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Competitive Mijumaru
Apologies for the extremely long wait! I'm a judge for the Pokémon Watty Awards over on Wattpad, which means I'm having to dedicate this month to reading a ton of adventure fics so I can rank them and other things. I only finished this chapter because I was in the middle of writing it when the month rolled over, so I had to finish it.
We're on the border of the final arc too, I promise. In fact, that's the very next chapter. For now, we get past the final important stuff. I will attempt to return to normal weekly posting when my judging is over, which will be December 1st at the latest! Apologies for the inconvenience again!


Episode 26: A painful truth


“So despite everything I told you, you went there anyway,” Shaymin said, shaking her head. She sounded heavily disheartened, depressed even, unable to look at Leos’ party at all.

“Well unlike what you said about me, the Heaven Seal worked. I’m now a Constellar Lord,” Leos replied, arms folded. “I believe you owe us some info and how we get out of here.”

Behind him, Prem, Griselle, and her parents watched with bothered faces. Night had fallen when they all got back to the tents, so they were all gathered inside Shaymin’s spacious tent to keep out of the way of others.

As he told his story to Shaymin and the others, Leos couldn’t get the experience out of his mind. From Mirror’s inexplainable appearance and departure, to his activation of the Heaven Seal, he couldn’t forget how miraculous the whole thing was. As far as he knew, Constellars could only become Constellars when granted the title through their priests, since it was a strict religion and all. But here, a mere magical seal was all it took for him to be granted a title that put him beside Master Lin in terms of rank.

His appearance didn’t even change. Dark energy resembling space had swallowed him and then sunk into him, as if he had absorbed a great power. Yet he looked and felt the same, even ran out of breath in his attempts to sprint back here. It was as if the seal hadn’t worked at all, but it did work, and he was beyond excited to test out its new capabilities.

“Follow me,” Shaymin said, slowly turning to leave. They followed her through an unfamiliar route to the hospital tent where Blossom had been resting, gasping upon entry. The Mime Jr. was awake, snacking on bowl of sliced fruit.

“Blossom, you’re alive!” Leos said, kneeling by her.

“Master Leos,” she replied, breathing a sigh of relief. “Prem and Griselle, too. I’m so glad you’re all okay!”

You’re glad we’re okay? You’ve been mortally wounded!” Leos cried. “And by throwing us off that airship, too.”

“So you know. I apologise. It was an act of desperation after I saw you all get defeated by Charle’s attack,” she recalled, looking at her feet. “Had I been stronger, I should’ve been able to protect you, even teleported you all to safety. I’ve done a poor job so far.”

“Stop that, now,” Leos replied, shaking his head. “I’ve been stiff so far, but that’s changing. Blossom, when I think about what you’ve done for us so far, even despite the way I treated you… I want to change that. So I’m sorry, Blossom. I’m sorry for getting you so involved in this, and letting you get hurt.”

“I told you before. I’m in this for my own personal reasons. Me getting hurt doing that just means that I wasn’t strong enough. Master, you needn’t concern yourself with my well-being,” she said.

“Well thanks for accepting my apology. I’ll make sure to remember that,” he spat. “And that just means I’ll have to do my part to be stronger. Strong enough for you to not need to get hurt or do much to help me.”

“Master Leos, I’m your retainer. That’s my job!” she said.

“Why do I get the feeling this convo isn’t gonna go anywhere?” Griselle giggled, stepping in between them. “Just say you’re sorry already and get to it!”

“She has a point,” Blossom agreed, standing up. She flinched twice, laying a hand on her bandages. “I-I’ve been incapacitated for days. It is likely that the battle we sought to prevent has already started.”

“And you want to go in that condition? I couldn’t. You’d definitely get killed,” Leos raised his voice.

“Master Leos, if I would die protecting someone who would prevent war, then I couldn’t ask for a more honourable death,” she replied. “And like I said, I’m going regardless. This is for my own gain, at the very least.”

Leos growled and shut his eyes, retracting his words just before they came out. “I really appreciate it, Blossom. But please, for the love of the gods, don’t push yourself.”

“Shall I begin?” Shaymin asked.

“Yes, please. Tell us everything we need to know,” Leos said with a nod. The others gathered around him, some sitting down to listen.

“Etheria… I’m sure you’re aware that Etheria was originally a whole planet, split into two to create Eris and Faernia,” she began, speaking softly. She looked like she was forcing herself to look up at Leos. “The truth is, this is a feral world. Etheria was wracked by conflicts, however petty. Pokémon fought each other all across the planet, tirelessly searching for habitats, food, and mates. Etheria’s Pokémon were primitive for generations, and showed not a single sign of ever advancing further.”

“Sounds like Eris,” Nier groaned. Vincent pinched her.

“Eventually, we gods and goddesses were appointed to different places across the planet in hopes of creating law and order. To make Pokémon intelligent creatures worth keeping alive. However, we were to do so without touching Pokémon themselves – we were to remain legendary, to only ever influence nature,” Shaymin explained. As she spoke, she began to glow, releasing a magical projection of imagery. Everyone gasped as their surroundings transformed into the world she was talking about, a sunny, colourful field of varying plants and woodland. “For example, I brought plants to life. I travelled the lands, allowing nature to flourish where I could. I never met a single mortal. Some saw me, but never got the chance to share a word. Pokémon would discover the miracles of nature I gifted them, learn their importance, and in turn, protect and generate more. Pokémon learnt to grow flowers and trees and more, how to build their habitats out of nature, and the nourishment it could give them. Society was created and began to advance.”

The world around them rapidly transformed right before their eyes, going from the primitive world of fields to a utopia bursting with nature. Villages sprouted up. Rivers were redirected. Large groups of Pokémon, even those differing in species, looked like they were all having fun as they worked together to make buildings, play together, and more.

“There are Swirlix and Shelgon! You’d never see those two playing together!” Nier pointed out.

“It’s incredible,” Leos whispered, unable to help but smile at it all. The smiles on the Pokémon’s faces, their efforts, and the results of their coexistence – it was true peace in the form of a dream. That was what he felt until a dark shadow took over the sky, and a huge crack split the ground in two. The once smiling Pokémon transformed into a disorganized crowd of Pokémon scrambling and fighting each other to escape the chaos, many failing and falling into the fissure splitting the ground.

“But the reality is, the gifts of us legendaries can only be temporary. Just like mortals, gods and goddesses can grow old. When we grow old, our minds and our directions can become warped and twisted. If we are not put in our place, the order of the world can fall out of control,” Shaymin continued, her tone changing to match the imagery. After the fissure split, dragon types were left on one side, whilst fairy types were left on the other. The two sides stared at each other with bloodlust and hatred in their eyes. “The most intelligent Pokémon that had taken the form of leaders within this new world had begun to take sides with their beliefs. Many of these leaders were aware of the primitive world Etheria once was. They believed that order and the world would revert and fall apart without the leadership and blessings of the gods. Hearing that, the gods, the Tapu, took advantage. The Pokémon followed every order their gods gave without protest. In time, the order of the Tapu became a religion. They turned their half of the world into an ark, a split planet that flourished in with the blessings of the gods. Only select Pokémon that the Tapu chose would be allowed on this planet.”

“Faernia,” Prem whispered.

“The other half of the Pokémon felt that the gods were not to be blindly obeyed, that they remained out of reach of the mortals so that they could maintain a sense of freedom. When their gods began to grow old and their intentions changed, these Pokémon fought the gods, killing them so that they could continue to live in coexistence with the nature that they had been gifted,” Shaymin continued, evoking gasps from a few. “When killed, the gods temporarily transform into the very part of nature whence they gifted. They are eventually reborn, where they judge the current world as they see it. If they foresee destruction, they awaken and guide the Pokémon once again, as I am now. If they foresee peace as it should be, then they sleep, remaining out of mortal reach until the forces of nature awaken them.”

“Eris is that second world. So what you’re saying is that the Tapu are guiding Pokémon?” Leos summarised.

“The Tapu are guiding Pokémon, yes, but their guidance has grown beyond what they should be doing. Pokémon have grown so attached to the Tapu that their guidance has turned into religion, the very law of the world. Faernians are spoilt by the gifts of the Tapu, unable to fend for themselves should the nature of their world ever change. The reality is, the Tapu are old now, old and mad. The mad gods and goddesses are destroying their own world by keeping them as separate planets, disjointed from the Second Country, the core of Etheria’s natural planetary energy. They seek nothing but conflict with the Erinians. Faernians won’t see reason,” Shaymin explained. “Likewise, the Pokémon of Eris grew to be driven by conflict and aggression. They grew hardened as they thought that they failed to control nature. Their planet lacked planetary energy and without the gifts of gods and goddesses, died, forcing Pokémon to resort to eating each other, pilfering from one another to survive. In time, they grew to live with their natural disasters, creating an infrastructure that relied on forced mass breeding and slaughter.”

“But then how do we stop this? If both planets are bad, what can we do?” Prem cried.

“Kill the Tapu,” Shaymin answered. “Remember that the gods return to the part of nature that they gift when they die. The Tapu’s bodies would restore nature to both Eris and Faernia, enabling peace to return to both planets.”

Leos had been in deep thought the whole time, slowly coming out. “No. That won’t work.”

“You don’t think so?” Nier asked.

“No, wait. That will work, but it won’t be substantial. On top of that, how do we kill gods? The entirety of Faernian society is built around that religion. We kill the Tapu, we declare war on the whole planet,” he said.

“He’s got a point. Technology, the weather, and the growth of Faernia’s crops – everyone looks to the Tapu for that. We can’t just expect everyone to be fine with killing them,” Vincent said, scratching his chin. “Not even I have any idea of how to do this. On top of that, the Tapu are remarkably powerful.”

“The Heaven Seal. It gave you, and only you, the power to kill the gods,” Shaymin said. Leos’ eyes widened. “You must kill them in one strike using a Zenryoku arte.”

“A Zenryoku arte?” he replied.

“Zenryoku means ‘one’s full power’. It is attained through your bond with another,” she clarified.

“In this case, Prem,” he muttered, glancing at the Pikachu. Prem shyly stepped forward.

“Leos, what’s your star sign? You and your friend will need to draw that sign with your bodies as you give your incantation,” Shaymin instructed. “Your thoughts and feelings will combine, and you will power up to max for the duration of your attack.”

“Oh, I know about this. It’s like this,” Blossom said, perking up. She crossed both arms to make an ‘x’ shape, then unfurled and stretched them straight forward, again crossing them. “Er, then you would move into the position that draws your star sign.”

“Let’s give it a try, then. Prem, with me now, please,” Leos said. He nodded enthusiastically and hopped behind the Oshawott, and the two of them began to move in sync, crossing their arms.

“I call upon the stars to grant me your blessing,” Leos began, slowly unfurling his arms. As Prem copied, light energy burst from them, surrounding them both in auras of fiery energy. They both crouched, spun as they rose, and then flicked their arms up and curled them, drawing the same shape as the Aries star sign.

“Provide me an attack to make ease of this conflict!” Leos finished. The energy around him and Prem spiked, expanding greatly. Pulses of wind came from them both, but then the auras burst harmlessly, disappearing into nothing. Leos and Prem were left dumbfounded in their poses, confused as to what should have happened.

“It failed,” Griselle said, disappointed.

“What was supposed to happen? I suppose we’re not really fighting anything right now, so,” Leos mumbled, turning back to the others.

Shaymin’s eyes were closed and she shook her head, sighing deeply. “As I suspected. You can’t do it yet, even with the Heaven Seal.”

“You mean it actually failed?” Prem cried.

“Zenryoku artes don’t work unless the two Pokémon doing them are totally in sync. They don’t have to be perfect, but the line between their intentions has to be clear enough for them to share energy,” Shaymin explained, glaring at the duo. “One of you has doubts about the other.”

Leos and Prem glanced at each other, and then shook their heads. “That’s preposterous!”

“Preposterous or not, you can’t use the arte. That’s fact. Despite that, will you still attempt to return to Eris?” Shaymin said, glaring at them.

“You saw the energy appear, though. The Heaven Seal worked,” Leos argued.

“I never said the Heaven Seal didn’t work. Your Zenryoku arte didn’t work,” she repeated. Leos gulped and stepped backwards. “I can still send you back to Eris, but until you learn to perform your Zenryoku arte, you have no chance of defeating the Tapu. Will you still go?”

“U-um, sorry for asking but,” Prem squeaked, sticking a hand in between them. “I noticed that attack was similar to the one Charle did on us. He drew his star sign with that Primarina knight he had with him. But was their bond really that strong?”

“It’s a type of arte that only high ranking Constellars can do as well. What’s a knight of Faernia doing knowing a Zenryoku arte?” Blossom added. “In case you’re wondering, I was briefed on them years ago while I was still a Constellar myself. These artes were… very elite, though. They were intended to be used as absolute last resorts. I had never seen one get used until then.”

“I won’t have the answer to that question. You will have to ask this ‘Charle’ Pokémon yourself,” Shaymin replied.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about that since they came here, too,” Nier spoke up, putting her paws on her hips. “The last time I saw Charle was when he showed up at that battle. That one where Princess Diantha fell… do you think Master Lin did something when we left him there?”

“I’d safely gamble on it. I still can’t figure out exactly what that monster’s up to,” Vincent said.

“You two know Master Lin? And Charle?” Leos asked.

“It’s a long story, but yeah, we’ve got history with ‘em,” Nier said.

I’ve got history with them. You just can’t seem to tell the guy to buzz off,” Vincent corrected.

“Hey I was there too, okay? Don’t count me out just ‘cos you got that fantasy tale with ‘em,” she pouted. “Listen, Leos. If you’re heading back up there, I wanna come with you. I’ve gotta make sure that everything’s alright.”

“M-Mum? And Dad, too?” Griselle cried. “Really? It’s hard enough trying to be in public without you guys around.”

“This is important. Regardless, it has been a long while. It’ll be good to be beside Her Highness again,” Vincent said, patting his daughter’s head. She grumbled at him.

“I’ll go back. Whether or not we can do the Zenryoku arte, we can’t sit around here and do nothing now. We’ll find a way to stop the Tapu, somehow,” Leos answered Shaymin at last, turning back to her.

“I can’t give any predictions about the current state of the planets. I can only transport you to one location on either planet, too. Where would you like to go?” Shaymin replied.

“Eris. That’s where Tapu Bulu was headed.”

“You’ll land in the Terrihstoric Wasteland. Make sure you are prepared for that travel,” she warned.

“Oh- right, yeah! I’ll go get packed and stuff real quick. Gimme a little bit!” Nier squeaked, hopping up and running off.

“Me too, actually! There’s some stuff I can grab from our tent now that I’m back here. Be back in a sec, my prince!” Griselle giggled, skipping away.

“What could you have? You seemed prepared enough when I met you on Faernia,” Leos asked.

“A new armour set. Gotta dress properly if we’re going to a proper war, right?” she said, waving to him playfully.

“That’s a good point, actually,” He muttered to himself, putting his hands on his hips. “I doubt I could wear a convenient armour set, but I could at least get myself a decent shield or something down here.”

“You’ve got your scalchop, and my Reflect and Light Screen moves. That should be enough, right?” Blossom said, giving him a cheeky look. Leos glanced at her and then at his scalchop, groaning in bother.

“Prince Leos,” Vincent spoke up, sounding far more serious than before. “Do you mind if I talk to you for a minute? Dewott to Oshawott.”

Leos didn’t reply, raising a hand to his party that told them he was okay with it. Vincent directed him out and around the tent, where he went in between a thin corridor of treehouses. The night sky made it all difficult to see, so Leos had to walk slowly and feel his way through for most of it. His main concern was accidentally tapping on one of the treehouses in case he bothered any sleeping inhabitants, all until he realised just how far Vincent was taking him. They ended up in a clearing a good few minutes from the tents, surrounded by nothing but twilit fields of short grass.

“Is there something wrong? We’re far out,” Leos said, glancing back. Vincent didn’t look at him for a moment, waving his tail irritably.

“You and my daughter went to the Ruins of Origin. You found the Lock Ball there, didn’t you?” he asked.

Leos’ eyes thinned. “That peculiar piece of tech that can seal Pokémon. That’s what you’re worried about?”

“Return it to the ruins. Now,” he ordered, turning around. His face was stern and intimidating. “The power that this ball has is the greatest sin we have as Pokémon. It isn’t to be handled by anyone.”

“I see. So that answers an obvious question: it can seal any Pokémon without fail, can’t it?” Leos asked. Vincent didn’t reply. “I still want to do a few observations with it in my spare time, if you don’t mind.”

“No! No one is to know of its existence or its power. If there is even the slightest chance that a weapon like this could fall into the wrong hands, I must do everything in my power to prevent that,” Vincent begged, stepping closer.

“You don’t need to worry. Only me and Griselle know about it. I won’t even tell Prem,” he assured.

“Leos, please. I was sealed in that ball for over a thousand years!” Vincent shouted. “Its potential isn’t to be underestimated. Nothing good can come of anyone having knowledge of it. It can’t be destroyed, so it is best left down here, in the ruins where no one goes.”

Leos shut his eyes and looked down, taking in a deep breath. “You know, my Mother and Father complicated a lot of my journey by not explaining everything Shaymin just told me. I could’ve had a goal if I knew what they were working towards, staying away from society the way they are. You could prevent that, as well.”

Vincent breathed out and trembled, shuffling backward a few paces. “I lived in Etheria, a thousand years ago. I was just a fighter in training, practicing to become the guardian of my village. My life was set until the one day where I was supposed to take over.”

Leos folded his arms, listening intently.

“My teacher was… Master Lin. A Samurott with that name, and my surrogate Father. He taught me everything I know about the world and fighting. We set out to have an exam at our village’s shrine, a shrine of the Tapu,” he recalled, beginning to growl. “I haven’t even told Her Highness this part. But he attacked me head on, instead of doing what we planned. I was defeated with ease, and when I came to, I was being operated on.”

“Operated on?” Leos replied, widening his eyes.

“Master Lin tried to turn me into the thing you are. The hero of Etheria. He wanted that power for himself, and I was his pawn in the experiment. But I broke free and fought back, and we both succumbed to the effects of that accursed experiment. I became this hybrid, incapable of using any Pokémon attacks. It’s a miracle I’m even still alive, as is with him. But he sealed me in the Lock Ball as a last resort,” he explained. Leos glanced at the Lock Ball in disbelief. “Think about it. Not only was I sealed perfectly within the ball, but it maintained my form for over a thousand years. Even now, I’m as alive as I was back then.”

“It’s astounding. To seal and maintain a form for that long with no form of decay whatsoever, that’s quite the technology,” Leos remarked. “I don’t blame you for being fearful of its potential, but if Master Lin created this, then there is little stopping him from creating more.”

“Regardless, no other Lock Balls or technology similar has surfaced. When I discovered that Lin was still alive, I dedicated all the time I could to trying to stop him from doing whatever he is planning. But as the head of a religious cult of his own, there was only so far I could get. I can’t attack him without reason,” he replied, holding his hand out. “Just keep the ball here, Leos. It’s for the best of the world.”

“Yes, Master Lin is the head of the Constellars. I doubt he’s held onto the same plan for one thousand years, but that does give me more of a lead. One thing’s for sure, he’s definitely after some kind of sacred power. Between a legendary hero and the high priest of a religion, the two are connected,” Leos rambled, looking away.

“Don’t try to distract me. Return the Lock Ball to the ruins!” Vincent said, raising his voice again. Leos grumbled and shook his head.

“I’m thinking about the task at hand. If I could replicate this technology somehow, we could seal the Tapu. If my Zenryoku arte isn’t working, then that’s a solu-”

“That isn’t a solution. I can’t allow anyone to replicate this kind of technology. It’s too powerful for the world!” Vincent shouted.

“Don’t underestimate me as a prince. I promise you that it won’t leave my possession,” Leos said.

“I see. You’re just like all the other royalty,” Vincent said with a sigh, calming down. “You weren’t going to return it, even with the weight of my story told to you. The only way to make you truly understand is to pry it from your dead body.”

“What?” Leos whispered. He flinched when Vincent stretched his feet apart and revealed a naginata, a long staff with a curved blade on the end. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“You leave me no choice but to kill you. I know this is high treason, but if it is to protect this world from the Lock Ball’s might, then that’s the sin I have to commit,” he replied. “Don’t get the wrong idea. You being prince of both planet’s royalty doesn’t mean anything to me when it comes to this. Besides, you’re in the Second Country, now… you don’t have any political power here. No one does.”

“You’re actually going to attack me? Right after proposing we team up for a common cause?” Leos gasped.

“Do you understand why, hybrid?” Vincent shouted. “I am only protecting you and the world from a big mistake that you’re making. I can’t afford to sit here and watch it happen, not when I’m partially to blame for it!”

Vincent gave a battle cry as he sprinted forward, forcing Leos to act fast. The Oshawott barely managed to form a Razor Shell before he was in front of him, thrusting his naginata with wicked speed and force. He missed the first two attacks and then resorted to wide swings, spinning the weapon around with expert skill.

Leos attempted to retaliate by swinging his weapon in the opposite direction, but wound up getting smacked silly by the force he was up against. He coughed and cried out, concentrating on making sure he was facing forward. The first two strikes span him around even though he blocked them, and his arms felt like they were punching a brick wall. A third strike finally hit Leos directly, causing him to lose his balance and fall on his backside.

“Is that the best you can do? Even with the power of the Heaven Seal?” Vincent shouted, pointing his weapon at Leos’ face.

Leos growled and spat out a Water Gun, catching Vincent by surprise. The attack only brought him enough time to stand up and jump backwards, where he could charge a Water Pulse attack. He threw it with all the force he could, but Vincent slashed it in half, sprinting forwards to engage in close combat again.

“St-stop!” Leos gasped, clashing a Razor Shell against the naginata again. Just like before, every hit knocked him around so hard that his body spun, even though he was blocking each attack. He was eventually kicked to the floor again, where he lost his breath.

“And you want to stop the Tapu. I couldn’t possibly leave the fate of Etheria in the hands of someone so weak!” Vincent said, raising his weapon. Leos flinched when he thrust it one final time, expecting to take a fatal, painful stab. A high-pitched squeal sounded out instead, and Vincent was knocked backwards.

“What?” Leos whispered, daring to open his eyes. Griselle was standing over him with her scalchop out, struggling to pull her lance from her back. She was wearing armour similar to the armour set he first met her in, silver, heavy, and clearly unsuited for her figure. Her lance was strapped to her back, and her paws couldn’t reach it.

“Leos, are you alright?” she squealed, glancing back at him. He couldn’t reply, gawking at her as he got to his feet. “Oh thank the gods I don’t take long to get dressed. Dad, what the heck’re you doing?”

“Griselle,” Vincent breathed out, shaking his head. “Move. This is a duel between us.”

“Forget that! We were just getting ready to fight a war. Why’re you trying to clobber the prince?” she said, finally managing to retrieve her weapon.

“This is between us. A battle of ideals and responsibility,” he replied, resuming a battle pose.

“I won’t let you hurt him. Y-you wanna hurt Leos, you have to go through me, first!” she said, gritting her teeth.

There was a long pause. The father and daughter stared at each other with rage in their eyes, neither redirecting their eyes one bit for an unsettling length of time. Leos shuddered as he watched them, but a wave of relief washed over him when Vincent returned his weapon to its folded state on his back. He stood tall and stepped back. “Tsk. If that’s how this is going to go, then we’ll settle this another time.”

“No, you won’t. I’m not letting you hurt my prince,” Griselle assured.

“Griselle,” Leos whispered.

“Griselle. I’ll talk to you later,” Vincent said, shaking his head. He walked off after that, walking around the two hybrids as if what he had just done to them didn’t leave them on edge. They watched him until he disappeared into the night, loosing their stances when they were certain they were alone.

“Whoa okay, I can’t believe I just did that,” Griselle said with a sigh, stretching her arms. “The heck actually happened? I-I can’t beat Dad in a fight you know, so if he’d actually attacked me, we’d be in trouble, I think?”

“And you challenged him anyway?” Leos said.

“Well yeah, he was attacking you! With his spear thingy and everything. I had to step in!” she cried.

Leos gawked at her again, making a sound. He shook his head and groaned. “He wanted me to return the Lock Ball to the ruins. But I might be able to use it, so I want to hold on to it.”

“That all? How’d he even find out we took it?” she replied, looking back at where Vincent went. “He takes it way more seriously than I thought. Sorry about that.”

“Griselle. Thank you, seriously. That’s twice I owe you for saving me, now. And this time, you did it even though you knew you couldn’t beat your foe,” Leos said, growling. He scrunched up his face. “The things you Pokémon are doing for me, the things you’re about to do… how could I even make up for all this? Just saying ‘thanks’ clearly isn’t enough.”

“I know how you can make it up to me! You don’t even have to think about it,” she sung, skipping around him. She stopped in front of him and put her hands on his cheeks, lifting his face so that they were eye-to-eye. “Kiss me.”

“Wha-what?” he stuttered.

“Yeah. Let’s kiss. That’d make me really happy!”

“Wa-wa-wait, Griselle, I-” he stuttered again, stiffening. “I appreciate it, really, but a kiss is a bit much?”

“Just as a reward for someone who saved you life, twice?” she teased, batting her eyelids. He groaned nervously. “You know how much I really like you, too.”

“Okay, hold on. I had this talk with Prem, too,” he replied, stiffening again. “I don’t mind your affection, really. I’m pretty surprised you like me this much as well, to be honest. And unlike the exploiters in story books, you’ve shown me you do really care about me, you’re not just doing this because I’m royalty. It’s impressive, and it means a lot.”

She blushed and giggled, twiddling her feet and hands. “But I just can’t do that sort of thing. I do have some feelings, but I have to be absolutely sure because of who I am. And I definitely couldn’t kiss with someone I’ve known for as short a time as you.”

“Aww, Leos! It doesn’t have to be a confession or anythin’. Just the chance to make out once would make my year!” she laughed.

“That’s not what a kiss is to me, though. And… ‘making out’ is another level. It’s also not what you said the first time,” he said, folding his arms.

“Okay okay, so maybe I have the hots for ya a little too much for your liking,” she moaned, looking away.

“It’s not that, I honestly don’t mind. I actually like how you’re-” he said, cutting himself off to go into a thought pose. She blushed again, trying not to look at him. “Just think. If I were to kiss or show that much affection to another and it’s not part of a full relationship, that’s what represents me to both planets. I just have to be absolutely certain that that’s what I want before I do it.”

“It’s okay, I get it,” she groaned.

“Sorry about that, Griselle. But thanks for understanding. I can make it up to you another way, so just think of something, okay?” he said, smiling at her. She looked up at him and nodded, keeping a paw on her chin.

“Yeah,” she mouthed, staring at him for a moment. “Hold still a moment, you’ve got something on your face. Let me get it off.”

“Oh?” he replied, rubbing a cheek to try and feel it.

She skipped right up to him, lightly held both cheeks, and then dove forwards to kiss him on the lips, making a ‘mwa’ sound as she savoured the moment by keeping them connected. He was so shocked that he froze completely, left with the goofiest expression when she backed away. She laughed cheekily, blowing him a kiss afterwards.

“That was all I wanted, and that’s all! No one else has to know, ‘kay? I’ll see you back at the tents, my prince!” she laughed, skipping away.

He remained frozen to the spot for a few moments, unable to believe what he’d just felt. It took until a chilly wind made him shiver that he finally closed his mouth and shook himself off, unable to stop himself from blushing. “So that’s why they say your first kiss is the most special.”


Competitive Mijumaru
Wooo, page 3. Just fitting for the final arc of the story. Also fitting is that this part is about twice as long as the others, since it tells a pivotal part in the story. You've waited long enough, so I hope you enjoy it!


Episode 27: The Heavenly Execution


“What are you, nuts?” Nier squealed, pulling her head fur up.

“No? I made a perfectly sane and sound decision,” Vincent replied. He barely moved, keeping his arms folded while he leaned against the back wall of the treehouse.

“You attacked the fricking prince! With a spear!” Nier cried. “You should be hanged for that!”

“I told you why, I told you what happened, and you yourself can see the result-”

It’s perfectly sane and sound, huh? It is, isn’t it?” Nier cried, prodding him with her rapier.

“Ow- hey- quit it, okay- stop, I get it!”

“It’s sound! It’s sane! Hold up a sec, lemme try and kill ya ‘cos you don’t agree with me!”

Leos groaned as he watched the two Meowstic dance around the treehouse, not knowing what to say at all. The others exchanged awkward glances with him or shrugged, all until the couple went crashing to the ground. They resorted to playfully slapping each other, though they clearly put in enough intent to actually hurt one another.

Besides that, everyone was ready. Mentally ready to return to the world above and deal with the war that was inevitably happening. Griselle had a heavy metal costume that hid most of her appearance, Blossom had been given a leather shield, and Leos and Prem had their Zenryoku arte. There was some uncertainty about whether it would work in the face of Tapu Bulu or not, but either way, the duo was prepared to set off and try it. If it didn’t work, Leos knew he had the Lock Ball.

Shaymin finally showed up, causing the room to go quiet and focused. She set down some sort of mat with some puzzle piece shaped cards in it, three filling a space on top of the mat.

“Prince Leos. Take this,” she said, giving him another mat. His one had the cards separated from it. “They’re called Entercards. They’re ancient tools to summon Magnagates, portals that can lead anywhere in the world. This one is pre-set to return you to the Second Country, should you ever need it.”

“Shaymin,” he replied, not knowing what to say.

“This one I’m about to use will send you to the Terrihstoric Wasteland. From there, the show is yours,” she said, turning her back. “I suggest you seek out a library or something. Learn how to make Magnagates on your own. I won’t be around to make them for you after this.”

“What do you mean? Couldn’t we just come back here and ask you?” Griselle asked. Shaymin turned back around, looking solemn about something. She giggled, dismissing that mood with a shake of her head.

“Either way, you’ve dropped a blast seed, there. Being able to make portals that go anywhere, of course I’d research how to do something like that,” Leos agreed. He looked over everyone and gulped. “Our army is small, but we have to do something. Let’s go.”

At his call, Shaymin inserted the last Entercard into her mat, and then stamped on it with a shout. Psychic power surrounded her with her cry, appearing as an intimidating blue emanation of energy. This colour took over Shaymin’s body completely, followed by the cards, and then some markings on the ground. The markings were all circular, growing wider and wider until the energy finally burst, almost blowing everyone away.

“Whoa,” Leos whispered, taken aback by the glowing portal before him. It was flat on the ground, like a swirling puddle of varying blues. The light from it stretched up through the roof of the treehouse in a perfect cylinder, while heavy wind blew away from the portal constantly.

“Grandma!” Griselle cried, drawing their attentions to Shaymin. The tiny hedgehog was still surrounded by blue energy, and she was panting heavily.

“That’s it for me, I’m afraid. That’s the last thing I can do for the time being,” she huffed.

“Wait what, you don’t mean- you’re not gonna die, are you?” Griselle cried, rushing over to her.

“In your mortal eyes, yes, I am going to die. But that’s what fate chose. Don’t mourn for me. It was bound to happen, and it’s not without great cause,” Shaymin said. Her voice sounded positive for the first time, despite how tired and weak her posture showed. Her voice was echoing as well, like she was getting physically further and further away from them.

“You helped us raise our child. You aided me to no end when I first showed up here, even though I was a hybrid that no one trusted. And now, you’re giving your life to help us all the more,” Vincent said, stepping forward. “Don’t tell us not to mourn for you. That’s impossible for someone who’s done so much for us all.”

“You’re like, basically my mother! You can’t just do this suddenly,” Nier gasped.

“Your mother?” Shaymin replied. There was a pause. “That’s a wonderful thought. I knew Griselle called me ‘grandma’, but I just saw that as a cute gesture from a child. I never considered that I could be called a mother. I’m not even allowed to be one.”

Despite being made of the blue energy, it looked like she changed form right there. The shape of flowers bloomed on her back, like many Gracidea sprouting in season. It almost looked like Shaymin was blushing and smiling as well, and she lifted her head high. “But it means a lot. Thank you, Nier! But remember everything I told you. We legends don’t really die. I’m simply returning to my slumber.”

“Shaymin!” Nier cried, stepping forward. In a flash, Shaymin disappeared completely, leaving nothing but a brief sparkle of blue glitter.

“I’ve told you my story and given you all the information I can. Now you can return to the realm. With that, I have given you everything I can. Don’t let me down, now. When I come back, I’ll be able to look upon Etheria and smile!”

And those were her last words, echoing from beyond reality into their minds. No one said anything for a while, letting the futuristic sound of the Magnagate and its swirling wind take over the scene. It wasn’t until the portal started letting out a new noise, like an alarm of some sort, that everyone realised their time was short. Leos swiped his hand to get everyone moving, and they all jumped into the portal.

Just like that, the full group were whisked away almost too fast for their liking. The colours of the portal took over their surroundings completely, rolling past like a never-ending backdrop that they were travelling through at light speed. They were still able to stand still while they travelled like this however, so after a short moment of rubbing their eyes, they got used to the light.

“She must’ve known that this would happen. That’s why she was so mad at me for failing her,” Leos said, curling his hands. “Why didn’t she just stay strict and keep us down here?”

“Because you were so intent on getting back and fighting Tapu Bulu. She must’ve also known that she couldn’t hold you back,” Nier replied, paws on her hips. Leos gawked at her. “I know Shaymin. She was always doing things for the benefit of other Pokémon. She was definitely harsher with you, but I suppose that’s only because of the legend thing.”

“… So it’s my fault again, huh?” Leos sighed, gritting his teeth.

“Don’t see it that way, my lord. She wouldn’t have done this if she knew you weren’t determined to see this through,” Blossom replied, rubbing his back. He spared her a little smile.

“That was so sudden, though. She didn’t really just die, did she? She couldn’t have killed herself just opening the portal for us,” Prem cried.

“She’s gone, that’s for sure. But like she told us in her story, legendary Pokémon don’t really die. They return to the part of nature from whence they came,” Vincent replied. “Chances are, we’ll go back there and they’ll be a bed of Gracidea and flowers.”

“And if we don’t win, she’ll have to revive, right? So she can tell another group of Pokémon what she told us,” Griselle said.
“That’s right. It’s just like her to leave us guessing if that was her intent,” Nier said, rubbing her daughter’s head fur. “Except that this time, I’m certain that’s what she wants. So nothing to do but to do our best, right?”

Leos didn’t reply, looking down. He stared at the Entercards he’d been given, squinting in frustration. “No, wait. It’s not going to happen overnight. All I can do from here on is learn. Keep paying attention to other Pokémon, and learn all I can about them. She saved Blossom’s life, taught me a Zenryoku arte… Shaymin. Thank you for everything.

He put the Entercards away and scanned his party, locking eyes with Griselle. “You okay, Griselle? If you need a moment-”

“No way, I’m fine, Leos! Really!” she cried, standing straight. “Let’s focus.”

“A-are you sure? You don’t need to push yourself or anything,” he assured, sweating a little.

She slowly shook her head. “When I decided to devote myself to you, I knew I’d have to face things like this. Pokémon risking their lives and Pokémon I care about getting hurt… I couldn’t do anything about it this time, but when it comes to battle, I’ll do everything I can to protect them. I’ll die before you do, if it comes to it.”

He couldn’t reply with anything more than a slight shudder. His eyes were wide and he was almost gawking, keeping his fangs together.

“That’s our girl! Tougher than the metal on her shoulder. Us too, Prince Leos! We’re part of your army for the time being. So hang back and let us do the heavy lifting!” Nier said, getting his attention. He only managed to glance at her before they reached their destination, signified by the background fading back out into reality.

A cold wind had everyone cringing while they got used to their new surroundings, but that was just the start of it. Leos immediately gasped, looking through the group at the dead area they had landed in. Grey clouds buried the sky as far as the eye could see, while fragile, cakey earth covered the rest. Cracks, fissures, and other uneven edges dotted the scenery, which if it wasn’t for the land going uphill, had no form of cover whatsoever. Not a tree or a dune or a shadow was in sight, letting the land stretch on like an endless void that led to nothing.

“Wait,” Leos whispered, slowly turning around. He took in a sharp breath, silenced by the emptiness that sat before him. But a conflict of nature had settled here, as trees, thorny bushes, and patches of tall grass seemed to grow amongst the cracked ground. It was all green and healthy, and it wasn’t coming out of the cracks, but the planet itself. Everything downhill was fighting against the various vegetation, ignoring the obvious scientific laws to grow to unrealistic size.

“What is all this? How is grass and stuff growing here?” Blossom asked, stepping forward.

Leos shook his head and growled. “Grass isn’t growing here. Tapu Bulu was here.”

“Oh, right. If we follow the stuff, we’ll reach him and the army, right?” Nier said, glancing at the group. “Not that I had any doubt, but this at least proves your story, though.”

“We don’t have time to lose. Let’s go,” Leos ordered, but Vincent stopped him before he could move an inch.

“A moment. This also means that the battle is already under way, and gods know how far it has progressed,” he warned, readying his naginata. “We’ll be jumping into the war mid-battle. We should take advantage and plan a proper strategy. There aren’t many of us, so if we can jump Tapu Bulu right from the start, we’ll save a lot of trouble.”

“That’s true. I’ll be thinking,” Leos said, setting off.

It didn’t take long for the party to lose their cool. As they trekked through the forested wasteland, the vegetation grew more and more mutated and disfigured. The further they walked, the more the trees gradually towered higher than mountains, leaning in various directions from their uneven weight. Oversized vines sprouted from the ground, swirling and weaving in a congested tangle that almost made a natural maze. The stench of pollen mixed with a ripe, damp smell to irritate their noses, like an excessive amount of perfume had been sprayed everywhere.

They couldn’t even walk quickly, as every few moments or so, a step that someone took would generate a nasty vibration or crumbling echo. It felt like they were walking on layers of paper - parts of the ground were chipping away or falling into the planet with every heavy step, particularly around the spots where the larger plant life was growing. No wind blew, so every sound was enough to make someone yelp or freeze up, expecting an ambush or something. Nothing came.

It felt like hours passed in their trip, and barely a word was shared during that time. So when Blossom suddenly skipped off the obvious path the plants made to investigate a spot, Leos cheered inside. She carefully dug around a bush, eventually using Psychic to retrieve whatever she spotted in there.

“Good gods!” she hissed, dropping her move in fright. She had pulled a dead body from the bush, a body so mangled and burnt up that its original species couldn’t be recognised.

Leos was the first to calm down and realise that the Pokémon was dead, deciding to approach. He felt his body grow colder and colder as he identified the countless methods of damage the poor Pokémon had suffered, all until he spotted the main cause of death: dark type damage. The Pokémon’s wounds were recent, and its body actually still bled in places – the Pokémon had died before taking the stabs, burns and such, likely due to the mental damage dark and psychic type moves deal. Its eyes were even still open, but lifeless.

“Wait, if he’s still bleeding, then-” he whispered to himself, leaving the body behind. He climbed a nearby arching stem to get a good look at the horizon, and almost choked on his own breath.

They were on the border of the no man’s land that the war had created. The mutant vegetation stopped growing past this bundle of giant vines and bushes, making way for a great clearing of wasteland. This clearing was littered with groaning corpses, from Pokémon on the verge of death to those already passed, lying lifeless with weapons piercing their vitals or parts of their bodies missing.

Leos shuddered, standing tall as he looked over the suffering combatants. Hakamo-o, Goodra, Charizard, Tsareena, Azumarill, Froslass, Mawile, and more littered the battlefield, all stinking of rot and stained with blood and burns from the heavy impact of Pokémon attacks. Neither side was at a clear advantage, sharing equal amounts of saddening casualties.

“But why?” he whispered, unable to believe what he was seeing. “Just because the Tapu are mad? Is that truly why all this has to happen?”

“Leos, get down,” Vincent said, pulling him flat onto the stem. He could barely balance on its rounded surface by lying on his belly like this, but it presumably did a decent job of hiding him from sight. “Look to the left and right. Both armies are taking stalemate.”

Leos let out a trembling breath, slowly gazing at both ends. The dragons had created a trench that looked like a fissure, despite the fragile ground they had to work with. Meanwhile, the fairies had a combination of damaged airships and well-constructed forts on their side. The forts were mostly made from the vegetation that Tapu Bulu presumably grew, since he was stood on top of it all with his hooves pressed together.

“There he is. Right at the top of that big castle thing made of veggies,” Nier said, looking through binoculars. “Is that Charle, next to him?”

“Give me those. How can you not recognise him?” Vincent groaned, snatching to get a look himself. He let out a growl of wonder. “Wait, why is he?”

“See? He looks different. Like, darker or something,” she said, folding her arms.

“We just won’t be able to reach him with all the fairies protecting his perch. And no matter what we do, the terrain is disadvantageous. Out in the open like this, and with height advantage, we won’t be able to flank them, either,” Leos said, rubbing his chin.

“So no easy plans. If they were fighting, maybe we could sneak by or something,” Nier suggested.

Leos shook his head. “They have height advantage. That means they have scouts. Sneaking is impossible.”

“Leos, look!” Prem squeaked, pointing. He was already floating with his orb, hugging it tightly.

“Father,” Leos muttered, spotting Rune amongst a huddle of dragon types. He was leading a group across the clearing. “Wait, what? What is he doing?”

Rune was focused straight forward, concentrating on the weak ground in front of him, seemingly not caring at all about the fact that he was stepping out into the open. Many of the dragon types followed him from a distance, appearing a lot more aware. Even with them all of them put together, they were a small group, an easy target for the cannons on the airships. Surely enough, some callouts soon came from the Faernian side of the field, followed by cannons taking aim.

“No! They’re sitting Ducklett!” Leos cried.

“What does he think he’s doing?” Griselle cried.

None of the airships took off, but the way their cannons were moving, it was obvious that they were taking aim. A few moments later, white energy began to gather at the front of the cannon, as if it was charging a Moonblast attack.

“Griselle, put your shield up!” Nier shouted.

“Why? We’re so far-”

“Don’t question, just do it!” she gasped. Griselle obeyed, hiding as much of herself behind her scalchop as she could. The moment she did, Nier lifted her up using her psychic powers and flung her like a ball. Griselle was screaming of course, but with her trajectory, she would have no trouble intercepting the cannon shot to block it.

A second later, gasps sounded out from both Leos’ and Rune’s parties. The cannon fired, sending the huge Moonblast up into the air. It arched quickly and fell down straight towards them, big enough to engulf Rune’s group entirely.

“Ooh boy, that’s not good!” Griselle cried, landing in front of Rune. She maintained her balance, but skidded to stop in place. “D-don’t worry, your highness!”

“Get behind me!” the Dewott snapped, skidding in front of her at the last moment. He held the Sword of Earthly Elements tightly, one hand firmly on the hilt while the other pushed against the flat side of the blade. This stance surrounded the duo in a magical barrier, but that didn’t stop the wicked force from the attack from blowing everything around them away. The dragons behind Rune were all overwhelmed and sent back into their trench, defeated by the single attack, while Rune and Griselle escaped unscathed.

“Whoa, how did you do that?” Griselle asked excitedly. Rune slowly glanced at her, and then faced forward.

“You were with Leos. What’re you doing here?” he replied.

“Father!” Leos called, sprinting over with the others.

“I should’ve guessed,” he sighed, shaking his head. “All of you. Stay clear. I will take care of this.”

“No. What’re you doing here? I thought you were trying to stop war? That’s what you told me!” Leos raised his voice. Rune sighed again.

“I just got here. The Faernians attacked so suddenly that they got a lot of casualties in. If it weren’t for Erinians being such savages, they could’ve taken a town or two of ours,” he replied, becoming stern. “Once I learnt that Tapu Bulu was involved, I went out of my way to come here. They haven’t gotten anywhere, and won’t. Not with the sword on my side. And he knows that.”

“Let me help you. If you’re really going to stop this war like you say, then you have no reason to refuse us,” Leos said, facing forward. “With me, Prem!”

“You can’t do anything here. Get to safety,” Rune ordered.

“We’re both on the same side, aren’t we? Let me fight.”

“This isn’t a game. You’ll die here, Leos. You and your friends need to leave. Now.”

“We’re not children. Don’t treat me like one!”

“Guys,” Prem shuddered, watching the water types bicker. Rune silenced them both however, putting his arm in front of Leos’ face. He fidgeted out of the way but saw why, as Tapu Bulu had jumped from his perch to land on the battlefield.

“He came to us? What?” Vincent said. No one else questioned it, beginning to shake as the grass type legendary approached. He was slow and barely moved out of his initial pose, keeping his hooves pressed together.

“This sword protects its user. It allows me to confront an enemy directly, challenging them to a duel,” Rune explained. Tapu Bulu stopped a good few metres in front, staring at their party. “Tapu Bulu knows that. Me coming here and using this is a declaration of battle. If I should fall here, then our army forfeits. If I win, the Faernians leave.”

“Just like the battles written in history,” Leos muttered. He stared right into Tapu Bulu’s motionless, empty eyes. The legendary stared back in complete silence, unnerving the others into fidgeting. Leos himself couldn’t help but wipe his forehead of sweat he couldn’t feel.

“Well what do you know, you survived that fall!” Charle laughed, stepping around Tapu Bulu.

“You! Charle, what in the world do you think you’re doing?” Nier cried.

“Is that- Lady Nier?” he gasped. “Fortune smiles upon me today. I should get what I want now. Wanna make this quick? Come here, honey.”

“Answer the question, Charle,” Vincent said firmly.

“Shut up, hybrid. Come here, Nier honey. We have a lot of catching up to do,” the Meowth snickered, holding a palm forward.

“Heck yeah we do! Like where you disappeared off to when we left you back there all those years ago. Or why you’re here fighting with the Faernian army? We were supposed to be stopping war from happening, not starting one!” she replied, paws on her hips.

“Don’t worry about any of that. Come with me, and you won’t have to worry about any of that ever again. Or any difficult things, for that matter,” he proposed, holding his paws up. “I’ve seen the way. The powers I have now, the control over everything that I have – I always get what I want, so I could make you a queen! All you have to do is return my love. The pleasures of your dreams would only be the start of it!”

Everyone turned to Nier, who let out an exasperated groan. “Oh. My. Gods. You’re still on about that? Don’t you have a wife now or something?”

“A mate. That’s what I have. A dignified mate. And I want you to be my primary mate. That’s all you have to do for me,” he clarified. Nier raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps you’re worried. Don’t be. I know how to make both of us come together every time, if you know what I mean.”

“Urgh, knock it off!” she shuddered. “Listen, Charle. I have a husband, and a kid. And although I find you funny, I’ve never been romantically attracted to you. So please, just knock it off. We have more important stuff to deal with.”

“Looks like you don’t understand exactly what I’m talking about here,” Charle said, getting cross. He stepped forward, and Leos and the others stepped back the same distance. “I always get what I want now. And what I want now is for you to be my primary mate. I decided that. With these powers, you don’t have the strength to resist me. But you’ll like it in the end, anyway. I know you will. That’s just the kind of quality I have. No one listens until I show them what I can do. Once they see it for themselves, once they feel it… you will want more. You will never want me to leave your side.”

“Okay, I’ve heard enough of that. I underestimated you last time, but you won’t defeat me again,” Blossom interrupted, daring to step forward. “The lady said no. That’s that.”

“I said shut up!” he raised his voice, shrieking at them.

“Well this is getting noisy,” Rune groaned, standing straight up. Charle snapped to silence, suddenly smiling maniacally at them.

“Fine then. If you want it to be that way, then fine! It’s already setup, anyway. You fools will fall to my might. Meanwhile, Tapu Koko’s plan will reach stage one,” he snickered.

“Tapu Koko’s plan?” Leos whispered.

“Boy,” Tapu Bulu spoke up, surprising everyone. His eyes were locked on Leos, who flinched at the tone of his rough, deep, and powerful voice. “You have it, don’t you? The Zenryoku arte.”

Leos gulped and nodded, to which Prem shifted to his side.

“Then your opponent is me! While our lord Tapu Bulu deals with the main issue, I’ll deal with your rabble,” Charle cheered, still showing his teeth.

Vincent was about to make a snide comment, but choked on the first word when Charle appeared right in front of Rune and slammed his sword into the Dewott’s chest. Rune blocked it, but not without coughing and growling at the surprising speed of it. The attack was so quick and forceful that Charle pushed them both backward for a second, and then Rune started to push forward to stop them.

“Wait, what?” Nier gasped. She struggled to watch them exchange slashes, hitting their blades against one another so hard that the sounds of their battle echoed far. They eventually hopped a good few paces from each other, but Rune was focused and furious, now.

“Leave my son out of this! The duel is between you and me, Tapu Bulu!” Rune shouted.

“But it isn’t. It isn’t even a duel involving you, prince,” Charle laughed. Everyone’s eyes widened when he began to levitate off the ground slightly, releasing light shockwaves of darkness from his feet. “Come at me! I’ll take you all on at once. You’ll see just how worthless you all are before me!”

“Oh pipe down already,” Vincent replied, jumping towards him first. Charle only moved at the last moment, but he was fast enough to block Vincent’s attack completely. Vincent kept at it however, spinning, kicking, stabbing, and swiping with his naginata to try and land a hit. Charle avoided or blocked it all, fluently floating around to keep Vincent moving across the battlefield. He eventually tripped over a body, giving Charle an easy hit with his claws.

“Vincent!” Nier cried, raising her ears to use Psychic. The hybrid had only been hit by Slash, but it sent him staggering away to make room for the others. Nier’s Psychic blast came in not a second later, but Charle didn’t so much as blink from the impact. “What?”

“He’s showing characteristics of a dark type. Psychic type moves are having no effect!” Blossom warned, trying the same attack to no avail.

Rune was next, shooting a Water Pulse with just one hand. He chased it before it hit Charle, who blocked both the Water Pulse and Rune’s sword. The two ended up face to face, grinding their blades against one another.

“Killing you is going to be especially fun, prince,” Charle snickered.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” he retorted, growling with effort.

They pushed against each other for a moment, until Charle revealed a free paw. Not only was he not putting as much effort into the fight as Rune, but he held a Dark Pulse around that paw, threatening to fire it at point blank range. Seeing the impending danger, Rune Kicked back and surrounded himself in water, using Aqua Jet to escape.

The next moment had the others in states of shock. Rune and Charle zipped around the battlefield so fast that they couldn’t be followed, smashing against each other periodically with mighty hits. Each collision created a burst of energy somewhere in the space, half water and half darkness. This carried on until Rune finally got the upper hand, catching Charle by the neck and smashing him into the ground. Charle jumped right back to his feet, but not without snarling at his predicament.

“So you do have some fight in you. I expected a lazy royal like you to rely on your weapon,” he said, stretching his neck. It clicked loudly.

Meanwhile, Leos, Prem, and Tapu Bulu were still staring at each other. Leos was waiting for the legendary to speak or act, to give some sign to say that their duel had begun. He didn’t move at all, keeping his empty eyes on the Oshawott. The reason why soon became apparent, as the Faernian army began to gather behind him.

“Wait, is this an ambush?” Leos whispered, turning around. The Erinian army had done the same for his side, and their presence had halted Charle’s fight against the others.

“I must admit, I’m impressed, boy. You survived Charle’s attack, and a fall from a great height. If you should truly be capable of a Zenryoku arte, then you might entertain me with a good battle,” Tapu Bulu finally spoke. Leos lost his tension. “You are aware of how duels work, correct? You will be the deciding factor in the outcome of this battle.”

Strange. He sounds sane. Does he know that the arte will kill him?” Leos asked himself. He shook his head. “No. We’ve thought about this already. We’ve seen the casualties and the damage. This god needs to be put down, and this is my chance to do it.

“I accept your challenge. I’ll stop whatever crazed reign you intend to have,” Leos announced, stepping forward.

“Good. But do not misunderstand my intentions. I simply wish to have an engaging battle,” he replied. Leos and Prem loosened. “The Pokémon of Eris are said to be more savage in combat, raised in harsh conditions. This has proven true by the prowess they’ve shown in combat thus far. But none of them compare to me.”

“You’re really doing this just so you can have a good fight?” Leos asked.

“Their power pales in comparison to mine. There is nowhere or no excuse for me to unleash my full strength, and I have grown bored. I wish to fully engage in combat, but there is no satisfaction to be had if the opponent falls at my simplest action,” he said.

“That- that’s so wrong,” Prem whimpered.

“You’re literally killing hundreds of Pokémon,” Leos cried, shuddering. “Are you really doing this just because you’re bored and want a good fight?”

“You spout similar nonsense to the fallen kings of ages past. But don’t you Erinians kill simply for nourishment? What difference lies between yours and mine wishes that deems me morally wrong?” he replied. Leos looked down, shaking uncontrollably. “Perhaps it is time to put Erinians in their place. To right the wrong ways of your citizens by punishing you all with death. The least you could do is make it entertaining, however. You, the boy capable of a Zenryoku arte.”

“For a moment there, I thought you weren’t insane. A small part of me thought that there was some remarkable reason that sparked your travel to Eris, gave you a valid reason for all this death,” Leos said, slowly looking up right into Tapu Bulu’s eyes. “Now I know Shaymin wasn’t lying. You’re just a god gone mad that’s lost his heart. The Pokémon of Eris don’t eat each other because they want to – they have no choice! Your blessings don’t reach them, and so nothing on their planet grows!”

“Spare me the details, boy. I am done with pity. If that was so much of a problem, then why do the Pokémon not do anything about it? Instead they prepare themselves for battle, hardening each other before they kill themselves from the inside. Killing them for enjoyment is a kindness,” he replied.

Leos’ glare intensified, and he crossed his arms. “I’ve heard enough. You think killing them for circumstances beyond their control – circumstances you yourself could help – is acceptable? And for your own sick enjoyment, no more? I won’t let you go any further, Tapu Bulu! This ends now!”

“Good, you do know it! Hit me with it. Show me the true extent of your power. Hit me with the power only true gods can achieve!” Tapu Bulu laughed with rising excitement.

“I call upon the stars to grant me your blessing!” Leos began, glowing with aura. Prem copied in perfect sync, besides the worried expression on his face. A heavy wind blew from them both as golden light surrounded them, both Pikachu and Oshawott posing in the shape of the Aries star sign. “Provide me an attack to make ease of this conflict!”

Just like last time, the energy around them spiked to an all time high, and then burst harmlessly, all the light and energy dispersing into a single burst of wind that only ruffled fur. Seeing that, Prem panicked, glancing left and right and whimpering aloud. “Oh no, it still didn’t work!”

But Leos ignored that. He was too angry to care if it looked like it worked or not. With the gamble in his mind that he had absorbed the aura or something, he swiped his scalchop aside, formed a Razor Shell, and threw himself at Tapu Bulu with a loud, angry cry. He impacted with all his strength, so much force behind his swing that he winded himself on hit. But Tapu Bulu didn’t so much as blink or shift, staring down at the Razor Shell harmlessly laying on his chest.

“What?” Leos choked.

“I’m disappointed, boy. Perhaps it was all a fluke. You are mortal, however. It was to be expected that you couldn’t do any better than that,” he said, his tone of voice telling of that genuine disappointment.

Leos vaulted away from him the moment his hooves moved, avoiding a Wood Hammer attack that was executed so fast he didn’t even see it. That wasn’t the end of Tapu Bulu’s attack however, as he rose his decorated hooves with a triumphant cheer. At his call, several vines and roots magically sprouted from the earth below their feet, all from random spots that shifted everyone into full focus.

“Stop!” Leos hissed, almost tripping over one that sprouted near him. Many came from afar, growing without cease to stretch across the air, threatening to pierce him like thrown daggers.

“Leos!” Rune roared at the top of his voice, caught in the middle of his own battle with the vines. In fact everyone was, even the Faernian soldiers behind the god were having to hop, shield, or attack their way out of the onslaught of plants. There were so many that no one could even do a job of looking out for each other, and countless Pokémon were getting pierced right through by the second.

It didn’t take long before Leos joined them. He jumped, spun, and even managed to cut one in twain before he was overwhelmed by three stems at once. If it wasn’t for him tripping over as he stumbled backwards, the stem might have hit him through his chest, but instead it hit him just above his left arm, going right through his bubble collar and back out the other side.

He let out an agonizing scream at a higher pitch than he himself knew he could let out. All seemed to recognise it was him, as the plants suddenly retracted at Tapu Bulu’s command – even the one that went through Leos. It forced its way back through him, unplugging his wound to bring a gush of blood and flesh with it, as well as another scream from the Oshawott.

“Leos!” everyone screamed. He did his best to stay standing, but the sight of a puddle of blood forming at his feet made him lose his strength and confidence in an instant. He fell forward onto all fours, breathing desperately and trembling as the blood stained his hands and feet. He couldn’t believe how much he was losing, nor the pain that drank his strength by the bucketload. He couldn’t even hear or feel anything anymore, aware that he was likely going to die at any moment.

It’s all my fault… it’s my fault… all my fault!” Prem whimpered, staring in just as much shock.

No one moved as Tapu Bulu let out a taunting laugh, bashing his hooves together. Charle made an effort to look threatening as well, keeping everyone away with his sword and an evil smile.

I failed. After everything, I still failed,” Leos whimpered in his head as well. “I can’t hurt him. I can barely move from this spot. He’s going to kill me!

The world blacked out for them both. Time slowed to almost a complete standstill, too. Leos couldn’t even feel himself breathing as all of his surroundings turned to complete darkness. Only his pathetic, fallen figure, Tapu Bulu’s mocking laughter, and Prem’s terrified noises could be heard, whilst his blood spread across the ruined ground.

For Prem, the very same thought stormed through his mind. His memories with Leos played through on repeat, running through his head at blinding speed. Over and over and over, every last day he spent with the Oshawott hybrid, right down to the words they shared together repeated in his mind ceaselessly.

I don’t want you to die… I really don’t want you to die. You can’t die now,” he told himself.

I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die! I want to live!” Leos begged to himself, scrunching up his face. “But it didn’t work! My body isn’t working! My Zenryoku arte, after everything…

All of a sudden, Prem let out a scream louder than any of the sound in the area, silencing everyone. He twirled his head around at the same time, stomping both feet into the ground while cupping his hands into fists. Gasps sounded out before silence fell besides him, all eyes drawn to the Pikachu’s feral outburst. The wings of his Mega Charizard hoodie spread wide, the tail lit up with real flames, and the eyes on the hood glowed a bright blue.

“Leos, stand up! Do your best and stand up, Leos! It’s not over yet!” he shrieked, straining his voice to its limit.

The Oshawott couldn’t believe he was hearing his friend at such a volume, but it sparked just as much shock in him as it did everyone else. He stared straight forward while Prem continued to scream orders of support to him, eying Tapu Bulu in expectation. The legendary didn’t move, watching with widened eyes.

“We’ve got one shot and I know we can do it. We can bring out our fully powered strength, I know we can!” Prem cried, sweating and breathing from exhaustion.

The Zenryoku arte… he’s r-right. I’m not dead yet, and if I really don’t want to die, then it has to work. I have to try,” Leos shuddered from a sting of pain.

His vision went blurry for a moment and he growled from pain as another spurt of blood leaked from his wound. Surely enough, with a growl of maximum effort and a stumble backwards from weakness, he got to his feet. His body felt like fire was burning everything inside of it, and his feet were ready to melt and bring him to the floor, but he ignored it. His face was fierce and focused, despite his eyesight blurring from fatigue.

“Do it, Prem!” he shouted, crossing his arms.

“We have to win this. We can’t lose!” Prem replied, still shouting.

The duo crossed their arms at the same time, causing the surrounding area to darken as their bodies glowed with golden aura. The aura grew over Prem as they unfurled their arms and stretched them forward, keeping them crossed. Leos didn’t voice his incantation this time, moving into a crouch. The duo spun as they rose back up, spread their arms out in a curl to pose in the same shape as the Aries star sign.

The moment they struck this pose together, the golden aura around them spiked, raging around each of them with continuous pulses. This time however, the aura shot out of Prem and arched through the air to slam onto Leos, strengthening his aura to the point that it was blinding. It stayed around him as well, transforming the Oshawott hybrid into a golden form overflowing with energy.

“Is this it?” Rune whispered, his jaw hanging open.

“Yes, yes! This is what I’ve been waiting for!” Tapu Bulu said, smacking his hooves together. “The Zenryoku arte, one’s full power! Hit me with it. Show me everything you’ve got!”

Leos heard him, but was too busy shuddering in awe. He had just been basked in more pain than he’d ever felt in his entire life, and now he was the opposite; overflowing with so much energy, confidence, motivation, and every other uplifting notion that he could barely keep still. He stared at his hands, trying to control his body’s irritable trembling.

“Finish it, Leos! Hit ‘em with everything you’ve got!” Prem ordered, throwing his fists forward.

Leos heard him loud and clear, and with this much power in his hands, he was more then ready to try again. He stomped one foot as he swiped his scalchop aside, the action magically generating countless copies of himself.

“Double Team?” Blossom mumbled.

“No, look in his hands! His Razor Shell!” Rune shouted.

The clones of Leos all looked identical to him in his normal form, complete with normal Razor Shell attacks. Each of them rushed forward, diving into Tapu Bulu to stab him with their blades. He pushed his chest forward in a cocky attempt to block them, but the very first one that hit him had enough power to make him flinch and grunt. A second one hit and he cursed, followed by a third that instinctively made him guard his body with his hooves. Either way, dozens of Leos kept hitting him with Razor Shell, pinning him to the spot with strong pricks of pain that damaged him seemingly without end.

Meanwhile, Leos concentrated on his target with full focus. He held his scalchop tightly with both hands, and when he finally tensed, a Razor Shell formed from it. Unlike the double-sided sword he normally formed however, his attack turned into a scythe over three times the Oshawott’s size. He spun the weapon around into a comfortable position and then burst forward at wicked speed, hacking into Tapu Bulu without mercy. His last hit pierced the very bottom of the deity, lodging the blade of the scythe with a mighty boom that dispersed all of the Leos clones in a beautiful explosion of glowing blue particles.

“Wha-what?” Tapu Bulu cried, stretching up to try and resist the pain. “H-how is this- possible?”

Leos didn’t answer him, stalling for just a moment. Tapu Bulu glared down at him, meeting his livid stare with a surprised snort. He then closed his eyes and relaxed, letting his hooves fall limp at his sides. “Well done.”

At that, Leos roared out loud, pulling his scythe up as hard as he could. It sliced right through Tapu Bulu in a clean, straight cut that split the legendary in two, both halves separating briefly before exploding into enormous blasts of wind and glowing particles. It was all harmless, and the others only had to shield their faces as their fur ruffled from the wind.

Leos was left behind in the centre of the glowing specks, which quickly slowed to fall like glittering snow. His aura lingered for a short while afterwards too, but soon faded in another harmless burst of wind. He struggled to turn around, losing his balance just as suddenly as he had gained it, and fell straight back to the floor.

“Leos!” Prem cried, being the first to trip and scramble over to his friend. Leos’ wound had returned, though it was no longer leaking blood. His eyes were shut tight, and his body shuddered from cold and a struggle to move. “Are you alright?”

He responded by raising his right arm straight up, as if calling Prem closer to help him stand. Seeing that, Prem wasted no time in reaching out, but to his surprise, Leos snatched his grip and pulled him to the ground. He pulled Prem into an embrace, breathing lightly with a big smile on his face.

“L-Leos?” Prem gasped as quiet as a whisper. Leos’ face was so close to his that he could feel his breath on his cheeks, and their bellies and feet were touching. He refused to move however, not understanding or knowing what to do.

“Stay here,” Leos said after a short while, moving his other hand to Prem’s back. His right hand continued to clench Prem’s left, his relaxed affection finally causing the Pikachu to go bright red all over his face. “You’re warm.”

Prem couldn’t even reply with anything better than near to silent stuttering, squeaking. His friend let out a weak giggle at that, patting him on the back. “Thanks. I mean it.”


Competitive Mijumaru

Episode 28: Love versus duty

“It’s truly remarkable. Whoever invented this is a genius,” Leos said, setting the Lock Ball down on a makeshift desk made of rock. “This technology could allow us to perform all kinds of feats. I just need to somehow port the technology, then I can alter it.”

A knock came from the other side of the room. There was no door, but the candlelight in the hallway told him someone was waiting. “You can come in,” he called out after sliding the Lock Ball into the hay bed beside the desk. Rune came in alongside Prem, the latter looking pale with nervousness.

“You’re awake. You didn’t sleep at all, did you?” his Father asked. He shook his head. “Well, good morning, anyway. I wish you had told me that you had learnt the Zenryoku arte when you jumped into the battle yesterday.”

“You still would’ve fought against me, anyway,” Leos replied, looking away.

“No. The Zenryoku arte is the very attack I wanted you to learn. It appears you’re aware of more important things now, like the choices you have to make as this world’s new leader. You’ve already acted on that path, but I have much to tell you,” he began. Rune looked away, giving a huge sigh. “The Heavenly Execution… that’s your Zenryoku arte. The power to execute even a god with the onslaught of a thousand Oshawott clones. With this power, you have the potential to kill the Tapu. But why-”

“But why would I want to kill the Tapu? Because they’ve grown mad with age, and their dictation of civilisation has grown twisted. I already know, Shaymin told me everything,” Leos said, folding his arms. “I know everything. About how I’m a hybrid and how I have to uphold the legend of Etheria.”

Rune took a while to respond, scratching his chin. He eventually folded his arms as well, and cleared his throat. “If this Shaymin is the one I’m thinking of, then that means you obeyed a god despite being aware that the gods are coming of age in our time.”

Leos tensed up, but Rune ignored him. “Regardless, you’ve started what you need to start. I’ve spoken to your allies already, and we’ve gathered an army.”

“This isn’t a sustainable solution, though. The Tapu will just be reborn, and the same thing that’s been happening will happen again, thousands of years later. We need to find a real, sustainable solution the planets and their energy crisis!” Leos replied, raising a hand. “I’m not going to just play into this, ‘legend’ or not. I’m going to find a way for us to live without relying on the gods.”

“Oh? Do you think that’s possible?” Rune said, surprised.

“Of course it is. It has to be. We just need to change our scientific approach,” he replied, beginning to pace. “I believe Faernian research at the moment goes into the development of new technologies that make use of the Tapu terrains and their blessings. But if we change the direction of that research, to figure out how to actually grow plants and things, for example…”

“You’ve already killed Tapu Bulu, though. We don’t have time for that,” Rune replied.

“What do you mean? I executed him because he attempted to start a war. We don’t have to feed into that,” he said, looking up.

“The other Tapu are undoubtedly aware of his death. If Eris doesn’t act, they will come to us, seeking revenge. That’s why I gathered an army. We’re to set off this afternoon,” Rune explained. Leos let out a small gasp. “This is the path you chose when you decided to kill Tapu Bulu. If it’s not the one you wanted, then you should have thought about it sooner. There’s no going back, now.”

Leos looked away. “The Pokémon won’t stand for this, though. You’re talking about starting a full-on war, here. Is that really what we’re going to do?”

“It’s the only thing we can do. There’s no debating this now, Leos,” he said, turning his back. “I suggest you prepare yourself. Rested or not, an even bigger battle will soon be upon us.”

The poor Oshawott could only sigh in frustration as his father walked out, leaving him and Prem alone. He was well rested, despite barely sleeping and spending all his time examining the Lock Ball. His mind stirred so quickly that he felt drained from just that conversation, trying to find solutions or excuses that could prevent a battle. Here and now it all felt hopeless, as he knew that he was now the cause of the war he wanted to prevent.

“Leos. Do you mind if we talk for a bit, please?” Prem spoke up, getting an angry glare. “It’s not about- well it’s sorta about Tapu Bulu, but-”

“What is it? You don’t want to drill me for this too, do you?”

“No, not at all. I wanted to talk about us. Us and, well, you know,” he said, playing with his hands and going quiet. It took Leos a moment to realise what he was on about.

“Is now really the time?”

“Yes. Yes it is. We have to make time. This is important,” Prem said, closing his hands into fists.

“Go on, then,” Leos said, hand on a hip.

“I felt it when the Zenryoku arte wasn’t working. Do you remember what Shaymin said? She said our thoughts and intentions needed to be in sync. At first, I worried that you wouldn’t like me after all that stuff that happened down in the Second Country… then I was worried that you didn’t feel the same way I do about you when the arte wasn’t working,” he admitted, becoming stern. “But when I saw Tapu Bulu hurt you that badly, where he could have killed you, I knew what I really felt. I realised what I had to do. Right there, in that moment, I knew I didn’t want you to die. No matter what, I have to give it my all to make sure you don’t die.”

“So our success was a bit of a fluke. I desperately didn’t want to fail, either. It only worked because in that moment, I didn’t want to die a failure,” Leos said.

“I don’t think it’s a fluke. I know just how fragile life is now. Seeing Shaymin just suddenly disappear like that, and then almost losing you not even a day later,” he said, speaking softly. He clenched his hands together and looked Leos in the eyes, becoming stern. “I have to be honest with my feelings. Something I want to say could never be said.”


“Leos, I was worried about how you’d react, but I can’t hold back anymore. I l-love you. You’re closer to me than anyone I’ve ever known. I want us to be able to live together,” Prem said, leaning forward.

Leos breathed out quietly, shutting his eyes and shaking his head. “This is a bad time. I’m sorry Prem, but my response remains the same. I can’t make a choice like that, especially not right now.”

“Maybe you can’t publicly. But as my closest friend, you can let me know how you really feel. And if it’s still a no, will you at least let me harbour these feelings about you?” he asked.

“Prem, listen-” Leos began, pausing. He blinked a few times, his heart growing heavy at the Pikachu’s desperate tone. However, Prem’s confident and rigid look told him just how serious and honest the Pikachu was being, and he was brought back to what Shaymin told him. He gave it another round of thought, choosing his words carefully. “No. You know what, you’re right. That’s fine. Pokémon feel like that about other Pokémon all the time. Especially the famous ones, right? It shouldn’t be a problem for you.”

Prem loosened up a little.

“No, wait, that’s wrong. I don’t want to give a solid yes or no because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m not saying no, either. Because I really do want you around me. You made growing up bearable for me, you know,” he said, looking down.

“Hold my hands,” Prem said. Leos glanced at him in surprise, surprised at the fact that he wasn’t blushing. Leos obeyed though, slowly moving both hands to wrap them in Prem’s fingers.

“You just want things to go back to how they were before, don’t you? When we were younger and life was simpler. Back when we’d spend hours sneaking away from Mother to explore Faernia, reading and learning to fight in secret. Those times when we didn’t have to stress over what we’re doing and how it affects other Pokémon,” he said, struggling to look Prem in the eyes.

“There’s no point in harbouring the past. I’m happy working with you to try and save Etheria. It’s not easy, but it’s because you’re working so hard that I look up to you so much,” Prem replied, clenching tighter. “I just want to know how you honestly feel about me.”

“I’m fine with how you feel. And I do want you in my life. I couldn’t live without you. So I guess I’m saying yes? But also no, because I couldn’t-”

A rhythmic knock on the side of the room’s entrance silenced them both, and they both glanced at the hallway. Nier came in a moment later, waving happily.

“Oh good, you’re awake. Mornin’, you two!” she greeted. They glanced at each other and then quickly withdrew their hands, turning away from one another. Prem’s face went bright red, while Leos laughed awkwardly, trying to look away to hide a small blush of his own.

“N-Nier, what br-brings you here so early?” Leos asked at a high pitch.

“Huh? What’s with that look? What were you two up to?” she asked, tilting her head.

“Nothing! We clearly weren’t up to anything,” Prem cried, still bright red. Nier giggled and gave him a half-lidded look.

“Fine then. Your little secret’s safe with me, boys. I came in to tell you breakfast is ready, anyway. I’m not big on Erinian food, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t look like a feast. So you two better hurry or we’ll eat your share,” she said, skipping out. The duo shared a glance with one another again, snickering at each other when their stomachs growled.

“Oops! Guess I was so nervous I forgot about food. I haven’t eaten in ages!” Prem giggled. “Let’s go, Leos! Let’s go see what everyone made for us.”

Leos was left behind, but stopped in the doorway to watch his friend run off. “… Thanks, Prem. If anyone’s going to help me change, it’s you.

He turned back to his room and retrieved the Lock Ball, slipping into an organized pack of necessities. “So this is my path… killing the Tapu, regardless of what the Pokémon say. This might generate more trouble than it prevents, but if I can get the Pokémon to listen and work together, we might just figure this out. If the Second Country can survive without the god’s blessings, so can we. There just HAS to be a way. That’s the priority: to find a way for us to survive without the mad gods.

Hours passed in the blink of eye after that. There were some disagreements over the meat dishes served at breakfast, but aside from that, nothing eventful happened even though Leos and his group were heading towards the next biggest battle of their lives. Routine supply checks, a run through of their plan to get to Faernia, a speech to the commoners around the castle, and then they were off in a swarm of manually operated airships.

It was only when they were in the airspace between the two planets that Leos started to feel his fear and nervousness kick in. Their army was bigger than any army he had ever seen, with countless airships not nearly in the condition of the Faernian ones he was used to seeing. Each one was overcrowded with generic soldiers like the ones he’d seen in yesterday’s battle, and each and every one of them did their best to hide their fear behind a soulless stare and pose.

The idea was to hit Faernia hard to draw out Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele. This meant attacking their capital with this oversized army, even though Ariala was there. She was obviously just as aware of what was going on as the Tapu were, and that was what scared Leos the most.

How would she react after learning what Leos had done? What were her thoughts on the Tapu’s behaviour in general? If she agreed with them like the priestess she was, then would that mean she would fight to protect them, putting Leos against her?

That last thought made him physically shiver hard enough for Prem to notice. Leos’ personal group were all stood around him at the front of their airship, with their army in formation behind him. The way they were positioned, they could dash right off the airship and go into battle at a moment’s notice.

“The Tower of the Tapu should be coming into view in about three minutes, now. Descend through the clouds,” Rune ordered, using his hands to signal to the soldiers in the back. Leos gulped.

“Well, this is it, everyone,” Leos said, trying not to look at them all.

“Remember, our aim is just either Tapu Koko or Lele. The less damage we deal, the better,” Vincent replied, glancing at him. “We don’t have to do this violently.”

“I know that, but still,” he sighed. His attention was taken by the city coming into view beneath the clouds. Even from their height, everything looked different. “It looks like they’ve been expecting us.”

The city was devoid of the upbeat life that made the planet’s capital. Instead of crowds of harmless Pokémon going about their business, fairies equipped with armour or lances were positioned in clever formations throughout the city. It would be impossible for the Erinian airships to land without getting attacked.

Leos let out a growl of slight frustration. Amongst the groups of enemies, he spotted Charle with his two elite Primarina guards, Tapu Koko at the foot of the castle, and about a hundred metres in front of him, Ariala. She had her own platoon of soldiers lined out in front of her, making a perfect wall to block the walkway to the castle. They weren’t getting to Tapu Koko without dealing with the priestess.

“Stop descending, we need a strategy,” Leos called out.
“Erinians don’t go by ‘strategy’, Leos. They go by cold, raw power. That’s how we’ve survived for so long,” Rune replied. He turned to the soldiers waiting in the back. “To arms! Show no mercy. Tear those fairies to shreds!”

“What the- your wife is in that group!” Vincent snapped.

Before any arguing could start, the airship shook with force, and then a blast echoed through the sky. Explosions were occurring in the distance, and a brief look at the windows showed many of the airships already under attack. Feeling the quakes caused by the fairies’ special attacks, the dragon type soldiers cheered, raised their weapons, and leapt off into the city. Others charged up Flamethrower attacks and set the world below alight, aiming for the buildings and other burnable targets.

“Wait, stop!” Leos cried.

“There’s no time to wait. This is war, Leos!” Rune shouted, leaping off. Leos could only stick his arm out as his father disappeared into the flames below, followed by a group of chanting soldiers. Another Moonblast rocked the airship and he almost fell out, helped by Blossom.

“The ship’s gonna come crashing down. We’re gonna have to jump, too!” Nier warned, coming from somewhere in the back. Bursts of fire ate away at the airship’s wings and roof, causing it to begin tilting into a nosedive.

“Aah, this is worse than when we had to jump!” Griselle moaned, hugging Leos tightly.

“Griselle- gah, let go, focus,” he complained.

“I’ve got this. Everyone around me, now!” Blossom shouted, pulling everyone close to her. As soon as they got into a huddle, she erected a large green barrier around them all, concentrating to keep it up.

“I didn’t know you could use Protect,” Prem remarked, looking impressed with her work. His orb appeared in his arms and he used Protect as well, strengthening their barrier.

Even with all of that, the crash land into the city below shook them all hard enough to bring them to the floor. The destructive noise of the crumbling airship deafened their ears as it skidded across the paved streets, quaking the floor around them until it came to a sharp stop by crashing into a building. Thankfully their Protect barrier kept them safe, and they only felt pain from bumping into each other and the floor.

Once everything settled and all he could hear were flames, the barriers were dropped and Leos sprinted out of the wreckage. He came to an immediate stop at the magnitude of the battle around him, unable to do anything but gawk at the way the Pokémon fought each other.

The dragons were savage. They gave no care to the city around them, tearing into anything and everything in sight. Charizard bathed Shops in flames, Salamence snapped streetlights and apparatus like twigs, and the Faernian soldiers were spared none of it – even though the dragon type attacks should have had no affect on their divine bodies, Dragon Claw and Outrage attacks from Dragonite were being used with such physical force that the fairies were being physically crushed or even pierced. For those that had them, Iron Tail or Steel wing sliced whole bodies in half, painting the streets in blood and organs.

The fairies were no better in the ordeal, however. Their half of the city was difficult to look at thanks to continual use of Dazzling Gleam and Moonblast from several Sylveon and Aromatisse, while Mawile and Granbull took the front lines with their lengthy lances. Those weapons combined with Play Rough attacks, resulting in the dragons being grinded to nothing but indescribable mounds of shredded flesh and blood. Barely a scream could come from the targets of these Play Rough attacks, silenced the moment a lance connected.

Leos slowly spun around. No matter where he looked, this level of extreme violence was all around him. Screams, flames, weapons clashing, roars of aggression, and splashes of red. The heat and pressure of the great battle all around him made him feel dizzy and lifeless, like he was falling into a void that would soon kill him. He had almost lost his mind when he saw the amount of death the battle on Eris caused, but now that he was here seeing how all the death came to be, he felt like he was being tortured.

He wanted to scream, but the thought that nobody would hear him in this chaos frightened him. He felt sick enough to throw up, looking at all the stabbing and fatality suddenly thrust amongst him. He grabbed his ears amongst his head fur and pulled at them, shivering and whimpering, instinctively curling himself up into a ball. His head hurt like explosions were going off inside it. He could feel his chest squeezing up, tightening as the contents of his stomach forced their way up his throat.

“Leos!” Prem squealed, diving into him. The duo rolled along the cold ground, Prem’s body squashing against Leos’ so closely that it muffled the sound of a blast somewhere to the left. Leos snapped back to reality after that, spotting several Moonblast attacks the size Snorlax soaring through the air. The fairies were using their Moonblast cannons, eradicating whole groups of dragons with each shot.

Although aware, Leos scrambled to sit up and then crawled backwards, heaving desperate breaths. The others stared at him in surprise, and he stared back, slowly shaking his head side to side. “T-take me away. Please, get it all away from me!”

“Leos?” Vincent said, trying to keep his eye on the surrounding battle as well as the prince.

“I-I’m a scholar, not a fighter! Get me outta here!” he shrieked, curling up again.

“Leos, get a hold of yourself!” Vincent shouted. He glanced to his right and spun to kick away a Mawile that had approached him, using his naginata to push against a Slurpuff that came a second later. “You’re the only one that can stop this. So get a hold of yourself and get a move on!”

“I know it’s gruesome and hard to look at. But this battle can’t be won unless you reach Tapu Koko,” Nier said, impatiently forming a Light Screen to block a Dazzling Gleam. A Hyper Beam came through it a moment later, shattering her shield and hitting her head on.

Leos barely had time to fret for her as several more conflicts took over the spot where she just was, followed by another blast from the Moonblast cannon that swallowed all the combatants, fairies and dragons alike. Vincent and Nier weren’t hit but disappeared into the battle, leaving Prem, Griselle, and Blossom as his only allies for the time being.

“I’m the only one?” he whispered, still breathing heavily. He was struggling to keep his breath, and stumbled from light-headedness.

“Let everyone else do the fighting. That’s what we decided, remember?” Blossom said, bowing to him. “We’ll cut a path straight through. Me and Griselle can hit the enemies in front, then as we run past, Prem, you shock them with Thunder Wave to stop them from following us. Leos, you just stay in the centre of our group.”

“U-uh, yes,” his nodded, barely managing a whisper.

Their plan was immediately put into practice. Still nervous, Leos prodded his hands together as he warily followed his allies, paying more attention to the stray attacks going off than what they were doing. Even though Blossom and Griselle were doing good with moving enemies out of the way, he had to stumble and trip side to side to avoid Flamethrower and Hyper Beam alike, often hesitating to move due to the smoke and rubble that rained after each attack.

As they weaved through the war in the streets, Leos began to focus a bit more. The way Blossom was screaming with each use of Psychic, bringing enemies to the ground groups at a time, told of just how much effort and desperation she was putting into this. Griselle was the same, bashing enemies with her shield and tackles, her voice echoing full effort and emotion. Prem was apologising with each Thunder Wave, and was soon puffing and panting even though he was following by floating with his orb.

They’re all doing this together. Not for me, but for their own goals. All of them, even the soldiers fighting. Because the only way to put a stop to this is to kill Tapu Koko,” Leos told himself, breathing even heavier than Prem. He could barely keep his eyes open. “The effort everyone is putting in… I can’t be selfish anymore. I can’t just think about myself anymore. The only way to save all these Pokémon is to do what only I can do, with their help!

Before he knew it, he was approaching a grand, wide staircase. This area was pristine and quiet, somehow devoid of the war going on in the rest of the city. The group had stopped to catch their breath, so Leos glanced back in disbelief – they had indeed reached the foot of the road leading to the castle, and the battle was at least fifty metres behind them.

“We’re almost there. My lord, Prem, prepare yourselves,” Blossom said, nodding at them. She and Griselle took the lead, where Leos’ senses finally spiked, and he foresaw the danger they were running into.

“Girls!” he shouted, getting them to stop just in time. A blast of dark energy struck the white stairs right in front of them, sending them both tumbling back to Leos’ side. Neither psychic type was hit, thankfully.

“Ah. For a second there, I was about to complain that you were going to make this too easy,” Charle laughed, floating from beyond the top of the stairs. He was posed as if he was sitting down, scratching his chin with a nail. His sword floated beside him at an arm’s reach, while his elite Primarina guards slithered to his left and right. An empty expression filled their gazes, causing Leos to shiver with fear again.

“St-step aside, Charle!” Leos ordered.

“Ha! Please. Telling the big baddie to step aside? When has that ever worked? Especially when you sound so unsure of yourself?” he said, laughing under his breath. “Listen to me, prince. The Tapu know what’s best for our world. What they want, we give them. In turn, they give us what we want. Is that so difficult a world to live by?”

“Do you think Pokémon should accept being killed for the sake of entertainment? Because that’s what Tapu Bulu was doing on Eris!” Prem cried.

“Who the heck cares? Erinians eat each other anyway. He was just making their job easier, and looking for enjoyment at the same time. When you have overwhelming prowess over peasants, you tend to feel good about doing that kind of thing,” he snickered.

Leos’ glare intensified. “We’ve been through this. There’s no use reasoning with someone who thinks like that.”

“Finally, you’re getting’ on my wavelength. Skip the bull and let’s get to the fight,” Charle praised. He spun, stopping in a pose where he pointed at Leos. “I always get what I want.”

He spun again, posing by pointing at himself. “And what I want, is your head hung up on my wall.”

He spun again, this time not stopping. “And when I get that,”

He stopped, holding both arms out to his sides. They were surrounded by black flames, which pulled his sword into his right paw. “I’ll be crowned champion. From paladin to champion of Faernia, that is to be my tale! And an anticlimactic one, since even the lot of you stand no chance against me.”

Leos and his party didn’t even reply. They just readied themselves, stretching their feet apart and tightening their grips on their weapons. Leos’ heart raced and he was still breathing through his mouth, but he was able to conjure a Razor Shell, so he had some hope of doing well.

“You’re still going to fight back? Maybe you think you stand a chance after forcing us to retreat on Eris. But this is our home ground, this time. We can’t afford not to put full effort into killing you. But think about it. Have you ever beaten me?” Charle snickered, crossing his arms. A golden aura appeared around him, and the Primarina copied his pose. “I call upon the stars to grant me your blessing!”

“No, not this attack again,” Leos gasped.

“Not gonna stand around and let you do it again!” Griselle cried, rushing forward. She pulled back and thrust her lance with a roar of effort, finding herself stuck at the fiery aura surrounding Charle and his guards. Her lance poked through, but not nearly far enough or with enough force to harm the Meowth. He smiled at her snidely, and she hopped back with a gasp.

“Psychic still doesn’t work. It’s like he’s a dark type!” Blossom cried, continuously trying to blast him with the move.

Seeing their failure to stop Charle’s attack, Leos’ panic came right back. He stood there staring right at the posing Meowth, shuddering and struggling to breathe. His eyesight blurred with the growth of the aura, and when the wind started to blow against him, he started crying out and covering his face.

“Your defeat is at hand. Black Hole Eclipse!” Charle shouted, thrusting a palm forward. Just as the black hole formed at the tip of his paw, a huge shuriken lodged itself into his head from above, causing him to stumble and fall to the ground. Although the shuriken visibly pierced him, it disintegrated and left no stab wound where it was. “Who dares?”

“S-someone… stopped him?” Leos whispered, daring to look up. One of the Faernian airships was floating high above their battle, and a few sparkles from Pokémon attacks flew off its surface. Prem was quick to use Protect and defend the party from the moves, leaving Charle to dart about to avoid them. Leos recognised the attacks as more Water Shuriken, coupled with Fairy Wind and a ring of electricity, Zing Zap.

Charle defended against each one, growling at the airship where they all came from. Once the attacks ceased, the attackers made their move, popping up behind him in a puff of smoke. The main attacker, a Greninja, didn’t waste time in thrusting both arms forward to hit Charle with Water Pulse from point blank, sending him flying. He rolled across the ground for a bit before flipping back to his feet, landing behind Leos and the others.

“What?” Charle shrieked, glaring up at the new faces. Leos was reluctant to look back at them too, but flinched when he realised who they were.

“Wait, you’re- I can’t believe it, you survived?” Leos gasped. There were four Pokémon: a Greninja, Sylveon, Togedemaru, and Purrloin.

“Of course we did. I’d ask what the heck you’ve been doing all this time, but it can wait. We’re clearly in the right spot, anyway,” Tundra replied, ready for battle. Shouta and Kelsith did the same, standing beside him.

“Long story short: I ran into these guys a little while ago,” Ida said, taking centre stage. Charle kissed his teeth and shifted back, so she glanced back. “We’ll take care of this oaf. You kids hurry up and do your thing with Tapu Koko!”

“Wait… Ida?” Leos gasped.

“Didn’t you hear me? Hurry up and kill Tapu Koko and end this mess. Me and the Deliverance have got this covered!” she raised her voice.

“I know you want to talk to them, but she’s right. Let’s hurry, Master Leos,” Blossom added. He nodded at her, exchanged one final unsure glance with the new arrivals, and then jogged up the stairs.

“No, wait, stop!” Charle begged, pointing at them. The Deliverance closed the gap between them to stand in his way, making him tremble with fury. “Get outta the way! I can’t afford to let ‘em fight Tapu Koko!”

“What’s gotten into you? You leave me for a few months and suddenly you seem like a whole different Pokémon. How could you come back and not say hi to me?” Ida began, paws on her hips.

“You have nothing to do with this. And as you know, I’ve been busy! Forgive me for letting war take priority. I planned to come back as soon as I was free,” he said, folding his arms and looking away.

“Seriously?” Ida sighed. “Anyway, you’re fighting for the wrong side. Let’s not actually do this and go calm down the battle, alright?”

“Uh uh, can’t do that. My whole life is on the line!” he cried.

“I can already tell that you’ve changed. Dunno if it’s for the worse or better, but so far it’s looking bad,” she said. “The Charle I married took pride in being a paladin that put his all into everything he did, even if he was doing something stupid. The Charle in front of me now just seems to be brainwashed or something.”

“No no, you don’t understand! If the Tapu die, I’m gonna lose my powers, my powers that let me get anything I want. The powers that will make me a champion! Don’t you want a champion for a husband?” he cried.

“You big oaf. I’m fine with you being you,” she giggled, putting away her lance. She casually strode toward him, holding out her paws. “Paladin, champion, or even just a Meowth that knows how to put up a fight. I don’t care what you are, Charle. I’m happy to say I love you either way. But you must understand that what the Tapu have been doing is wrong.”

“Bah, what do you understand, woman? You don’t know what it’s like getting what you want. Once you have that power, losing it is not worth it!” he shouted, slapping her aside. She stopped him from storming off, grabbing his arm.

“I’ve seen it all for myself, Charle. I’ve seen what Tapu Bulu has done on Eris. And I’ve seen what Leos’ army is fighting for,” she said, a desperate tone taking over her voice. “Please, fight with us. We can’t rely on the Tapu’s blessings when they act in these unjust ways.”

“The Tapu do what they do for a reason. That’s why they’ve given me these powers! I won’t turn my back on smart gods like them,” he said.

“Hate to interrupt the passionate love troubles, but can we wrap this up? Pokémon are dying,” Tundra interrupted, holding onto a Water Shuriken. Ida nodded at him.

“If your almighty ‘powers’ are more important to you than the peace that the Tapu are disturbing, then our marriage means nothing. I will fight you,” Ida said, readying her lance again. “Pick wisely for once. ‘Cos it’s clear which side has the favourable odds, here.”

“Really? The lot of you are gonna get in my way? Even my own wife?” Charle said, readying his sword. His Primarina guards moved as well. “Well, you know what they say. True heroes must go through the biggest of hardships.”

“I don’t think that includes fighting your wife,” Kelsith replied.

“Like you’d ever know, you oversized Sylveon!” he cried. “I’ll push you all aside and save Tapu Koko. Then you’ll see just how wrong you all are for ever disagreeing with them. You’ll rue the day you challenged paladin Charle!”

“Sheesh. Do you ever not go on about yourself?” Shouta growled, sparkling with electricity. “We’ll see about that, though. I tend to not regret things.”


Competitive Mijumaru
Episode 29: Vengeance is Mine


The bridge leading to Faernia Castle was quite high up, but it didn’t overlook any river, moat, or even cliff. The distant below was just filled with woodland and cityscape, more interconnected than the main city. Leos couldn’t help diverting his gaze aside, wondering whether Pokémon lived there or not. Given the untouched state of the land, it wouldn’t be surprising if the public had been evacuated there.

In the centre of the bridge, Ariala waited, unmoving. Leos’ group slowed down as they got closer, although they were surprised to find that Rune had somehow passed them during their battle and had already confronted her. The two stared at each other a few paces away, their weapons out and eyes completely fixated on each other.

“Father!” Leos shouted, trying to push the Dewott aside. Rune almost retaliated, realising it was Leos. “What’s happening? You haven’t hurt her, have you?”

“It’s what it looks like,” Ariala answered him. She was unharmed, but the dark storm clouds blanketing the sky and strong wind ruffling everyone’s fur said otherwise. It was like curses were being whispered along the wind, curses that warned of a disastrous end to the battle. “We’ve said our words. And now, every action is beyond consequence. Whether it’s karma from the gods that have transcended our mortal realm, or judgement from the gods still amongst us, we will see hardship for our actions. I only wish to stop those hardships from getting any worse.”

“How can they get any worse than they are now? Have you seen the way the Pokémon are killing each other? I’ve never seen anythin’ like it!” Griselle cried.

Ariala looked down and moaned. “The Pokémon aren’t fighting this way because they can. They’re doing it because they have to, for their survival. With the Tapu gone, we can’t sustain ourselves, Leos!”

“But they can. The Pokémon on Eris are able to do it. And they don’t even have all that technology,” Prem replied.

“Don’t bother bringing Eris into this. We don’t live that way because we want to,” Rune growled, looking back at him.

“No. It’s not that. The Pokémon are afraid. I’m afraid. We could resort to eating meat and sustaining ourselves as the Erinians do, but what would become of our world if we did? Pokémon can’t just suddenly adapt to that kind of life. It’s too unjust!” Ariala said, struggling to speak.

“They don’t have to,” Leos spoke up, looking down as well. “I wouldn’t need to kill them if they weren’t disturbing the peace treaty. This war wouldn’t even be happening if Tapu Bulu didn’t go to Eris to kill so meaninglessly.”

“We can atone for the mistakes they have made-”

“No we can’t! We have to take their position as the leaders of our own civilisation. They grow our food, they energise our electronics, they control our weather, and our healthcare. But these are all things that we can do as Pokémon. We can control them, maintain them without their help. I know we can!” Leos said, looking up. “This isn’t a battle for conquest. It’s a battle for freedom from their ever-growing madness. When we stop being lazy and learn to survive on our own, a way that is just for all, there will be no need for the gods to govern our world. They’ll never return!”

“Leos, where did this come from?” Ariala asked, sounding desperate.

“I’ve seen a place. A legendary place called the Second Country. Your retainers had been there since you dismissed them and went into hiding,” he said, widening her eyes. “They survive. There’s nature there. The weather is fine. They don’t need electrical technology to entertain themselves. And there are no gods or goddesses there. We just have to come together and work together to figure out how this place sustains itself. If we worked together, we can find it, I’m sure of it!”

Ariala stared for a moment, her eyes wavering slightly. “Vincent and Nier… even they’re here?”

“And they’ve seen everything. They’re out there fighting the Faernian army just so that I could get here,” Leos added, leaning forward.

“Possibly already dead, given the chaos that was going on back there,” Blossom said, stepping forward as well.

“My friends, no!” Ariala cried.

“It seems you finally understand what’s at stake here,” Rune spoke up at last, approaching her. She faced the floor in angst, not looking up at him, but he helped her up with a calm hand. “You also have the power to stop this battle. You tried to instigate it before when you learnt of Tapu Koko’s sin, but they didn’t react. They hid from you.”

Ariala was still looking at her hands. As he spoke, dark flames wavered over them, and she clenched her fingers to dispel them.

“Listen to your heart and do what’s best. That’s why you travelled on your personal pilgrimage and hid Leos from the world, right? So that you could see the truth for yourself. Now’s the time to finally put that into practice and do what needs to be done to lead your Pokémon to salvation,” he said, walking around her. Ariala’s platoon of soldiers moved in his way, threatening him with their weapons. “It’s what we both have to do. I need you to be with me on this, though. If we don’t cooperate like we originally intended, this will only lead to more ruin.”

“I know you’re right, but I still find this so difficult to-” she said, shaking her head. She stood up and slowly looked around, mostly staring at the flashes and blasts going off where the main battle was taking place. “Rune, Leos. I want you both to fully understand what you’re proposing with these actions. We may be crucified by whole world, and have our positions stripped down to the level of fugitives. We may even be wrong, and plunge our world into complete ruin. Even knowing that, are you still willing to go through with this?”

“You say that like I haven’t spent half my life struggling to survive,” Rune replied.

“Like Father says, that’s why you went into hiding when I was born, didn’t you? Either way, I’ve come too far to back down. I’ll see my actions through to the end,” Leos replied.

Ariala nodded at them both and took a deep breath. She regained a confident appearance and waved to her soldiers, silently commanding them to put their weapons down. They all exchanged glances and obeyed, clearly unhappy with the instruction. “Go to the city and issue the command to surrender. Spare all remaining Pokémon, and get medical help for those who need it.”

“Your highness,” one of the soldiers said.

“That’s an order,” she said, lowering her tone.

They saluted her and marched away, leaving the royals alone. Once they were out of sight, Tapu Koko floated forward, staring silently at the group. Ariala shuddered, trying not to lock eyes with him, but his heavy presence demanded it, forcing her to face her decision in the flesh. She felt sick enough to throw up right there, but a nervous swallow kept it all down.

“My lord Tapu Koko, I am sorry. But I can no longer let your murder go without justice,” was all she could say, holding her chest. The electric god didn’t respond.

“So what do you have to say? I’m right here. And an army is in support of our opposition,” Rune said, holding his arms out to his sides. “Now’s the time to explain everything. Why did you kill my sister? Why did you keep Ariala from me after you did?”

Tapu Koko didn’t respond. He just floated there, staring at him. Leos shuffled back a bit, half expecting it to lash out at them and strike them all down at once, but not a single other movement came.

“That’s it?” Rune continued. He drew the Sword of Earthly Elements and pointed it forward. The blade was glowing, releasing a bright flash as it came free. “Don’t you get it? I’m going to execute you for what you’ve put me through. If you can’t appeal through words, then I’m not going to hold back.”

“L-Leos, he’s going to-” Prem whimpered. Rune heard him somehow and held an arm out. “B-but only the Zenryoku arte can kill him.”

“So can this sword. But this fight is personal, so let me do it,” he replied. “Tapu Koko, speak to me! Tell me why you killed her!”

Tapu Koko finally made a move, but it was a sluggish action, as if tired or expecting something. He floated back a bit and then screeched like a bird, releasing several pulses of electricity. Electric Terrain took over the bridge, giving everything a bright yellow hue in the darkness.

“That is your choice as mortals. If you’ve made it this far, then show me how much further you are prepared to go,” he spoke, shifting one arm forward. “If you are prepared to learn the reason and deal with the consequence, then strike me down. Only then do I know that you have the strength to lead this world in our stead.”

“Are you testing me?” Rune replied.

“Examining. Judging. The path you’re following will lead to no better than that of your sister. You’re both fools guided by no better than your duty. If you carry on the way you are now, you will lead this world to destruction,” he said, squinting.

“Damn you Tapu Koko. Damn you!” Rune shouted, stretching his sword forward. “Don’t you get it? You took everything from me! My sister, my fatherhood, even my wife! I’ll kill you!”

“Then come. Attack me if you dare,” Tapu Koko replied in his aged, deep voice.

The Dewott roared at the top of his voice and came charging, dragging the blade of his sword across the stone ground as he approached in an arc. He jumped high into the air to slam his weapon straight down onto the mythical electric type. Tapu Koko used his right mask as a shield, shoving it forwards to push Rune away.

“Rune!” Ariala cried. The duo ignored her, going at each other with deadly intent in each of their attacks. Rune was stabbing and slashing with roars of effort, whilst Tapu Koko evaded or shielded every hit, darting around the battlefield. While they fought, many soldiers from both armies began to gather behind both parties, locking them into a duel zone.

After one more clash, Rune hopped back to catch his breath and make distance between them. Tapu Koko didn’t chase him, staring him down with the same judgemental look he had earlier. Annoyed of that, Rune fired a Water Pulse at him and came charging again, relentlessly trying to cleave the legendary in two. Time and time again, Tapu Koko only blocked the attacks, and even when one of Rune’s attacks missed, he did nothing more than shift away to gain space.

“What the hell is this?” Rune eventually screamed, stabbing his sword into the ground. “Is this some kind of joke?”

Tapu Koko didn’t respond, only stared. Rune growled, pointing his sword forward again. “I did not struggle for all these years just to have you mock me in my time of revenge. Fight back!”

“It’s… it’s true. Why isn’t Tapu Koko retaliating?” Ariala whispered, realising. Her eyes watered a bit, and she shook them clear to focus. Tapu Koko was tired. She could hear him breathing heavily but silently. He sounded like he couldn’t fight back or even speak, but hid it behind that heavy presence that intimidated them all. He looked like an old man staring at a tsunami of flames, helpless but accepting of their destructive path. “He’s old…”

“You damn devil. If that’s how you want to be, then curse you. I’ll send you to hell where you belong!” Rune shouted, performing another jumping slash. Tapu Koko blocked it, but the sheer force behind the attack could be felt by everyone around. Tapu Koko’s shields were about to break.

But he still didn’t fight back. The surrounding soldiers began to mutter amongst themselves in grief, but Ariala could hear exactly why he couldn’t fight back. The electric type god whined, grunted, and huffed in ever-growing desperation, now failing to dodge Rune’s onslaught of offence. She shuddered, skipping forwards.

“Rune, wait, stop!” she cried.

But she was too late. Rune was already charging in for another attack, and that turned out to be the last. He had his sword held with both hands, pulled back in his sprint, and thrust it with all his strength. It pierced right through Tapu Koko’s right mask and through to the legendary’s body, stabbing right into it. As soon as he hit, the Electric Terrain shattered like glass, along with an ear-piercing choke from Tapu Koko. The choke turned into a painful groan as Rune pushed the sword deeper and deeper, all until the blade was pointing through the other side.

“No,” Ariala whimpered, looking away.

“He did it. He actually did it,” Leos said. Prem moaned and gripped his arm, half hugging him.

“Is that it? Is that really it? After everything you put me through, you let me kill you?” Rune said, ignoring Tapu Koko’s struggled breaths and coughs. “Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?”

It took a while, but the legendary responded after getting control of his breathing. “You have done well, prince of Eris. You wield that sword… with great conviction and emotion.”

“I don’t need your praise,” Rune replied. Tapu Koko looked up at him.

“You and Ariala… stay on your chosen path. But do not let duty stand in the way of your love or your feelings. Let your emotions define the world you want to create and protect it until your dying breath,” he said, shivering and speaking slowly. Rune’s eyes thinned.

“So you fully relinquish the world to us,” Rune said. Tapu Koko didn’t answer, slowly shutting his eyes instead. A few seconds later, his body took on a glowing texture and began to fade away into countless glowing particles. They flew away with the breeze, leaving Rune to pull his sword back. He held out a hand as if to feel the particles, surprised at the beauty he was now surrounded by. The particles spread out like seeds, spiralling around everyone until the whole area was filled with them.

“Tapu Koko… his dust is spreading, just like Tapu Bulu’s,” Leos said, looking around. “We did it, though. Three down, one to go.”

“Leos!” Ariala cried.

“Sorry for saying it that way, but this feels overwhelming, now,” he admitted, holding his chest. “I-I was frightened, but we actually managed to stop this battle. It’s like, this could actually happen, now.”

“A Faernia not led by the Tapu,” Prem muttered.

“We can do it! You just gotta tell everyone what to do, Leos,” Griselle cheered.

“And work out a way to sustain ourselves. There’s no doubt that with three of the Tapu gone, we’ll start seeing some detrimental effects on the planet,” Blossom said, folding her arms. “But that’s why we’re here. Like you said back in the Second Country, we’ll figure this out. I’m sure there’s a way.”

“Thanks, you guys,” Leos replied, glancing at them all. Before they could respond, Charle came sprinting past them so hard he brought a gush of wind with him.

“You idiots… you idiots, you idiots, you idiots! Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?” he screamed, pushing past Rune. No one replied, but he stuttered at their unbothered appearances until Vincent and Nier joined them. “You’ve all just doomed yourselves, that’s what. You had your chance with me, but now you’ve got to settle for true hell. True chaos, true pain! The likes of which only the true god of this world can create!”

“We’ve been puttin’ up with this guy going nuts ever since we faced him earlier. Anyone have any clue what he’s on about?” Nier complained.

“You’ve lost, Charle. It’s over. We’re making our way to the castle,” Rune replied, shaking his head.

“No you ain’t. That’s not what I want. And what I want, I get,” he snickered, beginning to float with his dark energy. Leos’ party prepared to fight again.

“What he means is me,” a childish, girlish voice announced, getting everyone’s attention. High above the bridge, Tapu Lele descended to their height. She was surrounded by a blue aura as if she was using Psychic, and her face was furious.

“This one’s on you, Leos. Use your Zenryoku arte,” Rune said, glancing back. Leos nodded, gulping.

“I didn’t expect we’d have to face both of them right now, though,” he shuddered.

“Don’t be dumb. Of course I’m here. Why wouldn’t I be here? You sinful mortals stood up against my brother, and he pitied you, yet still you killed him. I won’t forgive you for that,” she said. “But I’m smart, unlike you or my family. You think I’m going to fight you, knowing that you have some fancy weapons and moves that ignore my godly position? You want to fight me, you play by my game.”

“This isn’t a game. We can spare you if you would prefer to settle this diplomatically,” Rune replied. She laughed at him.

“Politics! Tell me, when has that ever worked?” she sung, returning to fury. “No, sinful prince. I’m going to pummel you all. I’m going to pummel you all until your spirits beg for mercy. Then I’ll shred your bodies until there’s nothing left.”

She flicked her hands, swinging one down to control whatever she was carrying with her Psychic. A wave of gasps, conversations, and widened eyes took over everyone as that came into view. Diantha’s body, the corpse of Rune’s sister, was held in her grasp. Oddly, Diantha’s body was intact and healthy, retaining its colour and shape as if it hadn’t been in a grave for sixteen years.

“Diantha. What the hell are you planning to do with my sister’s body?” Rune asked, pointing his sword at her.

“So Tapu Lele did steal it. What does this mean?” Leos gasped.

“Tapu Lele,” Ariala muttered, staring in disbelief. The sight had turned her body pale.

Tapu Lele laughed at them all, teasing Rune by floating the body in front of him, just outside of his reach, and then yanking back. “Follow me. If you want this body back, come and find me. Rune, Leos, and Ariala only. If anyone else interrupts,” she said, pointing upwards. Thunder boomed. “I will destroy the world with the weather. And don’t even try some fancy trick to defend yourselves, because you know that I can.”

“Tapu Lele, no!” Ariala cried, skipping to the front. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Preparing to set you mortals straight. If you really want to lead your world to your so called ‘salvation’, then you know you have to obey. You have to try and kill me. And don’t keep me waiting either, or I’ll destroy everything anyway. So come. I’m waiting in Tapu Fini’s chamber,” she replied. She spun around and soared away at high speed, heading back into the city. A trail of glittering scales rained from her path, pointing directly to where Tapu Fini’s temple was.

“So what’re you going to do, fools?” Charle snickered. “If I were you, I wouldn’t keep an angry Tapu Lele waiting. She could strike the world with a tsunami at any moment! And you’d have nothing of it. Better go and stop it while she’s giving you the chance!”

“Tsk. Leos, Ariala, we’re going,” Rune announced, turning sharply.

“Wait, but it’s obviously a trap! Plus we’re not allowed to fight with you? Leos won’t be able to use his Zenryoku arte!” Griselle cried.

“Hmpf. And what? Got any better ideas?” he replied.

“I don’t understand it. Tapu Lele, why,” Ariala said, clenching her hands. She shook her head. “We don’t have time to dawdle. I will speak with her. If that fails, then Rune, and Leos, I will do my best to help you stop her.”

“You as well, Ariala?” Nier cried.

“I don’t want to do it either. But we have no choice. Like she says, we have to go and stop her, anyway. If we can prevent her from rampaging, then it is better,” she said. “It is my duty as princess of Faernia to stand strong at times like this. On top of that, I am a priestess to the Tapu. I have to face them.”

“That’s true but,” Vincent said, growling. He looked like he didn’t know what to say.

“Vincent, Nier. It has been too long. But I’m afraid our reunion will have to wait. I have orders for you,” Ariala said, becoming stern.

“Of course! Oh geez Ari, we know what we’re in the middle of here. But this is a whole different thing. You guys are about to destroy like, our whole planet’s tradition! If we’ve not got your back, then it just feels wrong. So just this once, let us keep watch outside the temple or something,” Nier argued.

“Outside the temple? What can we do from there?” Vincent cried.

“It’s the best we can do. If things go sour, we’ll jump in and make her play by our rules, not hers,” she said. “Plus, we’ve got Leos’ group. These kids can pack a real Mega Punch, you know.”

“My friends… I owe you all deeply,” Ariala said, clutching her chest.

“Alright, enough fluff. Let’s move,” Rune ordered.

“Leos!” Prem and Griselle cried just as the were about to sprint away. Leos stopped and glanced back and forth at both parties.

“I know I can’t use my Zenryoku arte if you’re not there, but I’ll be fine. You guys don’t need to fret,” he said.

“I-I’ll be outside like Nier said and all that, but you know,” Griselle replied.

“It’s more like… please, for the love of the gods, be careful,” Prem added. “I know you have to do this, and I’ve told you what I wanted to tell you. But you still haven’t shown me your answer, yet. Y-you can’t let anything happen to you before you do, okay?”

Leos didn’t answer right away, giving Prem a saddened look. “I said, okay?”

“I-I go by facts, Prem. If I don’t die, then maybe some other day I can give you an answer. That’s all I can say,” he replied. Prem moaned and threw himself into a hug with the Oshawott, surprising both parents. They held each other tightly, and when they detached, their faces were in perfect sync, staring into each other’s eyes. They nodded to each other, and then Leos turned to run with Rune and Ariala.

“You two truly are the perfect candidates for the Zenryoku arte,” Blossom smiled. Prem didn’t reply, staring at the rest of the city. “Let’s do our best in our part.”



Competitive Mijumaru

Episode 30: The Rite of Awakening

The temple was unguarded. It was dark inside, and a very shallow layer of murky, coloured water flowed out from within. The surrounding area was devoid of life besides the soldiers that had been hurt in the battle, but even they were a far distance from the temple. The obvious assumption was that Tapu Lele scared them all away, but it felt more like Tapu Fini’s lack of care for the temple in her absence had led to the area’s decay.

“Weapons out. We need to be prepared for anything and everything,” Rune said, leading the way. Ariala took a deep breath and tiptoed silently behind him, but she kept glancing back to make sure that she was practically hiding Leos from view.

It was very dark and quiet inside, and an eerie chill wafted through the air. Leos could see and hear everyone’s breath, and the only sound he had to break that chill was the light splashes him and Rune made as they walked. The black walls were barely illuminated by his Razor Shell and Rune’s sword, but it did the job until they reached the centre of the temple, where lit candles lined the walls. Tapu Fini’s stone body was still there with the sword in her head, and Tapu Lele was right at the back wall. Diantha’s body was being held up high by Psychic, hung up beside Tapu Lele like a decoration.

“Wait. Master Lin?” Leos gasped, coming to a stop the moment he saw him. The dark monster had his back turned until he heard his name, where he smiled and waved at his audience.

“Greetings, your highnesses. It is quite the honour to be in the presence of Etheria’s proud royalty,” he began.

“Who or what are you?” Rune asked with widened eyes.

“Has your wife or son never once told you about me? That’s a shame to learn. We’re both important figures, so it’s also a shame that this should be our first meeting,” he replied. A Mimikyu beside him slid forwards.

“Wait, where’s Prem? You guys didn’t let him get hurt, did you?” she cried.

“Rosie, it is fine. Tapu Lele requested only them, as they are the only ones we have business with,” Lin said.

She moaned and slid back. “I really wanted to see my darling, though. It pains me to be parted from him.”

“Don’t fret, my dear. You’ll be with him very soon.”

“Look, we don’t have business with you. I ask that you leave this place,” Rune said, shaking him head. Leos’ heart began to race.

“Oh but I do I’m afraid, your highness. For pledging my loyalty to Tapu Lele and becoming the new high priest of the Tapu, I was granted a meeting with the three of you. And she has kept her promise, as you can see,” Lin replied, smiling.

“You see, I always get what I want. With my power, no one can stop me from getting what I want. That’s how it’s been for years, and yet now you want to take that away from me? That’s not what I want,” Tapu Lele snickered.

That tone. Why does she sound like Charle all of a sudden?” Leos realised, gawking a bit.

“You have something that I desire, and now is the time that I will have it. Give it to me,” Lin ordered, lowering his tone. The trio shifted away, tightening their poses. “To be more specific: Ariala, give it to me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking-”

“The shadow partition! Give it to me!” Lin snapped.

“Shadow partition?” Rune repeated. Ariala shuddered, but didn’t reply.

“I won’t waste time for this. I’ve waited too long to get my hands on it. Tapu Lele, if you will,” Lin said, clasping his fingers together.

Tapu Lele let out a grunt and a cry, and then everything of their dark surroundings turned into a glowing mess of colours and patterns. The walls vanished, replaced by an endless backdrop of these colours and irritating sounds, as if they had all been warped to an entirely different world. The next thing they knew, the trio had lost control of their bodies, floating in the air and unable to move.

“Wha-what? Damn it, I can’t move? The hell is this?” Rune growled, struggling anyway.

“Ps-Psychic Terrain,” Leos struggled as well, moaning. He didn’t want to, but his body being held against his will like this hurt, like his whole body was aching at once. His head especially, which felt like it was splitting in two. It hurt so much he had lost his voice and could barely let out a sound.

“If I were you, I’d just comply. Master Lin and Tapu Lele always get what they want, and they mean it,” Rosie said, giggling.

“Damn it, the sword should be protecting me. Why can’t I-” Rune growled, silencing when Master Lin unveiled a barbed wire whip. He stretched it out and snapped it at the ground, having the sound echo throughout the void of Psychic Terrain.

“The Psychic Terrain prevents any strange powers that would grant you priority movement. And then, her Psychic is unstoppable. In this weird space of hers, nobody can hear or reach you. It’s just us,” Lin said, approaching Ariala. Leos’ heart picked up even more, and his anxiousness to move multiplied. “Now then. You know what I’m going to do with this. So if you value your life, you will release the shadow partition.”

Ariala only struggled, shutting her eyes when he was right in front of her.

“You stay away from her!” Rune shouted.

That only made Lin snicker, and he whipped Ariala’s chest so hard that the others could feel it. The Clefable cried out, and her breathing became rapid from the lingering pain that came from it. Red marks landed on her body where the barbs of the whip hit, and more appeared when he struck her again. Her cries got louder.

“Ariala!” Rune screamed at the top of his voice. Leos could only whimper, forced to watch the Clefable get shredded by the continued whipping, her cries and screams piercing his heart to bring him to tears. Lin eventually stopped, but by the time he did, her body was covered in red cuts and scratches, and she was breathing hoarsely.

“Give it to me. Or do you want to know the meaning of death? Because this is barely the beginning of your suffering,” he said, stretching the whip again.

“I’ll- never give you- what you want,” she shuddered between weak breaths.

“Hmpf. Play heroine all you want. There is no way out of this, princess,” he said, swinging the whip. He wrapped it around her and then pulled on it, causing it to tighten right into Ariala’s skin. Her cries turned to screams at a tone and volume that made it out as though she was dying, her volume gradually weakening as her body stopped tensing against the whip and fell limp.

“Ariala!” Rune shouted repeatedly, managing to thrash about. He was crying like a man-child, eyes shut and tone shaky, but no tears coming. Rosie watched him intently, and hung the head of her rag to hide her eyes.

Why is this happening? Gods, please,” Leos whimpered, blinking continuously to stop his tears. Even as he could force himself to look away from it, he could mentally feel Ariala’s pain, hear her flesh getting ripped with Lin’s merciless pulling on the whip. The worst of the sight was Tapu Lele’s jovial look however, as she sat back and watched like it was a theatre scene. Her eyes showed no concern to what she was advocating whatsoever, even when Ariala’s cries fell to nothing but lifeless breaths.

“Don’t you dare faint on me. Torture’s no fun if you’re passed out!” Lin hissed, thrusting a palm at her. A weak Swift attack came out, which hit her in different areas to the wounds and threw her back into consciousness. She jolted and her back arched, sending the tightened whip to a different position, tearing into her more. When she fell back forwards, she spat out a dollop of blood, which disappeared into the patterned terrain.

“You will only die, your highness. Would you truly have it that way?” Lin asked, pulling the whip free. She didn’t reply, breathing weakly. He whipped her again, making her let out a scream.

“Well? Would you? Would you? Would you?” He kept raising his voice with each hit, striking the same spots until streaks of blood were flicking away with each lash. “Nothing will come of this unless you give me what I want, the shadow partition. Give it to me!”

“No! Stop, that’s enough, please!” Leos cried at the top of his voice. Tears were raining from his eyes uncontrollably, as well as wails amongst his words. He was even louder than Rune was earlier. “Stop it. You’ll kill her!”

“Silence! The two of you are so noisy,” Lin finally snapped, stopping. He approached Leos, smiling snarkily. “You know, this whole ordeal was your fault.”

“What?” Leos shuddered.

“You’re the one that told me how all of this was going to happen. Your premonition as a Constellar. How you thought you could stop that from happening. Because of you, I was able to prepare for this,” he said.

“Hey, this ain’t all, is it? I was enjoying seeing her look so pathetic,” Tapu Lele called out.

“Damn it. You bastards! The lot of you are devils!” Rune shouted.

“Oh, my lord Tapu Lele, the show is only just beginning. Let’s see how you handle the whip, shall we?” Lin snickered toward Leos, stretching it out again.

“Leave him,” Ariala huffed on a gritty breath. There was a pause.

“Come again?” Lin replied, half turning back.

“Leave Leos out of this.”

“So that’s what it is. You don’t care about yourself, but your pathetic excuse for a son,” he said, and Ariala’s eyes opened. She could barely breathe right, but everyone could see that she had regretted what she had just said. There was a slight tremble as well, as if she was trying to move. “Then I suppose you won’t mind if I perform my own Heavenly Execution.”

With that, he swung the whip so that it wrapped around Leos’ neck, and instantly, he felt himself at his limit. Several of the barbs pierced into his neck while the whip strangled him, causing him to let out a pained choke. He cringed and arched back as the wind was strained from him, his eyesight swerving with dizziness as pain and deprived oxygen took over all of his senses. He couldn’t even beg for mercy, and his mind did nothing but yell at him in desperation for relief.

“Leos!” Rune shouted.

“Leave him, stop, leave him out of this, please!” Ariala begged, shutting her eyes. Lin didn’t reply, he only yanked at the whip even harder, causing Leos’ chokes to get louder. Without a doubt in a few moments he would be done for, and both parents knew it. Knowing that, Ariala finally snapped, and tensed her whole body. Before he realised what was happening, a powerful shockwave of dark hued energy burst from Ariala, knocking Master Lin to the ground.

“What the-” he choked, scrambling to his feet.

Ariala had freed herself from the Psychic hold, and was now gathering energy around herself. Dark energy that resembled flames and electricity. It surrounded her like a powerful aura, growing larger the more she tensed herself. She faced him and swirled her fan around, creating a Moonblast about twice the size of her usual Moonblast attack, and shouted as she thrust her arm, firing it at Master Lin.

“No!” he shouted, crossing his arms over his face. A wicked blast of energy erupted from the hit and the heavy force pushed everyone in the room to the ground.

Tapu Lele quickly righted herself and went back to holding Leos and Rune with Psychic, while Ariala was left out of breath, barely standing with both arms still pointing forward. Smoke lingered from the Moonblast, but Lin’s figure couldn’t be seen within.

“Rosie, quickly!” Lin shouted after a few moments. The Mimikyu was on the move before he even ordered her, and latched herself to Ariala from behind. Ariala cried out and struggled to break free of the ghostly grip, mostly releasing more of the black aura to try and blow Rosie away.

“What’s going on?” Leos cried.

“I’ve won, that’s what,” Master Lin announced, drawing a rune with his hands. He cast his right arm as if commanding his magic, and then a bright light shone over Ariala. She took in a sharp breath the moment it appeared, and then was brought to the floor in agony once again as the light sucked the dark energy out of her, draining it all into a single spot in the air. It went on for a while, causing the spot of darkness to grow bigger than a Snorlax.

“Okay, I’m with the kid on this one. What is happening?” Tapu Lele asked, finally looking like she was paying attention.

“I’ve done it. I’ve finally done it. After generations, I’ve finally done it! My lord, the true god of this world can come to be!” Master Lin cheered, rushing back over to Tapu Lele’s side. He performed the same magic as before, but this time, the magic drained dark energy from Diantha’s dead body. Once he was done there, he rose both his arms and offered up his own energy, gathering up all of the fiery darkness into that same spot. “The Rite of Awakening is complete. The time has come, my lord! Come forth, and do unto this world as it has done unto you!”

“Now hold on a second,” Tapu Lele said, letting her Psychic go. Rune and Leos dropped to the ground, squirming as their aches remained. Ariala was out cold on the ground. “I’m your goddess, here. There is no other god. I’m the one who gets to judge this world, now that my brothers and sisters are gone. You bow down to me, and no one else!”

“How charmingly petty. You gods truly did go mad, childishly mad,” Lin snickered. “Come now. Did you honestly believe that I had changed my heart? To go from high priest of the Constellars to high priest of the Tapu just like that?”

“Anyone who doesn’t bow to me feels my wrath!” Tapu Lele shouted, trying to intimidate him. In the centre of the room the dark energy was brewing, swirling into some sort of form while they spoke. Rune and Leos didn’t dare move, not knowing what was coming out of it.

“I just needed your influence. Your power. And like the fools your royalty is made up of, they allowed me to join your ranks. But my pledge has always been to the great god of the stars: Marshadow!” Lin said, smiling with pure excitement. “Had you not been an aged, mad goddess, this might not have been possible. But that is all the more reason to overthrow you – to right this world with the power of its true god!”

“How dare you! I’ll just punish you all for this!” Tapu Lele screamed. She was stopped by the sound of thunder, and all eyes turned to the swirling darkness in the centre of the room.

Master Lin’s ‘god’ was emerging from within. A long, sturdy, wood textured appendage grew from the bottom of the orb, stretching out to the side in a long claw shape. Another one appeared on the opposite side, and they both moved, curling up. Several smaller claws appeared in the bottom centre, making a mouth of sorts. The upper half of the monster took on a jellyfish-like appearance, just about transparent and squishy as it took on an ovoid shape. Within the ‘jelly’, a cellular fabric of dark coloured nuclei and veins filled the space, all of it beating and pumping whatever fluid ran through its body.

“What… what is that thing? It’s huge!” Rune gasped, gawking up at it.

“Is that the god of the stars that the Constellars look up to?” Leos asked, frightened to the bone.

“What? What is this? You’re not the god of the stars!” Lin coughed. “Marshadow? Where is Lord Marshadow?”

“Looks like your plan backfired. Whatever that monstrosity is, I’ll just destroy it along with all of you. You’ll regret the day you thought you could play me!” Tapu Lele shouted, confronting the monster.

She began the battle by thrusting both arms at it, releasing a heavy wave of Psychic that struck everyone and knocked them all back, but the monster didn’t even budge. It screeched at her, widening its claws instead. Seeing her lack of damage, Tapu Lele conjured a Moonblast with one hand and threw it, engulfing the monster in a blast of glittering energy.

What followed after that was a blur of indescribable attacks and strikes at high speed. The monster had sped out of the smoke of the Moonblast and tackled Tapu Lele, to which she teleported in the blink of an eye. But the monster seemed to know where she would reappear and tackled that spot, and soon enough, the two were darting around the room as trails of pink and black energy, crashing into each other with mighty blasts. The others had to shield themselves and take cover from how ruthless the fighting gods were.

And then just as suddenly as the fight had started, the battle came to an end. Gasps rang out as Tapu Lele was pinned to the ground with overwhelming force, smashed straight downwards so hard that her Psychic Terrain shattered completely. She squirmed helplessly beneath the weight of the monster, letting out a scream as she stretched her hand out towards Rune and Leos in a desperate plea for help. The latter turned away as she was getting crushed alive, so hard that cracks appeared all across her pink shell, and one even across her eyes and face.

“What? They’re-” Rune growled, stepping backwards. Leos forced himself to look back at the gruesome spectacle, finding that the monster hadn’t crushed her, but had half consumed her instead. It spat out her lifeless body after a few moments, revealing its new state where it seemed to be infected by the dark energy.

“No,” Leos whispered, staring up at her new form. It was familiar. It was just as Master Lin had warned. It was a Tapu Lele he had seen before, one obscured by dark colours and soulless eyes.

“A part of me still doesn’t know what’s going on, but things keep getting worse and worse, that’s for sure,” Rune said, staring at his new foes with fury. He held his sword tightly, not wavering in the slightest. “Steel yourself, Leos! Get your Razor Shell out.”

“Leos!” Prem cried from behind them. Leos spun around at his call, overly relieved to have the others finally run in to join him.

“Wh-whoa, okay. I was not expectin’ an evil Tapu Lele and… whatever that thing is,” Griselle was the first to say.

“I should’ve guessed you’d have a part in this!” Vincent said, rushing to the front.

“Nier, Ariala’s down there. She needs you, now!” Rune said, keeping his eyes on Master Lin.

Tapu Lele examined herself, and then faced forward with folded arms. “And then the heroes arrive just in the nick of time. Makes me wish I’d just killed her, instead.”

“That voice,” Leos shuddered. Tapu Lele’s corrupted voice was exactly like that of a spoilt, young, rich boy, but with an overwhelming level of echo and distortion applied. It was like the voice was coming from many different places at once, many places surrounding Leos rather than the direction he was facing.

“But alas, this is a vessel that will allow me to talk with you for the time being. You are not far off the mark, Lin,” Marshadow said, staring down at all of the Pokémon stood before her. All of them except for Blossom and Nier stared up at her, trying their best not to look intimidated. The two girls were using Heal Pulse on Ariala, and so were occupied. “There were four shadow partitions. If you should find the fourth one, my real form can return.”

“Four. But where is the last one? We must find it at once!” he replied.

“We will find it. Even in this form, I have a great amount of power. That’s all thanks to you. To be honest, I don’t mind this all this much. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to my true form since… oh I don’t remember when,” Marshadow answered. Her eyes twitched at the sight of everyone. “You’ve seen me take down a Pokémon considered a god. Why do you still stand before me, as if you have a chance?”

No one answered, but Rune glanced at his sword. It was still glowing.

“You need showing. That you can’t entertain me, that you can’t give me what I want. You can’t even provide me with a little bit of sustenance! You’re just mere practice fodder for my moves. But if you insist,” Marshadow continued, pointing a palm forward.

“Here it comes!” Vincent shouted. “Get back. We can’t damage it!”

“What?” Leos gasped. A dark sphere of energy formed in Marshadow’s palm, which exploded into several beams of purple light that spread off in many directions. Everyone had to shield themselves as the beams exploded against whatever they hit, filling the room with smoke and a painful temperature. Even Rosie had to squeal and jump to avoid some.

“I don’t know what it is because I’ve never figured it out. But that monster and Master Lin are protected by the god of the stars’ power. It’s sort of like a divine protection barrier,” Vincent said, dancing on his toes.

“Fools. I am the god of the stars, Marshadow! It is my own might that renders me and my devout subjects totally invulnerable. Are you still going to waste my time trying to stand up to me?” Marshadow corrected, snickering.

“Nonsense. I refuse to believe that!” Rune shouted, throwing himself forwards. He jumped high into the air and swung down hard on the legendary, slamming down on its head. To everyone’s surprise, Marshadow recoiled sharply and cursed, grabbing the spot where he hit. The slash hadn’t cut her at all, but a red mark appeared on her body.

“Blast, what?” Marshadow shrieked, shivering from pain. She scanned the party, breathing heavily. “Wait, that’s it- that sword, where did you get that damn sword?”

Rune glanced at it again, then back at his enemy. “My Father gifted this to me. He gave it to me so that I could protect the Pokémon I love.”

“It’s the Sword of Earthly Elements,” Ariala said, surprising everyone. She was still weak, but she was standing. Most of her bad wounds had been covered over thanks to Blossom and Nier’s healing. “It can damage you gods, can’t it? Whether you have a protective barrier or not.”

“Ariala,” Rune whispered.

“Mother,” Leos did the same.

“You are to wait until I gain my full form. Until then, you are fighting me at my imperfect state! Me at reduced power. Wouldn’t you like it if the fight was fair? Me at my perfect form and strength. Wouldn’t that be an epic clash? You know you want it!” Marshadow replied.

Ariala didn’t reply with words. Instead she stepped back, keeping her gaze fixed on Marshadow. Once she was at Tapu Fini’s side, she reached out and grabbed the sword jutting from the legendary’s head, and pulled with a grunt. Bright light sprung from the blade as it was drawn from Tapu Fini, surrounding them both until the weapon was fully released.


The light blinded everyone until it was fully drawn, where it dulled down and was replaced by a spire of pink water. Ariala pointed the weapon at Marshadow, to which Tapu Fini gave a mighty cry and stretched her arms out wide. Pink mist took over the room in similar fashion to the Psychic Terrain, causing Marshadow and Master Lin to choke and cry out.

“No! No one should be able to draw that sword!” Master Lin cried.

The Sword of Divine Elements wasn’t much of a sword, despite its name. It had a hilt that was wrapped around with feathers of varying colours, while the ‘blade’ was a streak of light that flowed like flames with a steady shower of glitter coming from it. It was short and small enough for Ariala’s stubby fingers to hold it, but a little longer than a dagger.

“You. You baited me! You had me believe you were slain so that I could be thrown off. You and your blasted powers of premonition!” Marshadow shouted, both his vessel and monstrous form shaking around the air in anger. “But the day is mine. The world is mine! Because I always get what I want. And an old fish like you isn’t going to stop me. Master Lin! We are retreating. Find that last partition!”

“No you don’t!” Rune cried, lunging forward. Marshadow darted back to where Master Lin was, smothered him, and then the duo disappeared in flash of spiralling darkness. They teleported away, leaving just Rosie.

“Wa-wait! Master Lin, Lord Marshadow!” the Mimikyu cried, glancing left and right. She tried to make a break for it, but Rune reacted and stood in her way, leaving her to panic on the spot.

“I should’ve guessed that they were capable of teleportation. But to think that you predicted this event this far in advance,” Ariala remarked, turning back to Tapu Fini.

“What happened? The Sword of Divine Elements couldn’t be drawn until now, right?” Leos gasped.

“She spoke to me whilst I was unconscious. She told me to draw the blade. She used it to stall her death so that I could have it when Marshadow was summoned here,” Ariala explained. She turned to Rune. “She told me that she foresaw your death against Marshadow just there.”

“I… lost?” Rune whispered. “You mean if I had fought on my own there, I would have died?”

“You do not have much time,” Tapu Fini spoke up at last. “There is much to explain, and very little time for me to do so.”

“Yeah, everyone’s got a lotta stuff to explain, ‘cos I’m more confused than ever. What was all that?” Griselle cried. Everyone ignored her and gathered around Tapu Fini, although they were clearly anxious to move.

“That monster is exactly as he calls himself: Marshadow, the god of the stars, and the Pokémon that the Constellars worship. He is powerful, but those powers are split into four partitions. When those partitions gather, his power grows stronger, and the lives of others become his to manipulate,” she said, laying a hand on her chest. “We Tapu did what we could to supress him for all these years. But your time has come, mortals. Your time to take care of this world in our stead.”

“You mean… the deaths of the Tapu,” Ariala said, gawking.

“I have foreseen it all. Our madness in old age, our exploitation of your devoutness, and our fall from the top. All until now, where we pass the torch onto you, prince and princess of Etheria,” she said, beginning to glow a heavenly gold. Her Misty Terrain began to vanish with her, concerning everyone to look around. “For the sake of your own survival, you must stop Tapu Lele and Marshadow. This world cannot see peace until you do. Our powers will protect you, but only those who follow the swords and believe in their wielders. When the swords glow, they have the power to strike down the gods.”

“A-and, I’m guessing my Zenryoku arte can still kill, too,” Leos shuddered. Tapu Fini nodded slowly, and then shut her eyes as she faded into glitter. Leos’ eyes watered a bit, and Ariala gasped and hopped after her as she disappeared, left with an arm hanging where the legendary just was.

“This is as far as my premonitions have shown me. Do not let Marshadow have his way. The future is in your hands,” Tapu Fini’s final whispers echoed.

“Rest in peace, Tapu Fini. I’ll never forget what you did for us,” Rune said, raising his left arm. A ring of light appeared around it, and the same appeared around Ariala’s right arm.

And then silence fell. No one knew what to say, exchanging awkward glances with each other and Ariala’s saddened face. Rune took notice of their swords, which had stopped glowing and darkened the area. A few moments later, their situation kicked everyone back into focus, as the sudden shaking of the ground almost took everyone off-balance.

“An earthquake? Now?” Prem squealed, hugging Leos. The Oshawott hugged back to keep his balance.

“No, these are shockwaves. I can hear them. Something is happening outside!” Ariala cried.

“Be careful, Ariala,” Rune said.

“You don’t need to worry about me. We have bigger problems! Everyone outside!” she raised her voice. The others did their best to stumble out of the temple, but Rune grabbed her arm and gave her a stern look.

“I mean it. Please. I almost lost you back there, and I couldn’t go on living if I did,” he said. She stared back and blinked, but took in a breath. “Just take care of yourself from here on. Please.”

Back on Eris, a situation had begun. Upon hearing the guards and soldiers around the castle shout panicked commands at each other, King Jyararanga rushed out to see for himself what was happening. He got to the castle’s front entrance and was confronted with a giant spectre, another Kommo-o that had almost the same size and shape as he did. Surrounding that spectre was an army of Erinian soldiers, all of them spectres of dark and dragon types.

“I recognise that face,” he muttered to himself, preparing for battle.

“How did an army this big get this far so quickly? And without us noticing?” one of the soldiers cried. That was when it clicked in Jyararanga’s head.

“The old king, and an army of fallen soldiers. Their spirits rise and walk the planet as enemies. There’s only one Pokémon capable of this heinous feat,” he answered. “All units prepare for battle! Maximum aggression!”

Meanwhile, Faernia castle was facing the same crisis. The Pokémon that had lost their lives in the battle against Tapu Koko were coming back to life right before the eyes of those who survived, standing back up with the texture of spectres. Their bodies were transparent, white, and ghostly, while their eyes were red, glowing, and lifeless. At the castle, Azu gathered behind a group of guards to protect Queen Magearna, but the group of them were confronted by a Gardevoir spectre that towered over them in its mega-evolved form.

“Reports of the dead rising and fighting against us, and the ancient queen of generations old. Why?” Azu whispered, glaring furiously at their new foe.

Outside, sitting on the edge of a tall building to watch down on it all, Charle casually kicked his feet and snickered at the aggressive sounds echoing up to him. “So, it’s begun.”


Competitive Mijumaru
Episode 31: A forgotten history


“There are spectres everywhere. And they’re all from the Pokémon that fell during the recent battle,” Ida gasped, huffing from fatigue. The Purrloin had to fight her way back through the city to meet the others outside the temple, where the absence of the spectres gave her a respite. “What’s going on? What did all of you do?”

“I apologise,” Ariala said.

“Why are you apologising? This isn’t your fault. We need to do something,” Rune replied. Ariala didn’t move.

“No. Please, allow me to explain. It’s a long story,” she said, walking back into the temple. Everyone exchanged glances before following.

“Does this have something to do with Charle? He ran away from me during that last fight and I haven’t seen him since. He’s been acting so weird since he came back,” Ida asked.

“It might. But this roots back to when I first met Rune. That was twenty-six years ago, back on Eris,” Ariala began. Leos shuddered but paid attention, not expecting to hear about something from so long ago. “As many of you may know, I was kidnapped by King Jyararanga. Many thought it to be a strange act of war, but it actually wasn’t. It was Tapu Koko’s doing.”

“Tapu Koko?” Rune repeated. Ariala opened her eyes and kept walking, but she was slow.

“He conferred with the king at some point, and I was delivered. They said they needed my body, and my powers. But I was just a child, so I was frightened and didn’t understand anything. That was until that showed up: that shadow. Those dark powers you saw me expel when I tried to fight Master Lin,” she said, stretching an arm out. No power came. “King Jyararanga sealed a shadow partition within me. He said it gave me powers, but that I wasn’t to use those powers unless I absolutely needed to. It was the partition of a greater Pokémon, one that possessed god-like powers. Even with just a fraction of it sealed within me, it had some control over my actions, and sometimes came out beyond my will. I did training to supress it and learn to use it, but it was never fully under my control. Only now do I fully understand that.”

“Those powers that Diantha had. Why didn’t Father ever tell me?” Rune said.

“Yes. You and Diantha’s obstruction to the sealing caused her to take some of the power as well. From there on, the Tapu had planned to destroy any remaining hint of it. They knew they couldn’t afford to let any of the partitions get out. So when Diantha released her powers during that battle, sixteen years ago,” she continued, turning back to Rune.

“It attracted Tapu Koko, and he destroyed the source of the partition,” Rune finished her sentence, and she nodded.

“I never knew why, though. I never fully understood. I thought it a curse they merely deemed too powerful for Pokémon to use. But to think they would kill the princess – it was the first time my faith in the Tapu wavered. I had to test their reason, and provoked them myself. But when I released the power in the same way as Diantha, no one came. Thus, me and you were left to quickly plan our method of stalling the war,” she continued.

“Yeah,” Rune said with a sigh, turning to Leos. The boy’s eyes widened. “This might be the only chance I get to apologise for being your missing Father for all this time. But I simply had to. You were too important to the world, and us. We agreed to ‘go missing’ from the world, so that we could stall our planets from attacking one-another while you grew up. Our parents knew of our activities and absence, but the opposing planet did not, leading to our planets’ own falsified crisis. Our armies were pretending to search for their prince and princess, so there was no time to attack one another.”

“Why couldn’t you at least live with me still, though?” Leos challenged, stepping forward.

“I declared I would get my revenge for my sister. But first I had to understand why it all happened,” he replied, folding his arms. “I kept in contact with Ariala through letter, but I was too busy sneaking around Faernia to ever see her. In time, I formed a group I called ‘The Deliverance’, who would work towards freeing the Pokémon from the Tapu’s increasingly questionable actions.”

“The Deliverance?” Leos replied, spinning around. He spotted the Togedemaru, Sylveon and Greninja in the group, who waved at him.

“Yeah, sorry we couldn’t tell ya earlier, kid. Needed to keep our activities as underground as possible,” Shota snickered. “But as smart as you are, I’m surprised you never once thought about how I suddenly showed up one day, knowin’ so much about ya.”

“When I found out you’d snuck out to the Stardust Treasury, I was overcome with guilt and worry. I knew what I had said wouldn’t keep you from what you were doing. I had to get these guys to protect you. Thinking back then, it’s clear now why Tapu Lele stole Diantha’s body. Master Lin’s plan to gather those shadow partitions was in motion by then,” Rune said.

“He was also the one in charge of investigating the Tapu’s strange behaviour. He was the only other religious figure that they could rely on to do so,” Ariala added, now addressing everyone. “What I’m saying now is that our world faces its greatest of danger: Marshadow. We must destroy it in its current form, and prevent it from encountering its last partition. If it wasn’t for me acting so slowly, for daring to keep faith in the Tapu after they had done such unforgivable things, we might have been able to avoid even half of our losses.”

“Don’t beat yourself up over it. You had to do some very difficult things,” Rune replied.

“It’s just like Lin to go after some godly power. First it was harnessing the power of the hybrid hero, now it’s the god of the stars,” Vincent spat, tapping his foot.

“But where are we gonna find the last partition? One was in Ariala, one was in Diantha, and the third one he had himself,” Nier asked.

“You’ve figured it out, haven’t you, Rune?” Ariala said expectantly. The duo nodded at each other.

“Leos, you’ve read my diary, so I’m sure you know him. Mirror, the Absol responsible for provoking Diantha to release those powers in the first place,” Rune asked. “If we find him, we have the last partition.”

“There is just one thing about this that I don’t understand,” Ariala said, rubbing her chin. “Lin tortured me to get me to release the power so that he could drain it from me. We can assume that he can only drain the shadow partition when it is leaking from the Pokémon that has it. But he drained it from Diantha now, a dead Pokémon.”

Rune walked over to her body and inspected it, laying a hand on its side. It was cold, wet, and stiff, yet retained a healthy appearance. You couldn’t tell that she was dead until you felt her heart. “Maybe it’s just easier to get from a dead Pokémon? If the partitions can affect the Pokémon they’re sealed in, then it’s clear what drives Mirror to do what he does.”

“But then why not just kill me, then? Why not kill all of us? He had us right where he wanted, yet resorted to torture. Tapu Lele even allowed it to happen,” Ariala said. Rune stood up and spun around, unable to come out with a response. “What possible ulterior motive could he have to keep us alive?”

“I understand your concern, but it’s no use worrying about something like that. All we understand is that he wants to bring Marshadow to life, and the Tapu were keeping that sealed for all this time. We should focus on stopping him at all costs,” Vincent replied, stepping in. “And this time, you’ll kill him. Erase him from this world for good.”

“That’s not how we do things, Vincent,” Ariala said, looking at him. She went quiet when she noticed his fury, and faced him properly. “I know your history with him is deep. But please, we mustn’t be rash. He can only be tried for his actions as of his time in the Tower of the Tapu.”

“This monster literally almost killed you. He is partly to blame for all those spectres outside – how can you possibly say that?” Leos cried.

“Leos, the Tapu taught us-”

“Forget what the Tapu taught us, they’re not our dictators anymore!” he raised his voice. Silence fell and the Clefable stood down, gripping at her chest and belly.

“We’ll execute him on sight. But first, finding Mirror. He told me this: ‘when the time comes to search for the final Shadow Partition, find me in the temple of the shadow’s first descent. There, we will decide this world’s fate’. So Father, where did the shadow partition first descend?” Leos said, taking charge.

“Leos,” Rune whispered. The look of determination on his son’s face made him settle his thoughts, and he folded his arms.

“Castle Eris. The temple at the top, where they keep the Dragon Weapon,” a girly voice spoke up before him. The royals turned to their army in surprise, finding them all to be just as clueless as to who spoke. “Over here, you big dummy.”

“What?” Rune choked, flinching back so hard that he almost fell over. Leos and Ariala were no better, left gawking at the sight of Diantha standing, talking, in full motion. Her eyes had pupils again, but they were a bright yellow. She didn’t look as stiff as she did earlier either, and gave him a cheerful wave.

“Surprised to see me? I woke up at the perfect time!” she said. Rune drew his sword and pointed it at her. “Whoa whoa whoa, the heck gives?”

“What kind of witchery is this? Don’t play me for a fool!” Rune replied.

“I’m not I’m not!” she cried, flailing her arms. “Well uh, I guess it’s sorta tough to convince ya. I’ve only been M.I.A for sixteen years.”

Everyone stared without a word. Rune’s face only tightened, and he pushed his sword a little closer.

“Okay okay, I get it! So like, that Marshadow guy is why Pokémon can make spectres and all that, right? He makes ‘em outta dead Pokémon. So now that he’s strong enough, he’s able to bring ‘em back with their bodies, too. So that means I’m a spectre, but I get to walk around in my body and all that?” she said. Rune loosened and lowered his sword to his side. “I-I mean it. I dunno any other way to convince you, but it’s me, sis. And I don’t need many intros, ‘cos I know that you’re big bro. You’ve got his sword.”

He hesitantly approached her, and she stood perfectly still and stared back. She lacked her skirt and her head fur wasn’t tied into a ponytail like it used to be, but he could tell that both bothered her. She kept swiping fur out of her face and trying to throw it to the back of her head, while her other hand rubbed at her thigh, as if the skirt not being there created worries.

Then his feelings all came rushing in at once. Her voice and tone were nostalgic, and the way she stared at him with hopeful, spoilt eyes, just waiting for him to give in to her petty wants. He dropped his sword and knelt down to her, blinking several times before hugging her tightly.

“U-uh, erm, big bro? P-Pokémon are watching,” she squeaked, tensing up a bit. He could tell that she was still dead as she was still cold, but the response warmed him all the same. He didn’t need to see her face to know that she was blushing, so he only tightened his grip, trying to convey how he felt without saying it. He wanted to cry, but he forced himself not to. She eventually got this and hugged back, patting him on the back however she could.

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you,” he said with a tremble and a sniffle.

“And I’m sorry I was a total ass,” she replied in similar vein.

“I hate to interrupt the meaningful fluff, but two things. She’s still a dead body, and is only temporarily here. Two, we really need to get going if we’re going all the way to Eris. The more time we waste, the more time those spectres spend wreaking havoc,” Ida said, walking to the front.

“Make time. This is important,” Rune said, breaking away.

“N-no, she’s right. I know me being back means we can party and all, but we can make time for that later. For now, we’ve gotta get to that temple and protect Mirror. I don’t exactly have cool powers or anythin’, but I’m pretty good with special attacks, so let me at ‘em this time,” Diantha agreed.

“And risk you getting hurt again? I couldn’t bear the sight, not after-”

“Big bro,” Diantha said teasingly.

He sighed. “Just don’t do anything stupid. You don’t have those powers anymore.”

“I know I know! But I can still do cool stuff like Trump Card, remember?” she said, hands on her hips.

“We’ll have to make our way to the castle. I’m sure there’s an airship there,” Ariala mumbled.

“We can use the Entercards to warp straight to Eris, actually. I figured out how to use these, but I can only go where I’ve been before,” Leos said, searching his belongings.

“Entercards?” Ariala replied, tilting her head.

“Just follow my lead.”

Their objective turned out to be as gruesome as the battle they had just endured. Leos had managed to calm himself down after being frightened by the war, but being thrown back into those conditions only put him right back to square one.

The party emerged from the Magnagate right at the foot of Castle Eris, where spectres – the ghostly figures and animated dead bodies alike – were deep in combat with the ruthless soldiers of Eris. Being dead bodies in motion, the gory offence against them didn’t put them out of action, only making everything seem worse. Arms and legs were being cut off by swords and rampaging dragons, chests and heads pierced by claws and swords, and many Pokémon were even getting beheaded. But the spectres would keep fighting anyway, seemingly unhindered by missing body parts. The only difference was that they were silent, not letting out any death screams. It all still turned Leos’ face pale, and he hid behind his friends as they escorted him through the chaos.

Thankfully, he was able to quickly tear himself away from it since they were right by the castle’s entrance. The castle itself had gone into a defensive mode, so many guards were well positioned and the hallways weren’t busy. None of the spectres had infiltrated yet, so it was a simple task of turning his back on the battle at hand, finding and explaining the situation to Jyararanga, and then making their way to the temple at the top of the castle.

Everything will be so much worse if you don’t stop this now. So just focus – it’s time for action,” Leos kept telling himself as he and his army quickly paced up the castle. When they reached the very top, silence took over, as if there was no one around in the area.

“It’s just as I remember it. No one here, and just the barrier. It’s like it’s disconnected from the rest of the castle,” Rune said, leading the way. The barrier at the end of the hallway had been renewed, but it was just as basic. A few planks of wood that could be jumped or climbed over. In Rune’s case, he drew his Razor Shells and smashed it to pieces with little effort.

“Did you have to?” Jyararanga said.

“Saves time,” he replied, walking off.

Leos and Ariala followed behind them, the former growing nervous again even with his inner chanting. He felt that ‘disconnection’ from the world once the aged, ruined temple came into sight, along with the scenery faded by distance. There weren’t even any insects or Pidgey here, just the ruined temple, the large green hexagon, and of course, Mirror. The Absol was at the far end of the temple, staring at its weathered murals.

“So you came,” he began, not turning around.

“You invited me. You foresaw all this, didn’t you? Absol can do that, after all,” Leos said, walking ahead towards him. He stopped when Mirror swiped his front paws aside, summoning three spectres in front of him. They were all Kingler. “Wait what? What’re you doing?”

“The only thing that is to be done, now. To see whether you have what it takes. After all, you’re only about to deal with the most powerful being in existence,” Mirror replied, turning around.

“Listen. I hate you more than anyone else in the world. Just the sight of you makes me want to kill you a thousand times over, right here and now,” Rune said, drawing the Sword of Earthly Elements. It was glowing.

“Rune,” Ariala muttered.

“But what’s at stake here is more important than my personal agenda. It’s the same for all of us. So we’re here now to take you someplace safer, and protect you. There’s no need for us to fight right now,” he said.

“And what will you do when I am in this safe place?” Mirror asked.

“Destroy Marshadow’s incomplete form. Ensuring he can’t get to you is the priority now,” he answered. There was a pause.

“You are as pitiful as ever, Prince,” Mirror sighed, widening their eyes. “Even after everything I did to you, you never once learnt what it really takes to protect someone.”

“The hell do you know you psychopathic murderer?”

“Rune, please,” Ariala interrupted, stepping forward. He allowed her to approach. “Please, our planets face a dire situation right now and there is little time to lose. We must put our differences aside and cooperate for the time being.”

There was another pause, but Mirror never moved at all. “Tell me, princess. What drives your desire to protect? What need have you to prevent Marshadow’s birth?”

“As crown princess of Faernia, and the mother of Leos, our world’s unifying person, it is my duty to protect our world from every crisis. The birth of Marshadow and the Pokémon involved threaten Etheria’s already delicate peace,” she answered.

“Why should she even have to answer to you? Look we’re just here to protect you. Cooperate with us or else,” Leos said.

“None of you have learnt a thing,” Mirror said, slamming a paw on his mask. Everyone flinched and readied themselves for the worst, but when he removed the mask from his face, his spectres vanished.

“Have they become invisible?” Rune said, guarding himself.

But nothing came. Mirror crushed the mask in his paw, stumbled a bit, and then thrashed it aside. It clanged against the stone wall in the only standing corner of the room, maintaining an odd feature even though it had been crushed. The single eye visible through the mask turned out to be part of the mask itself, an eye that wasn’t visible on the other side of the mask.

Mirror’s face was as normal as an Absol’s could be, but he kept his eyes clenched tightly shut. His eyelashes were long and stood out the most, whilst a long curl of fur burst out to the side of his face. And then he collapsed, falling right over onto his side as if totally lacking energy.

“Mirror!” Rune shouted, rushing over to him. He shook the Absol and held up his head, trying to feel for a pulse. His heart was fine. “Hey, hang in there! Get up, what’s wrong?”

It took a moment, but eventually Mirror’s eyes twitched and he moved to stand up, but his eyes never opened. He made a few sounds that were the total opposite of his usual stern, dark voice, and turned his head to look around in confusion.

“Wait, what? I’m… awake? Why am I- oh gods, is anyone there?” he cried, falling into a panic. He sounded like a little girl, lost and frantically huffing to try and calm themselves. “Hello? Please, someone, anyone, who’s around?”

“Open your eyes. What’s wrong with you?” Rune said, folding his arms.

“Th-there is someone there! Please, you’ve got to help me. I’m begging you, there’s no time to lose,” he cried, still not opening his eyes. He dashed forward and tripped up, falling face flat.

“Is he blind?” Ariala asked slowly, a finger on her lip.

“I-I think so. Hey, calm down a sec,” Diantha cried, helping him up. He kept whimpering and flinched at her touch, but knew where to turn to face her.

“You’re somebody! Please, my mask should be nearby. You’ve got to pick it up and give it to me! Please, or terrible things are going to happen, I mean it!” Mirror cried.

Diantha giggled at him and stroked his side. “Sorry, but I can’t do that. And you know exactly why.”

“Sis?” Rune said, watching in concern. His heart jumped when she raised an arm and channelled a huge orb of dark energy in it, making everyone flip out. They had only a second to act before she slammed that hand down to release the energy via an enormous shockwave, taking everyone off their feet. Fortunately Ariala reacted with a Light Screen, but had barely gotten the shield up to reduce the damage properly.

“Now, drain him, Master Lin!” Diantha called out.

“Diantha!” Rune shouted, sitting up. Lin, Tapu Lele, and the shadow partition had emerged from the broken roof, as if they had been hidden behind the temple the whole time. Lin didn’t waste time in performing his magic spell to drain the dark energy from Mirror, causing the Absol to scream in pain.

“No!” Ariala cried, sticking a hand out.

Leos couldn’t manage anything more than a sharp breath in, staring with watering eyes as the last of the shadow partition formed in the air, slowly merging with the rest of its monstrous form. He wasn’t speechless in awe, fear, or even worry, but that they had been so easily duped.

He had too much to think about. His Mother and Father’s story, the death of the Tapu, and his own friends and position in the new world they were heading towards – he truly never thought to question the sudden resurrection of Diantha and what it could mean, to be wary of what Marshadow could accomplish while its form was as close to completion as it was. And now, thanks to his haste, inability to act or think clearly, it was complete. The god he so badly didn’t want to deal with.

Marshadow’s form stabilised whilst this revelation came to light. The jellyfish-like monster shrunk greatly in size and stature, becoming just a little taller than he was. Two glowing yellow eyes surrounded by outlines of dark red poked through the head of the Pokémon, while a cleaner, more shadow-like texture took over the Pokémon’s human shaped body. A fluffy, shadowy collar flowed around its neck, a shadowy helmet with three horns flowed around its head, and its feet had flowing, shadowy trails coming from them.

It admired its final appearance and the audience it had to witness it, curling its small hands into fists repeatedly. It jabbed the air a few times and then stretched, curling its body to get a good look at itself. Finally content, its small mouth turned into a smile, and its eyes met Leos’.

“Ah. It’s good to be back,” he said, sounding familiarly childish.


Competitive Mijumaru
Episode 32: The power of the Spectre


“Come with me, and you'll be, in a world of pure imagination,” Marshadow began, twirling as he sung. “Take a look, and you'll see, into your imagination.”

Everyone stared up at him intensely, half expecting his movements to come out with a Pokémon attack. But nothing came of his enthusiastic spins and bows, or even his teasing points at the various Pokémon. He just kept singing, showing off his posh, young voice.

“We'll begin, with a spin, traveling in the world of my creation. What we'll see, will defy explanation,” he sung, pausing with a bow and a snicker. He looked up and batted his eyelids at Rune, who scowled in response. “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it, anything you want to, do it-”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Rune snapped, pointing his sword at him.

“Ah. You interrupted me. Can’t a guy sing when he’s in a good mood?” Marshadow said with a snicker, stretching again. “Just look at me. I’m a marvel to look at! A true figure of manliness and beauty. And it’s all thanks to all of you. That I’m out here, able to stretch my legs, appreciate the singing birds and, maybe catch a few z’s in the sun.”

Rune growled, showing his teeth.

“I’m not gonna lie, considering the appearance of your other form, I was expecting somethin’ a lot more intimidating,” Nier remarked.

“Size means nothing. Everyone on your guard!” Vincent shouted, standing guard over Ariala. Nier joined him, but Marshadow ignored their gathering positions. He stretched until his back made a loud click.

“Ah yeah, that’s the stuff. Now I’m ready for a good old-fashioned comeback. Yeah the god of the stars is back baby, and he is in full form!” Marshadow announced, making a peace sign with his fingers. “And the lot of you are lining up for the special event already. I feel bad for keeping such a dedicated fanbase waiting for the show, but this one’s invite only. The rest of you can watch if you want.”

“Okay, is this guy serious? I’m totally confused here,” Griselle groaned, slumping forward.

“I’m talking about you, darlings. I mean, I’m a literal god! Do you really think I can be hurt by anything other than your fancy little swords? I know the lot of you are just itching to have a good time, but only the royals can compete right now, and even then, do they even compare?” he said. “I have to hand it to you all, though. All of you settling your differences to come together and help ‘protect the world’ and all that is pretty commendable, considering the show you’ve put on so far. I was convinced you all were gonna destroy this world for me, what with the faith you all had in the Tapu!”

“What are you talking about?” Leos asked in annoyance.

“The Tapu sealed me. When Etheria was built and I came across it, those Tapu fought to protect it from me. Well not really fought, more like, flailed pettily. They put up a good one they did, but in the end, they all fell like Magikarp. Their only way to save you guys was to split me into partitions and then split the planet in two so that those partitions could never meet. But you see, I can do anything I want. I can get anything I want. So even with all those efforts, I could watch the world and act through my partitions. So I’ve seen everything,” he explained, hovering lower to Diantha’s side. “Seeing the world through the eyes of this spunky lil’ thing was a joy. But like everything, it eventually got boring. So I got my other partition to start spicing things up a bit, maybe influence a war or two, you know?”

“You were controlling her,” Rune muttered, shuddering. “And Mirror. You made Mirror do all those twisted things.”

“Everything the Tapu had done, it was all in attempt to keep you sealed and secret,” Ariala said, covering her mouth.

“And you ate it up like the emotional sucker you are every time. Even now- I mean, how obvious was it that I was Diantha this whole time? And you still walked right along with it all. Your precious sister means that much to you, yet you didn’t die before her trying to protect her. Makes for a petty tale, in the end,” he remarked.

“You, how can you say such awful things? Do you have any idea how much suffering you’ve brought upon Pokémon?” Ariala cried, keeping a tight grip on her sword.

“I’ve seen it all, darling. I’m the god of the stars. Every living thing and world has a star that tells its story, its future. If you can comprehend that, then you understand that I’ve seen every last possible reality there is,” he said, folding his arms. “I can do anything I want. I create worlds out of these stars, and get rid of them when they become a nuisance to watch over. And when you can do that, you eventually see everything that can come out of life. Every last possible outcome, ending, beginning, and all the fluff in between – I’ve seen it all. And those Tapu tried to take it all away from me. But now that I’m back, I’m the one in control again.”

“Tsk. Forget it, you’re just as mad a god as the Tapu. I’ll tear you shreds!” Rune shouted, raising his sword.

“Father!” Leos cried, sticking an arm out as Rune charged at Marshadow. Diantha dove in the way, making him stop just short of an overhead slash.

“Wait Rune!” she cried. Rune shuddered before her, and Marshadow burst out laughing.

“Look at him, Ariala! And you can honestly say you love this delusional dolt? He’s unfit to even be a guy!” Tapu Lele laughed as well.

“Stop it!” Ariala cried.

“Oh man up. You’re not going to stop me by whining about it, darling,” Marshadow said. Diantha and Tapu Lele said the same words as he did just there, and all in his voice. “You know how you’re going to stop me. By fighting. That very thing you seemed to avoid whenever you could.”

Ariala moaned a bit, but stood tall and never took her eyes off of him. Snickering at her determination, he floated away from Rune and right up to her, to which she didn’t even flinch. Leos and Rune were in shock, but trembled with dread.

“You’re a unique one, if I had to give any praise. Underneath all your non-violent preferences, you actually have a shocking amount of power. And that’s even without my partition in you. So show me that. Show everyone what you can really do,” he said, floating back to stretch his arms to his side. Diantha and Tapu Lele made space. “I want you to hit me as hard as you absolutely can. Just you. Then the rest of you can fight.”

“You’re giving her a free hit?” Rune asked, sceptical.

“Yep. Ariala. Me. As hard as you can,” he said, smiling in glee. There was silence.

“I- I can’t,” Ariala replied with a whisper, looking down.

“You can’t,” Marshadow repeated. His tone was sympathetic, yet not condescending, and a smile never left his face. “Here you are faced with the god of the stars you tried so desperately to stop from coming to life, and now you can’t even attack when given the opportunity? Not even a Pound attack? Huh. At least you’re not giving up like the peasants who don’t get their way.”

He turned to Rune, who was growling at him. “Well then Dewott, that just leaves us. We do as tradition does, don’t we? Have ourselves a little fist to fist. But do know that I mean business, Prince. If you lose, you won’t like to hear what’ll come next.”

“Tsk. Don’t bother, because you won’t even get the chance!” Rune shouted, charging at him again.

This time the army of Pokémon scattered, Tapu Lele and Diantha included, and Marshadow engaged him in a real battle. Rune swung at him with a furious overhead slash with so much force that the ground was left with a large indent where he hit. Marshadow had dodged it with a simple lean to the left, taking a small step to avoid the following horizontal slash. The dodging continued for a while, but each attack had Rune shouting and grunting as he tried, and every time he hit something by accident, it broke apart from the force.

“You weren’t kidding about wanting to tear me to shreds. A sword that can smash rock like yours is nothing to shake a stick at,” Marshadow said, eventually jumping away. He started thrusting his palms forward at high speed, and each thrust sent a Shadow Ball attack flying at Rune. The Dewott slashed the first one in half and then blocked the rest, guarding his face with his sword. “Can’t you do better than that? I can keep this up all day.”

And he wasn’t lying. The Shadow Ball attacks kept coming, forcing Rune to really plant his feet to stand his ground. But each one that hit his sword blew up into sparks and smoke, all of it crackling over him and singeing his arms.

“Mother, do something!” Leos cried. Before she could, Rune finally left his pose and disappeared from sight, reappearing as a blur for the briefest moment possible. That blur faded into a gush of wind that struck Marshadow hard enough to knock him backwards, making him snicker and start dodging again.

“Oh yes, that one! You’re quite something, you know?” Marshadow praised, looking excited as he hopped and stepped in various directions to avoid Rune’s wicked speed. “Double Team, right? The act of moving so fast that one creates the illusion of being in multiple places at once. But rather than using that power to throw off the eye, you use it to actually out-speed your opponent! Marvelous fighting tactics!”

“That’s what that was?” Leos gasped in surprise. He couldn’t see Rune at all, only the swipes of light that indicated when he was attacking.

“The big issue with that strategy, my prince,” Marshadow said, shutting his eyes. He came to a stop and clapped his hands, catching Rune’s sword in between them.

“What the? How did you?” Rune coughed, trying to pull back.

“You put all your energy into your speed, so you lose that wonderful power that had you crushing rock earlier. Such low power won’t even scathe me,” Marshadow finished. He quickly removed one hand and punched Rune’s stomach, sending him rolling backwards. “C’mon now. Don’t let that get you down. You were doing well, so keep it up.”

“Grr, curse you,” Rune snarled as he rose to his feet. He tried Water Pulse next, forming the watery orb at the tip of one palm and firing it in a similar fashion to Marshadow’s Shadow Balls earlier. He shouted as he threw multiple, but he fired then hardly as fast. Marshadow lazily rose one arm to guard his face, not flinching from a single one.

“Really?” he said, going half lidded. He flinched when Rune popped up in front of him amongst the Water Pulse attacks, shrouded in water himself. Rune crashed into him with Aqua Jet while holding his sword at the front, piercing Marshadow right through.

“He actually- oh my goodness! He actually did it!” Leos gasped on top of everyone else’s surprise.

Rune was pushing the duo back into the wall with the force he was putting into his attack, and both of them were growling as they pushed against each other. They hit the wall hard enough to make it break down, but Rune flipped to kick his feet off Marshadow to escape the impact.

“Don’t underestimate me. I have the power to protect,” Rune said, landing perfectly.

The broken stone and rubble moved to reveal a snickering Marshadow. He didn’t look like he had suffered any damage at all. “Good good, just like that. Keep it up, make me put some effort into this. Fight like that and I might have to start trying!”

“Enough of this. Just keep being cocky, I dare you!” Vincent shouted, charging in.

“Wait Vincent, only the swords can- aw darn!” Nier cried, flying after him. Rune was surprised to see them take his place in the battle, but could only stick out an arm.

“You two? I already told you, you can’t compete with me,” Marshadow snickered, holding his hands out. He didn’t attempt to block Vincent’s attack at all, but the hybrid ended up passing right through him as if he wasn’t there.

“What?” Vincent gasped. Marshadow punched him in the back right afterwards, hard enough to wind him and bring him to the ground.

“And if me being god status wasn’t enough, you forget that you’re a hybrid. That sickening mess of biology you try to call a Pokémon. Without Pokémon attacks, you can’t even touch me,” Marshadow laughed.

“Then try this on for size!” Nier said, pointing both arms forward, ears lifted for a full power Psychic attack. A blast of pink force hit Marshadow and made him flinch, followed by him cringing in attempt to try and resist it. “Not so tough now, are we?”

“Oh no, the invincible lord Marshadow defeated by a mere pawn’s normal attack, what dramatic irony, ohohoh- no,” Marshadow said, suddenly breaking free of the attack. His right hand burst with dark energy briefly, expelling as a large hand made of pure black energy. Nier cried out as it flew at her at high speed, too fast for her to avoid. She guarded herself with her arms, but the shadowy hand flew right through her, smothering her in its tainting colours. She fell quiet after a few moments, but a dark aura surrounded her. Marshadow laughed, watching everyone’s hesitant poses as they waited for the result of his attack.

Once Vincent stood up and growled at him, Nier began to move, drawing her rapier and engaging Vincent in a close quarters fight. If he wasn’t as into the fight as he was, he would have been stabbed right there and then, desperately blocking her stabs and slashes a few times before realising what was going on, and retaliating with a slash aimed at her sword. The two clashed, pushing against each other.

“Nier what the heck? It’s me!” he shouted in her face. She didn’t respond at all.

“Spectral Thief. Her soul and actions are all mine. I guess you’ll just have to kill her,” Marshadow sighed, shaking his head. He turned back to Rune. “Now then, where were we?”

“Let her go!” Ariala cried. She couldn’t bear the sight of Vincent and Nier fighting each other as brutally as they were.

“I told you darling, whining isn’t going to do anything,” Marshadow groaned.

Ariala scrunched herself up and growled, finally looking up and showing her fangs. With a hard flap of her wings, she leapt off the ground and flew towards Marshadow in a single jump, drawing the Sword of Divine Elements behind her in the process. “That’s enough you vile fiend!”

“Oh, I guess we’re doing this now? I’m not gonna complain,” Marshadow replied, crashing into her with a barge of equal force. The two pressed their right arm and heads against each other, their free arms drawn back with Pokémon attacks at the ready.

“G-guys, help out Vincent! We can at least stop Nier with status,” Leos ordered, glancing at the rest of the army. They nodded in response and made space, leaving Rune, Ariala and Marshadow to do their battle alone.

The fairy and ghost kept pushing against each other for a while, until Marshadow finally found the strength to punch with his other hand. His Shadow Punch sent her skidding across the ground, but she stayed on her feet. Rune rushed in with Aqua Jet the moment she was punched away, forcing Marshadow to hop about to avoid him.

“Excuse me, it was the lady’s turn!” Marshadow said. He charged up Shadow Punch again and then collided his fist with Rune’s Aqua Jet head-on, sending the Dewott flying into the air. With Rune knocked away, he went to resume his fight by charging at Ariala with a Shadow Punch still at the ready.

“Psychic!” Ariala cried, thrusting an arm at him. It was a repeat of the effect from Nier’s attack, only this time, it seemed to actually take Marshadow by surprise and pin him to the spot.

“What?” he screeched, trembling from pain. Ariala didn’t waste her chance, standing tall before charging forward, her hands glowing with white energy. She tore into him with a variety of punches, slaps, scratches, and more, finishing it off with punch that knocked him down onto the ground.

“Play Rough?” Rune said, gawking at the attack.

But Ariala didn’t stop there. Marshadow was floored at her feet, yet she pulled back her divine weapon and then whipped it, to which a sparkling strand of energy came out and wrapped itself around him. She pulled back again to lift him above her head, and then with a great shout, threw him back down, sending him into a ditch within the crumbling ground of the temple. Smoke surrounded them both for a moment, disappearing to reveal only Ariala.

“Gah! Dang, ahaha, ow! The heck is happening, how did that work?” he cried furiously. Ariala pointed her right palm at him in the ditch, charging a large Moonblast at the tip of it. “Okay, now I see the light.”

“Walk towards it!” Ariala shouted, letting it loose. A huge blast erupted from the ditch she had made, this one big enough to cover everyone in dust and smoke. When it began to clear up, only Ariala was standing.

“D-damn Ariala, where the hell did that come from?” Rune said, gawking.

She slowly turned to him and laid a hand on her chest, looking down at the ground. “I’ve been trained by the Tapu and the finest knights of Faernia. I was always capable of that kind of combat, but I never wished to go that far. But when he threatened Nier and Vincent…”

At the mention of her name, all eyes turned to the couple. Nier was knelt down and fatigued, but clearly no longer under Marshadow’s control. In the corner, Master Lin was slowly edging away from the army, gawking and staggering to say a word.

“Prem’s Thunder Wave worked a little too well. But she’s fine,” Leos said.

“That’s- no! That’s impossible!” Lin screeched, grabbing his head. “The god of the stars, felled in mere moments? The two of you cannot possibly be that powerful!”

Rune snapped his sword at the ground, making the monster flinch. “If the swords were forged to fell gods like him, then this is only natural. Unfortunate for you, devoting your whole life to that cause.”

“This- this isn’t over, you fools! While you were busy fighting, I to-took advantage. In this particular location, a backup plan was always a given!” he staggered, guarding himself with one arm. His breathing was erratic, and he wouldn’t shuddering. The others gathered around Rune to intimidate him further, but he shook his fear away and spat at them, sprinting backwards. It wasn’t until where he stopped that they realised what his ‘backup plan’ was, and froze. “Tha-that’s right! You daren’t make a move, lest you want my revenge.”

“The Dragon Weapon,” Rune mumbled, staring at him. Lin had his palm on the green hexagon in the middle of the room, and it was reacting to his touch.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jyararanga shouted.

“What does it look like? If Marshadow falls to you, then I’ll succeed his plan to destroy Etheria with the only other power that can!” Lin replied, his eyes twitching. “Come forth O mighty spirit of Eris. Gather the many and bring forth the complete Zygarde! Destroy everything in your path and force this star to reset!”

It took a moment, but the hexagon reacted to Lin’s order, flashing and releasing a black, smoky aura around itself and his arm. Rune, Ariala, and Jyararanga barely reacted while the others flew into a panic, speechless as the world around them began to rumble and shake.

It started with the bursting of the black aura around Master Lin, which was filled with the pattern of black and green hexagons, millions of tiny hexagons close together enough to irritate the eye for staring for too long. This dark aura kept on bursting and enlarging every time it popped, enveloping the whole temple and possibly more around them in its cold, windy embrace. Even Master Lin began to get unnerved by its frosty grip, gazing around at it all.

Then, beams of green light soared across the sky to one spot directly in the middle of the temple, each beam coming from countless miles away. It was like a swarm of insects had been magnetically pulled into a single spot by a command from their queen, each one cleverly gathering into a formation without a command, fusing together right before all their eyes. The figure it was creating was big enough to force everyone to run away and distance themselves, as just its foot was larger than the temple itself.

“There it is,” Master Lin snickered, staring up in awe.

Zygarde stood tall in a humanoid shape, the black and green hexagon theme carrying across every scale of its body. Long, draconic wings jutted from its shoulders and back like serpentine dragons, flowing from an invisible flow of wind from somewhere. Its bulky hands were tipped with three nails each, those nails flat and sharp as a sword. It bore an unusual face of white hexagons resembling eyes, while a ring of green ones made up a ‘mouth’ like the protective armour of a helmet. There were green hexagons making armour plates on different parts of its body, such as its hands, chest, and knees.

“Perfect Zygarde! At long last, you stand again!” Lin said, raising his arms. He pointed at Rune and his army, his face a mixture of madness and joy. “Unleash your wrath upon this sinful world. Destroy everything in your path, and wipe out this mortal realm!”

“Um, Father, Mother?” Leos said aloud, pushing his way to the front. The two of them didn’t say a word despite him and the army’s panic, simply putting their arms out to block him.

Leos choked and span around, anticipating a new crisis to befall them. He wanted to shout and scream for his life, but then he noticed King Jyararanga just as unbothered as his parents were. The Kommo-o had his arms folded, staring straight forward. Seeing that, he turned back around, realising that several moments had passed without Zygarde doing a thing.

“Did you not hear me? Zygarde!” Master Lin raised his voice, laying a hand on its foot.

“Don’t waste your breath. It won’t obey you,” Rune said, shocking him.

“But how? It is the Dragon Weapon, a creation made to destroy Faernia and Etheria itself!”

“Use your head,” Jyararanga said, stepping forward. “Do you honestly think that we would keep such a dangerous weapon in a place that can be reached this easily if any old codger could command it?”

“Gah- I- but you-”

“The Dragon Weapon was created and controlled by the ancients, Erinians from god knows how many generations ago. Despite that, it’s a living Pokémon. I’m privy to give you this information, but… there actually isn’t anyone in this world that knows how to use Zygarde anymore. It is useless,” Rune explained. Master Lin’s mouth dropped, and he stumbled backwards, uttering sounds of disbelief.

“Then why did you tell him that?” Leos said.

“Because trespassing here and messing with the Dragon Weapon is punishable with death. On top of the many other crimes you’ve done, and your current being here on Erinian soil,” Rune answered, stepping forward. “I suppose Vincent would like to do the honours.”

“N-no! You can’t! I have the protection of Lord Marshadow, anyway. I am invincible! And my faith in the stars is unyielding. I am next in line to become that god. Defeating Marshadow only gifts his powers to me!” Lin shouted. Vincent ignored every word, readying his naginata as he approached. “Don’t you dare come closer!”

“So your true colours show at last. You poor, poor thing. The misguided devoted are the least devoted,” Marshadow’s voice echoed, mostly coming from Tapu Lele and Diantha. Rune and Ariala spun around in shock this time, gritting their teeth as the ghost type floated out of the ditch, appearing totally unharmed. “You just wanted my power, didn’t you?”

“I will put your power to use and set this world straight. I will do your handiwork for you, my lord! I will control the mortals, destroying all who aren’t Constellars. I will guide all using the stars, all in your name!” Lin proposed, holding a hand out. “But I can only do it with further gift of your power. A mere invisible barrier isn’t enough.”

“Oh-ho that’s just sweet. But I’m afraid there are plenty more mortals that I’d give my powers to before I’d lend them to you,” Marshadow snickered, drawing back a fist. Everyone shielded themselves while Lin slid backward, letting out more sounds of shock. “And your kind is the sort that makes me sick, to be honest. You were only in this so that you might become equal to me, weren’t you? And let me guess, you planned to try and overthrow me in the process?”

More struggled sounds came from Lin, and he flinched even harder. “Thought so,” Marshadow sighed.

In a flash, Marshadow sped through the air, passing right through Lin with his fist pointed forward. There was a pause as everyone couldn’t believe how suddenly it had happened, nor what Marshadow had actually done, but once it became clear, many faces turned away or eyes were covered.

Master Lin couldn’t utter even a word. Marshadow’s attack had left a gaping hole in his chest and front, a clean hole that didn’t that didn’t even begin to bleed until a few seconds later. He didn’t say anything or even let out another breath, falling forward and flat on the floor, eyes open and body frozen in the position he was in when Marshadow struck him. His flesh and organs seemed to stay within him, but blood soon began to overflow from beneath his body, forming a dark puddle.

“You- you just,” Ariala whispered, shuddering.

“Oh don’t get all petty on me now. You were literally about to execute him yourselves. I just saved you all a bit of trouble,” Marshadow complained.

“You! Why are you still alive?” Rune shouted.

“I’m the god of the stars. I can do anything I want. You can’t kill me, but I can make it so that you guys think you can kill me. Whichever one does a better number on you,” Marshadow snickered, shrugging. “And for my next trick, I’m going to shred every last hope for survival you all have.”

“You won’t. As long as we have these swords, we can defeat you,” Ariala replied. Marshadow shook his head.

“Like so,” he said, stretching and tensing. An aura of golden energy erupted around him, flowing vigorously like a flame. He strained his tensing for moment, and then pulled back both arms, charging them with ghostly power. He thrust both arms, unleashing a storm of ghostly claws that tore through the air at high speed.

“Spectral Thief again?” Rune growled, barely reacting in time. He swung his sword upwards and it cut away the hands, pushing them away from the army. Ariala did the same with her divine weapon, only with a cry of effort.

The storm didn’t stop however, even with the swords protecting the Pokémon. Before they knew it, a draconic shriek took over the area, echoing throughout the distance. All eyes turned to Zygarde, who the Spectral Thief attack was swarming. The giant dragon was helplessly engulfed by the claws from all over, and the smothering was discolouring the whole creature.

“The Dragon Weapon!” Leos gasped. Within moments, Zygarde’s black and green hexagons had been replaced with black and an eerie, glowing grey, while an aura of darkness surrounded it. Its white eyes had the same glow as Marshadow’s, gold but faded and ghostly.

“You insane-” Rune growled, gripping his sword. Marshadow floated out of reach and shrugged, looking down at everyone.

“Stop for a moment and think. Even if all of you were to attack me now, Zygarde there would just crush you all. And you’ve seen that you can barely harm me as it is. You would just be killing yourselves,” he said. Rune shuddered and grinded his teeth together, but shifted backward. “That’s right, stand down like the good little toy you are. I’ve taken away every last shred of hope you have, yet you’re alive, because I’m sparing you, with one condition.”

He held out a palm, and then reduced his fingers so that three were pointed up. “Three days, excluding today. You have three days to find a way to challenge me. I’ll be waiting at the Stratos Palace in outer space.”

“To find a way to challenge you?” Ariala repeated.

“I’m not gonna explain that to you. But if those three days are up, I’ll wipe out this world and all of its stars. You won’t stand a chance, but this wouldn’t be entertaining if I didn’t give you one anyway,” he snickered. He tensed to flare up his aura again, and Zygarde did the same movement.

“Wait!” Ariala cried, jumping forward. He was about to fly away, but halted. “Why? Why are you doing this?”

Marshadow hesitated, and then gave her a gleeful look. “If you can comprehend that,” he said, darting off at high speed. Zygarde took off as well, but its movement cause a small quake and a heavy wind that threw everyone to the floor.


Competitive Mijumaru
Episode 33: Revelation in the darkest hour


It didn’t take long for everything to fall into chaos. Rune, Ariala, and their combined armies had their hearts heavy at their situation, but once the public of the outside world saw Zygarde take to the skies, everything fell into panic. This was on top of the issue that hundreds of dead Pokémon were walking the planets as ghosts, spectres that attacked any living Pokémon they came across.

Pokémon had to remain in their homes in order to stay safe, and King Jyararanga sent Altaria messengers to warn everyone to do so. Meanwhile, the castle was opened up as a temporary refuge for nearby Pokémon to stay in so that they wouldn’t have to travel through the danger.

“Despite the efforts of the soldiers, casualties are being reported in increasing numbers in several regions across Eris. The spectres are attacking in great numbers, and entire villages are falling,” a Druddigon announced, skimming through a stone slab with writing etched into it. “Damage is being extended to Pokémon homes and feral habitats, while the breeding grounds are being completely ravaged. They seem to be targeting anything that isn’t a part of the natural landscape.”

“Faernia is no better. Queen Magearna and Azu have been evacuating entire cities of Pokémon in a bid to escape the rampaging spectres,” an Audino joined in, reading as well. “Our scouts say they’re mostly gathering around areas with Tapu technology, but none have gone near Stardust Treasury.”

And then, silence fell. The throne room was filled with Rune and Ariala’s army, and a few other soldiers from both planets. But none of them said a word of reply, not even a groan of thought.

“Your Highness. This is a worldwide crisis,” Audino said.

“I can tell that,” Jyararanga said in a gruff tone. He grumbled something under his breath as he hung his head, slowly looking back up at the two armies. “All of this was to be expected, though. We will start with any new information we can learn.”

“Give us some good news,” Nier said. Vincent pinched her.

“You there. You were Master Lin’s right hand Pokémon. Can you shed some light on his plan or our current predicament?” Jyararanga said, drawing all eyes to Rosie, the Mimikyu. She was sat by Prem, and yelped when everyone stared.

“There’s nothing to tell you, though. Master did what he did, and now we’re here,” she said.

Rune drew his sword with a loud sigh. “Then you’re useless. I might as well go ahead with the execution now.”

“Eek! But I- I just got back with my little Prem. You can’t-” she said, sliding back.

“If I were you, I wouldn’t stall for time. He really will kill you right here and now,” Blossom said, arms folded. Rosie made a scared noise. “I can read your mind. If it doesn’t come from your mouth, we have no use for you.”

“Okay okay, I’ll talk, I’ll talk! Spectres can only be stopped by defeating the one who summoned them. That would be Lord Marshadow, of course,” she said. Beads of sweat leaked through her rag. “But there is another way to stall them. The one power Master Lin always feared was for that reason. Aura bypasses Constellar magic.”

“Aura?” Rune replied.

“You know, like the golden energy that surrounds Leos when he uses his Zenryoku thing. When that energy is around, spectres can’t move or anything. Even the weakest attack with an aura will destroy a spectre. It’s like, the light from the aura makes them disappear,” Rosie explained. “I can give Pokémon the aura, if they want to fight. But if I do, will you let me have my little darling Prem back?”

“I’m not your darling,” Prem groaned, shifting away from her.

“Wait, you can give aura? Like, just give any Pokémon a Zenryoku arte?” Leos said.

“No. Only high level Constellars can use those. But any Pokémon can provide the energy to use that arte if their thoughts are in sync and their wishes are the same,” she said. “Many say a bond is needed, and it is, but simply having earnest belief in another Pokémon is all the bond that’s needed.”

“So it’s not as exclusive as only me and Prem needing to use it,” Leos said, glancing at his friend.

“If two Pokémon that earnestly love each other use it, the aura is bigger and stronger. Like, I don’t know, let’s say two Pokémon strongly in love would be able to really dent a legendary,” Rosie added. “Because Marshadow is a spectre, it’ll bypass his defences entirely. Those same defences are what protected Master Lin from damage, so he chose to hide that knowledge from Pokémon. He only told me because he could tell I desperately wanted Prem to come back. He wanted me to help him.”

“So you know the poses and all?” Ariala said. Rosie nodded using the head of her disguise.

“That means Marshadow can make use of the aura by himself. He did it right before killing Master Lin,” Rune said, coming out of a thought pose. “That solves the issue with the wild spectres, but-”

“What? No, it doesn’t. I can’t go around and clear out every single spectre. They’re on both planets!” Leos said. “And besides, that’s the least of our worries. How do we defeat Marshadow? He has Tapu Lele, Zygarde, and Princess Diantha under his control. Even if I could gather the aura to kill him with Heavenly Execution, how would I even get the chance?”

“Our airships can reach outer space. But we’d have to be able to fight him somehow. That’s a whole other problem we haven’t considered,” Ariala said.

“Then we’ll have to delegate ourselves to this cause. Leos, you’ve got a way with technology. Perhaps we can pair you up with the scientists of Faernia to come up with something in time,” Rune said, unfurling his arms. “Me and Ariala are the only ones who can attack through Zygarde and Tapu Lele’s defences, so we’ll focus on them. The others will have to do what they can against the spectres here.”

“Stop being optimistic. Outer space travel? I’ve never even considered the idea!” Leos raised his voice.

“We have three days. We have to start somewhere, and it’s now or never,” Rune said.

“If we don’t do something, the whole of Etheria is done for. We just can’t have any doubts. It’s our duty,” Ariala said. Leos looked down and tensed up, shivering a bit.

“I know that look, Rune. You have an idea, don’t you?” Jyararanga asked. The Dewott smiled at him. “Go on. Don’t withhold information, here.”

“The idea that anyone can give aura is a huge revelation. If we rally the Pokémon from both planets and have everyone give their hopes to Leos, the power we could generate would be unthinkable. Far above Marshadow, for sure,” he said, raising a fist. A lot of Pokémon gawked at him with widened eyes. “… What?”

“It’s just, wow. I never expected an idea like that to come out of you. You’re always so stern and realistic,” Shouta said, snickering at them all. “So everyone’s hopes and dreams and powers of trust and friendship makes your boy into a little god, and then he saves the day, right?”

“As ludicrous as it sounds, we have already seen him kill Tapu Bulu with just one Pokémon aiding him. There is no limit to your potential,” Rune said with a smile.

“Stop- just stop. Rallying everyone? We’re in the middle of war. Tapu Bulu killed thousands, and we killed god knows how many when we went to stop Tapu Koko,” Leos said.

“And now, everyone is under threat from Marshadow and the spectres. Once the Pokémon learn the magnitude of this crisis, they will work with us,” Rune said, stepping forward.

“You just don’t get it, do you? This isn’t just going fall into place because you want it to. I can’t just magically come up with a way to fight in space, and there’s no way I can fight Marshadow!” Leos said. He grit his teeth and stared at the floor. “It’s a miracle I even beat Tapu Bulu. My body’s not strong enough to fight. And I can’t even stand war. I can’t do anything useful!”

“Where has this come from?” Rune said.

“It’s come from everything I’ve done since I got to see the outside world. Nothing’s gone right. I’ve done nothing useful at all. And when it really counts, someone else is always having to dig me out,” he said, growling at his father.

“You’re the legendary hero of Etheria, Leos. Have some faith in yourself,” Rune said, folding his arms again.

“This isn’t about legends or heroes or anything. Y-you saw me in that battle! You’ve seen me fight, as well. I can’t do it. I can’t do these things you want me to do,” he said, shuddering.

“Then what do you suppose we do?”

Leos kept shuddering and looked back at the ground, avoiding eye contact with all the Pokémon watching. “I- I don’t know.”

In a flash, Rune stepped forward and smacked Leos’ head hard enough to make him spin around. “I did not raise my son to be a quitter. Steel yourself and think about what you’re saying!”

“O-ow. Th-think about what I’m saying? Think about what you’re saying. You didn’t raise me at all!” Leos said, raising his voice to a new high. He sounded like he was going to cry, but no tears formed, only rigid, grinding teeth and veins of frustration. “You didn’t teach me anything. You didn’t do anything. You were never even there. You’re barely my Father! You just did whatever you wanted while I was kept in seclusion, like I was some kind of backup weapon!”

“Leos,” Ariala gasped.

“You don’t know anything! And just when I’m finally going out to try and fix where you messed up, you decide to come out and tell me that I’m just in the way? And now you want me to just work with you like everything’s all roses?” Leos shouted. “That’s not how it works. I can’t fight Marshadow or the spectres. I can’t just magically build this ship to fight in space. That’s just not me. If you’d actually chosen to be a real father rather than just caring about yourself, then maybe you’d actually know that!”

The room fell to silence again, minus Leos’ uncontrolled sniffling and growls of frustration. Rune didn’t reply at all, staring at his son with the same stern look he had since the meeting had started. Seeing that he wasn’t getting a response, Leos let out a roar and stormed off, heading for his room.

“Le-Leos,” Prem said.

“Leave him be. He needs time to think,” Rune said, stopping the Pikachu from following. Prem played with his hands a bit.

“But he’s right, ain’t he? You beat him up that one time, and you’ve not been around anywhere else. You can’t just like, start talkin’ like you own him,” Griselle cried, leaning forward.

“We don’t have time for this, Rune. You, Leos and Ariala are the only ones who can damage Marshadow. If your son is unable to fight, it puts us at an extreme disadvantage, especially with this new discovery of what we can do with aura,” Jyararanga said. He looked unbothered by what had just happened, which made Prem close his fists.

“What’s more important? Leos’ feelings, or the fact that he’s Etheria’s hero?” Prem said, raising his voice as well. “The way you guys are talking, it’s as if he’s not even a Pokémon!”

“There is a time and a place for this argument, and it isn’t now. I understand your feelings, but as things stand, we need to act as soon as possible. Harden your emotions,” Rune replied.

Prem squinted. “Why should I listen to you?”

“Prem?” Ariala whispered.

“Have you decided that you don’t want to help us?” Rune asked. There was a pause.

“I just- I want to be with him right now,” he said, running off on all fours. Rune sighed and shook his head.

“Consider the battle dependant on us. We don’t have long, so we should get started on the development of that airship that can take us to Marshadow’s location,” Rune said, turning back to the crowd of Pokémon. “Speaking of which, you all said that he’s in space. Where exactly is he?”

“On top of Fairy Hill on Faernia, a palace has appeared high in the sky. Our telescopes tell us that it is beyond the distance of our atmosphere. Marshadow’s palace is in outer space,” Audino said, flicking through the notes she had. “They also speak of an ‘unsettling darkness’ that seems to be spreading from the palace, covering the sky.”

“Giving the Pokémon something to fear. I have no idea what Marshadow really wants from all this,” Rune said, shaking his head. “I can’t speak to Leos like this. And he’s the only one of us that can use aura.”

“Got a backup plan besides that aura plan you thought up?” Shouta asked. Rune glanced at him, then turned his back.

“Me and Ariala put up a fight against Marshadow. I’ll just have to try again while the rest of you take on his cronies,” he said with a growl.

“Pardon? Hold on a second. I know fairies have an easy time against dragons, but in case you didn’t notice, Zygarde is an invincible weapon of destruction that threatens to destroy Etheria altogether. You want us to fight that on top of Tapu Lele?” Kelsith said, stepping forward.

“We’d be lucky if we could buy you even a few seconds,” Tundra added, arms folded and leaning against a wall. “You’re gonna have to do better than that.”

Rune shut his eyes and let out a deep sigh, letting silence fall on the scene again. When he opened them, Ariala spotted them glisten a bit, and he unfurled his arms. “Leos really is our only hope, huh? Ariala, you can give them to him, now. But we can’t decide to make him fight. It’s up to him.”

“Are you really going to try and fight if he says no?” she asked.

“I’ll have to. And I know you’ll object to this, but you’ll stay here,” he said.

“I refuse to stand by idly when my world is in danger. Whether I’m crown princess or not, I will fight,” she said, getting cross.

“You get it more than anyone, right? I can’t afford to lose anyone again,” he said, putting his hands at her sides. She didn’t react. “You have to stay safe. If you or Leos get hurt, I’m lost.”

“You have to let us fight beside you again, Rune. You’ve done it before, you can do it-”

“This isn’t the same damn it!” he said, shutting his eyes. “You saw what he did to Master Lin. I couldn’t bear to see that happen to someone I love again. That’s why I’m who I am. I blamed Tapu Koko, but I gave up my chance at being a decent father just so I could give it my all to protecting you both. Please, even in the face of this hopelessness, let me keep doing that. It’s the only way I can keep giving this my all.”

“And how I feel doesn’t matter to that? Rune, I spent all those years exchanging letters with you, just praying that one day you’ll be able to be with us, to be the father Leos wants so badly,” she replied, clenching her hands. “If you got hurt doing something that reckless, then where does that leave us? What about me?”

“You being safe is what’s most important. I love you too much to risk it,”

“Then why did you spend all these years away from us? If you really wanted to protect me, then you would have done it fighting by my side!” she cried, swiping an arm aside. “This is not up for debate, Rune. If we fight, we fight together.”

“Ngrk. Fi-fine. But please, for the love of the gods, stay safe,” he said, hanging his head with a loud sigh. He turned to the crowd. “We will still need to be very careful with this. Set off immediately, and begin to rally what Pokémon you can. Those that can fight, they will keep the spectres at bay. Those who can support, we will have them stand by just in case Leos does arrive to fight.”

“We’re really going through with this suicidal plan?” Tundra asked.

“And we’re going to put all our heart and strength into it. If we can’t stop Marshadow and his twisted delusions of power, then the whole of Etheria is lost. We’ve no choice,” Ariala replied. “This is all the same as when we went to try and save Princess Diantha. Prepare yourselves for the toughest battle you have ever fought.”

“Speaking of that battle, where did that Absol go? The one that had the last partition?” Rosie asked.

“I had him escorted to a room in the castle. He was far too panicked to properly engage with us. And to be personally honest, I don’t think he has anything worthwhile to contribute. He’s blind,” Jyararanga said.

“You’re fine. You’re on a bed,” Leos said, arms folded. Mirror was in his room, but he was trembling and restlessly searching for something. The Absol’s eyes were shut tightly, and his nails were curled. “It’s just me, Leos.”

“O-okay, if you say so. I-I’m fine,” Mirror said, searching for him. Leos couldn’t believe how girly he sounded, almost like a little boy that was barely double digits of age.

“Tell me what happened with you. Why you were who you were,” he asked.

“I’ve been blind since birth. I can’t see, so I always had to have Pokémon help me get around and stuff. But we Absol, we’re like, attracted to disasters and stuff. You know, like if there’s an earthquake or a Pokémon goes berserk or something,” Mirror said, still searching. Leos put his hand on him, settling him down. “I think I lost my family to one while they were travelling with me. But I still went to look for disasters so that I could help save Pokémon in need. One of them gave me that awful spirit.”

“Marshadow. Or in your case, the Shadow Partition,” Leos said.

“Uh-huh. But the spirit was something my Dad warned me about years ago. He said that if I ever felt possessed, to wear that mask. It’s supposed to contain ghost Pokémon that try to possess their enemies,” Mirror said. “But it didn’t work. The king said I’ve done terrible things. I’m so sorry! I only wanted to save Pokémon, I swear! Not hurt anyone. But that partition made me do so many bad things.”

“It’s fine, it isn’t me you should be apologising to. We have bigger things to be worrying about. I just wanted to see if anything you had to tell me could help,” Leos said, folding his arms. “Ugh. It’s time to study, but I can’t work with Dad. I barely know what we can do. I don’t even know where to start.”

“O-oh, yes! I’m sorry, I forgot, please don’t punish me for forgetting!” Mirror said, becoming restless again.

“You don’t need to panic. I’m right here. You’re okay,” Leos said, putting his hand on him again.

“There is a way to stop Marshadow! Now that I know what we’re dealing with, I’m sure we can do it,” Mirror said. Leos could tell how enthusiastic and happy he looked, even though his eyes were still shut.

“There is? H-how do we do it?” Prem gasped, revealing that he was in the doorway. He jogged in after that. “S-sorry, I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was way too worried about you, so I came.”

“Never mind that. Mirror, what’ve you got to tell us?” Leos said.

“It’s a legendary item that’s sealed in a hidden place. It’s hidden in Planet Etheria’s core. It’s a ball that can turn stuff into energy,” Mirror said.

Leos stood back, and his eyes widened. “He couldn’t possibly be talking about…?

“It’s called the Lock Ball. I don’t know if we can get there in time, but if we can get it, we can turn you into energy. Then you can fight Marshadow,” Mirror said.

“Wait a minute, slow down. Etheria’s core? Turning me into energy? Explain, please,” Leos begged, sweating slightly.

“Oh er, I’m sorry. Maybe I’m just talking all excitedly and stuff but, I foresaw it, I’m sure of it! Etheria’s destruction and Marshadow’s coming. We can stop him by proving ourselves to him in battle. But because he’s in space, we have to use the Lock Ball from Etheria’s core to turn you into energy, so that you can fight without worrying about your body,” Mirror said. Leos and Prem exchanged glances.

“But where is Etheria’s core? It’s-”

“Shh, let him talk!” Leos hissed, putting a hand over Prem.

“Etheria’s core is where all the natural energy of the planet comes from. It’s like, er, imagine the planet has veins in it that send planetary energy all around it. That energy lets Etheria’s nature work, and that’s the energy that we Absol can feel in our horns,” Mirror happily explained. “But sometimes, that energy overflows or something, and that can cause problems. We can feel these vibrations of energy, and they make earthquakes or tsunamis and stuff. That’s why we Absol travel far and wide to make sure we protect Pokémon all over.”

“But Etheria is split into two, now. What happens then?” Leos asked, losing his mind.

“I guess there isn’t much planetary energy. Since it can’t get it from the core, but… wait, the planet is split?” Mirror replied, tilting his head. Leos’ mouth hit the floor.

“To think that you of all Pokémon held this knowledge, that not even the gods knew of,” he whispered, shaking himself off. “Yes! Yes, it all makes sense, now! The legend, the history, the second country, the aim of the gods, the Tapu, Marshadow’s words- it’s a punishment!”

“Leos, I er, I take it you’ve figured something out?” Prem said, leaning away. Leos squealed and hugged him tightly, spinning around him while laughing.

“This is it, Prem! Eris and Faernia’s energy crisis, the Tapu’s deaths, I understand it all now!” he cried. He broke off and went into a battle pose, ignoring the Pikachu’s blushing face. “The Tapu split Etheria in order to prevent Marshadow from destroying the planet. This was at the same time as splitting Marshadow himself. You could say that something happened during their original battle that caused Marshadow to split into partitions along with the planet.”

“Uh huh,” Prem said, nodding blankly.

“You’re losing me a bit. Etheria is split? Since when was there another planet?” Mirror asked.

“When the two planets were born, Etheria’s core became the Second Country – the source of Etheria’s planetary energy. With only the Tapu feeding Faernia, Eris fell into decline. Nature stopped working there,” Leos said, pacing. “Fast forward to now, the Tapu are old and needed to die due to their aging madness. But when a god or goddess dies, it becomes part of the nature from whence it came. The Tapu became Eris’ new, temporary source of energy. That’s why you can’t tell that Eris is any different.”

“It does feel the same as it used to. The only danger I can feel right now is Marshadow,” Mirror said, still cocking his head.

“Then that proves my theory. But Marshadow is back now, but so are you. So we just have to stop him, then we can work on saving Etheria. If we could somehow return the two planets to the core, everything should go back to normal!” Leos said, raising his arms. “And you said we can do that with the Lock Ball, right? I have it! Right here!”

“Wait, seriously?” Prem gasped, taken aback when the Oshawott hybrid revealed it.

“Tell me Mirror, how does it work?”

“It can capture and seal things inside of itself. If we seal you inside of it and then destroy it, you’ll become a being of energy. You won’t have to worry about needing to breathe or anything,” Mirror said. He hung his head. “You’ll disappear, but it’ll save Etheria. Someone will have to make a new Lock Ball after that.”

“Wait, what?” Leos said, freezing.

“If you’re a being made of energy, your real body will eventually die of malnourishment. Your energy being will fade away at that point,” Mirror said. Leos and Prem exchanged glances again. “It’s the only way to fight Marshadow in time. If the ball is broken, we can’t send you back out of it. But it’s the only way to release your energy form from the Lock Ball. That’s just how it works, I’m afraid.”


Competitive Mijumaru
Intermission: A puzzle for the deep thinkers

“Because the Hero of Etheria can make use of Zenryoku artes and aura, they can accept the aura from everyone in the world. Taking the hopes and dreams of all the Pokémon in the world and channelling it into power that can overcome any disaster, saving the world – that’s the role of the hero. But that kind of power is too much for any mortal or any god, any thing in existence, for that matter. That is why a sacrifice must be made. That power can only come out when the world needs it, and must go away when it is no longer needed.”

That’s what Mirror had told him. He couldn’t stop thinking about it, staring into the Lock Ball as he cradled it in his small hands. This mysterious technology now frightened and spoke to him wordlessly. The design of the chains on the surface of the ball spoke of sealing his fate. If he used this, perhaps he could save Etheria like he always wanted to.

But he’d be forfeiting his life. And as much as defeating Marshadow and the Spectres would make Pokémon happy, it wouldn’t resolve the issues he knew he wanted to resolve. Restoring nature, finding a substitute for meat-eaters, dealing with the injustice towards those of differing religion and hybrids. And then there was Prem – even if he could leave a checklist of things he wanted, he wouldn’t be happy leaving this world. And he knew it.

“Leos, are you there?” Ariala said, knocking on the wall beside the room before entering. Leos flinched and hid the Lock Ball in his bag, facing her as she came in. “I knew you’d be awake still. It’s tough to sleep here, isn’t it?”

He looked away and sat on his hay bed, only just realising that. “Yeah. It’s colder and rougher than I’m used to.”

“They do have blankets and things spare. You only need to ask,” she said. He didn’t reply, so she sighed. “I apologise for what happened back there. And let me apologise on behalf of Rune as well.”

“The guy needs you to apologise for him?” he said, turning back to her.

“You mustn’t be so hard on your Father, Leos. He has had to make some very difficult choices, but he made them full well knowing what he would sacrifice for them,” she said, laying a hand on her chest.

“Clearly he doesn’t. He hit me! And really thinks he raised me?” Leos raised his voice. “He doesn’t know anything about me!”

“We exchanged letters for a long time. During those, he would set rules and gave me advice. He was there, but he wasn’t there. It was his rule that you weren’t to go out on your own, you know,” she said, joining him on the side of the bed.

“He had to choose between love and duty, and he chose duty. He might as well have given up on being a father,” he said. “That’s what both of you did. You only had me because of your stupid legend and peace treaty!”

“Don’t say things like that, Leos. You are our son first and foremost, and nothing will change that. That’s why I am here now,” she said, laying a hand on his side. “Look at me, please. There isn’t anything that hurts more than knowing you feel this way about us.”

Leos grumbled something to himself and slowly twisted round to face her. He didn’t look as furious as he sounded, as if he was holding back tears rather than rage. “Please. It was never Rune’s intention to make you feel this way.”

“What am I supposed to do?” he asked, staring at the floor. She tilted her head. “To stop Marshadow, I mean. What is there I can actually do?”

“That is what we’re working tirelessly to figure out. Rune wanted you to work with us that way because he has that much faith in you,” she said, putting a hand on his.

“What if… what if – and this is purely hypothetical – what if I died stopping Marshadow? What then?” he said, still staring. There was a pause.

“That is the very same choice that we have both once made,” she replied. He gawked at her. “There’s no doubt we would be heartbroken. And to tell the truth, the fact that you’ve even asked worries me. If you got hurt during this battle, I don’t know what I would do with myself. It would be a regret I would bear for the rest of my life. On top of what happened to Diantha, especially.”

Leos went back to looking at the floor, and she went back to holding his hand. “It would be your choice between your duty as prince, and your love for your family and friends. And believe me now, whatever decision you decide to make, no one in the world has the right to judge you on it. But that is not the case, now. You don’t have to die to do this.”

“I- I know. Thanks,” he said, looking away. There was another long moment of silence.

“I’ve brought you the letters me and Rune exchanged while you were growing up. I think it’s important that you read them. Read them, and try to understand why we’ve both done everything we’ve done until now,” she said, laying a stack of them on the bed. “I am not going to force you to help us. But I do wish to know how you feel. Please, tell me-”

“It’s not that I don’t want to help you. I don’t want Marshadow to do anything, either. It’s that I can’t help,” he cried, thrashing forward. “Everything I’ve done since leaving home has caused nothing but problems. It’s all gone wrong. And then even when I was listening to Father, we got into that war and I just- I just couldn’t take it. I can’t fight, my knowledge is useless, and my body won’t even let me use half my powers. I’m completely worthless!”

“Don’t say that about yourself!” Ariala said, closing her hand into a fist. “So many Pokémon would not rally behind a leader who is ‘useless’.”

“They only follow me because I’m that ‘legendary hero’, though,” he said, glaring at her.

“Legendary hero or not, the Pokémon who follow you do so because they have that faith in you. There is not a single Pokémon in this world that follows a deity without their own feelings or ulterior motive taking precedence. You even saw it with Master Lin,” she raised her voice, standing tall. “When your allies chose to follow you, they did it because they like you. Your intentions and motives align with their own, and as time goes by, a bond forms between you all. Your army was not an army built on patriotism, but of but of your own and other’s feelings on the state of the world.”

“Mother,” Leos whispered.

“You getting this far with what you’ve built up is exactly why Rune and the others have so much faith in you. And even now, I know you can come up with something,” she said. She quietened down and looked away. “And even if you don’t, we’ll fight for you anyhow. At least, that’s why I’m going to fight. So that future generations such as yours can live.”

“Alright. I get it. And if I spoke to everyone individually, they’d give a similar answer to you,” he said, going quiet.

“Well I hope they would. That’s what I believe, knowing your allies for the brief time that I’ve known them for,” she said, calming down as well. Leos looked away, letting quiet fall yet again.

“… Where do I start?” he asked. She blinked at him. “With this idea of reaching Marshadow. Where do I start looking?”

“We don’t have much time. Again, I have no intention of forcing you into this. But if you truly wish to help,” she said, shutting her eyes. “Think about everything we have access to and everything Marshadow has done. Consider our options from there and what we can work with. We can cross between the two planets with your Entercards, so gathering materials or Pokémon should not be too great of an issue.”

“Oh right, the Entercards. I didn’t think of them for some reason,” he said, going into a thought pose. “It’s time to study. Do you mind leaving me alone?”

“I haven’t heard you say that so enthusiastically for a while. And I know I said we don’t have much time, but please, don’t stay up too late. If you tire yourself out, this will have all been for nothing,” she said, smiling at last.

“Well, I was getting ready to sleep until you came in,” he said, shrugging.

“Okay then, mister.”

“… Thanks, Mother,” Leos said, struggling to look at her. She blinked at him. “Seriously. Thanks.”

“You’re my son first and foremost before everything else. If you should ever feel that way again, do not hesitate to speak to me. No matter what you have to tell me, I will listen,” she said. He nodded at her. “Sleep well, Leos.”

“You too, Mother,” he replied. She skipped out after that, leaving the room in silence.

To tell the truth, I already have an idea, thanks to her. I completely forgot about the Entercards. Their ability to transport groups of Pokémon anywhere in the world is definitely going to prove to be the key to this. As is the Lock Ball,” he thought to himself, beginning to pace. “If I could somehow save the Lock Ball rather than breaking it, I could perhaps use it on Zygarde, or even Marshadow himself. There would be no need to sacrifice myself!

And then, suddenly, a loud crash, as if a giant glass sheet was smashed to pieces. Leos was blinded and his head panged hard enough to make him cry out. Taking a moment to rub where it hurt, grit his teeth and turn around, he realised where he was. He was no longer in his room, or maybe the room had been transported elsewhere, somehow. Either way, the surrounding walls and floor had completely vanished, replaced with a silent, swirling, visible wind of dark greys and black colours. The furniture of the room remained where it was, as if the walls and floor had turned into a projection of this dark tornado.

Leos opened his mouth to ask what had happened but gasped instead. In front of his bed was Mirror, still unmasked and eyes shut. The Absol had one foot on top of Leos’ bag, while the other was pressed into the invisible floor, surrounded by broken shards of metal. It was easily recognisable as the Lock Ball and Entercards.

“You-you broke it? H-how? What in the world just happened?” Leos said, grabbing his head. That set off Mirror’s maniacal laughter, which sounded exactly like Marshadow’s pompous, young tone.

“Come on. This is just too easy. You really couldn’t figure it out?” he sniggered, showing his fangs. Leos shuddered, unable to close his mouth. “Oh for goodness sake. And you’re supposed to be the smart one.”

“I… I struggle to comprehend exactly what just happened. I was talking to Mother, and then,” Leos said, trying to calm down.

“Think about it. Diantha died. She was dead for how many years. Then I brought her back, and she’s fully under my control. So I made Mirror ‘free’ himself. He may not have the shadow partition anymore, but he’s mine. I almost slipped up a bit, though,” he said, still laughing at Leos’ surprised look. “Oh come now! How could Mirror possibly know about Etheria’s history, that it was once one planet? That the Tapu split it? But still know what the world is like now?”

“From his time,” Leos whispered, gasping again.

“Yeah he was alive then. That story he told you is the truth, after all. But he’s dead. There’s no way he could live for all that time until now!” he said, prancing around. He stopped in a prideful pose. “I just needed to crush your remaining hopes.”

“No,” Leos whispered, falling forward in disbelief.

“So you were planning on using that on me, were you? The ball that can seal all. And the Entercards to enter space and fight me. I can’t let you get that far.”

“But then what’s the point? Why challenge us to reach you if you’re going to destroy our only chance?” Leos cried.

“To have my fun. Crushing you physically is much too easy. You’ve seen the power I possess, anyway. You know I could kill all of you with just a flicker of effort. So I must crush your spirit, as well,” Mirror said, smiling cheekily. “Remember: I can do anything I want to. I can get anything I want to. And what I want is to see you all struggle.”

Leos’ mouth wavered.

“At first, I wanted to see you kill yourself with the Lock Ball strategy. But you’re a little too smart for that. So I’ll crush you in spirit, and stop anything you come up with. You’ll be the hero that everyone’s counting on that let everybody down anyway!” he sung. “Remember what they said about the shadow that was covering the sky? Well that’s me, too. It’s the closing of the void. All the stars and planets and everything in this very solar system is being squashed together by that layer of darkness. And when it closes in enough, this whole world will go poof!”

“Have you no emotion whatsoever?” Leos said, shuddering, trying not to glare at Mirror.

“Sure, I totally do. But it’s like I keep telling you. When you can do anything you want, and watch these worlds from start to finish, the true weight of these things begins to lose all meaning. It’s not that I don’t understand, it’s that I don’t care,” he replied, pointing a foot at Leos. “I want to see you struggle, saviour. I want to see you scream for mercy, to cry for mother and wet yourself like a little baby! Mummy, Marshadow’s bullying me! Waah!”

Leos let out a quiet cry of fury, trembling. He was on all fours, grinding his fangs together. “Go on! Cry for your parents! Struggle. Beg and plea that you can stop me. But you can’t. I’m going to keep letting you think that you can until I break you. And when I’m done with you, then I’ll bring everything to an end. All to show you all that no matter what you do, no matter how much you hope, dream, and fight, whether it’s for your duty as a living being or the love of your friends and family…”

Heroes don’t exist. You are all destined for meaningless death. And as the god of the stars that manages the worlds, this is the fate you have chosen.

“So, which is it?” Marshadow asked, shrugging. Leos was knelt before him, still in the room surrounded by dark winds. “Are you going to fight me?”

Leos stood up to oppose him, but the moment he did, anxiety struck like a truck. Marshadow was only a little taller than he was, yet the dark appearance of the god made him shiver and try to avoid eye contact. Knowing what Marshadow could do was the main thing stopping him, but not knowing how the god would react to anything he did frightened him more. So he stared, making a variety of faces and never looking the enemy directly in the eye.

“No? Just going to stand there like a peasant? Disappointing for someone of noble blood. Must I rile you up, first?” Marshadow said, posing for battle. His feet spread and his hands curled into fists, one held forward while the other was drawn back.

Leos didn’t reply, cursing under his breath. He tensed up and stretched his feet out, and nothing more.

“Go on. Bring out that Razor Shell we love so much. Come at me with your only hope, your Zenryoku arte. I’m actually giving you the chance,” he said, smiling cockily. Leos still didn’t react. “Have I got to beat that into you, too?”

“No one can hear me here, can they?” Leos asked. Marshadow paused. “I’m starting to think, now. Why and how do you have the powers you have?”

“Because I’m a god. Does that really need an explanation?” he replied, shrugging again. Leos paused.

“In fact, there’s a lot of whys and how’s to this. Why didn’t you order Lin to kill Ariala? Or why didn’t you kill us when you had us where you wanted? Boredom can’t truly be the reason,” Leos asked.

“And if it is?”

“If you’re going to destroy the whole world, why not answer me honestly? You lose nothing but a bit of breath,” Leos said. “No one knew what the god of the stars was. Of all the gods, yours is the one without any history written. Perhaps because there is no history, or… you’re not the god they wanted.”

“Okay now you’re just throwing words out. Get to the point before I grow bored,” he said.

Leos gulped. “It’s possible you’re not the god of the stars the Constellars look up to. And that for whatever reason, you can’t kill us. That you’re bluffing.”

“How much do you want to bet? Your life? Prem’s life? Your parents?” Marshadow said, snickering again.

Think Leos, THINK! There must be a reason Marshadow keeps stalling like this. There isn’t any way that any living thing could do this out of sheer boredom. It’s too uncharacteristic of any being, mortal or god,” he thought to himself, now staring intently at Marshadow. The ghost type glared back, keeping that cocky smile on his face. “No. It’s no good. I don’t have enough information yet to come to a conclusion. All I know is that he won’t kill me like he says he will.

“Still nothing? Perhaps you’re at breaking point already. I was sorta expecting a spasm or something,” Marshadow said. The palm he held forward formed a Shadow Ball. “Last chance, buddy. You got nobody to blame but yourself if you lose here.”

Leos still didn’t respond. “Mother got me thinking straight, so it’s time to study. There’s no way that a Pokémon can do the things Marshadow says he can. So the question isn’t believing it or not, it’s HOW he’s doing what he’s doing,” he thought, thinning his eyes. “During the battle against Father and Mother, he survived everything they threw at him, but he took damage and sped up as the battle went on. Only when it was over and Master Lin was in disbelief did Marshadow take his life. He could have done that at any time, yet he waited until the moment Lin’s mentality was broken. It’s almost like this is some kind of-”

The realisation hit him like a truck, and his heart skipped a beat. Never before had Leos felt so relieved, but it was enough for him to scream out loud, flinch straight upwards, and widen his eyes and mouth to the point that they hurt.

“That’s it!” he shouted. Marshadow raised an eyebrow. “It’s just a hunch, but I’ve figured you out. Yes, that’s the only way that you make any form of sense.”

“Is that your answer?” Marshadow replied, getting cocky again.

“Yes. That’s my answer,” he said, stretching out his arms and legs as if offering himself. “I gamble my life. You would gladly take it, yes?”

Marshadow’s face flattened, and he erased his Shadow Ball without throwing it. “Seriously? That’s all?”

“Is that all? Yes. You wanted us to fight, but I’m giving up. I know I can’t beat you, so,” he replied.

“But I want to enjoy this. It’s no fun if you aren’t trying to fight back, giving it your all. Don’t you believe that you still have a chance to win this?” Marshadow said. Leos didn’t answer, to which Marshadow’s glare began to intensify. “The hell are you playing at?”

“Nothing. I want you to end the suffering. Kill me, now,” Leos said.

“You think you’re a smart little hero, don’t you? No, I’m not going to do what you want to do here. I’m going to get what I want, and what I want is to see you suffer,” Marshadow said with growing aggravation. He stretched both arms out, forming globs of black energy around both palms. They dripped like sludge, bubbling and emanating a sickening sound. “You can suffer in silence. When everyone you know and love is totally gone, maybe then I’ll check back and see how you’re doing. But I want to see you scream and beg.”

Marshadow threw both of his attacks one after the other, and Leos dove to the side to avoid them. The two orbs burst against the invisible floor, disintegrating into nothing. Huffing in annoyance, Marshadow formed two more and threw them more carefully this time, to which Leos fell backward to avoid the second one.

“You’re afraid, aren’t you. You said all that to look tough, but at the sight of one attack, you’re limping about like a Chimchar,” Marshadow snickered, posing for battle again. Leos got to his feet and tensed up, keeping his eyes on the enemy. “It’s finally time to give you a whirl. Show me what you’ve got.”

And then a Shadow Punch was launched toward him, but Leos could only guard his body with both arms. Marshadow’s attack felt like it pierced right through him, winding him and blanking his mind for a moment. Thankfully the ghost type didn’t follow it up with anything, giving Leos the chance to stumble forward and jump away. He instinctively reached for his scalchop but hesitated, deciding not to pull it off.

I can’t let him take an attack he hasn’t taken before. If my hunch is right, he’ll steal my attack or learn to parry it in reality,” Leos told himself, concentrating. He was already breathing aloud, but decided to fight back with Water Pulse. Marshadow lazily smacked it away, looking annoyed again.

“Seriously? Get your head into the game, child. I’m a god, you’re going to need a lot more power than that to even hurt me,” he said.

Perhaps there’s another way to get out of this nightmare. Think Leos, think!” he cried. Marshadow’s eyes thinned, and he readied another Shadow Ball in each hand. “The way to bypass Marshadow’s power is through aura. But Prem isn’t here, so I can’t erect my aura right now.

The attacks were thrown at him, forcing Leos to dive to the side again. He fell to the floor, taking a long moment to catch his breath and look back up. Marshadow didn’t look sympathetic at all, but he was watching rather than attacking, as if letting Leos get up to fight back rather than taking advantage.

Wait, but any Pokémon can get aura. So maybe if I-” Leos told himself as he stood up. He took in a deep breath. “I call upon the stars to grant me your blessing!”

“Oh, here we go. You get it now, right?” Marshadow said, smiling again.

Leos ignored him, crossing his arms, and then unfurling them in the motion for a Zenryoku arte. When he stretched them forward, he launched into a different star sign however, making the Pisces sign as best as he could. Aura still surrounded him, a golden light that wavered over him like flames. “Grant my friend the power to make ease of this conflict!”

“Wait, what? What do you think you’re doing?” Marshadow said, frowning. To his surprise, the aura flew from Leos, taking off high into the sky and arching over into the distance. It landed so far away that it was a blur, but it settled around a Pokémon, looking like a tiny flame amongst the swirling darkness.

“It’s true. Any Pokémon can get aura. That means that they’re still here,” Leos said, a bright smile on his face. Fatigue swept over him and he fell onto one hand, starting to breathe heavily. “It’s only- a matter of time now.”

“They can’t use Zenryoku artes though. They can’t stop me!” Marshadow shouted.

“They don’t- have to. Just- having the power should be enough- to get me out of your nightmare,” he said, unable to recover at all. “I know that I’m- in a nightmare right now. A nightmare made by you- so you can steal my powers.”

There was a pause, and then Marshadow smiled at him. “So you are smart. I’m looking forward to our little showdown, then.”

Leos looked up at him in surprise, but just then, it all started to make sense. The dark winds around him began to calm ever so slightly, while the flaming aura he had given to Prem began to approach, travelling across an invisible set of stairs and paths toward them. The closer it got, the slower the winds got, while the darkness began to fade into the warmth of sunlight. Soon enough, even the image of Marshadow began to fade, wavering about as if fizzling out of reality.

“Leos, are you there?” Ariala said, knocking on the wall beside the room before entering. Prem rushed in before he could respond, and he turned around to face them both as they came in. “I knew you’d be awake still. It’s tough to sleep here, isn’t it?”

“We-were you trying out what Rosie said, too? Why did you put the aura around me?” Prem cried, shaking his hands. “Aww, I’m all full of energy now. I can’t stand still.”

Leos looked away and sat on his hay bed, only just realising that. “Yeah. It’s colder and rougher than I’m used to. Wait a minute.”

“They do have blankets and things spare. You only need to ask,” she said. He didn’t reply, so she sighed. “It’s good that you two are awake, though. Please allow me to apologise for what happened back there. And let me apologise on behalf of Rune as well.”

“This is- you’re going to give me Rune’s letters now, aren’t you?” Leos said, raising his voice. Ariala shifted back a bit, but revealed the envelopes in her hand. “That’s- I was right about the nightmare, but Marshadow projected the future?”

“Projected the future? What’re you talking about?” Prem asked.

Leos shook his head and scrambled for his bag, finding the Lock Ball and Entercards in there, perfectly intact. “Never mind. Just gather everyone again. We don’t have time to lose!”


Competitive Mijumaru

Marshadow’s super-awesome-epic-climatic-finale: Definitive Edition PWA 2K19

“So basically, what I’m trying to say is that Marshadow isn’t nearly as strong or as intimidating as he is making himself out to be. The powers he’s been showing us are nothing greater than nightmares projected into reality, an illusion so real that we can feel it physically,” Leos said, pacing back and forth. Surrounding him were all the Pokémon involved in the upcoming battle, from the Erinian army to Ariala’s group and Leos’ friends. “Even though I’m the only one who can use Zenryoku artes, giving aura to a Pokémon is enough to break a connection to reality and bypass those illusions.”

“In other words, if we give each other aura, we can fight Marshadow and actually damage him,” Rune said, folding his arms. Leos nodded.

“You’re so cool Leos! Only you could’ve figured out something like that. I would’ve been so scared!” Prem said, waving his arms about.

“I’d like to play about with your theories a bit more, but we are pressed for time. Breaking the illusions and being able to fight Marshadow is one thing, but how do we get past the Pokémon that he controls?” Rune said, joining Leos in the centre of the discussion. “Tapu Lele and Mirror on their own are difficult combatants. Having Zygarde and Marshadow himself to deal with only adds to that. If we knew how to free them, we could stand a chance.”

“Aura, still. We free them from the nightmare by attacking them with aura infused attacks. Yes I haven’t proved whether that works or not, but that’s a gamble I’m willing to take. Heavenly Execution should deal with Zygarde,” Leos said.

“There’s something that’s bugging me a bit, still,” Ariala said, raising a hand. Everyone went quiet to let her speak. “If our recent confrontations with Marshadow were nightmares he projected onto us, then why keep us alive still, and why give us the solution to our problem? Why did he literally tell you that aura was the answer?”

Leos took a deep breath and hung his head. “Shadowboxing. Mimicry.”

“Mimicry?” Prem said, tilting his head.

“Marshadow learns from copying Pokémon. The way he battled you and Ariala, think of how observant and defensive he played. He chose only to retaliate when he was sure that we weren’t holding back,” Leos said. Quiet fell for a moment.

“You’re saying that like he wasn’t fighting back at all. But he was, you know? It wasn’t like the fall of Tapu Koko or anything,” Nier said, shrugging.

“Emphasis on the holding back part. Think carefully. He parried, dodged, or blocked our attacks, despite already having the potential to kill someone like Master Lin in one strike. Throughout the whole battle, he played with our mentality, like he was trying to train or something. He wanted to see our strongest attacks. The way he tried to pin Mother and Father down, and tried to urge me to use my Zenryoku arte in my nightmare,” Leos explained, scratching his chin. “I’m sure of it – Marshadow is a Pokémon that can mimic power perfectly. If he learnt how to defend against an attack in his nightmare, he would learn it in reality. So if he learnt how block aura infused attacks…”

“He would bypass his sole weakness and become invincible. So your strategy is to break his nightmare realm and then defeat him in a raw test of power,” Rune said.

“Precisely,” Leos nodded. “That black aura that’s taking over the sky, and the spectres rising from the dead – those are all his nightmares projected into reality. If we gather enough aura, they’ll disappear.”

“Okay so you figured stuff out that far. But then what do we do?” Rosie asked, sliding forward.

“Father’s plan,” Leos said. There was quiet again.

“You mean that ludicrous idea of gathering all the aura in the world?” she said, leaning back in surprise.

“How else would you breach a nightmare that can cover the whole of Etheria?” Leos replied. She staggered a bit, and sweat showed through her rag. “An army of ours will take him down while the two planets provide us with aura. As long as a steady amount is coming in, we should be able to bypass his nightmare and defeat him, freeing everything. So not everyone has to be sending aura.”

“I hope you know what you’re suggesting, my boy,” Rune said, stepping forward. He ruffled Leos’ hair, to which the Oshawott growled and shifted away. Rune snickered at him, turning his attention to everyone else. “I for one am on board with it all. I truly believe that the lot of us can defeat our biggest crisis if we all put our blades together. What you can’t do alone, you can do with friends by your side. Something Diantha taught me.”

“Rune,” Ariala said quietly.

“But this is a colossal undertaking that will require all of our effort. Etheria is currently broken in terms of society – many Pokémon still believe me to be missing, while the Faernians do not have the Tapu to answer their prayers anymore. The Pokémon will require a lot of convincing to rally and get their support,” he said, addressing everyone now. “And of course, we still need to deal with getting to the Pokémon safely, as well as reaching Marshadow.”

“The Entercards. We can reach Marshadow and Faernia just fine,” Leos said, a slight frustration in his volume. He folded his arms and shut his eyes, groaning at his thoughts.

“You’ve really thought this through all the way, haven’t you? If this works, I’ll truly be impressed,” he replied, glancing at Leos. “We do not have much time. We’ll need to act as soon as possible. The powers of the royalty will no doubt play large in our favour. That means you, Father.”

“Why are you talking as if that isn’t a given? Of course I will speak out and rally the Erinians,” King Jyararanga said. “You’re not king, yet. Therefore, these are still my Pokémon. It would be remiss of me not to do everything in my power to gain their trust.”

“Thank you, Father,” Rune said, nodding.

“This is a lot of work, Leos. Forgive me if this sounds patronising, but this is going to make for a long day for us all. It’d be best if we were all to rest until morning, would it not?” Ariala said.

“No. Wait. I’ve just realised something, a better way we can do this,” Leos replied, raising a hand. “I said an army would go to fight Marshadow, but only me, you and Rune will go.”

Both parents turned to him with widened eyes. “Just us three?”

“Marshadow is still a god. Only the legendary weapons can damage him anyway,” he said. A wave of sighs went over the Pokémon. “Given Marshadow’s time limit as well… it would be best if rather than multitasking, we each took on roles of our own.”

“Wait, are you for real? We’ve been through all this, but you’re gonna hog all the glory of the final fight to yourself?” Griselle cried. “How am I supposed to protect ya if I’m just taking on one of your chores?”

“And we’re talking… letting you go on your own… to a dangerous fight like that,” Prem said, hanging his head. “We’ve always been together. Now we’re in more danger than ever, and you want us to separate?”

“Don’t be selfish now, you two. I appreciate the concern, but you won’t be able to hurt Marshadow. You being there in the battle will be detrimental to your own safety,” Leos said.

“… So you’re sayin’ we’re actually gonna be in the way?” Griselle moaned.

“If you really want to help me, you’ll do this. Lead soldiers through Eris and Faernia to the individual towns and locales, and rally the Pokémon to send aura,” he said. “If you all go your separate ways with this, we’ll gather all the Pokémon in shorter time. Meanwhile, me, Mother, and Father can immediately get the aura during the battle itself. You’d be saving us.”

“I agree, but we need a way of signalling to each other when to start praying,” Jyararanga said.

“You’ll know that for sure. Of that, I’m certain,” he said, laying a hand on his chest.

“And then you go and bet something like that on a hunch,” Blossom said with a sigh. “My lord, I hope you realise what you’re asking, here.”

Leos turned to her, letting her speak. “You’re asking your friends to rally all the Pokémon of the world to pray in your name. Meanwhile, you fight a megalomaniacal god who has an army of dead Pokémon and fallen gods on their side, alongside just two other Pokémon, your parents. Do you truly believe all of this is going to work?”

Leos shut his eyes, really feeling the pressure. He hadn’t been thinking about the whole idea in hindsight, and it made him feel stupid. But speaking of megalomaniacs, he was just as certain of his counter play working as Marshadow was believing he was all-powerful.

On top of that, he knew his parents and friends wouldn’t let him down. If what Ariala said about them was true, then that meant that they would have to go through with this with just as much conviction as he would. Settling his thoughts, he became stern and nodded.

“Definitely. If it doesn’t work, then all is lost,” he replied.

“Then I suggest you take up her highness’s proposition. We’ll each depart in the morning,” Blossom said, folding her arms.

“Blossom?” Griselle cried.

“I know what you two are like, Griselle. Even if we convinced Leos that this was a bad idea, he’d go through with it anyway,” she said. Griselle silenced. “Exactly. And you know I’m right because I can read thoughts. So our best bet is to put our backs into it and save his life.”

“We will make preparations immediately. By the first sunrise, we set off,” Jyararanga said, standing tall. The soldiers saluted him.

“Um, gonna have to be more specific. There’s sorta a giant black aura covering the sunrise,” Nier said, smiling sheepishly.

Leos wasn’t afraid of the upcoming fight, but of the revelations he was going to learn about during that fight. Everything he had proudly announced to the others in that meeting was unproven conjecture, and he knew it. He could only guess that Marshadow was utilising illusions, or why the god wanted them all alive. Whatever the truth was, it was sure to be something beyond his imagination, and Marshadow would have a bigger effect on the world than he was ready for.

The remainder of that night went about as well as he expected it would go. He was allowed back into his room for peace and quiet, and even though he got those two things, he felt like he barely slept a wink.

Well, he got peace and quiet enough to sleep, actually. He had requested that Prem sleep in the same room, and that meant that Rosie came with him. With only one bed in Leos’ room, the Mimikyu couldn’t stand the sight of them in the same bed together, so there was quiet bickering and snide comments all throughout the night. When he awoke, he found Prem and Rosie muttering to each other in the corner of the room, the latter looking troubled by something.

“Oh, Leos, morning!” Prem said cheerfully, waving. Leos blinked dozily.

“Please don’t try and run away from the subject. Awake or not, this isn’t the time to butter things up,” she said, revealing one of her claws. “Do you really trust Leos and this whole plan?”

Prem looked away. “Of course I do. I’m troubled because I wanted to be there all the time. Of all the times to not be there to protect Leos, it had to be now.”

“So that’s what this is about,” Leos said, approaching with a stretch. “Be concerned about yourselves. I actually fear you’ll be fighting a harder battle going out into the world on your own like this.”

“Tha-that’s no problem! I might be shy, but if it’s for you, I’ll do anything. The spectres won’t stop me,” Prem cried.

“Oh dear, even more sappy dialogue,” Rosie said, shaking the head of her decoy.

“I meant convincing the Pokémon, actually. They won’t listen to you right away, considering what’s happened,” Leos said, shaking his head.

“Listen, you. You’re a mad Pokémon, and you’re walking right to your suicide,” Rosie raised her voice. “I’ve been with Master Lin since the beginning. I know how powerful he is, and the way he spoke of Lord Marshadow. The god of the stars being capable of finishing him in one shot like that is nothing any of us can stand up to!”

“You know, that’s why you’re still able to walk free amongst us,” he replied.

“Come again?”

“You’re Master Lin’s right hand. I also presume you’re the next in line for the Constellars to look up to. You can convince those Pokémon to lend their aura. Only you can do that,” he said, facing Rosie. “If that wasn’t the case, I’m sure Rune would’ve had you arrested at the earliest chance.”

“Oh stuff it. You’ve only not done that because you don’t have any bars to put me behind!” she shouted. “And now you’re being nice because you need my status. But hear this: if my precious Prem’s not involved, then I don’t care!”

Leos paused for a moment, loudly taking in a breath through his nose. “You’ve followed Master Lin almost all your life, right? That means that you too, believe in the god of the stars and the salvation they promise. So tell me: is Marshadow and his actions really what you were looking for?”

Rosie made a sound, staggering back a bit.

“I don’t go by speculation and hearsay. Well, most of the time. I study and discover the truth for myself through what is happening in reality to me. And the truth I’ve seen is that you Constellars have all the more been working towards salvation as those who follow the Tapu have,” he said. “Be as honest, now. Is Marshadow really the salvation you wanted? The kind that you’ve been working towards?”

Rosie kept making sounds of nervousness, eventually hanging the head of her decoy. “No. It’s not. I don’t know what Marshadow is, where he came from, or why he’s doing what he’s doing. In fact, I’m scared of what he’s going to do.”

“Then you’ve got to help us. You’re not standing on our side, you’re just helping us as we share a common goal. That’s all I ask,” Leos said, laying a hand on his chest.

Rosie looked up in surprise, then at the floor for a moment, growling at her thoughts. She eventually looked him in the eyes, putting away her claw. “You just need me to get the Stardust Treasury to pray for you, right? To call out in your name and stuff. I can do that, but that’s all I can do.”

“You can come with us afterwards!” Prem said cheerfully. Rosie flinched. “Me and Leos have actually been trying to help the Pokémon of Stardust. So after we’re all done with this, you can help us out to help your Pokémon. After all, you’re like their leader now, right?”

“That’s… right. I am. The head of the Stardust Treasury. All the Pokémon have to look to, since Master Lin isn’t around anymore,” she said, hanging her head yet again. Leos let out his breath.

“Prem, can I ask you a really big favour?” he said.

“Sure? What is it?”

“… I’ve never actually seen you without your hoodie. Do you mind if you take it off? Just this once?” he asked.

“Huh? I mean I don’t mind, but how come, Leos?” Prem replied. Even Rosie was confused.

“It’s just something I’d like to see just once. It’s fine, right?” he said. His eyes were darting all over the place, but Prem seemed to accept his nervousness and nodded, going back to smiling.

“Sure. To be completely honest, I only wear it now because it helps me keep my head fur in check. It used to be because of Constellar magic that helped me fly, but I can barely float off the ground, so I barely use it,” Prem said. He loosened the mega stone themed button that kept the hoodie wrapped around his head and then slowly pulled it off with both hands.

The aforementioned head fur exploded out the moment the hoodie left his head. There was so much excess fur that it was a wonder how it all fitted below the hood, and almost all of it went down to the Pikachu’s legs in length. Despite being tucked under a hood for months it was all smooth and straight as well, not as messy and picky as fur should have been. Two thick, well tied strands curled around Prem’s head and went just below his shoulders, one of which he had to brush out of his face.


“I… I hope this isn’t too surprising,” he said, blushing a bit. “I really don’t like it being in the way, so I’ll keep it under the hoodie, if that’s okay?”

“Y-you, how much- how did- how could—” Rosie said, her eyes widening beyond their sockets. Leos was just as speechless, though he smiled at Prem’s remark. “I-is it just me, or is it like, super hot in here all of a sudden?”

“Hmm? I don’t notice anyth—”

“It is! We need to like, open the windows or something. Come on you lot, it’s morning anyway!” she cried, rushing out of the room. Leos and Prem watched her and then exchanged shrugs.

“Sorry, I really should’ve shown you this sooner. I th-think her obsession with me is because of the head fur, actually. She’s the only other Pokémon who’s seen it, after all,” Prem said, rubbing his face. “I think she really likes me because of it.”

“I totally get her,” Leos mouthed, staring.


“I-I mean yeah, that’s probably it. It’s pretty shocking, after all. But she’s grown a bit, don’t you think? She’s right about us getting a move on. I’m pretty sure I overslept. Thanks for showing me, still,” he said, shaking himself. He couldn’t help but wipe his forehead of a bit of sweat, but thankfully, Prem looked oblivious to it all. The Pikachu nodded cheerfully and then led the way out, but not before stuffing that miracle of a hairdo behind his head, where it vanished into his hoodie again.

The morning was dark and unsettling after that. A large breakfast awaited the royals, and then right afterwards they were all addressing a large army of soldiers near to the castle’s front entrance. Groups of soldiers were assigned to units that would be directed by each of Leos, Rune, and Ariala’s friends, who were then to protect each other as they made their way to set locations. King Jyararanga had planned out routes for them each to take to get to the towns, rescue any Pokémon they came across, and then to stay in those towns until it was time to pray to Leos.

As for Leos, Rune, and Ariala, the trio were fiddling about with the Entercards almost the whole way through the meeting. Marshadow’s lair was located in the same place as Fairy Hill, but that was all they knew about it. And so, they set their course for a little bit just before Fairy Hill, that way they could get there, hide, and then remake a course for whatever Marshadow had actually set up.

All the time during the morning, the sun never shined. Complete silence seemed to drown the noise of nature. Feral Pokémon were in hiding. The air was a stagnant cold. Everything that the Pokémon needed to tell that the world was ending was right there, right before their eyes.

“We better get a move on,” Leos said after seeing it all. He looked to Rune and Ariala, who seemed to be watching him. “Aren’t you going to give the order?”

“What do you mean? This is your order, Leos,” Rune said, smiling.

“This is your first act at the agreement of the royal families. It is up to you to lead,” Ariala said, smiling as well. Leos nodded at them both.

“Very well then. It’s time to stu- I mean fight. It’s time to fight! Everyone, do your best!” he said, raising his scalchop. The soldiers all cheered with his movement, raising their own weapons, claws, and all else. Amongst the activity, Leos locked eyes with a troubled Prem. He reassured the Pikachu with a light smile and a wink, which looked like it calmed him down a bit.

And then he slammed his scalchop down, inputting the last Entercard into the formation they had. The cards reacted and a portal exploded on the floor beneath him, a heavy wind bursting out with it that forced everyone to cover their faces. Leos and his parents slowly walked into the portal and were soon whisked away to its destination, leaving behind nothing but a spiral of dirt where the portal was.

“You guys, please stay safe,” Prem muttered, praying.

“Right, they’re off. Let’s get going, too,” Vincent said. His wife nodded, and they both shook hands quickly. “Stay safe, Nier.”

“Feelin’s mutual, hun,” she replied. She took off into the air with Psychic, letting her soldiers jog after her.

One by one, the units left the castle with heartfelt goodbyes and wishes of fortune to their friends and loved ones. Prem watched them all until he and King Jyararanga were all that was left, however. He barely moved, stood at the castle gates staring at the deep black sky with a distant lust in his eyes. A formula of Entercards sat before him, ready to send him to the Tower of the Tapu.

“Your target is the big one, Queen Magearna. Don’t get cold feet now,” Jyararanga said, tapping him with a nail. The Pikachu didn’t react.

“I just… really hope this works,” he said, still staring.

The moment Leos came out of the Magnagate, he and his parents retrieved the Entercards and hid behind the nearest hill they could find. There was no need however, as they quickly discovered where they had emerged: near the peak of Fairy Hill, where the fateful battle to rescue Diantha had taken place.

But it was the most affected area when it came to Marshadow’s influence, and in the most fear-inducing way than anywhere else they had seen. The sky had no texture or sense of depth at all, completely made up of black colour and nothing else. The stars, the moons, and all other distant wonders that should have lit up the dark sky were no longer visible, like a static sea of black had consumed the entirety of the night sky.

It was so quiet that Leos could hear his own heartbeat, or if he wasn’t mistaken, the blood pumping through his veins. His breath came out in puffs of white smoke that vanished into the stagnant air around him, and just that experience alone had him shivering. He wasn’t cold, but some uncertain feelings about this whole place had him shaking beyond his control.

Maybe it was the hundreds of weapons jutting from the ground. He knew they marked the graves of those who fought in Etheria’s last war, but he still felt the lost emotions they carried or something. He gazed around at all this before focusing on the dark castle now sat in the middle of the battleground.

The castle itself was up in the sky, and a tall, widely spiralling staircase of magical steps with no barricades climbed right to the castle’s entrance. Those steps and the castle itself were all just as black as the sky, but stood out thanks to a weak, light glow of light surrounding them all. It was like the burning glow of light that surrounds the moon during a solar eclipse – only it was all the castle had to not camouflage with the rest of the dead sky. Leos and his parents didn’t say anything once they spotted the castle. They just nodded to one another and led the way, being careful up the steps.

“This castle is,” Rune muttered soon after they entered. The inside was empty but bore the same look as outside. Everything was dark and texture-less, but where there would be walls, stairs, or decorations, that burning glow resembling a solar eclipse was present. “Why does it have exactly the same layout as Castle Eris?”

“It does? You can tell that at just the entrance?” Leos asked.

“Of course I can. I only lived here for my whole childhood. It’s almost like he wants to mock me, modelling after something that obviously means a lot to me,” he said, leading the way.

“Don’t feel that way, Rune. Focus, and don’t let him get to you,” Ariala said.

“Of course. What Marshadow doesn’t realise is that this makes it easy for me to go straight to him,” Rune said, shaking his head.

And that was proven by the Dewott’s confident navigation of the place. The trio stayed wary in case a spectre popped up to ambush them or something, but nothing of the kind confronted them during their advance.

The layout of the castle was familiar, and after a few stairs and hallways, Leos could see that. But he still felt that shivering omen that he had outside. No matter where he looked, deep darkness and sheer silence surrounded him on all sides, illuminated only by that burning glow. Without the standard decorations a castle should have had, or even the basic materials necessary to make up the walls and floor, it was almost like he was stepping right into a torturous nightmare.

The darkness and silence swallowed him. His steps made no noise and the usual presence of Pokémon working throughout the place was absent. With only his body making any sound and his breath vanishing into the atmosphere, he was beginning to learn what true loneliness was. Sure, his parents were right there leading the way the whole time, but he was pretty certain that they were beginning to fade and disappear into this illusive void.

“Up here is the throne room,” Rune said. Leos gasped at the words, relieved that they came. “You know why he put his throne room at the top of a long staircase?”

“There’s a purpose for that besides elaboration?” Ariala said.

“Yeah. He did it so he could kick attackers down the stairs when he beat them. It sounds kind of stupid in hindsight, but I’ve seen him do it enough times to credit him for it,” Rune said, glancing at his two allies. “What I’m saying is if he’s up there, watch your back. Falling down the stairs always ends the fight.”

“That’s quite a way to pep talk, Rune,” Ariala said, hanging her head. He snickered at her and the duo continued on their way up, leaving Leos behind a little bit.

He couldn’t help but stop and stare at them casually walking like this. Here they were, the end of the world occurring right before them, and his Father was still able to snicker at a distasteful bit of humour. Mother didn’t bluntly tell him off for it, either. They didn’t shiver and their hearts weren’t beating fast, if he was listening to them correctly.

He took in a deep breath and swallowed, calming himself as much as he could. Yes, their actions just now felt distasteful, but on the other hand, they were acting like parents for the first time in his life. He was frightened and had a big battle ahead of him, so they were being strong for him. When he reopened his eyes, he spotted them stopped to look back at him, Ariala with one hand on her sword while Rune cocked a confident smile.

He didn’t say anything as he took the lead. He thanked them in his mind, though. Knowing he had such strong, mature Pokémon backing him up, he soon found himself stood before a grand doorway at the top of the stairs and pushed his way in with his heart full of confidence.

“So you are here. Marshadow,” Leos said, locking eyes with the ghostly god. Marshadow was at the very end of the room, sat in a black throne illuminated by the same fiery light as all the other walls and splits. The Pokémon that Marshadow controlled lined the sides of the room like royal guards, only a familiar face that wasn’t expected was stood beside Marshadow.

Charle, the now dark-furred Meowth. His fur had gone a dark grey while his eyes seemed to be permanently cross and half lidded. He stood beside Marshadow with his royal sword held stiff in both paws, pointed at the floor as if to help him balance. Master Lin, Diantha, Tapu Lele, Mirror, and Zygarde all lined the other positions in the room.

“So nice of you to come. You accepted my invitation in the end,” Marshadow replied, laughing a bit. He sat forward, resting his chin on a fist. “Normally when I send out the invites, no one comes. They just wait ‘till I start destroying their world.”

“Normally?” Rune said.

“I of course speak of the many worlds and timelines I’ve grown bored of and erased. But for the first time in however long, you Pokémon have approached me. And there’s only one reason Pokémon would approach me when they’re in this position,” he said, standing up. He stretched his arms out, a huge smile on his face as he spoke. “You obviously believe that you can stop me somehow. I’m interested to see how you try. It should make for good entertainment.”

Leos and his parents didn’t reply, but their weapons were readied.

“But what’s this? You’ve got no snipers or rollcall orbs or Pokémon waiting in ambush… it’s literally just the three of you? Is this some kind of joke?”

“No. It isn’t,” Ariala said. Marshadow’s smile slowly turned into a frown. “Whoever you really are, your delusions of power end today and now. We will put you in your place.”

“And then what? Kill me, then destroy the world with another war? You mortals always do it anyway when you think us gods have our backs turned,” he said, closing his hands into fists. “And then you cry to us through your rituals and prayers to fix your mistakes. Enough with that lunacy. I’m going to keep wiping and creating worlds as I see fit until a truly perfect mortal is born.”

“I’m not even going to argue with that callousness. Without evil, we won’t know good, and none of us will fight for the perfection you’re striving for,” Rune said, stepping forward.

“Says the Pokémon who threw away his morals and dedicated his life to revenge. You didn’t feel any remorse when you mercilessly beat an elderly Pokémon to death, did you? You callous, twisted little prince,” Marshadow said. Rune’s face became intense. “Your solution to this is just as pathetic. But challenging me is an easy excuse to give you the death sentence you deserve. You need only ask your sister, after all.”

Rune made a sound and was visibly beginning to sweat. He snuck a glance at Diantha, who was smiling innocently at him.

“But neither of you matter in this instance. Didn’t the two of you spend your lives giving birth to the child who would be your little hero?” Marshadow said, signalling for Leos to step forward. He didn’t move. “You’re the only one who matters here. You’re the peace treaty between Faernia and Eris. The Pokémon whose actions will dictate the fate of your two planets. You’ve come all this way, obviously confident and certain that you can stop me, and that that upcoming reign of yours won’t upset any gods. So show me. Show me what you’re capable of achieving. Show me just how much you want to fix your world.”

Wait, is this it? Is Marshadow directly challenging me?” Leos gasped in his mind, opening his mouth. He quickly focused and tightened his grip on his scalchop. “No. Not yet. We need to break his nightmare first. If I try and summon my aura now, he’ll just learn to counter it and stop me. I need to wait for the one moment his guard is down.

Leering at his enemy with unyielding focus and conviction, Leos swiped his scalchop aside, forming his double-sided Razor Shell. Rune and Ariala held their weapons at the ready as well, each weapon illuminating the darkness. “I have to make sure my fatigue doesn’t stop me. I just have to last until the one moment he’ll let up!

Roaring with increasing enthusiasm, Leos charged toward Marshadow with his Razor Shell held far above his head as he ran. Marshadow snickered at him in his approach and made the gesture of snapping his fingers.

In a flash, Charle raised his sword and challenged Leos, charging forward as well. He was met halfway by Rune’s Aqua Jet attack, stopping him from targeting Leos. The duo broke right into close combat with their swords, smashing their blades against the other with death-potential strikes.

Tapu Lele was next, rising high into the air with a Moonblast at the ready. Leos eyed her anxiously as he considered how to deal with the attack, but was made not to worry as Ariala popped up in between them both. She deflected the Moonblast with a hasty Light Screen attack, and then engaged Tapu Lele with her own flurry of special attacks. The two fairies dodged Moonblasts and retaliated with Psychics, each blast taking them to the right side of the room.

No one else seemed to make a move, so Leos was soon within range to strike Marshadow with all his strength. With his heart heavy and fangs bared, he leapt into the air flipped forward, using the momentum from the flips to Strike Marshadow so hard the recoil winded him. It felt like the very air was torn asunder by the force of his attack, yet he landed stiffly, the blade of his Razor Shell blocked by a single arm. Leos and Marshadow got to exchange a glance in the moment, to which Marshadow snickered at him.

“No!” Leos hissed, kicking off of his foe. He distanced himself, but the moment his feet touched the ground, he sprung forward and began to attack with the variety and skill he had. He spun his Razor Shell with full body movements, making for a combo of slashes that would have any other Pokémon staggering backward in their defence.

But Marshadow didn’t budge from the spot, lazily flicking his arms and palms to parry every single hit. At one point he even faked a yawn, using his other palm to fire a Shadow Ball at Leos from point blank. The shadowy blob floored the Oshawott, but was weak enough to not deal any visible damage.

“Hey. Get to the point already,” Marshadow said, tucking one arm behind his back. Leos seemed to ignore him, attempting to tear into him with more Razor Shell attacks. Once again, Marshadow made little effort to defend himself. “I said get to the point already. You already know that normal attacks can’t touch me.”

Leos still didn’t respond with anything other than plain attacks. Losing his patience, Marshadow growled and knocked him back with a strong Shadow Ball, this one making him cry out in pain.

“Don’t waste my time. Get to the exciting part already. If you don’t, I’ll make this next attack kill you,” Marshadow said, pointing a palm at Leos. The Oshawott got to his feet and raised his voice again, to which Marshadow stomped his feet and surrounded himself in energy. Leos stopped, wary of what was coming. “I mean it, boy. If you have any real method of defeating me, do it right now, right this very moment. If you fail to impress me, I will kill you.”

The tone made Leos reconsider his options, but he didn’t hesitate for long. He glared at his enemy and kept his focus steady, deciding to sheath his Razor Shell and charge a Water Pulse instead. He held onto it for a length of time, charging the orb of water until it was bigger than his body before firing. Just that one attack took the wind out of him, firing off with so much force that it pushed him to his backside.

But Marshadow still blocked it, crossing both arms to take the attack as if it was a puddle splashing over his front. He growled at his combatants, making a signal with both hands. Just like that, Charle and Tapu Lele stopped fighting their opponents and returned to Marshadow’s side, revealing Rune and Ariala’s untouched states.

“Seriously? Do you understand what you’re up against here? That can’t have been your strongest effort,” he said, grinding his fists.

“That was,” Leos said between breaths, starting to sweat uncomfortably. He managed to stand but nearly fell right forward, unable to close his mouth. “Yeah, I put my all into that.”

“Leos!” Rune shouted.

“Seriously? You thought you could just take me down with- there’s no way, you’ve got to be pulling some kind of stunt here,” Marshadow said, stepping forward. Rune and Ariala stood guard over their son. “I have the power to destroy the whole world at the flick of a switch. I’ve proved it. I gave you a chance, and the best you could do is to go all cliché superhero on me? What, did you think that if your ‘heart’ was in it or some rubbish that you’d miraculously be able to hit me? ‘Cos if I was having fun with that then maybe I’d play along, but really I’m just severely disappointed.”

“All in due time you freak,” Rune said, tightening his pose.

“How? You don’t have any ways to contact other Pokémon. Your powers haven’t grown at all since our last battle. You haven’t even acquired any new weapons or tools. You have no way of harming me. Does the fate of Etheria really depend on such foolish Pokémon?” Marshadow said. “Forget it. For your insolence in wasting my time, I’m just going to wipe you and this miserable little world out of existence!”

Leos and his party edged away, gritting their teeth. He started laughing maniacally at them, edging closer to push them back. “But perhaps I’ll have my own little bit of fun in the process. I’ve seen you get tortured once before. I think maybe I’ll take that to the next level and have you torn limb from limb… literally. Tapu Lele!”

Before they could object, the royals were struck by a heavy force which took them off their feet, rendering them helpless in the air. The pink, wavy patterns of Tapu Lele’s Psychic Terrain quickly took over the whole area, stunning the three Pokémon. They could barely utter a cry of pain as their bodies were constricted in place against their will, stretched and strained as far they could go.

“Now then. Zygarde. Perhaps the thing you most fear would do the honours of plucking you to bits. Start with the arms,” Marshadow said.

“N-no, how could—” Leos growled, barely managing a wiggle.

Zygarde just about fit into the room, but with the Psychic Terrain around, it looked like there was more than enough space for the scaly giant. As it approached, Leos lost his cool more and more, fearing that it would crush him and his parents rather than tearing parts of their body off. Either one sounded agonising.

He wiggled as much as he could, fighting through the intense burning that the straining of his body caused. For a moment it felt like if he tried to move any harder than he was, his arms and legs might drop off; his imagination of that being so painful that he would lose all feeling and pass out.

That was what he felt until a sense of familiarity took over him. He was warm, his eyesight was brightening, and Zygarde was beginning to hesitate despite being within range to crush him. He had been crying out in desperation but slowed to pay attention to what was happening.

It was becoming easier to move, so much so that he could bend his head. How? Tapu Lele was still upholding her Psychic Terrain, but her eyes were clenched shut and her stature looked irritated by the sight of Leos. The warmth, his brightening view, the aversion of Marshadow’s subjects – Leos took one look at himself and his heart skipped a beat. He had aura, and it was gradually getting stronger and stronger, pushing away the darkness that made him afraid of this place.

But why now and not before? Was it because of—” he said in his mind, gasping.

“The Psychic Terrain prevents any strange powers that would grant you priority movement. And then, her Psychic is unstoppable. In this weird space of hers, nobody can hear or reach you. It’s just us.” Master Lin said.

It’s a new reality right in the middle of Marshadow’s realm, and all his subjects are here. As long as we’re in Psychic Terrain, we’re playing by Tapu Lele’s rules, not Marshadow’s. He finally let his guard down. This is the ONLY chance I’ve got for everyone to reach me!” he told himself. Leos shook himself with all his might, and his weak aura erupted around him, breaking him free of the Psychic hold.

“What? How did you—”

“I call upon the stars to grant me your blessing. Provide me with the power to end this conflict!” Leos said, pointing his scalchop toward the sky. His aura spiked again, erupting in a thin stream of sparkling energy that fired toward the heavens.

Over at the Tower of the Tapu, Prem, Queen Magearna, her attendant Azu, and countless other soldiers and Pokémon were gathered at the front of Castle Faernia. All of them besides Prem were all staring at the sky, catching sight of the golden glow that Leos had fired upwards. Amongst the cold darkness, a star had beamed toward the heavens, illuminating the world a little.

“There it is. It is just as he told us. The hero of Etheria has made his call for our help,” Azu said.

Prem stopped praying for a moment to gasp, and smiled at it. “That’s it. He’s counting on us, everyone! Just pray, pray and believe that Leos can pull through and free us from this darkness!”

The Pokémon all cheered at the top of their voices, raising their arms in unison. The crowd that had gathered filled every last square metre of the streets, so the noise of their cheer shook the planet. With their cheer came beams of golden, fiery glitter from their arms, all of which shot up into the sky towards the star Leos had shown.

Over at the Stardust Treasury, Rosie had managed to gather just as impressive a crowd of Pokémon around the church of the Constellars. What was once an eerie old building had become a venue of hope and cheer overflowing with the many Pokémon that lived in the city.

“Now it’s my moment. Brace yourself, Marshadow, for the sting of my revenge! You’ll pay for what you did to Master Lin!” the Mimikyu said, raising both claws with great enthusiasm. Aura released from her and her Pokémon as well, creating another gold, glittering beam of light that tore into the darkness.

Even the small town of Marble Rock had gathered its Pokémon enough to fill the space. Mostly centred around Kelsith’s mansion, the Sylveon stood on its roof to address them all, holding her feelers together in prayer.

“This will be our last opportunity for salvation. We refuse to fall!” she announced, raising her head with those feelers. Golden light burst from her and her Pokémon, joining the other beams in the sky.

Down in the Second Country, Nier had every Pokémon she could come out of their tents and homes. Even from here, they had full view of the aura that was being gathered. Smiles washed over the Pokémon’s faces, and they gathered together in prayer. Nier snickered before joining them, raising her rapier to the sky.

“I knew you could do it. Let’s go little guy!” she shouted on top of the Pokémon’s cries. “Now, open up wide Marshadow, ‘cos this one’s for you!”

And finally, at the peak of the mountains of Castle Eris, King Jyararanga had a brilliant view of the enormous amount of aura illuminating the world. Awestruck by the hopeful glow, he raised his arms, having the Pokémon gathered around him do the same, all in prayer of hope.

“Over two decades in the making. Hold on, young hero. The moment of peace is upon us!” he announced.

One by one, the cities, towns, and villages all over Eris and Faernia lit up the world with their release of aura. Not every Pokémon was helping out, but with every one that was, there was more than enough aura to fill the sky completely. The beams arched through the sky as they sped toward Leos, erasing Marshadow’s dark aura like a storm of flames tearing through paper. Within seconds the darkness was no more, replaced by a sunny glow with streams of glittering gold particles flowing towards space.

The spectres disappeared with it, too. The soldiers that had each travelled with Leos’ friends had been helping to protect them during their travel to the towns and cities, and had been fighting the whole time. Many were faltering, but were shocked and equally relieved to have the miracle occur right before their eyes. Soon after the golden light filled the sky, the spectres fizzled away into nothing, abandoning the soldiers in the middle of their fight. Cheers of triumph rang out amongst the soldiers, joining with those of the Pokémon who were praying.

Back with Leos, all eyes were on him, staring with angst. He had raised his scalchop with the incantation, but from their spot in the middle of the Psychic Terrain, they couldn’t see or hear anything else. And with Leos’ aura fading fast, as well as his strength, it was almost as if their call went unanswered.

Yet even Marshadow stared with a glare of concern. He hadn’t given an order for upwards of a few minutes, prepared to retreat if some kind of new attack showed. But when nothing did and Leos fell forwards from lack of breath, he snickered and assumed a pose for battle. The Oshawott’s parents came to his aid, stopping him from falling face flat.

“Well now, you had me worried there. I have to congratulate you for that. You actually had me afraid of what was about to happen. Using Tapu Lele’s terrain as an out to summon some aura – I have to hand it to you! You’re not as brain-dead as you made yourselves out to be,” he said with a laugh. He swiped an arm aside, and Tapu Lele released her terrain, returning them to his void of darkness. “But a chance to survive is nothing more than that. A chance. You took your chance, and failed.”

Leos and Rune uttered a response, gritting their fangs at him.

“I’m not going to give you another chance. I doubt I’m going to get one, anyway. My dear heroes, I feel I’ve received all the entertainment I can from you,” he said, holding one hand up. A Shadow Ball began to grow within it, taking seconds to grow bigger than Leos and his family put together. It crackled with instability, surrounded by white bolts. “Farewell intrepid heroes. I’ll be sure to remember your little surprise. After all, it’s the most excitement I’ve had in generations.”

Thunder boomed in the distance, making him go quiet. Marshadow snuck a glance up at the ceiling, not spotting anything out of the ordinary. Leos thought it weird until Marshadow ignored it, regaining his cocky smile. But a few seconds later, the thunder rumbled again, this time shaking the ground below them. Marshadow glanced upward again, this time relieving his Shadow Ball and letting out a petty squeak.

Leos immediately looked up after that, gasping at what had taken over the distant ceiling. A pillar of golden light was spiralling toward them, the light so glittery and flashy that the short moment he got to look at it was blinding. He barely had a second to shield his face or look away as the light came crashing down, engulfing the whole scene in gold, white, fiery particles and beams of burning. Leos, Rune, and Ariala all took in a sharp breath and shielded their faces from it, even though after a few seconds they realised that they were unharmed by it.

Marshadow on the other hand wound up screeching at a volume so high pitched that it hurt to hear. The light swallowed him and his dark Pokémon completely, tearing away at their dark colours with ease. It looked like Marshadow’s skin, his aura, and everything that made up his body was being burnt to nothing, tearing off and evaporating in the harsh, golden rays. Tapu Lele, Zygarde, and Marshadow’s other controlled Pokémon simply hard their dark colourations burnt off of them before they fell unconscious.

The light didn’t seem to stop, either. It kept going, striking Marshadow without mercy. What felt like minutes later, the dark god finally began to retaliate against it, his screeches becoming deeper, darker, and more aggravated than he had ever sounded. Soon enough his voice was so deep and distorted that it frightened Leos enough to not want to know what was becoming of him. But that voice was no longer crying in pain. It was growling, roaring, and shouting in effort.

And then all of a sudden, a blast of black flames burst from around Marshadow, countering against the beam of light that had struck him. Then light had done its work on him however, leaving him with a look that was so ravaged it was hard not to feel sorry for him. The armoured helmet shape that normally surrounded his head had been reduced to a large, violently flowing wisp of green and yellow flames, where only his livid, pupil-less eyes showed through. The rest of his body appeared to be struggling to remain intact, becoming melted, patchy, disconnected and bleeding a black substance all over.

“You… you. What is this? What have you done?” Marshadow shouted. His breathing was hoarse and maddened, and he grew even angrier as he examined his state, clenching his fists and strengthening his aura even more. “How dare you!”

“He’s completely broken,” Leos whispered, readying a Razor Shell. Seeing that he was okay to stand, Rune and Ariala stood up and readied their legendary weapons, which were now glowing gold with the aura they had received.

“This is it you three. Leos’ plan has surely worked, and Marshadow’s nightmare is broken. Now he stands in our world, vulnerable to our weapons,” Rune said, his glare intense. “This ends today!”

“Do not let your guard down, though. This isn’t over until it’s over,” Ariala said.

Leos didn’t need to say anything else. His eyes remained locked with Marshadow’s until the god made a move, dashing forward at wicked speed. Rune reacted first, standing guard over Leos to protect him from that opening strike. The Sword of Earthly Elements clashed with Marshadow’s fists, and the force behind that strike was so strong that a painful gush of fire and embers burst past both of them, scalding the observing Leos.

To everyone’s surprise, Marshadow was the one to back off from recoil, grunting in pain while shaking his fists. Rune didn’t let him go with just that though, taking a great step forward to swing his whole body with his sword, both hands on its grip for full effort. He struck Marshadow clean across the front, earning yet another agonising roar. Black blood sprayed out from the cut, which continued until the god was on one knee.

“He’s completely powerless,” Ariala said, gawking.

“This is not an opponent to have mercy on,” Rune replied, holding his weapon ready for another strike.

Before he could, Marshadow burst forward, splitting into several copies in the blink of an eye. With each copy throwing Shadow Punches at blinding speed from all over, it didn’t take long for Rune to falter, knocked to the ground metres away.

Ariala didn’t waste time calling out in dismay, she just got involved to protect him from further harm. She cast a Reflect barrier in front of her and then began to charge Moonblast behind it, but Marshadow didn’t seem concerned about her strategy. He pummelled away at her Reflect with Shadow Punch, and the sound that each punch made wasn’t anything like anyone had ever heard. The sheer volume had Ariala lose concentration a bit, and the crack on her shield that followed a second later had her rethink.

“Mother!” Leos cried. He couldn’t watch as she fell victim to the continuous beating of the Shadow Punches. She stayed on her feet and tried to take the attacks, but was soon sent rolling back across the room at an unrealistic velocity. A scream barely escaped her lungs, which drowned out as she vanished behind him. Fearing the worst, Leos turned back to Marshadow and crossed his arms over his front.

But Marshadow halted this time. It looked as though he was beginning to smile at Leos, though it could only be seen from the shape of his eyes through the flaming remains of his head. Confused and losing his mind a bit, Leos slowly unfurled his arms, ready to cross them again and brace for the worst pain.

“Don’t you get it already? You cannot win,” Marshadow said, his voice coming out surprisingly calm. “That’s not how I want this to end. That’s not how I decided this should go. That’s not what I want to happen.”

“It doesn’t matter what you think. What should happen is what’ll happen. That’s how logic works,” Leos replied, gritting his teeth.

“H-he’s right. Knock me down all you will, but I won’t lose!” Rune roared, returning to Leos’ side.

“Pokémon won’t stand for your ludicrous rule,” Ariala said, struggling to her feet to do the same.

“Ah. You hold onto hope still. That is good, but it means nothing,” Marshadow said, clenching his fists. “No matter how much you knock me down, no matter how much you strike me, I won’t die. I’m a god! I can’t fall. I don’t die the same way you mortals do. The three of you could only battle until your bodies are crushed.”

“Then I guess I just have to keep cutting you down before then,” Rune said.

“Legendary weapons mean nothing if the Pokémon that can use them die before they can use them. In which case, I need only end it. You’ve seen me do it already - at the mere flick of a switch, I can incinerate everything,” Marshadow said, beginning to float. “Tell me: don’t you think this has gone on for long enough?”

“You’re the one that’s dragging it out that way. Accept your defeat and let us see peace!” Leos said. Marshadow didn’t move and didn’t seem to be looking at them anymore.

“I’m not talking to you three, you know.”

“What?” Leos whispered.

“I cannot be killed. No matter what you might believe or hope for, this can only end the way I want it to,” Marshadow continued. “The longer this goes on, the more you will see these Pokémon hopelessly struggle. But no matter what, I will never allow them to ‘win’ this battle.”

“If they would continue to fight, continue to live in this world, they will only continue to endure the pain. The pain you’ve seen from all their perspectives. From all their generations. It will all simply carry on, their struggles to fix this world that cannot be fixed. No amount of genealogy can fix that.”

“I will not die. I will keep fighting. You can open up this chapter, or the next, or the one after that – the result will always be the same. We will reach this point, where you will see that no amount of damage done to me will win. There is no other outcome. They die, and I win.”

“I know you hate seeing these Pokémon get hurt. That’s why you keep reading on though, don’t you? You desperately want to see the ‘happy’ ending. I won’t try to butter it up. What you’ve seen is the good ending. I destroy the world, get to make a new one, and then hopefully, the Pokémon of that world aren’t dumb enough to bring it to an end the same one they did this one.”

“If that’s not good enough for you, then I guess there’s only one other way to end this. If you won’t comply, then I’ll have to show that I have the power to make even you beg for mercy.”

“Do you see now? I have the power to end this for good. But I’m a god that’s nice enough to at least keep rebuilding this world as it is. Or maybe I should just do it anyway? Delete everything of which you hold so dearly. It would certainly save all of us the trouble of trying to salvage this broken world.”

“If we dare carry on further, these Pokémon that you’ve grown so fond of will only continue to fight, getting hurt over and over. Would you really like to keep seeing them suffer so?”
Last edited:


Competitive Mijumaru

Ending: Astral Genealogy

“Don’t listen to him!” Leos cried, swiping his arm aside. “It’s all in your head. It doesn’t have to end the way Marshadow wants it to!”

“And you’re the one that’s allowed to say otherwise? You can’t even comprehend what I’m talking about,” Marshadow said, finally looking back down at the three royals. The three of them looked beaten up, yet they stared up at him with determination in their eyes, prepared to keep fighting.

“I… I don’t. But it doesn’t matter if I don’t. The whole purpose of this is to stop you and move on with life,” Leos said. “The attack that hit you was the collected aura from every Pokémon in Etheria. All those Pokémon who pray that they can see peace again, who throw aside everything in hopes that the hero of Etheria will save them from the darkness you cast.”

“But peace is a collective effort. Unless everyone wants it and works toward it, true peace will never happen. The miracle we achieved just now was nothing more than evidence that it’s what we all want,” Rune said, stepping forward. He tightened his grip on his sword. “That so many Pokémon could pray in the name of a single Pokémon that they have only heard of, all knowing that in this darkness it could lead to salvation from your twisted accusations… that alone speaks volumes of our growth.”

“Faith alone won’t bring about peace and salvation. But in the moment of terror you’ve created, Pokémon have seen and feared the end like nothing they’ve ever experienced before. This experience has shown them what it means to make the most of their lives. They’ve gone through the hardship you given them, and by overcoming it, can work towards the peace they really desire,” Ariala said, posing with her weapon as well. “If defeating you means we have a chance to change our world for the better, then I would go through eternal hell for that chance, no matter how much suffering I must endure!”

“That goes for all of us. So whoever you are, you Pokémon out there that Marshadow is speaking to, you don’t need to worry. It’ll hurt, and it’ll keep hurting, but we’ll keep going until we prevail. No matter what it takes, don’t worry about us and don’t falter – just believe in what’s right and share with us your aura,” Leos said, raising his scalchop. “Those orange stars that you’ve given us – all two hundred of them and counting – they speak of your beliefs and power the aura you send to us. I refuse to let that down, so I’ll keep fighting.”

“Are you serious? You’re going to ask them for aura? As if you could ever gather enough power to harm me,” Marshadow said, charging a Shadow Ball in a single palm.

Rune was the first to react, swiping his sword aside to sprint at Marshadow. The Shadow Ball was fired before he reached, but he sliced it in half before it hit him, engulfing him in dark, crackling smoke. That smoke prevented Marshadow from seeing Rune for a moment, allowing the Dewott to take him by surprise. Rune burst out, and in less than a second, his sword was thrust right through Marshadow’s wounded body, drawing another gush of black blood from him.

“Leos, do it! We’ll keep fighting him. Draw out the aura of all the Pokémon from everywhere and strike him down for good!” Rune said, pulling free of the roaring Marshadow. Ariala was there to catch him when he landed, using Reflect to protect them.

“Wait, it hurt him?” Ariala said, watching Marshadow wrench side to side to try and subdue the extreme damage he had just taken. He stood back with an aggravated growl, surrounding his fists in Shadow Punch. Those fists crackled and shook with energy, but just like the rest of his gradually melting form, struggled to maintain a feasible shape. His fists weren’t even fists anymore, looking more like globs of grey energy.

Seeing his struggle, Ariala readied a Moonblast, weaker than usual, and tossed it at him. He made an attempt to dodge it and failed, screeching at blast. It only wounded him further, leaving him with a sludgy body covered in open wounds that drooled black blood. The flames that made up his head were dwindling, and his eyes were beginning to show fear.

“Wha-what is happening to my body?” Marshadow said with a gurgle in his voice, as if even his mouth was beginning to melt and lose function.

“Leos. You said that Marshadow can’t be hurt when he’s in his nightmare, right? It looks like all the aura has broken his nightmare completely. We’ve been keeping him down the whole time,” Ariala said, glancing back at the Oshawott. “Now’s our chance! To end it for good!”

“But we’re still in darkness. Or is this,” Leos replied, going quiet. He anxiously gazed around for a sign of whether Marshadow had control now or not, but with no windows present, there was no way of knowing. If he released Heavenly Execution now and it turned out they were still in a nightmare, he could throw away their only chance.

Then he realised. The rules that he had learnt during this battle. When Tapu Lele used Psychic Terrain, Marshadow’s nightmare closed, and he became vulnerable.

Just now, he’d opened the void to another world, a world of higher beings that Leos and his family were receiving aura from. If the rules were consistent, then as long as that door remained open and aura kept pouring through, he was vulnerable. Once again, Marshadow had let his guard down, and this time, it cost him completely.

“No, you’re right. Mother, Father, quickly! Before he tries something!” Leos called out, crossing his arms.

“Got it,” Rune said, doing the same.

“Do you best,” Ariala said, doing her best to cross her arms as well.

“What? No, don’t you dare,” Marshadow shouted, his eyes widening. He raised his sludgy fists and held Shadow Ball attacks in them, but they took much longer than usual to charge. They were hardly at the size of a regular Pokémon’s Shadow Ball after a few seconds, filling Leos and his family with confidence in their act. He was too weak to stop them now.

The trio crossed their arms and the aura around them darkened, the symbol of the Aries star sign appearing in front of Leos briefly. They unfurled their arms in perfect sync, stretching them forward and crossing them over again. Once they did, the aura around Leos spiked, flowing just like the flames around Marshadow.

“St-stop! I can end it all. You’re fools. You’re only fighting the inevitable! I c-cannot… this is not… the way I want this to…” Marshadow said, straining between words to continue charging his attack.

He didn’t stop rambling, but Leos, Rune, and Ariala ignored every word, carrying on with their movements. The trio tucked their arms in and crouched, spinning and unfurling as they rose back up to pose in the shape of the Aries star sign. Their synchronization was perfect, and it fuelled Leos with a blinding, explosive gush of golden light, comparable to that which struck Marshadow before. The energy kept streaming from Rune and Ariala for a while as well, all until it began to strain them and they fell on one knee. At that point Leos flashed, swiping his Razor Shell aside to cut the energy flow.

“G-go Leos! Finish it!” Ariala shouted at the top of her voice.

He didn’t need that order, though. He glared at Marshadow for a moment more, just hoping for that one signal of mercy from the dark god. Marshadow didn’t beg or plea or show anything other than confidence however, beginning to growl and roar in expectation of the continued battle.

“In the end, you’re pitiful,” Leos said, shaking his head. Upon stretching his feet out, countless clones of himself spread out around him, all of which charged at Marshadow with double-sided Razor Shells made of golden light. Each one took a stab at Marshadow, some getting knocked away by his melted arms which held Shadow Balls, while many cut him up ever further, each slash tearing away at what little of his body wasn’t sludge.

It all happened in the blink of an eye as well, degrading the ghostly god until he was nothing more than a puddle of black and grey substance with arms and a head desperately trying to maintain form. Yet still Marshadow continued to fight back, punching and throwing those Shadow Balls at the army of Leos clones slicing him to nothing.

Leos himself tensed up after a few seconds, enlarging his blades until they were twice his height, and then bolted forward, stabbing the ground just below Marshadow. With a triumphant roar and all his strength, he pulled his sword up in a wide arc in front of him, ripping the blade through the ground, then the puddle of Marshadow’s body, until it was finally slicing through his head, free and pointing toward the heavens. When the Razor Shell had fully sliced him in half, the flames around Marshadow’s head disappeared in a flash, revealing his wounded, melted, and terrified face.

Marshadow let out another heart-wrenching screech, left with both arms raised and his eyes wide in agony. A white glow lined the centre of his body from head to toe where he had been cut, and the liquid appearance of his body solidified, becoming flaky and fragile. He attempted to utter words, but nothing but struggled breaths and weak noises came out. In the end, his body split before he could say anything, bursting into black particles which filled the air all around the room.

Leos stayed in the same pose for a while, keeping his golden blade pointed upward in expectation of some kind of reformation. When he was sure that nothing else was going to happen, he warily pulled back and stared at where Marshadow had just been, his Razor Shell fading back into a normal scalchop again.

“Is it really over?” he said. The uncertainty in his voice was shared by his parents behind him who were still crouched. The mixture of dark and gold that had illuminated the room during their battle had faded, returning them to the dark replica of the Castle Eris throne room. Marshadow’s Pokémon lay unconscious all around the room, their colour schemes perfectly normal as well.

None of them moved until nearly a minute had passed, where the room began to shake. Leos tripped a bit and fell on one hand, searching left and right for a cause. It wasn’t until the shaking began to intensify to a dangerous level that they all forced themselves to stand, all turning to each other in panic.

“I think the castle is beginning to collapse. Without Marshadow around to power this illusion, it doesn’t exist anymore,” Ariala said.

“Then let’s beat it before we get buried!” Rune said, sprinting off.

“Wait, the Pokémon!” Leos cried, glancing at the unconscious bodies.

Rune and Ariala exchanged glances, retrieving the bodies of Charle and Diantha. Ariala used Psychic to hold Master Lin up as well, and then the trio did their best to make for the exit. But with their hesitation and their added luggage, they barely made it halfway before the walls began to collapse on them, blocking their path with rubble and whatever else this fake material decided to make.

“Are you serious? We’re about to get crushed by a nightmare,” Rune growled, trying to draw his sword. But before he could, the earthquake intensified again and the walls caved in all over them. Just like that, Leos lost consciousness, not even feeling the pain of whatever fell on him.

It felt like hours before Leos came to but when he did, he sprung right awake, filled with energy. He was laying back on cold, stony ground, staring up at a deep, black, starry sky. He shook himself off and sat up to find his parents, relieved to see them getting up just as easily as he was.

“Mother, Father!” he said.

“Not so loud, please,” Ariala moaned, raising a hand. Rune watched her until she looked comfortable and then smiled at Leos.

“Well well. For the first time in a while I can say that this is a good morning,” he said. Leos raised an eyebrow. “For the first time ever, I’m waking up beside my wife and my son. And for two, you’re calling me Father instead of Rune.”

“What? I,” Leos mouthed, looking away.

“Never mind that, you oaf. It isn’t even morning. Where—” Ariala said, glancing around. She stopped and gawked quickly, and Leos and Rune joined her when they spotted Tapu Lele watching over them all. But the normally pink goddess had a very pale, ghostly blue colour scheme around her, and looked as weak as a Magikarp.

“Tapu Lele!” Ariala cried.

“Do not fret for me, your highness,” Tapu Lele replied, sounding as weak as she looked. “Hear me now. You have all done exceptionally.”

“What do you mean? What’s happening?” Leos said.

“Marshadow is no more, and his influence is gone. As is our rule over Etheria. For the first time in many a thousand years, the baton is passed unto you,” she said, shutting her eyes. “When gods pass away, they return to the part of nature from whence they came. Many generations later, they will be reborn… for you see, we Tapu govern this world when are reborn. Should the world not require our guidance and power, we will sleep.”

“It’s like what Shaymin told me,” Leos whispered.

“All of the gods that protected Etheria are now part of the planet, and their blessings will be cast in silence. This is our gift to you; our reprieve,” she said. “It is down to you, your highnesses. You fought for your chance at freedom from our rule; now lead your world to the peace which you so rightly deserve. Should we awaken in a world where our blessings and powers are no longer needed, the events of this genealogy will not transpire ever again.”

“So if we fail, you’ll go back into power,” Leos said. Tapu Lele didn’t move or make a sound, so he laid a hand on his chest and nodded. “You have my word, Tapu Lele. I’ll do everything in my power to see this through in my lifetime. Etheria will no longer rely on the blessings of the Tapu. We’ll make our own fate.”

The goddess didn’t say anything else. She shut her eyes and tucked her arms into her shell, closing up before fading into nothing right before their eyes. The trio watched in awe until she was nothing but barely visible particles which faded into the air, leaving them in the middle of Fairy Hill. Around them were the unconscious bodies of the Pokémon that Marshadow had taken, minus Zygarde.

“Argh, the heck man. I feel like I slept on a Graveler,” Charle grumbled as he stood up. Rune and Ariala exchanged glances and watched him get to his feet, soon followed by a just as grumpy Master Lin.

“H-huh? Wait a minute, why are you alive?” Leos gasped at him. The human-esque monster stood up and flinched back in just as much surprise, but he didn’t say a word. He examined himself in disbelief, barely making a sound.

Mirror soon stood as well, his unexpectedly young voice coming through. His mask fell off as he stood, so he instinctively adjusted and shut his eyes before shaking himself off and asking if anyone was around.

“Wait, if those two are alive, then does that… could that mean?” Rune gasped.

All eyes turned to Diantha who was still face flat on the ground. But surely enough, seconds later, she began to squirm and groan in discomfort. Rune flinched forward but Ariala stopped him with an arm, continuing to observe.

With a moan and a slow, childish stretch, Diantha sat up. She blinked and shook herself off a bit and then looked around, stopping when she saw all the Pokémon gawking at her. She locked eyes with Rune, but neither said a word.
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Competitive Mijumaru
An epilogue: what next?

“We started with the restoration of the damaged towns and villages. Everywhere that was attacked by the spectres or damaged during the war is being repaired, with priority given to the Pokémon’s homes,” Ariala said, walking a little behind Rune. “The restoration is going pretty smoothly. It’s like the areas where we would normally harvest materials have restocked themselves, so we have plenty to work with.”

Rune couldn’t help but snicker, keeping his hands tucked behind his head. His head fur was messier than before, but all of it was flung back and went down to shoulder length. “That’s the Tapu’s reprieve for you. Gifts and blessings galore, all without a lousy devout in sight.”

“Rune, don’t say something like that,” she said. “There are many Pokémon who would still prefer to keep their faith in the Tapu. They taught us many respectable values and ideals to live by. We can’t just change that way of life.”

“I know I know. It’s no different here,” he said, scratching a tree as he passed it. Woodland surrounded them on all sides and the suns rays shone through the leaves overhead, keeping the forest floor well lit. Even that was rather soft and pleasant, as if well curated by a gardener – some plants and mushrooms were growing here and there amongst the roots of the trees, keeping everything colourful and natural. “Any news on you know who?”

“We haven’t heard from Master Lin, if that is who you mean. He returned to the Stardust Treasury, but activity there has gone… quiet, to put it simply. I wish to believe he won’t try anything again, but I’m yet to visit and investigate for myself,” she said. She slumped forward a bit and her stomach growled, making her partner giggle again. “Is there a particular reason you asked me to come out like this? I haven’t eaten breakfast.”

“Because it’s pretty bad that we haven’t ever had breakfast together or anything. I think so, anyway. You becoming queen just pushed me all the more to organize the occasion.”

“That’s- Queen Magearna is still the one giving the orders, you know. She has stepped down, but she’s still to guide my activity. And if you wanted us to eat together, why bring me to… wherever we’re going?”

“Because I wanted to surprise you. Ah, here we are,” he said, coming to a stop just as they breached the woodland. A short hill below them let them overlook a large facility built of pretty white metal, similar to the buildings of Faernia. A colourful field of corn and berries was fenced in around the facility, and not a Pokémon was in sight. “There. That down there. You wouldn’t believe what that is.”

“It’s a field. We have those all over Faernia.”

“… I should’ve said you wouldn’t believe what that used to be. That was once one of our breeding grounds. It’s now a farm where Pokémon are paid to grow and harvest berries, which they then get to sell to all the nearby habitats.”

“Wait, when did we get on an airship? We’re on Eris right now?” Ariala said, glancing back at the forest.

“We’re on Eris right now. That’s right: in the span of three months, we’ve got farms, forests, sunlight, wind, the whole mess. So er, let’s hurry up and go take our pick, huh? What do you fancy?”

“That’s- Rune, I appreciate it, I really do, but please do not neglect to tell me all the details. How did we get here? And how in the world are you coping?”

“The same way the Faernians cope? There really isn’t much else to it.”


“Alright alright. Don’t take your hunger out on me. Yeah we’re in the process of getting rid of our breeding grounds and such. Breeding Pokémon and slaughtering them for their meat is our biggest sin right now. But not everyone’s on board with the sudden erasure of meat dishes. Some Pokémon just need to eat meat, after all. Myself included.”

“That isn’t something that can just be gotten rid of, though.”

“I know I know. We’re thinking of maintaining a law in which the feral Pokémon outside of towns and locales can be hunted. That way Pokémon can work for their own food. It’s complicated. But hey, on a more positive note, that forest we just passed through – we’re looking to name it. The council are in favour of calling it Aska Forest.”

“You’re so positive. Alright then, what about Leos? I haven’t heard from him since he visited you a while ago.” Ariala sighed, finally making her way down the hill. Rune raised his fist and jogged after her.

“He went to the Second Country. Something about trying to find a way to link the two planets to the core. I admit I didn’t understand that one bit. But Nier and that lot went with him, so he’s in good hands. From what I could tell he seemed really happy, too. Nothing I should get involved in.”

Ariala opened her mouth to reply, but out came breath of dismay. She slowed down her walking until her stomach growled again, making her blush.

“That’s the other thing I wanted to talk about, actually,” he said, not looking back.

“… My stomach?”

“Good one. But I mean like, yeah we’ve got a lot of work to do. And I know we promised the Tapu that we’d see it through. But now that things are calming down a lot I… I miss my friends,” he said, looking away. “I see Diantha run off every morning, sunny as a Charmander in a children’s park, and I realise I never got the chance to do all that. Leos almost didn’t get the chance do that. I know we’re royalty, but I don’t want it to just be work work work, you know? There has to be time for love, too.”

“… So you feel it too, huh?” she replied, looking away as well. “Married for sixteen years, and knowing each other for far longer than that, yet I don’t know a thing about you. Wait, is that really why you wanted us to have breakfast together?”

“Just to get to know each other. Yeah I know, not very masculine, huh?”

Ariala stopped dead in her tracks, letting him take the lead for a moment. He didn’t stop for her, so she took a deep breath and walked quickly to catch up. “So, what’s your favourite colour?”

“H-huh? What?” he replied. She smiled at him and held his hand, forcing him to walk at the same pace as her. “E-er, red, to be honest. But not like lava or fire, sort of like that uh… wow, I don’t know how to explain that.”

“You sure it’s not pink?” she giggled. He made sure he was holding her hand properly, unable to hide a light blush. “Pink is mine. Known that for a long time.”

“Ew no. Nothing against your fur, but pink makes me think of fairies too much.”

“Ew? I daren’t invite you to my room, then. There’s pink everywhere, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“No no, I don’t hate the colour, it’s just… why do all fairies have to be pink?”

“They aren’t all pink! There’s Gardevoir and Azumarill, they aren’t even close. And just then, I thought you were bothered by stereotype.”

“Okay, you got me there. Well now it’s my turn: what’re we eating? Tomato salad? Custap soup? I’m still new to this fruit thing, so tell me your favourite.”

“Don’t let it bother you, but simple food. Apple pie’s an unhealthy favourite.”

“Wait, you guys have apple pie, too?”

“Of course we do! Not eating meat doesn’t mean everything’s green. Mince pies, ice cream, chocolate cake – I’m rarely allowed the sweets, but they became my favourite anyway. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been told off for getting Nier to sneak them into my room.”

“Ahaha, trust that old Meowstic to do that. I used to do the same with Diantha before I started my training, actually. She had so much trouble losing weight when I started training. She’d get all the sweets to herself then, so she really piled it on.”

“Wait really? You’d never guess, looking at her now.”

“Yeah! We snuck all kinds of sweets. Though we were a little more naughty and er… look I don’t drink, but Father’s wine cellar, let’s just say that was our little secret.”

“Oh goodness, alcohol. I’m afraid you lose me on that one. Priestesses weren’t allowed to drink.”

“Oh no I regret every moment, haha. The odd glass of fine drink never hurts, but that’s become rarer than a luxury for me. Even so, I was always more of a juice kind of guy…”

“Juice and not water? You really aren’t masculine.”

“Hey! Who’s the one generalising now, huh?”

“I kid I kid! I’m the same, though. I’m fine with water, but with no taste around, I just get so bored of drinking. If Eris gets to grow any exclusive berries, you’ll have to let me try them.”

“The feeling’s mutual. I missed my chance to try all the Faernian cuisine after all!”