing Magnemite in rippling colours. Venonat landed gracefully and immediately set off at a run. Magnemite tried to turn to watch Venonat as it darted in and out of its blind spots.

    “Psybeam, Psybeam! Again and again!”

    Venonat launched Psybeam after Psybeam, running in tight little rings around Magnemite as it did so. Every time the little magnet pokémon turned to face its aggressor another Psybeam would strike home from a different angle. Josh shouted commands to dodge over the fizzing psychic power – psychosomatic burn marks were starting to appear on Magnemite's steel body.

    Why won't you evade? Josh's hands involuntarily curled into fists. His pokémon was taking serious damage from the relentless barrage despite its natural resistance to psychic attacks. You're getting hurt because you're not listening to me!

    “Will you bloody concentrate?” he roared, “Stop watching and start dodging! Now!”

    Venonat spun and launched yet another Psybeam. The zigzagging ray fizzed towards Magnemite -

    - and missed as Magnemite ducked beneath the attack. It made a complicated spin on its axes to avoid a follow-up attack that scorched the limbs of an unlucky tree.

    “Alright Magnemite! Supersonic.”

    Though he was standing well behind the cone of effect Josh could still hear the electronic whine of Magnemite's Supersonic. Caught in the full blast, Venonat should have been beginning to feel dizzy, but it just stood there apparently unaffected. Benny was even smiling, doing nothing to counter the attack. He calmly adjusted his hat and waited for Magnemite to give up.

    “My buddy Venonat won't be hurt by a Supersonic. This is a Bug-type Gym, you know. Supersonic happens all the time here,” he said with a grin. “Now let's wrap things up – Sleep Powder, again!”

    “You don't learn quickly, do you? Sonic Boom.”

    Once again, the cloud of Sleep Powder burst apart from the force of the Sonic Boom passing through it.

    “Disable!” Benny called.

    “What?” Josh snapped. For the briefest moment both Venonat and Magnemite were haloed with a bluish glow. Josh was beginning to have a creeping suspicion that he'd just been trapped somehow.

    “Disable binds the last move used by the target, preventing its further use during the battle, Joshua.” Bugsy said from the sideline. His expression was hard to read.

    Josh growled under his breath. He'd been skilfully trapped into giving up his counter-strategy. So Sonic Boom is unusable. Fine. I still have this move …

    “Finish this. Thundershock.” he snapped.

    Venonat tried to evade just a little too late. Magnemite zapped it thoroughly where it stood. When it was over, sparks were crawling across Venonat's fur, and it was twitching violently.

    “Venonat! Can you still go on, buddy?” Benny cried.

    “Recall your pokémon, Benny,” said Bugsy, “This battle is over. Victory goes to the challenger.”

    From somewhere behind him Josh heard Eve clap her hands in delight. She rushed forward to clap him on the shoulder. “Heyyy!” she said, smiling at him sunnily, “First battle with Magnemite and you win, not bad! Oh ...”

    Her smile faded. She'd seen the look on the Gym Leader's face.

    “You won that battle, Joshua, but you didn't earn it,” he said bluntly, “You would have lost were it not for type-advantage. I will accept your challenge because you won,” Bugsy paused for a moment, “However, I can't be beaten on type-advantage alone. I suggest you go and bond with your pokémon, and don't come back until you and your magnemite understand each other better.”

    Josh's jaw clenched. Didn't earn his victory? After figuring out a powder counter-attack in the time it took to walk to the Gym? Well if Bugsy thought that he, Joshua Cook, was going to stand and be scolded like that by a man wearing a boy scout's uniform, then -

    - Magnemite drifted a little closer. It was gazing vacantly at nothing from under its eyelid. Its steel body looked dull, blemished with brown burns from Psybeam impacts. Despite the fact that it had almost nothing to express itself with, Magnemite looked tired.

    Without type-advantage, I would have lost. The treacherous little thought put the truth to the matter. Josh knew nothing about Magnemite. He didn't understand its moods, its habits, its limitations … Josh could tell at a glance what kind of mood Bulbasaur was in. When Bulbasaur was feeling tired or ill or just fed-up, Josh knew, every time. What's more, he knew what to do about it. Watching Magnemite's vacant gaze, Josh realised that he hadn't the slightest idea how to treat an injured Magnemite – a living thing in his care.

    Josh knew nothing about Magnemite. And as long as he didn't understand his pokémon, he would not be ready to battle for a Gym Badge.

    “Return, Magnemite,” he commanded. With a stiff bow to the Gym Leader, Josh strode swiftly from the battlefield. He didn't stop until he was through the doors and out into the morning sun.

    “Hey! Wait up a sec,” Eve called, “That was a tough battle, huh? Magnemite listened to you in the end though, and you've won yourself a Gym battle!”

    Josh stood and stared at nothing, steadfastly refusing to look at her. For some reason he couldn't quite understand, he resented the Gym Leader's scolding all the more for having been witnessed by Eve.

    “... are you ok?” she asked. Still not looking at her, Josh took a deep breath before answering.

    “I don't like being talked down to,” he said shortly.

    “Bugsy was a little harsh. Having a type-advantage isn't a bad thing, and anyway you were at a disadvantage with a new pokémon too -”

    “Eve,” Josh cut in, “He was right. I'm not ready yet.”

    Magnemite's Poké Ball shone in the sun. For a brief moment, it almost looked like it had in the moonlight back on Route 32.

    “You were right, too. I've learned something about Magnemite. Just not enough,” he said.

    “So what are you going to do now?” Eve asked carefully.

    “First I'm going to the Pokémon Centre,” Josh said, snapping the Poké Ball back onto his belt, “Then I am going to learn everything I can about Magnemite.”

    Josh looked at Eve for the first time since leaving the Gym. She was fiddling with her jacket zip nervously. Feeling a little guilty, Josh forced a smile.

    “And then … I am going to train.”

    *


    The common room of the Pokémon Centre was bigger and busier than any Pokémon Centre that Josh had yet seen. Not one, but three queues of trainers were lined up in front of the reception desk, which was attended by the Centre nurse and her two teenage daughters. Off to the right, trainers were taking the escalator from the bedrooms on the first floor or heading to the Centre canteen. Over to the left, in the open-plan lounge, a widescreen television showed coverage of recent battles from the Goldenrod City Gym. A few trainers were idly watching while they waited for their pokémon to finish treatment.

    Josh drummed his fingers on the desktop, the sound drowned out by the general background buzz of the common room. Eve had sloped off a little earlier, muttering something about needing to stock up on medicines. Since neither of them intended to challenge Bugsy just yet, they'd decided to stay at the Pokémon Centre while he trained and Eve looked for another pokémon to catch.

    “Ok, Joshua,” the young Joy said as she handed his trainer's licence back, “Your magnemite's all checked in now. We'll keep you updated on its progress on the bulletin board.”

    Josh glanced up at the electronic bulletin board that dominated the back wall of the common room. The huge board displayed the status of all the pokémon undergoing treatment at the Centre. Magnemite's icon flashed up next to Bulbasaur's near the bottom right of the screen, marked with the status 'At Rest'.

    “Is there anything else I can help you with?” Joy asked.

    “Oh. Yes, actually! I have something belonging to a Pokémon Ranger who patrols Union Cave, I think. Could I leave it here?”

    “Ohhh, you're that Joshua! Here, this letter was left here for you this morning,” Joy said, handing him a folded-over sheet of notepaper. Josh unfolded the letter, noticing the Poké Ball-and-laurel logo in the corner:

    Joshua,

    If you are reading this note, then I was correct in my estimation of you. I hope you have learned a little lesson about the mountains. You were lucky that Onix found you when he did. As for the equipment that you have been so honest as to try to return, please keep the sleeping bag as a gift. It is of old Ranger issue and was destined to be sold on as surplus, but there is plenty of wear left in it, more than enough for your purposes.

    Good luck!

    Area Captain David Sandoval


    Josh thanked the teenage Joy, who was shamelessly trying to read the letter upside-down. As he made his way over to an empty space in the lounge, he realised that he hadn't actually made any plans to hang out with Eve. After leaving the Gym, when they had exchanged phone numbers, it hadn't occurred to Josh to think twice about it.

    Grumbling to himself, Josh turned up the volume of the Pokégear velcroed to his jacket sleeve. It was one of the heavy wristwatch-style Pokégears – big, blunt and robust. Already it had been scuffed, soaked and sat on by Bulbasaur yet it showed no sign of giving in. Though it was inelegant and unfashionable, Josh privately approved of the way his boot had completely failed to dent the fascia after he'd stomped on it.

    He sighed and tried to tune out the chatter of the common room. Newspapers were scattered over the lounge, mostly Johto regional papers with the odd local publication. Josh rummaged around until he found what he hoped was there – a single spurned copy of the Punch Times. He smirked at the political cartoon on the front page and started to work his way through the sniggery articles. Halfway through an editorial on the state of the economy, his Pokégear started to ring. That'll be Evelina, he thought, ripping it off his wrist.

    “Hullo?” he said.

    “Hello Joshua,” a stern voice answered.

    “Oh. Hi Dad.”

    “Your mother's been trying to call you. Where are you?”

    “I've been out of reception range, Dad! I'm in Azalea Town, I only got here this morning.”

    “Azalea Town,” his father paused for an uncomfortably long moment, “Have you challenged the Gym Leader yet?”

    “I've got to do some training first, the Gym Leader would beat me as it stands -”

    “How do you know?” his dad cut in, “Just go for it. You're a smart boy. Just go for it, and challenge the Leader.”

    “Dad … it's not as simple as that. The trainer battle was hard enough. I'm not going to let my pokémon get hurt because I'm not ready,” he said. Josh heard his dad sigh heavily, and he suppressed one of his own. He knew what was coming next.

    “Josh, Josh, Josh … you've got eight Badges, eight battles ahead of you. Eight Gym battles that are going to be tough. You've got to learn to just go for it.”

    So my judgement is wrong as usual, he thought bitterly. Will he never accept that sometimes I might know better than him? Josh didn't trust himself to say anything. The old argument was just one wrong comment away.

    “So what have you done?” Dad said.

    “I caught a magnemite,” Josh said hopefully, “Up on the highlands on Route 32.”

    “Did you? Good. Magnemite aren't easy to handle.”

    “Yeah. Yeah, it's a tricky little screwball.”

    “You'll have to tell me how you caught it. I've got to get back to work now, though. Your mother's going to call you this evening, so watch your phone!”

    “Yeah. I'm staying in the Pokémon Centre tonight. I'll talk to you later Dad.”

    Josh strapped the Pokégear back onto his jacket sleeve, picking at bits of fluff in the velcro. That was the problem with talking to his dad, right there. He always thought he knew better, about everything. The man managed to find something wrong with every choice he made for himself, and when Josh did things his own way anyway – well, that's when they'd start shouting at each other.

    Ding, ding, ding-ding-ding! Trainers looked up at the bulletin board as the Centre's PA system chimed out. Someone's pokémon were healed.

    “Joshua Cook, your bulbasaur is fully healed.”

    Josh tossed the newspaper aside. There was work to do.

    *


    There was a library on the eastern side of the building, crammed into a single room adjacent to the canteen. Most Pokémon Centres had one – licensed trainers could borrow books for free if they returned them to the same Pokémon Centre, or pay a small fee to return them to any Centre in the region. At this time of the day there weren't many trainers browsing the bookshelves. The librarian peered at Josh from behind the counter, as if looking for a book was highly suspicious behaviour.

    Josh took a deep breath. To him, libraries smelled of dry words and crackly pages of knowledge quietly fossilising between dust jackets until someone curious needed to know something … somewhere in this library he was sure there was a book that could tell him what he needed to know about is little screwball. In its own way, it would be the key to winning his first Gym Badge.

    Josh polished his glasses, and started to train.
    Last edited by Beth Pavell; 31st March 2014 at 11:43 AM.

  15. #15
    .______. Elysia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Long Walk

    Wow, sorry for getting to this so late *flies away*

    Perhaps it's my screen resolution (which has actually been proven to reduce readability by a ton), but the way you do dialogue confused me a little. What stuck out most was here:
    “Venonat!” Benny cried, “Come on buddy, stay awake!”
    “Thundershock!”
    Conventional fanfiction has it like:
    “Venonat!” Benny cried, “Come on buddy, stay awake!”

    “Thundershock!”
    To emphasize the change of speakers; because I was reading mobile the first time, the two sentences seemed related and I kind of read it as "venonat, blah blah blah, Thundershock!" Which, uh, yeah.
    You do this [blocking your non-continuous dialogue together] consistently, which leads me to believe that you have strong reasoning behind doing so; if that's your particular style, then you should probably just stick with it. Block o' text got a bit confusing to read, though.
    ^totally minor

    As a whole, though, this was a nice chapter. I liked that things are suddenly getting rougher for Joshua, and it's become more than "older trainer is awesomer than some younger trainers." What I particularly enjoyed, however, was how you handled magnemite's actions--it wasn't so much of blaming the magnemite for sucking oh god how dare he not listen to Joshua how evillz!, but more that Joshua was approaching the battle wrong, which I don't see often in fanfic.

    Honestly, though, it was quite refreshing to see Joshua blame the problem on himself rather than his pokemon, and search for a way to improve himself and his pokemon, blah blah blah, power of heart, and so forth. Also, I'm really starting to enjoy the family dramas that you're setting up here. The interactions between Josh and his father/Eve and her family give a more personal feel--like we're working with real characters who have lives beyond training and battling, which we don't see often (again).

    Sometimes, your descriptions were kind of weird:
    Magnemite's Poké Ball shone in the sun. For a brief moment, it almost looked like moonlight.
    The problem probably comes from the use of 'it,' but, for the life of me, I cannot understand what this sentence means. Your prose is normally pretty solid, but sometimes it felt like you were stretching things a little too far?


    Nitpick, but
    Josh shouted commands to dodge over the fizzing psychic power – psychosomatic burn marks were starting to appear on Magnemite's steel body.
    I am, uh, ninety-five percent certain that you don't use the word "psychosomatic" that way. ._.

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