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Old August 20th, 2017 (9:42 AM). Edited 4 Weeks Ago by Bardothren.
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Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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Remember when I said I was going to be a super idiot and start a third story? Well, here it is. I have no plans on stopping any of my current projects, I'm just seeing where this one goes. Let me know what you think, if you don't mind.

As far as what to expect out of this story, I don't know if it's going to warrant that M rating. It'll be more focused on the emotional struggle of someone who made a mistake and is breaking under the consequences.

EDIT: 9/4/17 - made some edits to make the story better, such as deleting extraneous words and polishing up Chris' dialogue. It still came off as too eager towards the end. I'll be re-reading everything I've written as I'm going and making these edits. It's amazing what you catch after waiting a few weeks and giving it a good read.

EDIT: 1/28/18 - a few small edits, nothing too major.


Beaten Beater

By Bardothren

Chapter One: Lady

When an envelope clattered through the mail slot in the cracked wooden door, Darren Smith rose from his computer, turned off his microphone, and set a pair of headphones on his flimsy wooden desk. He expected an energy bill, but his hands froze when he saw the ILA emblem, a golden pokeball blazing with the eternal flame. He glanced at the date on the computer and snapped the envelope open. A card tumbled onto his keyboard, landing face down.

He reached for the glossy paper inside, pried it open, and glanced at the letter. The words “two full years have passed,” and “probation license” slid across his brain. He crumpled it and tossed it at the garbage can. It bounced off of a discarded cardboard box and landed on the gritty hardwood floor.

Then Darren picked up the card. His fingers fumbled the slick plastic, and with a snarl, he scooped it up with both hands. On the back, above the usual notices and regulations were three new bullet points. No Tier III Pokémon, subject to termination at any time without warning, infractions doubled.

On the other side, the words “Probation License” were written in big red letters at the bottom, beneath his photo, address, and basic information. The outer edge was circled by three red bands. Six slots, for his Pokémon roster, remained empty. They had used his old photo, one where he wore a black leather jacket, a fedora, and a huge grin. They also used the old address, the one in Goldenrod City. Darren frowned glumly at the reminder of his past self, staring up at him with warm, brown eyes, and with a flick of his fingers, he tossed it behind him. It clattered against the shades, which were drawn down so far they only let in a bleak, hazy light. With a soft plop, the card fell into a pile of dirty laundry.

Darren returned to his computer, but five minutes later, his cell phone rang. Frowning at the sudden timing, Darren looked at the caller I.D. It came from the one contact on his list, Alex Baywater. Darren’s first impulse was to press the red ‘Ignore Call’ button, but the lawyer had the tendency to teleport into his living room when ignored, so he touched the green button instead.

“Hello Darren, how’s my favorite client doing?”

“I wouldn’t know, Mr. Baywater,” Darren mechanically replied. “I’m not Silph Co.”

“Didn’t know you could still make jokes,” the lawyer said with a forced chuckle. “And please, call me Alex. This isn’t the courtroom. Anyways, did you get your new license?”

Darren took a deep breath and closed his laptop. The room turned darker, lit only by the sunlight that snuck past both the heavy clouds outside and the heavy curtains inside. With a glance towards the pile of laundry, he said, “Just came.”

“Good, then I timed this out right. Now, I need a favor from you. Get on the next boat to Slateport and meet me at the Rescue Shelter.”

Darren nearly dropped his phone. “The Rescue Shelter? What the hell do you want?”

“You have two minutes to get on that boat,” Alex said abruptly. “Get moving, I have a packed schedule today.”

The lawyer hung up. With a sigh, Darren shoved his phone into his pocket, dug the card out of the laundry, and sprinted to the docks. He hopped on as the boat’s engines thrummed to life. A small group gathered at the front to watch the waves crash against the hull and feel the sea spray on their faces, so Darren remained towards the rear, where the engine kicked up a bubbling white froth. He squinted at the light. The shadow of the boat’s steering cabin did nothing to blunt the glare of the shimmering waves.

After half an hour, the boat pulled into Slateport harbor, a bustling maze of fishing boats, freight haulers, ferries, and pontoons jostling for the limited docking space. The Dewford ferry pulled into a reserved spot, and the captain shoved a gangplank over the side.

“All off!” he shouted. Darren waited until the group to the front made it onto the docks and followed in their shadow. He kept his eyes on the sidewalk and walked with his shoulders hunched over, drawing the hood of his grey sweatshirt over his face. His hands gripped the Probation License in the sweatshirt pocket at his belly.

The beachfront-town of Slateport, sprawling from the beach to a lightly wooded wilderness farther north, smelled of salt spray and fish. Out on the waters, fishing boats caught net-loads of Magikarp and Krabby, while farther inland, restaurants and hotels caught tourists in their nets. Neighborhoods sprawled along the eastern coast, while the north-western section housed a lumber mill, shipyards, and municipal buildings.

He went through the bustling sea-side market, where row after row of stalls sold knick-knacks, fresh produce, and seafood in every stage of culinary preparation, including a tank of live Magikarp and Corphish. One Corphish in particular, a slightly smaller specimen with serrated claws, caught his eye. He walked over to the stall owner, an old woman with graying hair.

“Looking for fresh seafood?” she asked with a smile. “You won’t find any fresher than mine.”

“You better eat that one quick,” Darren said, pointing at the Corphish with the serrated claws. “That one looks ready to evolve.”

Her smile widened. “Good eye, young man. Are you a trainer? That little guy would be a great battler, if you’re interested. Nearly took my nose off when I put him in there.” She looked at the Corphish and said, “Half off, just for you.”

Darren’s grip on the Probation Card tightened, and he backed away. “I’m not interested,” he said. “I just wanted to warn you.”

Her smile vanished. “Oh, alright then. Thank you, young man.”

Darren hurried along without looking at any of the other stalls. Towards the north-western end of the city, he hit a group of municipal buildings, including the fire department, police station, post office, and the town hall. Flocks of Pelliper, hauling small packages in their mouths, came and went in fluttering clouds, while trucks with bigger loads rumbled down the streets. A Blastoise lounged in a pool in front of the fire station, and in the grassy field behind the police station, Growlithe and Herdier wrestled under the watchful eye of an Arcanine.

Past those buildings was the Rescue Shelter, a squat gray building on the outskirts of town, with a sparse, grassy forest at its back. The Shelter stretched out for blocks in both directions, and trees were planted in thick bunches in front of the outstretched wings as if to hide the building’s girth.

The lobby was a drab, white room that smelled of mildew, Pokémon food, and air freshener. In one of the ragged cloth chairs sat Alex Baywater, a tall, languid man with a neatly combed weave of black hair, piercing green eyes, a slender nose, and a ready smile on thin lips. He had a Baltoy on his lap eating a chesto berry bigger than its head. Blue crumbs mottled his black dress pants. They rolled off when Alex stood. He cradled the Baltoy in one hand and held out the other for a handshake. Darren reluctantly slid a hand out of his pocket and lightly shook the lawyer’s hand. Alex’s touch felt hot and dry to Darren’s clammy hands.

“Wow, you look pale,” Alex said. “When was the last time you got any sun? Anyways, I have someone I’d like to introduce you to.” He walked up to the front desk and gave the bell a forceful tap. A pudgy, balding man with a thick brown mustache and sweat pouring down his face walked up to the front.

“Oh, there you are Alex!” He peered around the lawyer to where Darren sat. “That’s the trainer you told me about?”

“Yep, a real expert on dark types.” He turned towards Darren. “This is an old friend of mine, Chris. We went to high school together.”

Darren gave a slight nod without looking up from the floor. Though the doors on either side of the lobby were soundproofed, a piercing Pokémon’s cry made him wince.

“You don’t say?” Chris said, staring at Darren with a skeptical frown. “Well, come on, I’ll take you to Lady.”

Darren blinked at that. He didn’t know of any Ladies in Hoenn, just a handful of old nobility from Kalos. He couldn’t imagine what Kalosi nobility would be doing in Hoenn looking for him in a Rescue Shelter, of all places.

He followed far behind the pair as they walked deeper into the Shelter. Darren willed himself not to look at the cages, where Pokémon of all species sat idly behind clear fiberglass doors. Hues of white, red, green, blue, and yellow flashed and vanished in his peripheral vision, but the floor at his feet was the same black and white checkered tile throughout.

“Here we are,” Chris called out. Darren looked around, but there was no one else there, at the end of the long hallway. On his right was a Slakoth, drowsing from a plastic tree branch, and to his left was an Absol, so gaunt and malnourished that every one of her ribs showed beneath her dusty white fur. A heaping bowl of dried Pokémon food sat next to her head.

“That’s Lady,” Chris said, pointing at the Absol. “We’ve been trying to get her to eat since we got her, but she hasn’t touched anything in weeks. She’s scheduled to be put down in two days, but, well, we’d rather avoid that if we can.”

“Chris told me about his little problem,” Alex said. Baltoy spun on the tip of his index finger like a top, holding half a chesto berry over its head. “And I thought of you.”

Chris rubbed his hands together. “I’ve been trying to get her professional help, but it’s not like there’s dark-type experts just lying around with empty slots on their roster.”

Darren squatted in front of Lady’s cage. He avoided looking at her gleaming red eyes, but he could feel the Absol’s stare fixed on his face, as cold and heavy as a block of ice. His stomach twisted itself in knots, and his mouth went dry.

“What have you tried feeding her?” Darren asked.

“Oh, all the big brands,” Chris said. “Felix, Sun-Touched, Yum-Yums, and a few of the fancier ones. Nothing worked.”

“All dried food?”

“No, I tried canned too, a few days ago. Nothing worked.”

Darren sniffed the air. It smelled of rank, processed meats that made his stomach roil.

“What about fresh?”

“Fresh?” Chris snorted. “We don’t have the budget for that. We barely even have budget for the occasional can.”

“Well, there’s your problem,” Darren said, standing up. “Dante was… never mind. Open the door.”

“You’re – you’re taking her?” Chris hugged him, a hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable embrace. Darren stood still, closing his eyes and smothering his urge to shove him away. “Oh, thank god, I thought I’d never get rid of her. Come on, let’s get the paperwork filled out.”

Chris took a pokeball out of his pocket and called Lady. With the Absol in hand, Chris led them back to the reception desk. He took a stack of papers out from a drawer and set them on the counter. All of Lady’s information was already printed, and Darren’s information was written in Alex’s elegant cursive.

“Alright, if I can just see your license, then you can sign on the dotted line.”

Sweat trickled down Darren’s neck as he slid the Probation License out of his pocket and set it on the table. Chris blinked and frowned at the red bands around his license.

“You didn’t tell me he was a Beater,” Chris said to Alex in a low, hushed voice. “I can’t give Pokémon to Beaters, my boss would chew me out!”

“Would you rather have Lady euthanized?” Alex asked. “You said so yourself – there aren’t exactly dark-type experts with empty slots lying around, so I couldn’t be picky about who I asked.”

“But – but still…”

Relief washed over Darren as he turned towards the door. “Well, I guess that’s that. I wish I could help, Alex, but I’m not having anything to do with Pokémon anymore. I’m done.”

As his hand touched the door, Chris said, “Well, thanks for trying Alex. It's a shame the Absol's going to die, but I guess there's nothing I can do."

“Yeah, shame,” Alex said. “I was really hoping he’d pull through, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

Darren’s hand froze. His feet itched to run out that door, but instead, he heaved a long, slow sigh, turned around, and walked towards the desk. Each step felt heavier than the last. When he reached the counter, he picked up the pen with trembling fingers, scribbled on the signature line, and pushed the papers towards Chris.

“Oh. Uh, well then, here,” Chris said, handing him Lady’s pokeball and his Probation License. Lady’s name filled one of the slots. “Please take good care of her. And er… uh, come again?”

Darren strode out of there before Alex could say another word. On his way back to the ferry, he stopped at the stall with the Magikarp and Corphish.

“I’ve changed my mind,” Darren told the old woman. He looked at the scrappy Corphish and realized it might be a bit feisty for him to handle alone. “I’ll take a few Magikarp with that Corphish.”

After paying, the old woman handed him four white pokeballs, marking them as non-League regulation. He caught three random Magikarp, and after five misses, finally caught the Corphish.

He stopped by a grocery store and picked up a few bags worth of grooming supplies, a bed, a collar and leash, and a water bowl. Though his arms strained beneath the weight of the bags during the cruise home, the small bulge in his right pocket felt far heavier.
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  #2    
Old August 20th, 2017 (5:31 PM).
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Astinus Astinus is online now
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    Really glad that you posted this. I've always wanted to read some of your writing, but I missed getting in at the start of your stories. At least with this one, I can be there from the very beginning.

    And what a beginning to this story. I'm really interested in learning more about Darren, like what happened to him before everything started. Something must have happened to get him a restricted license and a bitterness towards Pokemon. And not just him. Lady must have had something happen to her to get her into such a state. Can't wait to see what's revealed about these two, and how these two help each other.

    Also, I have to say that I really liked your description of Slateport. It's been a long time since I've been to a coastal town, but it felt like I was there from your description. I could hear the gull cries, smell the salt air. I really enjoyed that, and I look forward to more of your description work!

    Just a few small typos I noticed:

    Quote:
    “I wouldn’t know, Mr. Baywater” Darren mechanically replied.
    Forgot the comma after "Baywater."

    Quote:
    and seafood in every of culinary preparation
    Missing some word between "every" and "of."
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      #3    
    Old August 22nd, 2017 (12:01 AM).
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    aeternum aeternum is offline
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    I too have been looking for a story of yours that I could hop into from the start, since some of your other ideas have interested me and you've been kind enough in the past to review some of my works. Just something minor to start but that doesn't really matter, for mobile readers, the scroll box can be kind of irritating. I opened this up while I had some downtime at work earlier and had hoped to get started, but trying to scroll through on my phone was slightly aggravating, but it's not something super important and I see that you quite like doing it in this fashion since it's the way all your other stories are confined.

    I like the tone that you've set for the story as a whole, but there are a couple of spots that I feel could have had a little more love that would have made the whole thing perfect, particularly the last few paragraphs. Starting with
    Quote:
    As his hand touched the door, Chris shouted out, “Wait, please stop! She’ll die without you!”
    I don't feel that what you have really matches up with the rest of the post thus far. That particular line feels dead and empty, and when I read it I imagined someone who just really didn't care. If you'd had Chris move at all following it or in between his words, even just a step towards Darren then I feel it could have completely changed the way the rest of the scene was interpreted. Chris ends up coming across - to me at least - as robotic, only pretending to care about Lady enough to try and get rid of her and once that was guaranteed he lost almost all interest. Or maybe that's the way you want it and I'm just misreading it haha. Anyways, I'm looking forward to reading more!
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    Old August 23rd, 2017 (10:02 PM). Edited August 23rd, 2017 by Bay Alexison.
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    Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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    Of course you would name another character after me, Baywater sounds like a cool last name to have haha.

    Anyways, like the others I'm very interested in more of Darren's backstory here. Interesting you have him a dark type expert since Foul Play features two dark type trainers from the games and I've always been interested in dark type experts. While I do plan to have the characters in my story have somewhat bleak backstories, looks like Darren got in quite a bit of trouble. Should be interesting to see how he handles Lady and the Corphish (soon to be Crawdaunt). Don't know where you'll be taking this, but can't wait to see how this unfolds!
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      #5    
    Old August 24th, 2017 (6:40 PM). Edited 4 Weeks Ago by Bardothren.
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    Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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    Spoiler: Message from the Author
    Hello everyone. Thank you Astinus, Aeternum, and Bay for reviewing the first chapter. Your insight was helpful, especially the point about Chris' sudden burst of emotion. I felt something was off about it, but I wasn't sure why until Aeternum pointed it out. I think the sentence I swapped it for works better.

    Also, I changed the CSS a bit, in hopes of making it more mobile-friendly. The scroll bar was born out of my deep-seated hatred for threads a mile long making it difficult to go back and find things, and it never occurred to me to test it on mobile. I think expanding the box helped, but let me know if you want it bigger. I'd be willing to go up to 1200px (another 20%), but no higher.

    I'd appreciate more feedback on this chapter and I can pay in cameos ;). Focusing more on character is a new direction for me, and I'm bound to slip up from time to time, but I'll do my best. I hope you enjoy this next chapter and the piece of the puzzle it offers.

    I also thought of a big, new addition that should make the story even better, which I'll share with you when it happens. It's always fun when a small detail evolves into a huge story-changing plot arc that makes the whole thing better.

    EDIT: 1/28/18 - tiny edits made.


    Chapter Two: Nightmare

    Once Darren got home, he released Lady, tied the leash to the doorknob, gave it one of the Magikarp, and locked the door behind him. He cranked up the volume on his headphones and dove straight into a mafia game, shouting half-hearted cheers at his microphone during the few times he won, and silently simmering through his losses. His mind wandered, and a couple times, he botched his alibi and got lynched.

    Even with his headphones at max volume, he couldn’t tune out the howling outside his door that started ten minutes after he got settled. Once a round ended, he opened the door. A Magikarp carcass, stripped to the bones, had a swarm of Wingull squawking over it, and Lady sat in front of the door, staring up at him.

    “That’s all you’re getting for now,” Darren told it. “You’d get sick if you ate anymore.”

    He closed the door, but he didn’t make it four steps until the howling started again. Claws scraped against the doorknob, and it twitched, almost turning.

    Darren opened the door again. This time, Lady tried to walk past him, but Darren stopped her with his legs.

    “No, you’re staying out here. And stop scratching the door.”

    When he closed the door, the howling started again. He opened the door and scowled at the Absol.

    “Stop whining,” he said. “You’re staying out here, and that’s that.”

    Lady rested her head on her paws and looked up at him with sad, pitiful eyes. Darren mused over the pros and cons of leaving the emaciated Absol on his doorstep, where everyone could see her, and opened the door wider. Lady sprang through and spun in a circle around the pile of dirty laundry in the middle of the room.

    Darren set the bed next to the door, told Lady to be quiet, and returned to his game. After a few minutes, Lady reached up and placed her paws on his lap. Though her ebony claws were long and sharp, he didn’t even feel the points through his pants.

    “Get down,” he mumbled at Lady while he methodically typed up his defense. The paws slid off his feet, and Lady trotted off. A few moments later, his screen darkened, announcing that his laptop was running on battery power. He glanced over at the power cord, saw that it was still plugged into the computer, and followed its sinuous black length to the wall. Lady stood next to the empty socket, staring at him.

    Darren checked his battery. He had a solid three hours before his laptop would shut itself down, so he shrugged and returned to his game. This time, he was one of the mafia, and with a skilled partner, he eluded detection and took out the doctor. He was in the middle of falsifying a cop claim, and feeling satisfied that his partner correctly guessed who the real cop was, when his internet connection suddenly died. Cut off from the chat, Darren quickly made his computer troubleshoot the problem while he checked the router.

    Lady held the router’s plug in her mouth and looked up at him.

    Anger bubbled up in Darren. He wanted to shout, but instead, he held it all in as he walked to the door, tied Lady’s leash to it, shoved the Absol outside, told her to stay out, and shut the door. Heaving a sigh, Darren returned to his chair and slumped over his laptop, feeling too exhausted to get plug in the router. He stared at the unfinished game and the half of a sentence he wrote before his connection died. The game, and the players in it, doubtless moved on without him.

    He didn’t snap out of his lethargy until the screen suddenly turned black. Blinking at the sudden lack of light, Darren fumbled for the power cord, plugged his computer back in, and waited for it to power up. The clock told him it was just past seven P.M.

    He turned on the kitchen light and pulled a package of ground Tauros beef out of the fridge. As he dumped the meat on a skillet, he suddenly realized he hadn’t heard a peep from Lady during the last three hours. He opened the door, and Lady was curled up on the step, staring longingly up at him. Darren dug his fingers into his palm, hard enough to leave angry red lines in the flesh below his thumb, and heaved a heavy sigh. He stepped aside, but Lady didn’t budge.

    “Come on,” Darren said. At those words, Lady leapt up and raced inside. He went back to the skillet, tossed the beef around, and pulled some bell peppers out of the fridge. As he cut the peppers into thin slices, he heard a scraping sound from across the room. He turned to admonish Lady, but stopped when he saw she had the router’s plug in between two claws and was trying to put it back in.

    He gently took it from her, plugged it back in, and reached out to pet her. He stopped himself, just two inches from her head. Lady looked up at him, silent and waiting. Darren pulled back, but a small voice in his head told him it would be prudent to make sure Lady behaved well. Clinging to the pragmatic point, Darren slowly lowered his hand to Lady’s head and buried his fingers in her fur. It felt rugged and warm, like thin tangles of wool, and as his fingers brushed through, he felt knots slip past his fingers and congratulated himself on his hunch that the cheaper comb he wanted to buy would break.

    The smell of cooking meat snapped his attention back to the kitchen. He rushed over and stirred the meat, sprinkled in a pinch of salt, and bent to smell the greasy aroma wafting from the pan. Then he finished slicing the peppers and set them in a neat pile next to the stove.

    Once the meat finished cooking, he stirred in the taco powder, dumped the meat into a glass container, and added the peppers to the pan. Five minutes later, the peppers were lightly charred and limp. He added them to the meat, stirred it vigorously, and spooned some out onto a big flour tortilla.

    Lady leapt up onto the counter in one fluid motion, nearly knocking her horn on the exhaust vent, and sniffed with curiosity at the warm pan. Darren told her to get off, and she nimbly obeyed. He eyed her ribs, which formed little hills on her sides, and dumped some of the meat into one of the dishes he bought. Lady sniffed at the spicy meat and took a dainty bite. As Darren ate his own burrito, spilling meat, melted cheddar cheese, and peppers all over his plate, he watched the Absol savor every scrap of the meat in the bowl, finishing well after he returned to his computer.

    A few hours later, he got the fool role. He muted his microphone for a quick celebratory cheer and waited patiently for the second day to begin. One fake cop claim later, where he managed to incriminate the doctor and get scum-read by the real cop, he got lynched and had his victory.

    Darren called it a night after that high note, brushing his teeth, plugging in his night light, and going to bed. Lady sat at the edge of the covers and stared up at him with eyes that glowed in the muted light.

    “Your bed’s over there,” he said, pointing at the door. “Sleep in that. Goodnight.”

    A few minutes later, he heard a shuffling sound cross the room. He looked down and saw that Lady had dragged the bed across the room and put it next to him. She stared up at him, as if waiting for him to object.

    Darren made a mental note to watch his step in the morning, closed his eyes, and drifted off to sleep.

    An indeterminate time later, he woke within his dreams. Swirling gray fog and the muted din of a cheering crowd surrounded him. Realizing what was about to happen, Darren tried to open his eyes, but he was trapped.

    Closing his eyes within the dream didn’t do any good either. He could still see the Johto League arena as it materialized out of the fog. Relief washed over him when he saw the rugged, blocky, white face, crossed by a huge blue X, glaring at him with two glowing red eyes like giant LEDs embedded in its skull. He mentally thanked the dream for cutting straight to the chase, opened his jaw, and spat a black disc at the Metagross. His opponent flew over the attack. All four of its limbs hovered in front of it like missiles. One arm flew forward with blinding speed, enveloped in a veil of grey light. It snapped him in the head. Pain lanced across his temples beneath the crushing blow. His vision blurred. The crowd turned into a cream-colored smear, their cheers deafened by the rush of blood in his head. The Metagross became a white blur. He staggered back and readied a second attack, feeling the black fire churn in his belly like liquid tar. Quick as lightning, another punch came. The pain reached past his eyes. It burned in the front of his brain, as if each of the Metagross’ claws were roasting his flesh. He fell to one knee, spat up a thick dribble of blood, and looked up just in time to see the final blow rush towards him.

    With a jolt, Darren sat upright in his bed. An all too familiar dull ache gripped his skull like a vice. He threw the blankets aside, clambered over the edge of the bed, and staggered towards the fridge. Yanking the freezer open, he pulled out three bags of frozen corn, slammed the freezer shut, and slumped onto the floor. He pressed one bag behind his head, laid one on top, and held the third over his eyes, and then he awkwardly tied a dish rag around the bundle, holding it all in place.

    A pulse of pain, like a gong going off in his head, signaled a sudden fit of agony. His whole body shook, and he stifled a yell behind gritted teeth.

    As quickly as the episode came, it left, leaving his limbs heavy as anchors and his head feeling as if gremlins had beaten at him with lead pipe. Cold and exhausted, Darren fell to the floor and huddled up in a ball, too tired to crawl towards the warmth of his blankets.

    He rubbed at his temples and resigned himself to another cold night on the floor, breathing easier as the frozen corn leached the pain out of his head. After a few minutes, however, he felt warmth returning to his body. Lady’s scratchy fur brushed against his arm, and though he felt an urge to shove her away, the sudden warmth enveloping him pushed him back into sleep like the slow, steady rise of the tide on the beaches.
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      #6    
    Old August 24th, 2017 (7:13 PM).
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bardothren View Post
    He could still see the Johto League arena as it materialized out of the fog. Relief washed over him when he saw the rugged, blocky, white face, crossed by a huge blue X, glaring at him with two glowing red eyes like giant LEDs embedded in its skull.
    This is quite weird to me. I mean it does sound like some kind of match between him and the mon that is attacking him, but you refer to it as the Johto League. I bring this up since it is somewhat confusing and well a little more elaboration could help with that.

    So regarding lady, she seems to be loyal and could very well help him in whatever you have planned (which I suppose we'll know later). I do want to bring up that he is somewhat interesting in how you portray him. I'm not sure why he is in such a state, though I theorize it's either a reflection on his actions or some injury/event happened to him. He appears to know a thing or two and I'm curious as to where he'll go with this.

    Also, good job using the Mafia game, I know why you did that.
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      #7    
    Old August 25th, 2017 (7:45 PM).
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    Aw, looks like Lady just wants some attention there. Stuff like electronics being unplugged can happen with any pet/Pokemon heh. I'm curious as to how his Corphish will behave. I too find it amusing over the mafia reference, heh.

    The nightmare there, Darren taking the place of his Tyranitar does make his guilt over his past more gut punching for him. Still kinda vague how what exactly happpened to him, but I'm sure more stuff will be revealed little by little.
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    Old August 26th, 2017 (1:02 AM).
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    The added width did help a bit for what I was able to read at work. The sentence you switched out in the first post is better and I feel makes a difference. All that being said, I'm a sucker for dream sequences and I love how you make it from the perspective of the Pokemon and not Darren himself, really just locking him in to the sequence (which apparently happen every so often) and forcing him to relive the torture he put his Pokemon through without any means of escape.
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    Old August 26th, 2017 (4:54 PM).
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      Darren certainly has an interesting approach to rehabilitating a Pokemon. Looks like Lady is going to do her best to break through Darren's unapproachable ways with some adorable persistence!

      The dream sequence was interesting mainly because you had it from the point of view of Darren's Tyranitar. I'm sure you had a reason for writing that scene from that particular POV instead of sticking to Darren's. It did explain why his head hurt that badly afterwards.

      We'll have to see how these two characters--Lady and Darren--handle each other when they start to open up to each other!
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      Old August 29th, 2017 (6:27 PM). Edited 4 Weeks Ago by Bardothren.
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      Spoiler: Message from the Author
      Honestly, I'm feeling really flattered by all the comments. Thank you guys for reading and giving your thoughts, I'm trying to make this my best yet and the commentary is immensely helpful.

      Part of me really didn't want to write this tonight. I've been feeling vaguely mukty all day, with a mild sore throat and a headache that doesn't hurt. On the bright side, that means I'm feeling exactly what Darren's going through courtesy of the last chapter, so it made for convenient writing material.

      I imagine you'll enjoy the next chapter... I certainly enjoyed writing it. Despite my tiredness, I actually think I outdid myself in some places.

      EDIT: 1/28/18 - a few more tiny edits.


      Chapter Three: Severed Leash

      A chorus of alarms jangled throughout Darren’s apartment. He jolted awake, aware all at once of his aching back and neck, throbbing head, scratchy throat, soggy hair, queasy stomach, and unusually warm stomach. The warmth held him down like a blanket. Though he wanted nothing more than to ignore the alarms and sag back into sleep, he forced himself up.

      Without opening his eyes, Darren reached for the refrigerator’s handle and hauled himself onto his feet. Warm, limp bags of corn slid off his head and hit the floor with wet plops. Lady’s claws skittered across the linoleum kitchen floor as she scrambled out of the way.

      As the alarms rang, Darren threw open the fridge and reached towards the back, where five cappuccino shakes waited. He grabbed one, snapped off its top, and chugged down as much as he could stomach.

      When Darren opened his eyes, bright flashes danced before them. He gritted his teeth, leaned against the fridge, and waited for the dizziness to fade. The pain faded and his head cleared as the caffeine trickled into his brain like a cranial massage, leaving behind a vague hint of pain and shoulder-hunching weariness.

      When color returned to his sight, the first thing he saw was his blanket on the floor. He looked at Lady, who looked up at him from next to the door, and said “Thanks.”

      Her tail wagged, and her head perked up at the thanks. She trotted next to him and rubbed her shoulder against his leg. The heat reminded him of the hot spot on his belly, and looking closer at the blanket, he saw Lady’s bed tucked into its folds.

      Once he trusted his legs to stay firm beneath him, he walked over to the alarms, one in each corner of his apartment, and turned them off. Then he grabbed one of the white non-regulation balls holding a Magikarp and the leash.

      Lady’s ears and tail drooped. She reluctantly walked over to the door and stared at him with pained eyes.

      “Breakfast time, then I’ll take you for a walk. I’m not kicking you out.” When Lady raced in circles around him, he added, “Not now, anyways.” He opened the door, shifted his sore eyes away from the sunrise, and took a deep breath. The salty taste settled his stomach. “Come on, I only have half an hour before work.”

      Darren watched her rip the Magikarp apart and noted that she went for the liver first. Thoughts of Pokémon supplements popped into his head before he could stop them, and gritting his teeth, he turned his attention to the dawn-lit beach shores of Dewford Town.

      Dark waves crowned with golden sunlight tumbled over the fine white sand. When his eyes finally adjusted, he looked into the untouched paradise of swaying green palms and frothing waves splashing over the shore. The further west and inland his eye traveled, the more bleak and desolate the island became, first devolving into wooden huts dotting the near shore, some beach-side bars with docks jutting into the sea, others boat rentals or seaside cabins or family-run knick-knack shops crusted with salt from the sea breeze. Fine white sand sprouted grass and concrete thirty feet from the shore, and the wooden huts, cracked with age and bleached by the sun, turned into buildings of brick and concrete that defied the elements. Fast food joints mingled with tourist traps on the roads leading towards the heart of the island.

      That heart was gouged out. A hole fifty feet deep and two-hundred feet wide gaped where there had once been a sparkling pond and a grove of palm trees. Orange construction fences lined the hole like mourners, and a crane towered over the site like a priest. The tombstone, a sign forty feet wide that stood next to the hole, announced the arrival of the Hano Grand Resort. Like a fungal spore, the burgeoning resort chain hitched a ride on international flights from Melemele Island and sprouted in foreign lands, growing over the indigenous life.

      When Lady finished her meal, leaving the bones for the birds, Darren guided her down the beach, avoiding the civilized parts of the island. Lady stayed as close to his side as she could without tripping over his feet. At least, she did until they reached the corner of the sea, where the coastline of Dewford Island turned north.

      Just off the coast, sitting on the border between white sand and black asphalt, was Dewford Gym. From the beach, it looked like a huge block of quartz jutting from the sand, large enough to swallow ten seaside huts. Its shiny, jagged edges broke the sunlight into a million resplendent shards.

      When the Gym jutted out over the sand, Lady sprinted forward and pulled the leash taut. Darren’s arm felt as though it was going to pop out of his shoulder as he held the Absol back.

      “Hey! Stop pulling!”

      Suddenly, the tension was gone. Darren fell into the sand, and when he got up, Lady was gone, and he was holding a leash cut towards the end. Cursing under his breath, Darren scrambled to his feet and dusted sand off his pants as he ran.

      In the front of the Dewford Gym, two sliding doors, wrought to look like the walls so well they needed to be marked by a black frame, moved aside for Lady. Darren hesitated for a second, looking up at the bright neon sign advertising the Dewford Gym in big orange letters. Then he ran inside.

      The interior was so dark that he could barely see the purple walls of the Gym’s maze. He caught a flash of white as it rounded a corner and ran after it. Flash by flash, he followed Lady deeper into the gym. He half-expected someone to challenge him out of the darkness, but Lady threaded a perfect path to the Gym’s heart.

      A stage the size of Darren’s apartment was lit by light filtering in through the roof. No one sat in the Gym Leader’s chair. He looked around for someone, but they were alone.

      “Lady, come here. We’re leaving.”

      Lady ignored him. She walked up to the chair, a huge wooden frame padded with black leather cushions, and sniffed at the seat.

      A door, hidden in the featureless back wall, opened suddenly. A young man, whose head barely came up to Darren’s shoulder and whose spiky blue hair reached over Darren’s head, sprinted to the arena. He wore a single-piece black wetsuit with orange lines reaching down his sides, which left his elbows and knees bare. His plastic sandals clicked across the stone floor.

      “Damn,” he said, “You got here fast. You caught me while I was doing my hair.”

      He gave his dyed hair a tap. With all the hair gel slathered into it, the spiky hair didn’t even twitch.

      “So, you’re here for a battle?” he asked as he sat down.

      Darren felt the hair on his neck prickle at a thought of battling. The moment Brawly’s bottom touched the seat, Lady’s hair bristled, and she growled silently at him.

      “Well,” Brawly said with a cheerful laugh, “She certainly looks raring to go!”

      “We were just leaving,” Darren said, putting one hand on Lady’s collar. His tongue felt like it got stuck in the sand for a few hours. He took a deep breath, wet his lips, and said, “I’m sorry, but she cut her leash and ran in here. I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”

      “Trouble?” His smile never left his face. “Don’t worry about it, man, it’s no trouble. If you’re having problems with a hot-headed Pokémon, my advice is to let them battle it out, blow off some steam, work up a sweat, you know? So why not?”

      “I’m afraid I don’t have any time.” Darren yanked on the leash, but Lady dug her claws into the floor, and he couldn’t pull her back without choking her. He swallowed nervously and said, “I really should go.”

      Brawly chuckled and walked over to the nearest wall. He pressed his thumb against a seemingly empty section of wall, and suddenly, a small door slid apart, revealing a small row of three pokéballs. “What kind of Fighting-Type Gym Leader would I be if I couldn’t make short work of a Dark-Type? I’ll make this quick, I promise.”

      “I’m not interested in Gym Badges,” Darren said. He tried getting his arms around Lady, but she squirmed out of his grasp. “And I really should go.” His intestines twisted themselves in knots as he lunged for Lady’s collar.

      “Ah, don’t worry about it! I won’t make it an official match, if you’re concerned about losing a few bucks. It’ll just be some practice for my single-badge team, so how about it?”

      Seeing that neither Brawly nor Lady would budge, Darren clenched his fists, ruefully nodded and backed away. He squeezed his arms and forced himself to take slow, deep breaths.

      “Alright, Makit, let’s go! Battle start!”

      The pudgy yellow Pokémon made the ground shudder when it hit the floor. From the folds of its pudgy face, two beady black eyes stared intently at Lady.

      “Makit, use Arm Thrust!”

      Its blue hands shot forward in open-handed slaps. Lady darted around them, but one of her legs slipped, and she took a glancing blow to her right shoulder. Darren winced and tightened his grip on his forearms.

      With a growl, Lady made her horn glow with purple light and flung it at the Makuhita. It wobbled on one stumpy leg and twisted out of the way. The slash of violet slammed into the far wall, leaving a shallow scratch.

      “Damn, didn’t expect her to pack a Psychic-Type move.” Then he looked up at Darren, who stood silent and still as a statue. “Aren’t you going to give orders?”

      The room slowly spun around Darren. The morning’s headache returned as a dull buzz behind his eyes, and the cappuccino in his stomach burned like molten tar. He felt a gentle push away from falling on his ass, but he made himself stand firm and shrug nonchalantly.

      Another streak of violet shot through the air, scoring a hit on Makit. It tumbled across the floor and landed on its feet. A black bruise two inches wide and stretching from right shoulder to left hip marked the blow.

      Brawly told his Makuhita to Bulk-Up. Even with the additional girth Makit held at his belly, the second Psycho Cut knocked him off the stage and left it unconscious on the floor.

      A weight fell off of Darren’s shoulders, replaced by a refreshing, cool, wet towel around his forehead as Brawly recalled his Makuhita. “Well, I guess that’s that,” Darren said. “Lady, let’s go.”

      Lady ignored the command. She kept her weight off of her right leg, but she continued her silent snarl at Brawly.

      “I don’t think she’s done yet,” he said.

      “But–”

      “Don’t worry, I’ll wrap this up with my next one.” With another press of his thumb, a different door slid aside, revealing five great balls. He plucked the middle one and tossed it into the ring. Darren felt the floor falling out from beneath his feet as the red glow materialized into a Medicham.

      “Your turn, Confucius!” The Medicham danced on two small gray feet, bouncing from one to the other. The gelatinous red blob on its head jiggled, but its bulging quadriceps looked solid as boulders.

      “I’m not taking chances this time,” Brawly said. “This should be just a bit more than your Absol can handle.”

      Darren eyed Lady’s leg and checked the time on his cell phone. “I really should be going,” he said, grasping at any excuse to leave like a drowning sailor. “I’ll be late for work.”

      “This will just take a minute. Confucius, Mind Reader!”

      The Medicham closed its eyes. Lady braced herself and fired another Psycho Cut, but Confucius leapt over the attack.

      “Now, High-Jump Kick!”

      Confucius opened its eyes and whirled in the air. As it fell, it brought its right leg up high and swung it down in a mighty blow. Lady tried to sidestep, but her right leg gave out, and the kick caught her squarely in her injured shoulder.

      Darren felt every frantic heartbeat thudding through his head as the kick crept towards Lady like a stone falling through honey. When the kick landed and sent a shudder through the damaged leg, Darren felt a hammer-blow to his chest, and tears came unbidden to his eyes. Lady yelped as bones snapped in her right shoulder beneath the Medicham’s weight.

      Darren fumbled for Lady’s pokéball and dropped it in his haste. Almost as quickly, Brawly recalled his Medicham and ran forward with a hyper potion.

      “Holy muk, I’m so sorry,” Brawly said when Darren reached Lady. She had passed out from the pain. Her leg was twisted beneath heart a sickening angle, and lumps of bone stuck out from beneath unbroken skin. “I should’ve noticed the bum shoulder. Muk, here, hold her arm straight, I’ll apply the potion.”

      “There’s a Pokémon Center right around the corner,” Darren pointed out. He had to dig his nails into his palms to keep his voice from hitching. “I’ll just take her there.”

      “Are you sure? This was my fault, I should–”

      Before Brawly could say anything else, Darren called back Lady and walked back through the maze. A small glowing path, only visible heading out of the Gym, guided him back to the front entrance.

      A painful twinge, part after-effect of last night’s headache, part guilt, made him wince as he jogged to the Pokémon Center. He wiped the tears off of his face before he walked outside.
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        #11    
      Old August 30th, 2017 (5:18 PM).
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        Poor Lady and Darren. I wonder what made her want to fight that badly? It does give some hint to her past, if she can recognize a Gym building from that far away and is that determined to fight. It's also interesting that she was able to fight on her own, knowing that psychic moves are strong against fighting Pokemon.

        I do have to say that it does show mechanically that you weren't feeling your best when you wrote this. For one thing, I noticed in the beginning that you have quite a few small grammar errors.

        Quote:
        dawn-lit beach shores of Dewford town
        Capitalize "Town."

        Quote:
        When Darren opened his eyes, bright flashes danced before his eyes
        You repeated "eyes" here.

        Quote:
        He grabbed one, snapped off its tops, and chugged down as much as he could stomach.
        If Darren just grabbed one drink, then it would be "its top," unless it has multiple tops. You also used the word "stomach" here for a third time in such a short span in the chapter. Which is particularly jarring after you used it twice in the second sentence.

        Which leads me to saying that the second sentence of this chapter might read better with a small rewrite. Pointing out that Darren's stomach is "unusually warm" should be information conveyed in a more noticeable manner. Especially because him waking up with a warm stomach is so different to Darren that it might be enough to wake him out of his stupor a little more. Just to draw more attention to it and maybe get his thoughts on waking up to something so unusual.

        You also said that you wanted to focus a little more on character. I would have liked to have seen more of Darren's thoughts and feelings about battling for the very first time since his Johto League match. Though you might cover this in the next chapter as Darren deals with the aftermath of the battle.
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          #12    
        Old August 30th, 2017 (11:21 PM). Edited August 30th, 2017 by Bay Alexison.
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        I too think a bit more thoughts and feelings from Darren during the battle would have been nice, but otherwise Lady seems like she can stand on her own but ruthless there. I like your Brawly there, pretty chill dude and I like he wanted to help Lady out even though Darren refused it.
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          #13    
        Old August 31st, 2017 (5:26 PM).
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        To Astinus and Bay both, thanks for the excellent advice. It was quite remiss of me to not offer insight into Darren's thoughts during this fight, a mistake I hope to avoid in the future. It was an easy fix (which makes me a bit worried, since it shouldn't be so easy as adding a few phrases in) but it should do the trick.

        And sorry, no new chapter at the moment. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I ever added to a fiction thread without actually having a chapter :( Ah well, it felt like an important enough of an update and sound enough advice to warrant its own post. Stay tuned for Ch 4, and thanks guys!
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          #14    
        Old September 5th, 2017 (7:46 PM). Edited 4 Weeks Ago by Bardothren.
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        Spoiler: Message from the Author
        Welp, I just found out I have two cavities, and I still have a cold. Good news, this means something good has to happen eventually to outweigh this... but I suppose that could be getting Total War on sale and becoming immediately addicted to it. Eh, I think it's a fair trade. Viva España!

        EDIT: 1/28/17 - minor touch-ups to this chapter as well. Also, Spain sucks, England all the way.

        Chapter Four: A Second Severed Leash


        Dewford Town’s Pokémon Center was nearly empty when Darren walked inside. Clusters of gleaming plastic tables sat in one corner next to a café, and the other side held four rows of red cushioned benches as the Pokémon Center’s waiting area. An elderly couple drank tea together by the café, a fisherman was waiting towards the back of the benches, and a teenager kicked his heels on the front bench, staring intently at the operation room’s door.

        Darren walked up to the counter. A Nurse Joy, with her hair held up in enormous red curls beneath a boxy white hat, smiled warmly at him.

        “How can I help you today?”

        “My Absol has a broken shoulder,” Darren told her. “Multiple fractures.”

        “Alright, not a problem. Please show me your License, give me your pokéball and I’ll get started.”

        Darren handed her the License, which she scanned without a glance. Then he set Lady’s ball on the counter and walked towards the door. When he had a foot outside, the Nurse rushed out of the operating room.

        “Hey, wait!” she shouted. There was a touch of venom in her voice that chilled Darren’s skin. The headache from that morning stirred in his frontal lobe.

        He turned around. A quick glance at her fiery brown eyes made him look at the floor. “Is there a problem?”

        “Come here,” she said icily.

        “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be late for work. Is this something we could discuss later?”

        “Now.”

        Darren pulled his phone out of his pocket. Even if he ran back home, threw on his work clothes, and ran to the grocery store, he would still be five minutes late. He shrugged and walked over to the counter.

        “I haven’t seen a Pokémon this close to death in five years,” she hissed. “Not only does she have twelve fractures in her shoulder, she’s also so malnourished I’d give her four days at most to live. I can’t believe a Beater like you had the gall to bring her in like this and just leave.”

        Darren glanced behind him. The elderly couple didn’t seem to notice him, but both the fisherman and the kid were staring intently at him. With the Pokémon Center’s silence, he knew they heard every word. When he turned back, the door opened, and Darren grimaced inwardly at the presence of another witness.

        “Well, do you have anything to say for yourself? Would you care to explain why I shouldn’t revoke your license for starving that Absol and breaking her shoulder? I swear, you Beaters never learn.”

        Darren clenched his fists and said nothing. The headache was clawing at his skull, and his vision was blurring around the edges. The person who came in, however, spoke for him.

        “Hey, Nurse Joy, that one’s my fault,” Brawly said. “He didn’t want to challenge me, but I convinced him to, since his Absol rushed in for a battle. I overestimated her strength, so it’s all my fault.”

        The Nurse Joy stared incredulously at Brawly. Darren turned around just enough to watch him from the corner of his eye. Brawly held a pokéball in his hand, and his jaw muscles clenched.

        “Well, that still doesn’t excuse the malnutrition. Let’s see when she last had a check-up.”

        She strode to a computer. After a moment, her face contorted itself in a mixture of shock and embarrassment. When she went back to Darren, her eyes were lowered.

        “You just got her from the Rescue Shelter yesterday, correct?”

        Darren didn’t answer her. After a long pause, she said, “You still shouldn’t have let her battle in that condition.”

        Brawly walked to Darren’s right and placed his hands on the counter. “I said that one was my fault. Now, please let him get on his way and take care of my Makuhita. His Absol did a number on it.”

        The Nurse Joy took a deep breath, gave Darren a quick bow, and said, “My apologies. I’ll take good care of your Absol. The procedure should be done in five hours.”

        Darren walked towards the door. Brawly turned to call after him, but the words never left his lips. Once he was outside, Darren debated running and figured, since he was already late, there was no point in rushing, and walked. By the time he made it back, a full-blown headache stamped around his head like a rampaging Vigoroth, so he chugged half of a cappuccino shake while he flung on the blue cashier’s apron. He drank the rest on his way to the store and took the longer route along the seashore.

        The grocery store was a pre-teen, an ungainly juvenile going through sudden growth spurts brought on by the promise of tourism. One side was a jumble of plywood boards and construction equipment, while the other was a tiny brick building with a modest pair of storefront windows and two neat rows of shopping carts.

        When he finally arrived, half an hour late, his manager was waiting for him. Todd, a tall, muscular man that had three inches and fifty pounds over Darren, leaned against the nearest register with his arms crossed. A sour expression furrowed his brows and twisted his mouth into a scowl.

        “That’s the third time this month,” he said. “You’ve had worse months, I know, but I’ve decided it’s time to let you go.”

        Darren felt his stomach jump out of a plane without a parachute. “Would you like me to work today, or do you want me gone now?” he asked calmly.

        Todd’s expression softened as he mulled it over. “I already wrote out your check, but I do appreciate the offer.” He handed Darren an envelope, and Darren took off his apron. When Todd took it, he said, “You aren’t a bad employee, by any means. You just… I don’t know, it feels like you have no motivation. Put the effort in, and you won’t get fired like this.” He held out a hand, and Darren shook it. “Good luck to you.”

        “Thanks,” Darren mumbled.

        He carefully tucked the envelope into a pocket and started towards home. Halfway there, the red roof of the Pokémon Center caught his eye. He turned around and walked inside the Pokémon Center.

        Brawly was still there, sitting in the front row. He glanced back, saw Darren walk in, and scooted over. With a hidden grimace, Darren walked over and sat next to him.

        “Did your manager give you the day off?” he asked.

        A pang of worry stung Darren. “Yeah. I told him what happened, and he told me to go.”

        “That’s nice of him.” He glanced at the empty counter, and the solid red light indicating the emergency room’s use. “I left Makit here. It’s just some bruising, and he’ll be fine in a few minutes.”

        A long pause settled in between them, thick enough to touch. Darren’s head prickled, but the double-dose of caffeine kept the headache at bay. Part of him itched to say something, anything, to break the heavy silence between them, but he strangled the impulse.

        After two minutes, Brawly took a deep breath. He leaned in close and said, “Listen, if your Absol wasn’t in fighting condition, you should’ve just said so. I would’ve understood.”

        Darren couldn’t answer that. Brawly was right. Knowing that brought the headache back, and it invited guilt and a dry throat to redouble his misery. His thoughts wandered back to Lady’s splintered shoulder, and he felt his own shoulder throb in sympathy.

        But Brawly sighed and said, “Nah, it’s still my fault. I should’ve taken the hint after you said no a million times. I just… I don’t know, I didn’t notice your Absol’s condition, just that fire in her eyes, and I couldn’t say no to that challenge.” He gave Darren’s shoulder a gentle nudge. “She’s impressive, by the way. On death’s door and still able to knock around Makit like a punching bag.”

        With a shrug, Brawly said, “Makit was a new one, meant for trainers looking for a first badge. I haven’t had time to train him properly yet. Confucis was more a fourth badge Pokémon… I went a bit overboard there, didn’t I?” He laughed, but the silence swallowed it whole. “You could easily get my badge if you wanted to, once she’s better. Easiest hundred bucks you’ll ever make.”

        Darren thought about it. The hundred dollars would be nice, especially with his current unemployment, but the thought of going back in that gym, of walking the path of a trainer again, lit his head up with mortar shells. “I’m not interested,” he said evenly.

        Brawly frowned. “Hey, I’m not going to pull that stunt again, especially not in an official match. You’ll do just fine, I swear.”

        Darren shook his head. Brawly paused, waiting for Darren’s response, and let out a sigh when nothing came.

        “Well, alright then.”

        Nurse Joy rushed out of the emergency room, waved at Brawly, and set a pokéball on the counter. Then she ran back inside before the door closed.

        “I better get back to the gym,” Brawly said as he stood up. He tossed the pokéball into the air, walked back to Darren, and said “If you change your mind, I’ll be ready anytime.”

        Darren turned to watch him leave. The old couple amiably talked without a glance in his direction, but both the fisherman and the boy looked away from him.

        As the clocked ticked away, Darren cycled through a whirlwind of emotions, made all the more unpleasant by the throbbing in his skull. Anger at being forced into this situation, frustration at knowing it was his own fault, guilt at dragging Brawly and Lady into it, anxiety over the rumors that would surely spread with the departure of the fisherman and the boy. By the end of the five hours, those emotions had simmered down into a dull discontent like a lemon press on his temples. People came and went, and though his ears picked up the sound of the door opening, he forced himself to ignore everything outside his own head.

        The Nurse Joy handed him Lady’s pokéball and a bottle of pills. “One daily for the malnutrition,” she told him stiffly. “And make sure she gets some rest. A few days should do it.”

        Darren nodded and left. When he got back home, he let Lady out and gently prodded her shoulder. Not a trace of the break remained. Then he fed Lady and lobbed a pill into the Magikarp as she ate it. Watching her tear up the fish reminded he hadn’t eaten anything, so he went back inside and heated up leftover tacos.

        He spent the rest of the day on the computer, applying to every minimum-wage job on Dewford Island, carpet-bombing recruitment sites with his resume like a B-42. Over half of them were openings for the Hano Resort, and though he clenched his fists at the thought of working there, he applied for them as well.

        By the time he finished, the sun had set, and his eyelids felt as heavy as his curtains. He slammed his computer shut, turned out the lights, and stumbled into bed.

        A shuffling noise told him Lady moved her bed right next to his again. He leaned up and looked down at her. She stared back at him. Even the barest hint of moonlight creeping into the room lit up her eyes like a railroad crossing.

        “You shouldn’t sleep right there,” Darren told her. “You’re lucky I didn’t step on you last night, getting to the fridge.”

        Lady wagged her tail, but she didn’t move the bed.

        Darren took a deep breath and ground his teeth. Then he thought about last night, how she came to sleep with him after he got up. The more he entertained the thought of letting Lady up on the bed, the less he found himself able to resist it.

        “Do you want to sleep up here?” he asked. Lady’s tail wagged harder, and she bobbed her head. “Scratch my blankets, and you’re staying off.”

        With that, Lady leapt up on the bed. She was surprisingly delicate with the sheets, gently padding on them and keeping her claws tucked in her paws. She circled the bed once, lay down, and nestled her head on Darren’s stomach.

        Darren felt too tired to point out she’d be in for a rude awakening if he got another panic attack. His eyes closed, and he fell into a dreamless sleep.
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          #15    
        Old September 6th, 2017 (4:27 PM).
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        Looks like Nurse Joy is familiar with what a Beater does, and she doesn't look too happy about it. Also sucks Darren lose his job there. Brawly was decent enough at least to admit he did pressure Darren into battling before. Feeling more bad for Lady, but her excited for food and sleeping on Darren's bed is still cute.
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          #16    
        Old September 7th, 2017 (5:42 PM).
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          Really cute ending to the chapter there. This also worked well to start to set up what I can guess the plot is going to be, especially since Darren is going to need an income.

          There was more of Darren's feelings in this chapter. I liked how you mentioned the reluctance of him applying to the Hano Resort. But what I particularly liked more was that you had the other characters reacting to what was going on. Like Joy realizing that Darren's a Beater, Brawly coming to Darren's defense, and even the fisherman and other trainer in the center.

          Though I do wonder what the elderly couple was talking about!
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            #17    
          Old September 20th, 2017 (7:43 PM). Edited 4 Weeks Ago by Bardothren.
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          Hello there, thanks Bay and Astinus for the input. Public opinion of Beaters is definitely going to play a key role in the story, so I intend to make sure it follows after Darren like his own shadow. Anyways, I won't spoil the surprise, but this chapter is pretty awesome. At least, I hope it's awesome. I certainly think so. Let me know what you think so I can make improvements, okay? Thanks.

          Really long day, and I'm super tired. Got fillings, threw the whole Get-Together Mafia thing together, wrecked the VG Metroid Trivia for the honor of House Doctrina, and wrote this. G'night.

          EDIT: on 10/5/17, I went back and cleaned up the grammar a bit, and added a bit more oomph to Darren's fatigue. Nothing too major.

          EDIT: on 10/9/17, did a much more thorough clean-up. I absolutely love long, wordy sentences, don't I? Must've read too much Hawthorne in English class. :D

          EDIT: 1/28/18 - more minor edits, just a few touch-ups, and somehow a spelling error made it through two edits.


          Chapter Five: Dinner Time

          Another two days passed. With no other available jobs on Dewford Island, Darren spent the whole day at home, catching up on his anime list, throwing together a new curry recipe in his slow cooker, and playing a couple dozen rounds of mafia. The curry turned out runnier than he had hoped, but the spices paired well with the basmati rice and garnish of cilantro.

          Lady stayed silent since her morning meal and walk. Darren took her away from town that morning, down the east coast, where flocks of Pelipper dove into the sea snaring Magikarp and Carvanha in their mouths. A small flock of Wingull dove towards Lady. With a swipe of her horn, she had made them disperse with raucous screams.

          After Lady got her breakfast, Darren brushed her. A few ribs still showed, but she had already put on some weight, and her fur had a healthy sheen. He checked her for ticks and fleas, and though her skin was dirty, she showed no signs of infestation.

          Through the day, she sat next to his chair, in her bed, which she dragged close to him. When he got up to make the curry, she followed along and snapped up the scraps of chicken and onion he dropped on the floor. As an afterthought, he dumped a bit of the curry into her bowl, and she greedily devoured it.

          “You like spicy food, huh?” he asked the Absol. She sat down behind the empty bowl and cocked her head at him.

          “No, you’re not getting any more,” Darren told her. “Your dinner’s going to put up a bit more of a fight, so get ready for some exercise.”

          After he stored half of the curry in the fridge and the other half beneath his bags of frozen corn, he took the last occupied non-regulation ball out of a desk drawer. He led Lady down the eastern shore, far enough that no one should overhear the battle, but not so close to the groves that the Wingull would swoop down in dozens.

          “Be careful with this one,” Darren said. “It’s feisty. Go in for a Night Slash and hit it before it can react.”

          Lady nodded. He held up the pokéball, letting her see it, and tossed it in a slow arc overhead. When it landed, the Corphish popped out. Lady rushed forward, and her horn smoldered with darkness. The Corphish blocked it with a clear, blue shield, and it countered with a claw, bubbling with water. It slammed into Lady’s left shoulder. She tumbled back in the sand and came up on her feet with a growl.

          “Alright then, keep your distance and use Psycho Cut. Don’t let it get close.”

          As Lady fired off a crack of violet energy, water shot out of the Corphish’s tail. It raced forward, darting around the Psycho Cut. Its claw shot forward. Lady leapt over the attack, but the Corphish darted away before she could hit it.

          “Well, do you have any other tricks up your sleeve?”

          As the Corphish rushed in for another attack, Lady split up into eight hazy copies. The Corphish rushed through one. The image vanished like a smashed TV screen.

          “Good! Wear it down with Psycho Cut.”

          Lady unleashed a barrage of violet slashes. The Corphish threw up another barrier and charged forward. This time, two copies vanished, and it zipped back with Aqua Jet to take out another.

          One illusion was closer than the rest to the Corphish as it slid to a stop. Darren couldn’t tell which copy was Lady, but he decided to take a gamble.

          “Night Slash, now!”

          He guessed wrong. The copy farthest away lunged forward, but the sand slowed her down. The Corphish wound up another Crabhammer. Before the blow could land, Darren scooped up a handful of sand and flung it. The Corphish blinked, and its aim went wide.

          The wide punch also turned the Corphish around. Lady’s horn sank into the thicker carapace on its back, deep enough to draw rivulets of blood. When she got back to her feet, the Corphish wriggled around at the end of her horn like a worm on a hook. Blood dripped into her eyes, and she blinked.

          “Quick, use Psycho Cut!”

          The Corphish was quicker. It used Aqua Jet, spraying Lady in the face. The Corphish dragged her through twenty feet of sand until it wriggled free. Lady scrambled to her feet, spitting out sand and rubbing at her eyes with her paws.

          The Corphish flew another thirty feet forward, turned back around, and raced towards Lady. She threw herself aside at the last moment and used Double Team. Only three copies formed, but they spread out and launched a barrage of real and imagined Psycho Cuts. The Corphish ducked and sidestepped as it raced towards the nearest copy.

          One Psycho Cut, a real one, struck home, flinging the Corphish aside as it was about to smash through one of the images. It turned, locked it gaze on Lady, and charged forward. The other images rushed at it, but the Corphish ignored them.

          As it ran forward, its carapace glowed. White light shone like a second sun as the Corphish evolved. Its claws grew into meaty claws at the end of long, slender arms. Its legs could crush a human skull, and its blue-lipped mouth had enough space to chew Darren into meaty paste.

          Darren scrambled for its pokéball. He called it back in as its giant claws darted towards Lady’s throat. As the Crawdaunt vanished, he slumped down into the sand and heaved a sigh of relief. The ball jerked in his hands. Stunned, he dropped it and backpedaled. The non-regulation ball cracked open, and red light poured out of it. The Crawdaunt loomed over him, its star-shaped crest blocking out the sun, its sunken eyes peering at him from deep shadows, and its blue smile smirking down at him.

          It raised one claw, and water gushed out from the seams. As it struck, Lady bounded forward and slashed at its arm with her horn. The dark energies crackled off its exoskeleton, leaving minor scorch marks. The Crawdaunt’s Crabhammer missed Darren’s head by two inches. Wet sand erupted from the blow and blinded Darren as he got to his feet.

          When Darren cleared his eyes, a claw flew straight for his face. He turned his head, and most of the blow’s force flew past his right cheek, but enough of the impact hit him square in the eye to knock him off his feet. Pain shot through his head like an iron spike. He blindly rolled and was rewarded with the sound of muffled thumps from where he had landed.

          Darren rolled to a crouch, sprang up, and rose in a fighting stance, legs spread out, knees bent slightly, and his arms poised in front of his jaw. The Crawdaunt glanced at him for a second, but Lady bounded across the sand and landed on its back. The Crawdaunt rocketed away, leaving Lady behind in its wake of sticky wet sand.

          Darren ran forward. The Crawdaunt met him with an Aqua Jet. Darren lunged to the side, but a claw caught him in the left shoulder hard enough to whip him around.

          A numb sense of loss tickled Darren’s throat and chest as he rubbed his bruised shoulder. He muttered, “How did I get so soft?” and watched as Lady leapt away from another Crabhammer.

          “Keep it busy,” Darren told his Absol, “And keep your distance. Kick up the sand around it with Psycho Cut and harass it with Double Team. Only land hits when you know you’ll make a clean getaway, and make sure it doesn’t get to town, got it?”

          Lady nodded, and Darren sprinted towards town. The Crawdaunt rushed after him, but a psychic sickle dug into the sand at it feet. A fine spray of sand blinded the crustacean.

          Darren kept running, leaving the battle behind. Half a mile of beach separated him and his house, and another half to the PokéMart. By the time he made it, he was winded and sweating hard. He looked around and found a bin of Great Balls near the front. He grabbed one, and spotted a collapsible steel baton with a black rubber grip. He hefted it in his hands, flicked it open, and brought it to the counter. He scanned the two items himself, threw down a handful of bills, and ran out before the clerk could say anything.

          Darren considered running all the way back, but lungs that felt as though he breathed in cactus needles convinced him to walk. The beach was ominously quiet. Darren glanced anxiously around him and cupped a hand to his ear. It wasn’t until he reached his apartment that the sounds of battle reached him. His pace quickened, and he was breathing hard when he made it back to the battle. Sand formed craters where the Crawdaunt had slammed its claws, and long wet ditches marked each use of Aqua Jet.

          Blood welled up from one of Lady’s hind legs, and she panted heavily as she circled around the Crawdaunt. Her Double Team was reduced to two pale imitations, which the Crawdaunt ignored. She glanced at Darren and dug her feet deeper in the sand.

          “Hey!” he shouted as loudly as his tired lungs and scratchy throat let him. He waved the great ball in the air, and the Crawdaunt hissed when it saw. “Ready to get captured again?”

          The crustacean raced forward, spattering Lady with the wake of its Aqua Jet. An open claw reached for him. Darren stuffed the great ball in his pants pocket, dug his feet into the sand, pivoted, and leaned aside just enough for the claw to bounce off his throat. His skin was scraped raw by the rough carapace. Darren gritted his teeth and kept his balance.

          As the Crawdaunt continued past him, Darren dug the baton butt-first into its midsection. His arms, trembling from the run, screamed from the impact. Carapace crunched beneath the padded steel. Blood welled up from the tiny cracks in its armor and covered Darren’s hand. The Crawdaunt let out a blood-curdling shriek, like a hissing teapot mixed with claws on a chalkboard.

          The Crawdaunt’s left claw shot towards Darren’s chest. Darren ducked beneath the blow, but his exhausted legs gave out, leaving him sprawled face-up on the sand. He raised his baton just in time to catch an open claw. He angled the baton away from him. The claw snapped shut, severing steel with a sharp screech. The tremor that shot through the metal rattled Darren’s finger-bones, and his grip on the baton nearly slipped.

          The broken-off baton shot forward. The shorn end, now a wedge, pointed at the Crawdaunt’s elbow joint. Darren ignored the tingling in his fingers and twisted his wrist enough to thrust it straight. Though the carapace on the Crawdaunt’s spindly forearms was deceptively thick, it couldn’t withstand the combined force of Darren’s thrust and the Crawdaunt’s forward momentum. The steel bit through the carapace covering its elbow and sank into the soft flesh underneath. The baton tore up cartilage and muscle, and scraped against the carapace on the other side.

          The Crawdaunt’s screech sawed through Darren’s eardrums. He backed away and clasped his ears. The baton fell to the sand with a wet squelch. As Daren, doubled over, the Crawdaunt rammed its right claw into his gut, just below his ribs. The wind rushed out of him, and he flew six feet into the air. The landing on wet sand hammered his spine. The back of his head smacked against a stone buried in the sand, and for a second stars flickered before his eyes.

          When Darren sat up, the Crawdaunt towered over him. Its mangled arm hung limp at its side, and blood poured out of the punctured elbow. Its good arm was raised high, blocking out the sun. Darren, gasping for air, too stunned and tired to move, took as deep a breath as his aching, trembling diaphragm allowed, closed his eyes, and waited for the blow to fall.

          It never did. Lady leapt over him and crashed into the Crawdaunt, knocking it backwards. Her claws glowed with shimmering pink light. Smoking welts appeared in the Crawdaunt’s carapace wherever they touched. The hulking crustacean groaned feebly as it sank back into the sand. It brought its right arm down and knocked Lady off with a single blow. She struggled to her feet and fell back into the sand.

          Though his legs burned, the beach spun in circles around him, and vomit crept up his throat, Darren shoved himself to his feet. He called back Lady, picked up the baton, and straddled the Crawdaunt’s chest. It beat at him, but Darren brushed the feeble blow aside. The Crawdaunt wriggled beneath him, but it only buried itself deeper in the sand.

          Darren raised the baton and pointed the jagged, bloody edge at the Crawdaunt’s right eye. It hissed at him, soft and enraged, and it bucked, but his legs were wrapped too tight around its midsection to fall off.

          “I’ll get this over with quick,” Darren told it. Vomit rushed halfway up his throat before he swallowed it. “It’s the least I can do.”

          The Crawdaunt glared at him. Its left arm convulsed, rose a few inches, and fell with a muffled howl from the crustacean.

          Darren’s hand shook. He shifted his legs so the Crawdaunt’s good arm was pinned beneath him and gripped the baton with both hands, but it still trembled. His breathing came in painful gasps, his head swam in molasses, and his stomach felt as though it was crammed full of sparking batteries.

          “This is Lady’s dinner,” he told himself. “It was doomed for the cooking pot, just like all those other Pokémon. Just do it and get it over with.”

          As air rushed into his lungs, and the fire in his limbs smoldered down to coals, his fingers loosened. The baton bounced off of the Crawdaunt’s jaw and tumbled into the sand. Gritting his teeth, Darren took the great ball out of his pocket and tapped the crustacean with it. It vanished in a flash of red, and Darren plopped face-first into the sand.

          The ball wriggled between his fingers, clicked, and fell still. Darren stared at it for a moment, tucked it next to Lady’s pokéball, and began the long walk back to his apartment.
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            #18    
          Old October 5th, 2017 (9:24 PM).
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          The Corphish/Crawdaunt gets some limelight there finally, indeed he did put up a fight there. Darren was very fast getting the great balls and baton before the clerk can stop him, lol. Welp, Lady's gonna have a big dinner tonight.
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            #19    
          Old October 6th, 2017 (5:00 PM).
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            Glad to finally see Crawdaunt get some action! It's got a feisty temper, and I wonder how Darren is going to deal with that on top of helping Lady (and himself).

            There was something about your narration that I noticed during this chapter. It reads like you're putting in a lot of information into one sentence, like you're unwilling to have short sentences. The very first one that I noticed comes right at the start of the battle.

            Quote:
            Lady rushed forward, and her horn smoldered with darkness, but the Corphish blocked it with a clear, blue shield, and it countered with a claw, bubbling with water, at Lady’s left shoulder.
            In one sentence, you have: Lady attacking, her attack's description, the Corphish's defensive move, the defensive move's description, Corphish's counter attack, the counter attack's description, and where the attack landed. I mean, it is fine to have sentences this long. But readers will get lost from the beginning of the sentence to the end with all the information they have to take in, and there's also a better flow to the narration if you play around with the sentence length.

            Especially for a battle scene like this, shorter sentences work better. They're fast. They're quick. The tide of the battle changes that fast. Writing short sentences gets the reader reading at the pace of the battle. While I was reading your battle narration, it read like a meandering battle, slow and careful.

            Just something you might want to keep in mind for the future.
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              #20    
            Old October 13th, 2017 (7:44 PM). Edited 3 Weeks Ago by Bardothren.
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            Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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            Spoiler: Message from the Author
            Many thanks to Astinus for pointing out my tendency to use long sentences where they have no business cluttering up the story. I think I got a bit of Hawthorne blood from my dad's side :D Anyways, I went and cleaned it up a few times, no promises that it's perfect, but it's definitely an improvement.

            I really like the dialogue and character interaction in this chapter, and I plan on delivering more of it, so let me know what works and what doesn't. Thanks, and enjoy!

            EDIT: 1/29/17 - another tiny edit.


            Chapter Six: Bruises

            Darren collapsed before he reached his bed. He fell onto his kitchen floor, with the front door still open. He tried closing it with one of his legs, but he couldn’t hook his foot around the side.

            Darren collapsed before he reached his bed. He fell onto his kitchen floor, with the front door still open. He tried closing it with one of his legs, but he couldn’t hook his foot around the side.

            Gritting his teeth, he forced himself onto his hands and elbows, wriggled himself around, and pulled the door closed, by the lower corner. He locked the knob. Habit made him reach for the chain, but his legs refused to support his weight.

            As the adrenaline ebbed out of his muscles, aches and soreness flooded in like molten lead, heavy and prickling hot. His throat felt charred, both from the scrape that reddened half of his neck, and a fierce thirst that made him pant. His legs felt like marshmallows in a microwave, flabby, damp, and about to burst. His right eye throbbed, and the eyelids were swelling shut. Darren gingerly reached for his nose and gave it a tap. Though it felt like someone stuck a knife into the bridge, the cartilage felt whole beneath the skin. His fingers traced the edge around a bruise that stretched from his eyebrow, to his right ear, all the way down to his chin. The darkened skin whined at the lightest touch.

            It was dark by the time Darren found enough strength in his legs to stand. When his head came over the counter, vertigo spun his head like roulette, and a heavy stone marble plopped into his stomach. Stomach acid fried his throat on its way up. Darren tried to force it back, but it splattered onto his hand and dripped through his fingers. Stumbling to the sink, Darren spat out the rest and washed his tongue with the tap. The taste made him gag, but nothing else came up.

            When he felt the second pokéball shift in his pocket, Darren felt a pang of guilt. He reached towards the door, but his hand, still speckled with vomit, stopped him. The Crawdaunt’s blood stained his clothes, half his face was purple as a grape, and his legs buckled whenever he let go of the counter.

            Darren washed at the kitchen sink with dish sopa, scrubbing until only a light pink stain remained of the blood smeared across his arms. Then he took off his pants and shirt. His shoulder throbbed as he raised his left arm over his head, but he grunted and worked through the pain. A bruise ran from his collarbone down to his bicep, and a wide purple oval sat beneath his lowest rib.

            He threw the bloody clothes into a corner and threw on the first shirt and pants his fingers found. An inch of bruise showed after the short sleeves. He reached for another shirt, but a spasm of pain convinced him to pull the sleeve lower instead.

            Each step was a finger jabbing into his belly. Darren gritted his teeth and walked slowly, watching where he placed his feet. Though nothing remained of the day but an orange glow on the horizon, many tourists wandered the streets, gazing at the colorfully lit shop windows and taking pictures of the calm, dark ocean. Though he passed several people on the way to the Pokémon Center, shadows hid his bruised face, and no one paid him a second glance.

            Darren’s breath caught in his throat when he saw the Pokémon Center. The café area was packed with tourists drinking liquor out of coconut shells, and more lined the benches in the waiting area. His bruise glowed like wine under the incandescent lighting. Though only a handful of people saw the door opened, whispers rippled through the crowd, and by the time he made it to Nurse Joy, half the room stared at him.

            The nurse took his two pokéballs with a curt nod and rushed into the operating room. Darren took a seat towards the front of the room, as far away from the tourists as possible. Whispers filled the room for a moment, but the flow of alcohol swept away the tourists’ curiosity.

            The last remnant of daylight faded away as Darren waited. The crowd around the café thinned, and those sitting on the benches moved to empty tables. His stomach rumbled, but the dull ache of his diaphragm drowned out his hunger.

            Nearly two hours later, Nurse Joy waved him over. His bruises throbbed as he stood, but he kept his face impassive as he approached the counter.

            “Could I have you come back with me?” She glanced at the tourists and said, “We should discuss this in private.”

            Darren nodded and followed her into the operating area. A long, bare hallway extended fifty feet back. Thick metal doors lined both sides of the hall, and they walked past all of them. At the end, the hall branched two ways. They took the right fork and turned into a tiny break room. Nurse Joy took a seat at the small plastic table, and Darren sat in the only remaining chair.

            “Your Absol is doing well,” she said as she handed him Lady’s pokéball. “There were a lot of bruises and a few scrapes, but they all healed nicely. She’s also put on some weight. She really needed a bath, so I gave her one.”

            She glanced towards the door. “Your Crawdaunt, well, its arm was torn to shreds at the elbow. A few tendons were all that held it together. I couldn’t get the arm to reattach itself properly, so I had to amputate it. Its abdomen had sustained severe concussive damage, but it healed, and I took care of the cuts as well. I will keep it here overnight just to make sure its arm didn’t get infected.”

            Darren nodded. The nurse peered at the bruise on the right side of his face and said, “For the permanent disfigurement of a Pokémon, you could face criminal charges. I need to know what happened, and who was there to witness it.

            Icy numbness crept over Darren’s skin, pierced by three throbbing spots of warmth around his bruises. He cleared his throat and told his tale in five sentences, leaving out his injuries.

            Nurse Joy had a skeptical frown. “Why didn’t you call the police?”

            Darren’s chest froze. His brain scrambled for an excuse, but when he found one, he dismissed it with a sigh. “I didn’t think of it.”

            Nurse Joy leaned back in her chair. “Honestly, I’d think were full of it if your Crawdaunt hadn’t told my Blissey a similar story.” She took a folded piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to him. “I’ll be filing this report on the incident. That copy is for you to keep. It won’t go on your police record, nor will you go on trial, but it will be on your Center records. If anything like this happens again, you will lose your license and face possible criminal charges. Understood?”

            The nurse took a flashlight out and shined it in his eyes. The light dug into his retinas like needles, and he winced.

            “I think you have a concussion,” she said. “Here, I’ll call 911.”

            She took her cell phone out, but Darren said, “Don’t, I’ll be fine. It wasn’t that bad of a hit.”

            Nurse Joy frowned at his bruised face and lowered the phone. “If you’re sure.” She scooped a couple handfuls of ice from the break room’s freezer into a plastic bag, added some water, and handed it to him. “At least ice it for a while, no more than twenty minutes.” She dug around a cabinet and took out a plastic bottle. “I’ve got some painkillers, if you want them.”

            Darren leaned back and plopped the bag on his bruise. The cold stung, but it drowned out the pain. “I’m fine,” he said.

            The pills rattled as the nurse set them on the table. “They’re right here if you change your mind.” She stifled a yawn and said, “It’s amazing you only got a concussion taking on a Crawdaunt. Did you train, or something?”

            A sliver of bruise on his shoulder showed beneath his sleeve. Darren said, “I did, a few years back,” and casually shrugged his shoulder. The nurse caught the movement, leaned across the table, and gently lifted his sleeve. She hissed at the bruise beneath.

            “Take off your shirt,” she said. Nurse Joy went back to the freezer for a second bag. “I’ll make sure that shoulder isn’t dislocated.”

            “It’s not, and it’s fine,” Darren said. While her back was turned, he threw off his shirt and set it on his bruised stomach.

            “See?” Darren waved his arm around, clenching his teeth as stinging pain shot up his shoulder. “Definitely not dislocated, or broken, or any of that.”

            She gently poked the tender flesh, and Darren flinched away from her touch. “No, not dislocated, but it’s pretty swollen. You could use a brace for your arm, so it doesn’t get more inflamed.”

            “It’ll be fine,” he said. “I won’t be doing much of anything for the next few days anyways.”

            Nurse Joy opened the medicine bottle and tapped out a white pill. “At least take an aspirin. It’ll help with the inflammation.” She flung a cabinet open and filled a styrofoam cup at the sink. Darren swallowed the pill and half the water. Drinking upset his bruised diaphragm, and his hand involuntarily clutched his gut. Darren tried to conceal the motion by reaching for Lady’s pokéball, but Nurse Joy reached over the table and took his t-shirt. The bruise, a splotchy mess of purple, blue, and red skin rimmed with yellow and brown patches, stretched from hip to hip.

            The nurse gasped and ran a delicate finger over his chest, prodding wherever she found a rib. Pain hammered each rib she touched, but Darren strangled the shouts at the back of his throat.

            “I don’t think you have any broken ribs, but you need an X-Ray to be sure.” She took out her cell-phone and dialed a number. Darren’s good arm struck like a whip and yanked the phone out of her fingers.

            “No hospitals,” he growled. She reached for the phone, but he stuffed it in his pocket.

            Nurse Joy stood over him. Shadows covered her face, and she clenched her fists hard enough to crack her knuckles.

            “Give me one good reason you shouldn’t go to the hospital, or I’ll use the landline and have them drag you out the front door.”

            Darren met her stare and said, “Waking up in a hospital was the worst moment of my life, and I will not suffer it again.” The chill in his voice could freeze water and hearts alike. The nurse swallowed nervously, looked away, and said, “I guess it is overkill for just a few bruises.” She held out her hand and asked, “Could I have my phone back now? I won’t call 911, but I can call friends or family to get you home safe.”

            Darren shook his head and gave her phone back. “I don’t have anyone.” He stood up and stifled a yawn with his hand. “I’ll be fine, home’s only half a… it’s not that far.” His eyelids were anvils, and for a moment he couldn’t find the door. Nurse Joy grabbed him by his good arm and sat him in a chair.

            “You won’t make it out the door like this,” she said. After a moment, she dialed a number. Darren tried to listen in, but his ears were jammed with angry Beedrill.

            The room dimmed. As blackness crept in his mind, a sudden thought flashed and darted to his tongue.

            “Did Lady get dinner?” he asked in a slurred mumble. He had to repeat himself three times before Nurse Joy understood. “I tried feeding her, but she wouldn’t eat.”

            “Only eats real food,” Darren said. “Not processed crap. Don’t have any more. That curry. She’d eat the curry.”

            The nurse looked at her phone, but she didn’t dial anything. “He’ll be here in a few minutes. Just stay awake for that long, alright?” His head sagged forward, and she propped it up with her hands. “Keep talking. Talk about your Absol. What’s her favorite food?”

            Her words sank into Darren’s head like lead weights in honey. He blinked a few times, which did nothing to dispel the fuzziness of his vision, and said, “She liked the curry. Spicy stuff, I think. Like Rocky.” His eyes stung, and his vision turned even blurrier. Cold, wet trickles ran down his cheeks. His tongue and his brain tied themselves in knots as he tried to speak.

            Darren didn’t even notice when someone lifted him by the right shoulder and walked him out of the Pokémon Center. He kept talking and didn’t stop until his head hit a pillow.
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              #21    
            Old October 14th, 2017 (4:15 PM).
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              As expected, my favorite chapters of this are the chapters where Darren gets to interact with other characters, and we get more of a look into his life and who he is. The end there was a punch to the heart, with a mention of Rocky liking the same sort of foods that Lady does.

              I had to go back and reread the end of chapter two to remind myself of Darren's nightmare. Since he said that waking up in a hospital was the worst moment of his life, and he was reminded of Rocky...I really wonder what happened in that final Johto League fight against the Metagross.

              I really only noticed a few small typos this time around.

              Quote:
              “For the permanent disfigurement of a Pokémon, you could face criminal charges. I need to know what happened, and who was there to witness it.
              You missed the closing quotation marks.

              Quote:
              I’d think were full of it if your Crawdaunt hadn’t told my Blissey a similar story
              Missed the "you" between "think" and "were."

              Quote:
              Darren met her stare and said, “Waking up in a hospital was the worst moment of my life, and I will not suffer it again.” The chill in his voice could freeze water and hearts alike. The nurse swallowed nervously, looked away, and said, “I guess it is overkill for just a few bruises.” She held out her hand and asked, “Could I have my phone back now? I won’t call 911, but I can call friends or family to get you home safe.”
              This paragraph should be split into two, since you have two different people talking here.
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                #22    
              Old October 18th, 2017 (10:24 PM).
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              Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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              Like Astinus, I too enjoyed Nurse Joy and Darren's conversation there. Nurse Joy is stern but she seems to care what happens with Darren and his Pokemon. Ouch to being reminded of Rocky there.

              I'm liking your version of Brawly here. Still has this chill vibe but also I don't blame him for wanting a break after dealing with several challengers. The rematch should be fun.
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                #23    
              Old October 19th, 2017 (3:52 PM). Edited October 30th, 2017 by Bardothren.
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              Bardothren Bardothren is online now
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              Note: As of 10/25/17, this chapter is obsolete. The perspective in this chapter is flawed, so I rewrote it. I'm keeping these here in case anyone is interested in the changes I made. The updated chapter is on the next page.


              Spoiler: Message from the Author
              Oh look, another chapter. I've been in overdrive lately :D


              Chapter Eight: Behind the Closed Door


              Darren took a seat in the corner and waited for the battle to begin. Brawly called out Confucis, and the Medicham balanced itself on one leg, the other raised to kick.

              Lady turned her back on her opponent and sat on her hind legs. She stared at Darren. The Medicham leapt forward, feinted, darted back, and looked at Brawly in confusion.

              “Maybe she wants you to give the commands?” Brawly suggested.

              Darren got to his feet. The room wobbled a bit, but his legs supported his weight. “Lady, use Psycho Cut!”

              Lady didn’t move. Darren shrugged, walked towards the exit, and waited for Lady to follow, but she stayed seated in the arena.

              “Well, that’s weird,” Brawly said as he ruffled his hair. “Maybe she wants an official match?”

              At those words, Lady turned her head and looked at Brawly. He chuckled and said, “I guess we have our answer. What do you say, Darren?”

              The room spun around Darren, and bile rose at the back of his throat. “I have a Johto license,” he said.

              “Really? Let me see.”

              Darren fished his trainer card out of the wallet in his pocket, met Brawly halfway across the arena, and handed it to him. The gym leader glanced at it and handed it back.

              “That’s a Johto address, but it’s definitely a Hoenn League license.”

              Darren looked at his license. On the bottom, in small black print just below the stripes, it read “Hoenn League License” and had the black triangle of dots in a circle, the League Mark for the Hoenn Region.

              “That can’t be right,” Darren said. “It should be a Johto License.”

              “Well, it’s not. Are you up for an official match?” Brawly flashed him a smile and said, “I’ll spot you the entry fee, though I doubt you’ll lose.”

              Darren mulled over the prize money he’d receive after the win. Then he took a deep breath, which stopped the room from spinning, and said, “I could use a little extra cash.”

              Brawly called back Confucis and walked over to the pokéballs in the wall. “You don’t have any badges, right? I’ll have to use my rookie Pokémon, but I won’t go easy on you just because I got my kiddie gloves on.”

              He called out Makit. The Makuhita beat its thick blue hands on its ample belly, stomped its feet, and bellowed at Lady. Lady snarled and crouched.

              “Hold on a sec, I’ll call the referee.” Brawly cupped his hands and shouted “Laura!”

              A big, muscular woman with black hair ran into the room. She wore athletic pants, a thick tank-top, and a lanyard with her Trainer ID around her neck.

              “I didn’t see him come in,” Laura said.

              “He’s the house-guest.”

              Laura smiled. “He’s leaving then? About damn time you got back to work.” A grimace twisted her lips, and she turned towards Darren. “Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to offend you. Stay however long you want.”

              “Ready to start?” Darren asked Brawly.

              The gym leader nodded to Laura, and she raised a hand in the air. “Each trainer may use two Pokémon. No substitutions or items are permitted at any time. Are the rules understood?”

              Darren nodded, and Laura said, “The gym battle between Brawly the Gym Leader, and, uh…”

              “Darren Smith,” Brawly filled in for her.

              “Will now begin!” Laura chopped the air.

              “Arm thrust!” Makit waddled forward on its stubby legs. Darren called for Double Team, and six copies of Lady sprung around the arena. Makit charged towards the nearest, and it vanished as its fist passed through empty air.

              Darren’s skin felt like ice as he searched for the real Lady, but every copy seemed too lifelike. He settled on the one closest to him and shouted, “Psycho Cut!”

              He guessed wrong. Six purple sickles flew through the air, but only the one from the Lady closest to Brawly left any impact. Darren followed that image as it darted around the arena.

              Brawly ordered Makit to Bulk Up. Its muscles bulged and hardened as it widened its stance.

              “Don’t let it build stamina, hit it harder!” Darren shouted. A barrage of Psycho Cuts flew at the Makuhita, but Brawly called out directions. Makit spun on one leg, dancing around the real cuts while the illusions broke against it. A spin turned into a roll on its side, and it sprang up next to Lady.

              “Now, Arm Thrust at the one right in front of you!”

              “Protect!” Lady shot him a puzzled look, and Makit’s fist slammed into her cheek. She tumbled back, rolled to her feet, and sidestepped the Makuhita’s repeated strikes.

              Darren swore at himself. A headache ravaged his temples, and his stomach felt like a wrung-out towel. He shouted, “Psycho Cut, don’t let up until it’s down!”

              Makit twirled around a few hits, but one clipped its leg, and another slammed into the side of its head. It fell to the floor, and two more Psycho Cuts knocked it off the stage.

              “Makit is unable to battle,” Laura called out. “Brawly will now call out his next Pokémon.”

              Brawly tossed a pokéball into the ring. A Meditite sat cross-legged in the middle of the arena, its eyes closed and its hands forming a circle in the center of its chest.

              “You won’t cheese your way through this one with Psychic moves,” Brawly said with a grin. “Ready?”

              Darren pointed at the Meditite and said, “Night Slash!”

              “Meditite, use Detect!”

              The Meditite leaned aside, and Lady’s horn flew past it.

              “Again!” Darren shouted.

              “Counter!”

              This time, the move struck the Meditite in the head, but it grabbed Lady by her horn and slammed her into the floor. She wobbled when she stood. Her breaths came in ragged gasps, and she leaned on her right legs. Darren clenched his hands and breathed deeply, swallowing until the taste of bile faded. The Meditite had a long, blackened scratch on its head, but it waited calmly for the next move.

              “Keep your distance and use Psycho Cut!”

              “Use Bide!”

              A red glow surrounded the Meditite as it took a psychic slash to its chest. It flew towards the edge of the arena and landed on its back, but it rose to a sitting position.

              Darren weighed his options and said, “Play Rough, quickly!”

              Lady raced forward. Her claws glowed with soft, pink light as they sank into the Meditite’s head. They tumbled across the floor. The Meditite screeched as the light burned its skin. With a bat of her paws, Lady flung the Meditite out of the arena, and it collapsed.

              “Well, that’s that!” Laura said. “Darren wins the battle.” She handed Brawly a black box, which he opened and grabbed a handful of items.

              Brawly walked over to Darren. He held out his hands, which held the Knuckle Badge, a Technical Machine, and a hundred dollars.

              “That’s Bulk-Up, if you’re interested. Builds up a Pokémon’s stamina and power.”

              Darren pocketed the bundle without a word. He called Lady back and walked towards the exit, but Brawly called after him.

              “Hold up, I just remembered! My brother raised your Absol.”

              Darren stopped. Vertigo made the room loop around his head. He leaned against a wall, breathed as deeply as his trembling chest allowed, and rubbed his temples.

              Brawly ran over and said, “Let’s get you back on the couch, okay? Here, I’ll take your arm.”

              Laura opened the door for them, and Brawly carefully guided Darren down the stairs. Darren slumped onto the sofa, and Brawly ran for a glass of water, but by the time he returned, Darren’s dizziness and nausea had faded to a tolerable, sour ache in his gut.

              “I just need a few minutes,” Darren said. “That’s all.”

              “You sure? Maybe you need another day.”

              “No, I’m better now.” Darren stood and stretched his arms, and the knot of nausea in his gut, though present, rested.

              “Just wait a few more minutes to be sure,” Brawly said. “You don’t want to collapse on your way home. Plus, there’s something I wanted to tell you.” He glanced at the door in the hall. “In private.”

              Darren considered leaving, but he nodded and followed Brawly into his bedroom. The décor matched the living room and was accompanied by a bed with ocean waves dyed into the blankets.

              Brawly closed the door and sat on the bed, near his pillow. Darren took the opposite corner and leaned against the bed frame.

              “My brother was a breeder, once,” Brawly said. “He liked taking on projects. One time, he raised a Houndoom that knew Sucker Punch and Thunder Fang. Lady was another project of his, to raise an Absol with a Fairy move.”

              Brawly drummed his fingers on a wooden post. “He was also the Gym Leader. That’s why there’s the whole darkness thing, and the thing with turning the lights on as you beat trainers, that was his idea. It was a recent renovation, and it cost a lot of money so I never changed it. He was a dark type trainer.” Brawly looked at him for a second. “Like you, I guess. Anyway, being a breeder and a Gym Leader was too much for him. There were nights he didn’t sleep at all, since he was so busy training Pokémon for gym battles and raising the ones he bred.”

              A pause broke Brawly’s story, as if he expected Darren to say something. Then Brawly said, “He got caught using Rare Candies. I guess it was too much for him, but I told him, over and over, that he could let me run the gym, that if he ever needed help, I was there for him.”

              Brawly choked up and rubbed his eyes with his shirt sleeve. “He hasn’t left his room since. All the Pokémon he bred were sold or given to rescue shelters. I tried taking care of a few, just in case he wanted them around, but they only made him mad.”

              Darren stared at the door, wondering if there was a polite way to end the conversation. Failing to find words, he kept his back to Brawly and waited for him to finish.

              “Lady tried going in there, while you were asleep,” he said. “My brother… didn’t like that. It’s been three years, but he hasn’t gotten any better. So, yeah. That’s the story.”

              Another pause froze the air. This time, Darren asked, “Why did you tell me that?”

              Brawly shrugged, though Darren didn’t see it. “I don’t know, guess I just felt like it.” After another pause, he added, “There’s also a favor I would like to ask of you.”

              Darren felt his stomachache coming back, and it throttled his insides as Brawly spoke. “I kept one of his Pokémon, a Pancham he named Bruiser. I was hoping to use him in my gym battles one day, but he can’t evolve with me. He needs to train with a Dark type for that to happen. It’s not fair for me to keep Bruiser, he’d never get stronger with me, so I was wondering if you could take him.”

              Darren pressed one hand to his roiling stomach and clenched the other in a fist. Thinking fast, he said, “I’m on probation, and Pangoro’s a Tier Three.”

              “Oh.” Brawly’s shoulders sagged. “Well, thanks anyway. I’ll have to find someone else then.”

              The room spun again, but Darren decided he had spent enough time around Brawly. He stood, braced himself against the door frame, and walked through Brawly’s home, up the stairs, out the gym, and all the way back home. Each step lightened his nausea and vertigo, and by the time he was on the beach, he was running across the sand. He jammed the key in the lock, flung it open, and locked it behind him.

              His phone had one message. Thinking it a prospective employer, Darren listened to it, but his heart and stomach sank when he heard Nurse Joy tell him he could pick up his Crawdaunt anytime.
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                #24    
              Old October 19th, 2017 (5:21 PM).
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              Astinus Astinus is online now
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                So glad that I had two chapters to read. Otherwise, I'd be left wondering what was behind that door! And you're writing these faster than I can read them.

                You're right. I did enjoy chapter seven. It was such a calm normal chapter as Darren tries to recover enough to return to normal life. It was also a great showing of Brawly being just a regular person. So often, who the Gym Leaders are outside of the gym isn't shown, and this was a decent way of getting to know Brawly.

                For chapter eight, I did notice improvements in how you handled writing the battle scene. There weren't the long sentences with too much information. A lot better to read! Only suggestion I have is how the part where Brawly drops the truth on Darren is written. It really just seemed to come out of nowhere. Even if you don't have a lot of Darren's thoughts reacting to what Brawly says, maybe you could show Brawly hesitating before saying it, or showing some emotion when he's telling Darren the story.

                Now I'm wondering (hoping?) if Bruiser will make a return. And what Darren is going to do about that Crawdaunt.
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                  #25    
                Old October 21st, 2017 (9:59 AM).
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                Bay Alexison Bay Alexison is online now
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                I too thought Brawly announcing the truth to Darren seems kinda out of the blue. Maybe Brawly was surprised when Lady used Play Rough would make the truth more sense. The battle was otherwise fun, I agree!
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