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Fleur Noir

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Ysavvryl, Mar 1, 2014.

  1. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Pokémon with magic would be a fun game, though I imagine it'd be tricky to balance for fairness. Probably you'd have the humans as pure support characters, possibly physical fighters too. Also, got you on the list!

    And now we have the darker parts of this story coming out in full force instead of being hinted at. This would've been a nice game to have another morally gray protagonist like Wes in, although I suppose that's too much for the main series still.
     
  2. One nitpick; It's not Genosage, it's Geosenge. I checked for my story.

    Other than that, the whole Asari thing seems cool, even though I keep thinking of the Mass Effect Asari every time I see the word. Which is a very very odd mental image.
     
  3. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Well that's a silly typo. Genosage feels better to me then Geosenge, but eh. They should be changed over to the actual name now.
     
  4. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 15: The Phenomenon of Mega Evolution

    School really changed for me in my fourth year. For one thing, the classes all became quite demanding. I couldn't volunteer as much as I had been and homework got a great deal more involved. Some of that was fun, especially the homeroom research project Professor Sycamore gave us. But other things, like practicing my spell for heightened senses for Psionics and writing lengthy papers for history class, those could feel like drudgery at times.

    More importantly, I knew more about who I really was. Because my parents had spoken with Sycamore, the school knew about me too. That completely changed their attitude about me. After all, I was now a dangerous student, even more so than Trevor. But like with my friend, the staff sought to assist me keep things under control rather than treat me like a monster. It made things difficult at times, but it's assistance that I’m still grateful for.


    On a request from Sycamore, Calem came back to school a day early, when the first year students were in their orientation day. His teacher brought him to a building that he'd never been inside, the administration building where the business of keeping the school running in an orderly fashion was held. The detention hall was also inside, but he hadn't gotten in enough trouble to be sent there yet. However, Sycamore brought him in to meet with the school principal, the woman who was in charge of everything.

    Calem had seen Ms. Silvane at major school events, even spoken to her a time or two as she had a reputation for being friendly as long as one was a well-behaved student. But he didn't really know her, so he wasn't sure how this would turn out. Her office was quite interesting, with several large wooden carvings of various Pokemon all around the room. On the back wall, there was a bookcase which he recognized as one that was linked into the library; one could leave a note on its shelves and the library staff would use the bookshelves to teleport a requested book or resource to its requester. Several books were held there, as well as a pair of statues of a Tauros and Miltank. Beside the magic bookcase, there was a metal file cabinet and some computer equipment.

    The office wasn't dim, thankfully. A large window overlooked the park in the center of campus as well as other school buildings. The curtains were rolled back, so nothing obstructed the view or the sunlight. The principal's desk was large, with a few more carvings but also a computer and various files of her work that was already going on despite most of the students not being back. Ms. Silvane was a dark-skinned woman with her gray hair kept back in a neat braid. Smiling at them entering, she wore a colorful jacket with thin stripes of many hues, along with orange pants, a white shirt, and a necklace that had a carving of some Pokemon unfamiliar to Calem.

    “Hello, Augustine, good to see you made it on time,” she teased him a little as she gestured for them to take the seats on the other side of her desk. “You've been so wrapped up in your work this summer.”

    “I'm on a roll again, what can I say?” he said, taking it in good stride.

    She chuckled. “Right, I should expect so much after last time. And Calem, good to see you. I'm afraid that we need to discuss something grave this time, though, about your family. How are you doing lately?”

    “I'm still overwhelmed by it all myself,” he said. Knowing he could be a killer made him nervous to talk to other people in the two weeks since he'd learned about the Asari. “I always feel like I’m being watched, but I haven't experienced something like in Geosenge again yet.”

    Sycamore put a hand on his shoulder. “I'm sure anybody would be anxious after learning of that. But don't worry about us; we're going to help you through it as best we can.”

    “Thanks,” Calem said, smiling a little. It could be much worse, he thought.

    Silvane nodded. “Absolutely. I've had some people look for information on the Asari, to help us out. However, that's run into some problems in that there are very few facts out there about them. We came up with a few writings from survivors of their attacks, as well as lots of legends that may or may not involve an Asari assassin. Your family's kept its secret well.”

    “Some of it might have just been lost between generations that couldn’t talk to each other, like with what happened to my father and his grandfather,” Calem said.

    Sycamore put a hand to his chin. “Speaking of the latter, I did some searching too and the best resource I could find was about him, I believe. Heinrich Asari, the rain assassin from the Great War, right?” When Calem nodded, he explained that, “There are government documents that myself and an associate could uncover from our region, his home region, and the region he was apparently born in. We haven't gone much further, but it seems possible that through birth, marriage, and death certificates, we might be able to fill in your family tree. But it's going to take a lot of time and probably more trouble than usual. I mean, just within four generations from Heinrich to you, your family's moved through seven regions and two continents.”

    “I don't know if it's a part of the family curse or a result of it, but we were called a family without a homeland,” Calem said.

    “Were you able to get those documents or just confirm their existence?” Silvane asked.

    The professor shook his head. “Just confirmed their existence and a bit of their contents so far. The documents from the Great War aren't fully public yet and trying to get information on him from either region is like pulling teeth. I did ask Shawn to request them. Since he's a descendant, he should have an easier time getting them for us.”

    She nodded. “All right, we'll just need to be patient.” She then looked to Calem. “We heard things from your father, but what can you tell us about the Asari, Calem?”

    He started to speak, but then felt a great hesitation to actually say anything. It was fine talking to his father, but not outsiders... was that his hesitation or their restraint? “I'm not sure how long I can talk about it. Um... they can.... interfere with my thoughts some, but they can't force me to do anything at the moment because I'm unmarked. The will of my ancestors does make it hard for me to do things they don't want me to do. Heinrich's spirit is supposed to be teaching me about the full extent of my power, but I haven't seen him since Geosenge and that was only the second... no third time I'd encountered him.” The dream counted, he knew, because that was his spirit contacting him directly.

    “Has he shown up on campus?” Silvane asked.

    He shook his head. “No, not yet. But he can reach my dreams.”

    “I've wondered if it might be difficult for him to appear here,” she said. “Teaching magic can be quite dangerous. I’m sure you've seen accidents in classes already and those are only going to increase as you go along; fourth year and fifth year students are the ones we see most often in the infirmary as you start to get into more powerful spells and methods. Because of that, schools like ours have a lot of protective barriers in place, including those against hostile spirits. The Asari spirits might not be able to come onto campus as a result, but I can't guarantee anything about that.”

    “Do you think I should try to contact him?” Calem asked, as something he'd wondered himself.

    “I'd rather you not do so unsupervised,” the principal said. “Then again, it could be dangerous for the one supervising if the Asari spirits will kill someone simply for being near you.”

    “It was more than that,” he said. “I think it was a demonstration. I saw things in Geosenge, and, well, there's a powerful force of death sleeping there. It reacted both when I entered town and when that man was killed. But yes, there is that chance that things will get deadly around them.”

    “In the end, we don't know how much control we can have in this situation,” Sycamore admitted. “If you can, we'd like you to keep me informed on your contact with the Asari spirits. We definitely need to know as much as we can to help you.”

    “I'll try,” he promised.

    Silvane nodded. “Good. Well then, one big thing we need to discuss is something I don't like. But just as you have to take unfortunate precautions to keep your family safe, we need to take similar precautions with you around the other students. You're still free to attend classes and spend your free time with other students, but as it is, we need to move you out of your dorm room. Especially if they can contact you in dreams; the time when you are asleep will be a vulnerable time for you when you can't fully comprehend your actions.”

    They moved him out of the boys' dormitory entirely. Instead, he would be sleeping in a hidden room underneath one of the classroom buildings. It was even behind a hidden door, a secret dorm hallway of twelve similar rooms. The sole window in each room was right up next to the ceiling, barely at ground level. Each one was about as large as the room he had been sharing with Tierno and Trevor, with a closet and small bathroom inside it. On the opposite wall of the one they entered, there was even a small refrigerator, microwave, a pantry closet, a computer, a holocaster, and the library bookcase. But looking at the thick heavy door, it was soon apparent why this room seemed nicer: it could be locked down completely so that he couldn't get out unless someone let him.

    Sycamore was the one who brought him there, once their meeting with Ms. Silvane was over. “I never like having to use these dorms, but sometimes it's all we can do,” he said, snapping his fingers to call up the items Calem needed to move in here. “You're allowed to decorate this room however you like. We can even call in someone to paint the walls. However, while you're living here, school officials can order you to be locked in if it's felt as necessary. You can request that yourself for a night if you really want.”

    “I understand,” he said, putting down the things that he had carried here. After all, his ancestors wanted him to kill others. He might actually be able to sleep easier if he knew that he couldn't get out of the room when they bothered him.

    “That's good. Well, you don't have any neighbors now. Trevor nearly ended up being here when he first arrived, but I talked the school council into giving him a chance. Once school starts tomorrow, your school badge won't allow you into either of the regular dorms and will alert us if you're not here after curfew. If you don’t want to tell others you're here, just say that your badge isn't working right and you're staying elsewhere. It's what the school staff will be saying.”

    “Good enough,” Calem said, but he was looking over the box he had brought in here himself. It had been in the package that he'd gotten from his parents just this morning.

    “That box has pretty good security on it too,” Sycamore noted.

    The statement caught him off-guard. “Hmm? Oh yeah, this. It's supposed to have the Asari cowl in it, but my father and grandfather couldn't get it to open. I looked at it and I'm not sure how to get it open either. I suppose it'll come in time.”

    He nodded, then sat down on the bed beside him. “Hey, don't go losing your spirit. You're going to want to be as rebellious as possible to this crazy family of yours, right?”

    Hearing it put that way, Calem did end up laughing a little. “I guess so. Not that I've been good at being a rebel.”

    “It's the strength of any teenager, you'll figure it out,” Sycamore said jokingly. Then he gripped Calem's shoulder. “You know where the Pokemon lab is, right? I've over there most of the time now, even gave up my usual set of classes this year to focus on research. But I decided to stick around for you kids in my homeroom, cause I like all of you. Any time you want, you just come by the lab and see if I'm in, if you need to talk about anything. Literally, anything, I'll make time for it.”

    “Thanks, professor,” Calem said, nodding.

    -+-

    As for the homeroom project, Professor Sycamore announced it the first day of class that year. He even took us out of the classroom and brought along a pair of familiar faces to do so.


    “This art gallery is a lovely place,” Sycamore said as they entered the lobby of the Lumiose museum of art. “If you haven't yet, you really should take the time to visit and observe what they have on display. But we have to get back to class in time, so today we're going to see one special piece of art. It shows off an intriguing mystery that has been in Lumiose culture for centuries.”

    Also with the group was the professor's lab assistants, Sina and Dexio. “Your student passes are good for free admission all week, so be sure to take advantage of that,” Sina said.

    For being an art museum, the building didn't look that fancy to Calem. The walls were a flat almost black and the floor and ceiling were a flat ashy gray. Then again, such simplicity allowed the artworks on display to really stand out. Spotlights gave the pieces extra drama so that the simple surroundings blurred out of notice. Maps showed that this place was large. Fortunately, the piece Sycamore wanted them to see was in a side area of the first floor.

    It appeared to be an old painting; a master's touch gave the image such vibrancy and texture that it seemed like those depicted could spring back to life at any moment. It appeared to be a battle of war, a clash on a beach littered with bones and other debris. On one side, there was a human wearing such huge armor that it was difficult to tell anything about him or her; the main indication that it was even human was the basic shape and a bit of the mouth and chin that appeared behind a screened part of the armor. A rough-looking Tauros that wore a spiked harness was there, snorting and stamping its hoof in the sand. On the other side, there was a woman who was dressed in priestly attire, with far less armor to her. At her side, there was a Lucario clenching its fist and preparing to defend her.

    “Now this painting has a few interesting details in it,” Sycamore said, standing beside the painting. “What do you notice?”

    “Why does the Tauros have spiky straps on it?” Shauna asked. “Looks like a Gogoat's saddle, but you'd have to be crazy to ride a Tauros like that. They get pretty mean.”

    “That is war armor that used to be used on some Pokemon like Tauros,” their teacher said. “It didn't offer protection quite like the suit of armor, but it made their physical attacks more dangerous.”

    “Did they really use armor like that in the old days?” one of the other boys in class asked.

    “Yes, the armors here are authentic. Maybe not exactly as they were, but this artist did paint real things. What else?”

    Calem saw Serena mutter something and cross her arms over her chest. Did she know something already? He wondered about that. She got this exasperated look when people made mistakes and she knew the right answer. However, she usually didn't speak up about it unless the mistake could cause a problem, or until afterward when she could explain why everyone else was wrong.

    Whatever she knew, she paid attention again when Trevor raised his hand and said, “Um, if the artist painted what was real... this Lucario isn't quite right. The um,” he pulled at his hair trying to mimic something, “the long ears it has, there's four lengths instead of two. And it has spikes where a Lucario doesn't usually have spikes.”

    Sycamore grinned, so they must be on the right track. “Yes, the Lucario depicted here is not a normal Lucario. This is, in fact, a depiction of a Mega Lucario, not a regular Lucario.”

    “Mega Lucario?” Trevor asked among the gasps and whispers from their classmates. “What's that?”

    “Well it's something we don't entirely know about,” Sycamore explained. “But like in this painting and several legends in Kalos, it does exist. What happens is that, under special circumstances, a Pokemon that should not be capable of further evolution can bring themselves into a more powerful state, as if they had evolved. It's only temporary, however, as a Mega Pokemon will appear in a battle and return back to its normal form when the battle ends.”

    “How do you get an evolution like that to happen only temporarily?” a girl asked.

    Sycamore shrugged. “I don't know myself... but that is something that I've been studying for a few years now. You see, there is a group in Kalos that has, for many generations, kept the secret of mega evolution to themselves. They would not explain why, but recently, current members of the group have changed their mind. They're actually looking for a new apprentice in their fighting style to take in, and they agreed to allow me to make some observations and run some tests on mega evolutions to find out more of why they happen. And since you're in my class, all of you have a chance at being picked as the new mega evolution apprentice, and as one of my research assistants.”

    “Really?!” Shauna asked, excited with the rest. “Great!”

    “Really and honestly, “Sycamore said, pleased by their enthusiasm. “But the thing is, only one of you can be accepted. It will become clear why later on. In order to pass such screening, you as a class need to discover more about Mega Evolution on your own. I'll assist you some and give you some clues when it seems everyone's stuck, but during this year of homeroom, you'll need to learn how to research such information as well. Find out all that you can, and this painting is our starting point. Anything else you can see?”

    If she did know anything, Serena continued to be silent on the matter. Meanwhile, Tierno said, “Well the priestess has a spell effect near her hand, so maybe she has something to do with her partner's mega evolution? Or she could just be fighting with it.”

    “Might be,” Sycamore said, declining on saying yes or no.

    “It takes place at the beaches of Shalour,” Calem said in the following quiet while the rest tried to figure out things.

    “That's quite a specific observation,” Sycamore said. “What makes you say that?”

    He pointed to the sign that was next to the painting. “Because the title of the painting is 'Super Showdown on Shalour Sands'. Also, it was painted by Francine Labelle, and... it's being borrowed from Owain de Kalos? Isn't he the owner of Parfum Palace?”

    “That's right,” Serena said, putting a hand to her cheek to consider something.

    “Yes, I hear he lends a number of the art works he owns to the museum for public display,” Sycamore said.

    “Parfum Palace does have a respectably large library of old manuscripts,” Serena added. “All from Kalos authors or about Kalos. So if there's a group in Kalos that holds the secret to mega evolution, there might be information about them in the library at Parfum Palace.”

    “That's an interesting suggestion,” Sycamore said. “I've seen the library myself, and yes, it does have the largest collection of Kalos-centered literature.”

    “Ooo, could we go there and look for information?” Shauna asked. “It's a cool place!”

    Their teacher scratched his head. “Hmm, I do like the sound of that, maybe taking a weekend trip for those who want to. Trouble is, it could cost for more than our homeroom budget allows, what with other things and trips we'll need to be making on this research.”

    “We could always do a homeroom fundraiser for it,” Calem suggested.

    “Well let's try looking in the school library and some other libraries first,” Sycamore said. “And if we decide later on that the Parfum Palace library is still a good lead, we'll hold a fundraiser to make sure we can make it.”

    -+-

    Another thing that happened that first week of school, which marked yet another change happening around me, was on the second day when I got an invitation to Lysandre's cafe. He wanted to speak with me again. But this time, he didn't just seem like a threat. He was one.


    “I don't like this now,” Mortan said quietly as they stepped into the red cafe.

    Calem nodded in agreement. The street outside was bustling as usual. However, this cafe was still, without any customers inside. The curtains were drawn shut and the door held a 'Closed' sign, along with another apologizing for a day of equipment maintenance. The invitation had said to ignore the signs. And, the cafe itself seemed to be ignoring the sign too, as its equipment was still intact without any work being done on it. The only people inside were Lysandre and the blue-haired woman from Geosenge, Mable.

    “Would you close the door please?” Lysandre asked. “We don't want people coming in on our discussions.”

    “Sure,” Calem said, closing it although he was already uneasy about this. From the note, it seemed like they were just discussing things related to his scholarship.

    “I will be recording and monitoring this conversation,” Mable said. “I was last time, but this time you should know.”

    “What are you doing that for?” Calem asked, joining them at their table.

    “If that force interferes again,” she said.

    Maybe they knew it would. Or they could already notice it. Calem certainly could. Every time he left the school's area, his feeling of being watched by his ancestors would increase. The school's magic fields interfered with them that much, at least. “I still don't want to talk about it,” he said.

    “Whether you want to or not, we need to discuss what happened in Geosenge,” Lysandre said, his tone making it clear that he wasn't going to accept no for an answer. “We lost a good man there to a spirit that we can find little information on. Who was it?”

    Calem felt the Asari will restraining him, and this time he felt it was better to go along with them. “I can't really discuss that, sir.” As he said that, his heightened senses activated without input from himself. They also did something else that he could sense but wasn't sure what they had done; whatever it was, they also perceived Lysandre as a threat and were going to protect him.

    What he sensed now gave him a lot of interesting information. Lysandre was indeed powerful, but much of what he'd felt before was a passive factor much like an intimidation ability in some Pokemon. He invoked it intentionally with some runes tattooed onto his shoulder, where they'd normally be hidden underneath clothing. When it came to actual potential, Calem felt that Korrina would be more powerful in magic than Lysandre. Then there was Mable, who was using her visor in a way that mimicked the heightened senses spell Calem had. She didn't have magic as developed as her boss, but there was a factor in her aura that was similar to something he'd sensed in Sycamore. Scientific training, perhaps? Could that even leave a mark? There were other things too, like how there was a hidden doorway on the back wall of the cafe. Or how in levels below this one, there seemed to be an awful lot of machinery. He couldn't tell what exactly while he was on ground level.

    Mabel shifted her visor as she looked at Calem. “What did you just do?” she asked.

    “I’ve just been talking,” he said, which was true.

    “What is it?” Lysandre asked, glancing at Mable.

    “Maybe it wasn't you, but something,” she said as a line bounced between the visor lenses. Mable actually took the visor off for a moment, revealing pale blue eyes briefly before she slipped it back on. “He's not being detected by my equipment, except through visual and audio. When he came in, his aura level was at such a low point that I had to wonder how he manages at LMA. But now he blends into the environmental aura of the cafe flawlessly.”

    “How do you do that?” Lysandre asked, looking back to him.

    Calem shrugged, briefly displacing Mortan. The Floette seemed to decide to stick close to him despite that. “I know it happens occasionally, but I don't know how or why.”

    “Does it have something to do with the other force that has interfered before?”

    “Maybe.”

    “Then what was the spirit at Geosenge doing?”

    “I can't say.”

    Lysandre narrowed his eyes at him. “Calem, this is very important; we need to know what went on in Geosenge that day. Why there was a bolt of lightning after our man was killed there, who that spirit was, why there was an earthquake at the moment you and your friends walked into town... it's vital to our studies.”

    “And I really can't tell you much about it,” Calem said, feeling bolder than normal. For once, it felt good for his ancestors to be watching out for him as they did. He knew, without a doubt, that they could get him out of the cafe if this turned bad. Although they'd first try to get him to kill, but he'd have to deal with that as it happened. “And why I can't say anything does have to do with what tried to keep us from talking at Geosenge. That spirit won't let me talk.”

    “Is this spirit one of your ancestors?” Mable asked. “Because that would account for how protective they're being, how that anklet got there suddenly, and why you have the same near non-existent aura profile as the spirit did.”

    He closed his eyes for a moment. Should he keep quiet? A mental prodding told him no. “Yes, that's it,” Calem said. “And you will be eliminated with great severity if you lay a hand on this child, whether we have to make him do it or we move from the shadows “

    “Very subtle,” Mable said.

    “Not really,” Lysandre said.

    She shook her head. “No, their magic is. It's like picking out a piece of fishing line even when you can see them partly possessing him. Go on.”

    “What did you see in the realm of spirits?” Lysandre asked.

    Not feeling resistance on that, he answered, “Lots of blood. That's why I said you shouldn't mess with it; it could be a dangerous place.”

    Oddly, that answer seemed to satisfy him. “Is there a god dwelling there? The one you met with?”

    “No,” he said.

    “Who did you meet with?”

    Small aura signs told him that they already knew the answer, so he went ahead and said, “Yveltal. He didn't want to stay long.”

    “Do you think you can find Yveltal again now that you've come in contact with him?”

    At this question, Mortan patted Calem's neck. A warning not to agree to it? Not that he would. “I wouldn't want to,” Calem said. “He seems like a god one wouldn't want to disturb.”

    “But could you?” Lysandre asked. When Calem refused to say anything to that, he changed the subject again. “Why did the school put you in the high security dorms for dangerous students?”

    “How do you know about that?” Calem asked back. He hadn't even told his friends why he'd been moved out of the boys' dorm yet. He meant to, probably some weekend they could all meet up on.

    “I'm one of their strongest financial supporters, from scholarship students like you to extra funds for renovating their buildings for modern technology. I can access a lot of school information that the average person couldn't. Although not why you were reassigned.”

    “I can't say,” he replied, because that would mean telling him about the Asari. It was hard enough talking to the school staff and that was on school grounds where the native magic interfered. “But I will get in more trouble if I'm off school property around curfew time.” It wasn't near the nightly curfew since it was still late afternoon, but it seemed like an effective warning that school officials would look into things quickly if he wasn't accounted for.

    Lysandre tried to ask more questions, some simply reworded versions of those he had refused to answer. He even made an offer to trade for Mortan, which Calem also refused. At least they let him go after close to two hours of the interview. It still wasn't clear what Lysandre was up to with Team Flare, but since it seemed to be something to do with Yveltal, Calem felt that it wouldn't be anything good..
     
  5. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    My original idea for working with this Pokémon generation was what's right here: the mega evolution studies being used for a classroom research project instead of just sending a group of teenagers out running around Kalos to find information (that Sycamore might have known already, given that he sent you in a direction that would eventually bring you to Shalour). The art museum visit was actually planned for much earlier in the story, but as my plans grew, I felt it would be better to hold back until now. Also, I like the retranslation of Mega Ring to Mega Bangle; it makes far more sense as the 'ring' is a bracelet that the game even says you wear on your wrist. Plus, bangle is one of those words that's just plain lovable.

    Mable being in these two chapters is because I wrote her dialogue before going to double-check their names and I felt she best fit what I had.
     
  6. Now the question has become; Will Calem or Serena be the "Protagonist" in this case? I honestly hope it's Calem, because Serena's really getting on my nerves.
     
  7. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 16: Rainy Days


    “Okay, so the story talks about two sisters who got into an argument over who would learn about mega evolution,” Shauna said, her book left open to the story they had found in the library. “And then another girl got picked over them because the argument showed neither was suitable for the role. Does that mean there's something limited about the process? Because that seems to be why they were arguing.”

    “It could just be a reason to fight,” Teirno said. Their desks were in a circle by one of the windows to work on their research, with two other groups in their homeroom gathered elsewhere in the room. “Because some people are like that.”

    “It could be that,” Trevor said. “But, I still think there's something that limits who can learn it. After all, didn't the professor say that only one of us would undergo the training? He's a fair person, so I don't think he'd limit it to that kind of opportunity unless there was no other way.”

    “It's limited all right,” Serena said, apparently doing homework for another class instead of fully paying attention to the research. She did that a lot.

    “I guess,” Teirno said. “What do you think, Calem?”

    “Hmm?” He'd been looking out the window at the darkened sky. Water droplets pattered against the window lightly and sometimes, he felt like someone was calling his name from outside. “Oh, sorry, I got distracted.”

    “You okay?” Shauna asked, worried. “You were like this the other day too, when it was all rainy. I thought it made you really alert.”

    Calem rubbed his head. “Ah, well, once I learned how to trigger that state of mind without rain, the rain doesn't always cause it. I just...” he wasn't sure he should go look for who was calling him, because he had suspicions on who it was and he wasn't sure he should be alone for that. “Not sure, really.”

    -+-

    That fall and winter were both quite rainy around Lumiose, even leading to flooding in a few areas. It was a natural increase. But because of it, there were many days when the Asari tried to reach me, to continue my training under them. I found it harder to pay attention in class on such rainy days, forcing me to scramble to borrow notes or otherwise read up on what I'd missed so I didn't fall behind. I tried to ignore them, hoping there would come a time when I didn't have to go meet with my great-grandfather on my own.

    Eventually, the pressure got to me and I felt like I couldn't safely ignore him any longer.


    Imagine how quieter it would be if they were all dead.

    Calem startled himself into full awareness at the thought. Had he fallen asleep? He glanced around the room, but his classmates were busy with schoolwork, a few discussing other classes and projects. The rain fell steadily outside; it was supposed to rain most days this week. Listening to it had become a bit of a drone in his head, lulling him into at least daydreaming. Well whether he'd been asleep or not, it had been enough for a clear thought to come through.

    He's going to get mad if I keep doing this, Calem thought. He closed up his notebook to set it inside his desk, then got up to go speak with Professor Sycamore. He meant to ask if he may leave, but ended up quietly saying, “I need to go; they're calling.”

    “Hang on,” Sycamore said, getting up and going out into the hallway. Calem followed him, noticing that a few of his classmates looked at them, curious. Once they were out of the classroom and the door partly shut, the teacher said, “The Asari are?”

    He nodded. “It's been happening every time it rains since this school year started. I've been trying to ignore it, but then it's hard to pay attention in class, and just now I got the feeling that he might be forceful about it if I do that any longer.”

    Sycamore put his hand to his chin, worried. “Hmm, I’d hoped we'd find out more before you'd meet back up. Then again, it's been hard enough that it could be better to go along with them a little. Keep your wits about you and don't give in, Calem. I'll get Trevor to take some extra notes for you. Good luck.”

    “Thanks,” Calem said, then hurried down the hall and the stairs to get outside. He didn't even think to grab a rain jacket.

    Once outside, Mortan appeared from his Pokeball. “I’ll be with you,” he said.

    “Good.” Calem started to slow down as he went down the steps to the sidewalk. “Now how am I going to find him? I haven't been able to sense him before, not until he was right there.”

    The Floette floated around, but must have been having trouble himself. “He's been trying to call you, right? Maybe you should follow that.”

    Now that he was outside, he did hear the call better. Although he was fairly certain that only he was hearing it. “Right. Then, this way.” He walked along the sidewalk and off school grounds, searching for the call. It seemed to change place on occasion, but usually from the same general direction. Because of the rain, there were only a few people out and they all had umbrellas. Calem's uniform was soon soaked, but he found that he didn't mind it all that much.

    This brought him to one of the narrow alleyways. This didn't seem like a good plan, Calem thought. He was pretty sure that Heinrich wouldn't kill him, but there might be other troublemakers in these back alley mazes. However, it would also be somewhere out of sight, for whatever they needed to do. He walked along the buildings until a turn brought him out of sight of the main streets.

    A moment later, he was shoved hard into the brick wall. His feet weren't even touching the ground and the Asari dagger was pressed against his chest. The eyeless sockets in Heinrich's face seemed to be glowering at him. “Don’t ignore me again,” he growled.

    “Sorry,” Calem said, trying to keep brave. “Uh, I don't want to skip out on school too much. They, well, they might excuse a few times, but they might also kick me out.”

    “I suppose we do want to keep you there,” he said, although he kept him pinned. “Their education would be valuable with our powers.”

    “Then could you please wait until after classes let out?” He was hopeful that was agreeable. “I'm excused for today, but after...”

    “Fine,” Heinrich said. Then a blast of water hit him in the back of his head. He let go of Calem and turned to face the Frogadier. “Don't push your luck with me, Pokemon. I thought I already explained that.”

    Swift kept a battle stance and croaked in an aggressive manner. “She'll defend Calem against you,” Mortan said. “As will I, or any of the rest of us.”

    “It's useless to fight me because it's in our interest to keep him alive too,” he said, tapping his hand against his hip. “Pokemon, pah...”

    “Did you ever have Pokemon?” Calem asked, recalling Yveltal's words that he might be an ally.

    “I let them go once I became aware of our family's fate,” Heinrich said. “Sure it upset them, but I knew I might kill them and that was the worse option. Most of us didn't keep a single Pokemon, as those who did often ended up killing them with their own hands. Keeping as many as you have is a huge risk.”

    “They're my friends; I don't want to abandon them.” He snapped his fingers and Swift came to his side.

    “You care too much.” He spun his dagger in the air and made it vanish. “If you'd just kill to make this quicker... but you won't, not today. Fine then. You've gotten the anklet, so we'll start with that.” He reappeared a few feet down the alley. “Well?”

    “Well wh...?” then noticed something as Heinrich moved again. Something appeared to his aura senses, seeming like a faint green circle on the ground. It was only there briefly while Heinrich moved from where he was to the marked spot. “Teleporting?”

    “Not true teleportation, but similar, “ he said. “The three tools of the Asari were gifts to teach us these powers. And this, move with silence and swiftness. You don't need to think about it. Just follow me.” He moved again. “Follow.”

    “Um, sure,” Calem said, walking towards him. But then the anklet sparked, stinging his leg. “Ow!”

    “Not like that,” Heinrich scolded. “Silence, swiftness. Follow.” Unexpectedly, Swift hopped and seemed to vanish, then reappeared on the glowing spot. “She can figure it out. Hmph. You do it.”

    Swift croaked something as she hopped back to Calem's side. “Yeah, it seems you just need to step with the intent of just reaching that spot,” Mortan translated. “He's activating the spell for you to practice with.”

    “Okay?” Calem focused on the next spot left open for him. How did he do this if it wasn't something he could think about? He made a step with the intention of reaching that spot. And in a blur, he appeared there in one step although it was eight feet away.

    “Keep moving,” Heinrich said, from further down the alley.

    Now that he'd done it, it was easier to follow the circles. It was almost like walking, in that he didn't really need to think about it. However, he couldn't move as quickly as his teacher did, or without seeming to move at all, or with no sound. But that might improve with practice. They even crossed a public plaza without the few people there noticing them. Mortan retreated to his Pokeball after failing to keep up, but Swift decided to follow along.

    Then they got into more alleyways and Calem crashed into the corner of one building. Missing the step like that briefly made him dizzy, not to mention the pain in his knee, chest, and face from hitting the stone wall. He stopped there in the corner, putting his hand on his face and wondering if he was bleeding. Heinrich soon returned to his side. “Did you do that on purpose?” Calem asked.

    “Yes,” he said. “You're relying on sight. You need to feel where you're moving. I suppose it is easier to use sight, but that will limit what you can do.”

    “Can you see anything?” Calem asked. After all, he didn't have eyes but he could aim his dagger where he wanted it to go.

    “Not as you do,” Heinrich said. “We've grown to the point of relying on aura sense more than mundane senses. It's more accurate and informative. You're still too human to reach this state.” He started back the way they'd come. “Let's get back to your school; you'll want that injury looked at.”

    The collision pains hurt, but Calem tried to ignore them while he followed Heinrich to the LMA grounds. They stopped just behind the cafeteria, as the infirmary was also in the building. Inside, Calem sensed that it was already lunch period. There was also a kind of haze a few feet from where they'd stopped, a collection of many spells lingering in the area.

    “I can't go further without triggering alarms,” the faceless man said. “I'll leave you alone this evening, but tomorrow, there should be a sufficient period of rain after your school day. Be ready.”

    “All right,” Calem said. He thought about saying goodbye, but Heinrich vanished as soon as he was done speaking. After giving a wave to no particular direction, Calem walked to the nearest entrance with Swift at his side. The healer on duty wanted to know how he'd gotten banged up like that, but with some curative magic and bandages, he was allowed to get lunch and return to his classes.

    -+-

    On some research in the school library, I found that what Heinrich was teaching me was officially called a swift step warp, or just swiftstep. The books mentioned that most practitioners only ever warped within their sights, needing to see where they would move. But as he drilled me on it for several months, he continually insisted that I should feel the swiftstep more than see it. I would need to have my heightened senses to stand a chance at doing it, but eventually I was able to keep my eye on our surroundings rather than trying to find the next target. That made it so that I could warp around corners and onto varying heights as long as the target was within my aura sense.

    As I got better, Heinrich would lead me through the main streets rather than the alleyways. I could land right next to a person and quickly move on to the next target, and they wouldn't know it was me near them. That is how the Asari can appear as little more than moving shadows, how sometimes you don't know they're there until you feel the air moving from their passage. Well, part of how.

    He always encouraged me to kill, to make things easier as he put it. I always refused. After a while, it seemed like he was only going through the motions of it. Maybe he didn't want me to kill but the main Asari will did. There was a very close call once, in mid-winter.


    The rain on this weekend was near freezing, sharp little pecks as they fell on his face while following after Heinrich. But it was rain, so he insisted on their usual practice. From the feel of the air, it could shift over to snow. That would make it harder for Calem to keep practicing, as the magic best supported him in the rain. He wondered if his teacher would force him to keep going if it did start snowing.

    Just as he was wondering about that, Heinrich suddenly stopped in the entrance to an alleyway off one of the canal streets. Calem arrived on the target point beside him, wondering what they were stopping for. There were a few people in the street, but no shielding spells or anything that would normally stop them. As he was about to ask, Heinrich did something unusual. He took hold of Calem's upper arm, almost as a gesture of warning.

    Then the Asari's will to murder others hit Calem. It was both a potent feeling of hatred towards all other living beings and a twisted joy at having a power beyond others. For a moment, he didn't even feel like himself. As he looked out on the street in that bloody haze of thoughts, he noticed a small boy leaning precariously near the edge of the canal, looking at the water. He didn't even need a weapon for that as all it would take was a single push.

    That wasn't what he wanted! Calem dug his fingernails into his palms and gritted his teeth, pushing against their will. Although he tried to look away from the boy, his gaze seemed locked in that direction. He saw as the boy leaned closer, trying to see something and unaware of his dangerous position. Then he slipped on the slick ground.

    He would have fallen straight into the canal, but Calem's body moved faster than his mind as he did a swiftstep down onto the surface of the quickly flowing water, catching the boy on the way. Not even on that spot a second, he then moved to the other side of the canal to safety. The boy yelped at the sudden fall, then the sudden yank out of danger. The child's mother called in alarm, but as he looked back, Calem wasn't sure how to use a swiftstep back there. Thankfully, Heinrich threw up a couple more targets, one on the water and the other on the other side of the street. Calem moved to the other side, nearly causing the mother to slip as he appeared suddenly.

    “Sorry, m'am,” he said, letting go of the boy. He could still feel the murderous intent in his mind, but it wasn't pushing him as strongly now. “And you be more careful not to slip in the water.”

    The little boy burst into tears and hugged his mother. She picked him up to reassure him, then smiled at him. “Thank you, young man. I didn't realize he was over there; it could have been a terrible accident.”

    Or worse, not an accident. “You're welcome.” He noticed his teacher waving him over, so he added, “Sorry for leaving so abruptly, but I need to be somewhere. Take care.” He then had to hurry to use swiftstep after Heinrich, as he headed directly to Prison Tower in the center of Lumiose.

    And not just to the landmark tower, but up its sides. Calem moved quickly to follow; it was only when they got to a viewing platform at the top that he let himself recall the potentially treacherous footing on the steel bars that made up this structure. It was honestly frightening. But, they had both made it. The buildings of Lumiose stretched out around them, very few of them as tall as Prism Tower. Through the sleet, he could just make out the tops of the academy buildings to the northwest.

    Heinrich hadn't brought him up here for the view, though. There was no one else around here to hear them. “Do you know what you just did?”

    “I saved him instead of killing him,” Calem said.

    He snorted. “Didn't even wait to see about a reward. That's not supposed to be how Asari are.”

    The voices still lingered in his mind, but not as loud. Calem gripped one of his ears, for a moment only hearing the sound of his blood running through it. “That's how I am, so I'm not apologizing for it.”

    By lifting his foot up behind him, Heinrch grabbed hold of his ankle. In that way, Calem finally saw his anklet, just like the one he wore. “This charm can cast the movement spell automatically, in an emergency when you must move and there's not even time to cast. That's how you were able to do that foolish stunt. But the fact that you were able to, including landing on the water without falling in, means that you have learned movement sufficiently to learn the rune to trigger it. Here.” He let go of his foot to make the rune appear in the air, transferring it into Calem's mind.

    “And you're going to make me use it to get back to school myself, right?” Calem asked.

    He smirked. “I would... but this sleet is turning to snow. It's better if you practice in the rain first. But I do want you to go back. You've learned a second rune, so you have right to claim anther one of our items. Use the runes for Water Pulse on the box and see what lies inside. Once you've done that, meet me in another place for the second part of today's lesson.”

    “What place?”

    “You've heard a poem about Yveltal, haven't you? Your Pokemon know it. Find it at your school and take the door there to a place I can appear.” Heinrich then took off, using swiftstep to move back through the city.

    Even if it had been raining, Calem wasn't sure about using that technique on his own to go down the way he had come up. But there was an elevator in this place, wasn't there? He headed in and found that there was, one that was coming up just now. Several people came out, including a boy about his age and Diantha. The boy was talking, “There isn't a lot of space in here, so it won't be a big one, but there should be enough to,” he paused as he saw Calem waiting there, then shifted his thick glasses. “Err, what are you doing up here? Prism Tower was closed off an hour ago.”

    “Sorry, my teacher brought me here to get out of the sleet,” Calem said. “Now I need to go track him down again.”

    Diantha chuckled. “Oh, Calem, it seems I run into you on unexpected occasions. I wasn't aware that Augustine could sneak into buildings like this. Then again, he is always a little mischievous.”

    Calem rubbed his head. “Yeah, seems like it. No, it's someone else. Extracurricular lessons, you know. Sorry, I’ll be going.”

    The boy moved further into the room with a couple of the others, but Diantha held a hand up to one man, keeping them back a moment. “Oh, sure you can't talk for a little? It's interesting that we'd run into you today, because I've been wanting to introduce you two. Siebold, this is Calem, you know? The boy who was with me at Viola's gym, and the one Korrina was talking about with the weather spells. Calem, this is Siebold, the Water specialist of the the Elite Four, and an excellent chef on the side as well.”

    “Ah, you're that one,” Siebold said, nodding. He shook hands with Calem. “It's always interesting to hear about talented kids, but I will admit that I hadn't heard of a power like increased awareness simply due to rain before.”

    “It's not quite like that,” Calem said. “My magic and abilities are linked to rain, so it's easier for me on days like this, well, before it turned to sleet. I really would like to talk with you, but I shouldn't keep my teacher waiting; he's pretty strict.” Then something came into his mind. “Oh, sorry for asking out of the blue, but what are the runes to Water Pulse? I've seen my Frogadier use it, but hadn't tried to deduce it yet.”

    Siebold put a hand to his chin, thinking. “Well, it's not a simple one, due to the potential for an added status effect. Then again, if what I hear is true, you might be capable of it. Okay, I’ve got something,” He pulled out a business card and wrote the runes on the back of it. “I'll just ask around about you next time I have business at LMA, how's that?”

    “That should be fine,” Calem said, accepting the business card. It was for one of the restaurants in Lumiose; apparently Siebold could be requested there as a chef on a reservation. “Thanks, Siebold. I hope to see you later.”

    He and Diantha said goodbye to him as Calem went into the elevator and took it down. The tower was closed off simply with a sign on every entrance, so it was easy to get back into the chilly sleet. Outside, he found one of the Gogoats that were trained to run people around Lumiose. It was a bad day for it, but it was quicker than running himself and safer than trying to use swiftstep in these conditions. Calem made sure to sneak the Gogoat a berry along with the usual fee, quietly adding a pat and apology for using its services on this cold day.

    The weather was poor enough that the sidewalks around the school were empty. Even the students that might come out to play in the snow on a Saturday wouldn't do so in the wet sleet. He got back to his hidden dorm room and took off his damp coat, hat, and gloves. Since he had another set, these could sit in the bathroom to dry out. His Pokemon also came out of their balls to be with him, as they usually did.

    Yorick was already cackling and rubbing his hands together when he appeared. “Oh sure, you're eager to go there,” Mortan said, sounding reluctant.

    Having left his things to dry, he came back into the room and took the box out from under the bed. “About the place where the poem is? Yeah, I need to meet with him there after I handle this.”

    The Haunter drifted around the room, apparently chattering. After a bit, Mortan translated, “He says that he hatched around there and that's why he likes the place. But he didn't find many other Gastlies, so he came up into the school buildings to find company. It seems the students started calling him Yorick after he possessed a skull during one a practice session of the drama club.”

    “At least it was just the practice,” Calem said. But when Yorick laughed at that, he added, “You disrupted the play too? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at that, not with what else I’ve heard about you. Well before we go find the spot, I need to deal with this.” Checking over the runes from Siebold, he traced them onto one of the bigger surfaces on the old black box.

    Thankfully, the runes took on a blue glow. Once the spell word was on the box, the letters faded and there was a click. The metal hinges creaked stiffly as he lifted the lid up. Inside, there a dark gray cloth folded up neatly into a thick square and a packet of loose papers tied up with a black string. The string broke easily and he found that it was a bunch of letters, the first of which was for him. He read it aloud.

    'To the one who opens this:

    I feel like I should apologize to you for letting you get far enough to find this. I hope your skin is still free of the Asari markings. This will be the last letter I write while I'm alive, possibly when I’m recognizably human in any way. Some of our minds might remain after death and transformation. When I’ve spoken to some Asari, they occasionally show hints of what their true personalities are like. I'm hoping to keep enough of mine to become an absolutely terrible teacher of the Asari arts. Maybe if I can't teach them properly, you and my other descendants won't fall to this curse. But I don't know how much the eldest Asari will control me; maybe I’ll be a better teacher of it than I want to be.

    But if you've managed to earn the cowl, I want to pass on certain information to you before the original Asari can fully counter me. You see, I thought I could escape the curse by taking my own life, but it only made me fall victim to it and go insane. I honestly don't remember about three years of my life; I’m in a completely different land, in a prison cell waiting for execution. But right now, my mind is strangely clear. The Asari should be pressuring me to escape and keep killing. But I hear nothing from them; I don't even feel their presence anymore. I know that I’ll still become one, but the fact that I can be myself right now is a hope you should hold onto. There might be a way to end this dark legacy entirely.

    I'm not sure what that would be, though. I'm writing down my thoughts now and trying to figure it out, or at least give you what clues might help you do that instead. It could be that I already have an heir, so they're no longer concerned with my survival. But I really don't think that's it. My father escaped the curse, but I know that when my grandfather first killed, his father was still alive and following the will of the Asari. They seem to prefer that, so they really should be trying to get me to escape instead of accepting my punishment.

    Let's go back to what I do remember. My first clear thoughts after the suicide attempt were when I was following the orders of a living man, someone who'd found a way to compel me to kill for him. He wanted me to execute an enemy commander, so I trailed the man into a dance hall. That's where I met Beatrice, or rather, Miss Roselia as she was calling herself. I started dancing with her to blend in; I found out later that she knew I was a dangerous person from the moment she saw the black markings on my face. In order to lure me into a trap, she approached me without fear and started to flirt with me.

    We ended up falling in love that evening and it's really something I can't explain. Our first dance and words exchanged were all an act, but it somehow became real for the both of us. I would like nothing more than to get rid of my accursed powers and be a normal person, the husband she deserves. I can't do that; she knows it and accepts me anyhow. She's afraid of being discovered for it, though. The people of this country would probably hate her if they learned she fell in love with a monster who killed so many of them. She visited me one last time this morning in secret, going so far as to use makeup to pretend to be someone else. While she was here, she gave me the letters I had written to her. I still have the ones she wrote to me, as few as they are, so I’m going to put them this box with this one. If enough time has passed and she's still alive, could you give them back to her? If not, please take good care of them. Her love is the most precious thing to me.

    I think the point that matters most for you has to do with the god Yveltal. He's a dark god of death in this land, although I find that he has a caring heart. When I was with Beatrice, she told me that her people were concerned that this war would awaken Yveltal, as his death (so to speak) would kill many other lives to end the war in brutal cruelty. I was afraid of that; I didn't want to think of her dying, either at my hands or anyone else's. But I had powers that no one else had, so I used the Asari tools to track down this death god.

    I found him as he was awakening but through some stroke of luck, I had come at the right time with the right abilities to halt his awakening. I asked him to help me, but while he could not remove the curse, he said that my will had overcome theirs and thus I was free for what time I had left. And he was right. Ever since I connected to Yveltal and put him back to rest, my mind has been my own. Unfortunately, it's a little too late to end the curse entirely with me. Yveltal can't remove our curse, but something about what I did would have freed me from it if I hadn't already killed.

    When I was in training under my grandfather's spirit, he said something that stuck out to me but I was never able to figure out. “This all goes back to the eldest Asari and what he chose to do. If he had not done so, we would not exist like this.” The trouble is, I never knew my grandfather in life. My father ran away from his abusive situation and was raised by a strict family devoted to a powerful goddess. It's why he never killed and thus escaped. But that also means that he learned little about our family's history. I don't know what the eldest Asari did. But in this time when I can think clearly, I keep coming back to the thought that if I knew that story, I might have been able to stop this entirely.

    You need to find the original story somehow. I know that will be key to this whole situation. Perhaps when I’m one of the Asari, I will know it and can tell you.

    This is all I have time to write, but those are all the things I wanted to tell someone before I was transformed. My son, or whoever you are, I pray that you can do what I couldn’t and put this curse to rest at last.

    Sincerely, Heinrich Asari'

    -+-

    The poem about Yveltal was in the basement of another one of the school buildings. It wasn't easy to reach; there was a hallway of classrooms, but then the school basement linked into another basement hallway that seemed even older, more neglected. Right on the wall, the poem was painted on in thick black strokes next to a stone archway leading to a staircase heading down. On the other side of the doorway, there was a four foot tall depiction of a flower that looked similar to the one Mortan held. But below the stem, the picture turned bizarre with unnatural looking roots.

    “It's almost like a cage here,” Calem said, crouching by the bottom of the picture.

    “Uh, that's because it is,” Mortan said. “You remember the story of the machine that brought me to life? And then was turned to a weapon that wiped out much of the population. This... is a diagram of that weapon.” Percival said something in his metallic voice.

    “What's the diagram doing here?” Calem asked. “That story happened so long ago, but even though these passages look old, I don't think they're that old.”

    “That's what he said,” Mortan said. “I don't know for certain. But I do know that this poem was written by Leonidas, and his book had this diagram next to it. Later in life, he felt guilty about his part in what happened, which was why he wrote the poem. Although,” he floated to the line about Yveltal, “this is an altered version. Leonidas' poem ends with 'A black flower blooms' as a reference to me and the weapon. Someone might've copied the diagram from the book to here, but with a different ending line for some reason.”

    Hearing that caused a shiver in Calem's spine. “You know, I think we're still on school property... and here's evidence of that weapon where students are taught magic for mostly peaceful uses.”

    Yorick cackled and said something else. “You're right, and the school has that Miracle Eye weapon too,” Mortan translated. “But, that's kind of how Kalos is, Calem. Evidence of an act that took many lives under a place of learning, it's not that surprising. And seriously, just wait until you see where your great-grandfather is leading you. I think I know why now.”

    “We're together, so we'll be all right,” Calem said, mostly to Percival who seemed nervous about this. Guessing that Heinrich had meant down the stairs, he headed that way.

    The air grew still and the light faded as he continued down. A quick light spell fixed the latter situation, allowing them (at least the non-floating ones) to safely descend this long staircase. How deep were they going? He saw a few doorways, but they were all sealed off with old wall structures. Sometimes crumbling masonry allowed him to peek into other underground passages, but not pass through without taking a lot of time to remove it. At the very bottom of it, Calem's light revealed an archway covered in human skulls.

    That that wasn't it. Past the skull arch, there was a hallway with wall niches that were packed with bones. Someone had taken the time to sort them all away neatly; leg bones in one area, arm bones in another, rib bones in yet another... spare spots in the wall often had a skull, hand, or foot nailed onto them. And not just human bones. Some of the skulls were almost recognizable as certain Pokemon, like the large metal jaw of a Mawile, a skull of a Gogoat that had its horns preserved onto it, even a tiny whole skeleton that might have been a Flabebe with its flower long ago crumbled away. It was both creepy and fascinating... and he could probably get to his homeroom class in about ten minutes if he hurried from here.

    “What is this place?” Calem asked.

    “It's a charnel house,” Mortan said. “Lumiose has been around in this place for a very long time; it was old three thousand years ago when I lived here with AZ. And humans like to bury their dead, to keep a place to remember them. But with so many people living here, graveyards would eventually get full. The gravekeepers dig the older bodies back up and store the bones in such places. Mostly the bones crumble to dust, but this particular catacomb had just the right conditions to keep them. They're still rather frail, as taking them out would end up in their destruction.”

    “It's a place of remembrance, but how many people know it's down here?” he wondered. “That's kind of sad.”

    Mortan floated ahead. “Well these folks would have no one who could remember them.” He put a paw to his chin, holding his flower's stem carefully in his other arm. “This one... I believe this was from a time of great pestilence. A terrible disease hit human and Pokemon alike, killing so many that there would be lines of wagons full of the dead waiting to be disposed of. It led to a fascination of death and mortality, hence why the grave keepers, overwhelmed by their job, made such elaborate places to keep the bones.”

    That made him realize something that should have been obvious right from the archway of skulls. “Then, the power of death is here, making it an easy place for the Asari spirits to appear.”

    “Good, that's exactly why,” Heinrich said, appearing in one of the shadows. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. “You could call on me or the others from here if you needed us when there's no rain. Did you bring the cowl?”

    “Yes, I have it right here,” he said, still carrying it over his arm.

    “Put it on,” he ordered.

    Calem did so. It was almost black, a bit dusty looking, and tattered on some of the edges. Despite how old it looked, it felt quite strong. Tugging at it didn't distort the weave any, or tear even the tattered portions. It had a hood that draped down over his forehead, probably hiding his eyes in its shadow. At the neck, a black ribbon tied it closed. The sleeves were loose and of an indefinite shape, allowing him to hide his arms and hands completely or have them out to do things with. The rest draped over his body in such a way that with the right shoes and socks, he would be able to blend into the shadows just by standing in the right spot.

    “And now you can't take it off, just like the anklet,” Heinrich said.

    “I can't?” Calem asked, a little horrified. “That could be hard to work around...”

    “It's not,” Heinrich said, walking over to him. “Pay attention.” He used a rune word on the cowl, causing it to shrink rapidly until it was just the black ribbon tied around Calem's neck. With a similar rune word, the cowl returned to its actual form. “This is important to learn, since oftentimes you do have to blend into normal society. The same commands will dismiss and recall the dagger when you acquire it.”

    The runes seemed familiar; he remembered them from someone in Psionics who was practicing various forms of levitation. They weren't difficult runes, so it took little effort to control the cowl. “Okay, I’ll work on it.”

    “What the cowl does is passive. You may figure it out yourself, depending on what you do. In the meantime, I'm still going to drill you on movement until you can grasp the whole of it. Keep coming to find me when the conditions are right.”

    He nodded. “Right... Heinrich, can you tell me about the first Asari? What's his story?”

    He was quiet for a moment, unnervingly still. “No,” he finally said. He was clenching his fist; maybe he did want to, but wasn't allowed to. “The time's not right for that. You could...” he tensed again, “No, you couldn't. But if you could find it, that would impress me. I've changed my mind, that's it for now. I'll see you another day, Calem.” Then he vanished.

    “Hooo mai ri,” Starlet said, bowing her head.

    “He was trying, that's for sure,” Mortan said. “He scared us at first, but I feel bad for him now.”

    “Well they were humans once,” Calem said. “Maybe they still are, at least partly.”
     
  8. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 17: Mortan's Story (2 of 3)

    All the excited talk in my homeroom about possibly going to Parfum Palace made Mortan reminiscent of the original palace, so it was around this time that I got him to finally talk about what went on between his early days as the prince's pet and the final war that led to the creation of ultimate weapon and life-giving miracle.

    On a warm spring night, the castle in Lumiose City was filled with flames.

    The smell of smoke had woken the Floette up. At first, he wondered if it was the fireplace. But winter had passed many weeks ago, so the fireplaces weren't used as often. Then he wondered if AZ was working at his machinery projects again. He had recently finished constructing a lovely object called a Miracle Eye and was now working on something to do with crystals. But as he sat up in the stuffy room and rubbed his eyes, he saw that AZ was in bed, asleep. And the door was glowing red, with the sound of active fire beyond it.

    He gave a shriek of fright, then hurried over and tugged at AZ's ear. “Wake up, there's fire!”

    Startled awake, AZ sat up quick enough that the Floette had to grab his ear to not get knocked away. Then the door cracked under the force of fire and was consumed by a stream of fire rushing straight into the room. The flames caught onto any flammable object with incredible speed; only the layout of his room gave AZ any time to get out of his bed before it was consumed by flames too. Wailing in agony at the flames, the Aegislash hurried over to them while glowing bright yellow. AZ got a fire repellant spell up trying to protect himself and the two Pokemon from the blaze. Elsewhere in the room, the Garchomp scurried along the floor, growling but not looking too comfortable either even if he could withstand the blaze better than any of them.

    “What about my parents?” AZ asked, hurrying over to his workspace. The Miracle Eye was shimmering in the heat, but was probably really dangerous to touch right now. On the other hand, there was an icy blue crystal there that seemed remarkably unaffected. AZ took hold of it and used it to reinforce his shield greatly. It almost got cool within it, at least enough to where the Aegislash quieted down.

    “We should just get out of here,” the Floette said, afraid of this fire. He knew AZ was a very good magic user, but what if the shield broke even with the crystal's help?

    However, AZ decided to head out into the hallway. In order to keep within the shield, Lukan and the Aegislash had to follow along. The blaze was even more intense out here. It covered every surface, rolling in powerful waves of heat. Worst of all, the center of this fire's power seemed to be coming from the king and queen's room. That had to be the starting point. And given that they heard nothing but the flames, they were likely dead already.

    AZ wanted to go check on them, just in case of some miracle leaving them alive. But when even the Garchomp came into the fire shield to get out of the blaze, he didn't want to push his Pokemon into staying longer than they had to. So they fled, to the nearest stairs and exit to the castle.

    They were the only ones to survive in the central area of the fire, up in the royal quarters.

    -+-

    Leonidas had survived the fire by not being in it. For the past few days, he'd been bragging about how he and some friends had come across those who had set the fire, conspirators from the kingdom to the north of Kalos' border. They had chased the arsonists down and captured them, allowing for swift punishment on them for killing the king and queen. But if he had caught them setting the fire, the Floette wondered why didn't he try to rescue his family. It seemed suspicious, even if the arsonists admitted to their crime.

    This was the funeral for the king and queen. A great many people were in the church to pay their respects. To the side, a pair of scribes were busily taking notes on the event, to pass on to criers who would spread news of this to those who couldn't be here. At the front, AZ was trying to keep himself composed even though he had to dab away tears fairly often. There were times when he said it was hard to believe that both of them were gone now. But the charred room, filled with just ashes and soot, was the unavoidable truth. He also said that he had to be strong, or at least try to be, so that people saw him as reliable. He'd keep most of his grief to himself, but the emotions here were too overwhelming.

    In contrast, Leonidas was nodding off next to AZ. What had he been doing since the fire? He was avoiding AZ, at least, and he didn't seem to be much in grief here. All this ceremony for someone passing away was new to the Floette, but he felt that Leon could at least be respectful enough to stay way. He drifted over to him and tugged at his ear. “Hey, don't be going asleep,” he whispered.

    Leon absentmindedly swatted at the Floette with a fan, knocking him over into AZ. Noticing that, AZ glared at Leon briefly when his brother opened his eyes. Leon simply frowned and looked away, using his fan as if an excuse for hitting him. The incident didn't continue past that, but after the funeral, AZ seemed more bitter to his brother for it.

    -+-

    Forty days after the funeral, in the very same church, AZ was crowned the King of his father's lands, Kalos and the land of the Heavenly Mountain (a solitary peak to the southeast of Lumiose). Those and the five kingdoms he had already, stretching far to the northwest, gave him a lot of land to rule. Many from those lands had come to attend, leading this event to be packed as well.

    In day to day affairs, AZ dressed simply. His growth had seemed to level out at twelve feet high, but any tailor had to make clothes differently for him. To compensate, AZ was careful with his clothing, even repairing it himself by magic as long as possible. But for the coronation, he had an entirely new outfit, with bold colors. There were shoulder pads to make him look even bigger, a waist sash as was common custom in the city, and a large fur-trimmed cape. He'd even gotten a pocket added to the cape just for his Floette to rest in if he got tired at the coronation. But the tiny Pokemon was excited and hovered close to him the whole time. It was a human matter, so most of the Pokemon were kept away or in guard positions, where they held still unless trouble happened. But as always, the Floette was an exception.

    The man conducting the ceremony had to lifted the crown up to place it on AZ head, even if the king was kneeling. He also had to stealthily clip the crown to AZ's hair to keep it in place, a maneuver they had practiced for quite a while. But unless they got it resized from a normal sized person's crown, it was what had to be done. “And now, I present to you, our new king and ruler of seven lands, Aleksander Zacheriah de Kalos.”

    There was much cheering and applauding to this announcement as AZ got back to his feet. The Floette whirled himself around and smiled, although only AZ and the other man could possibly see him. For a moment, AZ smiled back at him. But then he turned serious to address the crowd. The Floette had listened to him practice it, using the mental exercise to help keep his mind off of the loss of his parents. Even with all that listening, the Pokemon didn't fully understand it.

    But what he could understand seemed to be great things, like, “The goal I have as king is to give a peaceful and stable country for many future generations to come. For that purpose, I am abolishing the seven lands to combine them under one name, Kalos. There will not be seven separate codes of law, but one; hopefully the many codes and laws will all become one for the sake of peace and unity.”

    There was also, “We will end strife and stop corrupted men from taking advantage of our people. Thus any who claim ownership to land where others live will now need to prove their worth to their tenants. Otherwise, the ownership of their land will come to the country, not the individual.”

    It was all in the name of stopping useless fighting, so the Floette thought there shouldn't be anyone who disagreed with it.

    -+-

    Leonidas cursed his brother's name as he paced in his room. He thought he'd finally had a chance to get into a position he deserved, no longer restrained to the misfortune of being born second instead of first. While the arson had not been his doing, he had heard about it before it happened and planned things so that he could capture the conspirators while being just too late to save his family. That should have cast him in a positive light while having the sympathy of being the sole surviving member of the Kalos royal family. But no, AZ had to survive that somehow.

    While he knew he should have respect for his parents, he never felt like they deserved it from him. He was the second child, the one they hadn't wanted. His mother kept nagging at him to get along with his older brother and his father kept asking, not always directly, why he couldn't be more like his brother. Why did they have to insist that AZ was better than him? AZ was a freak! Anyone could see that, but their parents chose to ignore that and treat him like he was a gift. Why should someone incapable of holding a normal conversation like a normal human being become the king? AZ talked to Pokemon more than people, especially that silly flower fairy, even though he admitted to mostly guessing what they thought. He didn't know what was important.

    Like this ruling to take land from those who didn't deserve it. That was ridiculous, a thinly veiled conspiracy to take power from everyone else. Supposedly it was to discourage over-taxation and mistreatment of lower classes. But what was the point of that? Poor people were peasants because they deserved to be peasants. If a person deserved power, than the gods would have seen to it that they were born into a position of power. If they were born into a landless family with no influence, then they obviously couldn't handle owning land or influence. That was just how things worked out and it was proven whenever some idiot gave a peasant a chance and the peasant squandered it. That happened every time.

    Leonidas was born royalty. He had the wits, intelligence, and magic to have royal power. Despite that, his father had never asked him to take the royal trials! Melchior kept saying that he didn't fully grasp the responsibility or ethics needed to be a good king. Yet he had sent AZ to take the trials when he was just thirteen! It was clear that his parents just stupidly favored the first-born, so Leonidas felt no shame in showing as little respect to them as necessary to be publicly acceptable.

    If things were as they should be, then he should have been sent on the trials and given at least one of the seven kingdoms that AZ had claim to. Leonidas would have been fine with that; he could prove his worth in that way and expand his kingdom if he did things right. Instead, AZ consolidated them into one and didn't give Leonidas any land ownership rights. He assigned his brother to an administrative position that would have little contact with him. Well fine, he didn't want to be around AZ every day anyhow. But it was still enormously unfair.

    Not only that, but AZ was now seeking to conquer other kingdoms, in the name of ending conflict. How did he expect to end conflict when he was starting the biggest conflict of all? He had already taken over the kingdom that had killed their parents. While the rulers and conspirators were executed, AZ didn't demolish the kingdom like he should. Instead, he made sure to repair what had been damaged and converted their laws and systems to match that of Kalos. He was currently continuing to conquer northward, but already had started building a war castle on Heavenly Mountain in order to support what could be a tougher conquest of the southern and eastern kingdoms. To Leonidas, it simply looked like an unreasonable lust for power. Those kings were also born to rule and the gods would surely turn against AZ for his conquests.

    If not the gods, than the others who found their power taken away from them due to these new laws would. Leonidas already knew a good number of them; they'd be willing to fight with him to put him in power, to reset things to how they had been. He might even be able to make allies out of old enemies, with AZ as their common foe.

    It would take time, he knew, but he would find his rightful place in the world.

    -+-

    Mercia felt like the luckiest girl in the world. And why shouldn't she? She was the only princess of the elegant kingdom of Anistar, the only child of the king at that. Many people around her had nothing but the best compliments for her, on her beauty, on her dancing, on her singing. Because of that, her parents were going to hold a big competition to see who would be her husband. That was going to be amazing, seeing so many men try hard to win her hand. But in the end, it was her choice to accept or decline the winner. The competitors would have to work to win the contest and to win her heart. She could already imagine some mysterious competitor approaching her in a romantic way and being such a charmer that she'd pick him whether he won or lost.

    But, the competition was still in planning. All she could do right now was dream about it. But her parents had just called her to meet them in the garden, to talk about it. Maybe it wouldn't be too far away? Even this summer? Mercia went right away to them, wondering what challenge they'd come up with.

    Her parents seemed down for something that should be an excitement to look forward too. “What's with all the gloomy faces?” Mercia asked, smiling. “Weren't we going to talk about the competition?”

    Her father looked aside. “Yes, about that...”

    “We're sorry dear,” her mother said, coming over and hugging her. “We're thinking about canceling it.”

    “What, canceling it? But, but we've been talking about doing this for years about how you'd find my husband. Why can't we do this?” It had been her dream since she was a girl, this contest and then a magnificent wedding that everyone would be jealous of for years. It wasn't fair to take half of it out totally.

    “I would love to do this for you, dear,” her father said. “I only want the best for you. But I also want what's best for our people, and right now it looks like the best way to get each is to cancel the competition and offer your hand to the king of Kalos.”

    Her mother nodded. “He's supposed to be an amazing man, after all, one that probably could have won any competition we would have come up with. They say he's an intelligent powerful king, with an exceptional talent in magic and many other things. Why, there's even been talk that he's great with Pokemon too, and anybody who wins the loyalty of many Pokemon must have a truly kind heart.”

    “I haven't heard of him!” Mercia said, clenching a fist at her side. “Have you even met him? How do you know if he is that good?”

    Her parents looked nervously at each other; they must not have. But her father said, “Even as great as they say he is, no one can deny that for the past eight years, AZ has been conquering many other kingdoms to add to his own. Anistar got quite lucky early on. One of his first targets was our neighboring kingdoms but then he decided to focus on the more aggressive countries to the south. We had hopes that he simply wasn't interested in us, but then we learned that he is favored by the gods. Xerneas teaches him personally, and Yveltal is said to come to his aid without delay. Perhaps even the other... at any rate, one of them has charged him with conquering all the lands they watch over and making it one country. He's not lost once this whole time.”

    “Then he will be coming here at some time,” Mercia realized, knowing that could only be bad for Anistar. Their kingdom didn't have much of an army.

    “And to fight against him would mean that many in Anistar would die trying in vain to stop him,” he said. “Thus we need to make an offer of peace before he even thinks about conquering us as well. But we're not entirely sure how well he would listen to our bargaining. He has no queen still, thus it seems like our best chance is to arrange for the two of you to be married and lead our countries to merge naturally in the future.”

    Her mother patted Mercia's shoulder. “Still, a great king like that would surely be able to take good care of you. And your children would rule the greatest kingdom of all; wouldn't that be magnificent? But we wanted to make sure you were okay with it first.”

    But then she wouldn't have the choice, or the attention, or the romance... “Could I think it over for a while?” she asked. “I... I'm not sure what to say.”

    Her father nodded. “Of course, dear. But please consider it carefully.”

    Excusing herself from her parents, Mercia left the garden to find some of her friends, to go out and talk it over with them. They agreed that it was unfair that this was being done to her. She couldn't live her dream if she just agreed to marry a man she'd never met, or even really heard of before today. However, there was still the chilling thought of what might happen to Anistar if the king of Kalos refused their pleas for peace. If she followed her dream, she'd have to accept that one day, this choice might end up with people dying to keep Anistar free. Was it worth giving up her independence and the independence of her kingdom to ensure that didn't happen?

    ...yes, it was.

    -+-

    When it came to the palace at Heavenly Mountain, there were things the Floette loved and hated about it. He loved the big airy spaces on the innermost rooms, but hated the big heavy walls in the outermost rooms. Those were a reminder that this place was made for war. He loved the way it was so above everything else, even the mountain's own peak; they could look down over everything seemingly forever. But he hated the way that they only lived here when they needed the defense because people might be out to kill AZ. While it was nice some times, he preferred to be in the country palace where it meant things were calmer.

    AZ was upset today and not much was working to cheer him up. Some people from lands they had conquered had been in here earlier, trying to get AZ to change some laws or make exceptions for particular towns. Since they had been so stubborn about it, AZ had to yell at them for a bit to make them see sense that laws had to be the same for everyone or it wasn't fair. Now he was the only human in the throne room, brooding over what had to be done.

    The Floette had tried dancing in the air and singing, but it didn't work like it had when AZ had been a kid. He ended up landing on a perch on the throne that had been placed specifically for him to be at eye-level to AZ. “Aw, you're doing what's right,” he said. “It stinks sometimes, but like you've said, it has to be done. It'll be worth it when our days are carefree again.”

    Reaching up to tap the Floette's lily, AZ said, “Sorry if I’m getting you sad too.” He sighed and slumped down. “''''', do you ever wonder if this was Xerneas trying to make trouble for us? He said it would make peace if this was all one kingdom instead of many. I thought once other people saw the logic behind my changes, they'd agree that it was for the best for everyone. But they're all still stuck thinking only of themselves.”

    “I don't know all of what this is about, but what I do know makes sense to me,” he said.

    AZ put his hand on his chin. “I know it's making many peoples' lives better. I see them on the streets in towns that have been a part of Kalos for a while, free to live their lives as they want to, without worrying about how those in charge will interfere with them. Some of them have come and thanked me, saying that they weren't allowed to do anything but what the smaller authorities wanted them to do, but now they can change their lives and do what they want. Like that couple who were going to open a tavern finally; they'd been stopped by their former king who insisted on controlling every shop that sold food in any form, so they had to send their profits to him and follow his ridiculous restraints. People aren't stupid. They know what they're best at and I just need to make a safe and fair system for them to work in, not control them with personal interests.”

    “They were happy,” the Floette said, slipping off the perch and floating around in front of AZ's view. “So be happy that it's working! It's still more work, but we'll do it.”

    “I just can't help but wonder if I'm going about this the wrong way and really am causing these people more grief than I had to,” he said.

    The sound of a bell announced someone coming into the room. Two messengers came in, one holding onto a painting of some sort. “Your majesty, we've just gotten a offer from the king of Anistar. The details are in here, but it seems they're offering their daughter in marriage as a peace agreement.”

    “Is that so?” AZ said, taking the large envelope he'd been handed. “And that?”

    “It's a painting of Princess Mercia, your majesty,” the second messenger said, turning it around so they could see it. She had long blue hair braided with strands of white pearls and flowers, but pale skin like humans tended to get when they spent too much time inside. “We weren't sure where you'd want it.”

    “There's a frame holder around here for displaying maps on,” AZ said, glancing back. “Put it on there for now; I'll figure out where to place it later.”

    The servants located the holder to put it on so it wasn't on the floor, then left him alone to consider the offer. The Floette went over to sniff the painting. As the paint smell was strong, it must have been freshly done. “She could use more color, I think,” he said. “And more flowers instead of rocks.”

    After looking through all the papers, AZ was too busy thinking to be upset again. “This does seem like an ideal solution for this, albeit one that will only work once. Then again, they already seem reasonable and her letter shows a strong sense of honor. 'I believe this is best for our people and for us...' Besides, people are expecting me to get married sometime soon. I wonder if I should write a letter tonight to send to her, at least to say I’m considering it and want to know more about her before committing myself like this.”

    “Isn't marriage one of those things humans made up to do things differently than Pokemon?” the Floette asked, floating back over to his perch. “But people have talked about it like it's really important, so I guess you'd have to think about it more.”

    “I probably should,” AZ said to his own thoughts. “And if I do take this, they're being very generous in offering their only child as my wife. I should do something extra for them in appreciation.”

    -+-

    It was the day of the royal wedding, and also the day they would first see each other in person. A week ago, AZ had traveled to Anistar to formalize the peace treaty and to offer his gift for the country's generosity: a huge calender and clock made of crystal that he'd created with Xerneas' assistance. It used the light of the sun, as well as a few secret methods, in order to accurately display the time of year and time of day on a complex sundial. Although everyone said it was a magnificent gift, Mercia hadn't come out to see him at that time and insisted on traveling with her friends instead of in AZ's carriage. But she and her parents had come back with him to the country palace outside of Lumiose for the wedding.

    Mercia's nerves were frayed all day. While her new handmaidens were helping her get into her dress, she burst into tears. “He really is a giant!” she said to her mother. “What if it turns out he's violent and hits me? I couldn't deal with that.”

    Her mother took her hand and patted it. “I'm sure he won't, dear. You really should have gone out to meet him. His mannerisms might take some getting used to, but it's always that way with marriage. He seems like a respectable and warmhearted man to me, very thoughtful too.”

    “He really did want to meet with you, but respected your requests to be left alone,” one of the handmaidens said.

    “I don't know, people can change when you get close to them,” Mercia said, covering her face. “Should I really be doing this? I'm too worried, how can this be right?”

    “It's okay,” her mother said, trying to reassure her. “I was nervous at my wedding too, since I didn't know him well either. But we grew to love each other and I'm sure you two can do the same.”

    In another room, AZ felt nervous too, but kept quiet about it for the most part. “It might be a good sign, but just because it's been quiet so far doesn't mean anything,” he told the knight who came in to report to him about conditions around the castle. “It's a significant event, so those troublemakers might find it a prime time to attack us. Don't let your guard down, any of you. And make sure that's clear to everyone on patrol.”

    The knight saluted. “Yes, your majesty.” On confirming that the report was done, he left the room to talk to the castle guards.

    Now that he was alone with his Pokemon for the most part, AZ held his hand up for the Floette to land on. “I hope I've got this all right,” he said. “I'm not sure of what all she expects me to do once we're married.”

    “Cross-pollination’s a lot easier than all this,” the Floette said, wishing he could be understood. “Not much you humans do is easy. But you're human, so I'm sure you'll learn it all quick.”

    The ceremony went just fine, with no interruptions. The bride and groom were awkward around each other, but neither of them stalled on the words they were supposed to say or thought to back out at the last minute. Once it was done, everyone went to the ballroom for a dance, starting off with AZ and Mercia alone. No toes were stepped on, neither was there any tripping, but after that one dance the two agreed to go off to the side and talk instead of dancing more.

    Some time into the dance, Leonidas got the attention of one of the bride's friends. He'd been pretty bored and it had been a last minute decision for him to come after all. He suspected that he'd only been invited because he was AZ's sole surviving family member, since he'd not spoken to his brother once today. Not that he was inclined to. But he might as well see if he could impress one of the young women there so this wasn't a total waste of time.

    “I'm really surprised she actually went through with it,” Mercia's friend said to him after a while. “She was thinking even just yesterday of running off to live a life of adventure. And I would've gone with her too! She should've just gone with being her own person. But I suppose it's admirable to go with this kind of obligation too.”

    “Is that so?” Leonidas asked. He really was interested in hearing this. So the new queen didn't have her heart entirely in this...

    “Yeah,” the friend said, nodding. “Aw man, her parents were going to have this big challenge or contest or something to choose her husband instead and it was going to be the biggest event around! We would've laughed at some of the losers who'd sign up for the chance at marrying a princess and cheered on those she was into. She was really looking forward to having somebody come in and sweep her off her feet with flowers and public declarations of love and all that. With all the fellows that would've shown up, surely there'd be one like that for her.”

    Leonidas smiled, then took her arm and pulled her closer. “I’m sure you'd get quite a crowd at a contest to win your hand in marriage too, you unexpected beauty.” She laughed in delight and eventually did tell him more about what Mercia was really like.

    The wedding went off just fine, but more than one person felt like something was missing from it.

    -+-

    AZ really liked Mercia. Maybe loved her, it was hard to tell. In many ways, knowing her was a new experience. She wasn't someone he dealt with either as a servant or as someone connecting to his work as king, but she also soon got over his different-ness in size and treated him as a normal person. He liked talking with her over meals or in the evening, about books, art, flowers, and many different things. But at times, he wasn't quite sure what to say to her.

    One day in early spring, he took a break to take Mercia and his Pokemon out to the castle gardens. He had an idea that he'd been thinking over for a while. “How about we take a few days to get you a Pokemon friend too?”

    Mercia looked at him in surprise. “Really? Why?”

    “They're great friends and support when you take the effort to make a bond with them,” AZ said. His Floette cheered and whirled around in the air. “Plus they can protect you if you get in trouble. Mostly, I’ll likely be away from the castle for some time. I'll be sure to come back, and that enough guards are left here to keep you safe. But I’d feel better knowing that you had good company in a Pokemon.”

    “I've never really been around many Pokemon until I came here,” she said. “My parents didn't allow them in the castle because they're messy.”

    “That's not a problem if you train them properly,” he said. “I'll be around long enough to help you with that. What kind are you interested in? I know which ones that live around here naturally.”

    She sat back in the garden chair and thought about it. “Hmm, well... I suppose a pretty one. Oh, I've heard that there's these bug Pokemon that grow to have really big colorful wings, and people have seen all kinds of patterns to them.”

    “You mean a Vivillon?”

    Mercia nodded. “That sounds right. It'd be nice if I could get a unique one.”

    “Actually, this should be a good time of year to find a Scatterbug, its youngest form, around wooded areas,” AZ said. “It's a pretty Pokemon too, I think. But it's had to tell what kind of pattern the Vivillon will have until it evolves into one, and there's no changing it from there. You could still become good friends with it in that time, though.”

    She smiled. “That could be fun. You'll help me find one?”

    He smiled back, glad she wanted to do this. “Sure, and if it's just a Scatterbug you're looking for, we could find two or three if you want.”

    “It'd be great if they all were different!” She seemed excited, but after a moment, her smile faded. “We could do that later. But, well... AZ? Why won't you kiss me?”

    That puzzled him. “Why would I kiss you?”

    Now she was the puzzled one. “Because we're married. That's a normal thing married people do.”

    AZ shrugged. “Well, it'd be difficult with our difference in height, wouldn't it? And I don't see what's so interesting about kissing.”

    She had to think for a moment, as she didn't expect to have to explain this basic thing to him. “But it's a sign of how much you love a person... and how happy you are to be with them.”

    “How is it connected to happiness?” he wondered aloud. “Aren't you interfering with someone else's breathing being that close to them? And what if you get a bit of drool? That's disgusting.”

    “Well it sounds disgusting when you put it that way,” she agreed. “But it's different when you actually kiss... so I hear. Won't you kiss me?”

    He still didn't seem to want to, but since she wanted to, he agreed to try. And still didn't get the point of it once they had actually kissed. However, it seemed to be the wrong thing since she didn't seem as excited to go out looking for a Pokemon afterwards.

    -+-

    Scatterbug was kind of pretty, Mercia thought as she watched the one she had crawl around the library floor near her. Around its neck, there was a cute little ruff of fur. But it had a weird face, especially the eyes. Or the mouth, mostly hidden against its black shell. Or the nose which only existed as tiny holes. And it moved weird too, shuffling its feet so it seemed to be moving like waves and flexing its antennae around to touch everything. Maybe it would look far better when it finally got wings as a Vivillon.

    And maybe her marriage would all come together when... well she wasn't sure when, just that this was not what she'd been expecting at all. On the bright side, AZ wasn't violent around her at all. He obviously cared for her. The little things he did for her, like helping her befriend this Scatterbug, getting after the castle chef when she wasn't pleased with a meal, and giving her full reign over redecorating a number of rooms, those were endearing. But there were so many other things that bothered her about him. Like how he was gone to war now, and would likely be gone until winter caused a slowdown in all military matters. Or how he seemed so bothered by shows of affection. She'd tried to massage his hand the other day because he'd been complaining about stiffness after working, just his hand, and he'd jerked it away and wouldn't let her touch him. And how did someone feel nothing from a kiss?

    He'd even given her a separate bedroom and wouldn't hear of sharing one with her. This was not going to work how things were. Sooner or later, somebody would start asking questions and she had no idea how to answer them. But she also wasn't sure how to change AZ's mind if he was so quick to shut her out.

    “Good afternoon, your majesty,” someone called out with a knock to a nearby bookshelf. It was the king's brother, standing there with an iris in a thin elegant vase.

    “Good afternoon, Leonidas,” Mercia said, nodding. She didn't see much of him, but it was best to be polite with her in-laws, especially when there was only one to deal with.

    He smiled warmly and came over to her. “Just call me Leo if things are informal. Here, I’ve brought you a flower to brighten your day.” He set the iris vase next to her on the floor, causing the Scatterbug to become interested in it.

    “Was that AZ's request?” If he'd do a romantic gesture like this while he was gone, things might be more hopeful.

    “No, it was something I wanted to do after seeing you looking dismal earlier today,” he said. “Such sadness doesn't suit a lovely girl like you. Cheer up and you'll be sure to find ways to turn things around.”

    Not wanting to encourage him too much, she smiled a little. “Thanks, but are you sure you should be doing that?”

    “It's fine, I'm sure my brother will understand that I just want to keep your spirits up. See you around, pretty Mercia.” He bowed and left the library.

    The Scatterbug stretched up and tried to nip at the iris petals, so Mercia picked the vase up and put it on a pedestal nearby. Maybe Leo wasn't too bad. If anything, he'd be a friend when AZ wasn't around. As he kept bringing her a new flower every day, though, it seemed less innocent. Mercia resisted his attempts at flirting with her. While it did cheer her to have gifts of flowers, she was married and she needed to keep her love for the king. Somehow, if she could get him to accept it.

    But it was someone who obviously wanted her affection against someone who was repelled by it...
     
  9. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Almost the last portion of that backstory (and on the same page as the other two, fancy that). There's a bit more to come next chapter. And actually, this was originally Chapter 18 but... well, you'll see.
     
  10. Second bit of backstory, and the last bit is a fairly obvious clue as to how this will all head south. Still an interesting look at what the cause of the war was- and how Anistar's crystal got there. Any other time of history and a crystal that size would probably be regarded as slightly ostentatious for a wedding present.
     
  11. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 18: What is Remembered

    Most of us in Professor Sycamore's homeroom really got into the research into Mega Evolution. Some were interested in getting that special apprenticeship, others were simply curious abut the phenomenon. I thought it would be interesting, but didn't seriously consider it for myself and my team. Even so, I went out on all the class trips for it; back to the art museum to consider another painting as evidence, hunting around libraries and old bookstores for any references, even to another scientific lab where a group of Pokemon experts with Sycamore discussed with us how evolution was believed to work and how Mega Evolution was theoretically tied to it.

    All through the school year, the Parfum Palace library owned by Owain de Kalos remained a strong possibility. He collected many items related to Kalos royalty and legends, including mega evolution. In the spring semester, we decided that we really should check that place out. But given the price for a school group staying over a weekend and our limited homeroom budget, we had to put together a fund raising event to be able to take the opportunity.


    It was Saturday morning and several students from Professor Sycamore's homeroom were in the school kitchen. The room was noisy and boisterous, with the cooks working on lunch and helping out the students, who chatted and measured and mixed to make lots of goodies for a bake sale. While it was a simple idea, putting up a table in the school cafeteria and another out in a charitable cafe seemed like a good way to get the money for the class trip. Besides, there was always the chance to sneak away with some of the misshapen cookies to snack on later.

    “I want to make this one look like my Litleo,” Shauna said, taking a tube of black frosting to the cupcake in front of her. “Cause she's cute.”

    “Pokemon faces would be good with the smiley faces we already made,” Calem said, thinking. “I wonder if I could make a Haunter face, or if Gastly would be easier.”

    “A Haunter one would be cool,” Trevor said, working on his face cupcake.

    “Why is yours sticking its tongue out?” Tierno asked, looking at Trevor's current work.

    “Um, I thought it'd be funny,” he said, uncertain.

    “Maybe, but somebody might think that the cupcake's making fun of them,” Shauna said, sounding serious (although a glimmer in her eyes showed it was in jest). “Who'd want to eat a cupcake that's mocking them?”

    “Well it would teach that cupcake for being so rude. I'd bite its face off,” Calem said with equal seriousness, making his friends laugh. He smiled at the result.

    Sycamore wandered past them with a bowl of bread batter in his hands. “Oh hey, that one looks like I do sometimes, don't you think?” He then stuck out his tongue at a silly angle, making them laugh harder. “Nice work. Hey, who shut off the radio? We need music to cook properly! And you're just going to force me to sing.”

    “Aaaah, turn the radio on!” Shauna cried in mock horror.

    Sycamore laughed and started singing intentionally poorly; it was one of those great days. Just then, Sina walked into the kitchen with a young woman dressed like a gypsy. “Oh hey all, guess what?” Sina said happily. “This is a friend of mine from when I was in the academy, Kelsey, and she agreed to help out with your fundraiser.”

    “That's marvelous,” Sycamore said, now pouring the bread batter into pans. “Did you hear about our research project?”

    She nodded. “On mega evolutions? Of course, that's why I wanted to help all of you. I know a little something,” she smiled and put a finger to her lips like it was a secret. “I can view the cherished memories of Pokemon and tell you how well you really understand them. If you're going to try for mega evolution, it's something you should know about.”

    “Wow, that's amazing,” Shauna said. “Thanks for helping us!”

    With Kelsey's offer, they had a fortune teller's booth alongside the bake sale table in the cafeteria. More accurately, a memory retrieval booth because that was her specialty. It was immediately popular, as word soon spread to bring in students who'd normally have a weekend lunch elsewhere. Even people who didn't attend the school showed up. Sycamore suggested that the class members should really take advantage of her offer, hinting that it would affect the apprenticeship choosing somehow.

    Fortunately, Calem and his friends decided to talk to her early on, before there was a line all the way down the hall waiting for her. She had a few brown curtains set up near the wall, closing off the table where she sat for privacy. On the small square table, she kept nothing more than a tall candle in a glass lamp and a metal case for cash covered with a white handkerchief. Not very dramatic, but her ability was mystical enough to not need extra props to make it look good.

    “Please sit down,” Kelsey said when Calem came into the booth. “You were one of Sycamore's students, correct? I'll read three Pokemon for free, but any more will cost the normal price. How many Pokemon do you want me to see?”

    “I have six,” he said, still uncertain on one. “I’d like if you could check all of them, but one of them could be difficult. He's special.”

    “Let's leave him for last and I’ll see how it goes,” Kelsey said. “Give me their Pokeballs one at a time and I’ll tell you about one of their precious memories.”

    “Okay,” he said, handing her Swift's white Premiere Ball first.

    She clasped the Pokeball in both of her hands. Soon she had a smile on her face as if she was remembering something good from her own life. “I see a bus ride when she was surprised to be allowed on the seat like a human. You were nervous and afraid of something, so she looked you in the eye and wanted for you not to be so. And you thanked her for it. You two had only known each other a few days, but she already knew you were one she could take pride in being loyal to.”

    Calem smiled at that. “Oh yeah, that's when I was coming here for the first time.”

    “Mmhmm,” Kelsey nodded, handing the Pokeball back. Next, he gave her Percival's Luxury Ball. “This Pokemon... he was in a battle with a Murkrow who mocked him for being easily scared. He got upset, but then you gave him some words of encouragement that let him toughen up and fight back better. You had spoken kindly to him many times before, but it was around that battle when just hearing your voice became enough to reassure him and even let him face his fears.”

    “It must have been last year since I dropped out of battle club this year,” Calem said. As much as he wanted to be a good Pokemon Trainer, he worried now that any form of violence could be used as pressure by the Asari.

    “He would still fight for you, no matter what,” Kelsey said. The next one she saw was Nibbles' Great Ball. “This Pokemon, I see a sunny day where you and others were sitting in a field. You started blowing soap bubbles and she was so amazed by it that she carefully caught one in her pincers to find out what it was. You smiled and praised her for it, but then it popped and surprised both of you.” She chuckled. “Some Pokemon have very different ideas of what makes for a memory to cherish.”

    “It's sweet of her to remember something like that,” Calem said, although he didn't remember it himself. He took back Nibbles and gave her Yorick's Pokeball.

    “This one feels familiar,” she said with a playful smile. “Ah, you have Yorick? I'm jealous; always thought a clever Pokemon like him would be valuable on a team. Anyhow... in the battle rooms, some other students were complaining about having Yorick become a regular in the battle club. He was delighted at the reactions he was getting, but most delighted when you told them that he was much cooler than the Pokemon they had. He felt like he'd made the right choice in deciding to go with you.”

    “I heard he interrupted a play and that's where he got the name,” Calem said as he took the Pokeball back.

    Kelsey laughed. “I remember that! It was so boring until he showed up. I tried to catch him a few times, but he'd always tease me and run off. Who else do you have?” He gave her Starlet's Gym Ball, so she calmed down and absorbed herself in the Mawile's memories. “I see... a forest floor with glowing mushrooms? No, that's the Laverre Gym. You were singing a lullaby to a sickly Ralts and she was impressed that a boy would be so tender to a young Pokemon. Her respect for you was solid from that time on.”

    “Oh yeah, that would have been when she started working with us better,” Calem said. “I didn't think I'd take her from the Gym, but then I really didn't want to part with her at the end of that summer.”

    “She's glad you did,” Kelsey said, handing the Gym Ball back over. “Really, these five Pokemon are all devoted to you. If you got back into battling, you'd be an impressive group who'd overcome many obstacles. But, you said there was one more that could be hard?”

    He nodded and gave her Mortan's Ultra Ball. “Yes, he's older than he seems.”

    Her eyes widened immediately. “Yes, indeed... this Pokemon remembers a lot of things. Oh, are you trying to help? Thank you.” She closed her eyes. “I see... you both were in a second-hand store and he became interested in a box with a number of rings. You then picked out the smallest one there and put it on his head as a joke. He knew it was silly, but it made him happy and like you more for it... for treating him like a normal Pokemon.” She handed the ball back over. “Wow, that was really different. It's odd; I can tell that his strongest bond is not with you. However, he has great hope in you and would choose to stay with you on his own, unless he saw the one he has a stronger bond with.”

    “That's fine,” Calem said, setting the ball back in his holder. “It makes sense to me and I know why he feels that way. I'd rather see him with his other friend too, but I'm taking care of him in the meantime.”

    “You really would be an exceptional trainer to battle,” Kelsey said with a smile. “You should reconsider it at least. You'll be able to count on your Pokemon in any situation.”

    “I'm glad to hear that,” Calem said, getting out some money to pay her for the three readings.

    As he was going back over to the bake sale table, Teirno got up and waved to him. “Hey Calem! I just remembered about something when I went to see her a little while ago.”

    “Well that's kind of the point of her ability, isn't it?” he said jokingly.

    He laughed, but then brought out one of his Pokeballs. “Yeah! Well, you know my Swirlix? He can evolve, but only under trade conditions and with a specific item. I finally found the item he needs a couple weeks back, but I still need to trade him. And you have that Haunter too, so I thought we'd trade them for the evolutions then trade back so we can keep them.”

    “That sounds like a great deal,” Calem said. With that, he was able to get Yorick as a Gengar.

    -+-

    With the proceeds from the bake sale and Kelsey's memory readings, the entire class was able to go to Parfum Palace two weeks later. It was as amazing as before, perhaps more exciting because they had free access to more areas of the palace. They were allowed to stay for one night in various guest rooms and have their meals in the grand dining hall. While their purpose there was to look through the library, Sycamore said they were free to explore as long as they logged in about three hours studying.

    So on Saturday afternoon, Calem went out to the labyrinth gardens with his Pokemon and goofed around. It was a nice day; the sun was warm and a number of spring blossoms colored nooks and crannies of the hedge mazes. He ended up laying on the ground watching the clouds idly for a while. Nearby, Nibbles was making holes in the dirt. But a look at its disturbed and uneven surface showed that she wasn't the only one digging in that spot, so he let her be.

    Shauna eventually found him. “Hey what're you doing?” she said, leaning over him.

    “Being lazy,” he said. “Classes have been rough this week, and I already spent two hours in the library. So if anybody complains about it, I’m not listening.”

    She laughed, then plopped down on the ground beside him. “That sounds like a good idea. Are you making shapes out of the clouds?”

    “Not really. That'd be doing something. What're you doing?”

    “I was in the library; I got all three hours in! But then just sitting around inside on a sunny day like this is boring! I came back here to let my Pokemon run, and I’d run after them. But then I found you, so here I am.”

    “Yeah, I couldn't sit around indoors either,” Calem said, closing his eyes. “Lying around out here, that's a different matter.”

    “Sure is.” She looked over at him. “Hey, so we get to have lots of optional classes next year, right? What're you gonna pick?”

    Calem shrugged. “Dunno. They don't have any classes that'll teach you to be a superhero.” When she laughed, he opened his eyes and looked at her. “What? It's a perfectly reasonable career choice. Somebody's got to go around and fight evil or evil will overrun everything.”

    “You'd be an awesome superhero,” Shauna said, grinning. “Although, you don't see superheros around cause you don't see evil villains around cackling and make evil plans like they do in cartoon shows. And you might not want to be a superhero if that meant a supervillain was going to show up.”

    “Yeah, that's a troubling flaw in my plans at the moment,” he said. “Seriously, I really don't know what classes to take. I hope Sycamore will advise us like earlier. I kind of want to get into Pokemon battle classes or stuff that would let me explore around and help people. You know, like how rangers go out on dangerous routes and help out trainers who get in trouble a long ways from town.”

    “Being a ranger would be cool,” she agreed.

    “Yeah, although I don't think the red uniform would suit me. What classes are you looking to take?”

    “I want to travel around the world someday,” Shauna said. “See all kinds of places, meet all kinds of people. I dunno what'll help me most, but a little bit of everything could help. Maybe I’ll take all the introduction level classes so I know lots of things.”

    “Can you even do that in three years?”

    “Maybe, maybe not. I wonder if there's travel related classes, hmm. But then, I still want to be a music star too! So I'll definitely stick with music class. Hey, maybe I'll take drama too? Because it would be good to know how to use magic to be even showier.”

    “You already know how to do that.” There was a happy clicking from Nibbles, causing Calem to prop himself up on his elbow and check on her. The Pinsir was now bouncing a small rock with her short arms. “Find one you like?” he asked, although he wondered about it. She usually set stones aside neatly if she was digging in dirt.

    As it turned out, Nibbles had pulled a piece of Pinsirite from the loose ground. It's a curious mineral. Some such rocks will react to the presence of Pokemon, increasing their power a little. But it's such a little difference that most Trainers would rather use another accessory. Pokemon-specific rocks like Pinsirite are uncommon, but since they aren't favored for use in anything, they're virtually worthless. But Nibbles liked it, so I had it formed into a simple accessory for her in the following week.

    After that on that day, well... I remember that one of Owain's Furfrous came up to us eventually and got mad because Nibbles had been digging at its favored dig spot. I might have had her battle it? I'm not sure. It's funny, what is remembered and what isn't. I'm not even sure why I’m talking about this conversation Shauna and I had. It was... well, there was something important that occurred during that visit to Parfum Palace, two things I want to mention. It was when I went back into the library in the evening to study, and then later on during the night.


    -+-

    A number of his classmates had already gone through the library, looking for books to help on their research project. A few, like Trevor, were still in here reading. Calem started looking over the shelves of books for something to read himself, but a conversation between the others got his attention.

    “The part speaks of a succession ceremony involving the passing on of a mega ring at the Tower of Mastery at Shalour,” Trevor said “I’ve read references to it before and thought it might just be a proof of membership of this exclusive group. But with how this words it... 'With the ring comes the power to unlock untapped potential in Pokemon of the right mind and temperament,' that could suggest that the mega ring is involved directly in mega evolution.”

    “It'd be a good reason for those names,” a girl said.

    Another boy said, “And if you have to use a ring to get a mega evolution, that would explain the limited spread of this power. I mean, who wouldn't try to make their Pokemon more powerful to win? But what's it mean by 'Pokemon of the right mind and temperament'?”

    The others continued to talk, but the spine of a book caught Calem's attention. It was bound in a red cover, with white lettering that had bits of gold from its original state. With those letters, it said, 'The Collected Essays, Letters, and Poems of Leonidas Lysandre de Kalos'. He took the book off the shelf and, finding a nearby step ladder, sat down to flip through the pages. It appeared to be a reprint of a very old book, which itself reproduced and commented on the works of the ancient king, and AZ's younger brother.

    Once he found the section of poems, it didn't take long for him to locate the poem 'Glitter and shine lovely Kalos'. It even had a copy of the Geosenge weapon diagram. However, the commentator had misinterpreted the diagram. The book said that it was a symbolic picture of a lily, with the innocent flower disguising what had been done to allow it to grow. Although considering the situation between AZ and Leonidas, the symbolism still worked. On the page following, there was an interesting dissection of the poem.

    ...

    Glitter and shine lovely Kalos/Show me your dark and bloody heart
    : In this time, the wars and conflicts which led to the unifying of the Kalos region we know today are seen as necessary and a good thing to have happened. Under the reign of AZ, though, there were many who hated the idea and fought viciously to keep the independence of their small lands. Both AZ and Leonidas claimed it was necessary to build a beautiful, peaceful, and prosperous land. However, from this poem and a few others, it can be seen that Leonidas at least recognized the shamefulness of what had to be done to build our nation. It became a conflict in his heart, which is summed up in these two lines.

    Golden mask hides a face of fear: It has been a surprise to this scholar at least, but from Letter 63 in this collection, we find that this line may actually refer to Leonidas' brother AZ. In the letter, written in his last year of life, he expressed regret that he never tried understanding his brother while he was alive. It seems that outside of his role as king, AZ had a difficult time getting along with others ever since he was a child. Some of Leonidas' earlier poems would refer to AZ as 'a monster with a golden mask' due to how many revered AZ as an exceptional king loved by the gods but the brothers never got along well.

    In this change, it seems that Leonidas was trying to figure his brother out due to guilt in pushing him to the extreme measures that ultimately killed AZ. In Letter 63, he also mentions 'I'm not sure if it was fear of others entirely, but I recall when we were boys, he would occasionally get fearful of how others treated him. I'm sure I hurt him in that regard even early in life.'

    Silver words tell a tale of hate: This line is indisputably about Queen Mercia, who was married to AZ but is known to have had an affair with Leonidas, eventually betraying him as well. She was considered the most beautiful woman in Kalos at the time and was known to be well-spoken as well. While this line does display a deep pain for her reactions, an untitled essay (listed under 'On Mercia' in this collection) does show that she could not be completely blamed for the troubles caused by the love triangle. An older Leonidas admits that he knew that marriage between Mercia and AZ was chaste and political in nature, so he sought her attention as a way of harming his brother. Once the marriage was broken, there was little that held Mercia and Leonidas together; his decreasing attention to her caused her to feel betrayed and hated first.

    Live in the moment, the past hurts: See the poem 'Schedule for Today' for a more in-depth look on the idea in this line, as Leonidas describes his feelings that if he didn't focus on his immediate work and surroundings, thinking on events of his early years would drive him mad with guilt.

    Life is cruel, death is instant/A black flower blooms.: This pair of lines appears to be a reference to the instance where the legendary weapon combined with the death of Yveltal led to the immense tragedy that ended the wars that formed Kalos. The symbolism of the last line is linked to Luken, a Pokemon associated with AZ; we know this from other sources that say that Luken's white flower turned black upon his death, which is said to be the trigger to AZ creating the legendary weapon. However, as the tale has been told and retold, Luken's presence in the story has diminished over the generations. The Pokemon's name has even been lost to common knowledge, left only in the memory and research of scholars.

    Because of this natural change in the story told, the last line is often a puzzle to those who would read Leonidas' poems. In recent decades, a notorious self-named poet has reworded lines in many poems on the claim of making them better. This is debatable, usually on the side of not being worth mentioning in a scholarly work. But due to his work, the form of this poem commonly known today ends with the line Yveltal's wings cover the sky in place of the reference to Luken.

    ...

    After reading this, Calem went back to the front of the book to check on when it had been written originally. About two thousand years ago, it seemed. Then the poem had changed quite some time ago and without this book, it would likely be near impossible to find its original form. Then there was the matter of the Pokemon's name.

    Calem glanced around and spotted Mortan checking over the books too. He held his hand up to get the Floette's attention, then waved him over. When he landed on the edge of the book, he whispered, “Your name was Luken, right?”

    Mortan gaped at him for a moment, then looked down at the title page of the book. “Oh.... oh yeah, it was.” He sighed. “Well I didn't expect to hear that name used for me again until I met with AZ. So, just keep calling me Mortan. It doesn't feel right, having anyone else call me that.”

    “If that's what you want,” he said. “I found the version you know in here, you know, of that poem. Looks like it was changed nearly two thousand years ago.”

    “I see.” He floated off and waved his paw, so Calem flipped through the book for him. “Leonidas, huh? I... well I still don't like him. Can't say that I hate him at this point, though. I know he changed a lot after AZ used the weapon in Geosenge and that he was considered a respectable king.”

    “Can't blame you for not liking him after what he did to you,” Calem said.

    Mortan nodded. “Most people have good and bad parts about them... oh wait, this book has his illustrations? Because there's one I can think of that might help with your class project.”

    “Well it had the one we saw,” Calem said, flipping back to the title page, then one by one from there. If it was like some older books he'd already referenced, then it should... it did have a list of illustrations. And among them was 'the mega ring artifact'. “Oh, the group over there was just talking about that.” He turned to the page listed and found not just the diagram, but quite a commentary on the mega ring.



    Illustration of the mega ring artifact: On reviewing the fragile old books of Leonidas for preservation in this volume, it came of immense surprise to this scholar to find this illustration of the mega ring. We know that around one hundred years ago, Xerneas granted the mega ring to the priestess Theodora, as well as taught her a secret rite that would allow her to temporarily empower her loyal Lucario partner, to help overcome the incredible odds she faced. Theodora then passed on the mega ring and the secret rites to one of her followers, and so it has been handed down in secret. It was only known that a Lucario could accomplish this miracle.

    But according to this diagram and its accompanying notes, there was another mega ring in existence in the first years of Kalos. This one belonged to a knight in the service of AZ, but he did not use the mega ring with a Lucario. He used it with an Abomasnow. With the tremendous power granted by the mega ring, they were known for causing blizzards on battlefields even in the driest and hottest periods of summer. The shock of the sudden chilly blast was often enough for them to gain control of any situation, unless it was winter and thus their opponents were already prepared for the cold. Leonidas' notes also indicate that the knight had been unable to use the mega ring with a new partner Abomasnow, but was able to overcome the difficulty in time.

    There may be a second mega ring out there that works on an Abomasnow rather than a Lucario. Or, since the story seems to have been lost to time and no mention of the powerful Abomasnow form has come up again, Xerneas may have reclaimed the mega ring to bestow it on a worthy soul centuries later. But if it is the same mega ring, it appears that it can work on more than just one Pokemon. What other Pokemon can the mega ring work with?

    Unfortunately, those who hold the mega ring keep their lips tightly sealed, thus we can only speculate on its true potential. This diagram has been shown to jewelers and charm craftsmen in hopes of some insight, but only speculation has come out of it. Not only that, but Leonidas himself makes very little mention of it in his writings, at least those of which have been found for this collection. It seems this is a secret kept by the gods and a chosen few, and will stay that way for the foreseeable future.



    After reading it, Calem marked the spot with his thumb and took it over to the others in the library. Mortan followed quietly. “Hey, you were talking about a mega ring earlier?” Calem asked. “I found a reference to a mega ring, possibly two, and it looks like mega evolution can be used with Abomasnow too.”

    “Really?” Trevor asked. Calem nodded and handed the book to him, opening it to the illustration and commentary. “Oh wow... this agrees with what we've been finding. We should definitely show this to the professor.”

    It turned out to be a reference that even Sycamore hadn't come across, so they eventually convinced Owain to let the school borrow the book for a couple of weeks.

    -+-

    Danger... danger... danger all around you. You need to fight back. You must. You'll be killed if you don't fight.

    Things were so murky. What light he saw was like fog, muted and not doing much to clear the obscuring dark. But Calem did see figures in the murkiness, some moving, others not. After a moment, they all seemed to be corpses, all leather and bone shambling along. What was happening? His thoughts felt blurry and he wasn't sure where he was.

    Fight them, kill the monsters. You'll be killed if you don't. Kill them first.

    But killing was dangerous. It was, wasn't it? Calem tried to remember, but it was all so blurry. Then, one of the freakish monsters, seemingly a glob of thick oil slithering along the floor, pointed to him and made a rude gesture. Why? Whatever the reason, he found it hard to focus on any of the creatures besides the oil thing. He got up from what seemed like a wooden exam table and followed it through a doorway.

    It's going to attack! Attack it first! Don't be such a wimp, kill them all.

    That wasn't right...

    Suddenly, something clamped onto his arm. Calem panicked and tried to jerk his hand away, causing the jagged edges of whatever held him to dig into his skin. The oil creature then grabbed hold of him too and forced him onto the floor. Maybe the voice was right. But he knew something bad would happen if he listened to that voice. Who was it? What in the world was happening? Why...?

    A burst of cold water hit his face, shocking his senses. The murkiness seemed to die off, leaving him in a dimly lit hallway lying on a cold hard floor. After a moment, he recognized that it was his own Pokemon holding him down. Swift was sitting on his chest and Mortan on her head, both trying to gauge how alert he was. From the violet smoke and familiar prickly-dirty-smoke feeling, Yorick was in the floor and holding onto his shoulders, keeping him pinned there. Starlet actually had his right arm in her steel jaw; she'd been trying to hold on gently, but his struggles had torn his skin. Nibbles was sitting on his left leg and not seeming sure of what was going on, while Percival paced around in the air, mumbling to himself. Strangest of all, Trevor's Meowstic Merlin was there too, coming from a nearby doorway.

    Kill them!


    And now he was seeing everything in a red tint, an overwhelming fury filling his mind. How dare they do this to him! He'd rip them to shreds for being obstinate like this. Mortan tried to hiss something at him, but Calem couldn't understand it in his rage. Starlet let go of his arm when he started struggling again, opting to go pin down his free leg instead. Not that it mattered, since Yorick's hold was the strongest. Merlin meowed and set something on Calem's forehead.

    For a moment, Calem was aware of nothing but pain. It killed all the fight out of him. The pain soon died off, but shock held on longer. What had just happened? Was this just some crazy dream? But why such pain out of a dream?

    The next thing he was really aware of was the sound of footsteps hurrying towards him. “Professor, we were just about to come get you,” Teirno said. “Something weird's going on with Calem.”

    Professor Sycamore was then in view, his hand on his head. “Oh no. we hoped nothing would happen, but... what did you see? And it was just you five in this area... are all your Pokemon accounted for? And where's Serena?”

    “She's off in the library talking with Lysandre,” Shauna said. “I dunno when he got in, but I couldn't sleep so I took a walk and heard them. Then I came back and saw Calem's Pokemon attacking him and that was just weird so I ran to get you.”

    “Well it's not quite that they're attacking him,” Sycamore said, kneeling down and waving his hand to see if Calem was paying attention.

    “Am I still dreaming?” Calem grumbled, closing his eyes. He hoped this was a dream, no matter how much it seemed like it wasn't. There was another spark of pain on his forehead.

    “All of our Pokemon seem to be here,” Trevor said. “I don't know where he got the weird cloak, but I was just about asleep when I heard something go thump out here. Then Merlin was agitated and took one of my aura suppressors out into the hall. We got up and followed him, and Calem was out here like this. Merlin won't let me take the suppressor off his forehead and, um, it's only been a few minutes I think.”

    “What's going on with him?” Shauna asked.

    “We should explain things later,” Sycamore said, taking a moment to heal up the scratches on Calem's arm. “I need to get him back to the school, and I’ll have to take the suppressor there. It seems to be...” Then there was an audible spark from the suppressor, causing Trevor to jump back. “Might not last much longer,” Sycamore corrected. “You three watch over his Pokemon in the meantime.” There were sounds of protest from the six of them, but the professor shook his head. “Sorry, but we don't want to risk it tonight.”

    “Wait, is he in the basement dorms?” Trevor asked, sounding scared.

    “The what?” Shauna asked.

    “Special rooms for students with dangerous magic,” Sycamore said. “And yes, he is. We'll explain later. Come on, Calem, time to go.”

    “But Calem's not dangerous,” Shauna said.

    Now that Yorick and the other Pokemon had let him go, Calem managed to get back onto his feet. He tried to hold the suppressor on this head, but his body felt weak. “I almost killed you all tonight,” Calem said, starting to cry. And to feel that intense fury again. “Almost... kill...” then Sycamore quickly latched the suppressor onto his head, almost cutting off the contact with the Asari will. The suppressor sparked as he started weeping in response, completely confused now.

    Things weren't clear again until he heard the security door locking him into his dorm room. The suppressor’s strap finally broke under the effort and hit the floor, letting him hear the Asari spirits again. But they had to get through the school's noisy protective shields and not even his Pokemon were in the room with him this time.

    I still remember the horror of that night clearly. I'll probably never forget it.
     
  12. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Meowstic is so awesome... oh wait, that wasn't what I wanted to comment about, haha.

    The girl who reads memories in Anistar is one of my favorite unnamed NPCs in Pokémon. Like, the moment I talked with her the first time and realized what she did, it was just awesome. After playing through three times now, I can see that it's mostly a randomly generated fortune based on what you've done with that Pokémon. Still, it's incredible how much the game keeps track of, like which Pokémon went through Reflecting Cave or which one you were using when you caught another. Some of them are great for story-telling, like my first starter's memory was of me catching a Scatterbug... and he was jealous. Then recently, my female Meowstic remembered when I caught a male Espurr, and she was happy then. It's fun how they've capitalized on how much players can care about their Pokémon.
     
  13. Well, that was close.

    And Pinsirite... oh, they have no idea about what's sitting under their nose.
     
  14. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 19: The Bond Between Human and Pokemon


    For Sunday morning, Calem had been kept locked in his room. Not that he minded, with what had nearly happened in Parfum Palace. He hadn't been able to sleep much, so he cleaned his room and worked on homework. While he swept, he considered if it might be possible for him to swiftstep out of the room, what with him being able to sense the target. But he didn't want to consider the idea for long, in case he was driven to try it and fell under the Asari will.

    The Asari... it was strange, after all the times Heinrich had called him out into the rain this year, Calem hadn't actually seen him for nearly two months now. It even rained at times, but he didn't call so Calem couldn't find him. Why was that? Clearly he hadn't been cut off from them, since last night happened. Was Heinrich in trouble with the other Asari for how he tried to resist them? Maybe he should return to the charnel house and see about calling on him. He might be waiting on that, for some reason. He was trying to be a bad teacher, so it might be like an assignment he hadn't been given any details or deadline on.

    The school counselor checked in on him in the early afternoon, to see if it was safe to unlock the door. It seemed that his classmates were back and some were allowed to visit him here if there was no problem. Once they agreed it was fine, then he just had to wait on them to get down there for the door to be unlocked. Waiting always seemed to make time go by so slowly.

    Eventually, there was a series of clicks from the door followed by a knock. “You all right with some visitors?” Professor Sycamore said.

    “It's fine, come on in,” Calem called, getting up from where he'd been sitting. The door opened, but before he even saw Sycamore there, Nibbles darted in and nearly crashed into him in excitement. Calem laughed and hugged the Pinsir. “Good to see you too. I missed you all.”

    His other Pokemon came in to, along with Sycamore, Shauna, Trevor, and Tierno. “They were really upset, but I told them to trust you,” Shauna said.

    Calem nodded. “Yeah, it was a close call, but once I got back here, it wasn't as bad. Oh here's the aura suppressor Merlin gave me. I don't know if it can be repaired.” He passed over the cracked object to Trevor.

    “I don't know either, but I usually don't need the head one anyhow,” he said. “Although it's amazing that you could break it. Even my powers couldn't do that.”

    “It's not so much the power as the intellect behind the power,” Sycamore said. “And the fact that we don't know all that much about his condition. Calem, do you think you're up to telling them about it?”

    “I'll try, but you'll know when to take over if they stop me,” he said, and then explained to his friends about the Asari bloodline and their curse.

    There were several points where Sycamore took over from Calem, but he knew all that he'd learned so far. “The main point is, we know that Calem doesn't want to kill anyone,” Sycamore said at the end of it. “But his crazy ancestors can overtake him if given the chance. The native magic around Parfum Palace wasn't enough to interfere, although we hoped that the one night would be overlooked. And they seem to like for him to take out those closest to him, so all of us here are in more danger for knowing him.”

    “Sheesh, they're really evil spirits aren't they?” Shauna asked.

    “At this point, I'd only say that the eldest Asari is certainly evil,” Calem said. “Maybe a few others too. I've seen some good in the one that's been training me, but he has a tougher fight of it than I do.” And might have lost it; that was a disheartening thought. Starlet clasped his wrist, so he patted her. “My Pokemon have known about this for as long as I have, and they know they're targets. But they all stick by me. What happened last night, I think, is that one of them picked up on some troubling sign and they worked together to try incapacitating me without hurting me as much as possible. I was half-asleep for a good portion of it, so I didn't realize what was going on around me.”

    “I won't leave you alone through this either, now that I know about it,” Trevor said. “It's dangerous, but it's not what you want. And besides, I just about have control over my magic instability because all of you have stuck by me and helped me out. It'd be good if we could do the same for you.”

    “Yeah, we'll see about finding a way to beat the curse!” Shauna said, looking eager to get into this mystery.

    “The only way I know for certain is to not kill anyone,” Calem said. “But that only frees me from their influence once I die. I could have just not learned about their powers like my father and grandfather. But I think that only extends the curse until it falls on someone who will kill. Maybe in learning how the powers work, I thought I might find a way to undo its hold further.”

    “Man, this is some scary stuff,” Tierno said, scratched his neck. “I don't know if I could handle it and keep acting like I had a normal life like you do.”

    “I don't know how well I'm acting like that,” Calem said. “You three noticed that I've been acting odd this year; it's been because of all this.”

    “I wouldn't leave you alone either,” Tierno said, nodding. “Dunno if I can do much, but we can at least try to keep you cheerful, right guys?”

    “Yeah, that's what we always do!” Shauna said, as Trevor nodded.

    “Thanks guys,” Calem said, smiling. This didn't see so bad with his friends accepting his position.

    “I'm sure you help out by just staying his friends,” Sycamore said. “This is a battle of wills and with all the strong bonds you have here, that will support him greatly.”

    I've heard some people say that believing in the power of friendship and such things is a childish trait and not helpful in the real world. But I disagree completely with those people. Having the loyal support of others and the love of friendship at their sides, many people have overcome tremendous odds they would not have been able to handle alone. I'm one such person. If I had continued to feel like an outsider like I did my first year, the Asari will would have crushed mine. But having my friends who would drag me off on unplanned fun adventures, as well as my Pokemon who proved that they'd fight even me to keep me from being corrupted, I could be a lot more confident in resisting my ancestors.

    -+-

    At the end of our fourth school year, we had managed to catch up to most of Sycamore's research into mega evolution, plus a little extra that various members of class had found. We gave a presentation about it that was open to the entire school. What we knew at the time was that under certain conditions, Pokemon that should be fully evolved could undergo a temporary evolution to a more powerful form. Why this was so wasn't entirely clear yet, but we knew how it occurred as well as a few Pokemon like Lucario and Abomasnow which could attain this state.

    The Pokemon could not manage this alone; this was very clear after reviewing so much data. It would require a partner, most often a human but in a rare few cases it had occurred with a Pokemon partner. The partner needed a special artifact known as a mega ring, an item that might have divine origins. Whatever its origin is, there are very few known to exist. The Pokemon that was to actually use mega evolution also required some kind of accessory. We still weren't clear on that, as it was either a personal memento, an item crafted with the Pokemon specific minerals like the Pinsirite Nibbles had, or both. As long as the Pokemon and its partner were in close proximity, it would be able to access its more powerful state on some kind of trigger. That trigger was part of what the group who kept the tradition kept secret.

    Since we had done well, the guru of the Tower of Mastery formalized the invitation for one of us to become an apprentice. However, we had to take several tests for this first before we arrived in Shalour for the final decision. I took the tests, but given that I was studying the Asari powers, I wasn't too serious about getting the apprenticeship.

    Yes, I wasn't serious about it, and yet...


    “Given the knowledge, goals, and beliefs that you have demonstrated in the tests, only two of you match the qualifications necessary to apprentice at this tower,” the mega evolution guru said. He was an older gentleman, with snow white hair and neatly pressed clothes. “That would be Serena and Calem.”

    “Huh?” Calem said quietly, looking back to the guru now that his mind wasn't wandering. This tower had a magic all its own and observing it through his enhanced senses was fascinating. Then there was what was physically there: the spiral staircase with all kinds of wall paintings alongside it, the giant statue of a Mega Lucario in the center, the stained glass windows far overhead, even the large screen TV sitting nearby. It had a silver-colored frame so that it didn't stand out too much in this ancient building.

    A couple of others in the class seemed disappointed, but more than that seemed to accept it. “That's not too surprising,” Shauna said cheerfully. She'd said just yesterday that she wasn't interested, since mega evolution seemed to be primarily useful for battle and she wasn't planning on being a great battler. It seemed others felt similarly on finding more information about it. Over to the side, Serena had smiled proudly on hearing her name, but was now looking at him with a cool expression. There was a Lucario hanging out near her; Korrina was also a holder of a mega ring, so she was there to hold the ceremony and Neo had immediately clung to Serena again.

    “But of course, we only have one mega ring to pass on at this time,” the guru said. “There's one last decision to be made.”

    “Hmm, how should we decide on this?” Sycamore said, glancing around the room to see if anyone had an idea to contribute.

    Serena just stepped towards Calem confidently. “Well since it has to do with Pokemon, how about a Pokemon battle between the two of us?”

    'Which you're going to win because you always do,' Calem thought but didn't say. But there was a better way to settle this. “Maybe. But Serena, you've known about this all year, haven't you?”

    “What makes you say that?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

    But no matter how innocent she tried to act, it was clear on thinking about it. “You passed their tests when you hardly paid attention to the research project,” he pointed out. “You did just enough to make sure you had a good grade for homeroom this year. Not only that, but you were disappointed that the apprenticeship at this place wasn't open last summer, so you must have known then that one of the mega rings was going to become available.”

    “What, really?” Trevor asked, looking at Serena in surprise.

    “If you remembered that much, then yes,” Serena said. “I've been studying for this for years, ever since I heard it was possible.”

    Calem then waved his hand. “Well if that's the case, then you go on ahead. I'm fine with it.”

    Serena looked surprised, but she seemed pleased by it. “Oh, well thank you for your courtesy.”

    “Aw, that's really generous,” Korrina said with a smile. “Pity we can't take both of you then. In any case, Miss Serena, come with me up the stairs to where we'll perform the last test. We've got a new camera up there so the rest of you can see mega evolution in action.”

    “You can do it, Serena!” Shauna called, although Serena ignored her in following Korrina. Neo the Lucario stuck by her.

    While they thought it was generous, Calem had mixed feelings on what he'd done. He thought he should have put up some kind of fight. After all, she had done very little on this class project, so why should she benefit the most from what the rest of the class had done? And she had so many advantages already. Giving her the mega ring and this apprenticeship might make her unstoppable. Then again... given how their battles went, he'd only end up humiliated again if he fought her here. She had kept training this year while he had fought fewer battles. And there was his own inherited power to consider. There was a big risk if he got the ring and then was driven insane by the Asari. That is, if he didn't kill off his Pokemon first; the two powers wouldn't blend well, considering that.

    There was one more reason he'd let her go, but it was as far from generous as could be. In all the tales of mega-evolved Pokemon, there was a common theme of the bond between human and Pokemon. The partners were the best of friends, like family to each other. They would do anything for each other. In a few pieces like that in King Leonidas' book, it was noted that mega evolution rarely worked with a new partner even if the Pokemon was of the same species. While Serena's Pokemon were powerful, they were also aloof, not often seen with her outside of battle. Perhaps she'd fail there and end up being the one humiliated instead, since her birthright would be worthless in this.

    Calem wasn't sure if he should feel bad for doing that to a friend in front of their whole class. But then, how much had she been a friend to him? Or even to Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor? And what choice did he really have in keeping her from this failure if he didn't have a chance at beating her in a Pokemon battle? She'd end up going first no matter what. Maybe this would even force her to consider how her attitude was affecting her Pokemon and those who tried to be her friend. Calem just shrugged when his classmates tried to get him to say why he'd let her go first.

    The guru turned on the TV after about a minute. It showed a large stone balcony with runes written into a circle on the surface. Seeing it, Calem felt fairly certain that it was the source of the powerful aura in this place; he couldn't know for sure unless he was there himself. Before long, Korrina, Serena, and the two Lucarios came out onto the balcony. The wind outside blew their hair around and cut off a lot of the sound from the camera. They couldn't hear as Korrina seemed to be making some offer to Serena. She refused and Neo seemed pretty upset, running out of the camera's frame. Concerned, Korrina started to run after Neo, but then decided to leave him alone for the time being. She came back and called for Leo to fight with her.

    Surprisingly, Serena called on a Tyranitar. He thought she'd call on her Rhyperior; it was her oldest Pokemon, so if she did have the right mineral for it, she might be able to do this. Korrina then went over to give Serena the mega ring; it was small enough that they couldn't see it on the screen. Once they were back to an appropriate distance, a Pokemon battle began. Korrina brought her right hand up, saying something that caused the ring on her finger to release a brilliant spark. A similar spark came from a stone on Leo's wrist, while a brief spark could be seen near the Tyranitar; it definitely had a suitable stone then. A warm glow much like that of evolution enveloped Leo. Passing much more quickly than a regular evolution glow would, it was gone to reveal Leo as a mega Lucario.

    Serena mimicked Korrina's motion to trigger mega evolution in her Tyranitar. Nothing happened. No spark from ring or stone, no glow, no transformed state. This mega evolution was not going to happen. “This looks unfortunate,” the guru said, putting his hand on his chin.

    “Do you have records of Tyranitar being affected?” Sycamore asked.

    He nodded. “My predecessor had done so on several occasions. Their mineral is tough to find, but the one she has should be authentic if it got a reaction from Korrina's ring.”

    Due to Serena's failure, Leo quickly won the match. The glow returned right as Serena's Pokemon fell unconscious, reverting Leo back to his normal state. They talked for a moment, then Korrina sent Serena back down. Once back with them, Serena was trying to look unconcerned. Calem still had his enhanced senses activated, and through that he noticed her anger and embarrassment. Mostly anger.

    “Did she tell you anything to work on?” the guru asked in concern.

    “Some things,” Serena said, but it seemed she didn't think much of whatever she'd been told. “Apparently this isn't as easy as it looks. Calem, she asked for you to come up now.”

    “All right, see you,” Calem said.

    “Good luck!” Shauna and a few other said, before trying to get Serena to talk about what had happened. But she wouldn't say anything that put her in a bad light; Calem felt sure of that as he started up the stairs.

    The balcony was five stories up, so it was quite a long climb around the edges of the tower. His Pokemon started coming out of their Pokeballs around the third story, Mortan coming last. “I guess this is really exciting,” Mortan said, sounding a little happy. “Are you going to try?”

    “I’m still not sure about it,” he said. But then he smiled at them. “But if you all want to go for it, then sure... if I can do this without the Asari magic interfering.”

    “If it wasn't for that, I'd say there was nothing for you to worry about in this test,” Mortan said.

    “We'll just have to see. So Nibbles, are you ready?”

    Nibbles buzzed happily, although as soon as they got up to the balcony, she got distracted by the view and darted over to the railing to see. “Hah, brought the whole crew along, did you?” Korrina said, grinned.

    “Yup, couldn't keep them away even if I'll only be working with one,” he said, following over to where Nibbles went. Korrina decided to come over too. “Wow, amazing view you've got up here.”

    “Isn't it?” Korrina said, coming over to the railing too. Past it, the Kalos landscape spread out far and wide. He thought he might even be able to see the Battle Chateau and the river by it on a good day, or Prism Tower on a good night. “It was decided to have several of the rituals related to the mega rings held up here, as a reminder that thee was no limits to the horizon, or dreams. Or something like that. Do you have one of the special minerals for your Pokemon? I would lend you a Pokemon to try, but Neo ran off with my other Lucarioite.”

    “Yeah, I have a charm made from Pinsirite,” he said, indicating the pendant tied onto one of Nibbles' arms. “She found the stone before we realized they had anything to do with this, but she liked it so much that I had the charm made for her so she could keep it.”

    “That's great; never seen that one myself,” she said, nodding. Then she handed him the mega ring. It had a wide band for a ring, made of a black material speckled with crystals that sparkled in the sunlight. Set onto the band was an oval iridescent white gem, surrounded by a copper frame which was etched with many runes, so tiny that he could only read them through examining the ring's aura. “Well here is the famed mega ring. Put it on your off hand, you know, the one you don't use for writing and such. Your final test is to see if you can trigger mega evolution and the best way to do that is through a Pokemon battle. It'll be just one Pokemon each, all right? So this doesn't qualify towards the badge I have.”

    “Sure,” Calem said, putting the mega ring on his left hand. Korrina was already heading into position, so he tapped Nibbles' carapace. “Come on, time for battle.”

    She clicked in disappointment at being taken from the view, but followed him to the center of the balcony. His other Pokemon gave them cheers from the sidelines as they kept away to watch. First of all, he had to let her mega evolve Leo so that he could see what needed to be done. Korrina brought her hand up again, bringing her focus to the ring like she was about to cast a spell, and said, “Mega ring activate! Leo, show 'em what you can do!” That triggered him to mega evolve again.

    That looked simple. Bringing up his left hand to focus on the ring, Calem realized that it might not matter exactly what he said, so long as the meaning was similar. “Mega ring activate,” he said. “Nibbles, do your best.”

    The Pinsir clicked excitedly and she was soon enveloped by the evolution glow too. When it disappeared, she seemed stouter and spikier. She had changed in other ways too; Calem sensed a strong flow of Flying aura in her now. With that, she shifted her back plates apart and lifted herself off the ground with a humming blur of green transparent wings. He never seen her or any other Pinsir fly before, although there were videos of them slowing a fall or beating off excessive heat with their hidden wings.

    “Alright, that's awesome!” Korrina said. “Leo, Bone Rush!”

    With Nibbles, he wasn't sure of good options for a Lucario, much less a mega one. But they'd try. Calem gave her his orders, while the Lucario summoned several large bones to hurl at Nibbles. Now that she was in flight, she easily dodged them on her way to close the distance and grip the Lucario in her pincers. She picked him up and slammed him down on the stone floor, leaving him struggling to remain conscious. Korrina had Leo use one of his Fighting moves; Calem figured nearly any attack would knock Leo out, so he told Nibbles to use Façade, something he’d managed to earn in battle Club for her. But when Nibbles used it here, it was far more powerful than she usually managed and for some reason of the Flying type. So her aura had truly shifted over to Bug and Flying instead of Bug alone. That was interesting, something he should let Sycamore and his classmates know if they didn't notice it themselves. Leo didn’t stand a chance.

    Then a bolt of lightning flew over their heads and crashed into... the balcony camera? Korrina crossed her hands together to signal putting their battle on hold as a murky brown shield suddenly surrounded the balcony. Then two of the Asari spirits appeared, conflicting with the tower's aura but getting through it nevertheless. Immediately, Calem knew that neither of them were Heinrich. The one who must have been the source of the lightning said, “Foolish boy, to have gone so far as the claim two of our items without killing a single soul. Seems we'll have to punish you until you do what you must.”

    “Don't hurt my Pokemon!” Calem said, afraid that the two of them would use an attack against them to punish him. Right then, the mega ring made a brilliant flash, stronger than before. It hit his five other Pokemon, causing Swift, Percival, and Mortan to evolve up into their next stage, with Yorick and Starlet hitting their mega evolutions.

    “Eh, what's going on with you creatures?” Korrina asked, sending a burst of Aura Blast at one of them. The Asari used a swiftstep to get out of it and replied with the same, only for Korrina to dodge it through sheer skill. “Sheesh.”

    For a moment, Calem found himself unable to move. He was trying to support all six of his Pokemon in their advanced states through the mega ring, leaving him feeling like he was trying to pull six heavy weights at once. Three of them quickly released, not needing the support. But the three others still pulled hard on him, although Nibbles not as much. For a moment, he worried that three of them had been killed off. But no, he sensed all six of them still alive, fighting against the two evasive Asari spirits. Korrina was helping too; she had released a Mienshao to help them.

    “Calem,” Mortan said, coming close to him.

    “Uh, Mortan?” he said, feeling a bit of dread on seeing him. Previously, he'd seen pictures of a few Florges, the final evolution to the Flabebe line. He'd even seen one in person; they were lovely, but Mortan was horrifying. His thin body was ghostly pale and the floral ruff around his neck was full of dry black petals and small bones. Then he got a hold of himself. It was still Mortan. “Sorry.”

    “I know,” Mortan said. Maybe he'd tried being a Florges for a time only to go back to Floette, like he'd regressed to Flabebe after they first met. “I thought you should know what I can tell from the other side. One of these two follows the Asari will entirely; the other is being controlled by the first and he seems to have some portion of himself like Heinrich does.”

    Controlled? Calem listened to his own senses and found that he felt the same thing. There it was, like a thin string connecting the two on a mental level. What would cutting it do? He noticed Percival, now a single regal sword with a round shield, was keeping close to him to protect him. “Percival, could you link my sense to Starlet? I need to show her where to strike.”

    Percival bobbed forward a little in a nod, then got a connection between him, Calem, and the Mawile. At first, she froze up, swinging her jagged iron jaw into a defensive position against the amount of information she was now open to. Calem narrowed it down to the thin connection and let her know that she should try severing it. Reassured at hearing him, she braced herself and snatched at the weaving line with her steel jaw, tearing it apart with her newly increased might. The broken power knocked her onto her back, but she kept herself from passing out. Calem recalled her to her Pokeball so that the spirits didn't try to kill her while she was weakened, and Percival cut their connection.

    To his right, one of the Asari had dropped to his knees. The other Asari was furious. “What are you doing?” he hissed, throwing a dagger at Calem's shoulder. Percival deflected it for him. “He belongs to us!”

    “Let him decide that,” Calem said.

    “Can you understand these creeps?” Korrina said, moving her position closer to Calem.

    She couldn't? That would mean a longer explanation later... but later. For now, he said, “Yes; they're spirits with an affinity to darkness and water. Leave the downed one be, focus on the one still fighting.”

    “Alrighty,” she said, drawing runes with her hand in order to summon a bolt of lightning much like what had destroyed the camera. “Misha, you get in there. And get your Pinsir in close too.”

    “Be careful, you two” Calem called, recalling a defense-boosting skill from battle club. He cast it over the two Pokemon.

    The Asari snarled as he called up a ring of fire around himself. Calem's spell did lesson the damage Misha the Mienshao and Nibbles took, but Calem then had to cast a healing spell on Nibbles. He thought Korrina might do the same. Instead, she focused for a few seconds on a curse that struck everyone on the balcony, even herself. Calem read it as preventing any teleportation powers, including their swiftstep. Thus with him and Korrina supporting Misha and Nibbles up close, while the other Pokemon did what they could from a distance, the Asari was soon defeated. He screamed hatefully as he turned to ash. With him gone, the shield over the area shattered.

    “Now what about this one?” Korrina asked, although she relaxed on seeing the other defeated. Perhaps she could also tell that his aura no longer conflicted with the tower's.

    “Some go along with it, but others are consumed by the Asari will,” Calem said, looking over him.

    Strangely enough, he was no longer faceless. His form was fainter, but he clearly had blond hair and green eyes. “I never thought I could be freed of it,” he said, rising back up. “Thank you.”

    “Who are you two and why did you attack the tower?” Korrina asked, while her Mienshao moved to her side protectively. Yorick, Nibbles, and Mortan all reverted as well, with Starlet having reverted on being recalled. However, Swift and Percival stayed as they were.

    “I don't have a lot of time,” he said. “He can tell you some of it. I am Tymar, sixth of the Asari line. You just killed Eiota, second of our line. That's quite remarkable; he was the killer of gods. I have spoken with Heinrich and he tells me you need to know about the eldest Asari, and Eiota. In my lifetime, I encountered someone here in Kalos whom I could not kill no matter what I did. I told him our story, even though he was an outsider. He still lives today, centuries later, as the wandering king. I hope you find enough trust with him so that he tells it to you.” Tymar had been fading the whole while, and now he was barely visible in the sunlight. “Let him know I found peace; I hope he finds the same.” He was gone entirely.

    “The wandering king, huh?” Korrina said. “I've heard of him, but he'll be hard to find.”

    “I think I know where I can find him, but getting him to talk to me might be tough,” Calem said. Because AZ would have to admit that he wasn't Jack first.

    She raised an eyebrow at him. “If you think so. Now what's up with all this? And how did you manage to use the mega ring on most of your Pokemon at once? I haven't been able to mega evolve Neo and Leo in the same fight, but looks like you got all but your Floette.”

    “Thank goodness she didn't see me,” Mortan said quietly from his usual perch on Calem's shoulder.

    Calem rubbed his head. “I don't know how I did it either; I just didn't want any of them hurt. But I don't think I'd do it again. That was exhausting.” She laughed at that. “As for who they were, the Asari spirits... it's a long story, but we should talk about it before you decide on if you want to keep me around.”

    “Well if you could manage five at once, it'd be great to let you keep the mega ring,” she said. “Mega evolution requires a strong bond between the two partners; that's where Serena failed. Somehow she didn't have that strong of a connection to her Tyranitaur and Leo seems to think she doesn't have a strong connection to any Pokemon. That really hurt Neo; I hope he didn't do anything terribly reckless. On the other hand, your bonds with your whole party must be quite strong, as two of them mega evolved without their respective stones and you're still standing on your feet.”

    “Not by a lot,” he joked.

    “Hey, what's going on up here?” Sycamore asked, coming out onto the balcony. “Your grandfather sent me up here after the TV connection was lost, but there was some shield on the stairs that kept me held up.”

    “It was the Asari,” Calem said. “Two of them showed up, but we defeated one and freed the other. And for the moment, they don't seem to be able to stop me from talking about them.”

    That freedom didn't hold for long and Calem had the feeling of being watched intensely on their way back to the academy. But while they were in the tower, he and Sycamore told Korrina about the Asari curse and how they were trying to keep it from claiming him. Calem didn't want such murderous spirits to have any access to extra power in mega evolution.

    Still, his Pokemon had proven that they could stop him. If he got Starlet and Yorick charms like Nibbles had, they might be able to freely mega evolve while he wore the ring. That would draw energy from him, as well as giving them better strength in restraining and knocking sense back into him. For that reason, Korrina's grandfather decided to take Calem as an apprentice despite his cursed heritage.
     
  15. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Okay, I gotta tell y'all something. I haven't really decided on the movesets of Calem's team yet. Partly because it hasn't been necessary yet (although given where I'm currently writing, I need to get that done soon). So I wrote this battle without much research and moved on. When I came to post it today, I did check on things and realize that I needed to rework it. Nibbles probably could have taken out Leo with just Submission, but I made him hang on out of willpower (which is possible; I think you need to max out the Amie hearts for them to do that at random) to show off mega Pinsir's altered ability and typing. And then I had to replace Leo with Misha in the following battle. I did think briefly about having Korrina bring out her Hawlucha, because that's an awesome Pokémon, but based on what she saw, I think she wouldn't. And it's not possible to evolve other Pokémon up with the mega ring; then again, Mortan is evolving wherever he wants in his species line, so I call it evolution by drama.

    Of course, I'm just a casual player so my battles probably have all sorts of problems.

    Mega evolution is cool and all, but I think there was a missed opportunity there. It would be an annoyance to some players, but I think that it should have an additional requirement: the Pokémon needs to be of a certain Happiness level. That would represent the bond between Trainer and Pokémon, something that the game scripts have always said was important. So here in Fleur Noir's world, it is necessary and why Serena failed.

    If she had agreed to borrow Neo, she would have been able to mega evolve him. You'll see.
     
  16. You know, in the games it always felt really mean to run through this bit- your main rival would always end up beaten, and the Mega Ring went to you. The rest of the game had many more times like this (And it always made me feel really bad) but here seeing Serena fail out is surprisingly cathartic.
     
  17. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 20: Neo's Wish


    My apprenticeship for the mega ring didn't seem all that different from what I was doing with Heinrich, actually. I had already proven that I could do what they were asking, so I just had to practice it repeatedly. For that summer, I focused on working with Nibbles to accustom myself to the connection needed for mega evolution. I also needed to learn their philosophy towards Pokemon, training, and life in general. Some of it I was following already without realizing it.

    Being that I was apprenticing at the Tower of Mastery under Korrina and her grandfather, I was given a part-time position at Korrina's Gym in Shalour for that summer. And since I had completed my fourth year, it was time for me to complete a summer project relating to my studies for LMA graduation requirements. The apprenticeship and the job worked for both, so I didn't have a long summer vacation that year. I was still studying magic, Pokemon, and the Asari skills as hard as ever, now trying to catch back up on my team's battle training to get back into the battle club and classes next year.

    And the one week that I actually had as a vacation, I spent following the wish of a Pokemon that wasn't a part of my team. We got far more than we expected out of it.


    One of the interesting things about working for Korrina was that her Gym was a roller rink and all Trainers, whether working there or challenging the gym, had to be wearing roller skates of some form. At all times, even when conducting a battle. Calem got good at grinding rails and making sharp turns on skates within a couple of weeks just because those skills were required for getting around the Gym normally. Still, it had to be accessible to those who couldn't skate at all, or even those who just weren't good at it.

    “The higher one's the easier one to get across, actually, because it's the most level,” Calem told a twelve-year-old challenger who'd just beaten him and earned the right to face Korrina for her first badge. “You need to build up enough speed, then jump on the rail and keep your balance. The momentum will get you across.”

    She still looked pale at the prospect of crossing the ditch that separated the main rink from the central area Korrina waited in. “I-I'm not too good at balancing on these things,” she said. She had been swaying often during the battle. “Specially not over a drop.”

    Trying to cheer her up, Calem smiled. “Well then I’ll have to reveal the secret path. Follow me.” He skated at a slow walking pace so she could keep up, taking her to a secret control panel on one of the inner safety walls. Activating it brought up a bridge with more safety walls on the side.

    “Oh, thank you,” she said, feeling more secure in skating over that to challenge Korrina.

    He had to leave the bridge up until she came back, so he waited by it to make sure that any other challengers that came in didn't use it unless they'd beaten the appropriate number of Gym Trainers first. He used the time to heal up his team. As this was a Fighting type Gym and he had no Pokemon of that aura type, Korrina let him borrow three of the Gym's Pokemon. Korrina believed in having some unexpected teams among the Gym challengers, so Calem could mix in his own Pokemon as long as they fought similarly to other Pokemon in the Gym. The ones he was borrowing were varied: a low level Machop he used for first badge challengers like this girl, a mid level Hitmonchan that was between the Machop and his regular team, and Neo, who was on level with his team. However, he wasn't allowed to try mega evolution on Neo in the Gym; the League rules didn't allow for it except at the highest levels.

    And sometimes he couldn't try simply because Neo wasn't around. Mortan noted that the Lucario wasn't talkative or sociable. On numerous days, he'd escape his Pokeball and get far enough away that Calem couldn't recall him. Like today. They were expecting a strong challenger to come through later today and Calem had been planning to use Neo, Percival, and Starlet. All Steel types; the trio was risky when the challenger had access to Fire or Fighting type moves, but their other aura types made them a pretty good theme team. But Neo wasn't around again.

    The girl won a close battle against Korrina, with a Spritzee that was barely hanging on at the end of the match. She got so excited that she tried to jump and ended up falling on her rear. After helping her up, Korrina gave her a good-hearted tease and the badge for winning the Trainer challenge. When the girl came skating back over, Calem called, “Great job there!” She laughed and gave him a hi-five as she passed. He directed her to the easiest way to skate out, then waved over at Korrina. “Hey, I need to go look for Neo! Can I have a few minutes?”

    Korrina came over to the end of the bridge. “Again? All right, he's probably over near the tower so start at the beach. Try to get him back before the hour.”

    “Thanks, I will,” he said, then closed up the access bridge and headed out.

    Since he was going on the beach, he folded the wheels up in his skates so he could walk on the sand. There were several small beaches around Shalour, surrounded by jagged rocks in the water and a multitude of cliffs. But there was one prominent beach in Shalour that led up to the Tower of Mastery, so Calem sent out his Pokemon to help him search around the area. It took a few minutes, but eventually Swift came out of the water and told Mortan that Neo was on the other side of the tower, standing on one of the rocks there.

    Calem considered asking Swift to swim back and ask Neo to come over. But he doubted it would work. The sole proof of magic he had from the League didn't give him enough respect to get a strong outsider like Neo to listen fully to him. Instead, he wondered he if could use his swiftstep technique to get out to the other side by using these rocks. “Are the rocks over there big enough for me to sit or stand on?” he asked the Greninja. “And, would you spot for me in case I fall in the water?”

    Swift croaked in agreement, so he set up his activation spells: the senses to know the footing better and the swiftstep to set up the target path on his own. With that, it was a matter of darting from rock to rock, trying to know where the good footing was rather than try to think about it. For this skill, thinking was really detrimental as he needed to move fast. Swift sped around the tower, almost like a race but he knew she would be keeping an eye on him. Before he even saw the Lucario, he sensed where Neo was and a rock near him that would be a good spot to end on. He arrived and found that Neo was watching him, curious about what he was doing.

    On arriving, Calem crouched down and swept off a bit of loose pebbles to sit down on the large rock he'd found. This side of the tower came right up to the sea, so there seemed to be nothing but water in front of them. Swift soon shot out of the water and landed on the wall of the tower, finding a spot to hang and watch them. “Hey Neo, here you are,” Calem said, waving to him. “Sorry if we're bugging you, but I’ve been worried about you. Something up?”

    Neo gave him an indifferent snort, looking away and turning his ears forward. Then a cool breeze passed by them, bringing Mortan to them. “Sheesh, that wasn't very far and I still can't keep up with you,” he said. Neo then looked at him.

    “Sorry, but glad to see you made it,” Calem said, nodding to him. Then he looked over at Neo. “We can talk through Mortan, but only if we're not around other humans. I really do want to know what's bothering you. Is it still about Serena?”

    He looked sad about that, so he'd gotten it right. Mortan floated over to him and spoke with him for several minutes. After these three weeks in which Neo didn't want to associate with him outside of battle, this was nice. It seemed just knowing that he was being listened to was enough.

    “Okay, I think I can explain this now,” Mortan said. “Neo respects Korrina and sees her as a good friend; their bond allowed him to evolve from a Riolu, and even mega evolve now. However, his twin Leo has always been closer to Korrina. They work so well together that their motions are often in sync and they don't realize it. Leo evolved first and he's always had an easier time with mega evolution than Neo has. Because of that, Neo's always felt like that Korrina wasn't his proper partner and that someone else out there was.”

    “I've noticed that about them myself,” Calem said. “I'd feel the same way in that situation.”

    Neo nodded while Mortan continued. “Right, and he's thought for a long time now that his partner was supposed to be Serena. It turns out that the time we met Korrina wasn't the first time Neo had encountered Serena. They'd actually met a couple months earlier on Route 5, where the skate park is. While Korrina and Leo were off doing skate tricks with other skaters, Neo left them to sit by the road and Serena came out of Lumiose's gate planning on battling some Trainers out there. He saw her aura and was immediately concerned about it.”

    “Concerned about her aura?” Calem asked. She had some unique aspects, but he wasn't sure it was of concern. He wasn't sure what it was about at all.

    “It surprised me too,” Mortan said. “There were some parts I haven't been able to interpret about her, but Neo immediately figured out that she's being watched over by Zygarde. That in itself is very unusual. There was something else though: he saw a heavy fate hanging over her, an uncertain but strong possibility that she would die before she turned nineteen. Knowing that, he felt like he needed to save her.

    “But Serena hasn't made it easy, no matter how many times Neo has found her and helped her. He says it's getting worse because the bonds she has with everyone, not just Pokemon, have been steadily deteriorating except for the one that ties her to her early death. He wanted her to become the apprentice to help her repair those bonds, so that he could save her when the fate tries to become real. But you remember it: she turned him down and failed to become the apprentice.”

    "That's terrible,” Calem said. “I'm sorry about that, Neo. I know you were trying hard to get her attention.”

    Neo kicked at the rock he was on, looking down at the ocean. “Right, I wish she'd acknowledge you at least,” Mortan said. “Anyhow, now he's not sure if he should keep trying because she's really his partner, or if she's not and he should give up.”

    “Well now I don't want to have you fighting if you feel conflicted like that,” Calem said. There was a splash nearby as Swift returned to the water; Percival was following after her over the waves. Briefly, he wondered what that was about. But they should be fine handling it. He turned back to Neo. “Hey, what if we went to find Serena and told her this?” When the Lucario's ears picked up and turned to him, he knew he was on the right track. “I admit, I’ve been conflicted about her too. I thought she was my friend, but she's been really cold lately. Still, if something might kill her that soon... her seventeenth birthday would have been not that long ago... we should go warn her and try to help her again. Maybe knowing that she's in danger like that will force her to rethink how she treats everyone.”

    “How’re we going to find her?” Mortan asked. “She said she'd be busy this summer. If it's the League challenge, then I think she's already beaten Korrina.”

    But he had a good idea of how to find her. “We can go by the Battle Chateau and see if she's home, or if her parents know. Other than that, remember that our class was going to get together next week on a follow-up to the mega evolution research. She might be there and if not, I have her holocaster number and I can always ask to meet her if we have to.”

    Neo barked and was happy with that offer.

    “Good, but, who's Zygarde?” Calem thought it seemed familiar, like he'd seen the name a time or two but it hadn't seemed important enough to register.

    “Oh, I didn't think about that you might not know,” Mortan said, seeming embarrassed. “Well, he's... how do I say this? He's incomprehensible.”

    “That only confuses the matter more,” he said.

    The Floette shook his head. “No, that's as clear as it gets. Zygarde is another god of the Kalos region, ranked higher than Yveltal and Xerneas. They both answer to him, and even at his most chaotic times, Xerneas will quickly get in line if he's dealing with Zygarde. Even so, they don't understand him all that well either. It's said that he has the ability to alter reality at will, but if he does, no one but him remembers him doing so. It's said that he truly knows all, but if one asks a question of him, he will give an answer entirely unrelated. It's said that he's the god of the environment, but then what does that even mean?”

    “Is that like the environmentalists who want to preserve the environment for the future?” Calem asked. “Because that isn't incomprehensible; they're just trying to keep the world a good place. Unless they go overboard and then they can become illogical.”

    “Well the point is, I've been around for three thousand years and even I'm not sure what Zygarde is. Physically, he's a dragon of the Earth, which is partly where the environment thing came in. But mentally and in terms of what his divine powers are, we just don't know what's going on with him. Sometimes the things he does makes sense later and sometimes they never do.” Neo had something to add to that, which Mortan nodded to. “Right, like if his mind encompasses all the details in history, why is interested in Serena? When you look at absolutely everything that everyone, human and Pokemon, are doing right now in Kalos, how does one person stand out so much that he's focusing specifically on her? And for what purpose? We could try to come up with answers, but our minds can't really grasp his scale. So, Zygarde is an incomprehensible god.”

    To Calem, it seemed that knowing everything would make it easier to pick out an important person. Although why Serena was just that important escaped him, as he wouldn't rank her that high with her attitude. He had Neo's cooperation now, so they made their way around the tower. And when they got back to the beach, they found Swift next to the Machop, who was soaking wet and shaking. Some quick questions revealed that Yorick had hurled him into the water. While he did need to talk to Korrina about taking Neo to Serena, this was a more immediate concern to deal with. But Calem had an idea.

    Back at the Gym, there wasn't a challenger there, so most of the trainers were taking the moment easy. Calem got his skate wheels back out and went to Korrina. “I'd like to volunteer Yorick for washing the Gym floors for this week,” he said.

    “Guah?” the Gengar asked, startled.

    Having been around them for a few weeks, she grinned. “Sure thing! What's he been doing now?”

    “Launched my Machop into the seawater, so he has to do some hard work in punishment,” Calem said, looking down at Yorick.

    “Eeee?” Yorick whined, widening his eyes and trying to look cute and innocent. It didn't work quite so well now that he was a Gengar.

    “I've told you, I don't want you playing mean tricks on other Pokemon,” Calem scolded.

    “That’s right,” Korrina said. “If you're gonna launch somebody into the water, make sure they like the water first. I'll be watching and make sure you scrub those floors good.”

    “Gahooooo,” he said, slumping over in resignation.

    “Looks like you managed to get Neo back too,” Korrina said, turning her attention to the Lucario. “I hope you're not trying to get into trouble too.”

    “No, he's just been thinking over some things,” Calem said. Recalling Mortan telling him that Lucario could communicate with humans (but it took some time to get used to their telepathy), he added, “I managed to figure out some of what he wants: he wants to tell Serena something, maybe go with her if she'd finally accept him.”

    “You still after that girl?” Korrina asked, concerned about him and putting a hand on the Lucario's shoulder. “It’s gonna be tough getting through to her. But, I know you wouldn't be like this without a good reason. You sure about this?”

    Neo nodded. As he did, Leo popped out of his Pokeball. He went over and hugged his brother.

    “Do you mind if I take a few extra days off in a couple of weeks, so I can help him track her down?” Calem asked. “I know some places to look for her, and she'll be at our class meeting hopefully if not in those places.”

    She didn’t give it much thought before accepting. “Sure, thanks for doing that for him. Try to get her to understand how she hurt him before and what she's missing by not getting attached to her Pokemon. She could be great, but that'd going to come back to bite her if she's not careful.”

    Rather more than a bite, Calem thought. “Yeah, I hope we can wake her up to that. It just seems weird to me that she must have been around Pokemon all of her life but she doesn't seem to value them much except in how they can help her.”

    “My grandfather says that's been happening more and more with younger generations now,” she said. “And for once, I don't think that's nostalgia or something. Technology has increased a lot since his youth. In many ways it has brought us closer to Pokemon, especially in how we understand them. But then, some technology also distances us from the Pokemon who should be the closest to us. Out of sight out of mind, and some people start to not care as much. But you know, that's part of the reason we decided to take the teachings of our group and make them more public. We want to show that those who do care stand a better chance in succeeding in the end.”

    -+-

    The first place they went to look for Serena was the Battle Chateau. “I'm sorry, but she hasn't been here this summer,” the maid at the entrance said. “It was quite a disappointment.”

    Neo certainly seemed disappointed, sighing and looking at the ground. “Do you know where she is?” Calem asked. “Or where we might start looking elsewhere?”

    Shaking her head, the maid said, “No, not myself. However, Lord Richard is in today, in one of the parlors with Master Siebold and Master Wikstrom. He should know.”

    And he'd been wanting to chat with Siebold anyhow, Calem thought. This would be a good chance. “Okay, I’ll go find him. Thank you.”

    The Chateau had a large number of guests today, enough that he got stopped twice by those wanting battles. Perhaps it was because his team had grown, but both battles seemed a lot easier than he remembered those at this place being. He wasn't even using Neo, since he was a seventh Pokemon and thus not part of his battle team. Or most of them, since they were strong and the opponent Pokemon went down quickly. On seeing that, others in the hall seemed to leave him alone even if they were looking for battles. That was helpful, as he soon got to the back parlor where the men would be.

    While this was a place of battle, Calem didn't think he'd be challenging any of these three today. Richard was a former Champion, after all, and Wikstrom was another member of Kalos' Elite Four. But if the other two were anything like Richard, they'd either leave him be or make sure to use their newer less trained Pokemon against a Trainer of his level. The three weren't even battling in here, as they'd gathered chairs in a partial circle to chat with each other. “Hello, mind if I join you?” he asked.

    “Hello Calem,” Richard said, smiling and giving him a wave. “Sure, bring up a chair; it's good to see you. I've got some friends over today; this is Wikstrom and Siebold, members of the Elite Four. And this is one of my daughter's friends and classmates, Calem.” He soon looked over at Percival; the red Aigislash was watching him, approaching slowly.

    “I’ve met him briefly,” Siebold said. “And we still can't figure out how you got up the tower without us noticing.”

    “Teleporting, sort of,” Calem said, sitting down in the chair he'd pulled over..

    “I see you've still got Percival with you,” Richard said, waving for the Aegislash to come closer. “You look well.” Being pointed out embarrassed him, so Percival went to hover behind Calem's chair.

    “Yeah, he's doing well,” Calem said, smiling. “Go on, you should remember him, from when we met. He's still timid, but he's been getting braver over time. Actually, I wanted to ask you where Serena is. I need to go talk with her.”

    “That I don't know,” Richard said, sounding worried now. “I wish I could tell you; she's had me worried.”

    “She turned seventeen lately, didn't she?” Siebold asked. Which would mean that she could legally leave home and live independently without telling her parents.

    He nodded. “Yes, and she didn't even want a party for it. We planned one anyhow, but she didn't invite her friends and was gone once she escaped our notice. While she didn't say much about her plans, I'm afraid that she really did go join Team Flare.”

    “I used to not be worried about them, but they've been acting fishy lately,” Siebold said. “Last time I was an acting chef, one of them made a scene about us wasting food, which was a major misunderstanding. That was just rude, but then I heard things from guests that they were intimidating visitors to two different public mines and not letting them take out fossils or gems.”

    Wikstrom nodded in agreement. “What about their latest gathering? Wulfric has been having a number of disagreements with Flare over the Winding Woods. When I went to visit him, Flare's presence in Snowbelle was very obvious. They all claimed to be there for a demonstration against littering and taking native plants out of the forest, but I'm not sure of that. They all had the exact same words for it, very suspicious.”

    “Did you see Serena there?” Richard asked.

    He shook his head. “No, not unless she dyed her hair and was wearing their uniform so that I missed her. But I was there a week ago and Wulfric said they were still there this morning.”

    Richard put his hand to his chin. “They are being suspicious now. But the thing that's been worrying me is how much Lysandre seems to have a personal interest in Serena. He's been courteous to us for the most part, but in the past couple of years he just... maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it seems an inappropriate amount of attention. She hasn't said anything to us, but then again, she hasn't said much to us at all lately.”

    Do you have any proof of it being inappropriate?” Wikstrom asked.

    He shook his head. “Not yet, just suspicions like some expensive gifts and meeting up outside the watch of other adults. I want to go up to him and tell him to quit messing with my daughter, but it's hard for some reason to talk to him like that.”

    “He has a tattoo on his shoulder that gives him an intimidation effect, that's why,” Calem said. “I sensed it on him once.”

    “That would explain it,” Siebold said.

    “And once you know, there's ways to null its effect,” Richard said.

    Although he seemed to be considering confronting Lysandre, Calem could see that it still concerned him to actually do it. Maybe a more solid reason to suspect him? With that in mind, Calem said, “Well, I’d rather he not find out I said this, but he's been trying to threaten me this past year.”

    “What for?” Wikstrom said, already seeming angered. Siebold held a hand up to remind him silently to keep calm.

    “I know two of his reasons, not all,” Calem said. “Did you hear about the odd earthquake in Geosenge last summer? We were there when it happened, me, Serena, and a few of our friends. I happened to come in contact with Yveltal then. Later on, Lysandre shut down his cafe for a few hours and told me to meet him there with one of Flare's other leaders. That's when he started threatening me, wanting to know what Yveltal had said to me and if I could find him again. He's also been trying to get this Floette from me for a few years, even offering to buy him for a ridiculously high price after I told him that I wanted to keep him. For a while, I was worried that he'd cut off my scholarship since he's the main reason I could go to LMA. Then I found out that he paid off my last four years already and hasn't checked in on my grades or his other requirements since my second year. Which is good, but he's found other ways to try blackmailing me.”

    “I wonder what his interest in Yveltal is,” Siebold said. “Certainly he hasn't shown any signs of that before, or being interested in any of the gods.”

    “But if he wants to find Yveltal while the god is sleeping and has no reason to awaken, there's a lot of troubling things he could do,” Richard said.

    “He might be interested in Xerneas as well,” Wikstrom said. “After all, many stories state that one of his preferred homes is the Winding Woods, hibernating as one of the trees if he's not roaming around actively.”

    “I really should look into this,” Richard said.

    -+-

    Next, Calem spent a day in Aquacorde while he sent Neo and Swift to check on the house Serena's family owned in Vaniville. He felt tempted to go himself, but worried about if he'd run into his parents and what would happen then. Besides, it was raining in these two towns, which made going there more dangerous. So he did some shopping and watched the rain falling into the sleepy river while the two Pokemon went looking.

    While he was sitting on a bench by the river with an umbrella in hand, he heard a familiar voice close by. “Why aren't you practicing?”

    He turned quickly and saw one of the Asari standing behind the bench. But he felt relieved to notice that it was Heinrich and not one of the others. “Phew, I’m glad to see you again,” he said.

    Heinrich leaned on the back of the bench. “Are you?”

    He nodded, smiling. “Sure. You dropped out of contact suddenly and I haven't seen you at all. It worried me, so of course I'm glad.”

    “Hmph.” Then he was sitting on the bench too, not too concerned about practice apparently. “The current authorities in your land... the Pokemon League, I think? They're aware of my presence as a dangerous spirit that will roam the land and kill if not watched. Do you remember what cut short our first meeting?”

    He tried to remember. “Um... not entirely, I was too freaked out to notice much. But I seem to think you got cut off abruptly.”

    “Yes. There's a woman in Anistar; I think her name is Olympia. She watches over the place where I was memorialized and tries to keep my soul bound there. While the dagger is still there, she can do it. But as you became more aware of our family and your power, it was easier for us to get me out of those bounds to come instruct you. Then she changed the way she bound me and I couldn't reach you for a while.”

    “Shouldn’t they have sent someone else if you couldn't come?” he asked. It seemed like the practical thing to do, and may have been why the two showed up at the Tower of Mastery before.

    “They did,” Heinrich said, clearly amused. Then he shook his head and tried to be stern again. “And you utterly destroyed one and freed the other from the will of the eldest. They're finding it harder to reach you now, especially since you're living near a holy monument in that tower for the time being. I'm your predecessor, so I have an easier time coming to you than the rest, at least when Olympia's not interfering.”

    “She's the Gym Leader of Anistar,” Calem said. If she was responsible for binding Heinrich's soul, then she had to know of the location of the memorial and the dagger. Maybe he should get Korrina to talk with her. “Well at least it was her; I was worried the others had done something to you.”

    “I’m one of the Asari, bound to the will of the eldest,” he said. “If they thought I was a problem, they'd just pull my mind closer to his. I only got out of the bindings yesterday... but I have still been watching you. Thus I saw when you used the anklet's power to cross the rocks on a sunny afternoon.”

    “It was a better way than swimming.”

    He nodded. “As you went out and back successfully, that means that you know the method well. You would do better if you found shoes made less impact for less noise. Or toughen your feet to go barefoot most of the time.”

    “I can't go barefoot at school,” he said, recalling that it was part of the dress code to have shoes save for in the dorm rooms. “Or in most businesses these days.”

    “Those rules won't matter if they don't catch you,” Heinrich reminded him. “Tell me what the cowl does.”

    It hadn't taken long for Calem to figure that out. “It’s connected to the power that makes our aura appear low to others. When it's out, it blends our aura into the surroundings instead. Thus, we're invisible to aura senses and magic detection with the cowl, although we can still be seen and heard.”

    “That’s right,” he said, leaning back on the bench. “It means that you've completed the Asari training.”

    “I have?” Calem asked, puzzled. He expected that they had some other power that was more directly lethal, and worried about how he'd go about learning that without killing.

    Heinrich nodded. “We were given three gifts, three items to teach us three powers. The anklet is for movement swift and silent. The cowl is for presence erased into shadow. The dagger is for awareness to strike with precision. In learning, the rain assists us as a support from our patron goddess. In mastery, the powers can be used whenever, wherever, constant. Under the veil of secrecy and mystique... which you haven't kept all that well, but fine... under the veil of secrecy and mystique, we become as living terrors. Those who know they are targets will be afraid to do anything, since they know little more than that we can strike at any moment. That is all we need; anything else can be done by any other person, even the dismissal and recalling spells.”

    On thinking about it, it started to make sense that those three alone were enough to make an Asari assassin. They came together so that they could know what was coming and dodge in a split second, but those they were fighting wouldn't be sure what they were doing, or even where they were. It would work even better in a rain like this, with the drops making a blur of sight and sound. “But you learn the other skills and spells to further confuse and overwhelm people.”

    “Good, you've got it,” he said. “Water Pulse is a good example of spells we favor; it attacks and bewilders at the same time. Others made sure to learn things like strength enhancements, to make their blows more powerful. Or Surf, which can be mixed with the anklets to give you an escape route over water, where others do not expect. But in the end, it is awareness, presence, and movement that we rely on most.”

    “Then you're okay with me finding the dagger now?” Calem asked.

    He was quiet for a moment. “I came today to talk to you. Once I leave, you won't see me again until you claim the dagger, although not just because of Olympia's binds. I will test you then to make sure you know how to use our gifts. It's the last test; no one has passed it without having killed before.”

    “Will I be free of him if I do?”

    “I don't know. I don't think even the eldest knows that. If you want to keep your mind sane, then you'd better kill to gain their acceptance before trying the test. Otherwise, they're going to seek to drive you insane like I was.”

    Calem shook his head. “I won't. I'll fight them, no matter what they try. I want to be able to go back home again and see my parents without fearing for their lives.”

    Unexpectedly, Heinrich grabbed his hand. As he did, Calem became aware of something that wasn't taking place here. It was hard to tell... trees whipping by, the branches hitting hard from the run. The quick flash of a rainbow among a sea of green leaves, light hooves only making a sound out of the rush. But the paths were mixed up when they should be straight because of what humans with dangerous ideals had done. One stood by his side like modern-day royalty, but even he...

    “I would pray that the gods be on your side,” Heinrich said softly. “But the gods of this land are in danger themselves. You must learn the story of the eldest; it is truly the key.” And then he was gone as if he'd never been there, save for the lingering chill of his touch on Calem's wrist.

    Calem did the first thing he could think of. “Mortan? What do you think?”

    “I think you can do it,” the Floette said.

    He shook his head. “No, he said the gods of this land are in danger.”

    “Huh?” He tilted his head, puzzled. “If he means Xerneas and Yveltal, then I’d know, but the few others...” then he stiffened enough that he started to fall slowly.

    “Are they?” Calem asked.

    “My connection to Xerneas just got weakened all of a sudden,” he said. “It seems he was awakened today, but this isn't like anything else I’ve felt before.” He then twirled his flower and returned to the air to bow to him. “Excuse me, but I really want to go ask Yveltal what he thinks of this.”

    “Go ahead,” Calem said, watching him disappear too. He wondered what exactly was going on. He was almost certain that he'd seen Richard in that vision. Although he'd not seen that area, the forest might be that Winding Woods where Team Flare was supposed to be. And Serena might now be a part of Team Flare. But what of that was the truth? He wasn't there to sense it for himself..
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2014
  18. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    I agree that the part where you get the mega ring seems mean, especially since I nearly always have a Meowstic and your rival seems to always start battles with one, with mine nearly always being stronger. It is neat how that moment gets brought back up later, but spoilers...

    The river and bridge in Aquacorde are so beautiful, which is a bit of a shame because it's just a town to run through once you get your starter. They even give you Shauna as a tag along healer the first time through the woods past it so you don't have to keep leaving to heal, like you would in the first game, making Aquacorde even less visited.
     
  19. Calem has completed the Asari training. Yveltal is awakened. Xerneas is located. Mortan attempts to rejoin Yveltal (And will probably end up captured because Team Flare). Serena is watched over by Zygarde, who is incredibly mysterious, and is set to die before then.

    So if Zygarde appears, will we see Thousand Waves and Thousand Arrows?
     
  20. Ysavvryl

    Ysavvryl Pokedex Researcher

    Chapter 21: The Eldest Asari


    In hopes of coming across Serena, Calem and Neo next went to Snowbelle by following the route east of Santalune. The countryside around the town was vibrant with plant life: many summer wildflowers were in bloom and the woods to the south were seemingly filled with all shades of green. But Snowbelle itself was nearly wintery. While he could work up a sweat coming down the route, he had to pull out a jacket from the slightly chilled air in this town. It was even more noticeable as he looked down to where the Gym itself was; the large building shone in the sun because condensation gathered on it and froze on contact. A few icicles were dripping off the sign, but it was still remarkable to see them in late July.

    One thing that was missing was Team Flare. Wikstrom had said their presence was obvious, but Calem didn't see any of them. The only reds in town were some flowers, the Pokecenter roof, and a few people that just happened to be wearing red. He checked around in places people might gather, like the Pokecenter, a cafe, or outside the Gym. If Flare members were around, they weren't in uniform. Serena wasn't around town either.

    He did find Mortan hovering around a path that led into the Winding Woods. “There you are,” Calem said, glancing around. No one else seemed to be in this part of town. “What's going on?” he added.

    “Xerneas isn't here,” Mortan said. “Someone captured him in a Pokeball. Yveltal couldn't tell who, but he thinks it was probably someone from Team Flare and he knows that Xerneas was awakened by a young woman. Sounds a lot like Serena, what he could tell me. I came here to check on the woods because Yveltal's still asleep, and then go back with you to find Serena. I could sense Xerneas if he's on her team. But then... AZ is in the woods today, so I can't go in to check on where Xerneas should have been. Did he feel like something went wrong too?”

    “Grrr,” Neo growled, clenching his fists and looking down.

    “You could tell easier than me if Serena's in there,” Mortan told Neo. “And yeah, if she really is involved with Team Flare being after the gods, then she's in a lot of trouble already.”

    Neo whined, so it seemed he couldn't sense if she was in there or not, at least from outside the woods. “We'll go in and talk with AZ,” Calem said. “Besides, I have to talk with him anyhow. Once he knows that I know who he is, maybe he'll tell me what he's doing here.”

    “Thanks,” Mortan said. “Make sure the others help guide you through there. The paths are normally twisted in a way that defies logic, but the native Pokemon can find their way most of the time. I'll be waiting in town.”

    Within a minute of entering, it seemed like the woods had swallowed them up entirely. The trees were thick and the paths were broken. With the thick canopy of leaves overhead, sunlight got scattered in all directions and it was hard to tell which way they were going. Calem activated his heightened senses and found that to barely help. The magic here was ancient and complex, made up of many layers that were difficult to ascertain which layers were active. However, his senses were able to pick out the way out no matter where in the forest they were, as well as three other humans in the woods. One of them was distinctly AZ, so he just had to figure out how to get on the path to him.

    He ran into the other two humans before he found AZ. They were of Team Flare, but the only reason he knew that was that they were women in those cheesy sci-fi outfits that Mable wore. Even only seeing them between the trees, he could tell that their outfits were muddy. “It's a non-standard space, so I have to determine which system to calculate the path-finding program in first,” the one in the green outfit said.

    “Can't we just keep going right until it turns out to be right?” the one in purple said. “Because if we're going in circles anyhow, we might as well do so intentionally to find the way out.”

    “The probability of that is somewhere around 1 in 10 that we'll end up exiting if we keep going right. I think. By now, we should have already stumbled out of here.”

    Calem thought about getting off the path and keeping out of their sight, but the two of them spotted him before he could figure out which ways wouldn't get him utterly lost too. “Finally! Someone else in this place!” The purple woman came up to him and bowed. “Sorry sir, but we've been lost in here for hours and we weren't prepared to spend the night here. How do we get out of here?”

    “We don't know anything about him, so asking anyone you come across at random is a shot in the dark,” the green woman said, seeming dissatisfied as she put her hand to her head. Then she noticed a leaf that was in her hair, so started getting that out.

    On one hand, they were in Team Flare, so helping them could end up causing him trouble later. But on the other hand, they were telling the truth and it seemed like they hadn't eaten in a while either. Maybe they didn't trust what they could find in the forest. “This is my first time in this place too,” he admitted. But I was given a spell to figure out how to get out, and I think,” he put his hand in front of his face, then pointed down a narrow path to his left, “if you follow that path and keep going straight, you should find Snowbelle at the exit.”

    “Thank you!” the purple one said, thrilled to finally have something certain. “Come on, let's get out of here and get a hot meal back in town! And we'll make sure to grab one of those compasses if we have to come back here.” Then she took off down the path.

    “Wait!” the green one said, chasing after her. “What about our mission?”

    “Forget it, we'll try again when the target is in an easier place!”

    “Arrr?” Neo asked, lifting his ears. This time, Calem got a sense of what he meant. Didn't they have Xerneas already?

    “Maybe they didn't hear,” Calem said. “Or maybe they were after AZ, not Xerneas. Although, who knows with them? Come on, I don't think it'll be far from here.” He went back to trying to track AZ down.

    Seven minutes later, he came to a small opening in the forest. AZ was there, sitting by a huge old tree with his Sigilyph and Golurk; now a Torkoal was with him too, lazily eating grass without a care in the world. AZ's clothes managed to look rattier than usual, what with the brambles and branches that had been stuck in them now. “Kooorururu!” the Sigilyph called cheerily, flying over to greet him.

    “Hey there,” Calem said, smiling at the bird Pokemon. “Good afternoon, Jack.”

    “Good afternoon, Calem,” he said, not looking directly at him. Then he did, with his eyebrows furrowed. “Something seems different with you today,” he said. He had noticed the heightened senses spell on Calem, but his memory seemed slow to trigger on it.

    “It's probably the enchantment I used to get through here,” Calem said. “I had a weird feeling about this place, so I came to check it out.”

    He nodded. “This is a strange place by itself. But stranger things are happening. That's why I came.”

    “Is it because Xerneas is missing?” he asked.

    “Yes, but how do you know about that?”

    There was really only one way to explain that honestly. “Jack, I know who you really are,” Calem said.

    He didn't seem too concerned about that, but he was curious. “And who do you think I am?”

    “Aleksander Zachariah de Kalos, better known as King AZ from when Kalos was formed three thousand years ago,” he answered. When AZ nodded, he added, “I know I have Lukan, who's currently going by Mortan. He's a servant of Yveltal and Xerneas. And, he can also speak to humans. He only speaks to me since I found out on accident. Yesterday, he felt that Xerneas had awakened but also that he was disconnected from him, so he went to see Yveltal about it. They think that he's been captured by Team Flare.”

    Since AZ hadn't stirred from his spot, Calem went over to sit by him. “I suppose you've known all along then,” he said. “Thanks for looking after Lukan; I can tell by your other Pokemon that you must be treating him well.”

    Calem nodded. “I try to keep him happy; not always easy to do, but he seems content most of the time. Still, he worries about you a lot and misses you, so I've been trying to help you two out.”

    “Does he want to come back to me?” AZ asked.

    “Yes, but his words still bind him.”

    “Then it seems I still have something to do,” he said sadly. “I'm not entirely sure what to do now.”

    “I'm not sure either, but I'll keep working with you both,” Calem said. A loud sound overhead caused them both to stop; it turned out to be a helicopter. He briefly wondered what it was there for, but since it quickly moved on, he asked AZ, “What did you notice about Xerneas?”

    “Probably the same thing; my Pokemon and I noticed that something wasn't right about my connection to Xerneas, so we came here to investigate. I don't know who you mean by Team Flare, but when I came here yesterday evening, I only felt more strongly that something wasn't right. On getting to where Xerneas' tree should have stood, we found nothing but a hollow trunk. He should be running around the woods now, but I don't feel him anymore.” He then held a hand out to the Sigilyph. “Then he got agitated and let me know that someone with bad intentions was trying to find me here. We came to this spot, which is difficult to reach and we would notice anyone coming into it. It's a surprise that you managed to get in here; we've simply been waiting on them to leave.”

    “I ran across them,” Calem said. “There aren't many humans in the forest today; they're gone, so it's just you and I. They were from Team Flare. But, I don't know what to tell you about them since nobody outside the group is sure of what they're doing. I'm pretty sure they're up to no good, though; it would be a good idea for you to stay away from them.

    “Have they been doing anything around Geosenge?” AZ asked.

    He nodded. “Yes, they say they're simply trying to preserve the site but they have a lot of interest in it.”

    He put his hand to his chest, gripping something there. “Then I should keep away from them. If you know who I am, then you probably know my story.” He showed Calem what he held, a small (on him) crystalline key on a cord. “This is the only way to activate the weapon I created. My brother did the best he could to cover it up since he couldn't destroy it. While no one has managed to find it since, he may have told someone that it was in Geosenge. So anyone who has interest in that town, the gods, and me shouldn't be allowed to bring all three together.”

    The key to activate the weapon... things started lining up now that he knew about that. “I see. The leader of the group is a descendant of your brother, I know that much.” And he had been trying to get Mortan ever since he saw him. Possibly as something to get AZ to come out in the open?

    “I'll probably leave that house by Laverre, then. Maybe stay here. I know this place well enough to use its magic to hide and know where other people are.” He paused. “It is strange that you know how to do that too.”

    “That's something else I need to talk to you about too,” Calem said, touching the black ribbon on his neck. “Something about me. Here, do you know about this?” he activated the cowl.

    “That would be a very rare magical artifact,” AZ said, his memory stirring again but not yet making the connection. “Even I haven't come across many with that powerful mirage effect on it.”

    He pulled the hood of the cowl down, not wanting to hide his face from his friend. “Last summer, I discovered that I come from a cursed family, the Asari. The curse will turn me into a monster if I were to kill anyone.”

    “The Asari,” AZ said, closing his eyes. It was working.

    “I don't want to kill anyone,” he said. “But they've been tied closely to me since my birth, so they can manipulate my thoughts and feelings, even make me delusional. I have a lot of good friends, both human and Pokemon, and they've been working with me to resist them. My father and grandfather simply refused to go along with it and have avoided the curse in that way. But I don't want to just avoid it; it'd like to get rid of it entirely. For that, I need to find information that my ancestors have made difficult to find.”

    “It is a strong curse,” he said, nodding in recognition.

    Calem looked up at his face. “Then they told me that there was one person that they have never managed to kill: you. And that you knew about how our family got cursed in the first place. That's what I need to know, and it seems you're the only person who can freely tell me about it. Would you, please?”

    “It was... Tymar Asari.” He nodded as if reassuring himself of it. “It's difficult for me to measure the time I've lived, but I can recognize time around certain people. I knew him for only two months. Despite how we met, we felt a kinship with each other. He's one of the few that I think of as a friend, despite that short time.”

    “I met him,” Calem said. “We even managed to get his soul freed from the Asari curse. He was the one who told me to find you. Also, he wanted you to know that he found peace in being cut off, and he hopes you manage to find peace as well.”

    “Does he?” AZ asked, touched by that. “So he remembered me as well. Good, I'm glad for him. Well...” he paused for a half a minute, still gathering his thoughts. “Tymar. I heard of him first, someone who came from a land far away and was killing people as if he were a living nightmare. I spent many of the early centuries of my wandering trying to do anything that might bring Lukan and I back together. Helping people without them noticing, guarding towns, even making myself suffer at times if it was punishment I needed. Nothing worked and as I lost track of the years, more and more of my days were nothing but despair. When I heard of him, I went out saying that I was going to stop him as part of my penance, but I was seeking death as well. Whichever would come to me.

    “Finding him was difficult, but eventually I discovered a new murder he had committed and thus found him. I went to strike him, but it was like fighting a shadow. I couldn't be certain of where he was and before I knew it, he had stabbed me through my heart. That still didn't kill me, so I kept trying to fight him and he kept trying to kill me. Eventually, he cut through my spine at my neck and that made me collapse. And I was still alive.

    “But I had injured Tymar as well, calming him down from the rage that the Asari will forced on him. He managed to take me, unable to move myself, into an abandoned building where the two of us hid while I recovered. He even helped me with that, making sure that I was comfortable while the magic that keeps me alive worked on healing those severe injuries. Because of that, I went ahead and told him my story once I was able to speak again. And he told me his; I could see the struggle he put himself through to do it against the will of the eldest Asari. It seemed that he knew the curse was evil, but he felt that if he killed someone who deserved it, he could break out of it. He picked someone who tortured and murdered other beings for the thrill of it, but it didn't work. He became marked by the curse and his predecessors drove him on a killing spree that outnumbered the one he'd tried to bring justice to.

    “Because of what he told me, I didn't really have it in my heart to kill him even though he asked and would have let me. I probably should have, but it was only a brief opening before the other Asari appeared and didn't let me. Tymar was forced to leave me at that point and I didn't see him again. That's how it came to be that I’m the only living person who knows their story. Calem, it begins in a land far away from here...”

    -+-

    It was a land known as Orre and it was rich with abundance. Three goddesses watched over the land, a goddess of the rain, a goddess of the sun, and a goddess of the land; they made the land above filled with abundant harvest and the land below filled with colorful jewels. There, humans and Pokemon had an easy life. They praised the goddesses for their benevolence and many followed their guidance in gratitude.

    But such ease and prosperity attracted those with greed. Such people found ways to control resources and manipulate others into doing what they wanted, not what the goddesses asked for. The prosperity of the land became pulled to these few and hoarded by them. The goddesses attempted to weaken these people, but there are laws that bound even the gods which interfered with them fixing the imbalance. Thus, they began to give blessings to certain people on missions to break up the hold of the greedy ones.

    One of those blessings became a terrible mistake.

    It began with a lord who took control of a salt mine, a vital resource to humans and Pokemon alike. He rose the prices of salt until the people were forced to give control of the land and laws to him. Under his rule, the fields might have much to offer but people still went hungry. There was one man, whom we only know of as Asari, who watched his wife and son grow ill from hunger. When his wife died, he broke into a food storage house to save his son Eiota. He was caught and had to fight his way from the guards to get away. Knowing they would be hunting for him, he took his son and ran away from the lord's land.

    Eventually, they found shelter in a shrine dedicated to the goddess of rain. It nearly always rained in that spot, but Asari found enough food to help his son recover. He avoided being captured again by taking care of the shrine and pretending he was a priest. In doing so, he earned the gratitude of the goddess for fixing up her shrine. When Eiota was healthy again, she appeared before them and offered a blessing to Asari to work on her behalf.

    He said that he wanted to kill the lord, which worried the goddess. But she and her sisters were more worried about the lord's rule continuing, even expanding to cover all of Orre. After some thought, she agreed and gave him three gifts: an anklet, a dagger, and a cowl. Each gift held a power that became natural to him, as certain spells are natural to Pokemon. At the time, the gifts were pure: the anklet shone like diamonds, the dagger looked more ceremonial than something that would kill, and the cowl was whole and black. Asari practiced these powers, then left Eiota to look after the shrine while he went after the lord.

    The goddess brought rain to cover the lord's palace when Asari arrived. With her blessings, it should have been simple for him to sneak past the lord's powerful guards, assassinate him in silence, then escape without being noticed. But Asari had hidden something from the goddess: his heart was cruel and only the love of his wife had kept him as a peaceful member of society. As she was dead, he cared about nothing but their son. He hated those around him who had done nothing while his family had suffered, so he slaughtered everyone in the town where the lord lived, leaving the tyrant for last to suffer a brutal death.

    The rain may have washed the blood he was spilling away, but it did not hide his crime from the goddesses. At dawn, the rain goddess cursed him in a rage, tearing his face from him and making him look like the monster he had become. She took her gifts back, leaving him with only tattered replicas. However, Asari had already learned the powers and his murderous rampage allowed him to master them. He stole the three gifts back, then gave them to his son and began to instruct him in his deadly arts.

    When Eiota became a man, he took the three gifts and used them to murder the goddess of rain for turning his father into a monster. The other two goddesses pursued him directly, ignoring the divine laws to destroy the one who had destroyed their sister. But their attempts were futile. Eiota and Asari killed them both as well. They had killed the three sisters so completely that there was no chance of even another god bringing them back to life.

    With the death of its guardians, the land of Orre became wracked with storms, fires, and earthquakes. Magic went chaotic, intensifying the destruction. Nearly everyone living there died, unable to escape in time. No one was able to set foot in Orre for thirteen years after, as the uncontrollable destruction continued. When it cleared, there was nothing left of Orre's former glory. It was a godless land of death, a desert incapable of supporting life.

    But the ones who caused Orre's destruction, Asari and his son Eiota, they survived. Their souls were completely corrupted as god-killers, but neither of them cared. They traveled on, passing on their now tainted gifts to their descendants and making sure that their legacy of death continued.

    -+-

    Back in Snowbelle, Calem let Mortan in on what what they'd talked about. He felt he should get back to the academy before the class meeting, to discuss it with Sycamore too. However, there were still a few more days and no more obvious clues on where to find Serena. Calem went to a cafe to get some snacks for his Pokemon and himself, then called her over his portable holocaster..

    It didn't even connect; the unit brought up an error message of 'Account deactivated.' Calem double-checked the number and tried again, getting the same message. “Great, did she change her number?” he grumbled. Here they were trying to help her and she was making herself inaccessible. Since he couldn't reach her, he called Shauna. “Hey, did you know that Serena changed her holocaster number?”

    “Eek, do you know her new number?!” she asked, making her holocaster unit shake. “I've been trying to reach her for a couple weeks now, but nobody seems to know where she's been since her birthday.”

    Neo sighed; he was getting depressed again, which had Calem worried for him. “No, that's why I was calling you. I really need to get a hold of her; there's something she needs to know.”

    Shauna was sad too. “Aww, this isn't good. I thought I knew her, you know, since I've lived with her in the dorms. But then I got a notice that she'd requested to live off-campus for next term. She didn't even tell me about it! I was going to try convincing her not to, but there's not much time until the new arrangements are set.”

    “Sheesh, I’m starting to get really mad at her for all this,” Calem said. “She's been a real jerk.”

    “Well there's got to be some reason behind it, although I don't know what,” she said, like she was trying to convince herself too. “Oh, but you be careful about getting mad. You can't be doing that.”

    “I know, sorry,” he said, mentally kicking himself for not keeping calm about it. “At least she'll still be in our homeroom, since she can't change that without dropping out. Oh, and I need to meet with Sycamore about that issue. I've come up with some new information and we need to discuss how to deal with things now. You want to come help?”

    “Sure!” she said, cheering up a little. “We'll get Trevs and Teirno there too. Is it about...?” There was a loud chime in the middle of their conversation, an emergency alert from the Holocaster News Network. “Oh wait, what's this?” Shauna asked, patching in the announcement.

    After a second, an image of one of the HNN reporters, Malvia, appeared in the hologram. “We interrupt this channel's regular broadcast with an important news bulletin. We've received reports that just recently, former Kalos Champion Richard was admitted to a hospital in Snowbelle with grave injuries. It's not been made clear yet if this was an accident or an assault, but he was picked up just south of the Winding Woods near Snowbelle this afternoon...”

    “Huh, was that what that helicopter was flying around for?” Calem wondered.

    “Oh my gosh, this is terrible,” Shauna said. “I hope we can find Serena now; she's probably upset and needs her friends.”

    “I think I'll stay here in Snowbelle for a while and see.”

    But she didn't show up. Even when Calem went in during visiting hours and talked with Grace, she hadn't heard from her daughter either. Didn't even realize she'd changed her holocaster number. And now Richard was in a coma... maybe something bad had happened to Serena already.

    -+-

    Serena didn't come to the class meeting either, so Calem ended up spending several hours after it just talking to Neo. The Lucario still didn't want to give up on her, even if he felt discouraged in not finding her yet. At any rate, there were lots of signs that she still planned on being in school. She would have to show up then.

    That evening, he went back to their homeroom to meet with his teacher and friends. With the school's magic interfering, he was able to retell the story he'd gotten from AZ, although he declined to say who exactly told it to him. He also talked about what Heinrich had told him about Olympia and the final test. “I don't want to claim the dagger quite yet, until I have a better grasp of what I should be doing,” he said.

    “That's probably a good idea,” Sycamore said. “I hadn't realized Olympia knew about him; I’ll have to drop in and talk with her sometime about this.” Then he went up to the chalkboard and started making notes on it. “What all stands out about this to you kids? I'm interested in that this story takes place in Orre. That region used to not get a lot of attention because it still is a huge desert, so I'm not sure if they have any records of history that far back. But maybe they do.”

    “Do you know the names of the goddesses?” Trevor asked.

    Calem shook his head. “No, their names didn't make it into the story.” He wasn't sure if it was because AZ couldn't remember them or if Tymar hadn't told him that. Or maybe Tymar didn't even know, even as the sixth of the Asari line; the oldest two might have chosen to never speak those names again.

    “It sounds like they got cursed because Asari was supposed to only kill one person, but he murdered everyone instead,” Teirno said. “Then maybe if you figured out how to use the powers without killing anyone? I don't know; how would you get forgiveness from a dead goddess?”

    “It seems that way,” Calem said. “Although I'm not sure how I'm supposed to find forgiveness in this either.”

    “What ways of getting out of it have others tried?” Trevor asked. “Let's figure that out so we know what not to do.”

    Calem nodded. “Right. Well I can only think of two I know for certain who tried methods other than just not killing anyone. My great-grandfather tried to kill himself before the curse took hold. But it still counted and the Asari spirits made sure he survived. That made him completely insane. And... way back who knows when, Tymar Asari tried to use our powers to kill of someone who deserved to die because of how many others he hurt and killed. I guess his thinking was that the original mission had been to kill one person who harmed others greatly. That didn't work.”

    “What if you were to become a hero and save people with your powers instead?” Shauna asked. “Because then you'd be doing more good than harm.”

    “That'd be cool,” Teirno said with a smile. “But would it really work?”

    It made Calem think. “It might, actually. Heinrich was able to be himself for the last couple of weeks of his life because he kept Yveltal in hibernation during the Great War. If the god had awoken, millions more would have died at the end of it. But he had already been marked, so it was too late for him. There was also one time when the Asari tried to make me push a girl into freezing water. She ended up slipping in on accident and I saved her instead of killing her. The pressure from the Asari cut right off for the rest of that day.”

    “It's not something you could really control,” Sycamore said. “But if you keep your eyes and ears open and step in to help whenever possible, you might be able to chip away at their control over you.”

    Thus my paths would lead me to either being a hero or a villain. But Sycamore was right; it wasn't like I could just go out there and rescue people, since people don't always need rescuing. Still, I started working towards my goal. I helped others whenever I could and, on Korrina's advice, kept a positive attitude even with the terrible things I was dealing with. My Pokemon and I all worked towards being the best we could be, all in hopes of defeating the curse.

    And then there was what Serena was doing...
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014

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