NaRe Day 6 (11)

I did Zoroark Games months ago and finally got around to reviewing them.


Hello from the ides of January, at last!

I…………….hadn’t played Sword, which made the zoroarking extra delightful to watch go down! When I was originally clawing around for an idea, some of the appeal of braid-doggo fic was then I could drop some mention of having not played the games and perhaps throw everyone off, but then I didn’t write it, so I didn’t bring it up…

[There was a meowth there. Pepo stopped stock still, tail flicking. “Danger!” he yelled. “Danger danger danger!”]

God, I love squirrels so much. I love that he’s perfectly observant, but pretty much has exactly two things he cares about and all that mental energy is just on one or the other at a moment. (I wish so much greedent looked cuter and less in line with diggersby.)

[“Seat of the false king.” In the firelight the boltund’s teeth looked bloody. “You will take him word that I know of his plan. Tell him I am coming for him. I will have the head of the one who raised the dragon’s egg!”]

I also love and support “Sissy”. She can have a little murder. And then a lot more. And someone to clean her hair afterwards.

First Warning

It’s the ides of January and here I am!

[Before leaving with them, Gray had mentioned something about a stone tablet to awaken an ancient pokemon, but that had to be a cover story to hide from the real mission.  The stories of the three Legendary Titans sealed away in ancient tombs across Hoenn was just a fairy tale, though Sidney wasn’t going to be the one to tell the Boss otherwise if that was really what he was after. ]

I like this little glimpse into life as the grunt of secret apocalypse cult. You don’t know what’s going on, you don’t want to get in trouble by asking, you just assume no one giving your orders is actually crazy and it’s probably just regular crime…

And I really like the dynamic between Sidney and the pokemon – he so clearly likes the poochyena, even if all it’s doing is jumping around in puddles, and the bit working with the marill really did feel halfway between your general working together after a disaster and trying to help wild animals who’d normally avoid you.

[Sidney’s eyebrows shot up. “You were tryin’ to warn those two marill about the landslide, weren’t you? Just like you warned me and Poochyena.”]

This feels somewhat unearned when it’s just a flicker of white and some howling that could’ve been just for the marill’s sake. Having the absol show up briefly but clearly visible at the start so he knows it meant to be seen seems like it’d make more sense.

And then after all the niceness with the pokemon, he gets back to the other humans and shows just why he was so anxious about being blamed for whatever went wrong, because he is. It even addresses the question of why he didn’t use his poochyena as the excuse from the start when you have even Gray, who’s somewhat sympathetic to him, considers that a bad choice.


The ides of January have arrived and so have I!

The titular bad egg seemed an odd inclusion when it didn’t seem to be messing up the PC or his team, and I do think it’s a missed opportunity to not have it ruin the one thing he’s sort of accomplishing by making actually retrieving pokemon from the boxes into a landmine, but I liked the fact by the end of the quest it’s grown so large it’s messing up his vision because it’s clipped through him.

[Well, it wasn’t that hard. You woke up one day with 493 masterballs in your bag, and you learned the hard way when you wandered into the grass and were accosted by God that the number corresponded to national pokédex numbers. Throw the masterballs away or destroy them until you have a number of them equal to whatever pokédex number you want, and you’ll find that pokémon in the wild without fail. Strange and awfully convenient magic, and you’re not sure why it picked you of all people, but in principle it couldn’t have been easier to do.]

So knowing code we can assume this resets, but I would’ve liked it if you explained when that reset triggered. Does it happen every time he re-opens his bag he’s back to 493? Does it follow no pattern and sometimes he’s opening his bag again and again to see if it’s back up? Does it roll over if he throws away all of them?

[You feel like a god sometimes, not because you’re all-powerful but because the divine and the impossible have become so mind-numbingly uninteresting to you. You’ve met the gods, seen them upside-down, as babies, in impossible colorations. You’ve thrown them against each other in nonsensical matches that could not have occurred in history just to satisfy your tepid curiosity about who would prevail. ]

This also seems a bit odd, because it is something you might realistically do if you were actually in the game, but part of the creeping and devouring boredom of this kind of play is how you can’t even really do that, and it’s just about collecting these pokemon that are so overpowered there’s no one else in the game you can fight. Unless he’s been summoning them wild to fight, which should probably be specified because that’s just another tiny step more ridiculous. (And also probably even more glitchy.)

[Rowan clears his throat, jerking you from your reverie. “Ah, interesting—I notice that your dex is missing an entry here.”

“What?” You snatch the dex from him and stare at it.

“Luvdisc,” he says. He’s right. There’s a blank row there, staring at you: luvdisc. Encountered, but never caught.

Luvdisc? You cannot be serious. What the fuck is a luvdisc?]

Which is also what makes this so hilariously perfect – after all, there are exactly two memorable things about luvdisc, and they both require you to be actually playing the game. You can try to use the damn thing, and it’s a terrible pokemon and you’ll end up remembering that. Or you can try hunting it for the heart scales…but you don’t need those when you can just make any pokemon with any trait you want appear.


It’s the ides of January and my must finally no really for real do the reviews time! And with a little help from my massive procrastination, your fic on FFN is also perfectly placed for this, so that worked out.

So! Delightful, delightful inevitability throughout this, but it’s so much more than even that, because it really does feel like yeah, you did fail to notice the red flags up to this point, yeah, there was so much more to this than just one betrayal and one counter-betrayal, and it rewards scrolling back up as things get recontextualized, and then that becomes like in the opening – all of these things build up, and you can jump around and see them, and they all lead to what’s inevitable because it’s what happens.

[Three rooms later, you hit a monster house. You can sense it the moment you step inside: behind you, something is severed, disjointed. Ahead, there are a dozen gleaming eyes. You’re hit, as always, with the illusion of equilibrium. Maybe if you stayed motionless, so would they. Maybe it could go on like that forever.

You’ve never waited long enough to find out, and you don’t this time, either. Your water pulse shoots through the darkness. Everything spills into motion. ]

Also, it’s fun how PMD gives that space to reference game mechanics where instead of it feeling like a clunky Easter egg it’s just spooky because this is indeed a space where things don’t work right.

The Old Lady and the Teapot

I arrive at the ides of January to review at last!

I absolutely thought this was Pen, and my only suspicion was that I thought the zoroark would be sure to do the . . . and there were no other . . . around.

I really liked all the details of the world, although I felt it’s primarily a regular ghost story and could’ve used more incidental pokemon – even just that while her magical chagama was delighting kids and adults, all the pokemon gave the whole area a wide berth.

[She set down her mat and pried the piece loose from where it had embedded itself in the wood. When she pulled the piece free, her eyes went wide. The sharp end was stained a dark red color, and it wasn’t from any of her glazes.

Puzzled, she turned to examine the pile of broken ceramic pieces she’d swept up that morning. Nothing stood out in the bin, but as she rose, sure enough, she spotted another rogue piece in the corner of her studio. When she picked it up, it was also splattered with red. Blood.

Fuku’s brows knit together. Neither piece was close enough to have been part of the fall, and there weren’t any other pieces near them either—especially not the one in the door frame. It was lodged too deeply to have flown there from a piece of breaking pottery alone. It was almost as if it was thrown . . .

But, there was no other blood and no other damage, so Old Lady Fuku discarded the pieces in the bin with the rest and picked up her mat and headed out the door. All that mattered was that she was unharmed, and the thieves were gone. Who was she to question her good fortune?]

The one thing I didn’t get is why she doesn’t seem to know what’s happened this time. Here, she seems genuinely unaware that her pet ghost drove them off or at most that she’s trying to hide the evidence from everyone including herself when she cleans it up. At that point, especially in combination with her new teapot miraculously moving, it seems like she just accepts all the good luck that comes her way but never connects it to any particular cause. But at the end she does know about why Brubaker’s dead and even claims ownership over what must’ve happened a number of times before as well by saying she makes her own luck, and it’s strange she’s fine with her pokemon murdering a guy for being an enormous asshole but seems to not want to believe that some thieves got nicked by a shard of pottery.

The Gardevoir’s Wish

This is a surprisingly complicated one, and although it’s a setup where of course it’s going to go badly somehow, I was surprised by the twists and turns of just how it did, and also that it also managed to get into the question of just how this all works and what truly is a pure wish. Also, I really liked seeing a male gardevoir for once. But, a bit too zany for me overall.

motivating objects

This is extremely clever – not just that Bianca is questioning what she’d be ranked under her own test, but that the very dilemma she’s in is about if she grabs for flawed recognition now over doing it better late, and then on top of this, [That’s all she has to do, right? Demonstrate that she’s capable enough of forward thinking that she can stomach a punishment in the short-term to receive what everyone else agrees is a greater reward. Call her father.] cuts into the issue of if it’s even about being smart enough to “delay gratification” or if it’s a matter of knowing the right choice better than the people who are doing the assessment of what they think the right choice is, which lines up with the later analysis of the marshmallow test as instead showing the kids as being good at evaluating the likelihood of actually getting a reward. And it’s so fitting when the marshmallow test was itself totally misused and found to be just another way of blaming kids like Bianca for it being their own personality that caused them to do badly. I do wish there’d been a bit more about other tests, though – the mirror test is a pretty big one in declaring there’s one human-sensible way to interact with it, and you either do that or you don’t know what mirrors are, and it’d make sense to bring it up as a known and ongoing problem when saying there could be similar issues in Bianca’s own test.

The problem though, is I was never clear on what the stakes were. Emotionally this works for Bianca’s anxiety and uncertainty and the back-and-forth of her situation and what she should do, and I particularly liked the Bianca/Dr. Harlacher as a way to both express who she wanted to be but also who she wasn’t, but it’s really hard to connect all that to what was actually going on.

Is [would lose the legal ability to consent as a result] meaning they will lose out on being included in the new thing, or they will lose what current legal requirements there are in return for other pokemon getting the improved version Bianca outlines as [Trainers will have to provide proof of informed consent upon registering captures of sapient pokémon species. Sapient species will also be permitted to file for release at any time, without input from their trainer. ]

If pokemon currently have no rights, then the issue at hand is if research that grants some of them rights now is bad because it might make it harder for the other ones to get them as well later. That’s thematically fitting with the marhsmallow now/two later promise. But what’s the right answer there is pretty complicated – how long would it take to try to get everyone rights at the same time, and would that delay cause more harm to the ones who could’ve had them now than the alternative, and would this even be that big of a delay on the rights for the rest or would normalizing the idea of pokemon having rights at all actually make people more willing to revise things later to grant it to the rest? Forward progress is certainly not a definite thing, so this might be one of those situations where they’re about to write laws that are not going to get updated in anyone’s lifetime, but in that case I think it needs to be explicit that this isn’t an ongoing process but a definitely choice between having Bianca’s flawed research entrenched into scientific canon like Freud or delaying it a couple years but at least not having something wrong build in.

If pokemon currently have some very minor rights because people weren’t sure, and this is going to give those who pass a big step up at the cost of those who fail being stripped of what they have, then that’s a much more straightforwardly worrying proposition. That feels more in line with Bianca and Jay’s concerns about the stakes and temptations, and also the subtext of Bianca feeling she could be judged inferior as well and have her own accomplishments and personhood stripped away, but doesn’t line up with the fact both of them only talk about this in terms of rights gained.


[Ayla would have to lead the charge. “Is this your forest?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Is mean is this your forest? Does it belong to you?”

“It belongs to you.”]

oooooooh now I get it, it actually is Ayla’s forest! She just doesn’t realize it because she thinks she’s still in the regular forest.

[The woman took a deep drink of the cocoa. By this point Ayla had resigned herself that she wasn’t going to get a name, or even a species. Ghost, illusionist, psychic, any pokémon far enough out on the power spectrum that its powers strayed towards the seriously weird. ]

Anyway, I really like the particular balance in this, and the broader fic.

Ayla’s not fearless in the face of some truly eldritch terror, just something weird and strong that probably could cause her some trouble, and which is evidently different enough from her that they felt they should wear a disguise to interact. But it’s also not on the level of “ugh, another fairy, can’t take two steps without one coming over pretending to be a regular person” jadedness either – she’s interested, and she’s very good at picking up the details like that the woman isn’t used to sitting or hands, but there’s a gentle wonder to it, and accepting how part of the weirdness is there might not be an understandable answer rather than that she has to get to the bottom of it. Mystery Woman is here because she wants to know something about Ayla, and you can feel in the choppy conversation and how Ayla has to repeatedly bring up the idea of reciprocating answers that she doesn’t seem to get that Ayla is curious back and come to the idea of exchanging information. She ends up really feeling like someone who’s a lot less social than humans and possibly where what social needs she does have are met in subtly different ways – even Ayla who’s here away from humans clearly does view Baryan as a real companion with how she’s so aware of him throughout, and while she can agree about it feeling crowded, seems like she’s this alone as a compromise that it’s not a lifestyle most others are interested in or one that makes enough money to support multiple trainers, while a psychic pokemon that dips in and out of people’s heads probably can feel “crowded” much more easily being around others.


This is cute and zippy, but does feel a little thin descriptively. The newspaper articles were well fleshed out, but while the flow of the conversation makes sense as a chat-based fic where someone probably would just be like ARON OMG, look at this! picofaron.jpg. and I felt it expressed their feelings and personalities well, it’d have been nice to have her maybe elaborate on what she saw a little, like if she just got a glimpse and they hide once they realized she was there, or if they’re happily chewing away in the open and it really is just that no one’s been out there in a while that’s the only reason they weren’t noticed – that one feels like it fits well for the theme of hopelessness vs there being a way out if you have the energy to look for it. Also, I was a little surprised it seems the surprise DEP appearance was because they actually didn’t contact anyone in advance – you say near the start that her dad wouldn’t open bank letters, and then that she hasn’t actually been reading the bank letters, and it seems that’d be a good lead up for a final letter/email where they send her something based on Mari’s email that they’ll be showing up for a survey but she’s stopped looking at her mail.

I’m also not too clear on just how Mari pulled it off – it seems like she sent her original email without knowing about the keywords, then got in touch with her insider, then she used this information ??? did she redo the email with those keywords, or did she get her contact to flag it somehow anyway?

Hook, Line, and Sinker

[One day he could fit me into his jaw, but for now”—she ran her finger down his chin and Jojo responded with an excited burst of laser-like noises—“he sounds like this.” ]

The beeps!

[Jojo slithered off to charm some tourists and, probably, to beg them for food.

“Do not feed the baby ‘gatr!” Madison shouted after him.

But baby :( his big eyes! he just wants a snack!

[It had been stowed among the roots of a cypress along with a smattering of other treasures that Madison easily identified as a bibarel hoard.]

And I like this detail of how she gets Jojo -the egg wasn’t abandoned, or even washed away and not searched well enough for, but ran off with by someone else, and combined with the lasergun baby calls all set up that the feraligatr care for their young.

[ Last spring, she’d had a go at re-painting it, but had given up halfway through. The half coat of lavender paint made the building look like someone who’d started to get dressed and then thought better of it. ]

And this is such a good little bit of the whole problem – she could’ve kept painting, sure. But it’s hard, and it’s harder without anyone else helping you or even just cheering you on, and it also goes a long way to explain what probably went wrong for her at school.

(And the bare minimum feel continues with her uncle frying sausage as supper – arguably more effort than a bowl of cereal, but then again, cereal requires milk implies regular grocery shopping in a way freezable sausage doesn’t.)

[A bronzong trailed the man. Madison could tell just by looking that it was one of the newer, man-made ones. It was sleeker than the old kind, constructed from a kind of silver-white plastic and embellished with blood red garnishes. When it rotated in the air, Madison caught a glimpse of the Nelon Dusk logo on its back. She could imagine the accompanying advertisement: bronzong for the modern age, stream-lined and efficient. And the omnipresent tagline “Humanity first.”]

Were the original ones not man-made? I guess it doesn’t say they definitely were, but… Maybe “factory-made”? That’d be something they definitely couldn’t have been made by thousands of years ago.

[My uncle’s into them. Says that one day we won’t even need whole suits, protects will just be sewn into your ordinary jeans and a t-shirt. But that’s a long way off.”]

So this is interesting as a worldbuilding thing, but also kind of sad in that so many of the people supporting this kind of thing aren’t really the ones who’d likely ever have access to it.

[Madison shrugged. She held on to her own oar, just in case. The bronzong began to shimmer with translucent blue light. The canoe jerked forward, almost ramming into a patch of cypress roots. Before Madison could course-correct with her oar, the boat swerved back on course, its motion smoother and more steady. They picked up speed. ]

Lol. It’s funny that recent months have made this feel almost overly positive about Elon and his tech’s driving ability.

[“Uh,” she said, “can I get your autograph?”

Some idiot on the internet would pay a boatload for it. ]

And this is just funny.

[You dropped out of high school and since that time you have failed at everything you tried. ]

This strikes me as a tad too pointed at her own insecurity – would he really have checked up on her failures? Would they really matter when he can probably sign her death warrant between dropping out and the fact she’s a lowly tour guide now?

[She opened her eyes. The water lay still, as innocent as if it had never been disturbed. The great ‘gatr was gone, and so was Jojo.

Tomorrow, she’d have to face this. But tomorrow was a few hours off. For now it was tonight, and she was still alive.

Madison began to laugh and kept laughing until tears ran down her face. I ’m still alive.]

I think my only issue with the ending is that it leaves the question of if she’s going to be able to do anything about the murder attempt up in the air. From a murder mystery POV, Nelon fucked up hard here in leaving his victim alive, but it’s not certain if she has anything more than the partial payment and her continued survival in the face of someone much more powerful than she is, and her entirely negative framing of tomorrow makes it seem like that might’ve been all she got.

Anyway, on to the new version!

The expanded and edited version, now!

[Last spring, she’d had a go at re-painting it, but had given up halfway through. The incomplete coat of lavender paint made the building look eternally startled, like someone caught half-dressed.]

This seems like it’s probably a more accurate description of what it looks like while the other one about giving up on dressing was maybe leaning hard on projection, but it seems like an overly energetic description for something about giving up trying to improve a slowly rotting place.

[“Cammy . . .”]

And now you have ellipses!

Camelia makes for a good addition – like, obviously a reporter friend is going to be helpful for the more solid ending, but also her serving as both the school success and the person theoretically following her dream and showing there’s more to it than just your life sucks because you fell short of those.

[With a snort, Madison started to count the hundreds. Her disbelief mounted with each flick. Not bothering to be subtle about it, she checked the security ribbon, then the color-change ink, and finally held one of the hundreds up to the light. The pink thread glowed under the UV light, exactly the way it should.]

I like this elaboration too – both because she should be pretty suspicious, and because she’s got a job handling bills so she’d have learned how to do it, so why not check if she knows?

[When Madison pushed the canoe into the river, Jojo surfaced, his eyes glinting. He was always trying to drag Madison on evening boat rides.]

And how Jojo is a little more active/present! He worked fine originally, but he feels a lot more engaged in everything here.

[Who are you, after all? A swamp tour-guide, a nobody. You have no parents, no siblings, no significant other. You dropped out of high school; you have never aspired to be more than what you are. ]

Yup, that sounds like a much cleaner dismissal. Dropping out of high school is only okay if you prove it was the right decision by founding a tech giant immediately.

[And was he wrong? There was only Cammy, and Cammy would be better off without her.]

While I get some of it’s her own fondness for beating herself up, this seems a little excessive when the worst we’ve seen is her failing to give a pep talk. Maybe she’s really thrown by Camelia thinking she hasn’t done badly, and blaming herself for making failure look good, but even then I’d think it’d be more like “well, maybe with me dead Camelia will be newly motivated to leave this place”.

[“What’re you carving, Uncle?” she said, pulling up a stool next to him.

He held it out, almost shyly. “That baby ‘gatr of yours. Hatching.”]

This bit feels a bit rushed as reconciliation – I mean, I assume he’d whittling because he stayed up because he’s worried, and perhaps that just hasn’t been happening and it’s this first time she’s stayed out making him anxious making him restart something he used to do, but it sounds like he stopped entirely for quite a long time and it’s weird it just started again in time for this moment, and the idea he’d been making these for her before doesn’t seem too in line with the [Madison stared hard at him. Go on. Ask me what my ‘thing’ is. Try taking an interest for once in your miserable life.] earlier, even if it’s possible someone might think that when wasn’t literally true but a matter of him having checked out more recently and her just being hurt enough by it to feel that way. Maybe if he’s still been doing whittling but hasn’t been showing it to her, and she hasn’t been asking before this because she’s hurt he’s ignoring her?

Definitely a more complete ending, although I think I’d prefer if it still had the original ending too – her breaking down in hysterical laughter felt a lot stronger than her just being shut down observing it, and make for her getting back in the canoe and having to deal with the logistics of getting back home another change rather than her mental state seeming to go smoothly here from realizing she’s not dead to heading home, as well as the sobbing relief contrasting with the more simmering euphoria in how she describes the glades later.

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