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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light [COMPLETE]


Winter can't come soon enough
@Namohysip, got you covered on Discord!

Content Advisory: This chapter contains an elevated level of violent combat compared to previous battles, including major injuries and minor instances of gore. Additionally, the story's one and only F-bomb is found here. This chapter likely exceeds the limits of what's allowed for a T-rated fic, but this will only be a one-time occurrence. Thank you for understanding. Enjoy!


Chapter 93: Menacing Maelstrom of Fire and Lightning

Volcarona's dive wasn't as fast as Team Go-Getters expected. They easily jumped to either side of her. Mew floated beside Swampert and the two flung water bubbles in Volcarona's direction. Figuring his best attacks wouldn't do much to Volcarona, Blaziken ran around to flank her in the hopes of driving her further toward his teammates.

What no one was expecting was for Volcarona to rapidly slash at the air with her blade and vaporize the water bubbles like they were nothing but streams of tissue paper. Volcarona gave one final, meatier slash. A crescent of blue fire headed right for Mew and Swampert. Both of them backpedaled, but the crescent followed Mew's path.

"Oh, come on! It's homing like an Aura Sphere?" He groaned and fired an Aura Sphere of his own. Volcarona watched the bright-blue explosion, so Blaziken chose to make his move. Though it wouldn't do much, he ignited his legs and darted toward Volcarona.

However, Volcarona vanished in a plume of pink fire. Blaziken stumbled to a halt amidst silhouettes of pink hearts. Before he could get his bearings, he heard a cry of, "Behind you, Feathers!" Blaziken spun a fiery leg around, connecting with Volcarona's blade and knocking her back. Her arms trembled, as did the sword in her hand.

Mew tried to hoist Volcarona into the air with his ESP, but she jumped over his Psychic rings and slashed the air with her blade. A half-dozen blue meteors streaked toward the team. Blaziken immediately realized they were Draco Meteors. After all, Rayquaza had tried that attack on him back in the day. Blaziken hopped up and propelled himself backward with his legs. Swampert tried to destroy the meteors with a Waterfall plume, but they sailed right through it and exploded on the ground, leaving small areas of dragonfire behind.

Volcarona disappeared before any of them had the chance to react. Blaziken whirled around, expecting Volcarona to appear behind him. She did, but Volcarona disappeared a second time. "You're kidding me! That thing can feint us so easily! How are we supposed to get a decent hit in?"

Pained cries caught his attention. Mew hit the ground hard in front of him and Swampert. Across from them, Volcarona slowly slashed the air in front of her three times, summoning three Aura Sphere crescents. "Not this nonsense again," Blaziken said. He picked Mew up and tucked him under his arm. Something sticky grazed his armpit. If Blaziken had to venture a guess, it was Mew's blood.

"Still feel like joking about all of this?" Blaziken said, keeping an eye on Volcarona while waiting for the Aura Spheres to fizzle out. To his surprise, Volcarona merely hovered in place. Blaziken wasn't even sure if she was staring at him, since her helmet obscured her face.

"Ugh. Aren't you… supposed to have a Mega Evolution?" Groaning, Mew managed to squirm free of Blaziken's grip. He took a deep breath and concentrated. The gash in his shoulder sealed itself, leaving only a red splotch over his normally-pink fur.

"And aren't you supposed to be able to use Transform?" Blaziken retorted.

"Save the bickering for the afterparty, you two! We've still got a problem to deal with," Swampert said. He hopped into the air. Orange light encased him. Mega Swampert hit the ground hard enough to send fissures rippling toward Volcarona. She vanished in another plume of pink fire. Swampert refused to be deterred, however. He turned around, ready to fling mud at Volcarona.

Mew's ears twitched. He looked up, then flung Blaziken back with a burst of levitation. Mew barely managed to avoid Volcarona driving her sword into the ground. Blaziken could only watch as a column of fire rose up around Volcarona, searing Mew and sending him tumbling back toward Swampert.

There was no way around it. One Mega Evolution wouldn't be enough to deal with… whatever he was supposed to call this thing. "All right, jerk. You asked for this," Blaziken said, concentrating on the well of energy in his looplet. Invigorating power flowed through his veins. He lunged for Volcarona with a newfound burst of speed. Unfortunately, she still had enough time to jump over him.

Luckily, Swampert was quick on the draw and hurled the mud already in his hands up at Volcarona. She was too focused on trying to attack Blaziken to notice. The mud globs splattered against her wings. Volcarona flailed briefly, before looping through the air and diving toward the ground with her sword outstretched and a trail of multicolored silhouettes behind her.

Volcarona didn't get anywhere close to hitting anyone. However, she spun around and hopped back. When Blaziken shot toward her as a bird-shaped wind torpedo, she stood her ground and raised her sword high. The silhouettes erupted in a blaze of pink fire. Blaziken didn't have the control over his Brave Bird's direction to reroute himself. He flew directly into one of the blazes and crash-landed by his teammates.

"Hey, knock it off, you lame Two-y impersonator!" Mew growled. "Why are you even doing this anyway? Do you want to go up in flames with the entire world? Because that's what's going to happen if you don't stop attacking us! We have to get to the center of that storm and stop time from collapsing!"

Volcarona said nothing. Instead, she teleported near Mew and flapped her wings rapidly. "Eep! Not cool, Impostwor!" he squeaked, trying his best to weave through an Air Slash barrage. Some of the crescents nicked his tail, drawing pained grunts.

Blaziken and Swampert had regrouped while Mew kept Volcarona occupied. The latter had a grip on the former and hurled him forward as soon as Volcarona's wing beats slowed. Volcarona spun around and slashed at the air. Draco Meteors streamed toward Blaziken, but the giant wind tunnel surrounding him proved strong enough to get through the meteors and slam into Volcarona.

"Yeah! Take that, Impostwor!" Mew cheered, summoning floating rocks to throw at the reeling Volcarona. They knocked her back even further.

Blaziken landed safely and turned to look at Mew in disbelief. "Seriously? Impostwor?"

"What? It was the best I could come up with to describe this, uh…" Mew scratched his head. "Well, if we weren't under such stress, I'm sure I could do a better job describing what it's supposed to be." He shrugged.

"I thought you were finally taking this seriously." Blaziken sighed and tensed up, wondering what Volcarona would offer as a counterattack. Initially, the answer was nothing. She swayed erratically in midair. Though a fair distance separated her from the trio, she made no effort to attack. Then, without warning, she gripped her sword with both hands. Shadow fire swirled around it.

"Gah! Quick, do something to throw her off," Swampert cried, looking at Mew.

"Me? Why do I have to do something, huh?" Mew pouted.

"Because you have the best ranged attacks," Swampert said, pointing frantically at Volcarona.

"Oh, right. Yeah, you guys really didn't plan that out well when you made your team, huh?" Mew chuckled, oblivious to the vein bulging on Swampert's forehead.

Blaziken meekly spewed a Flamethrower, hoping it could do something to interrupt Volcarona. She dashed those hopes almost immediately, teleporting behind the group and holding her sword high. Four large, fiery phantoms popped up around her, with black eyes and mouths reminiscent of Necrozma's face when he possessed Lunala.

Mew's expression changed on a dime. "W-What the… what in the world are those things?!"

"Let's not stick around and find out," Blaziken said, grabbing a protesting Mew by the tail and running away. Two of the phantoms gave chase. Volcarona dropped to the ground and flapped her wings, conjuring more Air Slash crescents. Swampert was too preoccupied blasting the other two phantoms back with Waterfall plumes to notice. The wind blades tore open gashes on his backside.

"Swampert!" Blaziken cried. He had the team's item bag, so he had to make a beeline for his teammate before it was too late. "Mew, deal with these things." Blaziken shoved Mew toward the phantoms and ran off.

Volcarona teleported in front of him, right hand held up. Pink energy balls surrounded Blaziken. Volcarona squeezed her hand into a fist and the psychic orbs shot toward him. Blaziken tucked his head in and shot fire jets from his legs. He avoided most of the attack, but a few stray energy balls caught him from behind and blasted him into the phantoms Swampert failed to dispel. A tearing pain burrowed deep into his bones.

Blaziken fell to the ground, limbs shaking. Try as he might, he couldn't get back to his feet. The weird energy in the phantoms had left his legs feeling like soggy pasta noodles. Volcarona took notice of his helplessness. She jumped into the air, somersaulting with her blade to act as a deterrent. Volcarona hovered over Blaziken for a moment before diving toward him.

"Get away from my best bud!"

Swampert drove a shoulder into Volcarona, a grimace on his face. They tumbled to the ground, but Swampert still had enough left in him to generate a small Earthquake and toss Volcarona around like a ragdoll. He caught sight of a Keldeo racing toward him atop a wave of water. Safe in the knowledge Mew was finally putting his transformation skills to use, Swampert headed for Blaziken.

He grabbed an oran berry from Blaziken's bag to heal off some of the nasty nicks Volcarona's Air Slash had dealt, then produced a heal seed and jammed it into Blaziken's beak. Relief spread through Blaziken as his strength and muscle tone returned to his legs. He hopped back to his feet and put a hand on Swampert's shoulder. "Thanks for the save."

"Any time, buddy," Swampert said, smiling. "So, what do you think we should to here?"

"I don't know. If we get close, it teleports away. But it's also got too many projectiles." Blaziken scratched his chin.

"Hey, guys! Any time you want to jump back in, let me know… please!"

Still masquerading as Keldeo, Mew shot water from his hooves to fly around Volcarona. Though some of the water jets pelted Volcarona, she swung her sword slowly and clumsily. After her fourth slash went wide, Volcarona clasped her sword with both hands again.

"She's charging up again. We've gotta help Mew," Blaziken said, racing toward Volcarona. He closed the distance quickly thanks to the speed boosts he'd accumulated from his Mega Evolution. Still, it wasn't good enough. With Mew trying to attack Volcarona from behind, he wasn't prepared for her to suddenly vanish, only to reappear on the ground to his right and uppercut him with her blade.

Blaziken couldn't help but stumble to a stop in disbelief as Volcarona teleported all around Mew and unleashed a flurry of rapid slashes with her blade. Blood splattered across the ground inches in front of Blaziken. Flames swirled around his hands. He wanted to try and attack, but Volcarona moved so quickly, he couldn't pinpoint her.

At last, Volcarona teleported above Mew, shadow fire swirling around her sword. With one large, flaming slash, she sent Mew rocketing toward the ground. Blaziken acted on instinct, redirecting his flames to his legs to propel himself toward Mew. He barely managed to catch Mew. The impact rattled his bones. For the few seconds he needed to skid to a halt, Blaziken wondered if he'd dislocated his arms in his rescue attempt.

"Eyes up above, buddy!"

Swampert's shout made Blaziken kick off the ground in a burst of flames. He flew toward Swampert seconds before a wind vortex turned the spot where he was standing into a splintered crater. "W-Was that… Hurricane?!" Blaziken turned his head in mid-flight to see Volcarona pointing her free hand at him.

In a spiral of flames, the hand morphed into a small version of Yveltal's head. Red and black energy gathered within the tiny maw. Between carrying Mew and shooting Flamethrowers from his legs to maintain his flight, Blaziken had no effective counter for whatever strange attack Volcarona was preparing.

Fortunately for him, Swampert chose to remind Volcarona of his presence by shooting up into her from below using a Waterfall plume. Volcarona buckled from the impact. She fired a red and black beam into the air, several feet above Blaziken's head.

Swampert wasn't done, however. He managed to grab hold of Volcarona and throw her down while he fell back toward the ground. Swampert stretched an arm out, ready to give Volcarona a taste of his "Death from Above" technique. Unfortunately, much like in the battle with Lycanroc, his fist met nothing but solid ground.

"Yow! This stuff's hard!" Swampert said, hopping up and down and wringing out his throbbing hand. Blaziken landed next to him.

"Keep Impostwor occupied. I've gotta figure out how to patch up Mew," he said, glancing down at the blood strewn across his arms and chest and wincing. The distal half of Mew's tail was missing. Blood dribbled out of the leftover stump and trickled onto the ground.

Swampert's face paled. "Y-Yeah. You, uh, you do that, bud. I'll handle the creepy murder-fusion-bug-thingy." He backed away, then summoned a wave of water to carry him toward a still-dazed Volcarona.

Blaziken set Mew down. After confirming Mew was still breathing, he plucked two oran berries from his bag and mushed them together. The juices covered Mew from head to toe. Blaziken pressed the remains to Mew's wounds. "Come on, come on… surely this has to do something?"

While the wounds didn't close, it at least seemed that they had stopped bleeding. Blaziken heard a loud fwoosh from behind him, followed by a holler. Not wanting to leave his teammate along for too long, Blaziken grabbed a Reviver Seed and jammed it into Mew's mouth with, perhaps, a bit too much force. Mew coughed and sputtered. He rolled onto his side, groaning.

"D-Did anyone… get a good glimpse… of the Wailord… that flattened me?" Mew rasped.

"We're not out of the woods. I used some berries on your wounds, but you're going to have to take care of the rest," Blaziken said, getting to his feet. He looked down, but Mew remained silent. He was trying to curl into a ball, but with such small arms and legs and his tail reduced to a pointed stub, it looked more like Mew was twitching uncontrollably. It hurt Blaziken to see Mew like this, given how cheerful and bright-eyed he was before all of this started. Still, he had business to take care of.

When he turned around to appraise Swampert's situation, he found his teammate blasting Volcarona out of the sky with a well-placed water glob. Volcarona hit the ground hard. Her blade slipped from her grip and evaporated into tiny emerald wisps. Blaziken had to resist the urge to visibly fist-pump. Whatever strategy Swampert had cooked up on the fly, it paid dividends.

Thanks to all his acquired speed boosts, Blaziken reached Volcarona in a few seconds. However, before his Brave Bird charge could connect, Volcarona teleported away. Blaziken broke out of his bird-shaped wind spear and skidded across the ground. "Now what is it doing?!"

Volcarona teleported above them and raised her hands high. Emerald fire swirled around her head.

"Quick, take my hand!" Swampert said, reaching out toward Blaziken. He did as instructed. Swampert threw him at Volcarona like a living spear.

Volcarona glanced down at Blaziken. Just when it looked like Brave Bird Special would connect, Volcarona thrust her arms apart and disappeared. Flailing in shock, Blaziken broke out of his attack and quickly shot dual Flamethrowers to send himself back toward the ground. This proved a huge mistake. Volcarona reappeared below him and pointed her glowing hands up.

Emerald flames engulfed Blaziken. Even as a fire-type, the heat was unbearable. A pained caw escaped his lips. He crashed headfirst into the ground, arms and legs burning as if he'd tried to run across the entire Air Continent.

"W-What the— it just hit you with Rayquaza?! No, wait…" Swampert stared at his downed teammate and scratched his head. "Maybe it was more like those shadowy embers with the faces?"

Tears blurred Blaziken's vision, but he could see emerald streaks in the air. "S… Swampert! Whatever it is… it's still active! Watch out!" he cried.

Swampert looked up to see that, indeed, a Rayquaza phantom snaked through the air, made entirely of emerald flames. Volcarona teleported below it and pointed in Swampert's direction. "Aww, nuts," Swampert whispered. He chucked mud globs at the phantom. They evaporated the moment they struck it. Swampert stiffened. He pointed his hands straight down and summoned another water pillar.

Blaziken managed to stumble back to his feet in time to see Swampert soar over the Rayquaza phantom. However, rather than striking the ground and disappearing, the phantom made an abrupt U-turn and flew away from Team Go-Getters. Blaziken quickly realized what Volcarona was trying.

"Dang it, that's where Mew is!" he said, sprinting toward Volcarona. If he could just connect with one attack, the phantom would surely disappear. Volcarona spun around and teleported several yards away, but Blaziken corrected his course and was on her within seconds.

Volcarona swiped at the air with her hands. Out of the corner of his eye, Blaziken saw the phantom make a sharp turn right in his direction. However, it only got a few feet before giant water globs rained down on it from above. The phantom disappeared in several puffs of emerald mist, which lingered on the other half of the battlefield.

Blaziken seized his opening and finally managed to connect with a Brave Bird. The wind torpedo blew Volcarona back, where Swampert was waiting to blindside her with a Waterfall plume. She tumbled into the air for a matter of seconds, before a large water torrent sniped her from the depths of the emerald mist.

"Whoa! Mew, was that you? Are you okay?" Blaziken called. He wouldn't have expected Mew to bounce back like that, but he supposed that whatever hesitancy Mew had toward attacking Volcarona was gone.

The emerald mist cleared, revealing Kyogre hovering off the ground, large red eyes fixed on Volcarona, who had managed to right herself. The illusion was shattered when Mew's familiar, squeaky voice huffed, "I'm not letting you get away with this anymore!"

"Now he pulls out the big guns," Blaziken said, facepalming. Volcarona fixed her attention on Mew, tilting her head at this new development.

"Suck on this, Impostwor!" Mew cried. Water brimmed in his blowhole. Blaziken quickly backpedaled, fearing he'd get swept up in the Water Spout if he didn't.

Except Mew never got the chance to fire his attack. Volcarona teleported behind him. Wings fluttering rapidly, she unleashed multicolored waves. A loud, off-pitch buzz echoed across the platform. Blaziken dropped to his knees, grimacing and throwing his hands up against his head.

Mew hollered in pain. He shrank back to his normal form in a swirl of blue light and a loud schlurp. "Th… that. Is that… Bug Buzz?" Mew whimpered, blood trickling from his ears. Volcarona teleported closer to Mew and unleashed more Bug Buzz soundwaves. This time they blasted Mew straight into the ground, where he lay still.

Blaziken forced himself to stand back up, only to find Volcarona in front of him. He was fast enough to duck under the Bug Buzz waves while running, but Swampert wasn't so lucky. In the brief moment Blaziken tried to choose between regrouping with his teammate and running to Mew's aid, Volcarona teleported behind Swampert and blasted him with more multicolored soundwaves. Even if Blaziken wasn't caught up by the attack, the sound was so grating it made his insides squirm.

Swampert stumbled about in a daze, completely oblivious to Volcarona now standing next to him. She formed a new sword from wisps of emerald fire and clutched it with both hands. Fearing that Volcarona would use the crazy multi-slash attack that almost did Mew in, Blaziken sprinted toward his teammate.

Instead of uppercutting Swampert with the sword, however, Volcarona flew around him. She slammed her sword into the ground. Five giant fire tornadoes formed around her. Blaziken tried to grab Swampert, but the tornadoes pulled him in. Volcarona plucked her sword out of the ground and pointed it forward. The tornadoes charged Blaziken and Mew down. Volcarona stutter-stepped backward, sword at the ready in case one of them somehow slipped through her attack.

Blaziken had no choice but to turn and run at an angle, hoping the tornadoes would slip him by. Instead, they converged on him. Blaziken belted out a loud, "No!" when his feet left the ground. Emerald flames and razor-sharp wind blades pummeled him from every angle, ripping feathers off his body.

He had no idea which way was up and which way was down. The repeated blows from the wind proved to be too much for him. Blaziken felt the last threads of his Mega Evolution give out just as the winds died down and he found himself several yards in the air.


"Did you see those tornadoes? I don't think those came from any of our allies!" Lugia said, trying his hardest to keep pace with Latias without dropping his passengers.

"I know! I know! We… I…" Latias bit her lip. She was still exhausted from her fight with Lugia, but whatever was going on needed their attention badly. That's what her gut told her, anyway. "I'm gonna fly ahead and try to intervene."

Lugia raised his brows. "Are you sure about that? What if it's a—"

Latias zoomed off before she could hear him finish speaking. Sure enough, it didn't take long for her to spot signs of a serious struggle. Mew lay unconscious on the ground. And Blaziken and Swampert were sailing through the air. Squinting, Latias realized they were unconscious, too. She tucked her wings in and sped toward them, only for their assailant to appear in front of her in a plume of emerald fire.

If this had happened earlier, Latias might've stopped to gawk at her would-be foe. However, after her most recent ordeal, she wasn't going to let another fusion monster throw her off. So, Latias rolled right, zooming toward Team Go-Getters. Heat grazed her backside. It stung, sure, but she was tough enough to withstand it and safely snag her friends in her levitation. Latias sped toward the ground, glancing around and wondering if she'd have to withstand another attack.

Luckily, the cavalry wasn't far behind her. From Lugia's back came a volley of dragonfire, lightning, and water, bolstered by an orange Aeroblast beam courtesy of Lugia himself. Latias refocused on setting Team Go-Getters down safely, when a blue glimmer caught her eye in the distance. Just as she was about to release her psychic grip, she spotted a giant iceberg close to the center of the temporal storm.

"What the— Shane?"

It was the first thought that crossed Latias' mind. She was so preoccupied with the sight, she accidentally dropped Team Go-Getters onto the ground. The pair of thuds caught her attention. She hovered down to ground level and looked them over. Blaziken had scattered clumps of missing feathers and bloody flesh, while Swampert had huge gashes on his back and belly.

Latias knew she had to work fast. Two Heal Pulses first, then Reviver Seeds to get them back on her feet. Latias sighed in relief when Blaziken shot up into a seated position while Swampert rolled onto his belly, coughing and sputtering.

"L-Latias? When did you get here?" Blaziken scratched his head. "And what about Impos— I mean, Volcarona?"

"Volcarona?" Latias raised a brow. Blaziken pointed behind her. Lugia had dropped off the other teams. Short bursts of lightning, fire, water globs, and blue-purple Dragon Breath split the air as the group tried to down what Latias was supposed to believe was a Volcarona. "But that looks more like Mewtwo in some, uh…"

She shook her head. This was the Prism Virus. Nothing about it made sense. "Okay. Um…" Her brow furrowed. "Did you two use Mega Evolution?"

"We did, but it wasn't enough," Blaziken said, staggering to his feet.

"Well, that's a problem! Because if that is an infected Volcarona, then the only way to save it is with a Mega or a Z-Move," Latias said. "And I, uh…" She raised the arm that previously held her looplet. "My looplet blew up."

Swampert's jaw dropped. "How—"

"Long story." Latias bit her lip, but then her gaze fell on the other teams and a figurative torch turned on in her head. "Ah, wait! If the others have awakening emeras, we should be okay, right?"

Blaziken and Swampert exchanged uncertain looks. "Maybe?" Blaziken said, shrugging.

"Well, we've got to try. Hop on." Latias hovered close to the duo.

"Right." Blaziken jumped onto her back.

"Uh, I think I'll take my chances on the ground. You look a bit woozy and, well… I was hitting the snacks a bit too hard before this whole nonsense started up," Swampert said, patting his belly.

Latias nodded, appreciating Swampert's consideration. She sped across the platform, swerving right to avoid Volcarona, who had teleported in front of her. Volcarona slashed the air with her blade, sending meteors in her direction.

"Watch your back!" Blaziken shouted, trying to spew a Flamethrower behind him.

"We got you!" Feraligatr said, riding a Waterfall plume into one of the meteors while Lugia shredded the other two apart with a small wind vortex.

"What the heck is this crazy thing doing? Those looked like Draco Meteors!" Haxorus said, eyes wide in disbelief.

"It's her blade! It's, like, all Rayquaza-y!" Swampert cried from the other end of the battlefield.

At the mention of Rayquaza, Latias tensed up. She had thankfully reached Team Paradise, so Blaziken could jump off her back before she turned her attention on Volcarona. Upon closer inspection, she determined Swampert was right. She balled her paws into tiny fists, but Lugia stuck a wing in front of her.

"Please. You've done more than enough." He narrowed his eyes at Volcarona. "Allow me."

As if she understood the challenge, Volcarona pointed her blade at Lugia. He responded with a bright-orange waveform beam. Volcarona teleported over Lugia's head, but an orange flash distracted her from raining Draco Meteors on him from above. She turned to her right in time for a large, silver wind tunnel to smash into her.

Mega Blaziken drove his shoulder hard into Volcarona's chest. Her blade flew from her hand. Lugia spotted it and, squinting, smashed it to pieces with Psychic rings. Blaziken pressed down on Volcarona with as much weight as he could. Her arms twitched, as if she was trying to muster up an attack. But the Brave Bird's sharp currents proved too much.

They slammed into the ground. Blaziken grabbed Volcarona by a freshly-made crack in her armor. "This is for hurting Swampert and Mew," he cried, then drove a glowing fist into Volcarona's helmet once. Twice. Three times. It promptly shattered. Then, he brought a flaming leg around and kicked her into the ground.

Volcarona brought her burnt hands up to her bloodied face. She arced her back and opened her mouth, but not even a cry of pain escaped her lips. Her armor shattered, leaving only Mewtwo's body and two glimmers of emerald light. They flittered around Mewtwo's unconscious form before gently touching down next to him.

The glimmers expanded, taking the shape of both Rayquaza and the real Volcarona. The latter, however, disappeared into a stream of light after a few seconds. Haxorus tilted her head at the sight. "Huh." She crossed her arms. "So, it was another whacko fusion, then? Like with Lugia and what's-his-face?"

"Ish Marawoah." The lingering effects of the petrify wand muffled Marshadow's speech. He lay paralyzed next to Raichu, who looked disapprovingly at him.

"Ah, wait! We forgot about Mew! Someone has to tend to Mew," Swampert cried, pointing frantically in Mew's direction.

"Oh, right." Latias made a beeline toward Mew, cringing as she caught sight of the severity of Mew's injuries. "They really put you through the ringer, huh?" she whispered. Latias applied gentle, pink Heal Pulse waves. Unfortunately, her work left several scars and failed to regenerate Mew's tail.

Mew groaned and squirmed. "Is… is it over?"

"It is," Latias said, extending a paw toward Mew.

Mew blinked slowly. He needed time to recognize who was hovering next to him. Once it finally registered, he gave Latias a hand. She pulled him up and gently cradled him in her arms.

"What happened? Is Impostwor gone?" Mew said, rubbing his eyes.

"Um, I'm not sure who Impostwor is, but we saved Mewtwo, Rayquaza, and a Volcarona," Latias said, holding Mew up so he could see.

"Ah! T… T… Two-y!"

Mew pushed himself free of Latias' arms and shakily difted toward Mewtwo. He lay down on Mewtwo's belly, blinking tears out of his eyes.

"Sheesh, I didn't think the two were that close," Lugia whispered, earning a stern look from Latias. He turned away, whistling innocently.

Latias fixed her gaze on Rayquaza. Of all the things she expected to have to deal with, saving Rayquaza from the Prism Virus was not one of them. She tried to go through scenarios of how this could play out when he woke up, but his golden eyes opened before she could work anything out.

Rayquaza groaned, catching everyone's attention. Even Mew looked up. Rayquaza stared back at everyone. "What's going on here? Where did all of you mortals come—" He cut himself off when his gaze fell upon Latias and Lugia. "You two! What's the meaning of this?" He narrowed his eyes. "Are you really so cowardly that you went running off to tattle to your mate after our discussion?"

Lugia frowned. "What are you talking about? We—"

Latias flew up and put a paw on Lugia's mouth. "Sweetie. I think I've got this."

Lugia went cross-eyed looking at her paw. He shuffled back. Latias floated toward Rayquaza, clearing her throat. "What's going on here, is that we," she gestured to the group, "just saved your ungrateful, pretentious ass from being part of some hideous fusion monster with Mewtwo and a Volcarona."

She paused, but before Rayquaza could retort, she continued, "It's the truth. Everyone here can attest to it. So, you can take your usual lineup of 'worthless idiot' insults and fuck right off."

Everyone's jaws dropped in unison. Lugia tucked his head into his wing to stave off a coughing fit.

But Latias wasn't done. "Because we're busy trying to stop all of time from collapsing and listening to you would do nothing but slow us down. I could not care any less about you or your stupid dragon pride. News flash! That pride of yours got you corrupted by the Prism Virus. And guess who wound up having to do the brunt of the work saving you?"

Latias gestured to Team Go-Getters. Blaziken crossed his arms and smirked, while Swampert cheerfully waved and said, "Long time no see, Meanie-Greenie. Still as grouchy as ever, eh?"

Rayquaza's jaw dropped. He turned and glared at Latias. "You… you…"

"If you want to lay here and wallow in pity or whatever, then go right ahead," Latias said, turning away from him. "The rest of us are going to the center of that vortex to finish this fight."

"Hell yeah! You tell him, you crazy bitch!"

Everyone turned to look at Haxorus, who had a fist raised high. She quietly pulled her arm back to her side. "S-Sorry. Got a bit carried away there."

Rayquaza balled his tiny hands into fists. Lugia waddled up to him. "You're not the only god who had to be saved today, y'know. I'm sure you feel ashamed of yourself. I know I do." He extended a wing toward Rayquaza. "That's why we have to try and fix this mess, don't you think?"

With a long, drawn-out sigh Rayquaza took hold of Lugia's wing. "Very well. I'll—"

A loud yell startled everyone. Mew floated away from Mewtwo, shaking. "T-Two-y? What are you—"

Mewtwo, now very much awake, hovered at the head of the group, grabbing his head and screaming his lungs out. Before anyone could say anything else, Mewtwo flew toward them, arms outstretched.

The entire group vanished in a flash of blinding light.


~Rainbow Island~
"Thing have really gotten out of hand, haven't they?"

Ninetales stood at the edge of the altar, stiff as a board. She watched Ephemeris bow his head while offering his greeting. Ho-Oh returned the gesture, saying, "We weren't as prepared as we thought. I apologize if we caused you any trouble."

"It's fine. I'm here now, aren't I?" Ephemeris straightened himself up and looked at the spirit pool. "I noticed Hoopa's spirit is in there, among many others."

"We were hoping you could revive him first. Then, we'd take the rest of the spirits back to your home, revive them safely, and head for Temporal Tower," Totem Ninetales explained.

"Mmm. I see." Ephemeris looked at the spirit pool. "I suppose I could do that."

There was something bothering Ninetales about the whole idea. One look up at the dark sky with its ominous red and purple clouds made her stomach churn. Were there more of them than when the group had set out for the Invern Mountains? That should've been impossible if the planet was paralyzed, right? Ninetales knew she had to say something.

"Um, excuse me? Can I interject?" Ninetales stood tall as everyone's gazes fell on her. "See, I've been thinking a bit about this plan and… is it really the best course of action?" She scrunched her snout up. "I'm not saying I don't have faith in the others or anything, but can we really afford to spend time reviving so many spirits? What if something bad did happen to them? What if we should be gearing up to fight Zero now?"

Silence followed. Ninetales was sure she'd raised a good point. Her icy counterpart was looking between Magearna, Ho-Oh, and Ephemeris. Ninetales stared at her companions, trying to avoid putting on a pleading expression.

"I agree," Mawile said, to Ninetales' joy. "With the planet paralyzed, we can't say for certain how long we've spent getting here. But the fact that there's still a bizarre storm in the sky tells me that Zero hasn't been taken care of."

Ninetales nodded. "I'm not saying Ephemeris has to join us in battle or anything. He can stay here and work on reviving Hoopa. But, at the very least, couldn't he open an Ultra Wormhole to send us to help the others?" She looked to Ephemeris, whose heavyset eyes gave her pause. "Err, is there a problem?"

"I'm afraid so. There is, unfortunately, a limit to what I can do with Ultra Wormholes," Ephemeris said, sighing. "I did have to open one and fly through Ultra Space in order to get here." He raised his right wing and flapped it slowly. "Every time I open an Ultra Wormhole, I have to 'recharge' for an extended period of time before I use another one."

Ninetales stiffened. "Y-You're kidding!" She curled her tails up. Of all the lousy technicalities she could've imagined his powers having… it had to be one of the worst. Ninetales shook her head. "But you can still use your Sacred Ash?"

"Yes, however, since I don't have Hoopa's actual body to work off of, it will take some time to revive him," Ephemeris explained.

"Then maybe it's best if we split up?" Ninetales looked around at the others. "If anyone thinks they wouldn't be helpful in battle, they can stay with Ephemeris. Otherwise, Ho-Oh can fly us to Temporal Tower, right?"

Ho-Oh tensed up. "I… I suppose I could, yes." Her brow furrowed. "It's not exactly close by, though. It's all the way on the other side of the world."

And that's why I didn't propostulate such an idea, Magearna said. My calculations suggest it will be faster to stick together and let Ephemeris work.

That still didn't sit right with Ninetales. "Well, maybe once Ephemeris has revived Hoopa, he can use a ring portal to send some of us to Temporal Tower?" Surely, that idea could work. Her tails wagged when Magearna's eyes brightened up.

Hmm… well, I think it wouldn't hurt to try, Magearna said. She looked at the others, who nodded and mumbled various agreements. Okay, it's settled then.

"Allow me to retrieve Hoopa's spirit," Totem Ninetales said, approaching the spirit pond.

Ninetales stepped up at the same time. "I'll help. Anything to help speed the process up."

Her counterpart smiled and nodded. "Thanks."

They approached the spirit pool in tandem, studying it intently.

Continued in next post.


Winter can't come soon enough
Continued from previous post.


~Prism Wastelands~

Silvally shifted to his ground memories, only to find they did nothing to stop a searing flash of pain from striking his back and spreading down to his legs. His cheek-bolts rattled in their sockets. Something sharp jabbed into his mesh of fur on scales. Silvally screamed and bucked. The pain faded, leaving only stars in his vision.

"Silvally!" Tessa gasped. Black blood oozed out from his back. None of this made sense. His ground memories should've kept him safe from an electric attack.

"Worry about yourself, whelp!"

Tessa's right ear twitched. She hopped backward. A tan arm shot out inches in front of her snout, crackling with lightning and ending with bright-blue Dragon Claws. Tessa instinctively thrust a glowing paw forward. Her Force Palm slammed into something hard and scaly. But electricity singed her paw and she yanked it back. She a saw a stream of lightning zip away from her. It formed up into Dragonite, who stood clutching her left shoulder.

"Well, isn't this a surprise? You hit harder than your mother," Dragonite said, rotating her left arm and wincing. "But I can hit harder than you both!" She disappeared into a lightning bolt again. Tessa propelled herself right with a burst of Quick Attack speed. "Ha! Not fast enough, mutt!" Dragonite crooned. Chilly, gray claws grazed Tessa's right flank.

Tessa flung a desperate Aura Sphere behind her, even as ice spread across her wounds. Dragonite materialized and batted it away with an electrified spear. "Aww, what's the matter? Still stuck using Quick Attack, are we?" Dragonite smirked. "Your evolution gave you some new tricks, but it looks like you're still sorely lacking."

"H-How—" Tessa looked down at her side. The chill from the ice seeped into her body. It felt as bad as her time in Aurora Vale. And yet, there were lingering bits of static making the surrounding fur stand on end. "How are you doing this?"

Dragonite lightning-dashed toward her again. Running wouldn't work, so Tessa stood her ground and fired a meek pink Psychic ring toward the lightning. It cut above her, but that was exactly what Tessa wanted. With her other paw, she fired stronger Psychic rings, knocking Dragonite out of her dash.

"You'll pay for that. Lightning Javelin!" Electricity crackled in Dragonite's hand, forming a spear. She reared back to throw it, when an Ice Beam struck her between the wings. Dragonite flailed, her spear dissolving. She wheeled on Silvally, only to find a half-dozen copies running around in different directions, leaving salmon-colored trails behind them.

Tessa didn't hesitate in firing a gray, lustrous beam up toward Dragonite. She lightning-dashed right to avoid it, only to find two Silvally copies lunging for her, fairy energy brimming in their forelegs.

"That's enough!" Dragonite brought her hands together and pointed them forward. A massive vortex of snow and wind erupted. Silvally's Double Team clones vanished in puffs of smoke. The real Silvally was blown off his feet. A gray aura overtook him and he dropped to the ground with a loud thud. He dug his talons in. Metal coated his body. Chunks of hail and snow plinked off his hide.

Right as Dragonite ceased the Blizzard, blinding white light enveloped her from behind. Tessa looked right to see Espy standing tall, forehead gem venting pink fairy dust like a chimney would smoke. To Tessa's relief, Milotic stood beside Espy. It quickly turned to a sinking feeling when Tessa noticed Milotic's ribbons trembling. An electrical burn sat on her chest and blood streaked her once-sparkling scales.

Espy caught Tessa's gaze. "Focus on Dragonite," she said, gathering more fairy energy for another Dazzling Gleam.

"You losers think you can overpower me with numbers? Ha! That just means none of you are strong enough to stand up to me on your own!" Dragonite said, her Xurkitree-esque antennae bobbing up and down with excitement.

"D-Dragonite," Milotic said, voice shaky. Dragonite glanced at her, smirking and raising a brow. "Don't do this. Puh… please. I'm sorry that Serpy and I weren't there for you after we fought Zero! We… we should've been more—"

"Get down!" Espy yanked a yelping Milotic out of the way of a Lightning Javelin. But she wasn't prepared for a shockwave to race out when it struck the ground and exploded. Espy dropped Milotic to the ground, seizing up as electricity coursed through her veins.

"Leave them alone!" Silvally roared, sending a Flash Cannon up toward Dragonite. Tessa hastily added her own, hoping she could predict where Dragonite would try to dodge. Her brow furrowed when Dragonite slipped left in a stream of lightning. But that frustration turned to panic when Dragonite banked down toward Silvally. He barely had time to end his Flash Cannon before she was practically on top of him, Dragon Claws bared.

In a flash of salmon light, Silvally activated his fairy memories. Nevertheless, Dragonite's claws raked his chest. He stumbled back, eyes widening in shock and black blood staining the front of his feathery plume. "Th… that's impossible!" he said.

"No, it's called mixing types," Dragonite said, raising a hand and flicking blood off her claws. "You think you're special because you can change types on the fly? Well, I'm here to tell you that you're nothing." She zipped left, dodging a swipe of Silvally's glowing talons. Instead, he sliced through a Shadow Ball from Espy.

Tessa stood in place, paw raised to fire an Aura Sphere but unable to send off the attack. Mixing types? How was that even possible? She vaguely recalled Magearna using two attacks at once, but she couldn't mix different attacks together.

"You're only strong because you have that measly trinket on your leg. And even then, it's not enough to deal with me!" Dragonite continued, pointing to the memory looplet. She formed a lightning spear in her hand and swiped at Silvally. He countered with his dusty-brown talons. The spear shattered but Dragonite lightning-dashed up into the air to dodge a second swipe. "Without your looplet, you're worthless! A joke! A failure! Like the rest of your sorry team!"

Dragonite summoned another lightning spear and twirled it around. Storm clouds rapidly spawned overhead. Tessa, whose blood had boiled over when Dragonite badmouthed Silvally, found her nerve and shot a large Flash Cannon toward Dragonite. Espy unleashed Psychic rings and Milotic reluctantly shot an Ice Beam. All three attacks were vaporized by lightning strikes from the storm cloud.

"Guys, run!" Silvally barked. Ground memories still active, he fanned out his head crest. A Tailwind formed behind him, giving him extra speed to run toward Tessa.

A loud voice in her head told her to jump. Tessa listened without hesitation. Next thing she knew, she was on Silvally's back, staring wide-eyed at a lightning bolt that easily could've zapped her. Bolstered by the Tailwind, Silvally snagged his other two teammates and zigzagged across the battlefield, barely weaving through Dragonite's lightning storm.

"Stupid, stupid— you can't dodge forever!" Dragonite hissed. Each successive bolt grew larger, but with the increase in size came a decrease in accuracy. Silvally managed to train his eyes on Dragonite. He glared at her with every ounce of enmity he could muster. A silhouette of his piercing gaze materialized in front of him. Dragonite tensed up, as if the silhouette was looking straight into the depths of her corrupted soul.

Her next two bolts were much slower and easier to dodge, giving Silvally leverage to make a run at her. "You… you slowed her down?" Tessa whispered. It took her a second, but she realized Silvally had used Scary Face. She was amazed it actually worked.

"I will not back down!" Dragonite snarled, her Lightning Javelin increasing in size. However, she never got the chance to toss it. On Silvally's mark, Team Radiance struck in unison. Two Ice Beams, a Flash Cannon, and a Dazzling Gleam merged into a blue blast with white, twinkling lights. Dragonite fell from the sky, writhing in pain and screaming. The prism armor around her chest cracked when she hit the ground.

"Rrrgh… that's enough!"

An orange aura surrounded Dragonite. Tessa's feelers shot up in alarm. It looked exactly like the glows she and her teammates got before using Z-Moves. But how could Dragonite use one?

Electricity crackled through Dragonite's whole body. She hopped into the air and thrust her arms apart. Four different-colored, crystalline dragon heads surrounded her in a ring. A different element gathered up in each of the heads: fire, ice, lightning, and raw aura.

Sparks jumped around Silvally's looplet. Ignoring them, he gathered hot plasma in his open beak. Even with the dungeon's warped energy jamming her, Tessa could sense how strong the blast was. She looked down worriedly at his foreleg. "Um, Silvally, are you—"

"Fuh… fine," Silvally said, the charged attack muffling his voice. "Guh… uhwuh!" Silvally's back was red hot. Tessa had to climb off him or she risked getting burned. Her teammates did the same.

"I am going to bury you, freak!" Dragonite shouted. She pointed her arm high, summoned a Lightning Javelin, and reared back to throw it.

"You're the crazy one from where we're standing!" Espy retorted, shooting a Shadow Ball toward Dragonite. "Do you have any idea what'll happen if we don't stop Zero? We're all going to perish!"

"I know. That's exactly the point!"

Milotic froze in the midst of gathering icy energy to attack. "Wh… what?"

Tessa shot a Flash Cannon at the same time Silvally released his charged Hyper Beam. It swallowed Tessa's attack, but she kept pressing on.

"Big mistake! I'll burn you both to ashes!" Dragonite roared. Silvally narrowed his eyes, trying to force as much energy as he could into the attack. Tessa caught sight of his looplet vibrating against his leg.

This proved a costly mistake. With a gleam in her eye, Dragonite pivoted toward Tessa and hurled the Lightning Javelin. It sliced through the Hyper Beam with ease. Tessa's eyes widened. She dropped to her belly and the spear soared past her. Tessa looked up in time to realize that wasn't Dragonite's actual attack. She stared down the barrel of four gigantic beams, together dwarfing Silvally's Hyper Beam.

She braced herself for what she assumed would be the end. Instead, a hulking mass of fur and scales pressed down on her. At such close range, all Tessa could hear was Silvally's screams mixed with the sounds of Dragonite's unhinged laughter.

"Stop! Stop it, now!" Milotic cried. Her Ice Beam came too late, however. Dragonite's Z-Move faded and she lightning-dashed away from the attack, the crystal dragon heads crumbling into bits. Then, she negated Espeon's Dazzling Gleam with a sparkling, dragon-shaped beam. "I can't believe this! Just how much did Zero twist your mind?"

"Zero? Ha! Don't give me that, 'Millie.' You had the same power coursing through you," Dragonite said, smirking. "We both know who it really came from. And thanks to him… I'm the strongest mortal on the planet! Stronger than any god… stronger than Zero! I'm unbeatable!"

"And what good will that do if our world gets destroyed?" Espeon hissed.

Dragonite smiled. "You think I care what happens to this place? Of course not! This whole planet and its pathetic pantheon deserve to rot in oblivion!" Her grin grew wider. "Why do you think I'm fighting you losers, anyway? For the thrill, of course."

Milotic's ribbons curled up. "N… Air… Dr…"

"Sure, Necrozma wanted us to try and stab Zero in the back should she become too much of a nuisance for him. But at the end of the day, it didn't matter to me which of the two came out on top of their struggle. Because the end result would be the same." Dragonite licked her lips, much like Necrozma had done countless times. "The world would fall to the void, while I would flee into Ultra Space in search of even more power!" Dragonite lightning-dashed toward the two, only to stop short as an Aura Sphere whizzed by her.

Tessa had managed to clamber out from underneath Silvally. She stood hunched over, arms trembling in rage. Tessa could see the damage out of the corner of her eye.

Silvally's fur and scales burnt away, exposing soft tissue leaking black blood. Blackened shards of his memory looplet scattered all around him. The central gemstone lying by his open beak, vibrating intensely.

She was seething. Every kind gesture Silvally had done for her played through her head on loop. And this Pokémon… someone she had trusted… she had the gall to stand there gloating about what she had done. The sigil on Tessa's paw flashed. She didn't care. A small voice meekly tried to blame Necrozma for Dragonite's actions. Tessa didn't care.

Dragonite had to pay.

Fluorescent blue lines shot down Tessa's arms and legs. Dragonite turned toward her. "Oh, what's this? Upset, are we?" She glanced at Silvally. "Is it because I hurt your pwecious fwiend? Ha! You should've gotten his patchwork ass while you had the chance. Now, it's too late." Dragonite thrust her right arm out and an electric spear materialized in it. "Why don't you go curl up with Ninetales and cry your eyes dry like you always do!" She smirked. "Oh, wait, that's right. He isn't here, is here? But don't worry… once I'm done with you, I'll—"

"Shut up, shut up, shut up!"

In the blink of an eye, Tessa took Dragonite's place standing in front of her teammates, elbow outstretched. Her right paw crackled with shadow fire. A stunned Dragonite stood a couple of feet in front of her, clutching at her belly, face twisted in grimace.

"You… but… that…" Dragonite lifted her head. "Nobody makes the jump from Quick Attack to Extreme Speed like that. This is a joke!"

Tessa tensed. Dragonite lightning-dashed right, but Tessa still grazed her with her right paw-spike. Dragonite stumbled out of her dash. She pressed a paw to her side, then lifted it and stared at the sticky red fluid on her scales. Dragonite unsheathed her Dragon Claws, but had to divert the flurry of slashes intended for Tessa toward Milotic's Ice Beam. Tessa kept her distance this time, opting to shoot a Flash Cannon. Espy unleashed another blinding-white fairy energy blast.

Dragonite surged into the air. The three attacks sailed underneath her. "No… screw this! You're not getting some damn heroic second wind! Not against me!" Raising her arms high, she summoned four more crystal dragon heads. "I'll pummel you with Prism Meteors until you're as broken as that abomination you call a friend!"

"Bitch, you take that back!" Espy snarled, firing off another Dazzling Gleam. Tessa noticed scorched fur surrounding Espy's forehead gem but, like her teammate, she was far too angry at Dragonite to care.

"Not a chance! You want that freak's ass so badly? Then you two can share each other's company in the spirit realm!" Dragonite barked, the crystal dragon heads brimming with energy. Tessa's aura feelers tensed. She was ready to lunge for Espy and make a run for it when the forcefield surrounding the battlefield shattered. Dragonite turned right. "What the—"

A massive iceberg sprang up from below. Part of it clipped Dragonite and shattered the crystal heads. Tessa's heart soared the moment her eyes fell on the familiar ice Ninetales standing atop it.

"Get away from my friends!" Shane cried, before engulfing Dragonite in a giant ice beam. He froze her solid inside a huge block of ice, which slammed into the gate with a loud thunk.

"Shane!" Tessa cried, breaking into a huge smile at the sight. Her relief gave way to panic, however, as she remembered the state of her other friend. "You've got to help Silvally! He's… he's…" She pointed a trembling paw back toward him. Espy was already by his side, eyes watering as she desperately smushed a rawst and oran berry against his hide.

"Say no more," Shane said, leaping from the iceberg as it melted away. When he hit the ground, Tessa noticed a few differences in her partner. His fur had an almost metallic sheen do it. Every step he made produced a loud clunk that brought Magearna or Metagross to mind. The gemstone in his looplet gave off an array of different colors and a compass-like sigil glowed on his forehead.

"W… what happened to you?" Espy asked, stepping aside to let Shane have a look at Silvally.

"The short version is that Zero lied to us. Necrozma was still alive and kicking. He had possessed Xerneas," Shane said. Both Espy and Tessa had their mouths open when Shane lifted three of his tails to silence them. "He tried to kill me, but I found the Dawn Hourglass and took in what was left of its power."

"But… but then…" Tessa fidgeted nervously. She definitely sensed something different in Shane's aura. A newfound brilliance that shined through the dungeon's aura-jamming distortion.

"G-Guys… we've got a problem!" Milotic shouted, gaining the group's attention. Tessa turned to see cracks forming in Dragonite's icy prison.

"Necrozma's gone. That's all that matters. You guys help Milotic. I'll tend to Silvally," Shane said, golden light brimming around him.

"Err… r-right," Espy said. She ran toward Tessa, charging fairy energy in her forehead gem.

Tessa likewise gathered up an Aura Sphere. The rush of joy that Shane's appearance triggered had quelled Tessa's building rage. Her paw's sigil had stopped glowing, much to her relief. Still, she had a battle to win. For Silvally's sake, she wouldn't squander the opening Shane gave them.

Chunks of ice shot past the three ladies. "Attack now!" Tessa shouted, firing the Aura Sphere. Espy added fairy energy to it, while Milotic shot an Ice Beam from her position. However, the ice surrounding Dragonite exploded before the attacks could reach her. Instead, they slammed into the chains on the gate and disappeared in puffs of black smoke.

"I have had enough of this!" Dragonite thundered. Four new crystal dragon heads surrounded her. "I don't care how many of you pop out of the woodwork! It doesn't matter! Bonds are worthless! The only thing that counts is pure, raw strength! And I'll prove it!" She fixed the dragon heads on her female foes. "Now, die!"

A furious, distorted roar cut through the air. A pillar of multicolored light erupted to everyone's right. Dragonite pivoted, her eyes widening. Tessa turned and her aura feelers tensed so hard she thought they'd pop out of her skull.

Silvally was back on his feet, surrounded by a rainbow aura. Rainbow ripples raced through his sclera, cheek-bolts, head crest, and tail. Shane backed away from him, tails curling up.

"What did you do, Shane?!" Tessa cried, holding an arm up over her face.

"I… I healed him… w-with Morning Sun," Shane said, looking down at his looplet and biting his lip. "It didn't feel any different from other times I've used it!"

"Well then, you two mistakes get to die first," Dragonite said. She thrust her arms forward. The crystal heads unleashed a barrage of Draco Meteors much like the many missiles Stakataka had fired at them.

Silvally picked his head up. "No," he whispered, blowing out a cloud of steam. With another loud roar, Silvally unleashed a mighty snowstorm of his own. One by one, the gale-force winds blew the meteors aside, until the Blizzard reached a befuddled Dragonite and destroyed the crystal heads.

"Nuh… no. That's… impossible! Are you even supposed to know that move?!" she said.

Tessa was about to say something to her friend, when he lunged into the air. He shot into Dragonite like a blazing comet, knocking her back.

"I am not a freak!" Silvally cried. Psychic energy gathered in his head crest. He headbutted Dragonite square in the snout. She threw her hands onto her bloody face. "I am not just some mishmash of spirits!" He clubbed Dragonite's head with blue, sparking talons. She fell to the ground, where blazing Fire Pledge plumes were waiting to blast her back into the air.

"I am more than a measly trinket!" A wheel of golden light surrounded Silvally's chest. It turned to bright-pink fairy dust, that swirled around his forelegs. "I am my own person! And I will not let you talk down to me or my friends ever again!"

Dragonite tried to slash at Silvally with her Dragon Claws, but his left foreleg swatted her arms aside. His right foreleg then slashed her wing, tearing it out of its joint. Silvally landed on all-fours while Dragonite crashed into the ground. Espy and Tessa stared at him, muzzles agape. Both weren't sure whether to be happy Silvally was all right or worried that he was acting without the memory looplet.

"Well? We have to finish her with a Z-Move, don't we?" Silvally said, voice still distorted. "Espy, you're the better 'mon for the job. Tessa's Z-Move will be more useful against Zero and Dialga."

Espy blinked. "O-Oh! R-Right!" She stepped toward Dragonite. "Um, are you sure you're—"

"I'm fine," Silvally insisted. "Let's take care of Dragonite."

"N… no. This isn't… I won't…"

The moment Espy heard Dragonite stirring, she concentrated on her looplet. She was about to draw forth her Z-Power, when a bolt of lightning struck Dragonite from above.

"Dragonite!" Milotic cried, shielding her face with her tail. When the light faded, there was no sign of her old teammate.

"W… what just happened?" Tessa asked, looking about nervously. "Where did she go?"

The closest Tessa got to an answer was the sight of the chains and locks on the gate crumbling away. The gemstone eye shattered and the gates swung open, revealing the giant pool of acid far below them and, in the distance, the tower's entrance. Espy and Tessa exchanged glances, then ran over to Silvally.

The sheer worry on Espy's face surprised Tessa. Espy even spoke to Silvally before she could. "What about your spirits? Your looplet got destroyed. You aren't hearing voices, are you?"

"I told you, I'm fine," Silvally said. "I swallowed the gem that housed the extra spirits."

"You did what?!" Espy blurted out. Tessa hopped back in surprise. Espy hopped up onto her hind legs and threw her forepaws on Silvally's forelegs. "Isn't that dangerous? How are you going to think straight? Don't we need to find you another Lunar Wing? I… I…" Espy stared into the swirling array of colors in Silvally's eyes. "S… Silv…"

Silvally raised his brows.

"What memories do you have on right now?" Espy whispered.

A tense silence followed. Silvally avoided his teammates gazes as he whispered, "All of them."

Espy slipped and fell back onto all-fours. "All of them?"

Silvally nodded.

"That can't be safe for you, can it? I mean, your cheeks are venting so much steam you'd think we were in Fogbound Lake," Espy said, eyes glistening.

"I don't know what to tell you. It just… happened," Silvally said. "I can't get it to stop." He looked down. "Besides, even if it is dangerous, this could give us the edge we need to confront Zero, right?" He looked at Tessa, whose aura feelers shot up. She knew he had a point, but that didn't negate the possible danger. Tessa wanted all her friends to make it through the conflict.

"Silvally's right. We shouldn't dwell on his condition. After all, we're running out of time in more ways than one," Shane said, looking up toward the sky.

Tessa was about to respond, when Milotic slumped over. "But we still have to climb up the tower. And who the heck knows what's waiting for us in there?" She looked at the electrical burn on her chest. "After that battle, I'm not sure we still have the resources to deal with Zero."

"Then it's a good thing I caught up with you guys in time," Shane said, grinning and puffing out his chest. "We can skip this dumb tower and go directly to the root of the problem!"

Tessa tensed up. Shane sure sounded confident. Then again, his aura was shining bright and, judging by Silvally's current state, the Hourglass must've given him a heck of a power boost. Though her heart raced at the prospect of finally facing off with her mother, she couldn't deny that, with these new developments, she felt more confident in the team's chances than before.

"The only question here is you, Milotic," Shane continued. "Are you still up for fighting? Because you look pretty out of it."

Milotic glanced at the spot where Dragonite previously lay, wincing at the blood strewn across the ground. Tessa imagined it had to be hard for her. Nonetheless, Milotic straightened up. "I… I can't back down here. I have to see this thing through to the end. It's… it's what Airy and Serpy would've done."

Shane nodded. "Fair enough. Then get ready, guys…" He turned and spat up a blue, translucent sphere. It expanded into an Ultra Wormhole in front of them. Tessa then caught a blue flicker somewhere near the top of the tower.

"Everyone in, now! And get ready to attack!" Shane cried, lunging into the portal with hot air gathering in his mouth.

Tessa took a deep breath, charged up an Aura Sphere, and jumped in after him.


Undead Reaper, Ultra Volcarona
Mount Supernova's molten terrain mixed with the god of death's sacrifice to bring this fearsome fiend into existence. Using the body of "the world's strongest Pokémon" as her own, she seeks to rain fiery judgment upon a world drawing its dying breath.

Electrifying Maiden, Ultra Dragonite
Necrozma not only tampered with the corrupted Z-Power that Zero tried to pump into her, he awakened long-dormant rage that she had subdued through her years of honest work with her friends at the guild. Now, she only cares about bolstering own strength, even if it means surrendering entire worlds to the power of the void.

I realize there's been a lot of action this episode and it's getting pretty, uh, shonen-esque for lack of a better description. I'm trying to keep things varied as best I can, here, and mix in important character moments, but any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

For those not following the blog, the two-year anniversary is coming up fast for the fic. This time around, I won't be doing an anniversary special. As you can see, we're fast approaching the climax of the fic, and I don't want to derail it. Instead, I hope you'll enjoy these upcoming chapters, because they're big ones. Starting with...

Next time: Zero.


Dragon Enthusiast
52, 53

This chapter has probably had the most dramatic tonal shifts mid-chapter than I’ve seen. Most of it ebbs into the cartoonish side, though the presence of Serpy making her first fiery appearance to the group is a bit of a lingering reminder of what the story’s really about. I’m not really sure what to make of or how to feel about how… odd the tone feels here compared to the last entry, really. Particularly Totem Salazzle and her brick-shaped brain—honestly, I’ve never seen a more stereotypical villain in quite some time!

I also saw the infamous Attract scene, which adds to the cartoonish nature of it all, though I thought all things considered it was handled well. I’m curious what the fallout will be from it, though, if Salazzle will realize that she, too, is just as vulnerable to her nature as males are, or something along those lines. Again, she has more double-think than a Zweilous.

Other than that, I don’t have much to comment on for these two chapters, since Shane more or less summarizes my thoughts on the matter pretty well. Try not to rely on him lampshading these tropes too often~

Bonus 12
Oh, but one thing that did catch my eye… what was up with this episode? Tonally, it seemed really different and out of place. It felt like one of those Very Special Episodes that come up in cartoons every so often to address some sort of real-world event, so it makes me wonder if that’s the case here, too. Perhaps there’s some relevance here to the plot at large beyond the general fluff? But I’m struggling to see it. I’ll keep it in mind regardless, at least.


Ahh, another clash! And it brushes upon more or less the same tropes as before, unfortunately, at least as far as the conversation is concerned. Quasi-brainwashed bad guy talks down to the team with various demotivating statements to ambiguous effectiveness followed by a reversal. I didn’t really have a whole lot to say about that as a whole, but it is starting to feel a bit tired, especially when it’s Tessa reacting and getting confidence blows.

Gallian showing up out of nowhere threw me off a bit, too. And then he’s gone! I feel like he could’ve afforded to have, like, a tiny scene in the chapter before to foreshadow his approach, or something…

But on a more positive note, the aftermath was handled pretty well, and oh! Look, an evolution! Now that was something. At first, the way it was described—particularly her huge aura feelers—I briefly though she had gone Mega rather than a normal evolution. Now that would have been something else… But it looks like she still can’t quite catch a break.

55, 56

Got through both of these all in one sitting, and I thought that this was one of your stronger chapter endings, at least until you cut away to the villains again, which felt kinda tacked on as a “Oh by the way” sort of deal. I understand why, but I kinda wish everything that happened between Team Radiance was kept more as an encapsulated episode, y’know?

Speaking of which—everything about Tessa. She’s got an interesting change in appearance, taking on what feels like a hint of her father? But also the black markings of shattered glass… not sure where that’s coming from. Let alone the Jamba sigil. The current theory in-universe is that it’s because she evolved with Z power, so maybe that’s it? It feels too simple. There’s probably a bit more.

Also, don’t think I missed that bit of foreshadowing. She looks at Silv and sees a brilliant aura because of all the spirits within, and then looks at an “equally” radiant aura in Shane? C’mon, now. That looplet around his wrist is probably the same thing as Silvally’s! Or something.

Oh, by the way, pretty sure this is the episode when the Shane-Tessa ship started to actually get some valid evidence behind it. C’mon, licking? Two whole chapters felt like they were dedicated to being borderline bedridden with Shane nearby. And Espeon doing magic coke. This episode, as much as I enjoyed it, was just aaaaall over the place tone wise.

Anyway, overall? This episode was just the right length. It covered what it had to, we located the Sizzle Shard, Gallian stole it… yeah. I wouldn’t consider it your best episode, if only because Silvally’s was pretty hard to top, among others, but it was definitely up there. I liked it! And I kinda don’t know where they’re gonna go in the next one, either. But based on the episode title… it’s probably gonna have to do with Galgal.
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Winter can't come soon enough
@Namohysip: Gotcha on Discord, again. :V

This is a chapter's that's been fourteen months in the making, give or take. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Enjoy!


Chapter 94: Countdown to Chaos

~Rainbow Island~

With each passing minute, Ninetales grew steadily more worried. While Ephemeris tended to Hoopa's revival, all she could do was pace around the altar, pausing to look at the sky. She kept seeing multicolored ripples passing overhead. At first, she didn't pay them much mind, but now they were happening more frequently. Her tails twisted around one another. She bit her lip.

"E-Ephemeris, sir? I, uh, don't mean to interrupt or anything, but how much longer do you think you'll need?" Ninetales asked. "My gut tells me something big is happening at Temporal Tower."

"It shouldn't be much longer," Ephemeris said, holding his wings steady in front of him. A ball of gold light floated in front of him, wriggling around like a plate of gelatin. "I've almost got it. Just a few more seconds and… ah!" Ephemeris pulled his wings back. The ball of light resembled Hoopa's outline. As the gold colors faded, Hoopa came into view, arms folded over his stomach as if he was sleeping peacefully.

"Welcome back, Hoopa," Ho-Oh said. Hoopa poked an eye open. He looked around.

"Where's Necrozma, huh? Hoopa's gonna smack him silly for what he did!" Hoopa said, flailing his hands around his head.

"Necrozma's gone. That's why we were able to get your spirit and revive you," Totem Ninetales explained. "I'm afraid we're short on time, here. The Prism Virus has control of Temporal Tower and, if we don't act soon, time itself could collapse on us."

"Exactly. We need you to try and find where in the ocean Temporal Tower landed and make a portal to it," Ninetales said, walking up to Hoopa.

"Mmm… that's an awful long distance for Hoopa to make a portal to," Hoopa said, frowning. "In this state, it might be a struggle, but if Hoopa had his full power…" His voice trailed off. He looked over at Ampharos and Mawile, the latter of which raised a curious brow. "Don't give Hoopa that look. Hoopa can sense the Djinn's Bottle. Ol' Long-Neck has it in his bag!"

Ampharos blinked. "I do?" He opened his satchel, poked around in it, and produced a white, ring-shaped bottle with a pink neck and head resembling Hoopa's. "Ah, so I do! Boy, I wonder how that got in there." He threw his head back in a hearty laugh.

Mawile facepalmed. "I suppose Meganium slipped it in there when she heard what we'd be doing. How resourceful of her."

"Yeah, yeah, give it here!" Hoopa said, snatching the bottle with his ESP. He screwed the cap off and out came a cloud of purple mist. "Heh… finally! Hoopa was so tired of being stuck in this shrimpy form!"

Ninetales' tails shot up. "Um, is this really a good idea?" she squeaked.

"Weren't you the one who wanted to take action so badly?" Cresselia reminded her.

"Fair point," Ninetales whispered. She just wished it didn't involve Hoopa growing a massive body and sporting two extra pairs of arms.

"Wonderful! Fantastic! At last… Hoopa is unbound once more!" Hoopa roared with laughter. An intense aura bristled around him, forcing the other Pokémon to shield their faces.

Ninetales bent over, trying to cup her forelegs over her ears. "C-Can we just get a portal to Temporal Tower… or whatever is left of it?"

"Say no more, mortal! It is but child's play for the mighty Hoopa!" Hoopa declared, clapping two sets of hands together. Pink and purple energy crackled around them. A large ring portal formed in front of Ninetales, far bigger than the ones Hoopa usually summoned. Ephemeris and Ho-Oh easily could've walked through it side by side. "There you are, fuzzy one!"

"Err… thanks," Ninetales said. "Who's coming with me?" Ampharos, Cresselia, and Mawile joined her by the portal. Magearna and Totem Ninetales hung back.

Apologies. We need to oversee the next part of our plan. Though, with Hoopa powered up, it should hopefully expeditialate the process, Magearna said.

"Okay. The sooner you can bring everyone back the better," Ninetales said. She nodded to the others, then they jumped through the ring portal.


~Prism Tower~

Tessa emerged from the Ultra Wormhole, ready to throw her Aura Sphere. However, instead of her mother or Dialga or, well, any visible target, all she found was a dome of red, glitchy cubes surrounding the team. "What the— where are we, Shane? I thought you said you were taking us to the top of the tower."

"This is the top of the tower. I'm sure of it," Shane said. He spat an Ice Beam at the wall, but it fizzled out. "We must've stumbled into a trap."

"Because Zero saw the other side of the wormhole," Silvally said. He lunged for the cubes, pink energy swirling around his talons. Silvally struck hard, but bounced off the forcefield. His gold aura snuffed out the black smoke rising off his talons. "Not even my Multi-Attack can do anything."

Tessa's patience quickly wore thin. "Espeon, boost me up!" she said, throwing the Aura Sphere toward the dome. Espy added Psychic rings, expanding the blue fireball's size. Though aural flames seared the cubes, the wall held tough. Tessa's aura feelers drooped. Her marked paw crackled with black energy. Tessa ran forward and slammed a glowing palm into the barrier.

"I know you're out there, Mom. Show yourself!" she barked.

A ripple spread through the cubes, but the wall withstood the blow. Tessa looked at her outstretched arm. She saw faint traces of the rainbow lines that popped up when she lost her cool at Dragonite. Tessa pulled her paw back and stepped away from the wall. It was then that she and the others heard a loud, distorted sigh.

"I had really hoped that Dragonite and Lugia could stall you, but it seems that was nothing more than a pipe dream."

Everyone looked around, trying to pinpoint the source of Zero's voice. It was a useless endeavor. Her words echoed all around the forcefield dome.

"You're hiding because you're scared of us, aren't you?" Silvally said. He flicked his head to his right. Air crescents, fireballs, and lightning arcs swirled together and battered the forcefield. The cubes turned black, but managed to withstand the onslaught. "We'll break this stupid barrier of yours down and put an end to all of this! I swear it!"

"I think not." Zero paused. "See, you're correct. I am hiding."

Tessa cocked her head to the side. Was this supposed to be some sort of mind game? Well, she wouldn't fall for it. She assumed another fighting stance. "Like I'd believe anything you say."

"There was a time that you did. But I can see that your brother's defiance has rubbed off on you," Zero scoffed. "In any case, I'm not lying. You really think that I'm going to risk everything I've been working toward on a fool's errand of a battle with you lot? Of course not!" Static rippled through the cubes, like they were vibrating in time with the fluctuations in Zero's pitch. "While I could wipe you out with Necrozma's power, I won't. Because then I risk losing my grasp on Dialga's life energy and throwing the whole timestream out of whack.

"That's why I've decided not to give you misguided idiots the chance to play the heroes. You're not going to get a battle with me," Zero continued. "I'll form up as many barriers as I need to stall you out until my work as done. At which point, the gods will be no more and I will finally have my family back."

"You already have a family!" Silvally growled, before Tessa could even retort. "What would Tessa and Gallian be otherwise?"


Red energy flickered in Tessa's right paw. Her aura feelers trembled. "How could you say something like that?" she said, her tone uneven.

"You are nothing but a failed attempt at replacing what I lost. My real children are back in the human world… waiting for my return," Zero said. Again the cubes vibrated. "You and your brother… never should've happened. I told Incineroar I didn't want any eggs. But I couldn't just up and say that I was actually a human. He… he was too good to me. I couldn't betray his trust."

"And what do you suppose lying to him for your whole life counts as, huh?" Tessa barked. She pointed her paws forward and fired a large Aura Sphere. Silvally added a flurry of ice shards, fireballs, and lightning. The Tri-Attacks knocked cubes out of the dome, but before anyone could expand on his work, fresh cubes took their place.

"At the time, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never return to the human world. I considered having him as a mate to be a… reasonable substitute for the family I lost," Zero replied. "How could I have known that the powers that be would wind up thrusting an Absol egg into our possession? I couldn't. It just… happened. As did your egg.

"But you made Incineroar happy, so I put up with the two of you as long as I could… until Metagross stole Incineroar from me and the gods laughed off my attempts to undo his crime," Zero hissed.

Despite her previous Aura Spheres failing to do anything, more blue flames swirled around Tessa's paws. She finally knew why her mother seemed so cold and distant when Incineroar wasn't around… and why her mother had treated her so badly during her training. Zero never really cared about her. And when Incineroar died, she refused to put up with Tessa any longer.

"I… I can't believe you," Tessa said, stomping on the floor. "You… you were part of the guild. You helped Pokémon who were lost and scared a-and confused." She clenched her fists. "Do you have any idea how awful you made me feel when you stopped my training and called me worthless? I… I…"

"I don't care. You weren't even supposed to exist," Zero replied, the icy venom in her voice plain as day. "But, fret not, I'm not going to erase you. When my work is done, you, your brother, and your father can have a peaceful, happy life together… free of the numerous conflicts wrought upon the world by gods and ley lines." She paused.

Tessa tensed at the mention of Incineroar. "You can't bring him back," she whispered, shaking her head. "I… I don't think it works like that. What you're doing… this time rewriting thing is going to fail! It'll backfire!"

"You think, hmm? Well, I have Dialga under my control and I know what I'm planning will work," Zero said. "Why are you trying to resist this? I'm giving you what you want. I'll bring your loving father back. You won't have to wake up fearful of what the day may hold for you. I'll be out of your life. Hell, I'll even let that hideous abomination you call a friend survive the reset. You have nothing to gain from intervening!"

Silvally's cheek bolts revved up, the whirs loud enough to make Tessa jump. "We don't buy your poison-tongued lies for a second!" he shouted. Silvally slammed his forelegs on the ground. Tremors raced toward the front of the dome. Earthly energy shot up at the cubes, along with flaming vines much like Serperior attacked with while infected. The cubes glowed bright-white before disappearing.

Everyone heard a sharp gasp from the other side of the hole Silvally poked. However, he couldn't maintain the attack and Zero repaired the forcefield before Espy's Psychic rings reached it. "Dang it! We were so close that time," she hissed, tail lashing at the air.

"You all are sorely mistaken. Defeating me will only put your world on the path to inevitable destruction. And, all the while, you'll continue driving yourselves crazy racing through dungeon after dungeon while the gods sit around and do nothing," Zero said.

"What if you're wrong? You could be putting everyone's lives at risk over this ridiculous gamble," Espy said, frowning at the barrier.

"My, how your opinion was swayed to the other side quickly. I recall it wasn't that long ago you were saying quite the opposite," Zero scoffed. "In any case, risking your lives is fine by me if it means ensuring that no humans will ever be pulled from the ones they love and crammed into the body of a Pokémon. I refuse to let this gods' lackadaisical attitude ruin the lives of countless hard-working humans."

"That's not going to solve anything," Silvally huffed. "Team Paradox told us there are numerous worlds out in Ultra Space… and Ultra Wormholes are a constant, continuous threat. Even if you somehow got rid of ley lines, you can't guarantee one won't suck in a human from your world."

The cubes stopped vibrating. "That's why you get to live, freak. I had wanted the Pokémon I infected to become the defenders of this world, but it looks like you cured all of them. So, you'll have to take that mantle for yourself," Zero said. "Ultra Wormholes have spawned every time a crisis has faced this world. Prevent the crises and you'll prevent the wormholes. Thus, no humans will end up here by accident and you won't have any reasons to try and summon any."

Tessa was about to respond when she heard what she thought was clapping. In actuality, Shane was rapping a forepaw against the ground. "Y'know, I gotta hand it to you. Stalling us out by giving a long, drawn-out lecture about why you're right? Not a bad plan… doc," he said, looking up and smirking at the dome's roof.

"Doc? What's that supposed to mean?" Tessa asked. "Did you learn something from the Dawn Hourglass?" For a second, she thought she caught a golden glint in Shane's eye, but she lost sight of it when he nodded.

"I did." Shane approached the nearest part of the barrier. "You've fallen off a long way from the whole 'do no harm' thing you're supposed to follow, haven't you, Dr. Sinclair?"

Static ripples raced through the cubes. Shane grinned triumphantly. "What did you just call me?" Zero growled.

"Dr. Prisma Sinclair. That was who you were when you were human," Shane said. Tessa's jaw hung open. She wasn't expecting the Dawn Hourglass to have told him about who her mother was. Besides, how would that help the team defeat her, anyway? "It's strange. I think I actually heard about your disappearance from my folks. Probably because your husband involved me in one of his cases."

More ripples raced through the cubes. They blurred together into a large mesh of discolored static. "Y… you… you knew Rory?" Zero said.

"Shane, what are you doing?" Silvally said.

"Working out an opening," Shane whispered back. "Get ready. When I give you the signal, it's time to attack."

Tessa wanted to press the issue, but Shane faced away from her. Clearing his throat, he said, "Maybe you remember the case? It involved your college roommate's son. Does 'Nicholas Eisenberg' ring any bells?"

The static surrounding Team Radiance intensified. "That's… you're…" A growl echoed through the dome. "You think you were the friend, don't you? The autistic kid that Margie and George always complained about when we met for dinner or a get-together."

Tessa looked between Shane and the dome. Had she heard things right? Did Shane admit he and Zero knew each other when they were humans? And that, by extension, Zero had known who Necrozma was all along?

"The very same. It looks like, perhaps, Necrozma was keeping secrets from you," Shane said, swishing his hair to the side. Tessa tensed up. There it was again. Another moment of bravado that made her think back to their first few weeks together. Unless he was putting on an act to unnerve Zero. But then… why wouldn't he tell his teammates? Tessa felt a headache coming on and she lacked the time and patience to deal with it.

"What are you talking about, whelp?" Zero said.

"Let's say you actually succeeded with this crazy plan of yours and got magically turned back into a human. Do you really think you can return to your old life?" Shane said, raising an eyebrow. "Your husband could've remarried."

"Time flows differently for our worlds! Not much time would've passed," Zero retorted.

"Perhaps. But then… what about your friend?" Shane continued. "I mean… you found her supposedly-dead son… and then killed him yourself."

Silence followed. Tessa was about to point out that Shane claimed he had finished off Necrozma, but stopped. If the static surrounding them was any indication, Shane was unnerving Zero enough to mess with her barrier.

"Is this your idea of a practical joke? It's not funny," Zero said.

"It's the truth. Necrozma was really the Eisenbergs' kid." Shane stuck his snout up. "So, tell me, how are you going to go back to living your human life with your human friends? Can you really tell me you won't feel at least a bit guilty when you inevitably refuse to tell them what happened?"

Shane raised up two of his tails. Assuming that to be the signal, Silvally acted first, launching a huge lightning bolt at the barrier. Tessa hastily added a gray beam. Then came a Hydro Pump from Milotic and multiple pink rings from Espy. Shane finished the job with a golden energy ball. Light brimmed in the cracks between each individual cube, then the energy dome collapsed.

The team had a few brief seconds to size up the situation. Dialga sat— or, rather, had sunk into a small, crystalline altar. Only his head and upper body were visible. The Time Gears were welded against his corrupted body like tumors protruding from an organ. Red and black energy streamed off him, drifting toward the eye of the massive storm over head. Ley line chains stuck out of his shoulders and damaged chest plate. They attached to Zero, who floated in midair, staring the group down.

Silvally stomped a foreleg on the ground. Fire Pledge columns shot up toward Zero. Two of the chains yanked her out of the way, then pulled her away from a Hydro Pump. Shane tried to blast her with a stream of hot air, but she summoned her Bone Rush scythe and dispelled the Heat Wave with icy winds courtesy of Articuno's spirit.

"You imbeciles. Stand down! I have to concentrate on Dialga," Zero growled. She raised her free paw. Columns of red cubes rose underneath her and raced toward Team Radiance, trying to push them off the top of the tower. Tessa weaved around one. When she looked left, she found Silvally sinking into the floor. Rather than questioning it, she fired an Aura Sphere toward her mom. A glitchy pillar negated the attack. Tessa growled her frustrations.

"You stand down!" Silvally retorted. "You're throwing everyone's lives away! And for what?"

"To get my life back!" Zero snarled, raising her paws. She fired clusters of glitchy cubes in multiple directions. They froze in midair, then homed in on each of her opponents.

"Everyone out of the way!" Shane barked, flinging one of his golden energy balls forward. A pillar of light swallowed up several of Zero's projectiles. The rest swerved out of the way, then headed for Tessa and Silvally.

"Above you!" Espy said, flinging a Shadow Ball at one of the clusters targeting Silvally. It stalemated in a small purple explosion, all while Silvally rose into the air atop a column of water. He spun around, casting the water in all directions. His teammates backpedaled, save for Milotic, who stood tall and, instead, redirected the water with her tail. Zero broke through Silvally's wave with a red Aura Sphere, but all of her projectiles were gone.

"Such pests you all are," she hissed, right paw raised. Three runes encircled it: a flame, an eye, and a rock.

"S-Something's wrong! The ground's shaking," Milotic said, ribbons curling up.

Shane, Silvally, and Tessa teamed up, sending hot air, a blue fireball, and a sparking, red Focus Blast orb right at Zero. Her chains yanked her out of the way of everything except the Aura Sphere, which tried to tail her. But more ley line chains burst from the ground. They split into three clumps, which wrapped around one another until crystal copies of an Alakazam, a Charizard, and a Tyranitar floated beside Zero. Charizard unleashed a stream of purple shadow fire, snuffing out Tessa's Aura Sphere.

"Take care of them," Zero ordered, pointing toward Team Radiance. The copies of Team ACT nodded diligently and darted toward the ground. Charizard made a beeline for Shane, only for an electrified Silvally to hammer into him. He skidded across the ground, empty eyes giving no indication there was any pain felt.

Tessa tried to get another shot in on Zero, but a pink glint caught her eye. She jumped back seconds before Alakazam's Psychic rings would have hefted her into the air. "Espy! Shane! Can you two take care of Alakazam? I'm better off fighting Tyranitar," she said, dashing forward with a burst of Extreme Speed. Tyranitar silently lowered its shoulder, absorbing Tessa's Force Palm strike. He drove a glowing fist into the ground.

Crystal spires jutted up, sending Tessa skyward with her arms and legs flailing. She soon became level with her mother, who had summoned four small orbs around her. Tessa's eyes widened. They looked like the strange balls Zero had released Milotic and Serperior from. Zero pointed a paw toward her and the four Beast Balls converged. Tessa knew she couldn't forge an Aura Sphere big enough to take them all out in time.

Luckily, an Ice Beam whizzed by and blew the now-frozen balls off the tower and into the swirling abyss below. Zero looked down and pointed toward Milotic. As Tessa landed, she turned and fired a Flash Cannon. Tyranitar halted his charge, pivoted, and fired a large, white-hot plasma beam at Tessa. She backpedaled with a yelp, falling on her rear. The Hyper Beam grazed the tufts atop her ears, leaving scorch marks and trails of smoke.

Tyranitar couldn't turn back fast enough to deflect Milotic's water torrent. He rolled across the ground, spinning to a stop in the middle of a puddle. In the process, he almost bowled over Alakazam, who had to levitate over him. He still managed to get a Light Screen up quick enough to deflect Espy's Shadow Ball and Shane's blinding-white blast. Alakazam lowered his shield and fired a Shadow Ball of his own from each spoon.

Tessa looked up. Zero had more Beast Balls ready to capture her teammates. She hopped to her feet and shot Psychic rings diagonally. They were just enough to deflect the Beast Balls, earning a distorted growl from Zero. "Guys! Stay on your guard! Zero's trying to capture us with those ball things she used on Team Captivate," Tessa said, noticing Milotic's fearful gaze and shuddering out of the corner of her eye.

"What? Seriously?" Silvally said, ducking a swipe from Charizard's glowing wing and driving his pink head crest into his opponent's gut. Charizard stumbled back, shadow fire at the ready, but Silvally met it with a torrent of water. He darted into the air to avoid the steam.

"Of course I am. I want this fight to end, but you idiots refuse to see reason," Zero growled, paws raised to conjure more Beast Balls. This time, however, she had to hover right to avoid a Shadow Ball from Espy, then turn to negate an Aura Sphere with one of her own.

"The only one who isn't seeing reason is you, Mom!" Tessa barked, throwing her arms up to try and blunt a black beam shot by Tyranitar. The Dark Pulse left lingering shadows around her arms. The sigil on her right paw flickered once again. She suppressed a growl. They didn't have time to waste on these copies. It was another stalling tactic.

"Watch it, Tessa!"

Milotic's shouts snapped Tessa to attention. She stared down the bright-white barrel of an oncoming Hyper Beam. Tessa dove to the ground. The crystal floor scuffed up her fur. She rolled to her feet and shot an Aura Sphere in Tyranitar's direction, but it hastily met its end under a volley of Air Slash crescents.

With a gasp, Tessa looked up to see Charizard flying toward her, shadow fire pooling in his throat.

"Get away from her!" Silvally cried. Electricity clipped Charizard's wing. He silently fell toward the ground, only to land in a couple of large water bubbles. Silvally raced by Tessa, static sparks and black smoke trailing from his crest and cheek-bolts.

Before Tessa could see if Silvally was all right, she heard an "Incoming!" from behind her. Tessa turned around and was greeted by Tyranitar's glowing fist. A resounding clang echoed across the altar. Tessa tumbled to stop, pain shooting down her body. Her vision went white. Pins and needles gripped her arms and legs.

Ears ringing, Tessa tried to catch her breath, but couldn't. Sensing wounded prey, Tyranitar lumbered toward her. Zero summoned more Beast Balls, ready to attack anyone who tried to help her. Silvally turned around and, seeing her helpless state, leaped into the air and blew Tyranitar back with a gray energy burst. Charizard launched a purple Flamethrower to down him. However, Silvally withstood the flames. He met Zero's Beast Balls with wind blades and a large, green Energy Ball. Then, rear and tail smoldering from Charizard's blast, he spun back around and aimed to fry Charizard with lightning.

Charizard quickly darted into the air, however, and unleashed an Air Slash barrage of his own. Fast he was, Silvally wasn't small enough to maneuver around the attack. Wind blades nicked him. Silvaly grunted in annoyance, but nonetheless charged down his opponent.

"This is so ridiculous. You all are making such fools of yourselves," Zero said. She turned and tugged on the chains connected her to Dialga. He roared in pain. An energy surge shot up into the eye of the storm. More of Dialga's body melted into the altar. "I intend to let you all survive the reset. All you're doing is making things more complicated for me."

"That's the point," Tessa said, having managed to stagger back to her feet. A quick glance left saw Shane tending to a downed Espy while Alakazam stumbled about in a daze. She refocused the moment she heard Milotic screaming. Tyranitar had slammed her against the ground. A huge welt spawned around the right side of Milotic's face. She squirmed meekly, groaning in pain.

Tessa silently shot an Aura Sphere toward Tyranitar, banking on his fixation with Milotic. However, a small red void intercepted the Aura Sphere and swallowed it up. She looked up at her mom, who again had Beast Balls at the ready. With a flick of her wrist, the balls descended on the entire team. "No!" Tessa shouted, trying to conjure another Aura Sphere.

The balls fell for a couple of feet before streams of fire, lightning, and pink energy blasted the balls away. Zero's lone eye flickered purple. Her aura dreadlocks jerked her head to the right, where a ring portal sat on the side of the altar. "No… that's impossible!" Zero said, eye widening.

Mega Ampharos, Cresselia, Mega Mawile, and Ninetales leaped out of the portal.

"So, you're the one behind all of this. It's such a pleasure to meet you," Ampharos said, glancing at Zero while he sniped Charizard from behind with an intense burst of lightning. "Oh, wait… no, it's not."

Charizard struck the ground, where Silvally shredded his arms and shoulders with repeated strikes of his rock-covered talons. He tried to blast Silvally with shadow fire, but Silvally conjured a large rock spire and drove it straight through Charizard's crystalline skull. He shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. Silvally looked at Ampharos and nodded.

Ninetales eyes flickered purple. Lavender embers formed around her. She sent them toward Alakazam, who was too preoccupied deflecting an Ice Beam and Shadow Ball to notice. Purple ectoplasm spread across Alakazam. He fell to his knees, dropping his spoons and clutching his head in pain.

"We've got an opening," Shane cheered. He buffeted Alakazam with superheated air. Espy hit him in the gut with a Shadow Ball. Like Charziard, he shattered into bits.

Mawile zipped past a bewildered Tessa, metal encasing both her massive horns. With a shake of her head, Tessa threw an Aura Sphere up toward her mother.

"Imbeciles! You're going to ruin everything!" Zero met the Aura Sphere with one of her own, then looked down to see Tyranitar breaking apart, with a metallic Mawile standing next to him. "Cease this tireless charade. I'm so close to completing this. It's for the best!"

"You're tampering with forces you can't control," Cresselia said, facing Tessa. She tensed up for a moment when warmth spread through her system. When it faded, however, Tessa felt completely reinvigorated.

Zero's eye flashed purple. She pointed at Cresselia. A blue winged-heart sigil formed near her. The temperature in the area dropped. "Get back!" Tessa shouted, trying to hit her mother with an Aura Sphere while she focused on Cresselia. Zero's chains yanked her out of the way. Luckily, Silvally zipped by and knocked Cresselia out of the way of the massive polar vortex the sigil spawned.

Silvally landed and shot a massive, five-pronged fireball toward Zero. She forged a shield of red cubes. The Fire Blast grew in size as Ninetales bolstered it with more flames. It slammed against Zero's shield. The cubes glowed white from the heat. Zero was too focused on the shield and had no recourse when Espy and Shane hit her from behind with Psychic rings and a Heat Wave stream. Her shield shattered. The remnants of the Fire Blast scored her Prism Armor.

Tessa smiled. Thanks to some timely assistance, they were finally making some headway. With this many of them fighting together, they could overwhelm Zero with sheer numbers. Tessa threw another Aura Sphere up, but another red vortex swallowed it up. Zero glared down at her. Or, rather, Tessa assumed she was glaring. It was hard to tell with her mask.

"Everyone, try to throw her off with attacks!" Tessa said, but then ley lines burst out of the ground, wriggling about like tentacles. Zero's chains yanked her closer to Dialga. She threw up a wall of cubes, blocking the stairs leading up to the smaller altar.

"What's going on here?" Ninetales said, staring at the chains with a look of panic.

"She's probably summoning more spirits," Silvally growled. He slammed his forelegs into the ground. Glowing rock spires and jets of fire shot out of fissures. But the chains hovered out of his attack's range as if they had a will of their own. The creaks of metal scraping metal rang out across the altar. In plumes of black light, two crystalline birds emerged. Ice shards and lightning rained down on everyone from above.

"We need to take cov— ngack!" Three ice shards pelted Ampharos' head. He fell on his back, softened by his luscious mane.

Tessa made a beeline for Silvally without a second thought. However, the projectile storm was too chaotic to safely navigate through. A bolt of lightning struck her from above. Large ice chunks slammed her back, leaving bloody gashes. Tessa fell to the ground, convulsing. Silvally saw her and leaped through the air, deflecting ice chunks with gusts of winds while lightning harmlessly bounced off him. He landed clumsily, then stood over Tessa, turning to face the source of the attack.

A ball of golden light exploded in the air, bringing an end to the ice and electricity. Everyone could now see crystal mockups of Articuno and Zapdos floating in front of them, their eyes empty and expressionless. With flaps of their wings, they prepared to volley more ice and fire. Silvally struck first, hurtling large, glowing rocks toward the birds. Each one hammered against their crystal bodies. Deafening cracks rang out through the air, but neither of them cried out in pain.

Tessa was shocked with the intensity of Silvally's attack. "Since when did you know Ancient Power?" she asked.

"I… I don't know," Silvally replied. Tessa's aura feelers trembled at the sight of Silvally's cheek bolts twisting sporadically like cogs in a broken machine. She opted not to press the issue, instead gathering metal dust in her paws for a Flash Cannon.

"Look out!"

Ninetales' cries came too late. Tessa looked up to see Ancient Power rocks barreling toward Team Radiance. "What the— how?" She tried to backpedal, but was on her back in a matter of seconds. To her right, Espy's Light Screen couldn't hold up against the blows and Shane's attempts at diverting the rocks with Psychic failed. Both rolled back across the altar, their worlds spinning.

On Tessa's left, Silvally roared in agony. Most of the rocks had concentrated on him. Apparently, with all his memories active, rock-type attacks were problematic for him. Through blurry vision, Tessa saw Silvally's nearest cheek bolt shoot out bright-yellow sparks, then explode in a burst of fiery metal shards.

Though her muscles burned, Tessa forced herself to her feet. "Silvally! Oh gods…" She whirled around. "Shane! Cresselia! We need some help over here!" she shouted.

Cresselia recognized the problem right away. But while she gathered energy for a Heal Pulse, a red ripple raced across the altar. Tessa's body momentarily seized up, before her scarf sparkled with ethereal light and she regained control of her limbs. She looked ahead, only to find that Milotic and the Expedition Society members had been slowed to a complete crawl. Tessa noticed they were surrounded by a dome of red, glitchy energy. Silvally had dropped to the ground. Silver wisps trickled out from the remnants of his right cheek bolt.

Tessa whirled on Zero, an Aura Sphere at the ready, but a gigantic bolt of lightning struck her directly on the chest spike. It served as a conduit, jolting her from head to toe. Fur smoldering, Tessa collapsed, writhing about while her limbs twitched unresponsively.

"Tessa! Silv!" Espy cried, eyes watering. She looked to Shane, but then Articuno swooped toward the two of them, crystalline talons outstretched. "Gah!" Espy fired a desperate pink blast, but it went wide. Next thing she knew, gale-force winds had hefted her into the air and knocked her into something fluffy, yet metallic.

"Oof! What are you doing? Get off of me! We're easy pickings stuck like this," Shane grunted, bucking Espy off his back.

"I have had enough of this ludicrous nonsense. I've come too far to fall to some trite, pathetic cavalry," Zero snarled, her cube barrier felled by Silvally's Ancient Power barrage. She threw a Bone Rush scythe toward the trapped Expedition Society members. Like a buzz saw to wood, the scythe tore through a chunk of the altar. Chains burst forth from the ground like plumes of fire from an erupting volcano. They dove into the chunk of ground the scythe had cut and shoved it away from the rest of the altar.

Espy looked back and saw the chains carrying the platform — and Team Radiance's reinforcements — away. She tried to attack them with a Shadow Ball, but fierce, icy winds eviscerated the attack. Espy had just enough time to gasp before her world went black.

"Espy!" Shane cried, looking at his now-frozen teammate. Silvally and Tessa were still down, too. He had to get to them, but both Articuno and Zapdos blocked his path. He gnashed his teeth. "Why not just kill them if you feel that threatened by them?"

"Is your fur blocking your ears or are you one of those 'selective hearing' autistic kids my colleagues joked about? I told you repeatedly that the only casualties I'm interested in are the gods," Zero scoffed. "Cresselia will be erased soon enough, but you all need to stand down." She pointed to Silvally. "If you keep this up, I'm going to have my paws full trying to revive your living jigsaw puzzle of a friend."

Shane rolled right, barely escaping a Hurricane vortex whipped up by Articuno. Unfortunately for him, Zapdos had a Thunderbolt ready to blast him right in the chest. Shane struck Espy, shattering her icy prison, and rolled across the ground until he lay with half his tails dangling over the edge of the altar.

"Now, fall!" Zero said, hurling another Bone Rush scythe toward him. It flew halfway across the altar before a Blizzard swallowed it up. The frozen scythe fell to the ground and shattered. Zero's aura dreadlocks tensed. She looked down and her eye smoldered with purple energy. "Of course you're back on your feet. You just won't give up, will you? All this… despite the fact that the gods are, essentially, responsible for your brief existence and the constant pain associated with it."

Silvally stood next to Tessa. The shredded remains of his scarf fell to the floor as he jammed the team's final Reviver Seed into her mouth and whirled on Zero with a snarl. He spat a mouthful of black blood onto the ground. His remaining cheek bolt vibrated it its socket. "M… maybe… you're right," he wheezed. "There's been… a lot of pain… a lot of hurting…"

Tessa had regained consciousness. She saw Silvally standing over her protectively. His limbs trembled. Cracks ran through the blades on his head crest. They vented silver energy. It looked as if his metal beak was rattling. "S… Silvally?"

"Guys, look out!"

Espy managed to blast Zapdos from behind with a Shadow Ball, but it wasn't strong enough to stop him from trying to fry Silvally and Tessa. Silvally kicked a startled Tessa back with his hind legs and harmlessly absorbed all the electricity. He glanced back at Tessa.

"T… Tessa…" He coughed up another mouthful of black blood. His crest's top energy blade exploded. Silvally's legs buckled. He winced. "I… I'm okay. You… you guys… are going to be okay…"

Tessa's aura feelers shot up. "You're not okay! Look at yourself! You're… you're falling apart!"

Espy and Shane blew Articuno back toward Zero with the combined efforts of dual Psychic blasts. "Silv! Silv, what's wrong?" Espy cried. She made a mad dash for him, only for Zapdos to whirl on her. She screeched to a halt, but luckily for her an Ice Beam struck Zapdos right between the eyes. He fluttered back, kicking at the air with his legs.

"Imbeciles! Pull yourselves together!" Zero snarled. "Ancient Power! Use more Ancient Power!" Her paws were glitching and flickering so much they practically disappeared.

"E… Espy. I'm…" Silvally's trembling beak made it hard for him to get out a full sentence. "Guys…" He looked between Espy and Tessa. "Pro… promise me something, okay? Promise me… you'll look after each other… when this is all over…"

Espy's eyes widened. "What's that supposed to mean? This isn't the time for waxing poetic, Silv!" Tears brimmed in her eyes. "Let Shane heal you… quickly!"

"It won't… do any good…" Silvally coughed up more blood. It splattered at Espy's feet. "I c… can't… k… keep myself… together… much longer…"

"No…" Tessa threw her paws up on her muzzle.

"No!" Espy's shouts were louder than Tessa expected. "You can't say that! I… you… we had a promise, damn it!" Tears streamed down her cheeks. They dripped into the puddle of blood. "We said we'd tackle our problems together! The two of us! I can't… you can't…"

"I'm sorry." Silvally tried to force a weak grin. "But… Zero's got us… backed into a corner."

"Guys, we've got a problem!" Shane shouted. Golden light orbs surrounded him. With a shout, he fired a large rainbow beam toward Zero and her minions. She threw up a cube barrier, but it dissolved away in the face of Shane's attack. Zero crossed her arms to try and blunt as much of the attack as she could.

"I have… a way… to sever… her connection… to Dialga," Silvally continued. Cracks were now appearing in his beak. "It's an attack… I always knew I had… but I didn't want to use it… because I was too afraid… of what would happen."

"No! C'mon, Silv! Don't say that! We can still come up with something," Espy begged.

Silvally looked to the sky. The temporal storm had grown more violent over the course of the battle. "Espy… Tessa… please. Promise me you'll… look after each other. And Sh… Shane, too."

Shane leaped in front of his teammates, fending off ice and lightning from the birds with a blinding-white Dazzling Gleam. "Any time now, guys!"

Tessa glanced at Shane, then back at Silvally. "Let Shane heal you! We need you, Silvally. You're…" She looked down. "You were my first friend, remember? I thought… we were going to watch the sunset again… together."

"It looks like… that'll have to wait… until we're both in the spirit realm," Silvally wheezed. His last two remaining energy blades shattered. Two jets of silver energy took their place. Silvally's legs buckled. He looked like he was on the verge of collapsing. His eyes, tail, and cheek bolt glowed so bright, it hurt Tessa's eyes. She shakily reached a paw toward him, but Silvally turned away.

"Silv, wait!" Espy said. "Please! We… I… I…" She lowered her head. "I need you."

"You're both… going to be fine," Silvally said. "I believe in you. In all of you." He forced a smile. "Thank you… for making my days… so much brighter. It was an honor… and a pleasure… to be your friend."

With one final roar and ignoring Espy's sobbing protests, Silvally charged past Shane. Zero tried to sic Articuno and Zapdos on him, but Silvally sprinted underneath them. She hovered up higher, figuring she'd easily avoid him, but Silvally kept running. White, ethereal light shrouded him from head to toe. He lunged for Dialga's back… and the chains protruding from it.

"Wait, what the— no! Stop!" Zero screamed. She raised her paws to attack, but there wasn't enough time.

Silvally used Explosion.

Continued in next post.


Winter can't come soon enough
Continued from previous post.


~Destiny Tower~

Latias' world spun for a few seconds, then muddy ground rushed up to meet her. She landed in the thick of the muck with an audible splat. Grime layered her feathers. It took her a few moments to recover from the shock. When she did, she rose into the air and spat out a mouthful of mud.

"Augh! Hey! Watch it!" Mew said, throwing his tiny hands over his face. Latias blinked muck out of her eyes and realized she'd inadvertently sprayed Mew.

"Oh, uh. Sorry about that," she said, trying to clean herself off with her ESP. It wasn't going well.

"What the hell?" Haxorus was up to her waist in mud. She managed to grab hold of a clump of grass and pull herself out. Haxorus glared at Mewtwo. "You mind explaining what this is all about? I've got half a mind to pound your face into the dirt for your dumbass stunt!"

Latias looked to Mewtwo. He stumbled out of the mud and dropped to his hands and knees. His tail lashed at the air. His eyes darted about. It was then that Latias realized Mewtwo had teleported the group in front of a large, cylindrical tower. Or, at least, that's what she assumed it was supposed to be, because huge stone chunks floated in midair above the group. Large black chains gathered high above their heads, swirling around like ingredients in an ethereal stew.

"Th… this is Destiny Tower!" Rayquaza declared, coiling his serpentine form around to clean as much mud off his scales as possible. "Why did you bring us here, you buffoon? Are you trying to upset—"

Mewtwo craned his neck up and shouted, "Arceus!" He staggered to his feet, swaying uneasily from side to side. For a moment, it looked like he'd fall right back into the mud, but Mew rushed behind him. He shoved against Mewtwo's head.

"T-Two-y, what's wrong? You're scaring me."

Feraligatr finished cleansing himself off with short bursts of water and rubbed his head. "Cripes. Of all the times to have a nervous breakdown… why now? And why wrap us up in it? We've got a planet to save!"

"Maybe he knows about what's going on up there?" Infernape pointed a finger skyward. "I don't like the look of that."

"Could it be another one of Zero's vortexes?" Raichu wondered.

"No. Those are ley line chains. I'm sure of it," Lugia said.

Rayquaza hovered higher into the air. "They're being manipulated." He snaked back down toward the others. "Lord Arceus is clearly preparing something to put a stop to all of this trite. Let's leave him alone and—"

Mewtwo raised a trembling arm and unleashed a beam of pink, searing energy. It flew straight up toward the vortex and exploded.

"You imbecile!" Rayquaza snarled, ready to strangle Mewtwo with his tail. "Cease this insolence at on—"

"Stop hiding, Arceus! You… you liar!" Mewtwo shouted. "I know what you did! I know everything!"

"Please stop, Two-y! I don't like it when you shout like that," Mew wrapped his arms around the tube on Mewtwo's neck. Mewtwo wheeled around, looking ready to smack Mew. Mew drifted back, eyes watering. Latias could see the fury blazing in Mewtwo's eyes clear as day. Arceus… a liar? She hadn't interacted much with the top immortal, but if there was anything Rayquaza had made clear to her, it was to never cross Arceus.

Mewtwo dropped to his knees again, breathing heavily. Rayquaza was inches away from grabbing Mewtwo with his tail when some of the floating rubble fell from the sky. Lugia blasted the rubble apart with well-placed bursts of Psychic. "I don't like the look of this. I'm going up to investigate," he said.

Latias nodded. If Lugia was going, so was she. It seemed the three exploration teams shared similar sentiments, as they moved to board Latias and Lugia. By the time Rayquaza found his voice, they were already airborne, Mew having turned into a Dragonite to carry Mewtwo up after the others. Eyes twitching, Rayquaza brought up the rear.

The tower's roof came into view, showing Arceus standing in the center. He held a forehoof up, a strange white rune surrounding it. Latias gasped as a portion of the roof caved in and disassembled into black chains that joined the others swirling overhead. Her feathers bristled. The lavender glow inside the chains was eerily familiar.

"What the heck is going on here? That's what Arceus really looks like? Where are the thousand arms I read about?" Haxorus said, gaze shifting between Arceus and his handiwork. "And what's he doing anyway.

Lugia blinked slowly. "He's… he's…"

"He's making a portal," Latias said, brow furrowing.

"A portal? Why? To get to Temporal Tower?" Feraligatr cocked his head to the side. "Couldn't he just teleport himself there. He's our creator, isn't he?"

"No. He's not looking to help. He's looking to flee."

Everyone's heads snapped in Mewtwo's direction. Blood vessels bulged out of his muddy forehead. His tail repeatedly jabbed Mew's scaly Dragonite belly. "H-Hey, c-cut that out! It kinda tick… les," Mew squeaked, antennae twitching.

"Blasphemy!" Rayquaza said, volume loud enough to snap Arceus out of whatever trance he was in. He turned and stared at the group, eyes wide. For a moment, the sigil around his forehoof flickered. Arceus looked down and muttered something under his breath. The rune stabilized. Arceus locked eyes with Rayquaza. For the first time in Latias' life, she witnessed a blank expression on Rayquaza's face.

"F-Forgive me, sir. I wasn't trying to interrupt your… um…" His voice trailed off. He looked up at what was presumably an attempt at making a portal.

Mewtwo pushed himself free of Mew's grip and glided onto the roof, where he stumbled to a stop. "Y… you…" He doubled over, shoulders drooping and arms swaying side to side. "You took them. My memories… the old world…" He clenched his fists. "Where are they? What did you do them?!"

At the mention of "old world," Arceus tensed. It was momentary, but enough for Latias to realize Mewtwo may have struck something important. She couldn't move around too much due to carrying Team Go-Getters on her back, but she at least managed to say, "What's all this about?" She fixed her gaze on Arceus. "Is he… did you tamper with Mewtwo's memories?"

"He did," Mewtwo accused, grabbing his head with his right hand. "Erased them. All my memories of the old world… gone!"

"I… have no idea what you're talking about," Arceus said.

"Your voice is trembling," Latias whispered, frowning.

"You serious? It sounded just find to me," Swampert said. "Then again, we did get wrapped up in a bunch of explosions, so…"

"Absurd!" Rayquaza cut in front of Latias. "Don't go flinging around baseless claims without some sort of proof."

"I'm an empath." Latias floated closer to Mewtwo, giving Rayquaza the stink eye as she passed him. "You, supposedly, created my ancestor to be like that," she said, addressing Arceus.

Arceus turned away from them. "I'm busy. We're not having this discussion."

"Busy trying to ditch us! Just like the other times our world's been in danger," Mewtwo said, trying to stand tall but loosing his footing and stumbling. "The meteor. Temporal Tower's instability. The Bittercold. Dark Mater." Mewtwo's eyes crackled with blue energy. "Every time… you've tried to flee… and leave us to our fate!"

"That is absurd," Arceus dismissed.

"But then why were the gods always so hesitant to take action?" Blaziken asked. "We had to beat sense into Rayquaza to get him to destroy that meteor."

Rayquaza tensed up. "Th… that was a folly."

"And you waited until the Tree of Life had gotten ripped out of the ground before you finally stepped in," Latias added. She was by Mewtwo's side. Something had clicked in her head. She had never understood why Delphox and Meganium told her Arceus acted at the last second… and only the last second. Now, it was starting to make sense. "Why would you do this? Why would you try to abandon us?"

"Because he doesn't care about us. He's lied to the gods— no, to the whole world!" Mewtwo said. "I saw it… from the ley lines. This world… the ground we tread on… you didn't create it."

Arceus stiffened. Even with no mouth, Latias could tell he was unnerved. That had to mean Mewtwo was on the right track. She glanced at him. Had he learned of this because of what the Prism Virus did to him? It was the only explanation that made sense to her.

"There was once… a world where humans and Pokémon — fewer species than we have today — lived together," Mewtwo continued. "I can't remember what that world was like because you took those memories from me. But I do know that you destroyed that world! Crushed it under the weight of your full-powered Judgment! Then you hastily tried to patch things up, but every action you took created new problems you didn't know how to fix!

"Problem on top of problem on top of problem… they kept piling up! But rather than admit to what you did, you kept lying and hoping the gods that spawned from your messes could solve your problems for you!" Mewtwo said. Mud and saliva dribbled down his neck. Bulging veins throbbed on his forehead. "Everything that's happening here… it's the end result of eons of poor decisions!"

Dead silence followed. Lugia touched down on the roof, too stunned to maintain his flight. Latias fidgeted with her claws. "That… but that…" She gulped. "If that's true, then what does that make us?"

"It makes you all mistakes in his eyes," Mewtwo said, pointing at Arceus once again. "Walking, talking reminders of everything he's done wrong." He bowed his head. "That's why he doesn't care about our world. That's why every time there's danger that threatens him, he tries to abandon us. Because he'd rather hide than admit the truth!"

Everyone turned to Arceus, expecting a response. The rune around Arceus' forehoof disappeared. He slammed it against the roof. "What do you want from me?" he rasped. "I didn't know what I was doing. I was attacked. I only wanted to make the pain stop. The void…" Arceus' face twisted into a grimace. "It was destroying my arms!" He glared at the group. "None of you can possibly understand. I had only existed for a matter of seconds when it attacked me! I was terrified. I wanted it to go away!"

Latias' feathers stood on end. She expected someone to say something, but everyone stayed quiet. Even Rayquaza was at a loss for words. He looked as if someone had broadsided him across the head. Latias bit her lip. "What attacked you?"

Psychic energy flared up in Arceus' eyes. He projected an image above everyone's heads. Latias sucked in a breath and squeezed her paws together. "Th… this is…" She stared into a black heart, with horns protruding from its apex and a single, reptilian eye staring back at her. To say nothing of the black ruff around its neck, giant torso, long tail of heart-shaped crystals, and wings with hexagonal feathers.

"I don't know what it is. Only that it had no spirit. It was empty. Mindless. A void. And it tried to destroy me." Arceus wiped the projection away. "I fought to survive. Like any mortal would when faced with danger. It was only when the demon ran off that I saw what I had inadvertently done." Arceus turned to the side, shaking his head. "I panicked. I didn't know what to think. I could barely think for myself. I just… acted.

"But I didn't truly fend off the void. Parts of its body wound up inside the core of the planet when I stitched it back together. By the time I realize what had happened…" Arceus lowered his head. "It was too late. Those fragments had infested the planet's core, forming what you know as the Voidlands. They generated ley lines that kept trying to tear the planet apart. I had to lie. I couldn't let the other gods figure out they were accidents. They wouldn't keep the ley lines in check if they did!"

Latias floated closer to Arceus. "Is… is what Mewtwo said right? Do you really see us as nothing but mistakes?"

He didn't respond. Latias narrowed her eyes. "D… Don't dodge the question! Do you really see us as nothing but mistakes?"

Arceus shuddered. "Of course you're all mistakes. I didn't want to die. I don't want to die." He tensed up. "I did… what I had to do… to stay alive."

It happened in the blink of an eye. Latias flew up to Arceus… and smacked his cheek. It wasn't a hard blow. His head didn't even budge. But everyone heard the sound. Eyes widened. Rayquaza's bulged out of his head. Even Mewtwo tilted his head.

"L-Latias," Lugia said, hopping toward her. He couldn't get a read on Arceus' expression. "Look, I'm glad you're finally sticking up for yourself, but don't you think you're pushing things a bit too far?"

Latias took a deep breath. She didn't flinch from Arceus' gaze despite his superior stature. "How dare you," she whispered. "How dare you try to trivialize all of our struggles." Latias balled her paws into fists. "Even if tragedy shrouds the way our world came to be, that doesn't give you the right to dismiss it— to dismiss us. We've all had our own struggles and triumphs. And I… I won't just let you toss those aside and leave this world to be destroyed!"

"It's useless," Arceus said. "Even if we stop the current predicament, ley lines still fester within the planet. It will only be a matter of time before the void's power creates another crisis."

"Then we'll work together to find a solution that breaks this vicious cycle." Lugia spread his wings defiantly.

"Ha! I've tried. The ley lines are too deeply embedded within the planet. Without them, the world will crumble!" Arceus retorted. "Short of finding a new world, there's nothing you can do but sit and wait!"

Mewtwo finally managed to stand up straight. "Regardless of how truthful that is, you don't get to walk away from this." He looked at the sky. Beyond the chains still floating overhead, intense bursts of red and black energy rippled through the air. "We've sat on the sidelines for too long. Even against Dark Matter. Not this time. We have to take action." He pointed at Arceus. "And that means that, for once, you need to get involved. Understand?"

After a brief silence, Arceus' shoulders sagged. "Very well."

Mewtwo turned to Latias. "This is an empty gesture at this point, but I apologize for my past hostilities toward you. We should've cooperated with your group from the beginning."

He turned and glared at Rayquaza, who crossed his tiny arms. "Bah, fine. Same here."

"Great. Go team and all that jazz," Haxorus said, tracing a digit in a circle next to her head. "But, uh, there's a teeny problem." She darted forward and hefted a gasping Mewtwo off the ground. Throttling him, she shouted, "You teleported us away from the place where the bad guy is, you ass!"

"Temporal Tower is all the way in the south," Infernape said, arms crossed. "It would take hours to reach it."

"No, it won't." Rayquaza slithered into the middle of the group. "Did you forget who you have in your company? I control the wind itself!"

"Uh, but the planet's paralyzed. There's no wind to control," Mew pointed out.

In response, Rayquaza rose into the air. An orange shimmer rippled down his body, producing Mega Rayquaza for the whole group to see. Immediately, strong currents brushed against Latias' feathers. "You were saying?" Rayquaza chuckled, his golden ribbons fluttering behind him. "Everyone find a seat on Lugia or Lord Arceus. As long as someone can direct me, I'll get us back to where we were."


~Prism Tower~

A huge geyser of silver energy swallowed up Dialga, Zero, and the birds she'd summoned. Distorted wails and the sounds of splintering crystals rang out across the altar. Tessa finally found her voice and belted out a loud, "No!" She was on her paws and knees, staring at the sight in shock.

Shane stumbled back, blinking rapidly to clear the stars from his vision. "I… I, uh… what just happened?" he said.

"No! No, no, no, no, no!" Espy bawled her eyes out, slamming a foreleg against the ground repeatedly. "He's gone! He's gone! I… I didn't…"

"But that was Explosion or Self-Destruct, wasn't it?" Shane said. "Pokémon bounce back from that all the time!"

However, as the dust settled from the blast, it became clear that this was not like the times Shane had seen the attack used in his video games or in any Pokémon episodes he'd watched. Zero lay on her side, her whole body shaking and flickering in and out of existence. There was no sign of Dialga… or Silvally. The Time Gears were the only things left on the smaller altar.

Shane stepped back from his teammates, lowering his head. All he could manage was a single "Oh."

Tessa lowered her head, arms and aura feelers trembling.

He was gone.

Silvally was her first friend at the guild. The one who had calmed her down after Mellath Bog. The one who helped Shane turn around and become someone she could view as a friend and close confidant. And the Pokémon who had tried his hardest to make sure she and Shane could find happiness.

One attack was all it took. Why had Golem given that attack to Silvally? In case he really couldn't be controlled? But then… why did Silvally need the mask in the first place? Was it because all of his memories had activated at once?

She glanced at Espy, who was still a sobbing wreck. Tessa wanted to hurl. This wasn't how things were supposed to end. She looked toward her mother, only to see the Time Gears rising into the air. Tessa's mind was too numb from what she had just seen to care. She stared blankly, watching the Time Gears vibrate. Then, in a surge of multicolored light, they shot up into the temporal vortex.

A muffled blast sounded above Team Radiance. Tessa was the only one who looked up. A shockwave rippled through the air, erasing the temporal storm in a swirl of red and purple mist. All that was left behind was the darkened sky of a paralyzed planet, no doubt the result of the fact that Temporal Tower was still, technically, in shambles. Each individual Time Gear fell back onto the altar with a loud clang.

It was those noises that roused Zero from her stupor. Though static ripples still ran down her body, she managed to stagger to her feet. However, one look at the sky made the ripples flare in intensity. "No… no!" She whirled on Team Radiance, rainbow light streaming from the left side of her mask. "You imbeciles! You've ruined everything! All of that work… collecting the Time Gears… controlling Dialga… dealing with Necrozma…"

She summoned a Bone Rush scythe. "It was all for nothing!"

Before Tessa could even react, her mother stood in front of her. A swipe of the scythe sent Tessa skyrocketing, reeling in pain. Espy screamed as Zero unleashed a flurry of slashes, slicing through her fur and hide. She tumbled to the side of the altar, a bruised, bloody, whimpering wreck.

Tessa tried to compose herself as she careened toward the ground. But her paws shook too much to form up an attack. Instead a red Aura Sphere struck her chest and blasted her higher in the air. Tessa could feel her energy faltering fast.

On the ground, Zero was hurtling her scythe at Shane like a boomerang. "I can still salvage this! I'll take control of Xerneas and use her powers to recover Dialga's spirit. But you… you will all perish for your transgressions!"

The scythe grazed Shane's side. He staggered toward Espy, hissing in pain. Zero leaped into the air, caught her scythe, then slammed into the ground. A red cube shockwave raced out all around her. By the time Shane had his bearings straight, he could only fling a golden energy ball forward to try and create an opening. The cubes did indeed fizzle away, but more rose up to take their places. The shockwave knocked Espy and Shane off the tower.

"Shane! Esp—"

Tessa's cries were interrupted when she hit the ground with a heavy thud. Pain jolted down her spine. Her skeleton rattled inside her frame. Yet, despite how badly she hurt, she refused to buckle. A familiar fire bubbled in her stomach. It was the exact same reaction she had to Dragonite hurting Silvally.

Though it strained her muscles, she forced herself to lock eyes with Zero. Her limbs quivered. Her throat constructed. Tessa wanted to scream. To blare out her raw, seething hatred for her mother to the heavens. But she couldn't find her voice. She was in shock.

Tessa had found friends. People she trusted. People she could talk to. She had shared her deepest secrets with Shane and Silvally. Poured her heart out to them. Especially when she was with Shane following their dungeon treks in Cosmic Cavern and Sunset Shoals. She had gotten her brother back. Tessa finally felt like there was a path to happiness.

But now… that was gone. It had been taken away from her. And the person responsible was the same one who had belittled her. Talked down to her. Trampled what little self-esteem she had following Incineroar's death. The one who had even called her a mistake to her face.

It was Zero. All of it was her fault. She had ruined Tessa's life. She had made Tessa miserable.

Tessa's breathing grew sharper. Fiercer. Angrier. Were she a fire-type, she would've snorted out tufts of smoke. Instead, rainbow lines flickered on her arms and legs. Her aura feelers vibrated. The sigil on her paw flashed. Shadow fire swirled around her paws, her feet, and her eyes. Without thinking, Tessa reached a trembling paw toward her scarf and yanked it off her neck. She didn't even notice her looplet shaking against her arm.

But Zero did. With a raise of her paw, chains shot out from the ground and wrapped themselves around Tessa's arms and legs. Tessa snarled. She tried to move her limbs, but the chains had her completely wrapped up.

"I told you…" Static raced down Zero's raised paw. "I told you that I didn't intend to erase you or your friends. But you wouldn't listen! You stupid, disgraceful runt. I was this close… this close to fixing everything!" She stomped a leg down. "Now, it's all gone! I have to start over from scratch!"

"You took… my friends… from me," Tessa whispered, her head drooping. The black star on her chest flashed with light. Zero narrowed her eye.

"You did this to yourself, you irresponsible brat!" Zero made more chains coil around Tessa's body. She heaved against them, snarling.

"They cared about me," Tessa continued. "But you… you treated me like dirt unless Dad was around!"

"Of course I did! You were an accident! I didn't want your egg. I wanted a nice, quiet life with Incineroar until I could find a way back to my real family!" Zero snarled. "How do you think I feel, huh? I've been stuck in this world… in this godforsaken body… for a quarter of a god-damn century!" Cubes flickered around her. "All the while, my family has been stuck wondering what happened to me. They need me. This world doesn't deserve someone like me!

"I finally had the chance to undo all of this and who do I find standing against me? You! The biggest mistake of my accursed life as a Lucario!" she continued. "A sniveling brat of a girl who always had to coddle up to someone because she didn't have the guts to do anything for herself. My real daughter is nothing like you! She has ambitions! She has a bright future! But you… you've been a failure since the day you hatched!"

That tore it. Something inside Tessa finally snapped. And whatever fragment of her mind broke led to a storm of energy flooding her body. A fire raged through her core, spreading down to her arms and legs. Orange light poked through the gaps in Zero's chains. Her eye widened.

"What the—"

Tessa screamed. No, she roared. All her fury. All of her hatred — toward herself, her mother, the loss of Incineroar, and Necrozma — came pouring out. Light streamed out from her eyes and open mouth. Her voice grew steadily more distorted.

Then, Zero's chains lurched. Tessa rose into the air, ripping the ley lines out of the ground. Zero's eye widened. She pointed her paws forward, but to her shock, nothing happened. All she could feel was the aura she typically harnessed as a Lucario. There were no chains. No connections to the ley lines comprising the foundation of the tower she built.

The ground rumbled. Zero tensed up. She looked at Tessa and all the chains swirling around her. Tessa's aura feelers extended. Rainbow lines burst through her fur. Her tail expanded into a swathe of tan fur that wrapped around her waist. Then a wave of white light spread across the altar. Zero threw a paw up, only to realize the right side of her face was burning. She put a paw to her helmet. It was rattling. All the while, more light waves spread out from Tessa.

Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.

"This… this is…" Zero pressed a paw against her mask. It was then that she saw a familiar ice Ninetales standing at the edge of the altar, with an unconscious Espy laying by his side. Shadows swirled around his paws. Rainbow light shimmered in his eyes.

"I think it's time… you returned that borrowed power," Shane said, smirking.

"No. No, that's impossible!" Zero shouted. "Tessa! Stop this… right now!"

A silhouette of Necrozma's star sigil flashed in front of Tessa. Then, Tessa's body absorbed the ley line chains around her in a pillar of white light. When she landed on the ground, she had a rainbow aura surrounded her. Her eyes were empty. The star around her chest spike glowed, as did the lines running down her arms and legs. Her aura dreadlocks lashed out at the air.

Completely oblivious to the reappearance of her teammates, Tessa's paw spikes turned to rainbow Metal Claws. With a furious yell, she charged Zero down. Zero got her wits about her and raised her own Metal Claws in defense. A furious clang echoed through the heavens. Tessa pressed her arms against Zero, face twisted up in range. Zero's eye quivered in its socket. She tried to draw on the energy from Necrozma's core, but it was as if something had strained the connection. Her helmet rattled even more.

"You… you… you!" With a twist of her wrists, Tessa forced Zero to the side. Multicolored flames surrounded her paws. Tessa turned and thrust her paws at Zero. She ducked and swiped at Tessa with her Metal Claws. Tessa met the blow with another Force Palm. Zero's Metal Claws shattered. She staggered backward.

"Yeah! You get her, Tessa! Show her who's boss!" Shane cheered. He had a forepaw raised. A circular rune surrounded int, with a familiar winged-heart sigil in the middle.

"Tessa, stop! Do you have any idea what you're—"

"I'm through listening to you!" Tessa snarled. She ducked a desperate swipe from Zero's remaining Metal Caws and hammered both paws against her chest spike. It splintered and broke apart. Zero tumbled back, managing to right herself and skid to a halt.

"Fine." Zero rubbed her trembling mask. "You have no one to blame but yourself for this!" She cupped her paws together. Glitchy energy surrounded them. However, when Zero looked around, expecting to see her usual array of red cubes, all she found was wisps of red, staticky energy. Her eye widened at the sight of an oncoming, multicolored Aura Sphere. She fired off one of her own, creating an explosion.

Zero shot into the air. Tessa's aura dreadlocks tensed. She followed her mother's trajectory and leaped up after her, aura gathering in her paws. "Get back here!" she bellowed. Zero fired an Aura Sphere straight down, but pink rings snuffed it out. Tessa grabbed Zero by the leg and threw her back down to the ground. She tossed an Aura Sphere after her, only to see it snuffed out by a lucky black beam Zero fired at the last second.

Tessa screamed again. More light streamed out of her eyes and mouth. Nothing mattered to her anymore except taking Zero down. She landed and closed the distance in a snap with her Extreme Speed. Zero tried to sweep Tessa off her feet with a spinning kick. Tessa's right paw hit the ground first. With a burst of pink energy, she somersaulted back to her feet and slung a rainbow Aura Sphere at her mother.

"Give in!" Zero barked, stopping the Aura Sphere in its place with Psychic waves and forcing it back toward Tessa. It didn't get far before a bright-white beam snuffed it out. Zero turned right and glared at Shane, but he merely smirked back at her, rainbow eyes shimmering.

Tessa saw an opening and again closed the gap with her mother. Zero desperately swiped at her with her remaining Metal Claws. Tessa caught them between her own paws. "No more!" Tessa growled. Her paws flickered. Zero's Metal Claws shattered. Tessa grabbed her mother by her outstretched paw and slammed her into the ground.

The wind rushed out of Zero. She tried to form up an Aura Sphere, but Tessa hefted her up again, shouting, "This is for calling me worthless!"

Zero hit the ground, gasping for air. Tessa tightened her grip and proceeded to twirl around, repeatedly lifting Zero up and smashing her against the floor. Between each blow came another yell.

"This is for Silvally! This is for Shane! This is for Gallian!"

"T… Tess… agh!" Zero concentrated on Necrozma's core, but it did her no good. Her connection was severed. Through blurry vision, she could see Shane smiling at the sight. He cheered Tessa on, all the while holding the runes around his forepaw stable.

"And this is for calling me a failure!" Tessa slammed Zero down one last time. Cracks spread through her prism armor, right down to her mask. Zero screamed. "I am not a failure!" She pointed both paws down.

Zero barely managed to escape a point-blank Aura Sphere. She shot herself across the ground with a burst of Psychic. Zero staggered to her feet. "Do you have any idea what you're doing? You're going to doom us all! Your friend… he's—"

"Gone! And it's all your fault!" Tessa shouted. Her mouth stayed wide open, while blue, sparkling energy swirled around her. Zero's eye widened as she stared down the barrel of a dragon-shaped energy beam, mouth opened wide to swallow her up.

"You imbecile!" Zero shot an Aura Sphere through the Dragon Pulse, then shot toward Tessa with a burst of Extreme Speed.

Tessa refused to cede ground and allow for a counterattack. She thrust dual Force Palms forward. Zero met them with palm strikes of her own. The two locked paws, trying to surge energy through their arms and drive the other back. The altar floor cracked beneath them. They sank down to their knees.

"I… can't… this is for my family!" Zero growled. But one look at her arms showed they were distorting before her eyes. More cracks splintered through her armor. Black vapors leaked out of the cracks.

"I was family!" Tessa fired back. "But now… you're as good as dead to me!" She opened her mouth wide. Zero saw the dragon energy swirling inches from her muzzle. She tried to pull away, but Tessa had an iron grip on her paws.

Tessa spat up the beam of dragon energy. Zero's mask shattered, tearing gashes through her already-mangled face. Necrozma's core became visible plain as day in her right eye socket. Zero stumbled back in a daze.

"You're making a mistake. Please… stop this…"

"I will never forgive you!" Tessa cried, then pressed a rainbow Aura Sphere against Zero's chest. A brilliant explosion destroyed the rest of Zero's armor, leaving her scarred, furless body visible for Shane and Tessa to see. Zero hurtled through the air for a few feet, until a wall of ice rose out of the ground and trapped her midair.

Tessa staggered forward, right paw raised. She made it two steps when she fell to her knees. Every muscle in her body was on fire. It felt like her skeleton was going to burst out from her flesh. Tessa's paws dropped to her side. The wealth of energy she'd called on had completely evaporated. Now, she could barely catch her breath. Black, shadowy vapors trailed off her body as she shrank back to her base form. Tessa looked ahead blankly.

She was so close. So close to finishing the fight. Why did this have to happen now?

"Excellent. Simply excellent."

Tessa recognized that voice. It was Shane's. He was… all right? She could've sworn he had fallen off the tower. She wanted to look at him, but her neck wouldn't respond. Tessa heard a series of metallic clanks, though. And soon, Shane walked into view, but something was very wrong. With each step he took, his blue-white fur faded, replaced by a mixture of gray metal and black, jagged pieces of prism armor.

"This is far from how I had intended things to play out, but I cannot deny that this result has… some level of satisfaction to it. Heeheeheehee!"

It was Shane's voice speaking. Tessa wanted to open her mouth and say something, but she was locked in place. She watched helplessly as her teammate's body expanded. Solgaleo's bulky frame tore through Shane's fur. Bits and pieces of Necrozma clung to his body, like when Necrozma was controlling Lunala. Black, metallic arms protruded from his back.

Tessa had thought there was something off with Shane's aura when he reappeared, but it wasn't the Dawn Hourglass after all. It was Necrozma. And here she was, in so much pain that she couldn't even move.

"N… Necky. You… that's impossible…" Zero struggled against her icy restraints.

"You underestimated the power of the void."

Though it was distorted, it was still Shane's voice. Tessa was sure of it. Was this a trick? Was Necrozma doing this as some sort of cruel joke? To twist the metaphorical knife he'd just jabbed into Tessa's gut?

"That core fragment you thought was inside Lunala? It turns out… I had it all along. Necrozma passed it to me… because we're both one and the same," Shane said, glancing at Tessa. A smile crossed his face. But it wasn't a pleasant one. It made her fur stand on end. "He just didn't realize it when we last met… because the Guiding Light's remnants were still controlling his actions."

Shane approached Zero. His tail, topped with a metal trident, swung excitedly from side to side. Zero renewed her struggle. "Please don't do this. I have a family. They need me!" Necrozma's core trembled in her eye socket. "I… I'll do anything you want! Just name it and—"

All Tessa heard was Zero's screams. Shane turned around and allowed Tessa one last look at her mother before she dissolved into a black mist. Shane raised one of his arms and the rainbow, triangular prism he'd plucked from Zero's skull floated over to his head.

"Heeheeheehee! Finally! At long last… the full core is mine!" Shane licked his lips. The third eye on his forehead flickered. "But so much light has been lost. No matter. With Xerneas' power… that will be a simple fix."

Necrozma's core hovered into the air. Tessa stared at it, eyes wide. Her muscles still burned. Yet somehow, she was able to croak out, "I don't… understand."

Shane turned to her. "It's quite simple, partner. That human — the one you poured your heart and soul out to — he never made it safely through Ultra Space." His third eye narrowed at Tessa. "This entire time, you thought you had a human on your side. When, in reality, you were dealing with Dark Matter!"

Tessa's head pounded. She refused to believe that. It couldn't be true. Not after everything that had happened since her hatch day. Her bonds with Shane were genuine. He was genuine. She was sure of it. This was some sort of trick. Tessa had to do something to stop this. If only she could move. Gods, why did everything hurt so much?

"Dark Matter… Necrozma… two parts of a greater whole: the void! The power slumbering within the planet's core, until negativity and Golem's experiments scattered its essence around," Shane continued. "Why do you think Silvally reacted so strongly to my presence? Sure, he thought I was a beast. But the truth is he sensed the same power he had flowing through his body! The power of the void!"

"You're… lying!" Tessa wheezed. "Shane… the real Shane… is nothing like you!"

"Heeheeheehee!" At last, Shane's voice shifted to a deeper tone. One Tessa remembered well from her last encounter with Necrozma. "You never knew the real Shane. Only an elaborate copy! I found him wandering around on his own. I told him the truth, but he refused to believe me. He thought he could vanquish me using my hourglass. But I turned that power against him and took control of his body. And now that I have this," his third eye disappeared from his forehead, "you'll never see your so-called partner again."

Necrozma pressed the core against his forehead. It sank into the metal. Necrozma groaned in satisfaction. His arms wriggled and spasmed. His tail crinkled up. Eventually, a multicolored triangle appeared where Necrozma's third eye had been.

"What a shame that your mother wasted so much of my energy. If my core wasn't so depleted, I could take on my true form and finally send this world back to the void." Necrozma shook his head. "Alas, I'll need to take alternative measures." He turned back to Tessa, grinning. "Still, I must say… your help proved invaluable in all of this!"

Hot tears stung at Tessa's eyes. After everything the team had been through, this was how it was going to end. Her friends were gone. She'd beaten her mother, but the true monster had reemerged to steal her hard-fought victory away. Tessa tried to trigger some sort of movement in her limbs, but failed. Her vision grew blurry. She prayed she was stuck in some sort of twisted nightmare and she'd wake up, snuggled against Shane with Silvally watching over both of them protectively.

"Look at you. The roaring fire that was your aura has been reduced to a pitiful stream of embers." Necrozma walked toward her, making tsk noises with each step. "It would be such a waste to see you fade away. Even though you took my light to evolve, I'm willing to look past it thanks to that display you put up against your mother." Necrozma licked his lips. His core flashed blue.

"I don't think anyone, myself included, could've seen this coming. But, then again, Lucario were supposed to be extinct. Your mere existence is an anomaly," he continued, grin broadening.

Tessa's chest tightened. She could barely breathe. Lucario were supposed to be extinct? Is that why her mother was the only member of the species she'd ever known, despite how highly people spoke of them? Tessa wanted to hurl, but her throat was so constricted and she was so tired, she didn't even have the strength to maintain a sense of nausea.

"Dark Matter had wiped them all out… until Ultra Space turned your mother into one. Ironic, isn't it? The reason you had a defective aura sense as a Riolu is because your mother was never a natural Lucario." Necrozma shrugged his shoulders. "And so, you took my energy to make up the deficit. You flooded your spirit with Z-Power! That's why your big display was more than a simple Mega Evolution. My light was flowing through your veins! We could call it a Z-volution! No, wait, I have a better one: a Necrolution! Heeheeheehee!"

"You… m-monster," Tessa rasped.

"Pot calling the kettle black much? Are you even aware of how much of a rampage you went on against your dear old mom?" Necrozma crooned. His core shifted from blue to yellow. He pointed an arm at Tessa. "I should drain every last drop of your spirit for your insolence. But, now that I have my full core back, I'm feeling generous."

He gave Tessa the closest to a warm smile he could muster. "Now that you know your 'partner' was nothing but an extension of my core, how about you work with me? We will return each and every world to the void." Necrozma swished his tail to the side. "I'll even use Xerneas' powers to bring Silvally back… but I'll make him even better. More spirits. More Unown!" He was practically dousing Tessa in spittle. "Team Radiance can be together for eternity. What say you to that?"

"I… will never… sink to your level," Tessa seethed.

Necrozma rolled his eyes. "Oh, brother. Fine. Let's get this over with." Red and black energy crackled around his core. "Time to give me back the light you took. Farewell!"

Unable to brace herself, Tessa stared down Necrozma's red and black beam. Then, everything faded to black.


A mess of colors greeted Shane when opened his eyes. He was completely discombobulated. His ears rang and he couldn't feel his arms or his legs. All he could do was blink his eyes. Shane had no idea how long he kept blinking, but something eventually registered through the sea of colors.

A hard object was stuck in his throat. In fact, his throat burned. He tried to take a breath, but descended into a massive coughing fit. Yet whatever had blocked his throat interfered with said fit, sending shockwaves of pain through his chest.

He heard muffled shouts. Tan and yellow blurs swirled about on the edges of his vision. Slowly, the pressure in his throat faded. Whatever was blocking it had been removed. Shane coughed for several seconds. As he did, soft fabric brushed his torso. His vision slowly came into focus and he found himself looking at a pale arm.

A human arm.

There was an IV line inserted into it. Shane looked left and saw a heart monitor, complete with a bunch of lines and numbers that he didn't entirely understand. He looked straight down and saw heavy casts over both of his legs. His human legs.

His head began to pound. This didn't make any sense. He was supposed to be in the ruins of Temporal Tower, helping his teammates stop Zero. Shane had found Necrozma. He had spouted a long-winded rant about how his spirit was actually Dark Matter.

So, what was he doing in a hospital?

"Sir? Sir, can you hear me?!"

Shane turned to his right. A brown-haired nurse stood beside him. His vision hadn't returned enough for him to see the nurse's ID badge. He opened his mouth, but all that came out was a weak cough.

"Please, sir, try to relax. You're in the Intensive Care Unit at Upstate Medical Center," the nurse explained. "You were in a very serious accident last week."

Shane jerked in his bed. Last week? No, that couldn't be right. He'd been in the Pokémon world for at least a few months. But wait… didn't he have a vision about being in an accident? Hadn't Solgaleo and Necrozma caused that? None of this was making sense.

"Let me get your parents. Oh, and I have to tell your doctors that you've woken up," the nurse said.

No. This wasn't right. None of this was making sense. He tried to reach for the nurse's arm, but a spark of pain surged through his system. The wind rushed out of Shane. He jerked about in his hospital bed. The nurse's eyes widened. He turned and pressed a blue button on the wall.

"I need some help in here! My patient's seizing!" he shouted. The nurse turned to Shane. Before his vision went white, Shane got a good look at the nurse's ID badge and the name written on it…

Nicholas Eisenberg.

End of Episode 15


Eraser of Deities, Zero
A faller from a world of only humans, where Pokémon is nothing but a fictional concept. Though she eventually settled into a life with the Horizon Guild, she never forgot about everything she had lost. That longing turned into resentment, which she could no longer hold back after an accident led to her colliding with Necrozma's core. The corrupted Z-Power has kept her in a Mega Evolved state for months, eating away her spirit. Without the core to give her energy, Zero won't just pass away, her spirit will crumble and she will completely fade from existence.


Like I said, this chapter's been a long time coming. Save for a few tweaks and changes, I've been planning this for quite a while. I know the battle itself is much more subdued than some of the other ones, but that's intentional. I wanted to focus more on the emotional aspect than over-the-top stuff, hence the lack of humorous quips or one-liners. It's a relief to finally have this out. I hope you liked it.

Next time: the final episode begins!


A chapter full of wtf moments!
Okay, the beginning of the chapter with Zero was a result of what we already knew, and also the happening with the legendaries is result of the story.

But then it started to punch me in the face. Silvally. Boom! You can't just do the Grovyle-Move to us!!!

And then one by one is getting kicked out, Espy and Tessa, and Shane is already out... I hope you have a good plan for the next episode -wait, i know you have.
The last scene was very interesting. If it wasn't clear this isn't the last episode I may have thought this was just an Ash-Coma-Theory-Ending that explains everything just has been a dream; but the Nurse-ID is prove it can't be! Nicholas Eisenberg... How can he be there?
I want to know!!!

Mindblowing chapter. You've done everything right, I can't wait to read the next chapter.
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Dragon Enthusiast
Family matters, eh? That’s definitely Gallian.


This was an interesting set of chapters. I’m going to focus mostly on the central attraction this time, Gallian, since most of the other stuff didn’t really feel all that important. There were a few odd scenes where I feel the banter may have gone on a bit longer than necessary without quiiite advancing the story in any perceptibly significant way, but I guess that’s mostly a nitpick.

I’m sort of glad that Tessa pointed it out, because Gallian’s disaster talk is getting really grating. I caught on that he was afraid of Tessa because of how she looked, now, and perhaps he spotted the sigil on her paw? But beyond that, he was so crazy that I feel the whole exchange dragged on way longer than it probably had to. Zoroark’s story about how they met, though—I actually enjoyed that bit of exposition. You didn’t have to go too crazy with it, but Zoroark still went over the most essential parts… though I gotta say, they hooked up really fast~

The dungeon itself… I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not sure if the factory-like style is just another Kirby shoutout to their obligatory factory level, or if it actually has some plot significance in having suddenly human-structures around in the area. Maybe I’m overthinking it; it came so out of the blue and it’s in a Dungeon that I want to say it’s just a stylized thing, but… it’s too specific. I’m going to keep this in mind for later.

Anyway, it looks like there’s a bonus episode after this. Uh… maybe when you do some reorganizing, consider moving that elsewhere? Ha, I mean, it’s right in the middle of a major cliffhanger/clash/encounter… kinda bad timing.


That being said, what a strong bonus chapter! It’s pure introspection, but I think this was the first point where Shane’s essence in particular was captured very nicely. You pretty much spelled out his mental issues without actually giving it a name, and I think that was particularly clever. Tessa’s was a bit weaker, partly because we more or less already knew a lot about these aspects of her, I think. I could tell that you were trying to go for a parallel between the two, but I think it was just really hard to follow up on Shane’s segment.

59, 60

A battle and then some quiet! I don’t really have a lot to say about the fighting itself; I thought it was choreographed pretty well all things considered, though I feel like Milotic may have taken a backseat to all the chaos at some point, and I noticed that Espeon in particular felt a bit less present, perhaps intentionally? I wasn’t sure. To add, I’d like to just quietly point out, well, loudly point out, that this chapter and the chapter that follows has solidified that Gallian is perhaps one if the biggest idiots in this entire fic. Frustratingly so. I’m kind of surprised at how many bad miscommunication-plot-threads are tied to him, but… it was really bad. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing from a mechanics perspective, but I just can’t understand how Gallian would do all that with no words or explanation. It’s almost too irrational… but hey, it’s how the plot got rolling, I suppose.

I do question the timing of the opening scene with Dialga, for the same reason I question the timing behind the bonus chapter earlier.

Oh, one quick critique, though—the moments with Shane evolving were confusing. I know that part of it was intentional, but I think it may have been too confusing—I really struggled to follow exactly what was actually going on with him during, shortly before, and after. Like, did he happen upon an Ice Stone in the cave walls? Was that the white stone? Probably, but still, his visions culminating with the battle in the background… ahh… too frantic. Just a bit.

Regarding the quiet moments in chapter 60, kudos to Silvally for once again tapping into fragments of his memories; he’s both young and old, in a way, isn’t he? I’m glad that Silvally had called out Espeon for being effectively the weakest link of the group; unlike the other three, she keeps crumbling under pressure while everyone else is working to bounce back. I think the strongest line from Silvally was his remark about how it was no wonder Zero was so easily able to get Espeon into her side. Very good line. I do have to remark offhand, though, at how this chapter really centralized how off-canon Espeon is~

Scene with Gallian I already covered above. Good to have another cooldown chapter, at least.


And now the final two chapters! Both of them are mostly cooldowns except for what Necrozma’s doing in the background with Dialga and Mewtwo playing tower defense. This time, I’m mostly focused on Shane’s whole deal for the first chapter, mostly because we have confirmation that Shane and Solgaleo are much more closely associated than expected… but something still doesn’t add up here. So the Dark Matter theory is definitely still supported.

Anyway, heart to heart was strong, but I feel like chapter 61 didn’t end at the best note. I felt that you could have ended it at the line

["We think it's time you knew about what happened to us," Sticky said. "Namely, how we lost our home to the one you call Necrozma."]

Because that felt really powerful. The segment that followed could have possibly been relocated to the next chapter, you know? But ehh, that’s a nitpick.

I liked the characterization of the Rescue Team duo! Despite them just appearing, I have a good feel for their personalities, and that’s honestly impressive. Looks like what’s next is the special episode… ooh that’s a long one. Guess we’ll see where that one takes me~


Winter can't come soon enough
I will have to get to the reviews later, for medical reasons. Sorry! :(

Content Advisory: chapter has one instance of potentially charged language.


Shane had no idea how long he was out for. One thing was clear when he woke up, though. He was still in the hospital bed. There wasn't any sort of tube in his throat anymore, thankfully. However, his mouth was so dry that he didn't risk opening it. Breathing normally was hard enough. He feared anything more would cause further harm.

All he could hear were the steady beeps of the heart monitor and the whirs of whatever machine was pumping fluids into his IV. He looked right and found the same nurse as before standing by his bed. This time, however, a blonde-haired woman in green surgical scrubs and a white coat stood beside the nurse. Shane saw the nurse's nametag and tensed up.

"Sir? Sir?" The doctor leaned over. Shane saw the words "Prisma Sinclair" stitched into her white coat. Why was that name familiar? "Please, Shane, you have to stay with me, here. I can't imagine how hard this must be for you."

It felt like someone was sitting on Shane's chest, yet there was nothing there but a bunch of bandages and medical gauze. What had happened? The nurse had mentioned something about an accident, didn't he?

But that wasn't right. He was an ice Ninetales… fighting with close friends against a heinous threat. He couldn't be back in the human world… could he?

Dr. Sinclair shined a pen light in Shane's right eye, then swiveled it to his left. "Pupils are equally responsive. That's good," she said, while the nurse scribbled something on a clipboard. "Shane, blink twice if you can understand what I'm saying."

Shane blinked twice. Sinclair smiled at him. "That's good. Do you think you can speak? If not, I want you to blink twice again, okay?" she said. Shane could barely take a breath without his chest hurting. Speech was beyond him. His gaze faltering, he blinked twice.

"Okay." Sinclair put her left hand against Shane's right hand. "Can you feel my hand right now? One blink for yes, two blinks for no." Shane glanced to his right, then blinked twice. "Very good. Now, I want you to squeeze my hand. If you're in a lot of pain, squeeze as hard you can."

Shane focused on his right hand, but struggled to move his fingers enough to wrap them around Sinclair's wrist. After pressing against the palm of her hand, he relaxed. His face twisted into a grimace. Shane still didn't understand why this was happening. The nametag. His life as a Ninetales. There was clearly something wrong. But he couldn't move. And he couldn't speak. So, what was he supposed to do?

"Nurse Eisenberg is going to add morphine to your IV. It should help with all the pain you're experiencing," Sinclair said, standing up and nodding at her nurse. "In the meantime, I'll tell your parents that it's safe for them to come in and see you."

His parents. Shane stared blankly at Dr. Sinclair as she walked out of the room. His mind was racing. He didn't even notice the nurse walk across the room, holding a bag filled with purple, bubbling fluid. It wasn't until the purple liquid streamed down his IV line and entered his arm that Shane realized something was wrong.

Shane's skin crawled, as if a bunch of invisible bugs were running up and down his arms and legs. He wanted to scratch his chest so badly, but he couldn't move. "Don't worry," the nurse said, walking to the foot of the bed. "This will make you feel better. So much better."

Shane tensed up. He recognized the distortion in the nurse's voice. Shane looked up at the nurse, only to find his face replaced by a large, purple, reptilian eye. It stared back at Shane, its pupillary slit expanding. Before Shane even had a chance to process this, however, a tearing pain gripped his chest. He looked down and had to watch in horror as red, thorny chains burst out from his bandages and dressings. They wriggled about. Then, one by one, they pointed at Shane's face.

He finally managed to get his mouth open, but the chains shot into his throat before he got the chance to scream.


Episode 16: The Light That Burns the Sky

Chapter 95: Darkest Before Dawn


~Prism Wastelands~

Tessa was in shock. Her limbs finally responded. They were sore, sure, but the fact that she felt them at all was a huge surprise. Just moments ago, one of Necrozma's spirit-stealing energy beams was barreling toward her, with nothing she could do stop it. What had changed?

She looked up to see Latias hovering above her. Soft, pink energy flittered around Tessa. Slowly, she managed to get to her feet. As the pink light faded, Tessa realized Latias wasn't alone. Her jaw dropped.

She had seen them drawn in books before, so there was no mistaking it. Arceus and Mega Rayquaza hovered in front of her. Tessa even saw Mewtwo and Lugia standing off to the side, along with the various teams she had been separated from in the aftermath of the battle with Lycanroc. Lugia had his wings raised. He was levitating the platform Zero had sent the Expedition Society members away on back toward the altar.

Meanwhile, Arceus and Rayquaza had their eyes locked on the path leading to the smaller alter. Tessa looked at it blankly. Hadn't Necrozma just been standing there? What happened to him?

"Blast it! He slipped right out from under us with one of those stupid wormholes," Rayquaza growled, lashing at the air with his tail. "How are we supposed to know where he went?"

"Um, yeah… about that…" Swampert rubbed the back of his head and pointed to his right. "There's a big ol' ominous-looking black bubble of doom floating way off in the distance over there." Everyone turned in the direction Swampert was pointing. Sure enough, a black sphere filled with rippling energy hung in the middle of the air, distorting everything around it.

"Wait a second…" Arceus' eyes narrowed. "That direction… Primeval Forest is in that direction! That's where the Tree of Life is!"

That's when the full realization of everything with Necrozma sank it for Tessa. Shane was gone. Silvally was gone. Necrozma had his core back. He had what was left of the Dawn Hourglass' power. His light was fueling her aura sense. And he not only claimed that Xerneas' control over spirits was under his command, but that Shane — her partner since the very beginning, despite all the hurdles — was, in fact, the underlying root of so many of the problems she had encountered in her travels.

Tessa's aura feelers scrunched up. With Latias having turned away to tend to Espy, Tessa took everyone by surprise when she dropped to her knees and belted out a loud, "No!" She raised a glowing paw and struck the ground. Cracks splintered in the crystal floor. Pain raced up to her shoulder, but she didn't care.

"H-Hey! What's wrong? Why the waterworks?" Feraligatr asked. It was then that Latias let out a startled squeak. She floated back toward Lugia, ears drooping as Espy's sobs rang out across the altar.

"No! It's not fair! He's gone! Gone!" Espy brushed her head against her shoulder. "I… we were…" She shuddered. "Silv… why? Why did you have to go?"

"H-Hold the phone, here. Can someone explain to me exactly what's going on?" Ninetales said. "What happened to Shane and Silvally?" She looked around, only to freeze up upon seeing all the gods assembled before her. "We had come here… to help Team Radiance fight Zero. But she trapped us in some strange forcefield and used ley lines to send us away."

"It was Necrozma," Tessa said, her voice empty. Even though she was looking at the ground, she could feel everyone's eyes fall on her. Even Espy's. "He… he…" She rubbed her eyes with an arm. "He was possessing Shane… because Shane didn't have Solgaleo's spirit inside of him. He had Dark Matter's spirit!"

Horror flashed across Espy and Latias' faces. Mawile stiffened. Ampharos tilted his head to the side. The other teams exchanged concerned looks. Rayquaza coiled around so his arrow-like face hovered a few inches in front of Tessa's. "And you're really going to believe the words of a screeching lunatic?"

"You saw him here for yourself, didn't you?" Tessa snarled. Her eyes and right paw flickered with rainbow light. Rayquaza pulled his head back, eyes twitching.

"That light," he whispered, glancing at Arceus.

"Yes. It's Z-Power. From Necrozma. I used Z-Power to evolve and now his energy's stuck inside of me." Tessa threw her paws up to her shoulders. "That's why I believe what he told me about Shane. And it doesn't stop there… Necrozma said that he had taken Xerneas' power for himself!"

Ninetales' tails shot up in alarm. "Th-That can't be!" She looked out toward the black void in the distance. "If he has Xerneas under his control then… then he could attack the spirit realm! There are thousands of spirits in there!" Her eyes widened and her legs shook. "And we never recovered most of the spirits Dark Matter dragged down into the Voidlands when it controlled the Tree of Life. If Necrozma can somehow drill down to the planet's core—"

"He'll be able to absorb the spirits of countless Pokémon… going all the way back to the earliest days of this world!" Mewtwo growled, tail lashing at the air. He whirled on Arceus and Rayquaza, eyes blazing with pink energy. "This is all your fault!" he snarled, pointing an accusatory finger at Arceus.

Arceus stepped back, face scrunched up. "What do you expect me to say?" he growled. Tessa gazed up at him in shock. She was looking at the creator himself. And yet, he seemed as docile as a newly-hatch Litten. Why was he so shaken by all of this? Wasn't he monitoring this situation?

"That you had at least considered the possibility something like this could happen!" Mewtwo clenched his fists. He nearly smacked a squeaking Mew with his tail.

"T-Two-y… please stop. I don't like it when you yell," Mew whimpered.

"You knew he was Xerneas' mate! You can't float there and tell me you didn't think Necrozma might try to go for Xerneas, knowing the history they had! You were the one who gave the orders to keep them apart!" Mewtwo continued.

Rayquaza looked as though someone had blasted him in the face with an Ice Beam. "What are you talking about? Immortal gods can't take mates! It's impossible!" He glanced at Arceus, only to coil up tighter when he saw Arceus looking down at his hooves. "You're not going to refute him?"

"I can't. It's the truth," Arceus whispered.

"Oh snap. Plot twist!" Haxorus said, earning herself several sharp glares. She slowly walked backward until she could safely duck behind Lugia's leg.

"Xerneas could've quelled his rage, but instead you chose to keep them apart, then have Solgaleo and Lunala imprison him. It's the same answer you have for everything. Try to make the problem disappear, regardless of the potential future consequences," Mewtwo said, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Do you really think things would've worked out that easily? How do you even know about any of this, anyway?" Arceus growled. "Necrozma got to you, didn't he? What happened to all those boasts about how you're 'the world's strongest Pokémon?' Well, what good did that do you in the end, hmm?"

Tessa was in disbelief. After everything she had told them— no, after everything she'd gone through, nobody was coming to comfort her. Instead, she was watching gods bicker with each other like… like the arguments she had with Gallian when they were little. Tessa's right eye twitched. Her heart ached. Silvally would've known exactly what to do. And Shane… well, there was a chance he'd make things worse, but at least he'd say something. She couldn't even find her voice. Necrozma's words kept echoing in her head.

Dark Matter. The Pokémon she'd grown closest to… was Dark Matter.

The other teams tried to interject and defuse Arceus and Mewtwo's argument, but they continued glaring at each other. Latias and Lugia hovered between the two, the latter holding out his wings. "None of this will do any of us any good at all," Latias said. "We've got a serious problem, here. And not one that can be solved by closing our eyes and wishing it would go away."

Mewtwo turned his back on her. "Then talk to him. He's supposed to be the 'miracle worker,' isn't he?"

Tessa hadn't felt this tiny since the day her mother gave up on her aura training. Slowly, she turned away from the bickering gods. Tessa looked at Espy. Her eyes were red and puffy. Her ears were drooping lower than Tessa had even seen them. Espy's tail was curled around her waist. She looked as broken as she did when Tessa had gone to comfort her after Umbreon's sacrifice. After a few seconds, Espy met her gaze.

"E-Espeon, what do we do?" Tessa said.

"I don't know. I just…" Espy's voice trailed off. She shuddered. "Silv," she whispered meekly.

Tessa stared at her paws. She balled them into fists. Aural flames flickered around them. She took a deep breath. Had her teammates been there, they would've told her that she needed to stay strong. That this wasn't the time to give in. Not when there were still people who needed saving.

Something bubbled up in Tessa's gut. It was just like before she had snapped at Zero. Tessa tensed up. She couldn't let herself slip so deep into her anger again. Otherwise, how would she think straight? Tessa staggered to her feet. Espy looked up at her. "What are you doing?"

With a shaky breath, Tessa replied, "I'm going to get our friends back." She then stomped toward the large argument. A rainbow aura flared up around her as she shouted, "All of you… shut up!" Everyone turned her. Espy got to her feet, tail wrapped around a hind leg. "You guys…" She pointed a paw at Arceus and Mewtwo. "You've been sitting on the sidelines this whole time. You have no idea what I— no, what we've been through!"

She grabbed her head and shook it. "I don't care what happened in the past. What matters is the present… because I want to have a future! I've been through too much to give up now and let Necrozma rip everything I care about away from me!" Aura jets shot out of her paws. Espy backed away, eyes wide, until she bumped into an equally-stunned Haxorus.

"Sheesh. Was she always like this?" Haxorus whispered.

"I don't think it's my place to say," Espy replied. In truth, she was just as furious, but was trying to keep her emotions in check. She'd already had a hysterical breakdown. That wouldn't help her get Silvally back.

She glanced right, envisioning a silhouette of her teammate beside her with a confident grin on his beak. 'You'd want me to stand tall, right?'

"Obviously, I can't walk over to whatever that thing is." Tessa gestured toward the black sphere. "So, I don't care which one of you volunteers, but someone is taking me there." She thumped her chest. "Even if nobody else wants to join us…" Tears welled up in her eyes again. "I won't surrender. He doesn't get to win. I'll shatter every piece of his prism armor if I have to!"

With a deep breath, Espy approached her. "M-Me too!" She bit her lip. "I can't be afraid. We have to move forward… together! It's what…" Her gaze fell. "It's what he wanted for us."

Tessa knew exactly what Espy met. A pang of sadness struck her gut, but she forced herself not to let it show. She looked at the other teams and found Blaziken and Swampert sorting through their satchels. "Shoot. You don't have to ask us," Swampert said. "A rescue team doesn't call it quits until the job is done. Even if the scale of the rescue is so big you can't measure it."

"Right! And I still owe Necrozma a Dragon Claw sandwich for what he did to Paradise!" Haxorus said, smacking an open palm with her fist. Raichu nodded her support.

"Thank you." Tessa gave a curt bow to the others, then turned back to the gods. "So, who's it going to be? Who's taking us over to Necrozma's sinister floating death ball?"

Heeheeheehee! What an adorably hopeless scene this is! It'd fit right in with any sappy sports movie.

Tessa's aura feelers crinkled. Necrozma's voice was coming from the sky, but she saw no signs of him anywhere. It clearly wasn't telepathy, so how was he doing this?

"Everyone on your guard!" Mewtwo said, raising his glowing hands. Mew tried to wrap his tiny arms around Mewtwo's waist.

I'm at least nice enough to make one thing clear to you. My "sinister floating death ball" is Celestial Island! I did some "renovations." After all, the place looked so lonely after your mother abandoned it, Necrozma declared. And if you honestly think I'm going to let any of you waltz in while I'm busy purging the Tree of Life of every last drop of its energy, then you're going to be sorely disappointed!

Latias' feathers bristled. "N-No!" She rubbed her head against Lugia's neck. "If he does that, the planet will go hurtling into the sun! Just like with Dark Matter!"

Arceus and Rayquaza looked right at Tessa, who figured they were now choosing to believe her claims about Shane's spirit.

Relax. Lucky for you fools, the planet's paralyzed and Dialga's dead. It can't go anywhere no matter what I do to that foolish pile of woodchips, Necrozma said.

"Wait, really?" Feraligatr cocked his head to the side.

Heeheeheehee! Of course! Ask that white-furred failure of a creator if you don't believe me, Necrozma crooned. He's the one who denied Darkrai's request to paralyze the planet in an effort to thwart Dark Matter's revival. I doubt he could've foreseen his rejection driving Darkrai into the depths of nihilism. It's not as if he'd made this mistake before or anything. Oh, wait, that's right. He did. And you all wonder why I consider your world irredeemable?

All eyes whirled on Arceus. He looked up toward the sky, his wheel sparking with energy. "I'm well aware of all my screw-ups, thank you."

Tessa's brow furrowed. This all felt eerily familiar. Not what Necrozma was saying, necessarily, but how he was saying it. Blue flames swirled in her paws. "Guys, stop talking! This is a stalling tactic!" She stomped a foot on the ground. "We have to leave now!"

Lugia got the memo quickly, bending over and spreading his wings out. However, Rayquaza snaked in front of him. "Time is of the essence here," he said. "My Dragon Ascent can get the mortals there faster than anything short of a portal or wormhole. I should be the one to go."

Were you not listening to me earlier? Nobody's getting into Celestial Island! Necrozma barked. Light flashed through the sky. You want to go out in a heroic blaze of glory? Fine! I'm happy to indulge. Feast your eyes on this!

Rayquaza turned and snatched up Espy and Tessa in his arms. "Don't worry! I'll protect you!" he shouted. "The rest of you, follow behind in case I need support." His golden ribbons straightened out, giving him the appearance of an emerald arrow. Rayquaza shot into the air before anyone could respond to him.

Tessa had never moved so fast. Well, she also hadn't flown before. So, to have this be her first experience was nothing short of frightening. She wanted to scream, but managed to keep her fears stuffed down inside her. The only problem was that the mystical emerald wind Rayquaza had summoned made it almost impossible for Tessa to see anything.

"What's going on? Are we getting close?" she shouted, amazed she could hear her voice at the speeds they were going.

"We're almost there," Rayquaza replied. Indeed, Celestial Island drew closer. With the strange void surrounding it, he had no idea where he could safely drop off Espy and Tessa.

With the island a hundred yards away, however, a ripple of light forced Rayquaza to stop. He looked to his right, eyes narrowing. "What was that?" he growled.

"What was what? Why did you stop?" Tessa said, squirming in Rayquaza's grasp. His sharp claws were jabbing her ribs. It made her uncomfortable. She caught sight of Rayquaza's tail lashing at the air and looked right. Her aura feelers shot up.

"Do you see something, Tessa?" Espy asked, unable to look right because of the way Rayquaza held her.

"I… I do," Tessa squeaked. "It's a… a giant… Ultra Wormhole."

Espy's eyes widened. "Let me see! Let me see!" she begged, squirming in Rayquaza's grip. Rayquaza hoisted Espy and Tessa up, giving them a complete view of the massive, jagged rift that tore across the sky. The bulk of the rift sat above Celestial Island. Blue and purple light flittered in through the rift.

"Oh, gods," Espy whispered.

Tessa's aura feelers spasmed. She squinted. Though the light made it hard to tell, she swore she saw silhouettes pouring out from the rift. "U-Um… Espeon? Are… are you seeing what I'm seeing? There's, um, something in that wormhole. Or, rather, a lot of somethings."

Espy's ears drooped. Her tail would've tucked between her legs, but it was pinned to her side thanks to Rayquaza. "You see it, too? Then tell me. What am I looking at, exactly?" he said.

"Ultra Beasts," Espy said, shivering. "Hundreds and hundreds of Ultra Beasts."


Everything was blurry. Blurry and muted. Shane felt as though he'd been dumped into an aquarium water tank… except he wasn't drowning. Instead, he floated in the middle of a black abyss. Every so often, he felt a ripple brush up against him. However, that did little to calm his nerves.

So, he wasn't in a hospital after all. The only conclusion Shane could draw was that Necrozma had performed some sort of trickery with his mind. It would explain why the nurse and the doctor had the names that they did.

Of course, the realization did little to quell Shane's fears. For starters, he had no idea where he was. On top of that, he had no idea what he was. Sure, he could see, hear, and feel. However, the wiry, fluff-covered Ninetales limbs he'd grown used to were nowhere to be found. There were no tails protruding from his backside. No locks of hair falling over his eyes.

What had happened to him?

Before Shane could think on the matter any longer, a harsh current sent him tumbling through the abyss. Shane's world spun, but since there was nothing but darkness all around him, he didn't find himself getting dizzy. He just wanted this all to stop. He wanted to see his friends again. To see Tessa smile. To hug Silvally while calming energy pulsed down his body. To give Espy a nuzzle and tell her everything was okay.

Shane had no idea how long the currents spun him around for. He became numb to the swirling sensation. Eventually, however, something pierced through the endless sea of black. It took him a moment to get a good look, but once he did, his nerves flared up again.

There were two bundles of heavy, cast iron chains floating in front of him. Each bundle had numerous padlocks clinging to the chains. Shadow fire swirled around the locks. And yet, despite that, Shane could also see light poking through cracks in each set of chains. The left bundle had bits of golden light flittering around it, while the right bundle had twinkling, pink and white light spread across it. Shane swore he even saw branch-shaped silhouettes poking through the chains.

It's over.

Shane heard a voice echoing in his head. He recognized that voice… and the resignation in its tone. He wished he could properly move. That way, Shane could try to get a sense of what was going on.

There's nothing left you can do.

This time, Shane saw the left bundle of chains wriggling as the voice spoke. More bits of golden light trickled through the chains. Was there someone inside? Some sort of spirit, perhaps? Shane had to reach out to it somehow. But could he even speak in his current state? He had no idea, but he had to do something.

EnJOyInG tHE ViEW, aRE wE?

An unsettling feeling bubbled inside of… well, whatever form Shane was presently occupying. He still wasn't sure.

wEll NoW, I dON'T WaNT yOU To GET tOO bOReD. WhY Don'T I sHOw YoU SoMEtHInG tRUlY IntEResTInG?

A violet, reptilian eye formed in between the bundles of chains. Black, slimy tendrils protruded from its back and shoved each bundle of chains away.

I'm sorry!

The first voice grew more distant. Now Shane was sure someone or something was trapped inside of those bundles. Shane concentrated as hard as he could and, to his delight, managed to utter a, "Who are you?"

I AM tHe SoUrCe oF yOuR sPIrIT… AnD NecROzMA'S PoWEr. I aM tHE vOId.

Before Shane had a chance to respond, Void's tendrils seemed to grab hold of the black water Shane was floating in and pull it apart. Shane was treated to a blurry view of his teammates and Milotic standing before Zero. He saw Tessa looking more tense that he'd even seen. Espy kept stealing glances at Silvally, face brimming with worry. And Silvally had a strange, rainbow aura about him. All Shane could think about was what had happened to them after they got separated.

"Guys! Guys, it's me! I'm here! I'm—"

It'S UsELesS. ThEY cAN'T HeaR YoU.

Shane wished he could feel any sort of facial muscles so he could glare at the obnoxious floating eyeball. Instead, he had to settle for watching the battle against Zero play out. As Zero summoned crystalline copies of spirits she had consumed, Shane grew more and more anxious. And when Silvally threw himself at Dialga, Shane cried out to him in desperation. All the while, Void stared him down, eye brimming with purple light.

There was nothing Shane could do. Not when Tessa flew into a berserk rage. Not when Necrozma revealed he was masquerading as Shane, then plucked his core out of Zero. And not when he taunted Tessa and launched what should've been the killing blow. Shane's heart then soared when the cavalry came charging in to Tessa's rescue. But the joy was short lived, as Necrozma escaped through an Ultra Wormhole.

An invisible force grabbed hold of Shane. In a flash of light and a gust of wind, Shane was thrust from his dark, shadowy prison. He struck a floor made entirely from the same red, glitchy cubes Zero summoned for all her attacks. All around him, black cubes and crystals floated in random directions, sporadically bouncing off one another.

The cubes were overshadowed, however, by a large, white light to Shane's right. In the periphery of his vision, he could barely make out ethereal roots digging into the floor. Wisps of light trailed off the roots. Another chill ran through Shane. If he was staring at a glowing tree, then he had to be looking at the Tree of Life. No other tree would have such a mystical aura about it. And Necrozma had been possessing Xerneas.

A crystal floated right by Shane. With the light from the Tree of Life, he finally got a glimpse of his reflection. There was no body to speak of. Or even a face. All he saw was a small red sphere with numerous cracks spread throughout it. A sinking feeling struck Shane with the force of a Body Slamming Snorlax.

'He was right. I… I really am Dark Matter.'

"Heeheeheehee! I must say… I'm impressed with your tenacity."

A psychic force hoisted Shane into the air. He got a much better look at the Tree of Life. A huge gash had been torn through its trunk. White and sky-blue espers streamed out of the gash and into Necrozma's core. An ethereal glow surrounded his metal body. With each spirit he absorbed, Necrozma's arms twitched. Tiny runes surrounded his claws, but Shane couldn't make out what they depicted.

"After seeing what happened to your 'friends,' I expected your will to falter and your spirit to fizzle out, unlike what happened to Light's when Golem mucked up his ritual. And yet, here you are." Chuckling, Necrozma turned his head to lock eyes with Shane. "At least now you know that I was telling the truth."

"I don't… care." Shane wasn't sure how he was speaking, but he wouldn't let that stop him. "I'll… I'll find a way out of this somehow! My friends will help me!"

Necrozma's resulting sigh was as long and drawn out as it could possibly be. "Such a pity. I could've avoided a lot of headaches had I taken the time to understand exactly what sets human and Pokémon spirits apart."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Shane huffed, figuring this was another mind game.

"What's that? You haven't figured it out yet, have you? Well, I suppose you've never been much of a thinker, Shane." Necrozma paced around Shane, eyes locked on him. "Math was the closest thing you had to a strong subject in school, yes?" He paused. "Don't answer. That was rhetorical." Necrozma cleared his throat. "Allow me to clear it up in a way that you can hopefully understand. See, your spirit is Dark Matter's… for the most part. But not entirely.

"I'd say, if I had to partition it out, you're about eighty-five percent Dark Matter, ten percent human, and five percent Solgaleo." Necrozma smirked. "Oh, but I know what you're thinking. 'That doesn't make any sense, Necrozma. Why do I remember so much about being human, but nothing about being Solagleo or Dark Matter?'"

Shane wished he still had a snout. That way, he could bare his fangs at Necrozma's mocking interpretation of his shrill voice.

Necrozma's smile broadened, as if he knew exactly what Shane wanted. "The answer lies in the human spirit." He stepped back from Shane. His prism turned red and he narrowed his eyes. "It's quite amazing. For such weak, frail creatures… your spirits have an enormous amount of resilience. It's almost enviable."

"That feels like a load of croc," Shane said. "Even by crazy magical Pokémon standards, you can't really tell me spirits are some sort of super tangible object."

"But that's where you're wrong. They are very, very tangible. But there's a key difference between human spirits and Pokémon spirits. Thanks to humans' indomitable wills, their spirits have far tougher than Pokémon spirits," Necrozma explained, shaking his head. "If you break a Pokémon's spirit… you will also destroy their memories and their personality. But for humans… well, thanks to willpower, as long as the smallest fraction of a human spirit remains intact, the human's full range of memories and characteristics will persevere.

"That's why everything about your human life made it into your Vulpix body. And that's why I haven't been able to get rid of the remnants of your so-called friend's spirit! He's as much a part of me as I am of him." Necrozma scowled. "So, yes, even though you got your powers from me and Dark Matter, your human will found a way to shine through in the end. Of course, it doesn't change your situation at all. I just figured you might like to know, that's all."

Shane mulled on Necrozma's claims for a minute. If he had heard Necrozma right, then perhaps his friend wasn't completely gone. He thought back to the chains he had sign when he was floating in the black abyss. "N-Nicky. I know you're in there. Even if it's just… a part of you… you can stop this! Don't let the void… do this. You're stronger than that! I know you are." He paused. "Because you were always a better person than me."

An invisible hand squeezed Shane. He cried out in pain. Necrozma's blue eyes flashed. "Heeheeheehee! It's a little late to be teaching yourself Fake Tears. Not that it would do you any good." Necrozma licked his lips. "My core is complete. What little there is of Light's spirit is now locked away forever. Your fake sob story will never reach him."

"That's not true. I heard a voice… when I was stuck inside you," Shane said. "He's still fighting. I know he is! You just said… human spirits… are resilient. He won't… let you… do this."

"Bold words from a giant fraud," Necrozma scoffed, tail flicking to the side. "You saw how your 'friends' reacted to the revelation of what you really are. They're doubting the sincerity of everything you ever did for them!" He bared his fangs at Shane. His core brimmed with energy. The Tree of Life seemed to react to his growing unrest, pulsating with white ripples. "Do you honestly think Tessa will accept you back now that she knows the truth? Ha! What an absolute farce!

"Let's say, through some divine act, you actually defeat me and reclaim your Ninetales form. What will you do then, hmm?" Necrozma leered at Shane. "Can you really go crawling back to your teammates, expecting things to return to normal? Of course not!" A grin spread across Necrozma's face. "Look at Tessa! All that Z-Power she absorbed on accident when she evolved… it's made her unstable. I was able to manipulate that energy and drive her into a berserk rage! With the power I'm gather in my core… I could rip her apart from the inside out!"

"You leave her out of this!" Shane snarled. "Tessa doesn't deserve any of this misery!"

"It's too late for that. The doubts I've planted in her will grown and fester. Either she'll lose herself to all of that unstable energy… or the doubts will get too large and she'll cast you aside." Necrozma's grin widened. "And when that rejection seeps into your system, your human will won't be strong enough to resist the pain. The Dark Matter in you will bubble to the surface and seek to return to its old ways!"

"That's not true. We'll find a way to make this work. We can help each other," Shane said. "It's not about spirits or energy or anything like that. You'll see!"

"Your words betray the uncertainty in your voice," Necrozma said, shaking his head. "But fine… I'll play along. After all, your friends intend to storm the island and put a stop to me." He rubbed his metal hands together. "It's only appropriate that I have a special surprise waiting for them if they make it here! Heeheeheehee!"

Necrozma yanked Shane toward him and turned him left. It was there that Shane saw a mass of ley line chains swirling about in the air. The chains surrounded a large, pulsating ball of light surrounded by letter-shaped silhouettes.

"N-No. Those are… Unown," Shane said.

"Heeheeheehee! Are you starting to understand what you're up against? You, Tessa, Silvally. The power of the void runs through all of you. You are all exploitable!" Necrozma said, rubbing his hands together. "I manipulated Silvally's spirits just as I did Tessa's Z-Power. He blew himself up because I hardwired him to think it was the only way to stop Zero! But, of course, I like to keep backup plans in mind."

Shane saw a rainbow sphere in the center of the ball of light. Even without a body, he still felt an unnerving sense of dread.

"I condensed all of Silvally's spirits into a core… just like what I have. After he blew himself up, I transported the core here just in case I needed to put him to use," Necrozma explained, licking his lips. "Now I'm pumping him full of added spirits and making him a new body from even more Unown. When I'm through here… he'll finally be the crazed killer the void wanted him to be! Heeheeheehee!"

The chains squeezed the Unown and the ball of light tightly. A distorted wail echoed through the room. "Stop it! Stop it, Nicky! Don't do this!" Shane cried.

"And why should I stop? Didn't you see how heartbroken your friends were over the loss of Silvally? Imagine how overjoyed they'll be when they find him here. Especially Espeon," Necrozma said. "Oh-ho, did you see what I did there? With the clever alliteration? I didn't even intend for that to happen!"

"Nicky, please! You have to fight it! Fight the void! Fight Necrozma!" Shane begged.

Necrozma rolled his eyes. "Oh, sod off. He's too far gone to hear you. Besides, I didn't get to tell you about the fun part. Yes. That'll come when your precious friends realize they can't get through to Silvally… or to you."

An invisible force shoved Shane forward. Chains burst out of the floor and surrounded him. Within seconds, they blocked his view of Necrozma and the Tree of Life.

"Their joy will turn to despair. Their wills will crumble. And once that happens… their spirits will be mine."

The chains swallowed Shane up. For a brief moment, his world went black. Then, he hit a carpeted floor hard. Shane groaned loudly, but immediately sat up when he realized he could feel his limbs again. He looked down, only to recoil in horror as they weren't fur-covered legs but pale, skinny, human arms. Shane flexed his fingers, then looked past them to see he was in another hospital gown.

"For pity's sake… this isn't funny, Nicky!" Shane shouted, only for his eyes to widen. He staggered to his feet, staring blankly at the leg of a gigantic school desk. "W-What the—"

"Prissy Nicky… funny? No. The only thing that's funny here… is your face, retard!"

Shane tensed up. His heart leaped into his throat. His pupils dilated. "G… Geoff?" Shane croaked. He looked behind him and saw a gigantic, sneakered foot careening toward him.

Screaming at the top of his lungs, Shane broke into a run.

Continued in next post.
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Winter can't come soon enough
Continued from previous post.


~Celestial Island Exterior~

If Tessa hadn't been sick before, she certainly was now. Rayquaza desperately snaked through the multicolored volley of energy beams trained on his location. Tessa's world was a blur of dull grays punctuated by the occasional flash of light. Bile rose up in her throat. She forced herself to swallow.

"There's too many of them!" Rayquaza growled. He fired a Dragon Pulse into the distance, but three Dragon Pulses and multicolored sound waves snuffed out the attack. Behind him, Latias, Lugia, and Arceus weren't faring any better. Even with the various team members offering added fire power, their attacks were neither strong enough nor capable of travelling far enough to help the gods forge a path toward the island. Tessa even tried flinging an Aura Sphere toward what she thought was a Stakataka in the distance. She didn't even get to see a half-dozen Kartanas shred the attack apart before it got anywhere close to her target.

"So, what do we do here?" Mew asked, hovering beside Mewtwo. He glanced at Arceus. "Don't you have some fancy-schmancy attack that could wipe out the lot of these losers?"

"If you're referring to my Judgement, then no… it's not enough to get rid of all of them," Arceus said. "Besides, I can't safely use the attack with passengers. I'd risk vaporizing them."

Haxorus' expression blanched. "Uh, yeah, I'd very much like to live, thank you."

"Ditto!" Swampert shouted, earning a scathing look from Arceus.

"Well, what do we do then?!" Mew pivoted to deflect a couple of Flash Cannons with a barrier. "Because if we try to charge head-first toward the island, we'll get swamped with attacks!"

Tessa tensed up. "I, uh…" She squirmed in Rayquaza's grasp. "I thought you said nothing was faster than your Dragon Ascent? Why can't you just speed toward the isl— aah!"

Rayquaza did a midair figure eight to dodge a flurry of Dragon Pulses and glowing rocks. "That's why!" he harrumphed, only for a much larger Dragon Pulse to strike him in the right eye. He screeched and reflexively threw his hands up toward his eye. In the process, he dropped Espy and Tessa, who fell screaming toward the ground.

"Ah! No!" Latias shouted. She dove toward them, only to screech to a halt when a familiar purple portal opened up underneath them. "What the—"

Like a shimmering purple comet, Lunala flew out of the portal, wrapping Espy and Tessa up in a tight embrace. Though Tessa couldn't see anything, Lunala's ethereal membranes left her feeling oddly calm considering she had almost fallen to her death.

Lunala corkscrewed past the other gods. "Cover me! I've got this," she said, then spiraled toward the island.

What the— that's impossible! You're dead! I sapped every last drop of light out of your spirit!

Though muffled, Tessa heard Necrozma's snarls of protest. She had no idea what was going on outside, but whatever was happening was leading to her and Espy getting jostled around. Tessa wound up grabbing Espy by a foreleg and bringing her into a tight embrace— minding her chest spike, of course. It was the only way she could think of to stop the two from potentially colliding.

"What's going on, Tessa?" Espy cried.

"I don't know, but I think we may have been blessed with a stroke of luck," Tessa said.

"Well, not exactly," Lunala shouted, clearly focused on trying to avoid whatever attacks the Ultra Beasts were launching at her.

After several tense seconds, the sounds of battle abruptly died away. Lunala spread her wings and gently lowered Espy and Tessa to the ground with her ESP. "Oof. My aching head," Espy said, bending over and shaking herself out like she'd been drenched in water. She then froze and looked around. Her jaw dropped. "Th… this is Celestial Island?!"

Tessa's aura feelers throbbed. She stood on a floor made of black, glitchy cubes. Cubes floated by them in the air, alongside giant, crystal lattices. Beyond that, there were no walls. There wasn't even a sky. Nothing but black and red static surrounded her. Tessa placed a paw against her chest. "I guess these are the 'renovations' Necrozma was talking about."

Lunala floated in front of them. From behind, she looked like a large, crescent-shaped shield. "I fear we don't have a lot of time. Whatever this place is… we have to press on through it until we find Necrozma."

Espy and Tessa looked at each other and nodded. "We're with you," Tessa said.

"Great. We'll all go together, then."

The girls ran forward to catch up with Lunala. "One question, though. How did you survive Necrozma's possession?" Espy asked. "We thought you needed Mega Evolutions or Z-Moves to save corrupted Pokémon."

Lunala's wing-claws tensed. "The truth is I… didn't. That Lucario—" Lunala glanced at Tessa. "Your mother, I'm assuming?"

Tessa nodded.

"Right. She forced Necrozma out of my body. When she did… my spirit didn't have the strength to stay bound to my body," Lunala explained. "Hang on… duck!"

The girls did as instructed. Purple energy surrounded Lunala's chest and she blasted an oncoming wall of spiked cubes with her Moongeist Beam. They ran through the opening, only to find a second cube wall waiting for them on the other side. This one wasn't moving, but Lunala's attempts at blasting it apart fell flat.

"It's no good." Espy looked to her right, only to jump up, fur puffing out in surprise. Another wall had formed, further blocking their path. "Argh! It's like he turned this place into a constantly-shifting Mystery Dungeon."

"Actually, that's exactly what we're dealing with," Tessa said, pointing to her left. Holographic stairs flickered in the distance, surrounded by floating cubes pulsating with red light.

Espy's ears drooped. "Wonderful. How are we ever going to reach Necrozma like this?"

"Well, not by standing around. C'mon." Tessa beckoned her teammate to follow. Lunala floated above them, eyes brimming with psychic energy in case the floating cubes were a trap. "So, uh, about what I was asking earlier? If you actually, y'know, died, then how are you with us right now?"

"You should thank your friends for that one," Lunala replied, earning confused looks from the girls. "Err, sorry. Are they not you friends? Maybe they're just colleagues? They seemed to know you, anyway."

Espy's ears stuck up mid-stride. "Oh, wait! Ampharos' plan! Something about restoring the spirits lost to Necrozma. You mean to say it actually worked?"

"Well, I didn't see an Ampharos around, but I was revived," Lunala said. Three of the cubes turned spiky and shot toward Team Radiance. She blew them into other cubes with a wide pink blast, then ducked underneath the small explosions that ensued.

"Th… then… does that mean… Umbry's back?" Espy whispered, heart pounding her chest.

"Hmm. There was an Umbreon among the 'mons I saw before I raced over to you," Lunala said. "Why? Is he a friend of yours?"

A broad smile crossed Espy's face, though it didn't take long for her worried expression to return. After all, what good did having Umbry back do if the world was on the precipice of complete destruction? And, of course, even if he was back, there was still a hole in her heart. Espy glanced right, imagining her chimeric teammate bounding along beside her. She shut her eyes and shook her head.

'You can't dwell on it. You have to be at your best for this fight!'

They reached the bottom of the stairs. Tessa hesitantly put a foot on the first stair and, once she confirmed it was solid, started to climb up. "So, wait, if Necrozma's victims are getting revived, then does that mean—"

The entire area trembled. A yelping Tessa dropped to her knees and dug her paw spikes into the stairs to stop herself from tumbling off. Her aura feelers shot up when a loud, boisterous laugh clashed with an annoyed snarl. "W-What was that?!" Tessa said, aura feelers throbbing in time with her heartbeat.

Lunala looked around. "If I had to guess… that sounded like Hoopa."


Multiple ring portals opened around Arceus and Rayquaza. "What the heck?!"

"Ha ha ha ha! Fear not, fellow gods! Help has arrived! Because Hoopa is here!"

Before Arceus could even react, a loud "Daddy! Daddy!" echoed through the sky. A gray blur slammed into Arceus, nearly knocking his passengers from his back. "Oh, I missed you so much! Did you miss me? Huh? Didya? Didya?" Giratina said, tail wagging excitedly. He nuzzled Arceus' neck as veins bulged out of the creator's head.

Haxorus, who was clinging to Arceus by his white, fluffy tail, stared at Giratina's spectral wings with a lock of shock on her face. "I so did not sign up for this!" she hollered, kicking at the air with her legs.

"Look on the bright side, luv. You'll have a hell of a story to tell when this is all over," Marshadow said, one of Giratina's wing-spikes hovering inches from his face.

"Don't make me smack you again," Haxorus grumbled, pulling herself up onto Arceus' hip.

"For pity's sake, Giratina." Arceus shoved his son back. "What have I told you about boundaries?"

"That they're only suggestions!" Giratina said, a jovial grin on his face.

"What? No! I never said anything like that!" Arceus fumed.

"Oi! This is a touching reunion and all, but can we please focus on the aliens trying to kill us?" Lugia said, levying Air Slash crescents to cancel out a bevy of Ancient Power rocks. He was ready to shoot an Aeroblast into the distance when one of the ring portals crackled. Out came golden and rainbow streams of fire. They sailed toward a Buzzwole floating in the distance. Once they struck, a chain reaction of bright, fiery explosions spread through the Ultra Beast ranks. Ephemeris and Ho-Oh flew out of the ring portal in question, spreading their wings wide as flames trailed off their tails.

Latias blinked. "Am… am I seeing double?"

"Yeah, you are! It's an amazing trick, isn't it?" Giratina said, having popped up next to Latias thanks to a Shadow Force rift.

"Gah!" Latias' feathers bristled. "Do you mind?"

"Mind what? You're the psychic-type, not me," Giratina said, sticking out his tongue. "I was just saying that it was such a bummer that Ho-Oh wouldn't tell me how she duplicated herself. Or turned her duplicate into a dude."

A loud snarl caught everyone's attention. Black shadows pooled out from a smaller rift in front of the gods. Necrozma shot toward Ephemeris and Ho-Oh like a blazing comet. Both rolled aside, then turned their flames against him. Necrozma vanished into a shadowy rift, only to reappear where he first emerged.

"I don't know what kind of trick you're pulling, here. But I won't stand for it!" he snarled.

"Um, technically, you're not standing. You're floating," Giratina pointed out.

Another vessel bulged out of Arceus' head. "Giratina? Darling son?"

"Yes, Daddy?" Giratina fluttered his eyelids.

"We're going to play the quiet game, all right? The longer you go without speaking, the bigger your prize will be when the game's over," Arceus said. Latias could swear she saw smoke rising up from his head.

"Okay!" Giratina chirped, only to throw his wings up over his mouth. "Uh-oh, I messed up! Can we start over?" His eyes bugged out. "Agh, I did it again! Sorry, Daddy!"

Haxorus facepalmed. "And here I thought Hydreigon was dense."

"Enough!" Necrozma raised his hands. His core shined brightly. "All of you… spread out! Take every continent and tear them apart until there's nothing left!"

The many Ultra Beast silhouettes behind him fanned out in every direction. "What the— no!" Rayquaza shot a Dragon Pulse, but Necrozma neutralized it with a Dragon Pulse of his own.

"Then we'll have to split up as well!" Ampharos declared, striking his signature pose for all of a few seconds before grabbing one of Lugia's spines to keep himself from tumbling off. "Phew, that was a close one!" He laughed nervously. "A-Anyway, Hoopa! I need you to open portals and send those of who aren't gods back to our home continents alongside whoever Ephemeris revived! Can you do that?"

The largest ring portal trembled. Hoopa popped out of it, still in his Unbound form. He clapped all his hands together. "Ha! Say no more, chief! For Hoopa, it is barely a probl—"

"I won't let you!" Necrozma said, firing a red and black spirit-sucking beam straight toward Hoopa. A ring portal swallowed the attack up and a second one sent it right into a flying Naganadel. It turned to crystal and plummeted from the sky.

"You won't get the better of Hoopa this time! Hoopa is strong now! Stronger than you, kitty cat!" With a hearty laugh, Hoopa raised his hands, summoning multiple ring portals.

"Excellent!" Ampharos struck his pose again. "Let's get to work, everyone! We've got a planet to sa— aah!"

Lugia flew toward one of the ring portals. Were it not for Mawile grabbing Ampharos by his bag, he would've fallen from Lugia's back.


~Post Town~

It was utter bedlam. Fireballs, lightning, and giant rocks soared through the air. "On your left, Haxy!" Raichu called, shooting off a Thunderbolt as Haxorus veered right mid-sprint. The Pheromosa lunging toward her was blown back into two identical copies. A sinkhole then opened up beneath them, swallowing them up alongside half of a Stakataka.

"Wah! It's too big to fit in my trap," Dunsparce said, stubby wings fluttering in surprise.

"Then gimme a boost!"

A Conkeldurr came charging in and hopped toward Dunsparce. With a strained grunt, Dunsparce propelled him into the air. Conkeldurr brought his massive concrete slabs down on the part of Stakataka sticking out of the sink hole. Fissures ran down its body and it dissolved away into black shadows. Conkeldurr hit the ground hard. Three Nihilegos caught sight of him and trained poisonous tendrils on his location.

"Oh no you don't!"

A wave of water crashed over the Nihilegos. Their Venoshock blasts instead struck a pair of Guzzlord in their tiny eyes. Keldeo soared past them as they evaporated like Stakataka, blasting water from his hooves. His horn brimmed with red energy and he sent crescents toward one of the Guzzlord, slicing it into ribbons that quickly dissolved away. The second Guzzlord avenged its comrade, shooting a Dragon Pulse that struck Keldo's chest and blew him back.

Fortunately, Hydreigon swooped in and snagged Keldeo before he could crash into the ground. "There was… still another one… of those big things," Keldeo grunted.

"Right. Let's just—" His six eyes widened. "Virizion, behind you!"

Preoccupied with fending off a Kartana and a Celesteela, Virizion had no way of seeing Guzzlord's bright, glowing fists crashing down toward her from above.

"I've got her!" Haxorus lunged forward, driving her Dragon Claws into Guzzlord's side. She couldn't pierce its tough hide, but she had enough force behind her blow to make Guzzlord stumble. His blows sailed wide, while Virizion managed to drive her glowing horn straight through Celesteela and spin it into the Kartana.

When she pulled back, she saw Guzzlord standing in front of her, dazed from Haxorus' blow. "Unbelievable! Trying to attack a lady while her back is turned? How undignified could you possibly be?!" she huffed, summoning her glowing horn once again. "You don't even deserve the honor of falling to my Sacred Sword. Consider yourself lucky we're in a bind, cretin!" She slashed Guzzlord's leg. It didn't even get the chance to topple over, as black and blue beams hammered it from the other side.

Hydreigon swooped down, now carrying Umbreon with his face-hands. He spat another Dragon Pulse, blowing Guzzlord apart, then dropped Umbreon off beside Virizion. "How are you holding up?" Umbreon asked, pivoting to toss a Shadow Ball at a Nihilego. It was too focused on trying to hit Emolga to see the ectoplasm coming in.

"Aside from these monsters' gunking up my hooves… I'm fine, I guess," Virizion said, lunging for the Nihilego shouting, "You get your alien behind away from him!" She sliced through Nihilego with her horn.

"Great work, Vizzy!" Emolga cheered, only to cringe when slime rained down on Virizion after she landed. "Ooh… that looks really disgusting."

Virizion held her head high, however. "Well… I suppose sacrifices must be made for the sake of preserving our world." She crouched low, training her gaze on a Celesteela chasing down Dunsparce and Raichu. "But when this all over, I'm spending a week at the nearest hot spring and nobody can tell me off for it!" Virizion lunged for Celesteela, only to screech to halt when a pink outline surrounded it and hoisted it into the air. Her jaw dropped as a dozen fireballs burned Celesteela to ashes.

"Coming through!" Victini shouted. He paused next to Virizion and looked her over. "Huh. You look different. New hairstyle?"

"Very funny," Virizion deadpanned. "Focus on the fight and not on my looks, thank you."

"Yeah! Especially when her mate's in hearing range!" Emolga huffed.

Victini raised his hands up innocently. "Say no more!" He swooped toward Keldeo. "Keldy, buddy! It's time to do that thing we were practicing!"

Keldeo blew a Buzzwole away with Hydro Pumps from his hooves. "What thing?"

"Y'know… the thing!" Victini said, pointing as his spike ears as they burst into flames.

"Oh, right. Okay, but try not to overdo it," Keldeo said. Victini grabbed hold of his horn. Keldeo used his water jets to spin around at top speeds, then flung Victini skyward toward a cluster of Naganadel.

"It's the new and improved V-Wheel!" Victini shouted as his momentum turned him into a living, flaming pinball that ricocheted off each Naganadel, leaving them dazed. Victini broke out of his attack, then had to fly up as a massive ball of lightning passed underneath him, vaporizing the Naganadel and a couple of Pheromosa for good measure.

"Ha! Did you see that? Seven in one Bolt Strike! Yes! I'm really feeling it!" Zekrom said, fist-pumping.

"Hey! Watch where you're aiming, Turbine Butt! You singed my leg!" Reshiram barked, shoving him aside.

"I can't help it if your hips are wide enough to set a full-course meal on… or that you're enamored with my backside." Zekrom laughed.

"Oh, brother. Get over yourself." Reshiram took in a deep breath while she rolled her eyes. The lingering static intensified the flames in her maw. She spat out a huge torrent of fire, burning away multiple Buzzwoles, a Stakataka, three Xurkitrees, and a half-dozen Kartanas trying to zip toward her. "Suck it, Turbine Butt! That's a dozen. I get the point. And that means you've gotta be the little spoon when this all over." She stuck her tongue out at him.

"What? No way! Best five out of nine!" Zekrom growling, tail whirring.

"Both of you be serious!"

Zekrom tensed. He looked down to find Kyurem locked in a grapple struggle with a Guzzlord. "We don't have time… to play games!" he growled.

"Talk to him. It was his asinine idea," Reshiram said, before blasting the Guzzlord from above with a Dragon Pulse. It burst into black shadows that flittered away. Kyurem stumbled back, trying to catch his breath.

"More are coming. Stay on your guard!" Zekrom said. He zipped down toward Kyurem's side.

"I know what I'm doing," Kyurem growled. "I hope the others are having better luck than we are."


~Aeon Observatory~

"G-Gallian. I'm not sure this is a good idea," Zoroark said, limping after his made. "Comfey wanted us to rest, remember?"

"I can't rest with all the commotion," Gallian said, wanting to run down the hall to the assembly area but still feeling too light-headed to manage that. In truth, he wanted to stay curled up in his bed with his mate. But when he heard a chorus of voices rising up from the assembly area punctuated by Milotic sobbing loudly, he couldn't lay still any longer.

Gallian walked into the assembly area and promptly froze. Pokémon of all shapes and sizes streamed down the stairs toward the veterans' quarters. Milotic, Serperior, and Steenee all stood by the stairway, directing traffic as best as they could. But what really shocked him was the sight of the other guild apprentices piling up supply crates near the stairs. He could've sworn his sister told him that Necrozma had sucked the life out of all of them. What was going on?

"That's it. Single file now, everyone. Please no pushing or shoving!" Steenee said.

"Hey! Keep your paws to yourselves, Furfrous!" Serperior barked. A Furfrou couple's faces blanched as they tried to put some separation between themselves.

"What in the—" Zoroark stopped beside Gallian. "Why are people piling into this place?" His eyes then fell on Serperior and he jumped back with a loud yap. "Y-You! What are you— how in the—"

Serperior flinched. "A-Ah. Comfey said you two were on bedrest. This is… embarrassing," Serperior slithered back, biting her lower lip. "Look, I'm really sorry about… y'know…" She tapped her head with her tail and Gallian felt the absence of his horn once again.

He scowled and looked away from her. "It's whatever. You weren't in control. I was infected, too. I just… had the right Pokémon available to help."

"R-Right." Serperior rapped her tail against the ground nervously. "Um, belated congrats on, y'know, taking a mate and stuff." The awkwardness of the situation was plain as day on her face.

"Look. We just want to know why there's so much activity here," Zoroark said, scratching at his right ear.

"What da… Gallian?!"

Gallian tensed. He turned to find Yungoos lowering a box, eyeing him suspiciously. "H-Hey. Long time no see, I guess," Gallian said.

"So, dey got youse under arrest here, huh? About time!" Yungoos said, leering at Gallian.

"A-Actually, that's—"

Zoroark stomped over to Yungoos. "My mate and I have been helping Team Radiance deal with the Prism Virus in your guys' absence. We got too roughed up to keep fighting, that's all," he said, his good eye flickering crimson.

Yungoos looked between the two of them. "Y-Youse mean da two of youse is—" He looked at the ground, blinking in surprise.

"Oh, congratulations, dahlings!" Bruxish declared, levitating a box beside Yungoos. "We simply must celebrate. You know… when we're not busy evacuating the town into the Catacombs, of course."

Gallian's eyes widened. Zoroark's fur puffed up and he crouched on all fours. "They're evacuating the town?! What for?"

Necrozma has torn open a rift and Ultra Beasts are pouring out of it.

Magearna zipped into the room using her motorized wheels, bowling an unaware Growlithe over. She skidded to a halt by Zoroark. The good news is that we were able to revive the spirits of Necrozma's victims! Several of the gods are fighting the Ultra Beasts off as we speak.

The ground shook. Gallian hopped to Zoroark's side to keep him from falling over. Magearna looked behind her. Ah, not good! The barrier—

Zoroark frowned. "Wait, I thought Necrozma was dead! Why would—" But Magearna zoomed off before he could finish his question. A few seconds later, she sped back into the room, bowling Growlithe over a second team.

"Oof. Now I know how Vulpix feels being such a punching bag," Growlithe said, blinking stars from his vision.

The forcefield's holding up. It's a good thing the generator is in this building, otherwise we'd be in a lot of trouble, Magearna said.

"Time out. If the forcefield's working, why is everyone being evacuated?" Zoroark asked.

In case the generator falters. And I fear that's a possibility if the Tapus choose to use their Z-Moves to defend the continent! Magearna said.

Gallian and Zoroark turned to each other with shocked expressions. They'd both heard the legends. The Tapus could summon giants made of divine energy to do battle with. "But… but they could tear the continent apart!" Gallian said, crouching low to the ground. His head throbbed. He was sure his disaster sense was acting up.

"I'm sorry! But, from the way it sounded, the Tapus didn't think they had a choice!" Mimikyu said, hopping into the room from the path to Magearna's workshop. Togedemaru followed in behind them. "P-Please don't get mad at us! We didn't have time to think of any plans."

Gallian raised a brow. Mimikyu froze. "O-Oh. It's… it's you." His disguise's head flopped over. "H-How have things been? With the, y'know, stealing and outlawing and stuff?"

"I'm past that," Gallian said. "Okay, what can Zoroark and I do to help out here?"

"I think Trapinch is getting overwhelmed directing people using the speaker in the sentry room," Growlithe said, pointing his snout toward the southern corridor.

"Then that's where we'll go. C'mon." Zoroark beckoned Gallian forward. They ran ahead, only to faceplant when the ground started shaking again.

"Geez! It's like an earthquake's ravaging outside," Togedemaru said, flailing her stubby limbs about as she tried to right herself. "Can't they at least be a bit gentle?"

Gallian and Zoroark exchanged concerned looks. They didn't need to exchange words. Both knew the other was praying they'd make it through all of this in one piece.


~Volcanic Wastes~

"Hold the line, all of you! We can't let them get through until everyone's safely underground!" Totem Salazzle shouted. A line of Salandits standing in front of her spat fireballs, poison globs, and dragonfire toward a rampaging Buzzwole. Crimson energy surrounded it and it broke through the attacks unscathed.

Totem Salazzle's eyes widened. "Just what manner of demon is this creature?" She spun around, opened her tail-flaps, and released pink vapor. Buzzwole slowed to a stagger, swaying uneasily from side to side.

"Excellent shot, Totem!" Heralder Salandit said. He was followed up by her applauding entourage clapping enthusiastically.

"Idiots! Don't sing my praises! Attack it while its dazed!" Totem Salazzle ordered, turning around and spewing a Flamethrower at Buzzwole. Heralder and his cohorts coughed up fireballs of their own. Buzzwole stumbled back, its bulbous muscles catching on fire.

"We've got him, Mother!"

Healer Salazzle vaulted over the Salandit line, followed by Spike-Skull Marowak. He hurled his bone club forward, knocking Buzzwole onto its back and leaving it no recourse against a point-blank Flamethrower from Healer. It dissolved away into black smoke. Healer and Spike-Skull smiled at each other, but the cute moment was interrupted by a cry of, "We need some help here!"

A Stakataka tromped across the ground, blasting Flash Cannons from several of its eyes. Cubones and Marowaks ran around in a panic, some carrying injured members of the tribe. Spike-Skull hurled his bone club at the nearest leg, but a Flash Cannon blew it into the ground. Totem Marowak weaved between two Flash Cannons and launched a fireball toward Stakataka's underside. It struck home, but Stakataka managed to kick Totem Marowak back. He hit the ground with a heavy thud.

"Everyone, fire!" Totem Salazzle cried, looking aghast at her counterpart. Rather than the familiar volley of fireballs, however, huge jets of steam swept Stakataka away. The various tribesmon all froze.

"All of you! Focus your efforts on getting to safety," Volcanion declared, landing in a burst of steam. "Leave these fiends to us!"

Totem Marowak scrambled to his feet, nearly dropping his bone club in the process. "M… Mighty Volcanion," he whispered.

"Now!" Volcanion roared.

The tribe looked up to see a giant made of green energy hovering high in the air. Tapu Bulu sat atop it, enclosed in his bell-shaped armor. Volcanion blasted two Blacephalons with high-pressure water. Tapu Bulu caught them in an outstretched hand and crushed them.

"Praise be to the Tapus! They've heard our plights!" the High Priest sang, spinning his bone club around in triumph.

"This isn't the time for celebrations!" Totem Marowak scolded.

"Agreed. Everyone, get underground! Full retreat! Grab whatever supplies you think you can carry!" Totem Salazzle ordered.

"Yes, Totem!" her Salandit squadron replied, saluting her unison and then scurrying off.


~Stormcracker Isle~

"Lucy, are you seeing this shit?!"

Seraph stood perched on barren palm tree's branch. Luxeira stood at the tree's base, staring off into the distance. She did indeed see literal giants hovering in the air. Occasionally, brightly-colored blasts lit up the sky like a fireworks display. The thing was, she wasn't sure she believed what she was seeing. With everything that had happened since Rem Canyon, she wanted to brush this off as the result of a blow to the head she had taken fighting Nihilego back in Cosmic Cavern.

"This is unbelievable," she said, stepping back from the tree. "What is going on over there?"

"The Tapus are using their Z-Moves, by the look of things," Totem Decidueye said, swooping down to land on the branch next to Seraph's.

"That's a Z-Move?!" Seraph turned to gawk at her looplet. "It looks like they could destroy the whole continent if they wanted to!" Luxeira tensed. It was hard to ignore the bevy of explosions. At this rate, she feared there wouldn't even be a Horizon Continent to return to should they survive the whole ordeal.

"I myself have never seen this before. The Z-Move's only been spoken of in tales and legends, like the story of how Voltaic Crater came into existence," Totem Decidueye said, brushing dust off his wing. "In times of crisis, the Land Spirits can summon giant guardians from the earth to command in battle. It's… a sight to behold, to say the least."

"Yeah. Good thing we got out of there when we did," Seraph said, rubbing her nose. "I'd hate to imagine what it'd be like if we were still on the mainland."

"Mayday! Mayday! Incoming Blacephalons!"

Seraph and Luxeira jerked their heads right. A multicolored Blacephalon head hurtled right toward Seraph. Luxeira coughed up a Flamethrower, blowing it away seconds before it exploded in a shower of bright lights. Seraph's legs shook. Her right leg slipped off the branch and, were it not for Totem Decidueye's quick thinking, she would've fallen to the ground.

Two Blacephalons caught sight of this and shot giant fireballs at Totem Decidueye. His eyes widened. He was too busy flapping his wings to fire off any ectoplasmic arrows. Luckily for him, Kahuna Riachu hovered up next to him and raised his paws. He caught one of the fireballs with his ESP and flung it back at the Blacephalon culprit. At the same time, a flurry of large, bright-green, leaf-shaped energy balls blew the other fireball out of the way.

Seraph saw a white and blue streak zip by her. Shaymin Esserly flew over to Kahuna Raichu, her blue hair and blue, scarf-like petals fluttered behind her. "Sorry I'm late, everyone! Evacuating the village proved more troublesome than I anticipated."

"It's quite all right, cousin. Good to see you again. Wish the circumstances were better, though," Kahuna Raichu said. The two Blacephalons grabbed their heads and threw them forward.

"Careful! Those can explode," Seraph said. Despite hanging from Totem Decidueye's talons, she launched blue lightning at a Blacephalon head, knocking it back into its body, which got swallowed up by a neon explosion.

"Good to know," Esserly said. She fired more Seed Flare energy pellets, which Kahuna Raichu electrified with his Thunderbolt. They hammered the Blacephalon head and blew it up. The remaining Blacphealon sprouted a new head, but a blast of purple poison struck its leg and sent it reeling, where Luxeira was waiting atop a nearby rock to snipe it with a black beam. It dissolved into gray shadows.

"Good work, everyone," Totem Decidueye said, gently lowering Seraph to the ground.

"I don't think we're safe, yet," Sticky said, pointing a nubby hand toward the sky. Lightning streaked toward them, but to their shock, Jolteon and Cosplay Pikachu leaped into the air and absorbed all the electricity. They landed safely on a giant water bubble formed my Primarina.

"Now, Vappy, let's let 'em have it!
We'll send them packing like they're bad habits!"

Primarina's singing sent the water bubble racing toward a trio of Xurkitrees. They prepared to vaporize his attack, but an Ice Beam struck them from below and froze them solid. The water bubble exploded, shattering the Xurkitrees. "Ah! Bravo! Wonderful! And you two were excellent," Primarina said, bowing to Jolteon and Cosplay Pikachu.

"Yeah. I, uh, wouldn't use those lyrics in the future," Vaporeon said, cringing.

"Guys, everyone focus!" Seraph said, her whiskers sparking. "If Ultra Beasts are swarming this place, then we have to make sure the people we evacuated are safe, right?" She turned to Esserly. "Where are the folks from your village?"

"There's a set of caves in the center of the island. They lead to a Mystery Dungeon," Esserly explained. "I brought them to the caves just before the dungeon. We found a bunch of Pokémon there, already."

Seraph lightning-dashed up toward a rock opposite Luxeira's. "Good work. Then, I think if we stay out here, we can draw any would-be attacker's attention and keep them from going toward the caves." She scanned the sky for any signs of any Ultra Beasts. Instead, a plume of rainbow fire erupted over the ocean. Yowling, Seraph through an arm over her face. She nearly fell off her rocky perch.

"Or Lady Ho-Oh could swoop in and burn the attackers away with her Sacred Fire," Esserly said, smiling.

Totem Decidueye blinked slowly as he tried to process what he had just seen. "I-In any case, we have to stay vigilant. Somebody could always slip past—"

A Buzzwole dropped to the ground and flexed. Luxeira didn't hesitate to blast it with a Flamethrower, but it jumped out of the way and flew toward her, glowing fist outstretched. She leaped off her rock right before Buzzwole brought his fist crashing down onto it. "It's bug and fighting-type!" Luxeira barked, turning to spit a fireball at Buzzwole's wing.

"Copy that!" Esserly said, her wing-like ears glowing. Air Slash crescents pummeled Buzzwole from above. Luxeira's fireball burned away its wing. A psychic ring from Kahuna Raichu proved the finish blow. Buzzwole dissolved away in a cloud of black smoke.

"I don't like this," Luxeira said, eyeing the spot where Buzzwole attack skeptically. "Something about these Ultra Beasts seem off."

"Yeah." Seraph crossed her arms. "They're clumsy… and fragile. Almost like…" Her eyes widened. "Almost like they're not real!"

"So, these are fakes?" Totem Decidueye said, flying up to scout from a tree branch.

"It would explain why they instantly turn into smoke when they're beaten," Seraph said.

"Ah! That sounds just like what happens to dungeon Pokémon overseas," Esserly realized. She bit her lower lip. "What does this mean?"

"It means someone's making Ultra Beast copies en masse," Seraph said, clenching her fists. "The question is… who's doing it? And why?"


~Celestial Island Interior~

Tessa wasn't sure whether or not to feel fortunate or annoyed that the floor and walls kept turning into giant shapes to attack her. If they hadn't, she would've found it hard to go on after hearing Lunala's explanation. Instead, rather than trying to process the revelations, she had to focus on leaping over a chasm of spikes and landing safely on the other side while Lunala held crystalline crushers at bay with her ESP. Once she was on firm ground, Lunala flew through and the crushers slammed shut behind her.

"So, let me get this straight. You're saying the world — our home — is nothing but a giant accident? Built off the foundations off some world where humans and Pokémon lived together?" Espy said, ears drooping and tail tucked between her legs. "And all the stuff we have to deal with — dungeons, ley lines, uncooperative gods, etcetera — is a result of the creature Arceus fought with when he destroyed the world?"

Lunala bowed her head solemnly. "I'm afraid so. That's what I ended up learning as a result of Necrozma controlling me." She frowned. "If I'm understanding things correctly, the same demon's power dwells inside Necrozma and, by association…" Her voice trailed off. She tapped her wing-claws together nervously. "That power was in your friends, too. Silvally and… um…"

"Shane," Tessa said, her voice empty. She looked down at her right paw. The sigil was flickering again. She didn't doubt what Lunala was saying. Instead, Tessa worried about what that meant for her. If her aura was built on Necrozma's energy, then couldn't that mean the void's power was inside of her, too? Is that why Necrozma offered her to let her join him?

'Wouldn't that mean he could possess me like he did Shane? Has he already possessed me?' she wondered, eyes widening when she recalled her rampage against her mother. If he did control her somehow, then how could she fight against him? He could take control of her and turn her against Espy. After her reaction to losing Silvally, Tessa feared Espy would lose her will to fight if that happened.

"On your left," Espy said, snapping Tessa out of her thoughts. Pink blasts whizzed past her face. They blew apart a few Necrospheres on her right. Lunala engulfed the rest of the them in a crimson shockwave. They slammed together and exploded. "The stairs are up ahead. You doing okay?"

"Just having trouble making heads or tails of this, that's all." Sighing, Tessa's aura feelers drooped. Even if Latias had helped heal her up, the mental exhaustion was getting to her.

"I'm sorry. I debated whether or not to tell you. But, well, you've seen what Necrozma is like." Lunala folded up her wings. "I figured if I stayed silent, Necrozma would rant about this stuff in an effort to try and get you to surrender to him." Her third eye flickered. "I can't imagine it's easy hearing anything of this. And you've both been through so much already."

"It's… it's okay," Tessa said, her voice shaky. Did it hurt to hear? Of course. But the loss of her friends hurt even more. And she would never forgive Necrozma for taking them from her. "I want to see this through to the end. For Silvally and f…" She rubbed her face. "For Shane."

Espy nodded. "Exactly. There'll be time to reflect on all of this when Necrozma's gone. For now… we have to deal with him."

"Right." Lunala glided toward the stairs. "This time, I'll be here to help you two. And I'm sure that some of the other gods will break through soon enough and lend their strength to you."

The moment she reached the stairs, however, a click echoed through the room. The stairs vanished. A tower of cubes rose up from the floor, jettisoning a hollering Lunala up toward the glitchy ceiling.

"Lunala!" Tessa cried. She took a single step forward and her eyes widened in horror. The cubes were falling away all around her. "We have to jump for it!" Tessa crouched low and sprang into the air. She caught sight of Espy beside her. Tessa shot Psychic rings behind her in the hopes it would propel her forward.

However, the spot she thought she could reach fell away. The cubes drifted into the abyss. Tessa desperately reached a paw out toward what was left of the floor, only to see it crumble. With no place to land, Tessa tumbled down into the abyss, screaming at the top of her lungs. She lost sight of Espy seconds before slamming into something hard and having her entire world flash bright-white.


And with the debut of this episode, Guiding Light is officially two years old! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this fic would get the support it has gotten on this sight. One thousand reviews on FFN is mind-blowing! I'm grateful to those who had constructive feedback for me. I'd like to think the quality of the fic has improved over time thanks to you all.

To those who have stuck around for a while, thank you for being such a big part of this ride. For those who caught up with the fic recently, I hope you're having fun. And for those of you who are silent readers lurking in the background… I hope you've enjoyed the story. I'd love to hear your thoughts, even a sentence or two, but I know it can be tough to come up with stuff to say. Regardless, I really hope you all enjoy what I have to offer for the final episode. I'm working really hard on crafting a satisfying ending that does justice to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.

I could go on a ramble about all of this, but I already did that over on the "Ask the Guiding Light Cast" tumblr blog. In fact, I'm actually holding a giveaway there for the fic's anniversary. If you're interested in entering, click on this! You have until August 17th to enter. Good luck!

Next time: the most heartbreaking battles Espy and Tessa have ever fought!


Dragon Enthusiast
(Special Episode 3!)

63, 64
Alright, full disclosure: scifi isn’t really my thing.

That being said… this first chapter was an interesting change of look&feel for this work. There were tiny hints at the sci-fi world beyond Horizon, that is, the alien/advanced tech life that goes on outside the terrestrial universe, but I was almost surprised at how thoroughly advanced it is. Pokémon are needlessly wearing clothing, we’ve got locker rooms, little beeps and bops… I do have some lingering questions that the world building will probably never answer, such as how scattered dimensional pockets even get oatmeal, or the economy to buy oatmeal as export from other worlds, but I think I’ll suspend my disbelief on that aspect until otherwise informed. I think the nature of this world—which is the main attraction for this first chapter—is very strong, and you did well to establish it as “different” from Horizon.

One thing that I’m conscious of when expanding into other worlds is what it means for the scope of the story. Sometimes, going IN SPAAAACE can sometimes mess with the narrative’s cohesiveness, because, in the end, you’re suddenly introducing this big, wide world that might not necessarily pertain to the rest of the story. But so far, this is a side-story, and that gives you a slight bit of insulation in terms of what that means for the Horizon plotline. Throughout this special episode, I’m probably going to be commenting about what it means to go out-of-scope, or at least expanding your scope, and whether I think you handled such a thing well enough or not. (Mostly because I might be studying up.)
Anyway, quick potshots: Seraph is an interesting little creature, isn’t she? Though if I called her any of those things, I get the feeling I’d be on the receiving end of a natural tazer. The regular spats between her and Luxeira are something I genuinely enjoy, if only because it’s sort of a matter of… well, two people who are petty for their own reasons, getting into arguments where both take pretty good potshots at each other, and… okay it’s a catfight. There, I said it. And I think you handled it really well. I hope Sticky gets a moment where he proves himself to them both, especially Luxeira.

Second chapter of this episode ends with a pretty interesting reveal—did they just wander into the Ultra Nexus, which Necrozma had mentioned before as his imprisoned location? If so, it indeed appears that Luxeira’s team happened to become part of this whole plot as a matter of coincidence. But hey, I guess someone had to.

65, Bonus
Wow uh… didn’t expect us to be departing so soon. This was a very frantic action scene, but despite all of the nonstandard attacks being performed by Hyne—I mean, by Necrozma, I was able to follow most of it really well! Actually, I’d even go out of my way to say that despite how strange all of it was, it was probably one of the easiest fights for me to follow! …But that might be because I knew what the attacks were as a literal, ah, visual reference. I think the fight went on for a bit longer than it should have for the sole purpose of showcasing the full gambit of attacks he’d use for the full reference, but aside from that, I think it went well. I’m a bit disappointed at all the world building just for it to be shoved away, but I guess the main takeaway from that is the characters that survived.

My main concern, though, is that the scope continues to widen here. Necrozma is just a Lightless Black, for example, even if he’s particularly special (maybe?) due to how he was created, or what his origins were. It somewhat takes away from his importance because of that, the same going for all the Legends, in a way. They’re built up to be gods and very important cornerstones of Horizon, and yet here we have them as just… mission captains? From one perspective, I get it—because the gods themselves in Horizon aren’t exactly the most mature, at least, not entirely of what I’ve seen of some of them. But at the same time, it seems to… severely dampen Zero’s perspective, even if I think that was actually a strong point of her character. But eh, it’s honestly something that can be taken either way. At this point I’m just mumbling about the effect of scope expansion on a story.

Anyway, enough rambling. I liked the bonus episode! It showed a bit of ‘slice of life,’ if we can call it that, of Nicky before he totally lost it, and then the direct contrast between that and how he has been with Xerneas afterward, and how much he still sorta slipped away. I think that, in an ironic twist, we’ve learned more about Necrozma through this special episode than we have of Luxeira. Which perhaps was your intention? Either way, good call.

So, you told me to cut things off here and split the reviews in two. Maybe I’ll do that? But anyway, I thought this was an interesting little split. And, in a way… nonstandard? The past two special episodes were entirely isolated from the main story in terms of location or time, but here, it sorta blended into the present again since it was a recall. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I definitely noticed the shift in pattern.

As for what actually happened… interesting to see Lux have her emotions out like that. She’s a bit of an Espy, even down to the loud sobbing. Seeing Seraph totally unchanged due to her stasis was just what I expected, but I liked that—it was a jarring sort of, “and now we’re here, and you’re behind.” I’m hoping to see how that dynamic works out as she plays catchup. Her personality, while bombastic, is actually something that I’m enjoying.

Bah, forget it. Let’s review it all at once!

Ahh, the Gallian chapters. This was more or less what I was actually waiting for. This first chapter was good at setting up the groundwork and more or less filling in the main gaps that he was more or less vaguely alluding to until now. Though while most of it was good, and it was intriguing to get in his head (finally), I do have two critiques. First, and this one’s minor, the beginning portion with the Murkrow took a while to actually… become important. And the second one is that I feel like this was the moment when you wanted me to sympathize or otherwise understand why Gallian did what he did to Tessa, but it unfortunately came off as more contrived than reasonable. The narrative—through Gallian’s eyes, so I get it—really tried to hammer home that “it was the only way,” but it honestly seemed more like Gallian’s overactive disaster sense was as strong as the plot needed it to be, rather than anything else. I more or less have Gallian pegged as the biggest idiot still, and will shake my head if this is enough for Tessa to sympathize. I’ll give props later if she doesn’t. And if I don’t mention it, assume I did.

I’m not commenting on the subject matter in relation to chapter numbers.
Anyway! These two chapters were a total change of pace, weren’t they? All centralized on Gallian recovering, and while it seems that your author’s notes suggest that this wasn’t as well-received as you would have hoped, I thought it was a nice change of pace. Perhaps it went on for longer than it should have at some points, and there was a bit of repetition in how things went regarding Gallian and Zoroark, but I still enjoyed myself. So at least you have that?

I guess, thinking about it, there was a bit of crossover between Gallian’s story and Zoroark’s summary. I’m wondering if we’re going to see the foregone conclusion that Zoroark had talked about, only from Gallian’s perspective? A possibility. I guess it was a good call to condense the last part of this chapter short, since I imagine that’ll be when we finally meet the incident that made Gallian more the way he was.

Still! Goodness, they paired off fast. It makes sense in context, though. All Gallian’s life he was either sheltered or an outcast, and suddenly he meets someone with the same circumstances as him? It’s as he said, almost like the fates had drawn them together. So in that regard, it’s believable that he’d want to pair off with him so quickly, though I’m curious how Zoroark will reciprocate.

You know, despite the statements about how long the special episode is, and that you had to speed it up, I didn’t really notice it as much. Maybe it’s because of the change of pace, or maybe it’s because it also tied in directly to present day and had present day scenes (still odd for what I’d expect from a SE, but whatever) but I thought it was fine. It doubled as a special episode and an episode, in a way. But regardless, chapter 70 being the last true flashback was interesting. It was a little rushed, but I’m not sure if I would have noticed or not had it not been for the author’s note at the beginning.

I will say that there are some parts that went too fast and some that went too slow, though. The end was the rushed part, particularly with Lux showing up and Gallian happening upon Zero, which felt like a huge coincidence that was only really justified with the foreshadowing, and not necessarily the events themselves. As for too slow, I’m not sure why you expounded upon Zoroark’s powers for so long when it could have been summarized a lot faster, but eh, I guess if you want to be thorough. The chapter overall, though, was nice. Really laying it on thick with the Absol stereotyping, though, lol.

Already read the Halloween special, so I’ll just move to the final chapter…

71, Bonus
The final proper chapter of the episode was a nice cooldown-recap of everything that happened. Tessa didn’t really call Gallian out on being an idiot, but I guess the fact that he had tried to get to her, but couldn’t for more valid reasons than usual, was the main focus, and that’s fine. The main highlight for me was the exchange between Espeon and Seraph—definitely a lot of character growth from the former, and then the latter. It kinda mirrored Silvally and Espeon, in a way, like Espeon was passing the “you need to grow up” torch like a hot potato.
I also thought that the recap at the end was a good way to explain the weirdness that happened in the last few episodes, even if it took forever to actually get it. Also, introducing Solrock randomly was a fun callback, though it definitely came out of nowhere.

Well that was a bonus! I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to see most Mystery Dungeon games allude to some kind of apocalypse, but I think the big surprise here, or, well, the ‘why should I be surprised’ twist is that literally Void Termina attacked Dream La—I mean, the original world. I wonder, is this phenomenon known to the Ultra Recon Squad or anything? They seem to have a bit of an awareness of a lot of the things going on, yet they have a peculiar lack of awareness for anything alchemy-related, as noted by Seraph’s deal. Seems a bit odd to think about, in a way, how some ‘backwoods’ universe is able to do something so destructive. Theoretically, any of the worlds could result in that, by that sort of logic, no? That’s sort of always a thought that I have when it comes to omnicidal incidents, though, so I guess I overthink it more than most would…

Still, that’s more or less just another scope thing that I mentioned before. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, just something that’s sort of on my mind with what stuff like this means for the narrative any time people try to do “greater scope villains.”

Anyway, overall? I think this episode, while long, wasn’t really one that I’d consider to be all that bad or questionable. In fact, compared to the past two special episodes, this one was probably the best one so far, even if it wasn’t necessarily a, you know, high bar to pass. I liked it. Gave context while advancing the plot. Glad that I’m past what you consider to be the biggest bump of the fic’s late game. Time to get back to the regular programming!


Dragon Enthusiast
Episode 13


Ah yes, an author’s note that says that it’s a change of pace, implying more levity, followed by a chapter that opens with the staggering and failed escape of two bloodied Pokémon and then mind control. Truly the levity you were aiming for.

So, credit where it’s due, the actual “setup” portion of the episode didn’t take long at all! Though I will admit, during the action sequences, there were a few moments where I felt like I lost track of some of the characters in favor of others, and sometimes I was a bit surprised to see some of them pop up for an action or dialogue. Then again, that’s understandable, now that the cast is getting a bit sizeable. After all, who am I to talk.

The most standout thing about this episode is how many blatant shoutouts the mainline games are getting from this, especially Ultra. Very interesting change in look and feel, in a way; it almost felt like I was back at the beginning of the fic with all the new tropical references. (Also, mahalo, really? That one got me smirking.)

Ahh, looks like we’re going with the big bad brutish dragons this time around. What a shame. But that’s fine, curious where it’ll be taking us, though beyond that, I don’t know much more to comment on except—did you just make a Gale of Darkness reference? Wow Nicky’s actually doing it. Ohh that’s probably a very bad thing, isn’t it?

Tessa going Mega, however, was an interesting little twist. I sort of saw it coming, but I also didn’t expect it to happen so suddenly, let alone now of all times. Was expecting it to be at a climactic moment and not during some scallywag mook fight. Interesting callback to the whole Awakening emeras, though, and the good vibes and bad vibes when performing the Mega. And then whoa there goes Tessa’s temper to max, but as someone who also deals with some haywire mental states, I’m not sure if that’s entirely her fault or not? It’s hard to judge, so I’ll hold my guesses on that until it happens again—because it totally will.

74, 75

Alright, extended action sequence as usual. This time I thought it was handled pretty nicely, though it was a bit more against a nebulous set of enemies this time compared to before. Essentially another mook fight, I guess? I’m more focused on other things for now, I guess—like the reveal of what’s so special about those ribbons! I kinda thought they were related to the Tree of Life or something, but no, it’s Ho-Oh’s feathers! Which is kinda surprising, but I think what’s more surprising is why you didn’t bother to reveal this at all until now. They don’t seem to be all that… impactful, you know? I mean, they are, but what I mean is, it feels like a weird thing to withhold all the way until now, because revealing it shortly after Espy joined them, I feel like it could also have been an appropriate time. But eh, I guess dropping that reveal randomly here is fine, too.

It looks like the Dragon tribe is more or less a repeat of the Salazzle tribe with less emphasis on female strength and more emphasis on strength and honor. Even a dragon hoard to top off the stereotyping >_>

Anyway, looks like now we’re dealing with Manaphy, Cress, and Darkrai, eh? Looks like you made canon the random run-in you can have with him in the Mystery Dungeons after the postgame plot, and he doesn’t remember a thing. That must be awkward. And then Manaphy gets Herat Swapped as a disguise! Now that in particular was a clever twist, though it did require the justification bring tossed in at the end about how somehow the corrupted spirit won’t follow them… yeah, I’m just going to accept that one as being dark magic and leave it at that.

And now we have the little bit mentioned at the beginning of the episode, with more dark magic, bringing Marshadow and Lugia into Shadow Lugia—with more trademark negativity rants from Necrozma, of course. To be honest, I’m generally more interested in Necrozma when he’s not going all Dark Matter on us and when he’s more going Betrayed Nicky, like his exchange with Xerneas during the bonus. He’s a lot more nuanced then when that negativity is tied to stuff like that than, you know, doomsday. Because at least when that happens, it feels less… samey, you know? But eh. He’s the villain and he’s making progress.

Which makes me wonder—what exactly is going on with Sunset Shoals, then? Zero’s all the way at Treasure Town, Necrozma’s dealing with Lugia—what the heck is Primarina doing? Are we having an Inuyasha thing where shards of the thing they’re trying to gather actually results in the wielder being corrupted if they can’t handle it properly? That’s going to be my guess for now.


Why is it so long?

I mean, I liked it, but woooow that was a long chapter. But anyway, onto actual content, this was another interesting look into Nicky’s old life. It’s always interesting to see the impact of what he used to be like to how he is now, especially that final scene and how it tied it all together—mostly of how Lunala is saying that there’s still some good left in him in there, somewhere. Which sounds like it might be a kind of foreshadowing later, perhaps? Maybe for the climax, though there’s no telling at this point. He’s gone pretty far and away into the deep end, so I’m curious where you’ll be taking this plot thread.

One small critique that stood out to me, particularly during the one on one conversation between Xern and Neck, though—that moment when she said “I’m so sorry” after he did some of his confessions felt like it happened a bit too quickly. That’s a concrete example of something I’ve noticed in similar scenes where in a moment of high impact or some line when you’d expect a pause of some kind or some action, there isn’t one—so there’s no narrative pause to give a line or a scene any weight. Just a thought that I had.


The hell fic did I run into?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, this was entertaining as hell and I really enjoyed it, but you weren’t kidding. It took a bit for it to get there but yeah, here we are in the absurd chapter arc. Lots of good one-liners in this chapter in particular, too, almost like lampshading a bit of the silliness in this story, which I can always appreciate. “At least one thousandth of me is a Luxio,” for one, got me, as well as that little meta-lean about a love triangle.

Other than that, things were just moving along, though I can’t help but wonder if, had Primarina not gone crazy to do it, this could have been an effective strategy to take on Zero and Necrozma. Maybe if you ever get around to doing an April Fools ending again, you could explore what might happen if Primarina teamed up with Shane and company to take down Necrozma, Zero, and Void Termina with the power of friendship, song, and Z-power. That is, assuming my guess about what’s going on has any validity.


That was a decent cutaway for Gallian to use a Z-Move. It was a bit of a milestone, wasn’t it? I’m a little disappointed it happened at what was basically Mook Battle The Sequel, but at least it’s taken care of. The rest of the chapter, the significant bulk of it, was another nice respite, and while the song number and dance was a bit difficult to translate into text, I could still use a bit of imagination to envision their little dance.

But for me, the highlight was Silvally finally showing a bit of slippage when the chains triggered some of his memories, including the phantoms and the ominous eyes. I knew there’d actually be something significant to get from this chapter, so it wasn’t entirely filler! Though that does raise the question of how these UBs showed up to begin with—for some reason, I still have it in my head that Neck and Zero are busy, unless this happened off to the side. Could the Seaside Shard be doing this on its own somehow…?

78, 79

These two chapters were probably the biggest tonal whiplash I’ve had in a long while. My God. So for that reason, I’m gonna keep my talk about both of them separate, which works, because what actually happened in each one was just as separate.

So, first of all, chapter 78. You call it your strangest chapter, or the absolute top-weird, and you seemed apologetic for it, but you know what, I think this is one of my favorite chapters so far. It’s a climactic finish to a simple arc that’s more or less filler w/ some character development, but the way it all came together—particularly your impressive use of a gimmick and toying with it from start to finish—was nothing short of impressive. When the Radiance logo showed up on their jumpsuits, I knew immediately where it was going and was instantly hyped. Also, Shane hearing a voice in his head on what to do? That wasn’t Sol. Dark Matter was helping him, for some reason. Maybe because getting all the shards back was in his best interest…

One minor gripe is that I kinda wish didn’t get resolved as flavor text was exactly what caused Primarina to go batty. Like, I figured that was what happened, but I wish that was said, you know, in-universe instead of as boss flavor text.

I have little else to say but praise for this chapter and how you managed to finish off this arc for the Seaside Shard. And it’s for this reason that I kind of wished you flipped it with chapter 79, because…

Chapter 79 was a bit rushed. You told me as much in private, but I definitely felt it. Revelations happened fast, reactions had no narrative pause to actually let things sink in, and entire character arcs were rushed into a single set of passages—on a character that had since been barely significant, no less (more in that later.) It’s nice to have this whole thing with side characters, though, and for that I appreciated this chapter for what it tried to accomplish.

He got his tragic backstory that freaking every character needs here, but I think you did a good job at making him play catch-up, depending on how prominent you plan on making him at some point, even slightly. It was definitely a bit of a surprise to see. But the actual story itself was definitely on the rushed side, like I said, though it does come with the usual tones of a tragedy structure, including running away and getting into even more trouble than before, but it seems like he’s going to try to move onward. Even his father, kinda… But, similar to the Salazzle and Marowak arc, I think you fell short at properly resolving their character arcs—no doubt because of the rush to finish. His sudden decision to abandon his traditions after being so adamant was… a bit clumsy. I think it would’ve been easier if you showed a little more internal conflict in his decision making than him just sticking to his guns until he… didn’t.

Good subversion on the old dragon stereotype, at least.

Oh, as an aside, I’m kinda confused about something in the flashback. Goodra died, but… there’s something weird about how that all works. This has been bugging me for a while, actually. Dying under normal circumstances. Gallian’s vision went white before he almost died, and that could be a brain thing, but I thought it was going to be him fading to light, like Oranguru. But here, they said that they found Goodra “lying peacefully.” I don’t understand how that works if a key scene prior had shown death to operate differently—no body was left behind. And then there’s mention of finding prey, but if they fade to light… I don’t know. I’m sure it’s sort of a matter of how one dies, but it seems weirdly arbitrary. I only bring this up because Oranguru’s death was a very key scene, and it seems contradicted here.

…Unless this is intentional and Goodra got Zero’d somehow, but that was a flashback, and… what’s the timeline for when the soul-stealing began, again? Bah, how old is this pudgy dragon…

Anyway, good episode. One side of it was amazingly done, and the other half was, uh, it had some high points, but it was definitely hampered a bit by the rush to wrap up. Either way, I’m giving this episode a solid thumbs up regardless. Looking forward to the next one!


Winter can't come soon enough
Got you on Discord again, Namo.

Content Advisory: Like with last chapter, there are instances of charged and suggestive language.


Chapter 96: Best Friend, Worst Nightmare

~Treasure Town Coast~

Infernape drove a flaming fist into a Celesteela. It wobbled about unsteadily, leaving room for Feraligatr to leap into the air and bite down on one of its arms. Celesteela toppled over, desperately trying to blast Haunter, who floated nonchalantly in front of it. However, when the metal burst struck, Haunter simply vanished in a puff of smoke.

"You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! Mwee hee hee hee!"

Haunter popped up on the other side of Celesteela and licked its other arm. It seized up from paralysis, giving Infernape's Flame Wheel an opening to strike its chest. Celesteela burst apart into shadowy wisps. Infernape uncurled, dusting sand off his knees.

"Err… nice work there," he said.

"Any time!" Haunter bowed and sank back into the ground. Infernape looked around, trying to see if any more Ultra Beasts were attempting to breach the forcefield and invade Treasure Town.

"Go away!"

Feraligatr jumped up with a holler. Infernape looked left, where sound waves knocked a Nihilego into a Pheromosa and a Naganadel like they were a stack of dominos. Exploud stomped about angrily, yelling, "Trying to attack Sunflora when she was preoccupied? You guys are such jerks!"

"I, uh, guess they've got things under control?" Feraligatr mumbled, head titled sideways. "Say, is it just me, or do these things seem a lot weaker than that big building thingamajig Lycanroc was controlling?"

"You mean Spattatatta? Yeah, these guys are a lot weaker," Infernape said. "It doesn't make any sense to me. They look fearsome and imposing. So, why can we knock them out so easily?"


To Team Poképals' right, a Guzzlord hurtled through the air, flailing its large arms. A ball of pink fairy energy struck it from above, destroying it. Cresselia hovered down, staring blankly at Wigglytuff.

"Hooray! I blew back the bad guy farther than Exploud did!" Wigglytuff cheered.

Blue-Beak Chatot hopped up and down, flapping his wings. "G-Guildmaster, please. This isn't the time for celebrat— gah!" He shot into the air moments before a Blacephalon head hit the sand and erupted in a neon explosion. Cresselia barely managed to yank Wigglytuff out of the way in time. The Blacephalon in question dropped out of the sky, bowing as a new head appeared in its hands.

"Hey, lanky! Pick on someone your own size, will ya?"

Blacephalon whirled around, only for a Mega Lopunny to drive a glowing foot into its wiry frame. It buckled like a bent straw. Lopunny whirled around, punting its head into the distance. "Light 'em up, Gardy!" Lopunny dropped to her belly, enabling pink ripples to hammer Blacephalon while it was stunned. It dissolved away in trails of gray smoke. "Nice work!"

Mega Gardevoir levitated down from an alcove and daintily touched down in the sand. She was breathing heavily. "Th-Thanks, chief. But I gotta say, this workout's taking a bit of a toll on me."

A loud wham sounded to her right and a Pheromosa hit the ground beside Lopunny. It stuck a leg up, striking Mega Medicham's glowing foot. She hopped back from the stalemate, wincing as she landed. "What happened to staying retired, huh?"

Lopunny sprang toward Pheromosa. It whirled around, leg outstretched to meet her. But Medicham dove into her, forehead brimming with psychic energy. Pheromosa stumbled and Lopunny drove a fiery fist into its sternum. It dropped to its knees and burst into flames. Lopunny wiped her brow. "Well, we can't enjoy retirement if the world gets destroyed, can we?"

Medicham slumped over. "F-fair point, I guess."

"Aw, c'mon. Look on the bright side." Haunter materialized beside Lopunny with Drifloon and Misdreavus in tow. "How many exploration teams get to say they charmed a pack of aliens? Get it? Because you're Team Charm! Mwee hee hee h—"

Lopunny backhanded Haunter's cheek. His eyes popped out of their sockets and rolled through the sand. "Yow! Hey, what's the big idea?!" Haunter huffed, scooping his eyes up and rubbing them against each other to get the sand grains out.

"Golly, Haunter. I don't think they're fans of your brand of comedy," Misdreavus said.

"Exactly. Focus on keeping Treasure Town safe. Then you can crack as many jokes as you want," Gardevoir said, leering at Haunter.

"Preferably out of our range of hearing," Medicham added.

Haunter stiffened and saluted her. "Y-Yes, ma'am!"

"Ma'am? Do I look like my frills are wrinkling yet?" Gardevoir fumed.

"Of course not! Of course not! You three are a pack of angels!" Drifloon said, hearts popping up in his eyes.

"Uh… gross," Medicham said.

"Girls. Let's not waste time with these dweebs. We've got aliens to pulverize!" Lopunny said, before hopping off in Azelf and Uxie's direction. Medicham and Gardevoir nodded and ran after their boss.

"W-Wait, what about us?" Haunter cried, then floated after them.

"I miss Team Captivate. At least they'd hit me while they were chewing me out." Drifloon sighed and hovered off dejectedly.


~Celestial Island Interior~

Groaning, Espy rolled from her back to belly. "My aching everything." She brushed her head against her shoulder and blinked. Somehow, she seemed to have ended up somewhere even darker than where she was before. The ground had the same glassy texture as the other floors of the twisted dungeon, but now the cubes were jet-black, to the point where Espy couldn't identify their outlines.

She tensed her back. Her spine popped several times. After confirming nothing was broken, she got to her feet. "You doing okay, Tessa?" Espy waited for a response, but got nothing. She concentrated on her psychic powers but, like with Temporal Tower's ruins, she couldn't sense anything. "T-Tessa? Lunala?" Espy turned around, looking for any sign of the other girls. She saw nothing. Not even a faint outline.

"Tessa? Lunala? C'mon, this isn't funny!" Espy said, louder and more desperate than before. Her tail wrapped around a hind leg. Her breathing and heart rate quickened. "Please, say something! Anything!" Espy's ears folded against her head. She had had this nightmare before. Plenty of times. Being alone in a dark, foreboding void with no way to sense anything and no signs of escape. The only thing that was missing was—

A squelch made her fur shoot up. Her ears and tail stiffened. "W-What was that?!" Espy whirled around. "Wh… who's out there? Show yourself!" She conjured up fairy energy in her forehead gem and unleashed white, dazzling light. It lit up the room long enough for Espy to see a few puddles of black slime evaporate in front of her.

Espy's heart shot into her throat. Her tail ducked between her legs. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. And yet, she knew that her Dazzling Gleam had hit some Void Shadows. Which meant there was no denying it. This really was her worst nightmare come to life. And she could barely see the Void Shadows coming with how dark this place was.

She crouched low to the ground, trying to steady her breathing so she could listen for the sounds of approaching Void Shadows. The silence made her skin crawl. With each passing second, she found it harder to keep her nerves in check. The possibility something could leap out of the darkness at her made it difficult for her to concentrate.

"Deep breaths… deep breaths," she squeaked. Espy found the sound of her own voice slightly calming amidst the stillness.

"Why, Espy? Why did you let me die?"

Espy swallowed hard. She didn't want to turn around. Even with the distortion, she knew that was Umbreon's voice. She wanted to blame Necrozma for all of this. Espy figured it had to be some sort trick or illusion. And yet, the sight of Umbreon — or, rather, what she assumed was a copy of her brother — made her legs tremble.

Umbreon crept toward her, his red eyes glowing. "I spent my best years being the shoulder for you to cry on. Trying to craft apologies to our colleagues for all of your angry tirades." He paced back and forth. Espy stared him down, petrified. "Cleaning up after your wild nights drinking and snorting stardust. Satisfying you. And for what?"

A black beam raced toward Espy. After a second of indecision, she jumped back, wincing as smoke rose from the ground.

"For you to leave me behind… to suffer Necrozma's wrath!" Umbreon said, rings flashing.

"N-No. That's not true." Espy shook her head. "You pushed me into the Magnagate! You wanted me to survive, right? You made it sound like it was the only way!"

"Ha! You only heard what you wanted to hear, as per usual!"

Sharp claws swiped against Espy's rear. She stumbled forward and barely managed to roll away from another Dark Pulse. Espy whirled around, shouting, "Leave me alone!" Her forehead gem flashed white. But Haxorus' copy jumped away from the blast of fairy energy.

"What's the matter? Does the truth hurt? You're only upset because you know that I'm right," Haxorus said, unsheathing her Dragon Claws. "All you've ever done is come up with excuses."

Espy winced. "I… I was upset."

"For over a decade? Please. What kind of sorry reasoning is that?"

Espy's ears twitched at another feminine voice. She saw something glowing red and fired Psychic rings to her left. Virizion yelped in surprise and tumbled back across the floor. Espy looked away guiltily, only to find a ball of dragonfire heading right for her. Espy formed up a Light Screen, but purple ectoplasm struck her in the rump. She gasped, then cried in pain as dragonfire pelted her face.

"How does it feel, Espy? All your safety nets are gone." Umbreon's forehead ring smoldered. "And how about those 'friends' you thought you could replace us with on Team Radiance? I don't see them anywhere."

"Please stop! I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!" Espy said. Even if she knew the dungeon was doing this, she couldn't help it. All the bad memories were bubbling up to the surface. "I made mistakes! A lot of mistakes! Please… leave me alone!" Forehead gem brimming with fairy energy, she unleashed a Dazzling Gleam. It knocked the copies back. They shrank back down into Void Shadows and disappeared in puffs of smoke.

"This is what you deserve. To face down your demise… all alone. With nary a soul to come to your aid."

Espy spun around, then dove to the floor. A purple beam whizzed over her, singing the forked ends of her tail. She looked up into Hydreigon's six eyes. Each one glowed bright-blue. Espy scrambled to her feet, wondering if anyone else would crawl out of the darkness. She shot white energy at Hydreigon, who flew above it.

"It's laughable, really. I thought you were a researcher. And yet, your actions with regards to your new friends are downright irrational," Hydreigon said, shaking his three heads in unison. Espy saw his purple Dark Pulse beam coming this time, however, and countered it with a pink, spiraling Psybeam. She backed away from a cloud of black smoke, only to yowl as something sharp jabbed her right flank.

Espy hopped left, keeping Hydreigon in view while staring down a copy of Keldeo whose horn brimmed with energy. She glanced at the spot he'd struck. The fur was scuffed, but otherwise the injuries were minimal compared to what Dragonite and Zero had done.

"Let's be real, Espeon. You weren't really friends with anyone on Team Radiance," Keldeo said, narrowing his eyes. "They were nothing but crutches to you."

"That's a lie!" Espy cried. She fired pink blasts at Keldeo, but Hydreigon swooped down to harmlessly take the blow. Keldeo used him as a footstool to leap into the air. Next thing Espy knew, water torrents swept her off her feet and sent her tumbling across the floor. She rolled back to her feet quickly, however. Her fur may have been soggy, but otherwise she felt fine.

'What's going on here?' she wondered. The attacks hurt, but they hurt in the same way stepping on a spike trap did. She knew Necrozma was capable of doing far worse. So, if this was one of his traps, why wasn't he using his strongest techniques?

"Admit it! You wanted to use the guys to carry on your old habits!" Hydreigon said. "When they kept you away from the stardust you craved, you got antsy." He opened his mouth and spewed fire at her.

"You craved intimacy. That's why you came onto Ninetales during the stage show. And, when that failed, you began to cozy up to a freak." Keldeo slashed at the flames with his horn. Fiery crescents homed in on Espy. She sprinted away from the Void Shadows, while Keldeo continued, "You were desperate. I'm impressed you managed to show some self-restraint. Maybe you have grown a tiny bit since the days of the Bittercold."

Espy skidded to a halt and threw up a Light Screen. The last fire crescent fizzled out against her barrier. "That has nothing to do with this! I'm trying to make up for what I did. I… I want to be a more positive person. But if I don't stop Necrozma, I'll never get that chance."

Hydreigon swooped toward her, spewing a purple beam. Espy avoided it by running right. Hydreigon shriveled up into a ball of black slime, which then turned into Umbreon. "Please. You don't care about being positive. All that matters to you is the freak's big hulking frame on top of you."

Espy shrank back, ears drooping and tail curling around her leg. "N-No. I don't… I wouldn't…"

"It's written all over your face," Virizion said, sauntering up to Umbreon. Her ethereal horn glowing orange. Keldeo joined her at her side, energy gathering in his horn as well. "Warm breath on the back of your neck. Fur and scales rubbing against you." Virizion smirked at Espy. "You want him to have your way with you. To go at you so hard you can't walk straight when he's finished!"

"Stop it! Stop talking about him like that!" Espy said, unleashing a Dazzling Gleam. Energy blades and a Dark Pulse beam countered the white light. Espy shuffled back, legs quivering. "I didn't… I wouldn't…" She shook her head.

"He was a big, alluring piece of meat dangling in front of you. Nothing more. Nothing less," Umbreon said. "Things wouldn't have been any different with him than they were with me."

Espy looked at the floor. These Void Shadows' attacks weren't the problem. It was everything they were saying. She'd heard this all before. In her dreams. In her worst moments of weakness when she was awake. And every time this had happened before, she turned to the same solutions. But she couldn't do that here. These Void Shadows were real. They were dredging her past mistakes back up. She wanted to apologize. She had planned on it.

But they were right. Espy made plans assuming she'd have Silvally to support her. Her gaze darted around. Were the Void Shadows right, then? Maybe Silvally was a crutch she was using to avoid confronting her demons…

Don't listen to them.

Espy tensed up. Her eyes darted around, but she had to backpedal and dodge a Shadow Ball along with red energy crescents from Keldeo. Virizion hit the spot she had been standing in seconds after she moved.

Remember what we talked about. Challenge the negativity.

"Challenge the negativity…" Espy glanced right. Like on Zero's altar, a familiar silhouette stood behind her. It fanned out its translucent crest and smiled at her.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

The silhouette faded. Espy's tail twitched. More ectoplasm was heading for her. She sprinted right, blasting a charging Keldeo with pink energy. Umbreon jumped in to block the blow, however. "What's the matter? You've gotten awful quiet," he taunted. "It's because you know we're right, isn't it?"

Keldeo soared up on jets of water from his hooves. "If you gave up… and returned the Z-Power you took to where it belongs… then maybe you could get him back." He pointed his hooves at Espy. She formed a Light Screen and it proved strong enough to deflect his Hydro Pump jets. Keldeo frowned. "This resistance of yours is laughable. We know you want him inside you. Necrozma can make it happen. All you have to is stand down."

Espy skidded to a halt and glanced at her glowing looplet. So, that was what this was about. When Espy got her looplet, a rush of energy repaired her forehead gem and restored her connection to her psychic powers. She had used Z-Power to fix her "broken" abilities… just like Tessa with her defective aura sense, apparently.

'And Necrozma wants that energy back for himself. Even if it isn't much… he won't be satiated until he takes everything!'

Espy narrowed her eyes at the Void Shadows. She took a calming breath. "You want to know what I have to say?" Her eyes glowed blue. Umbreon readied a Dark Pulse, but Espy unleashed her Dazzling Gleam much quicker. The Void Shadows burned away against a wall of white light. "I say piss off!" She stomped a foreleg on the ground. "Yes, I did a lot of bad things after the Bittercold fell. Ditto with Dark Matter. I treated the Pokémon of Paradise like dirt. I'm not denying that.

"But I think I get why things went badly. I didn't have the help I needed." Espy looked around. New copies — Victini and Emolga, judging by the silhouettes — were forming to her right. Ectoplasm crackled around her forehead gem. "Everyone around me was so concerned with getting Haxorus back from the human world. And then, when we did get her back, people ignored me! It was all about making Paradise as picturesque as possible. Nobody wanted to talk about the Bittercold because they were too afraid that discussing all that negativity would lead to its return!"

She shot the Shadow Ball forward. Emolga tried to blow it apart with lightning, but Espy's attack prevailed. It blew Victini back. Espy charged another Shadow Ball. "I was told to keep quiet. But I couldn't stay quiet. I'm not blaming the others or anything." She shook her head. "They were probably just as scared and concerned as I was. The difference is… they could put on happy faces. I couldn't."

Flames and lightning rushed toward Espy. She jumped right, then blew Victini apart with a large Shadow Ball. "We place too much emphasis on individual strength. It's how you stay alive in dungeons. It's how you go on to be a somebody with a successful lot in life and a plethora of friends." Lightning from Emolga struck her right shoulder. Espy grimaced, but held her ground and retaliated. As Emolga disappeared in a pink explosion, Espy continued, "But hearing you guys taunt my current teammates… it all makes sense now. Pokémon are at their best when they work together."

Tears brimmed in her eyes. "Silv believed that from the bottom of his heart. That's why he refused to give up on me… even when I tried to push him away like I did with everyone in Paradise! He understood." Espy gathered fairy energy from her core and unleashed a white beam, blowing apart the purple and blue energy beams heading toward her. New copies of Hydreigon and Haxorus staggered back.

"Silv and Shane are not crutches. They're not a coping mechanism. They're my friends, damn it!" Espy stomped another forepaw on the ground. "There's nothing wrong with asking for help! It's not a sign of weakness! At the end of the day, I'm still the one who has to apologize to everyone in Paradise," she said, wondering if she should use her Z-Power or hold off in case Necrozma had some other trap lying in wait.

"I made a promise to Silv. We were both going to help each other. Because, even if we've only known each other a few weeks, he cares about me. And I… I…" Espy's legs shook. "I care about him! And that's why I won't stand for you talking down to him! Not after everything he's done to help me. To help all of us!"

Espy's ears twitched. She sprawled out on her stomach. Wind blades surged overhead. A few nicked the fur on her back. When she thought she was safe, she rolled to her feet and looked right, expecting to see another Emolga clone waiting.

What she found instead were two red, beady eyes looking at her through the darkness. Loud thumps echoed through the room as the eyes got closer.

"That was quite the riveting speech you gave. I'm sure the freak would love to hear it," Umbreon said. Espy saw him charging a Dark Pulse. She gathered fairy energy to retaliate. "So, why don't you look him in the eyes and tell him everything you just told me."

The thuds were getting faster and louder. Espy was ready to respond, when a distorted roar made her ears fold against her head. A large figure lunged from the shadows. Squealing, Espy backpedaled. Her eyes bugged out when a pair of familiar, chitinous forelegs struck the ground, kicking up shadowy embers.

"No…" Espy blinked once. Twice. She shook her head. "I'm not falling for anymore tricks, Necrozma! I'm done cowering from Void Shadows!" Espy jutted her head forward. White light engulfed the forelegs and the blood-red feathers brushing against them.

'Wait… red feathers?'

Espy's attack faded. There was no sign of Umbreon, but the main target of her attack was still standing. White smoke rose up from the large, black, crystalline helmet clamped over its face. A rasping groan sounded. The newcomer shook its helmeted head. Heavy chains rattled against its furry frame.

"It's… it's not a Void Shadow," Espy whispered, tail shooting between her legs. "But that's… that's…" She stepped backwards, lip quivering. Crystals jutted out of the creature's body… right where Espy knew Silvally had his thickest patches of scales. The crystals flickered with ominous red light. A red, winged-heart sigil appeared in the center of the helmet.

"S… Silv?" Espy barely managed to whisper the name. She saw him go up in a literal blaze of otherworldly energy. And yet… he was all she could think about. Void Shadows could only copy, not create. There was also the fact that she knew from experience how much Necrozma loathed giving his energy to others. He wouldn't waste his light on making a grotesque replica to mess with her… would he?

"Silv!" Espy shouted. Perhaps it was desperation. After all, he hadn't tried to attack. He just stood there. Staring at her.

That all changed in a flash. A roar echoed through the room. Even through the distortion, Espy could tell the voice she'd come to trust so much was in there. Which made it all the more gut-wrenching for her when Silvally unleashed a silver and red plasma beam from the sigil on his helmet.

"Silv, no!" Espy cried. She ran left, but underestimated the sheer size of the Hyper Beam. It was even larger than the one he used on Dragonite. Plasma seared her right side. Fur burnt away. Her pale, sensitive skin blistered. She crumpled to the ground. Tears bubbled in her eyes.

Espy told herself this must've been an elaborate hoax. She had watched Silvally make the ultimate sacrifice, after she had begged him not to. He wasn't a single spirit. There wasn't any way he could've bounced back. But here he was, standing right in front of her. Looking to kill her.

She tried to lift her head, but purple energy spread across her. It was another weak Dark Pulse from one of the Void Shadows. Espy barely felt it with her side still burning from Silvally's attack. "No," she squeaked. "S-Silv… please. Please don't do this. I don't… I can't…"

"What's the matter? Where's that earlier display of bravado? Aren't you happy to see your close, precious friend alive and kicking?" Umbreon's rings flashed, as did the sigil on Silvally's helmet. He reared up on his hind legs. Holographic swords surrounded him. His leg muscles expanded. The crystals jutting from his body brimmed with red energy. "I thought you were going to tell him how much you cared about him!"

One of the oran berries Lunala had given Espy rolled out of her satchel. She bit into it, but found no recourse in its cooling juices. The ground trembled. Silvally was charging her down. Each lumbering step jostled his helmet. And Umbreon stood ready to strike Espy if she tried to stand up.

Espy's breath came in short gasps. What was she supposed to do? She couldn't match Silvally in the slightest. Certainly not with Void Shadows crawling out of the woodwork to antagonize her. But she couldn't just roll over, either. Espy shakily fired Psychic blasts from her gem. One of them caught Silvally and flung him back, buying Espy enough to roll to her feet and avoid Umbreon's retaliatory Dark Pulse.

She put as much distance between herself and Silvally as she could. "Ha! Look at you! Running from the guy you were just defending… like every other problem you've been faced with," Umbreon jeered. His rings flashed. Silvally's helmet glowed. Another Hyper Beam barreled toward Espy. Thankfully, she was far enough away to flank it.

Espy slowed down. Her forehead gem flashed orange. Warm light enveloped her. Some of the blisters receded. Patches of fur sprouted up to cover her burns. Espy breathed heavily. She knew she couldn't take one of those Hyper Beams head-on… or a strike from his claws now that he was powered up.

A Dark Pulse whizzed by her. Espy spun and rifled off a wall of white energy. A Hydreigon clone dissolved away. She whirled around, squealed in fright, and dropped to her belly. Air Slash blades whizzed overhead. "Why me? Why me?" she said, voice cracking. What was she supposed to do in this situation? The crystals seemed like smart targets, but what if that's what Necrozma wanted her to think?

She tried to take a deep breath, but her teeth were chattering. It was like she was back in the middle of Glacier Palace, only she didn't have Umbreon by her side. Her ears drooped. She shot Psychic rings toward Silvally, but Umbreon snuffed them out with a purple Dark Pulse beam. Silvally charged her down, helmet rattling. His roars split the air. Espy's blood ran cold.

A glimmer caught Espy's gaze. It was the gem in her naturia looplet. Her brows raised. She swore under her breath. How could she have forgotten? Despite all the battling, she still had her Z-Move. If Necrozma had gotten to Silvally, the Z-Move could bring him back, right? He wasn't beyond saving. There was a chance.

The helmet, chains, and crystals wore Silvally down. Despite the fatigue and the burning pain on her right side, Espy could keep a fair distance from Silvally. She struggled to weave through another Air Slash barrage, but stood tall through one of Umbreon's Dark Pulses long enough to snuff him out with white fairy energy. Espy spun around. Though her tail was still firmly between her legs, she forced herself to try and keep a brave face.

'If he's in there, he has to be fighting Necrozma's control.'

"Silv! It's me, Silv! It's Espy!" she shouted, gathering ESP in her forehead. "I'm here. I can't imagine what you're going through, but I… I want to help you. I want to return the favor. So, please… please listen! Follow my voice!" She fired a pink Psybeam. Not a strong attack, but she wanted to discombobulate Silvally. Anything to try and shake off whatever it was Necrozma might've done to his mind. Assuming his mind was even still in there to begin with.

Espy shook her head. She couldn't think like that. She had to hold out hope.

Shadows shrouded Silvally. He slipped through the Psybeam like it was nothing and charged toward Espy, roaring loudly. For a moment, Espy's legs locked up. Ice ran through her veins. The combination of the voice that had encouraged her and the voice that brought the events at Tapu Bulu's temple to mind was too much for her to handle. Nonetheless, she found her footing and barely dodged Silvally's lunge.

He ripped cubes up from the ground when he landed. Silvally spun around. The sigil on his helmet bristled with energy. "W-Wait, Silv! Stop! You don't want to do this. I don't want to do this, either," Espy said. For a moment, the glowing rune subsided. "I don't want to fight you, Silv. Not after everything you've done for me. Please… you have to keep resisting. It's Necrozma! He's making you do this."

Silvally looked to the side. He then jerked his head back, snarling. A Hyper Beam barreled toward a mortified Espy. There wasn't enough time to completely avoid the blast. Espy summoned a Light Screen on her right side, but it shattered after two seconds. She fell to the ground again, her right legs begging her to stay down.

With another roar, Silvally leaped into the air. Espy squealed in panic. Fighting back tears, she rolled across the ground. Silvally hammered the floor, leaving a crater behind. Espy thought her heart would burst out of her chest. Her ears were now ringing. This was all too much for her to bear.

'If I just had help… if only someone was here.'

But the Pokémon she wanted by her side at that very moment was the same one opposing her. And he was gathering up energy for another Hyper Beam. Espy staggered to her feet, firing desperate Psychic rings. Silvally dove through the rings. Shadows from his chains and crystals let him pass through them harmlessly. He landed right by Espy.

"S-Silv, p-please…" She couldn't stop the tears from forming. "Don't do this. I know you're still in there. You have to be. You're… you're…"

Instead of charging up a Hyper Beam, Silvally raised a muscular foreleg. Red energy brimmed in his talons. Espy's vision blurred. "You s-said it y-yourself! You're your own p-person! And I believe that! I believe in you!" she blurted out.

Silvally froze, foreleg right over Espy's head. The energy in his talons flickered. Espy blinked the tears out of her eyes. "It's true. I'm sure there are voices telling you it's not… but it is!" The words poured out of her. She couldn't stop them. Her life literally depended on this. "No matter how many spirits are inside of you… how much Necrozma twists them around… I know you're in there. You've forged your own identity! You're Silvally! Necrozma can't take that away from you!"

He lowered his foreleg. Even with the helmet hiding his face, Espy could see a glimmer in his eyes. Espy's heart raced so fast she thought she'd pass out at any moment. "You're a kind and loving Pokémon who never hesitates to help anyone. You've done nothing but put others before yourself. I admire you! And I care about you!"

Silvally looked down at her. Espy sucked in a breath.

"E… E…"

Her eyes sparkled. "Yes! Yes, Silv! It's me! It's Espy!" Her naturia looplet shimmered. She wrapped her forelegs around one of Silvally's, saying, "Please come back to me! I want you in my life!"

Silvally blinked. But then the winged-heart sigil flared up on his helmet, he roared in fury, and raised his free foreleg to attack.

"Silv… no!" Espy cried.

She had no choice. Even though she knew she'd be caught up in the attack, Espy lit up with an orange aura. Her looplet shook against her foreleg. She thought she was losing her grip on Silvally, so she bit down on his talon. He gasped and tensed up.

All around them, cracks and ripples appeared in the air. Espy pulled herself tight against Silvally's foreleg, whispering, "I'm sorry."

Then the cracks erupted, flooding them both in a geyser of pink, psychic energy. Silvally's roars thundered through the room, only to die down seconds later. The explosion faded away, leaving pink mist swirling around in the air.

Espy lay on her side. Her limbs twitched unresponsively. She couldn't feel her tail, either. Espy prayed it was still there. Her head pounded. Each pulse made her vision blur. She knew she wasn't dead, but gods was she exhausted. Espy wanted to shut her eyes and sleep… even if she wasn't going to wake up. She was just too tired.

"E… Espy…"

Her heart quivered. That was Silvally's voice. She was sure of it. Espy tried to lift her head, but her neck muscles screamed in protest. Oh, why did everything hurt so much? Espy tried to tap into her psychic powers. The moment she did, it was like someone poured boiling water right on her forehead gem. She couldn't rely on Morning Sun.

Fortunately, her Z-Move had jostled her satchel loose. The remnants of her oran berry from earlier lay in front of her. Espy nibbled it. The juices filled her with enough strength to force her back to her feet.

That's when she saw him. The helmet was gone. As were all the crystals, replaced by familiar patches of dark-blue scales. His feathers were a soft, beautiful white once again. "S-Silv." Espy lumbered toward him. Each step grew clumsier until she collapsed on her belly by his face and forelegs. She figured she'd already cried herself dry, but somehow more tears welled up in her eyes.

Silvally opened his eyes. His irises brimmed with golden light… exactly like Shane's weird energy balls. Espy tensed up. Had she actually failed?

"S-Silv? P-Please say something," Espy begged.

Silvally met her tearful gaze with his own. His glowing parts shifted from white to blue. "I'm so sorry," he wheezed. "I thought I—"

"No! Don't apologize." Espy pressed her head into his chest plume. "I… I'm…" She brushed her head against his chest. "I'm so happy you're back."

"That's the thing, though…" Silvally sucked in a sharp breath. Espy's head snapped up.

"What do you mean? You're here! I'm… I'm…" Espy's chest tightened. She couldn't go through this again. Not after losing him once already. And not after this ridiculous ordeal.

"I feel… like I'm gonna break apart… again," Silvally rasped. "I don't know… what Necrozma did… but it's…" He tensed. "My energy's fading. I'm not sure… I can hold out like this."

"No! You can't say that! You're here. I can… I can…" Espy tried to call up energy for Morning Sun, but burning pain enveloped her forehead. "I won't lose you again, Silv. I won't!" She had her forepaws on his beak.

Silvally wheezed again. "Espy…" Pain filled his expression. "I'm sorry. But at least… if I have to go… I'm glad I… got to see… what you're truly… capable of."

"Stop it! You're not disappearing!" Espy tried to reach for her satchel, but her forelegs hurt too much.

"I'm proud… to call you… my friend," Silvally whispered as he shut his eyes and lay still.

"Silv? Silv, no!" Espy smacked his beak. "Wake up! You can't…" Tears streamed down her cheeks. "I need you, Silv! I love you!"

Golden flames lit up the air above Espy. Gasping, she threw herself on top of Silvally and squeezed her eyes shut. She tensed up, expecting some sort of attack to finish her. Instead, warm light spread through her system. Heat radiated from Silvally, too. Espy grabbed on tighter. The heat faded after a few seconds.

Espy's eyes shot open. She held her breath for a moment. Then, Silvally opened his eyes. Like before, his irises had a golden tint to them. "Espy? I… I…"

A huge grin spread across her face. "Thank the gods! You're all right!" She buried her face in the crook of his neck, brushing her snout against his feathers. "I'm… I'm so glad. I… I…"

Silvally's fire memories switched on. His head crest fanned out. "I'm glad, too." He craned his head to reciprocate the hug and nuzzle Espy's cheek. "I'm so sorry about all of this. I… I…" He pulled his head away. "When Shane healed me… he did something to all the spirits. It was like I got overcharged and I… I couldn't stop myself."

He shuddered. "When things looked grim against Zero, I found myself thinking that using Explosion would be the only way to win." Silvally hung his head. "I had no idea that was exactly what Necrozma wanted me to do." His cheek-bolts whirred slowly. "Somehow… Necrozma had condensed all the spirits into a core… kinda like his. Necrozma sent the core here… and then tried to bury it under hundreds of extra spirits.

"I saw everything, Espy! How the Void Shadows taunted you. How badly I hurt you with my attacks. I… I…" Silvally looked away. "I'm so ashamed. You trusted me. And I betrayed all of that trust." His head crested drooped. "If this ends up causing you nightmares like the Void Shadows did, I… I…" He clamped his beak shut. "I won't be able to forgive myself."

"Silv, look at me." Espy tried to move his beak with her forepaws. "Look at me."

Silvally turned his head.

"That wasn't you. I meant what I said. You're your own person." Espy pressed a forepaw against his chest. "I don't care how many extra spirits or memories Necrozma pumped you full of. You're still Silvally. I care about you… because you mean the world to me." She nuzzled his neck again. "That's all that matters."

Silvally glowed yellow. His tail wagged. "Thanks, Espy."

"I'm just returning the favor." Espy winked at him.

"Sure." Silvally lifted his head slowly. "Sill, what happened? I feel so energized. Like I'm going through an evolution high or something. How did—"

They both looked up and found Ephemeris standing beside them, sighing in relief. "Thank goodness you two are all right." He offered them a warm smile. "I managed to catch up to Lunala and she told me what was happening. I sensed two fluctuating energies, so I blasted my way through the floor." He glanced at the remnants of the ceiling. "This was quite a nasty trap Necrozma had sprung on you."

Espy tilted her head. "I… I'm sorry. Have we met before? I have the strangest sense of déjà vu."

Ephemeris winced. "Err… it's a bit complicated, I'm afraid. Forgive my poor manners. I am Ho-Oh Ephemeris." He bowed to them. "Now, as much as I would like to let you two catch up, I believe there's the matter of your Lucario friend, yes?"

Espy's ears stuck up. "Ah, that's right!" She got up and looked around. "I don't know what happened to Tessa at all."

"From what I could sense… she's on the other side of this wall." Ephemeris pointed to his right. "I can probably blast it open like I did to the floor. But you two might want to stand back."

Espy and Silvally exchanged nervous looks, then did as instructed. Ephemeris sucked in a breath, then spewed a giant, golden Flamethrower. It struck the wall, which exploded in a burst of red light.

Continued in next post.


Winter can't come soon enough
Continued from previous post.


Tessa had already gone past her wit's limit. When she managed to roll onto her side and realize she had fallen into a dark, empty room, she got up and grabbed her head, gripping fur between her digits. "I can't take this anymore!" she cried, shaking her head back and forth. "Everything's sore! I'm starving and the occasional berry isn't helping! I've been running around fighting things for a goddamn eternity!"

She stomped around the room. "I haven't had any sleep in… in…" Tessa paused and stared at the wall. Faint red ripples ran between each black cube. "Argh! I don't even know how long I've gone without getting any sleep! Because time's still not working!" Aura flared up in paws. "Is this what things were like for Team Poképals when they wound up the dark future? Why did none of the stories ever mention it? I'm losing my mind!"

Tessa looked around the room again. Then she sank to her knees, ears and aura feelers drooping. "No, that's not true. I've already lost my mind." She put her paws on her lap and rubbed her thighs.

She thought the planet's paralysis meant things were spiraling out of control. But that was apparently a warm-up. So much had happened in— well, part of the problem was Tessa didn't know how much time had passed. She'd gone so long without sleep, but the combination of battles, a jammed aura sense, and shoveling down healing items had left her with absolutely no sense of where her stamina was at. All she knew was that she wanted to scream until her voice was gone.

Tessa lost Silvally. She lost Shane. But did she even have him in the first place? Necrozma was probably right about him being Dark Matter. So, what did that mean? Tessa hung her head. She lifted her paws up and cupped them over her shut eyes. Even if, somehow, she could help defeat Necrozma, what was going to happen? Her mom had literally broken time and, if that wasn't bad enough, she befriended the one thing everyone in the world universally hated. Those were facts she would have to live with.

'Am I really capable of that?'

She put a paw on her chest spike. It was Shane who promised to help her find something that could make her happy in a post-Necrozma world. That promise was meaningless, now. Tessa tilted her head. She could always get a powerful psychic to wipe her memories. But would that really make things better? Tessa wasn't sure. And thinking about this made her headache worse.

"There's an option you're overlooking, Tessa."

She jumped to her feet, paws raised and charging an Aura Sphere. "I don't know what kind of sick trick you're playing, Necrozma, but I'm not falling for it!" she growled. "You think you can play mind games by using Shane's voice? Well, I'm not buying it!"

Two soft, blue eyes stared back at her through the darkness. Footsteps clinked against the cubed floor. Tessa held her paws by her side, charging the Aura Sphere even larger. "I'm warning you. Get back! You saw what I did to Zero! You know what I'm capable of!"

"Now, Tessa, why would I play any mind games with you? After all…"

Shane emerged from the shadows. Crystalline armor sat around his chest. A distorted red eye lay in the center of the armor, pulsating with red light.

"… you've been through so much already." The chains wrapped around Shane's forelegs bristled.

"I said get back!" Tessa hurled the Aura Sphere forward. Shane's eyes flashed blue. A spiraling jet of fire shot out from the eye in his armor. Tessa shrank back, crossing her arms in front of her face to shield it from the smoke. When it cleared, however, her aura feelers shot up. She blinked slowly and rubbed her eyes, but the swathes of black, red, and orange were still there. Tessa shook her head. "You… you made a copy of my dad?" She narrowed her eyes. "How much of a creep can you be!"

"It's okay, Tessa."

Incineroar rose from his position on one knee and adjusted the crystal helmet on his head. An invisible force yanked tendril-like chains emerging from the helmet. Incineroar lifted his right hand. "You don't have to fight anymore. There's no need for you to stress yourself out any further."

"He's right." Shane paced into view. Tessa tensed up, expecting to dodge an attack, but Shane simply stood there with a somber expression on his face. "Necrozma gave you another option, Tessa. You can join us. There'll be no more stress. No more anguish." A smile spread across his face. "You'll have the power to do whatever your heart desires. Anything that upsets you… you can destroy it." Shane smacked a forepaw against the ground. "Doesn't that sound better than a life filled with endless guilt… where you're second-guessing every action you take and wondering if you'll lose control of yourself?"

Tessa's response consisted of a gray Flash Cannon beam. Incineroar jumped in front of it and met it with another corkscrewing Flamethrower from his belt. Tessa hopped backward, worried Shane would use the smoke as a cover to strike. However, he remained behind Incineroar, watching her with a raised brow.

"I won't let you trick me," Tessa said, her breathing heavy. "You're… you're a lunatic!"

"But Tessa… this isn't Necrozma talking." Shane shook his head. "It's me. It's Shane."

"Liar! You took him away from me!" Metal dust swirled around Tessa's paws.

"He's the real deal, Tessa. And so am I." Incineroar frowned. "I know I left you and Gallian behind, but your friend summoned me from the spirit world to talk with you." He raised his hands up. "We're not looking to fight."

"I'm not interested in anything you have to say. You've taken everything from me! Friends! Family! Happiness! I… I…"

"Nothing's been taken, Tessa. I'm still here. And so is Silvally. He's on the other side… waiting for us." Shane jerked his head toward the wall behind him.

Tessa tensed up. Her aura feelers twitched. That had to be a lie. Silvally had blown up. There wasn't any sign left of him on the altar.

"You're confused. That's understandable," Shane said. Tessa leered at him. "Relax. I wasn't reading your mind. I could tell by your expression."

"Then I know you're full of hot air!" Tessa fired off another Flash Cannon, but it faltered against Incineroar's Flamethrower.

"You're certainly channeling your mother's passionate spirit, I'll give you that," Incineroar said, brushing dust of his arms in a robotic manner.

Tessa's eyes flickered with rainbow light. "Don't you dare compare me to her! If you were really my dad, then—"

"You're right. That was… a poor choice of words," Incineroar said, stepping back with a dejected look on his face.

Tessa shook her head. What was she doing talking to them like this? It was clear Necrozma was stalling for time. She couldn't keep hesitating. She had to keep up the offense. Tessa tensed up, ready to charge in with Extreme Speed.

"Why are you fighting us, Tessa? We're only trying to help you."

Tessa almost tripped and fell on her face. Beside Incineroar stood Eevee, his large, brown eyes watering. He wore a helmet like Incineroar's, spawning chains that connected to his legs. "I thought you missed me, Tessa. I thought you didn't want to be alone. So, why are you pushing us away?"

"Because… because you're not real!" Tessa sprinted forward, shoulder bared down to strike Incineroar. To her shock, however, he vanished in a cloud of shadows. Her momentum carried her toward Shane, who blasted her backward with pink energy. Tessa landed on her back with a holler. She quickly rolled to her feet, ignoring the throbbing pain in her shoulders.

"Look at yourself, Tessa. The longer you keep this struggle up, the more painful it'll be," Incineroar said, having reappeared at Tessa's side. "Join us, Tessa. You can get back everything you've lost. It's the only way to avoid a lonesome, guilt-riddled future."

"I don't… believe you," Tessa said through gritted teeth. She shot an Aura Sphere toward Eevee this time, but a wall of white energy swallowed it up. Shane frowned at her.

"Look. I apologize for the disingenuous stunts I did back at the ruins. But they were necessary to deal with your mother," Shane said, shoulders sagging. "If I could've dealt with her myself, I would've. But all that 'tied to Dialga' nonsense put me— well, us in a serious bind. I thought that by channeling energy from Necrozma's core fragment into Silvally, I could give him a big enough power boost to overcome Zero."

He shook his head. "But it wasn't good enough." Shane's ears folded against his head. "So, I did some quick manipulation of his spirits and got him to use Explosion. But he survived the blast."


"It's true! I coalesced his spirits into core… exactly like what Necrozma has. I transported the core here so I could give him a fresh, new body when the dust had settled. I did it for you!" Shane said, fanning out his tails. "Because I realized the potential you have. Tessa, you wield a mighty power! You could do amazing things with it!"

"I'm not going to turn into some sort of psychopathic sidekick! I like this world. I want to save it." Tessa dashed right with a burst of Extreme Speed. She flung an Aura Sphere at Shane as she ran. The combined actions made the blue fireball too fast for Shane to deflect. It struck him right in his armor. He staggered backward.

"You stupid bitch!" Shane snarled. Incineroar and Eevee glanced at Shane nervously.

Tessa smirked. "I knew it. This is all fake. Besides, weren't you the one who taunted me about how Shane was really Dark Matter? And now you're trying to use him to get me to give up? The nerve!" Rainbow energy flickered in her paws and eyes. "I hate you, Necrozma… with every fiber of my being. You deserve to burn for everything!"

Shane's eyes shifted from blue to red. "Foolish girl!" His distorted voice made Tessa's aura feelers crinkle. "I helped you! I turned you from a weak, spineless runt into someone to be feared!" The eye in his armor glowed brightly. "And this is the thanks I get for all of my generosity?"

Tessa's face blanched. White-hot flames and golden, card-shaped energy blasts careened toward her. Tessa leaped into the air and kicked off the wall. She sailed over the attacks and fired a Flash Cannon down at Shane. He froze the gray beam with ice breath before it could reach him. Tessa hit the ground, only for pain to flare up across her tail.

"I see Shane was a bad influence on you. You've picked up his recklessness," Sylveon said, standing behind Tessa with a disapproving look on her face. Tessa darted forward and drove an electrified fist into Sylveon's face. Her helmet shattered and she disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"Your spirit was defective from birth. My Z-Power fixed it. I gave you an aura that any Lucario would salivate over," Shane hissed, flinging pink energy balls at Tessa. She ran in a wide arc across the room. "Then, when the chips were down, I used the power I had from my core to ignite a spark that triggered a transformation beyond Mega Evolution. Not only that, I severed your mother's connection to the rest of my core!"

Tessa vaulted over a Flamethrower, but bungled the landing and couldn't get a counterattack off. Trump Card energy blasts careened toward her. Tessa pointed her paws up and fired a gray beam, blowing them apart. "And I'm supposed to be thankful for that stuff? What a joke! Even if you did save Silvally, you probably corrupted him like you're trying to do to me!" she growled.

"Yes! You're supposed to be thankful." Shane snorted out tufts of ice. "Honestly… I can't believe I opted for power-bolstering instead of controlling you directly. I didn't have enough power to do both, so I chose to sever Zero's connection since she was weakened. After all, I had dreamed of it since the moment she trapped me in Lunala's body."

Growling, Tessa threw an Aura Sphere at Eevee. Incineroar was too far for a Flamethrower to counter, so Eevee exploded in a puff of smoke. Tessa took off running again. Her legs burned, but it was better than the alternative. At the same time, her stomach churned. Necrozma could've controlled her… like he had done with Shane? If that was the case, why wasn't he trying now?

'What if… what if Shane's somehow fighting his control?'

Tessa skidded to a halt and fired another Aura Sphere. Before either opponent could destroy it, she detonated the attack. Incineroar gasped. When the smoke vanished, he was nowhere to be found and Shane was glaring at her. "You really know how to get on my nerves, don't you?" he huffed.

"The feeling's mutual, asshole!" Tessa cupped her paws around her snout. "Shane! If you're in there… keep fighting! I'm doing all I can out here, but I… I need you to keep resisting Necrozma."

"Silence!" Icebergs burst forth from the floor. One clipped Tessa as she tried to make her escape. She tumbled across the ground, yelping in pain. The ice was as cold as Dragonite's attacks. Possibly even colder. Her feet stung.

"C'mon, Shane!" Tessa forced herself back up. The icebergs blocked much of her view. "Even if what Necrozma has said about your spirit or whatever is true… we can talk things out!" She blew as many icebergs apart as she could with one gray beam. When the last one crumbled, flames seared her side. With a cry of pain, Tessa dropped to her knees. Her fur smoldered. Her limbs were growing heavy, like what happened when her transformation faltered against Zero.

"It's not going to work. He can't hear you. I've broken him," Shane said, flipping his mane back and smirking.

"No, you're wrong." Tessa gritted her teeth. "Even with all his antics and mistakes… Shane never gives up! He's as stubborn as can be… for better or worse." She hurled an Aura Sphere into an oncoming wall of white energy, then ran through the ensuing opening. "Don't give up on me, Shane! Because we're partners for life… and I'm not giving up on you! We will find happiness… together!"

Tessa dashed forward with a burst of Extreme Speed while Shane tensed up, his tails going stiff as arrows.


Shane struggled to escape the giant hands. He had grown too used to running on four legs. Being put back in a human body messed with his equilibrium. Shane stumbled into an oversized desk leg and fell to the ground. Fortunately, the nearest hand missed him by inches. Shane crawled along the ground, willing the giant hands to disappear.

"Where are you running to, dweeb?"

A muscular leg dangled over Shane. He scrambled to his feet, scuffing his knees against the carpeted floor. Shane made it a few steps before the foot crashed down behind him. He was swept from his feet with a loud yelp. Shane tumbled across the floor and crashed into another desk leg. A chorus of distorted laughter rose up all around him.

"How pathetic!"

"It's like watching him run the track in gym class! What a doofus!"

"At least he wasn't trying to imitate one of his dumb cartoon characters this time."

"Stop it! Be quiet!" Shane cupped his hands over his ears, but it did nothing to quiet the jeers. Two thinner hands with bracelets and rings shot toward him. Shane rolled behind the desk leg. One of the hands brought two fingers close to his neck. "Get away from me!" Shane kicked at the fingers, knocking the hand away. But one of the fingers got caught in a loop of his hospital gown's bow knot. It came undone. The moment Shane ran for another desk, the gown flew off. More laughter echoed above him.

"Wow! Look how pale he is!"

"He's so scrawny!"

"No he's not. He's got a bit of a belly."

"Obviously! All he does is sit around and play on that dumb Game Boy."

A shadow fell over Shane. He looked over his shoulder and saw a giant DS falling toward him. Shane dove forward. The DS hit the ground and shattered. Plastic shards scraped his arms and tore some of the fabric from his briefs.

"Nice shot!" a girl's voice said, brimming with glee.

"Serves him right. I can't believe he still wears briefs. I'll bet his mom still buys all his clothing for him."

Shane looked up. His eyes widened. Coat hangers hung over head. Sharp, metal, pointy coat hangers. "Stop it! I didn't do anything! I… I…" He threw his arms over his head and ran for it. The coat hangers rained down on him from above.

"Do we even want to shred his briefs?" one male voice wondered. "I don't want to see his ass or his junk! At least Eisenberg worked out. This retard wouldn't know a dumbbell if it smacked him in the face."

Shane's eyes widened. He was nearly at the end of the hallway. There was a door and, unlike everything else, it wasn't gigantic. It was his size. If he could just make it another yard…

Something large and black caught the corner of his vision. Shane turned his head and yelped as a dumbbell hurtled toward him. He had no choice but to dive again. The carpet burned his arms and legs, but he'd take rug burns over getting clobbered in the skull.

"Aww, what's the matter? Trying to walk out? This ain't elementary school, dumbass! You can't get out of class by running around and screaming your lungs out like a baby."

"Leave me alone!" Shane cried, tears welling in his eyes. Two more feet looked to squish him, but Shane threw himself toward the door. To his relief, it opened up and let him through. One of the feet smashed the ground behind him and he slammed the door shut. Shane pressed himself against the door as it shook.

"You can't hide in there forever. The longer you stay in there, the worse the ass-kicking will be when you come out!"

Why was this happening? How was Necrozma doing all of this? Shane pulled at his greasy, brown hair. He knew why. Necrozma was Nicky. All of these insults were things Nicky had heard. And Shane feared that these awful memories would play on repeat until they completely broke him. He had to find a way out of this. But what could he do?

The new room he'd entered was dark. There were nondescript cabinets surrounding him and a single computer sitting on a desk across from the door. Shane could tell it was old. Cobwebs covered the tower. It had a CRT screen; something Shane hadn't seen in well over a decade. And yet, despite its age, the screen flickered with light. Shane crept toward it. As he did, he caught sight of his reflection in one of the cabinets.

Though he was in his human body, his freckled face was missing. In its place sat a familiar red core filled with cracks. Another intentionally unsettling reminder of his warped spirit.

You've got mail. You've got mail. You've got mail.

The alerts made Shane jump. A bright computer window appeared on the screen, displaying the same three words the computer said in its monotone, robotic voice. Shane didn't want to acknowledge the computer. It was undoubtedly part of Necrozma's nightmare prison. However, one look back at the entrance revealed the door had shrunk down to the size of his pinky toe. There was no way out.

Shane reluctantly approached the computer. There wasn't a chair at the desk, but that was fine. The thought of sitting in some broom closet in only his underwear creeped him out… which was probably the point of all of this. 'But why humiliate me like this anyway?' Shane wondered, glancing down at his scratched-up waistband. The possible reason made him cringe.

Necrozma was trying to recreate the humiliating experience that Nicky had.

He had never seen the photos for himself, but he heard about it from Nicky. The jocks had spiked his drink, stripped him down, taken naked photos, and somehow put them online for people at school to see. At least, that's what Nicky claimed. Though Shane's memory was fuzzy, he recalled there not being any way to concretely prove who had put the photos up.

Shane pressed the ENTER key on the computer. The window disappeared, only for an image of a courtroom to replace it. Shane clenched his jaw. He was looking at a picture of himself, sitting stiffly in a chair wearing a suit that was at least a size too small. Faceless people surrounded him. One at the judge's bench, one sitting by a typewriter, three sitting at desks across from the witness stand, and several more in spectator seats.

"I'm sorry," Shane said, looking up toward the black space overhead. "I get it, okay? I was a terrible friend to you. But it's not too late! If you just—"

The courtroom window vanished, leaving Shane staring at a blue screen.

A problem has been detected and Nicholas Eisenberg has been shut down to prevent damage to the void.

"What? No, stop it. This is ridiculous." Shane mashed the ENTER key out of frustration. But every time he did, new dialogue boxes popped up.

lol we don't want u in this rp. godmodding retard.

Dude, nobody cares about your damn Lucario fetish. Go back to whatever hole you crawled out of e621 from.

How many times do we have to tell you to stop derailing topics and making them about yourself? Your friend can jump off a building for all I care. Seriously, final warning. Your ass is getting banned the next time you do this shit.

Stop trying to start drama and stop playing the victim whenever someone tells you shit you need to hear. This is a Pokémon forum, for god's sake. You need to get outside of your basement more often.

The following user is not allowed to join Camp PMD under any circumstances: LucarioFan96. Yes, I know you can see this. You're a terrible RPer and nobody wants you around.

Seriously, LF? I thought I said that I've got a life beyond this site. You keep pissing and moaning that I don't respond to PMs but, like, I'm not checking the forums every goddamn minute. Learn some patience, man. If you keep this up, I'm blocking you and reporting you to the mods.

Shane punched the screen, cracking the glass. However, it immediately repaired itself. There were no text boxes anymore. Instead, Shane saw footage of Yveltal, Nuzleaf, and multiple Beheeyem struggling in clouds of shadows. "YOU DID THIS" repeatedly flashed above them.

"I'm sorry!" Shane blurted out, as if they could hear him. "Shut it off… please! I can't…" He thought he was going to pull his hair out. "I can't take this anymore! I understand. I'm a horrible person! I shouldn't have friends! I… I…"

yOU wILL sUBmIT, thEn? SurRenDeR… aND lEt Me DrAiN YoU OF yOUr WiLl, thEn YoUR spIrIt?

Shane dropped down to his knees and banged his head against the table. He didn't see the red eye staring him down from the computer screen or the spectral chains that burst out of the back of the CRT monitor. All he did was croak out a muffle sob. "Yes. I give u—"

Shane! If you're in there… keep fighting! I'm doing all I can out here, but I… I need you to keep resisting Necrozma.

He picked his head up, blinking. "T-Tessa?" He was sure he had heard her. But when he looked around, he didn't see any sign of his partner.

yOUr MiND is PLaYInG trIcKS oN YoU BeCaUsE yOU'Re ExHAuStEd, the computer hissed. NoW—

Even if what Necrozma has said about your spirit or whatever is true… we can talk things out!

Shane looked at the computer screen. The eye vanished. He now had a view of Tessa. She looked hurt… again. Yet, despite that, she had her teeth gritted and a determined look on her face. Shane's heart fluttered. Had he heard her correctly? She knew the truth about his spirit… but she didn't care?

Even with all his antics and mistakes… Shane never gives up! He's as stubborn as can be… for better or worse.

He opened his mouth, ready to say that his stubbornness was the thing that had nearly doomed the two of them, but then remembered Tessa couldn't actually hear him. Still, hearing her say that after all of their struggles made a warmth fill up his chest.

Don't give up on me, Shane! Because we're partners for life… and I'm not giving up on you! We will find happiness… together!

Partners… for life? Shane mouthed the words to himself. She wanted to stay with him? Even after all the bad things he'd done to her originally? Shane's heart leaped into his throat. He wanted to stay with her, too. More than anything in the world. Even if it meant he'd be permanently bound to Dark Matter and would have to face those repercussions… he'd still take the chance. As long as he had her by his side, he'd be happy.

Shane took note of the chains wriggling around the computer. "She's right!" he cried, the warmth in his chest spreading out. Shane lashed out and grabbed the chains in each of his hands. They burned like a hot stovetop, but Shane held on, gritting his teeth. He was in some kind of nightmare prison. None of this was real, including the pain. But Tessa was real. Her words were real. She was his partner. And he was going to do whatever it took to return to her.

"I've had enough of this! You can't control me! You can't control Nicky! Give up… and leave us alone!"

He seized on the chains. A garbled scream sounded from the computer, then everything went white.


Tessa tackled Shane to the ground. His lack of resistance stunned him, but then she saw a glimmer in his eyes. The heavy chains around his limbs constricted. Tessa hopped off him, looking to her looplet. Though part of her feared losing control to her Necrozmafied Mega Evolution — and gods did she need a better name for that — there was only one way she had a chance of getting Shane back. Assuming this was the real Shane, of course, but the alternatives spooked her even more.

"St… stop this. You can't… defeat me. My victory—"

"Shut up. I am so sick of you!" Tessa crossed her arms. Warm, familiar Z-Power flooded her system. Shane tried to raise a forepaw, but Tessa got her attack off first. She spun around so fast, the world became a complete blur. And yet, it didn't make her dizzy. Somehow, metal dust encased her, turning her into a giant drill that homed in on Shane.

Shane arced his back. A distorted howl escaped his lips moments before Tessa crashed into him. The drill broke through his chains and armor. Try as she might, however, Tessa couldn't cease her Z-Move. Shane was picked up and spun around like ocean debris in a whirlpool. Right when it looked like Tessa would inadvertently pin him into the wall and shatter his spine, a pink outline surrounded Shane.

Tessa finally broke out of the attack and landed on her feet. Shane hung in the air, down for the count. "How the—"

"Sorry I'm late!"

Lunala swooped down, spreading out her wings. Her eyes glowed pink. She looked between Shane and Tessa. "And it looks like I came at just the right time." She shook her head. "The dungeon kept trying to crush me and squish me and blow me up… but it looks like you went through something a lot more upsetting." Lunala's third eye glowed. Soft, pink light spread over both Shane and Tessa.

"I, uh, I guess you could say that," Tessa said, watching Lunala lower Shane to the ground. Once again, a surge of vitality shot through her. At the same time, though, part of her regretted it. She'd now officially lost count of how many times she relied on healing energy to refresh her when she really needed honest rest.

Lunala tried to offer Tessa a comforting smile. "I think that—"

Before she could get a full sentence out, golden light spread across the wall. The temperature in the room spiked. Tessa shrank back toward Lunala. She wasn't ready for another battle. Her brain was still trying to piece together everything that had just happened.

Fortunately, when the wall collapsed, she was greeted not by an enemy, but by the sights of Espy, Ephemeris, and… Silvally?

Tessa blinked. She rubbed her eyes. Hell, she smacked herself across the cheek. "S… Silvally?" She pointed a shaky digit at him. "Is… is it really you?"

Espy nodded, her eyes red and puffy. "It is, Tessa. It is." She leaned her head against Silvally's thigh. His fire memories shifted on, but he did his best to keep what passed for a grin on his beak.

"Hey, Tessa. Sorry I gave you such a scare back on the tower," Silvally said, kicking dejectedly at the ground.

Tessa ran toward Silvally and threw her arms around his neck. "You're safe!" she said. "I'm so glad!" Tessa broke the embrace and stepped back. "Watching all of that happen…" She put a paw on her chest spike. "It was awful."

"I know." Silvally lowered his head. "My powers got out of control because Necrozma messed with my spirits while he was pretending to be Shane. I'm only back now thanks to these two." He gestured at Espy and Ephemeris. "Necrozma forced me to attack Espy, but she fought through her hesitations to save me. And, when it looked like my spirit core would fall apart, Ephemeris stepped in and stabilized the core that Necrozma created… or something."

"Or something indeed." Ephemeris held a wing up and chuckled. "Though, once this whole mess is settled, we will have to have a talk about your, erm, situation." He shook his head. "But that's neither here nor there."

"Wait a second. Isn't Lady Ho-Oh supposed to have orange feathers? And, y'know, be a lady?" Tessa said, scratching her head.

"She is. I'm a different Ho-Oh. The one that your legends speak of, actually," Ephemeris said. "I'd love to give you all the details, but I think you ought to tend to your other friend." He pointed at Shane.

Espy and Silvally's gazes fell on Shane. He was stirring, though the moment he met his teammates' eyes, he shrank back on the ground with a whimper. Shane curled up in a ball, covering himself with his tails.

"Is it… is it him?" Espy whispered, ears drooping.

"I hope so," Silvally said, looking at Tessa. She looked at Lunala who, in turn, looked at Ephemeris. They nodded in unison.

"I believe Tessa's undone all the tampering Necrozma did to your friend," Lunala said. She hovered down, turning horizontal to try and get eye level with Shane. "Are you all right?"

Shane tried to scooch away from Lunala, but all he succeeded in doing was making his tails fall back down by his rear. His ears flattened against his head. "H-Hey," he whispered, looking down.

"Shane." Tessa took a step toward him, but Shane shrank back. "Shane, what's wrong?"

"I just—" Shane looked away, biting his lower lip.

"We came all this way to put an end to this, didn't we?" Espy said, looking between Shane and Silvally. Her tail drooped when she realized Silvally's cheek-bolts were whirring.

"Did you mean it?" Shane said, looking up at Tessa.

"Mean what?"

"That stuff you said. About me not giving up. About not caring what my spirit was really like. Wanting to be partners for life. Did you mean it?" Shane shot Tessa a pleading look.

Espy and Silvally exchanged wide-eyed looks. Tessa's aura feelers crinkled. "You… you actually heard that?" She was conflicted between being overjoyed her words reached him and worried Shane was latching onto the things she said. However, after a few seconds of looking into his soft, blue eyes, she realized they were full of concern.

Tessa nodded slowly. "Of course." She knelt down in front of Shane and put a paw on her chest. "I meant it from the bottom of my heart."

"B-But I'm Dark Matter." Shane's tails curled up. "I… I've hurt so many people." He looked at Espy, who stared back at him incredulously.

"What are you talking about?" Espy titled her head.

"Necrozma told me the truth. Dark Matter lay at the center of his core. It found a way to burst out and it… it fused with my human spirit." Shane shuddered. "I don't remember much of anything about being Dark Matter… but when Necrozma had control of my body, I… I…"

"That changes nothing," Tessa said, putting a paw on Shane's shoulder.

Shane blinked. "W-What do you mean it changes nothing? I… I'm the worst thing to ever happen to this world!" He paused. "Well, okay, maybe Necrozma and I are on equal footing at the moment… but we both came from the void anyway and… ah! My head hurts thinking about it."

"Listen to me, Shane." Tessa subconsciously shifted her paw to Shane's cheek. His eyes widened. Her cheeks burned, but she didn't care. "You're more than a collection of energy."

Silvally nodded. "It's about what you think, not what Necrozma tells you."

"Right." Tessa's expression softened. "You've changed so much as a person. I believe that change is real."

"It wasn't your human self that died in Ultra Space. It was Dark Matter," Silvally said, walking toward Shane. "It gave its power to you… because it thought you could use that power to help. Which is exactly what you've done."

"That's not true though." Shane looked down. "I was a total slimeball my first month here. I didn't help people… I berated everyone. You guys. Lycanroc. The other apprentices." He shuddered. "And Necrozma was able to worm his way into my spirit like it was nothing. I… I… I don't deserve forgiveness. I don't deserve you guys."

"It's in the past now, Shane," Tessa said. "You're here. You're with us." She gestured to her teammates. "We're together again. We can make our own future. Please…" Tessa put her other paw under Shane's chin. His eyes sparkled with tears. "You are a good person. The changes you've made are real—"

"They don't make up for what I did as Dark Matter, though," Shane whispered.

"Maybe not. But you know what would? Stopping Necrozma… and saving our world from total destruction." Tessa pulled her paws away and got to her feet. "It wouldn't feel right for Team Radiance to finish this fight without its leader."

Shane stared up at Tessa, blinking slowly. Silvally stepped to Tessa's side. "I understand what you're going through, Shane."

"But I… I made you blow yourself up," Shane whimpered.

"And I tried to kill you back in Moonrise Marsh," Silvally said, looking down guiltily. "We've both got things we need to work on, that's for sure. And that's why I'm standing by you… like you stood by me when I was doubting myself after breaking my mask."

Espy stepped forward, brushing her side against Silvally's. "Me too. You refused to give up on me… even though I'd given up on myself and the world." She looked at Silvally. "I might not have found something to fight for if you hadn't kept believing in me."

"See, Shane? We care about you… just like you care about us. We're a team. And, even with our rocky beginnings, I want my partner by my side. Now and forever." Tessa stuck her paw out toward him. "So, what do you say? One final mission. Let's put an end to this nonsense for good."

Shane looked at her paw. He brushed his face against his shoulder, then stood up. Shane nodded. "Right." He brought a forepaw up to Tessa's paw-spike. "Through darkest night…"

"… and brightest day…" Espy put her forepaw on top of Shane's.

Silvally gingerly touched a talon to Espy's forepaw. "… Team Radiance always finds a way."

"Thanks, guys," Shane said, sucking in a breath. "Now, uh, not to dampen the mood or anything, but…" He looked around. "If Necrozma isn't here, then where is he?"

"I believe he's battling several of the other gods on the outskirts of the island. I suppose this means he was multitasking between fighting them and controlling you," Ephemeris said. "The others managed to give me an opening to get through to you all." He tapped a foot on the ground. "Still, something's bothering me about all of this. Necrozma was barely putting up much resistance against the gods. All the Ultra Beasts he summoned were beyond frail, as well."

"Now that you mention it, I got swarmed by Void Shadows when I was trapped… but their attacks hardly did a thing to me," Espy added, frowning. "What do you suppose it means?"

"Ahh!" Shane's tails fanned out in alarm. He looked past his teammates. "The Tree! It was right over there! Where did it go?" He spun about in a panic.

"Slow down, Shane. What do you mean?" Tessa said.

"The Tree of Life! Necrozma had put it right over there." Shane pointed a forepaw forward. "He was siphoning spirits from it… I think? But I've been in this room the whole time, haven't I?" He looked up. "Where could he have taken it?"

The ground rumbled. The cracks between the cubes lit up with red energy. Lunala gasped. Her third eye flared to life. "No. No!" An ethereal glow spread throughout her wings. "Ephemeris, help me grab them!" She flew toward Team Radiance.

"Wait, hold on!" Shane's eyes widened. "What are you doi—"

I can't believe you're all such fools!

Lunala enveloped Shane and Tessa in her wings. A bewildered Ephemeris grabbed Espy and Silvally in his talons. Lunala threw open an Ultra Wormhole and raced inside with Ephemeris hot on her tails. The portal sealed itself seconds before a wall of golden light swallowed up the entire room.


~Celestial Island Exterior~

Necrozma staggered backwards, lashing at the air with his arms and tail. Palkia hovered in front of him, shoulder-gems smoldering blue. "Ha! What's the matter? You had far more fight in you the last time we met," he bellowed. Palkia slashed at the air. Necrozma barely managed to teleport away from the jagged Spacial Rend tear that opened up and exploded in bursts of blue light. He immediately had to fire psychic rings in an attempt at diverting the golden meteors streaking toward him. It wasn't enough of a counter, however.

Arceus hovered above Necrozma, watching him tumble through the air, snarling. Unown fluttered around. Two Unown-O, an Unown-F, and an Unown-! drifted in front of Arceus. Giratina floated past, smiling at them. "Aww, look! I think our friends are having fun with this."

"Focus, Giratina!" Arceus said. Unown spiraled around his wheel. Multiple golden, ethereal hands formed around him. He glared at Necrozma, but before he got the chance to attack, Dragon Pulse bolts streamed in from his right. Arceus hissed as they singed his flank. A bunch of Unown-A clumped together above him, punctuated by another Unown-!.

"Ah! Sorry, Daddy!" Giratina disappeared in a puff of shadows, only to promptly reappear in the distance. He charged forward, enveloping the Naganadels that attacked Arceus in his wings. "Hello, new friends! Wanna play catch with me? Sure you do!" He thrust his wings back. "Hey, Pal-Pal… catch!"

Palkia whirled around, having just sliced a Guzzlord in half with a Spacial Rend blade. "What is it? I'm busy, Girat—"

Giratina threw all the Naganadels at Palkia like they were living lances. Palkia face-palmed and held his free hand up. Before he could form a vortex, however, one of Hoopa's rings opened up. "Ha ha ha! An excellent idea, Giratina!" he declared.

"Fools! Those are my Ultra Beasts! Not some damn toys for you to play with!" Necrozma spat. Then a second ring portal opened up in front of him. "Loathsome urchins!" He raised his arms, then ran forward, barreling through all the Naganadels.

This left Necrozma with no way to stop a charging Rayquaza. A giant, fiery V slammed Necrozma from above. The armor on his back shattered. His right arm broke off and plummeted from the sky, only to evaporate into a fine mist. Necrozma howled in pain, his core flickering like a dying light bulb while his eyes cycled between different colors at random.

"No… no! You… you…" Necrozma tried to lash out at Rayquaza, but he swiftly flew around to Necrozma's other side.

"You were wrong to underestimate us!" Rayquaza thundered. He blasted Necrozma in the face with a Dragon Pulse. Necrozma's armor cracked. Black mist vented from it. "This world is not beyond hope!"

"Lying wretch! My chains are a part of your world for all eternity! The void can never die!" Necrozma spat, only for two more Dragon Pulses to hit him from each side. The blocky armor pieces hugging his torso shattered, exposing his gleaming, metal hide.

"Yeah! This world's ours. A meanie, nasty, stupid-head like you doesn't belong here. So, go away!" Giratina huffed.

"Even if what you say is true… thanks to your actions, and the mortals who have fought against you, we understand now that we cannot take our positions for granted any longer!" Palkia said, his shoulder-gems brimming with energy.

"Ha! Pathetic! Your bravado is meaningless!" Necrozma looked back toward the rift he had opened. "Even if you beat me — which you won't — the status quo will creep back up. Just as it did after the Bittercold and Dark Matter. The void will triumph. You will fail. Your world will burn!"

Golden light rippled to Necrozma's left. He turned in time for a swarm of meteors to pelt him. Cracks peppered what was left of his prism armor. His other hand dissolved away. The only spot that wasn't broken was where his core sat. Only a tiny sliver of light projected out from it. Necrozma looked up as Arceus hovered toward him, golden hands surrounding his wheel and several Unown floating overhead, spelling GET OUT.

"You have undoubtedly left us all with a lot to unpack. I imagine that the healing process this time around will be… far more protracted," Arceus said, narrowing his eyes. "And I will have things that I need to reflect on. But one thing is certain. You're finished, Necrozma."

"You don't have the right! You did this to me! You took everything from me!" Necrozma snarled. He walked backward through the air, eyes darting about nervously. "This isn't fair! I was so close! So close! I… I…" He looked back at the rift once again.

"Any last words?" Arceus said, Judgement's golden light gathering within his hands. Necrozma turned back to him, a giant, deranged grin on his face. The core faded from his forehead.

"I can't believe you're all such fools!"

Necrozma's rift pulsated with energy. In an instant, all of the Ultra Beasts surrounding Necrozma's opponents evaporated in a fine, black mist. The cracks in Necrozma's armor spread through his body. Necrozma began to decay. With each chunk of his metal form that fell away, patches of green, hexagonal scales appeared.

"Zygarde?!" Palkia's eyes widened. "Father, what's going on here?"

"I… I don't know," Arceus whispered, his attack fading from his hands. The moment it did, Zygarde crumbled into dust. Necrozma's rift spread open even further. A golden, star-shaped silhouette sat in the center of it. Two small, pupilless eyes with several different-colored vertical stripes looked back at Arceus.

"No… it can't be!" Rayquaza shouted, dragonfire gathered in his mouth. He spat a giant Draco Meteor toward the rift.

"AlL oF yOUr SPiRItS ArE MiNE!"

The Draco Meteor made it all of a few yards before it was engulfed by a wall of golden energy. The wall traveled all the way down to the paralyzed ocean, where it proceeded to split the planet's crust open. Ley line chains burst forth from the earth like writhing, metal geysers.

"Get back… all of you!" Arceus cried, trotting through midair toward the approaching wall. He brought all of the Unown around him, forming as many additional hands as he could muster. Arceus thrust them into the wall, only for his eyes to widen in horror as the hands burnt away. He screamed for all of a second before the light swallowed him up.

"We must flee!" Palkia shouted.

However, with no Arceus to oppose it, the wall picked up speed. Palkia had only a few seconds to watch as Giratina, Hoopa, and Rayquaza dissolved away before he, too, was swallowed up by the light.


Delphox's wand fell from his grip. "No. No way…" He watched as huge chunks of the world — the world he'd worked so hard to save from Dark Matter — were torn up and swallowed by the advancing wall of light. "M… Meganium." He shakily reached a paw toward her.

Meganium wrapped him up in her vines and pulled him close. She craned her neck around him. They squeezed each other tightly. Neither of them noticed their fellow Expedition Society members gathering near them. They remained in each other's grasps until, like the rest of Lively Town, they were ripped off the ground in streaks of light.


"You've gotta be kidding me!" Lopunny sank to her knees. "We can't… we can't beat that."

Feraligatr's jaw dropped. He looked at Infernape. "H-Hey… buddy? Were we… were we too late this time?"

Infernape silently bowed his head. A yard away from him, Haunter turned to his teammates. "W-Well, gang. I guess… I guess this is our curtain call."

Misdreavus looked about ready to say something, but the wall of light sped up. She got one last look at Haunter's somber expression before all of them vanished in swirls of purple and black.


"Haxy! Put me down!" Raichu hollered, kicking at the air with her legs.

"No! We can outrun that thing! We can still get away!" Haxorus bellowed, tears in her eyes. Umbreon and Virizion ran next to her, with Emolga and Hydreigon flying overhead. Hydreigon took one look back and all six of his eyes widened. The light wall had ripped the crystallized remains of Post Town apart. Ley line chains freely shot up to tear apart even more of the landscape.

"It's getting faster! We're not going to make it!" he cried.

"Damn it!" Haxorus snorted out dragonfire. "I'm not letting Necrozma get the better of us ag—"

The wall caught up with the group and the light burned them away.


Latias had thought it was over. When the Ultra Beasts attacking Pokémon Square had evaporated, she gave her brother a nuzzle and then flew into Lugia's embrace. But then fissures ran through the village. Chains shot out of the earth, grabbing hold of any Pokémon that had stayed to fight.

"L-Lugia! What do we do?" Latias said. She looked up at him, but the empty look in his eyes made her feathers stand on end.

"Th… th… there's nothing we can do," Lugia croaked. He turned Latias around just in time for her to watch the wall of light destroy Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre in bursts of red and blue light.

"No… no! You can't do this to us!" Latios shot a Dragon Pulse at the wall, but it swallowed the attack up like it was nothing, then took Latios with it.

"Big brother!" Latias screeched, only for Lugia to pull her close and wrap himself around her protectively.

"I'm sorry, Latias."

In the end, Latias never felt the moment the wall of light destroyed her.


Gallian and Zoroark got tripped up scrambling for the assembly area and end up sprawled out on top of one another. "C-Come on, Zoroark! We have to move!" Gallian said, red sparks pulsating in his scythe's stump. "Something terrible is about to happen!"

No sooner did he finish saying that then wall behind him exploded. Gallian never even got the chance to turn around and see what had caused it.


"Sneasel! Sneasel, get up!" Hakamo-o shook his partner in crime. "We've got a problem! A big problem!"

"Hrrgh… quit it. I just… so tired…" Sneasel swatted Hakamo-o's arm away. Hakamo-o took one look at the approaching wall of light, then leaped onto the bed, spreading his arms and legs wide as if he could somehow protect Sneasel from the oncoming danger.

That woke Sneasel up. "Oof! What do you think you're doing! Quit it! I don't want anyone thinking we're—"

The end of Sneasel's sentence was lost, along with the rest of the infirmary, to the wall of light.


"The hell's going on?!" Seraph fell onto her rear. "First all the UBs vanish… now this place is shaking like a Baccer arena when the home team wins! What gives?"

"S… Seraph…" Luxeira pointed a forepaw forward, a blank expression on her face. Seraph sat up. She caught sight of the giant rift in the sky, the ground tearing itself up, and the wall of light racing toward the island.

"Y… you're shitting me. After all this…" Seraph lay down on her back and threw her paws over her face. "No… it's not fair! This is not how I'm going out! I… I…"

Luxeira looked right. Totem Decidueye was kneeling, his wings clasped together as he muttered a prayer to himself. Shaymin Esserly stood beside him, her head bowed solemnly.

"Spirits, preserve us," she whispered, a grimace on her face.

Luxeira turned away, but then looked up at Sticky. "Hey!" she barked. Sticky looked down at her in surprise. "If… if this is really gonna be the end for us, I just want to say… I was wrong about you. I'm glad we got to be partners."

Sticky's eyes widened. Unfortunately, he wouldn't get the chance to respond.

Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated. ^^

Next time: It's the end.


When Team Radiance was separate... All the mind games that were played with them.
But the power of friendship (and love) helped them to reunite!

At the point when they actually reunited, I thought, everything went too smoothly.
As I read on, it became clear, that my feeling was right.
Well, Team Radiance, I hope that you really always find a way.

Maybe it would be easier for them to find a world in ultra space that is identical to their old, but without a powerful void, and the Lunala, Ephemeris and Team Radiance of this world are dying at the moment of their arrival...


Dragon Enthusiast
(Episode 14)


I won’t say it was a bad opening, but it was an odd opening. Not the Metagross part—that was interesting and I nearly forgot about him. Nearly, but not entirely. The bulk of this chapter was instead focused on basically… relationship and character fluff, which was an interesting opener, especially since some of it seemed kinda like a retreading of old ground again. But it was new enough that I gleaned a bit of interesting tidbits from it, particularly Shane’s, uh, species predicament. Interesting reversal for him to wind up getting objectified, lol.

But the most interesting line was when the voices Silvally heard echoed in his mind. Cut from the same cloth… From the Ley Lines, yes, but why do I feel like there’s more to it, somehow? I don’t know. It feels like there’s more to it, but I can’t quite place my finger on it. But I’m keeping this one in my back pocket for later, too. The timeline doesn’t quite add up for some of my theories to add up, anyway. The whole ‘immortal’ plight is a common trope for any character that’s long-lived, though, so I’m curious on where you’ll wind up taking it, if at all.

Already read the Valentine’s special a long time ago, so I’ll skip past that.


Interesting that they were so quick to forgive Primarina. I mean, I get it, but it was a bit of an odd reversal compared to how long it took for Espy to forgive herself. There’s a bit of a theme of how the “actions” taken by those under Necrozma’s “control” were more their actions with less inhibitions or something. I kinda found that hard to believe, since they were very clearly influenced, but for how certain Espy seemed that what she did was, uh, “in character” for herself, despite how out of character it was, I wasn’t really sure.

It was interesting to get that extra depth out of Primarina, though. Not quite as interesting as Jan—er, Hakamo-o’s backstory, but it was still a good flavor to add. Makes me wonder how it’ll wind up for him afterward, singing, exploring, both, or retiring to a different career? It’d be a big adjustment.

The fight with Lugia and so on was a bit less interesting, since it was more or less just a means to get Necrozma to progress with his villain side of the story. I’m curious how Latias is going to react to this, though—will she crumble, or will she become more determined to get Lugia back? For some reason I feel like it might be the latter.

Ah! And one thing I’m noticing both with 81 and 82, I really like how you’re largely in Tessa’s mind for her scenes, though sometimes, you jump into Shane’s. I feel like, for these chapters in particular, it would have been more interesting if you kept it right on Tessa—we kinda know what Shane’s deal is at this point, at least for this part of his character, you know? Going third person fully-limited would have given these chapters a very nice flavor.

Hmm, that being said, I feel like this whole thing between Shane, Espeon, and Silvally and the whole kiss stuff drew on for… a while. I kinda get why it was happening, but it was just a huge chunk of the episode, and I feel like, one way or the other, it could have been condensed, you know? It was starting to feel like a workplace conduct pamphlet.

Shane… is having memories of Dark Matter! Okay! I was right about that! And then… memories of Necrozma’s, too?! That sort of goes in line with what I said about how Shane, Nicky, and Dark Matter are intertwined, but I still need another piece. And look! We’ve got the look at the prologue all over again, too, this time from Neck’s perspective… interesting… That definitely muddles things up, but if I need to revise me theory at all… I wonder. This reminds me a bit of what happened to Growlithe Nicky, in a way. Where did he go, or was he killed outright? Did his memories then get copied over to Necrozma somehow? Did a new spirit form, manifested out of Dark Matter? Cut from the same cloth…

Interesting… there are a lot of ways this could go, and it all depends on how the memory mechanics work in this setting, namely, how Necrozma gains these memories. When human Shane was destroyed, was his spirit absorbed into Dark Matter, or was he simply killed? Regardless of the answer there, how did those memories get to Necrozma? Was it because of exposure to negativity, thus becoming part of Dark Matter? By the end of this, will Shane, Nicky, and Silvally somehow sort out all their memories, or will they become the same person? Are they all Dark Matter’s pieces? For some reason I keep finding myself zeroing back in on that Growlithe. The same thing happened to him. Necrozma got very debilitated when he struck Solgaleo and Shane. Did a fragment of Shane get lodged into Necrozma, and that’s why he has some of those memories?

I’ll be keeping all that in mind. Anyway, good job on adding to the mystery here so late in the game.


Battles! And a lot of battles! Let’s start with the cosmic duo first. The villains doing their thing is another one of those necessary-but-whatever things, but this time, I think there’s a bit of an exception—particularly for Necrozma’s segment. So, first off, Dragonite playing stealth and all that was pretty cool, and a bit funny, though the humor parts were definitely glossed over since, well, they aren’t very funny villains. I was a little confused about how the power dynamics work here, though. On one hand, Dragonite is barely familiar with her current body, yet she’s still able to utilize enough power to thwart Darkrai? He didn’t even get that badly hurt from Zero or anything, yet he was still weakened enough to be absorbed. Between that and the way Zero kinda-sorta struggled, but then also kinda not-really struggled, makes it sort of hard to get particularly invested in their clash scenes. “Invincible villain” fighting a bunch of side characters, i.e. old heroes and clearly they would come out on top. There were no surprises.

…The same cannot be said for Necrozma’s segment. Very good job on that one—even though there were moments where you slipped into those curt “X did Y” sentences in rapid succession, I could still follow the fight very well despite how frantic it was. Most of all, though, there was a genuine struggle and the power scaling between the Creation Trio and Necrozma was believable and obviously-consistent. Most of all, Necrozma actually had to struggle against them, though some of that, of course, seemed to be because of Lunala fighting back… right? Or was that… Nicky? No, that’s too reaching. But for some reason it felt that way, really briefly.

When Zero came in and near-effortlessly beat Necrozma, eh, that was just more of the issue up above. I guess Necrozma was weakened from his fight, but it definitely wasn’t helping Zero’s case at being just plain unbeatable-until-she-isn’t.

Speaking of crazy-strong foes—out of left field, Mega Metagross! His power level and scaling made perfect sense, so I’ve got no complaints there. In fact, I find most of what’s going on with this extended battle really good! His descent into madness and stutter-static, his brutal onslaught, everyone teaming up to take him down… most of it was incredibly well-paced despite how many moving parts it had. There are, however, a few things that definitely stood out to me as “Okay but why.” First—that whole thing with Midnight. Really?! NOW? Debating about a party groping, NOW? Talking is not a free action, buddy! It was really hard to believe they didn’t get blown up during that.

Speaking of blown up—you’re not allowed to use the excuse of “I’m not really killing them” anymore because you outright indiscriminately killed like an entire society of dragons, now. Metagross doesn’t have any soul-stealing power. They dead. They evaporated on-screen like what I mentioned last episode about how Pokémon die in this world. Which was kinda jarring, all things considered, especially from what feels like a left-field villain, even with the foreshadowing. And to add—and this is the big one—no major protagonists died to Metagross. The only major-ish character to fall was Braviary, and that was to Zero! All unnamed or recent-arrivals. It kinda felt like lucky /plot armor for a little bit, in a way.

In any case, yeah. It was tonally really sudden for that in particular to happen, but despite that, I thought the actual coordination of the fight was done very well, especially for how frantic it all was, aside from the talking-is-a-free-action stuff mentioned earlier. Good work! Metagross’ downfall was incredibly believable, eventually getting those strong shots in, though now that I think about it, I do wonder how he went from a full heal to wiping out the Dragons (how dare you, btw) to then starting to lose. Someone must have reverse-Moxie on the team and they aren’t speaking up…

By the way, “angry dinner table” was a great bit of levity. I think this chapter needed that desperately.

And then… yeah, I need to mirror Silvally’s narrative there. Midnight. Really, now? From one side villain to the next… And so suddenly, too. A lot happened in this chapter in between the actual fighting. But the pace is basically at maximum speed now, isn’t it? Very, very good; Metagross is out of the way, hopefully Midnight will be interesting, and we’ve got something that happened to Necrozma, because he ain’t gone. “Didn’t find the body” – or rather, core piece.

Side note: Prior to posting this review, I have read all the way to episode 15. I take back what I said about Midnight. Him getting the shards turned out to be very well-done and I think you made the right choice. However, I’m leaving my thoughts here to reflect what I had thought at the time, prior to seeing the payoff. Perhaps you could have more thoroughly foreshadowed/reminded the reader about Shane’s arc relating to Midnight and how he, of all people, got the shards?


I’ve little to say about 85 in the way of content because it’s just another battle. Uh, three battles. But! Choreography was good, and I particularly liked the dynamic between Swampert and Blaziken in particular. You really seem to like characterizing the Rescue Team pair the most, don’t you? Anyway, we finally see some payoff from that little flavor text you’ve set up for Serperior waaay back during the first clash against her. I was worried that was just random flavor text to make people nervous artificially, but no! Payoff! So good job! Now then, because we didn’t see the body, and because Gallian and Zoroark somehow survived that, where’s she gonna show up next?

…Did… did Necrozma just spawn from ley lines?

A-anyway, the next chapter was the obligatory cooldown, so that was nice. Zero’s busy rewriting reality, and the team is recovering for presumably the final fights. There was an interesting tidbit at the end, though—that spirits can’t be fully revived if their bodies were shattered, and pretty much all of the bodies that had been crystalized in some way had also been destroyed, so… Is there an alternative method, or… is this going to be a really bitter ending? Not to mention, again, that the only way to revive someone without a body is to Ghost them without memories (interesting interpretation of the Type, I guess…? I’m not sure where this all fits in the narrative.)

So… if there is a way to restore them, but that only applies to crystalized Pokémon… did you just exclusively kill off a bunch of Dragons and they’d be the main bulk of all the casualties? Yes, I’m dwelling on this! Of course I’m going to be irritated on a personal level if that’s true (I’ll hold my judgement) but on a functional standpoint, I still hope not – because then it’s sort of an empty gesture of trying to implant tragedy/cost to characters that… didn’t really have any impact, so it kind of feels superficial.

Tessa already outlined a much better approach—they still have to deal with what happened, even if the damage was undone. Memories are etern—I mean, memories of it will remain, and they have to figure out how to move on from that, together. I see way more potential in Kommo-o trying to reconcile with his son. Him just being dead is the easy way out. Buuut that’s just my opinion, I guess.

Anyway, we are 101% in the final act, now. And a special episode named after the main villain is coming. I’m hoping that questions will stop coming and answers will begin from here on out. I can already get the gist that some folks of the main cast have been put on a bus (the Ultra squad, Gallian and Zoroark, etc.) for the remainder of the action. And that’s okay, because that’s signaling a winding down and refocusing on the main plotline to wrap it allll up.

Oh boy… I didn’t think I’d get here so soon. But here we are. I’m excited~

Here we go.

P.S. As an aside, I really loved working with you for that April Fools ending.


Dragon Enthusiast
Special Episode 4

This is a short one, isn’t it? I’ll do my best to get through this as thoroughly as possible. First off, we have a look into the creation myth from Void’s eyes, basically laying bare exactly what happened. It also looks like Void is taking control in the living world, though… Necrozma is still trying to fight it off, somehow? Or something else? I think there were enough hints given, but I wasn’t able to piece them together just yet, at least so early on. Also, mysterious butterfly can one-shot Rayquaza. Seems legit.

I think you’re doing a good job so far at wrapping everything together before reaching the final act. Good story structure for epics like these, and it’s being executed pretty well.

Also, cool. Looks like Arceus has a bit of a control and ego problem in an effort to combat a power that’s greater than his own. I mean, when he doesn’t have any proper checks to his power otherwise.

This interaction with Void is interesting, in the nightmares, I mean. Void claims to not feel, but I’m seeing emotions in the guy now and then. Sarcasm, impatience, desire, irritation… That’s sort of the problem with “unfeeling” characters. They never really back it up properly. But I think that might be part of his character, possibly? Either way, good job, Arceus, for breaking it, and then doubling down to break it more.

By the way, that’s… a curious little thing that was mentioned with Ho-Oh. So Solgaleo and Lunala weren’t reincarnated, they were recreated. Because the first two couldn’t be found, not even in the Tree of Life—suggesting that they went somewhere else…? But there’s also that whole thing with Shane and… Are they with Dark Matter right now, or something? Is that where they wound up, like the other spirits? Another theory of mine. Kudos on getting me to theorize so late into the game.

The final chapter was more of the same, but such that we finally have the full story of Necrozma all pieced together. None of it was necessarily a surprise based on prior reveals, so much as they were all specifics about what happened, and I think that’s the real purpose of special episodes anyway… So I really appreciated this. It was short, sweet, and got stuff covered. It was a little odd, again, to intersperse present-day happenings, but I think it played in your favor regardless by moving things. The fluff between Seraph and Lux was cute.

Anyway… back to the present. Time for final battles and final encounters, given the pacing of how your fights go. Hohoho, I’m actually excited for this, if you’re worried at all.


Dragon Enthusiast
Episode 15


Back in episode 14, I complained about Midnight getting the shards as a weird narrative choice that came off as filler. I take it back: This was a wonderful tie-in to something way back to the start-ish of the story. I’m a little disappointed that they weren’t able to Undertale their way into making him surrender or otherwise give up his power directly, but eh, I guess seeing it show some effectiveness was nice. Maybe you’re saving that ticket for another final fight coming up; this is clearly just the opening act.

AH! THERE! That’s the second Ho-Oh! Right? Gotta be!





Okay, not the WHOLE thing, but I absolutely called a few of these things, especially that random Ho-Oh remark that Shane made. That seemed like it would’ve been important later, but what I’m particularly proud of was how close I was to the big twist surrounding Shane. I didn’t quite catch the location of the Core because of the bait and switch of what happened to it to begin with.

Seems that you were really worried about this twist, but I think, all things considered, you did a good job at summarizing and showing exactly what was going on between Shane, Nicky, and all that, so I don’t think any of this was particularly unbelievable. A few pieces were definitely left out to make it not too obvious until right here, and, more importantly, some red herrings were left to stray folks off the path, but I think overall this was a good, well-done reveal chapter… even if it was very, very long.

I actually don’t have a whole lot to criticize about this chapter, to be honest. It was all really solid. One design choice of the story that I am questioning a bit, though, is that we’re in the final act and new characters are still being introduced. I guess I’m more a fan of stemming the flow once the final act starts, but that’s honestly a really, really minor gripe at this point.

Good job. I think, for how nervous you felt about it, you handled it exceptionally well. Side note: Contingency plan seems to imply a means to revive someone even if they were killed a traditional way? If I’m reading that right, since they mentioned Incineroar and I’m pretty sure he went splat.


Ah, the fight against marShadow Lugia! It was definitely another one of those struggles, but I’d say the highlight here would be the moment when we see Shadow Lugia actually crying while fighting. Perhaps part of that was because Necrozma’s influence wasn’t quite there anymore compared to Zero’s, but it was still a perfect way to end the fight with Latias’ final assault; in terms of a character arc.

One thing that I noticed, which I don’t think I properly vocalized until now, was that you have a tendency to use “stock cultural phrases” during dramatic moments, which I think can sometimes detract from the scene due to how casual it sounds. For example, “bawling her eyes out” is an understandable phrase, but it isn’t particularly specific or descriptive in terms of how they’re doing it, or what it actually looks or sounds like. The same goes for “turning on the waterworks” and so on. I think, for scenes like this, it’s much better to describe it out than trivialize it with such phrases.

That remark about Gallian being more disappointed at the belly rub ending than being silenced was a good one. The moment of respite in general was nice, more wrapping up of character arcs and in general getting things for the sides taken care of (before you probably pull a Super Paper Mario in the final act, if I had to guess.) And you finally put on the nose a little theme that Team Radiance has been going through—that Shane and Tessa have a tendency to fix up the problems of those they meet (aside from the dead Dragon tribe, but I guess they weren’t actually there for that.) Does that mean they’re going to find a way to patch things up for Nicky and Prisma, too? I wonder how far this theme will go.

Ahhhh NOW I see. Ho-Oh is one thing, but then we have the Super Dragon Ba—I mean, Ultra Ho-Oh to do the actual proper resetting. I guess when you need something like that to bring folks back, you definitely need a lot of help. And that also seems to explain exactly what happened to the original Light Duo, too. Interesting… Will they pick and choose? Or are they just doing a blanket rewind? Huh. It’s almost like what Zero wants except with the gods. Ironic.

Though, that sort of reminds me of another problem: If Void is beaten, would the planet rip itself apart? What then? Actually, the defeat of Necrozma isn’t even my main focus at this point. Somehow, that’s going to happen. The real question is what’ll happen to Void Termina, the planet, and—and this one’s the most interesting—the current gods. Their main purpose was to keep the Ley Lines in check, right? The Tree of Life and Temporal Tower were both results of Arceus trying to keep things balanced. If the source of the distortions are gone… what then? Retirement? Or will they become normal Pokémon, or something—the end of the era of gods? Or do we get to see Giratina playing at the beach?

Their plan to revive everyone just to kill them all in an all-out attack on Temporal Tower borders on silly. It might work, but good luck, folks! Given that Team Radiance is already deep into the fight, I wonder just how long they’ll be able to do that. And more importantly, if he can only revive spirits one at a time, how long does each one take, like, per second?

I’m just imagining a tower defense system except Necrozma and Zero are splatting a bunch of Pokémon in an endless loop of them coming in to do chip damage.

93, 94

The battle against Volcarona was crazy and hectic as ever, and I’m probably repeating myself in general with how these battles are going at this point, so I’ll just move past it since you did well. I will comment, however, on the fact that the narrative significance of the fight was a bit of a letdown. There was this buildup of mystery for this strange butterfly and an amalgamation of two of the ultimate Legendaries—Mewtwo, considered the strongest Legend in a lot of works, and Rayquaza, who got banned so fast from Smogon I actually agreed. Yet it just amounted to what was effectively a random final fight, even lower in significance than the battle against Midnight. I dunno. I thought there was going to be a bigger twist with the butterfly than just a Kirby reference.

The fight against Dragonite was nice, and I’m going to highlight Silvally’s new powerup. It was well done and justified, I’d say, though I’m curious what you’re saving Dragonite for in the final act, especially after that commentary that she’s stronger than Zero. Is that gloating, or is that actually true…? For some reason, I don’t think that’s quite true. And it’s nice that the talk with Ultra Ho-Oh actually acknowledged some of my concerns up above, too!


Okay anyway—like, uh—the first part with Zero was interesting, because Shane’s showing knowledge and other stuff that… seems like he knows a lot more. And what happened to Necrozma? Shane’s playing mind games… if that’s really “Shane.” But whatever the games are, it seems to be working. I think you actually handled that really well, in terms getting under Zero’s skin to perhaps get her off her game. She’s typically cool and collected and invincible, so breaking through that definitely helps.

Oh damn, there goes Silvally… right? I can’t tell. But that was a strong scene for how much he was breaking down, going for a last-ditch effort to actually save the world. I think how this plays out will depend on the aftermath, because it’s pretty hard to get a judge on it in the heat of the action, especially since there was a bit of talking-is-a-free-action going on during it, too. But sometimes it’s necessary, considering what you were trying to deliver.

“Short of finding a new world…” Okay, no. That’s too obvious. They aren’t just going to Ultra Ho-Oh’s world, right? I mean, it’s possible… but… Hmm. I wonder if this is how you’re going to do that Super Paper Mario crisis climax… Also, side note, this chapter is just making me realize that I kinda wish Latias was more of a main character. I feel like she could have used more time to develop into how she is now, even if I like how it’s going for her.

Side note, I really, really like Haxorus.

Okay, yep. During Zero’s downfall, Shane’s acting reeeeally suspicious. He’s definitely not Shane, is possessed, or, well, you know. Necrozma took over. And then it happened—that was a good reveal, since the twist was obvious but it wasn’t too far away that it came totally out of left field. We’ve gone from one boss to the next, this time presumably the final one, or semifinal. There’s always a chance for a TLB from Void itself, after all.

Okay, this was an incredibly long episode, despite the average chapter count. It was mostly fighting with a bit of character development in between. Highlights for me would be Shane versus Midnight, Latias versus Lugia, and Tessa versus Zero—all because they were satisfying conclusions to character arcs, to an extent, although the last one had a bit more. The penultimate episode is over… Now to see how it all ends.

Episode 16


I don’t… have anything bad to say about this chapter. Yeah, a few typos and whatever, but… no. Nothing. This was just all-around one of your strongest chapters—and as a start to the episode, no less! This was by far your strongest start, and to do it on your final (main) episode—amazing timing. Everything from Shane’s surreal mind game with Void, to the whole cast banding together for a final Ultra Beast assault, to Tessa and the ultimate Legends banding together for the final fight against Necrozma made for an extremely powerful and, dare I say, hype, overture. That’s really all I have to say—I’m genuinely impressed by how this finale is going, and I’m at the same time learning a lot of notes that I’ll need to keep in mind for the future.

Good. Job.


Now, the next interesting fight, Espy versus Silvally! And it seems, based on the Shane scenes and then the way Espeon’s reacting, this actually is him, just, well, corrupted. Good thing Espeon saved that Z-Power, though I’m curious how she’s going to be able to get a reversal on him unless it’s another Lugia moment. I do wonder if the relationship between Silvally and Espeon could have been expanded upon a bit more; the most notable scene that I can remember was what happened shortly after they met Zoroark and Gallian, right? After that, it was a bit of a blur of scattered interactions. I guess it was hard to juggle all the relationships, or I’m missing a few key scenes at the moment.

Next is Tessa versus Shane, which… I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with this one at first, since Shane’s still with Void, right? Or something. Maybe the Void Shadows are taking a more elaborate approach to lull her into submission.

Also, side note, you do a lot of “I… I…” in this part. A bit repetitive.

Buuuut anyway… apocalypse time! I called it, too. While it was more a World of Light sort of apocalypse than a Super Paper Mario apocalypse, it was still more or less what I was imagining when I made that little prediction. All that was left was Ho-Oh, Lunala, and Team Radiance…

And… I’m caught up. Would you look at that. And now I’m advancing to doing a look-over of things in advance, too, so… will this be my last review? Nah. Even if I beta everything from here on out, I’m absolutely leaving you a final overall once everything’s all over, at the very least. This has been quite a ride. It had its ups and downs, but you’ve really hit it out of the park with this finale episode, with what has been written so far. I eagerly await the final finale.


Winter can't come soon enough
@git-it: Glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, there was a bit of a sense of "this seems too easy" going on at the end there before Necrozma came in and, well, Galeem'd everything. As to your suggestion about them finding another world, stay tuned. And thanks again for reviewing! ^^

It's time to begin the final battle! Thanks to @Namohysip for beta-ing this part. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Enjoy!


Chapter 97: Heaven-Scorching Light of Destruction

~Cornell University, New York~

Geoff made his way past the brown, circular ordering station with students littered around it, slinging his black, puffy winter coat over his right arm. His boots squeaked against the white, stone floor, leaving a trail of slush behind him. Geoff zeroed in on the centermost white, plastic table where a brunette sat in one of the gray, metal chairs, staring at her iPhone.

"Hello, Rebecca. Might I interest a lovely co-ed like you in the pleasure of my company?"

Rebecca looked up from her phone. She brushed hair out of her eyes. "Oh, Geoff. I was actually waiting for Samantha, but—"

Geoff threw his hands behind his head and scratched at his short brown hair. "Ah, shucks. And here I was gonna ask you about the run-up to finals, but I guess they've got you too stressed to even talk. Guess I'll be on my way, then." He put on the most dejected look he could muster, stuffed his free hand into a pocket, and shuffled off.

"Oh, brother. You know I was kidding, right?" Rebecca rolled her eyes.

"Of course I did." Geoff slid into the chair opposite hers. "I was joking, too."

"Looked more like you were desperate," Rebecca said, swiping at her iPhone.

"Well, what's so important that you'd rather pay more attention to your phone than catch up with a friend, huh?" Geoff said, fluttering his eyelids.

"We Snapchatted for an hour, yesterday," Rebecca deadpanned. She sighed. "But it's whatever. My mom sent me this link to an article. It's, uh…" She held up the phone. "Well, just take a look for yourself."

The screen had a mobile version of the Syracuse Post-Standard pulled up. Geoff squinted at it.

Police Search for Missing Driver Continues
By Ophelia Porter

SYRACUSE, NY. A desperate search to find a young man who seemingly disappeared from a major car accident continues into its third day. Two nights ago, authorities arrived on the scene of a car crash near the employee parking lot for Upstate Medical Center. One of the drivers, 35-year-old Angeline Marquez, was found lying against her vehicle's airbag, which safely deployed. Authorities rushed her to the emergency department at Upstate, where she was found to have broken ribs, a concussion, and a BAC of 0.15, almost two times the legal limit. She is facing criminal charges for driving while intoxicated and possible vehicular manslaughter, pending the results of the police's ongoing investigation.

The missing driver in question has been identified by the plates on his totaled vehicle as 19-year-old Shane Whitley of Old Geddes.

"Damn. Whitley? Like… Prissy Nicky's retarded friend?" Geoff handed the phone back to Rebecca, who cringed. "Cripes. I had wondered what had happened to that dweeb. Never saw his name in the college map the old school paper printed off. Figured he got, like, committed to a mental hospital or something." Geoff took a straw and placed it in Rebecca's cup of water. In between sips, he added, "I mean, come on. The guy brought Pokémon plushies with him everywhere. He needed the help."

"Really, Geoff?"

"What?" Geoff froze mid-sip and stared blankly at her.

"Geoff, we're at Cornell. I'm going to rush a sorority after winter break." Rebecca took the phone back and shook her head. "I can't walk around using language like that. It's all behind us." She shivered. "And I never want to talk to another lawyer for the rest of my life."

"Amen to that," Geoff said. Rebecca snatched the glass of water away from him before he could take another sip. Geoff slouched back in his seat. "Well, if he really did bite the big one, least he can finally be together with his boyfriend in the afterlife."

Rebecca's brow furrowed. She got to her feet, looking down at her phone. "I'm sorry. I have to go."

Geoff stood up as well. "Already? Weren't you waiting on Samantha?"

"She just texted me that she got held up at the student health center. I'm going to meet her for a movie later, instead," Rebecca said. She tried to make a beeline for the door, but Geoff blocked her path.

"What are you talking about? Your phone didn't go off," Geoff said, a skeptical eyebrow raised.

"Look. I don't have time to explain. Just…"

The large, LED lights flickered over their heads. All of the students conversing with one another looked up in unison. "The hell was that?" Geoff asked, staring up at the ceiling. "We getting power surges? Cripes, didn't think the snow was supposed to fall again until this evening."

"It's… it's not a power surge," Rebecca whispered, staring out the window. Geoff followed his gaze and his expression only grew more confused.

"The hell happened to the sun? There wasn't a cloud in the sky when I got here," Geoff said.

Rebecca ran for the entrance and threw it open. She ran out toward the parking lot of the old, brownstone Physical Sciences Building, only to stumble to a stop. On the campus roads to her left and right, cars had pulled over to each side, their hazard lights flashing. Drivers and passengers climbed out of their vehicles. Students and faculty filed out of the building behind her. Everyone's gazes were trained up toward the sky. Rebecca looked up. Her heat rate spiked.

Like Geoff had said, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. And she hadn't read anything about any total solar eclipses. Her little brother was an astronomy nut. He'd have been gushing nonstop if one was due to happen. And yet, she found herself looking at a large, black sphere eclipsing the sun. The sky had turned a sinister shade of blood-red.

"What is this?" Rebecca whispered. She lifted her phone up, ready to snap a photo of the strange phenomenon, when a bright white circle appeared on the sidewalk in front of her. "Ah!" Rebecca was so startled, she dropped her iPhone to the ground. The screen shattered instantly. But her gasp turned into a scream when a golden, ethereal arm burst forth from the concrete and grabbed hold of her like a living dumbbell.

"YoU ShOULdN'T HaVe LIeD aBoUT mE!"

"Holy shit! Rebecca!"

Geoff tried to shove his way through the crowd of students, but it erupted into a panicked frenzy. Students fled in all directions, knocking Geoff around as they headed for the parking lot or back inside the building.

Rebecca screeched in pain as golden light surged across her body. Geoff staggered to halt, watching in stunned silence as Rebecca's clothes and skin burned away before his eyes. In their places appeared dark-gray scales and a purple belly with pink, wavy markings. A black, star-shaped mark spread across her belly. Rebecca's fingers lengthened. Her hair dissolved away in shadowy plumes. An invisible force grabbed what was left of her nose and stretched it out, created a snout. Rebecca's eyes expanded. Her pupils shrank to feral slits, her irises vanished, and her sclera shifted from white to pink.

"NoW YoU LOoK lIKe ThE SkAnK YoU ReaLLy ArE!"

Those students who hadn't fled the scene had their phones out, recording every moment of the horrifying transformation. Geoff swatted the nearest phones out of their owners' hands. "Rebecca!" he shouted, finally finding his voice.

He sprinted toward the gold circle in the floor, but it was too late. The arm pulled Rebecca into a circular, checkerboard portal. Geoff staggered to a stop as the portal shut itself, silencing Rebecca's screams. That didn't matter, however, because more volleys of panicked shouts and cries rang out. All around Geoff, portals had opened, revealing more golden arms. Two of them ripped off chunks of the Physical Science building and hurled them into the parking lot, smashing cars apart. Others had grabbed hold of students and were flinging them around like rag dolls.

"Holy shit… holy shit… holy shit…" Arms trembling, Geoff managed to pull his cell phone out from his pocket. He fumbled about trying to turn it on, then could barely keep it pressed to his ear.

"9-1-1. What is your emergency?"

Geoff hyperventilated.

"Excuse me? Is anyone there?"

Geoff blinked, then managed to find his voice.

"My school's being attacked by aliens!"

"Sir? Sir, where are you?"

Geoff was about to answer, when a car alarm blared overhead. He looked up just in time to see a Toyota SUV falling right toward him.


~Ultra Space~

Shane was at a loss for words. One second, he was reuniting with his friends. The next, Lunala had him wrapped him in a bear hug. Through her wing membranes, Shane could make out bright lights and strange geometrical objects. He even swore he saw a comet in the distance. Yet, despite the bizarre sights, something about them felt… familiar. Inviting, even.

It then struck him that he'd been here before… when Necrozma pulled him from the human world following his car accident. "T-Tessa! We're… we're in Ultra Space," he said. "Lunala, what's going on here?"

"I'd like to know that, myself," Ephemeris said, surrounded by a faint shield of golden light. In one leg, he clutched Espy, screaming in terror thanks to the sights of Ultra Space overwhelming her. Silvally wasn't faring much better. He was tense, eyes wide and darting about it. His cheek bolts revved in his sockets, creating sparks that made Ephemeris shift about uneasily.

"Please, you must calm down! I'm not sure I can hang onto you two if you keep this up," Ephemeris said, wincing.

"Calm down? Calm down?! Look at where we are!" Espy cried.

Tessa struggled to make out much of anything. "W… wait. If we're in Ultra Space, then…" Her aura feelers trembled. "What's happening to our world? Lunala, say something!"

Lunala frowned. "I… well, I… um…" Her third eye flickered. "I sensed something… a powerful force. I didn't see any other options but to flee into Ultra Space."

"That could've been Necrozma!" Tessa barked. Lunala squeaked in surprise, but managed to keep her passengers wrapped up.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I just… here, I'll open up another wormhole and—"

A jagged, golden ripple formed in front of everyone. Golden arms shot out in several directions, tearing Ultra Wormholes open as they went. Ephemeris looked uneasily at Lunala. "That… that's not normal."

Lunala's third eye glowed. "No. Energy is leaking out into Ultra Space from our world. That's bad! Really bad! I have to get us back there." She fired a beam from her third eye at the golden light. To her relief, an Ultra Wormhole opened. However, it was asymmetric, with strange shapes in it that didn't match the usual checkerboard pattern her wormholes had.

"I don't like the look of that," Espy whimpered.

"We don't have a choice," Silvally said, tensing up.

"Brace yourselves, everyone." Ephemeris flew into the wormhole first. Lunala took a moment to levitate Shane and Tessa onto her back. Like Ephemeris, she projected a purple barrier around them to keep them safe as they flew into the wormhole.

For a few seconds, they passed brightly-colored lights. Then the wormhole ended. Only, instead of finding themselves staring down at any sort of planet, what they got instead was a complete and total mess of crystallized chunks of land, floating haphazardly with no discernable pattern. In the distance, a jagged rift sat open. White-hot flames danced around the rift and the light it projected was so bright, it hurt Shane to look at it.

Espy's ears and tail shot up. "This… this isn't our world!"

Silvally frowned. His head crest fanned out. "I… I wouldn't be too sure about that." He shakily pointed a foreleg forward. A giant ball of static hung near the rift. Pieces of crystallized debris swirled around it, alongside familiar black, thorny chains.

"Those are ley lines!" Tessa threw her paws up in front of her mouth. Her eyes widened. "No… no, it can't be!"

"Heeheeheehee! But it can!"

Rainbow energy flickered in Tessa's eyes. Shane's tails shot up in alarm. "Necrozma! Get out here, you… you bastard!" Tessa snarled. "What did you do to our world?!"

"Isn't it obvious? I destroyed it! Just as I said I would!"

Shane's eyes widened. His gaze fell toward Lunala's back. "No…" His lip trembled. "After all of that… all of the struggle… you mean to say we failed?"

"Aww, why the long face?"

The giant ball of static energy rippled. Two large red eyes appeared on its fringes, along with a mouth reminiscent of what Necrozma had when he possessed Lunala.

"After all, it's me. Your best friend… not!"

Bolt-like beams shot out in random directions. None of them got anywhere close to Ephemeris or Lunala.

"At long last… I'm finally whole once more!" Now more distorted than ever, Necrozma's voice seemed to come from all around Team Radiance. "You fools were so desperate to save one another… you let me finish everything I needed to unimpeded."

"That's… but that's…" Tessa's aura feelers trembled. "I don't understand. You were possessing Shane, but you were also fighting the gods, weren't you?"

"That's the beauty of it! I was never really there." Necrozma's distorted laughs echoed through the cosmos. "I had my full core back, after all. All I needed was a good source of energy and I could control both Shane and Silvally from a distance. And, wouldn't you know it, the sun — my sun, that I created! — was the perfect instrument for the job.

"I used its energy not only to puppet your friends around, but to make all those Ultra Beast copies to bog everyone else down," Necrozma continued, barely able to contain the glee in his voice. "Then, to really throw you all off the trail, I called on the figurative ace up my sleeve: Zygarde!" Another laugh echoed through the darkened sky.

"Zygarde? Where does he fit into this?" Lunala said, frowning.

"Before Prisma wrestled control of my core away from me, I trapped Zygarde in the Ultra Nexus. After all… the god of order could've posed a serious problem if left unchecked." Heavy, distorted panting sounded. Shane's tails curled up in fright. "I pulled him out of his prison and made him into a doppelganger… and those sad, sorry gods fell for the ploy, hook, line, and sinker!"

The ball of static pulsated. "Was it a foolproof plan? Of course not. I overextended my powers, so my attacks against you weren't very strong. You fools were even able to free your pathetic friends from my grasp. But… heeheeheehee… I still ought to thank you all. Even though my return from the Ultra Nexus has been a grueling struggle… with your help, I've managed to do something even better than gaining back my lost light!"

Shane tensed up. He squeezed his eyes shut, silently begging all of this to be another twisted nightmare. Beside him, Tessa needed every ounce of willpower not to dig her paw-spikes into Lunala's back. Rainbow lines rippled through her fur. Shane quickly wrapped his rightmost tail around her arm, shooting her a pleading look when her aura feelers curled up.

"I didn't just take in light from my sun. No. Thanks to all of the pathetic fools you convinced to take up arms against me… I now have the spirits of everything in this wretched world! Every mortal! Every departed soul residing in the Tree of Life… or trapped in the Voidlands after Dark Matter's last attack! Not to mention every lesser and immortal god… save for these two, of course. Heeheehee… gyahahaha!"

The new laugh made Shane's blood run cold. He saw the look of utter terror on his teammates' faces. Even Silvally, for all the brave faces he had given throughout their travels, couldn't muster one up in the face of this new revelation.

"I am now the single, unopposed power throughout all of reality!" Necrozma declared. "Once I siphon off every last drop of light from the sun, I will flood this world with Ultra Space, then move onto the next one. One by one… each and every world will fall to my light. And it starts with our wonderful human world."

"You wouldn't!" Shane gasped.

"Oh, but it's already begun! Remember Rebecca? That conniving bitch is now stuck in the Ultra Nexus in the body of a Salazzle!" Necrozma thundered. "And when I'm through with you whelps, I'll drag her out kicking and screaming to show her true terror! I will make each and every inhabitant of earth regret the day they were born… useless and human. I will give them… despair and death."

Shane's tails shot between his legs. It was horrifying enough what Necrozma had done to his friends with just a few spirits at his beck and call. But now he had every spirit? How were they even supposed to stand up to that? Could they even stand up to it? They'd had a lot of lucky breaks, sure. But even without ESP, Shane could tell that ball of static was bad news.

"Wonderful! Marvelous! Fantastic! Your fear… your hopelessness… I can feel it radiating off of you! See what I did there? Gyahahaha!" The ball of static sucked up two fireballs from the rift. "You don't need to say anything. I know what you're all thinking. Your friends… your family… you miss them all so much. Well, I have good news. I'm more than happy to let you join them… as a part of my being! You will all become one with the void… jUSt aS YoUR WoRLD hAS!"

"… no."

Shane's head snapped toward Tessa. Her eyes were flooded with dread. "Are you crazy? We don't need to make him any more upset," Shane said, ears folding against his head.

"What did you just say? Speak up, spineless runt!"

"I said no. I refuse your offer… and every other offer you can possibly come up with! We can beat you! This isn't over!" Tessa said, her voice trembling. Her aura feelers quivered.

"Gyahahaha! Fool! You truly don't get it, do you? You have nothing left to fight for. Literally!" Necrozma said.

"That's not true! I can fight for the spirits you imprisoned." Tessa raised a shaky paw. It flickered with blue flames. "For all the hopes and dreams that you tore away from them!" She looked at Shane pleadingly.

"Imbecile! Hopes… dreams… life itself. All of these things wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the void. They are meaningless! I will erase them all and leave only chaos behind!" Necrozma declared. "In fact… why am I even bothering with this exchange? My Z-Power courses through all of you. With my powers… I can control the lot of you with just a snap!"

The last word came out as a roar. Shane braced himself for some sort of strike, but nothing happened. His ears twitched. The sounds of snapping claws echoed through the air. "Grr… I said… I can control the lot of you with just a snap!" Necrozma hollered. Again, nothing happened. "What is the meaning of this? You four should be tearing your mounts limb from limb!"

"It's not going to be that easy, Necrozma," Ephemeris said, a golden glow radiating off his body. "As the former god of rebirth… I won't let you get your greedy claws on any of us."

"Fool! I don't know what world you crawled out of, but I will make you sorely regret sticking your neck into this," Necrozma roared.

Shane looked back and forth between Tessa and the ball of static, then nodded slowly. "No, you won't. Because Tessa's right! This world… it's had more than its fair share of miracles! So, what's one more? If we're working together… I think we can take you down!"

Espy winced. "Whether we resist you or not… you're gonna kill or control us anyway. I'd rather go out fighting!" She nodded at her teammates.

"Golem built me to destroy gods!" Silvally narrowed his eyes at the ball of static. "It looks like, after all this time, I'm finally going to fulfill that dream of his… by taking down his other creation!"

Ephemeris and Lunala nodded at one another. "And, of course, we'll assist you as best we can," Lunala said.

"So, you really intend to stand against me… Void Necrozma? Heeheeheehee…"

The ball of static faded away, revealing a monstrous, golden light dragon that towered over both Ephemeris and Lunala. Necrozma spread his four wings apart, revealing rainbow, hexagonal tiles trailing from his wing joints. He opened his two, multicolored eyes. A third, red eye with a reptilian, slit-like pupil appeared on his forehead. Large spikes jutted out of his chest, each one bearing a winged-heart sigil. He opened his mouth and golden energy vapors streamed out of it.

Shane's tails shot between his legs. "B… big. So big," he whimpered.

"Then you will die as you lived… complete and utter idiots!"

Continued in next post.


Winter can't come soon enough
Continued from previous post.


Golden light flashed inside the rift. Multiple golden energy balls appeared around Necrozma. He pointed an upper wing forward and the energy balls homed toward Ephemeris and Lunala. Ghostly energy gathered in Lunala's wings. She fired a purple beam straight at the oncoming projectiles.


To Lunala's horror, the golden energy balls burst through her Moongeist Beam with little effort. "Ah! Hang on, you guys!" Lunala spread her wings out and dove down.

"Ha! There's no escape. You can't do anything to me!"

Lunala, Shane, and Tessa gasped. An unseen force propelled them up toward the geysers. Shane and Tessa screamed. Lunala managed to fight off Necrozma's control, however, and corkscrew past the energy balls right before they erupted in giant, golden geysers. Shane felt the energy brush against his tails. They crinkled up against his waist.

"Th… those were… like the golden energy ball attack I used," Shane said, blinking slowly.

"Of course they were. After all, it's my Photon Geyser!" Necrozma bellowed, his voice so loud it made Shane's ears fold against his head. "I must say, I'm impressed you escaped that so easily. Perhaps your status as an Ultra Beast affords you some protection against Arceus' Gravity."

Tessa's aura feelers shot up. "Wait… Arceus' Gravity?"

"Heeheeheehee! You don't expect me to just let these spirits fester inside of me, do you?" Necrozma grinned. Golden vapors drifted out of his open mouth. "Of course not. I'll use their powers to see you to your ends!" He raised his upper wings. The space around him began to distort.

"Stay on your guard," Ephemeris shouted. He spat up a giant golden fireball. Necrozma's multicolored eyes flashed. Some of the chains surrounding him stitched themselves into a Bronzong that harmlessly absorbed the fire.

"You cannot even so much as touch me! I'm not simply immortal… I'm invincible!" he boasted. Hoopa rings appeared around Ephemeris. Giant, crystalline hands shot out. Epehemris threw his wings up. A golden energy shield appeared. Ephemeris buckled. The hands pushed against his barrier. When it looked like it was about to crack, a Moongeist Beam engulfed the hands, shattering them along with the ring portals.

Lunala sighed in relief, only to turn and squeal at the sight of several approaching vortexes. She flapped her wings, thrusting herself backward. Shane and Tessa yelped, hanging on for dear life. The pull of the vortexes proved too strong, however. Tessa was plucked off Lunala's back and sucked toward the Spacial Rends.

"Tessa, no!" Shane hollered. He tried to grab hold of her with his ESP… but it didn't respond. Shane's eyes widened.

The vortexes vanished in a plume of golden fire. Lunala shot forward and caught Tessa in her psychic grip, then planted her on her back and sped off to dodge a blinding-white beam from Necrozma's eyes.

"Are you okay?" Shane asked, though one look at Tessa's face gave him all the answer he needed. The colors had practically drained off her fur and her limbs were shaking. Shane growled in frustration. "Why didn't my Psychic work?"

"Gyahahaha! What a fool! You really think I'd let you keep those enhancements you got from my Dawn Shards? Don't make me laugh," Necrozma said. "Oh, wait, I already did. Too bad." His multicolored eyes flashed. A dozen circular runes with winged-heart sigils appeared around him, forming what looked to be crystalline bows.

"Look out!" Espy cried as the bows shot Rayquaza-shaped arrows into the air. Each one turned into a gleaming emerald comet that made a beeline for Ephemeris and Lunala.

"Both of you… back me up with your strongest attacks," Lunala begged, her third eye glowing. Shane stared at the Rayquaza arrows, each glowing with the energy of what he assumed was Dragon Ascent. He gathered as much ice in his mouth as he could muster, but the Rayquaza arrow was easily five times the size of Shane's Ice Beam.

Nevertheless, the ice combined with gray energy from Tessa's paws and a crimson Night Daze shockwave from Lunala. It proved enough to destroy one arrow and permit safe passage to avoid the others. As Lunala flew past the arrows, a warm, tingling sensation flared up in Shane's left foreleg. He looked down and was startled to find that not only was his naturia looplet somehow intact, it was flickering orange.

"Huh?" Shane blinked in surprise. "Hey, Tessa, take a look at this." He tried to lift his forepaw to show his teammate, but Lunala banked hard to her left, barely rolling out of the way of a swipe from Necrozma's massive tail. Vortex-shaped energy blasts surged out in all directions. Tessa grabbed hold of Shane to keep him from sliding off Lunala. She stole a glance at her teammates, then sighed in relief when Ephemeris flew over the Spacial Rends.

"How pathetic! All you can do is dodge and dodge and dodge. You're not resisting… you're simply being stubborn!" Necrozma sneered, his third eye wriggling along with his head tendrils. "Why continue this farce? Is your will to live truly that strong… even knowing that all you are protecting is an existence where fear and survival instincts are all that drive people's actions?"

Necrozma's wings flared up with multicolored light. His main eyes shimmered. "He's getting ready for something big," Silvally said. "We've gotta attack him!" He shot a dragon-shaped energy beam that spiraled through the air. Necrozma's third eye flashed. He pulled one of the floating chunks of land in front of him and snuffed out Silvally's attack, along with the Psychic rings and golden Sacred Fire that followed.

"This was a fun warm-up, but I've had enough of this! Prismatic Laser!"

A rainbow beam as large as Necrozma raced toward Team Radiance. Tessa screamed and buried her face in Lunala's ethereal back. Lunala tucked her wings in and dove as fast as she could. The energy was growing closer. Shane completely lost sight of the warped battlefield, blinded by Necrozma's attack.

Lunala fanned her wings out and skimmed the base of the beam. Third eye glowing, she unleashed a Moongeist Beam. It surged toward Necrozma's golden, crystalline leg… only for a spectral Braviary to appear and harmlessly swallow up the attack. Braviary disappeared in a trail of light while Necrozma looked down at her and grinned.

"Heeheehee… gyahahaha! What did I tell you? It's useless." Necrozma opened his mouth wide and spewed a large flamethrower. Lunala raced ahead, zipping between Necrozma's legs. "Fool!" Necrozma prepared to strike Lunala with his tail when an Ice Beam and bright-white ball of fairy energy smacked his cheek.

"Stay away from them!" Silvally snarled. Necrozma turned toward them, summoning more Rayquaza arrows. Ephemeris turned tail and flew off as fast he could. Behind him, the arrows brimmed with emerald Dragon Ascent energy and large, fiery, V-shaped crescents.

"Your fates are sealed. You cannot defy them. This reality cannot defy its fate… to fall before my light!" Necrozma thundered. Espy and Silvally failed to destroy the nearest arrow with a Psychic-bolstered glob of water.

"These worlds do not deserve to exist! Gods and mortals continue to squander the gifts they stole from the void, be they humans, Pokémon, or Ultra Beasts."

Ephemeris spun around and unleashed a huge gust of wing. Silvally added Air Slash crescents to the wind storm. His tail wagged when three of the Rayquaza arrows veered off course and broke into emerald fragments.

"Fear brings suffering to each and every world. And with that suffering comes anger. Then the anger turns to outrage… and that outrage to hatred. And then the hatred begets more fear and more suffering."

"You're… nrrgh… full of nonsense!" Espy cried, forehead gem smoldering as she tried to repel the last remaining arrow with her psychic powers. Silvally pivoted and shot a massive Hyper Beam into the arrow. With Espy's Psychic backing it up, it broke through the V-Create and chipped the arrow's head. The rest of the crystal construct fell apart in bursts of emerald fire. Espy and Silvally smiled and bumped shoulders.

"Bah! Living creatures will do nothing but perpetuate the vicious cycle until they destroy themselves. That's why I'm skipping a few steps!"

Lunala managed to escape Necrozma's tail, but in the short time she was near him, Shane's looplet went from flickering to positively glowing. A familiar rush of vitality surged through him. It was like the times he'd touched the Dawn Shards and the full Dawn Hourglass. "Tessa… is your looplet glowing?" Shane asked.

"Huh?" Tessa was still trying to process the sights of the battle and Necrozma's unhinged ranting. She managed to look down at her looplet. Her aura feelers stuck up. It was glowing. "What does this mean? Should we… do we use our Z-Moves?"

"I… I don't know." Shane's brow furrowed. There was no conceivable way he could fire off a Z-Move while clinging to Lunala's back. He stared at his paw, biting his lower lip.

"Hey, if you two have any ideas, this would be a good time to speak up!" Lunala said, trying to weave through pink energy balls Necrozma sent toward her. Ephemeris was in a similar position, only Espy and Silvally were able to blast some out of the sky with their own attacks. Necrozma watched the whole scene with a bemused grin as more light gathered in his wings.

"He's going to use that Prismatic Laser attack again," Tessa realized, aura feelers trembling. "What should we do? All of our attacks don't even so much as phase him and I need to be able to at least stand to use a Z-Move." She looked despondently at her looplet.

"I… I…" Shane's eyes darted around. He had an idea, but it was a spur of the moment thing. Could it really work? "Lunala! Can… can we channel our Z-Power into you?"

Lunala deflected the last of the energy balls with a purple shield. "Hmm? Oh! I… I'm not really sure, to be honest. But it couldn't hurt to try, could it?"

Shane nodded. Given their situation, he'd take any opening he could possibly get. One quick glance at Necrozma told him another Prismatic Laser was seconds away. "Quick, Tessa. Focus on your Z-Power and try to push it into Lunala."

"I'll try!" Tessa drew up the Z-Power from her looplet. As its familiar warmth filled her body, she concentrated on Lunala. To her surprise, the warmth faded, but a brilliant orange aura surrounded Lunala.

"Ah! I… I feel so full of energy!" Lunala gasped. Her third eye glowed as brightly as Necrozma's wings.

"Gyahahaha! You won't escape me this time!"

Lunala brought her wings up. Small, moon-shaped crystals formed around her. Each one fired off a purple laser. The lasers converged to form a single, gigantic beam. It struck Necrozma's top chest spike and shattered it. Necrozma gasped. All of the energy gathering in his wings dispersed. When it did, Shane's eyes narrowed.

Ephemeris flew up beside them, a look of shock on his face. "Wow! Was that Z-Power? You actually managed to hit him."

"So, the key to beating him is Z-Power? But I used my Z-Move saving Silvally," Espy said, only to look at her looplet and realize that it was glowing, too. "Wait… what the—"

"Ah! That's it! That's how we try to turn this around," Shane said, ears twitching.

"I'm not sure I follow," Tessa said, frowning.

"All of these attacks Necrozma's using are releasing tremendous amounts of light. Light energy is the basis for Z-Power! As long as we're fighting Necrozma, we've practically got unlimited Z-Power at our disposal," Shane said, his heartrate picking up the more he spoke. "If we can keep avoiding Necrozma's attacks, we can keep charging up our looplets and funneling the power to Lunala to attack Necrozma!"

"Fools! You really think that's going to work against me? My powers are infinite! Any damage you do… I'll instantly heal right off!" Necrozma snarled, third eye wriggling. Soft moonlight appeared above him. The shattered chest-spike reappeared, as good as new.

"Come on! You've gotta be kidding me!" Espy said. She had to stop herself from smacking Ephemeris' back.

"No. This doesn't change anything," Shane said. "We stick to the same plan."

"But what about us? Can Ephemeris take Z-Power like Lunala?" Silvally wondered.

"It's worth a shot, isn't it?" Shane said. He looked to Tessa.

"Absolutely," Tessa said, offering Shane the closest to a confident grin she could manage.

Espy and Silvally exchanged looks, but nodded their support. "We're with you," Silvally said.

"Good. Because there's one other part to this… and I'm not sure you guys are gonna like it." Shane cleared his throat. "Ha ha! Boy, you really outdid yourself with this one, Nicky!"

Necrozma froze in the midst of gathering magma around his wings. "What did you just say?"

"Come on, dude! This is just like all the times we acted out our own Pokémon battles, isn't it?" Shane said, ignoring the stunned looks on his teammates' faces. "Making them as ridiculous as possible, using all the craziest moves, and creating a whole bunch of explosions! The bigger the better!" A goofy grin crept onto his face. "You really went above and beyond, here!"

Necrozma's tail lashed at the air. His head jerked to the side. The sight was hard to miss. "Shane, what are you up to?" Silvally wondered.

"When Necrozma tried to trap my spirit… I saw something. I… I think Nicky's still in there," Shane said.

Espy frowned. "Shane, I thought we went over this all the way back in Cosmic Cavern."

"We did. This isn't about trying to appeal to him or anything. It's about trying to rile Necrozma up so he gets careless with his attacks," Shane said, his eyes narrowing. "That's our opening… but it's only going to work if you guys back me up."

"Heehee… heeheeheehee! How much of a naïve fool do you take me for, boy?" Necrozma said, red expanding in his eyes and rippling down his body. "This is nothing like those sorry games of pretend. All I ever did was roll over and end up a doormat while you gave yourself the most amazing powers ever!"

"Move left. Left!" Shane hollered, wishing Lunala had fur or scales he could tug on. Lunala followed his instructions, veering away from a bevy of giant fireballs that surged right past her. Epehmeris banked in the other direction, but was never in any real danger of getting hit.

"Wow! Was that a bunch of Fusion Flares at once? Pretty crazy," Shane said, smirking. "I always thought you were more of a Zekrom guy, though."

"What does it matter? I have both of their powers! I could combine them and gain the bolstered effects if I chose to!" Necrozma said. Flames bristled in his right wings and electricity crackled in his left wings. "How does it feel for the shoe to be on the other foot, Shane? Instead of you getting all the godly powers… I have them! After all these years, it's finally time for me to win!"

Shane's tails shot up. Was his strategy… actually doing something? Sure, there was still the same burning anger in Necrozma's voice from earlier, but instead of deranged ranting, there were complaints about the games of pretend Shane had played with Nicky. And, well, what he was saying was true.

"T-Tessa, I think the plan's work—"

Necrozma jerked his head violently to the left. "SiLEnCE, wHElP! ThIS Is My MoMEnT oF trIUmPh!" Flames and electricity mixed together by Necrozma's chest. Plasma shockwaves spread toward Team Radiance. Lunala flew underneath one, but couldn't pull up fast enough to avoid a second one. She screeched in pain. Shane and Tessa also tensed up, but the pain proved minimal. The attack didn't even knock Lunala off course that much. She was able to right herself quickly and fly toward Ephemeris.

Golden glimmers of light appeared on Necrozma's wing joints. The crystalline hinges opened up, revealing four reptilian eyes much like the one on Necrozma's forehead. The eyes stared Team Radiance down in unison. Shane raised a curious eyebrow.

'Those eyes… I don't think Necrozma really wants them to be there.'

He cleared his throat. "You're going to have to try harder than that to stop us." Shane conjured up a burst of white energy and sent it toward Necrozma. Espy added a Dazzling Gleam of her own.

"Pathetic!" Necrozma formed a Hoopa ring. It swallowed the combined Dazzling Gleams up. A second Hoopa ring appeared by Ephemeris. He caught sight of it fast enough to let shoot out a golden fireball. Silvally added his own Flamethrower to the mix, blowing apart the Hoopa ring before it could release the Dazzling Gleam.

Shane looked down at his looplet. It was glowing again. "It's working," he said. "We can keep using the Z-Power. Lunala, next time you attack, you have to focus on one of those eyes on Necrozma's wings. Can you do that?"

"I can certainly try," Lunala said, flying up to pull even with one of Necrozma's upper wings.

"What should I do, Shane?" Tessa wondered. "I can fire Aura Spheres and Flash Cannons, but I don't think they'll do any good."

"I need you to help me keep talking to Necrozma," Shane said.

Tessa's aura feelers shot up. "Are… are you sure? I'm not really sure what to say to him. He's, y'know, totally lost his mind."

"Just say some of that determined stuff you said before," Shane said, offering an assuring look. "I trust you, Tessa. We can pull this off… together." He shifted his right paw toward her.

Tessa looked at his forepaw, then nodded. She joined her paw with his. "Hey, Necrozma! You big bully! You spent all this time ranting and raving about how the gods betrayed you. So, why are you using their powers, huh? Makes you look like a giant hypocrite!" Tessa wondered if she was overdoing things, but Shane gave her a reassuring nod. "Are you too scared to face us with your own powers? I thought that was what you wanted your core back for!"

Necrozma's main eyes turned bright orange. They twitched. "Insolent little rat! The gods were never supposed to exist in the first place. Their mistakes and backstabbing are proof of that! I've taken back what rightfully belongs to me!" Necrozma summoned more gold energy balls. He struck them with his wings, knocking them at Lunala and Ephemeris.

One thing Team Radiance had on their side, though, was that Necrozma's size made his attacks painfully telegraphed. By the time the Photon Geysers moved forward, Lunala was already by Necrozma's right side. Shane and Tessa activated their naturia looplets in unison, sending more energy surging through Lunala's body.

She raised her wings up, unleashing six purple beams. Lunala swiveled them forward, where they merged together. Necrozma's eyes flashed. The purple beam struck against an invisible barrier. "I won't let you get away with that again," Necrozma snarled. "I am destruction incarnate! You cannot stop me!" Light tendrils surged toward him from the rift leading to the sun. Lunala's eyes widened as the barrier pushed back against her beam.

"Keep it up! He's just saying that to mess with us," Shane said through gritted teeth. His looplet burned against his foreleg, but he refused to give in. "Isn't that right, Nicky? I know how much you enjoyed big, bombastic boasts!"

"Is that alliteration supposed to be cute? What a farce! I didn't enjoy it! You made me play the bad guy every. Damn. Time! You— ngarrrgh!"

Lunala's Z-Move broke through Necrozma's barrier. The beam struck his upper right wing at the same time as a monstrous golden fireball. An explosive chain reaction engulfed the wing. Necrozma kicked at the air with his legs. His distorted screech split the multicolored, static-filled skies.

"The wing's gone," Espy realized, squinting to see through all the smoke. Her forepaw was sore after giving off Z-Power, but she forced herself to keep a brave face. "But he's going to heal it again, isn't he?" she said, frowning.

Silvally's cheek bolts whirred. "Not if we attack the spot it had grown out of!" He released the Hyper Beam he was charging up, but a gigantic thunderbolt vaporized it before it got very far. Necrozma thrashed about, eyes flashing between red and purple hues.

"StOP iT!"

"No! I'm going to beat them!"

Necrozma smacked the empty joint where his wing had previously been, then a bright flash surged through is body.

"Hmph. You can pelt me with attacks as much as you'd like, but it won't do any good," Necrozma said between bouts of hyena-like laughter. He looked at the smoldering stump where his wing was supposed to be. His eyes flashed white… but nothing happened. "What the—" His eyes glowed white… but he failed to do anything. "Bah! Whatever! It doesn't matter. I don't even need these wings to fly! And I don't need them to destroy you all!"

"We better get back," Tessa said, aura feelers tensing. Chains swirled around Necrozma's head. While she was happy Shane's idea had done something, she wondered if they could really afford to keep this up. "U-Um…" She cleared her throat. "Oh, look, using your dumb alchemy chain stuff again, are you? Boy, that routine is getting tiring."

"Yeah! I'm sure you detest Golem as much as I do! So, why are you using the same techniques as him, huh?" Silvally barked, cheek bolts revving. "Even though you don't want to admit it, you're really no different than him! All you know how to do is hate!"

"Fool! Hatred is what made me into this. Hatred is the pox rotting these undeserving worlds from their insides out," Necrozma said. "I'm not using the same techniques! I've evolved them into something greater!" The chains finished forging a gigantic axe with a head resembling Arceus' wheel. "Now perish!"

The axe disappeared in a flash of light, only to pop up between Necrozma's legs. He gripped them with his claws and flew toward Ephemeris, the axe trailing behind him.

Espy's eyes widened. "Fly away. Fly away!" she screamed.

"Too late!" Necrozma crooned. He spun around, bringing the axe up, and slammed it down. A crystal piece of debris swerved into the axe's path. It struck with a thunderous clang. Shockwaves of golden energy raced forward. They swept Ephemeris up, drowning out his startled squawk and the pained cries of Espy and Silvally.

"Oh no!" Tessa looked to Shane.

"I'm on it!" Lunala's third eye glowed. She managed to grab hold of Ephemeris and his passengers and pull them away before Necrozma slashed at the air a second time. She barely got them out of the way of the shockwaves in time. "Are you all right?"

Espy's looplet shined so brightly it was hard to stare at her. "Ow." Her fur smoldered. Likewise, Silvally's beak and feathers had black streaks running through them. Ephemeris' feathers were also completely disheveled

"I'm… hanging in there," he said. Ephemeris got Espy and Silvally safely positioned on his back. Golden healing energy raced up toward them, undoing the damage from Necrozma's attack.

"You stupid, foolish oversized chicken! I will obliterate you!" Necrozma said. He spun around, ready to strike with the axe once again.

"It's now or never!" Espy cried, pumping Z-Power into Ephemeris' back. Shane and Tessa followed suit. With the axe barreling toward them, Ephemeris and Lunala unleashed a golden firestorm and giant purple laser, respectively. They connected with the eye in Necrozma's lower left wing. He screamed in pain. Explosions swallowed up the wing. The axe vanished seconds before it would've slashed Ephemeris, Espy, and Silvally in half.

"What's the matter, big guy? You're not looking so hot! Maybe all this anger and destruction is giving you a bit of a guilty conscience," Espy said, trying to sound tough but betrayed by the slight tremble to her voice. She wished she could've said it was adrenaline, but the fear that the crazed look in Necrozma's eyes sent down her spine was all too visible. Right when it looked like he was about to say something, his head jerked to the right.

"EnOUGh Of ThIS! I Am VoiD NEcROZma, DivInE LiGHt Of OBlivIOn! I WiLL noT sInK to YoUR leVEL! I dON'T PlAY bY AnY Of YOuR RuLEs. I'Ve EvOLvEd BeYoND aNy RuLEs!" Necrozma thundered. "UlTImA!"

"Ulti-what?!" Silvally gawked as Necrozma craned his head up and spat a brilliant golden fireball into the air. It exploded into an entire series of concentric golden runes with a large pentagram directly above Necrozma's head.

"BeGONe, aLl Of yOu!" He pointed his remaining two wings forward. A ring of golden light pillars surrounded him, then raced toward Lunala and Ephemeris. They both tried to weave their way through, but more light pillars appeared in the outermost circles of Necrozma's giant rune. There was nowhere left for them to fly.

"Quickly, Lunala. With me!" Ephemeris said, spreading his wings wide. Lunala flew up toward his stomach. Ephemeris pressed his wings to hers. They both channeled their energy together, forging a half-purple, half-gold barrier. A light pillar struck them from above. Though their barrier cracked and Team Radiance collectively cried out in a panic, they managed to hang through the attack.

"LoAThsome pests. You are doing nothing but delaying the inevitable!" Necrozma hissed. Silhouettes of various gods appeared all around him. He pointed at his opponents and the silhouettes took off.

"We're not delaying anything! You're getting desperate," Tessa said. "All this time, you've done nothing but act for your own selfish, twisted desires. But the world doesn't work that way. We get strength from one another! And it's time you learned that lesson!"

"Liar!" Necrozma's voice grew less distorted and his eyes twitched. The silhouettes of Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina sailed wide of Ephemeris. "There's no strength to be had in any relationship in any world! People only know how to look out for themselves. Selfishness and survivability are all that matters to living creatures. Subject their relationships to even the tiniest bit of stress and they collapse like an weathered bridge."

"That's not true!" Shane said, barely hanging on as Lunala pulled up from a dive to dodge the exploding silhouettes of Reshiram and Zekrom. He spat out ice breath to dispel the lingering flames and lightning.

"It is! Two worlds I tried to put my trust in others… and in both cases I had my life ruined because of it!" Necrozma roared.

He then jerked his head to the left. "nO. PaY No ATtEnTIoN tO THoSE MEmORiES!" The remaining silhouettes exploded. Ephemeris and Lunala shot toward the debris. Espy, Shane, and Tessa stuck their limbs up to gather up as much of the stardust as they could.

Their looplets shimmered in unison. They wasted no time in sending Z-Power to their rides. Once again, a purple laser and golden fireball split the sky. Necrozma's third eye looked ready to burst out from his forehead. He released a purple beam much like Lunala's.

"I don't need anyone! I don't need anything!" Necrozma snarled.

"You're… wrong! Everyone needs help! Everyone needs support!" Tessa said, arcing her back as her looplet burned her fur.

Necrozma's beam faltered. The combined Z-Moves struck his upper left wing. It detached from his body and fell away in a stream of bright, fiery explosions. Necrozma's roars grew so distorted they didn't even sound like roars anymore. His third eye swiveled about in his head at random.

"Enough of your stupid prattling! You don't get to use my power against me! It's mine! Every last drop of energy across every world belongs to me! To me! To me!" Then, to the group's collective shock, Necrozma turned away from them, rainbow energy bursts surrounding his body. "Prismatic Laser!" He fired the giant rainbow beam not at Team Radiance, but high into the cosmos. It soared into the darkness until a brilliant explosion shimmered far in the distance.

"W-What just happened?!" Espy squeaked, shrinking closer to Silvally.

"I… I don't know. But I've got a terrible sense of dread… and I don't think it's the Absol spirits in me." Silvally subconscious slid close to Espy.

"Gyahahaha! It's time you all met with a terrible fate!" Necrozma declared. His multicolored eyes sparkled with silver energy. A heart-shaped portal opened over his head. Gigantic, flaming pieces of rubble streamed toward Team Radiance.

"What the heck are those? Meteors?!" Tessa squealed. Lunala banked hard right to avoid two of the projectiles, then barely managed to get a Moongeist Beam off in time to destroy a third one.

"No. It's… it's the moon," Shane said, watching one of the pieces of debris sail right by. The crater within the huge, jagged chunk of land was unmistakable. "He blew up the moon and he's attacking us with it!"

"You catch on quick! Remember how you were so scared of it as a kid? All because of that one dumb game you made me beat for you!" Necrozma crooned. "I lost out on my best years trying to salvage a friendship I got nothing out of!" Pink energy encased the moon shards. They increased their speed.

"On your right, Ephemeris!" Espy screamed, burying her face in Silvally's hide. Silvally turned and fired a Hyper Beam, but it plinked off the flaming moon shard as despair spread across his face.

"Both of you… hang on tight!" Ephemeris cried. Silvally threw a foreleg over Espy's back and dug his claws into Ephemeris' feathers. But the instant Ephemeris began to roll, Silvally's grip slipped. He could feel Espy sliding out from his foreleg. Her eyes widened in terror. A moon shard was heading up behind them.

Silvally shifted to his steel memories. His body hardened into metal. Silvally squished Espy against Ephemeris' backside. They managed to hang on as Ephemeris rolled out of the way of the moon shard. He then blew another one up with a powerful burst of Sacred Fire. "You two doing okay?"

Espy shook like a leaf. "N… not really…" Her ears drooped and her tail curled around her waist. Silvally leaned over to nuzzle her.

Shane looked at his shaken teammates and glared at Necrozma. "Hey, come on! You're taking all of this way too far!"

"Too far? Too far? I'm not taking any of this far enough!" Necrozma retorted, his eyes turning blue. "You took away any semblance of happiness I ever had! All because you refused to use your head and think about anyone or anything besides yourself!" Two blue, winged-heart runes formed on either side. "And now… you expect me to stop? To let you have a fairy tale happy ending with new friends? To fall in love when I got my heart stomped on in two lifetimes?! Never! You will all burn! I don't care about your bonds! I don't care if you two idiots are too dumb, dense, and cowardly to say what you really feel!

"YoU wILl DiE BeFoRE yOu CaN EvER sAY yOU LOvE EaCH oTHer!"

Tessa's eyes widened. But if there was a retort she wanted to give, it faltered in her throat the moment Necrozma's runes created two gigantic, serpentine dragons made of pure blue energy. They spiraled through the air, looking to barrel into Team Radiance.

"That's the dragon-type Z-Move!" Lunala gasped and rolled right, but one of the dragons gave chase. "I can't make an attack strong enough to counter it on my own!"

"Ah! R-Right…" Shane looked down at his looplet, but it hadn't recharged yet. His brow furrowed. Sure, he seemed to have gotten through to Nicky somehow, but all it did was dredge up all the resentment Nicky had for Shane. Deserved resentment, if Shane had to be honest, but it did nothing to help the team's current situation.

"I… I… have… an idea," he said, wincing as Lunala dove down to avoid the charging energy dragon.

"Another one?" Tessa said, aura feelers tensing.

"We fly toward Necrozma. If his attack follows, he'll have to snuff it out himself, right?" Shane said, the look on his face suggesting even he thought it was nuts.

"Are you crazy?"

"Yes!" Shane blurted out. "But all of this is crazy!"

Tessa frowned. "I… um…" She squeezed her eye shut. Then, to Shane's surprise, she grabbed his forepaw. "Okay. I'm trusting you on this."

"R-Right." Shane said, face burning. "Lunala… full steam ahead!"

Lunala sped toward Necrozma. Ephemeris, tangled up with the other serpent, spotted her and copied the gesture. Necrozma's eyes narrowed when he saw his attack heading for him. "Imbeciles! What good does trust do anyone? Nothing! Trust is the key to future heartbreak and inevitable despair. I'll show you exactly how little trust means." Necrozma summoned two circular runes with fire symbols in them.

"Oh no! He's gonna try another Z-Move!" Espy cried.

"Espy, your looplet! Strike first!" Silvally said, nudging her foreleg. Espy looked down, then hastily drew on the energy gathered in her looplet. A surge of warmth rose in Ephemeris' throat. Before Necrozma had the chance to unleash more attacks, he launched a golden fireball at Necrozma's last remaining wing.

Necrozma retaliated with two giant fire torrents of his own, but doing so caused him to lose focus on the energy dragons.

"Now!" Shane squeezed himself tight against Tessa, who threw an arm around his shoulders. Lunala abruptly pulled up. Necrozma's energy dragons swallowed up his flames, then slammed into the eye on his wing's joint. He tumbled backward, crystal shards falling away from his body and disappearing into the multicolored abyss below them.

Lunala steadied herself. Tessa's aura feelers throbbed. "That… that actually worked? It actually worked!" Tessa squeezed Shane hard, nuzzling his cheek with her own.

"Ow! Ow! Chest spike! Chest spike!" Shane was torn between elation from Tessa's gesture and the pain of getting jabbed in the ribs.

"O-Oops. Sorry." Tessa softened her grip. "Got a bit caught up in the moment there." Her face flushed.

"It's. It's okay." Shane fought to hide a blush of his own. "But we're still not done yet."

"ImBEcILE! YoU'Re RuINinG eVErYThiNG! tHIS iS My BOdY To CONtROL!" Necrozma thrashed at the air with his legs and tail.

"But we're out of wings! What are we supposed to attack?" Espy said, tilting her head to the side.

"His third eye!" Tessa said, pointing her marked paw forward. "Maybe we'll be able to blow off his head? That's gotta be where his core is, right?" She looked at Shane.

Shane nodded. "Yeah. Let's do it! I'm with you!" The two locked arms and checked their looplets. They were almost charged. All they needed was one last attack from Necrozma. "Hey, Nicky! If love and trust don't mean anything, then why are we still alive and kicking while your big, flashy body is falling apart on you?" He narrowed his eyes. "Know what I think? I think you're letting your anger get the better of you!"

Necrozma roared and kicked his legs together. "Don't you dare lecture me about anger. Which one of us spent years throwing temper tantrums at teachers? That was you." Necrozma's eyes twitched. His third eye spun about at random. "You think you're some sort of hero? What a farce! You're a failure at anything and everything you've ever set your mind to. And that includes your life as a Pokémon. You only found success because of your partners!"

Shane frowned. "I, well…" He blinked slowly and glanced at Tessa. Realization slowly washed over him and a confident look overtook his frown. "If I found success because of my partners… then that just proves how right we are! Relationships are important! They're sources of strength that everyone needs!"

Necrozma's eyes widened. The third eye pulsated like a giant heart. "IDiOT! StOP it! StOP… Be SiLEnT…"

Shane smiled at Tessa. "I care about my team! So, I'm going to do everything in my power to support the friends who've carried me this far! And that starts with getting rid of you and fixing all the damage you've done!" He narrowed his eyes at Necrozma, who slammed his head into his own top chest spike.

"Heeheehee… gyahahaha! 'Fix the damage?' There's nothing to fix! I've destroyed everything! And everyone!" Distorted ripples flickered in front of Necrozma. "All of their precious memories… gone! Eternal fuel for my undying flame! You will never get them back. You've lost. Now, stand down and accept your defeat!"

A black, crystalline husk appeared in front of Necrozma. It bore striking resemblance to the creature Shane remembered seeing in the video footage after Golem took away Necrozma's light. "What's he up to?" Shane wondered, brow furrowed.

Necrozma fired a golden beam at the husk. The energy struck it and refracted, splitting into multiple beams, each with a different color. A yellow beam clipped Ephemeris' wing, drawing a pained squawk. Electricity surged down Ephemeris' back. Silvally barely switched his ground memories on in time to avoid any damage. He bit down on Espy's satchel and used it to hoist her into the air. She squealed in terror as she stared at the rainbow abyss far below her.

"Is everything ok— agh!" Shane had to spit up globs of ice onto his forepaws to freeze them to Lunala's back and keep him from slipping off as she spun away from a purple beam bursting with ghostly energy. "Come on, Nicky! Enough is enough! We don't have to keep doing this anymore. You've made your point."

"It will never be enough! Not until you surrender. You don't get to win. None of you get to win." Necrozma's eyes flashed. In a burst of light, the copy he summoned split into two. "You say your bonds are pure… but they're not. Time will rot them away, just as it does to everything else across reality. All living creatures are beyond salvation. They aren't worth caring about. Everything must be purged! Destruction is what every world deserves… no matter how sweet and lovey-dovey the inhabitants are!"

Another gold beam struck the Prism Necrozma copies. An array of different-color energy beams raced out in each direction like a laser grid. Lunala spun away from a red beam, but then a gray beam struck her right in the face. Ice encased Lunala's head. She tumbled downward, with Shane and Tessa screaming in terror.

Ephemeris saw her falling, but couldn't get past two giant green beams. His attempts to counter with a Flamethrower failed, even with Silvally adding fire breath of his own. "All it takes is a touch of fear to expose the lies in every relationship. Why do you think this world was so dysfunctional in the first place? It was built upon a foundation of fear. All I did was stretch things to the breaking point!" In another flash of light, he summoned three black copies, then shot another golden beam into them.

Tessa's aura feelers shot up. With Lunala in a tailspin, there'd be to no way to dodge all the refracted lasers. Tessa raised a glowing paw and slammed it against the ice encasing Lunala's head. It shattered. "Lunala, help!" Tessa cried.

Lunala looked up to see red, yellow, and orange beams heading right for her. She tucked her wings in, diving down so fast that Shane and Tessa could barely hang on. "H-How much longer to we have to keep this up?" Shane said, his mane falling over his face.

Tessa glanced at her arm. "Our looplets are charged! Quick, Lunala, we have to get closer to Necrozma."

"Right. Hang on. I, uh…" Lunala barely managed to squeeze past two blue energy beams. Once she did, she headed back for Necrozma.

"I WiLl dO ThE SaME tHInG to EVEry WoRlD iN OuR ReaLITy. The PEoPLe wIlL lOoK uPon MY poWER aND, OnCe DeSPaIR hAS gRIpPed ThEM, THeY WiLL tuRN On OnE AnoTHER!" Necrozma shattered the copes he'd created, then summoned four more that began to spin around one another. "ThEN, I WiLL TakE ThEIr LIgHT aND RiP TheIR worlDS apArT unTIL NoThINg rEmAInS BuT The chAOs of ULtRa SpaCE!"

"I don't understand… why does it sound like Necrozma's feuding with himself?" Tessa said, a chill running down her spine. She looked to Shane who, in turn, looked down at his glowing looplet. "Shane," she whispered.

"We got through to Nicky… I think. He's wrestling for control of Necrozma with the void. But all our comments are making him remember things that made him so upset to begin with, so he's still trying to kill us. Right now, Necrozma's like… like a flying-type whose wings are controlled by two different people," Shane said, face twisting into a grimace. "I'm not sure if that's made things better or worse for us."

Tessa put her free paw under Shane's chin. "Well, there's only one way we'll know for sure, isn't there?" She glanced at her looplet.

Shane nodded. Together, they funneled Z-Power into Lunala, hoping this would be the blow that would finally end things. Lunala fired another set of purple beams.

At the same time, Ephemeris launched another giant fireball. Both attacks went right for Necrozma's head while he charged up to launch what Shane and Tessa assumed was meant to be a true finishing blow. They watched their attacks fly with baited breath. Necrozma's third eye widened, but it he realized what was happening too late.

One final roar split the skies. The Z-Moves struck home, blowing Necrozma's head apart in streams of golden light. His body simply floated there, surrounding by ripples of distortion. Shane titled his head and frowned. "Is… is it over? Does this mean we win?"

Espy's ears drooped. "Why isn't what's left of his body falling apart?"

"Oh no…" Tessa's aura feelers crinkled up. "You don't think… his core wasn't in his head, do you? Maybe it's in the middle of his body?"

Silvally's head crest fanned out. "If that's the case, then we have to hit him with everything we've got!" Frosty energy swirled around his cheek bolts.

"Silv, wait a sec—"

Silvally launched a large snowstorm in Necrozma's direction. It mostly struck one of his chest spikes… and failed to do anything. Silvally's head crest drooped. "Aww, c'mon. Do we need more Z-Power?"

"Silv, hold up for a second, please." Espy had a forepaw on his talons. Silvally looked down, fire memories activating. He nodded. Espy squinted as she looked toward the direction of where Necrozma's head had been. The distorted energy had faded and now a black fog swirled around Necrozma's golden neck. Her tail fell between her legs. "Um, guys? You see that fog over there?" She pointed a forepaw forward.

Everyone stared ahead. Shane's tails shot up. "Wait. Is he healing himself?" After the grueling battle, Shane wasn't sure he could muster enough resolve to keep going if Necrozma bounced back.

"I don't know. But that fog…" Espy's expression darkened. "It looks like the fog that shrouds the entrance to a Mystery Dungeon in the Mist Continent."

Tessa's aura feelers quivered. "You're kidding!" She stared blankly at the fog. Though she didn't want to admit it, she couldn't argue with Espy's assumption. Necrozma had used ley lines throughout the battle. In fact, his giant body was probably made of them. "But… but what does that mean for us?"

Shane's ears folded against his head. "I think it means that… if we want to get to Necrozma's core and destroy it… we have to go inside Necrozma."

"I… was afraid you'd say that," Tessa said, shivering. Even if Necrozma was more ethereal than flesh and blood, nothing about that idea sat well with her. She'd have puked on the spot if her nerves weren't already so frayed from all the battling.

"Well, maybe we can come up with another idea," Shane said. "I—"

Tessa sighed. "I appreciate the concern." She put her paw on Shane's shoulder. His tails stiffened. "But, at this point, I say we go for it. I told the other teams that, no matter what it took, we'd stop Necrozma." She bowed her head. "If we have to, uh, take the plunge, then so be it."

Shane blinked. "Are… are you sure? Because if you want to raise and objection and call this idea stupid, I'm perfectly willing to—"

"Shane, be serious. Our job isn't finished yet," Tessa said, her expression stern. "If we're going through with this, I need to know you've got my back."

"I, uh…" Shane bit his lip. "I'm worried that Necrozma will be able to take control of me. Like, I dunno, maybe Ephemeris' protective aura will fail inside of Necrozma or something." He grimaced. "I don't want to hurt you again."

"Look at me, Shane." She shakily put her paws on each of his cheeks and swiveled his head. "I won't let that happen to you. We're in this together… until the end."

Shane looked into Tessa's eyes. A flush fell over his cheeks. "I… I got it." He nodded slowly. "Okay, Lunala. You can fly us over."

Lunala floated toward the black fog. Ephemeris flew beside her. The closer they got, however, the thicker the air became. When they were on the cusp of reaching the black fog, chains shot out from Necrozma's neck. Lunala was so startled, she couldn't properly form up an attack. Some of the chains grabbed Shane and Tessa's limbs. Both went wide-eyed and hollered in fright.

"Shane! Tessa!" Silvally shouted, only for Espy to cry out. Silvally looked left and found Espy getting pulled into the fog by the chains. "Espy, no!" He leaped off Ephemeris' back, turning on his flying memories. He went for the chains holding Shane and Tessa. But the chains lurched violently. They all crashed into each other, then the chains yanked them inside Necrozma's neck with a loud squelch.

Lunala tried to fly into Necrozma's neck, but struck off a barrier. She shook stars from her vision and looked at Ephemeris. "What do we do now?"

"I… I'm not sure. I think we have to try and find a way to break in, don't we?" Ephemeris said. "I hope they're all still in one piece.


Light of Oblivion, Void Necrozma
The combined might of Necrozma, the light of the sun, and the spirits of those dwelling in both the living world and spirit realm. Devoid of all care and compassion, he seeks nothing but the complete and total annihilation of all living things. His body is so full of energy it seems to naturally repel any attack that strikes it. And any puppet spirit struck down can be quickly replaced by another while it recharges with the sun's light.

Hang tough, Team Radiance! Surely, there's a weakness that you can exploit!

Next time: Into the belly of the Ultra Beast.


Good news, everyone!

It seems that the delaying tactic was effective,
waking Nickys fighting spirit to get him in control of Necrozma rather than fighting with an efficiently killing Void.
Nicky wasn't thinking rational and was making mistakes giving them a chance, and Void wasn't powerful enough to get control.
And now,

Today you'll be on an annihilation mission inside the body of the monster that tried multiple times to kill you, which contains the most disastrous components of the world.
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