[#ANewChapter] Ecclesiastic.
#1
Prompt: Evil team's victory.
Hard Pokemon Target: Noibat.
Grades: Concise.
Rating: Teen (themes of death; language).
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#2
“To say that this broadcast was distressing is an understatement; the region is in abject panic as citizens prepare for the worst. However, hope is not lost. Champion Diantha Bellamy has ordered the rest of the League to stand guard over their cities while she investigates Team Flare personally… Although she could not give a proper statement, Champion Bellamy promises this: the Kalos Region will survive.”
- Alexa Chouquette, Lumiose Press, published on lumipress.com 11/24/2013.

The crowds shuffle around me, shoes clacking against gray-gold brick. I work against the press of bodies, muttering an occasional “excuse me”, “pardon me”, “Trainer coming through”. That last one really makes people move - even if Levi is just a chipper, runty Noibat, he’s one more Pokemon than most people have, so when they see him on my shoulder, they get out of the way. 

Of course, Trainer cred only gets you so far if you don't act like a Trainer.

When Levi and I reach the city square, I keep to the market stalls lining the edges, piling up in front of and in between the pretty little houses and proper storefronts. People trying to hawk salvaged copper wiring and handmade shirts and Lum berries at me is a lot better than getting into the warzone that the middle of the square has become.

It's pure chaos, awesome and terrifying to behold. Korrina herself is hosting this particular spar, and her Pokemon are in fine form. Her Lucario comes out in their Mega form, already preparing a Bone Rush for the Pyroar that had been making a beeline for Korrina’s position. The lion lets out a roar of pain and staggers backward; two comrades take their place. A massive Diggersby aims a punch in time with a Golbat’s vicious swoop, but the Lucario twirls their bone weapon like a helicopter blade, battering the Crobat away before swinging the bone down and blocking the Diggersby’s furious punch. The bone cracks and disintegrates under the force of the blow, but Lucario isn't deterred; they follow up with a Force Palm, streamers of bright blue aura trailing from their paw as they send the Diggersby flying backward.

“Come on, you guys!” Korrina shouts, holding a bright red megaphone and twirling on her skates in agitation. “Team Flare can attack at any time! You know? The people who took down Clemont? Wikstrom? Freaking Drasna!?” She’s not even bothering to coach her own Pokemon, who fight like armies unto themselves. The Gym Leader herself doesn’t seem to notice a Trainer’s Aromatisse shooting an Echoed Voice right at her head until she skirts the attack as easily as breathing; her Hawlucha swoops in to punish the attacker with a vicious Aerial Ace. “If they can beat the Kalos elite, we’re gonna need a hell of a lot more than this to keep Shalour safe!”

I pick up the pace, but Levi isn't having it. He chirrups furiously, worrying my hair with his claws, pulling as if he’s trying to drag me bodily into the dogpile. I shake my head wordlessly, shaking my blonde curls out of Levi's grip. No “Trainer coming through” anymore; I just keep my head down, trying to ignore the guilt and the gawkers.

Once we’re past the square, Levi deflates, leaning forward so far that he’d fall if he weren’t clutching my sweater with his claws and keening miserably. I scratch behind his drooping ears; when he doesn’t respond, I say, “C’mon. We’re not ready to train with them yet. We’ll get there when we’re ready. Okay?” I ruffle his fuzzy chin and he hums grumpily, but he doesn’t protest or fly away.

The city’s south gate comes within sight in a few minutes. Shalour is a pretty lucky city; hills and cliffs and the old aristocracy’s elegant white walls surround us, making Shalour easy to defend. Truthfully, we haven’t even had to do much of that yet; between Shalour’s lack of special usefulness and Korrina’s terrifying strength, Team Flare hasn’t exactly made us a priority. Still, better safe than sorry. It's just a matter of time before Team Flare decides it's time to tango, which is why a big lady with an Alakazam stops me before I can leave the city.

“Skye Taylor,” I rattle off before the guard starts her twenty questions routine. I meet her Alakazam's eyes, trying to ignore the inherent creepiness of a Pokemon reading my thoughts like it's nothing. “Pre-Flare Shalour immigrant, civilian Trainer. Levi,” I gesture to him with my thumb, “is my Noibat. We’re going out for training.”

The guard raises an eyebrow. “Training out there? The matches in town not good enough for you? I heard Korrina's even hosting, today.”

Levi leans into my field of vision to give me a smug look. I do my best to ignore him. “It's our time. Let us do what we want with it.”

The guard glances at her Alakazam. While the fox-like Pokemon says nothing, they step aside, unlatching the gate’s great wooden door and pushing it open with a bout of telepathy. “Just come back before nightfall,” she says. “And make sure not to lose that Pokemon while you’re out there.”

I give her a wordless ‘okay’ sign and stride through the gate. It shuts behind me with a resounding boom, leaving Levi and I alone on the path through the woods.

“Alright,” I say, stretching, and start walking down the path. Levi jumps out of the way of my rising arm and doesn’t come back, instead flying beside me, radar ears turning every which way as he flaps erratically through the air. “Let’s get this started, yeah?”
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#3
“In a word, I’m disheartened. We had to turn Trainers away during the qualifiers because there weren’t a full sixty-four challengers to fill the brackets. At the risk of sounding bitter, last month’s Ever Grande Conference fared better, and the Hoenn region is considered notorious for its overpopulation of casual Trainers… A decade ago, we would have had to cut the roster in half at qualifiers because too many Trainers showed up. Through the years, I’ve seen the Trainers of the Kalos region go from driven souls to unmotivated pushovers… My colleagues in the League and I will be working hard to ensure that next year’s conference truly embodies the vitality of the Kalos region.”
- Elite Drasna Paquet, Lumiose Conference Postmortem, published on lumipress.com 7/12/2013.

“Let’s get this started, yeah?”

Levi and I have a pretty simple regimen. A brisk jog down the trail gets both of us warmed up (and helps a lazy tinkerer like me stay in shape). Then, once we reach the spot I’ve marked with a scrap of blue cloth, Levi’s Gust attack clears away leaves and detritus, leaving a path that the two of us can just barely squeeze through. Sticks and cobwebs cling to my jacket, but it’s not too bothersome. This path is always overgrown; I’m used to it.

After a few moments of fighting undergrowth, I find myself in a familiar clearing, with Levi already perched in a tree on the opposite end. He chirps, then takes a lap around the outer edges of the clearing, purple wings flapping haphazardly.

The grotto is Levi and I’s little secret, our private place where we can train and just be without the constant tension and scrutiny of Shalour. There’s not much here, just some thick grass and a big rock for me to sit on, but there’s enough space for Levi to get the exercise he needs and to practice his attacks. It’s about the only place either of us feels at home anymore.

“Finished warming up?” I stretch my arms above my head; when Levi lands on the ground and chirps assent, I nod. “Alright. First things first, the bread and butter. Gimme your best Air Cutter!”

Levi hops up, wings pulling him two meters high in almost an instant. The edges of his wings glow with a blue-white light; with a few flaps, he releases it, sending it shooting toward the trees ahead. “Nice power on that one!” I cheer, as the attack shears a few branches off the trees and cuts nearly halfway into an oak’s massive trunk. The both of us have learned not to be put off by the fact that the branches and the bark grow back precisely to their original state in a matter of seconds.

This is the part where most competent Trainers would bring in a training dummy, another Pokemon, or literally anything vaguely resembling a target. The trouble is, even if I was competent (a highly subjective claim, at best), I don’t have anything like that. All Levi has to aim at is trees and grass - or me, if I’m feeling particularly daring - and it’s only a matter of time before a bright, energetic Pokemon like him gets bored with all of that. Today it takes even less time than usual for his enthusiasm to vanish. We haven’t even started our Supersonic reps before he flutters back down to the ground, listless, and stares into the trees. Away from me. 

“Levi, c’mon, we’ve gotta finish our routine,” I say, but the Noibat ignores me. His ears are down, his whole body settled on the ground rather than the tips of his toes; he holds his wings in front of himself, claws folding over each other and twisting together with nervous energy.

“Is this about the training session Korrina was doing?”

That gets his attention. He gives me a sharp look and an acrid chirp before turning away again, and I sigh. “We’ve been over this, little buddy.” I sit down in the grass next to him, trying not to be hurt by the way he scoots just a little bit away from me. “I know you’re really strong and you really want to prove yourself, but neither of us is ready for that kind of battling. You could get hurt if I screw up, and then where would we be? Besides, they expect Trainers like that to defend the city. And, Levi, I don’t think that’s us.”

He shakes his head. He’s been digging his heels in more and more about this lately; loathing our tranquil training sessions, trying to pick fights with others’ Pokemon. Usually, I can rein him in, but this…

I don’t know what to say to him. I love Levi; I want to make him happy. But I also want him to be safe. And I also don’t want to be one of the people responsible for Shalour’s safety. So for once in both our lives, we’re silent for a while.

Levi seems to get something in his head suddenly; his ears perk up, and he stands to his full height. But he doesn’t focus on me. He’s watching through the trees, eyes on… something. “What’s up?” I ask him, but he just keeps staring. I follow his gaze. Nothing. Except… maybe some kind of a shadow?

<YOU.>

The trees in front of us suddenly crack, snapped down the middle like toothpicks. Huge red talons stand on the earth where the grass just dies. Black claws extend from leathery wings to grip the trees’ bark. And beneath the scoring claws, the scraping talons, the grass stays dead. The trees don’t regrow. Sawdust and sap bleed out as the leaves wither for the first time in a year.

<HUMAN. NOIBAT.>

I force myself to look up past the feet, the wings, to see a huge black-and-red head, glaring down at us with intense blue eyes. Vicious black horns rake forward over the Pokemon’s wickedly sharp beak. I freze, awestruck.

“Y-”

<I AM YVELTAL.> The voice booms in my mind as if it’s rolling up from the earth itself. One look at Levi’s huge eyes and twitching ears tells me he hears it, too. <I DO NOT HAVE MUCH TIME. HUMAN.> The head that was bent in exhaustion suddenly turns, fixing me with the fullness of its gaze. <MY BODY IS DYING. BUT MY SPIRIT CAN LIVE. WILL YOU HELP MY SPIRIT TO SURVIVE. TO PUT THE WORLD BACK IN ITS ORDER.>

“I. Uh. What?”

The intensity in Yveltal’s expression dies as quickly as it kindled. <PLEASE. HELP ME.>

With Yveltal’s pleading eyes on me and Levi staring at me for comfort, I find my bearings. “If you need help, I can help you get to Shalour. Korrina can -”

<THERE IS NO TIME. MY BODY IS DYING.> The massive bird lifts their wing from the tree they were gripping. It crumbles as if rotten. <I WAITED TOO LONG. I WILL NOT MAKE IT TO YOUR CITY.> With both claws, they reach forward, head bowed, eye staring up at me. Supplicating. <HUMAN, PLEASE. SUSTAIN MY SPIRIT.>

There’s only one thing I know right now: I don’t want to let any Pokemon, be they anything from Levi to an avatar of death, suffer. Or, gods forbid, die. So I ask. “What do you want me to do?”

<SUSTAIN MY SPIRIT.>

And then Yveltal’s grip on the grass loosens. The flora they’d been touching springs back into life. The upper half of the tree they broke dissolves like dust and regrows again atop its trunk. The clearing looks exactly as it did before, exactly the same way it’s looked for the past year, as Yveltal falls into it, their massive body crashing into the soil. The light in their body, their eyes, dies, and they’re still.

For the first time in a year, something in Kalos has died.

Levi is shaking, I realize. I reach down and gently, my own hands trembling, I pick him up. I realize distantly that I’m barely breathing, confusion and fear and sorrow seizing my lungs. I was never a big Xernean, but it still hurts to see Yveltal die -

Levi screams. I nearly throw him, I flinch so hard; he’s scrabbling at my arms, gesturing frantically to the fallen Yveltal. And I realize, with a shock of pure horror, that Yveltal’s body is dissolving in the same way the tree trunk did. A fast-motion decay. “No, don’t,” I say, despite knowing that Yveltal is as dead as the dirt, “don’t leave, tell me how to save your spirit or whatever -”

I reach down and place my hand on Yveltal’s head, fingers curling around the horn as if I can prevent the god from vanishing. “I’ll help you,” I promise, “just tell me how.”

The clearing is, quite suddenly, gone. Abruptly I’m standing among stone pillars in overgrown grass, a bright red moon beaming down, dark fog rolling around my feet. Levi is curled in my arms, still shaking. I turn around, struggling to process my surroundings - 

And I see Yveltal, standing behind me, watching me with interest. “Skye Taylor.” Their voice - her voice - is much easier to hear now. She has a melodious voice, really, beautiful and a little bit sad. “Thank you. It is good to see you here.”

“See me where?” I ask, as Levi nearly drowns me out with a squall of indignation. “Where are we, where am I, what -”

Yveltal raises one wing, a shushing gesture. “Skye Taylor.” She speaks the name as if she’s still trying to get used to it. “Calm yourself. We are in a meeting of the minds, an intersection between my thoughts and yours. This is what I meant when I told you, that you,” she points to me with one great curled claw, “could sustain my spirit.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I will make it clear for you in time.” Her voice is regaining the strength it first had in the woods, along with an overflowing confidence. “I will teach you everything you need to know, and together we will restore the balance that your kind destroyed. You and I will do great things, Skye Taylor, Priestess of Yveltal.”
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#4
Grade for Chapter 1

The Good:
- I forget the proper name of using quotes at chapter start, but it’s used to great effect here to drop backstory.
- Great attention to detail, describing the press of bodies and chaos of a city. It’s easy to visualize the slog she’s taking.
- Evocative description of the brawl in the square’s center, Pokemon and moves both. I think you struck just the right note that it’s chaotic, but not too hard to follow.

The Improvement:
- You admitted in the header this was mostly setup, so I’m sure you know plot was light. Even in a story of this length, there’s a little more you could have tweaked – let the reader know up-front where she is going, rather than at the end we find out she was leaving the city. Then the battle in the middle serves two purposes, both for the danger, and potentially distracting her from her goal.
- Korrina’s dodge. This strained credulity a bit – she’s definitely a powerful trainer, but dodging an attack she doesn’t seem to notice might be too far. If she catches sight of it incoming and dodges it smoothly and effortlessly, without interrupting her recruitment pitch, it shows the same facility with being around trainer battles.

The Verdict:
I’m going to say this passes at Simple for $5,000 cash.
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#5
(03-23-19, 10:48 AM)evanfardreamer Wrote: Grade for Chapter 1

The Good:
- I forget the proper name of using quotes at chapter start, but it’s used to great effect here to drop backstory.
- Great attention to detail, describing the press of bodies and chaos of a city. It’s easy to visualize the slog she’s taking.
- Evocative description of the brawl in the square’s center, Pokemon and moves both. I think you struck just the right note that it’s chaotic, but not too hard to follow.

The Improvement:
- You admitted in the header this was mostly setup, so I’m sure you know plot was light. Even in a story of this length, there’s a little more you could have tweaked – let the reader know up-front where she is going, rather than at the end we find out she was leaving the city. Then the battle in the middle serves two purposes, both for the danger, and potentially distracting her from her goal.
- Korrina’s dodge. This strained credulity a bit – she’s definitely a powerful trainer, but dodging an attack she doesn’t seem to notice might be too far. If she catches sight of it incoming and dodges it smoothly and effortlessly, without interrupting her recruitment pitch, it shows the same facility with being around trainer battles.

The Verdict:
I’m going to say this passes at Simple for $5,000 cash.

Thank you for the grade! I admit that I probably went a bit overboard in trying to sell Korrina being a Powerful Individual. ^^' Claiming my $5,000!
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#6
The good:
Interesting extrapolation of what a Xerneas victory would look like. A severely depopulated world, where people can’t destroy the environment, fits right in with the “good” that a villain team sought to bring about.
Move descriptions are believable and evocative, and you use plenty of detail to paint the world around them. You also engage several of their senses – sight, sound, touch, feelings – and as such let the reader become more immersed as you go.
Good deployment of foreshadowing; starting with the always overgrown path the reader may think that it just grows quickly. Demonstrating with the attacks that it all grows back instantly, we have time to get used to this before you subvert it – Yveltal’s surroundings don’t grow back instantly, which marks it as something special indeed. And then, when the Yveltal seems to die, you explain that it’s even more exceptional than we realized. (For when even death may die, what strange aeons might we face?)

Room for improvement:
From a consistency standpoint – if nothing in Kalos has died in the past year, why is Skye so worried about exposing Levi to danger? The statement implies that no injuries can prove fatal, and would seem to lead to people taking more risks rather than fewer.

Verdict:
I didn’t find much to pick apart in this one, it’s a solid entry in an ongoing throughline. I do have a million questions I want to see answered though – if Team Flare won, what are they still attacking for? Did the trees and other plants freeze at a moment in growth, or do they yet grow larger? Is she the first priestess of Yveltal, or the last, or just the latest? Are the other region legends (Zygarde, Diancie, Hoopa) on the same level of power, or are Xerneas/Yveltal extra special? When will we see more of this story!?
This passes at the Medium rank and you can claim $10,000 pokebucks.
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