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TEEN: Snatcher (Autumn 2023)

Joined
Apr 24, 2022
Messages
1,503
Reaction score
4,369
Pronouns
  1. She/Her
snatcher /ˈsnætʃɚ/ noun
[count]: a person who takes something from someone else and runs away




CW: brief language, mild blood, brief depiction of death
-----
Emmet was always good at hide-and-seek.

Truthfully, ‘good’ was an understatement, rather, he excelled at it. The other children would often try to mimic the way he would suck in his breath, the way his legs would amble clumsily like a new-born Deerling, yet have the silent footsteps of a hunting Zoroark. Yet as much as they studied through the veil of shuttered fingers none of them had ever gotten close enough to the secret, to his secret. Winning too, seemed to come naturally to the small boy, maybe not at everything, but definitely at hide-and-seek, definitely against his older twin and their two companions.

Instead of being discouraged like most of the other children who joined them, the party of three seemed ever spirited to challenge their shared opponent every now and again in hopes that maybe, just maybe, one of them had deciphered the boy’s key to success.

It was one of such many days, and with the sun setting over the railings of the slide above them, the two girls had already flagged their surrender; Elesa with her palms pressed to her cheeks and Skyla looking upwards at the clouds to pass the time. Ingo was used to their defeated looks at this point, even he was the one in their position on occasion, but still, this was his brother, and thus, he often felt obliged to be the one to continue the search until their parents would come usher them away. “… Could you imagine if he’s been under our noses this whole time?” Skyla was the first to break the silence with a comment she had surely made absently long before this moment. “If that were true, we would have been able to Blitzle home hours ago.” Elesa’s chest puffed with vigor at that one, patiently awaiting the other girl’s ‘score’ of this pun; a game often shared between their friend group. Skyla gazed back at her nowhere near as bemused, shaking her head. “Clever one but you’re still not funny. Fifty-five points.” Elesa didn’t deflate at the mediocre judgment, instead bumping shoulders with the auburn-haired girl with a smirk. “Boo~ Fine, I’ll take it, but I’d like to see you come up with something better!” Neither of them could suppress a giggle, times like this at least offering little ways they could create memories with each other.

Though it wasn’t exactly a complete feeling without all four of them.

A beat of silence passed, this time Elesa was the first to speak up, azure hues drawing upward to the boy left on the slide platform. “Ingoooo! How long until he wanders back here on his own? Usually it’s around this time…” The mirror to the absent child had been playing lookout for some time now, his hands cupping makeshift shade just above his brow as he squinted out into the horizon of where playground ended and forest began. Emmet hid in all sorts of places really, but the edge of the forest was his most coveted area to slink off to, that pure white clothes of his somehow vanishing into verdant green underbrush like he never truly existed.

Ingo could feel it in his bones. Emmet was definitely hiding in there today.

“I’ll go get him!” Ingo saluted to the leftover girls, just barely catching a glance of their acknowledging wave before he took to the slide, fumbling for balance when tennis shoes hit the dirt and heading off into uncharted territory. Emmet was a good child, even if he had a mischievous streak. When their mother found out they played in the forest, she scolded them gently, but that apologetic smile of hers often gave way. They compromised to play by the edge, to never go too deep where wild Pokemon were more abundant and equally more dangerous. With that assurance in mind, the elder twin wasn’t afraid, he couldn’t be afraid when he often saw it as his obligation to fill his role as the older brother, as the protector.

The forest was serene, and he couldn’t help but slow his pace to properly admire it. The cries of Bug-Type Pokemon were plentiful at the twilight hour, and passing by every pillar of wood allowed the light to catch, to glisten just right against nearby shrubbery. He would have almost forgotten he was enchanted by it all, had the sound of a twig snapping beneath his foot not reminded him why he was here. “Emmet! It’s time to go home!” The child’s voice reverberated through to the canopy, a promise it had traveled far.

Yet he was graced with no response.

Ingo sucked in a breath. He was always the better of the two at projecting his voice. There was even the chance Emmet had heard him, but his much more soft spoken voice didn’t reach the same. “Emmet! Come back!” …Right? The heat of anxiety stung the back of his neck, reassuring himself internally of all the reasons why acquiring Emmet wasn’t as simple and quick as it usually tended to be. Did he… run out of places to hide along the forest edges? “Mom will be upset if you went too far!” Several more precious minutes were spent patrolling what he knew of the boundary line, time was of the essence and he didn’t want to keep Elesa and Skyla waiting either… and he was running out of options.

His voice, too, was growing hoarse.

The child stopped pacing, staring off into the expanse of trees with uncertainty, rummaging into the pocket of his backpack to pull out the Pokeball of the only Pokemon he had.

A Litwick his mother gave to him, she had said it was its duty to protect them both.

Ingo stared at the scarlet color of the capsule reflecting the orange of the sunset, turning it over a few times in his hand. He won’t get in trouble if it’s to find Emmet… And Litwick—, Chamomile, will keep him out of harm’s way. He had to believe that. The creature was released from the containment, manifesting in his hold in a brilliant flash of light both trainer and Pokemon blinked away. He stared at it, hoping somehow their shared eye contact would give him enough courage to move forward, to find his other half. Chamomile gave her usual dopey smile, letting her flame flicker into a stronger dance in a silent display of enthusiasm. “Right… It’s you and me. He can’t be far.” The candle chirped in reply, nestling into his hold.

Finally, frozen legs began to move deeper into the wood.

At first it felt like committing a taboo, breaking the seal on that sacred promise they had made with their mother, and the only solace he had that he was doing the right thing was the soft mass of wax in his hands urging him onward. For a while, the forest wasn’t any less peaceful, and his gaze that flitted from Sewaddle to Pidove soon became less vigilant. Maybe there was nothing to worry about after all, perhaps autumn was as sleepy a time for Pokemon in the forest as winter. The lull of security dissipated with the growing darkness of the woodland, and Ingo couldn’t quite tell if the fading light was due to the sun setting or the leaves above suffocating the light’s entrance.

He was a little scared.

Chamomile began squeaking fervently, and he began to pat her for reminding him of her existence, but she wouldn’t stop squeaking, flailing one of her stubby arms in the direction of the path ahead. The child raised his brow, doubting the glowing flame only for a second, but he let silver hues trail upward letting relief show itself in a veil of white through the darkness.

That was… It had to be!

“Emmet!
” He began running without a second thought, the view of his mirror image becoming clearer with every step. “Emmet! Why are you—“ His sibling turned to face him, his own visage like that of a Deerling in headlights. Perhaps he was, as Ingo’s carelessness got his foot stuck on a root, “Wh—?!” “Nii-san, be careful!” The younger made a feeble attempt to catch his falling twin, but to no avail he instead went down with him, the Litwick smushed briefly between them slipped out into the air with an audible pop, falling right onto her trainer’s back and sticking the landing. “Aughh…” The groans of pain were shared between them, and once the irritation of said pain was quelled into a dull throb, Ingo spent his leftover frustration at the one beneath him.

“What were you doing out here…? Ugh… You know you’re not supposed to go this far, Emmet.” He rolled himself off of his twin, clambering for his hat that had fallen astray in their collision a few feet away. Emmet was much slower to rise, nursing a forming bruise in his upper back and finding his voice to respond. “…’m sorry. There was a Pokemon! It wanted to be friends. Emmet followed it.” Putting aside his brother’s usually stilted speech, Ingo furrowed his brow, carefully dissecting his words while he peeled Chamomile off of his back.

A Pokemon? A Pokemon led you out here?” The mirror in white nodded, confidence starting to bloom in his features. “Mhm! It seemed really sad and lonely… So we played!” Ingo looked unamused at that, brushing off dirt on his knees in his Litwick's dim light. “…Do you know how worried I was?” The hidden anger in his words were clear enough for Emmet to grasp onto, those tiny fists of his curling around it and into his lap in shame. “Oh…I’m sorry…” That same energy fizzled out as quickly as it came. Ingo pressed his temples, emulating their mother’s stress habit that he had assimilated as his own.

“It’s fine, we’ll— we’ll talk later. Elesa and Skyla are waiting for us and we shouldn’t keep them.” He dropped his ‘big brother’ voice long enough to let his mirror’s faint smile return. “C’mon.” Ingo extended his hand to help the other child upward, to which the other linked their hands together with eagerness. The darkness of the forest no longer felt as all encompassing as it was mere minutes ago, the two of them were often like that; deriving strength from each other. “What was the Pokemon you befriended, anyway?” The elder of the two attempted to clear leftover tension from the air, though he was just as curious as he let on in truth. Emmet’s excitement brightened his features yet again in Chamomile’s dim candlelight, “A Zorua! Emmet had only seen them in storybooks before! It was verrrry cool!” And said candle was plucked from Ingo’s hold, hugging the ghostly ornament to his chest. “A Zorua? I’d never seen them before either…” He took Emmet’s free hand once their Litwick was adjusted in her new perch, making sure not to lose his beloved sibling again.

“I wish you got to meet it! Emmet thinks it’s shy. It scampered away when Nii-san ran over.” His mirror lowered his head in disappointment; the rare experience wasn’t shared between them, but per usual, he was able to reignite the fire behind silver eyes rather quickly. “Maybe it’ll come play again! Skyla and Elesa can play too!” Ingo gave the smallest sound of approval, his sight elsewhere, scanning the treetops where Woobat soon began to cluster and roost. “That would be fun.” He parroted the sentiment, turning his full attention back to his sibling, “But no more going out this far, it’d have to come closer.” “Okaaay~” Emmet didn’t seem deterred, which usually only meant one of two things; he would follow instruction, or he had a scheme to get around said instruction. “And no bringing it berries all the way out here! It better be right by the edge to get any!” He could always read Emmet’s mind, nothing got passed him.

And the way his brother puffed his cheeks proved his theory correct.

Arceus must have been watching over them, as the twins arrived safely with Anville Town’s rundown playground slowly returning to view. The only danger to speak of upon their return was a disgruntled Venipede that had found shelter on Emmet’s hat until it was carefully taken elsewhere. The first to notice their return was Skyla, and her spritely wave in Elesa’s peripheral was enough to make the other girl look up to witness them in tandem. “What took you guys so long? It was getting chilly out here!” They ran to greet the boys, and Ingo pondered a more apt explanation in that brief lapse in conversation. “Emmet made friends with a Zorua and was led astray.”

“A Zorua?!” Both girls exclaimed in their own fascination, and the boy in white nodded in something between shared excitement and pride. “Oh, I bet it’s so cute in person! If we can make friends with it, maybe it could do some tricks with our Pokemon during the Hallow’s Eve festival!” Elesa was already overflowing with ideas, the thought of the fox’s illusionary abilities becoming the star of the festival filled her with unbridled excitement. It was easy to come up with such ‘adventurous’ plans when the four of them were together, Skyla too fed off that enthusiasm. “We could finally win the class competition for it this year too! Zorua could have its fair share of our sweet sweet winnings of course~” Ingo had almost forgotten about it until she mentioned it. Right, for the festival every year their class would take to the stage in teams, showing off various tricks and move combinations their Pokemon learned in what was meant to be a spectacular show with fancy costumes. Usually the children who already had their Pokemon mature enough to perform powerful moves would win the candy prize pool. Between Ducklett, Emolga, a little Litwick and a Tynamo egg, they rarely had a shot.

But still…

“Emmet will ask Zorua!” Emmet was far from against the idea of his friends meeting his newest recruit, and even Ingo gave his sibling the slightest smile of encouragement at that. “Let’s be patient with it and let Zorua come out on its own time then. Let’s go home, mom is gonna get worried.” Mirroring the twins, Elesa took up Skyla’s hand as well, waving to the two brothers who luckily didn’t have to travel as far. “Last train back to Nimbasa should be showing up soon, we’re gonna go catch it!” And they were off, faster than they could bring up their hands to salute their departure. “See you tomorrow!”

“Yeah, see you guys!”

Ingo couldn’t help but turn to look curiously back toward the woodland, wondering if the shy Pokemon that Emmet spoke of was real or just a manifestation of his brother’s whimsy. In that moment of doubt he saw it, a small, fox-like creature sitting in a clearing, staring right back at him.

Except, he didn’t remember Zorua having white fur in the storybooks.

He blinked, moving mere inches away from Emmet’s side to draw closer, to confirm what he saw.

But as quickly as it came, it vanished from sight.

They went home without him mentioning it.

—-
Ingo’s brother was strange, there was no question about that. It was more apt to say they were both strange, but the foreign aura of one was more masked than the other. He spoke strangely, in short sentences and switching between his self detached or contained, he moved strangely between leaving Ingo’s side and rushing back to it upon the arrival of others. His ideas were the strangest of all, often not voicing concepts or inquiries that felt connected to their shared reality.

Emmet was, in all manner of the word, peculiar— just like a Zorua itself only emulating another Pokemon half-way. A paltry attempt at being something he was not, or rather, he wasn’t attempting at all, but forcing the world to shift beneath him, to coincide with his reality. He listened, without glancing up (from a book far too advanced for his age–) to his brother mingling with the other small children in Nimbasa’s academy. Talk of finding more unique Pokemon to befriend, talk of what they were going to dress as for Hallow’s Eve, talk of Hallow’s Eve itself. As expected, Emmet eagerly brought up the topic of his new friend, astonishing the other children who chose to believe he hadn’t fallen for a trick of the light. “No way! Did you catch it? Where did you find it?” One child asked, but was only met with Emmet putting a finger to his lips. “I didn’t! And… it’s a secret.” Usually, such was the case due to how closed off Emmet tended to be, but Ingo could chalk up how this time was a matter of protection, fear that children openly wandering the forest would scare the poor creature away. This choice naturally caused mumbles of disappointment and disbelief in equal measure, but Emmet didn’t seem bothered.

He never really was.

“Emmet,” before the topic died fully, Ingo finally looked up from his novel. “What color was the Zorua?” Inquisitive looks stared back at him, even Emmet himself cocked his head to the side as if his brother was the one acting strange. Everyone had read the storybooks and seen the pictures in encyclopedias. “It had black fur. Why?” His hand absently turning the page had paused, the answer throwing him for a loop. Then was… the Zorua he saw that night, another? No… He shook away his stunned silence, masking his stupor as merely forgetting what he was going to say next. “No reason.”

The rest of class proceeded as normal.

The usual suspects once again gathered at the playground a train ride away, spending most of the late afternoon finishing homework together with little incident each passing autumn day. Emmet had taken to leaving berries on the edge of the wood, and though they would vanish the next time they visited, it was impossible to tell if the Zorua was the one that had taken them or not. None of this had troubled his protective older sibling, at first Emmet appeared far too preoccupied with costume planning with Elesa (it was her favorite part of the festival, after all). He wasn’t even bothered when he noticed Emmet would slink away, to peek beyond the trees in hopes the vulpine would scamper forth under Ingo’s watchful supervision.

What did bother him, was when Emmet began to sneak out of their shared bedroom in the dead of night. He wasn’t sure how long it had gone on, only catching the act by chance in a brief moment of waking up at some unholy hour and glimpsing the door creak open. His eyes fluttered half-mast, catching the familiar figure that was in fact his sibling in the moon’s pale glow. “Emmet…” His twin’s voice clearly took him by surprise, the one in white had his hand freeze on the doorknob. “Where are you going?” The guilty one’s eyes flitted between the door and his brother, unable to form a passive lie in time to avoid any mounting suspicion. “Uhm…” “...Have you been going to the forest at this hour?” Ingo rubbed his eyes, roused awake by his own interrogation burning hot into Emmet’s shoulders. “...S–” Emmet couldn’t make eye contact. “Sort of…” He was met with an audible exhale that made him shrink further, but Ingo didn’t give him the lecture they were both thinking.

Instead, he threw over his covers– careful not to disturb the slumbering Litwick; walking up to the other child and placing his hands on his shoulders as gingerly as he could. “I know Zorua’s your friend, but you know how dangerous wild Pokemon can be. We just got… really, really lucky the other day.” Emmet stared at his feet, the guilt causing heat to bathe his features. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.” They were different, stranger than everyone else, and they were gracious enough to have friends like Elesa and Skyla– but the bonds of outside entities only went so far.

Since their birth, they functioned inside a world of two. Losing one another was equally their greatest fear.

“Thanks, Nii-san. Sorry I made you worry.” Emmet took a step closer, before just as swiftly withdrawing that action, but it didn’t take any longer than that for Ingo to read his intent. “Honestly, it’s so like you to get so wound up in something you forget about yourself.” And he was pulled into that hug that he had initially attempted. Emmet blinked, dumbfounded at first. Ingo’s hugs were rare, and that’s what made them special, even when he spoke in those weird grown-up terms that made it a little corny. “Yup… I am Emmet, it’s just like me.” He returned the embrace with a tight squeeze of his own, keeping his laughter quiet so as to not wake their sleeping mother a few doors away. With that, it didn’t take much coaxing to coerce his brother back into bed. “Goodnight, Emmet”

“Goodnight, Nii-san.”

Sleep came for him quickly, but not so much his elder protector who sat at his bedside. Honestly, he couldn’t entirely blame Emmet for his sudden attachment to this supposed Zorua that still may or may not exist. They were strange children, mimicries of each other that often beguiled odd looks from their peers and adults alike. Emmet even more so, as he didn’t seem as in tune with humans as he were Pokemon so often in their growth. He couldn’t help but smile at the way Emmet hugged the precious Tynamo egg in his sleep, waiting for it to hatch. Maybe they were just like two Zorua, closer to Pokemon than man.

The one in black hugged his knees to his chest, absently finding his attention moved to the window with the thought, gazing at the dark forest that called so often to Emmet.

This time he saw it as clear as day. There it sat once again, the pure white Zorua just outside the forest, practically glowing in the moonlight as it stared back at him. He could take in its full visage this time; the way its golden hues were unblinking and the way its tufts of fur would rise into the air like wisps of smoke slowly dyed red.

It scared him, that haunting gaze.

The child leapt backward, off the bed and narrowly avoided stumbling onto the floor. He kept his horrified eyes locked with the creature’s own, for fear that if he tore away first it would conjure itself right at his feet. He hesitated like a cornered Patrat, his heart pounding against his ribcage in some incomprehensible fight or flight at what should have been an innocent little fox. Against all odds he moved forward, pressing his knee on the bed to draw closer to the window, to throw it open despite every nerve in his body rejecting it.

Yet just as his hands found purchase, another blink and the phantom was gone.

He remained frozen there, waiting for something, anything at all to ambush his senses… But nothing came. The child crumbled momentarily on the edge of his sibling’s bed, taking a few precious minutes to let the feeling subside enough that he felt safe enough to crawl back into the comforts of his own bed. He didn’t fear Ghost-types, not when he had bonded with one snoozing so peacefully on his pillow… but something about that vestige of what might have been a Zorua unnerved him in a way an entity beyond the supernatural would.

He didn’t really sleep much that night.

The morning mist hung over the town like his thoughts, and just like them it had dissipated by the afternoon. Ingo still hadn’t told Emmet about the Zorua he saw, somehow not finding the strength to confide in the other about the visions he was having, likely not to worry him. Hallow’s Eve was drawing close, and they were all much too preoccupied with their costumes and teaching Chamomile Will-o-Wisp, in hopes she could make her flames dance about for the competition. Emmet was going to be an angel, a shoddy halo made from a broken coat hanger Elesa had crafted herself, and Ingo a demon; an equally fashioned accord. Skyla’s costume was inspired by the ballet performance Swanna Lake, and Elesa proudly kept hers a secret– as expected given her passions were in full force this time of year. None of the children brought up bringing the Zorua to the festival again, too engrossed in the excitement and thrill of the Pumpkaboo and Zubat decorations that began to decorate Nimbasa and Anville alike.

By the time they had come to linger at their ‘usual place’, his thoughts of the unnerving sight had passed, too absorbed in twirling his finger in directions for the Litwick to follow. It was only when Emmet drew away for his routine visit to the forest’s border did he finally witness the Zorua in question, after all this time, the sight of it still unsettling him to some degree. Unlike his phantom, this Pokemon had life behind its eyes, its little paws timidly drawing forward to eat a Pecha Berry out of Emmet’s hand. Its coat was black, like any child would have known a Zorua to be– like Emmet said it was, and its big azure eyes were staring warmly up at the child in white it had come so close to.

Ingo managed to smile just as warmly at the sight himself, fanning away his fears with the reassurance that this was a well meaning Pokemon like any other, an outcast child much like themselves in the world. The Zorua turned to face him at that moment, apparently feeling the weight of his watchful eye, and all at once that feeling had gone sour. The joy in its expression had dissipated entirely, its posture and visage mirroring that of the soulless being he had faced the other night, and the elder twin felt a chill run down his spine.

His own smile faded completely.

Emmet was cued to crane his neck, curious at what the Zorua had its eye on, “Nii-san!~” A cheerful wave to his sibling followed suit, and Ingo flinched– forcing himself to adjust into normalcy abruptly. While Emmet was preoccupied with righting himself, silver eyes flitted to where the Zorua had sat once again only to be greeted with thin air and the remnants of a Pecha Berry’s skin. It had vanished with that same look, just like the white coated one.

A pit formed in his stomach.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Elesa’s teasing made him jump, entirely forgetting his blonde haired friend was sitting just a few feet away with her Emolga in hand. “I… I’m fine. Just nervous about the competition.” A white lie, one that made a successful breach through Elesa’s masked worries. “You’re always so serious about everything. The prize is just candy, you know? And well, everyone thinking you’re the coolest for like a week before everyone forgets about it.” She made a casual gesture of flippancy with her free hand. “Just have some fun with it, Ingo!” With that same arm she elbowed him, the bump of encouragement getting the faintest smile out of him. “Yeah… I’ll try that.” Ingo curled his palms, looking into the expanse of trees with the nagging thought that he should confide in her about his sightings, if not to worry Emmet.

“I’ll try to have fun with it.” But he chose not to, letting the words die on his tongue.

—-

The day before the festival was a torn page in his memory.

Emmet had proudly announced the morning before class that Zorua was becoming less timid, and he may be able to introduce it to the group of children soon. It wasn’t entirely surprising, given how even Ingo was finally able to witness the creature the other day, but Elesa and Skyla seemed much more excited to hear the news than he was.

And why wouldn’t they be? After all, he doubted they had seen the white coated Zorua haunting him.

Nonetheless, he offered his support to his younger brother who bounced where he stood. “It’ll really like you, Nii-san! I promise! Emmet promises!” Ingo could only force a smile in reassurance, patting his sibling’s head with what gusto he could muster. “As long as it can play with Chamomile, that’s enough for me.” “And Melty too, when it hatches!” Emmet made a show of the egg tucked in his satchel, the scarf he was wearing wrapped around the delicate shell with care. “You already named it? I’m impressed!” Skyla couldn’t suppress a giggle, and her laughter was infectious between the other students. “Mhm! I am Emmet and this will be Melty!” “It’s a cute name, I can’t wait to meet Melty too, then~ I hope it’s a girl, Socket needs a fellow Electric-type girlfriend to hang out with!” Elesa nuzzled cheeks with the Emolga resting on her shoulder.

And with newfound vigor, the quartet entered class to resume their studies of Pokemon and the world around them. It was a leisurely day at least, the teacher more than aware the children were much more focused on the upcoming holiday rather than their language tests. Emmet had received some questions from the other curious classmates about if he would bring the Zorua to the Hallow’s Eve gathering, to which he nodded enthusiastically, having full faith in his new companion’s willingness to be exposed to fresh faces. Other than that, the rest of the school day passed with little incident, the late afternoon sun signaling it was time for them to once again pack their bags and head home. Naturally, the quartet had other activities they wanted to see to before resting up at their own homes. “Oh, I really want to meet Zorua…” Elesa spoke with a disheartenment in her voice, packing her books into her bag with a haste in her movements. “But Skyla and I need to make some last minute adjustments to our costumes, we won’t finish in time to catch the train to Anville Town.” Skyla nodded, looking equally disappointed in the timing of events. “Yeah, some of the feathers on my skirt just won’t stay on! Elesa has to fix up the cape of her vam–

Shhh–! It’s a secret, Skyla! Don’t give away the big reveal!” Elesa abruptly cut her friend off, pressing a finger a few inches away from the other girl’s lips. “...A vampire?” Ingo concluded flatly, and Elesa’s form crumpled in defeat. “Yeah… You’re sharp as ever, huh…” Emmet, the ray of light as usual, waved his hand upward in reassurance for his discouraged friend. “It’s okay Elesa! Emmet hasn’t seen your costume yet, so he will still be surprised! It will be verrrrry pretty!” Ingo laughed through his nose, in agreement with Emmet on this one. “He’s right, you know, telling us what it is doesn’t erase our anticipation. You’ll definitely have the best costume in the competition.” “I’ve seen it so far and you guys are not gonna believe what she’s got going in there!” Skyla piped in, and Elesa flustered, humbled by the optimism her friends shared. “You guys… Jeez… you too Ingo, using all those big words… You’re making it more embarrassing.” She waved them off haphazardly, heading toward the classroom door with Skyla in tow. “Well then, we’ll see Zorua tomorrow, and you’ll get to see my dazzling costume!” “Ehehe, it’ll be fun!” Emmet took his sibling’s hand, following suit with energy stimulated by his own happiness.

Really, Emmet always had that effect on people, as timid as he could be, he lit up the room around those he cherished. Ingo took pride in his little brother for that.

“We should probably do some last minute preparations too, but I take it you want to visit Zorua first?” Ingo adjusted his scarf, letting Chamomile out of her Pokeball to hopefully provide some warmth that staved off the autumn chill. “Yup! Even if Elesa and Skyla can’t meet Zorua till tomorrow, Nii-san can meet Zorua now!” They had to take the train back to their home anyway, so it wasn’t entirely out of the way to walk a distance toward the outskirts of town. Like usual, Emmet napped on his shoulder on the way there. So easily did his energetic younger brother seem to have his candle snuffed out when Ingo was nearby. Perhaps it was a good thing he could sleep so soundly like that, but Ingo couldn’t help but worry it would be difficult for the other when they got older.

Well, the future was uncertain after all.

The crisp air of Anville Town was, as usual, a welcome breath away from the bustling streets of Nimbasa. Instead of concrete, leaves crunched beneath their feet that moved in tandem, and Emmet rubbed away sleep to watch the ambers and browns beneath them shift as they went. Before long they passed the old playground, toward the usual alcove of trees that Emmet would meet the bashful Pokemon under. Emmet quietly put down his satchel, digging past his coveted egg for another Pecha Berry to offer his friend. So the Zorua liked sweet things, just like Emmet– was the mental note Ingo made. His anticipation for their meeting was much different than the kind the mirror beside him had, his paranoia of visions prior seeping back into the forefront of his mind with the subject at hand. Maybe, just maybe now would be different with Emmet alongside him.

Soon enough, furry black ears perked up from behind a bush, and the revered Pokemon trotted forward, its steps growing lighter with joy as it approached the kneeling boy. “Here’s your favorite, Zorua~ Emmet brought his Nii-san today too!” The Zorua made a curious grumbling noise, twitching its ears in Ingo’s direction before facing him dead on, a sort of eye-contact he was growing to despise. “His name is Ingo! Emmet has wanted you to meet him for a while!” Still the Zorua gazed up at him, the shining innocence behind its eyes draining away, and the warmth in Ingo’s body along with it. His fists clenched, and what should have been a small moment between him and the Pokemon felt like an eternity, a game of who would move first.

A beat of silence passed, and he could feel his saliva growing thick in his throat.

Be it coincidence or poor timing, it was as if the Zorua sensed his fear. The creature’s maw drew into a wicked smile, something no Pokemon of its stature should conceivably be capable of. It was haunting, the world fell away beneath him just as he dropped to his knees, watching that large grin distort between black and white– though he wasn’t sure how much of it was actually happening versus his own mind playing tricks on him at this point. He didn’t have time to think about it, just as Emmet didn’t have time to ask him what was wrong before the fox bolted back beyond the trees. “Z-Zorua?! Zorua, wait! Don’t be scared!” Emmet stumbled upward, sprinting clumsily after the Pokemon and leaving both brother and satchel in his wake. Ingo wanted to chase after him, to tell him not to break his promise of going too deep into Anville’s woodland.

But his voice wouldn’t come forth, still reeling in that warped visage he saw. The way its fangs drew long and vicious, the way its eyes were devoid of light any moment he dared to be under its scrutiny.

It surely couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, but it felt like hours he sat calming his shallow breaths and rapid heart enough to remind himself of the more important circumstance at hand. Emmet had run off after the damned thing, that wretched fox that may have been masking its true intentions the entire time. “Emmet…!” He heaved, letting Chamomile hop back into his hold as an engine to move his feet forward himself. “Emmet!” He ran, he ran faster than he had ever run before. Trees and shrubbery alike became blurs in his peripheral, and he stumbled over roots and bushes alike. He ran until the shade of the trees grew thick, and he ran until his breath could no longer keep up with him, slowing to a jog and crumpling against his knees to suck in precious oxygen.

There was no Pidovesong here, nor were there any sounds of Venipede or Sewaddle chirping in the late evening breeze.
“Emmet…” ‘Oh, Arceus above, please!’ he wanted to beg to the hidden sky, frantically looking in every direction until he had no doubt made himself lost. “Emmet, please!” Tears stung the corners of his eyes, the overwhelmingness of it all rapidly becoming too much for the child, his resolution being chipped away by every passing second.

He wished Emmet never met that stupid fox.

And he wished Emmet wasn’t so good at hide-and-seek.

Beyond the clearing, a flash of white was visible in a haunting glow through the trees. It was a large, hazy glow, like the wisps of that white Zorua he had been haunted by so many times before. It didn’t matter to him, fear no longer held onto his ribcage as tightly as panic had, and Ingo hugged the Litwick to his chest as he charged forward toward that light, and the sight that greeted him was a nightmare he wished he could forget.

There the beast stood with its back toward him, the familiar puffs of fur trailing up into the air like smog in hues of red. It looked vaguely like the Zorua, yet it was larger, standing upward on its back legs with claws drawn in a dark red hue. The stench of blood permeated the air, the patches of blood on its fur more striking and visible than its doused talons. It was so strong, that smell of death it carried, it paralyzed him where he stood with his grip on his Pokemon growing numb.

And as if the horrific sight couldn’t get any worse, the monster turned, dead golden eyes meeting silver, and the blood decorating its jawline was left on full display. He dared not think it, he dared not believe where he thought that blood came from. Ingo wanted to throw up. It lumbered toward him, the fresh red fluid still dripping off its open maw, plastering over that malevolent grin that was so eerily similar to the tiny fox he was introduced to. “No… no…” The frantic cries of the candle in his arms filled his ears, the weak Pokemon unable to do anything more than struggle in her master’s grip to protect him with her tiny body. He couldn’t run away, he was terrified to run away. It would catch him, it would maul him. The vile beast raised a bloodied claw, over its head, and just as the child prepared to make a last ditch effort to flee—

His heart stopped, and the world went dark.

—-

Ingo awoke in a cold sweat, bolting up from his bed in what felt like a panic attack. He was breathless, gripping his pajamas shirt over his chest and his eyes darting around their quiet shared bedroom until his frenzy found Emmet, the younger twin slumbering away with stuffed Pokemon surrounding him and egg in his hold. It was… a nightmare? It was… just a nightmare. It was just a very vivid and harrowing dream. He consoled himself with those thoughts, chalking up his lack of memory for the rest of the other day as simply
falling asleep early. That had to be it, that had to be all it ever was.

In a moment of suspicion he looked toward the window, expecting the nightmare to be out there again with its dead eyes staring right into his soul— but there was nothing. The trees were as dark as they always were against no more than moonlight, and there was no ghostly creature sitting there and watching him. He was beside himself, letting out a light chuckle of disbelief that he had let a nightmare get the best of him so readily. He pulled the covers over his shoulder, nestling back into the comforts of his bed with a renewed relief.

He was safe, and so was his dear little brother.

—-

Hallow’s Eve arrived, and the fun and festivities carried on like they had the year before it. While he had trained Chamomile’s flames to dance before his turn on stage, he wasn’t as motivated to win as before, simply happy that he was able to enjoy the candy-filled holiday with his friends and brother. Even still, Ingo tried his best, and Emmet cheered him on all the while. In the end, Elesa was crowned victorious, her immaculate costume and display of her Emolga’s control over electricity earning her the Pumpkaboo basket full of candy, to which she readily shared with her friends, beaming all the while. The night drew on, the children able to celebrate past their curfews in joy. There was no talk of Zorua, it was as if meeting the fox was but a dream itself, that it entirely never existed. It was peculiar enough that once Ingo found a break in their chatter, he decided to ask the question that started to feel like taboo.

“Emmet, where is Zorua?” “Oh, yeah, we were supposed to meet it tonight!” Skyla pressed a fist against her flat palm as she too, recalled the absent Pokemon. Emmet paused briefly, finishing his piece of chocolate before finding his voice to respond. “It went back into the forest.” Elesa tilted her head at that, “What do you mean? Like, it left?” Emmet nodded, and Ingo couldn’t help but note a disturbing lack of sadness in Emmet’s features at that reality. “Yup. Zorua said it had to go far away with its mama and papa, so we said goodbye. It was sad, but Emmet understands.” His lack of regard was now obvious between the remaining three, who exchanged odd glances about this shift in his behavior.

Ultimately, none of them chose to acknowledge it, as Emmet always had a strange way of accepting obstacles in life.

“Well… that’s lame. I hope Zorua comes to visit sometime…”

The bizarre conversation was lost to time, stuck between the willows and cracks in the old town pavement.

—-

That ‘sometime’ never arrived, not on Hallow’s Eve and not as the days, the months or the years had passed. The seasons came and went, and Emmet himself never mentioned Zorua or his absent tone that day, not even after they had decided to leave their quiet home in Anville Town to embrace the shining lights of Nimbasa City. It was as if every moment of that week was a clouded memory for Ingo, half remembered in a dream, something he recalled on occasion when his train rides had gone on a little too long. Skyla moved back to her hometown in Mistralton to pursue her career as a pilot, and Elesa remained in Nimbasa to become a Gym Leader when she wasn’t balancing modeling work. As for the twins, they followed their mother’s footsteps and took over Nimbasa’s Battle Subway, their lives unexpectedly (or expectedly) remaining intertwined with one another. They kept in touch with the girls, but each of their lives were no longer as woven as they once were, the affairs of adulthood creating an invisible barrier between them.

It wasn’t lonely though, they had each other, and they always made time to get together once in a while.

It was autumn again, Emmet tended to become more peculiar around that season. Emmet was strange, he always was, his offbeat way of speaking and carrying himself was often found endearing both in his youth and now. Passengers of the Battle Subway always spoke kindly of him, so his oddities were far from a hindrance to both their home life and workplace. But sometimes…

Sometimes…

That other kind of strangeness, the kind he had that Hallow’s Eve he spoke so passively of the Zorua he had spent every moment before and after school playing with would show itself in mysterious ways. Sometimes it was the way he would brazenly talk of a subject he was fond of the day before, or forget important dates and names. Sometimes it was the way he would wander the rail tunnels at night without care that Ingo was fretting over him, and others it was the way he would find him staring off into space for uncomfortable lengths of time. It happened more during this time of year, and Ingo couldn’t help but wonder if there was an event that had lost Emmet in the interim of the leaves and cool air.

There was a disconnect between them, something that severed the tether that linked them in heart and soul.

And so, Ingo took it upon himself to unbury the dead of their youth, at least, to ease any doubts in his mind that it wasn’t just the two of them growing apart. “Emmet.” He began succinctly, “Why don’t we visit Anville before we go home? It’s nice out, we could use the fresh air.” His mirror perked upward at the sound of his name, smiling in agreement. “Okay!” The train ride was a peaceful one, even if Emmet no longer fell asleep on his shoulder like he used to, instead playfully swinging his legs and humming incoherent melodies. “You know, Hallow’s Eve is tomorrow.” Ingo passively began a conversation to break that almost-silence, “We never acknowledge it much anymore, perhaps we should consider decorating the station for it next year.” Instead of chiming in with his usually jovial agreement, his twin in white cocked his head to the side, blinking innocently as if he were waiting for Ingo to say more. In turn, his elder raised a brow, slowly conjuring a string of thoughts he assumed Emmet would pick up on.
“...Do you have any ideas for such a thing, Emmet?” The younger tapped his chin with his index, childishly pondering his brother’s words carefully. “I would! Except…” He stretched, leaning back in his seat to face the other clearly. “Emmet doesn’t know what that is.” “I’m sorry?” Ingo must have misheard him, so he gave the other a verbal nudge to repeat himself. “Emmet. Does not know what Hallow’s Eve is.” Did he forget? The train clattering beneath them muffled the growing silence of the carriage, giving Ingo a moment of respite to rejog his brother’s memory. “Hallow’s Eve, the festival where children dress up with their Pokemon and receive candy. The day our class would turn into a competition of stylish moves with our Pokemon. You know, the day Elesa won during our graduating year.” “Oh! Uhm… Yeah, that… Emmet remembers the festival part.” His halfhearted response was telling. His array of details seemed to do little to bring back any memories for his mirror, something that frankly, left him a little bothered.

The train heaved to a stop, the hiss of the wheels an audible signal that they had reached their destination.

The older Subway Master took his time to collect his thoughts as they exited the platform, letting the breeze play with his coat as he led the other down into Anville’s dirt road. He was silent for some time, Emmet mysteriously just as muted, the playful gait he usually had in his walk no longer apparent. There was a foreign feeling in that body language, almost a tension, but Ingo kept his eyes elsewhere, along the edge of the thicket Emmet once brought Pecha Berries to. “...Do you remember anything before the festival?” He kept his interrogation gentle, hiding any concern that his brother had developed some sort of amnesia or other unchecked illness. “I remember…” Emmet drummed his fingers against his side, the younger visibly searching for a suitable answer. “Visiting a boy– uhm, a Zorua by the forest.” Ingo froze, the curious slip-up didn’t go unnoticed.

“...A boy?”

“No, no, a Zorua!” There was that nonchalance again, even in the way Emmet corrected himself. “That isn’t what you said.” A verbal knife had been drawn in that retort, growing concerns morphing into suspicions. Emmet didn’t reply, his shoulders falling slack as he took in the distance between them now. “...Who are you, really?” All at once, the memories of that autumn took hold of him, the memories of the storybooks about Zorua and their penchant for mimicry, the Zorua’s own affinity for sweets like his brother had. The most vivid of all being that night just before the festival, that nightmare he had of the beast dressed in blood. Pieces were fitting together in his psyche, abhorrent pieces, pieces he wished didn’t make sense.

“I am Emmet, I am a Subway Master and your twin brother, Nii-san.” His smile lacked the impishness it had moments before, something behind it was sinister. “That question is a little cold, don’t you think?” Any other moment he would have apologized to Emmet, he would have hugged him and consoled him like that night he had scolded him so many years ago.

But they were no longer children, and this wasn’t Emmet.

“You… you don’t remember anything because you…” Cold sweat clung to the back of his neck, and Ingo stepped backward, back toward the very forest where Emmet disappeared that day. His twin’s smile drew wider, the sight uncannily like that of the Zoroark in his dream.

Emmet never came back that day.

He was a child again, the way he fearfully ran into the woodland just as he did in his fervent worry so long ago. The trees bloomed together, his heart pounding against his ribs in hysteria. This time, instead of running after his brother, it was away from him, like a Patrat evading the talons of an Unfezant. He hurriedly looked to his belt for his Pokeballs, hoping to use one of them to aid him in fending off whatever Emmet had become– or always was, but when his hand reached for Chamomile’s capsule, it grasped at empty air.

Shit.

In his horror, the young man looked down at his belt that was empty of his trusted companions. While they were on the train that thing wearing Emmet’s skin must have…! He was alone. He was hunted and alone. The lone Master tripped again over a root, having the misfortune of tumbling sideways down a small slope in the ground beneath him, his descent stopped by a tree that knocked the breath out of him. Stars danced in his vision, the adrenaline high keeping his other senses sharpened while he blinked away his fatigue.

The forest was dark, but through the small gaps of sunset in the leaves, he could make out his surroundings. The earth was coated in leaves, but what stood out amongst them was a moldy white object sticking out above. Ingo bit his lip, forcing himself upward toward it. He wasn’t sure why he felt so compelled, why the powers that be willed him to fulfill the curiosity of what it was.

No, maybe he already knew what it was.

Before him laid what was left of a child that disappeared that day.

Ingo crumpled to his knees, and took all of the world with him.

“No… no… Emmet, no…” The lone twin whimpered, covering his watery eyes from the cruel reality laid before him. “You’ve been all alone here… for so long…” That nightmare he had was his reality, the blood staining the creature was what was left of his dear sibling. In his grief, he hadn’t noticed the footsteps crunching through the leaves behind him, or rather, he was too terrified to look.

His lookalike stood behind him, silver eyes now golden like the beast he had grown too familiar with, wisps of his luminescent coat trailing upward into red smog. Emmet’s smile was as playful as it always had been, folding his arms behind himself as he approached his mirror.

“Too bad.” So the play ended prematurely, the script he had so carefully crafted shredded to pieces by his pitiful ‘brother’ digging too deep into the details. His role was over, but it was fun. He would have to improvise an ending before the curtain was drawn. “That was the longest game of hide-and-seek we’ve ever played. You’re so bad at finding me, Nii-san.” That term of endearment scorched his back, but he couldn’t will himself to speak, he no longer had the strength. He turned though, to face his brother one last time, what he would have been if not for those hollow eyes staring back at him. “It’s a little too late now, though. Too, too bad. You lost.” His left hand distorted into that ghostly haze that illuminated him, warping into a set of claws, the same set that threatened him that moonlit night.

“That’s right… I lost.” His spirit was broken, weeping before the beast in his brother’s skin. There was no use fighting it any longer, even if he tried to run, he would be gouged open in an instant. This was his repentance for leaving Emmet behind in Anville Town, for leaving him alone to rot in this wood. “That’s okay, we can play again.” The monster smiled with his face, an angelic smile that offered no comfort. The mask of his cheap imitation finally crumbling away into dust beneath his feet.

The razor-like appendage lifted above his head, the white of it catching in what little light there was.

“This time, Emmet will find you.”
 
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This sure was something I would not expect from a fanfiction, or any other form of media - I would be disappointed too often if my expectations were this high!

The first thing that caught my attention for being in my eyes unusual was the paragraphs. I felt like something was wrong with them when I read this for the first time, which was rather late at night, so that might be the reason why I didn't notice "what they do" until the second read. I still find them unconventional (or maybe special would be a better word?), and in some places a bit confusing, not hard to read though, and it might be also for these qualities that they have a place in this fic. What I like them so much for is the atmosphere they create - it feels in a way like pieces of memories (by which I mean that the parts separated by a paragraph are mostly stretches of time as one would remember them rather than separated to create dynamic flow of the story - I'm not sure if I can really describe what I mean, an example would be the direct speech of two different characters appearing in the same paragraph rather than following the 'change paragraph when the speaker changes' rule for dynamic story flow).

Other aspects supporting this "memory" impression are little details such as Skyla and Elesa playing the game at the beginning, which feels like something one would remember, and scenes having different amounts of detail.

The friendship between the four of them is so wholesome! I love the way you describe it, it makes it nice to read about!

I think it is thanks to these things that your fic has the atmosphere it does... I cannot describe it in one word, but what I feel you managed to describe in one word is the relationship between the twins, by the usage of expressions like 'mirror' and 'other half' - I think that gave me an idea of what it is like better than any long description could. Their relationship - or rather Ingo's relationship with his brother rather than the mutual relationship between them - is also fully fleshed out later in the story in such a believable way (I am an older brother and I can relate to the way it's written lol).

Back to the atmosphere; it might be the strongest element of this fic in my opinion. Something just... did not feel right. As I said, I blamed it on the paragraphs, but paragraphs cannot make one feel uneasy... Something felt very wrong with what was happening in the story, but the feeling of something sinister going on was suppressed by the unsuspecting children being excited about a fun holiday and them being friends with each other, and a forming friendship with a cute shy Pokémon (only now i realised that all this wholesome stuff is there... what went wrong lol). The atmosphere is not possible to describe fully, but it leaves a long-lasting impression and makes this work truly unique!

“Too bad.” So the play ended prematurely, the script he had so carefully crafted shredded to pieces by his pitiful ‘brother’ digging too deep into the details. His role was over, but it was fun. He would have to improvise an ending before the curtain was drawn. “That was the longest game of hide-and-seek we’ve ever played. You’re so bad at finding me, Nii-san.” That term of endearment scorched his back, but he couldn’t will himself to speak, he no longer had the strength. He turned though, to face his brother one last time, what he would have been if not for those hollow eyes staring back at him. “It’s a little too late now, though. Too, too bad. You lost.” His left hand distorted into that ghostly haze that illuminated him, warping into a set of claws, the same set that threatened him that moonlit night.
When I said the paragraphs can be a bit confusing, what I meant was that you switch between perspectives of Ingo to Emmet's - or whatever it is Emmet has become in this example specifically - in the same paragraph (or that is what it seems to me is happening at least). I haven't reexamined it, but I think you did this a few times and it is barely noticeable, save for this example. The bold text should be separated from the rest with paragraphs in my opinion, though I believe it might be interesting if you stayed in the impostor Emmet's perspective until the end.

Also, Ingo finding the remains feels like a bit of too big of a coincidence to me, not that he went to the same place as back then, but rather - how are they still here after so many years? I didn't notice it while reading, so it was not disruptive, but I realised this while thinking about the story after I had read it. In my opinion better alternative to this would be Ingo recalling some memory he had suppressed - I think that would also fit the theme of him finding himself in a situation that is similar to the one he found himself in back then.

And an extremely minor thing...
...Pumpkaboo and Zubat decorations that began to decorate Nimbasa and Anville alike.
This line feels out of place a bit here, as you effectively avoid repeating words throughout the whole fic, and while these are not the same words, just words with the same root, it would be better if you replaced one of them with a synonym in my opinion.

I'm sorry for putting all the critiques all at once... I acknowledge this could be structured better, but all the negative aspects are very minor and they barely affect this work as a whole in my opinion, so I thought it'd be better to write them separately as they are almost not apparent when looking at this as a whole.

Lastly, I would like to point out how it can be read as a story about the consequences of one's actions while the characters seem completely helpless to the events. It also feels like putting a morbid twist on a story that encourages children to listen to their parents, and a much more elaborate one than the ones that appear in older stories of that kind. Personally, I'm a big fan of this!

So, in summary, Snatcher is an intriguing story with a very special atmosphere. The characters and the relationships between them are portrayed excellently. Overall, a brilliant fic! Thanks for sharing this, Blanc!!
 
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Hydro!! Thank you so much for reviewing my fic, reading this made me smile, thank you so so much! I want to wait and reply to this until after public voting/judgement has ended as I don't want my author's notes and thoughts to cloud anyone's judgement of my fic-- so I'll give you proper commentary and responses after!! But, over all, I'm really, really happy you liked it, and I actually planned to provide my own review of yours after judging is over! I worked really really hard on this (perhaps the longest fic I've ever written actually) so it means so so much!!
 
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WAVES, okay! Okay! I can finally reply to this properly and provide my author's notes while making this without shame in my heart LOL. First, I'd like to thank everyone again for reading my fic, I'll be honest I was a bit worried the length would deter everyone, so I'm glad to see it didn't! This is the longest fic I've ever written (and the most I've plotted for one) and I was more true to my writing style with this one than my last year submission, so I'm glad to hear it was so well received! Thank you, just thank you so much!

And a very special thank you to Hydro for reviewing it, I'm beyond flattered!! I'll go ahead and reply to you first!
The first thing that caught my attention for being in my eyes unusual was the paragraphs. I felt like something was wrong with them when I read this for the first time, which was rather late at night, so that might be the reason why I didn't notice "what they do" until the second read. I still find them unconventional (or maybe special would be a better word?), and in some places a bit confusing, not hard to read though, and it might be also for these qualities that they have a place in this fic. What I like them so much for is the atmosphere they create - it feels in a way like pieces of memories (by which I mean that the parts separated by a paragraph are mostly stretches of time as one would remember them rather than separated to create dynamic flow of the story - I'm not sure if I can really describe what I mean, an example would be the direct speech of two different characters appearing in the same paragraph rather than following the 'change paragraph when the speaker changes' rule for dynamic story flow).
So, it's very funny you mention this, as I'm sure it's probably the most stark feature of my prose (my friends constantly ask if it was because I took a creative writing class-- which I did not--). I often describe my own writing as 'cryptic' and 'dramatic' LOL, and I think that seems to be true with what you're saying here.. I'm flattered you like it, but I do agree my personal flaw in my writing is that it can indeed come off as confusing to the reader, as I often treat my writing as like... as if I'm scattering puzzle pieces in front of the reader and expecting them to solve it on their own, when I really should at least be offering more hints than I think I am-- if that makes sense. That said, it makes me insanely happy you caught on to the sort of 'recollection of scenes' I was going for via the passage of time. I wanted to give the reader both slow burn and the vibe that Ingo was well and truly 'haunted' throughout his childhood.
Other aspects supporting this "memory" impression are little details such as Skyla and Elesa playing the game at the beginning, which feels like something one would remember, and scenes having different amounts of detail.

The friendship between the four of them is so wholesome! I love the way you describe it, it makes it nice to read about!
This made me smile!! Thank you, genuinely Hydro, you're so sweet!! I do headcanon the four of them being friends one way or another, I know we get hints in canon of Elesa being good friends with Skyla, so that was a given... But I felt being in such close proximity of each other within the same city (Nimbasa) of course Elesa would surely end up crossing paths with our dear Subway Masters, and by proxy Skyla would end up getting in touch with them as well. I took some liberties in the verse I created in this fic that Skyla moved to Nimbasa briefly for school before returning to Mistralton. If I wasn't afraid of hitting the word count limit, I would've loved to show more of their bond as a little quartet!
I think it is thanks to these things that your fic has the atmosphere it does... I cannot describe it in one word, but what I feel you managed to describe in one word is the relationship between the twins, by the usage of expressions like 'mirror' and 'other half' - I think that gave me an idea of what it is like better than any long description could. Their relationship - or rather Ingo's relationship with his brother rather than the mutual relationship between them - is also fully fleshed out later in the story in such a believable way (I am an older brother and I can relate to the way it's written lol).
Oh my god, this is probably the highest compliment I can receive!! Literally kneeling rn... Hydro single handedly boosting all the confidence I didn't have in my writing!! They are terms I use to describe them quite frequently in my writing, because in their minds they are two halves of a whole, rather than separate people... a concept they should probably tackle in a healthy manner when they get older, LOL. They're both dependent on each other in their own little ways, and Ingo comes off as more serious because he's the one that sort of has to be the one looking over the cliff face to make sure Emmet doesn't run right off of it. I like to think the reason Emmet retains his 'childishness' is because he's so used to Ingo doing the heavy lifting (metaphorically). Ingo probably should've let Emmet grow into his own mold in that regard, but I felt it's more realistic to write him as not being the 'perfect big brother' he's desperately trying to be, because life is full of all those bumps and hiccups, environments and affecting each other... so it goes. I didn't show much of that in this one, of him failing to 'take his hand off the steering wheel' if that makes sense, but I'd like to in a future one!! I'm genuinely beyond honored I achieved that realism.
Back to the atmosphere; it might be the strongest element of this fic in my opinion. Something just... did not feel right. As I said, I blamed it on the paragraphs, but paragraphs cannot make one feel uneasy... Something felt very wrong with what was happening in the story, but the feeling of something sinister going on was suppressed by the unsuspecting children being excited about a fun holiday and them being friends with each other, and a forming friendship with a cute shy Pokémon (only now i realised that all this wholesome stuff is there... what went wrong lol). The atmosphere is not possible to describe fully, but it leaves a long-lasting impression and makes this work truly unique!
Hehe, I think when it comes to my Halloween themed stories, I really like to create a plot where the reader starts to realize something is amiss, so I'm super happy I was able to achieve that vibe. I did truly want to emphasize the friend group's bond and how they were just kids stuck in a fated situation, but I also had to try and be careful not to distract from giving the 'spooky' vibe I was going for. Gotta be honest it was tricky within the word count limit, so again thank you!! Thank you!!
When I said the paragraphs can be a bit confusing, what I meant was that you switch between perspectives of Ingo to Emmet's - or whatever it is Emmet has become in this example specifically - in the same paragraph (or that is what it seems to me is happening at least). I haven't reexamined it, but I think you did this a few times and it is barely noticeable, save for this example. The bold text should be separated from the rest with paragraphs in my opinion, though I believe it might be interesting if you stayed in the impostor Emmet's perspective until the end.
So, when I mentioned a flaw in my writing I'm aware of is that I can be too cryptic, this is exactly what I meant. I probably should have given the reader more to work with so the perspective switch was more obvious, I have a habit of thinking what I write is 'very clear' when it's really only actually clear in my head, so I end up leaving a reader lost LOL. I agree with your suggestion!
Also, Ingo finding the remains feels like a bit of too big of a coincidence to me, not that he went to the same place as back then, but rather - how are they still here after so many years? I didn't notice it while reading, so it was not disruptive, but I realised this while thinking about the story after I had read it. In my opinion better alternative to this would be Ingo recalling some memory he had suppressed - I think that would also fit the theme of him finding himself in a situation that is similar to the one he found himself in back then.
So, I absolutely agree with you, and I was actually planning to include this in my notes. I wrote this happening the way it did for three reasons, so I'll break it down before I properly answer:

This scene was one I wanted to be longer than it was, but it wasn't because I was already veering dangerously close to the word count limit, and I didn't want to risk it. The second reason is because if I wrote this scene how I really wanted to, I would have to up the fic rating to Mature, and I was worried this would bar off some readers who were checking out fics for the contest, so I didn't get as descriptive as I wanted about what Ingo truly found. The third reason, about the remains themselves was well-- again due to limits, I had to conjure a way it all weaved together, and cruel fate/coincidence just seemed like the most fitting outcome.

Your idea is also a very good idea I did not consider! But I felt if he didn't find the bones themselves, the reader would be left wondering what end Emmet truly met, so that's why I came to the conclusion I did.
I'm sorry for putting all the critiques all at once... I acknowledge this could be structured better, but all the negative aspects are very minor and they barely affect this work as a whole in my opinion, so I thought it'd be better to write them separately as they are almost not apparent when looking at this as a whole.
Don't be sorry at all! I genuinely appreciate it and your review has put a smile on my face! If anything, your critique helped me confirm some worries I already had about my writing, so thank you for making me certain about where I need to brush up!

Lastly, I would like to point out how it can be read as a story about the consequences of one's actions while the characters seem completely helpless to the events. It also feels like putting a morbid twist on a story that encourages children to listen to their parents, and a much more elaborate one than the ones that appear in older stories of that kind. Personally, I'm a big fan of this!

So, in summary, Snatcher is an intriguing story with a very special atmosphere. The characters and the relationships between them are portrayed excellently. Overall, a brilliant fic! Thanks for sharing this, Blanc!!
That's actually a really good takeaway for the 'lesson'! LOL!! I agree, I think while the situation was ultimately a helpless one, maybe if Ingo was a bit more vocal about his growing paranoia, or even more protective of Emmet going to see his new friend, things would have turned out a little differently... but ultimately, all of them involved were children, and thus they couldn't really make solid judgements about what transpired.

I really enjoyed writing this fic, so thank you so so much, Hydro! A very sweet review!! I'll definitely be keeping your words in mind for my next fic, and I'll try to be more confident in sharing them!!

Hydro was really keen on picking up on stuff I was already planning to include in my author's notes, but I'll do so nonetheless, LOL! So I apologize for any repeats in what was said earlier!:

I named this fic Snatcher as a double meaning, as being 'snatched' is to be taken away, much like Emmet was at the end of the fic. However, I also named it such to be short for a body snatcher-- what the Zoroark also was to Emmet. I wanted to title to be a clever hint, so I hope if it wasn't clear before, it is now!

I really wanted to write more scenes of the 'Nimbasa Quartet' friend group just sort of interacting in the autumn atmosphere. I wanted to actually write out the Halloween contest their class took part in, and a few smaller scenes of them just being friends, but I was both pressed by the word count and didn't want to deviate too much from the intended story I was telling. Instead, the Halloween festival they were taking part in served more as a 'clever distraction' from the oncoming danger. Because of it, Ingo couldn't really focus on voicing his paranoia about the Zorua at all, and it just felt silly to-- especially given the spooks of the season. Also, it was just a poor 'big brother' habit of his to keep his worries to himself.

I also wanted to include some proper scenes of Emmet's growing peculiarities when they became adults, to give the reader an even more blatant feeling that something was definitely wrong-- but again, time constraints, word count and all that. I hope you're getting the feeling I'm not entirely happy with this fic-- because I'm not! But I did enjoy writing it, and I know what I'd change/make longer if I had the means to at the time.

And of course, as I mentioned in my response to Hydro-- I really wanted to write a more descriptive and by extension more graphic ending scene, but I was fretting over raising the fic rating/word count doom, so I didn't, so I personally feel that dramatic curtain being drawn wide open wasn't as powerful as it could've been. That said, I still hope it was a joy to read! I really enjoyed writing the fic beginning with a game of hide-and-seek, and, well, ending with one. The way Emmet says he will find Ingo too, is as double a meaning as the fic title-- the one wearing his face will find his remains, just as the real one will now find him in the afterlife. Fitting, right?

some bonus notes:

In my personal headcanons, Chamomile, Ingo's Chandelure is a gift from their mother-- in order to fit the tone of the fic I reduced her to a Litwick just so both trainer and Pokemon were unwitting and powerless children.

It was fun to write a Hisuian Zorua masking itself as a Unovian Zorua to gain trust. I figured Zorua are pretty rare given the nature of them within the games, hence why all the kids in class were naturally in awe LOL. As for why the Hisuian Zorua was there, I couldn't tell you, if you read my last fic you'd know with my Halloween themes I sort of leave strange happenings rather unexplainable-- this is no different. Why the Hisuain Zorua had such violence in its heart for Ingo in particular, is also up to your own assumptions. And yes, the Zoroark that disposed of Emmet is the same Zorua he followed into the forest, not a parent or some such. It happened to evolve at juuuust the right moment. :) I felt the white and red hues of it suited Emmet perfectly.

You may have noticed Emmet's speech flipped between first and third person-- this is also a headcanon of mine I seeped into my writing. I love the quirky way Emmet speaks in the games, but I feel that some of the tension or intended mood of my writing (not just in this fic, but as a whole) may become harder to parse if I stuck to his usual stilted speech-- so I kept it but took some artistic liberties. He struggles with longer sentences and words, and uses I when referring to himself at the start of a sentence, but swaps to referring to himself separately if he's continuing to mention anything regarding himself. And yes, to retain a proper tone, I made sure he saves his iconic "I am Emmet" for the perfect moments, another fic writer I know did this so I sort of osmosis'd that from them, because it just makes it much more poignant to me! If you read any future fics of mine, you'll notice this liberty of his peculiar speech patterns will remain blatant through my writing.

Keeping the point of view mostly through Ingo's lens helped me build how enigmatic Emmet was and became, so it was fun. I like writing where you can't really tell what Emmet is thinking, even when he was no longer 'himself'.

And finally, I sort of came into writing this knowing that the Halloween festival was just sort of a springboard of a plot device for me to work with and not at all the focus of the fic, which is absolutely fine with me, as I didn't want to deter from the story I wanted to write at all. I had this one stewing in my head for a while, so I'm glad I got to give it proper form. Thank you again for enjoying it, Hydro and everyone! If I forgot anything you've been dying to ask please let me know, LOL. With this, I hope I can more comfortably share my other writings here in the future. Thank you again so much!!
 
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neechan!!! (I can never figure out if it's proper for me to capitalize that whenever I'm talking to you in English LMFAO. I usually just lowercase it because it feels better like that?)

I've told you time and time again, but I'm in love with your writing LOL... like this was unequivocally my favorite fic out of them all this contest (and they were all ones I enjoyed too!)... you have lots of talent with writing as well as art, too, and I will always be there to remind you that. Lots and lots of reasons you're my idol and this is one of them!!! ♡

With that out of the way!!

God, I really did love this. I wanted to wait for this to be my last review for the contest, so here I am...! Apologies for my lateness here!

What really, really stuck out to me, as really as always with your writing, was the depth of your prose!!! The length of this was just right, I know you were worried that people weren't going to bother reading this, but I'm super glad you kept it all in. Like the quality of it alone, it feels like I should be reading an acclaimed fiction title or something!!! Granted, great writing exists in all mediums and such, but just the maturity, I guess, of the descriptions and word choice just really, really knocked it out of the park I feel.

I'll try to highlight some parts I thought were extra neat, please bear with me...!




snatcher /ˈsnætʃɚ/ noun
[count]: a person who takes something from someone else and runs away
This was such a cool way to start this, my god. It gave just the right amount of foreshadowing to possibly clue the reader in to the general plot awaiting, but leaves lots more room for intrigue ehehe...

the other girl’s ‘score’ of this pun; a game often shared between their friend group. Skyla gazed back at her nowhere near as bemused, shaking her head. “Clever one but you’re still not funny. Fifty-five points.”
This was such a cute little detail, I really loved it! It feels like something kids, or honestly really any kind of friend group would develop as an in-joke... I give you 100 points for the inclusion of this small but sweet detail!

A Litwick his mother gave to him, she had said it was its duty to protect them both.
Chamomile appearance!!! hello there... .

“Emmet!” He began running without a second thought, the view of his mirror image becoming clearer with every step. “Emmet! Why are you—“ His sibling turned to face him, his own visage like that of a Deerling in headlights.
I think your usage of traditional sayings and such but with a Pokémon-style twist really takes the reader a bit more into your world — super great touch IMHO!

Perhaps he was, as Ingo’s carelessness got his foot stuck on a root, “Wh—?!” “Nii-san, be careful!”
ehehe the 'nii-san' appearance yes...

There was a Pokemon! It wanted to be friends. Emmet followed it.” Putting aside his brother’s usually stilted speech, Ingo furrowed his brow, carefully dissecting his words while he peeled Chamomile off of his back.
hhhhh it's so so cute when you have him talk in third person LMFAO. Cannot explain it, but I have always loved it whenever it happens — definitely a case of fanon versions of chatacters being an improvement over the canon I believe!

Elesa was already overflowing with ideas, the thought of the fox’s illusionary abilities becoming the star of the festival filled her with unbridled excitement.
This feels very on-brand for her! Ever the showwoman even as a kid LOL..

Except, he didn’t remember Zorua having white fur in the storybooks.
This sort of reminds me of the mahous AU fic I wrote + sent you where Lisia finds a Hisuian Pokémon too! I'm all for weird things in the timeline happening like this, it adds extra spice to a plot I think! Something about the otherworldly...

Ingo’s brother was strange, there was no question about that. It was more apt to say they were both strange, but the foreign aura of one was more masked than the other. He spoke strangely, in short sentences and switching between his self detached or contained, he moved strangely between leaving Ingo’s side and rushing back to it upon the arrival of others. His ideas were the strangest of all, often not voicing concepts or inquiries that felt connected to their shared reality.
I know his canon portrayal already lends him to this sort of personality, but I again think it's a very cute way of having him around... your 'Emmet' has become the one true Emmet to me ahaha.

Since their birth, they functioned inside a world of two. Losing one another was equallytheir greatest fear.


“Thanks, Nii-san. Sorry I made you worry.” Emmet took a step closer, before just as swiftly withdrawing that action, but it didn’t take any longer than that for Ingo to read his intent. “Honestly, it’s so like you to get so wound up in something you forget about yourself.” And he was pulled into that hug that he had initially attempted. Emmet blinked, dumbfounded at first. Ingo’s hugs were rare, and that’s what made them special, even when he spoke in those weird grown-up terms that made it a little corny. “Yup… I am Emmet, it’s just like me.” He returned the embrace with a tight squeeze of his own, keeping his laughter quiet so as to not wake their sleeping mother a few doors away. With that, it didn’t take much coaxing to coerce his brother back into bed. “Goodnight, Emmet”

“Goodnight, Nii-san.”
Uwauwauwaaaa my heaaarrrtttt...................... I'm a sucker for stories with close siblings (knowing me as much as you do, you really should not be shocked by this at all LMFAO), and this pulled on my heartstrings a whole lot, god... not much to say here other than the fact that it made what was to come All The More Crushing . (this is a good thing)
uuh .

Emmet even more so, as he didn’t seem as in tune with humans as he were Pokemon so often in their growth.
Characters like that are really fun IMHO! Especially if they're gentle like the your boy ..

He couldn’t help but smile at the way Emmet hugged the precious Tynamo egg in his sleep, waiting for it to hatch.
hhhhh MORE cute visuals aaaa!!!! hello little tynamo .

Maybe they were just like two Zorua, closer to Pokemon than man.
This was a super cool line to read for whatever reason... I think Ingo's inner dialogue popping through at some points here really contrasted with Emmet's dreamlike childishness super, super well — it's obvious who's the older of the two I think LOL.

smiles

Hallow’s Eve was drawing close, and they were all much too preoccupied with their costumes and teaching Chamomile Will-o-Wisp, in hopes she could make her flames dance about for the competition. Emmet was going to be an angel, a shoddy halo made from a broken coat hanger Elesa had crafted herself, and Ingo a demon; an equally fashioned accord. Skyla’s costume was inspired by the ballet performance Swanna Lake, and Elesa proudly kept hers a secret– as expected given her passions were in full force this time of year. None of the children brought up bringing the Zorua to the festival again, too engrossed in the excitement and thrill of the Pumpkaboo and Zubat decorations that began to decorate Nimbasa and Anville alike.
Small details like this really help to flesh out the worldbuilding of a fic, I think... like there's a lot of different ways for any given holiday to be celebrated in a Pokémon context, but I think adding specificities to your prose like you did with the decorations helps make things more lively if that makes sense? It all feels quite believable, if that makes sense...

The joy in its expression had dissipated entirely, its posture and visage mirroring that of the soulless being he had faced the other night, and the elder twin felt a chill run down his spine.
Suuuuper vivid imagery here. Even I felt quite intimidated by the Zorua reading this LOL!

The day before the festival was a torn page in his memory.
Another line that also unexpectedly goes kind of raw LOL???? You're good at these, さすが姉ちゃんwww

Nonetheless, he offered his support to his younger brother who bounced where he stood. “It’ll really like you, Nii-san! I promise! Emmet promises!” Ingo could only force a smile in reassurance, patting his sibling’s head with what gusto he could muster. “As long as it can play with Chamomile, that’s enough for me.” “And Melty too, when it hatches!” Emmet made a show of the egg tucked in his satchel, the scarf he was wearing wrapped around the delicate shell with care. “You already named it? I’m impressed!” Skyla couldn’t suppress a giggle, and her laughter was infectious between the other students. “Mhm! I am Emmet and this will be Melty!” “It’s a cute name, I can’t wait to meet Melty too, then~ I hope it’s a girl, Socket needs a fellow Electric-type girlfriend to hang out with!” Elesa nuzzled cheeks with the Emolga resting on her shoulder.
MELTY AND SOCKET.............. the way you write everyone is so, so precious!!! it will help to contrast with Later Events .

Anville Town.
omg i KNOW that place that's where meidi is from !!!!

Really, Emmet always had that effect on people, as timid as he could be, he lit up the room around those he cherished. Ingo took pride in his little brother for that.
Uwaaaaa I really can get the sense from how you write him that that is genuinely the case if that makes sense? He is just a ray of sunshine .

The crisp air of Anville Town was, as usual, a welcome breath away from the bustling streets of Nimbasa. Instead of concrete, leaves crunched beneath their feet that moved in tandem, and Emmet rubbed away sleep to watch the ambers and browns beneath them shift as they went. Before long they passed the old playground, toward the usual alcove of trees that Emmet would meet the bashful Pokemon under.
Really really nice imagery here... the word that came to mind was ふるさと for some reason, it just really gave off that vibe of a sleepy, slow, nostalgic town. i wanna go to anville town with you now LOL..
He was safe, and so was his dear little brother.
This made me so happy!!! It was such a relief to see them both safe and fine. smiles .

Hallow’s Eve arrived, and the fun and festivities carried on like they had the year before it. While he had trained Chamomile’s flames to dance before his turn on stage, he wasn’t as motivated to win as before, simply happy that he was able to enjoy the candy-filled holiday with his friends and brother. Even still, Ingo tried his best, and Emmet cheered him on all the while. In the end, Elesa was crowned victorious, her immaculate costume and display of her Emolga’s control over electricity earning her the Pumpkaboo basket full of candy, to which she readily shared with her friends, beaming all the while.
Cute!! Although it wasn't the focus of the fic per se, it certainly was the focus of the characters (at least at the start?) and I just thought it was nice that you gave them all a nice, small happy win.

Until...
Emmet never came back that day.
god i can't tell you how much my heart fucking broke coming to realize this lol..

smiles

No, maybe he already knew what it was.


Before him laid what was left of a child that disappeared that day.

Ingo crumpled to his knees, and took all of the world with him.

“No… no… Emmet, no…” The lone twin whimpered, covering his watery eyes from the cruel reality laid before him. “You’ve been all alone here… for so long…” That nightmare he had was his reality, the blood staining the creature was what was left of his dear sibling. In his grief, he hadn’t noticed the footsteps crunching through the leaves behind him, or rather, he was too terrified to look.
God, this was so so so so genuinely heartbreaking... :( Some part of me would have actually kind of wanted to see the 'alternate version' (if you will) of this scene, but I def understand your worries in doing so, and in my opinion I think it came out just fine like this!

The monster smiled with his face, an angelic smile that offered no comfort. The mask of his cheap imitation finally crumbling away into dust beneath his feet.

[...]

“This time, Emmet will find you.”



What can I say... like no other, this fic really, really pulled at my heartstrings. You strung the reader along in complete control of what was to happen next perfectly, I think, and that takes really serious skill. This was beautifully written, and yes, it made me sad, but it was done in a very well-written way that genuinely kept me guessing — your vivid imagery is seriously top-notch here, and I'm so so glad that you posted this. You continue to always surprise me in the best of ways...



Maybe my feelings about this story are just heightened due to my own very real fears about losing my very own cherished Subway Master in you, but I just really, so so much felt for Ingo here, even though I'm not the older lol... can't explain it well, but...

I would almost hope that the ending, too, was just a strange nightmare, and that both him and Emmet are safe and fine with each other ehehe... maybe I'll imagine that to keep me sleeping soundly tonight LOL, but that doesn't mean I didn't really enjoy how this ended!!

Congrats on your user-voted Best Overall award, two years in a row!! You certainly earned it again, and I'm super proud of you for not only the hard work you put into this, but for the bravery you showed in posting this!! I know you sometimes get anxious about sharing your writing with the world, but even if you're not wanting to put it out here, please feel free to share it with me!! I love seeing all of your writing, published or not♡
 
Review: Snatcher

This fic definitely reminds me of those real-life horror stories – the ones where an individual’s loved ones are right beside them in the woods, they turn around, and their loved one disappears. You do a fantastic job at reiterating this underlying sense of uncertainty and eeriness throughout through the subtle hints. Another thing you do very well is expressing the unease and sense of danger through the simple act of Emmet being good at hide and seek – something that could easily turn into a disaster in an area which is not well known by the characters as a whole. This underlying danger factor is made far more concerning due to the existence of pokémon in the world. The fact that a drifloon, hypno or other pokémon could seize a child on a whim emphasizes how much you must have considered how Emmet’s talent is very much unideal.

You handle the pokémon threat well in the nightmare sequence, in which your description makes a vivid picture of how things can turn ugly very quicky – I wonder how often do pokémon attacks occur in this world? The way that Skyla, and Elesa in particular are incredibly excitable, especially around the mention of a Zorua almost gives the sense of false comfort. Their over curiosity leads me to other world questions, such as: are children, and teenagers taught the risk of specific pokémon? Are they taught about it, or is it a taboo topic? Regardless, throughout the piece you do a great job of separating the two twin’s personalities. Ingo comes across well, and as the kind of person you’d want in your corner if you were having a bad day, while Emmet comes across as more distant. Having completely different personalities does clearly define them, and I think that helps particularly with the impact of the ending.

Grammatically, everything is smooth and fluent, although there is a point later in the story (After the Hallow’s Eve) where some paragraphs have merged into one. There are no spaces between them, or there are back-to-back speech marks with nothing in between. The latter did throw me off a little bit regarding who was speaking and acting. Despite this, the pace had just about the right amount of change – with the nightmare sequence and the ending adding tension and pressure via the change of pace.

Lastly, the opening and ending do give a very creepy vibe. I like how the ending makes you want to read the story back through and try and spot potential clues as to what has gone on and since when. Generally speaking, the ending is, what I consider to be, a brutal snap to the reality of the world at hand. Something which a lot of horror stories lose track of along the way. I feel as if you nailed that. I did struggle to follow the time passed between the beginning and heading, but I get the impression that a considerable amount of time had passed between them, mostly due to the mention of them not being kids anymore, and their known positions by the end of the story. The Ingo we meet at the beginning has definitely changed by the end, or at least that’s how he comes across. I am left wondering how he will continue to cope, given the ending, and the horrors of what he has bared witness to.
 
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