[SS] Eyes
#1
Target Pokemon: Rhyhorn (Hard, reduced to Medium, 20k-30k -> 10k-20k
Character Count: 9,298
Trigger warning: Death, graphic descriptions, and some violence
Concise Grade please!
Dedicating this story to Evanfardreamer, who always encourages people in the best ways to write. I wouldn't have made it through this story without you buddy.


For the last 16 years, this life was all he knew. Ethan stretched his legs, feeling the cool water of the stream slip between his toes as he sat on the riverbank. All was quiet outside Oldale Town, and he could smell the Berry trees ripening as he adjusted his fishing rod, the line having snagged some submerged weeds. A short distance to his left, Ethan saw a few other fishermen, lined up and hoping to do the exact same thing he was trying for, and to his right he saw his mother’s Shin, vigilant as ever. Shin was a Tangrowth, and a huge one at that; it had been part of his family since he was born, a relic of his mother’s time as a Trainer, and as such had grown very protective of Ethan. Shin always followed him when he went out to fish; Ethan was never certain if it was on his mother’s orders or Shin’s own volition, but he wasn't going to complain about company and an extra set of vine-y arms to carry back his catch, even though as a former League Champion he was certain of his ability to defend himself.

Speaking of catch, however, Ethan felt a tug on the line right near the end of his stretch. He immediately popped up a bit, eager to see what he’d landed; near the middle of the river, he saw something huge and silver was pulling on the line, and he heard the other fishermen cry out in envy when they saw him hook something. Ethan couldn’t hide his smirk as he pulled hard and began reeling in his prize, the silver scales reflecting off the top of the water as he pulled it right out--

The next few moments were seared into Ethan’s memory; the loud crash as the fish jumped from the water... Shin bolting behind him, tendrils wrapping around him like a cocoon… the sight of the fish evaporating in flames as the Tangrowth sealed him within its body… and then the screams as Ethan fell into darkness.

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For two years, fire and blood was all he knew. Thaum adjusted his stance, readiness and impatience mixing together into a stew as he awaited the signal. Brawly had said noon, but only commanders could carry watches anymore; with resources as limited as they were, having spare batteries and maintaining them had become costly. Thaum couldn’t help being ticked off at the wait; the last two years had made him and Ryn self-sufficient and capable, but he needed to be doing something constantly, or his thoughts would wander…

It had been two years since the explosion. Thaum had left the name Ethan behind in the ashes of Shin; everything around him spreading back to Littleroot had been annihilated in the blast orchestrated by Team Magma. Thaum seemed to be the only survivor; only ash and smoke remained of that whole part of the region, which people afterwards called the Awakening. For months afterwards, surrounding regions were besieged by Team Magma, and eventually they took over a few major cities, including Mauville and Fortree, and set them up into armored forts. Just as quickly as the Awakening, however, the Army of Brennan arose; a mercenary army, built from the free peoples of Hoenn, to combat Magma after the collapse of the government under the banner of the fallen hero Brennan. Thaum left behind his past Pokemon, which he was certain perished in the Pokemon Center, and without any parents or family remaining, had caught Ryn and enrolled in the army.

Some hero Brennan was, though, Thaum couldn’t help thinking; Magma targetted Littleroot expressly because it was Brennan’s hometown, since Brennan had thwarted their earlier plans to revive Groudon with the help of Rayquaza. Now that both were gone, and Kyogre and Groudon were put into eternal slumber, the Army would have to be the heroes. Thaum glanced down at Ryn; tough, armored rocky hide made him the perfect Pokemon to ride into battle with, and his horn had skewered as many of Team Magma as Thaum’s spear. Ryn was anxious as well; Thaum sensed he also had some past trauma, but it wasn’t like Thaum could just ask the Rhyhorn about it, nor would he do so even if he could. He’d have to settle for battling now and self-care later though, because he looked up to see the signal; Brawly flashed the warning light, and Norman gave the go ahead signal. Today, they were taking back Mauville.

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Thaum loaded into Ryn’s saddle. They’d come up with the strategy together; a personalized saddle behind Ryn would pull Thaum in without fearing any Pokemon attacks or projectiles; Ryn’s tough, armored hide would pull him in close, and then Thaum would pop out and start fighting. It had worked every time they rode into battle together, and had given Thaum and Ryn the nickname “The Riding Thunder”, though Thaum never gave those nicknames a second thought; he’d chosen his new name after Oldale town. Today would be the mother of all battles, however, so Thaum made sure they were extra careful. The plan seemed to be going off without a hitch; Brawly would scale the walls under cover of night, use his Fighting Pokemon to raise the gate for the Army, and they’d storm the city at noon, driving Magma out and rescuing the innocent citizens they’d taken hostage inside. Once they were through the gate, it would be fairly easy to push forward towards the gym; they’d come in through the west gate, from Verdanturf, and the Gym, which had been repurposed as Magma HQ in Mauville, was very closeby, so they’d hoped to end this quickly.

As they began charging, they saw the gate opening; as usual, Thaum and Ryn took the lead, their pride and bloodlust not making any room for people to pass them. They charged through the gate as Magma raised the alarm, but it was too late; Ryn began rampaging and Horn Attacking anything within sight as Thaum popped out, spear in hand, ready to end the lives of the people he blamed for his parents’ deaths. Very quickly, the rest of the army caught up; the battle entered a fever pitch, with Pokemon attacks and weapons flying every which way, Ryn and Thaum being in the very thick of it. Thaum couldn’t count how many Pokemon he’d killed since the start of the war; each life was no longer sacred to him, and he speared down any who got in his way. Revenge and fire were in his eyes, and they synchronized well with Ryn’s cold, calculating, and mournful ones. Both eyes, looking towards home, trying to make up for lost time and loved ones.

Thaum speared another Golbat down and then turned to Ryn; his gray hide was soaked in blood as he held off multiple Magma Grunts from Thaum’s back, his horn glistening and his breath measured. Thaum couldn’t help smiling; he’d been ecstatic to find a Rhyhorn so shortly after the explosion, but Ryn had proved himself again and again, and Thaum couldn’t ask for any better partner in these dark times.

Just then, something curious happened; Ryn and Thaum’s breathing matched; their movements became synchronized; and suddenly, Ryn was covered in white light that pushed every enemy around them away. Ryn became taller, its squat four-legged stature replaced with a much taller two-legged one, and Ryn stepped out of the light looking much stronger, taller, and even more armored. Thaum recognized Rhyhorn from his training days; and he felt his bond grow with this Pokemon he called a partner.
This moment of respite was not to last. Just as brilliantly as the light that brought Ryn into Rhyhorn form, something monstrous appeared on the east side of town. Towering figure rolled magma, and like the Awakening before it, Primal Groudon appeared before the Army of Brennan. Thaum’s eyes went wide; how in the world were they supposed to beat that?! Ryn sensed the danger much more acutely than Thaum, however, and quickly scooped Thaum up to much protest, and began running south. Thaum’s protests couldn’t be heard over the sounds of the town burning to ash.

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It was a long while before Ryn put Thaum down. They were on a hill overlooking the ashen remains of Mauville; the Army was embers, the people were gone, and all that was left were Thaum’s tears. I let it happen again. I couldn’t save them. For the first time in two years, Thaum cried. Ryn the Rhyhorn held Thaum as they mourned together the loss and destruction.

Thaum eventually stopped crying. He did what he needed to; made a campfire, fed Ryn and himself, and sat brooding staring at the remains of Mauville. I let it happen again. But next time, I’ll end this. I swear it. As if answering his prayers, a large Pokemon began alighting near him; it didn’t see the embers of the campfire, and Thaum sat up in alarm as Ho-Oh came down on the hill and stared at the destruction in Mauville. It let out an anguished cry, but Thaum was still mentally deciding what to do about this intruder. Spear sat nearby, and Ryn, sleeping, across the fire; however, as Thaum glanced between these options, Ho-Oh noticed Thaum and stared at him.

Eyes Looking Towards Home.

They had the same eyes. Thaum got up and slowly approached Ho-Oh. He could feel its pain, and recognized the same pain in himself. They were the same. Ryn and Thaum weren’t alone anymore. The three would end this, together.

For the last precious moments, and until the end, hope was all Thaum knew.
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#2
Claiming.
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#3
It is time.  KAHAHAHA

- The Good -
  • Descriptions were done fairly well, although some were repeated and lost a little value to me.
  • The story concept is simple but fairly well put together, with enough wiggle room to do what's wanted.
  • The introduction is nice and quaint, long enough to matter but not too long to where it made me want to stop reading.
  • The fight scene was interesting and an interesting action bit.
- The Meh -
  • Sometimes the story will randomly switch between 1st and 3rd person, which threw me off a few times.
  • Grammar seems to be a little over the place, with random capitalization or even lack of it. 
  • I wish more characters were used for interactions rather than focusing entirely on Thaum with all of the possibilities that are mentioned.
  • It was below the character count, which is the biggest thing I can give a "meh" to here.
- The Bad -
  • Run-on sentences were a common occurrence, and felt slightly off-putting when reading as I had to double take every time I saw one. There is a good guide here for avoiding these. If you'd like more on which ones I'm thinking on specifically, feel free to DM me on Discord.
  • I feel like a large part of the story could have been done about what Ethan/Thaum had done in the two years he was living in the world, how he met his partner, and reached where he was at the end of that day. It felt missing, and I believe it could have helped the story immensely to know more about his past, especially since its even mentioned that he was a former Champion.
  • The end of the story feels too "convenient" or quick to the gun. The idea of Ho-Oh coming to interact with him in hopes to stop Team Magma after seeing the destruction of Mauville is interesting, but there's no build-up to when it happens. One sentence Ho-Oh isn't around, next sentence Thaum is already pondering about the bird.
With my final thoughts, I'd say there is a good idea here, but I'm going to have to say that for the meantime, the attempt for Rhyhorn is a Fail. I felt the bad parts of the story dragged it down a lot, and if one or more of them was fixed, it would definitely meet the Medium qualification. For now though, that is how I feel on this. Contact me when you've made any changes and I'll make sure to do a regrade asap since this is a Secret Santa.
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