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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light [COMPLETE]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Ambyssin, Aug 2, 2017.

  1. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    @git-it: Yup! It all goes back to what Necrozma said about the power of human will. Speaking of which...

    Again, thanks @Namohysip for beta reading!

    XxX​

    Chapter 98: Soul-Melding Genesis Supernova
    Bright lights and colors streamed by Shane. The cries of his teammates echoed all around him, but he was falling too fast to say anything… or even see them. For a moment, he wondered if he was trapped inside another one of Necrozma's nightmare prisons.

    Then, the ground rushed up to meet Shane. A bright, luminescent glow-filled his vision. Orange steam rose up from beneath him. He tried to fire Psychic rings at the ground… only to remember Necrozma had taken Psychic from him. A few seconds later, he hit the ground. The shockwave of pain was complemented by a geyser of orange slime erupting all around him. Having grimaced from the blow, Shane was unprepared for the ooze to rain down on him. Loud splurts echoed around the room as slime pelted his fur.

    "Augh! Gross! What is this stuff?!"

    Espy stood up, the slime reaching up to her belly. She was completely soaked. The goo weighed her ears and tail down, making it impossible for her to do anything but keep them folded. Her face paled. "It's between locks of my fur! Oh, gods, this is even worse than the time I fell in my own puke!"

    Tessa turned her disgusted expression on Espy, though it was tough to make anything out with so much orange goop on her face. "I did not need to know that," she said, trying to brush slime off her fur to no avail. "Well, at least if we are in Necrozma's stomach, then we know he has no acids to melt us with." The thought brought her little comfort as she looked at her tail and the slime trails trickling off it.

    "Hey now! Don't try and jinx us with that kind of talk." Silvally couldn't even fan his head crest out and his eyes were shut tight to stop slime from gunking them up. His steel memories had turned on by sheer instinct.

    Shane finally managed to get his bearings and stand up. As per usual, his disheveled mane had fallen over his face. Luckily, the slime made it sticky enough that when Shane flipped his hair back, it stuck against his neck.

    "Hey! Knock it off, Shane!" Tessa growled as orange flecks pelted her hip.

    "S… sorry…" Shane's tails tried to fan out in alarm, but the ooze had stuck them together. He blinked the orange out of his vision… only to wish his mane was blinding him again. "Oh… oh gods…" His legs grew weak. Before he knew it, his rear splashed down and more slime pooled up around his torso. "This… this is…"

    His teammates finally stopped worrying about their appearances and took in their surroundings. There were hexagonal grates strewn across the area, making each member of Team Radiance bitter that they happened to land in the one spot inside Necrozma with nothing to pass for a proper floor. The circular room was bordered by large, chitinous, horn-like structures protruding from the edges of the orange slime pool. They resembled curved dragon fangs.

    "Ugh. His insides are a mishmash of all the sci-fi movies he dragged me to," Shane whimpered, struggling to pull himself onto one of the hexagonal platforms. Tessa offered her paw in assistance, but Shane slipped right through her grip and fell back into the slime. She pulled her paw back, opting instead to look at all the large, gooey cords making up the walls and ceiling.

    "What are these things?" The slime weighed Tessa's aura feelers down too much for them to move. Not that it would've helped her, since the same pins and needles sense from when her aura reading was being jammed had made an unwelcome return.

    "There are bright lights flashing in them. And they all have different colors," Espy observed. She spun around, mindful of falling back into the pool like Shane had.

    "Guys, um… do you hear something?" Silvally crouched low to the ground. His cheek bolts rattled in their sockets. "Because I hear moaning. A lot of moaning."

    Having finally gotten to dry land, Shane tried to clear his ears out. He tensed up. His ears couldn't twitch properly, but an unsettling chill ran down his spine. "Yeah. It sounds like…" He blinked slowly. "There are thousands of voices all around us and they're all in pain!"

    Espy stood at the head of the group, facing the other side of the room. She was slouched over, whimpering softly. "Guys? I think I found where all these weird tubes are leading." Espy lifted a trembling forepaw. "They're going to Necrozma's core."

    Her teammates turned around. Tessa immediately wished she hadn't. "That's his core? No… it looks nothing like the big prism he took from Zero. This is some kind of… some kind of sickly cocoon! Like what Volcarona had been trapped in back in the Volcanic Wastes."

    Shane stared at the large, circular cocoon. It was a membranous sack dangling from the ceiling by six large, slimy cords bristling with flashes of light and pulsating like vessels. Multicolored lights shimmered in the center of the membranous structure. But so much fluid surrounded whatever lay at the center of the cocoon that there was no way anyone on Team Radiance could tell what it actually was.

    "Okay." Espy gulped. "With the way our travels have gone, I can't be the only one who thinks we have to break open this disgusting thing, right?" Her teammates shook their heads. "Yeah. Great. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Or do both."

    "Go AwAY!"

    The cocoon trembled and the cords feeding it swelled as if they were about to burst. "Get back, guys! I don't like the look of that!" Shane whimpered, his tails now dragging against the floor. His teammates shuffled back toward him as cracks splintered through the cocoon's membranous sac.

    "Oh, gods! Look at all the eyes." Tessa cringed. Bile rose up in the back of her throat.

    Espy frowned. Just like Tessa said, the cocoon was now littered with an array of different-colored eyes, all swiveling around and glancing in random directions.

    "Go AwaY!"

    The distorted voice made Team Radiance wince. Even though Shane was sure no attacks were used, a crushing weight pressed on his shoulders and chest. It hurt to even take a breath. "G-Guys. We… we have to…" He doubled over, wheezing loudly. Shane struggled to get a good look at his teammates, but he could see they were having problems, too. Even Silvally struggled to keep his head held up.

    "I hAte You! I HAte AlL oF yOU!"

    Light flickered in the cocoon's blue and red eyes. A sigil formed in front of each of them: one blue teardrop and one red flame. The sigils shakily floated toward Team Radiance. Tessa brought her paws up, charging an Aura Sphere to fire. Then, the sigils erupted in flashes of light. A burst of water headed right for Espy, while a fireball careened toward Shane.

    "Watch out, Shane!" Tessa hurled the Aura Sphere above her teammate's head. It stopped the fireball, but the resulting blast blew Shane across the floor. Tessa didn't get a chance to see if he was okay, however, as flames seared her from above. Thankfully, all the slime clinging to her fur acted as a natural buffer, shielding her from what should've been a serious blow.

    "BuRn! BuRN! BUrN To AsHeS!"

    Tessa looked up. More red-flame runes floated toward her. This time, they burst apart before they got anyway near her. A volley of fireballs rained down on her from above. There was no way Tessa could deflect all of them. She turned to flee for the slime pool, but a bright-white flash enveloped the fireballs and snuffed them out. Shane slid in front of her, most of the slime burnt off his fur.

    "You get away from her, Necrozma! I know you're the one doing all of this!" Shane growled, frost gathering in his maw.

    "StOP iT! StOP! StOoOoOP!"

    The cocoon shuddered. Shane's ears folded from the onslaught of voices. It was even worse than listening to Necrozma. But he had to hang tough for his teammates. "We won't stop until you're gone! You don't get to hurt anyone anymore!" He spat an Ice Beam directly into the cocoon. A huge grin spread across his face as the membrane rippled like a plate of gelatin prodded by multiple forks.

    "StOP HuRTiNG Me! Go AWAy!"

    Three yellow lightning runes formed around the cocoon. Silvally lunged for them, ground memories active. He dove right through the ensuing lightning strikes and tore through one of the veins supplying the cocoon with brown, mud-covered talons. Silvally hit the ground and smiled at Espy, who grinned back at him. The warm moment was ruined however, when the severed vein drenched Silvally in red slime.

    "Oh… oh no." Espy ran toward him, expecting something bad to happen. Silvally stood there, blinking at her. He tilted his head. Espy came to a stop. "You're… you're not hurt, are you?"

    "No. But I might want to throw up when this is all over," Silvally said, shaking out his pelt and feathers.

    Espy was about to say something, when the cocoon shrieked loudly. Blebs formed all around its membrane. The pustules popped, scattering golden fluid all around the cocoon that triggered a loud wave of hissing. Espy shrank back, tail crinkling. Overhead, star shaped runes drifted haphazardly around the cocoon.

    "I HAtE YoU AlL! LeAVe Me ALoNE! DiE! DiE DiE DIE!"

    The sigils burst open, creating four, blood-red eyes that spun around and distorted the air in the room. Shane shot an ice shard at the nearest eye, but it was shredded to bits inside a vortex. The air around the eyes darkened. Shane was promptly lifted off his feet. "Whoa! H-H-Hey! Not good! Not good!" He looked into a pair of miniature black holes determined to suck him up. "Someone help m—"

    Tessa grabbed Shane by his tails and tugged. Shane hollered, briefly worrying Tessa would yank the tails out of their joints. All the while, the black holes kept spinning. Tessa dug her free paw spike into one of the metal grates and held on for dear life. Across from her, Silvally had pinned Espy to the ground, using the added weight from his steel memories to keep her safe.

    "Enough of these stupid attacks, Necrozma! We won't let you kick us around like this!" Silvally snarled. He unleashed a Flash Cannon, trying to aim the gray beam at one of the other veins. To his relief, it managed to squeeze between the black holes and sever the remaining two veins on the left side of the cocoon. More red liquid sprayed across the ground. The cocoon shrieked as the remaining cords recoiled and sent it bouncing around the room.

    Shane fell to the ground with a splat when the black holes disappeared. He blinked stars out of his vision, only to get struck by a pair of glowing symbols resembling miniature clusters of Unown. Shane tumbled across the ground, groaning. He was completely unaware of the other sigils that had burst out of more boils that appeared on the cocoon.

    Tessa realized Shane was in danger. She ran toward him, using one paw to fire a Psychic ring. The pink blast broke two of the sigils apart. Silvally sliced the remaining glyphs apart with black, shadowy talons. Then he turned, energy blades glowing, and unleashed a black shockwave toward the lowest of the remaining veins.

    "StOp! StOP ThiS! YoU… YoU AlL hATE mE! WhY DOeS EvERYoNE HAtE Me?!"

    The cocoon's membrane briefly parted. Tufts of dragon fire kept the cocoon's cord safe from Silvally's Snarl. Espy, meanwhile, had snuck around to the back of the cocoon and rifled off a Psybeam. The cocoon couldn't summon anything to block the Psybeam fast enough. It sliced through one of the veins, which rewarded Espy with a neon-green slime shower for her troubles.

    "This is misery incarnate!" Espy shouted, smacking a forepaw against the ground.

    "Well, on the bright side, I think the color suits you well," Silvally said, wagging his tail and trying to offer Espy a cheerful grin. Espy responded with a look so chilling Silvally's fire memories switched on inadvertently.

    "GiVe UP! GiVe UP! GiVe… GIvE GiVE GiVE GIgIGiGYARggH!"

    Shane choked on the ice he was gathering to strike the cocoon. He had no idea what to make of what he was seeing or hearing. When they were battling Necrozma outside, it had sounded like Nicky was fighting for control with the void, but the cocoon's cries lacked the coherence of Necrozma's earlier rants. Had their Z-Moves reduced Necrozma to some sort of primal creature that could do nothing but lash out?

    The thought made him shudder, but then Shane caught sight of the rainbow glimmer in the center of the cocoon again. It reminded him of what he had seen in one of Necrozma's nightmare prisons: golden light wrapped up in chains.

    "Nicky!" The shout came before Shane even weighed his options. "Nicky, I know you're in there somewhere!"

    Tessa blasted a fireball away with an Aura Sphere. "Shane, what are you doing?"

    "Trying to see if there's any way to get through," Shane said. "Necrozma told me something when he had me captured. He said that human spirits possess something Pokémon lack: indominable wills."

    "i dOn'T cArE CARe cArE! Go AwAY! ShUT uP! ShUT Up!"

    Yellow-bolt runes burst apart. Lightning streaked toward Shane and Tessa. The latter tackled the former to the ground. Electricity grazed Tessa's back. She arced her neck up and cried out in pain. "Tes—" Shane wanted to ask if she was all right, but Tessa put a paw to his muzzle.

    "I'm fine," she said through gritted teeth. "Keep… keep saying… what you were saying."

    "U-Um… well…" Shane squirmed out from underneath Tessa, minding her chest spike. "Human wills are strong enough that, as long you have a fraction of the spirit around, the human's personality and all their memories will stick around." He got to his feet. "That's why I remained as Shane, even after I fused with Dark Matter. And that's why Necrozma hasn't been able to get rid of Nicky."

    "Be QuIET! Go AWaY! DiE! I hATE yOu! HAtE HaTE HAyAeRG— gYaAh!"

    Silvally slammed into the ground, bits of the last two veins supporting the cocoon wedged between his talons. Red and blue ooze dribbled down his sides. "It's… it's done." He turned around. "Now we can… huh?"

    The cocoon's membrane had fallen away, revealing Necrozma's glowing, prism-shaped core in all of its splendor. After a few seconds of floating in place, however, the core dropped to the ground and melted into a puddle. Silvally hopped back, squawking in alarm. Electricity crackled around his cheek bolts. "I'm gonna shock it!" he said. But before he got the chance to launch any Thunderbolts, a sudden gust of air knocked him back into Shane and Tessa. The trio ended up collapsed on top of one another.

    "Oof! G-Get off, big guy. You're, well, big!" Shane wheezed, smacking Silvally with a forepaw.

    "I know! I know! Stop smacking my rear," Silvally growled, trying to shake the stars from his vision. Shane's eyes bugged out and his face reddened.

    Espy managed to stay on her feet through the blast, but found herself frozen, watching the bubbling puddle. All of the fluid coalesced into a multicolored sphere that rose into the air. Its colors swirled around at complete random. It was making Espy dizzy staring at the core, so she looked away and smacked the ground with a forepaw. "This is unbelievable! We're still not done? What's it going to take to stop this guy?"

    "NoThInG CaN StOP… GiVE uP. GiVE iN. OuT. alL ArOUnD. UPsIDe… GrrArGHT!"

    The core's colors formed a circular pattern with a black spot in the middle. It spun around at high speeds. Espy's paws left the ground. "Hey! Hey, stop it! Guys, help!" she shouted, flailing at the air with her legs. She couldn't spin around to face the core and attack it.

    Shane looked up to see the luminescent colors of the room distorting and spinning about. His tails fanned out in alarm, however, when an invisible force yanked him off the ground, too. He slowly spun around the room, unable to see what was going on.

    "Hang on, you two! It's another black hole thingy!" Silvally cried, but choked on his own attack when the core even succeeded in hoisting him into the air. All of Team Radiance cried out in a panic as the black hole dragged them closer to the core itself.

    "No… no! Get away! Get away!" Espy shrieked, before slimy tendrils wrapped her forelegs up and dragged her into the core. Her teammates all dropped to the ground with heavy thuds. The colors faded away from the core's slimy surface, revealing a purple, reptilian eye. Team Radiance saw Espy inside the pupillary slit.

    "Espy!" Silvally's head crest fanned out. "We have to get her out of there!" He switched his steel memories on again and charged forward, a golden wheel surrounding his torso.

    "NeVER. DiE! DrOWn iN YoUR SoRRoWS!"

    Espy's muffled screams sounded within the eye. Small pink energy balls surrounded the core, then shot toward the rest of Team Radiance. Silvally was too far into his attack to shift his memories. Instead, he charged through the pink blasts, wincing with every step he took. Metal coated his forelegs.

    "Back me up, guys!" Silvally shouted, lunging for the core. Shane and Tessa were too preoccupied trying not to get blasted, however. Enough energy pellets struck Silvally to force him back to the ground. His cheek bolts revved up so fast they let out trails of golden sparks. His irises flashed gold. "No… let her go, you cretin!" Another golden wheel surrounded Silvally.

    "yOu dOn'T DeSErvE hEr. NoNE of You dEsErvE aNYThiNG exCEpT DeAtH!"

    Large balls of silver energy gathered around the core. Silvally was ready to lunge for the core again, but the energy balls turned into giant silver lasers. Yowling, Silvally dropped to his belly and rolled away from one laser, but it ricocheted off the ground, careened toward the ceiling, bounced off, and headed right for him. Silvally met it with a Flash Cannon beam.

    "This is ridiculous! Stop it, Nicky! What are you hoping to accomplish by doing this?" Shane cried, one of the lasers singing his right flank. "Come on, dude. I know you have to be tired of this. Look around you. Is this really what you want for yourself? To see so many people suffering like this?"

    "Espy! Espy!" Silvally lunged for the core, only for it to float just out of range. Espy screamed in pain again. The core generated a pink shockwave. Silvally switched to his dark memories and the attack phased right through him.

    "Give us our friend back!" Tessa cried, leaping over the shockwave and hurling an Aura Sphere at the core. It struck home and the core recoiled with a distorted wail. Silvally saw his opening and leaped up, shadows covering his talons. He slashed the core right through its pupil. Slime covered his talons, but he managed to tear the core open and grab Espy.

    "NOoOoO! StOP taKInG WhaT'S MiNE!"

    Loud squelching noises echoed through the room. Frowning, Silvally had to swat Espy out of the core. She dropped to the ground and bounced to a halt next to Shane. Black, scaly plaques dotted her torso, limbs, and tail. Espy trembled. Her forehead gem flickered like a luminous orb running low on power.

    "Espy? Espy! Come on… stay with me!" Shane said, pressing his forepaws against her in a desperate attempt at channeling Morning Sun. His heart sank when nothing happened.

    "Out of the way, Shane! I've still got an oran berry," Tessa said. Though a layer of slime covered her satchel, she pulled out the berry. Shane didn't even want to think about how sanitary it was. The situation was too desperate.

    The core responded to this development with a loud shriek. "StOP iT! STop HElPInG EaCh oTheR! I HAtE You ALl!" It drifted back from the group while its colors reappeared. A green delta symbol appeared on the side facing Team Radiance. The top of the sphere erupted and a large, slimy Rayquaza head popped out. "WhEn WiLL yoU lEArN? NoTHiNG mAtTErS ExCEpT PoWeR! The PoWEr tO DeSTrOY EVeRYtHING!"

    "Shane, I need you with me," Silvally said, fairy memories bathing him om a salmon glow. Ears sticking up, Shane left Tessa to tend to Espy. The core's new head launched a volley of dragonfire at Team Radiance. Silvally dug his talons into the grated floor. Golden light flickered in his cheek bolts. "Dazzling Gleam, Shane! Use Dazzling Gleam!"

    "R-Right!" Shane drew up fairy energy and released a wall of white light. To his surprise, Silvally gathered up a ball of moonlight and tossed it into the Dazzling Gleam. The explosive burst of fairy energy destroyed all the dragonfire and struck the core, blasting it into the wall. Shane turned to Silvally with wide eyes. "What are you doing? That gold glow… you're not getting overcharged again, are you? You can't do that!" He looked back at Espy, who Tessa was helping get back up. "We can't lose you again."

    Silvally fixed his gold-tinged eyes on Shane. The shimmering glow faded and they returned to a plain salmon color. "I'm fine this time. I mean it. Necrozma must've left the overcharge bit in… but I'm only using it in short bursts."

    Shane bit his lip. He didn't want things going like they did in the Prism Wastelands, but this was also a battle they couldn't afford to lose. "If you say so." He turned back to the core, only to gasp as, rather than dragonfire, golden Draco Meteors streamed toward them. Shane broadened his stance to absorb as many as he could, only for Silvally to buck him into the air. Silvally caught Shane on his back and charged toward the core.

    "What are you doing now?"

    "Necrozma's mixing types… like Dragonite did. I'm sure of it!" Silvally said, veering left to dodge Draco Meteors. He skidded across the grated floor and shot another Moonblast into the core. Though it spat up Draco Meteors to deflect some of the Moonblast, it wasn't enough to snuff out the attack. The core shrank back, its colors bouncing around its surface like a grotesque lava lamp.

    "No More. NO MoRE! StOP hURtINg mE! StOP iT!"

    "The only one who can stop this is you, Nicky! We're trying our hardest, but we can only keep attacking for so long," Shane said, though he honestly wasn't sure how much he bought his own words. At this point, he was speaking before thinking.

    "SToP LiFE. StOP liVInG!" the core screeched. Its Rayquaza head was gone. Now, the colors formed a silhouette of a Time Gear. The core rippled, then split itself into four smaller copies. One of them shrank back, while the other three floated higher into the air and molded themselves into copies of Darkrai.

    "You have nothing left to fight for. Give in. The world of darkness is finally here," the clones said in unison. They raised their arms, gathering black shadows.

    "Those are Dark Voids! Scatter!" Shane hollered, sprinting away from Silvally as black blobs rained down on the group from above. He didn't even want to think about why the distortion in Necrozma's voice had toned down so much. All he cared about was making sure he didn't fall asleep. He couldn't imagine what sort of horror that would mean if he was already inside Necrozma.

    "There's too many blasts. We can't navigate this," Espy said, tail curled around her waist as she sniped an incoming Dark Void with a Psybeam.

    "Well, what else can we do?" Tessa said, sweeping a Flash Cannon threw multiple Dark Void blobs before her paws burned. She then rubbed them together, wincing. "Um… follow me!" Tessa threw her arms up over her head and sprinted forward, trying to use the ground as an indicator for where the blasts would strike.

    "Tessa, look out!" Espy cried.

    Tessa looked up and saw one of the blobs expanding to catch her. She shrieked and pointed her paws up, but all she could muster was a few blue embers. Tessa braced herself to go under when the Dark Void popped open like a balloon. Silvally landed between her and Espy. "You two okay?" he said. Before they could answer, he shot another Moonblast up at the Darkrai clones.

    The clones clustered together over the lingering part of Necrozma's core. The Time Gear symbol spun around and the clones gathered Dark Pulse energy in their hands. "Not this time!" Shane snarled, fairy dust surrounding his shoulders. He launched a Dazzling Gleam burst at them, burning away the shadows and forcing the copies back together.

    "Fools. All of you… fools!" the core snarled.

    "Please, Nicky! Whatever you're doing… keep it up! It's working!" Shane shouted, leaping back to dodge a bunch of Air Slash blades shot out from the core.

    Tessa's aura feelers twitched. "What are you talking about?"

    "The distortion in the voice… it's getting lower. We're getting through to him! We need to keep up the pressure," Shane said. His voice was strained, but his teammates could tell how sincerely he believed that.

    "Okay." Tessa raised her paws and charged an Aura Sphere.

    "I will make you all suffer!" The core floated back to dodge Shane's Ice Beam and Tessa's Aura Sphere. It pulsated and rippled, then split itself into four copies again.

    "Oh great… now what's it doing?" Espy groaned. She shot a Shadow Ball at the nearest copy, but it hovered above the blast. Espy was ready to fire another one, only for the attack to falter and her eyes to widen when a familiar, glacial-blue color washed across all the copies. A red spot appeared in the center of each of them. "No…" She shrank back. "No! No!"

    Tessa looked at Espy in confusion, only for her fur to stand an end. "H… hey. Did it just get colder in here?" She threw her paws up onto her shoulders.

    Espy screamed and shrank down to her belly. Silvally was by her side in an instant. "Espy? Espy! What's wrong? Tell me! Please!"

    She pointed a trembling forepaw up. "B… B… B… B… Bittercolds!" Silvally looked up and gasped. Four identical Bittercold clones floated overhead. Ice swirled around their pointed, frost-covered edges.

    "Feel my hopelessness and despair!"

    The clones floated down so they were level with Team Radiance. Their spikes shot out in different directions. Three jabbed Shane in his hips. The icy energy that coursed through his veins made him yowl and fall on his side, twitching in pain. Tessa sucked in her gut and arched her back. Her legs trembled as she tried to hold the delicate position and avoid the frozen thorns.

    Espy was still in a state of shock, however. Silvally saw the spikes coming. He shifted his fire memories on and stood over her, heating his body up like he was going to use Flame Charge but not moving. Multiple spokes jabbed him from numerous angles. Silvally hollered in pain. His cheek bolts sparked. Espy saw golden embers flitter to the ground beside her. She tried to move, but unpleasant memories of the frigid temperatures of Glacier Palace kept her rooted to the ground.

    Tessa looked at her teammates' conditions, even as the icy thorns retreated into the Bittercold copies. They all floated into new positions facing Espy and Silvally. Tessa gnashed her fangs. They intended to strike while her friends were most vulnerable. Tessa couldn't possibly stop all of them. She shot a Flash Cannon beam at one of the clones, knocking it back into the wall. It dropped to the floor with a clatter, but the remaining three clones extended their spokes.

    Two jabbed Tessa's thighs, knocking her to the ground. All she could do was stare at the icy spear above her head, listening to Espy and Silvally's cries of pain. They brought her right back to the Prism Wastelands… when everything was going south against Zero. She remembered the look of helplessness on Espy's face and the resignation in Silvally's eyes as he planned to use Explosion. Her heart ached… and her stomach roiled.

    Despite the cold, her insides burned. She couldn't lay there and watch her friends keep getting hurt. Reasoning with Necrozma might've thrown him off, but he still refused to let up. He had to be destroyed. Tessa glanced at her looplet. She focused on the anger bubbling up inside of her. It wasn't long before a familiar surge of energy flooded her system. Tessa sucked in a breath. She had to keep control. She couldn't let the anger to consume her.

    Tessa thought of Silvally's smile… of their moment on the beach when he was still Null. She thought of the time Espy confided in her. And she thought back to the heart-to-hearts with Shane in Cosmic Cavern and Circadian Coast. Tessa arched her back up… then shredded the ice spike above her with newly-formed Metal Claws.

    "Leave… my friends… alone!"

    Seven different-colored ripples of light raced out from Tessa's body. She shot to her feet and shot out three Aura Spheres in rapid succession, not even noticing the rainbow lines running down her arms and legs. Each one struck a Bittercold clone and knocked them back into the wall. Tessa ran for Espy and Silvally without hesitation, her bizarre Mega Evolution's rainbow-colored aura dreadlocks trailing behind her.

    Silvally lay collapsed on his side. Black blood oozed onto his fur. Espy lay next to him, tears streaming down her face. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I panicked. I did this to him!" She was about to smack her head against the floor when Tessa stopped her.

    "You still have any healing items?" she asked.

    "Um…" Espy flipped her grimy satchel open and managed to pull out half an oran berry.

    "It's good enough. It'll do." Tessa took it and smushed it against Silvally's side.

    Shane, meanwhile, was caught between the Bittercold clones merging back together and the rainbow aura shimmering around Tessa. He wanted to ask if she was feeling like herself, but trusted that the fact she was tending to Espy and Silvally meant she wasn't in a complete berserker state like last time.

    "See, Nicky? My friends are willing to put everything on the line to stop all of this. And… and I am, too. That's why you have to keep fighting back!" Shane said. He spat an Ice Beam at the core. It rolled out of the way, then hopped into the air. The core bounced off the ceiling and looked to crush Shane from above. Shane jumped forward and rolled to a stop, but the core kept bouncing. It was going for his teammates.

    "Guys, watch out!" Shane cried. He sent another Dazzling Gleam burst forward, but there was no way it would reach the core in time. Luckily, Silvally got back to his feet and met the core with a metallic headbutt. However, Shane's relief turned to panic when he realized Silvally had knocked the core back toward him. Shane dove to his right, narrowly avoiding the core striking the wall behind where he once stood and drifting up to the ceiling.

    He staggered to his feet, breathing labored. "Come on, Nicky. We're doing everything we can." Shane looked at the core. A part of him thought it was useless to keep talking. It would only make Necrozma more upset and hurt his friends. However, he wasn't sure how much the team's attacks had damaged the core.

    'We can't keep this up forever. We barely have anything to heal ourselves with.' Shane shot another Ice Beam at the core. It dodged the attack easily, but was unprepared for two corkscrewing, dragon-shaped energy beams to blast it against the wall. Tessa and Silvally nodded at one another, their mouths venting blue steam.

    "We've had enough of all of this!" Tessa snarled, her paw spikes morphing into Metal Claws. "You've thrown everything at us and we're not down for the count. This fight's gone on long enough. Cut it out! Give us back our friends!"

    I'm trying.

    Shane's ears twitched. That wasn't the guttural, distorted growl he'd heard from the core. The voice was softer, lighter. He blinked a few names, not taking notice of the core squirming and pulsating. Hadn't he heard that voice not too long ago? Shane's eyes widened.

    'That's the voice that called out to me when Necrozma had control of me!'

    "Please… please keep fighting!" Shane shouted, gathering fairy energy in his eyes.

    The veins and cords in the room darkened. Blue energy flashed inside of them. The core rearranged itself into a clone of Zekrom, with slime dripping from its limbs and a single purple eye in the center of its face. "You are fighting a battle you cannot win. No matter how much you cling to the ideals of regaining what you've lost, the truth is that your situation is truly hopeless." Zekrom raised its gooey arms. Bright-blue electricity surrounded it.

    The Bolt Strike moved so quickly that Shane had no time to react. One moment he was standing. Then, next thing he knew, he was sprawled out on his back, legs and tails twitching. Zekrom circled up toward the ceiling. Shane's eyes widened at the realization he was about to be squished, but his limbs wouldn't respond at his attempts to stand back up.

    He braced himself for the worst, but instead of a horrible crushing pain there was a furious shout and the rumbles of thunder. Shane poked an eye open to find Silvally in front of him, up on his hindlegs with his ground memories active. His dusty-brown forelegs pushed back against the Bolt Strike as his cheek bolts twitched and crackled in their sockets.

    "You… won't… beat us," Silvally hissed. "I won't… give up… on anyone… who needs… my help!" With a furious shout, he shoved Zekrom back. Its Bolt Strike faded in time for a Dragon Pulse and burst of fairy dust to hit it from behind. Zekrom shuddered and coalesced back into the rainbow core. The room brightened up.

    Please… make it stop.

    Shane's head snapped up and he looked around the room, trying to pinpoint the source of the softer voice. "Nicky? Nicky! Don't listen to all the nonsense Necrozma's spewing. We can still salvage this. Even if it takes a miracle." Shane stumbled to his feet. "This world's no stranger to miracles. Give us an opening or something!"

    "Pay attention, Shane!" Tessa snapped, pointing her paws up and firing Psychic rings in tandem with Espy. Right when it looked like they'd strike the core, it split half, splattering juices across the ground. A red and blue glow took over the room as the two halves of the core expanded into clones of Latios and Latias.

    "There are no miracles left. Why cling to such empty dreams? Your desperation is filling you with sadness and rage," Latias said, voice as stoic and flat as Team Radiance had ever heard.

    "Hope is meaningless. It is unrequited," Latios added. The clones flew apart from one another. Silvally looked back and forth and switched to his steel memories, but then the clones flew right at him. Their slimy wings turned gray. Silvally realized his mistake too late and the clones' Steel Wings swept his legs out from under him. He crashed against the ground with a loud grunt.

    "You say that you can help everyone, but that's a lie," Latias said. "Your 'help' enables people to continue their poisonous behavior. All it does is make them think that you'll be able to solve all their problems."

    Latios turned its monolithic eye on Espy. "Isn't that right?"

    Espy's tail shot up the moment Latios flew toward her, wings glowing. Rather than try to run, however, she faced the clone down and fired a Shadow Ball at it. It scored a direct hit right in Latios' eye, sending it crashing to the ground.

    "On your right, Espy!" Silvally cried, scrambling to his feet. Espy turned to see Latias charging up a Draco Meteor. She hastily fired a second Shadow Ball. Latias choked on its attack and dropped to the ground beside its partner. Espy approached both of them, ectoplasm trailing off her forehead gem.

    "Want to know what I think? You may have a point. There are people out there who will take advantage of those who try to help them," Espy said, eyes narrowing. "But that isn't a reason to turn your back on them and leave them to flounder. It means you have to work with them to find a middle ground… or get someone else to step in and provide support, instead." She looked at Silvally. "If I had understood that, maybe I would still be friends with everyone in Paradise."

    White light glistened in her forehead gem. "People can change. They can fix their mistakes. But you don't want to give them a chance to do that!" She fired a point-blank Dazzling Gleam. The clones smushed back together in the spherical core. It rolled across the ground, its colors swirling around in a frenzy.

    I just want it all to stop…

    "We're trying, Nicky!" Shane cried. He shot an Ice Beam at the core. It bounced up out of the way, leaving Shane gnashing his teeth. Another thought struck him as he stared the core down. Nicky wasn't the only spirit supposedly trapped inside Necrozma. He looked around the room at all the alien veins flashing with bright light.

    "Everyone, please listen to me! You all have to try and fight Necrozma's grip on your spirits!" Shane said. "My friends are doing their best to destroy the core, but we need your help. Necrozma thinks that teamwork and relationships are meaningless. Show him that he's wrong! Work together!"

    Shane's teammates stared at him blankly, but then the entire room shook. The veins above them pulsated. Spurts of goo shot out into the room. Behind them, small plumes of slime shot up from the floor. Shane's expression brightened. "That's perfect! Keep doing that, everyone!" he said.

    Make it stop. I'm so tired. I want to rest.

    Incensed by the development, the core shrieked once again. It pulsated and rippled, then split apart into multiple pieces that melted into puddles. Shane spewed ice breath at the nearest puddle, but it joined up with the other puddles and expanded into a giant orange ball. The temperature in the room spiked and an orange glow overtook the walls.

    "That's a Fusion Flame! Run, Shane!" Silvally cried, channeling his water memories and attempting to put the attack out with a large wave. The fireball bounced back onto the floor, rebounded into the wall, and shot toward Espy, Silvally, and Tessa. They scattered in different directions. Tessa yelped as the fireball grazed her side. She rolled to a stop, clutching her smoldering right shoulder.

    The fireball burst apart to reveal a copy of Incineroar. Orange slime dribbled off its belt and its lone eye stared Tessa down. "People may change, but history is always doomed to repeat itself. Life is finite for nearly all creatures. Your sins will be repeated by the next generation. And the generation after that. And the one after that." Incineroar raised a gooey hand and conjured a fireball. "It's inevitable. Eventually, someone will take things too far. Then, everything you worked for will be erased. Legacies are worthless. Destruction is the only solution to reality's imperfections."

    Incineroar spun around, shooting orange fireballs to deflect bursts of water from Silvally and twin Dazzling Gleams from Espy and Shane. He jumped into the air, formed another large fireball, and shot toward Tessa. She cupped her paws together and thrust them forward, shooting out jets of aural fire. They struck Incineroar and brought him to a stalemate.

    "Tessa!" Shane cried. He spat an Ice Beam at the fireball, only to watch it evaporate.

    "I'll help her out," Silvally said, a golden wheel encasing his torso.

    Tessa's aura dreadlocks fanned out. The glowing lines on her body shimmered with rainbow light. All the anger Tessa was trying to keep contained was trying to burst out of her. She stared at the flickering sigil on her right paw.

    "You're the one… who's taking things… too far!" Snarling, Tessa tensed her arms and legs. More aura shot out of her paws. She pushed the fireball back far enough for Silvally to lunge for it. Water encased his talons and he drove them right into the fireball. Incineroar crashed into the ground near a doubled-over Tessa. She struggled to catch her breath.

    "I get that… what happened to you… is nothing short of awful. But you don't… have the right… to judge every world… by the actions… of a few people." Tessa straightened up. Aura flickered in her paws. "Lasting change is possible. People just have to work together to make it happen. And that's what we're fighting for. To give everyone a chance to change. I won't let you take that away from us!" She hurled an Aura Sphere at Incineroar. It melted down into a puddle.

    Tessa's eyes widened. She backpedaled. The puddle spread out toward her. Shane caught sight of this and shouted, "Jump off the wall!" Tessa hopped back, cringing as her feet connected with an oozing, pulsating vein. Nevertheless, she kicked off the wall and shot into the air.

    But that seemed to be what the core was anticipating. The puddle bubbled. Silvally saw spikes form in it, ready to impale Tessa while she couldn't dodge. Silvally hardened his body into iron and lunged into the air. He knocked Tessa aside and the spikes jabbed against his belly with a series of clangs. Silvally landed and whirled around to attack, but the core was already back in the air.

    I don't want to hurt you anymore.

    Shane looked around at all the brightly-flashing veins. He couldn't keep repeating the same tired lines over and over again. His stamina was running dry and he imagined his teammates were struggling, too. There had to be a way to put an end to this.

    "You cannot change the world. Your gods won't allow it. There will always be people who resist change. The ones who think and care only about themselves," the core said. "They cannot be stopped. They step on everyone around them until they're in control, then suffocate those who dare to disagree with them. And after that, they stab their loyal followers in the back." The core wriggled about. Slowly, its slimy membrane parted so a lone, violet eye stared at Shane. "You can disagree all you want, but I speak only the truth."

    Shane shrank back, his tails curling against his waist. "I, well…"

    "Need I remind you of what you really are?" the core hissed. More of its membrane split apart, until it was a slime cage housing the violet eye in its center. Gooey spikes poked out of the cage's exterior and its colors faded to black.

    Espy shrank back, eyes wide. Tessa tensed up, biting her lower lip. Silvally crouched low to the ground, a growl rumbling in the back of his throat. Shane glanced at his teammates, then stared down the Dark Matter clone. "If you're trying to break my fighting spirit or something stupid like that… then I'm here to tell you it's not working," Shane said, his brow furrowing.

    "Yes, I screwed up. A lot. In two separate lifetimes, apparently. If you asked anyone with half a brain… they'd tell you I don't deserve the amount of second chances I've gotten." He spat an Ice Beam at Dark Matter, but it hovered out of the way. Its eye flashed, then shot out six glowing orbs. Shane tensed up, ready to dodge them. However, instead of flying toward him, they hovered in the air. The energy balls grew bigger, until each one released a large energy beam.

    "Hit the deck!" Espy yelped, diving to her belly as a beam swept overhead. Across from her, Tessa leaped over a separate energy beam, stumbling as she landed. Silvally was too large to avoid the lasers heading toward him. He instead shot a large bolt of lightning at the lower one, creating a gap to squeeze through.

    "Be silent. All of you… be silent!" Dark Matter growled. "You're so annoying! Why don't you just accept your fates and die already?"

    "Because it's not up to you!" Shane said. "Look, I was one of those people who did everything I could to oppose change. But I see how wrong that is, now!" He looked at his teammates. "And it's all because of them. My friends showed me what it means to be a better person. To confide in others… and let them confide in me. I understand what it's like to help someone, now. And I want to keep helping people. Starting with you… and returning all those spirits you stole!"

    It's not fair…

    Dark Matter responded by shooting out more energy balls. Shane saw an energy ball heading for him and leaped away from the ensuing laser. He shot an Ice Beam at Dark Matter and it struck the center of the eye. His teammates managed to weave through other lasers. Air Slash blades hit Dark Matter from behind. An Aura Sphere and a Shadow Ball struck it from the side. Slime splattered across the ground. The eye shook inside of its gooey cage.

    Why didn't you help me?

    "Because I was an idiot, okay?" Shane's tails drooped. "I know… no amount of apologizing can make up for the bad things I did. Just like no amount of apologizing can make up for the fact that I'm also Dark Matter." Shane looked down. "No one can change the past. And one person alone can't change the present. But that's why you have to surround yourself with people who support you. So you can lift each other up and make a brighter future… together!"

    "There will be no future. None of you deserve one!" Dark Matter snarled, hovering out of the way of multiple sets of Psychic rings. "It doesn't matter what you do. It doesn't matter who you surround yourself with. There is no such thing as a perfect world! Better they all be erased than one person in one world be made to suffer!"

    Stop shouting… please. I'm so tired of this.

    "And what do you call what you're doing? Look at all the people you've made suffer with your actions!" Shane barked. "Even if we can undo the damage… the memories won't fade away!"

    "All the more reason to make everything disappear." Dark Matter shot out a bunch of bright-white orbs. Enough to form an entire wall behind it. Tessa's eyes widened. If they fired off lasers, there'd be no way to escape them all. Not without jumping right into Dark Matter.

    Shane tensed up, then noticed a glimmer coming from his looplet. He knew it wouldn't do any good to stop and think about if a Z-Move was even possible inside of Necrozma, so he focused on the looplet. His breath rushed out of him when the familiar warmth of channeled Z-Power spread down his limbs.

    Silvally backed away with a yelp. "Careful, Shane! We're not exactly in a wide-open space, here."

    An iceberg rose out from the floor. Shane glanced at Silvally and said, "I know. But I've got to try this. One way or another… we're putting an end to all of this!"

    Dark Matter fired its wall of energy beams at the same time Shane unleashed his Z-Move. The giant ice beam struck the lasers and pushed them back. It made contact with Dark Matter, blowing apart its slime-covered exterior and exposing the purple eye in the center. With blue haze still filling the room and blocking his teammates' views of the trembling core, Shane leaped toward it with a loud holler. The eye widened. Black tendrils appeared around the core and wrapped Shane up the instant he contacted the core.

    Espy dispelled the lingering mist. "Hey, where'd Shane go?" she asked, looking around the room in confusion.

    Silvally's beak hung open. He stared at the core. Though it lacked a face and limbs, he swore it was convulsing in midair. The various color streaks crisscrossed one another. "I… I think he's…" Silvally pointed his beak at the core.

    "What?!" Tessa's eyes bulged out. "We've got to get him out of there. Everyone… together!" She gathered her paws together to charge up an Aura Sphere when the core shrieked so loud that Tessa dropped to her knees and threw her paws over her ears. "Agh! M… make it… stop!"

    Silvally's eyes twitched. He squeezed them shut and staggered back, bumping into an equally-frightened Espy. "S… Silv, what's going on? The whole room is shaking and flashing like Sunset Shoals during Primarina's concert!"

    "I don't know! I… I…" Silvally hissed in pain, unable to do anything to stop his sonar-like ears from getting the full force of the core's screams.

    Before Espy had the chance to respond, the entire floor flashed white. She looked down, tail stiffening. "What the—"

    Another white flash ensued. Next thing Espy, Silvally, and Tessa knew, they were floating in midair. "H-Hey… what's the big idea?!" Tessa tried to look at the core, but the lack of gravity made it impossible for her to turn around. "Shane? Shane, can you hear me? What are you doing in there?"

    As if to answer, white energy raced up the walls in successive ripples. Bright-white glows surrounded Espy, Silvally, and Tessa. They all exchanged surprised looks for a few seconds, before they shot up toward the ceiling, leaving Necrozma's innards behind in three streaks of bright white light.

    XxX
    Continued in next post.
     
  2. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Continued from previous post.

    XxX​

    Shane found himself once again floating through a seemingly-empty space. There was one critical difference between his current predicament and the time Necrozma possessed him, however. A mosaic of bright colors twisted and spiraled all around him. He squinted, trying to discern some sort pattern in the rainbow in front of him, but he soon abandoned those efforts.

    "H-Hello?" He kicked at the air with his legs, thankful he managed to retain his Ninetales form this time. To his surprise, the action propelled him forward slightly. It was like doing a single breaststroke kick in a swimming pool. Shane kept kicking, moving through the alien space. The colors all around him kept shifting, but he couldn't make anything out from them.

    "Tessa? Silvally? Espy? Is… is anyone out there?" Shane bit his lip. He was seriously regretting his decision to leap toward the core, even though he firmly believed the only way to stop the core's rampage was from the inside. After kicking for a while without any sort of response, Shane stopped and hung his head. "Nicky? Can you hear me? C'mon, man, you know I wasn't a fan of Inception. Enough of this dream within a dream-type nonsense! I just want to talk… I swear!"

    I know.

    Shane gasped. It was the same voice he'd heard during the battle, but it was much louder now. "Nicky? Nicky! You don't have to hide anymore. I'm here! I can help! I can… I can make up for what I did." Shane's ears folded against his head.

    I'm right here. I've been here the whole time.

    "Huh?" Shane squinted. He even went cross-eyed. That's when he saw tiny cluster of golden embers floating across from him. "Is… is that really you?"

    It's… complicated. But you ought to know that by now, right?

    Okay, yeah. Nicky had a point. Blinking slowly, Shane reevaluated his choice of words. "You're… what's left of Nicky's spirit, aren't you?"

    I— yeah, I guess you could say that. I'm the last shred of humanity left inside of Necrozma. It's… it's really me. Your old friend, Nicky said, his voice filled with melancholy.

    Shane smiled. His tails wagged. He was relieved that his desire to find Necky wasn't wishful thinking. "I knew it. I knew you were still inside somehow!" He swam closer to the small ball of light. Nicky floated back, however, his embers rippling.

    No, Shane. It's best if you stay back for now, Nicky whispered.

    "What are you talking about? You've seen everything that's been going on, haven't you?" Shane said. "You've been trying to fight against Necrozma from the inside. I know you have!"

    The energy ball bristled. Shane, please. We… we don't have a lot of time. For once in your life — or, at least, for the life I know you from — be quiet and listen to me, okay?

    Shane frowned. He opened his mouth, only to nod slowly and lower his head. He'd interrupted Nicky enough times when they were human. Now wasn't the time to slip into that old habit.

    Whatever Golem did when he tried to strip me of my powers broke my spirit apart. The pain was… Nicky paused. I don't think words alone can describe it, to be honest. But the point is that, the part of my spirit that remained behind was filled with the same hatred that Golem and his assistants had in their hearts and minds when they brought me to this world and made me into the Guiding Light. That hatred mixed with the chaotic power of the ley lines that Golem used to create me. And thus, Necrozma was born.

    It all lined up with what Necrozma had told Shane during his rant about how he was actually Dark Matter. But somehow, hearing it from Nicky's voice made it sound more… concrete? Shane wasn't sure if that was the right word.

    The light ball flittered back, golden embers trailing off it. After that, I was imprisoned in the Ultra Nexus. I can't tell you exactly how long that was, but it had to have been at least several centuries. All that time, I reflected on the things that had happened to me. Well, all the negative things, to be more specific. They played on an endless loop for me.

    "I'm sorry," Shane whispered. He could scarcely imagine what it'd be like if he was trapped with nothing but his thoughts. It was no wonder Necrozma descended into madness.

    Nicky bristled once again. Shane looked away guiltily. Shane, I know you want to think that I'm a victim in this whole sordid affair. And maybe I am to some degree. But most of Necrozma's existence has been carrying out my will.

    Shane frowned. That didn't make a lick of sense. "What are you saying?"

    That I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt people like they had hurt me. I wanted everyone to know what it was like to suffer… and I wanted to take their happiness from them by destroying the things they loved and cared about, Nicky said. I haven't been resisting that long. I've mostly spurned on Necrozma's actions.

    Nicky's words brought Shane back to his conversation with Espy about Necrozma's true nature. Was this what she had meant when she claimed he was too far gone?

    Just like you and Dark Matter are merged together… I'm merged with the void, the empty entity that battled Arceus and lodged itself in the core of the planet, spreading the ley lines that Pokémon hate so much, Nicky continued. My hatred fueled the void… and the void fueled my destructive powers by helping me harness the spirits of other Pokémon and control the ley lines within the planet. That was our relationship.

    Heck, it even happened before we started battling. Once I got a taste of all the power the void had poured into Necrozma's core… Nicky's particles shrank closer to one another. Shane, you heard Necrozma. That attack on the human world… that was all me.

    "Rebecca," Shane whispered. He imagined a Salazzle thrashing about in an empty space, screaming and snarling. If this was going to be the end of Necrozma… would she be trapped there forever?

    Not just her. With the powers I got from Arceus and the Unown, I sent his arms to attack Rebecca's school. Geoff was there, too, but I'm pretty sure he's dead now, Nicky replied, shrinking into an even tighter ball. It doesn't stop there. I must've attacked at least a couple of dozen colleges. All to take away people's happiness… just like I had my happiness taken from me.

    Bile rose in Shane's throat. As much as he resented many of his old classmates, he wouldn't wish death upon them. All he had wanted was for them to fess up and face justice for what he believed they'd done to Nicky. Instead, Nicky had exacted his own justice… as Necrozma. "Nicky." Shane's tails fell between his legs. "I don't get it. Then why were you fighting with the void for control of Necrozma?"

    Because I heard the things you and your teammates were saying. And they made me think of Xerneas. She was… The light ball expanded. She was my mate, Shane.

    "Seriously?!"

    Nicky bristled. A hiss echoed in Shane's ears and he shrank back, wincing. "S-Sorry. I wasn't, um, judging or anything. I mean—"

    We don't have time for this discussion.

    "But what about the stuff you said to my friends about the pictures on my computer?" Shane said, pouting.

    I just told you… I don't want to talk about any of that. We're on a timer, Nicky replied. As if on cue, the rippling colors surrounding them darkened.

    "What's that supposed to mean? I'm still really confused," Shane said. Then again… he did see a second silhouette wrapped in the void's chains. Now that he thought about, it looked vaguely Xerneas-like. And Necrozma had possessed Xerneas when he confronted Shane in the Prism Wastelands.

    Just be quiet and listen to me, Nicky growled. Shane shrank back again. Nicky sighed. When I confronted Xerneas, there was… a schism of sorts. The realization of what I was doing — of the monster I'd become — had finally hit me. There were sparks of that when I encountered you in the Tapus' various temples. But the void and I were still on the same page, then. After Xerneas, though… I started to have second thoughts. But then I got a taste of the void's true power and almost lost myself to it… until your team broke through and I realized how wrong I'd been.

    "Exactly! And now that we're together, there's got to be a way to—"

    No.

    Shane blinked. "No? What do you mean? Don't you want to be yourself again? I'm sure we can think of something." After all this work, he wasn't going to let Nicky slip away again.

    No, Shane. I don't want to return to being the Guiding Light or get put into a new body or anything like that, Nicky said, his golden embers dimming. I'm tired, Shane. So, so tired. I've been drowning in negative thoughts for such a long time… I just can't do it anymore.

    "You can't say that, Nicky!" Shane swam closer, but Nicky flittered back. "I know I screwed up when we were human. I missed all the signs that something was wrong. But not this time. I can help you. My friends can— err, I mean, my other friends can help you find happiness as a Pokémon. You don't have to—"

    Shane, I'm not saying I want to kill myself… again. I'm saying that it's impossible for you to restore me the way I am.

    "Oh," Shane whispered. Why hadn't he said that from the get-go, then?

    When I turned into Necrozma, the first thing I did was destroy my original body… and most of my spirit, as well. What you're seeing here really is all that's left. I can't maintain a physical form without leeching off of someone else's energy… whether it's the void's or Lunala's or anyone else's, Nicky explained. In order to restore all the spirits I've consumed, I would have to give up all of the energy I've taken in. All that would be left behind is a dormant core. But the void would still be part of that core.

    Shane recalled Team Paradox's story. Even if Necrozma was reduced to its core, it could still potentially cause trouble. He needed a better solution. "What about light energy or Z-Power? Can we use that to fill your spirit up enough to give you a new body?" Shane wondered, looking at his looplet.

    Even if that was possible, I don't want to.

    "But you just said—"

    Shane, there's no way I can go and live in any world after everything I've done, Nicky said, his golden embers dimming even further. I have too many bad memories. Of my human life, my time as the Guiding Light, and all the awful stuff I did as Necrozma. I've had enough. I want it all to end. I want to rest.

    Tears welled up in Shane's eyes. This time, Nicky's message was much clearer. Shane had to stop him from thinking like that. "C-C'mon. Don't say stuff like that. Didn't you hear what my friends and I were saying? People can change! You can—"

    But I would never really be happy, Shane. It's better for everyone if I disappear, Nicky whispered. You're right, though. People can change. You've changed, Shane. I'm stunned at who you've become. Somehow, being a part of Team Radiance truly transformed you… y'know, beyond the whole 'body of an ice Ninetales' thing.

    Shane was filled with too much guilt to accept the compliment. "N… Nicky. You don't deserve this…"

    This isn't a game, Shane. It's real life. Not everyone gets to have a happy ending, Nicky said. I know how upset you'd get whenever I tried to get you to play a game or watch something where there aren't happy endings involved for all the heroes. But I'm not a hero.

    "But you battled against the void from within!" Shane mentally kicked himself. He was this close to losing Nicky again. Couldn't he come up with something better?

    Only after blowing up the whole world. Even if that can be undone… I can't reverse all the damage to the human world. I'm sorry, Shane, but this is one of those times I need you to buck up and stomach something you don't like. Because I need your help for one last thing.

    Shane frowned. He wanted to save Nicky, sure. But was that actually a selfish wish? Shane mulled Nicky's words over. He wanted to disappear… but he had a last request. And Shane had done such a bad job with his requests when they were human. Sighting, Shane came to a conclusion. Even though his heart ached, Shane believed he owed it to Nicky to indulge whatever the request was.

    He blinked tears out of his eyes. "O-Okay. What do you need?"

    I need you… to take what's left of my spirit.

    "I… wait, what?" Shane's jaw dropped. That was… not the request he expected. It flew in the face of everything Nicky had said before… right? "But haven't we been—"

    Even though your team broke the vessels linking the core to Void Necrozma, it's still connected. I can feel all the spirits beating together like one massive heart. They're yearning to return to their homes, Nicky said. And I can make it happen, but we have to get the void and its toxic ley lines out of the picture for good. My will is only strong enough to hinder it, not take it out. But if you accept my spirit… our wills combined should be able to drive the void out of the core… and out of Necrozma. Then, we can destroy the void and restore everything that I took from this world.

    "So, wait… would this be like how Dark Matter fused with my spirit?" Shane said. The colors around the room swirled even faster. Though Shane floated in midair, he got the sense that the room was shaking. Was this the timer Nicky referred to?

    Yes. Your spirit's far more stable than mine, so it would be your memories and personality that would win out. However, I'd make sure to give you the knowledge needed to fix the things I broke, Nicky replied, his embers pulsating. This is my final request to you, Shane. Become Necrozma… be the new Guiding Light. Fix the things I broke and, hopefully, lay out a path for a bright future for this world.

    Nicky floated up to Shane. Gold filled Shane's vision. This was not a request to be taken lightly. His eyes darted about nervously. Shane knew he was impulsive. With Necrozma's powers… he could end up doing something hasty and making things even worse. "Are… are you sure you've got the right guy? I mean, I'm a total screw-up! There's no way I could handle that kind of power on my own."

    You wouldn't have to handle it for long, Shane. Because what we have to do… isn't something you're going to bounce back from.

    "Wait… what?!" Now Shane was sure the room was shaking. Spinning, too. He was definitely light-headed. "Y… you're saying—"

    That if you agree to this, you're going to burn out our combined spirit, Nicky said. So, yes, we'll both be disappearing.

    Shane clenched his jaw. "But… but then… what was the point of this whole conversation? I… I…"

    This is why I didn't want you interrupting until I'd finished, Nicky said, sighing. I wanted to explain it all clearly, but you kept peppering with me with questions.

    "But my friends… I want to stay with them! Please, there has to be some other way!" Fresh tears welled up in Shane's eyes. Thoughts of Espy's smile, Silvally curling around him protectively, and sitting on the beach with Tessa flashed in his mind. He couldn't leave. Shane promised that he would stay with them. They were a team. And their journey had been so different. It wasn't supposed to end the same way as the games.

    A thunderclap echoed through the room. Nicky's light particles distorted briefly. Shane's tails shot up in alarm.

    I'm sorry, Shane. This is the only way I can think of… short of having your team leave the world destroyed in exchange for breaking my core, Nicky said, a hint of urgency to his voice. I realize this must be hard for you. Your friends… are good people. People who care deeply about you.

    All Shane could think about was Tessa. Her smile. Her paw brushing against his while they talked on Circadian Coast. The encouraging words when he was trapped by Necrozma. "It's… it's more than that." Shane's voice trembled. "Tessa. I… I love her. I can't… I don't want to leave her. She's… she means so much to me."

    If you really love her, then don't you think she deserves to have her world back? Think about it… neither of us were meant to be here in the first place. We broke this world. It's only right we put it back together.

    Shane bit his lip. Nicky… had a point. After all the efforts Shane had taken to learn to be selfless, he couldn't throw that all away. Tessa deserved to have Gallian and Zoroark back. Espy deserved to reunite with her brother… and the Pokémon of Paradise. And, if he didn't fix the world, Silvally would never get to show people what he's capable of.

    Still, it wasn't fair. After all of his hard work… he wouldn't get to stay with his friends. Not without doing something extraordinarily selfish. Shane's ears drooped. There wasn't any further room for debate. He had to go along with Nicky. Otherwise, he'd be spitting in the face of all the things his friends had said in battle. And that wasn't right. Not after everything Team Radiance had done for him… especially all the second chances he'd gotten. They earned the right to get their world back… and experience true peace.

    Another thunderclap sounded. Well? What's your answer? I can't keep the void at bay any longer!

    Shane wiped tears out of his eyes. Yes, he'd made up his mind, but that didn't make it any less of a bitter pill to swallow. And, given how unstable Nicky made it sound like Necrozma's massive was, Shane wasn't even sure he'd get to say a proper goodbye. It stung. However, Shane forced himself to imagine his teammates reuniting with people whose spirits Necrozma had taken. It helped to settle his stomach.

    He extended a forepaw toward Nicky and said, "Okay. I'll do it."

    Even though Nicky lacked a face, Shane swore he saw a smile before his vision went white.

    XxX​

    "Lunala, look! It's Team Radiance!" Ephemeris pointed a wing toward Necrozma's neck. Three bright lights burst out of Necrozma's golden neck, orange goop trailing off them. Lunala flew forward and snagged Espy and Tessa in a psychic grip. She planted them on her back, cringing as slime squelched against her spine.

    "Eww. What happened to you all in there? You stink to Mellath Bog," Lunala said, face scrunching up.

    "Never mind that. Where's Shane?" Tessa looked about frantically. "Shane? Shane?! Say something, damn it! We did not come this far for you to—"

    "Ah! Necrozma's stirring!" Silvally squawked, pointing a talon forward. Everyone looked in Necrozma direction to see his head and wings reform, mismatched eyes and all. This time, however, there was no third eye on his forehead or extra eyes in his wing-joints. Necrozma sat upright, then coughed up a large purple eye. It swiveled around and stared at Team Radiance, then shot past them, shrieking in rage.

    "I wILl ObLIteRAtE AlL Of YoU! DiE! DiE! Die!"

    Ley line chains swarmed Void, expanding the size of the disembodied eyeball. Its pupil crackled with dark lightning. "Incoming!" Ephemeris cried as Void shot a purple beam toward Team Radiance. Ephemeris spewed a Flamethrower in retaliation. Lunala added a Moongeist Beam. Tessa threw her paws up and shot out a stream of aura. Espy shot a Psybeam and Silvally, encased by golden energy, unleashed a white-hot plasma stream.

    The attacks met Void's laser and forced it back. Void's pupil expanded. "No! No! NoOoO! ThIS iS ImPOSSiBLE! I Am AlL oF ExIStENcE! YoU CANnOT StOP m—"

    Team Radiance's attacks snuffed Void's laser out and struck it. Cracks splintered across its eye. It hovered back, pulsating and rippling with energy. More ley line chains burrowed inside of Void. Each one made it grow in size until it ballooned up to be twice as large as Ephemeris and Lunala.

    "ThIS iS The ENd foR yOU aLl!"

    Void unleashed another laser, far larger than the other ones. Everyone's eyes widened and they braced themselves for the worst, only for a rainbow beam to destroy the laser and strike Void directly in its pupil. Void spun through space, coming to rest by the giant rift leading to the sun.

    "What the—" Silvally turned around. "Necrozma?"

    "Guess again."

    Tessa nearly fell from Lunala's back upon hearing Shane's voice coming from Necrozma. He flew between Lunala and Ephemeris, his new, draconic body brimming with golden energy. Shane stared down Void. "I told you before… nobody hurts my friends and gets away with it!"

    Void tilted its eye meekly. "YoU ArE… mAkInG A HugE mIsTaKe…"

    "No, I'm fixing your huge mistake!" Shane said, flying up to the rift. The heat from the sun was suffocating, but the bright glow it gave off was also inviting. Shane hadn't felt this invigorated in either his human or his Pokémon life. He channeled the heat and energy from the other side of the rift, forming a giant golden energy ball overhead.

    Tessa's jaw slackened. "No way," she whispered. Tessa rubbed her eyes with an arm, convinced she had to be dreaming.

    "This is for everyone you've hurt with your sick, twisted beliefs! Our world is done with you… forever!" Shane tucked his head into his chest. The golden energy ball surged toward Void.

    "YoU Can'T Get RId oF mE! I aM NeCESsArY DeSTruCtIoN!" Void snarled. It gathered up the last of the remaining ley line chains, swelling up in size even further. It shot another purple laser toward the giant energy ball. Void's attack managed to stop Shane's light ball in its place, despite its massive size.

    "I aM ThE BegINNiNG… tHe MidDle… tHE eND! I Am EVerYThiNG! I aM… I aM… VoID. I mUSt… ConSumE. I muST… DeSTrOY!"

    Despite all of Void's efforts, it couldn't do more than keep Shane's attack in place. Shane's multicolored eyes flashed. The energy ball expanded… and swallowed up Void's beam. Shrieking at the top of its nonexistent lungs, Void poured all of the energy it could muster into its energy beam. It shrank down, ley line chains dissolving away as golden light raced to meet Void.

    "No! NO! NoOO! I woN'T… GiVE iN! I CaN'T! I… HaTE… HatE… HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE YOU!"

    "The feeling's mutual, asshole!"

    With one final burst of pink energy, Shane propelled his massive energy ball straight into Void. Bit by bit, the ball of purple and black slime dissolved away… until Void disappeared inside the energy ball. There was a blinding explosion, punctuated by the echoes of Void's defiant, rage-filled snarling.

    Team Radiance all had to look away from the brilliant golden flash. When the light died down, there was nothing left in Void's place. Not even a single fragment of a ley line chain remained. Shane's beak creaked into a grin. It was gone. Every last bit had been blown to smithereens.

    Ephemeris and Lunala exchanged curious looks and cautiously approached Shane. "You're… you're Shane, right?"

    Shane nodded. "When I dove into Necrozma's core… I was able to force the void out of Necrozma."

    "Shane, that's… that's…" Tessa was at a complete loss for words. "Does this mean we've, um, stopped Necrozma?"

    He smiled. "It does. We did it. We won… together!"

    "What's going to happen now? Even if we've stopped Necrozma from wiping out reality… our world's still been destroyed, hasn't it?" Espy said, ears drooping. She looked at Silvally and Tessa, who both lowered their heads.

    "It's going to be fine."

    Espy's ears twitched. She looked into Shane's massive eyes. "Excuse me?"

    "The hard part is over." Shane glanced at the rift, watching a couple of solar flares jump out. He drew them toward his back. Another surge of energy shot through him. "You all finally get to rest. I'll take it from here."

    Tessa cocked her head. "Wait, what are you saying? You actually have a plan to fix this?"

    "I do." Shane looked at Ephemeris and Lunala. "But I don't think it's safe for any of you to stay here. I need you to go into Ultra Space for a little while. You'll know when it's safe to return."

    "But what about you?" Tessa said, heart hammering in her chest. "It's not a true victory if we're not together in the end!"

    "I told you, Tessa, there's no reason to worry." Shane offered her the best reassuring grin he could manage with his giant, beak-like mouth. "Everything's going to be fine." He turned toward the rift. "I'll see you all on the other side. Don't start the celebration party or anything without me, okay?"

    Tessa tensed up. "No, it's not okay! What's your plan? What are you doing? Tell us, Shane! After everything we've been through, don't we deserve to know? I… I…" She put a paw to her chest spike.

    Shane closed his eyes. "I promise… I'll tell you everything when it's over. Deal?"

    Tessa's eyes darted about. Lunala had already opened up an Ultra Wormhole. Eyes squeezed shut, Tessa tucked her head in. Then, without warning, she leaped off from Lunala bag. Espy and Silvally cried out to her, but she ignored them. Her momentum carried her right onto Shane's crystalline beak.

    "T-Tessa, what are you doing?!" Shane said, his eyes turning a mix of red and orange.

    Tessa planted the tip of her muzzle against the top of Shane's beak. His eyes widened in shock. Tessa stood back up, legs shaking. "You better keep your promise, Shane!" she said. Tessa then leaped back onto Lunala, nearly jostling Espy off her back in the process. Espy stared at her in shock, but Tessa said nothing. She took one last look at Shane before disappearing alongside her teammates through the portal.

    Shane waited until the wormhole was closed. The red color receded in his eyes and face. Shane sighed and bowed his head. "I don't see why I couldn't have told them the truth. They're going to be heartbroken, Nicky. And Tessa… after that gesture… I should've said that I love her." He turned so he was fully facing the rift. Immense guilt over the fact that he had lied to Tessa bubbled up in his chest. In truth, he still had no idea if this would work. But that wouldn't stop him from going through with it.

    'After all, I was never supposed to be a part of this world in the first place. If I can give everyone else a second chance, then I can rest happy.'

    With a flap of his four wings, Shane clumsily made his way through the rift. Immediately, an intense wall of heat buffeted him. The wind rushed out of Shane. He was hoping his ethereal body would make this an easy feat, but the sun's molten surface suffocated him. He could barely think straight, but he knew he had to concentrate. Shane had to think happy thoughts to get this to work right.

    In his mind's eye, he pictured himself sitting on the hill overlooking Aeon Town. Soft fur brushed against his imaginary hip. He looked to his right to see Tessa sitting next to him. She wrapped an arm around his foreleg and smiled at him. Another tingle crossed his other hip as Silvally sat down on his left, with Espy at his side. All three of them looked out to the west, staring at a beautiful orange sky as the sun sank below the horizon.

    Shane trembled. The energy surging through him made him feel like he was going to burst apart at any second. But he had to keep himself together until he reached the center of the sun. Shane squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his crystalline teeth.

    "From darkest night… I'll light the way…"

    Shane dove into the sun. Burning pain shot down his entire body. His wings quivered. His tail spasmed. Crystal chunks broke off his body. The hexagonal tiles of Void Necrozma's wings fell apart the closer he got to the sun's molten core.

    "To a brand-new world… and a bright, shining day!"

    Golden light beams poked out from the center of the sun as it slowly expanded in size. Then, in a sparkling, rainbow flash, it exploded, bathing the entire cosmos in brilliant, ethereal light.

    XxX​

    Spawn of Chaos, Necrozma Core
    At last… Necrozma's terrifying true form reveals itself. With a ravenous hunger for spiritual energy, it will stop at nothing to destroy whatever stands in front of it. Though its enraged shrieks echo through the insides of Necrozma's body, a small, shrill voice cries out from the darkness.

    "Please make it stop! I don't want to do this anymore!"

    XxX
    If you've followed the blog, you'll know that I've been referring to the fic's final episode as "the golden ending." And now you know why. It's golden in the sense that Shane turns gold as a result of turning into Necrozma. This is the ending I've had planned for several months. I'm sure some of you might be confused, but it's not over yet. A lot of things still need to be wrapped up. I hope you found this to be to your liking. If not, maybe you'll consider letting me know why.

    Next time: the aftermath.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
    git-it likes this.
  3. git-it

    git-it Member

    The whole fight with the core was very interesting.
    One thing I thought while reading was that I felt sorry for Necrozma when he was saying 'StOP HuRTiNG Me! Go AWAy!' and 'YoU… YoU AlL hATE mE! WhY DOeS EvERYoNE HAtE Me?!', even if it seemed to be the void talking at this point while reading.
    But Necrozma may even in the beginning of this fight have had some influence by Nicky, because what I experienced with Void was that Void is acting merciless. 'Go away', 'Stop' and 'Leave me alone' are not nearly as serious as 'Burn' or 'Die', so in retrospect I think there may have already been some Nicky at that point.
    The fight was exciting and because of the conversations very diversified.

    And then you did it. Again.
    In the dialogue between Nicky and Shane, you made me cry.
    Twice.
    First when Nicky told Shane he wants to rest.
    And Second when he told Shane to end all.
    I knew that this point would come, because this is PMD, but I couldn't hold on myself. Again.

    Oh, I'm not looking forward for the moment when Tessa, Silvally and Espy find out. I think Tessa already is suspecting it, even if Shane was denying.

    Hats off for Amby.
     
  4. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    @git-it Thanks! I'll admit, it was very tough to balance dialogue with the actual battling in this situation. Namo offered a few good suggestions that I think made the final product turn out better. I was trying to show the depth of character development alongside everything going on. And, yeah, even though people were calling for Nicky's redemption, that was never going to be the plan and I wanted to make his reasoning very clear on the matter.

    This chapter features a few cameos from other PMD fics. See if you can find them all. ;)

    XxX

    Chapter 99: Planting the Seeds of Change

    ~Ultra Space~

    Unlike the previous, brief foray into the depths of Ultra Space, Tessa saw everything. The blue, ethereal light stretching out in all directions. Faint checkerboard patterns far in the distance. Crystal lattices and solar flares flying away. And, of course, bright-orange stars venting fireballs and sparks of energy.

    Tessa's aura dreadlocks curled up. Her paws trembled. She was so stunned that her mind went blank. This was what lay beyond her world? Team Paradox's description of Ultra Space didn't do it justice. Tessa truly was a tiny sand grain plopped in the middle of a beach.

    Ephemeris stuck close to Lunala. Golden light bathed both of them. "Are you two okay?" he asked, looking at Espy and Tessa.

    Tessa blinked a few times, then sat up straight. "I… I think so? Are we not supposed to be okay or something?" She frowned. "Sorry, this is a lot to take in."

    "Agreed," Espy squeaked, burying her face in Lunala's back.

    "Well, I want to make sure my healing energy is keeping you safe. Ultra Space is full of radiation that could pose a great harm to you both," Ephemeris said.

    "How long do we have to stay out here, for?" Silvally wondered, trying to look back at the spot where they'd flown out of an Ultra Wormhole from. He squinted. Silvally swore he saw a ripple, but it was tough to tell with the luminescent glow all around him.

    Silvally's question immediately brought Shane back to Tessa's mind. Worry flooded her system. Why did he sound so confident when he said everything would be okay? Sure, Tessa didn't hear the same cocky attitude that the old Shane had. But the lack of a proper explanation made her insides turn. She swallowed a mouthful of spit, silently praying Shane knew what he was doing.

    Lunala's third eye flashed. "What the—" she whispered, then turned around to face the spot where she knew her universe lay. Her eyes widened.

    "What's the problem? I can't see anything," Espy said, unable to move further up Lunala's back with her stubby paws. She got her answer when geysers of golden light erupted in front of her. Lunala drifted back, gasping. Ephemeris flew in front of her, shielding her with his wings.

    "That… I don't think that's normal," he said.

    "The light's spreading!" Silvally said, head crest fanning out. A similar golden glow flickered in his irises and his energy blades. Espy caught sight of it, but couldn't do anything since she was stuck on Lunala's back.

    More light geysers fanned out around Team Radiance. "We have to go," Lunala said, eyes wide. "It's not safe here. Ephemeris… where's the pocket world you live in?"

    "What? We can't just leave now! What about Shane?" Tessa said, tensing up. He had promised everything was going to be okay. Shane couldn't have been lying to her. Not after everything they'd gone through together. "We need to see if he's okay!"

    "And we can't do that if we're not safe. Follow me!" Ephemeris flew away from an expanding globe of golden light. Lunala took off after him, with Espy and Tessa looking back and watching as the golden sphere grew bigger and bigger with every passing second.

    "Look! I see Ultra Wormholes opening in the distance!" Espy said.

    Worry flashed across Tessa's face. "We have to go back. Shane's in trouble… I'm sure of it!"

    "But… but the light doesn't feel malicious," Silvally said, eyes glowing gold. "If anything, it's… inviting."

    "Still, we can't take any chances," Ephemeris said. He came to a stop and released a burst of golden light. An Ultra Wormhole formed in front of him. "This way." He led Lunala through the portal.

    They emerged in a large cavern. Neatly-trimmed, circular moss patches littered portions of the ground like small carpeting in separate rooms of a house. Silk tapestries hung from parts of the wall. A small brook ran through the middle of the cave and a large nest sat perched on a rocky outcropping. Ephemeris landed by the stream, allowing Silvally to disembark. The first thing he did was make a beeline for the stream. Silvally gulped down mouthful after mouthful of water.

    "Oh, gods, that's good," he muttered, moaning like someone was massaging the tension out of a knot.

    Espy and Tessa got off Lunala's back. "I'll go back out and check to see what's happening, okay?" she said. Her passengers nodded and Lunala vanished back into the portal.

    "Now what?" Tessa asked, only to realize that Espy had ditched her to join Silvally at his side. She sat beside him — close beside him, from what Tessa could tell — lapping up water from the brook. "Um… guys? What about Shane? Don't you think we should we be worried? We… I…"

    Tessa made it three steps toward them before sucking in a sharp breath and clutching her chest in pain. "N… No. Not again…" She dropped to her knees. Her jaw locked up. Tessa remembered this godawful feeling. The same thing happened when her supercharged Mega wore off battling her mother. Tessa's paws dropped to her sides. She shrank back down to her normal form, venting off all the Mega Evolution energy in trails of rainbow mist.

    That got her teammates to look up from their quest for rehydration. Silvally's head crest fanned out in alarm. "Tessa? Tessa, what's wrong?!" He bounded toward her, with Espy hot on his heels. "Can you hear me? Your face is paling!" His eyes darted around. "Where are you hurt?" Silvally whirled on Ephemeris. "Hey! Tessa needs help, here."

    Ephemeris hopped toward them. "I can see that. It would seem… Tessa's strained her spirit. It reached its breaking point."

    "What?!" Silvally crouched down and nudged Tessa with his beak. "Then fix her! We can't lose her!" His water memories shifted on.

    "Calm yourself. Her spirit is not so badly depleted that she can't maintain her form," Ephemeris said, bending over to be at eye level with Tessa. "Rather, she cannot call up any attacks in her present state… or even move much, for that matter. I can help her out, but only in the sense that I can give her enough energy to move around."

    Silvally stepped back, sighing. "It's… better than nothing."

    Ephemeris draped his wings across Tessa. She stared blankly at the floor, until warm energy funneled down her body, starting with her ears and head. After a few moments, Tessa's limbs finally responded. She staggered to her feet. Silvally and Espy went up to each of her sides to support her.

    "Th… thanks, guys. I'm… I'm okay. Just sore," Tessa croaked. Her muscles had never ached this badly, even when aura training with her mom.

    Ephemeris watched her with a curious look in his eyes. "Mmm. We may need to have a talk about that transformation of yours."

    "Can it wait? Things are…" Tessa sucked in a breath. Her mind drifted back to Shane. Tessa shakily put a paw on Silvally's shoulder. "What's going to happen to Shane?"

    "I don't know," Silvally whispered.

    "He's going to be okay, right? You… you heard what he said. He had a plan." Tessa let out an unhinged laugh. "Shane was sure of himself. And even if his plans don't always work right… we've always found a way to scrape by together." She squeezed Silvally's thigh. "He… he has to be okay…"

    Espy brushed her head against Tessa's side. "We can't give up hope. We managed to put an end to Necrozma, didn't we? I… I have faith." She smiled at Espy. "A week ago, I'd have never said that. But everything's changed, hasn't it?"

    Before Tessa could respond, a new Ultra Wormhole opened behind the team. Espy and Silvally helped Tessa turn around and face Lunala. She hovered in front of the portal, a stunned look on her face. Tessa's aura feelers shot up in alarm. "Well, what's going on? Is everything safe or not?"

    "It's… it's more than that. It's back," Lunala whispered, expression frozen in shock.

    "What do you mean by that?" Silvally said, raising a brow.

    "Everything's back! Our world! The moon! The sun! And life forces… I sensed so many life forces on the planet!" Lunala said, voice growing more jittery with each exclamation. "Don't you guys get it? It's all there!"

    Realization slowly spread across Team Radiance's faces. When it did, Espy's lips curved upward into a smile. "So, our world is safe, then?"

    "Well, we shouldn't just stand here!" Silvally hopped toward Lunala. "Take us there. Let's see it for ourselves."

    "Of course. Of course." Lunala turned around. Tessa stumbled forward, only for Ephemeris' wing to shoot out in front of her.

    "Perhaps it's best if I give you a lift this time," he said. Espy and Silvally acknowledged him with a pair of nods, then climbed onto Lunala's back. Both had eager looks on their faces.

    Tessa could scarcely believe it. But the lack of mention of Shane left twinges of worry in the back of her mind. And that was enough to keep her from launching into any sort of jubilatory display. She silently climbed aboard Ephemeris, who then flew after Lunala.

    It took a matter of seconds for Tessa to realize things had drastically changed. Ultra Space wasn't a sea of ethereal blue spreading out in all directions, anymore. Instead, solid walls of luminescent blue surrounded her. "Wait a second. This… this a hallway! It's like what we had back at the Observatory." Tessa looked around in confusion.

    "You're right," Silvally said, staring in awe. Lunala rounded a corner and the team saw constellation patterns in the ethereal walls.

    "Yeah. I have no idea how to explain this," Lunala said, shaking her head. "Whatever your friend did… I don't think it just affected our world. Odds are, all of Ultra Space has been completely rearranged."

    At the mention of her friend, Tessa's head shot up. "Lunala, did you see any sign of Shane? Golden light or… or a Ninetales drifting through space? Anything?"

    "I didn't stay long enough to check," Lunala replied. Tessa's heart sank.

    "I'm sure we'll find him once we're back home," Silvally said, his beak curving into a slight smile. "Shane told us he'd see us on the other side. He must've known this would happen."

    Tessa really hoped that was the case. She forced herself to steady her breathing. The first thing they had to focus on was seeing what exactly had become of their world, right?

    Lunala stopped in front of a large arch-like area. White and blue energy swirled around the wall. "I don't really know how to explain it but, like, this is where our world is."

    Espy titled her head. "Odd. It's… it's like a building positioned on a street or something."

    "Or an entrance to one of the rooms in the apprentice or veteran quarters," Tessa whispered, dumbstruck. She didn't really want to think about the implications all of this rearrangement could have. Just processing the idea of Ultra Space was enough to make her head spin and she was tired and worried enough as it was.

    "Okay. Gimme a second, here." Lunala's third eye shimmered and released a burst of purple light. It struck the arch and expanded into a fresh portal. Lunala flew through it with Ephemeris right behind her. Tessa gripped his feathers tight as the bright lights and loud whooshes of the portal raced around her. She gave one last silent prayer that good things awaited on the other side.

    "It's really back! I don't believe this!"

    Espy's shouts made Tessa sit up straight. Ephemeris and Lunala flew toward the planet. Tessa's jaw slowly fell open. It was all there. She saw a blue ocean instead of a colorless one. And there were large green and brown landmasses scattered around from one another. She was sure she was looking at the continents of the western hemisphere.

    "I don't believe it," Tessa whispered. Then her lips curved into a tiny smile. "It's back. It's really, truly back."

    Espy threw her forelegs around one of Silvally's, eliciting a surprised squawk. She brushed her face against his thigh, not even minding the fact that it caused more leftover gunk to smear across her face. "We did it," she squeaked. Tears welled up in her eyes. "It's over. We don't… we don't have to fight anymore!"

    Silvally stared at the ocean as it came into better view. The sparkling light reflected off the water and triggered golden flickers in his irises, despite his water memories being on. Silvally leaned over and nuzzled Espy. "Yeah, I guess we did do it. Though, Shane really pulled through with that last part."

    His comment made Tessa stiffen. She focused on her aura sense, trying to get a sense of where her teammate might be. To Tessa's dismay, however, she couldn't turn her aura sight on whatsoever. It wasn't that it was blunted. Rather, trying to dive into her aura sense triggered a bout of fatigue that locked up her muscles until she gave up.

    'I guess I really did exhaust myself… almost like a dead luminous orb or something.'

    The rest of the flight back down to the surface proceeded in silence, save for Lunala informing the team she was taking them to Celestial Island since she sensed many of the gods there, along with Totem Ninetales. Tessa wanted to voice an objection, but figured that the best way to take stock of the world was to talk with the gods.

    As they flew, swathes of orange spread across the blue sky. Tessa turned to see the sun poking up from the east. A warmth spread through her chest. The sky had been bathed in darkness for such a long time — or, at least, it seemed like the whole Temporal Tower incident had gone on for quite a while, anyway — the sight of the sun settled some of Tessa's frayed nerves. Shane's ambiguous situation still left her with a lingering sense of unease, but the return of all the bright colors spread out across the ocean brought a smile to her face.

    The trees had their leaves back. Green blotches passed beneath Tessa as Ephemeris soared over the Water Continent and headed south. Tessa raised a skeptical eyebrow. She knew they were heading for the Sea of Wonders, but something struck her as off. Tessa decided to break the group's silence. "Um, aren't the islands in the Sea of Wonders supposed to be hidden through, like, ley lines or barriers or something?"

    "They should be, yes. But they're not anymore," Lunala reported. "I, um… I'm not sensing any ley lines, actually."

    "What? You're kidding." Espy gasped.

    "It makes sense if you think about it. The void absorbed all the ley line chains… but Shane took it out with that big blast," Silvally explained.

    Tessa's brows raised. "Wait. If ley lines are gone, then what does that mean for Mystery Dungeons? Ley lines were the whole reason they existed, weren't they?" She looked expectantly at Espy.

    "They were. But if there are no ley lines, then… it stands to reason that there aren't Mystery Dungeons," Espy said, her tone suggesting she scarcely believed her own words. "Though, thinking about it, that would explain why we can see all the islands in the Sea of Wonders, I guess."

    "And why Celestial Island is no longer floating," Lunala exclaimed, craning her neck to point her forehead in the direction of the island. It wasn't that hard to spot, seeing as Groudon's hulking form sat at the edge of the island, with Kyogre bobbing in the water nearby. There were other gods assembled, too, but Tessa couldn't make them out individually. She was more surprised by the fact that the island appeared anchored like any other landmass. A far cry from the floating island full of Necrozma's sinister energy.

    As Ephemeris and Lunala descended, Tessa mulled over Espy's statement. No ley lines meant no Mystery Dungeons. Then did that mean all the dungeons were now normal landmasses? What would that mean for the guild? What would that mean for a lot of places and businesses? They had built up their towns and communities around exploring dungeons.

    'Then again… there were a lot of problems with the places we visited,' she thought, biting her lip. Perhaps this was actually a blessing in disguise? The more Tessa ruminated on it, the more a headache crept on. She grabbed her head with a free paw.

    "Something wrong, Tessa?" Silvally looked at her, face ripe with concern.

    "It's… it's fine. Let's, um, figure out what's going on with the gods," Tessa said, struggling not to laugh at how crazy that statement had sounded. She'd have never uttered a sentence like that three months ago.

    "It's odd. Even though there are no ley lines… I'm still sensing something deep within the planet," Ephemeris said, slowing his descent speed to a steady glide and spreading his wings out for a landing. "It honestly reminds me of Ultra Space… and the Z-Moves we used against Necrozma."

    Tessa rubbed at her unresponsive aura feelers and sighed. Beside her, Silvally's glowing parts turned pink and he looked at the ground. "I think you're right. So, wait, did our world get rebuilt using Z-Power?"

    "Light," Lunala whispered, her third eye glowing. "Your friend must've used the light from the sun to reconstruct everything. This is now a world of light." She dropped Espy and Silvally off on a grassy field along the outer rim of the island. "I'm going to go do more scouting. I'll see if I can find any signs of Solgaleo… and your friend." She then vanished into an Ultra Wormhole.

    Ephemeris touched down a couple of yards away from Espy. Tessa almost fell off his back upon seeing Groudon and Kyogre a few yards away. The former stood on a patch of molten ground, presumably something he created to avoid burning the island. Kyogre bobbed next to him. Both looked at Ephemeris, their expressions blank.

    Tessa wondered if she should say anything to them, but delighted squeals drew her attention to her right. Espy brushed a foreleg through the grass, tail wagging for what Tessa believed was the first time since they'd met. "Soft grass beneath my paws! Oh, I can't believe how much I missed this!" Espy chirped. To Tessa's bewilderment, she flopped onto her belly and rolled around, kicking at the air with her legs and giggling.

    "Hey, that looks like fun!" Silvally said, bending over and sticking his rear in the air. His tail wagged in time with Espy's.

    "It is! I feel twenty years younger!" Espy said. Tessa wanted to point out she was tracking slime across the grass, but simply sighed and shook her head. After all that had happened, Espy had more than earned the right to a bout of childish antics.

    Silvally paused in the midst of laying down to roll onto his side. He stood back up, an eyebrow raised. "Huh. Oh, yeah, you were already an adult during the time of the Bittercold, weren't you? How old are you, anyway?"

    Espy froze, then hastily rolled onto her belly, laughing nervously. "L-Let's not go down that avenue, shall we? Age is relative for Espeons, anyway!"

    A loud throat-clearing startled Team Radiance and brought them to attention. Tessa turned and went stiff as a board. What else could she do with Rayquaza snaking toward her? "U… um… hi!" Her voice cracked. "C-Can we help you with anything?"

    Rayquaza ignored her and went right up to Silvally, who crouched low to the ground. His fairy memories shifted on. However, Rayquaza didn't adopt any sort of imposing stance. Instead, he coiled up until he was only a head taller than Silvally. Espy and Tessa cocked their heads.

    "You're the God Killer, correct? The one the alchemist made to kill me?" Rayquaza said.

    "My name is Silvally." He held his head high. "If you have something to say, then say it." Silvally wasn't expecting Rayquaza to wince and tap two of his claws together.

    "I, well…" His brow furrowed. "Look, I haven't had to do something like this before, so bear with me."

    Silvally tilted his head. "I'm not even sure what you're trying to do."

    "I… I want to… th… thuh…" Rayquaza looked away, growling in frustration.

    "Tripping over your words?" Silvally said, tapping a talon on the ground.

    After a long, drawn-out sigh, Rayquaza bowed his head. "I want to thank you… for what you did for all of us, myself included." He took a deep breath. "This whole fiasco has… left me with a lot to think about. But I want you to know that I do not like having unpaid debts. I will find a way to make this up to you… in time."

    "Okay." Silvally's cheek bolts turned slowly in their sockets. "I wasn't acting alone, though." He looked at both his teammates. "If you're going to make it up to me, then you owe my friends, too."

    Rayquaza glanced at Tessa. Her first instinct was to tell Rayquaza it wasn't necessary, but he spoke before she could. "Ah, yes. There's a tremendous power flowing within you, isn't there?" He bent down so he was eye level with Tessa, whose aura feelers were firmly stuck up in surprise. "Though you lack the scales, your heart beats with the ferocious spirit of a dragon."

    "I, uh…" Tessa rubbed the back of her head. "Well, Necrozma was a big dragon and I inadvertently stole his energy to fix my broken spirit, so…"

    "Your transformation is unique, but close enough to Mega Evolution that I could work with it. Perhaps I could help you learn to control your powers?" Rayquaza offered. "I will admit the last time I taught… things didn't go as planned. However, I want to change my behavior."

    The proposal left Tessa stunned. Rayquaza wanted to train her? This was a far cry from her mother deeming her a failure. 'I can't wait to tell Shane about this. Maybe we can—'

    Tessa's expression fell. Lunala was searching for Shane, but something about the way she phrased it made it sound like she doubted he was actually out there. Tessa shook her head. He told her he'd be waiting. That had to be the truth.

    "Why don't you give her some time to mull it over?" Ephemeris suggested, stepping between Rayquaza and Tessa. "They've been through quite a lot."

    Rayquaza's tail thumped against the ground. "Fine." He backed away. "I'm sure we'll cross paths again, anyway. You can give me your answer when you're ready." Rayquaza raised his brow at Ephemeris. "By the way, who exactly are you? A Ho-Oh from another world?" He shook his head. "It's beyond strange to think there could be other Rayquazas out there."

    "While I have traversed Ultra Space for a long time, I am originally from this world," Ephemeris said. He turned to Groudon and Kyogre, who were both silently observing the exchange. "It's been quite some time, hasn't it?"

    "You sound… familiar," Groudon said, a twinge of regret in his deep, rumbling voice.

    "I would think so. After all… I perished in the storms your quarreling created," Ephemeris said. "Or, at least, that's what Arceus told you, isn't it?"

    Groudon stiffened. Water shot out Kyogre's blowhole. "Y… you're…"

    "I'm that Ho-Oh, yes. Though I go by Ephemeris, now." He stood up straight. "I wound up merging with the original Solgaleo and Lunala. Thankfully… some of the mortals you all liked to dismiss so much had made contact with me. Otherwise, I might not have been able to help you all out."

    "I see." Groudon poked at the slab of rock he sat on with a claw. "I don't suppose it's too late to offer an apology, is it?"

    "I think it's best left in the past. After all, is this not the dawn of a new beginning for this world?" Ephemeris looked to the sky. "The sun is shimmering in a way that's… unfamiliar, yet inviting at the same time."

    Kyogre bobbed in the water. "I actually agree," she whispered. Rayquaza raised his brows. "I can't explain it. I always hated the sun and the dry heat it brought, but the sight of it… and the rays against my back… they calm me. It's been centuries since I've felt this relaxed."

    "It is strange to see you two sitting next to each other without some sort of frenzied weather whipping up," Ephemeris said.

    Groudon and Kyogre glanced at each other, then at Rayquaza. "Well, you see—"

    "What do you mean our powers are gone? How am I supposed to control the fabric of space if I cannot mold it with my energy?!"

    Behind Team Radiance, trees bristled. As if the gods already in front of Tessa weren't dizzying enough, she fell to her rear the moment Palkia stomped into the clearing, eyes and shoulder gems flashing in rage. Uxie, Axelf, and Mesprit buzzed around his head, all sharing worried looks.

    "Th… this is… not happening," Tessa whispered. When she was fighting Necrozma, she had Z-Power and a form change to keep her going. With both of those gone, this was too much for her to take in.

    "I don't get it either, Pal-Pal! I can't conjure up any antimatter for my tricks," Giratina whimpered, brushing his wings over his comically tearful eyes. "I tried to bring up some ley line chains from the ground, but nothing happened."

    Dialga and Arceus marched out next, the former's head lowered while the latter had an empty look in his eyes. "I already told you… there are no ley lines," Arceus said, shaking his head. He raised a forehoof and traced a circle. The other gods looked expectantly, but nothing happened. Arceus lowered his limb. "Ley lines were concentrated masses of chaotic energy. They formed the basis for our use of alchemy and, by extension, our powers."

    He looked at Dialga and Palkia. "The act of keeping time and space in order always involved utilizing ley lines, did it not?"

    "It did," Dialga said. "But the human — Shane, was it? — destroyed them."

    "Exactly." Arceus walked toward Team Radiance, avoiding his sons' gazes. "In recreating the world and ridding it of ley lines, it seems your friend took away the powers that separated gods like us from mortals like you. He even shrank us down. I'm a solid three or four heads shorter than I used to be," he said, though his tone suggested he was addressing all of the other assembled Pokémon as well.

    "Yeah! Hoopa's rings can't go anywhere besides other places here. And Hoopa tried," Hoopa said, arms crossed and lower lip jutted out.

    "What does this mean, then? For the world and… for all of you?" Espy wondered. The sight of all these gods— or, rather, former gods prompted her to cuddle up to Silvally. He stood in front of protectively.

    "That remains to be seen," Arceus said, closing his eyes. "If I had to guess… it means we've reached the end of the age of Mystery Dungeons. The chaotic labyrinths are now a thing of the past. For example, Temporal Tower and Spacial Rift are nothing but a fancy-looking tower and a cavern with celestial patterns on its walls. I'm sure this means that locations that were once dungeons could be converted into communities for Pokémon to live in."

    "Are you serious? So, I don't have to worry about Temporal Tower breaking apart?" Dialga's eyes widened. He bent over, brushing his forelegs against his face. "My whole life revolved around that place! What am I supposed to do with myself if I'm no longer its protector?!"

    "Yeah! Keeping balance with the fabric of space was my purpose. It's what you ordered me to do, Father," Palkia said. "You can't seriously expect me to return to Spacial Rift and just sit there for all eternity, do you?"

    "I don't. Namely because… I'm not sure we have all eternity anymore," Arceus said. Dialga and Palkia tensed up and exchanged looks. The other gods did, too, save for Giratina, who put a wing up over his mouth.

    "Ha! Good one, Daddy. Next you're going to say there are no more perfect apples in our new world." Giratina giggled, but his laughter faded when he saw the heavyset expression in Arceus' eyes. "D-Daddy?"

    "We are mortal," Arceus croaked. "I'm not sure how to explain it, really. It's, um… there's a new, erm, part to my body. Something that wasn't there before. Something only mortals had… and Xerneas gave herself against my wishes."

    Dialga and Palkia instantly realized what was up. Both glanced down at their torsos, then looked at one another and shuffled back.

    "You can't say… that we don't deserve this."

    "Excuse me?" Dialga looked right, eyes flickering red. Mewtwo had emerged from the forest with Mew situated on his head and two Ninetales by his side. Tessa's heart momentarily soared, only to come crashing down when she realized it wasn't the shaggy ice Ninetales she was fretting over, but rather Totem Ninetales.

    "The mortals of the world looked to us to protect them. In the end, we have failed them far more often than we have succeeded them," Mewtwo said, head bowed and arms crossed. "We called ourselves the strongest Pokémon, capable of dealing with any threat. But when the chips were down, we summoned help from worlds beyond our own to clean up messes that, let's face it, can be traced back to the poor decisions of yesteryear."

    "And that gives one lousy human the right to strip us of all our powers? Rubbish! Hogwash!" Palkia stomped his right foot against the grass repeatedly.

    "I'm still in shock, myself. Both by this turn of events and the fact that Xatu accurately predicted all of it," Ninetales said, biting her lower lip. "He summoned me and relayed a vision that ended with forecasting the fall of the gods and Mystery Dungeons 'numbering none.' And that's exactly what happened… albeit, not in the way I was expecting."

    "This is farce is what it is! What's to happen if our world falls under crisis again? We'll have fewer means to defend ourselves with!" Palkia fumed.

    "No. You'll be like the others of your, ahem, 'kind' out in Ultra Space," Ephemeris said. "Yes, there are undoubtedly Dialgas and Palkias that can bend the very fabric of their universes to their whims. But there are also ones residing in small pocket worlds that do not have such powers. They are not gods, but their strength is the stuff of legends… if that makes any sense. They may not be worshipped, but they are still valued for their power."

    "Pah! As if any other worlds are really comparable to ours," Palkia scoffed.

    "You'd be quite surprised. I know I was," Ephemeris said, frowning.

    Blinking slowly, Tessa shifted her gaze to the ground. Their world was now a world without gods? She repeated the phrase in her head multiple times. A brief image of Zero flickered in her mind's eye, making her tense. That was why it sounded so familiar. Her mother's original goal was to rid the world of gods… but somehow that escalated to rewriting all of time so gods had never existed in the first place.

    Tessa's brow furrowed. It seemed that, thanks to Shane, her mother had actually gotten what she originally wanted. Only she wouldn't get to experience any of that… would she? The thought made Tessa's head snap up. She stared at her trembling paws.

    Silvally noticed her distress and walked over. "What's the matter?"

    "I just realized something. Shane found a way to reverse the damage Necrozma did, right?" Tessa said, rubbing her shoulder. Silvally nodded. "Well, my mother was one of Necrozma's victims."

    "That's… true." Silvally tensed up. "You don't think—" He stopped and shook his head. "No, you are thinking about it. Otherwise, you wouldn't have said anything."

    Tessa nodded. "What if she's back? Metagross could be, too. And we never really knew what happened to Lycanroc." Her aura feelers quivered. "I can't deal with any of them." She shook her head. "Not when Shane's still missing. I… I…" Tessa swallowed hard. "M… maybe he found a way to avoid reviving them? He seemed confident he'd fix things… but reviving them isn't much of a fix at all."

    In response, another Ultra Wormhole opened behind Tessa. She jumped up, almost landing on Silvally's back. Lunala caught sight of this and winced. "Ah… sorry! They're usually not that bright and flashy when I make them," she said, tapping her wing-claws together nervously.

    "And where have you been, hmm? Flaunting the powers that you still have to those gods who aren't here?" Palkia asked.

    Lunala tilted her head in confusion. "I— wait, what? I have no idea what you're talking about. I've been scouting around… trying to get a sense of who was brought back and who, if anyone, might still be missing."

    Tessa's heartrate spiked. "A-And? What happened to Shane?!" Her question came out much louder than she intended, so she shrank back toward Silvally.

    "Calm down, Tessa. We're worried about him, too, but we should ask about that other issue first," Silvally said. He looked at Lunala. "There were some, uh, rather nasty Pokémon who fell victim to Necrozma, either directly or indirectly. We're concerned that Shane might've brought them back on accident."

    "Yeah. I thought about that, too, which is why I included them in my scouting," Lunala said. "And, well, from what I could tell, they're not here."

    Totem Ninetales cleared her throat, drawing Team Radiance's attention, along with the former gods. A purple glow faded from her body and the brooch on her shawl. "Metagross and Lucario Prisma are in the spirit realm… though the latter's spirit is faint. I'd hardly call it a spirit with how little energy there is. There's also a Lycanroc with them in the roots of the tree. That… tends to be where vengeful spirits end up. I suppose I'll have to tend to them later."

    "Oh, come on!" Palkia nearly shot out a stream of dragonfire. "We lose our abilities, but she gets to keep her spiritual powers? How is that even remotely fair?!"

    "She did not misuse her spiritual powers as we misused our control over the universe," Mewtwo fired back. Mew almost slid off his head.

    "Don't you dare snap at me like that. It's just as likely that the human let her keep her powers because she's a Ninetales like he is… or, rather, was!" Palkia barked, stomping toward Mewtwo as vessels bulged out of his neck. Mewtwo hovered into the air, with Mew falling to the ground in the process.

    "That has nothing to do with it. You can't judge the human. You never even interacted with him," Mewtwo huffed.

    "Neither did you! Yet here you are defending him like he's your best friend," Palkia said, eyes twitching.

    "His team saved us from oblivion!" Mewtwo retorted. The two divulged into a shouting match, with many of the other gods rushing to take sides or halfheartedly attempting to defuse the situation.

    "Oh dear," Lunala whispered, frowning.

    Tessa stared at them incredulously. Then she shook her head and turned back to Lunala. "Who else didn't you sense? I need to know about Shane. Where is he? Is he all right?"

    Lunala's expression fell. Tessa took a step backward. "L… Lunala?"

    "There were some auras that, despite searching intently, I couldn't find any trace of," she whispered. "Solgaleo, Xerneas, Yveltal, Zygarde… all missing. And, I'm sorry, but I couldn't find even the smallest trace of Shane's aura." She bowed her head. "I even flew out toward the sun… but I sensed nothing."

    Tessa's stance slouched. She looked at her feet, blinking slowly. "No. That can't be right. He was sure. He promised me things would be okay." Tessa clenched her fists. "He must be out there. Maybe he's in Ultra Space? You have to go search for him!"

    "And how do you expect me to do that? I told you guys that your friend rearranged Ultra Space. I'd have absolutely no idea where to look for him. It could take days or weeks or, heck, even months to find him if he's really out there," Lunala said.

    "Then take Ephemeris with you! Or… or bring me out there." Tessa thumped her chest. There was a somber whine to every breath she took. "Once my aura feelers are working right again, I'm sure I'll be able to sense him. Please! You have to try! We… I… he…" She remembered the moment she jumped onto his beak. Tessa's arms shook. "He's still here. He has to still be here."

    "I'm sorry, Tessa. I looked high and low. Spread my ESP out as far as it would go… but it didn't work," Lunala whispered.

    "It's entirely possible that he spent so much energy restoring everything that, even leeching off the sun and Necrozma's power, he burnt his spirit out," Ephemeris said, his head bowed.

    "But then… then he's in the Tree of Life, isn't he?" Tessa turned to the two Ninetales, who exchanged frowns. "Oh, come on, if he's there, Ephemeris can bring him back, can't he?" Desperation flooded her expression. "Please. There has to be a way."

    "I didn't find your friend's spirit when I looked through the Tree of Life," Totem Ninetales said, biting her lower lip. "And if someone completely burns out their spirit… then there's nothing left. They're gone. Or, at least, that's what was taught to me."

    "Same here," Ninetales said, her ears folding against her head. "It sounds like your friend chose to give himself up so that everyone else could get a second chance."

    Tessa's chest constricted. She placed a paw on her spike and dropped to her knees. Her face scrunched up. "No. He… he promised…" Tears welled up in her eyes. "He said he'd be waiting. Why would… why would he lie to me? I told him… I said I wanted to be his partner for life. I kissed his beak…"

    Silvally was by Tessa's side in an instant, glowing blue from his water memories. He crouched down and wrapped his neck around Tessa, offering a consoling hug. "Maybe he didn't realize what would happen? He said he was working with Necrozma to bring everyone back, right? Perhaps he thought he'd make it out in one piece… but that wasn't what happened." His voice shook as he spoke.

    Espy joined her teammates and sat down next to Tessa. "I don't know what to say," she whispered. "You two had been together from the start, right?" Espy put a forepaw on Tessa's lap. "If… if there's anything I can do, let me know." She looked around. "Well, I'm not really sure any of us are in a position to do much of anything here. Maybe we ought to go back to the Observatory?"

    Tessa had a tight grip on Silvally's foreleg. Slimy as it was, she refused to let go. Shudders raced down her body. After everything they'd been through — the early bickering, the harrowing experience in Mellath Bog, the hatch-day party, evolutions, the Sunset Shoals show, the loss of control to a twisted Mega Evolution, the fight to break Necrozma's control, and the final clash with Void Necrozma — they wouldn't get to stay together.

    She thought back to Circadian Coast. To the moment where she had told Shane how frightened she was of losing control and that, if the worst came to pass, he had to be ready to fight her, even if it meant she'd disappear. Tessa was so sure that was the most likely outcome, especially after Lycanroc ran off with the Dawn Shards. She completely discounted the idea that Shane would have to disappear… but that's exactly what wound up happening.

    Tessa hadn't prepared herself for this. There were a hundred thoughts racing through her head, jockeying for position at the forefront of her consciousness. Quiet moments she wished could've lasted longer. Things she should've said to him, but balked on because of her own insecurities. Now, she'd never get the opportunity.

    "Tessa?"

    She didn't want to open her eyes and acknowledge Silvally. Tessa squeezed him tighter instead. He touched his beak to her forehead. "Come on, Tessa. I'm hurting, too, but you can't stay like this forever. I'm… I'm exhausted. I need to go back to the Observatory and rest. You do, too."

    He was right, but she didn't want to move. Some voice in her head told her that if she did, her memories of Shane would start to slip away and regrets would fill their place. "I'm sorry," she squeaked. "I need a min—"

    "… and I thought I told you that that was an honest mistake! You and your propensity for holding grudges. You're insufferable! It's no wonder Father wiped your memories of what used to be here!"

    Palkia's shouting roused Tessa from her stupor. Her eyes shot open and her ears twitched. Tessa was sure the gods could see that she and her friends were mourning. Yet, despite that, they were still arguing with each other?

    Tessa slowly staggered to her feet. Silvally looked at her in concern. "Tessa? Are you, um… is there something you want to say?"

    She walked right past him, eyes locked on her feet. Tessa marched forward, wincing as the gods' shouts grew louder. Eventually she spotted Dialga's tail out of the corner of her eye and stopped. "Excuse me? Can you guys cut it out? My friends and I are—"

    "Oh, sure, call me insufferable. Do you have any idea what it's like going around with a constant, nagging sense that there's something missing?" Mewtwo huffed, pressing his face against Palkia's. "I was paranoid! And why wouldn't I be? He tampered with my memories!" He pointed accusingly at Arceus. "I don't even remember what I was really like in the old world!"

    "And if you had kept them, who's to say you wouldn't have tried to do what that nutjob of a human did?" Palkia snarled.

    Tessa clenched her fists and bared her fangs, incensed her words fell on deaf ears. Even though she was beyond exhaustion, that familiar anger made rainbow lights flicker on her arms. Uxie turned and looked at her, only to shrug.

    "All of you… need to… shut up!"

    Tessa pointed her paws forward. She shot out a small Aura Sphere. Burning pain flared up in her arms. The Aura Sphere struck Arceus between the eyes and exploded while Tessa staggered back, wringing her paws out.

    Ephemeris trotted toward her, with Espy and Silvally on his heels. "I thought I told you not to use any attacks or abilities," he said.

    The smoke from Tessa's Aura Sphere cleared, revealing Palkia and Arceus staring at her with incredulous expressions. Tessa hunched over, breathing heavily. "I know. But they were going on and on and on and on!" She smacked herself in the head repeatedly as she spoke. "I couldn't take it anymore!" Tessa glared at Arceus. "Do any of you even realize we lost our friend? Shane, he…" She rubbed her eyes. "He gave himself up to bring all of you back. And the first thing you do is start arguing like hatchlings!"

    Tessa whirled around. "Who can project stuff with their ESP?" She looked between Lunala and Mewtwo. "I know there were at least a couple of you sending telepathic orders when Dark Matter last attacked, so don't lie to me!"

    "T-Tessa… what are you doing?" Silvally's head crest drooped. "I get how upsetting this is, really, but—"

    "What am I doing? I'm going to see to it that we don't squander the second chance Shane gave us," Tessa said, breathing still labored. "He… his sacrifice can't be in vain." She looked at Espy, who was blinking slowly. "You understand, right?"

    "I, um, maybe?" Espy bit her lip.

    Lunala floated up to Tessa, as did Mewtwo. "I'm sure the two of us together are strong enough to reach all the continents," she said, her third eye activating. Mewtwo nodded, held his right hand up, then transformed in a flash of orange.

    "Good, that still works," he said, swishing the tendril that had spawned from his head. Mew floated up to him, sat on his shoulder, and wrapped his tail around Mewtwo's arm. "What do you want to say?"

    Tessa looked back at the gods. "Answer me this. Did you see what happened when we were fighting Necrozma?"

    One by one, they nodded. "Personally, I felt like I was dreaming… and your battle was the thing I was dreaming about," Ninetales said.

    "I'm fairly confident everyone was 'watching,' in a manner of speaking," Totem Ninetales said.

    "Good." Tessa walked up to Lunala and put a paw on her forehead, covering the third eye. She took a deep breath, then said, "Everyone, listen up! I'm Lucario Tessa, one of the members of Team Radiance who battled against Necrozma after he had taken all of your spirits. I'm given to understand that you saw the results of that battle play out in one way or another."

    Espy and Silvally exchanged astonished looks. "Is… is she really addressing everyone? Should we try to interject?" Espy wondered.

    "No. I think she might be onto something," Silvally said. He sat on his haunches, a pensive look on his face.

    "As I'm sure you all realize, we managed to beat back Necrozma. Not only that, my team's leader, Ninetales Shane, took control of Necrozma and used his power to rebuild our world," Tessa continued. "And he was able to do it without the ley lines that have plagued us since the beginning of time." She paused. "Yes, that's right. Mystery Dungeons are a thing of the past. Not only that, but the gods have been depowered.

    "But that came at a great personal cost to Shane. Lunala searched everywhere she could to try and find him… but he's gone. He sacrificed himself so that all of us could have a second chance at a happy life." Tessa took a few deep breaths to steady herself. "We can't afford to slip back into our old routines. Doing so would be a waste of the gift that Shane's given us. Things need to change."

    Tessa looked at her teammates. "In my team's travels through the Horizon Continent alone, we saw many different places and the customs they follow. At the time, I didn't think much of the things I saw or heard. But now, with everything that's happened, I can safely say that our world has problems that extend far beyond the existence of ley lines and Mystery Dungeons. The way we treat each one another and the approaches we take to relationships… are unhealthy.

    "We need to focus more on working together. Instead of furthering your own interests, you need to try and pick one another up," Tessa said. "I'm sure, if many of you were here with me in-person, you'd tell me that's exactly what you do. However, I'm not sure that's the truth."

    Tessa fixed her gaze on Espy, who tensed up. "After battling the Bittercold, the Pokémon of Paradise came to the conclusion that, because our lives are only so long, we ought to make the most of them by helping out one another. The problem was that their method of doing that was by focusing on building up Paradise. They ignored their own personal feelings… and didn't confront lingering memories that stemmed from what the Bittercold did."

    Espy's ears drooped and her gaze fell. Silvally leaned over, brushing his beak against her shoulder. In turn, she pressed her tail against his torso.

    "And it's not like the Horizon Guild was much better. We prided ourselves on wanting to help Pokémon out… but we didn't all have selfless motivations for joining," Tessa continued, ears and aura feelers drooping. "Even if you're not a part of some sort of organization, there are still things you should think about. For example, the soulmate bond and the superstitions surrounding it. All it's done is create stress that's made Pokémon unhappy… yet we were always discouraged from talking about the subject because of the superstitions.

    "That's why all of this has to change. Working together isn't enough. We need to be there to support one another. If our world's going to succeed, we have to lift each other up. We need to talk out our differences and resolve our problems instead of resorting to petty fights or foisting our troubles onto other people." Tessa took a moment to catch her breath. That's when Totem Ninetales came to her side. She put her forepaw up to Lunala's forehead, nudging Tessa's aside.

    "I think you hit the nail on the head," she whispered. "Well done. I can take it from here."

    "Huh?" Tessa tilted her head.

    "Hello there, people of the world. I'm the Totem Pokémon of Solstice Summit. Some of you may be familiar with me," she began. "Like you, I listened to everything Tessa had to say. And I, for one, agree with the points she's raised. We need to tackle our problems head-on, starting with old customs that have no place in our new world." Totem Ninetales paused to clear her throat. "To that end, I would like to invite all of the community leaders from every continent — from guildmasters to mayors to Totems of Horizon to former gods — to join me on Celestial Island, starting tomorrow morning. There, we can have a long, fruitful discussion about the future that we want to cultivate.

    Totem Ninetales glanced at the assembled gods, many of whom tensed up. "Of course, even if you're not in a leadership position, you are welcome to attend. Hopefully we'll have enough space to accommodate everyone. If not, we can make alternative arrangements." She glanced at Hoopa and smirked. "I'm sure Hoopa, along with those who can teleport, will be up for handling transportation."

    Hoopa rolled his eyes. "Hoopa knows that tone well enough to realize you're not asking him, you're telling him."

    "For now, though, I think we should all take the day to ourselves," Totem Ninetales said, smiling at Hoopa's begrudging agreement to her request. "Please… find your loved ones. Spend time with them. Tell them what they mean to you. Tomorrow, we'll get to work." She then slid her forepaw off Lunala's head and stepped back, nodding. "There. That ought to be a good place to start, don't you think?"

    "I, uh… yeah, I guess," Silvally said, blinking in surprise. He didn't know enough about Totem Ninetales to have much of an opinion of her, but given that Ampharos and Magearna were working with her, he figured that was enough to at least trust she had good intentions in mind. "Is that all right with you, Tessa?"

    He glanced at his teammate, who jumped up and squeaked. She had lapsed into silent reflection when Totem Ninetales brought up loved ones. But now that she'd said her piece to the world, the spark of anger that had triggered an extra bit of energy had run its course. Tessa only managed a yawn in response to Silvally. She wound up passing the yawn to Silvally, who passed it to Espy.

    "Ugh. I'm… I'm so exhausted." Espy leaned against Silvally's side to stop from flopping onto the ground. "I just want to lay down and sleep and not wake up for, like, the next month."

    "Yeah, tell me about it," Silvally said, yawning a second time.

    "Perhaps I should take you three back to your home, then?" Lunala said. "After all of this, I daresay you've earned the rest."

    Espy and Silvally nodded slowly. The closest Tessa managed to a response was her shoulders sagging. Thoughts of Shane still lingered in her head, but her fatigue had turned those thoughts fuzzier than Espy's hide. She could barely walk forward to join her teammates. Silvally noticed her sluggish gait and offered up his other shoulder to steady her.

    "Thanks," she mumbled, rubbing her eyes with a paw. Tessa also realized she was still filthy. However, sleep was far more inviting than a bath.

    Arm wrapped around Silvally's foreleg, she walked alongside her teammates into an Ultra Wormhole. The two Ninetales followed them, along with Ephemeris.

    XxX
    Continued in next post.
     
    git-it likes this.
  5. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Continued from previous post.

    XxX

    ~Pokémon Square~

    The surprise telepathic announcement left Blaziken and Swampert looking up at the sky, the former scratching his feathers while the latter fiddled with his worn rescuer's badge. "So, that's it, huh?" Swampert looked down at the badge and turned it over repeatedly. "Thirty-something years we've done this job..."

    Blaziken noticed a nearby, square-shaped rock. He plodded over to it and sat down, sighing heavily. "Yeah. We've… been at this a while. Longer than Team ACT before they called it quits, I reckon."

    "And now Mystery Dungeons are gone… just like that," Swampert mumbled. His usual enthusiastic grin was nowhere to be found. "I'm… not really sure what to think, bud."

    "That makes two of us." Blaziken leaned back against the rock, resting his hands behind his head. "We had a rhythm, after all. Wake up, check the box for job requests, head into town, go into the dungeons, finish our jobs, and, if we had time, hang around and see what was happening in Pokémon Square." He furrowed his brow. "It's… odd to think about how it all became second-nature for us."

    "Are you saying… you didn't enjoy your jobs?"

    Blaziken and Swampert looked over their shoulders and did doubletakes in unison. "Ch-Charizard? And Alakazam and Tyranitar, too!" Swampert gasped. "Where were you guys? We heard you went missing and tried looking for you… but came up empty-handed."

    "Yes. Necrozma plucked us out of our homes a couple of weeks ago," Alakazam said, twirling one of his rusty spoons around in his hand. "Though it feels like we've been gone far longer than that."

    "Our spirits have been limbo for quite a while… I think," Tyranitar said, slouching. He lumbered toward Team Go-Getters, dragging his tail across the dirt. "But, by some miracle, we're back. I suppose that's all that matters."

    "Still, to think we'd actually see the day where Mystery Dungeons disappear forever…" Charizard's voice trailed off. He crossed his arms and closed his eyes. "I never thought it would happen. This is, truly, some sort of miracle."

    "I suppose so," Blaziken said, shutting his eyes again. "You guys okay? Nothing broken or anything?"

    "We're as good as we can be," Alakazam said. "That cough I'd developed even seems to have gone away. I feel… refreshed, despite my age."

    "Same here," Tyranitar said. "Though I do believe Charizard asked you two a question."

    "Huh? Oh…" Blaziken sat up straight. "It's nothing like that, Charizard. Swampert and I enjoyed getting to help people out. Really." He scratched the back of his head. "But now that Mystery Dungeons are gone, it's dawned on me just how much our lives revolved around them."

    "Yeah. Work kept us busy. I didn't mind it… but we had so little time to ourselves, we never really took the time to try doing things that didn't relate to rescue work. Probably why we were so lousy at staying in touch with old friends," Swampert said, tapping a temple with one of his fins. "So, like, what are we supposed to do now?"

    "Well, I intend to go to that meeting," Charizard said, puffing out smoke. "We are community leaders in some regards, aren't we? Perhaps if you talk with some of the other people there, you can figure out a new direction to take yourselves in?"

    Blaziken and Swampert exchanged looks. "Good point, old-timer. I'd have expected Alakazam to say something like that."

    "What can I say? His tendency for platitudes must've rubbed off on me." Chuckling, Charizard shrugged innocently while Alakazam rolled his eyes. "In any case, we're going to check in on the town. You're welcome to join us."

    "Yeah. I think we'll catch up soon," Blaziken said, then waved them off. He leaned back against the rock and closed his eyes.

    "What'cha thinking about?" Swampert wondered.

    "How much of a workaholic I've been all this time," Blaziken said, sighing as he slumped down. "We've missed out on a lot of life, haven't we?"

    "Well, I don't regret the way things have gone. You're still my best bud, after all," Swampert said, his usual grin returning.

    Blaziken couldn't help but smile. "Same here. Still… I think that this is about as good a sign as we can get that it's time to step back."

    "Step back?"

    "Push more responsibilities onto the younger generation. Like Team Radiance." Blaziken sat up and looked to his right. "Oh, and those guys over there."

    A female Nidoran and a Druddigon, both with pecha scarves tied around their necks, froze mid-step. Beside them, a trio consisting of a Cranidos, a Ponyta, and a Sandslash in matching indigo scarves also stopped walking and looked at Blaziken curiously. "Did… did we do something wrong?" Cranidos asked.

    "Not at all." Blaziken got to his feet. "You're a couple of rescue teams, right? We saw you fighting some of the Ultra Beasts that Necrozma summoned."

    "We were a rescue team. Nothing to rescue if there aren't Mystery Dungeons, right?" Sandslash huffed, pouting and crossing his arms. "Two years climbing the ladder to gold rank… washed away by a snap of some magic dragon's claws. I can't believe this."

    "Err, well, you never know. Maybe rescue teams will still have a role to play. I guess it all depends on that big meeting tomorrow," Swampert said, laughing and rubbing the back of his head.

    "Yeah. We can't let ourselves get discouraged!" Cranidos said.

    "Easy for you to say. Your parents still run a box-bashing shop, don't they? You've got a fallback option," Ponyta said, poking at the dirt with a hoof.

    "Let's take things one day at a time, guys. Besides, I'm impressed how much you all took initiative. If you ever need someone to vouch for you, hit me up." Blaziken winked at them. Then he beckoned Swampert to follow him. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Druddigon and Nidoran squealing to each other in excitement.

    XxX​

    In the air over a nearby beach, Latios flew loops, whooping and hollering. "No more ley lines! No more Mystery Dungeons! Isn't it great, sis?" He paused, shaking his head to avoid getting too dizzy. "I mean, yeah, I don't know what this really means for the Expedition Society… but isn't this what we wanted? Less stress in our lives!"

    Latias floated nearby, staring at the ground in disbelief. "I… yeah, I guess so."

    Latios flew up to her, a worried look on his face. "Something wrong?"

    "I suppose the realization of what this all means hasn't set in for me, yet," Latias said, gripping her flight goggles in her paws. She was still trying to figure out how she had them again, given that Necrozma had destroyed them.

    "Ah, there you are!"

    Latias turned around in time to squeal as Lugia wrapped her up in a big hug. "This is wonderful! I thought… I thought for sure it was the end for us. But we witnessed a true miracle!" He lifted her up with his wings and nuzzled her snout.

    "L-Lugia! Wait… I… tickles…" Blood rushed to Latias' cheeks. It was then she realized that Latios was still floating next to her. Her eyes widened. Lugia stopped nuzzling her and looked right at Latios.

    "Oh. Uh, hiya." Lugia released Latias, who had a bewildered expression on her face. "This is, uh, definitely on the awkward side." He laughed nervously.

    "Sis…" Latios frowned.

    Latias looked between her brother and mate, expression panicked. Then she recalled the speech that Tessa had delivered telepathically. "Y'know what? I think it's time. If things are changing, then there's no reason to keep any secrets anymore." Latios and Lugia both looked at her in concern, albeit for different reasons. "Latios… Lugia and I are mates. We've been together for a while, but I never told you."

    Latios blinked slowly. His gaze fell toward the ground, spiking Latias' heartrate in the process. Had she messed up? Was it too much of a bombshell to drop on her brother so soon after the planet's restoration?

    "Then all the times you said you were going to train with Lugia?" Latios whispered.

    "Oh, we definitely did training," Lugia said. "It's just we, uh, did other things, too."

    Latios' face scrunched up. "Yeah. I, um, don't think I need the details." He cringed. Latias' face flushed. Latios' wings drooped. "Sis, why didn't you tell me about this?

    "You're upset with me, aren't you?" Latias squeaked.

    "I didn't say that. I'm… confused, that's all," Latios said, tapping his claws together.

    "It's… a bit complicated." Latias nestled up against Lugia. He wrapped his wing around Latias, nodding his support. "The truth is… Lugia found me on the beach the day things… fell apart with Rayquaza. He nursed me back to health so I could fly home to you. We kept seeing each other after that. We courted for a while, before I finally worked up the courage to seal the deal with him." She craned her neck up to nuzzle Lugia's shoulder.

    "I kept fighting with myself over whether or not to tell you. I wanted to. But at the same time, I was worried." Latias gripped her goggles tight. "You were always so protective of me. I figured that… that if I told you, I'd make you upset." Latias had to admit that hearing her own reasoning out loud made her question the logic behind her decision. "Well, I guess there was also the fact that I was nervous about people reacting to the fact that I had a mate."

    "But Hoopa knew about us… and he never blabbed our secret," Lugia reminded her. The looks he received from both Lati twins made him regret opening his mouth.

    "Latias…" Latios' wings drooped lower. "I'm protective of you because you're my little sister—"

    "By, like, half an hour, tops," Latias said, pouting.

    "Even still. Mom and Dad left a message for me… telling me to always do my best to look after you." Latios floated closer toward her. "Your empath abilities were always far better than mine. You're sensitive to everything happening around you. It's, like, a blessing and a curse, I guess. Still, more than anything else, I want you to be happy." He leaned forward, nudged Latias with his snout, then backed away. "If Lugia makes you happy, then I'm happy for you. And, of course, I'm happy to call him my spirit-brother."

    Latios extended a paw toward Lugia. Lugia stretched out his right wing and tapped it against Latios' claws. They exchanged smiles. "And I'm glad to have you as a spirit-brother, too," Lugia said.

    "Right." Latios backed away. "Still. Can't believe you wound up settling down with someone before I even went on so much as a single date." He ran his claws through his chest feathers. "What am I gonna do?"

    Latias giggled. "Well, maybe that's a subject we should wait until after these meetings to tackle."

    "Agreed," Latios said. "For now, I guess we should head back to the Expedition Society."

    Lugia stiffened. Latias looked at him. "Err, why don't you go on ahead, big brother? I'll catch up with you."

    "Oh. All right." Latios turned on flew off.

    "Okay. What couldn't you say in front of him?" Latias asked, a curious brow raised.

    "I, well… I wanted to talk, that's all. See where you're at and stuff." Lugia glided down toward the beach. Latias followed him, brow still raised. It took her a moment to realize it, but the beach Lugia touched down on was the same one he had found her crying on the day Rayquaza assaulted her. The unpleasant memories of his V-Create burning off her feathers lingered in her head. Her feathers bristled.

    Lugia draped a wing over her. She leaned into his chest. "Latias, I know you'll try to downplay this, but I want you to know how proud I am of you."

    "Huh? F-For what?" She didn't need to ask. The answer was obvious, but Latias wanted to hear it from Lugia's lips.

    "Everything related to this whole Necrozma crisis. I heard about it from Team Go-Getters. While I was busy tripping over myself and getting captured… you and Hoopa were running across the entire world, doing stuff to help Ampharos with his plan to revive people's spirits," Lugia said.

    Latias sighed. "Yeah. Well, that didn't end up amounting to much. If it wasn't for Team Radiance, Necrozma would've gotten the last laugh."

    "That may be true, but you were still instrumental in helping them get to that point." Lugia leaned over and pecked her on the head. "If you hadn't managed to outduel me, I would've gone after Team Radiance… and Mewtwo might not've taken us to Destiny Tower so we could get the other gods to help us."

    A smile spread across his beak. "To say nothing of the way you stood up to Arceus and Rayquaza. I'll admit, you had me worried, but my heart swelled when you asserted itself." He leaned in and whispered, "And I thought it was pretty sexy, too."

    Latias' face reddened. "I… aha… w-well…" She fidgeted with her goggles. "I'm not really sure what came over me, to be honest. Maybe some of those dormant dragon instincts Rayquaza always ranted about finally woke up?"

    "Nah. That was all you." Lugia nuzzled her cheek. "Whatever you learned from working with the Horizon Guild, you took to heart."

    "Yeah. I suppose so." Latias blinked slowly. "But then… that raises the question of what I should do now that this is all over."

    Lugia tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

    "I've been working with the Expedition Society for a while, now. But, I… well, I gelled pretty well with a lot of the Horizon Guild's folks, too." Latias slung her flight goggles around her neck. "A part of me is wondering if maybe it'd be better to move to Horizon. Y'know, fresh start and all." Her ears drooped. "But the idea also makes me guilty. It'd mean moving away from big brother. And it's nowhere near the Sea Shrine, either."

    "If you want to move there, then let's move there," Lugia said.

    "I— wait, what?" Latias looked into Lugia's eyes. "But I know how much you like being near the water. If we went to Horizon, how would that work?"

    "Horizon's one of the smallest continents. I'm sure I could find somewhere," Lugia said.

    "I'm not sure if there are any secluded settlements, though," Latias said.

    "That's okay."

    Latias' eyes widened. "It… it is?"

    Lugia nodded. "What can I say? Seeing you rise above all your past fears has inspired me. It's time I got over my fear of living around other people." He smiled at Latias. "Fresh start and all, right?"

    Latias floated up and pecked Lugia on the cheek. "The freshest."

    XxX

    ~Pokémon Paradise~

    "It's back! It's all back!"

    Raichu practically skipped down the road, her tail crackling and cheeks sparking. "It's as good as new!"

    "I'll say." Haxorus leaned against a tree trunk. "It's like Necrozma never attacked this place. Thank goodness." A smile crossed her face. "That weirdo Ninetales did good. Real good."

    Umbreon sat in the town square, staring at his old house off in the distance. He was torn between going into look at it and staying back. The last memories he had of it were from Zero sneaking in and convincing him to join her cause, after all. Umbreon's ears drooped. Sure, things had worked out for the best, but he'd still have to live with the fact that he made a terrible decision. A decision that had a lot of consequences for a lot of people.

    He watched Hydeigon float past Raichu, cheerful looks on all three of his heads. "Everything's in one piece," he said, stubby tail wagging. "It's nice to see this place lively again." Hydreigon turned to see Virizion, Keldeo, and Emolga helping a Bagon and a Zorua with a stack of crates.

    "Thanks again for helping out in Post Town when all those aliens were attacking," Virizion said, smiling at the smaller 'mons.

    "It was no trouble at all, Miss Virizion," Zorua said, wagging her tail.

    "Yeah. I'd love to put in a good word to HAPPI on your behalves but, well…" Virizion paused and looked up toward the sky. "It looks like we won't be needing HAPPI anymore."

    "Ah, yeah." Bagon scratched his chin. "Guess this means we're out of a job, huh?"

    "It could be worse!" a Gabite said, walking toward the square with a bag of berries slung over his shoulder. A Charmeleon followed behind him, carrying a bag of his own. "You could be like poor Umbreon over there. No more ley lines means all that research he did was for nothing."

    Umbreon flinched. His gaze fell to ground. Gabite was right. He hadn't even considered what this meant for his future.

    "Hey now, don't be so inconsiderate," Keldeo scolded, planting a hoof in front of Gabite. "His sister's part of Team Radiance and none of us would be here right now if it wasn't for them."

    Gabite shrank back. "Oh. Uh, right." He scratched the back of his head. "C-Congrats to your sister… I think?" He looked at Charmeleon. They shrugged at each other, then kept walking.

    Umbreon sighed. It was true. Despite the reputation his sister had gotten thanks to her behavior, she somehow turned things around. He could still hear the things she said to Necrozma in the back of his head.

    'Everyone can change, huh? What happened to you after I disappeared, Espy?'

    Haxorus stomped up to Umbreon and put a hand on his shoulder. He jumped, tails and ears shooting up. "Easy now," Haxorus said. "Just wanted to tell you that, uh, your sister did good. I guess I was wrong about her."

    Umbreon's ears twitched. "Yeah. I, uh… must've missed a lot. I think I'm going to need to find a way to get to Horizon and see her."

    "You and me both," Haxorus said, crossing her arms. "Though, I may need a few days to help get this place back in working order."

    "You? What for?" Umbreon raised a brow.

    "When I saw her, she told me you sacrificed yourself to Necrozma to save her. There's a chance I might've responded by telling her that it was a shame things weren't the other way around," Haxorus whispered, rubbing her shoulder.

    Umbreon blinked slowly. "Oh." He didn't dare mention the claims Necrozma made before taking his spirit. "Yeah, that's… not good."

    "I guess a lotta folks got a lotta stuff to apologize for," Haxorus said, crossing her arms. "Much as I hate to admit it, Tessa was telling the truth. We never did try to talk about the stuff we experienced fighting the Bittercold, did we?"

    "We didn't."

    "Did you, uh, ever have any nightmares?" Haxorus asked.

    "Some. Not as bad as Espy, though. The Voidlands were especially rough on her," Umbry said, ears drooping.

    "Yeah." Haxorus sighed. "Guess we've got things to work on, then." She walked forward, then paused and looked back at Umbreon. "I'm gonna see if I can find a way to get you to Horizon. Don't wander off too far, okay?"

    Umbreon nodded.

    XxX

    ~Stormcracker Isle~

    "You sure you don't need us to help? Supervising three different communities sounds like a lot of work," Luxeira said.

    "Perhaps. But you three put in the brunt of the effort fighting off the Ultra Beasts," Esserly said, shaking out her mossy back. "Let us attend to our own communities." She turned to an Arcanine pacing back and forth along the path leading into the caves. "Ark, were you able to get a headcount?"

    "I was. Everyone's present and accounted for, Sister Esserly. They're waiting for you to take them to the waypoint," Ark said, bobbing his head.

    "Very good." Esserly shifted to her Sky Forme and glided onto Ark's back. He walked along the path, leaving Team Paradox with Totem Decidueye and Kahuna Raichu.

    "So, Circadian Coast's closest to Aeon Town, right?" Luxeira said, sitting on her haunches. "Because I think my teammates and I would like to go back there, if possible."

    "I think I can arrange that, yeah. If the Sharpedo Sailors aren't running, I've got a Charizard on staff who can fly you over lickety-split, yeah," Kahuna Raichu said.

    "There won't be any need for that."

    "Woah!" Seraph jumped up, sparks racing down her freshly-restored ponytail. Ho-Oh landed beside her, stretching out her orange wings. "Cripes, where'd you come from?"

    "The insides of a giant light dragon, same as you and everyone else on the planet," Ho-Oh said.

    Seraph pouted, not the least bit amused by Ho-Oh's joke. "Well, what do you want with us?"

    "I'm offering you a ride back to Aeon Town," Ho-Oh said. "I saw how hard you three were working against the Ultra Beasts. It's the least I could do."

    "We'll gladly accept," Sticky said.

    "Of course. Whenever you're ready to leave." Ho-Oh gave the team some space and turned to preen the feathers on her wing.

    "Well, I can't speak for you two, but I know I've got no business to take care of on this empty island," Seraph said, shrugging.

    "Err… yeah. Same here, I guess," Luxeira said, brow furrowed. She was surprised with Seraph's tepid reaction to the planet's restoration. Granted, she herself wasn't sure what to make of it. Luxeira was certainly happy to be alive, but at the same time there was a bittersweet element to it. Necrozma had a hand in destroying this world, like he did with Ultra Village. Unlike Ultra Village, however, all the damage had been undone. Pokémon would get to return their homes. Their families. Luxeira wouldn't.

    "Luxeira, is something wrong?" Sticky hovered toward her. "You're tearing up."

    "Huh?" Luxeira sat up straight. "I, uh… there was a dust speck that flew in my eye." She blinked repeatedly.

    "Erm, forgive me, but I think I've known you long enough to tell when you're lying. I believe you're upset," Sticky said, poking his nubby arms together. "So, again, is something wrong?"

    "Of course something's wrong, Pin— err, Sticky." Seraph cautiously approached Luxeira. "Lucy's upset because she's thinking about home."

    Sticky's expression hardened. "Oh," he whispered.

    Luxeira didn't respond. Seraph had her pegged. She always had her pegged. Except she wasn't trying to get under Luxeira's skin anymore. It was a different type of pegging. The type that said Seraph wanted to help.

    "C'mon, Lucy, you can tell us what you're thinking," Seraph said. She knelt down and put a paw on Luxeira's shoulder.

    Luxeira considered making a smart remark about if Seraph was really doing this out of concern or out of a desire to get in bed with her once all the dust had settled. She stuffed those thoughts down, however. "Yeah. You're right. It's… it's hard to look at all of this and not think about home," she whispered, bowing her head.

    "Wait… if Shane brought our world back, maybe he can bring Ultra Village back, too?" Sticky said, offering an optimistic grin that faltered the moment he glimpsed Seraph's icy expression.

    "Two problems with that idea, bud. First off… you heard Tessa. Shane bit the big one bringing us all back to life. And second… Ultra Village was destroyed by a chain reaction from its power core," Seraph said. "The place was atomized. There's no coming back from that."

    "Ah. Right. My bad," Sticky whispered.

    "It's okay, Sticky. I appreciate you trying to cheer me up," Luxeira said between sniffles.

    "You do?" Sticky said, eyes wide.

    "Yeah. I know I gave you a hard time — and this whole fiasco's not gonna help improve my opinion of UBs in general — but the fact that you stuck by us and kept battling is impressive. And, of course, you took that blast from Metagross for us."

    "Ah. W-Well… you two were much more valuable assets to the group. It seemed like a no-brainer," Sticky said, rubbing his head.

    "Well, it was still bold of you. Don't sell yourself short," Luxeira said, brushing her face against her shoulder.

    "Unless you're talking about your height, of course. In which case, honesty is the policy." Seraph giggled, but an elbow to the gut from Luxeira sent her into a coughing fit.

    "Don't ruin the mood," Luxeira said, frowning.

    "Yeah, yeah, I got it," Seraph grumbled. Silence followed, until Seraph said, "So, what happens now? I, for one, want to find Lunala or that gold Ho-Oh. Maybe we can get one of them to find the nearest Ultra Recon base and get us off this backwater planet." Luxeira poked at the ground with a forepaw. Seraph turned to her. "What's wrong? Don't you want to be back among some actual technology?"

    "I thought… you promised me you'd help me ask Blaziken out," Luxeira whispered.

    Seraph's ponytail crackled. She grabbed it in her paws and fiddled with the fur. "Oh… yeah. I did say that, didn't I?" She sighed and got to her feet. "Fine. Guess we can hang around for a bit. What's a few more weeks in this whacko world where everyone's parading around with no clothes and there's enough eye candy to leave me stuffed?"

    Luxeira blinked. "I… can't tell how serious you're being."

    "Good. I like to keep my friends on their toes," Seraph said, grinning cheekily. "Now, should we get going to Aeon Town or not?"

    Luxeira was about to respond when a panicked cry caught her attention. "W… What was that?" She looked to her left. Loud sobs sounded from down in the jungle. Luxeira cautiously made her way down the path.

    "Hey, where are you going, Lucy?" Seraph said, taking off after her. "What's the prob—"

    Seraph skidded to a halt beside Luxeira, who was looking down at a clump of grass with her jaw dropped. "S… Seraph, are you seeing this?"

    "I… I am. That Zigzagoon… black and white stripes and stars on its eyes."

    "Can Zigzagoon look like that?" Luxeira asked. The oddly-colored Zigzagoon looked up at the two of them, her tongue dangling out of her mouth. Then, she bawled her eyes out.

    "Waah! Where am I? I want my mommy! I want my daddy! I wanna go home!"

    Seraph's brow furrowed. "I was afraid of this. Looks like Popsicle Breath might've opened up Ultra Wormholes when he pulled the planet together. And now we've got a faller on our paws."

    XxX​

    Why, yes, I am shameless enough to shoehorn a Galarian Zigzagoon into the fic two months before Sword and Shield are out.

    Next time: returning home and seeing some wayward souls.
     
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  6. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    And so we’ve come to the end, at least, the end of the fighting. I think, if anything, you made it quite clear that the final battle is behind us, and now we’re more or less in a postgame state. I think, for everything that happened, you did a pretty good job at finding a way to restore the world, though I’m kind of surprised at how quickly the damage was undone.

    I knew that once the Ley Lines were destroyed, so too would the Mystery Dungeons, so that didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. The fact that the gods had also been depowered also makes sense, though that makes me wonder, are they gonna be having kids? I ship Rayquaza and Giratina. Why? Just because.

    During the first half, you did well to outline everything that had been fixed, though I do question if Tessa’s constant focus on Shane was a bit too overdone. It’s in character, yes, but it was outlined and pointed out in narration a little more often than necessary, I think. Like, yes, we get it, it’s the end of PMD, of course Shane’s gone.

    I like the little cameos! Kind of funny how I wound up noticing things from all the other stories I’ve read. Looks like we’re going to have a lot of cooldown while everyone tries to fix up what happened, and there are still certainly some questions left to be answered if Ultra Ho-Oh has anything to say about it. He’s been particularly fixated on Tessa and Silvally, after all. So I’m curious how that’s gonna go.
     
    Ambyssin likes this.
  7. git-it

    git-it Member

    It was hard to read this chapter in the knowing that they will not find Shane. Poor Tessa. But you knew that he wasn't telling the truth.

    It is nice to see that everything and (almost) everyone is back. RIP gods. Well done, Shane. And now, Tessa has initiated the new order. We will (or will not) see what the future brings for every Pokemon in this new world.

    Now, that all souls are where they belong, everyone is preparing for the big get-together (and I don't mean the one at Celestial Island).
     
    Ambyssin likes this.
  8. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    @Namohysip: Yeah, perhaps I was a bit too heavy-handed with some of the prose. Guess walking the tightrope of introspection is on the hard side. DX Thanks for betaing this part, though!

    @git-it: You're right. This was, admittedly, a sort of foundational chapter.

    XxX

    Chapter 100: Rest and Recompense


    ~Aeon Town~

    The moment Team Radiance arrived back in Aeon Town, its members' fatigue multiplied tenfold. While the sun was rising on Celestial Island, it was nighttime in the Horizon Continent. Though none of them would've known that from the scattered shouts and conversations rising up from the buildings ahead of them.

    Tessa trudged along the dirt road leading into town, still leaning against Silvally for support. The colorful buildings and Pokémon running out into the streets to share loving embraces or joyful greetings should've filled her with glee. Instead, the exhaustion spreading through her system left her empty inside. It was a familiar emptiness. One that dredged up memories of days spent lying around, staring at her bedroom ceiling.

    She knew she should've smiled when some townspeople tried to walk up to her and offer congratulatory praise, but she couldn't muster the energy to do so. Tessa forced herself to focus on walking. One foot in front of the other. She gripped Silvally's thigh tight. His breathing was surprisingly labored, but she figured that he must've been tired, too. Tessa stole a quick glance at Espy. She had a similar drained look in her eyes.

    After everything she'd gone through to get to this point, Tessa didn't want to celebrate. Only sleep. Tessa didn't have to say anything to her teammates. She knew they felt the same way.

    Tessa's ears rang. Lunala and Ephemeris shielded the team from unwanted attention while both Ninetales tried to temper people's startled responses to seeing two gods casually strolling through their town. It occurred to Tessa that they both still had all their powers, which meant the gods weren't truly gone. That thought brought on a headache, so she chose to shelve it.

    Slowly, Team Radiance headed for the Observatory. For beds that they hadn't seen in far too long. Silvally noticed people looking at him curiously. He sighed. This was an issue he would've had to tackle eventually… regardless of the status of Mystery Dungeons and guilds. It's what he had talked about with Espy at Circadian Coast, after all. He looked down at her.

    "You okay?" she whispered. "Sorry. Throat's sore."

    "I'm fine. Guess I wasn't expecting this to be how I'd introduce myself to the people of Aeon Town… let alone the whole world," Silvally said, shaking his head. "At least with Primarina's concert, everyone was brainwashed."

    "That's, uh— probably shouldn't phrase that as a good thing, big guy." Espy returned to focusing on the Observatory. There was more she could've— no, should've said. However, her mind was an egg that had been cracked open onto a frying pan. She was amazed she could even speak in complete sentences.

    The small hill leading to the Observatory proved too much for Team Radiance. Lunala wound up levitating them up to the entrance. There, they found Dusk, Gallian, and Zoroark waiting for them. Gallian paused in the midst of his pacing. He ran up to Tessa, who didn't initially react when he jumped up on his forelegs to embrace her.

    "Oh. Hey, Gallian," Tessa whispered. She tried to lift her arms and reciprocate the gesture, but they were too sore.

    "I'm so glad you're okay," Gallian said, hopping down from her shoulders. His gaze fell toward the ground. "And, uh, I'm really sorry to hear about Shane."

    "We owe you all a huge debt of gratitude," Dusk said, tail slowly wagging.

    "Yeah. Shane even patched me up! I'm good as new!" Zoroark pointed to his newly-restored left ear and eye, the latter of which only had a thin scar as a holdover from his old injuries. "… well, for the most part, anyway. The important thing is I can see out of both eyes again!"

    "Oh. That's great," Silvally said. "But, um, much as we'd like to chat, we're really tired and could use some rest. Think you could help us down to our room?" He looked at Ephemeris and Lunala. "We appreciate the escort, but I don't exactly think you two will fit in the Observatory."

    Lunala looked at the open doorway. "Mmm. Good point. I suppose I'll stand guard and make sure no one shows up to try and disturb you. It's the least I can do."

    Smiling, Silvally nodded. "I think we'd appreciate that. Right, Tessa?"

    "Huh? Oh, yeah," Tessa mumbled. It was getting harder and harder for her to keep her eyes open.

    Zoroark caught on quickly and stepped to Tessa's side. He plucked her off her feet. Tessa couldn't manage a yelp or a yip. All she did was stare in confusion. "You're exhausted. Let me carry you down," Zoroark said, while Gallian looked on with a mixture of surprise and jealousy.

    Tessa wanted to protest, but Zoroark's fur was as soft as the pillow waiting for her in her room. She nodded slowly and sank deeper into his chest. Zoroark carried her through the door. Espy and Silvally followed after him, with Gallian and Dusk bringing up the rear. Lunala waited until the door closed and turned to Ephemeris.

    "I'm worried about Tessa. I think the loss of her partner's hitting her quite hard. I hope she's able to get some rest." Lunala tapped her wing-claws together nervously. "I really did look everywhere I could think of… but turned up nothing." She looked up at the mid-morning sky. "Maybe I should try searching through Ultra Space."

    "As much as I wish the human was here, too, I think it'd be foolish to race off into Ultra Space without devising some sort of plan," Ephemeris said. He turned to Totem Ninetales. "Perhaps you could take a better look at the Tree of Life?"

    "Sure. I do have to follow-up on those restless spirits, after all," Totem Ninetales said, adjusting her shawl and brooch. "But I'd have to get to Rainbow Island or Solstice Summit, first. Esserly is likely waiting for my return. Is there any chance you'd be willing to open a wormhole for me, Lunala?"

    Ephemeris looked at Lunala. "Oh! Yes, of course. It should be no problem." Her third eye flared to life. A purple portal opened behind her. She kept it on the smaller side to avoid attracting unwanted attention. "Will you be joining her?" Lunala asked Ninetales.

    "Actually, I think I'd rather stay here for the moment. I would like to get back to Lively Town or the Air Continent before it gets too late over there," Ninetales said. "But, well, I imagine it will be much easier for us to see each other in person going forward."

    "Certainly at the meeting tomorrow." Totem Ninetales smiled at her counterpart. Ninetales nodded back. "Great. I'll look forward to it, then." She stepped into the wormhole and vanished in a flash of light.

    When Lunala dispelled the wormhole, however, she scrunched her face up in thought. "That's odd," she said.

    "What's odd?" Ninetales wondered.

    "Does Aeon Town have a large contingency of dragons living on its outskirts? Because I'm picking up a bunch of dragon-type auras to the northeast," Lunala said.

    Ninetales frowned. "I… don't think that's normal. But are we really in a position to send anyone to investigate?"

    "I suppose I can go. It shouldn't take long," Ephemeris said, then took off into the sky, a rainbow trailing behind his tailfeathers.

    XxX​

    Tessa felt everyone's gazes on the team as they made their way down the stairs. Bruxish, Trapinch, and Yungoos all stopped what they were doing and headed toward Team Radiance. "Oh, dahlings, welcome back! You were all fantastic out there!" Bruxish said.

    "Yeah. You guys are heroes!" Growlithe said, tail wagging. "If you get any sort of ceremonial parades, can I bring my sparklers?"

    "Parades?" Silvally blinked. "Um, let's not think on that right now."

    Yungoos stepped in front of Zoroark, though he couldn't make eye contact with Tessa due to the way Zoroark carried her. "Hey, uh, I know dis probably won't mean much what with da human gone and everything, but… uh, I want to say dat I'm sorry for being all abrasive toward youse guys." He traced a claw across the floor. "I didn't do much other dan heckle youse, but da human still chose to save me… and everyone else who doubted youse guys, too."

    "You could at least stand to call him by his name, you know," Espy said, fixing her tired expression on Yungoos.

    "Ah. Err, right…" Yungoos shrank back. "Well, uh, I'm gonna keep on hoping dat Shane is out dere somewhere. Youse gave us all a miracle, so youse deserve a miracle of your own." He looked at Growlithe. "Does dat make any sense? I think it makes sense."

    A vine wrapped around Yungoos and pulled him away from Team Radiance. He was about to complain, when Serperior swiveled him around to make eye contact. "Look, this is all cute and mushy and stuff, but I suggest you save it for another time. Do you not see how exhausted they are?" She looked at Team Radiance. "You three go get some rest, okay?"

    "Uh, sure," Espy said, glancing toward the western wing. "We were staying in rooms over here, right?"

    "That ain't necessary, y'all."

    Tessa tried to lift her head up, but her muscles wouldn't respond. Zoroark turned to let her see Braviary and Magearna walking out of what was once Metagross' office. All the weird metallic plates were gone, replaced by smooth, orange walls continuous with the rest of the assembly area. Tessa blinked a few times, but that was the closest she came to mustering any surprise over Braviary's appearance. At the very least, his presence made her more confident that Totem Ninetales was right and Metagross hadn't been revived.

    "I reckon this is a formality, but y'all more than deserve to use the veteran's quarters," Braviary said, gesturing toward the stairs with a wing.

    "Just make sure to use the baths when you wake up," Togedemaru said, earning several scornful looks. "What? I can't be the only one who thinks they reek. Pee-yew!" She waved a stubby hand in front of your face.

    Togedemaru, I think I have some papers I left in my workshop. Could you retrievitate them for me? Magearna said, tone full of disapproval.

    "Yeah, yeah. Anything to get away from the stench," Togdemaru said. She curled into a ball and rolled off toward Magearna's workshop.

    "Well, that was rude. Remind me to squirt tamato juice on her food when she's not looking," Silvally huffed.

    Espy giggled. "Deal."

    Before things could get anymore awkward, Comfey, Steenee and Mimikyu emerged from the staircase to the veteran's quarters. Steenee carried rags in her arms, while Mimikyu had towels sitting on his disguise's head. "We finished cleaning out the room!" Mimikyu said, only to see Team Radiance and shrink back. "Ah, I didn't realize you three were back. Sorry for being so loud."

    "It's okay. Good to see you again," Silvally said, nodding.

    Mimikyu stiffened. "O-Oh, um, good to see you, too!" The towels almost dropped to the floor when he hopped up at down in excitement. "S-Sorry, I came on a bit too strong there, didn't I?"

    "You're fine. I think my friends and I want to sleep, though," Silvally said. He yawned loudly. Steenee's face paled and her eyes watered.

    "I used a special herbal oil on the cushions in your new room. It should help you three sleep peacefully. You deserve it, after all," Comfey said. "While you're napping, I suppose I'll grab some extra-strength fur shampoo from the Kecleon Mart."

    "That'd be great. Thanks," Espy said, before yawning like Silvally did.

    "Oh, spirits above." Steenee dropped her rags and ran for the east hallway, covering her face with her hands.

    "M… my breath's not that bad, is it?" Espy said, flinching.

    "No, but the big guy's poison memories are on," Dusk said, jerking her head in Silvally's direction. He stiffened, then turned to look at his tail.

    Silvally groaned. "Yeah, we definitely need sleep." He nodded to the other guild members, then descended the stairs with his teammates in tow. Comfey led them to a darker portion of the hallway. In the process, they passed Volcarona and Araquanid, who offered silent nods. Comfey guided them into a spacious room with a soft, velvet carpet.

    "Don't worry about gunking up the place. We can always clean it," Comfey said, gesturing to the orange pillows in the room. Zoroark walked Tessa over to the cushion. She was surprised it actually accommodated her larger Lucario frame, but was more surprised with how soft it was. It brought Altaria wings to mind. Eyelids already heavy, Tessa was out could the second Zoroark finished lowering her onto the cushion. Her teammates fell asleep seconds later, with Espy opting to forgo her own pillow and snuggle up with Silvally. He subconsciously curled up around her, drawing a purr.

    Zoroark stepped back and grimaced at his slimy arms. "Guess I'll need to wash up, too," he whispered as he walked out of the room.

    "Actually, can you hold off on that for now?"

    Gallian was waiting for Zoroark in the middle of the hallway. He raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Uh, sure, it's not a huge deal, I guess. Why? Do you need me for something?"

    Gallian nodded. Zoroark frowned in concern and walked up to his mate. Gallian stopped him from heading for the stairs. "It's Tessa," he said. "You saw how she looked. It's one thing to be tired, but Tessa…" His voice trailed off and he frowned. "She looked about as broken as I did before Espeon managed to talk some sense into me back at Cosmic Cavern."

    "Ah, yeah. I guess she and Shane were a lot closer than I thought." He rubbed his shoulder. "I mean… I figured the two of them were too insecure about one another to be anything other than friends. Maybe something happened when they went off to fight Zero?"

    "You saw how close they stuck to one another when they were fighting Necrozma," Gallian reminded him.

    "True." Zoroark crossed his arms. "But what can we do about that? They had Lunala and Ho-Oh with them. If those two couldn't save Shane… I doubt we can magically bring him back."

    "Huh. That sounds like something I'd normally say." Gallian smirked and Zoroark rolled his eyes. "Look, the fact of the matter is that I think we need to do something for Tessa." Gallian bit his lip and looked down the hall toward Team Radiance's room. "If Metagross were still around, he'd probably say something about how, logically speaking, Tessa should be happy that the world's been restored. But, like, with what she's been through, logic is bound to be the last thing on her mind."

    "Gee, that sounds familiar," Zoroark mused, tilting his head.

    "Yeah. I know." Gallian lowered his head guiltily. "But that's why we have to act. To make sure Tessa doesn't get swallowed up by irrational thoughts like I nearly did." He stepped close to Zoroark, brushing the flat of his scythe against Zoroark's waist. "We need to show her that she's got friends and family here to support her."

    Zoroark smiled. "All right, you've convinced me. What did you have in mind?"

    Gallian reared up on his hind legs and whispered in Zoroark's ear while bracing himself against the wall. He dropped back down to all-fours. "Well?"

    "Hmm." Zoroark rested his chin on a paw. Then, after a minute, he plucked a yipping Gallian off the ground and planted a kiss on his nose. "I think… I've never been more in love with you than I am right now." He set the bewildered Absol back on the ground. "If your idea wasn't so time-sensitive, I'd drag you off to an empty room and let you have your way with me."

    Gallian's face and horn went bright red. "It's, uh, not that great of an idea." He brushed his forelegs together. "There's a ton of stuff that could go wrong. And I think my disaster sense is making me worry this idea will only upset Tessa even more." He paused. "Still, we ought to try it. For her sake."

    "That's exactly why I said what I said." Zoroark had the biggest grin Gallian had seen on him since the night they'd taken one another. "This is the Gallian I've always known was underneath the rough, grumpy exterior. A guy who's willing to put his fears aside for something he believes in."

    "It's really not that special," Gallian whispered. The praise flattered him and he didn't want to ruin the moment by saying Zoroark was laying it on too thick. His fur had already prickled and blood was pumping toward… sensitive areas. "So, uh, I guess we should go speak to Lunala, then? And the gold Ho-Oh, too."

    "Right. Assuming they're still here," Zoroark said. He led Gallian back up the stairs into the assembly area, where they found Dusk sitting by the northern corridor, ears drooped and tail curled around her waist. Serperior was coiled up next to her, tapping her chin with a vine.

    "And you're sure about that?" Serperior said.

    Dusk nodded. "I asked Ninetales. She said Midnight's in the spirit realm. And, like, I suppose the gold Ho-Oh is capable of bringing him back, but that's…" She shook her head. "I can't see him agreeing to it."

    Gallian and Zoroark looked at each other. "Is… is she talking about—"

    Zoroark nodded. "Yeah, it's gotta be our Midnight." He walked up to Dusk. "Hey, Dusk, what's going on? You're looking as blue as Luxeira." Behind him, Gallian rolled his eyes at the comparison.

    "Huh? Oh… y-you heard what I was saying." Dusk poked at the floor with a claw. "Yeah. Midnight's, um… he's dead. I think it had something to do with him stealing the Dawn Hourglass and trapping me with the Tapus and one of his two-bit thug friends."

    Gallian caught sight of Sneasel freezing mid-step with a box in his arms. He set the box down and looked skeptically at the group, but a glare from Gallian prompted him to pick it up again and head into Metagross' old office. Gallian wondered what the two were actually doing, but chose to return his focus to Dusk.

    "I see." Zoroark crossed his arms. "I, uh, can't say I'm all that surprised. The guy was determined to hold onto every grudge he had… and in the end it was those grudges that did him in."

    "Was it really, though?" Dusk whispered, earning concerning looks. "I think it all falls back on my shoulders." She tucked her head into her chest. "I got the evolution I wanted… but I got careless. Midnight saved me. The powers that be should've rewarded him by giving him the evolution he wanted. Instead, he got the exact opposite. A body type that upset him. A temper he couldn't keep under control. Instincts that disagreed with him."

    Looking a touch guilty, Zoroark turned away at that last one.

    "That doesn't excuse the things he did," Gallian said, brow furrowing. "He should've reached out and gotten help, but instead he chose to be upset and stay mad at people for perceived slights."

    "I don't know. I think his tirades were his way of asking for help. But we… ignored him," Dusk whispered.

    "Ignored him? It was hard to ignore him with how much he got in my face," Gallian said.

    "Okay. I ignored him. Or, rather, the best I did was scold him for outbursts when I should've been trying to get to the bottom of what was wrong." Dusk sighed. "You heard all the stuff Team Radiance said about second-chances and people being able to change. Well, why didn't Shane bring Midnight back, too? Doesn't he deserve that chance?" She slumped over. "I should be grateful that we're all here… but a part of me is upset that I'll never get a chance to make up with Midnight."

    "Honestly, I'm not sure he deserves a second chance after running off with the Dawn Hourglass," Zoroark said, scratching his ear. "Yeah, we can't say for certain how different things would've been if Shane had gotten the full Hourglass as intended, but he still caused everyone some serious problems. And not the kind of problems a simple apology can fix."

    "Besides… what if he did come back, but kept resenting being a Midnight Lycanroc? Even if we were able to convince him to behave better… I'm not sure we could really get him to like his form." Gallian's expression sharpened. "Trust me, I speak from experience. There's enough stuff I resent about being an Absol that I could talk your ear off about it."

    He paused, blinking slowly. "Huh." Gallian stepped back.

    "What is it?" Zoroark asked.

    "Y'know, loathe as I am to admit it, maybe Midnight and I were more alike than either of us realized. We both hated who we were… especially the instincts we had. But that resentment drove us to live up to some of the worst stereotypes about our species," Gallian said, looking at Zoroark. "The big difference was… I had people to support me and stop me from slipping too far." He looked down. "Midnight didn't have that support. We only told him off for acting out."

    "See? I've got a point, don't I? This is supposed to be, like, a fresh start for the world… but Midnight won't get the opportunity," Dusk said. She turned toward the main office and found Hakamo-o and Sneasel setting down baskets with metal shards in them. "You two!"

    "We didn't do nothing!" Hakamo-o said, raising his arms innocently.

    "You became Midnight's lackeys, didn't you?" Dusk said.

    "Lackeys? No way! We were partners!" Sneasel growled, though the confidence in his statement faded before he'd even finished saying it. His gaze faltered and he rubbed his shoulder. "And look how I got rewarded for my loyalty."

    Dusk's eyes flickered red. "Tell me… what was Midnight like when you were travelling together?"

    "He was, uh… real bossy," Hakamo-o said, resting a foot on the box he'd been carrying. "If he wasn't shouting at us, he was going on about how he was going to stick it to Snowy and his dumb friends." He crossed his arms and closed his eyes. "At the time, I didn't like the shouting, but I didn't like Snowy, either. He kept showing us up… and his friends got us tossed in jail."

    "Yeah. But Lycanroc dragged us into a heap of trouble because he was so desperate to get back at Snowy," Sneasel mumbled. "If we'd broken away from him… we wouldn't have wound up seeing your pops, getting attacked by the whacko Guildmaster…" His voice trailed off and he looked at Dusk. "We wouldn't have gotten our butts dragged into Lycanroc's dumb revenge scheme."

    Dusk winced, remembering the crazed look in Lycanroc's eyes as he stood atop the Ultra Beast he'd summoned. "I suppose so."

    Sneasel jerked his head in Hakamo-o's direction. "Sure, he got an evolution out of it. But me? I got kicked around by dragons, blasted by Metagross, dragged through muck, and drained of energy to the point I thought I was gonna shrivel up and die!" He scrunched his face up.

    Gallian's brow furrowed. "Well, if you'd stayed in jail, that wouldn't have happened."

    "Considering you stole stuff from the Kecleon Mart, you don't have much of a leg to stand on, here," Serperior pointed out, raising a skeptical brow.

    "And you tried to blow up my mate," Gallian retorted, his glare returning in all of its scornful glory.

    Serperior wilted like a dying flower. "P… point taken."

    "I know I could've stayed in jail! I'm not an idiot!" Sneasel blurted out. The other Pokémon around him tensed up. "But my folks… they always told me 'thieves never quit. They take advantage of any opening they can find.' Hakamo-o got us an opening… so we took it! I figured this made up for me finding him wandering around, covered in puke, and taking him in. Because a real thief doesn't prey on sorry-looking sights like that."

    Ice swirled around Sneasel's claws. "I'm… I'm not a quitter." Sneasel tucked his head in. "I'm not a quitter," he repeated, quieter this time.

    Hakamo-o stared wide-eyed at Sneasel. It occurred to him that Sneasel had never mentioned his parents before. He opened his mouth, ready to press the issue, but Sneasel kept talking.

    "I wanted to hate Snowy because… he kept beating me. I was… I was supposed to be a great thief. But I kept losing to an amateur. A total chump! He made me feel like I was letting my folks down." Sneasel had to stop himself from kicking over the box of metal shards. "But then… Snowy and his friends saved me from Lycanroc and Necrozma." He sat down beside the box. "It ain't worth it to hate Team Radiance. I'll just end up turning into Lycanroc."

    He looked up at Dusk. "If you really want my opinion… move on. You keep fixating on him… you'll become exactly like him at some point."

    Gallian's expression softened. He was not expecting that kind of reaction from Lycanroc's former goon. Maybe being part of Necrozma's giant soul-pool-conglomerate-thingy triggered some sort of change in Sneasel's thinking? Gallian shook his head. He was getting too sidetracked. He had something he needed to attend to, after all. Gallian looked at Zoroark, only to pause when he noticed Magearna in the office doorway.

    Err, is there an issue? My Geartronic Voice Decibellerator registered some shouts from this vicinity, she said.

    "Yeah. That was my bad," Sneasel said, huffing up an ice cloud.

    "Hrmph. Well, I suggest y'all keep quiet until Officer Magnezone comes to take y'all back into custody," Braviary said, popping up beside Magearna.

    "You're sending them back to jail?" Zoroark said.

    "Of course. They escaped. Reckon that puts 'em at a pretty high outlaw status," Braviary said. "Though… it ain't my call to make. I'm just a concerned citizen, that's all." He stepped out of the doorway. "As y'all can see, we've patched the office back up. Looks just like it used to when Incineroar was around. I reckon I'll offer it up to Team Radiance when they're feeling better."

    Gallian raised an eyebrow. There were a lot of thoughts swirling in his head, but he chose to focus on something simple to avoid wading into depressing territory with memories of his dad. "What about you? You were Metagross' assistant."

    "If'n this has taught me anything, it's that I ain't a good leader. I reckon I was too complacent. Didn't ask enough questions when I needed to." Braviary shook his head. "That ain't what Aeon Town needs going forward. So, I'll be hanging up my badge. Reckon I'll return down south and get a job as a mail courier. Nice, honest position. I can still bring people smiles without any of them hassles and stresses of making important decisions."

    Braviary didn't wait for any responses and shuffled off toward the eastern corridor. Hakamo-o and Sneasel looked at one other, shrugged, and sighed. "So, what, we just have to sit around and wait to get dragged back to jail?" Hakamo-o said, frowning. "Isn't there any sort of alternative?" He looked toward Gallian and Zoroark. "C'mon… we freed those Mist Continent ladies together, didn't we? I know I wasn't that helpful, but that's gotta count for something, doesn't it?"

    I'm afraid that's up to Officer Magnezone, Magearna said.

    Sneasel got to his feet. "H-Hang on. Hear me out for a sec, then." He looked at Hakamo-o. "Hakamo-o actually had a suggestion and I… think it's a good idea." Hakamo-o tilted his head in confusion, but stayed silent. "What if, instead of sitting around in jail, we gave back to the community to make up for being a hassle?" Sneasel proposed.

    "There's a cold place up north — Solstice Summit, I think? — that's supposed to be about helping folks find a sense of direction and stuff." Sneasel gestured at himself and Hakamo-o. "Well, we're a couple of clods with no sense of direction. Why don't we serve out our sentence by working for the Totem of Solstice Summit? Or, if not the Totem, someone else?"

    Magearna's eyes whirred in their sockets. I suppose that is a reasonable requestommendation. She tapped a foot on the ground. Though my Geartronic Truth-Tellinator failed to make it out of beta-testing, so I'm not sure if you're being one-hundred percent honest with me.

    "Then how about a little test to see if they're committed to their word?" Zoroark proposed, stepping toward Magearna.

    Gallian frowned. "Hang on. What are you doing?"

    "Trust me on this." Zoroark winked at him. "See, Gallian and I have an important project we have to work on. It needs to be done very quickly. Like, 'work through the night' quickly." He pointed at Hakamo-o and Sneasel. "So, why don't they help us out?"

    Gallian's eyes widened. "Are you nuts? We've barely—"

    "It's a win-win. We get some helping hands… and these two can prove they're committed to changing," Zoroark said, smirking. "Actions speak louder than words, right?"

    "Fair," Gallian said. He eyed the two skeptically. "You two think you're okay to work with us?"

    Hakamo-o and Sneasel looked at one another, then nodded. "Of course. Whatever you need. We're here to help," Hakamo-o said, rifling off a salute.

    Gallian nodded. "Great, then let's—"

    "Um, excuse me?"

    "Ugh, now what?" Gallian growled, turning to find Ninetales and Milotic descending the stairs.

    "Oh, Millie!" Serperior brightened up. "Any luck with Airy?"

    Milotic wore a somber expression. She shook her head. Serperior's enthusiasm drained. "Oh," she whispered. "What did—"

    "I went to her hometown. Figured that, if she wasn't here, maybe she'd gotten revived there… but I couldn't find her," Milotic said, eyebrows drooping. "I'm not really sure where else to look. Besides, if she is still out there, I don't really know what I'd even say to her."

    Serperior coiled up tight. "Well, look at the bright side…" She glanced at Dusk. "At least we're on the same Sharpedo. We both let a friend down."

    Dusk's tail fell between her legs. "Oh. I'm sorry. Wanna talk about it?"

    Milotic slithered toward Serperior and they approached Dusk in tandem. "I think that would be helpful," she said. The three headed for the western hallway.

    "Can we go now?" Gallian said. Every interruption was costing him precious time and he had no idea how long Tessa would be asleep for.

    "Sorry. I need to speak with him." Ninetales pointed at Hakamo-o.

    "Me? What'd I do?"

    "It's not that. There's, um… a bunch of dragons on the outskirts of Aeon Town, right now. Ephemeris brought two representatives here. They're asking about a 'Totem Kommo-o' and his eldest son," Ninetales said as Hakamo-o went stiff as a board. "Would you know anything about that?"

    "Y-Yeah. I'm, uh, Totem Kommo-o's eldest son," Hakamo-o said, brow furrowed. "But I left my tribe. My younger brother can—"

    "I hear him! It's the Totem's eldest!"

    "Aw, nuts," Hakamo-o whispered, glancing up to see a pink-winged Salamence and an Altaria with striped, blue-and-red wings gliding over the stairs and landing near him.

    "Thank goodness we found you," Altaria said, fluttering her wings. "You have to help us. We can't find the Totem?"

    Hakamo-o raised an eyebrow. "Well, yeah. Dad probably got revived somewhere else."

    Altaria shook her head. "We did a head count. Every dragon who was part of the escort team is together… except the Totem."

    "What should we do? We have no idea how to get back to Rem Canyon… and Rem Canyon isn't a Mystery Dungeon anymore!" Salamence said, his tail thumping the ground.

    "I can't help you," Hakamo-o said, crossing his arms.

    Salamence stiffened. "W… what do you mean you can't help us?"

    "I'm an outlaw and I'm under arrest. So, I'm in these guys' custody." Hakamo-o gestured to Gallian and Zoroark.

    "Well, can we borrow him for a bit, then?" Altaria asked. Zoroark had to elbow Gallian to stop him from snickering.

    "Sorry, guys, but I made it clear I didn't want to be part of the tribe anymore," Hakamo-o said. "If my dad's not around, then you ought to pick someone to supervise until you're able to find him. Like my brother." He tapped his chin. "Or, better yet, why not ask one of the depowered gods for help? You all had such fervent praises for Rayquaza. Now that he doesn't have anything to protect, I'm sure he'd happily take my dad's place."

    "Y… you want us to summon Lord Rayquaza?" Salamence gasped.

    "Well, he's not exactly a 'lord' anymore, is he?" Hakamo-o said, smirking. "I heard Lunala was outside the guild. Ask her nicely… and maybe she can help you out."

    Altaria and Salamence exchanged unconvinced looks. Both sighed and turned to Ninetales. "I guess it can't be helped, then," Salamence said. "Could you take us up to Lunala?"

    "Uh, sure." Ninetales looked skeptically at Hakamo-o before escorting the dragons away.

    "Okay. Now it's time to go," Gallian said, rounding up Hakamo-o and Sneasel.

    "Hey, you sure you're okay with sending them off like that?" Sneasel asked.

    Hakamo-o nodded. "Absolutely."

    Assuming Hakamo-o had used cheesy wordplay, Gallian groaned. Hakamo-o realized this a second later and chuckled, which drew laughter from Sneasel and Zoroark. Gallian glared at the ground. "Let's just get a move on, already."

    XxX
    Continued in next post.
     
  9. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Continued from previous post.

    XxX​

    Silvally's head was swimming. He wasn't really sure he could call his experience after he fell asleep a dream. It was more like he'd collapsed into some body of water and the currents were dragging him down into the depths. The longer he slept, the greater the pressure on his head… and the more whispers he swore he heard around him. Though he couldn't make out any words, he feared angry spirits were bubbling up inside of him.

    However, as time dragged on and more unfamiliar, mumbling voices joined the chorus, Silvally realized that they weren't hostile at all. There was confusion and uncertainty, but they actually sounded… conversational? Silvally wished he could tell what they were saying, but no amount of willpower seemed to do him any good. At that point, he simply chose to float in place, pretending the whispers were waves lapping up against a shoreline.

    When he opened his eyes for real, darkness greeted him. All the luminescent orbs were off and the second sublevel had no windows. Tiny slivers of light poked in from gaps in a sliding door. Silvally switched to his dark memories and got a much better sense of the general layout. Aside from the cushions and a couple of empty cabinets pushed to the far wall, the room was empty.

    Silvally tried to stretch out his neck, but it cramped up. In fact, most of his muscles were tight. Tight and sore. Silvally didn't want to move. Going back to sleep was a tempting offer. He figured he could sleep the month away. At the same time, though, there were whispers in the back of his mind begging him to move.

    There was a problem, however. A pink, ooze-covered problem. Silvally glanced down at Espy. Even though she was as filthy as he was, she looked… peaceful. It was the most relaxed he'd ever seen her. The sight brought warmth into his chest. He lost his view of the room as his fire memories took over. Much to his surprise, however, he was able to switch back to the dark memories immediately. In fact, that warmth didn't fade away when he did.

    'Am I… fire and dark right now?'

    More whispers. Silvally's brow furrowed. The voices were much clearer before. Now, it sounded like whoever was speaking was doing so with their head stuck in the ground. It was… odd. Silvally concentrated, clenching his beak tightly shut.

    'I'm… a Midday Lycanroc.'

    The room disappeared. Silvally looked down at tan-furred, slender forelegs, then looked out at a set of rocky crags jutting up in the distance. Dusty air brushed against his mane. He rubbed his neck against the dirt and purred.

    Then, with a deep breath, the memory faded and he was back in the Observatory, watching Espy's chest rise and fall.

    'Okay… I still have these memories, I think? So, why are the voices so distant?'

    Silvally's hindlegs twitched. He looked at Espy again and sighed. Silvally didn't want to leave her, but the faint whispering filled him with an irresistible urge to get up. He slowly shimmied away from her, lowering her head onto the cushion. Silvally got to his feet and checked to make sure Tessa was still sleeping. When he looked at her, his vision flickered. Instead of looking at Tessa, he saw a silhouette with orange and silver swirling around it.

    'Psychic? No, I'm not trying to be psychic.'

    He shook his head, then paused, worried he'd made noise. Neither of the girls stirred. Frowning, Silvally crept toward the door. He made to open it, when a faint glow surrounded the door. It slid open. Light flooded the room. Silvally's head crest fanned out in alarm. He hastily went outside, but the door had closed itself before Silvally could even turn around. The next thing he knew, he was a bit light-headed.

    Silvally stumbled down the hall, blinking repeatedly. What was wrong with him? Had the fight with Necrozma left him in such a sorry state that he couldn't control his memories anymore? No, that wasn't right. He was exhausted, yes, but he was in control during that whole battle. Why were things different now?

    He stumbled around the corner. A chill ran down his back. His fur prickled. Silvally coughed up a cloud of frost and stared at it, wide-eyed. "Gah… this isn't right!" he said, unable to keep up his inner monologue. Silvally stomped down the hall until he found one of the open washroom doors. There was a note from Comfey along with three bottles and fresh scrubbers. Silvally went to grab the items with his beak, only for them to float into the air.

    "Am I—" Silvally shook his head. "I shouldn't be levitating something like this. Nothing's making sense!" he growled. Was he dreaming? His sore muscles suggested he wasn't. Silvally tried to drop the objects, but instead they floated into the room… and headed right for a very fancy glass fixture in the ceiling.

    "Hey, wait!" Silvally tried to pull them back, but they thunked against the glass… and the structure dropped straight toward the ground. "No! Stop!" he cried. Then, to his complete shock, his cries produced hexagonal ripples around the falling fixture. The light fixture froze in place. Silvally stared at it. He glanced in a mirror, but he didn't have the pink glow of his psychic memories. No. He had the sky-blue glow of his dragon memories.

    When Silvally looked back at the structure, it was dangling safely from the ceiling once again. He had only a few seconds to ponder what had happened, before the soap bottle and loofa dropped from the air, landing right between his eyes. Silvally staggered backward, blinking and hissing. Tiny bits of soap had gotten onto his sclera. Spirits above, his eyes burned. He shifted his poison memories on… but his dragon memories stayed active in the background.

    Silvally held his stinging eyes closed for several seconds. When the pain subsided enough for him to open them, he found himself not inside the washroom, but on a stone roof looking out across an expansive sky filled with yellow clouds. Pillars stood proudly on either side of him.

    "What the— isn't this… Temporal Tower?!" Silvally looked around in a panic. He blinked several times, then found himself back in the washroom. Silvally hunched over. His legs trembled. He glanced at the mirror again and frowned. His glowing parts had both a gray and sky-blue tinge to them.

    It wasn't just that, though. Something else was off. He had grown. Silvally was sure he was at least two heads taller than he used to be. He approached the mirror, brow furrowed. Silvally paced in front of it, ignoring the slimy remnants of Necrozma's innards clinging to his pelt. He studied his reflection. Silvally fanned out his head crest. The energy blades were longer. His beak was sharper. He snapped at the air with it, going cross-eyed in the process.

    Silvally raised a foreleg. Not only were his muscles thicker, his chitin was sturdier than he remembered. And were his talons sharper or was he crazy? Silvally stared at them intently, only to drop his foreleg to the ground when pink light surrounded the talons. It didn't disappear. Silvally held his foreleg up and shook it, yelling, "Ahh! Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!" He hopped backwards until he slipped and fell over on his side with a grunt.

    The instant he hit the ground, it practically fell out from under him. Crisp air swirled around Silvally. Puffy white clouds surged past him. A Zekrom flew to his right, electricity crackling from its tail turbine. It smirked at him, then pivoted to give him a glance at its hips. Blood rushed down Silvally's torso.

    Come on, Lala… try and keep pace!

    "Lala? No, I'm Silvally!" he said, only to return to the washroom with a violent jerk. Silvally scrambled to his feet. He looked in the mirror again. His reflection glowed pink and sky-blue. Silvally squinted. "Wait a second…" He approached the mirror, then hopped onto his hindlegs and pressed his forelegs against the wall.

    "Hey, Silv, is everything all—"

    Silvally was in the process of looking down toward his stomach when he caught sight of Espy standing in the open doorway. Her jaw hung open and she definitely wasn't making eye contact. "E-Espy! Hi! When did… when did you get here?" Silvally flopped onto his belly, his fire memories giving him a bright-red glow.

    "A few seconds ago," Espy said, face tamato-red. "I heard you shouting. Thought something was wrong and you might need help… but I guess it was a good kind of shouting?" Her tail crinkled up.

    "I, uh…" Silvally was in a pickle. Seeing her in the doorway had made his heart — or his spirit core or whatever was sitting inside of him — race and he was in no position to stand up while she was around. At the same time, though, he couldn't keep all the thoughts he was having to himself.

    "Espy, do you notice anything… different about me?" Silvally asked, poking at the floor with a talon.

    "Uh, look if this is about what I just saw—"

    "No. Do I look different?" Silvally turned his head. "Something's wrong with me. And I don't know how to describe it. But I feel like I wanna jump out of my own fur and scales." He pecked at his shoulder with his beak. "There's something off with my memories. I'm seeing ones that didn't used to be there. And the voices… they're there, but now they're distant. I can't actually tell what they're saying."

    "Isn't that a good thing?" Espy said. She cautiously approached him.

    "Normally I'd say yes, but the voices sound… unfamiliar," Silvally said. His expression grew worried. "Do you… do you think this is because of what Necrozma did to me?" He got to his feet and looked in the mirror again. Espy's eyes widened and she looked away, trying to keep her breathing steady. "What if I'm starting to slip and lose control? There are… new spirits… and I think I have powers I'm not supposed to. Like I walked into the room and broke the light fixture and it was falling to the ground but I shouted at it and it froze in place and went back into the ceiling! Then I had a memory I was sitting on Temporal Tower but that's Dialga's domain and—"

    "Silv? You're rambling, Silv." Espy fought through her embarrassment to hop on her hind legs and put her forepaws on his shoulders. She found a pair of golden, ethereal eyes staring back at her and promptly dropped back onto all-fours. "Your… your eyes are gold," she whispered.

    Silvally turned to the mirror. It wasn't just his eyes. His cheek-bolts, energy blades, and tail membrane were gold, too. "I… I…"

    "Your eyes were gold after Ephemeris healed you, too. And I think it happened while we were fighting Necrozma," Espy said, frowning.

    "R-Right. I, yeah…" Silvally looked down. "I think Ephemeris did say he wanted to talk with me at some point. But with all this confusion about the world being rebuilt, we might be busy over the next few days."

    Espy sensed Silvally's worries and brushed her shoulder against his foreleg. "Hey. You don't have to deal with this alone. You know that, right?" Espy traced her tail down to his talons. "If you want to talk, you've got me and Tessa."

    "Yeah. I know."

    "Are you sure? I know I'm—" She paused to consider her words. "I know I can't exactly relate to what you're going through, but we made a promise to help each other out if we managed to beat Necrozma. And, well, we did. So, we ought to work on that promise next, don't you think?" Espy smiled at him.

    "You're right." Silvally stepped back from the mirror. "Sorry for the scare. I guess I'm a bit jumpy after everything that's happened." He looked away, tapping a talon. "Um, can I ask you something… candidly, of course?"

    "Uh, yeah."

    "Besides the whole, y'know, affair with your brother… how did you and the Paradise crew feel after stopping the Bittercold?" Silvally wondered. "Were your nerves frayed? Because mine are. And, like, it makes me guilty. We should be celebrating. I want to be happy. But part of me is on edge. Like—"

    "Like you're finding yourself doubting if you've actually won? Or you're expecting some new crisis to immediately pop-up and catch you off guard?" Espy said. Silvally's eyes widened and she knew she hit the nail on the head. "Yeah, I understand. That's exactly how I felt back then. It's probably why I, um, was so attached to Umbry in the wake of things." Her cheeks flushed and she brushed her forelegs together. "This time's different, though. I'm not on edge. I'm at peace. Maybe it has to do with hearing that ley lines and Mystery Dungeons are gone."

    She smiled at Silvally again. "I'm kinda hesitant to say this but I… I have hope again. I can see a bright future for the world." Espy nuzzled Silvally's foreleg. "I've missed this feeling so much."

    Silvally's head crest drooped. "We still lost Shane, though."

    Espy winced and stepped back. "Yes… we did."

    "Are you going to miss him? I know I will, despite our… complicated past," Silvally said.

    "I miss him already," Espy whispered. "But I, um… I don't know how to explain it, but I think that the best way to honor the sacrifice Shane made would be to stick together and enjoy each other's company to the fullest." She bit her lip and furrowed her brow. "Err, sorry. That sounded better in my head."

    Silvally sat on his haunches. "No, I see where you're coming from. Shane made it clear how much he wanted to stay with us. If he's really gone and that's not possible, then we have to live out our lives for him. Make the most of his parting gift and stuff."

    Espy raised an eyebrow. "Hang on. The way you're talking about him… you don't think he's really gone, do you?"

    "Do you?"

    "I'm not sure what to think," Espy said, ears dropping. "The two of you both helped me find my lost sense of self… and taught me to hope again. I think that means I have to hope he's still out there." Her tail curled around her waist. "But then there's Tessa. I'm… I think if we tell her to hold out hope, it might make her feel worse, not better."

    Silvally clicked his tongue. "I don't know. Shane and I had a similar debate over telling Tessa that her mother was Zero… and look how that turned out. Plus… think about the other times the world was in danger. Someone always had to disappear, but they always found a way to return to our world."

    "I thought about that. The irony of it all is that it was Shane who always pointed out how things were different than what he was expecting," Espy said. "And Tessa was the one he directed most of those comments toward, so she's got those thoughts somewhere in the back of her head. That's why I'm hesitant to bring it up."

    "Ah. I mean… I guess I see your point," Silvally said. "Though, I don't think we're really going to come up with a solid answer brainstorming in a washroom while we're still half-exhausted and a bit delirious."

    "True. Plus, I still have to figure out what I need to say to Umbry," Espy said, flicking her tail to the side. "I guess… the battle might be over, but we've got a lot to cleanup." She sighed. "Starting with our appearances." Espy sniffed her hide. "Gods, this is disgusting." She got to her feet. "Sorry for holding you up, Silv. I'll let you bathe in peace." Espy turned and made her way to the door.

    "Hey, Espy," Silvally said.

    "Yeah?"

    He turned toward the shower head in the corner of the room. "Once all the dust settles, we're gonna need to talk about what you said to me on Celestial Island."

    Espy's ears and tail shot up. "W-What do you mean?"

    "You know what I mean. I wasn't out cold when you told me you loved me," Silvally said, turning on the hot water.

    Espy counted her lucky stars steam quickly filled the room. It hid her blush nicely. "O-Oh! Th… that. Aha ha… ha…" Her tail curled up. "I, um… y-yeah, we can talk. Just not now. This is, uh, not the place. Or the time. Maybe after we're done with these big meetings." She left the room before Silvally had a chance to reply and nabbed a shampoo bottle and loofa of her own. Espy headed for the first of the two remaining unoccupied washrooms.

    'He heard me. He actually heard me. What am I supposed to say to him now?'

    XxX

    ~The Tree of Life: Roots~

    "Let me out! Let me out, you bloody drongos!"

    Lycanroc lashed out at wooden bars radiating an ethereal glow. However, when his luminescent paw smacked against the bars… nothing happened. Lycanroc glared at his paw, red eyes glowing, then punched the bars again. And again. "Where? Are? My? Attacks?!"

    He stumbled away from the bars, eyes twitching. "This ain't fair! Who put me in here? Snowy… it was him and his dumbarse friends!" Lycanroc lunged for the bars and tried to grab them, but a multicolored barrier rippled across the wall and knocked Lycanroc back onto the wooden floor. He stood up and rubbed his head. "Tch. Didn't even feel that." He brushed his snout. "I'm gonna bust out of here… like I busted out of Horizon's stupid jail!"

    "… it's useless. Cut it out."

    Lycanroc paused with his right arm outstretched. He glanced right, eye twitching. "Eh?" Lycanroc pulled his arm back to his side and squinted. "What the—" His eyes widened. "Oy! Yer Snowy's bloody girlfriend, ain't ya? The one who punched me right in my sweet spot!" Lycanroc's eyes flashed. "C'mere… I've gotta pay you back for that cheap shot!"

    Lycanroc wound up to punch the faded silhouette of a Lucario sitting on the glowing, bench-like tree root in front of him. Rather than connecting, however, his arm phased right through. Lycanroc spun about until he came to a stop. "Oh, Double Team, is it? Feh. I'll find your other clones and—"

    "I'm not some Double Team clone. I'm a spirit. Same as you." There was a pause. "Since you're clearly as dense as your mane is overgrown… let me spell it out for you. We're dead."

    Lycanroc stepped back, shoulders drooped and paws dangling only a few inches off the ground. Then, he lunged at the wooden bars with renewed vigor. "Lemme out! I can't be dead! I don't deserve this shit! This is all Snowy's fault, you hear me?"

    Another rainbow barrier repelled him. Lycanroc slid across the wooden floor, coming to a stop by what looked to be a glowing, metal table. It was only when Lycanroc went to punch it in frustration that a pair of eyes opened and stared at him fiercely. "H… hey! You're the freak Guildmaster that went all bloody nutso on us." Lycanroc backed away from Metagross, who said nothing. He looked down at his glowing paws. "No…" Lycanroc clenched his fists. "This ain't fair! I ain't done nothing wrong. It's Snowy! It's all Snowy!"

    "You mean the same 'mon who gave himself up so all of us could even be here?"

    Lycanroc looked toward the wooden bars. Totem Ninetales stood on the other side, an eerie, purple aura surrounding her. Lycanroc's eyes twitched. "There you are! I'm gonna tear your bloody tails off!" He lunged for the bars, but the barrier repelled him again.

    "I'm not the ice Ninetales you hold such vehement hatred toward," Totem Ninetales said, frowning. "I'd have thought my voice would make that obvious, but it seems your hatred has blinded you."

    Muzzle drawn back in a sneer, Lycanroc staggered to his feet. "Okay, so you're a sheila Ninetales, then. What of it? Where the hell am I? I want out!"

    "I can't do that." Totem Ninetales' brooch glowed. Rainbow energy rippled through the walls. The brown, wooden color shifted to a bright-white. "These are the roots of the Tree of Life, where restless souls are placed so as not to bother those peacefully residing in the spirit realm."

    "No…" Lycanroc slammed a fist into the ground. "I can't be dead! This is all a mistake! Snowy—"

    "If it wasn't for Shane and his friends, none of us would be here right now," Totem Ninetales said. "Necrozma wiped out everything, but Shane used Necrozma's power to bring all of us back… at a great personal cost."

    "Feh. He just wanted the attention. That's all he's ever cared about!" Lycanroc spat.

    "It's awful hard to give attention to someone who burnt out their spirit and wiped themselves from existence," Totem Ninetales said, her expression stoic.

    Lycanroc opened and closed his mouth several times, before finally managing to say, "Wait… Snowy's dead, too?"

    "More than that. It seems he doesn't even have a spirit left to recover," Totem Ninetales said. She glanced at the translucent Lucario. "Though, from the looks of things, he's not the only one with a burnt-out spirit. Quite frankly, I'm surprised to see you here, Prisma. I was under the impression your direct exposure to Necrozma's core had destroyed your spirit."

    "Human wills are strong. We can linger as long as a sliver of our spirit remains. The kid probably didn't even realize it," Prisma growled. "But you knew that already. So, why are you here? Come to deliver scathing remarks on behalf of all the idiotic gods who've been handed free passes?"

    "No, I'm here on business." Totem Ninetales paused. "Besides, the gods have been stripped of their powers."

    Prisma sat up, her arms going straight through her transparent thighs. "What are you talking about?"

    "Team Radiance destroyed all of the ley lines that had previously plagued are world. And when Shane revived the gods, he did so in a way that removed their powers," Totem Ninetales explained. "They can't use alchemy. Their control over the elements is gone. At best… they are very strong Pokémon with powerful attacks. Nothing more." She swished her rightmost tails to the side. "Is that not what you were hoping for?"

    Prisma's jaw hung open. Then, she tried to strike the wooden bench. Another rainbow barrier appeared and her fist bounced off harmlessly. "I don't believe this. This whole second life has been nothing but one cruel joke. Why not cap it off by having someone else achieve one of my goals while I'm stuck in some damn Poké-purgatory for all eternity?" She let loose a loud, bitter laugh.

    "I wouldn't exactly say that." Totem Ninetales expression sharpened. "As it stands, I don't plan on having you three stay long."

    Lycanroc raised a brow. "And what's that supposed to mean, sheila?"

    "Well, the general policy Xerneas and I had always taken toward the spirit realm was that restless and vindictive spirits would be sealed in the Tree of Life's roots… then sent back to the world of the living as ghost-types … with no memories or any semblances of their previous selves intact," Totem Ninetales said, the purple aura intensifying around her.

    "What?" Lycanroc thrust his arms to the side. He stopped and looked around. "H-Hey… where's my Rock Throw at?"

    "Spirits in the Tree of Life cannot use attacks," Totem Ninetales replied. "Not that it would've mattered." She looked up. "It seems Shane fortified the spirit realm when he severed its connection to the planet's core." Totem Ninetales placed a paw against the glowing tree bark. "He briefly had control of everyone's spirits, include the former gods. I imagine he must've tapped into their memories to see how the Tree of Life was constructed, then used Necrozma's light to alter the Tree's foundations."

    "Oi. Quit speaking in bloody riddles," Lycanroc spat.

    "She means that the Tree of Life is no longer tied directly to the planet's stability. No one has to worry about the world drifting into the sun if anything happens to it," Prisma said, shaking her head. "Unbelievable. No gods. No Mystery Dungeons. But I didn't get to return home."

    Lycanroc's crimson eyes flashed. "You? What about me? I'm getting a bad rap, here." He glared at Totem Ninetales. "You ain't turning me into no ghost! I deserve a fair shake or trial or whatever!"

    Totem Ninetales looked away. "With Xerneas missing, I can't afford to let you three linger here and potentially poison the spirit realm with your hateful thoughts."

    "Then why even talk to us?" Prisma said, raising an eyebrow.

    "Truthfully, I didn't want to. I'm simply honoring a request," Totem Ninetales said. She stepped to the side, revealing a dimmer silhouette behind her. Prisma stood up and put a paw on her chest.

    "No…" Her right eye twitched. "W… what are you doing here?"

    In the back of the room, Metagross stirred, cracking an eye open to stare at the bars. Incineroar walked up to them, wearing a tired expression despite having been resting in the spirit realm for months. He crossed his arms. "I had to see you. Because I wanted to hear straight from your mouth why you kept so many important things from me," Incineroar said.

    Prisma shrank back, looking away. "I, well…"

    "I believed you when you said you didn't remember anything before waking up on a beach and getting forced to work for the scavengers. I was committed to helping you regain your lost memories. I… we…" Incineroar's voice trailed off. "I told you how I felt about you. You said you felt the same way. But I told you multiple times how much having a family meant to me… and you never spoke up against it. Why?"

    "I… I…" Prisma tried to squeeze her shoulder, but her paw phased right through it.

    "Don't you think I deserve to know? Gallian and Tessa were my— no, our children. Look at what you put them through," Incineroar said. His usual smile was gone. Prisma wasn't solid anymore, so she had to heart that could shoot into her throat. Instead, a general unease gripped her. Like she was a Riolu again with Feraligatr lumbering over her, waiting to discipline a perceived mistake. For the first time since Incineroar's passing, she whined.

    "It's not my fault! He's to blame!" she finally blurted out, pointing at Metagross. "If he hadn't… he…" Though she was purely ethereal, she went through the motions of sucking in a sharp breath. "He took you from me! You were the one thing… the one silver lining in this awful, backwards world. That's why I put up with your kids. They made you happy. I was happy when you were happy!" She squeezed her ethereal eyes shut. "I made the best of a bad situation."

    "A bad situation? Don't you think I would've tried to help you find a way home if you had told me you were human?" Incineroar said, grabbing onto the wooden bars. Totem Ninetales wrapped a tail around one of his paws. Rather than phasing through, her purple aura spread across Incineroar's paw. He let go of the bars and stepped back. "I was an explorer… helping Pokémon was my life's work!"

    "I didn't want you knowing because I didn't want anyone knowing. I'd heard the stories about what humans had done and I didn't want to get roped up into some potential conflict when the only thing that mattered to me was getting the hell away from here!" Prisma snarled. Were she alive, tears would've have welled up in her eyes. Instead, faint silver embers trickled down her cheeks.

    "I tried to find a way home, but the more I looked into it, the less hopeful I became. And you and I were spending more time together and I got complacent," Prisma continued. "You reminded me too much of my husband. My real mate. And if I couldn't have him, then at least I could have a substitute that didn't make me completely miserable!"

    Incineroar's gaze fell toward the ground. "I was… a substitute?"

    "The whole family was! Those names I gave your kids? They're the names my real children have in the human world. The ones who I was taken away from! Who've been waiting for my return for god only knows how long!" Prisma said, stomping on the ground repeatedly. "Necrozma's power gave me a chance… a chance to get them back. But now that'll never happen."

    Silence fell over the room. Lycanroc looked between the two of them. "What a load of Krokorok tears," he sneered. "At least you two were able to have a relationship you enjoyed. The love of my life screwed me over… and it all ended with me trapped here!"

    Prisma glared at Lycanroc. He glared right back, bearing his fangs.

    "I had to fight her, too."

    Prisma stiffened. "What was that?"

    "Necrozma took my spirit and ripped it out of the tree. He made me corporeal again. He forced me to fight Tessa." Silver wisps sparkled in Incineroar's eyes. "I hurt my daughter… and there was nothing I could do to stop myself. She managed to break Necrozma's control… but now I'll always have that memory haunting me until the end of time." His expression hardened. "I was hoping that, somehow, talking with you would clear my head. But I think it made everything worse." He looked at Totem Ninetales. "I'll be praying with all my nonexistent heart that Tessa can recover from all the damage you've both done to her psyche."

    At that, Lycanroc raised an eyebrow and pointed at himself. "Me? I—"

    "Not you. Metagross." Incineroar focused on the back of the room. "There are so, so many things I want to say to you… but I won't. You don't deserve my time. Not for what you did to me."

    I'm… sorry…

    "I trusted you."

    I was… jealous… of your evolution. I tried… to cut corners… to catch up. It cost me everything, Metagross said.

    Incineroar turned his back on the makeshift cell. "There's nothing more to be said. I hope that whatever ghosts are born from your spirits can do some good to make up for everything you two did." He turned to Totem Ninetales. "Thank you for letting me do this. Sorry to trouble you."

    Totem Ninetales brushed her forelegs together. "It's quite all right. Wasn't a problem." Incineroar disappeared from the area, leaving her standing in front of the bars. She sighed. "Well then… I guess that's it. Time for you all to join the world's contingency of ghost-types." Purple embers smoldered in her eyes. Shadows swirled within her brooch and purple wisps rose up around her. They weaved between the bars and snaked toward the three spirits in the cell.

    "No. No, you can't do this to me!" Lycanroc shrank back, but soon bumped into Metagross. "I don't deserve any of this, do you hear me! I don't—" The purple wisps dragged him kicking and howling into an ectoplasmic puddle.

    Prisma silently bowed her head as purple tendrils wrapped around her waist. She balled her ethereal paws into fists.

    XxX​

    Next time: Our heroes reflect on how far they've come.
     
    git-it likes this.
  10. git-it

    git-it Member

    I got an assumption about silvally in the current chapter;

    The initial hint was the memory of silvally where he saw a Zekrom calling him Lala.

    And we know someone called Lala by a Zekrom.
    The Latios in the past Light knew.

    Yes. Remember what happens to Silv: eyes are type dragon, and things are moving around by psychic.
    And what do we know about Latios?
    Types Dragon and Psychic!
    Latios spirit is part of him now!

    Now there is the question why he has that much control over Silv.


    And then there is the question where the missing Xerneas, Yvental and Zygarde are, but here I still have no cogently clues.

    Back to Amby in the studio!
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
    Ambyssin likes this.
  11. Kindoflame

    Kindoflame Member

    I just finished reading the whole story and I absolutely love it! I would give a full review, but I figured that since the story is almost over I might as well wait until it ends. I do have one major piece of advice though. You have never really explained why soul-mates is such a horrible concept. The only one to have any problem with their mate is Espy and that was because she was using sex as a coping mechanism, not because there is a problem with soul-mates itself. I only remember 3 times anyone said the concept of soul-mates needed to be changed; twice by Espy in passing remarks and once by Tesse in her speech to the entire planet. The problems with soul-mates as an institution is simply not a theme of this story. You have to drop the whole thing or shoe-horn an explanation for why the idea of soul-mates should change.

    P.S. I know this is a really minor thing that does not matter in the slightest, but it is annoying me to death. What did Goodra do to convince Totem Kommo-o to let her take over their eldest son's training?
     
    Ambyssin likes this.
  12. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    @git-it: You're asking the right questions. And there will be answers to those questions, but other than that I'm not saying anything.

    @Kindoflame: It's on the list of things that I'm hoping to revise for the fic at a later point. It's not necessarily that it's a horrible concept, but that there's a big superstition surrounding it and people get ostracized if they leave they don't want to stay with their soulmates. It all stemmed from Xerneas and Nicky's short-lived relationship, but I'm not sure it explained it enough. With regards to your question, Goodra offered sex, which is why Jangmo-o heard panting when he was awake in the cave.

    Thanks to @Namohysip one again for his beta reading. Enjoy!

    XxX

    Chapter 101: Radiant Sunset

    ~Aeon Observatory~

    Tessa struggled to open her eyes when she finally woke up from her dreamless slumber. She was so sore, even small muscles like her eyelids refused to budge. The only thing that could motivate Tessa to force her eyes open was the desire to get off her slimy pillow and clean herself up. Her nostrils burned from the stench in the room. A pang of guilt struck Tessa upon sitting up. Someone would be responsible for cleaning the room up after Team Radiance had tracked in all this ooze. Tessa told herself that whoever drew the short straw would just accept it as a small price for getting brought back from the dead.

    "Ugh. I don't think I've ever been so stiff in my life," Tessa said, sitting hunched over on the edge of her cushion. "How are you holding up, Shane?" She waited for a response, but got nothing. Tessa blinked slowly. Her aura feelers drooped. "Oh… right. Guess I'm not as well-rested as I was hoping." She pivoted on the cushion. "What about you, Silvally?"

    Still no response.

    "Silvally? Espeon?" It was too dark to see in the room, yet her aura sight wouldn't switch on. Sighing, Tessa concluded it was still burnt out. She hoped this wasn't permanent. Even though she hadn't learned to use it well, part of her felt naked without it. Hell, a small voice in her head was telling her that, with Necrozma gone, she wouldn't have an aura sense anymore. That, somehow, the demonic entity had taken her powers from her when Shane destroyed it. One final cruel act to go along with forcing her partner to give up his own life.

    Shaking her head, Tessa made a mental note to try and talk with Ephemeris about her aura sense. Even if he wasn't a Lucario, he seemed to know something. And, at this point, Tessa would take any bit of knowledge she could get. She supposed Silvally could also help, but since Necrozma had confirmed her situation was… unusual, she figured Ephemeris was better suited to the task.

    Slowly, Tessa staggered to her feet. Grimacing, she ignored the urge to flop back onto her cushion. Laying around in this rancid room wouldn't solve any problems. Besides, her teammates had already left. For all she knew, they could've been clean already. Tessa fumbled around in the darkness until she managed to reach the door and slide it open. She lost her balance, however, and dropped onto her right side with a hiss and a squelch.

    Tessa got back up, frowning at the imprint her slimy thigh had left on the floor. She cursed herself out for adding onto the workload of whoever would be cleaning the area up. Tessa then trudged down the hallway, staring at her feet to make sure she wouldn't fall again. By the time she rounded the corner, Tessa was favoring her right side. She spotted the bath items Comfey had left for her, but she didn't want to get them messy by picking them up. Tessa raised her paws, trying to call forth the energy she'd use for Psychic. Nothing happened. Not even so much as a pink spark.

    Growling, Tessa chose to improvise. She picked up the stool the soap and scrubber sat on. Tessa carefully limped her way into the only open washroom. Then, ignoring the protests from her arm muscles, she flicked the stool forward, flinging the bathing tools toward the shower in the corner. Tessa set the stool down, only to pause and stare at the yellow, star-shaped symbol stitched into the seat.

    Brow furrowing, Tessa leaned against the stool. She recognized it… but from where? Tessa squeezed her eyes shut. Her head hurt, but she had to think. This was bothering her way more than it should have. Why was the stool familiar? Had she seen it the last time she was in the veteran quarters? No, that didn't sound right. The stool in her mother's room had a blue star stitched into its seat, not a yellow one.

    That's when Tessa's eyes snapped open. Her mother… no, her father. No, wait. It was technically both of them, wasn't it? Tessa squeezed her eyes shut again and shook her head. Her thoughts were too disjointed. She had to breathe. Breathe and clear her mind.

    'There's a matching set of stools at home… in the den.'

    She envisioned it in her mind's eye. A brown, oval table sat on a shaggy red carpet. It had a couch on one side and a chair and two stools on the other. Back before her dad had died and her mother had broken the table in a fit of rage, there were evenings where he'd sit on one of the stools and read Tessa stories while she sat on the other stool. She'd kick at the air excitedly when Incineroar got to one of her favorite parts… sometimes toppling over in the process.

    Tessa imagined a Riolu sitting across from Incineroar. He held a book in his right hand, with a picture of the Air Continent's original rescue team badge on the cover. "So, what story will it be tonight, Tessa?"

    "The Tale of Team Poképals! The Tale of Team Poképals!" Tessa's younger self squealed, bouncing in her seat.

    Incineroar rubbed the back of his head. "Again? But I just read it to you the other week. Don't you want to hear a different story?"

    "Nuh-uh! I've gotta learn their story by heart. That way, when I join the guild, I can find a human and become big a world-saving hero with tons of friends… just like them!"

    Incineroar smiled and flipped the book open. "Well, all right, then. I can't argue with that. Let me just find the first page…"

    The memory faded and Tessa opened her eyes. Somehow, she'd ended up turning to face the mirror by the shower. Tessa frowned at her reflection. Her fur had an orange tint to accompany blood splotches and streaks of dirt. Patches of fur were either outright missing or so knotted up that no amount of brushing could salvage them. Her tail and the tufts atop her ears had fared the worst, looking as wild and jagged as a Zangoose's stripe.

    Tessa's shoulders sagged. She sighed. In the end, she'd gotten what she had wanted, hadn't she? She was a hero. Tessa hadn't just saved the world, she'd saved every world from oblivion. And she got Silvally back, too. That was worth celebrating, wasn't it?

    "It's not a true victory… if we don't make it through together," Tessa whispered, putting a paw on her chest as she approached the shower. She cranked the hot water valve up as high as it would go. Steaming droplets pelted her from above. Tessa tensed from the heat, but forced herself to endure it. She leaned forward, bracing herself against the wall with her right paw.

    Tessa stared down at the drain. The clear water around it quickly turned orange, a sign that the shower's pressure was strong enough to dislodge the slime and muck clinging to her fur. Tessa watched the filth swirl around and disappear into the drain, then shut her eyes and craned her neck up so the water splashed across her face.

    How many times had Incineroar read the stories of the other heroes to her? Too many to count. And that wasn't even including all the times she'd read them on her own. And yet, even though she loved those stories dearly as a pup — she knew them cover to cover, after all — Tessa found herself wondering how accurate these retellings really were. They never mentioned anything about any of the teams getting overwhelmed by their enemies or breaking into hysterics or spending most of their time filthy and smelly. Sure, the stories had mentioned times when the heroes had doubts, but those doubts were always put to rest by their respective partners.

    Tessa ran her paws across her forehead. She wanted to kick herself for believing in those stories so hard. Tessa had given Shane so much flak for using the games from his world as a basis for all of his reasoning… but, in reality, she'd done the exact same thing with these stories, hadn't she?

    Her partner was gone. And she was… well, she was practically an anomaly of her own. A Lucario that wasn't meant to exist… with powers derived from the very creature that had actually destroyed the world until Shane managed to reverse everything.

    Those memories were there. They were real. Tessa would have to deal with these revelations for the rest of her life. And, as she stood there, silently running her paws down to her hips to try and force off more dirt, she wondered if she could really handle living with all of it. If Shane had still been there, she'd have felt a lot more confident. Their situations had a lot in common, after all. But he wasn't there. He wouldn't ever be there.

    Tessa grabbed the scrubber and lathered it in soap. Somewhere, in the back of her head, she knew how irrational this was. Tessa had fought with Shane for quite a while. And even once they'd managed to become friends, so much of their time went toward dealing with the Prism Virus that they never really got to bond with one another.

    "Even if Pokémon can battle, that doesn't mean battling defines what Pokémon are."

    That was something her dad always told her. Tessa used to think that was his way of consoling her over the lack of progress in her aura training. Now, though, Tessa thought it held a different meaning.

    Tessa gritted her teeth, scrubbing around her chest spike with, perhaps, more force than was necessary. It didn't take much more thinking for her to realize why she was so upset by this line of thinking. Tessa had brought this concern up to Shane back in Circadian Coast… right before Temporal Tower collapsed and everything went belly-up. At the time, Shane promised to do his best to find a way to stay with her so he could prove their friendship was the real deal.

    'But that's a promise that'll never get met.'

    The one silver lining that came to mind for Tessa was the fact that all of this proved that Shane's claims that Solgaleo was the one influencing his good deeds — and that, deep down, he was still a lousy person — were wrong. After all, what kind of lousy person is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to bring the world back from the brink of annihilation? As Tessa tilted her head up to scrub her neck, she hoped that Shane was able to find some solace in that thought during his final moments.

    Tessa continued silently scrubbing away. With her muscles as sore as they were, she wound up scrubbing harder than she intended to. Still, she had to admit that the soap was doing a much better job than she expected. And it left her citrus-scented, to boot.

    'Am I really so desperate to avoid thinking about Shane that I'm zeroing in on body odor?' she wondered, shaking her head. Tessa wasn't sure what to make of any of it. Her mind had turned into some kind of loose-cannon Sharpedo determined to swim away from the pack. After all, there were plenty of things she could distract herself with. She could spend time with Gallian and Zoroark. She could see if Dusk was okay following Midnight's apparent death. And, with all these revivals, she could head for Sunrise Village to see if Shane had restored Sylveon and Eevee.

    The thought of Eevee made Tessa glance at her sudsy form in the fog-covered mirror. 'Gods… it wasn't that long ago that Eevee and I were still the same height. And now look at me.' She shifted the scrubber to look at her right paw. To her dismay, the mark was still there. She frowned. Maybe losing her aura powers was for the best. That way, Tessa would never have to worry about going berserk again.

    Sure, Silvally could help talk her down. But with his past episodes, Tessa worried that losing control again would somehow set him off. The memory looplet was gone, after all, and she had no idea of the extent that Necrozma tampered with his powers. Tessa's shoulders sagged. It was just another fear to toss onto the growing pile.

    She wasn't sure how long she'd been under the shower for, but Tessa eventually reached a point where she didn't think there was any slime left, even on her… sensitive areas. Tessa leaned over and switched the water off. She made for a towel hanging by the door, only to pause and look left at the empty tub on the side of the room.

    'Oh, what the heck.'

    Tessa used her foot to turn the valve and sat on the edge of the tub, legs dangling. Once it had filled up past the bench along its outer rim, Tessa slid in. She pressed a button next to the faucet and several bubble jets switched on. To her surprise, one of the jets struck her right thigh. Tessa squeaked, almost jumping into the middle of the tub. However, after a few more seconds, Tessa concluded the bubble stream felt good. Mindful of her stiff tail, she leaned back against the wall, letting the bubble jet blow against her rump.

    Her eyes fluttered shut. Tessa was still tired. She wanted the warm water to lull her back to sleep. However, as heavy as her eyelids were, Tessa stayed awake. She soon found a silhouette of a familiar ice Ninetales staring back at her. His silky hair fluttered behind him despite the lack of any sort of breeze in the room.

    Tessa squirmed in her seat. "Sh… Shane…" She rubbed her cheek with a paw. "Why'd you have to go?"

    The silhouette looked back at her. It bowed its head solemnly.

    "I… I'm sorry. I know… this is all for the best, isn't it?" Tessa whispered. "I just… I wish we had more time together. I wish… we hadn't been so short-sighted." She sank down in the tub, tensing as her tail bent. Lucario tails weren't meant to bend, but Tessa was already sore enough that a little extra muscle strain didn't bother her.

    "I know I yelled at you a lot. And you yelled at me. We both mucked up badly. And… and because of that… I never… we didn't…" Tessa blinked rapidly. The silhouette was still there. It still had a guilty look. It was even rubbing its forelegs together. Tessa was half-tempted to reach out toward the silhouette, but she knew better.

    "Shane. We really were alike, weren't we?" Tessa said, gazing at the silhouette. "Both of us are anomalies that shouldn't exist." She paused, frowning. "Or, I guess, shouldn't have existed, in your case." It stung to say that out loud.

    "Both of us got our powers from the same crazy demon who was ready to wipe out the universe. And we both wanted people to admire us and shower us in attention, didn't we?" Tessa continued, rubbing her shoulder. "All because… we barely had anyone in our lives before we met each other. We were lonely. We didn't quite fit in where we'd grown up."

    She shook her head. "When we met, I was just as excited at the possibility of being a world-famous hero as you were. You had those games of yours… and I had the stories about the other teams." Tessa's aura feelers drooped. "We were both clinging so tightly to those beliefs, weren't we? The only difference was that you were vocal about your desires and I… I forced myself to temper my expectations, because I didn't want to end up disappointed."

    "Why didn't I tell you that stuff from the get-go?" Tessa smacked the water with a paw, drenching her head in the process. When the steam cleared, the silhouette was lying on the floor beside her, dipping a foreleg in the water. "I mean, yeah, there's no guarantee things would've gone the way they did if we'd done things differently, but at the very least we could've bonded over more than just our struggles!"

    The silhouette looked down. Its ears drooped.

    "I know. There's nothing I can do about it, now. But I… I was wrong, okay? Our friendship wasn't fake. We did have a lot in common. And I…" Tessa's voice trailed off. The words had gotten caught in her throat. What point was there to even saying them? He wasn't here. Shane would never know the truth. Nevertheless, she reached toward the silhouette.

    "I could see us being more than friends," Tessa said. Her paw made contact with the silhouette. It offered her a smile before dissolving away, leaving Tessa's paw to drop into the water with a tiny splash. Tessa tucked her head into her chest. Then, she reached for the drain plug and pulled it out. As the water funneled out of the tub, Tessa climbed out and grabbed a towel. She stood in front of the fogged-up mirror, drying herself as best she could. Thankfully, Comfey's soap masked any wet fur smell.

    It was right when Tessa was in the middle of drying her tail that someone knocked on the door. "J-Just a second!" she called, hastily trying to finish. Yes, her fur was still matted and littered with knots, but this would have to do. She couldn't keep hiding from everyone, after all.

    Tessa opened up the door and found Espy and Silvally standing on the other said. Like her, they both had scruffy coats from running towels through their fur. "Hey. Everything okay in here? It sounded like you were talking to someone," Silvally said.

    "Oh, that? I, uh…" Tessa's aura feelers crinkled. Knowing she didn't have a convenient lie at the ready, she sighed. "I was talking to, um, 'Shane.'"

    Espy and Silvally exchanged concerned looks. "You mean… like a hallucination?"

    "I—" Tessa frowned. "Yeah, I guess so."

    Silence followed, until Espy's ears drooped. "Oh. I… I'm sorry we interrupted. But we peeked out the window. The sun's starting to set and it looks like the folks in Aeon Town are having some kind of gathering."

    So, Tessa had slept the whole day away? She wasn't surprised. "A… gathering? What for?" Tessa asked, a brow raised.

    "Dunno, but I saw smoke and smelled barbeque. So, maybe it's some kind of celebration?" Silvally said, licking his beak to stop drool from trickling to the ground.

    Tessa blinked slowly. Of course there was a get-together happening. The restoration of the world was worth celebrating. The problem was… Tessa wasn't sure she was ready to face down a crowd in Aeon Town. "Are you guys planning to go?" she asked.

    "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm so hungry, I could eat a Krokorok!" Silvally said, drawing an astonished look from Espy. "Err… not an actual Krokorok, of course. More like a Krorkork-sized slab of meat and…" He sighed. "Forget it. I'll just stop talking."

    "We thought you'd want to come with us. It wouldn't feel right without the whole team," Espy said, only to realize her mistake a moment too late when Silvally and Tessa's eyes widened. "Ah! Sorry! I… I didn't…" She shrank back, tail drooping. "That came out wrong."

    "No. It's… it's fine," Tessa said, though the look on her face said otherwise. "I guess I'm just worried about bringing down the mood. I'm still…" She looked away. "I can't get Shane off of my mind."

    "You're not alone," Silvally said, leaning over to nudge Tessa's shoulder. "I keep thinking about if there was something… anything that I could've done to keep Shane from burning out his spirit." His sonar-like ears drooped. "But I think that's why we should go see what's happening in town. It's not that we're forgetting about Shane. It's more like we're, um…"

    He tapped a talon on the floor. "Okay, I admit I don't really have a good comparison to make. But the point still stands. If we stay here, we're just gonna feel worse and worse. I think seeing happy, smiling faces in the town square will be good for all of us."

    "I guess." Tessa bit her lip. "But aren't you worried about what the townspeople will think of you? I mean… you never even went to town back when you had the mask on, right?"

    Silvally stiffened. "Ah. That's, um…" He shook his head. "It's all in the past. I'm not going to be afraid of who I am. I want everyone to know I'm Silvally… and I helped save their keisters from total destruction!" He puffed his chest out.

    A smile finally tugged at Tessa's lips. "That's a pretty convincing impression of Shane's Vulpix days."

    "Thank you! I've been working on it in secret," Silvally said, tail wagging.

    Espy groaned. "Puh-lease tell me you're being facetious."

    "Okay! I'm being facetious," Silvally said, completely straight-faced.

    "That… okay, it's scary how quickly you got serious," Espy said, though she couldn't help but giggle. Tessa also put a paw to her muzzle.

    "All right, you got me," she said, raising her hands in surrender. "Let's go into town. But you might want to tone the charm factor down a bit, Silvally. You're still gonna be bigger than most folks there and I think a personality that matches your size is gonna spook a few people."

    "Pfbt. That's what Team Specter's here for," Silvally scoffed.

    Tessa tilted her head. "Oh, right. I guess I'm gonna have to get used to seeing them again at some point." She glanced at the towel she'd dropped on the floor. "Maybe I ought to bring this along? Y'know, to be on the safe side."

    Her teammates joined her in chuckling.

    XxX​

    "Hold up. You cannot be serious! We've got a faller situation. It's not something I can sit around and ignore!"

    Tessa paused in the middle of the Observatory's entryway, aura feelers twitching. "Huh. Isn't that Seraph? When did Team Paradox get here?"

    "Must've been while we were asleep," Silvally said. "You think everything's okay? She sounds a bit steamed."

    "I thought being steamed was her thing," Espy mused.

    "You did hear her mention 'faller situation,' right? I think Luxeira mentioned something about fallers when she was telling us what happened to her home," Tessa said, frowning.

    Espy's tail shot up. "Ah, she did! It was some kinda kooky Ultra Space term for someone who got sucked into another world through an Ultra Wormhole." She exchanged panicked looks with her teammates and they headed for the front door without a second thought. No sooner had they walked outside than they found Seraph standing in front of a bewildered Ephemeris and Ninetales, coddling a black-and-white Zigzagoon in her arms. Luxeira and Sticky were behind her. Both blanched the moment they saw Team Radiance in the doorway.

    "Um, Seraph? Something the matter?" Tessa said, eyes locked on the weird-looking Zigzagoon.

    Seraph turned to her. "Yes, something is definitely the mat—"

    "Ahh! Ultra Beast! Ultra Beast! D-Don't eat me! I don't taste good or nothing!" Zigzagoon shrieked upon seeing Silvally. She squirmed about in Seraph's gripping, inadvertently clawing at her chest fur. "Save me, two-legged Luxray lady!"

    Silvally's jack slackened. Meanwhile, it took every bit of restraint for Espy not to burst into laughter. "Two-legged Luxray? Seriously?"

    "Kid! Oof… hey, kid, relax! The big guy's harmless," Seraph said, trying not to shock Zigzagoon by accident. Eventually she held Zigzagoon up at arm's length in Silvally's direction.

    "Hi there," Silvally chirped, bending over and wiggling his hips in a friendly display. "I'm Silvally! I don't think I've ever seen a Zigzagoon look like you. Did you cover yourself in a tube of novelty fur dye?"

    Zigzagoon blinked. "Uh… no. I've always looked like this." She tried to look at Seraph. "When am I going home? I want to see Mommy again."

    "We're, um, working on it," Luxeira said. "Remind us who your mother is again?"

    "Her name's Obstagoon Mina! And I'm Zigzagoon Azalea," she replied, frowning. Her ears drooped. "How much longer do I have to wait? Mommy's gonna get upset at me… but I didn't wander off on my own! I was right next to her, I swear!"

    "Of course you were." Luxeira nodded. "And we're doing the best that we can, but you'll have to bear with us."

    Tessa, however, was completely lost. "Um, am I missing something here? Black-and-white Zigzagoons are not a thing. And what's an Obstagoon?"

    "Lucy, look after the kid for me, will ya?" Seraph set Azalea down at Luxeira's feet and walked over to Team Radiance. In a hushed voice, she said, "Okay, look, I'm in no mood to explain this for, like, the sixth time. Short version is your buddy must've torn at least one Ultra Wormhole open by accident and sent that poor girl hurtling into our world. There are a lot of words out in Ultra Space, so odds are strong some of them have Pokémon species you've never heard of or Pokémon forms you've never seen before."

    "Like how some Pokémon species are unique to Horizon," Espy said, glancing at Tessa.

    "Okay. Fair," Tessa said. It struck her that her reaction to this development mirrored Shane's reaction to everything he found unfamiliar in Horizon. A guilty pang struck the middle of her gut and her aura feelers drooped. She quickly recomposed herself, however. "So, um, Azalea's not from our world. What do we do about it?"

    "Well, I wanted to ask Lunala for help, since Ninetales said she'd dropped you guys off here," Seraph said, tapping her foot on the ground. "But apparently she got pulled away on some kind of secret business. Not that it matters… since if this gold-feathered guy is to be believed, Popsicle Breath rearranged all of Ultra Space!"

    "Yeah, we kind of knew that already. Is it really that big of a deal?" Silvally said, eyebrow raised. "Your partner made it sound like Ultra Space had little rhyme or reason to it."

    "It's a huge deal!" Seraph threw her arms up and flailed them around. "The Ultra Recon Squad had organized itself around the layout of Ultra Space… even if it was hard to get a grip on. If Popsicle Breath restructured it from the ground up, then the whole Ultra Recon Network could be in a massive uproar!"

    "Seraph, don't you think you're catastrophizing a bit?" Sticky said, floating up to her. "Most folks never set foot in Ultra Space… so they wouldn't notice a single thing. It's the companies and the Ultra Recon Squad that are likely calling emergency meetings and whatnot."

    "That's my point. If they're all busy, then we've got no way to reach out to any of them," Seraph said.

    "Oh, right. I'm sure you must be eager to get back to…" Espy's voice trailed off when she remembered what had happened to Ultra Village. "Err, never mind."

    Arms crossed, Seraph said, "It's whatever. Truth is I've got at least one piece of business left to take care of in this place." She glanced at Luxeira, earning raised eyebrows from Espy and Silvally. "But, eh, I guess there's nothing I can really do about it right now. Just feel sorry for the kid, that's all." Seraph wedged a digit in her ear and scratched it. "I shouldn't be bothering you, anyway. You three have earned a break."

    "Yes. Don't let us hold you up from the festivities," Sticky said, glancing down at the town square. Tiny smoke plumes rose up toward the late afternoon sky. Laughter echoed from down below and Pokémon of different shapes and sizes mingled around the Gorebyss fountain which, strangely, now had a golden Huntail coiling around it as well.

    "All right. Thanks." Tessa sidestepped Luxeira. She made it five steps down the hill when a gust of wind rippled the fur on her back. "What the—" Tessa turned around. "Isn't that Rayquaza? When did he get here?" She pointed a paw off into the distance.

    "Oh, yeah. Long story short… there's this tribe of dragons that got plopped down somewhere to the northeast of us. Said they lost their Totem or something," Ninetales explained. "When they came to the guild asking for help, the Totem's son was there. He told them he had no interest in helping them and suggested they turn to Rayquaza. So, now he's here."

    "And Hoopa's the one who brought him!"

    "Bwah!" Tessa jumped up, hollered in surprise, and fell to the ground with a thud. Espy arced her back, puffed up her fur, and hissed. Silvally turned to his right and frowned at Hoopa, who was dangling from one of his own ring portals.

    "Seriously? You didn't have to spook us like that," Silvally huffed, dark memories shifting on.

    "Hoopa wasn't aiming to spook. It's not Hoopa's fault you all are so jumpy," Hoopa said. He lifted his right hand, brandished a donut in it, and chomped down half of it in a single bite. "Besides, Hoopa's been ferrying people places for a while, now. Cut Hoopa some slack."

    Silvally's disapproving look said there was no slack to be cut.

    Hoopa frowned. "Yeah, okay. Hoopa's bad." He held out a plate with his left hand. A half-dozen golden, honey-glazed donuts sat on it. "Donut? Latias and Lugia are making them in town square."

    Espy almost broke down coughing. "E-Excuse me? Latias and Lugia?" She turned to her teammates. "Weren't we supposed to use the meeting tomorrow to figure out how the gods were gonna mingle with us?"

    "In all fairness, we've been with Latias for…" Tessa's voice trailed off. "Urk, okay, time crash aside, I guess it hasn't been that long since she showed up for the Glyphic Falls expedition."

    "Latias is moving in with you guys," Hoopa said.

    "Wait, what? Did she clear that with, uh…" Espy's voice trailed off. "Actually, who's even running the Observatory now that the angry dinner table is an ornament in the spirit realm?"

    Tessa blinked. "That's… an excellent question." She clutched her head. "And now I think another headache's coming on."

    "Hoopa didn't mean they'd literally move into your place. Only that they want to live in Horizon. As for your fancy dome, that's for you guys to decide. Hoopa likes his place in Lively Town, so Hoopa's staying there." Hoopa tossed one of the donuts from his plate into his mouth. "Mmm… Combee honey. Hoopa's favorite! Sure you don't want?"

    "I'm more of a malasada guy," Silvally said, shrugging.

    "Oh, they've got those, too. Some Crabrawler guy's making 'Mythical Malasadas,' whatever those are." Hoopa shook his head. "Hoopa thinks it's appalling, really. Taking good pastries and sucking all the sweetness out of them like that." He scarfed down another donut.

    Fire memories switching on, Silvally leaned in and growled, "Hey, don't you diss malasadas like that! They're great! Besides, you lathered those things in so much honey that I bet you can't actually taste them."

    "Settle down, children. Or am I going to have to separate you?" Espy teased.

    "He started it," Silvally said, pointing a talon at Hoopa.

    "Did not."

    "Did too!" Silvally huffed.

    "Did no— ah, forget it. Go have your shindig," Hoopa said. He ducked back into his ring portal, which closed up behind him.

    Silvally puffed out his chest. "Now I'm a hero and a defender of the best dish in existence."

    "Yeah, you really showed him who's boss." Giggling, Espy hip-checked Silvally as she walked past him. Embers crackled around his cheek bolts before he suppressed his fire memories and followed after her.

    Tessa could only sigh and bring up the rear of the group. 'Is he acting like Shane to try and make me feel better… or is he just that happy that Necrozma's gone?' she wondered, watching Espy and Silvally slowly drift closer to each other until they were walking side by side. Tessa figured that, with the tampering Necrozma had done to Silvally's being, it was the latter idea. At the very least, that thought brought a smile to her face. It was good to see Silvally happy.

    As Aeon Town's square grew closer, voices grew louder. Tessa's nostrils twitched. The sweet aroma of Crabrawler's malasadas drew her attention straight toward his café. It seemed that he'd set up some sort of cooking station. There was a small line of Pokémon waiting to get food, all while Crabrawler and Steenee weaved between grills and wooden tables. Mimikyu scuttled around the cooking area, wielding utensils in his cloth hand and doing his best to balance a tray of cookies on his disguise's head.

    "I wonder if Latias and Lugia are using the donuts to distract from, y'know, their appearances," Espy thought aloud. Tessa glanced right, where another cooking station sat on the other side of the fountain. Lugia was seated awkwardly between a bench and Dhelmise Depot. He had his tail firmly wrapped up in his wings, like he thought he'd accidentally smack someone with it if he wasn't careful. Latias tended to metal grates in bubbling oil. Growlithe stood at the cooking area's side with an apron slung around his belly.

    Then, to Tessa's surprise, Sylveon walked between Latias and Lugia. She grabbed the handle for one of the grates with her ribbons, lifted it, and nodded with a smile on her face. Latias smiled back. Tessa stumbled forward pushing past Espy and Silvally. "They're back," she whispered.

    "Huh? Who's back?" Espy said. Her ears stuck up when she followed Tessa's gaze. "Ah. If… if that's Sylveon, then—"

    "Tessa! Tessa! Tessa!"

    A brown ball shot past Espy and crashed right into Tessa's gut. Tessa fell to her rear with an audible, "Oomph!"

    "Hi, Tessa! I missed you a ton!" Eevee chirped, his wagging tail brushing against Tessa's thighs. "Look how big you are, now! And you've got spikes! That's so cool! Can you teach me how to grow spikes? I'm thinking maybe I'll be a spiky Jolteon!"

    "H… Hi, Eevee," Tessa said, petting her old friend on the head. "It's good to see you again, too. Did you, um, learn Headbutt or something since we last saw each other?"

    Eevee tilted his head. "No, that was a Headhug!" His tail resumed wagging. "I came up with it myself!"

    "Ah. That's very creative of you," Tessa said. She stood back up, holding Eevee in her paws. It was… odd for her to be able to do that. Tessa supposed it came with the territory of evolving. "Why don't we go say hi to your mom, okay?"

    "Okay! She's making chocolate cake for you," Eevee said as Tessa positioned him on her shoulder.

    "I'll, uh, catch up with you two, I guess?" Tessa said.

    "Go ahead. I think we'll be fine," Silvally said, pointing his beak toward Sylveon. Tessa nodded and walked off, only for several Pokémon to notice her and call out to her. "So, shall we sample some malasadas?" Silvally gestured to his left. "You never got the chance to try one for yourself, did you?"

    "Honestly, I can't remember at this point. Mind's all jumbled up from everything's that happened," Espy said, chuckling.

    Before Silvally got to respond, however, two Pikipek, a Rattata, and a Munchlax swarmed him. "Mr. Silvally! Mr. Silvally!" Munchlax tugged at the fur around Silvally's right knee. His head crest fanned out in surprise.

    "H-Huh? Is… is there a problem? Did I do something wrong?"

    "Something wrong? No way! We wanted to see you close-up, that's all," Munchlax said, his eyes sparkling. "Hey, can you really switch to any type you want? That's so cool! You're kinda like Mr. Kecleon!"

    "Nuh-uh! Mr. Kecleon says he has to get hit with an attack or he can't change types," Rattata harrumphed.

    Silvally stepped back, blinking in surprise. "Err, um, y-yeah… I can change my types. How did you—"

    "Because we saw you fighting Necrozma!" the shorter, stouter Pikipek said, flaring out her wings. "You were all like… bam! Whoosh! Ker-pow!"

    "Yeah! And the way you jumped in to pull Espeon out of the big, slimy core monster thing… it was so awesome!" the taller, thinner Pikipek added. "Are you boyfriend and girlfriend?"

    Espy's tail shot up. She stepped back, her cheeks reddening. "E-Excuse me?"

    "That's… um… hey, where are your parents? Are they okay with you talking to strangers?" Silvally scanned the town square for any sign of adults missing their kids.

    "Aww, look! His glowy parts turned all red. They do love each other," the Pikipek sisters said.

    "Yeah! He's right over here, guys!" Rattata shouted, waving his arms around. Silvally was about to respond to the Pikipek when he spotted other kids charging toward him. He stepped back, beak hanging open. There was a Yungoos, a couple of Cutieflies, some Grubbins…

    "W-Wh… what can I do for all of you?" Silvally said, struggling to keep track of everyone.

    "We wanna hear about all your adventures!" one of the cutiefly buzzed.

    "Yeah! Tell us more action-packed stories!" Rattata said, punching at the air beside him.

    Espy backed away when the second wave of tykes descended on Silvally. They were clearly interested in him and she figured that kids would be the perfect place to start as far as interacting with people in public went. Especially ones as eager to talk with him as these kids were. Espy decided to get him a malasada while he tended to his newly-formed fan club. She made her way down to the fountain and headed toward the back of the line for Steenee's food station, only for a brown, fuzzy arm to shoot out in front of her.

    "Come now," a Gumshoos said. Espy shrank back at the sight of his big, toothy grin. His tone sounded friendly, but facial expressions were definitely a problem for the guy in her book. "After everything you did to help us, I can't let you go all the way to the back of the line. Take my spot. I insist."

    Espy blinked. "O-Oh. N-No, I couldn't, that's— I don't need any special treatment."

    "It's not special treatment. With all that you went through, it's fair treatment," Gumshoos said. Several voices behind him muttered their agreement.

    "O-Okay." Espy took her place in front of Gumshoos. Blood rushed to her cheeks. This was… quite a bit different from Post Town. It might take some getting used to. Espy glanced up the hill, then closed her eyes and smiled. If there were going to be bumps in the road, at least she had good support to carry her over them. Her tail perked up and wagged slowly at the thought.

    "There you are, Espy. I've been looking everywhere for you!"

    Her thoughts popped like a pricked balloon. Espy tensed up, eyes widening. "U-Umbry?" She turned left. Umbreon walked over to her, a mixture of worry and relief on his face… somehow. Espy's heart jumped into her throat, torn between the joy of seeing him again after the arduous trials that followed his sacrifice and concern because she hadn't had the chance to think about what she'd say to him when she saw him again.

    In the end, she bowed at Gumshoos and left the line. She walked up to Umbreon and met him for a quick embrace. "It's… it's good to see you again," she whispered, giving him a curt nuzzle. "I'm glad you're okay."

    "Me too, sis. Me too." Umbreon broke off the embrace and stepped back. "I, uh, I came over from Paradise as soon as I could. But I, um…" His voice trailed off and he looked toward the party. "Between my transport and this party things got a bit… wild." He leaned over and whispered, "Hoopa scares me."

    "You're not alone in that regard," Espy said, smirking and shaking her head. An awkward silence fell between the two. Espy's brain screamed at her to stick to idle chitchat. "So, um, how's Paradise? Is it—"

    Umbreon smiled. "Fixed." He paused to let relief flood Espy's face. "Well, more or less. But the others are tending to the few things that Shane couldn't fix."

    "Is that so?"

    "I use 'tending' loosely. Hydreigon's form of helping keeps breaking things and I'm pretty sure Haxorus directed him to 'float there and look pretty' before I left." Umbreon chuckled, then waited for Espy to do the same. As amusing as the mental image of Hydreigon floating around covered in glitter was, Espy kept quiet. She brushed her forelegs together. "E… Espy, is something wrong?"

    "I, um—" Espy bit her lip and looked away. She couldn't avoid things, could she? "Umbry, we… we really need to talk. About, y'know, what happened at Tapu Bulu's temple." Shuddering, Espy paused. "No… about everything."

    Umbreon frowned. "Espy, I'm not here for that. I just wanted to see my sister again." He nudged her cheek. "After everything you've been through, you deserve to rest. Take the day off or whatever. We can always talk at a later point."

    "No, we can't," Espy said, her voice firm. She glanced up at Silvally, who sat on his haunches with kids gathered around him. Some clung to his forelegs and shoulders. It brought a smile to her face. She took a deep breath. "Umbry, I want you to be real with me… because I've had a recurring thought ever since what happened at the Temple of Body… and even though my friends have tried to help me shake it, it keeps coming back."

    "What is it?" Umbreon asked, his flickering.

    "Did you sacrifice yourself because you'd gotten sick of me?"

    Umbreon stepped back. His rings dimmed. Espy frowned. That was the exact response she didn't want to see. "U-Umbry…"

    "Of course not, Espy!" Umbreon said, loud enough to attract a few people's attentions. "S-Sorry, everyone." He waved them off with a forepaw, then looked around. Umbreon beckoned for Espy to follow him. They walked to one side of the hill until there weren't any other Pokémon around. Umbreon sat down and sighed. "Espy, why would you ask something like that?"

    "Because of how I've treated you all this time. Let's face it, Umbry, I've been a really bad sister to you. And, um… an even worse mate," Espy said, wincing at that last part. "You didn't deserve all the flak and stress that I'd pushed onto you. I figured it was the whole soulmate bond superstition thing that kept you by my side. So, when Necrozma was attacking, you saw an out… and took it." Her ears drooped. "That's what I had told myself. And, frankly, if the answer was yes… I would've understood."

    "Espy…"

    "No, don't try to shrug it off, Umbry." Espy glanced up at the hill again. She could still see Silvally. A warmth spread through her chest. "I've… had time to really think back on everything that happened. Between us… and our friends in Paradise, too. For the longest time, I've been acting like the exact antithesis of what Paradise was trying to be. I got as bad as some of the Post Town residents were when Munna and Kyurem plagued the Mist Continent."

    Umbreon tensed. "I… I wouldn't say it was…"

    "It's the truth, Umbry. You don't have to sugarcoat it for my sake." Espy took another deep breath. "But I don't want to be like that, anymore. Seeing what Necrozma did to you…" Her voice trailed off. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to keep her breathing steady. "Umbry, before Necrozma destroyed the planet he… he trapped me in a Mystery Dungeon. Summoned Void Shadow copies of you and our friends from Paradise."

    "Oh no. Espy, I'm so sorry! I—"

    "It was bad. Worse than all the nightmares. But what made it even harder was… was the fact that I had to fight Silvally," Espy said, her head bowed.

    Umbreon raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean by that?" Before Espy responded, however, Umbreon's eyes widened. "Wait, hang on. You and Silvally did seem, um… well, you stuck close together when you were fighting against Necrozma." His brow furrowed. "Am I missing something?"

    "Yes." Espy's breathing grew shakier. "Silvally has… helped me confront all of the negativity I've built up over the years. At first… I was dismissive of him. But the more time I spend around him, the more I realize how much I care about him." She rubbed her forepaws together. "When I thought I was going to lose him, I told him that I loved him."

    "O-Oh…" Umbreon blinked slowly. "You, um…"

    Espy nodded. "I'm sure of it, Umbry. These feelings I have for him… it's got nothing to do with mating. It's… I just want his company. I want him by my side." Her gaze fell on him again. His laughter — she assumed one of the kids had done something funny — brought a smile to her face. "He's… he's…" She blinked tears out of her eyes. "I want a life with him, Umbry. So, so badly. Even if it doesn't make sense given his background. I can't envision a life without him."

    Umbreon slowly tilted his head. His rings dimmed.

    "Our relationship… I mean, yeah, I love you. You're my brother. But us as mates… that was a bad decision brought on by the thought that we were going to die," Espy said, her tail twitching. "And then I kept it going out of desperation. It was about sex… and nothing more, really."

    Umbreon winced and looked away. Espy wrapped her tail around a hind leg. "It's not like that with him. His company is enough to make me happy… in a way I don't think I can really describe."

    The two sat and looked at each other in silence. Espy grew progressively more worried, until Umbreon sighed loudly.

    "There's no need to explain it," Umbreon said, nudging Espy's forepaw with his own. "Espy, I'm glad you were able to find someone like that. Yeah, I does bum me out when I think about how that means I probably shouldn't expect you back home, but it's not like we're never gonna see each other or anything." He glanced over his shoulder at Silvally. "Besides, from everything you've told me, it sounds like he really is a good fit for you."

    Espy smiled. She blinked tears from her eyes. "Thanks, bro. That… means a lot more to me than you realize."

    "Right. It's just… what about the superstition?" Umbreon said, biting his lower lip.

    "Well, it's like Tessa said. I think it's time we tossed that moldy old tradition away," Espy said, sticking her snout up.

    "Meaning what?"

    "Meaning, as your mate, I'm saying we're through," Espy said. "But as your sister," she leaned in and nuzzled Umbreon's cheek, "I'll always love you. You're family. And you stuck by me during the worst of times. And now… it's time for me to figure out a way to repay you." She leaned back, flicking her tail. "Who knows? Maybe I can find someone more appropriate to set you up with."

    Umbreon's rings flashed brightly. "U-Uh. M-Maybe we should take things one day at a time?" He chuckled nervously.

    "I'm only kidding, dummy," Espy said, then punched his shoulder playfully. "Now, come on. I think we dragged all of this on long enough, don't you?"

    "Agreed. Though I'm not even sure Silvally realized you're gone," Umbreon said, looking up the hill. Nine of the kids were trying to team up and knock Silvally over. But his steel memories were on and he wasn't budging an inch, much to his amusement. "Should we, um, save him? That looks quite bothersome."

    "On the contrary. He's clearly having fun with this," Espy said, a huge grin on her face. "Plus, it's a good way to get him accustomed to being out in public, don't you think? He never really got the chance, since we had to flee the guild right after the events at the temple."

    "Seriously?" Umbreon blinked in surprise. "Jeez, how much did I miss?"

    "A ton. You'd want to pull up a cushion and get comfortable, because it'd be a long story," Espy said, sighing and shaking her head. "I wish I could say our past experiences made me prepared for all the stuff we had to deal with… but that'd be a lie."

    "That sounds… oof, yeah, that's a bad time." Umbreon shuddered. "Well, if you need to vent, I'm willing to hear you out. Provided it's, y'know, a healthy kind of venting."

    "Understood," Espy said as they reached the fountain. "Okay, I think I'm definitely gonna get some f—" Espy stopped herself and squinted, then frowned.

    "Something wrong?" Umbreon asked.

    "Yeah. I think I just saw Tessa leaving town."

    XxX
    Continued in next post.
     
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  13. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Continued from previous post.

    XxX

    ~Azure Cape~

    Tessa tried to mingle around with people at the party. She gave friendly greetings, talked with Sylveon for the first time since her hatch day, and received more compliments in the span of a few minutes than she thought she'd gotten in the last several years. Sure, there were quite a few people looking skeptically at the black fur on her chest, but they all seemed to take the sight in stride since she'd played a big role in saving them.

    And yet, even with no aura sense to frazzle her, she got overwhelmed. So, Tessa trudged off down the western road, climbed the hill leading away from town, and kept walking until sandy shores appeared in the distance. Her aura feelers twitched as she approached the boundary between the trail and Azure Cape.

    'And here I am. Back where it all began.'

    Tessa walked across the beach, shielding her eyes from the setting sun's reflection. She headed for the large rock stuck in the sand. The spot where she had found Shane after he'd washed ashore. The salty air brought the stench of damp fur to mind. It was the first thing that tipped her off that Shane was there. And, from there, things snowballed out of control in a way Tessa could never have predicted.

    'How time flies, huh?'

    She knelt down and scooped up a pawful of sand. Warmth tickled her fur as she slowly opened her paw and let sand grains trickle back down onto the ground. Tessa continued walking until she was close to the rock. Then, she plopped herself down, leaning back and bracing her arms on either side of her. Tessa stuck her legs out and dug her toes into the sand, wiggling them. She gazed out over the water, squinting due to the sun's reflection. Orange sparkles twinkled in the distance, bringing to mind Shane's fur after Primarina's team had gussied him up and covered him in glitter.

    "Nrgh. You're so stupid." Tessa lifted a paw and bonked the side of her head three times. "You're practically obsessing over him. Pull yourself together. This isn't the end of the world or anything. We managed to reverse that." She paused, frowning. "Well, I guess Shane did. And that's why he's not here." Her brows raised. "Ugh, I did it again!"

    Tessa flopped onto her back, wincing from her tail bending. It quickly sank into the sand when Tessa bent her knees. "I'm such a dummy. Here I am… moping on the beach like I used to do before I met Shane." Tessa put a paw to her head and rubbed it. "You know he wouldn't want you to do that, Tessa." She lay there silently, thanking her good fortunes that there weren't any wild Pokémon around for her to scare with her rambles.

    She traced her right paw through the warm sand. Tessa knew that Shane had made of point of saying that he wanted her to be happy. He was willing to work with her to find what, if anything, could make her happy. Because the answer definitely wasn't exploring. Or battling. Tessa was absolutely sick of fighting. She wondered if she'd even use her aura powers again… assuming they returned to her, of course.

    "So, what made you decide to ditch town to throw yourself a pity party?"

    Tessa sat up, sand grains streaming down her back. "E-Espy?" She didn't bother turning around. "I'm fine. It was getting noisy and I needed some space, so I left."

    The sand shook and, next thing Tessa knew, Silvally was standing to her right, grass memories active and cheek bolts glowing. Was he reacting to the sunset?

    "It'd be one thing if you went back to the Observatory, but you walked all the way out here. And, well, we both know the meaning this place holds for our team," Silvally said, looking out at the water. He then glanced at Tessa. "You're thinking about Shane again, aren't you?"

    Tessa put her paws in her lap. "It's that obvious, huh?"

    "Given the context, it can't be anything else," Silvally said, tracing a talon through the sand. Silence followed, with Tessa looking down at her lap. She didn't see her teammates exchanging frowns. "Mind if we you join you?"

    "Of course not," Tessa said, then squeaked when Silvally parked his rump down beside her, shaking the nearby sand. Espy sat down to Tessa's left, crossing one foreleg in front of the other. "You guys would've sat down regardless of what I said." It was a fact, not a question. She glanced at the hesitancy on Espy's face. "Given the context, I can't think you'd answer anything but 'yes,'" Tessa said, mimicking Silvally's voice from earlier.

    "We're worried about you, Tessa," Espy said. "Like, I don't want you getting the wrong idea or anything. I'm sad that Shane's gone, too. But it looks like his loss is hitting you hard."

    Silvally nodded. He nudged Tessa's shoulder with his beak. "Neither of us want to see this drag you back down into a dark place. And I'm sure Shane wouldn't, either. You've made so much progress from the time I've met you…" His water memories inadvertently shifted on. "We're here for you, okay? Please… tell us what's on your mind."

    "I can't stop thinking about how bad I screwed up a golden opportunity. Shane was the person I needed in my life. And I was the person he needed in his life. But we were a couple of stubborn dummies." Tessa shook her head. "I should've opened up to him sooner. Maybe it would've changed the trajectory of our relationship. Maybe…" Her words got caught in her throat. She squeezed her eyes shut. "Maybe I would've realized my feelings for him sooner."

    Silvally's head crest fanned out. "T… Tessa, are you—"

    "Yes, I admit it." Tessa's aura feelers drooped. "I dunno… I'm probably being dumb and reckless… but my brother was, too, and he seems happy with Zoroark. It's just… there are too many similarities. Shane and I have shared so many struggles… and that's not counting what we did as teammates. It just… it makes sense." Tessa brought her legs up to her chest. "But I didn't want to say anything, partly because I was afraid of my own evolution and how Shane seemed to idolize Lucario."

    "Do you still think that?" Espy asked.

    "No. Not anymore. I think he… he liked me most for who I was. My species was like… an added bonus for him or something," Tessa said. It was a slight rephrase of Shane's remarks to her from back in Cosmic Cavern. Gods, how she wished those quiet moments had lasted longer. "The stuff that happened on Celestial Island made me sure of it. I kept calling out to him to fight Necrozma… told him I wanted to be his partner for life. He heard me. Managed to stop Necrozma long enough for me to land my Z-Move and break his control.

    "I should've said something more concrete then and there, but you two came bursting in and… well, now the opportunity's gone." Tessa couldn't help but lean her head against Silvally's foreleg. A heaviness tugged at her heart. At the same time, though, she was happy it was finally out in the open. Tessa was sure that's what had been eating at her since she'd woken up.

    "I'm sorry," Silvally whispered. He leaned over and nudged her head with his beak. "I wish there was something I could do… but short of charging out into Ultra Space on Lunala's back, I've got nothing."

    "It's okay, Silvally." Tessa grabbed a clump of fur around his knee. She sighed as she sat up straight. After a protracted silence, Tessa looked out toward the water and said, "At least you were able to keep your promise to me."

    "Hmm?"

    "The sunset. We're finally watching it again," Tessa said, gesturing forward.

    "Oh. R-Right." Silvally's head crest drooped. "I, uh… yeah. It's… it's beautiful. I can't put a claw on it, but something seems different about the sun. It seems more… vibrant. More, uh, radiant… aha ha."

    "So, you've been thinking that, too?" Espy said, curling her tail around her waist. "Glad I'm not the only one. I swear the sky's been brighter since we got back to Horizon. I thought it meant my disposition had gotten more cheerful, but if you're also seeing something, then maybe the sun has changed somehow."

    Tessa took Espy's statement like a slap to the face. "Wait a sec… that's gotta be it! That's what Shane meant," she said.

    "Beg your pardon?" Silvally titled his head.

    "Shane took Necrozma's power and used his light to rebuild the world, right? Well, what if he rebuilt the sun, too? It kinda looked like it was collapsing on itself while we were fighting Necrozma. He probably fixed whatever Necrozma did to break it… and that's why it seems different," Tessa explained. "When Shane told us he'd 'see us on the other side,' he was probably referring to the sun."

    "Huh. I… hmm…" Espy's brow furrowed. "I'm not sure of the logic behind that, but I can't come up with a counterargument."

    Silvally looked into the sun. His grass memories shifting on. "Then that means his light will be burning bright throughout our lives." An awkward silence followed. Silvally shrank down sheepishly. "Sorry. That sounded more, um, poetic in my head."

    The trio reclined, staring out at the ocean. After a couple of quiet minutes, Espy said, "Oh, as long as we're here, we may as well put this to use." She levitated up a tan satchel with a Crabrawler patch stitched into it. Espy opened it up to reveal a bottle of yellow-orange liquid and three glasses. "I, uh, might've borrowed some pinap juice from the drink station as Silv and I were leaving town."

    "That's not hard pinap juice, is it?" Silvally said, frowning.

    "Nope. But it is honey-sweetened." Espy poured the juice into three glasses and distributed two to her friends. To her surprise, Silvally snatched the glass up in a pink bubble. Even he seemed bewildered by the gesture, but shook it off. Tessa took her glass in her paws. It was sweet. So sweet it made her mouth water.

    "To Shane?" Silvally said, leaning his glass toward his teammates.

    "To Shane," Espy and Tessa replied in unison. They clinked their glasses together then each gulped down a mouthful of pinap juice. In Silvally's case, that meant drinking the entire glass.

    Sighing, Tessa swirled the pinap juice around in its glass. "Though, if you think about it, aren't we kind of toasting the end of Team Radiance, too?" She glanced at her teammates' skeptical looks. "Team Radiance was an exploration team. There are no more Mystery Dungeons, so there's no need for exploring. Or guilds." Tessa looked into her glass. "What are we going to do with ourselves now that this is over?"

    Neither teammate responded. Silvally silently levitated the pinap juice bottle over and poured himself another glass. Like before, he swallowed the whole thing in one gulp.

    "My entire life revolved around the guild. First it was training up to go there. Then it was taking missions with Shane. And then we were battling the Prism Virus nonstop." Tessa took a small sip of pinap juice. "Battling and training are practically all I know, so what should I do? I was kind of thinking maybe I ought to learn how to bake. Then I could help Sylveon out."

    "Well, there are those meetings. Maybe that will give us some answers?" Silvally said.

    "I dunno. The meetings are more focused on giving the communities of the world a sense of direction… not individual 'mons like us," Tessa said. "Besides, don't you think it's worth considering? I mean, you were made to battle, so what options are out there for you if you can't?"

    Silvally set his glass down. His cheek bolts rotated slowly as he hummed in thought. "Well, I don't intend to stop training. Sure, we're much less likely to face a threat of our own making in the future… but you never know if Ultra Space could thrust some sort of crisis onto the planet." He looked up toward the sky. "I need to be ready for something like that… so I don't have to do something risky like when we fought Zero."

    Tessa tilted her head. She got the sense there was more to Silvally's answer than he was letting on, but opted not to push it. "That's fair. But you can't spend every waking hour training."

    "I know. Maybe I ought to look into, like, construction or something? I'm sure there are Pokémon out there who could use someone big and strong to help them build things," Silvally said, tensing up his leg muscles. Espy's face flushed and her tail curled even tighter around her waist.

    "That's not a bad idea, Silv. And if that doesn't work, you could always consider being a delivery 'mon. You'd be able to travel across any terrain," Espy noted, sipping more pinap juice to try and dispel her blush.

    "Well, what about you, Espy?" Silvally said.

    "I was thinking of seeing if there's a library in Aeon Town that I could work in. I'm, uh… I don't really think I can handle the stresses of anything battle-related anymore." Espy's shoulders sagged. "Feels like I've knocked a good decade off my life with all the worrying I've done in our time together." Her forehead gem flickered. "Oh, and speaking of stress… I think your brother's running toward us."

    "Huh?" Tessa looked over her shoulder. To her surprise, two Absols ran toward the beach. One carried Sneasel and the other carried Hakamo-o. The latter carefully held a package. "G-Gallian? But who's the second—" She promptly facepalmed. "Right. Zoroark."

    Gallian slowed to a trot and Hakamo-o slid off his back. Zoroark, on the other hand, staggered across the beach. Sneasel barely managed to jump off before his illusion collapsed and he dropped to his hands and knees, drenched in sweat and panting heavily. "That was… much farther… than I was expecting."

    "Well, we made it. That's all that matters," Gallian said.

    "Easy for you… to say. It's not like… I was… running places… when my leg was busted," Zoroark wheezed, clutching his chest. "You're in… way better shape… than me."

    "Um, is there a problem?" Silvally said, his comment directed mostly at Team Fang's unexpected presence.

    "Oi. Don't give us the shifty, suspicious eyes. We ain't here to cause any trouble," Sneasel said, raising up his claws. "We're done with the two-bit crook routine."

    "Yeah. We've been helping these two out with their crazy project," Hakamo-o said, jerking his head in Gallian's direction. "Guy's been breathing down our necks the whole day."

    "Project? What kind of project?" Tessa said, a skeptical brow raised. Gallian beckoned Hakamo-o to follow him up to Team Radiance.

    "Listen, Tessa… when I saw you back at the Observatory, I got the sense you weren't, y'know, feeling all that great." Gallian glanced at Espy and Silvally. "You guys, too. I only thought it right that I should do something to show you three how much people appreciate what you've done for them."

    "You mean… besides the whole 'bringing the world back from total annihilation' thing?" Espy mused, flicking her tail to the side.

    Gallian stumbled, but collected himself. "Yeah, aside from that." He leaned over and careful picked up an envelope in his mouth. Gallian handed it to Tessa. "Here. Read this."

    "Okay." Tessa tore the envelope open with a paw spike and pulled out its contents. "It's… a card?" The front had splotches of colors scattered around, like someone had haphazardly squeezed paint tubes over it. Tessa opened the card up and was assaulted by a barrage of words and scribbles. "W… whoa. H-How many people wrote in this thing?"

    "Let me see!" Silvally leaned over. His eyes widened. "What the— there's a note from Kahuna Raichu and his daughter! Heck, Totem Salazzle and Totem Marowak are there, too." He looked at Gallian. "How did you manage this?"

    "We might've borrowed Lunala," Zoroark said, shrugging. Tessa paid the explanation little mind as she combed over the card.

    There were scattered one-liners from her guildmates. Things like "Good job," "Thanks for saving us," and "I'm truly grateful." But there were also several larger chunks of text.

    Thank you for helping set my mother straight and bringing our tribes back together again. It's so nice that Marowak and I don't have to hide our relationship anymore, though I do wish Mother would stop giving me courting advice. Still, it's thanks to your hard work that this could happen. Come visit us anytime! From Healer Salazzle.

    Outsiders, thank you for saving our lands from destruction at the hands of Mount Supernova. I see now that it is wrong of me to make assumptions based on outward appearances alone. I should judge 'mons by their actions, instead. That's why I'm hoping to learn the Marowaks' dances for myself. I see a bright future for our tribe. From Totem Salazzle.

    Miss Tessa, since the day you stood up to Totem Salazzle, I have seen her carry herself differently. There is caution behind her actions. She is not rushing to judgements, but rather is conferring with me before making decisions. She even wants to learn our dances and teach them to the Salandits. I believe our unified tribe is as strong as ever. Thank you… and give my regards to Silvally, too. From Totem Marowak.

    Hey, Team Radiance. Latias here. You guys might not think it, but I believe I learned a lot from you. I was always doubting myself… wondering if I could really make a difference. But seeing you four give it your all, even when circumstances were as dire as they could get, lit a fire in my belly that I'm hoping to carry into the future. If I hadn't found that courage, I'm not sure I would've been able to save Lugia. So, thank you. I hope we get to see each other more now that Lugia and I are moving to Horizon.

    I wanted to believe that Midnight could change on his own. That I wouldn't have to do anything to get back the friend I had cherished so much when I was a Rockruff. But that didn't happen. You guys tried to warn me, but I didn't want to listen. Thank the stars you were able to put him in place, because I fear what would've happened otherwise. And, of course, I'll forever be grateful to you for saving me. I'm really sorry about what happened to Shane. If you want to talk, come find me in Cosmic Cavern. From Dusk.

    To say the day you showed up in my home was a wild one would be an understatement. A lot happened, some of which I'm still not entirely sure I understand. Nevertheless, I'm glad you all showed up when you did. Your experience was tantamount in keeping Cosmic Cavern safe from the Prism Virus. I wish you all the very best. From Totem Decidueye.

    It's Blaziken and Swampert. We know we didn't spend all that much time together with you guys, but we were impressed with your resilience in the heat of the battle. For all your doubts about yourself, Tessa, you managed to shine as bright as your team's name. If you want to talk about Shane, we'd be happy to have a chat.

    Not every day you get the privilege of knowing such great explorers, yeah. Seriously, cousins, Circadian Coast is my pride and joy. I love being the Kahuna here and the thought that some sort of crazy, otherworldly nonsense could've jeopardized all of it still sends chills down my spine. I'm thanking my lucky stars you all showed up when you did. Oh, and that you kicked Necrozma's behind, too. Consider yourselves welcome at the resort any time… free of charge! Assuming we're not booked up, of course. From Kahuna Raichu. Pau hana!

    Seeing you guys strut your stuff onstage has lit my creative fire! I'm like the end of a Charizard's tail… I can't stop burning! Here me out for a sec. A stage show… themed around your adventures. There'll be action! Drama! Romance! Emotion! Thrills! I'm writing a script as we speak. Trying to convince Primarina to do the music for the production, but it's gonna take some arm-twisting. I do hope you guys will consider dropping by to see it. From Cosplay Pikachu.

    Hey, babes, it's your boy, Primarina. I'm-a be real with you… you outshined me onstage. Sure, maybe I wasn't entirely myself, but I'm still glad you put me in my place before I went too deep into my own mistake. I did a lot of thinking after our talk, Tessa. First off, Serpy and I have agreed to take a break from each other. Y'know, to try and sort ourselves out. If we still feel strongly about each other, we may pick things back up. But I've got a lot of work to do before then. And it all starts with stepping back from the stage. Cosplay Pikachu's asking me about some kinda show, but I'm not sure. Right now… I think I want to shift my focus toward teaching music to others. I want to inspire people to express themselves… whether it's through music or another form of art. So, again, thanks for all your help.

    I always figured being a manager would be a low-key job. If you had told me I'd get hypnotized by my own partner into running some sort of crazy mass-hypnosis concert, I'd have scoffed at you. Needless to say, I'm really in your guys' debts. Both for snapping me out of things and for bringing me back to Jolty. Twice, technically, if we're counting Necrozma's world-ending blast. Keep your chins up, you three. You're superstars in my books. From Vaporeon.

    What can I say besides I'm sorry? The things I said. The things I did. I feel awful about them. And, despite how bad I was to you, you three still gave it your all to try and save Dragonite. And then, of course, everything you did to stop Necrozma. Tessa, you've become so strong. Much stronger than me. Nobody can take your victory away from you. Remember that. From Milotic.

    Pretty much everything Millie said. Think I'm going to step away from the Observatory and do some soul-searching. Even if I wasn't entirely myself when we fought, I do think I might've had a bit of an attitude problem. I mean… I can't count the number of times I mouthed off to Shane. But he still chose to bring me back in the end… just like you all fought to free me. I wish you the best in whatever you all choose to do with yourselves. From Serperior.

    I had just about given up hope I could get Gallian back when I stumbled upon your team in the Volcanic Wastes. Tessa, even though you were hot of the heels of a rough evolution, you not only heard me out, you did everything in your power to bring my mate back. I'm proud to call you my spirit-sister and I look forward to having you in my life going forward. From Zoroark.

    I wanted to put this in writing so that you would always have this. Espeon, thank you for talking some sense into me when I was trying my hardest to tune out the people who cared about me most. Silvally, thank you for being a pillar of strength for my sister… and showing the world that it's not about what you look like or what abilities you have, but how you make use of them. And Tessa… I'm so proud of you. The struggles you endured would've broken me several times over. But you didn't quit. You kept fighting not just for yourself, but for everyone else. If anyone asks, I can tell them with confidence that I've got the best sister in the world. I hope you all enjoy your gifts. From Gallian.

    Tessa's eyes were misty, as were her teammates'. "G… Gallian…"

    "Your team's inspired a lot of people, Tessa. And, in turn, all of these people you helped want to see you happy. They care about you," Gallian said. "I can't imagine how you guys are feeling about Shane. But I'm hoping that this is able to help… even a little bit." He stepped back and looked up at the sky. "I want to believe that he's still out there. That he's going to return… somehow.

    "Whether or not that happens, though, you guys deserve to have these." Gallian motioned at the trio. Hakamo-o opened the remainder of the package and unfolded it. Tessa looked down and gasped. There were half a dozen scarves stacked on top of one another. She immediately recognized the top two: a blue-indigo scarf with a yellow sun and a yellow-orange scarf with a blue moon. The difference this time was that the sun and moon had tiny pink hearts stitched into them. There were hearts stitched into the other scarves, too.

    "G… Gallian. How did you— a-and so quickly?" Tessa picked up the blue scarf in a trembling paw.

    "Salazzle's a fast worker," Gallian said, grinning. "We asked her if she could make replacement scarves for you guys and she said it would be her pleasure."

    "Wow." Tessa turned the scarf over in her paws. Silvally leaned over to pick up the green scarf, matching the one he had lost fighting Dragonite. Espy levitated up a dark-blue scarf.

    "That's strange. Call me crazy, but it feels like these scarves have auras," she said, a brow raised.

    "That's because Salazzle weaved them from Rainbow Wings and Lunar Wings," Zoroark said, rubbing his nose. "We convinced Ephemeris and Cresselia to give us some to make the scarves. They said it was the least they could do."

    Tessa slowly placed the scarf around her neck. Before it could slip from her grasp, Silvally caught it with ESP and tied a neat knot in the back. Tessa placed her paw against it. "This is… it's… wow." The fabric was exactly like she remembered.

    Espy and Silvally slung their scarfs around their necks. "It's so soft," Espy whispered, lifting her head up and shaking it like she was drying herself off. "I see why you guys never took yours off, even with how dirty they got."

    "Gallian, you didn't have to do this," Tessa said, still brushing the scarf with her paw.

    "I know. But I wanted to. You've earned it," Gallian said. He stepped closer to her. Tessa leaned over and hugged him. Gently, of course, due to her chest spike.

    "Thank you," she whispered. "I love it. Dad would've, too."

    Gallian broke off the embrace. "I'm sure he's watching you from the Tree of Life and smiling. You've gone above and beyond. Whatever happens… I'm gonna try my best to be around for you when you need it, okay?"

    "We're gonna be around for you," Zoroark said, slinging his arm over Gallian's shoulder. "Come on, we're a family! And now that there's no Necrozma to worry about, we can finally start acting the part!"

    A flush fell over Gallian's face. "R… right. W-Well, I, uh…" He blinked and shook his head. "I think we should take our leave. We'll be at the Observatory if you need—"

    Oh, thank goodness. I finally found you!

    Tessa's ears and aura feelers crinkled at the sounds of screeching tires. She turned to see Magearna zooming across the beach, as she had done after they'd fought Team Captivate. Magearna came to a stop by Team Radiance, wheels retracting into her legs. "Um, can we help you?" Tessa said, cocking her head.

    No. It's me who can assistify you, Magearna said. I was taking stock of my workshop… when I discovered something out of place on my desk. She stuck her right arm out.

    "Another letter?" Silvally said, a brow raised. "It looks like something's wedged into the envelope, too.

    I tried to identificate the handwriting, but it didn't match anyone in my registries, Magearna said. And it was addresticated directly to you three. So, I raced out of the Observatory to locatiate you and hand it over.

    Tessa took the envelope in her paws. There was a spiky bulge on the bottom of it. Tessa tore the envelope open by the bulge to avoid damaging the letter. A white crystal tumbled into her left paw. "Huh?"

    "Hey, look. There's a snowflake carved into the other side of that," Hakamo-o said, pointing a claw at it.

    "Oh, yeah. Kinda reminds me of the ice carvings my folks used to do to sharpen their claws," Sneasel said, squinting. "Wonder how your secret admirer made it so tiny."

    Tessa tore the rest of the envelope open, heart leaping into her chest. She read the first line and sucked in a breath. "No… no, it can't be."

    "What? What is it?" Silvally leaned in, trying to look at the letter.

    "It's… Shane wrote this!" Tessa said, holding the letter out while everyone else jumped back in surprise.

    "You're kidding me! What's it say?" Espy leaned her head against Tessa's side.

    Hey guys,

    If you're reading this… then that means I was able to use Necrozma's power to reconstruct the world, spirit realm and all. Except this time, there are no ley lines to cause any trouble. And, well, that means that we did it. We beat Necrozma and reversed the damage from his rampage.

    I suppose I have to start by apologizing. After all, I told you guys that I'd be fine, didn't I? But the truth is that I knew from the get-go that, in order to bring everything back, I'd end up having to disappear. Nicky made it clear to me that the energy we'd have to expel from Necrozma's body would burn out our collective spirit.

    And yes, I did say Nicky. When I jumped into Necrozma's core, I found the little fragment of his soul that had been left inside of Necrozma. We used our combined wills to force the demonic part of Necrozma out of his body. And, well, you guys saw the rest. We blew it to smithereens, then you flew off.

    I'm sure you're upset. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. When I said I wanted to stay here with you guys, I meant it from the bottom of my heart. Even though much of our time together was defined by struggles instead of fun, I still consider you three to be the first real friends I've ever made in… well, two lifetimes, technically.

    Espy, I hope that, in the aftermath of all of this, those dark clouds swirling over your head finally start to clear up. The ley lines are gone. Void Shadows will never bother you again. I realize that this doesn't change what happened to you in the past. I wish I could've erased your nightmares with all of the ley lines, but I'm afraid Necrozma's light powers aren't that good.

    Still, I think that you deserve to give yourself more credit. After all, like you had mentioned back at the Observatory, it would've been easy for you to just lie down and not lift a paw to help us. But you soldiered on… even though doing so made you come face to face with the things that frightened you the most. You're much stronger than you give yourself credit for. And I firmly believe you'll be able to overcome your vices. Assuming you haven't already. No idea when you guys will actually get to see this.

    Silvally… ours certainly was a bumpy road, wasn't it? It's strange to think that there was a point where every word that came out of my mouth toward you was an insult… and that you'd almost killed me in a berserker rampage. But, well, it seems we were actually far more alike than either of us realized. Our spirits are both patchwork pieces partially derived from the demon that spawned all the ley lines in the first place.

    Honestly, though? That doesn't really change anything for me… except make it clear why things had gone south in Moonrise Marsh. At the end of the day… I'm still glad we were able to work through our differences. If you hadn't given me that pep talk in Tessa's house, I'm not sure I would've taken those first steps toward trying to be a better person.

    I hope that you're able to find a place for yourself in the world. More people deserve to see your infectious positivity for themselves. I'm going to miss your ability to make the team smile, even when we were stressed to our breaking points. Don't stop being yourself and don't let anyone talk down to you. Because nobody can forge a path for you but yourself.

    … sorry, that sounded cooler in my head.

    Which brings me to you, Tessa. I know we've spoken about this, but even now, I still can't help but feel guilty over everything that happened surrounding Lycanroc and our disciplinary assignment. If anything, I feel worse about it because of the stuff you said to me back at Circadian Coast. I realize I've already apologized for this, but it bears repeating. I'm so, so sorry for the things I said to you. No amount of stress and anger justifies it.

    By all accounts, you had every right to never speak to me again. But that isn't what happened. You were willing to give me one last chance after your hatch day party. And I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. I know the days that followed were filled with a lot more bad moments than good… but those good moments made our time together worth it.

    Yeah, there was a lot of sitting and talking to each other, but I really did enjoy myself. And that's saying something, because nothing bored me faster than sitting and talking back when I was human. That's just how much you meant to me.

    I'm sure you might be tempted to scoff at this given my, uh, interest in Lucarios. But I mean it when I say that I like you for you. You never backed down, even when the odds were stacked against us. There were times I wanted to flat-out quit… but you always found the strength to keep going. And that, in turn, kept me going, too.

    I wish there was a way that I could've stayed there with you… and helped you figure out what makes you happy in life. Sadly, I won't get the chance. Still, I felt like I had to do something. So, I used some of Necrozma's power to conjure up a small memento. It's a crystal… kind of like the one I gave you for your hatch-day. I hope you'll keep it with you… and that it can remind you of the good times we shared together.

    I just want you to know that I will never forget you. Any of you. You're my teammates and my best friends. I'll always cherish the good times we had together.

    May this new sun light the way toward a bright future for all of you.

    Your friend,
    Shane


    Tessa stared at the letter, breaths growing steadily more labored. "T-Tessa? Are you… gonna be okay?" Silvally said.

    Her grip on the letter slipped. Espy caught it with telekinesis. Tessa clasped the crystal tight in her paws and ambled toward the shoreline. Gallian's eyes widened. "Hey, wait! What are you doing, Tessa? You know you can't swim!" He was ready to bolt toward her when Zoroark stuck an arm out.

    "Don't. Let her have her moment. She needs it."

    Step by step, Tessa trudged into the water. When it reached her ankles, she dropped down to her knees. They sank into the silt, but Tessa kept her balance. She squeezed the crystal even tighter, bowed her head, and gritted her teeth.

    Tessa couldn't keep it together any longer. Tears spilled down her cheeks, splattering against the tiny waves splashing her thighs. She cried into the crystal — the last keepsake she had of her partner — while her mind cycled through those good moments Shane's letter mentioned. She lingered on their calmest moment together… sitting on the Circadian Coast shoreline, brushing paws against one another while the sun shined down on both of them and small, sparkling waves rolled up toward the sand. She saw the smile on his face and the calm in his eyes.

    Sobs wracked her body. Tessa was so lost in thought, she didn't realize her teammates had waded in after her until Silvally had curled up around her, tucking his head down and pressing it against her forehead. Espy wrapped her tail around Tessa's waist and buried her face into Tessa's shoulder.

    "It's not fair," Tessa blubbered.

    "I know," Silvally whispered, tears trickling toward his blue cheek bolts.

    "He wanted to stay with us. It's… it's not fair. We were… we were supposed to find happiness together," Tessa said between sniffles. "Why did he… why did he have to go?"

    "I don't know," Silvally said, squeezing Tessa tight.

    "We're going to get through this," Espy said, pulling her head back and brushing it against her shoulder. "One day at a time. Together. That's what friends do, right?"

    Tessa's rubbed her head against Silvally's thigh. "Y… yeah. One day… friends."

    "Even if there aren't Mystery Dungeons, we're still a team. We'll stick together," Silvally said, blinking tears out of his eyes. He slowly stood up and faced the sky. "For a bright future… like Shane said."

    Espy got up alongside him. "Right. We don't need a guild to be a team. As long as we have each other, that's all that matters, right?" She extended a forepaw toward Tessa.

    "Yeah." Tessa clasped it gently and stood up. She rubbed her eyes. "You're right. Tomorrow's another day. We'll face it together. That's what Shane wants for us." Tessa looked down at the crystal. She held it up toward the sun, which had nearly vanished beyond the horizon. "Through darkest night… and brightest day…"

    Espy and Silvally reached out to touch the crystal. "Team Radiance always finds a way," they whispered together.

    Tessa brought the crystal back toward her chest. "I'll never forget you, partner," she whispered.

    They stood together in the water for a few more silent minutes, watching the horizon until the sun was completely gone and only a faint, orange sky was left behind. "Well, we should really get back to the Observatory. We've got a big day ahead of us tomorrow, don't we?" Silvally said.

    Tessa nodded. "Lead the way." They all turned and walked back ashore, but not befor Tessa turned to take one last look at the cloudless sky. At her partner's parting gift to the world.

    'Thanks for everything, Shane.'

    THE EN—
    'Hang on… what was that ripple in the distance?'

    Tessa's brow furrowed. Distorted sparks raced through the sky. Her aura feelers stuck up.

    'Those ripples… they're just like what preceded an Ultra Wormhole!' She stood there, frozen in suspense. Tessa waited for something to pop up in the sky. But a solid minute past and nothing happened.

    "Hey, Tessa! You coming or what?" Silvally called, standing on the shore and brushing sand off his talons.

    "Ah, sorry! I'll be right there!" Tessa bit her lip, but ultimately jogged after her teammates. Surely, with all the stress she'd been through, her weary mind was just playing tricks on her… right?

    XxX

    ~Ultra Nexus~

    "H… harrgh… hrrgh…"

    Each pained wheeze grew harder and harder for Dragonite to handle. The spot where Silvally had torn off her wing had stopped bleeding, but that did her little good. Her limp had practically slowed to a crawl. She had been following this yellow, luminescent path for gods only knew how long… but it had led her nowhere. All she had done was pass by ethereal crystals. It didn't help that the sky surrounding her — if she could even call it a sky — offered no solid visual aids. It was dark blue, with strange checkerboard patterns and large crystals flying about at complete random.

    "How much further… do I have to go?" she said, voice straining.

    Dragonite's antennae twitched. She paused. Listening closely, she heard thumping. Rhythmic thumping… chained together in pairs. Like a heartbeat, but far louder. The sounds gave Dragonite a second wind. She limped down the path, bracing herself against the crystals as she went. Eventually, she caught site of purple and red light in the distance. She stumbled the rest of the way down the path, until she emerged into a circular clearing, with a strange, blue platform whose texture looked more like water than any solid floor.

    "What the—" Dragonite squinted. Xerneas lay unmoving in the middle of the clearing. Dragonite could smell her from her position. Her snout wrinkled and she nearly gagged. "Whatever. Who am I to pass up the unconscious god of life? I can undo all the damage that stupid mutt did to me."

    Dragonite raised a hand, ready to summon a lightning javelin, when another distorted heartbeat sounded, loud enough to knock her to her belly. "Oof! Hey, what gives?" Dragonite looked up and her jaw dropped.

    There, hanging over her head and suspended by countless slimy veins, was a large, crystal heart. And at the center of the heart lay a bundle of blueish-white fur with nine frayed tails. Rainbow light flashed in the center of the heart in time with its beating. Each pulsation sent energy ripples into the veins which, in turn, caused flashes in the sky.

    "Aha… aha ha… ha ha ha ha!" Dragonite pressed a hand to her gut. "This… this is too perfect! They must've fused or something!" An unhinged smile spread across her face. "Oh well. That's no scales off my bones. I get to kill that pasty loser and take Necrozma's power all for myself! Then nobody will ever stand up to me again!"

    Dragonite flicked her right hand out. A lightning javelin formed in it. With a strained roar, she leaped into the air and plunged the blade into the crystal heart. Fissures spread across it. The heart trembled. Dragonite's eyes widened. Something was wrong. It wasn't breaking apart. Instead, it was venting black smoke.

    "W-Wait… hang on. What the hell do you think you're doing?" She tried to push herself off the heart, but she was stuck in place. The shadows then surrounded her.

    As her world went black, Dragonite screamed.

    End of Episode 16

    XxX​

    What's crazier than an April Fools' fake ending? A legitimate fake ending, of course! Yes, I did say that this is the last episode… and it is. But I also said, on multiple sites, that this fic would have five special episodes. And, well, we're one short in that department. So, before you all grab your pitchforks and torches let me just say that, yes, the story isn't over. Special Episode 5 will be wrapping things up. The reason I'm designating it as a special episode is that it's, basically, going to be like an abridged version of post-game content from the canon material. With that in mind… five chapters remain!

    For this chapter, I worked really hard to try and evoke the same emotions that the canon games bring about with their endings. Those of you who are Paper Mario fans might also recognize the influence in the card that Gallian threw together. In any case, I'd really appreciate hearing from you guys whether or not I succeeded at bringing the feels.

    Next time: A promise gets upheld.
     
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  14. git-it

    git-it Member

    Due to the complex structure of the Epilogue, for following comments I will refer to the happenings of this chapter as 'End A', while the end of the coming special episode will be referred as 'End 1'.

    For End A I can say, it would have been a great ending. It closes the emotionally gaps and made me feel conciliatory even if Shane wouldn't return.
    The problem for me with End A was that it left too many questions open so it was clear that there had to be something left. Silvallys bugs were the best example, because the question was only thrown once in the room last chapter, and why should it if it wasn't important. But enough about this theorizing, we got facts.

    5 chapters left. [YEAH! Never ending story!]
    We will get an End 1

    The last paragraphs weren't long, but we did got enough information to theorize about it.
    I will come back to the ripples Tessa saw in a few mins.
    Inventory:

    There are still pokemon left from their world that weren't recreated by Shane. We now know there are at least Dragonite and Xerneas left apart from Team Radiance Ephemeris and Lunala. And there are still some unknown status.

    A beating crystal heart containing a blueish-white fur bundle with nine tails. Foreshadowing!
    And it can vent black smoke/living shadows.

    Let the theorizing begin!

    Xerneas lays unconscious at the ground near the position Dragonite later gets attacked.
    What if Xerneas did the same thing as Dragonite and attacked the heart?

    And coming back to the ripple Tessa saw: maybe attacking the heart destabilizes the structure and can open Ultra Wormholes? It would fit if Xerneas too attacked the heart, we already know about a faller in the new perfect world.

    Coming to the living shadows surrounding Dragonite.
    They are void shadows! But looking to what happened to Xerneas, if she really attacked, they are only guards to keep the stability of world. But the following question is: what would happen if the heart was destroyed? Would world sink into chaos? Worse than ley lines?

    End 1 will become very interesting even if my theories only scratch the tip of the iceberg.

    And not forgetting the last sentence of amby: which promise gets upheld? Is it a promise SOMEONE gave? ^,-
     
  15. Kindoflame

    Kindoflame Member

    I am not going to review this chapter because I plan on giving a really big one at the end. What I want to talk about was what happened with Goodra and Totem Kommo-o.

    I reread that section with what you said in mind and it just seems really disgusting to me. I mean that more in the moral sense than the 'I-do-not-want-to-think-about-Pokemon-doing-that-stuff' sense. When you get down to it, that scene is about a mother who is forced to prostitute herself out in order to protect her son from physical abuse. Maybe I was some kind of extremely sheltered child, but just the though of that makes me feel horrible.

    To be clear, it is not the prose itself that I have a problem. You kept everything vague and only hinted at what was happening. My objection is to what actually happened. Instead of the parents having a serious, heart-to-heart discussion, you used this vile thing. If the relationship between Goodra and Totem Kommo-o was explored or someone tells Totem Kommo-o off for doing it, then I would understand why it was included. However, that never happens even though the scene were Hakamo-o and Totem Kommo-o were having a conversation after leaving the Mystery Dungeon was a perfect opportunity to bring this up. As it stands though, you casually include such a horrible act when it is completely unnecessary.
     
  16. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Whoa there, tiger. Take it easy. It's supposed to make you feel horrible. It was established in earlier chapters that Totem Kommo-o is not a good person by any stretch and embodies the worst of the stereotypes about dragons that the fic shows.

    Unfortunately, this was part of the problem of juggling a lot of characters, but Hakamo-o does tell his dad off around the same time they evolve.

    Hakamo-o wouldn't have known what happened specifically. It was even shown last episode he doesn't really know anything about mating. Hence why he made a comment about hand-holding to Gallian and Zoroark. I can't say much else without giving away spoilers, but this is one of the lingering plot threads that still needs to be addressed in the upcoming special episode.
     
  17. Kindoflame

    Kindoflame Member

    As long as it is addressed, then everything is fine. You just can't have something like that happen and then not address it in some way. It does not even have to be about that event itself. Having Hakamo-o starting asking Totem Kommo-o questions about his mother and that lead into a conversation about his parent's relationship in general would also work.
     
  18. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    @git-it: Interesting theories. We'll see if they're right or not. ;P

    Thanks again to Namohysip for beta reading.

    XxX

    ~Celestial Island~

    Tessa slumped so far over to the right she almost fell off the rock she'd been using as a makeshift seat. Squeaking, she thrust her arms apart and her aura feelers shot up. That earned concerned looks from the people sitting around her, her teammates included.

    Totem Ninetales turned to Tessa with a raised brow. "Is there something you'd like to add?"

    "N… no. Not at all. Carry on." Tessa waved Totem Ninetales off, a sheepish grin on her face. Then, sighing, she slouched back on the rock and stared up at the blue sky. Though she was willing time to move faster, the meeting dragged on.

    That's all the last week had been, really. Showing up to Celestial Island and sitting around, listening, while the various Pokémon in attendance discussed what they were going to do with themselves going forward. But just the act of getting the whole crowd settled took up a sizeable part of the first day… and things only trudged on from there.

    As far as Tessa was concerned, a lot of these ideas were no-brainers, like adopting Solstice Summit's naming scheme, ditching the unwritten soulmate rule so Pokémon were free to do what they wanted with relationships, and keeping the former Mystery Dungeons as habitats for Pokémon that didn't want to live in towns or villages.

    But once the subject drifted toward how to approach the former gods, things devolved and Tessa found her attention wandering off. And these discussions were stretching into their sixth day. Tessa was going stir-crazy. She tapped a foot against the ground. Tessa repeatedly balled up and relaxed her paws, sometimes generating flickers of aura. The flares were weak, but given all the Pokémon on the island, she'd rather have a muted aura sense than get overwhelmed.

    "Oi, Punchy! Stay with me! This concerns your team, you know."

    "Wha—" Tessa sat up straight in her seat. "I'm awake! I'm awake!"

    Seraph looked right at her, sighing and shaking her head. Totem Ninetales cleared her throat. "So, about this group you mentioned reaching out to? The Ultra Recon—"

    "Network. The Ultra Recon Network. A series of small pocket words in Ultra Space that are linked together," Seraph said, arms crossed. "Though, after what Shane apparently did, who's to say they're connected anymore?" She scratched at her left ear with a digit. "Regardless, I think it's worth our time to find an Ultra Recon Squad to contact."

    "And I say you're inviting trouble upon us," Rayquaza barked, pointing an accusatory claw. "Ultra Space is what got us into this mess with Necrozma… and now you're saying we should go charging into it to find more aliens?"

    "It's not that simple. Even though we don't have the equipment, I'm quite confident that, thanks to Shane's actions, the whole planet has an ultra aura. And, of course, there's the fact that we're up to five fallers and counting," Luxeira said, frowning. "The way I see it… an Ultra Recon Squad is bound to pick up some sort of reading from our world and, when they do, they're going to come bearing a lot of questions."

    "If past experiences have taught me anything, it'd be much smoother and less headache-inducing if we made first contact with them… and not the other way around," Seraph continued. "If we work with Lunala or Ephemeris, I bet we can track down a URS base and explain things to them. At the very least, it'll keep them off your backs. Maybe we can even convince 'em to let this world join the Ultra Recon Network."

    "Are you nuts? We don't want a bunch of Ultra Beasts descending on this place. It'll freak everyone out," Haxorus said, thumping her tail against the ground. Sticky's tail drooped at the comment. "Err, uh, no offense?" Haxorus rubbed the side of her head.

    Tessa stretched out her arms. She leaned over toward Silvally and whispered, "I need to go stretch my legs before they lock up. Cover for me, okay?" Tessa waited until he nodded at her, then silently slid off her rocky perch and weaved her way between a few trees. She stumbled through one of the island's small forests until she emerged in a clearing. Tessa approached the grassy edge of the island and kicked a few blades into the water.

    "So, how you holding up?"

    "Huh?" Tessa's aura feelers twitched too late for her to realize Swampert, Feraligatr, and Raichu were all walking toward her. "Oh. I'm, uh, doing okay, I suppose. Trying not to rip my fur out in frustration. Who knew meetings were so boring?"

    "I hear ya. I'd rather listen to one of Chatot's lectures than have to sit around here any longer," Feraligatr said. "But that's not actually what I meant. I was talking about your partner."

    "Oh…" Tessa rubbed her shoulder while she considered how to respond. "It's… been tough. Espeon and Silvally have been there for me, but Shane keeps popping up in my dreams. They're not nightmares or anything… but it does bum me out when I wake up and remember he's gone."

    "I hear you. The first night after I lost Infernape, the whole guild could hear me bawling my eyes out in our old room. Sunflora and Chimecho wound up offering to let me spend the night in their room," Feraligatr said. "I, uh, wound up staying there for two weeks."

    "Same here. Hydreigon stayed with me when Haxorus disappeared," Raichu said, poking her nubby paws together. "He's surprisingly cuddly, given his appearance."

    "Yeah. I, um, don't envy what happened to you guys." Swampert rubbed the back of his head nervously. "Blaziken returned shortly after I thought he was gone forever. Still, for the short time I did think I'd lost him, I'm glad that folks like Absol, Ninetales, and Team ACT were around to help me out."

    "That's why we wanted to check up on you. It helps to surround yourself with friends, right?" Raichu said, offering a friendly smile.

    "I suppose you're right. I appreciate it," Tessa said, nodding at them. "You're not alone, there. Latias and Lugia visited the Observatory yesterday. It was… amusing watching Lugia try to navigate the place. The doorways were not made for someone with a neck as long as his." As soon as she said that, she wondered if an Exeggutor had ever been in the guild. She figured the answer was no, but made a mental note to ask Braviary for her own amusement.

    "So, uh…" Tessa fidgeted with her scarf. "Have any of you given any thoughts to what you want your familiar names to be?"

    "Exploud suggested I go with 'Bigmouth,' but my mouth is not that big," Feraligatr harrumphed.

    "Really? Exploud suggested that?" Tessa raised an amused brow.

    "Cut us some slack. Naming isn't exactly something that comes naturally to any of us," Swampert said, shrugging.

    "Honestly, I'm surprise you're not considering changing your familiar name. It was your mother who gave it to you, right? Don't you want nothing to do with her?" Raichu said, tilting her head.

    Tessa glanced out at the ocean. "That's true. But, honestly, after everything that's happened, I can't see myself as anything but Tessa." She bowed her head. The talk of names got her thinking about Shane's insistence on calling her Tessa instead of Riolu when they first met. Oh, how the tables had turned.

    "H-Hey, why the long face?" Feraligatr leaned over and waved an arm in front of Tessa. "We didn't say something wrong, did we?"

    "No. I was… thinking of Shane, that's all," Tessa said, pulling the crystal memento out of her new bag and turning it over in her paw.

    "Ah. Sorry," Raichu said, ears drooping. She perked right back up, however. "Hey, how about a change of scenery? Maybe going someplace new will help you get out of this funk? Haxy and I would love to show you around Paradise."

    Tessa tapped her chin in thought. The offer was tempting. "Hmm. Actually, I've always dreamed of going to visit Treasure Town since I was a pup." She looked at Feraligatr. "Would you mind?"

    "Oh, not at all!" Feraligatr perked right up. "It's been a while since I got to do my tour guide schtick."

    Tessa blinked. "Tour guide?"

    "Yup! We at 'Feraligatr Town Tours' pride ourselves on one-hundred percent customer satisfaction… or your money back," Feraligatr said, puffing out his chest.

    "But I wouldn't be paying you anything," Tessa said.

    Feraligatr lost his grin and stumbled forward, coughing. "I, uh… that was supposed to be the joke."

    "Ah. Whoops. Still, thanks for agreeing to do it," Tessa said, smiling.

    "And it looks like you won't have to wait long to leave, either. Seems the meeting's getting out," Swampert said, pointing back toward the center of the island.

    "Thank goodness! Let's just hope we don't have to subject ourselves to another yammer-fest tomorrow," Feraligatr said. He beckoned Tessa to follow. "We'd better find Infernape before Hoopa warps him off to Treasure Town."

    "Right behind you," Tessa said, jogging after Feraligatr.

    XxX

    Special Episode 5: Bold New Horizon

    Chapter 102: A Sense of Paradise

    XxX​

    "You think Tessa will be all right off on her own?" Espy wondered, pacing along the outskirts of Celestial Island's forest while she, Silvally, and several other Pokémon waited for Hoopa to return from dropping off the Grass Continent residents in attendance at the meeting.

    "She seemed to be in good spirits. I have faith," Silvally said.

    Espy paused. "Was… was that supposed to be a play on words because of your core?"

    Silvally blinked, then the realization practically smacked him on the cheek bolt. "Heh. It wasn't, but I like your thinking!"

    "You and Shane have officially rubbed off on me too much," Espy said, shaking her head. She then caught sight of Haxorus and Raichu walking toward Hydreigon, Virizion, and Umbreon. Her brow furrowed. "Actually, Silv, since Tessa's going to be out… would you be willing to come with me to Paradise?"

    "Oh? What for?"

    "For, well, y'know…" Espy trailed off, rubbing her forelegs together.

    "Ah. I thought you wanted to wait until all of the meetings were done," Silvally said.

    "I did. But I reconsidered… in the moment." Espy's tail crinkled up.

    The look on her face told Silvally if they didn't go today, it might take Espy awhile to work up the courage to suggest it again. "You're right. Shane really did rub off on you," he said. "Sure. Let's do it." He got to his feet and bent over to stretch out. "Not to put you on the spot or anything, but do you know what you want to say to them?"

    "Sort of? At least, I kinda rehearsed a rough version in the shower last night," Espy said. That was more info than Silvally needed, but he nodded nonetheless. "In any case, I'm not looking for you to fill in any awkward pauses or anything. You're there for, y'know, moral support."

    "Understood." He lifted up his foreleg and flexed his claws. "You've got this. You know that, right?"

    "Y-Yeah." Espy raised her foreleg and tapped her forepaw to Silvally's talons. "I mean… what's a few folks I cussed out compared to Necrozma, right?"

    Silvally frowned at the shaky tone in Espy's voice. He walked up beside her. "Well, I think you know as well as I do that this a different type of stress. Just, like, take some deep breaths. Keep a clear head about yourself. You'll be fine."

    "Heyo! The Hoopa Express is leaving the station! Next stop… Pokémon Paradise and the Mist Continent!"

    "Guess that's for us," Espy said. "Shall we?"

    "We shall."

    XxX

    ~Paradise Square~

    Various members of the original Paradise crew had moved logs or crates onto the grassy knoll in the center of town. Silvally sat opposite them, his gaze focused on Espy. There were a couple of skeptical looks thrown his way. It was mainly Hydreigon, though Silvally figured that had something to do with his role as the Voice of Life. Or, well, his former role as the Voice of Life. His cheek bolts rotated once. To his surprise, his fairy memories shifted on.

    "So, uh, thanks… y'know, for coming to hear me out and everything," Espy said. Her voice was still shaky and her slouched posture further betrayed her nervousness. "This is… well, I guess it's been a long time coming, hasn't it?"

    Haxorus crossed one leg over the other. She said nothing, but the unflinching look in her eyes was enough to make Espy tense up. The back of Silvally's head tingled. Faint memories of times as a Sylveon carrying wood in his ribbons flickered to mind. Silvally sat up straight, trying to focus on Espy even as Emolga, Virizion, and Swanna stared at him curiously. This was about her. If he was going to support her, he had to stay under control.

    "Right. Okay. Look, I'm going to be real with all of you. I could sit here and give you some big, long, drawn-out speech about how sorry I am for all of my bad behavior toward you all over the years. Heck, I tried to practice something like that the other night," Espy said. She glanced back at Silvally. He tilted his head, wondering where she was taking this. "But, well, a speech is just that… a speech. The way I see it, if I really want to make up for my misdeeds, then I have to take action."

    Silvally leaned forward, raising a curious brow and taking in the surprised look on Haxorus' face. Espy stood up and levitated off her satchel. "This isn't much… but I thought it'd be a start." Espy flipped the satchel open and produced a porcelain Virizion figurine. It drifted over to Emolga. "Virizion, I worked with Magearna to try and recreate the figurine that Emolga had given you for your five-year anniversary. Y'know, the one I broke when I stomped around your place, drunk off my ass."

    Emolga reached out and gingerly took the figurine in his hands. "How did you— but I had made the design with Victini!"

    Espy pivoted to Victini. "Yes, you did. And speaking of Victini… here." A small scroll hovered toward him. "These are the V-Wheel 3.0 schematics I'd taken from you after that spat we had about the Jellicents' tabloid article. I found 'em in my personal storage box."

    Victini snatched the scroll out of the air and unraveled it. "I don't believe this! I'd been looking everywhere for this." Victini kissed the scroll, drawing cringes from Haxorus and Virizion.

    "And Keldeo. This probably isn't much in the way of gestures, but…" Espy sent him a special tube of horn polish. "I hope this can at least make up a tiny bit for all the inappropriate comments I made about your Resolute Forme."

    "A new extra-strength formula?" Keldeo scrutinized the bottle. "Where did you find this?"

    "The Kecleon Shop in Aeon Town. It hasn't been released publicly yet… but Kecleon was willing to part with one tube." Espy winked at Keldeo, then turned to Swanna. "Swanna, I know there were way too many nights I didn't pay you properly. And, um, I'm not exactly loaded with cash or anything, but I did talk with Kahuna Raichu — the owner of Circadian Coast — and he agreed to help me advertise your inn over in Horizon." She levitated up a piece of paper. "This is a prototype flier we were considering putting up."

    "That's… very thoughtful of you," Swanna said, taking the page with a wing.

    A smile crept onto Silvally's beak as he watched Espy present her brother with a fresh copy of The Traveler's Guide to the Horizon Continent, a book outlining the land's unique territories, species, and forms of certain Pokémon. Umbreon set the book beside him, rings glowing and tail wagging.

    'When did you think all of this up, Espy?' he wondered. She had made it a point of saying how badly she wanted him to help her patch things up with the people of Paradise, but Silvally may as well have been a Joltik on the wall for the entire display. Sure, Espy stole the occasional glance at him, but with each gift she presented, her confidence seemed to grow.

    "Hydreigon, I'll admit, it was a lot harder to come up with something for you. You've always been patient with me, even when I didn't necessarily deserve it. And, of course, you were one of the immortal gods." Espy rummaged through her bag and pulled out another slip of paper. "I know how much you used to prattle on about being unable to use Draco Meteor… so I thought this might help."

    "This voucher entitles the user to one free move tutoring session," Hydreigon read aloud. "I'm impressed you actually remembered that."

    "Heh. Well, hopefully this can give you the last push to get over that hump," Espy said. Her tail had finally stopped drooping. Silvally's tail inadvertently wagged. Espy approached Team Paradise, her head held high. Silvally held his breath, but relaxed when he saw that Haxorus had a smile of her own on her face.

    "So, you two were probably the toughest nuts to crack, so to speak. You've both worked hard to build Paradise up… and I did my best to get in the way," Espy said. She shook her head. "I understand that I've made a lot of mistakes. And, regardless of what you choose to think of me, I've decided to stay in Horizon and start a new life for myself in Aeon Town."

    Silvally raised an eyebrow when Espy looked right at him. His mind wandered back to the moment she had caught him in the shower. Was she thinking about what he'd said to her? How they'd need to talk about their feelings at some point? Silvally looked at his talons. It seemed that he was the one caught unprepared, not Espy.

    "Anyway, this is what I came up with." Espy produced two rhomboid crystals and passed them to Team Paradise. "They're Frism replicas… modified from the Gear-Coms and Expedition Gadgets. I'm no Magearna or Jirachi, so I couldn't exactly make 'em communicate with each other, but that was never my intention." Her forehead gem glistened and the replicas sparkled in Team Paradise's hands.

    "What are you doing with it?" Haxorus held the Frism up and stared at it liked she was using a magnifying glass.

    "The replicas are enhanced so that they can store memories," Espy said. "Not just words… but sights, smells, and even tastes." She stepped back, tapping the forked ends of her tail together. "It wasn't easy to put together and it's been a while since I've tinkered with something that isn't Entercard-related, but I think I got them right. Basically, you can turn on the Frism and it can record things for a few minutes… or you can use it like a music crystal. Touch it to your forehead, think about the memory you want to copy to the Frism, and it'll transfer."

    "Wow. That's cool," Raichu said, turning over the Frism with her paws.

    "Yeah. What made you decide to do this, exactly?" Haxorus wondered.

    "Well… you two are a couple. I thought it might be nice for you to have a way to preserve cherished memories," Espy said, tail wagging.

    "I see…" Haxorus scrutinized the item.

    "Oh, come on, you've gotta admit, it's a nice fit," Raichu said, elbowing Haxorus' side.

    "It is."

    "Then why the furrowed brow? I won't think any less of you if thank her," Raichu said, curling her tail around Haxorus'.

    "It's okay, Raichu. I understand. It's going to take more than a few gifts to get back into your good graces," Espy said, stepping back to glance at the rest of the group. "I've still got things I need to work on. Hopefully next time we see each other, I'll be someone you're all more comfortable talking to again."

    Espy turned to rejoin when Silvally when Haxorus mumbled, "You're already close."

    She turned to Haxorus, ears twitching. "What was that?"

    "I said you're already close. I heard the stuff you said while fighting Necrozma, same as everyone else," Haxorus said, crossing one leg over the other again. Her eyes settled on Silvally, who stiffened to make it look like he was paying close attention. "Whatever your big squeeze here has done has clearly changed you."

    "Buh… big squeeze?" The words came out before Silvally even realized what he was saying. Warmth flooded his system. He was sure his fire memories had switched on again, but there were twinges of dragon energy and… ESP?

    Silvally blinked. Instead of looking at Haxorus, a Zekrom sat in front of him, one leg crossed over the other. "You're an absolute riot, you know that? C'mere, you!" She reached a muscular arm toward Silvally.

    "We, uh… but everyone only agreed to stop doing the soulmate superstition thing the other day," Espy squeaked, snapping Silvally back into the town square. He looked around in confusion, only to gulp upon seeing Umbreon sizing him up.

    "Pfbt. Yeah, uh-huh. Look, even if I was part of some kinda creepy, soul soup hodgepodge, I still saw what happened in that fight," Haxorus said, smirking. "The looks you shared. You burying your face in his hide. The big guy saving you from tumbling off Ephemeris… then taking all those hits Necrozma's core would've landed with its Bittercold clones. You two have to face the fact that either one of you used Attract by accident… or you've got a thing going." She raised her right hand and clicked her claws together.

    "We're not—" Silvally started, but his choked on his own words when he saw how red Espy's face had gotten. "It's, um, something we intend to discuss at a later date."

    "Sure. Whatever floats your Jellicents." Haxorus shrugged. "But once you two do seal the deal or whatever… Rai and I could go for a new pair to double-date with." She threw her arm around a bewildered Raichu. "No offense, Virizion, but it wouldn't kill us to shake things up every now and again."

    "Oh, agreed. Most certainly." Virizion shifted her wait onto her right side. "I myself am curious how you fell for such an… interesting specimen." She locked eyes with Espy, an amused grin on her face.

    "I, uh… well… that is…" Espy's tail curled around her waist. Silvally was ready to jump in, when Espy calmly assumed a stoic expression and said. "When you think about it, it's not all that different from you and Emolga." She walked back toward Silvally. "That's not meant as a diss or anything… I just find it funny you're the one to say that."

    To Silvally's surprise, Virizion laughed. "I'm impressed. You didn't take the bait. I guess you really have changed."

    Espy stumbled, bumping into an equally-confused Silvally's foreleg. "Bwuh?"

    "That was intentional low-hanging fruit. I was curious if you'd snark at me or not," Virizion explained. "Seems Haxorus is right."

    "Of course I am," Haxorus said, shooting to her feet and pointing her right index digit up triumphantly.

    Espy and Silvally exchanged bewildered looks. "Right. Well, uh, I think the two of us ought to get back to Horizon before it gets too late over there," Silvally said, glancing up at the sky. "Stupid time zone differences."

    "You sure? I'm happy to let you both spend the night here," Swanna said.

    "I appreciate the offer, but I don't want to impose," Silvally said, bobbing his head. "C'mon, Espy." He bid farewell to the Paradise crew with a wave of his foreleg then walked away from the town square with Espy at his side. She pulled out her Gear-Com and, after a brief exchange with a grumpy Hoopa, secured them a ring portal back to Horizon.

    "Can I ask you something?" Silvally said.

    "Besides that?"

    Silvally froze mid-step. "Ha, ha." He rolled his eyes. "Anyway, when did you find the time to make that stuff?"

    "Truthfully? I haven't gotten much sleep," Espy said, yawning to emphasize her point. "I've been a bit restless… and, I don't know, these little projects made for a good distractor over how weird it is not to have Shane around."

    "Ah. He's been on your mind, too, huh?"

    "You have to admit, things have been quieter without him," Espy said, sighing. "Even if he said a lot of stupid stuff, some of it was amusing. I kinda miss seeing him stick his paw in his mouth."

    "Yeah…" The two shared a chuckle until their voices trailed off. Silvally crossed into Espy's path. "You know… for someone who really wanted me around, you seemed to handle yourself well. I daresay you didn't actually need me there."

    "You think so? I, uh…" Espy brushed a forepaw along Silvally's chitin. "Well, when I was, um, 'practicing' how this would go, I looked into the mirror and I told myself, 'What would Silvally do?' I sat there for a bit, then answered, 'He wouldn't back down, no matter how scary the challenge seemed.' And things kinda snowballed from there."

    "Well, consider me impressed. I thought you were going to have a much tougher time with them," Silvally said.

    "In fairness… I did have a big, burly buddy at my back." Espy smirked at him. "Maybe they were scared if they upset me, you'd get mad at them?"

    "I think you're not giving yourself enough credit. This was all you," Silvally said, bumping her foreleg with his. Blood rushed to her face. His fire memories shifted on again.

    "Maybe." Espy stepped closer to him.

    "Espy…" Warm air gathered around Silvally's cheek bolts. "Maybe we should wait until we're somewhere private before we—"

    "Knock, knock! Hoopagram!"

    "Ah!" Espy arced her back and hissed at the ring portal that popped up in front of her. "Do you mind?"

    "Yes. You're cutting into Hoopa time." Hoopa rested his head against his right hand. "Get in so Hoopa can take you to Aeon Town and go back to chowing down on donuts."

    "Fine. But don't tell anyone what you heard," Espy said, stepping toward the ring portal. Silvally glanced away. His eyes flashed gold. The back of his neck tingled.

    "Um, actually… is there any chance you could drop me off at the Nocturnus Catacombs?" Silvally said.

    Espy paused and looked over her shoulder. "Silv?"

    "Um, I guess you could say you've sorta inspired me to try something," Silvally said, offering a shaky grin. "A reconciliation of my own, if you would."

    "Then I'm going with you." Espy stepped to his side again.

    "A-Are you sure? You don't—"

    "Moral support." She wrapped her tail around his foreleg. Now Silvally's fire memories weren't just on, his red parts were glowing.

    "O-Okay. Sorry, Hoopa."

    "Eh. That makes it easier for Hoopa." He waved his hand. A shimmer raced across the ring portal, then it expanded. Espy and Silvally walked into it side by side.

    XxX

    ~Nocturnus Catacombs~

    Guilt bubbled up in Silvally's gut the moment he saw Espy's tail droop. He knew she was remembering the cave-in they'd experienced previously. Silvally wanted to offer to bring her up to the surface, but this wasn't a Mystery Dungeon anymore. As far as he knew, the only way out was to hike all the way back out.

    "Are you sure you're up for this?" he said.

    "I'm okay." She stuck close to him. "It's… I want to support you."

    "And I appreciate that. But not if it's going to make you upset like this," Silvally said. He shifted to a steel-type, as if he could somehow shield her from the bad memories.

    "I'm fine." Espy took a shaky breath. "I can do this." She nodded at him.

    They proceeded the rest of the way along the tunnel in silence. The circular tunnel soon expanded outward into a large dome. Silvally's eyes widened. "What the— where's the lab? This is definitely the right tunnel." He looked around in confusion, but all he found was rock outcroppings interspersed between two small ponds.

    "Maybe Shane got rid of it when he fixed the world up?" Espy said, staring at the pond on her right. The water rippled. "I think someone's in the water. Or, rather, several someones." Her forehead gem flashed.

    Silvally stepped in front of her. A mix of pink and black spread down his body. His cheek bolts rotated. It was time to speak with the horde.

    "I know you guys are out there. Stop hiding. I just want to talk… that's all."

    The pond rippled faster. An Unown-Y and Unown-? popped up, huddling together nervously.

    "Not just you guys. Everyone else, too. I can sense them." The pink expanded in Silvally's head crest. When neither Unown moved, Silvally sigh. "Look, what can I do to convince you guys I don't mean any harm?"

    The two Unown drifted back, replaced by an Unown-S, Unown-I, and Unown-T.

    "Something tells me this is how they're choosing to 'talk' with you," Espy said, head tilted.

    "Okay." Silvally sat on his haunches, then slid onto his belly. He let his talons dip in the pond. Flames ignited inside of him when the water turned out to be far colder than he could've expected. Red spots popped up in his energy blades. The Unown stared at each other, then looked up at the ceiling. Silvally followed their gazes and saw at least a hundred eyes staring back at him. So, it wasn't the full horde, but there was still plenty of them.

    "Look. I know I said I wasn't going to come back here and bother you guys… but after the battle with Necrozma, I couldn't help but think about you all," Silvally said. "You, um, did see the battle, right?"

    Unown-S rose higher into the air. An Unown-Y and an Unown-E joined it. Silvally resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He'd rather try to eat a nearby rock than talk this way. Silvally glanced at Espy, who looked at him in concern. He took a deep breath.

    "Guys, I'm sorry that Necrozma hurt more of you. And I'm doubly sorry about what happened last time I was here. But I did what I needed to do to keep my friends safe," Silvally said, staring at his talons. Even if Unown were individually weak, a hundred eyes on him at once was too much to take. "I came here… because I was hoping that, at the very least, I could try to square things up with you all.

    "But, I guess, now that I'm sitting here, I don't actually know what that really means." He stared at his own reflection. "I've had a lot of doubts about whether I really deserve to exist or not. But in the time after I blew up — when Necrozma had me under his control and I had to hurt Espy — I realized just how much I love being with my friends and being part of Team Radiance.

    "I don't want to disappear or disassemble or anything like that. I want to be able to live out my life… as Silvally. Even if I have all these conflicting memories from my spirits… and even if my body was made from a lot of you guys," Silvally continued. He finally stomached the courage to look up at the Unown horde. They'd bunched up together yet, strangely, he didn't see any signs of their reality-warping powers. Had Shane undone those, too?

    "None of that is anything I, as Silvally, had control over. I made that perfectly clear last time, but the difference is I've accepted my creation for what it is," he said. A golden shimmer rippled through his eyes. Warmth spread through his chest as he glanced at Espy again. "Again, I'm sorry about what happened to your brothers and sisters. Their sacrifices weren't in vain, though. If I hadn't been able to help my friends, who knows if Necrozma would've been stopped."

    Silvally got to his feet. Water trickled down his chitin. The Unown stared him down silently. He sighed. "You know, I'd be willing to accept you all as a family of sorts. I'm… not sure what we'd do together, but if that's a way for you to feel like you've gotten back the members of your horde that you lost… I can try to make it work."

    He stood there, waiting for a response, but nothing happened. Silvally lowered his head. At least he managed to say his part. After all, he really wasn't sure what, if any, closure he could get with them. This was better than nothing. In the end, he was glad he came here.

    "W-Wait!"

    An Unown-W floated into Silvally's path. "U-Um. I'd… I'd like it if you visited again."

    Silvally's head crest fanned out. Espy's tail stuck up in surprise. They both heard faint whispers from the ceiling, likely the Unown trying to decide if they should intervene. Silvally crouched low to the ground in an attempt at looking decile. "I'd be happy to visit. I could even bring some stuff from Aeon Town for you guys to see, if you'd like."

    "Stuff?" Unown-W flipped upside down. "Yeah! Stuff! I wanna see stuff!" It bounced around happily.

    This sent a ripple effect up toward the ceiling. Soon, dozens of Unown were twirling, singing "Stuff! Stuff!" amongst themselves.

    "This is… not how I was expecting my day to turn out," Espy mused, watching the sight with a smirk. "You always have a way to surprise me, Silv."

    "I can't say I planned this," Silvally said as Unown-W rejoined the horde. "Uh, okay, then I'll try dropping by next week. How's that?"

    The same Unown-Y, Unown-E, and Unown-S from earlier swooped down, orbiting around one another. "Okay. One question, though. My partner and I walked all the way here from the surface. Do you know if there's a quick way to get back to Glyphic Falls?"

    The three Unown hovered to Silvally's left. He followed them and noticed a sparkling light pillar in the corner of the room. He titled his head. "Is this… a waypoint? We shouldn't have those anymore, should we?"

    "Maybe Shane left them in?" Espy said. "I'd rather try it than hoof it all the way back through the cave. C'mon." She hopped into the waypoint. Silvally nodded at the Unown, then followed behind her.

    XxX

    ~Aeon Town~

    "Okay. In truth… maybe going into the Catacombs in the dead of night was not our smartest decision," Espy said, yawning after a close call where she almost fell in the fountain.

    "I did offer to let you go back to the Observatory," Silvally said, dark memories activated. They both helped him see and gave him a jolt of energy to make it back home before turning in for the night.

    "And I refused that offer," Espy said, brushing against Silvally's side. A twinge of red popped up on his tail.

    "R-Right, well—"

    "There you two are! I've been looking everywhere for you!"

    Pink splotches popped up in Silvally's head crest. He spun around and jumped back as Lunala swooped down with a bleary-eyed Tessa sitting on her back.

    "Is something wrong?" Espy said. She looked to Tessa, who could only offer a half-asleep shrug.

    "Yes. I, uh… I think so, anyway," Lunala said, frowning.

    "What could be such a big problem that you have to come looking for us in the middle of the night?" Silvally wondered. He doubted he would like the answer, but if there was even the slightest chance this was overblown, he'd want to know.

    Lunala hovered close to them. Then, third eye lighting up, she said. "I found an open rift just outside the stratosphere. And it's slowly sucking energy away from the planet."

    XxX
    Yes, I know, shortest chapter this fic's had in a long time. But this felt like a natural breaking point given what's to follow. Nonetheless, I still hope you enjoyed this!

    Next time: a fateful reunion. Four chapters remain.
     
    git-it likes this.
  19. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Beta read by Namohysip.

    XxX

    Chapter 103: Into the Nexus
    Tessa clung to Lunala's back as she flew higher into the sky. She and Espy were wedged on either side of Silvally. Each had a limb looped under his forelegs. Like with the battle against Necrozma, Lunala had a psychic bubble to shield them from the thinning atmosphere.

    "So, you think Necrozma's old prison is to blame for this?" Espy said, focusing on her forepaws rather than the gradually-darkening sky.

    "I do. It's possible that Shane inadvertently opened this rift between our world and the Ultra Nexus. I tried to get through the rift myself, but it repelled me. Perhaps certain Pokémon can't safely cross it. Hence, I turned to you three," Lunala said, flapping her wings.

    "Couldn't you just shut it?" Silvally asked.

    "I tried. Didn't work." Lunala's answer betrayed her annoyance at Silvally asking her something that seemed so blatantly obvious.

    "Ah…" Silvally shifted uneasily on her back. "And what about the Ultra Nexus is worrying you, exactly?"

    "Well, from what I can remember of Necrozma's memories… there was nothing there. It was a vacuum," Lunala said. "And when a vacuum is opened up and exposed to, well, something else… it's going to start drawing things in. In this case, it's energy. But since our world was rebuilt with light energy, if we let the Ultra Nexus continue siphoning away, sooner or later the planet could start breaking apart."

    Tessa's aura feelers shot up. "Y-Yeah. That's something I think we'd like to prevent." She wished her aura powers had fully recovered. Even if the Ultra Nexus was supposedly empty, there was no guarantee it'd stay that way. With the team's past luck, she had to be ready for a nasty surprise or two.

    "Where do we come in, then? If you can't close the rift, what makes you think we'll be able to?" Espy wondered. She glanced to her right and noted the last of the sky's light blue had faded. Stars twinkled off in the distance.

    "I'm hoping that, perhaps, there's something on the other side that's causing it. Something you can bring back to me. Then I could destroy it," Lunala said.

    "Wouldn't it make more sense to destroy it on the spot?" Tessa asked, an eyebrow raised.

    "It's not a risk I'm willing to let you take. If you do that, you could trap yourselves in the Ultra Nexus," Lunala said, tone grim. Espy tensed up and tried to shift closer to Silvally.

    "Th-Then what makes you think it's safe for us to go in?" Espy squeaked. Tessa bit her lip. That was a good point.

    "I've been studying the rift for the past several hours. It seems quite… stable," Lunala replied.

    "Well, I appreciate the sentiment, but it's hard to just take your word for something like that," Silvally said. Tessa wondered if he was worried about what lay on the other side. His new scarf had a Lunar Wing sewn into it, so shouldn't all his spirits be under control?

    "I understand. I'm sorry I can't give you three much more to go on," Lunala said.

    "Why not bring other people along… like Team Paradox?" Tessa said. "Y'know, strength in numbers and all that jazz."

    Lunala slowed her ascent. "They've been busy tending to the fallers they've discovered. I didn't think it appropriate. Besides, we're here now. It'd be a waste of time to turn back."

    'Easy for you to say. You wouldn't be the one going in,' Tessa thought, following Lunala's gaze. Sure enough, there was a oval-shaped ripple in front of them, distorting space and drawing in rainbow-colored streams. When Tessa looked closer, she realized the energy was coming from the blue sky below her. Which meant Lunala was right.

    "Okay. I guess we're going in, then," Tessa said. "You said you had supplies, right?"

    A stuffed satchel hovered around Lunala and onto Tessa's shoulder. "Wow. This is, um… how much is in here?"

    "A couple of dozen berries, a handful of elixirs, and several reviver seeds," Lunala said. "Braviary had left them lying around."

    Tessa patted the satchel. "All right. Then let's—"

    The rift flashed white. Lunala shielded her face with a wing. "What was that?" Her third eye appeared. Before she could channel her ESP, however, the rift flashed a second time. A white shimmer surrounded Tessa.

    "H-Hey! What's the big ide— eyah!" The white aura hoisted Tessa into the air, satchel and all. Her teammates cried out in surprise when they were pulled up along with her.

    "Hang on you three! I'll try to stop it," Lunala said, wings glowing as she prepared a Moongeist Beam. Tessa tried to reach her paw out toward Lunala, but the rift grew closer and closer. She saw the Moongeist Beam racing toward her seconds before her world went white.

    XxX

    ~Ultra Nexus~

    "Silv? Wake up! C'mon, Silv…"

    The shoves against Silvally's side barely registered for him thanks to the thick scales under his fur. But hearing Espy's voice made his head snap up to meet her relieved expression. "Oh, thank goodness." She leaned over to nuzzle the side of his beak. Warmth spread through him alongside a red glow. "You're not hurt, are you?"

    "Nope. But I am confused?" Silvally got to his feet. "Where are we?"

    To his right, large crystals jutted out of the ground. Their composition instantly brought Necrozma to mind. He tensed, digging his talons into the yellow, ethereal path. Silvally looked up at the blue, cosmic expanse overhead. "Does this kinda look like Ultra Space? Those checkerboard patterns in the distance bring Ultra Wormholes to mind."

    Silvally tucked his head in. His white feathers bristled. Espy stepped toward him, her tail by his foreleg and her head by his hip. She stared out at luminescent bubbles and yellow platforms encasing dark blue energy in the distance. "Yeah, it kind of does. It's, um… to be honest, it's quite the view. But I find it… unsettling."

    "You're not alone, there," Silvally whispered. His head pounded. "Nnngh… feels like an electric-type is using Nuzzle on my forehead." Silvally stumbled forward. Splotches of yellow pushed the red color of his fire memories away.

    "Silv? You're okay, Silv." Espy turned around. "There aren't any ley lines here… I think." She looked up to see a cylindrical crystal passing overhead. A distorted ripple followed behind it.

    "T… Tessa. Where's Tessa?" Silvally said. The scenery change had caught him so off guard he'd almost forgotten about her.

    "I don't know. The rift might've separated us. She doesn't seem to be anywhere around here, that's for sure. So, I think we have to get going," Espy said, scanning the sky. Two more distorted ripples raced overhead in succession.

    "But which way?" Silvally still had his head tucked in. Even though there was air, he struggled to breathe. One second, his face was hot. The next it was freezing. Then a spark ran down his back and his forelegs felt like they'd been dunked in a mud puddle. He shook his head and blinked his eyes rapidly.

    "Forward," Espy said. "There are some strange ripples in the air. They're coming from ahead of us. Maybe if we follow them, we'll find the source of the rift?"

    Silvally nodded, hoping he could handle the suggestion. He tried to take the lead, but every step made his forelegs tense up. What was wrong with him? Silvally jerked his head to the right, but the blueness of the Ultra Nexus faded and blue, sparkling water took its place. A Goodra sat on the edge of a pond, splashing her legs against the water.

    It's nice to have a quiet moment, isn't it?

    "Yeah… quiet's nice," Silvally said.

    "Huh? What do you mean?"

    Silvally tripped over a crystal shard and hopped around until he regained his balance. "I, uh… well, it's kind of quiet here, don't you think?"

    Espy's ears twitched. "I suppose so. But do you hear thumping in the distance?"

    "Do I?" Silvally leaned forward. It was faint, sure, but his sonar-like ears picked up a lub-dup far in the distance. After a few seconds, his vision blurred. Instead of open air, soft, glass-like feathers rubbed up against his face and belly. A slight tap on his chest accompanied every lub-dup he heard.

    Wow, Zek, I really got you going, huh?

    "Who's Zek?" Silvally said, only to blink rapidly and look around in confusion as he returned to the Ultra Nexus. He found Espy staring at him, eyes filled with concern. "I, uh… I meant to say, I heard the thumping. It kind of sounded like… a heartbeat?"

    "Which triggered one of your memories?" Espy asked, looking away. She turned and resumed walking, ears drooping. "Silv, there's something you're not telling me, isn't there?"

    Silvally walked behind her, cheek-bolts getting warmer. The view of her hips swaying side to side kept flickering out, replaced by a Goodra walking along a rocky trail. His cheek bolts clicked and he squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn't bring himself to answer.

    "Okay, let me rephrase, I know there's something wrong. First it was the golden glow in your eyes back when I, uh, walked in on you in the shower," Espy said, tail crinkling. "But now… you've got different colors swirling together in your tail and those head blades of yours."

    Silvally froze. What could he say to that? He was caught red-handed. Or, rather, red-tailed. He nudged his scarf. "I'm sorry, Espy. I honestly thought this was a fluke, but it seems like I don't have as much control over my spirits as I used to. Their memories keep popping up. The type-mixing… that I'm not sure about."

    "Is there nothing you can do about it? I mean… the last time you combined types…" Espy's voice trailed off. She sighed and bowed her head. "Silv, I think we ought to talk about, y'know, what happened on Celestial Island."

    He looked up. For a moment, a Zekrom stared back at him, hands on her hips. That image faded away and Silvally trotted toward Espy. "You want to do that here? Now?"

    "I don't see why not. We've been walking for a little while already and nothing's attacked us," Espy said, looking up. "If this is the Ultra Nexus, then it's supposed to be empty, right?"

    "I guess…" Silvally's head crest drooped. He had wanted to wait for the right moment so he could gather his thoughts properly. Right now, they were completely jumbled. "I, uh… well, I suppose we could talk." It did beat walking in silence, after all. "But, um… I haven't really thought about what to say. I was… a bit surprised to hear you tell me you love me. I just, y'know, couldn't properly react in the moment."

    "What about you?" Espy said, tapping the ends of her tails together. Silvally noticed her constantly swishing the tail to her right, like she didn't want it to touch him unless he gave a certain reply.

    Silvally clicked his tongue, wracking his brain for what to say. "I, um…" The heartbeats were getting louder… or was that actually his core acting like a heart? Or maybe another a memory?

    "I can understand if you're worried about what a relationship between us might look like," Espy went on, opting to curl her tail around her leg. "After all, I was a bit, shall we say, thirsty when we first met." She cleared her throat. "But between our talk in Cosmic Cavern and, well, everything that happened in Sunset Shoals… I found myself thinking differently."

    "In what way?"

    "I wondered if… maybe a relationship doesn't have to revolve around mating," Espy said, picking up her pace to hide the flush in her cheeks. Silvally followed her, even as another silhouette of the Goodra from earlier walked in lock-step with Espy. "After our, uh, impromptu breakfast in Circadian Coast, I sorta… kinda reached a conclusion that I just really like spending time with you."

    "Really? You got that from a couple of difficult conversations?" Silvally tilted his head.

    "I did, yes. It's hard to explain, but there's a charm in the way you carry yourself. Cheerful. Upbeat. Not afraid of being silly despite your appearance." Espy brushed her side against one of the crystals. "What can I say? I like— no, love that about you. You're interesting, y'know?"

    "That's… one way of putting it, I suppose," Silvally said. That last line echoed in his head. The silhouette of Goodra shifted to a Latios floating over Espy. He blinked rapidly until the silhouette vanished. "I— hmm…" His brow furrowed. There were things he wanted to say, but his attempts at piecing his thoughts together kept failing.

    "What's on your mind? C'mon, you can tell me. I can take it."

    He looked into her soft, blue eyes. "Espy, I…" Silvally shook his head, trying to dispel the Goodra and Zekrom images flickering in his mind. A large chunk of black crystal flew overhead and Silvally quickened his pace. Espy followed him, her face ripe with concern.

    "Are the spirits really bothering you that bad? What can I do to help?" she asked.

    "No, it's not that. I'm struggling to figure out what I want to say." Silvally took a calming breath. This shouldn't have been so hard for him. He'd spoken with Espy at length without other memories acting up. Silvally told himself to focus. He glanced at Espy. A small smile formed on his beak.

    "I really like spending time with you, too. I mean, I like spending time with everyone on the team, but I think what we have is… different than my bonds with Shane and Tessa," he said. Espy's ears stuck up.

    "I agree." She paused, then bit her lower lip. "Err, I mean… I think our connection is different, too. Aha ha… ha…"

    "Yeah. I've always had the sense that Tessa views me as an older brother of sorts. Shane, too, for that matter." Silvally sidestepped a rather large crystal and glanced at his distorted reflection. "Even once we got Gallian on our side, I still think Tessa saw me as an extension of her family. She and Shane definitely looked up to me… as a source of strength and guidance." He turned to Espy. "But with you… it's different.

    "I'm sure it has something to do with when we spoke in Cosmic Cavern… but that breakfast we shared in Circadian Coast solidified things for me," Silvally said. "It's like… hmm, how should I put it?" His cheek bolts slowly rotated. "You ground me. You help to remind me that, even with the powers I have, I'm not perfect… but I don't have to be." He padded along the luminescent ground, gazing at the starry expanse in the distance. "I think when it comes to Shane and Tessa, I've tried to be a bedrock. To not let any faults show through so that I can help them overcome their challenges.

    Espy nodded along, but stayed silent. Silvally didn't notice. He kept talking. "When I'm around you, I'm not afraid to let my vulnerabilities show through. I don't have to worry about making you nervous or upset… because you think of me as just another Pokémon."

    "That's a good thing… right?" Espy said, tail crinkling.

    "Yes. It's a good thing." Silvally stepped closer to her. "I don't want people to only see me as this almighty God Killer that helped bring down Necrozma. I want people to see me as someone they can turn to for help… even if I can't actually help them." He nudged Espy's side. Her forehead gem flickered, leading light to bounce off the crystals ahead of them. "Now that I've had time to sit on it, I agree with what you said to me in Cosmic Cavern. I can't help everyone. But that's okay." Silvally smiled at her. "At the end of the day, I'll be happy knowing I gave it my all."

    The path sloped downward toward a wall of distorted energy. There were no more crystals flanking the pathway. "Uh oh. Did we hit a dead end?" Silvally wondered.

    "I'm not sure." Espy's forehead gem flickered. "That energy… it's weird, but it also feels similar to a dungeon entrance." She looked down. "Maybe that means we can walk through it and it will take us somewhere else?"

    "True. But do we want to go somewhere else?" Silvally said, staring down the energy wall. Red and purple bolts crackled through it. His feathers and fur stood on end.

    "We never saw any sign of Tessa here, so I don't think waiting here will help," Espy said.

    She had a point, but something about the instability with Silvally's spirits turned what should've been a no-brainer into something that made him hesitate. He puffed out his fur and revved his cheek bolts up. "Yeah, we've got to press onward." Silvally glanced at Espy. "But, uh, let's do it together, okay? Like, at the same time?"

    Espy smiled. "Of course." She approached the wall with Silvally in two. They both looked closely at it. There was definitely some sort of ground on the other side of it, but the energy was too distorted to see it clearly. "On three, okay?" Espy said. Silvally nodded. "One, two, three."

    They stepped through the energy wall in unison. A strange tingle ran down to Silvally's tail. His ground memories popped up, along with a flicker of the same Goodra from before wading through mud, brushing some off her sapphire spots.

    "You hanging in there, Silv?"

    Silvally snapped to attention. "Y-Yeah! All good." He took a few steps forward. "It's much darker here."

    "Yeah. And is that a second path up on the ceiling?" Espy said, head tilted up. Silvally followed her gaze and found a mirror image of the yellow, glowing path they were on, crystals and all. The only difference was the strange, black and red cords weaving between the crystals on the ceiling. Silvally tensed up.

    "Don't those cords remind you of what we saw inside Necrozma?" He gulped. That was not a memory he wanted to revisit.

    "Err. N-Now that you mention it, they do," Espy whispered. She reflexively brushed her side against his. Silvally sucked in a breath. Espy's eyes widened. "Ah, s-sorry, Silv. I didn't—"

    "It's fine. My spirits are kinda… mucking things up, that's all," he said. "I, um…" Silvally's voice trailed off. He leaned over and descended into a coughing fit. Something was caught in his throat, but that couldn't be right. He hadn't had anything to eat or drink in hours and his stomach wasn't upset. Yet, he kept coughing, like there was something he was trying to expel.

    "S-Silv? Is everything… okay?" Espy squeaked.

    "N… no…" Of course he wasn't going to lie. Silvally thought he was about to hack up his stomach… whatever it looked like on the inside, anyway.

    "What can I do to help?"

    "St… and… back…" Silvally staggered forward. His chest burned. His throat… something was clawing at his throat from the inside. He wanted out of this nightmare. Silvally hunched over. Golden light flared up in his cheek bolts. With one last, forceful cough, the cheek bolts tilted open slightly.

    "Ugh, come on! Will you two stop beading around the bush and smooch already?"

    Silvally's head snapped up. "What the—" He looked at Espy. "Did you hear that?"

    "I… I did…" Espy stepped back. "S-Silv… your cheeks. There's… there's silver mist coming out of them!"

    "What?!" Silvally's head crest fanned out in alarm. He tilted his head left and right. The silver fog drifted away, then condensed right in front of him. Silvally's jaw dropped. "Wait a second… you're the Zekrom and Latios I keep seeing in my memories! What is going on here?"

    The mist gained shades of blue, white, and black. Zekrom crossed her arms, her tail turbine crackling with ethereal light. She and Latios looked around. "Huh. Guess you were right. We're not in the Tree of Life anymore," Zekrom said, scratching her head.

    Espy was as white as a sheet. Her eyes darted back and forth between Silvally and the newcomers. "Um, am I missing something?"

    "Yes! Obviously," Zekrom huffed, rolling her eyes. Her voice had a slight echo to it. "You two clearly love each other. Stop pussyfooting and say you want to be mates already. It is so aggravating listening to you two tiptoe around the issue from inside, uh…" Her voice trailed off. She stared Silvally down. "Come to think of it, the hell are you supposed to be?"

    "I'm Silvally. Why are you— how are you even here?" Curiosity got the better of Silvally and he tried to poke Zekrom with a talon. She swatted his foreleg away.

    "Excuse you. Keep your claws to yourself. Save 'em for your little squeeze." Zekrom jerked her head in a stunned Espy's direction.

    "I… I felt that." Silvally looked down at his foreleg. This spirit… was tangible? How was that possible? What was going on here? He glanced at his reflection and saw the gold color in his eyes and energy blades. The closer he looked, the more he thought of Void Necrozma's glimmering form. He clawed at the ground. "N… Necrozma. It… it had to have been… when he put me back together. I—"

    A gold flash consumed Silvally. He coughed loudly once again. Espy tried to step toward him, but his cheek bolts released more silver fog that drifted over to Zekrom and Latios. "See? It's just like I told you… that flash of light back in the tree meant something!" a loud, male voice growled.

    Espy's ears twitched. "Hang on… I think I recognize that voice." Her brow furrowed. "It's the leader of those dragons that Metagross blasted. The big, burly guy with the thick scales!"

    Silvally's eyes widened but, sure enough, when the fog settled, he was looking at Totem Kommo-o, standing beside the same Goodra with sapphire spots from all the flashbacks. If Silvally had lips, they'd be trembling. Instead, all he could do was stare slack-jawed. "This is… this doesn't make any sense. Why are you here?"

    Totem Kommo-o turned to Silvally and raised a brow. "Ah, yes. I think I remember you two. You tried to come to our rescue on the beach." He raised his arms and looked at them, sighing. "Unfortunately, it didn't seem to do any good."

    "That's not true. Shane revived the dragons that Metagross killed, but you were the lone exception," Espy said, frowning. "I guess this must be the reason why?"

    Silvally's chest tightened. Totem Kommo-o was tied to him? No, this had to be some sort of mistake. What about Hakamo-o and the other dragons? How would he ever be able to face any of them? Silvally's eyes darted around. He wanted this all to stop. "You… mentioned something about a flash of light and a tree?" Silvally rasped.

    "Yes. I was in the process of reuniting with my mate in the Tree of Life when it happened." Totem Kommo-o reached an arm out and gently clasped Goodra's cheek. She shoved him back.

    "Not the time," she said, shaking her head.

    Sighing, Totem Kommo-o crossed his arms. "We were… talking—"

    "Arguing."

    "… bah, fine. We were arguing about our eldest son when a huge burst of light flared up within the spirit realm alongside a distorted voice," Totem Kommo-o explained, frowning after his mate corrected him. "After that… we found ourselves inside a room made of crystal. We soon encountered these two, then we ended up out here." He gestured to Latios and Zekrom.

    Silvally hung his head. "Then Necrozma must've pulled your spirits out of the Tree of Life… and crammed them into me. Except I don't have proper control over you guys. At least, that's what it seems like."

    Zekrom's bemused expression faltered. "Necrozma?" She looked at Latios. "Does he mean—"

    Latios nodded. "Light."

    "Oh." Zekrom's form flickered. "I guess… you're our new spirit realm, then."

    "What? No, that can't be right. Just go back to the Tree of Life," Silvally said. Sure, he'd accepted that he was a spiritual amalgamate, but that didn't mean he wanted spirits bursting out of him whenever they felt like it.

    "It doesn't work that way," Latios said, ears drooping. "Spirits need to stay close to where they're located or they risk burning away. If we wander too far from you… we could disappear." He snapped his claws.

    "Th… then I'll put you back into the Tree of Life when we're done here," Silvally said, reflexively curling and uncurling his talons.

    "A generous offer, but one I don't think will work," Zekrom said, arms crossed and head bowed. "Necrozma did this on purpose. I wouldn't expect him to let you reverse it so easily."

    "But why did he do it? Why you, specifically?" Silvally said. He'd take any answers he could get.

    "Because we used to be his friends," Zekrom whispered. She rubbed the back of her head. "We didn't stand up for him when Arceus acted suspicious. Because of us… he lost his light. You know the rest." Her form started to fade even further. "Tch. Looks like I can't stay out here much longer."

    "Yes, it's best we return… less we risk burning ourselves out," Goodra said.

    "But before we do go…" Zekrom stomped up to Espy and Silvally. She tried to grab their heads, but her arms phased right through them. Espy's face paled. Zekrom pulled her arms back. "Okay, guess that option's off the table. In any case," she cleared her throat, "you two love each other. There's no denying it. So, quit messing around and prove it. Say you'll try dating. Kiss. I don't care. Just do something. One of you needs to make a move."

    Espy was bright red and Silvally's fire memories fought to intersperse red blotches with his golden glow. "I, well… that's…" Silvally tapped his claws together. "You really think we're going to do something like that with you watching?"

    "Okay, fine. We'll go away. But if you wuss out, I'm gonna pop back up until you grow a backbone," Zekrom said, pointing a claw at Silvally. "We clear?"

    "Uh, sure." This whole situation was so strange, Silvally had practically forgotten he was in some kind of Ultra Space replica.

    "Good. Don't let me down… whatever you are," Zekrom said. She winked at him before contracted into a golden ball. The other dragons did much the same and flittered back to Silvally's cheek bolts. They disappeared back inside of him.

    "Well, that was… something," Espy said, staring at the spot where the spirits had stood.

    "Um, Espy, are you…" Silvally looked away. "Hey, if you're reconsidering the stuff you said in light of all of this, I won't blame—"

    Espy hopped onto her hind legs and pressed her muzzle to the side of Silvally's beak. She pulled away before his fire-typing made his metal parts uncomfortably warm. "It's like you said before. I'm not expecting you to be perfect. This is… an interesting development, yeah. But it gives you something to work on. And it gives me something to try and help you with." She slowly ran her forepaw down Silvally's neck. He shuddered.

    "B… but what about, y'know, my background? If… if we stay together… I'm not sure I could help you make an egg. And you'd… you'll end up passing away at some point, but I probably won't," Silvally said. It was something that had been in the back of his mind, but seeing the spirits pop up like that meant he couldn't ignore the issue.

    To his surprise, Espy wound her tail around his foreleg, brushing against his fur and scales. "It's okay. I told you… we don't need kids to define our relationship. As long as I get to spend time with you… I'll be happy. I'm sure of it."

    Silvally blinked. Now his water memories were trying to activate. His eyes flickered between red and blue. Tears formed, then quickly evaporated. "E… Espy. That's… that's big of you," he whispered.

    "You're worth it," Espy said, nuzzling his beak. "I still love you. And I don't see that changing."

    Silvally finally reciprocated the embrace and licked Espy's cheek. "I love you, too," he whispered. "We'll make this work, together."

    Slow clapping forced the two to break the tender moment. Espy dropped back to all-fours. "What was that?" She looked around, only for Silvally to jump in front of her. Brown and salmon spread across his eyes and tails.

    "Dragonite," he growled, cheek bolts shimmering. "What do you want, huh? You look like you can barely stand!"

    Espy poked her head out from behind Silvally. At the other end of the path, Dragonite was slumped against one of the larger crystals. Her scales had blackened. Heck, there were patches of scales missing entirely, replaced instead by crystals poking out of her body like large thorns. Dragonite struggled to stagger toward them and had great difficulty ceasing her clapping gesture.

    "I wanted to congratulate the happy couple," Dragonite said, her voice uneven and cracking. She nearly fell to her right, but managed to brace herself against the crystal. "You two deserve a nice, sweet moment… before I take your light." She thrust her right arm out. A lightning javelin materialized. It burnt away the scales on her hand, but she didn't care. With a feral snarl, she lunged for Silvally.

    XxX
    Continued in next post.
     
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  20. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Continued from previous post.

    XxX
    Tessa trudged down the zigzagging path, stopping occasionally to brace herself against a crystal and doing her best not to look up at the upside-down path overhead. 'Then again… what if I'm actually on the upside-down path?' She wasn't even sure why she was mulling that thought over. Perhaps to keep herself from slipping into an angry tirade. After all, she once again got separated from her teammates in some sort of twisted, Ultra Space-related world. It was practically a punchline. A cruel punchline, but a punchline nevertheless.

    She wished she at least had a clue where they were, though. Tessa had no sense of how time was flowing here. Luckily, crystal chunks and glowing particles had floated past her, so at least this place wasn't paralyzed. Tessa figured that leant credibility to Lunala's theory that the Ultra Nexus was sucking energy out of the planet. Time was flowing. It had actual landmasses, as weird as they were. And she could breathe here, so it must've sucked up some of the atmosphere, too.

    'Which means we have to find a way to destroy whatever's causing this. Hopefully that will return all the energy it's siphoned off.'

    If there was one thing Tessa found odd, it was the lack of anything threatening. Were it not for the color scheme bringing up memories of Necrozma and the corrupted version of Celestial Island, she'd daresay that it looked peaceful. And given she was tired enough already, her pace lacked the frantic urgency it had back in the Prism Wastelands. All Tessa really wanted to do was slump down against a crystal and watch the weird, starry expanse.

    At least, she felt that way until her ears twitched. Tessa stood up straight and listened closely. Was that… groaning? After a few seconds, Tessa confirmed that, yes, she heard a lady muttering something. But it wasn't any voice she was familiar with. Which meant the team wasn't alone. Tessa raised her paws up, ready to strike in case this was some sort of trap.

    The voice got louder the more crystals Tessa wove her way around. Eventually, she found a stretch of open path. There, lying in a puddle of familiar orange ooze, was a Salazzle. Tessa's nostrils burned at the stench. It was exactly like Void Necrozma's insides. Tessa crept forward, trying to get a better look at Salazzle. She seemed normal… until Tessa saw the familiar, star-shaped mark on her belly.

    She sucked in a breath, forcing herself to stay calm. However, this proved loud enough to get Salazzle to pick her head up. She stared at Tessa, who couldn't get a solid read on her expression. Her aura swirled with a mix of panic, annoyance, and hopelessness. "U… um, hello there." Tessa waved a paw. "Are you okay?"

    Her ears and aura feelers crinkled when Salazzle responded with an unhinged laugh. "Oh-ho, great. Wonderful. Fan-freaking-tastic! As if this fever dream wasn't stupid enough, already. Now there's a big-ass, blue, talking dog." Salazzle's hands fell by her sides with a splat. She then smacked her head, repeatedly, shouting, "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!" Salazzle kicked at the air with her legs.

    "H-Hey! Cut it out! You're not dreaming." Tessa hesitated to approach Salazzle. She had no desire to get reacquainted with that godawful slime. "I'm, um, part of the group that's here to rescue you," she said.

    "Excuse me? You… rescue me? Yeah, sure… and, while you're at it, I bet you're gonna take me back to your magical dream palace so I can pet your unicorns and drink from your rainbow-sugar fountain," Salazzle sneered, flicking a hand dismissively. "I think I know a dream when I see one, mutt."

    Perhaps it was her already-thin patience, but Tessa had her lips drawn back in a snarl before Salazzle even finished speaking. "Look, miss, I'm trying to help you. It's dangerous here. I can't let you stay. You could get yourself killed."

    "Wrong. Dying in a dream is how you wake up," Salazzle said. "I don't care if you need my help fighting off some evil nightmare wizard or whatever… you can shove off. None of this is real. It's all a stress-induced hallucination because I've got finals starting in a couple of days and I've been studying my ass off." She looked back at her rear and pointed to it. "Why else would I have an ass like this, huh? It's symbolic or something." Salazzle shrugged. "Soon enough, I'll be back in bed, staring at my alarm clock and silently willing it to be Christmas break so I can go home and lounge around binging Netflix shows."

    Tessa was seconds from shooting off a Flash Cannon out of pure frustration when her aura feelers shot up. Finals? Christmas? Netflix? What was this crazy Salazzle talking about? Had the Nexus poisoned her? Was she losing her marbles like Necrozma did? Tessa lowered her paw, her eyes slowly widening.

    'Wait… didn't Necrozma mention trapping a Salazzle that he and Shane knew in the Ultra Nexus?' Tessa looked around. If this was the Ultra Nexus, then this was the person in question. Oh, but what was the name Necrozma had used for her? 'C'mon, Tessa. Think!'

    Her eyes widened. "Um, wait. Hold on. Are you… is your name Rebecca, by any chance?"

    Salazzle froze. Her shock wore off after a second, however. "Pfbt. Yeah, whatever. Of course you'd know my name, Fido. Lemme guess… I'm your chosen one or whatever?"

    "No. And my name's Tessa. Lucario Tessa." Her head throbbed. This scene was eerily familiar. She envisioned a small, damp ice Vulpix laying in the middle of a sandy beach. Tessa's heart ached, then she balled her paws into fists and fixed an icy glare on Rebecca. "Listen… I know this is going to be hard for you to believe, but you're not dreaming. You've been taken from your world, turned into a Pokémon, and placed her by a wicked demon called Necrozma."

    Rebecca sat up straight. "Pokémon? Like… like the game for kids and dweebs?" She threw her head back and laughed. "Who are you trying to fool, huh? That stuff's all make-believe and the most exposure I ever got to it was watching my ex-boyfriend play it with his idiot friend—"

    "Shane. And he's not an idiot. He is— err, was my best friend." Tessa had her fangs bared. What little aura she had flared up in her paws. If Rebecca opened her mouth and spewed one more insult, Tessa was sure she was gonna punch her right in that dumb star mark on her stomach.

    "Please. Of course you'd know about Shane. You're obviously my subconscious trying to guilt me into thinking about the car crash he got in," Rebecca scoffed, flicking her snout indignantly. "You can't pull a fast one on me. I took AP Psych back in high school. I know about this shit." She shook her head. "I couldn't give a lick about what happened to that weirdo. He had no life beyond all this dumb, kiddie stuff. If you were his friend in this stupid dreamland, then he obviously did something to piss you off. Because all he ever did was drag down people who associated with him."

    Tessa's eyes flickered with rainbow energy. In a blur of colors, she charged up to Rebecca and socked her right in the gut with a glowing palm. Rebecca arced her head back, launching a mouthful of spittle over Tessa's shoulder. Tiny bits of purple fluid dribbled out from her tail flaps. Tessa stepped back, mindful of Salazzle's ability to poison her despite her typing. Then, she bent over and hoisted Rebecca into the air, her eyes widening.

    "Don't you dare talk about him like that! Shane may not have been a very good human, but here… I owe my life to him. Everyone does. He sacrificed himself to bring our world back from the edge of oblivion and stopped Necrozma — or should I say Nicky? — from destroying every other world, too," Tessa snarled, eyes blazing with aura. "You are not dreaming. You're a Pokémon. You're in our world. This is real. And I have to get you out of here."

    Tessa dropped Rebecca onto her rear and wrung out her paws, trying to get rid of the slime. "Okay, so I wasn't exactly telling the truth when I said I'm here to rescue you. I'm here… to destroy this place. Because it poses a danger to our world. If you stay here, then you're going to get killed. So, we're leaving. Got it?" She waited for a response, but got nothing. Tessa looked at Rebecca, who stared at her hands with a blank expression on her face. "Hey. Come on. You can't sit around and go catatonic on me." Tessa waved her paw in front of Rebecca's face.

    "I… I…" Rebecca looked at the paw-shaped imprint on her slimy stomach. "That hurt. Like that really hurt. This… this can't be right. But that would mean…"

    "That you're not dreaming, yes. Shane had the exact same reaction… more or less," Tessa said, crossing her arms and tapping her foot.

    "N-No. This is impossible. I… have finals! I'm in college! I've got a family Christmas party! What about my presents? What about my friends?! I… I…" Rebecca put her hands on her head, tilted her head upward, and screamed at the top of her lungs. Tessa staggered backward, ears and aura feelers crinkling.

    "Quiet down! You and I are the only ones here."

    "Quiet down? Quiet down?! My life is ruined!" Rebecca stared down at her legs. "I don't want to be a slutty-looking lizard. I'm a human. None of this is right! I want out of Shane's wet dream!" Her breath came in short, sharp gasps. Rebecca tried to get to her feet, but immediately fell over on her side. She kicked and punched at the air, shouting "No!" repeatedly.

    Tessa watched the scene with equal mixtures of annoyance and guilt. She didn't want to deal with Rebecca right now, but at the same time she couldn't leave her behind. That wouldn't be right… even if she apparently held Shane (and Necrozma) in such low regard. Sighing, tried to settle her twitching aura feelers.

    "I can't imagine how this must feel for you, but we need to go. We can talk things over when you're someplace safe." She paused.

    "Hell no! I want answers. Like, how am I supposed to walk with such big-ass feet?" Rebecca lifted a leg. "Seriously, look at the size of these." Tessa tilted her head. Rebecca's eyes widened and she promptly crossed her legs. "H-Hey! If you're trying to sneak a peek at me or something, then stop it! You're a dog!" Rebecca looked around. "Where can I find some damn clothes? I don't care how ugly they are… I don't want to walk around with breasts hanging out like this." She crossed her arms over her chest.

    "Breasts?" Tessa rubbed the side of her head. "I'm not really sure what you mean, but I suppose I can answer your questions. After all, it's not like anything's trying to att—"

    "Hold still, you pile of Garbodor slime!"

    Electricity surged above the girls' heads. Rebecca screamed and curled up into a ball. Tessa looked overhead. Her aura feelers shot up. "S-Silvally? Espy? What are you— how are you— huh?!" Sure, the answer was probably Ultra Space, but even with all the weird stuff she'd seen, her friends running upside-down had to rank near the top of the list.

    Silvally skidded to a halt and looked down… or, rather, up. "Tessa? Why are you upside-down? Oh, never mind. We've got a problem. A Dragonite problem." He turned around and spat an Ice Beam behind Tessa. She followed the attack to find Dragonite staggering toward her teammates. Portions of her black scales had melted off, leaving blue, glowing gashes. The Ice Beam struck her, destroying more scales, but the continued limping forward, a deranged look in her eyes.

    "You… will give me… your light!"

    Dragonite hurled a lightning javelin, but Silvally jumped into it. A brown and salmon aura dissolved the attack away. "Stop it, Dragonite! You can barely stand on your own two legs. We don't want to fight. We want to help you… and take you home," Silvally said, cheek bolts whirring. "Please stand down!"

    "Help me? Aha ha ha… that's rich! You want me to power down… to be the quiet girl in the back of the room again." Dragonite stepped forward. Her left leg buckled and she dropped to one knee. "I won't… have it. I will be strong. Other people… can't make me stronger." Another lightning javelin materialized in her hand. "The only way… I can get stronger… is with light!" She clumsily hurled the spear as she collapsed on her belly. It sailed down toward Rebecca and Tessa. Rebecca screamed again while Tessa hopped back, yanked her up, and jumped away from the attack.

    "Ugh… put me down!" Rebecca hollered.

    "Not until it's safe here," Tessa growled.

    "Safe? Are you shitting me? Frankenstein's monster is fighting a zombie dragon. What the hell kind of messed up world do you live in?" Rebecca said, tail flaps twitching. "Pokémon's supposed to be all cute and cuddly, ain't it? All of Shane's dumbass stuffed animals were."

    "It's a long story. And keep your tail under control, please. You might not realize it, but you can emit very potent toxins and I don't want to be on the receiving end of them," Tessa said, walking backwards while keeping an eye on Dragonite and her friends.

    "I… I can?" Rebecca looked back at her rear. She frowned. "What… is that supposed to be symbolic for Nicky and Shane thinking I'm toxic or something? Those two— oof!" Her head bonked against a crystal. "Hey, watch where you're walking!"

    "I'm trying to keep you from getting impaled by a spear," Tessa said, her tone suggesting she'd actually done it on purpose.

    Above her head, Silvally lunged for Dragonite and dug his glowing, icy claws into her sides. Dragonite didn't scream. No pain spread across her face. Instead, she thrashed. Every squirm tore more scales off her body, to the point where Silvally couldn't stay on top of her. His forelegs phased right through her and his eyes widened.

    "What the heck? Dragonite… you're decaying in front of us. Don't you think you've gone far enough?" Silvally said. He found himself staring down a point-blank Dragon Pulse, but it fizzled out against a flare of golden light from his cheek bolts.

    "What are you waiting for? Finish her! She doesn't deserve mer—"

    Silvally's right cheek bolt hissed and a softer voice spoke up. "Don't listen to him. If she's your friend, you need to find a way to get through to her."

    Tessa's jaw dropped. Were those… Silvally's spirits? She swore she recognized one of those voices, too. Tessa wondered if maybe this was all a ridiculous dream. What she wouldn't give for Shane to be here and lighten the mood with one of his quirky remarks.

    "Friends? I don't have any friends. Certainly not a pair of vain, overbearing girls who wanted to keep me weak so they could feel better about themselves," Dragonite said, though her voice grew hoarser with each passing word. "I'm… getting stronger. I want… to crush them. Crush you." She tried to stand, but failed. Dragonite settled for crawling toward a stunned Silvally, blue slime trickling down her mouth. "I… will have… your light. Your life. If I can't… the heart… Necrozma…"

    Silvally crouched low to the ground. "What was that about Necrozma?"

    An unhinged laugh echoed through the Nexus. Dragonite's smile cracked through the scales around her cheeks. "He's here," she said, arms trembling.

    "What? But Necrozma… he and Shane fused together," Espy said, tail twitching. "If he's here, then wouldn't that mean that—"

    "Shane's here, too," Tessa whispered. It couldn't be true. Her ears were playing tricks on her. No, Dragonite was doing this. She was mocking Team Radiance… just like when they'd fought. Tessa pointed her paws up and rifled off an Aura Sphere. To her shock, however, Silvally blew it away with a strong gust of wind. "What was that for? She's obviously baiting us!" Tessa growled.

    "No." Silvally's eyes glowed pink. An invisible force hoisted Dragonite to the air. She didn't even so much as struggle. "You're going to tell us what you meant."

    "You think… I'm scared… of your threats?" Dragonite spat a mouthful of blue slime onto Silvally's face. "Ha! That's what I think… of your bravado."

    She waited for Silvally to retaliate. And, for a brief moment, it looked as if rage would consume him. But the golden glow that flared in his eyes lasted only a few seconds. Silvally turned, flinging some of the slime up against a nearby crystal. "You think I care if you gunk me up? Please. I'm not going to give you that satisfaction." He stepped forward, tightening his psychic grip on Dragonite. Her black scales cracked. More blue ooze trickled out of them. "Start talking… now."

    Dragonite reared her head back, only for it to lock up. She glared at Silvally. He glared right back. "I'm not playing around. None of us are safe here. Including you. If you really want to be strong, then you're going to have to make it out of this place alive, aren't you?"

    "Nrrgh. I had… a ticket out. But that dumb heart… it messed me up," Dragonite said.

    Silvally narrowed his eyes. "Quit being vague. You're not helping anyone."

    "Hey, Fido. Get a move on, will you? I don't want to get eviscerated by Frankenmutt," Rebecca said, still slung over Tessa's shoulder like a living log.

    "I told you before… it's Tessa. And my friend isn't going to eviscerate anyone. I trust him. He knows what he's doing," Tessa said, though silently she wondered if there was something off with Silvally.

    "That's your friend? Jeez, Fido, you sure know how to pick 'em," Rebecca said. Tessa stepped back and Rebecca's head smacked against another crystal. "Ow! Hey! You're doing that on purpose."

    "Sorry, my arm must've slipped," Tessa deadpanned. "Now, be quiet, I'm trying to pay attention to this." She looked up at Silvally. "Did Dragonite tell you anything specific?"

    "Yeah. There's some giant crystal heart in the center of this place." Silvally walked past Tessa, levitating Dragonite behind her. Espy followed along with a bewildered expression on her face. "Dragonite here says there was a familiar spark of light inside of it. And now she's going to lead us there."

    "Grk. There's not much… leading to do… beak-face. Just keep walking… and you'll reach it," Dragonite growled. She lacked the energy to struggle against Silvally's psychic restraints. All she could do was glare at the blades poking out of his head crest.

    Tessa wasn't sure she trusted Dragonite's word, but did her best to follow along the bottom path. Her involuntary passenger didn't help her trek. Rebecca constantly shifted or squirmed against Tessa's shoulder. "Can you please hold still?"

    "I didn't ask you to carry me," Rebecca huffed.

    "Fine then." Tessa unceremoniously dropped Rebecca, who landed on her rear.

    "Ow! Y'know, for a rescuer or whatever, you've got a real sultry attitude," Rebecca said, rubbing her hip. "Ohh… what I wouldn't give for at least a baggy pair of jeans right now."

    Tessa rolled her eyes. "Look. You wanted to walk. So, get walking." She gestured toward the path. Maybe it was a bit harsh, yeah, but she wasn't in the mood for any lip from this former human.

    Rebecca struggled to stand up, falling over multiple times. Tessa noticed her teammates getting far ahead of her and growled. "Okay, no. Forget this. You're getting carried."

    "Wait, I think I've almost got— eek!"

    Tessa yanked Rebecca into the air and slung her over her shoulder. "Oh, come on. At least let me face forward so I don't have to stare at your ugly tail and your weird-ass thighs. Your fur looks like a pair of shorts and— ow!"

    Rebecca's head bonked against another crystal. Her head then smacked against Tessa's backside and she went still. 'Finally,' Tessa thought. She was getting flashbacks to her heated exchanges with Shane during their disciplinary assignment. A weight sat on her chest… and it wasn't from Rebecca's tail.

    "Everything okay, Tessa?" Espy asked.

    "Not really."

    "Who's the Salazzle?"

    "Rebecca. The person Necrozma mentioned he'd trapped in the Ultra Nexus. I think she was, like, Necrozma's girlfriend when he was human… or something," Tessa said. "She's done nothing but mouth off since I found her, so I might've subjected her to a few love taps with these crystals."

    Espy frowned at her. "Is that really such a good idea?"

    "It was either that… or I was going to use Psychic on her. Seriously, she reminds me of Shane when he was at his absolute worst," Tessa growled.

    "And that makes it okay to lose your patience with her?" Espy said. Silvally glanced back at her, an eyebrow raised. "I, uh… sorry, I figured that was something you'd say but you're busy with Dragonite, so…"

    "Espy… I'm tired. I'm sore. I'm worried. My heart is all over the place. And Dragonite is taunting me with someone I was sure was dead," Tessa said. "You're right. I'm not at my best. But if you heard the stuff she'd said to me… I think you might've lost your patience, too."

    Sighing, Espy shook her head. "Well, we're going to have to deal with her one way or another. I wonder if Ephemeris can turn her human again? Hydreigon certainly can't, now that he's depowered."

    "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Silvally said. He stepped to the side, letting Espy see that the path in front of them suddenly dropped off to a circular platform. "Look down there. That's Xerneas."

    "But she looks all rotten like Dragonite!" Espy said, tail crinkling. "You don't think she… didn't get her spirit back, do you?"

    "I don't know what to make of it. But it's not good," Silvally said. He levitated Dragonite in front of him. "Did you do this?"

    "Ha! I wish. She was like that when I got here," Dragonite sneered. "If I had to guess… your friend did this to her."

    From her position on the bottom path, Tessa had a perfect view of the crystal heart suspended a foot over Xerneas' darkened antlers. A crack spread through the middle of the heart, which vented off black smoke. Ripples of distorted energy raced out with each beat. Tessa's aura feelers twitched. She squinted. It was tough to see with the smoke, but there was a familiar silhouette in the heart.

    She rubbed her eyes with her free arms, telling herself it was a trick. But Tessa couldn't stop herself from shouting, "Guys! It's him! Shane's in the heart! Shane's in the heart!"

    "Wait, what?!"

    Ignoring Espy's startled cry, Tessa dropped Rebecca to the ground and made a mad dash forward. She flung an Aura Sphere at the heart. It struck home… but fizzled out harmlessly. Tessa staggered to a stop. "That didn't work?" Tessa tried a Flash Cannon this time. A purple barrier popped up and extinguished the gray beam. Before Tessa could say anything else, two golden energy balls formed in front of the heart and shot toward Tessa. Gasping, she ducked behind a crystal.

    "Seriously? My lightning javelin didn't break it. What makes you think your dinky attacks will make a dent?" Dragonite scoffed.

    Tessa glared up at Dragonite. She was so sick of all the jabs. She wanted Shane back. Tessa had to break the heart. But when she poked her head out from her hiding space, a silver silhouette of Necrozma's crystal form slammed into her. Tessa fell to the ground, groaning in pain.

    "Tessa!"

    A heavy thud sounded behind her as she got to her feet. Espy and Silvally had jumped down on the lower path. Espy levitated Rebecca onto Silvally's back while he studied the crystal heart intently. "Do you think it's aware it's being attacked? Maybe what hit you was some sort of counter?"

    "Only one way to find out." Tessa shot another Flash Cannon. Like before, it struck a purple barrier. Two silver energy balls materialized into a silhouette of Necrozma and Shane. Both flew right at Tessa.

    "Get down!" Espy cried, then rifled a Psybeam off to dispel the silhouettes. Weakened psychic energy struck the purple barrier. Two gold energy balls formed up and shot toward Espy, but a flurry of Air Slash blades deflected them away. This back and forth continued, with one of Team Radiance's attacks hitting the barrier and triggering either golden energy balls or silhouettes.

    Tessa at last manage to send a gold energy ball off to her right without striking the barrier. "This is ridiculous! Nothing's working!" She gnashed her teeth in frustration.

    "Is it even a good idea to keep attacking it? I'm guessing that thing's sucking up energy from the planet."

    "Shane's in there. We have to get him back," Tessa said, fidgeting with her scarf.

    "I know that… but it won't mean anything if we blow this whole place to smithereens and take ourselves out," Silvally said, feathers bristling.

    "Well, then we have to think of something." Tessa stared at the heart. She put her paws on her chest spike. "Please. I… I want him back. So badly." Tessa gripped the memento crystal, only for a flash of white light to catch her eye. "Huh?" She pulled the crystal out of her bag.

    "What is it?" Espy asked.

    "Oh, brother, you guys are seriously fawning over some stupid crystal? You've all clearly lost it!" Dragonite spat, though she didn't budge from her position on Silvally's back. Whatever energy had kept her going before must've faltered.

    "The crystal's flashing." Tessa's brow furrowed as she scrutinized it. An idea came to mind and she held it in the direction of the heart. The flashing intensified. "I think it's reacting to Shane's prison!"

    As if to respond, a golden energy ball formed in front of the heart and flew toward Tessa. "Move aside!" Silvally barked. He spread his forelegs further apart and conjured a blue, glimmering barrier The energy ball struck it and pushed Silvally back, but didn't hurt him.

    Tessa used the opening to run toward the heart. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?" Espy cried. Tessa paid her no mind. She leaped into the air, even as the heart formed another Necrozma silhouette to defend itself with. The purple barrier appeared, but Tessa thrust her left arm forward. Shane's memento made contact with the barrier. Cracks appeared inside of the purple energy. Yelping, Tessa fell to the ground while the barrier shattered above her.

    "Get back, Tessa! It's trying to attack you!" Silvally shouted, launching electricity at the heart. Tessa looked up and saw the Necrozma silhouette falling toward her. She tucked in her legs and rolled backward. A relieved sigh escaped her lips when the silhouette sank into the ground in front of her. However, that relief faded the moment Silvally's Thunderbolt plinked off the heart.

    "No! I thought for sure that would do something," Tessa growled, backpedaling toward her teammates. They were so close. Shane was right in their grasp. She couldn't let him slip away. There had to be a way to break the heart. She just had to think.

    'C'mon, c'mon… what would Shane do in this situation?'

    Tessa looked at her arm… and the naturia looplet on it. She brushed her paw over it, then pivoted between looking at the heart and looking at her looplet. Tessa remembered that Shane had merged with Necrozma before disappearing. Necrozma ran on light energy… which was basically synonymous with Z-Power.

    Her eyes widened. "Z-Moves! That's gotta be it!" she shouted, pointing to her looplet. "We use our Z-Power in unison. If it's really Shane… he should be able to absorb the light from our Z-Moves, right?"

    Espy glanced at her own naturia looplet. "Well, it's worth a shot… assuming we can even use them here."

    "We have to try," Tessa said, turning to face the heart. She crossed her arms in front of her face, focusing on a mental image of the talk she and Shane had together in Circadian Coast.

    "Ha! You've gotta be kidding me. You really think that's going to do anything? Puh-le— aah!"

    Silvally flung Dragonite right on top of the crystal heart. She slumped against it. Dragonite couldn't lift her head and see the orange light swirling around Espy and Tessa. Light that shifted to pink and orange glows. A flurry of bright-orange fists surged toward Dragonite and the heart, followed by jagged, glass-like ripples of psychic energy. They ensnared Tessa's glowing fists, creating a massive orange bubble.

    Tessa stepped back, her aura feelers twitching. "Wait. Is that supposed to happen? Should we be ner—"

    Espy's Z-Move burst. A pink and orange explosion swallowed the heart up along with a screaming Dragonite. Tessa threw her arm up over her face, but a heavy weight settled on her aura feelers. A sudden spark had ignited in the center of the explosion. "G… guys? Are you sensing what I'm sensing?"

    Silvally's head crest fanned out. A golden shimmer rippled through his eyes. "Yeah. Th… this power. It's… it's…"

    The entire room shook. Tessa fell to her side with a yelp and Espy wound up sprawled on her belly. Silvally barely managed to stay up, tapping into his steel memories to root himself in place while making sure Rebecca didn't slip off. He stared at the golden orb forming where the crystal heart had once been. It slowly plucked Xerneas off the ground and sucked her in.

    "Guys… we've got a problem! The Ultra Nexus is breaking apart!" Espy shouted, pointing a forepaw up. Her teammates followed her gaze and found huge, hexagonal tiles plummeting toward them from above. Tessa screamed and threw her paws up over her face. Then, a surge of golden light washed across her.

    "Hang on, everyone. I've got it from here."

    "That voice… Shane, is that really you?!" Silvally cried. Golden light filled up his vision, then an invisible force yanked him into the air. The Ultra Nexus slowly faded away as everything went completely white.

    XxX​

    Lunala hovered by the rift. "Guys? Guys?! Can you hear me? S… something's going on with the rift and—"

    Her third eye flared to life as golden light leaked out of the rift. She backed away, but it wasn't fast enough to avoid getting blown out of the way by a surge of gold energy. A familiar, four-winged light dragon flew out from the rift, which sealed shut behind him. Several golden spheres floated around him.

    "N… Necrozma? No, wait…" Lunala squinted. "Aren't you—"

    The light dragon flew off toward the planet before Lunala could finish her question. Its speed astounded her. "H… hang on! Don't just leave me here!" She looked back at where the rift used to be. Her third eye flickered. There was no indication anything was sucking energy from the planet anymore. In fact, it seemed that the stolen energy had reversed course and was flowing back to the planet.

    Lunala turned back around and saw a golden trail heading toward the Horizon Continent. With a flap of her wings, she took off in pursuit.

    XxX

    ~Solstice Summit~

    Totem Ninetales walked into the kitchen area in her temple. "How are breakfast preparations coming along, you two?"

    Sneasel turned around from a steaming pot sitting atop a metal stove and wiped his brow. "It should be ready in a couple of minutes, I think?" He turned to Hakamo-o, who was perched on a wooden stool, chopping up a perfect apple with his claws. "How are the apple slices coming along?"

    Hakamo-o held up a hand, revealing an apple wedge in each claw. "They're slice-o-rific!" He wiggled his fingers.

    "Uh, yeah. Sure. Great." Sneasel rolled his eyes. "Toss 'em in the pot, then."

    Nodding, Hakamo-o walked across the kitchen, only for the door to fly open and Esserly to glide in, breathing heavily and fluttering her wing-like ears. "T-Totem… you must come outside. It's… it's…" She dropped to the ground, struggling to catch her breath.

    "What is it, Sister Esserly?" Totem Ninetales said.

    "It's Team Radiance! They crashed into the village… with Dragonite, Xerneas, and Necrozma."

    Hakamo-o and Sneasel jumped back in fright, the latter nearly knocking over the cooking pot in the process. "Did she just say—" Hakamo-o started, only for Sneasel to nod at him. Before they knew it, Totem Ninetales and Esserly were heading out the door. "H-Hey! What should we do?" Hakamo-o ran off after them. Sneasel glanced at the pot, then shrugged and followed.

    By the time they made it outside, a small crowd had gathered. Team Radiance had all gotten to their feet, weary looks in their eyes. Tessa walked up to the golden dragon lying splayed out on the snowy ground. She knelt down and lifted his head with both her paws. Multicolored eyes stared back at her.

    "S… Sh… Shane?" Tessa struggled to form the words. "Is it… is it… really you?"

    The dragon nodded. A tired grin formed on his beak. "See? I told you… I'd see you on the other side."

    Tears welled up in Tessa's eyes. She was about to embrace Shane, when his body flashed white. Shane grimaced, then slipped from Tessa's grip as he shrank down before everyone's eyes. "Shane? Shane, what's going on?!"

    He shriveled up. Shane's four wings vanished in streams of golden light, then his single, large tail fanned out into nine fluffy, blue-white tails. The ones Tessa had grown so used to. When the light faded, her Ninetales teammate lay in the snow. Tessa ran up to him, followed by Espy and Silvally. "Shane? Are you okay?" Tessa said. "You're, um… well, I don't know how to explain this."

    "I… I…" Shane coughed weakly. Then his eyes rolled back and his head slumped over. Slowly, black crystals ran up his legs. Tessa's eyes widened. Right in the middle of Shane's chest was a triangular gem… flickering weakly. Tessa only had a few seconds to look at it, however, before black crystals completely covered Shane up from head to tail.

    "Shane? Shane?! No, no, no!" Tessa shoved him repeatedly. Then, looking around frantically, she hoisted Shane into the air. Her gaze fell on Totem Ninetales. "Please… please, you have to help him! Find Ho-Oh! Find Ephemeris! I can't—" Tears welled up in her eyes. "I won't lose him again."

    Totem Ninetales blinked in surprise. "Err… yes, o-of course. Let's get him to the temple… pronto!"

    "But what about these two, Totem?" Esserly pointed to Dragonite and Xerneas.

    "Grab a couple of villagers and sort them out while I tend to Shane," Totem Ninetales said, beckoning Tessa to follow with her tails. Together, they sprinted into the temple.

    XxX
    I apologize to anyone who was expecting some sort of big, epic showdown to take place in the Ultra Nexus. I felt that it would just be really pointless and redundant coming off of the crazy string of battles in Episodes 15 and 16. And since the battle with Void Necrozma had focused a lot on alien and eldritch horror, I decided to focus more on the character interactions than trippy Ultra Space stuff, since we've already had plenty of that in the fic to date. Specifically, Tessa's interactions with Rebecca are meant to mirror her first interactions with Shane all the way back in the opening chapter. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the chapter!

    Next time: our heroes get some difficult pills to swallow. Three chapters remain.
     
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