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Old 12-31-2021, 10:04 PM   #1
ShadowDRGN
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ShadowDRGN's Character Chronicles

Hatchley's Tale
This tale is suitable for older teens. New chapters will be posted dependent on the size and levels of Hatchley's team in FB, so don't expect regular updates to this storyline.

00 - The First Dragonite
01 - Starlet Resolution [CW: Blood, mild description of injuries.]

Goto's Tale
This tale is not suitable for those under the age of 18, and is a thematic exploration of trauma and abuse which will be released monthly. Please do not read these posts unless you are absolutely sure you want to engage with the following subject matter: Graphic depictions of violence, emotionally-intensive scenes, physical and emotional abuse, grooming, indoctrination, and political views pertaining to far-right ideology.

Jan - Aleph Null Pt. 1 [CW: Themes of domestic violence]
Jan. - Aleph Null Pt. 2 [CW: Themes of domestic violence]
Feb. - White Day
Mar. - Moonlight
Apr - Jettisoned
May - Initiation
Jun. - Untouchable
Jul. - Asset
Aug. - Contradiction
Sep. - Ouroboros
Oct. - Strings
Nov. - Cut Loose
Dec. - Reminder

Last edited by ShadowDRGN; 01-20-2022 at 10:40 PM.
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Old 12-31-2021, 10:26 PM   #2
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Hatchley I: Starlet Resolution

CW: Blood, mild description of injuries.

---

Ever since Hatchley was a little kid, New Year’s always felt like a boring affair. The League was always shut down for the Christmas season, and wouldn’t return until a week into the new year. Most of his new gifts had already lost their lustre; Nothing was open to go spend his gift money on. All that was on TV were the same reruns, recaps and revisits as every year.

He couldn’t even go hang out with his friends, on account of the fact that they were all trapped within the same obligations as he: Packing into the car every few hours to go visit those handful of relatives,whose relevance to the family seemed to phase out of existence entirely once the holidays were over.

He didn’t hate catching up with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, of course, but cramming it all into one day is what made him dread it so. Even as a kid, he had a feeling that the strange juice all the adults drank as they went from party-to-party was the reason they seemed to be having fun, while he wasn’t.

Thankfully, his parents were a predictable bunch, and almost without exception, Hatchley had a way of escaping it all for the night: While everyone was preoccupied with counting down to the ball drop, he would always creep out the back door, flashlight in hand and a backpack full of snacks sampled from the day’s festivities.

Behind the house, there was an old trail that snaked through the woods, close enough to the sea that he could hear the crashing waves just barely underneath the usual sounds of the forest. Undella Town rarely saw snow, and even a New Year’s night was just warm enough that he only needed a light coat to go out.

A little ways down the path, there was a fallen log propped up by a large rock. That was his sign to turn east and trudge through the underbrush, avoiding all the little bramble patches that had so painfully interrupted his first couple attempts at getting out here; Where, you might ask? Well, there was an old treehouse that stood all the way out here, left over from a bygone time when there had been a development of new villas further up the coast.

Though those houses had long been abandoned and reclaimed by the forest, a treehouse was already one with nature, and so it remained. Middle school rumours abounded, claiming that the treehouse was haunted, attracting Hatchley’s attention way back when. He thought that if he could go and catch a Ghost Pokemon there, he could become a Trainer even without his father’s permission.

Needless to say, there were no ghosts, but that didn’t stop Hatchley from cleaning it up and using it as his own secret little hideout. Whenever he needed alone time, he would place pillows under his bedsheets and sneak out to spend the night in the woods. Out here, he didn’t have to worry about the disapproving stares of his parents as he read magazines, snacked without impunity, and watched movies he definitely shouldn’t be watching on a portable DVD player. It had been a home away from home, one even his sister didn’t know about, though really only because he didn’t have the time to show her on the occasion that she would fly across the pond to visit.

---

Though he's old enough to go out and drink with friends, this New Year’s is no exception to his tradition of sleeping out under the stars. Sitting on the shelf in the corner of the room, a battery-powered TV plays grainy footage of UNN’s New Year’s movie marathon. The TV’s light flickers like an electrical candle, barely illuminating the rows upon rows of posters tacked to the walls on all three sides. Every single one is a fight promo for the Galar League, but unlike the ones pinned to his bedroom walls, these are all dedicated to his sister’s career, from her debut all the way to her final match. Most prized of them all is the early pre-production print she had mailed to him in secret, promoting her (presumed to be) upcoming Hammerlock challenge, titled “Raihan v. Rhinea: Duel of the Dragon Masters!”

The last wall has been blank for the last five years, but not for much longer. Hatchley finally had a Pokemon, and this shrine to everything his sister accomplished - and soon everything he will accomplish - is the perfect training ground.

Or at least, it should be.

A dummy made out of straw and old clothes hangs from the ceiling but has so far gone completely untouched. The rest of the treehouse, on the other hand, is in shambles. Plushies dismembered; A backpack full of snacks devoured, yet Prince the Tyrunt hasn’t even touched the one thing he was intended to destroy.

Hatchley sits in the corner, dejectedly holding his head in his hands as his Pokemon pillages its way around the room. In his mind he wonders what exactly he’s doing wrong. After all, he read online that Tyrunt were supposed to be more docile during the night, and yet Prince is even more destructive here than he is normally.

“Okay. Okay, let’s try this one more time-” he says, mostly just to himself as his Pokemon is too preoccupied with rummaging through a chest of old magazines to listen.

“Prince!” he calls the dinosaur’s name from the depths of his throat. Tyrunt looks up at his Trainer, teeth currently shredding an issue of both The Virbank Rocker and XnY at the exact same time. Hatchley wants to sigh, but he knows showing any kind of weakness or resignation is going to lead to Prince disobeying him.

“I need you to focus. I know you’re still teething, but there’s something in this room that really deserves getting chomped on,” he explains, pointing out the as-of-yet immaculate dummy waiting to be dummied on.

Tyrunt pivots like a bird hopping on a branch and spits the magazines out onto the floor. The Pokemon lowers his oversized head nearly to the floor, causing his whole body to slump forward. With a primal growl, he starts to scratch his claws against the ground, cutting channels into it with his flesh-rending talons. Prince looks ready to charge at the drop of a hat.

That’s it, he thinks with a relieved smile, just explain it like you would to a toddler, but make sure you’re always in control.

“Okay, Prince! Use Ice Fang!”

“Grrraaawwr!” Prince cries, launching himself off the floor with frankly terrifying lower body strength. As he sails through the air, his jaws open up, revealing rows of razor-sharp teeth that were designed to get through even a Rock-type’s hide. Like a heat-seeking missile, his jump places his mouth in perfect contact with the target’s arm, and Hatchley can see his slit-pupils narrow as Tyrunt snaps its jaws shut in barely half a second, filling his bite with frigid energy.

It was a flawless attack, done with the precision of a killing machine... One problem presents itself, however: The arm that Tyrunt has so viciously sunk its teeth into isn’t the dummy’s arm, but Hatchley’s arm!

“GAAAAH!” Hatchley cries out in shock as he tries to shake a 50 pound predator off of his arm, “PAIN! COLD! PAINFULLY COLD!”

Prince digs his teeth in further, holding onto him like a vice grip. There’s a cold, reptilian stare in his eyes, like a hunter trying to snap the neck of its prey. Caught up in the panic, it seems his Trainer is only encouraging him to cause further damage.

“Fuck! Fuckfuckfuck! Let go of me!” he shouts, trying to reach past the Pokemon’s kicking feet to grab his Poke Ball. The moment he has it, he taps the ball to Tyrunt’s belly and draws him inside with a burst of light!

The sharp fangs in his arm are gone, but the pain lingers. Blood trails down his arm, not so much pooling on the floor as it does cascade through the gaps between the boards, waterfalling into the darkness. Ice crystals form across his skin, trapping the blood inside to create swirling patterns of red that are as pretty as they are deadly.

This is bad. He needs to get these wounds treated quickly, but the blood loss is making his head spin, and the freezing is slowly overtaking his body. His eyelids feel heavy, nearly coaxing him to lay down and sleep, but he knows that if he even nods off slightly...

Shaking the feeling off, Hatchley runs over to his back, using his good arm to hurriedly dig out his first aid kit. The well-worn zipper glides open, and he practically throws an ice heal, some antiseptic, sutures, a bandage, and himself onto a pile of shredded bedding. Breaking the security seal on the spray, he squeezes the trigger and empties it all over his arm, coating it with a rapidly-warming gel. The heat counteracts not just the freezing, but also some of the pain, allowing him to calm down and apply the antiseptic properly. The worst of it is over... now just to stop the bleeding...

---

With adrenaline pumping through his veins, Hatchley loses track of time as he focuses on tending to his wounds. It could be 1:00 am or 5, and he wouldn’t feel the difference either way. All he knows is that he underestimated how dangerous Prince’s bites could be. He’d gotten nips and scratches that needed disinfecting, sure, but being hit by a fully-fledged Move by his Pokemon?

“I can’t train him out here...” Hatchley remarks to himself as he finishes wrapping his arm in bandages. He leans back against the wall, arm cradled in his lap and his fingers squeezing Prince’s Pokeball tightly. His gaze is unfocused, drifting from the shredded posters on the wall, to the twinkling of the night sky beyond his window. The pain that screamed through his arm has dulled, but the sting of his catastrophic failure as a Trainer is still fresh in his mind. How, exactly, was he supposed to train this... this monster?

His eyes flit back to the posters. Her debut match had been ripped clean in half, erasing both the name and visage of her first opponent. Truthfully, Hatchley was too young to fully remember that battle, and so the poster’s destruction erased the name from ever reaching his mind, as well.

“How did you do it, Rhinea?” he weakly asks himself, “even when you had just a little Bagon... he obeyed you without hesitation. They always listened to you. That’s why I...”

He falls silent, but his thoughts still linger on what he was about to say. Never, for a single moment, did he believe that Salamence would ever disobey his sister. It just wasn’t possible. Her command was perfect in every battle. Even in the training that he had been able to spectate on, her control over her Pokemon was flawless.

The only way that Salamence could’ve attacked those people is if Rhinea was framed. Ever since that day, he’s entertained many theories. Interference from a Psychic-type Pokemon in the crowd, or perhaps even a drug in the water that had been in her training room that day. Whatever happened, it wasn’t Rhinea’s fault. It couldn’t be. It had to be someone who wanted her gone from the scene...

“I want to find out the truth, Rhinea,” he speaks longingly into the moonless sky. The pain throbbing within him slowly transforms into a smouldering anger, “I want everyone to know the truth, because they took the recognition you deserved away from you.”

His chin slumps downwards, turning his gaze toward his bloodstained arm, and to the Pokeball clutched in his faux claws. Anger turns into a burning determination, greater than anything he's felt up until now. No, there’s a deeper reason that he wants to clear Rhinea’s name, and the seed of it is resting right in the palm of his hand.

“Maybe Prince isn’t ready to fight yet, but... No matter how much I get hurt. No matter how difficult dad tries to make this for me. No matter how long it takes, he’s my partner, and I want him to be there when I challenge you...”

As the adrenaline fades, Hatchley feels his eyelids start to droop. As he rubs his fingers over the glossy finish of Prince’s Pokeball, he grins faintly with pride. He’s a destructive little bastard, but if he can get him under control, he’ll be...

“And I want him to be the trump card I use to beat you, sister...”

Last edited by ShadowDRGN; 01-14-2022 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 01-13-2022, 11:27 AM   #3
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Goto I: Aleph Null Pt. 1

CW: Themes of domestic violence.

---

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marion Ette View Post
What manner of complex tapestry could Goto weave with the threads of time and the loom of knowledge, should he choose to spin every ounce of raw material remaining in his natural life, and weave that thread among the seemingly endless tomes of the Department of Arts and Crafts? A question which speaks to the finite nature of man and the time he is given, and yet, in this moment, a fabric which could potentially be woven in infinite ways... The infinite within the finite. No mortal mind could fathom the sheer number of Giuseppe Gotos that could theoretically exist from this point forward, each having picked up a different tome, embarked on a different adventure...
Yet even this number, vast and incomprehensible, is closer to a child counting on their fingers than it is to the branches of fate that have come before. If Goto’s choice of reading material is a matter of boundless possibility, then so too is his decision whether to even come to Djinn’s Library at all; Both are distinct sets of infinity, yet one is nested within the other, its existence dependant on the outcome of infinities passed.

Pondering this truth, one might arrive at a curiously existential question: If one were to trace the thread of fate that has guided the young man down this particular path, where would it end? What would be the first moment where the number of futures in store for Giuseppe Goto became uncountable?


---

Spoiler: show
Ching-Ling!

The chime of the bell bled through the tattered floorboards and into the bedroom upstairs. That brassy, slightly worn-down noise was always the prelude to the muffled sound of footsteps and business chatter, but none of that bothered Guiseppe Goto.

After all, the ten-year-old boy loved seeing customers browsing the shelves, no matter if they were regulars or strangers. He loved hearing them gush over the gorgeous designs and innovative patterns that he had seen slowly come together over the course of many sleepless nights. He loved the confident smirk on his mother’s face when she knew that a customer’s request would test her expertise of the family craft.

Yet, it had occurred to him recently that all he had to express his love with were words. It was in the movie that his English class had been watching: This Saturday, boys were supposed to give girls a proof of their love in a little heart-shaped box. If he didn’t have one of those, how would he be able to prove the love he had for his mother?

He could’ve gone out and bought such a gift with his pocket money, like most of the boys in his class, but was a tailor’s son; Making something himself felt like the only way to really, truly prove it. Yet, it was already Friday evening when the thought struck him, and though his family’s profession was well-known, the thought of being seen sewing in class, especially a White Day gift... No, he’d rather avoid the judgemental stares and chittering “compliments”.

That very thought process is what led him to submitting a fake doctor’s note to the school, rendered beautifully in perfectly-illegible handwriting. The teachers deemed it unthinkable for a straight-A student to play hooky, but their understanding of him was shallow. They believed that the boy was motivated by the achievement itself, but in reality all straight-A’s seemed to bring was more work with harder and higher expectations, all of which he had to meet in order to get into the school his mother wanted for him. Besides, catching up on the missed work could be done anytime, but this project that had enthralled him so could only be done today.

And so, when the bell chimed downstairs, Goto paid it no mind. Why should he have? He was an ill, bedridden boy nursing a stomach bug. He should’ve been in bed all day, and indeed he had been, but smuggled into his crimson duvet was a mountain of sewing supplies; Bundles of pastel-hued threads formed an extra layer overtop the beat-up boxspring, while needles were haphazardly lying around his subterranean workstation, having waited for their chance to consume another bandage from the box he’d taken out of the first aid cabinet.

As the flashlight cried out in morse code for more batteries, Goto slowly made the final stitches on his creation. It had been a puzzle to piece together all the scraps he secretly took, especially with how few mistakes he could afford to make. The seams were rough, and the stuffing had been stuffed a little unevenly, resulting in what would’ve been a graceful figure befitting the Bouquet Pokemon turning out a little pudgy, but Goto didn’t care. He ran his pincushioned fingers through the delicate petals of Roserade's hands. They were soft and complexly-layered, a structure that he wasn’t confident was within his skill level, and yet he felt pride at having exceeded his own expectations.

The floorboards squeaked like a Rattata when Goto slipped out from under the covers. He held his stuffed Roserade high into the air, and marveled at the way the sunlight made its body glitter like it was diamond-encrusted. Ideas for names streamed into his mind, but he refused to let a single one hold sway over him; It was his mother who was going to christen it, and her alone.

Goto turned to face the lopsided mirror before he left and saw a lanky boy with too much energy to possibly be ill. He needed to maintain the facade somewhat, of course. His Yamper pajamas already looked crooked enough, as he had been tossing and turning all day, but his wavy black hair was too tidy. He turned around and dunked his head into the bedsheets, ruffling himself up and giving him a case of bed hair worse than if he had been zapped by the electric corgi, itself. Just one more piece would complete his act.

The disheveled child sauntered out of his room and into the narrow hall that ran between the bedroom and the stairs. He looked like a zombie, awoken from its slumber within the grave, and the sickened moaning of “mom...” he faked would’ve certainly unnerved any hapless shoppers from below. Funny, he could’ve sworn he only heard the bell go off once in the past 10 minutes, yet he hadn’t heard a peep from downstairs since then.

“Mom... I forgot to give something to you,” he hoarsely called from atop the stairs, rubbing his eyes until they looked a bit red and puffy. A moment passed, but no answer. Goto’s brow furrowed. Perhaps the bell he had heard was her going out. It must have been.

Deciding that his best plan, in that case, was simply to leave the Roserade on the counter with a note attached, Goto immediately ceased hunching over and walked down the stairs like nothing was wrong. The railing was a little loose and jiggled whenever someone was walking up or down, and so he never did much more than glide his fingers atop the faded wood.

“Mom?” he called once last time as he turned at the landing, only to freeze in his tracks. His mother was right there, right behind the counter, her face twisted in terror as she looked right into his eyes. He understood immediately that he had been caught, but her reaction puzzled him greatly... until he turned to see three men gawking at him in surprise. They all wore business casual with overcoats. Black ties. Piercings. Sunglasses. He wasn’t sure which had which, as their visages had blended together into one unified archetype for dangerous person.

“Well hello there. What are you doing in your pajamas on a school day, Goto Jr.?” the man holding up the counter asked, forcing a sense of familiarity into his words that made the boy’s skin crawl. Don’t talk to me like you know me, the child made an unvoiced response.

“I... I felt sick,” Goto replied, his hand stuck to the railing like it was magnetized.

“Spring fever got you a bit early, huh? Yeah, happens to me too,” The man turned to the others and nodded profusely, but his expression remained inscrutable as he returned his focus to Goto’s mother, “and here I thought you were whispering because your voice went out.”

“Giuseppe-” she spoke over the man’s shoulder. Her voice quivered with frantic energy, like she was pleading with him to listen, “go back to bed. You need rest, dear.”

“I dunno about that, ma’am. He looks all better to me,” the man shrugged, his lips pursed as he inspected the boy from afar. Disbelief coated his tongue like a poison, one that he seemed to relish in injecting, “you know. I think I see why you and I are having this problem, Donna. Do you?”

The frizzy-haired woman tried to look the man in the eye, but her son’s face kept her gaze held hostage. Her wrinkled hands rubbed against the countertop in tense circles, filling the air with the faint sound of her wedding band grinding against the wood. She shook her head slowly, her voice showing apprehension and fear, yet bubbling just beneath the surface was a sense of maternal rage, “I’m afraid I don’t understand the question.”

“It’s simple- I heard through the grapevine that you want your son to study tailoring abroad, where your grandfather was born, right? Well, if you want an acceptance letter to those fancy Fiorian schools, then he needs good marks, and he’s not gonna get good marks if you keep him home because he’s got the sniffles!” the man began to rant, gesturing wildly as he slipped further and further into an aggressive, almost Snubbull-like snarl with every word he spoke.

Suddenly, Goto found himself realizing that he did, in fact, know this man. He hadn’t ever seen him, but he had heard him arguing with his mother many times, snarling just like he was now. Using the same thuggish tactics as he will no doubt use now. That’s right. Tomorrow is the 15th, and the 15th is...

“You can’t raise your own son with discipline, so why would you handle my money with any, either!” the collector accused.

“W-what do you want from me? It's not until tomorrow, isn't it?” Donna muttered out. Normally, trying to intimidate her like this wouldn’t shake her one bit, but with Goto in the room, presenting her with the danger of her son being subject to it... her unflappable self was lost, and the collector knew it. The intense stare he gave her was like a Sharpedo smelling blood in the water.

”I want you to pay what you fucking owe me!” The collector reached his crescendo by slamming his arms on the desk, causing a display case of dyes to wobble and tip over the edge!

Goto instinctively recoiled, covering his ears as the ear-splitting crash reverberated throughout the room. This noise, too, was no stranger to his ears. Rattled, the young boy crept away from the stairs, keeping his back firmly glued to the wall at all times. His eyes darted between the collector’s lackeys, who seemed to be too preoccupied with their boss’s destructive outburst to notice him moving. If he could just slip underneath the coat rack by the door...

“Y-you’ll get what you’re owed, I’m trying!” Donna yelled back, stepping away from the shard-ridden pool of prismatic colors that had started to creep along the floor, “maybe if your goons didn’t give this neighborhood such a bad name, we would all get enough customers to-”

“I don’t give a shit what rep this town has,” the collector cut her off, his voice taken on a chilling calmness after having smashed up her counter, “and you’re going to tell me that Donatella Goto doesn’t have enough customers to pay the man who graciously protects her from the other guys? C’mon now... what’s really stopping you? Booze? Uppers? Game Corner? We can work out a little budget together. I help you cut out your vices, and you help me get my money.”

The young ravenite managed to get around to the front of the store, where he could see the scene as it unfolded from afar. The collector pounded on the desk with enough force to make the light shake, while his thugs stoically watched, performing their roles as deterrent for any would-be fighters in the neighborhood.

Knowing they’ll notice his absence sooner or later, Goto didn’t gawk. He instead crouched down and pushed through the thick curtain of jacket before him, practically vanishing from sight with little but the sound of clothes hangers sliding apart.

Inside was a small crawl space with just enough headroom to sit down and wait. The shop’s front wall was directly at his back; To a normal observer, it wouldn’t really occur to them that there was any gap at all behind this coat rack. It was perfect for hide-and-seek, as he could discreetly spy on the shop if he pulled the coats apart with just a crack. Just think of it as hide-and-seek...

“Boss,” Goto heard an unfamiliar voice, and through his little peep slit saw one of the lackeys nervously tapping the collector on the shoulder.

“What?!” The collector indignantly whipped around, nearly smacking the goon in the face with his shoulder.

After he was done flinching, the other man jerked his head toward the stairs, “kid’s gone.”

“Were neither of you shitwits watching him?” he barked, eyes now glued to the spot where the boy had pulled his disappearing act. The two exchanged a silent glance as the collector clutched his head in his hands. He looked like he wanted to just let out a primal scream, but instead he just flung his finger away from the counter and shouted, ”well? Go find him!”

Goto drew back and hastily closed the makeshift curtains. He was certain that he wouldn’t be found, and yet his heart still pounded like a drum in his chest. What was the source of this fear he felt, if not getting caught? Was it the thought of his mother’s anguish? He felt sad to have made this situation worse for her, but he did not fear what had already been done.

Unable to understand what was wrong with his heart, Goto clutched his arms tightly to his chest, expecting the plushie to squeeze against his torso and provide some comfort. He realized then that he was no longer holding it, and panic started to needle at his mind. Where was it? He pawed blindly around the floor of the crawlspace, but felt nothing. He must have dropped it while he was trying to escape.

The young boy got down on his stomach, and reached out to brush aside one of the jackets. He could only see maybe a few inches above the floor, but his sightline stretched all the way to the back of the shop. He could see three pairs of dress shoes split apart near the counter, each of them preparing to sweep through a different aisle.

“He’s just a child, he’s no threat to you! Stop trying to frighten him and we can discuss your money!” He heard his mother protest, but he couldn’t see her feet move from behind the counter. Was she paralyzed with fear? That couldn’t be. She was fierce, like a lady Pyroar protecting her cubs, yet something about her reaction seemed off.

Why do they want to find me so badly? The thought looped in Goto’s mind. Confusion and panic churned around and around until it felt like his brain was going through the wash cycle, but even though he felt like he was about to faint, he continued to look for Roserade. He turned his attention toward the aisle he had come down and finally spotted it snagged on a roll of fastener, like a bur caught on a trenchcoat, but in reverse.

Even for a ten-year-old, there was an understanding of the correct option in this scenario: Stay put, stay quiet. It was just a stuffed Pokemon, it held no importance to these thugs.

Perhaps Goto was no longer able to think straight, or perhaps there was some higher logic to his actions that he failed to grasp, but leaving Roserade there was yet another choice that felt unnegotiable to him.

The boy got up on his knees, and edged closer to the curtain. He felt up and down the front of the jackets hanging before him, plucking each button that he came across until he had a fistful of them. They rattled faintly in his hand, revealing to him the fact that his whole body was shaking.

He knew what he needed to do, but he did not know whether he could do it. Goto wondered to himself what would happen if he was caught; He had no Pokemon, and he had no chance of fighting three grown men with his fists. His thoughts flashed to the vivid image of a neighbor being carried out of his own electronics ship on a stretcher, his body battered and broken beyond recognition. In this panorama of the mind, the nine-year-old turned his head to look at the bystanders, and there he saw them: Business casual with overcoats. Black ties. Piercings. Sunglasses.

Goto had all but forgotten about his supposed illness, but at that moment he doubled over, fists clutching his empty chest in pain. His deceit caught up to him, and for the first time since that day he felt genuinely sick to his stomach...

Last edited by ShadowDRGN; 01-14-2022 at 11:54 PM.
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Old 01-16-2022, 10:57 PM   #4
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The First Dragonite

A tempest whipped and howled against the house, like the clawing and braying of a starving pack of Lycanroc. Spiraled patterns of frost shrouded the windows, depriving the occupants from gauging the situation outside. Not that even a temporary lapse in the storm meant anything to them, when the doors were besieged by a force of snowflakes over a billion strong.

Hatchley let out a lengthy sigh and watched as fog crept across the window pane. It reminded him of the deariness that crept across his own heart, and so he took his elbows off the windowsill and wandered the house some more.

The eight-year-old certainly remembered feeling joy over the announcement of a snow day, but that was before he learned just how dire the storm wracking Galar really was. The telly in the lounge had been droning on about it nonstop: Winter Storm Beartic, set to make snowfall records for the first time in over 50 years. Really, it wasn’t just the schools; Nobody wanted to be out in this monster of a blizzard, and that meant that his plans of going sledding and building snow sculptures with his friends were dashed.

The wind let out a bestial roar as it tore through the narrow lane. The sound coincided with flickered lights all over the house, and silence from the weather report as the telly briefly cut out. It seemed any plans he had for having fun indoors were about to be dashed, too.

The doorknob to the basement was freezing to the touch, so Hatchley withdrew his hand into his sweater to turn it. He heard how the fireplace crackled from the other side, and the shapes that danced across the floor drew him closer inside. If the flames are still going strong, then she must still be in there, he thought.

His hand pushed on the door, and it coasted open with a sound like the croaking of Froakie. He sauntered out onto the balcony, fingers grasping the posts as he peered down into the lounge. The blaze from the hearth lit the room strongly from one side, and left the other wallowing in deep shadow. Just on the fringes lay the sofa, where his father would usually be found seated with a novel, but Hatchley knew that wasn’t who was laying down that night.

“Rhinny?” he called down to her.

The seventeen-year-old stirred, head tossed from one side of the pillow to the other. Strands of her long, black hair were splayed out everywhere, like the inky tendrils of a sea monster had claimed the couch for itself. Both she and her brother always seemed to have the worst cases of bed hair.

“Sis?” Hatchley tried again when he reached the bottom of the stairs.

Rhinea opened her eyes and looked over at him groggily. The teen’s legs moved beneath the blanket, shifting her into a seated position, but her expression was still seemingly lost in whatever dream she was just pulled away from. Her hands pawed at the blanket, feeling around for a Pokeball that she had been clinging onto in her sleep.

“Mm, what’s wrong, Hatchy?” she asked.

“I’m bored,” he whined. Rhinea seemed unimpressed by this answer, yet the way that the boy’s cheeks puffed out like a Croagunk when he pouted was irresistibly endearing.

“Welcome to the club,” she said, ruffling his hair playfully, “did you think I’d be napping if I found something more fun to do?”

“I thought you were texting your boy toy all day,” Hatchley said with a completely innocent smile on his face. Rhinea’s face, on the other hand, looked like she was just about ready to use Outrage on her little brother.

“First of all: It’s boyfriend. Second: You shouldn’t be saying things like that, and three: No, I wasn’t,” she huffed. Hatchley knew this game of hers well, and it was called two truths and a lie.

“Oh, so you weren’t texting your boyfriend at all?” Hatchley asked. An impish smirk creased the corner of his mouth, and he swayed from side-to-side as he delivered his retort, “that’s pretty mean of you.”

Rhinea let out a distinctly oh, brother sigh and slumped back, clearly lacking the energy or resolve to debate the point any further. She soaked in the fuzzy image of the weather broadcast for a moment, before she turned her attention back to a snickering Hatchley.

“Did mum and your dad call while I was asleep?” she asked. In a stroke of terrible timing, the sibling’s parents had been in Unova on a business trip, and came back just when the storm hit. Of course, Rhinea knew how to take care of both of them, but the boy had separation anxiety at his age, and the thought of literally being kept away from his parents was obviously triggering it.

“Mhm. Dad said they’ve booked the hotel at the airport.”

“Good. They shouldn’t be trying to plow through the snow in that old banger, anyways,” Rhinea agreed. A rarity it was, to see the teenage Dragon Tamer agreeing with her father.

Before Hatchley could really dwell on that thought, however, his sister scooted over in her seat and smiled at him sweetly, “so, Bored. What do you want to do? Movie? Cards?”

Hatchley mounted the sofa like it was a ledge, and plopped down next to his sister with his hood drawn up over his ears. The indigo sweater had a checkered pattern where every square was imprinted with a tiny image of a Dragon-type Pokemon. Pretty much all of Hatchley’s clothing had something to do with dragons, while the actual Dragon Tamer between them only openly displayed her affinity for the type with her cape and uniform. Honestly, it astonished the girl sometimes that he managed to have a diverse wardrobe despite his fixation.

“Uhm... We can’t really watch a movie if the power goes out, and you always beat me at cards when we play, so...” Hatchley answered. He squirmed around as he draped the blanket over himself like a cloak, seeming to have something on his mind, but being apprehensive to ask.

“Fair enough,” Rhinea sighed. She could already guess what he was aiming for, based on his answer, “I guess I could give you my DS, but if you mess with anything I will send Shelgon after you.”

Hatchley shook his head, and glanced nervously between Rhinea’s Pokeball and her fierce gaze, “t-that’s okay. I actually, uhm... wanted you to read me a story,” he slowly trailed off into nothing.

“Oh. Does mum still read you stories?” she asked in surprise. His face was plum red with embarrassment. He figured that it was a weird thing to ask at his age, and now his sister was never, ever going to let him live it down.

“S-sometimes... maybe like... twice a week...

“And what’s wrong with that?” Rhinea giggled lightly, a sound which quelled the storm of despair that raged in Hatchley’s head. She leaned in to pat the boy’s head lightly, and smiled just like she did on TV whenever she gave interviews to adoring fans, “bedtime stories are rad.”

“You think so?” Hatchley beamed brightly enough to light up the room all by himself. He brushed his disheveled bangs out of his eyes and looked back at her with eyes full of excitement, “okay, know any good ones? Oh, oh, got any good stories from last season?”

“Heh. Sorry, but I don’t have any new Trainer Tales this time, Hatchy,” Rhinea said with a shake of her head, but a pep in her voice, “buuut. Do you remember the trip abroad I made last year, to go study in Blackthorn City?”

Hatchley nodded profusely in response, “that’s where you caught your Dratini, right?”

“Yup! While I was there, I learned a lot about the legends of Dragon-type Pokemon, and wrote it all into a journal. I thought maybe you’d like to hear it, but I wasn’t sure if you still liked bedtime stories anymore.”

“Of course I do!” Hatchley exclaimed. Just a few seconds ago, he was deathly afraid of his sister even knowing, and now he was proclaiming his love for it to the neighbors. One look at that determined face, and Rhinea already knew what was being repeated in that head of his: tellmetellmetellmetellmetellme!

Another giggle escaped her lips as she watched her precious little brother nearly unravel at the seams with anticipation. She could only imagine how wound-up he got when watching one of her matches live.

“Okay, then!”

Rhinea leapt off the couch and toward the stairs. Thankfully, she remembered to put her slippers back on before her feet ended up freezing to the floor up there.

“You wait right here. I’m gonna make hot cocoa. You want some?”

“Yes, please!”

---

Thankfully, the power held out just long enough for Rhinea to whip up a mug of hot chocolate for the both of them. The lights in the house went dark, but she simply had Shelgon light the way with a continuous stream of Embers. The storm was only just beginning to show its true face, but she knew it would be alright. Nothing would hurt her little brother while she was here, not even the forces of nature themselves.

“You’re lucky my bag isn’t too cluttered, or else you’d be having lukewarm cocoa, instead,” she said as she came down the stairs.

Hatchley was laying over the foot of the sofa nearly dying of boredom, but seeing Rhinea come back renewed his spirits, “welcome back!”

He made grabby hands for his Reshiram mug, only for Rhinea to pull it out of his reach. Feeling mocked, he changed course toward her Zekrom mug, only for her to raise both of them above her head with an annoyed glare.

“Sheesh. I haven’t even said ‘careful, it’s hot’ yet,” she scoffed. She slowly set both mugs down on the table before plopping onto the sofa. Shelgon curled up next to the fire, a yawn reverberating inside his shell as it slowly rocked itself to sleep.

Hatchley raised the cup to his nose and took a whiff. The rich and bitter aroma of dark chocolate tickled at his brain, while hints of salted caramel helped keep the flavor profile from being too overwhelming. Rhinea never understood why he liked it so, but then again, Hatchley never knew why she liked flavors that were practically drowning in sugar, either.

“It’s delicious. Thank you, Rhinny~” Hatchley cooed as he cradled the mug in his hands. His lips were stained a dark brown from taking a big gulp right away, while Rhinea slowly whittled down the waterline on hers with small, frequent sips.

“You’re welcome, Hatchy~” she replied, using her spoon to stir the Badge-shaped marshmallows around in her cup. Any that weren’t dissolved became a snack for the sweet-toothed teen, who clearly hadn’t enjoyed this kind of treat in a while, if her contented sighs were any indication.

“So... Story time?”

Rhinea paused. She had very nearly forgotten about that. The girl reached into her pocket, and produced a small, leather-bound journal. It was the exact same one that Hatchley had bought for her, a few days before she left for Johto on her trip. Of course, when he last saw it, it didn’t quite look so raggedy and water-damaged.

“Yup. Why don’t you finish your hot cocoa and get comfortable while I find what page it’s on.”

Hatchley was already halfway-through chugging his bitter brew when he heard that. He cocked his head curiously, “hm? What... page it’s on?”

Rhinea nodded, “yup. It’s my favorite story, so I wanted to share it first.”

“Alright,” he replied. With his belly full of delicious drink, and the taste of dark chocolate still lingering on his breath, he laid down with his head resting comfortably on Rhinea’s lap. He looked up at her with wonder sparkling in his mahogany eyes, and laughed as she tried awkwardly to take another sip from her mug and leaf through pages at the same time, “don’t burn my face off.”

“Shut it, you,” she clapped back. Finally, her eyes lit up in recognition, and she quickly set the half-finished mug down to prop open her journal with her finger, “ah, here we go. Arceus, my handwriting is shitty,” she mutters to herself.

Hatchley smirked, “potty mouth,” he said in feigned indignation.

“Oh please. I’ve heard what you and your friends talk about when they’re over,” she hissed, and that seemed to shut him up.

Content with this new, less troublesome Hatchely, Rhinea took one last sip of her chocolate and began to read aloud the legend passed down through the Dragon Clan for generations.

---

A long time ago, when the world was newly-wrought by the hands of the Original One, there was a great lake that lay at the foot of the divine Mt. Silver. It was a sacred place, untouched by the humans that wandered the land in their hunt for food and shelter, and so it was that it became a haven for Pokemon.

The Pokemon of the lake lived in harmony with nature, growing and evolving at each their own paces. The Caterpie that fed on the trees encased themselves into Metapod, waiting until the spring to emerge as majestic Butterfree. The shells of the Krabby that scuttled along the beach molted in the summer, giving birth to the regal Kingler, while the Slowpoke that fished atop the rocks caught their first Cloyster and became a Slowbro late into autumn. Even in the cold of winter, the Rhyhorn that came down from the mountain to drink were tempered into the mighty Rhydon.

By the end of the year, all of the Pokemon living in the lake had fully-realized themselves through evolution - all except one. Living within the very depths of the water was the serpent Pokemon, Dratini. Elusive and shy, Dratini always felt different from the other Pokemon of the lake. They were smaller and weaker even than some of its friends, so surely they were destined to evolve early in the year, Dratini thought.

Yet, spring brought no change, and summer, too, was spent watching as more and more of their friends blossomed into their final forms. When autumn first started to color the leaves, Dratini finally shed their skin to become Dragonair, but this change only brought dissatisfaction upon the Pokemon. After so much waiting, they still felt as though something was missing.

As the leaves fell from the trees, Dragonair pondered the meaning of their unfulfillment. They had grown larger and more elegant, and much more powerful, yet when they looked at the Ponyta and the Rhyhorn coming and going from the lake, they realized that this world it inhabited was much too small. They wanted to follow their friends, and explore the world beyond this little spring. Perhaps one day, they would even be able to see what a human looked like.

Before winter came, Dragonair went to their friend Gyarados, and asked what they should do if they wanted to leave the lake. Gyarados was powerful and wise, and so Dragonair thought they knew the best answer, but Gyarados just shook their head and answered, “I don’t understand. You have everything you could ever need here, why bother leaving? Just grow bigger and get stronger like me, and you'll feel better.”

Disappointed, Dragonair swam over to the Arbok that was sunbathing on the rocks, and asked if they could teach Dragonair how to move on land. The serpent fearsomely hissed, and replied, “why should I? You get to fish in the lake, and I get to hunt on the land. It only seems fair that we keep separate.”

Discouraged, Dragonair drifted through the water as the first snow began to fall. They gazed up into the empty, cloudy sky, wondering why no-one else understood this feeling they had. After all, they each wanted to grow up and evolve once, too, didn’t they?

Suddenly, Dragonair saw a Pidgeot soar over the lake, on their way to migrate to warmer lands. Seeing their wings spread wide and full of wind, Dragonair felt compelled to yell their name into the sky. Pidgeot landed at the edge of the lake, wondering what was so important to interrupt his flight. Dragonair asked Pidgeot if it could learn how to fly, too.

“Sure,” the Pidgeot snickered, waving their wing at the serpent as they turned around, “just jump out of the water ten-thousand times, and you’ll get the hang of it,” they said before flying away. Though it had been said as a joke, Dragonair took it seriously. If they could learn how to fly, then Dragonair could go anywhere they wanted.

And so, Dragonair trained. They jumped in and out of the water all day, never giving up, no matter how many times they fell back into the water. Even as the winter froze over the surface of the lake, Dragonair cut a hole in the ice and jumped through it. The other Pokemon complained, saying that the splashing was keeping them from hibernating, but Dragonair ignored them. If no-one was going to help them but themselves, then they weren’t going to listen to anyone but their own heart.

Eventually, spring came once more, and Dragonair remained dedicated to their training. They were starting to jump into the air higher, and higher, rivaling even the Splashing the newly-spawned Magikarp. Each time Dragonair jumped, they felt the hold of gravity loosen upon themselves, growing ever weaker and weaker, until the ten-thousandth jump finally came to pass.

Dragonair shone brightly like a star in the sky, high above the lake. Pokemon from all over the land came to see Dragonair evolve, growing from a sea serpent into a fully-fledged dragon! No-one had ever seen a Pokemon like it before; One so elegant and powerful, able to take to the skies in a single bound, and dive deep beneath the waves to touch the forgotten bottom of the lake.

Though it had to say goodbye to its friends in the lake, Dragonite wasn’t sad. Now they could truly go everywhere, and see everything to their heart’s content. They could make friends with the Pokemon of the skies and mountains, and even with the humans! And if they ever missed home, they could always fly back to this little lake, and bathe in the waters that they once thought of as their entire world.


---

Rhinea closed the journal softly, and exchanged it with her Zekrom mug. The Dragon Tamer took a sip, feeling the cooled chocolate soothe the roughness in her throat. Keeping that voice up was growing harder and harder, it seemed.

She looked down, and saw that Hatchley was already fast asleep. She wondered if he had heard the entire story, or if he dozed off in the middle of it. Not that she minded, either way. Being home always seemed to make her yearn for the seasonal hiatus to end, but this... She could trade her whole career away to just be in this moment forever. If only she had the choice.

She brushed her fingers through the boy’s hair, just gently enough as to not disturb him. Even if the power came back by now, she didn’t dare turn on the telly to check. No, she would rather sit and watch over him as the wind howled outside, and sleet scraped against the windows.

After all, once their parents came back, it was soon time for her to celebrate her birthday, and time for her to say goodbye.

“Sleep tight, little brother. I promise you’ll understand someday, so please come and find me again.”

---

Happy Appreciate a Dragon Day~!

Last edited by ShadowDRGN; 01-17-2022 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 01-20-2022, 10:32 PM   #5
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Goto I: Aleph Null Pt. 2

CW: Themes of domestic violence.

Spoiler: show
How long had Goto been petrified by that realization? No matter how hard he tried to recall it, that stretch of time had been lost to him - no, stolen from him, by the hands of fear that strangled his mind and body.

All the boy could do is peer underneath the jackets, watching as shoes marched down the aisles like an army advancing upon his position. They constantly stopped and turned, intent on rifling through every display, and glancing under every table. To any passerby, no doubt the thugs would’ve looked no different to any customer browsing silently.

Silence hung in the air like smog, seeping into his lungs, choking him from the inside as he understood just what would happen to him if he’s caught; What would happen to his mother if he escaped to tell the police. He understood all of it without a single word being uttered of the consequences they faced.

That knowledge terrified him. He wanted desperately to forget it, to return to waking up in his bed and make a different choice. Yet, his mother... What about his mother? Could he truly do nothing? Would every choice only change the victim of this tragedy, and not its outcome?

There had to be something he could do, were he not so afraid that he couldn’t even stop his hands from trembling. How could he aspire to be like the heroes he watched on TV if he was cowered in a corner, like a pathetic animal?

Like his heroes. Something flashed in the boy’s mind, like a candle being lit inside a dark room. A voice which spoke in a hammy, yet unfailingly passionate tone that belonged to not one man, but rather every man that embodied the archetype of a hero:

Quote:
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
Goto took a deep breath, and hobbled now to his feet, ready to move. Terror still chilled his blood, but he would not be frozen by it any longer.

He counted to three in his head, and then he pushed through the curtain. The coarse fabric of a tweed jacket tugged on his fuzzy pajamas, as though trying to pull him back to safety, but the boy tore it away from him and continued moving.

He tread across the aisle swiftly, body low to the ground to keep his raven hair from sticking out over the mountain of textiles between him and his enemy. His footfalls landed toe-first, letting his heel settle softly against the rickety floor without a sound. With just a few steps, he was able to slip underneath one end of the nearest table unnoticed.

A small relief, given that he was moving toward the danger. From under the tablecloth, he kept track of their positions with the utmost detail. The lackeys were about to flank him, right after they finished checking the table ahead. The collector was over on the far aisle, lazily sauntering in front of the shelves Donna used to display sewing machines. Goto could tell he wasn’t really searching, so much as he was watching and listening. Giving him a wide berth seemed wise.

All the while, the boy approached the edge of the table, coming just shy of disturbing the curtain of silk that hid him from sight. He watched the men go through the display just ahead of him, lined with boxes of fabric squares in every color, pattern and texture imaginable. They were practically dismantling it at this point, gradually tearing away anything that the boy could conceivably hide behind. One of them picked up a jar filled with assorted ribbons, and placed it up on a high shelf to get it out of the way as they continued their search.

The boy’s eyes wandered back to Roserade as it dangled from its perch, and a realization struck him. He squeezed his fist tighter, feeling the bundle of buttons dig into his palm, and he passed one into his other hand. Deep breaths. Think harder.

This whole time, he had been afraid that his precious gift would be discovered. It was a feeling that puzzled him. It wasn’t valuable, it didn’t hold any significance to thieves, but he was thinking about it the wrong way. What was significant about discovering Roserade was what it could tell them about his disappearing act. It would give direction to a directionless search.

Roserade was as important to them as it was to him. He understood that now, and that’s why he chose to betray his stuffed friend.

Goto tossed the button underhand, and quickly got ready to make another run for cover. His ears would tell him whether his gambit succeeded or not, and so he held his breath and listened carefully:

Plink! The sound of Rhydon horn clattering atop the wooden shelf replied back. He waited for a moment to make sure it wasn’t followed by the sound of horn bouncing or rolling off onto the floor, and so he could barely contain the smile that crept across his face to hear the shop fall silent again.

Even just watching their feet, Goto could tell that the noise caught the attention of both grunts. The one closest to it whipped around, and immediately began trudging toward the shelf. Just the one, leaving him with the risk of being caught if he were to go right now.

Quickly, he took another button and flicked it with his thumb. It arced just over the man’s feet before it impacted the floor, bouncing and rolling until it got caught between the gaps. The man had turned his back to Goto in order to find the source of the noise, and the boy wasted no time slinking through the hole he’d crafted.

“Hey!” the thug’s gruff voice called in the midst of his dive underneath the next table. It nearly made his heart stop, but he knew even before he looked back that he wasn’t the one who was caught.

Roserade was plucked from its Velcro stem and taken into the clutches of the bald-headed man. His brow was furrowed in recognition, like he’d just discovered an important clue, yet completely unaware of his own clueless mistake.

“I found the kid’s doll!” he announced, and held it up for the other two to see. Goto could see the rusty, ill-fitting gears in his head turning as he glanced between Roserade and the table that the boy had just been hiding under, “help me check this one!”

That was all Goto needed to see. He unfurled his hand, and silently counted his remaining ammo; He had twelve buttons of varying sizes left, but he scarcely imagined he could keep misdirecting them with the same trick eleven more times. Besides that, he needed to do more than just evade them. His mother was still behind the counter scrounging up money from the register, desperate to stop them from carrying out their unspoken threat. If he wanted to escape, he needed to find a way to take her with him, and for that he needed a larger distraction.

The boy crawled over toward a hole in the display and leaned in close, scanning his surroundings for something suitable. The grunts were still preoccupied with tearing the other table apart looking for him, but he doesn’t see anything useful in the merchandise that goes flying across the floor. Rolls of fabric were too light to be used as a weapon, and there wasn’t much heavier than that in the store.

Heavier! Goto’s gaze shot up toward the top of the shelf: The ribbon jar! Inspiration struck him like a lightning bolt, and he immediately started digging into his pajamas. Was it still there? A loop of leftover string brushed against his static-pricked fingers, and he plucked it loose from his pocket. He began to thread it through the buttons, one-by-one, collecting them into one stack. Tying and looping, solidifying the connections until those twelve buttons took on a hook-like shape!

“Where the hell is he?!” the bald man shouted, kicking the leg of the table until it started to bow inwards. Goto flinched. He had nearly forgotten how willing these thugs were to simply destroy anything that got in their way.

“This is a waste of time!” the other moaned, “let’s just rough her up and go!”

“Keep looking!” the collector ordered. Goto couldn’t hear what he was doing, but he sounded like he was still very close to the counter, “I’m the one who decides what is and isn’t a waste of time.”

He doesn’t have much time left until they start overturning everything to find him. He crawled over to the peephole and shifted aside the rolls of fabric to widen the gap. The boy took another deep breath, his hand clasped tightly around the string of his makeshift grappling hook.

Goto’s wrist turned, generating centrifugal force within the string. The hook swung in circles beside him, gathering speed until it was little but a blur. His gaze was transfixed to the jar above, his mind crunching the numbers half on schooling, and half on instinct. He needed to shoot high enough to clear the lip, but low enough to let it fall straight down into the mass of ribbons. He had exactly one shot at this, and no more. His hands were steady - they had to be - but his heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest.

“Get the fuck out here, brat!” one of the thugs shouted. The boy’s eyes widened, and he knew then that he had to let the hook loose.

A crash tore through the shop yet again. The decoy table had been upended, flung across the room by a feat of pure rage, and collapsed upon another. Donna’s livelihood lay among tatters and splinters across the floor, and the seamstress let out perhaps the only sob Goto had ever heard from her in his life.

“Stop... Please stop! I’ll pay you anything!”

But as cold as it felt, Goto didn’t care about that. In all that cacophony, one detail went completely unnoticed by all, even the one who had been listening for it: The sound of Rhydon horn hitting glass, and then going silent.

Goto tugged on the string, and was delighted to see the hook snag against the lip of the jar. His trap had been rigged, but he couldn’t set it off just yet.

Still holding the wire taut, Goto reached out and touched one of the fabric rolls. Linen; He hated stocking new linen. It was too rough and heavy, it made his hands feel sore afterwards. Nothing like the soft fabric that most people were used to. And if he knocked it over by accident, it would always make a loud thump that drew his mother's ire.

As it turned out, the sound of linen being knocked over on purpose was indistinguishable from not. Goto was grinning, but in truth his insides felt like they were filled to the brim with sand.

The boy let ears be his guide for what to do next, and they told him of footsteps barreling toward the bullseye of his gravity trap. The moment he saw the thug’s cue-ball head come into his sightline, he was going to pull on the string, take his mother by the hand, and run while they still had the chance. Even if it meant leaving behind the store his grandfather built, he knew that it was better for them to leave it on their feet, rather than in an ambulance.

He saw the shadow creep into his field of view. He was nearly ready, but his ears relayed to him one final message, a sound that would change everything:

Ching-Ling!

Last edited by ShadowDRGN; Yesterday at 09:02 AM.
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