Real Talk: “A Johto Journey Part One”

Pokémon Silver for the Nintendo Game Boy was the first videogame I ever owned. I received it as a Christmas gift back when I was about seven years old, alongside a purple Game Boy Color with which to play it on. My older brother also received his very own Game Boy Color and a copy of Pokémon Gold. I can remember the two of us devoting much of our free time to collecting, trading and battling each other. In many ways, it became an intense rivalry to see which of us was the more skilled trainer.

Recently, these games were re-released onto the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console. I was notified of this by a phone call from my brother, thus rekindling that old competitive flame. Although I have since played many of the newer Pokémon releases – Sapphire, Diamond and Colosseum to name a few – Silver continues to hold a special place in my heart. Often referred to as Gen2, it served as a major expansion to the original Red, Blue and Yellow.

The second generation brought real-time clock functionality, one hundred new pokémon, time-based pokémon encounters, pokémon breeding, a variety of new attacks and items, two new move types, and so much more. There was even a “time capsule” allowing link connectivity to the original Red, Blue and Yellow (with certain restrictions). Trainers who completed the Johto League Challenge were free to then explore the Kanto region, defeat its eight gym leaders, and earn the right of challenging the greatest trainer of all time.

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Audrey Songbird: Concept 12

Writer’s Note: Artwork for this chapter provided by the artist Karamazov (NSFW applies).

For reasons I could never discern, it appeared to me that anytime Cass and I were on a trip together, her demeanor would become far less reserved than usual. Granted, she would continue to be on her best behavior around other members of the Troupe, but as soon as we checked into a room for the night (and we would always room together), she took it upon herself to let her hair down both literally and figuratively.

This time, any perceived veils on her questionable behavior had all but disappeared. She indulged herself in expensive wines, she took to walking around in only her underwear, and on one occasion I could have sworn that I heard her getting herself off late into the night. A large part of me wished to scold the hell out of her, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because – all things being equal – I had never been so turned on in my entire life.

She had probably deduced as much herself, and perhaps that was what had led her to become gradually more brazen about it as our trip wore on. That said, did I not have the option of pinning her down and ravaging her at my earliest convenience? If anything, the need to work off some excess magic would have made for a perfect excuse. There was only one problem.

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Real Talk: “Character Karma”

Note: The following contains spoilers to both the “Venus Versus Virus” anime, the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” anime, the “Yuki Yuna is a Hero” anime, and the “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” anime. Some of these series are notable for having manga with diverging plots, therefore certain perspectives may not apply to them.

On the subject of drafting relatable characters, perhaps the most important element which writers fail to account for is karma. It may come off a bit strange given that the progression of any plot tends to be dictated by the discretion of its storyteller; however, a character with too great or too little karma can completely derail the themes which surround a work. In order to gain, a character must first experience loss. Determining the proper amount of loss a character must experience can be rather tricky.

Let us define a character’s karma as operating on a spectrum where favorable outcomes increase the value, and poor outcomes decrease it. From there, we require a baseline for the purposes of establishing comparisons. When it comes to anime, there are two series in particular which stand out. They are “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” and “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” Though the latter is considered a point of origin for the medium, introduction is best reserved to the former. As a final reminder, the following descriptions contain spoilers.

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Real Talk: “Tech Changes and Bad Decisions”

Thinking back on my youth, I still remember the days before smartphones took over our lives. I remember being in the eleventh grade and having to bring my laptop with me practically everywhere I went. It was a Toshiba Satellite L455D, and if you were to look up the specs of it, you’d see that it was quite the cheap tech even by 2009/2010 standards. My phone, meanwhile, was a rather modest Motorola W flip phone, a low-cost, low-spec sister model to the original RAZR.

Back then, 3G was considered a high-dollar luxury, and streaming services such as Verizon Vcast bore a hefty premium. The most any of my friends carried with them were the original iPhone (because who could afford a 3GS at the time?), or Android smartphones running 1.6 Donut. We would try tethering their phones to my laptop between classes, though it never really worked.

Many within the industry have spoken at length about the changes – both good and bad – which they have brought upon the world over the past seven years. Many of them never imagined the negative consequences, especially those pertaining to the world of social media. That said, I don’t believe that any of the users themselves really expected to be so incredibly drawn in by the conveniences of the technology. We share the blame even if nobody is at fault.

I am not here to chastise the many ways in which people misuse the technology or to postulate on how social media brings about the worst in people. Such talks are far too overdone, and I’d be a hypocrite if I tried. What I want instead is to give an account of my personal experiences – the good and the bad – as a reminder of just how much it has changed me as an individual. It could end up enlightening others, or it could not; that’s up to them.

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Audrey Songbird: Concept 11

Much to my surprise, I somehow managed to sleep more soundly than I had in many months. Every fiber of my being felt refreshed and perfectly malleable, whereas my libido appeared to have completely calmed itself – for once. I was focused and intimately aware of the world around me, a wondrous sign considering the tasks which now lay before me.

I groomed myself quickly before throwing some outfits into an overnight sack. Then I locked my door behind me and walked across town toward the headquarters of Vayne’s Troupe, often referred to by its practitioners as the “Theatre.” It was an old bank building which had been re-purposed into a cluster of small offices, a command center, and an armory tucked away within the basement’s steel vaults.

Much like a bank, each practitioner would have their own ledger documenting their lifetime earnings. We had the leisure of bankrolling our earnings as needed or simply leaving them in our accounts to collect interest. Given what I pulled in through my modeling career, it was rare for me to request a withdrawal, so I really only ever visited the Theatre maybe three or four times during the year.

The receptionist was an older, bespectacled man with a white goatee. He scrawled notes on a sheet of paper without so much as an upward glance. “Do you have an appointment?”

“Yes; I told Kiene that I would be coming in this morning?”

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“Interwoven: Side B”

From the moment I awoke, there lingered a suspicion that something had changed from the night before. The covers of the nearby guest bed were full of wrinkles as though someone had been sleeping there, though it was empty now. Had someone been there? As I looked carefully around the walls of my cabin, I found myself struggling to get my thoughts in order.

On my desk sat two drinking glasses, a bottle of wine, and a bottle of cranberry juice. The bottles ranged from a quarter to a half full, and the glasses were stained with remnants of liquids they had once contained. I noticed upon closer examination that one smelled quite heavily of alcohol; the other, meanwhile, held but a mere trace. I doubted it was enough to get anyone even remotely tipsy, yet its presence in the glass unnerved me slightly.

I then walked over to the front window and took a look outside. The ATV was still in its familiar spot, so I didn’t think it likely that someone had left the mountain in the middle of the night. Whoever took possession of the second glass had to be somewhere, but where indeed?

With a sigh of irritation, I brought the glasses into the kitchen, washed them, and filled one with fresh water. The aching in my temple began to subside, and images of the night before finally began to surface. There had been a girl, around college-age if memory served. She was studying… botany? – no, she had said it was botanical magic, and that her college major… had something to do with music, though that was all I remembered. I was already two glasses deep when the subject had come up.

From there, she had brought up a few questions of her own. I explained that I worked from home mostly, that I had in the past been intimate with both sexes, and that only a select few had ever known of my abilities as a witch. She seemed to empathize with that last sentiment, and the others she embraced with a fervent curiosity. I couldn’t tell if she wanted to become like me or to simply become me through a kind of osmosis.

Just where in the hell did she run off to? I wondered. There was no sign of her in the bathroom either, though as I stepped back through the door, I experienced another flash of memory. I could recall excusing myself once or twice as the night wore on. Each time I returned, it seemed as the girl was becoming increasingly more comfortable around me. Suddenly, the scent of the second glass was beginning to make a lot more sense.

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“Interwoven: Side A”

Author’s Note: This is a story which was inspired by interactions with a close friend of mine. As I began writing it, I quickly realized that its content wouldn’t quite fit in a single story, so I’m doing something a little different. “Side A” is going to be focused on the emotional side with no adult themes. “Side B” will focus on the sexual side and is to come later. Names have been changed for anonymity sake. I hope you enjoy.

It was the heart of spring. All around me the evergreens had reached their full bloom, spraying forth a thick pollen which coated the world in a glow of yellow-green. The Sun’s elliptical path across the sky was growing longer with every passing day, and the intense rays of light beaming down all over the Earth were already enough to make me sweat. Standing alone at a bus stop along a back-country highway, I could feel my irritation beginning to grow.

There was, of course, something to be said of living deep within the woods far and away from civilization. There were no prying neighbors, no industrial sounds to disturb one’s sleep. Luxuries and amenities were brought about solely through one’s ingenuity and technical prowess, though deliveries by drone certainly helped. The only true downside was the two-mile trek down the mountain whenever one needed a ride into town. Even with the use of an all-terrain vehicle, the steep descent remained a daunting experience; and as such, I had a tendency to avoid it except when it became necessary to do so.

It was a standard of mine to arrive at least ten minutes early, and so I waited. Though the hands of my watch rested just shy of eleven, the air around me was already pushing seventy-five degrees. I waited, and I waited, and I waited until finally, at long last, the bus pulled onto the shoulder and opened its doors to me.

The whirl of cooling fans was a godsend as I made my way down rows of empty seats. I counted six others, rural homesteaders much like myself, though I had seldom spoken with any of them. One waved politely as I sat down, and I did my best to wave politely back. The bus pulled away from its stop and rapidly picked up speed. Throwing on a set of earphones, I closed my eyes, tuning out the world for the next twenty minutes as we made our way toward the nearby town.

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