She'd really been blind this whole time, hadn't she? That was the only explanation. Anything else and the revolution would be safe and sound, with a certain Bagon lying paralyzed on the icy floor and not herself.
It would have been easy. Really. Just… a quick zap, a melodramatic one liner about this being for his own good, and her former boss would have no choice but to step down. It was the sentiment, wasn't it? It blinded. Delayed. Made a confrontation at the revolution's most decisive moment that should have been in an apartment.
Now all she could do was think.
She had plenty of time, of course. Perhaps knowing he faced a slightly less stubby-legged opposition, the Bagon's estimates for the stun seed were conservative. Again and again Argon's muscles clenched, desperately trying to fight through the worst case of sleep paralysis. Her very fur gave a revolting jolt at even lifting a paw. A stiff grunt was all her tongue could make, followed by a lazy roll to her side. With a mind so muddled, even lifting up that mug felt like a herculean effort.
Seconds turned to minutes, stewing up electricity and tension alike that had no ground. Had the Bagon who'd dragged her up from a chilly death always been like this? A selfish, two-faced reptile who wouldn't sacrifice a comfy desk chair to let his grey scaled counterpart have a piece of that pie?
His ambitions blinded him. It has since the beginning. Chimera's on the wrong side of this, but… a pokemon still deserves a chance to change. Eoin's proved that well enough.
A part of Argon scoffed at even the thought, the rest gave a quiet whimper. He had his chance, he had every chance, but there was no more luxury to give the benefit of the doubt. Arceus knew what would befall thousands of innocents if she did.
Her ears shot up, a thought panging. That cocksure smile of his, so reassuring behind its humor… they truly were enemies now, weren't they?
It took you long enough. No more talk. No more compromise. Find out what that despot with a bowtie is planning. Chase that Bagon across every corner of Faire if you have to. And if push comes to shove, if he doesn't give you another choice-
A jolt shot out from her tail, whipping across the lake. Now wasn't the time to think about that. Not now, not ever. She was better than that. If he really was following a path of destruction, then she wouldn't be the one to do it.
With another minute passed, and her thoughts as chilled as the lake underneath, it took the Raichu a moment to realize a more… physical chill that joined it.
One paw shook, feeling the lake's touch replace that encompassing numb tingle. Another soon followed. With a great deal of effort, Argon lurched to her feet, paws wobbling as if they'd just run a marathon. Blue eyes shot to the cavernous exit. Paws tapped, ever so slowly breaking out of their trance. It'd been… what, ten minutes? Fifteen? He was probably all the way to the first precipice by now. No time left.
Argon's leg buckled like a Slakoth's with the first step, but the Raichu held too much adrenaline to stop. Sparks crackled off her cheeks as she gave chase. Her one chance had failed, and all that was left was to pick up the pieces.
The pieces left by a partner who had ended up too human.
Not even Argon knew for sure what pushed her back up that cavern every hour. Was it the drive to save her partner from himself that lifted her up when a steep, rocky incline turned to sheer cliff? Maybe the thousands of grey eyes staring over her shoulder led her to press on after a loose rock sent her tumbling back into yet another icy puddle. Or perhaps it was a singular anger that drove her path, so burning righteousness countered burning lungs.
With respite for neither body nor mind, Argon needed to blink more than once when the faint amber glow of sunset finally dawned. A stumble nearly sent the Raichu to her knees, but she pressed on, eyeing the towering walls of marble in the distance, above Pith Town's orange shingles. Whatever last ditch plan Chimera was following, it ended at the Guild Hall.
By the time Argon had made her way to the edges of the square, a bright moon filled the ghostly streets of Pith Town. Even so, omnipresent chatter filled the streets. Between labored breaths, the Raichu smiled. The Pallids had made industrious use of their time. Some conversed with the occasional pokemon still outside, hearing gasps and apologies at their stories. Others grumbled, waiting for a presider that would never come.
"It's," Argon murmured, gasping, "it's all over now. Binair just doesn't know it."
Were it not for the urgency Argon would have been pulled away at every corner. A few steps forward, and an Oshawott tugged at her arm, asking if she wanted to see the newest plane her new friends had helped build. The Oshawott's parents stood a few feet away, tense yet… accepting of the grayscale beings that mixed into the color.
A look to the barricades, and the guild members seemed of similar demeanor. A few still watched with guarded eyes, against a sea of tepid contentment that had washed through their ranks. Even Flora seemed to breath an easy breath as the hours had passed. There was no destruction to prevent, no guillotines to fear.
A new age dawning, and where was Binair? Argon almost chuckled; his absence spoke volumes. Probably watching pale from some hidden window, speechless to his ivory castle falling apart.
Moonlight shined all too clear against marble. Argon's paw clenched, gaze unwavering to the one above that met it. There he was. A Bagon frozen to stoicism at his partner's sight, looking down from the Guild Hall's roof with his hand against what Argon could only assume was a trapdoor.
Chatter, footsteps, and breaths faded into silence. The two were a good hundred feet away, yet their faces couldn't seem closer. As if by mutual agreement, Raichu and Bagon paused, with no more will to deny the obvious.
This was the end.
Argon bolted, retracing her steps up to the roofs, while Chimera's hands stumbled in a desperate attempt to remember the password. She was on all fours on the rooftop, a rat out of hell that could see the brown in Chimera's eyes by the time he'd jumped into the bunker elevator.
A good dozen feet risking a very painful fall was between one rooftop and another, but a Raichu of experience was undeterred. A running start, and psychic press off her feet that would make a Ninetales applaud, and Argon's paws hit the marble ledge. All that was left was the trapdoor, now just a narrow, seemingly endless hole where the elevator had been. Bracing paws and legs against each corner, Argon sucked in a quivering breath. He'd always been the better with heights, but if Arceus was willing the Bagon's head start would not be enough.
By the time she'd slid down, Chimera's breaths were equally gasping. He was on his knees, maybe a dozen feet from the elevator entrance with that oh-so-important time gear in his hand, and his gaze craned to the concrete floor. Argon sucked in a gasp at the sight of the two other spinning gears in their endless grind. So that's where-didn't matter. Only one thing left to do.
Chimera's eyes glinted in a sharp stare like nothing before. His very world seemed before him preparing to set the final time gear in place. Just one little press, and this whole nightmare would all be over.
Except… it didn't move. A push towards the empty slot had the time gear push back, then pull itself forward. Almost as if—
It was Chimera's turn to gasp. By the time he saw the pink aura surrounding, it'd already rocketed from his grasp. The Bagon's head jumped up in a desperate track of the gear's path, ending with a sharp thud at a Raichu's paw. There she was.
Chimera's hand was a blur, drawing his crossbow like a western gunslinger to Argon. Sparks crackled from the Raichu's cheeks, defiant to the glint of the bolt against the overhead light. There was no more tea to drink today.
"Don't make me do this," Chimera said, crossbow jittering with every word. "P-Please, don't make me do this."
"You've made your choice!" Argon replied. "And… and I've made mine. I'm not taking any more chances."
Bagon and Raichu stood, fur and scales tensing while each dared the other to break the impasse. Argon certainly couldn't think of a stranger place for a final confrontation. Desks, shelves, and haphazard papers scattered the walls, while on each corner of the small room stood a narrow support pillar. At the chipped and worn state of the concrete, it was anyone's guess how long the guild had kept this close to the chest.
Perhaps most perplexing was the strange contraption behind Chimera. Massive pistons pulsed, heavy steel creaked, and faint sparks crackled from the high up coil. Even just the open door looked like it could balance a Golem. Some classified science experiment? A cruel, heavy duty prison? Perhaps…
A shot rang out. All Argon saw was Chimera's weapon, centered down at the last second, before a searing pain erupted from her knee. Something felt wet.
"F-fuck!" Argon cried, clutching the inch of bolt poking from her joint. "You p-piece of—"
The Raichu practically fell onto her now floating tail, but she wasn't stopping. It was all adrenaline now. Chimera's eyes widened from the almost feral growl his foe gave. She snarled with her target set, one goal in mind to send a few thousand volts through his spine.
An orange and yellow blur sped right before centering on Chimera's form. Yellow static spewed from her cheeks almost too quick to track, encompassing the Raichu like an electric bonfire. Chimera hadn't even drawn his second bolt before Argon plowed into him.
Everything burned. His very scales crackled being sent through the air, superheated from the impact. A sharp crack of Bagon against concrete pillar added insult to injury. His chest felt like it'd hit burning wax, but Chimera's forehead had absorbed most of the back impact. She wasn't done yet.
He never hit the floor, stuck against what was left of the pillar, a fly to a windshield. A look crossed Chimera's face that he hadn't had since the Rampardos attack. His stubby hands stood in place from nonexistent handcuffs. Argon's seething mind, and telepathic aura made sure of that.
"You selfish, stilted prick!" Argon cried, pushing him further to the stone. "Do you really think you're gonna come out of this on top?! The uncaring human who helped enslave thousands of pallids?!"
A stammered, quiet attempt at reply fell on deaf ears. Psychic aura pulsed from Argon's form with every seething breath. Matching it were Chimera's hyperventilations, suddenly feeling his arm bend of its own free will. Argon gave little sympathy to the Bagon. To a self-serving, despot appeasing, lying sack of—
A crack pierced her ears, with a shrill cry. Argon blinked, seeing the Bagon's stubby hand bent at a right angle backwards.
"G-god fucking dammit," Chimera fumed, fighting through the tears to look Argon in the eye. "You… you don't know what it's like!"
Argon got in half a word before Chimera's free hand had tossed the orb. The bunker erupted in a blinding light, assaulting the Raichu's eyes and taking her concentration with it. The second's delay was all he needed, charging forth with an adrenaline fueled numbness to his arm. She dashed back in a stumble, rubbing with a paw only to gasp from a crossbow stock crashing against her chest. Two ribs snapped and Argon cried out. The cold concrete of the opposite pillar greeted the back of her head.
"I wasn't born with your world!" Chimera shouted. "I didn't come from a place where you could work six hours a day and not have to choose between rent and food. Where gold and silver grows on trees. Where success is the rule, not the exception. This is my chance, Argon, a-and... between us, you've had it good from this system far longer than I have!"
One look up, and Chimera's forehead was maybe three feet from bashing her chest. With no time to think Argon braced herself on her bad leg, gritting her teeth through a surge of pain to dash away. With not an inch to spare she dodged the charge, while her Bagon foe crashed against the pillar, sending chunks of stone across the floor. She glanced down, only just eyeing the bits of blood seeping from her wound.
"But I'm trying to make things better," Argon cried back, lurching up to her feet. "T-the pallids never had that world either. The one stopping them right now is you. N-not Binair. Not 'the system.' You."
A half second hesitation did Chimera in. The Bagon reached for his weapon while Argon limped forth, one hand on the crossbow prod and a single tooth pulling back the string. A morbid sense of deja vu took to Argon while she primed her paw, sparks glistening with each finger. She'd knocked him out once, she could do it again.
The thunder punch soared, and with eyes shot wide Chimera raised the first thing he had to block the blow. Wood splintered against the impact, shooting the Bagon back with only a broken stock in his hand. The rest fell to the floor in a husk of wood and steel broken beyond repair.
"I," Chimera gasped, throwing the remnants aside, "I know that. I'm not running from that. B-but… I also know in a couple short decades you and I are gonna be buried ten feet below no matter what we do here."
Argon tilted her head, watching any stray move from the Bagon once the two began to circle, just a few feet apart. The Raichu's half limp was matched by the Bagon's chittering wince at any touch of his arm.
"What does that matter?" Argon asked. "We shouldn't help others with the time we have? You having a good life is worth more than—"
"I've already had my second chance!" Chimera shot back. "I'm not going to get a third. One body, one mind. Then… nothing."
A thunderbolt crackled from Argon's tail, earning a singe on Chimera's scales before he'd dashed away. The rest charred against the ceiling, while the bunker itself seemed to give a revolting shake at the impact. Bits of concrete rained down around them.
"I've already spent one life in the gutter," Chimera declared. "I'm not gonna risk another. I-I can't. I…"
He charged. Thunder clashed, hitting like a title wave against the Bagon's lowered head. He wasn't stopping.
Argon's gasp was drowned out by a defiant yell. Her back hit the floor, while blue scales pinned her down. The Raichu's pupils dilated, in a fight or flight surge like never before. It couldn't end like this. Not now. Not here.
Not with her former partner holding a sharpened bolt to her throat.
"Stay down!" Chimera shouted.
His voice cracked, all power gone. He was a beggar.
"P-please… stay down."
He wouldn't do it. He… he couldn't, could he? Argon's maw stammered in numb silence. A finely honed edge glinted against her neck. Bagon and Raichu lied with hushed breaths, while the bunker lurched with another rumble.
Was there anything? Anything at all to turn this around? She couldn't shock him, at least not before he'd have all the time in the world to carve up her throat. In the silence, the rest of the bunker seemed to come into view. The disheveled crossbow prod just out of reach. The two time gears spinning constant as ever a few feet behind her head. And just behind Chimera…
Her eyes darted up. That strange contraption stood, bulky as ever to the Bagon's back. Arceus knew what its use was prior, but it'd work. One problem solved, but before?
Argon's teeth grinded while Chimera awaited her answer, scaly hand constant near her neck. Ever so faintly a paw lowered to her bloodied knee. It was morbid, but…
"Chimera," Argon whispered, sharing one last look at her partner, "I won't be the one to bury you."
She bit down. With the force of Drednaw Argon's fangs slammed down against Chimera's hand. He barely had time to scream. One second more and her bloodied paw struck right between his eyes. The Bagon stumbled, shouting swear after swear, balancing himself against an open steel door. This was it.
A psychic push, and single kick to his chest sealed the deal. One blink followed another as the Bagon careened back, only seeing a red daze. It wasn't until the clang of his forehead hitting the hexagonal metal wall that Chimera realized where he was. Suddenly, the punctures on his hand seemed an afterthought.
He charged, in vain. Argon was already to her feet, and slammed the bulkhead door just in time for Chimera to cave in a small dent. Motors whirred, and tumblers shut. For the first time in days Argon felt relief; not even he could escape this.
"W-wait no!" Chimera stammered, trying once more to wipe the blood off. "Please don't-"
"ATTENTION. TRANSFER CHAMBER HAS BEEN SEALED. COILS CHARGING. TRANSFER WILL BEGIN SHORTLY."
What? Argon stepped back, while the pistons pushed in full force, and the coil above Chimera took on a faint glow. From the abject horror on the Bagon's face, she'd just signed his death warrant.
Two more headbutts against the thick glass windows were predictably null, sending Chimera crashing back into the center of the machine. At the third, limp attempt Chimera slumped over, forehead against the glass. There couldn't have been more than a foot between them on opposite sides of the machine, but he looked a world away. Hands shook. Teeth chattered. A single thought crossed him, the final words of a cornered animal.
"I-I'm going back," Chimera said.
It was a plain statement. No doubt about it. Argon's ears drooped all the same.
"Wait, what do you mean?" Argon asked. "What is—"
"I'm going back."
With the second time, he'd convinced himself it was true. Argon's cheeks sparked, in a rare opportunity to make sense of the barrage of the last day. What had her old boss said? 'From one human to another'? Binair had obviously kept this a secret. If Chimera had been here, and there were no Legendary shenanigans to how he they'd both arrived, then—
Chimera's bloodied, thousand yard stare confirmed it. He stood unmoving, with one realization after another seeping into his consciousness. His jaw stammered.
A few minutes at best, and everything would be gone. There was no out from this. The thousands of pokemon that had looked to him for answers. Any sense of meaning to the shiny platinum badge pinned to his bag. Even the private fucking office with the newton cradle. One push, and it was dust.
Human again. He didn't have long here. The Bagon across Argon gave a slow, morbid laugh. He knew it well. It all set in. All this time, and the boulder had rolled right back down.
"So that's how it ends," Chimera said. "After every choice, that's how I'll go down. The stilted, jaded prick who betrayed everyone who ever loved him for nothing. The fool who amounted to jack shit, at the price of everything."
"Would it have mattered any other way?"
Chimera froze at Argon's question. He looked up, bracing for her venom, yet behind it was something else. She'd held enough bile to slam him across the room minutes ago, and yet… their fates had been decided. The plot was over. The revolution would go on. It was just them now. Human and partner. Melancholy diluted the Raichu's anger, as if she'd left her own trance.
"What if our places were reversed?" Argon asked. "What meaning would that life have, after causing so much pain to others? Would it really have been worth it? I-If this is how it ends, if you're really going to leave… I want to know."
All too quickly his gut shouted a morbid yes. He couldn't weep in these final moments. Beg. Admit himself the bloodied fool in an idiot's tale. But despite every effort Chimera's voice fell. Something in the Bagon's being had dammed that answer. With every spark, crumble, and slam of pistons a strange fog cleared, with only one thing left to find.
All he could see was black. Yet Argon was across the glass, nothing on this world or another could block out what he'd see. The last few seconds seemed to flash before him. The piercing cries of his partner. The blood that had oozed from her knee with every step.
That was the world he was building, wasn't it? He couldn't lie to himself any longer. No ambitious half truths or convenient justifications could cover that blood. How much had gone unseen? How many others would share Argon's fate to crown his success? She held her breath, a few messy tears starting to form. They'd have only one chance for the truth.
"I…. " Chimera said, letting out one last, glum sigh, "no. No it wouldn't. I've been bullshitting myself for too long. Walking a path that's brought nothing but pain and misery for everyone. Nothing I can say now will change that."
The coil charged, with faint flickers of blue static crackling across the Bagon's skin. A few seconds more, and Argon gasped. Ever so faintly, a bit of Chimera's arm seemed to flicker. He gave it no thought, staring back as a thin mix of red dripped from his eyes. Blind as a bat, it all seemed the same.
"And to top off that smoldering shitfest of mistakes," Chimera whispered, "I ended my time in this world by stabbing and betraying the one person I should have trusted most. I-I… god, I'm sorry."
Not all wounds healed overnight. Argon gritted her teeth, just a tad short of acceptance while a jolt of pain hit from her knee. The silence spoke volumes. With all her being she wanted to believe, but he'd lied once before. Chimera's heart sank with a silent, yet morbid chuckle. She was right, of course. He'd made his bed.
Even so, there had to be something. One way to undo a bit of the damage he'd caused. Anything to show his partner that it wasn't all in vain. Nothing else mattered.
He had nothing left in hand to give. Perhaps… a promise?
"It's not much," Chimera said, "but I want you to know I'm going to be better when I get back. I-I'm gonna try and be more than the gloomy human that went to this world, or the self serving Bagon that came back. That path starts now, a-and— in fact…"
He motioned past Argon, pointing to, of all things, the time gears. At their azure glow a pit formed in Argon's stomach. Just a few feet away, the relics that had helped bring them together and tore them apart. She should have dropped them when she had the chance.
"If Faire really is going to change forever, then you have to show them," Chimera continued. "The gears we were gonna use to freeze every single Pallid here. 'A habit of amplification' is what Binair called it."
One blink, and Argon could almost see that from the mountain Rampardos again, unflinching as time itself before them.
It was obvious enough they'd planned some way to end the revolution, but this?! Mass capture then enslavement, tantamount to genocide. She turned back, sharing a look with her blind partner that told well enough. The pokemon would see now. Binair wouldn't have a choice.
He wasn't the only one. An intangible feeling of lightness crossed Chimera's chest, while the coil above had turned a vibrant blue. With a gasp the Bagon pounded against the glass, his arm growing just a bit fainter through the static.
"Please!" he begged. "I-I want you to know it wasn't all for nothing between us. Even if you don't believe me. I wouldn't blame you, b-but… I just need to say it. You have my word I'll be a better man. One that can live for more than just myself."
His very being blinked like an image out of sync. That same voice from the cavern was in full force to Argon. Turning her back on the pragmatic had screwed her before, and right now that choice was collecting those gears and leaving him to his fate. Sentimentality kept her, sure, but there was something more than that. Something deeper.
Before her stood a Bagon bloodied with nothing left. As flawed or more so than any other pokemon. Overambitious. Arrogant. Couldn't paddle across a river if his life depended on it. Even so his words left the same heart and mind. The human that came into her life, introduced her to a world like never before and, in the end, had the will to atone for his own mistakes. Inch by inch her tepid paw raised to the glass. There was only one thing to say.
"Chimera, I believe you."
He shot back, as if slapped with a fish. Upon realizing her words hadn't been the delirious delusions of a Bagon's fading mind, Chimera held a faint smile. The echoes of that same, toothy grin. It took a bit, but Argon was happy to oblige with her own.
"T-that's all I need, Argon," Chimera replied. "Thank you. Thank you so—"
He fell back, that billowing lightness growing ever stronger. Argon slammed her paw against the door when what was left of two support columns crumpled apart, taking a corner of the ceiling with it. Chimera's gasp at Argon's danger was louder than her own, though the cave-in was a few feet away. Their breaths grew no softer.
"It's not safe here," Chimera said, before slumping back. "And… I don't think I have much longer."
The coil above fizzed with a soft whir, preparing for one last shock. With heavy steps, Argon turned back. She couldn't object.
"So it is," Argon replied with a sniffle. "Chimera, I-I'm sorry things went the way they did. I wish we could have been partners for so much longer. Even with everything that's happened, I… I'll be glad to have had you as a friend."
A simple nod from Chimera said enough. Energy crackled with finality across his scales. Only one chance left to say it.
"The feeling couldn't be more mutual," Chimera replied. "And—"
He bit his lip. A bit of old pride nipped at the Bagon's thoughts but he fought it off.
"Looking back, I can say without a doubt you were the friend I needed coming here. You stuck by my side in the worst of moments, but knew when I needed someone to call me out on my bullshit."
The energy through the coil condensed, forming a glowing sphere at the center. Argon flinched, while Chimera let out a deep breath.
"I'll never forget that," Chimera said, looking to Argon with one last, wary smile. "You know, it's a bit ironic. The Raichu that wanted nothing more than to help her fellow man, that ended up meaning more to Faire than any other pokemon could."
A bolt shot down, encompassing Chimera in an aura of light. Through the thundering crash, Argon could faintly hear a chuckle.
"Decent story to tell."
The smoke cleared, and he was gone. Argon sat staring at the empty chamber for a few more seconds, as old memories flowed tandem with new aspirations. A lingering silence filled the room, while her paw set from the glass. With a vigor in her heart long thought buried, the Raichu turned. Three gears floated, heavy and smooth in one paw. In the other, laid a wooden stock, splintered across the grain yet whole nonetheless.
It was that moment the two souls departed. Human and Pokemon, intertwined through the crossing fates of a thread that diverged to new tapestries. The revolution would close, the beings in its wake would emerge wiser upon a new world, and tomorrow would come.
The sun rose bright across Faire, for a path long traveled had reached its end.
Final Author's Notes: And… that's a wrap, folks. At least, for the most part. It's been a long, winding journey that the young high schooler I was could never imagine its challenges and rewards, but Pathways of Aspiration has reached its tentative end.
I know as well as anyone there is still a decent amount to be resolved. Cerise and Binair's fate. The true extent of Faire's change. Argon and Eoin's final words in their shared future. My true plan is to bring those lingering threads to a close in an epilogue chapter. If I'd had the time for more regular updates, I'd have put in a couple more chapters, but a pandemic continues, and in just a few days I'll be starting a new chapter of my own life in college.
That's not to say I'll be silent until then. In truth, I've wanted an opportunity like this to go over and/or rewrite some of the earlier chapters that didn't age as well past the initial rewrites. This'll also give a chance for me to do a sweeping check to fix… some of the more embarrassing typos that have accumulated over my writing. Not to mention some more flexibility to work with other oneshots and story concepts. Once any rewrites or major edits have been done, I'll be sure to edit in a message at the end of this note.
In the meantime, I'd like to take this opportunity to give my wholehearted appreciation for all the fine folks that have helped me get this far.
Starting up, Pathways of Aspiration Beta Readers: Namohysip, author of Hands of Creation, and MadderJacker, author of A Home Far Away.
Namo, I won't mince words saying the support you gave me during and after the opening months of my story are a major reason I've gone on this long. You're astute, hardworking, and the likes of the Pallid worldbuilding and Eoin's characterization wouldn't be half of what it was without your input. Thank you for everything, and I wish you the best on your writing endeavors.
MJ, since the day you offered to beta my story you've held a keen eye and talent for editing that I only hope I'll someday match. Since day one you've saved my hide more than a few times. 'Locomobile'. 'Reviced Chapter'. Cringeworthy on my part even now, but as you said, 'Cringe ages like fine wine'. It was your input and the standard you set combing over my chapters that helped light a fire under my ass and grow as an author. Best wishes with your story, and thanks a ton.
As a final note for the both of you, I appreciate you encouraging my writing, yet also telling me what I might not have wanted, but nonetheless needed to hear. Thank you both for always being there when I needed someone, writing or otherwise.
As for smaller yet no less important appreciation, thank you Snapinator, artist of Seeds of Dissonance for drawing the wonderful artwork of Argon and Chimera. Thank you to all the wonderful folks of the PMD Writers United discord server, for giving the community, advice, and friendship I'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
Lastly, perhaps the most important of all, my sincerest thanks to every single reader who decided to give my story a chance! I cannot stress enough how much knowing there were folks out there waiting for where Pathways of Aspiration would go helped pull me back to the keyboard. I know PMD stories nowadays aren't exactly scarce, and I hope I made your time reading my story worth it.
I'll certainly try not to be a stranger! As some parting words, I thought I'd use a phrase I read once at a story's end, from a PMD fanfiction that helped inspire my journey into writing. When the world closes in, and you can't decide which path to choose, remember…
Smiles go for miles.
Au Revoir Everyone, but not goodbye.