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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light [COMPLETE]


Winter can't come soon enough
This is a bonus part. Be sure to read Chapter 12 in the above post if you haven't already.


Bonus #2: An Electrifying Spirit

~Sunrise Village, Sylveon's House~

"Thanks for coming with me, Vulpix. After these last few days, I just didn't feel comfortable walking to Sunrise Village alone."

Shane yawned and brushed his snout against a foreleg. "It's no biggie. But that leppa berry bread better be worth it."

Tessa smirked. "You know, for someone who's only just recently taken up the local diet, you're growing to like it quite a bit."

"What can I say? The food here is way better than the garbage I cook back home," Shane said. "It's just surprising. Where I'm from, canines have terrible senses of taste. I expected everything I would eat here to taste, I dunno, bitter or something."

"Well, I can say with certainty the stuff Sylveon bakes is anything but bitter," Tessa declared. "I see the house up ahead. Let's go."

They jogged down the hill and approached the house. Shane stood beside the door while Tessa knocked. "Hey, Sylveon. I'm here to babysit Eevee for you."


The door flew open. Shane yelped as it smacked him into the wall. Eevee sprinted out the door and Tessa stuck out her arms to keep herself from getting body slammed. "Hi, Eevee," she chirped. "Great to see you."

"I missed you," Eevee cooed, rubbing his head against Tessa's belly.


Shane collapsed beside the open door, his eyes spinning in their sockets. "When is a door not a door? When it's a jaaaaaaaaaaar…" he moaned.

"Oh, hey, it's Mr. Weirdo Vulpix," Eevee said. "Did he follow you here?"

"Actually, I brought him along. Hope you don't mind," Tessa said. "C'mon, Vulpix, let's head inside."

"Hang on, I'll be with you as soon as everything stops spinning," Shane groaned. Tessa rolled her eyes, walked over to her teammate, and hoisted him up to his feet. Shane made it about three steps forward before collapsing on his side.

"Did he forget how to walk again?" Eevee wondered.

"No, he's just being melodramatic," Tessa scoffed.

"I don't know what that word means," Eevee chirped, wagging his tail.

"Tessa. Great, you're here!" Sylveon called from inside the house. "I just finished making the leppa berry bread, so–"

"Outta the way! Outta the way!" Shane bellowed, bolting to his feet and booking it inside the house.

Eevee gave Tessa a confused look. She simply shrugged and led Eevee back into the house. Sylveon bid everyone farewell and departed the house. "Hey, Vulpix, don't drool on the bread," Tessa said, glancing at her partner. "We're all supposed to share it."

"It just smells so goooooooood," Shane whined. "Hurry up and break me off a piece. You're the only one here with hands."

"Then step back and let me divide it up," Tessa said. She approached the bread and split it into three. The trio proceeded to eat their meals. All the while, Eevee asked Tessa about the guild. She replied, with the help of some occasional tidbits from Shane. Eventually, the sun had set and Eevee yawned loudly.

"Sounds like it's almost bed time, kiddo," Shane said.

"Wait, don't I get a story?" Eevee asked, looking at Team Radiance with pleading eyes. "I haven't had any bedtime stories since last week."

Tessa and Shane exchanged looks. "Uh, sure," Shane muttered. "Once upon time, there was a very loud Eevee who slammed a door into an innocent little Vulpix. The Vulpix forgave the Eevee because his mom made some delicious bread. Then, the Eevee went to bed and the Vulpix returned to the guild to put a big bag of ice over the lump on his head. The end." He threw the door to Eevee's room open. "Okay, there's your story. G'night."

Eevee frowned. "That was a terrible story!"

"Hey, I didn't come up with it," Shane quipped, earning a confused look from Tessa.

"I want a fun story," Eevee demanded. His eyes lit up. "Oh! Tell me the story about the big boom that made Voltaic Crater. I like that story."

Shane raised a confused eyebrow. "Um, I don't know that one."

"Then you tell it, Tessa," Eevee requested. "Pretty pweeeeeeeease?" He batted his eyelids at Tessa.

"I don't know, Eevee. It's been awhile since I've heard the story for myself."

"Aww, don't say that. I'll bet you can tell it great," Eevee said, jumping up onto his bed. "Come on, can't you at least try?"

"Yeah, Riolu. Can't you?" Shane parroted, giving Tessa a cheeky grin.

"Okay, fine," Tessa relented. "Let me just gather my thoughts for a moment. Okay, so, a long time ago in the Horizon Continent this fearsome black dragon appeared in the sky." She stuck her paws up into the air and bared her tiny fangs at Eevee.

Shane raised a forepaw. "Lemme guess. It was Zekrom?"

Tessa and Eevee gave Shane unamused looks. "Please hold your questions until the end of the story," Tessa deadpanned. "Now then, where was I? Let's see…"

Zekrom hovered in the air, looking over the land. He saw nothing but rolling green hills around him. This made him mad! He craned his head up and roared, "Hear me, Land Spirit! Your boasts have reached my ears. I do not believe you speak with ideals in your heart. Face me, and I shall show you true strength!"

He hovered there, searching for any sign of the Pokémon he was addressing. But no one appeared out of the fields. "… hmph. So, you have the audacity to taunt me like this? I will not stand for it! If you will not show your face, I shall cover these plains in a mighty lightning storm!"

Zekrom heard a loud caw cut through the sky. He turned around, smirking. A bright ball of yellow electricity raced up from the ground. It flew up to Zekrom's eye level. Then the electricity dispersed, revealing one of the continent's protectors: Tapu Koko!

"Finally decided to grow some backbone, have we?" Zekrom bellowed. "Well, it won't do you any good. My strength is unparalleled. None can wield electricity like me!"


Zekrom narrowed his fierce, red eyes. "You laugh?"

"Course I do, dude. Your voice puts an Exploud to shame," Tapu Koko responded. "Not everything needs to be shouted at the top of your lungs, you know."

"SILENCE, WELP!" Zekrom thundered. His tail started glowing blue and electricity crackled around it. "Being true to one's sense of self is a key facet of expressing ideals. And I am the very essence of lightning. It is only appropriate that I roar with the intensity of rumbling thunder! Anything less is unacceptable!"

"That line of thinking's totally bogus, dude," Tapu Koko exclaimed. "And there's more to harnessing electricity than just firing a really big Thunderbolt or whatever."

"Enough! I know when I am being mocked," Zekrom shouted. "Your lack of respect for one of the world's mightiest Legendaries is insulting. Therefore I, Zekrom, will knock you down!"

A big ball of blue electricity encased Zekrom and he raced forward. Tapu Koko closed up his protective shell and sped into the air, dodging him. Zekrom screeched to a halt and opened his maw. A giant blue Dragon Pulse bolt raced forward. Tapu Koko burst out of his shell and divebombed Zekrom. The dragon was taken completely aback as his attack harmlessly struck Tapu Koko. Next thing he knew, a blinding pink light erupted around him.

"Grooooooaaaaaaah!" Zekrom roared in pain. He spread his wings to the side to stop his fall and looked up at Tapu Koko. The Land Spirit hung in the air, intently studying Zekrom. "So, you are fairy-type, huh?"

"Like, I'm surprised you didn't catch on from the get-go," Tapu Koko scoffed. "As I said, my strength is not something to take lightly."

"Ha ha ha ha! Maybe I do not have the most effective attacks to strike you with, little Land Spirit. But what I lack in effective moves, I make up for with RAW UNBRIDLED SPEED AND POWER! BEHOLD!"

Zekrom's tail whirred to life and he raced forward. Psychic energy gathered around his head. But before he could get anywhere close to Tapu Koko, the Land Spirit flew away. He thrust his armored limbs to the side and, suddenly, electric particles filled up the air. The sky turned yellow before Zekrom's eyes.

"What sort of trickery is this, Land Spirit?" Zekrom snarled. "To employ deceit in a duel like this is the ultimate insult! It spits in the face of ideals! I will not stand– or, rather, float for such insolence!"

"Whoa, chillax, dragon dude," Tapu Koko exclaimed, "We Land Spirits are, like, one with nature around here. It lets us craft terrain to suit our abilities. Pretty righteous, huh?"

"It is blasphemous!" Zekrom bellowed, sending sound waves shooting toward Tapu Koko. This took him by surprise. He could dodge some of the Hyper Voice, but a few sound waves struck and disoriented him.

"Ugh, not very bodacious of you, bro," Tapu Koko groaned. "If you'd given me a sec to finish splainin' things to you, you'd have known my Electric Surge boosts all electric attacks for a short while. You say you're the embodiment of thunder? Then come at me, bro!"

Zekrom roared and encased himself in electricity yet again. He charged toward Tapu Koko, but the Land Spirit withdrew into his shell and sped away. Zekrom's tail crackled and released a burst of energy, sending him speeding forward. But Tapu Koko curved upward and Zekrom raced underneath.

"Quit flying about and let me hit you," Zekrom whined. He abruptly stopped himself and sent Thunderbolts streaking toward Tapu Koko. The Land Spirit retaliated with Thunderbolts of his own, but Zekrom's proved move stronger and seared Tapu Koko's arms. "Ha ha! See? Even with your deceitful trickery, my lightning far outranks yours, puny whelp!"

"Yeah, well it's not a total bummer, dude. Because I can still do this!" Tapu Koko replied, filling the sky with sparkling pink energy. Zekrom engaged the booster in his tail and tried to speed away, but the Dazzling Gleam still hit him and sent him reeling. Tapu Koko sped forward, shooting lightning bolts to spear Zekrom's backside.

Zekrom whirled around and dispelled Tapu Koko's attacks with his own Thunderbolts. Tapu Koko had to withdraw into his shell to minimize any damage. He spun around and his momentum deflected some of the bolts down toward the ground. The electricity struck the ground and started to race across the grass.

Tapu Koko noticed the electricity. "Um, dude, maybe we ought to take this out over the ocean? I don't want to zap any little critters down below."

"You should've thought of that before spitting on my pride!" Zekrom roared. "You have made your bed and you will lie in it." He tucked himself inside another ball of lightning and shot forward. Tapu Koko stood his ground this time. He thrust his arms apart and a Dazzling Gleam exploded outward. Zekrom's electric cage managed to slice through most of the attack. He slammed into Tapu Koko from above.

Tapu Koko rocketed toward the ground. He hit the dirt with a loud THUD, leaving a sizeable impact crater. And electricity exploded out from his body, vaporizing the grass and racing around the nearby rocks. Tapu Koko looked over and saw the lightning from Zekrom's attack had not dissipated. In fact, in continued arcing through the fields, leaving barren rock behind.

"Dude, no way!" Tapu Koko gasped.

"Do you see now the power that I wield, puny whelp?" Zekrom bellowed. "Withdraw your comments on my strength and I shall forgive such insolence and leave you be."

Tapu Koko rocketed back into the air, letting out a brilliant, blinding Dazzling Gleam. Zekrom howled as the attack washed over him. Now it was the big lug's turn to plummet toward the ground. But he managed to stop himself before he hit anything. He fired up his tail and shot upward. This bathed the hill beneath him in electricity, burning up grass in the process.

"Enough!" Zekrom roared. "I have grown tired of this affair. You are as annoying as a Beedrill buzzing about my domain!" His crimson eyes crackled with electricity. "Have a taste of this!"

Zekrom thrust his arms forward. Tapu Koko braced himself to dodge, but noticed no attack came out. Before he could say anything, however, a tremor wracked his entire body. He gasped and found himself struggling to keep his altitude. "What did you do to me?" he asked.

"Ha ha ha! Just as you have your frilly little terrain-making trick, I too have my own ability. It is one that stands a true dedication to pursuit of ideals!" Zekrom replied. "It is Teravolt! And with it, I shall strike you with Earth Powers even as we float in the air. And now I shall use my ability to thoroughly beat you into submission. Then you will know my fury!"

"Your vocabulary needs serious work, dude."

Electricity crackled across Tapu Koko's arms. It gathered in front of him and took the form of a crystal sphere. He shattered the sphere and spread his arms out to the side. Orange beams of energy raced across his body.

"I will let you employ no more trickery!" Zekrom snarled. He slammed his fists together, sending another shockwave racing forward. But Tapu Koko ducked under the Earth Power. He raises his arms skyward, and the orange energy surrounding him started expanding and turning yellow. Zekrom's eyes widened as it rapidly took the shape of a four-limbed giant! Tapu Koko withdrew into his shell and soared to the top of the creature, planting himself on what appeared to be its neck.

"Th… this is… impossible!" Zekrom roared. "What is this madness?"

"The power of nature, dude!" the giant boomed in Tapu Koko's voice and swiped at Zekrom. He barely managed to dodge.

"No, I will not back down! I never back down!" Zekrom thundered, surrounding himself with electricity and charging forward. At the same time, the giant brought its arm up and then sent it crashing down. The instant Zekrom slammed into the giant, its fist connected with his skull. Both Tapu Koko and Zekrom exploded back from each other and hurtled toward the ground.

They impacted at the same time. A pair of massive craters ruptured the earth, sending with them waves of lightning! The first wave vaporized the remaining grass and evaporated all the water in the ponds. And the remaining waves bathed the rocky remnants in electricity. In fact, so much electricity was dispelled from their duel, that it continued to linger around the crater even to this day. It became a habitat for wild electric-type Pokémon. Hence, we now call the place Voltaic Crater.

Tessa sat back and let out a deep breath. "… and that's it. That's all I know."

Eevee jumped about excitedly. "That was great! That was great!" He turned to Vulpix. "Didn't you think it was great? I really liked your Zekrom voice." He reared up on his hind legs, spread out his forepaws, and shouted, "Grooooooooar! I'm Zekrom and I'm a big, fat, jerk-head!"

"Oh, brother," Shane muttered, rolling his eyes. "So, let me get this straight, Riolu. Zekrom battled this Tapu Koko thingy and they caused an explosion so big it made a Mystery Dungeon?"

Tessa shrugged. "That's how I interpreted it."

"But how would the terrain change if it's just a giant crater?" Shane wondered.

"I know this one," Eevee said, raising a forepaw. "That's cause the Tapus have the power to reshape the continent. When they do, all the Mystery Dungeons change." He beamed at Tessa. "Did I answer that right?"

"You sure did, buddy," Tessa said, tussling Eevee's head. "Unlike Vulpix, who forgot I told him that a few days ago."

"Gag," Shane muttered, pointing a forepaw at his open mouth. "So, there are other Tapus, then?"

"Yup," Tessa replied. "Any other questions?"

"Yeah," Shane said. "What the heck was that move Tapu Koko did where he summoned a giant energy monster? That sounds incredible! What can we do to learn something like that?"

Tessa scratched the bridge of her snout. "Hang on. I swear my dad told me about this once." She rubbed her temples. "Something about the Tapus being able to grant Pokémon the power to turn one of their moves into an extremely powerful attack during a battle. I don't remember what he called it, though."

"… knock, knock. I'm home, Eevee!"

Eevee jumped to his feet and ran to the door. "Hi, mommy," he greeted. "Did you have fun with your friends?"

"I did, thank you," Sylveon replied. "Tessa, how was Eevee?"

"A little angel. We had a nice, long story session," Tessa explained.

"Wonderful," Sylveon chirped. "You two are more than welcome to say the night, if you'd like."

"We'd love to, Sylveon. But we really should get back to the Observatory," Tessa said. "The guild's leaving on this big expedition tomorrow and I don't want to get locked out."

"Okay then. Safe travels." Sylveon waved farewell and they exited the house.

"See, Vulpix, that wasn't so bad," Tessa said. Shane didn't respond. She looked over at her partner, and noticed a gleam in his eyes.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked.

"Probably not. But I'll bite," Tessa said. "What are you thinking?"

"That we find one of these Tapu guys and make them give us that special ability!" Shane declared. "I'll be able to save the world for sure with a power like that."

Tessa rolled her eyes. "Let's take it one day at a time, Vulpix," she sighed.


If they could shoehorn Megas into Super, you can bet we're getting Z-Moves here. How they'll factor into the story proper I'll leave to your imagination.
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Gone. Not coming back.
I like the conclusion to the special episode! Like, it's a really extended battle, the kind that could easily start to seem samey and dull, but it doesn't drag at all, doesn't get repetitive, the heroes are always scrambling to get off the back foot against a clearly superior enemy -- it's just pleasant, and fun and interesting. Then there is of course that nice blend of action and dialogue you do so well -- both operating, this time, in perfect sync: the battle to win Prisma over runs alongside the battle against Feraligatr, and is crucial to its resolution. It's just really nice work.

I have to say, Metang's super convenient telekinetic thing is a bit odd, though; it just makes you wonder why he couldn't have done it earlier. Other than that, I don't think I have any like structural or plot complaints -- everything works really nicely -- but here are a few small typos and things:

Ain't no skin of my bones

You've got of for off here.

Torracat yelled, though the journal muffled him a ton.

I think something like "Torracat yelled, voice muffled by the journal" or "Torracat yelled through the journal in his mouth" would read more naturally here.

And then there's a whole lot of interesting stuff in Braviary's conclusion, isn't there? From clarification about Gallian to the fact that Prisma turned up amnesiac on a beach with a name. Which of course has a very specific meaning, in a PMD fic. Definitely some things to whet the appetite here; I'll be interested to see where this goes.

Onto the bonus chapter then! And I think this is an interesting one, too. It seems odd that a folk tale on the model of "small clever person fights big loudmouth" (slash "clash of titans explaining a natural phenomenon", I guess) would go into so much detail about the blows exchanged between the two combatants, instead of just mentioning the important parts. But then again, it occurred to me that it could be a culture thing; pokémon are all used to battle in a way that many modern humans aren't, so perhaps the fine details of the fight are actually important to them, and maybe that's something that gets reinvented by the teller each time the tale is told. So I'm not sure how I feel about that. Certainly I think it's interesting, although I also think I'm sort of overusing that word tonight.

Anyway! Here's one other thing I noticed:

my strength is not something to take likely

I think you mean lightly, not likely.

That's about it from me! Nice update, I think -- the conclusion to the special episode was stronger than the preceding parts, for sure, and there's some interesting (... again) stuff going on here. I'll definitely be looking forward to what happens next.


Winter can't come soon enough
And now, back to your regularly-scheduled program!

I like the conclusion to the special episode! Like, it's a really extended battle, the kind that could easily start to seem samey and dull, but it doesn't drag at all, doesn't get repetitive, the heroes are always scrambling to get off the back foot against a clearly superior enemy -- it's just pleasant, and fun and interesting.
Thanks! A general rule of thumb I try to use for this story is that standard battles should be around half of the chapter at most. So, 5-6k word chapters means I tend to aim for 2.4-3k words max. I don't want battles overstaying their welcome. The major/climax bosses will be an exception, I think.

Then there is of course that nice blend of action and dialogue you do so well -- both operating, this time, in perfect sync: the battle to win Prisma over runs alongside the battle against Feraligatr, and is crucial to its resolution. It's just really nice work.
I'm glad to hear it. One of my big concerns is my ability to write battles. I want to use banter and dialogue to keep things from getting stale, but I'm always concerned that I don't have a good action:dialogue ratio.

I have to say, Metang's super convenient telekinetic thing is a bit odd, though; it just makes you wonder why he couldn't have done it earlier.
Eh, I didn't really explain it. He does have limited range with levitating stuff, but every time he got too close to Feraligatr during the battle he'd get attacked and could concentrate enough to levitate it. My bad. <.<;

And then there's a whole lot of interesting stuff in Braviary's conclusion, isn't there? From clarification about Gallian to the fact that Prisma turned up amnesiac on a beach with a name. Which of course has a very specific meaning, in a PMD fic. Definitely some things to whet the appetite here; I'll be interested to see where this goes.
Like I had said before, the named characters are named for a reason. I'm not trying to be all that subtle with it. XD

It seems odd that a folk tale on the model of "small clever person fights big loudmouth" (slash "clash of titans explaining a natural phenomenon", I guess) would go into so much detail about the blows exchanged between the two combatants, instead of just mentioning the important parts.
I'm going to attribute it to Tessa being a fighting-type. So, of course she'd embellish the moves as much as she can.

Nice update, I think -- the conclusion to the special episode was stronger than the preceding parts, for sure, and there's some interesting (... again) stuff going on here. I'll definitely be looking forward to what happens next.
That makes me happy to hear! ^^ And don't worry about reusing words. Lord knows I have to change a lot of words around during revisions because I do the same thing. Hopefully you enjoy this chapter too.


~Aeon Town~

The sun had just started rising to signal a brand new day. Though Aeon Town's streets were empty, one Pokémon scurried up the main path. Whatever sort of body he had was totally hidden underneath a pale, yellow rag. His head flopped backwards as he ran, showing off a face that had been scribbled on the rag with crayon.

"Hurff… heff… gotta hurry. Sun's almost up," he panted, climbing his way up the hill leading out of town. In the process, he nearly tripped over. The lightning-shaped stick on his back fell to the ground. He got up, tugging underneath his rag so the stick stood back up and resembled a proper tail.

Eventually, he reached the top of the hill and looked around. "W-Well, I'm here," he muttered. "But where is–?"

A white blur shot out of the bushes, scooping the rag-wearing Pokémon up off the ground. He got carried off into the forest, tumbling to the ground when his abductor skidded to a halt.

"A-Absol! D-don't s-scare me l-like that!"

Absol rolled his eyes. "… tch. You're a ghost-type, Mimikyu. Do you have any idea how pathetic that sounds?"

Mimikyu looked down, trying to avoid Absol's fierce red eyes. "H-Hey, I c-could g-get in a l-lot of t-trouble for d-doing this, y'know?"

"Quit your blubbering," Absol growled, lowering his black, serrated forehead scythe toward Mimikyu's rag. Mimikyu squeaked and shrank back. "Do you have the TM or not?"

Mimikyu started shaking. "I… I… I'm sorry…"

Absol's eyes glowed a sickly purple. The same color flared up on his scythe. "WHAT?" he snarled. "Then why are you even here?"

Mimikyu walked back into a tree. "I… I couldn't Shadow Sneak into the Kecleon Shop. They must have some sort of magical ward over the entrance. I did everything I could. Please don't hurt me!"

"I needed that TM!" Absol hissed. He lashed out with his right forepaw, smacking Mimikyu against the tree. "Great." He turned away from Mimikyu. "Now, I've got to think of something else."

"U-Um… w-well…"

Absol raised a forepaw, silencing Mimikyu. "You're useless to me now. Go away."


Absol narrowed his eyes at Mimikyu. "Go. Away."

Mimikyu sprinted away, nearly losing his rag in the process. Absol watched him go, digging into the dirt with his right forepaw. When the ghost was out of sight, he crept forward through the forest.

"… by my tabulations, that was a most spectacular letdown, Gallian. Bravo!"

The named Absol froze beside a tree. "… tch. I don't need your sarcasm, Sticky. Get down here."

The leaves above Gallian rustled and out from them popped a small, pink and purple pixie. "Sarcasm? I am afraid that word is not in my vernacular," Sticky exclaimed, tilting his oversized, circular head and brushing the needle sticking out of it against the nearest branch. "Could you explain it to me?"

Gallian shot Sticky a glare that said that no, he would not.

"Erm… well then…" Sticky fidgeted his tiny, nub-tipped arms and nervously flicked his equally-small tail. "It is surprising your special sense did not alert you to this outcome."

Gallian's eyes flickered purple again. He turned his head to show off the one oversized fang protruding from his lips. "I already told you, Sticky, my disaster sense warns about serious consequences, not minor inconveniences."

"But you have spoken at length about the importance of getting this 'teeyem.' Would that terrestrial's failure not be a serious consequence for you, then?" Sticky wondered.

Gallian's left eye twitched. "You're the only one here making it into a bigger deal than it is," he hissed. "All this means is that I need to try a different approach." He crept to the forest's edge and looked out over Aeon Town. "If I couldn't get someone else to steal the TM, then I suppose I'll just need to take the direct route."

"What exactly is inhibiting you from simply purchasing this item?" Sticky wondered.

"I already told you. That's not an option. It ends disastrously," Gallian seethed. He started pacing back and forth. "Let's see here. Going in while the shop's locked up isn't an option since I can't Shadow Sneak. I could try breaking in…" he thought out loud, but his voice trailed off. His entire body stiffened and the red, diamond-shaped jewel in his forehead flickered ominously.

"No!" he hissed, shaking his head. "That option doesn't work either."

"Another disaster?" Sticky asked.

"I will not question my sense. It hasn't led me astray yet," Gallian insisted. He resumed pacing. "So, it looks like the best shot is to go in during broad daylight. But to do that, I'll need to give myself an opening." He looked out across Aeon Town. "What would make a solid distraction that'll rile the whole town up?" Gallian scanned the town, glancing over all of its buildings. His gaze fell on one building in particular, sitting at the top of a hill overlooking the town square.

The fur on the back of Gallian neck prickled. A chill ran along his spine. "The Observatory," he whispered. His gem flickered once again. "Something's happening there." Gallian walked out of the forest and sat down, studying the Aeon Observatory.

"I detect that you are unnerved. Perhaps I could assist in making this distraction?" Sticky offered. "That way, you can investigate that municipal lodging."

Gallian's eyes widened and he scowled at Sticky. "No! You'll stay here. No good will come of you going to Aeon Town."

"But, that is your old employer you are staring at, correct?" Sticky pointed out. "Would it not be equally disastrous to be spotted there after abandoning them?"

Gallian gritted his teeth. "… as far as I'm concerned, ignoring this feeling is the greater of two evils. I have no choice but to scope the place out. I'll think up some sort of way to get the TM on my own."

Sticky's head lolled to one side. "Very well. I shall resume recharging my energy in one of these tree branches. They are surprisingly cozy." Sticky floated up into a nearby tree, leaving Gallian to turn back and face the Observatory.

"… tch. I told myself I wouldn't go back there. Looks like I'm gonna have to break that promise."


Episode 5: The Renegade Explorer

Chapter 13: Beware the Forest's Mushrooms


~Aeon Observatory~

"Hang on. Run that one by me again," Tessa said, rubbing her eyes with her paws.

Shane quickened his pace. "I think I know why I'm here," he declared. "I need to find out what's responsible for making Pokémon like those Munchlax go berserk."

Tessa frowned. "Don't you think that's a bit pretentious?"

"No, it's right in line with the other times humans have popped up around here," Shane replied. "I know it doesn't seem like much of a problem now, but my gut is telling me that I'm going to have to get to the bottom of this issue eventually. So, we should tackle it sooner, rather than later. Y'know, be all proactive and stuff!"

Tessa froze in the hallway. "Okay, is there something you're not telling me? I know you said Pokémon are fictional where you come from, but it sounds to me like you know more than you're letting on. Which is, uh, surprising, given the way things have gone for us so far."

Shane raised an eyebrow. "Hmm? Oh… that." He pawed at the ground. "You, uh, promise not to call me crazy if I tell you this?"

Tessa crossed her arms. "Prefacing whatever you have to say with that line isn't helping your case."

"Okay, okay," Shane sighed. "The truth is… those stories you mentioned to me about humans? They're similar to a set of games that starred Pokémon in my world." Tessa started to open her mouth, but Shane held up a forepaw. "Hang on. Before you go accusing me of anything here, I just want you to know that it's not exactly the same. For starters, a ton of stuff I've seen here was never in those games. Heck, there was no Horizon Continent in them, period."

"I mean, look at me. There's no such thing as ice-type Vulpixes where I come from," Shane declared, gesturing at his torso. "Or dark-type Meowths. And definitely not whatever the heck Null is supposed to b–"

Tessa made a slashing gesture across her throat.

Shane's ears drooped. "… he's standing right behind me, isn't he?" Tessa nodded slowly. Shane turned around, his tails ducking between his legs. "N-Null… morning! D-Did ya sleep well?"

Null nodded.

"I, uh, wasn't trying to insult you or anything. Y'know, with what I just said." Shane gave a nervous laugh. "H-Honestly!"

Null's gray eyes continued glaring at Shane.

"Err, let's just go to morning assembly," Shane mumbled.

"Uh, did you forget? Today's the start of the expedition to Sunset Shoals," Tessa said. "It's just the three of us and any veterans who are hanging around the guild."

"Oh, right." Shane's shoulders slumped. "Well then, what are we supposed to do? Sentry duty?"

Null shrugged.

"Mwee hee hee! Now, there's no need for that, today. You should head outside. Stretch your legs a bit."

Shane's fur stood on end. "Who said that?" He quickly scanned the room.

A pair of eyes and a large mouth appeared on the ceiling. Shane went as stiff as a stone statue. He fell onto his side, unmoving. Null waved a foreleg in front of Shane's face, but got no response. "Haunter, get out of the ceiling," Tessa sighed.

"Aww… but I like it here," Haunter pouted. "Haven't you ever heard that old expression? Uh, what was it again? Oh yeah! 'Walls have ears, potatoes have eyes.' Something like that."

"But, you're putting eyes and a mouth on the ceiling. Not ears on the wall," Tessa pointed out.

Misdreavus rose out of the floor. "Golly. She got you there, Haunter."

Haunter materialized from the ceiling and floated down toward Team Radiance. "… fine. Ruin my fun. At least I spooked Snowball over there. Mwee hee hee hee!"

Drifloon appeared from behind Null. "Yup, you scared him silly."

Null plucked Shane's petrified form off the ground and shook him about. Shane came to. "Hey!" He thrashed about in Null's grip. "Put me down! Put me down! You're gonna mess up my fur!" Null shrugged and then unceremoniously dropped Shane. Tessa fought to hide a snicker.

"Yeah, sure, okay, get your laughs out of the way now," Shane grumbled, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. "What do you spooks want with us, anyway?"

"Oh, golly, we can't just stop by and say hi to our novice explorers?" Misdreavus said. "Hooo-whee, guess you're just itching for something to do, then. Gee whiz, Haunter, do you think we can lend them a hand?"

"I don't know, Missy D." Haunter's smile grew. "We only have two hands to split between the three of us." He raised up his two hands and wiggled his fingers.

Shane frowned. "You guys aren't being funny, you know."

Haunter rolled his eyes. "Sheesh, who tied your tails in a knot this morning? Oh wait…" A giant grin appeared on his face. "… I did!"

"Wait, what?" Shane walked about in a circle, trying to see his tails.

"Made you look! Made you look!" Haunter cackled.

"Just tell me what you want with my team already!" Shane barked.

Tessa raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me? Your team?"

"Ugh, you know what I meant," Shane grumbled.

Haunter waved his right hand and a scroll appeared in it. He unraveled it. "We got a request this morning from Morelull and Shiinotic. Seems they're looking to gather Luminous Moss from the deeper reaches of Twilight Forest. They would like a team to accompany them for support."

"Aww, geez, Haunter. You're letting 'em go to Twilight Forest? Golly, you folks don't know how lucky you are," Misdreavus said. "Twilight Forest is quite a pretty place. Yessiree, you oughta enjoy it a lot."

Tessa accepted the scroll from Haunter. "Isn't Twilight Forest northeast of Clayback River?"

"Yes," Drifloon replied. "You should get one of the Sharpedo Sailors to take you over to Terrace Village. It overlooks the forest."

Null cleared his throat.

"What's the matter, big guy?" Shane asked.

"… I'm not exactly… small…" Null muttered. "How would… I get there?"

"Hey now, don't underestimate those Sharpedo Sailors. The guy we used on our first mission seemed pretty tough," Tessa exclaimed. "I'll bet one could carry you, no problem!"


~Terrace Village~

Shane jumped off a Sharpedo, landing on a sturdy wooden dock. He took in a deep breath. "Ahh, smell that rich, forest ai–"

He doubled over in a coughing fit. Tessa appeared beside him. "Um, are you okay?"

"I think… I swallowed… a leaf!" Shane wheezed. Tessa smacked him on the back a couple of times. Shane's wheezing stopped and he straightened himself up.

"Phew… thanks, partner," he chirped. "I swear, between this place and Dewdrop Woods, the forests of this world have it out for me."

The dock shuddered, making Tessa and Shane stumble off of it. Null lumbered forward, trying his best not to break any of the wooden planks. He quickly got off the dock and helped his teammates to their feet. Together, they made their way up from the dock and found a small, rustic cluster of brown, wooden houses that resembled log cabins. Brick chimneys stuck up from each building, two of which gave off trails of black smoke. While a few trees dotted the area, the bulk of them were actually below the village.

"Wow!" Shane sprinted past the houses, skidding to a halt by a particularly large oak tree. "This whole town's up on top of a big hill. That must be Twilight Forest down there."

Tessa jogged after him. "Uh, I don't really see what's all that cool about it. But good for you, I guess?"

"I'm serious here. This is nothing like where I live in the human world. I've never gone up a hill or climbed a mountain or anything like that," Shane said. "Heck, I've only flown in an airplane a few times. This is my first time looking out over a big swathe of trees like this. It's positively breathtaking!" He shook his head. "Oh, why did I never go outside more as a human? I've totally been missing out."

Shane lifted his head up to continue looking at the forest. "I do have to wonder, though, why are the trees purple?" He turned to Tessa. "Is that supposed to happen? The trees in Dewdrop Woods were big, sure, but their colors weren't weird."

Tessa rubbed her chin. "Hmm… you know, I think my br– uh, I mean, I think Sylveon told me about this once." She turned to her right and pointed. "Look over there."

Shane followed Tessa's paw. His jaw dropped. Off in the distance, a set of tree-covered mountains jutted out from the ground. The trees were blanketed in heavy layers of snow and the mountains' peaks were hidden by dense gray clouds.

"Those are the Invern Mountains," Tessa announced. "If you were a normal Vulpix, that would be your home. They're also the reason why everything in Twilight Forest has a purple tint to it. Sunlight strikes the snow-covered mountains and reflects off of it, hitting the trees down there. At least, that's what I've heard."

Shane whistled. "Whoa. I don't really think I'd want to climb up one of those. My parents always told me it's hard to breathe at high elevations. Sometimes you can get sick from it."

"You're a Vulpix, though. You'd be perfectly fine," Tessa dismissed.


The two canines turned around to see a small, white Pokémon cowering against a wooden door. He had three tiny mushrooms sticking out of his head. Null looked right at the creature.

"Wait, wait, wait," Tessa called, running to Null's side. "It's okay, little guy. This isn't a monster. He's from the Horizon Guild, just like me." She knelt down beside the little Pokémon. "I'm Riolu. My exploration team is here to help Morelull and Shiinotic. Do you know where they are?"

"I'm Morelull. Shiinotic's my mommy."

Tessa smiled at Morelull. "Oh, perfect. Do you think you could get your mom for us? We're ready to help you guys get through Twilight Forest."

Morelull looked hesitantly at Null. "O… Okay," he squeaked, and ducked inside of his house.

Tessa turned to Null. "Sorry about that."

Null looked down at the dirt. "… I knew this was… a bad idea. Should've… just stayed back."

"Don't say that!" Tessa scolded, approaching Null's side. "They just need time to get used to you.

"Here's a suggestion. Try, y'know, not speaking with that creepy, raspy voice of yours and everything should be fine," Shane sneered.

"Shane!" Tessa narrowed her eyes at him. "That's not very nice."

Shane's snout stiffened. "I was just trying to help…" he mumbled.

A creaking noise drew the group's attention. They turned and noticed a trio of serpents slithering out from another house.

"Milotic?" Tessa gasped. "What are you doing here?"

Milotic met Tessa's gaze. "Riri!" She smiled and blew a kiss in Tessa's direction. "What a surprise to see your team here. Most novices never go beyond Clayback River."

"There was an assignment and you know as well as I do the guild's short Pokémon right now," Tessa explained.

"How brave," Serperior chuckled. "I see you even managed to drag Mr. Personality out of the sentry station." She glanced at Null. "I'm surprised you didn't, like, melt in the sunlight."

Null lowered his head, fixing his sharp gaze on Serperior.

"Now, now, Serperior. We shouldn't tease our fellow guild members," Dragonair scolded.

"I invited him to join Team Radiance, for the record," Tessa declared. "He, uh, didn't exactly say yes, but he's going to give us some help from time to time."

"Well, aren't you the little risk-taker," Serperior giggled. "Quite the feisty little girl, ain't ya? Just like your mother. I'll bet she would've done the same thing if she were–"

"Leave them alone, Serpy," Milotic said. "Besides, we have to work to do."

"What are you girls doing here, anyway?" Shane asked.

"Sorry, Snowball, that's on a need to know basis. And you're not part of that need," Serperior replied. "But we'll totally try to snag a souvenir or something for ya from where we're heading. C'mon, girls!" Serperior gave Shane a flirtatious wink and then Team Captivate slithered off in the direction of the forest. Before anyone could say anything, the door Morelull entered opened up.

"Here they are, mommy. They're the exploration team."

Team Radiance turned around to see Morelull standing next to an oversized, white-and-pink mushroom. Shane opened his mouth to say something, but Tessa beat him to it. "You must be, Shiinotic, then? I'm Riolu, and these are my partners, Vulpix and Null."

"Um, my name is Shane," Shane muttered dejectedly.

"So very nice to meet you all," Shiinotic said, bobbing her head. She did cast a nervous glance in Null's direction, however. "Are you ready to go into the forest?"

"I think so," Tessa said. "You said we're heading for the deeper recesses in the north, right?"

"Yes. Morelull and I tried to get some Luminous Moss yesterday. But there wasn't any growing in the spot we usually visit," Shiinotic explained. "And, well, we've never gone too deep into the forest. I'm worried about wild Pokémon."

"No problem. We're just the crew needed to dispatch any problems," Shane declared. "Let's get to it!"


~Twilight Forest~

Shane jogged in circles around the group, staring up at the trees.

"It's so pretty!" he chirped. "Everything's glowing purple! The trees… the mushrooms… the grass… and hey, is that a glowing bush?" He ran toward a thorny bush. "It's like nature meets an after-hours club. All it's missing is the trance music with a thumping bass."

Tessa shook her head in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"

"It's a human thing. You wouldn't understand," Shane scoffed.

"Well, it's called Twilight Forest for a reason," Shiinotic mused. "The light that trickles down from the Invern Mountains gives this place a constant purple glow. Kind of like the sky in early evening. It seems to have a very calming effect. Wild Pokémon are quite friendly around here."

"Is that why you two regularly gather Luminous Moss from here, then?" Tessa asked.

"Correct," Shiinotic said. "But something's been off in the forest as of late. When we didn't find any Luminous Moss in our usual spot, we sent a note to the guild requesting help."

Shane frowned. "What? Who's harshing the mellow in this place?" He looked around. "I've got an Icy Wind ready for a special delivery!"

"What do you mean by 'off' exactly?" Tessa asked.

"Several days back, my neighbor, Parasect, stumbled out of the forest. I'd never seen him look so worn and ragged," Shiinotic explained. "He explained that a swarm of Fomantis had attacked him for no good reason."

"But you still took Morelull into the forest?" Shane gasped. "That's not very responsible."

"… you're hardly… one to talk… human," Null growled. Shane frightfully squeaked and quickened his pace, allowing Tessa to hang back with Shiinotic and Morelull.

"Is that the only issue you guys encountered?" she asked.

"No." Morelull shook his head. "When we went out to the forest… the mossy area was all sickly and gross!" He shivered and cuddled up beside Shiinotic.

"What do you mean by tha–?"



Tessa spun around. "What was that?" She noticed Null standing next to a tree, looking farther into the forest.

"… the human… stepped here," he reported. "… slid off… and crashed… into that tree." He pointed a foreleg forward. Tessa saw Shane lying in a dazed heap, with dead leaves surrounding him.

"Why no, officer. I don't know where that came from," Shane muttered.

Tessa walked up to Null and looked at the ground. "That… doesn't look right," she whispered.

"That's it!" Morelull gasped. "That's the creepy black stuff mommy and I saw in the mossy area."

Tessa ran her paw across the pitch-black spot in the dirt. She immediately yanked it back. "Ack!" She wrung her paw out. "That kind of hurt. It's like something leaped out of the dirt and bit me."

Null poked the black spot with a talon and quickly pulled it away. "It felt… very slick," he observed. "Must've been… why the human went flying…"

Shane managed to stumble back to their location, shaking leaves off his body. "Yeah, thanks for the hand back there, guys. Really feeling the love today."

"You stepped in some sort of… well… I don't really know what it is," Tessa said. She pointed at the black spot.

"Oh, come on, that's not fair," Shane huffed, "It's barely darker than the dirt. How was I supposed to see that?"

"That's what you're focused on?" Tessa groaned. "How about the fact that there's some sort of creepy slime in what's supposed to be a very peaceful forest?"

"Oh, that? P'shaaw!" Shane smirked. "It's obviously a result of the super-evil force that's making Pokémon go berserk. Once Team Radiance beats back that evil, the slime will disappear. Case closed."

"P-Pokémon are going berserk?" Morelull gasped. "M-Mommy, do you think those Fomantis were acting like that?"

"Don't you think that's a bit of a stretch, Vulpix?" Tessa asked. "There's no sign of any Pokémon like that here."

"… shyyyaaaaakaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

A shrill cry echoed through the forest, making the entire group tense up.

"Mommy, what was that?" Morelull asked.

Shane rolled his eyes. "Oh, nice going, genius. You totally jinxed us!"

"Me? You were the one who screamed a frightened Loudred a few minutes ago," Tessa reminded him. "You probably drew the attention of some wild Pokémon!"

The bushes near where Shane collapsed earlier rustled.

"Yeah right," Shane scoffed. "What you said was only one rung below, 'It can't possibly get any worse than this.'"

"… guys?"

The shaking bushes exploded in a flurry of leaves. A large, crab-like creature with black, armored pincers leaped out, landing in front of the group.

"Shyakakaka!" the crab shrieked.

"Parasect?" Shiinotic gasped.

Shane whirled on Tessa with a horrified look. "Please tell me that's what Parasect are supposed to look like in Horizon."

Tessa recoiled in disgust. "It's… it's not.

"Really? Are you sure they don't have a white jellyfish sitting where their big mushroom should be?" Shane said. "Oh god, it's wriggling its tiny little tentacles and everything!"

"I am very sure," Tessa insisted.

"Mommy, what happened to Mr. Parasect?" Morelull whimpered. "He looks scary!"

"Shhhyaaaaaa! Infect… I want to… infe-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-t!"

Parasect coated his pincers in sickly black goop and thrust them forward. The sludge formed an X-shaped pattern and flew ahead. Null sprang to action, knocking Tessa and Shane out of the attack's path. It struck the ground, leaving two large streaks of the same black slime Shane had slipped in. Only this time, the slime was bubbling.

"Ah! It's making more of that goop," Morelull gasped.

"… both of you… stop arguing… and start battling…" Null hissed, glaring at Shane and Tessa.

"She started it!" Shane accused, prompting Null to slap him upside the head.

"… and I finished it…" Null said, spinning around and sending a wind crescent rippling toward Parasect.

"Shyyaaakakaka!" Parasect clicked his pincers and then, to everyone's shock, he dissolved into a massive puddle of black ooze. His crescent moon emblems were still visible atop the ooze.

"Okay." Shane pressed a forepaw to his muzzle. "That's one way to make me lose my breakfast."

"How are we supposed to hit it like that? The slime is corrosive!" Tessa noted.

"Forget that. How's he even doing that?" Shane wondered. "Did he, like, cover himself in Goomy sludge?"

Parasect emerged from the puddle of ooze and hurled two globs of black toxins forward. "Sludge Bomb! Duck and cover!" Tessa hollered, sprinting toward the tree line. Shane quickly backpedaled toward Morelull and Shiinotic. Null was not as fortunate, however. He got caught by one of the blobs, hissing as the sludge splattered his right side.

He fell to the ground, trying to get the toxins off. Shane watched the scene with wide eyes. "Okay… that's not good," he muttered.

"Aren't you going to do something?" Shiinotic asked.

"I'm thinking… I'm thinking!" Shane insisted. He looked over, spotting Tessa peering out from behind a tree. "Hey, Riolu. Think you can keep Parasect distracted so I can sneak up on him and use Icy Wind?"

"No way. I am not going near that thing," she replied. "You be the distraction for once."

"But I have the most effective attacks of the team," Shane protested. "It's smarter for you to distract him!"

"… guys!" Null hissed, sidestepping swipes from Parasect's slime-covered pincers. He slung a bladed air crescent forward and managed to strike Parasect. However, the attack sailed clean through his goopy form, splitting it into two halves. The halves promptly melted into puddles of ooze, only to quickly rejoin. Parasect reemerged and opened his pincers. Several yellow, sparking orbs flew toward Null.

Shane ran forward and let out a gust of white air. Null flopped onto his belly and watched Shane's attack destroy the Stun Spores. Shane ran beside his teammate. "Okay, we need to keep this guy occupied. And more importantly, stop him from turning to goop. Any ideas?"

"… not really…" Null replied.

"Infect! Infek-k-k-k-k-t!" Parasect shrieked, firing more Stun Spores forward.

"I'll freeze him. You hit him with an Air Slash," Shane directed. He stepped forward and smothered Parasect's attack in blistering air. Null skirted to the side. But before he could attack, a small seed whizzed past his face. Parasect only had time to glance in Null's direction. The seed struck him right between the eyes. It bathed him in a red light and turned him as rigid as a statue.

"… huh?" Shane tilted his head in confusion. Tessa appeared between him and Null.

"Yes! It actually worked," she said, sighing in relief.

"What did you do?" Shane asked.

"I had some Stun Seeds," Tessa said. "See, I told you I didn't need to be the distraction."

"You could've at least given me an inkling of an idea as to what you were planning," Shane groaned.

"Oh, quit complaining and hit him already. He can't melt into goop while he's stunned like this," Tessa stated. "Null, you hit him too. Two super-effective attacks ought to knock him down a peg, right?"

Null and Shane exchanged looks. "What? You want me to count to three or something?" Shane scoffed.

"… hardly," Null replied. His Air Slash turned Shane's stream of Icy Wind into a jet stream of freezing air. The combined attacks struck Parasect. His petrification wore off and he screeched in pain. His body melted into goop yet again. The pile lurched forward, heading for Team Radiance.

"Okay, plan-maker," Shane said, quickly backpedaling. "What's your brilliant idea now?"

"Uh… uh…" Tessa fumbled through her item pouch and pulled out another seed. She tossed it forward and, much to her surprise, the pile of goop bubbled. Parasect reemerged, his claws clutching his jellyfish head.

"Hey, it worked!" she chirped. "Uh, I mean, just as planned. Now, go get him." She pointed a forepaw forward.

"You're not fooling anyone with that routine," Shane scoffed.

He and Null again combined Icy Wind and Air Slash, creasing an explosive rush of frigid air that swallowed up Parasect. This time, his body exploded into two piles of goop. But instead of merging together, the puddles fizzled. Eventually, two smaller Parasects emerged and snapped their pincers at Team Radiance. Each one still had a red crescent moons in their eyes.

"Eeeeeeeek!" Shane's tails shot upward. "It's multiplying! What kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show nonsense is this?"

Both Parasects sent black, X-shaped streams of poison hurtling toward the team. Shane was still in shock, and couldn't escape in time. One of the Cross Poisons splattered across his body and he collapsed in a heap. Null and Tessa turned and saw sickly purple splotches popping up across Shane's fur.

"… crud…" Null muttered. "… he's poisoned."

The two Parasects also picked up on this. They chose to focus their attentions on Shane. Each one's pincers filled with black goop. Null acted quickly, running forward while dark energy crackled around his body. He ran directly into one of the Parasect, making his foe collapse into a puddle of ooze.

This splattered sludge across Null's chest and helmet. His Pursuit attack fizzled out, allowing the second Parasect to slash Null with toxin-coated claws. He hissed in pain and staggered backward. The Parasect he hit had managed to reform in that time and strike Null with a corrosive Sludge Bomb. This buried Null under a pile of black slime.

"Infect! Infect! Infect! Infect!" the two Parasect chanted in unison, moon insignias in their eyes glowing. Null thrashed about but couldn't seem to pull himself out of the puddle of slime.

A small seed struck the Parasect on Null's left, freezing him in place. The second Parasect turned and hissed, but that noise was cut off when Tessa hammered his face with Force Palm. He split into two smaller puddles of sludge, which sizzled on the ground. Seconds later, an Icy Wind swept over the petrified Parasect. He scurried backwards and melted into slime. A poison-free Shane ran over, watching Tessa shove Null out of the gunk with her shoulder. She recoiled from the bubbling slime bristling her fur.

"This stuff is nasty!" Tessa hissed, trying to brush the ooze off her fur.

"I think Null got poisoned too," Shane observed. "We need another pecha berry."

Tessa rummaged through the pouch, but a loud hiss disrupted her. She looked up and noticed the Parasect Shane had hit was back to his feet. Not only that, but the one she struck had split in half like before. The two new, smaller Parasects clicked their pincers.

"Infek-k-k-k-k-kt!" they screeched, their voices squeakier than the larger Parasect's.

Next thing Team Radiance knew, they had three sets of Sludge Bombs flying toward them. They quickly scattered in opposite directions. But Null, already weakened from the earlier blows, couldn't run away quick enough. When the attacks struck the ground, they sent toxins splashing in all directions. Some of the goop hit Null's left side. His right legs buckled and he fell to the ground.

"Oh no!" Tessa gasped.

"Big whoop. You have Reviver Seeds, right?" Shane asked.

Tessa's panicked expression suggested otherwise. "I… I might have a Tiny Reviver Seed or two. But it'll take a little while for Null to revive."

"Infect! Infect!" the two small Parasects chanted. They scuttled toward Null.

"Uh… uh…" Tessa looked between them and the larger Parasect. "What should we do?"

Shane's brow furrowed. "You've gotta deal with the big guy. I'll handle the tiny ones with Powder Snow." Tessa opened her mouth to retort but Shane sprinted past her. "For once just don't question it and do what I say!"

Tessa grabbed another, slightly smaller seed out of her bag. She threw it right at the Parasect and it struck him on his jellyfish head. When it did, his eyelids grew heavy. He looked around in confusion, raising his pincers and waving them in front of his face.

"Shyyaaaakaaa?" he grunted. Tessa used the opening to strike. She charged forward and hit the Parasect with Force Palm. Like his counterpart, he exploded into two piles of goop. Tessa tensed up as each one formed up into a smaller Parasect.

"Shane? I've got a two-on-one situation here. Is Null–?"

An Air Slash blade whizzed past Tessa and struck the Parasect behind her. She gave a sigh of relief and lunged toward the other mini-Parasect. He melted into a puddle of goop, causing her to sail clear of him and strike the ground. Parasect rematerialized and hurled a ball of sludge at Tessa.

She yelped as the attack struck her back, splattering her with ooze. Tessa winced, a throbbing pain running through her body. She reached a trembling paw to her back, trying to fumble about for a pecha berry.

"Infect! Infect! Infect!" her assailant shrieked. He approached her, snapping his pincers repeatedly. But much to his shock, a burst of snow hit him from behind. Tessa looked over her shoulder and noticed that three of the Parasect were now covered in a thick layer of frost. Shane stood in front of them, flanks heaving. Sickly purple splotches dotted his fur again.

"I don't… feel… so good…" he groaned. "This… isn't fun… anymore..."

"… stay focused! Otherwise… we're screwed…" Null hissed, attacking the Parasect in front of him with glowing talons. That split the Parasect in half yet again, creating two micro-Parasects that barely went up to Null's ankles.

Tessa had managed to get out a pecha berry, but realized it was the team's last one. She tensed as the poison sapped more of her strength, noticing the other three Parasects defrosting.

"Vulpix!" she squeaked. "Catch!" She hurled the berry in his direction. It hit the ground next to him. He looked over at Tessa and was about to thank her, when Tessa's eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed to the ground.

"Tessa!" he cried.

"The poison… made her faint. Eat the berry…" Null growled, jumping back from a set of tiny Sludge Bombs. "… I can't… beat them… alone…"

Shane ate the pecha berry and the poisonous spots faded from his body. "But there's five of them now. How are we supposed to take them all down by ourselves?"

"I don't… know…" Null growled. He slashed one of the Parasects in an X-shaped fashion. This Parasect let out a loud screech and sank into a puddle of goo. The other Parasect near Null hissed and shot tiny Stun Spores forward. At that close range, there was nothing Null could do to avoid them. The spores crackled across his form and he seized up from paralysis.

The three Parasect in front of Shane decided to duplicate this strategy. They fired such a broad stream of Stun Spores there was no way Shane could possibly dodge them. It wasn't long before he found his own body stiffening, too.

"Nnnnngggrrrhhh…" Shane grunted. "This… can't be happening! I'm… the hero. I can't… lose… to these things. I've got… to save the world!"

"Infect! Infect! Infect! Infect!" the Parasect trio chanted. Their moon insignias glowed in unison, as did their pincers.

Shane tried to open his mouth to attack, but his muscles failed him. He couldn't even shut his eyes to brace himself for whatever it was these Parasects wanted to do to him.

Then an Ice Beam raced across the ground, striking all three Parasects. They collapsed into puddles of goop. A stream of blue-purple dragonfire shot out of the bushes the original Parasect had destroyed. It blasted the Parasect facing Null. He too collapsed into a puddle of ooze.

"W-What the–?" Shane stammered.

"Phew… looks like we made it in time. Nice navigation work, Airy!"

Shane's ears twitched. "Milotic?" he squeaked.

Team Captivate sprang out from the destroyed bushes. Serperior and Milotic opened their mouths. A stream of ice and a pulsating beam of blue dragon energy shot forward. The attacks combined to shower the puddles of ooze with bolts and ice shards. Each puddle started bubbling. Dragonair likewise shot two fiery streams of Dragonbreath at the puddles around Null. They also fizzled.

"When there's danger to be seen," Milotic declared, blowing a kiss toward a dumbfounded Shane, "Team Captivate is on the scene!"

The puddles of ooze slowly inched toward one another, making Shane's fur stand on end. "Milotic, look." Dragonair pointed her tail forward. "What do you think they're doing?"

"Surround them, ladies! We'll strike in unison, if necessary," Milotic ordered. The three serpents slithered into a triangular formation just as the puddles had recombined into one. They watched the original Parasect emerge from the puddle, his body perfectly still.

"Hold up." Serperior raised her tail. "I think he's out cold."

Shane turned toward Team Captivate. "Watch out. He could be faking or–"

The crescent moons in Parasect's eyes shattered. Red light encased his entire body, only to melt off of it into the ground. "Eww! That's totally disgusting!" Serperior cried, hopping back. Null had managed to lumber to his feet just in time to see the last of the red light dissolve into the ground, leaving Parasect's form lying there. His mushroom head had returned, but not a spot of color remained on his body. His mouth hung open.

Dragonair's eyes widened. "Is he–?"

"Nobody touch him," Milotic instructed, dangling her tail over Parasect's limp body. "He could still have some traces of whatever messed him up."

Shane stared down at the Parasect, his mouth agape. 'It's just like the Munchlaxes in Dewdrop Woods. Parasect attacked us in a berserk rage, only for the life and color to literally drain right off him.' His vision went fuzzy. 'I must be right. There's something out there turning Pokémon into these violent, crazed lunatics.'

But any elation he would have felt toward being proven right was completely drowned out by a different thought.

'… that Parasect was going to kill us!'


There's a lot of behind-the-scenes trivia with this chapter. And I'm sure you're all wondering about the Mamoswine in the room with a certain character. But I need time to get my thoughts organized. So, I'll post all the trivia along with the next chapter. Speaking of which...

Next time: Team Radiance's bad day gets a lot worse.
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Winter can't come soon enough
Okay, so I'm posting the trivia stuff now because revisions on Chapter 14 hit a slight snag (read: Dropbox is being mean to me and I'll need to futz around with it a bit). I will spoiler it in case you've accidentally scrolled to this post and skipped Chapter 13 which, incidentally, is in the above post.

Let me first start by saying that my general writing/update process is that chapters are drafted in advance of when they actually pop up on the site. I generally go back and revise the chapter I'm planning to post while working on a future chapter. I've found it helpful, because if I decide to make a change to the general storyline in a future chapter, I can make the necessary revisions to previous chapters. The storyline has been outlined since around January. But back in late June/early July I had revised it. Given Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon had been announced already, I decided to leave certain parts of the outline deliberately open-ended in the hopes of possibly incorporating some of the new material, if at all possible. For example, some secondary characters could get switched around. And this is the first chapter to get hit by some of the changes I made to my outline. The general plot points are roughly the same, but some of the characters changed significantly in the process.

On the minor side of things, like with Chapter 8, I needed to swap some of the Shane's and Tessa's dialogue around a bit. Originally, Shane was trying to be buddy-buddy with Type: Null, while Tessa was treating him rather callously. And, well, this kind of clashed with their characterizations at this point. Especially in Tessa's case; she had some pretty nasty lines in the rough draft, most of which were scrapped because I didn't think any of them read very well. Now then, the bigger tidbits.

Believe it or not, this guy was originally a Zoroark. Not a joke. The lines that made reference to him in the first couple of episodes gave vague descriptors for a Zoroark (something along the lines of "black and crimson form") and were changed prior to those early chapters getting posted because this chapter had already been drafted with him as an Absol. Likewise, as a Zoroark, he would've been a lone-wolf character. For reasons I don't exactly want to go into because it might spoil some things down the road, I couldn't make it work. Not to mention A) pairing the Zoroark and Lucario lines in some way has been done to death, and B) at the time this was drafted, Zoroark was not part of the Alola Dex, and I wanted most of the major characters to be Alola Dex 'mons. Thus, Zoroark became an Absol. Keeps the dark-typing, but offers better mechanics to play off of when crafting his personality. Naturally, the joke ended up on me because a trailer last month showed that Zorua and Zoroark are getting added to the Alola Dex. But I'm standing by the decision.

"Wow, Amby. Did you really shoehorn a Pokémon into your story 48 hours after it got shown off? That's pretty stupid," is what I was telling myself when I went to post this. As I said above, when the character was Zoroark he was going to act alone. When he changed to Absol, I decided to give him a companion that could play off him. This initially started out as a Rotom that would constantly shift between the different forms available to it. It was supposed to poke fun at the Rotom-Dex in the Gen VII games. Problem was, I could not figure out how to write this guy and it caused me to hit a speed bump drafting the chapter. And so, Rotom was hastily scrapped with a plan to use him in a different capacity later on. Instead, I decided to pair Absol with an Ultra Beast. I thought it more appropriate, since Episode 4 was introducing the Ultra Beasts as a major factor in the plot. I settled on Kartana, because its tiny stature made a funny contrast to an Absol and the shared a blade motif. As I was starting revisions however, UB-Adhesive got revealed and, after thoroughly looking over its appearance, I thought it made a decent foil for Absol. Chapter 13 had a brief example of this, where Sticky acts analytical in contrast to Absol acting purely on instinct. Also, it's super adorable (like a UB version of Mew) to counter Absol's menacing appearance.

Ultra Parasect
This particular change happened during drafting, actually. Originally, this was a battle against a Lurantis, to reference the infamous Totem Lurantis fight in Sun and Moon. However, when I started writing the battle, I thought that Parasect was a much more appropriate target for the Nihilego elements. It's quite literally a Pokémon prayed on by a parasite. And since Nihilego is also parasitic by nature, they were a match made in heaven. But don't worry, Lurantis fans. It'll get some time to shine later on.

That's about it. As always, let me know if you have any questions. With any luck, I'll be able to fix my Dropbox and get to Chapter 14.
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Winter can't come soon enough
I gave Dropbox a very stern talking to, so now I can present the 14th chapter.


Chapter 14: Troublesome Tidings


An overwhelming sense of it flooded Shane's mind. It blocked out everything around him. He just sat on the ground, sweat rolling down his coat. In front of him, Team Captivate had their attentions split between Tessa, Null, Shiinotic, and Morelull. Shane stared at them, an empty look in his eyes. He didn't register their movements or hear anything they said.

'I don't understand,' he thought. 'This wasn't supposed to happen. I'm supposed to win! I'm a human-turned-Pokémon. That supposed to make me strong, right?'

His gaze fell toward the ground. 'Deep breaths, Shane. Deep breaths. It's just… a hopeless boss fight. Y'know, that classic sign that you've still got a ways to go and a lot to learn. Heh… heh… yeah. This is all just Arceus looking out for me. That's how it works, right? That's why Team Captivate showed up.'


He shouted without thinking. Everyone's gazes fell on him and it was at that point he remembered their presences.

"You okay, Vulpix?" Dragonair asked. "You look pale."

Serperior gave her teammate a confused look. "How can he look pale? He's got white fur, for heaven's sake!"

"Ugh, you know what I meant, Serperior," Dragonair groaned.

"I know. I just like bugging you about it. Tee hee!" Serperior teased, sticking out her tongue.

But Shane's gaze returned to the ground and his mind muted out the serpents. 'No… this wasn't just some story element from one of my games! This actually happened. That Parasect had me on the ropes. I saw the killer look in its eyes. If Team Captivate hadn't shown up…' He took in a sharp breath. '… who knows what could've happened? He could've turned me into a monster just like him. Or he could've ki–'

His chest tightened. Shane tensed up, gasping weakly. He brought a forepaw up toward his head. 'Head. Why does it hurt so much?' He tried to inhale, but his mouth wouldn't respond. Instead, he made a noise as if he were a balloon that someone let the air out of.

'Pain. Crushing pain. Something hit me.'

Shane's vision flickered. For a flash of a second, glass shards and metal fragments lined the forest floor. They vanished almost as soon as they appeared.

"Vulpix?" Tessa looked over and noticed Shane sitting across from her. His whole body was rigid and his mouth was clamped tightly shut. Then, he fell to the ground. "Vulpix!" Tessa gasped. She ran over to him, with Null and Milotic looking on curiously.

"Hey, what's gotten into your friend?" Milotic asked. Null only gave her a blank look. "Okay… forget I asked. Hey, Airy, can you hand me another oran berry and an apple?" Dragonair passed the two items of food over. "Thanks." Milotic grabbed them and slithered toward Tessa.

She shoved Shane's torso. "Hey… Hey! Wake up! You're not in any danger anymore, dummy."

Shane's eyes slowly fluttered open. "Tessa?" he croaked.

Tessa immediately frowned. "I told you not to call me th– yes, Vulpix, it's me. What's wrong? Did you get poisoned again, or–?"

"Why?" he wheezed. "Why… am I… remembering… so much… pain?"

"Uh, I don't know. We had a tough time with that Parasect, didn't we? That's why Team Captivate showed up. They could hear us from deeper in the forest," Tessa explained.

"Here, you should eat these." Milotic rolled the oran berry and apple toward him. "You seem like you're a world away right now."

Shane looked at the fruit, blinking in confusion. He opened his snout and snapped at the air, and then tried stretching out a forepaw. But it tensed up and his muzzle fell open. "Gotta… gotta get out. Call… 9-1-1… accident…"

"Vulpix, are you playing around again?" Tessa groaned. "We don't have time for this."

"Easy, Riri," Milotic cautioned. "I think he's in shock."

"But, we weren't dealing with any electric-types," Tessa said.

Before Milotic could respond, Null stomped over to them. He leaned down, yanked Shane up with one of his forelegs, and then throttled him. "Get a hold of yourself!" he barked, dropping Shane back to the ground. He landed on his belly and blinked several times. Shane slowly stumbled to his feet, eyes darting about the forest.

"Ugh, my aching head. What happened to me?" he whispered, leaning over to nibble on the oran berry.

Tessa shot Null a look of disbelief. "How did you–?"

"Heh, I get it," Serperior chuckled, "He was shell-shocked. So, Mr. Personality over here gave him an even bigger shock to bring him back to reality. I like it!"

Null glared at Serperior, shaking his head about.

"Oops, sorry big guy. I didn't make you mad, did I?" Serperior giggled. "I'm so naughty, sometimes, I swear."

Null growled, his deep voice unsettling Serperior.

"So, now what happens?" Shane mumbled. "We failed the mission, didn't we?"

"Oh, you mean fetching Luminous Moss?" Milotic flicked her tail nonchalantly. "Hey, Airy, didn't we pass some patches on the way over? Could you go grab some?"

"Certainly." Dragonair slithered away. This only made Shane's stance slouch.

"Great. We had to get bailed out and someone else finished our mission," he grumbled. "This day's been a huge train wreck."

"Relax, Vulpix. We'll let you collect the reward," Milotic assured. "It's okay to need some help when you're starting off. You think the girls and I just joined the guild as experts? Of course not!"

Shane stared down at the ground. "But, the Parasect–"

"Don't worry about it. I mean, that was totally creepy and everything, but there are plenty of strange things out in the world. That's what we're here to explore," Milotic said.

Shane only shook his head. "Easy for you to say," he mumbled.

Tessa shot her partner a concerned look. "Vulpix, what's gotten into you?"

"It's nothing," Shane dismissed, trudging away from her dejectedly. He spotted Dragonair reemerging from the bushes. Her tail was curled around a large ball of bright, fluorescent moss. She slithered over to Shiinotic and deposited the Luminous Moss at her feet.

"Here you are, miss," Dragonair said.

"Thank you very much," Shiinotic said. Morelull popped out from behind her to place the moss in a small bag.

"It's no problem. Sorry you guys ended up running into trouble," Dragonair said. "We should get you two back to Terrace Village right away. Who knows if there are other Pokémon like Parasect lurking about in here."

Shane's ears twitched when he heard this. "Does this mean you're taking us back to the guild, then?"

"Of course not," Milotic scoffed. "We've still got bigger Tauros to wrangle. We just got a bit sidetracked, that's all."

"We do? But, we finished our mission, Millie. I swear, if this is a ploy to keep me away from the Observatory, I'm gonna tie you around Magearna's telescope," Serperior hissed.

"Breathe, Serpy, breathe," Milotic coaxed. "Let's get everyone back to the village first. Then we'll take it from there."


~Midnight Sea~

"Braviary wanted me to check in on you two. We finished setting up a basecamp at Sunset Shoals," Magearna's robotic voice crackled through Team Radiance's Gear-Com.

"Uh… okay," Tessa said. "But wait, if the tides are rising there, aren't you worried the basecamp could get flooded or something?"

"Not at all. We constructilated the site on a rocky plateau. We should be okay for this expedition," Magearna said. "Wait, hold on one second…"

Tessa stared at the device while static echoed out from it. Beside her, Shane watched the choppy water race past them.

"Howdy! Braviary here. Just want to know how things are going on the home front. You two staying outta trouble?" Braviary asked. Tessa noticed Shane flinch at this, but paid him no mind.

"Err… we had a bit of an issue with a mission we took today," Tessa admitted. Shane looked up at her and slashed a forepaw across his throat. Tessa shook her head at him and whispered, "Don't you try to shush me. He needs to know!"

"Is that a fact? What happened?"

"Nothing. Everything's fine!" Shane lied. "You guys just pay attention to your little beachcombing trip. We've got everything under control." Tessa opened her mouth to protest but Shane stole the Gear-Com out of her paws. "Uh, where's the off switch on this thing?" he muttered under his breath.

"Give me that back," Tessa growled, but it was too late. Shane found a button on the device and pressed it. The Gear-Com promptly shut off and Shane handed it back to her. "What did you do that for?" Tessa barked. "I was trying to tell Braviary about what happened."

"Absolutely not!"

"But we both know what we just saw was like those Munchlaxes we dealt with yesterday. It's something that Braviary or the Guildmaster should follow up on when they're back," Tessa pointed out.

"No. I am not about to tell Braviary we almost failed a mission," Shane growled. "He'll probably hold us back or make us do nothing but sentry duty."

"Is that why you're in such a funk? Ever since I woke up after the battle, you've been the complete opposite of your usual self. What's going on?"

"It's nothing. I'm fine," Shane tersely responded, trying his best to turn away from Tessa on his seat atop the Sharpedo.

"No, if you were fine, you would've brushed off everything that happened in the forest," Tessa countered. "So, what's going on?"

"I'm fine," Shane insisted.

"We're pulling in to port, you lot!" their Sharpedo announced. Tessa looked up and watched their ride swim up to one of Aeon Port's docks. Null was already waiting for the two of them. His Sharpedo had somehow made the return trip faster, despite his larger weight. Tessa thanked her transport and disembarked.

"Uh, are you coming, Shane?" she asked.

"Huh?" Shane blinked and looked around. "Oh, yeah, whatever."

Shane climbed onto the dock and walked off without even so much as acknowledging the Sharpedo or his teammates. Null turned and looked at Tessa. "I don't know. He's in some kind of mood. Probably over what happened at the forest," she reasoned.

Null exhaled deeply and clawed at his mask. Tessa's fur stood on end. She had hoped doing a mission with Null would put a stop to that. But the sharp echoes his voice and breathing produced continued to unsettle her.

"Let's just head back to the guild, then," she said, not wanting to dwell any further on that subject. The day had proven tiring enough. 'If I'm lucky, maybe I can snag an early bird special from Crabrawler's without either of these two.'

That thought almost brought a smile to her face.


~Aeon Observatory~

"This isn't funny, Haunter! Lemme in! It's Shane!"

Tessa and Null found Shane standing on the entrance pedestal, shouting angrily at the door.

"What's wrong?" Tessa asked.

"The stupid door won't open!" Shane hissed. "Ugh, this day just keeps getting worse and worse. What's next, all the guild's food getting stolen? Probably, knowing my luck."

"… relax... human…" Null growled, causing Shane to go silent.

"Easy for you to say. If my body was a jigsaw puzzle like yours I'd probably feel comfortable sleeping in the dirt, too," Shane scoffed. "But it isn't. And I'm tired. And I want someone to let me in right no–"

Null shoved Shane to the side, giving him the most annoyed look his helmeted face could muster. He stomped toward the left side of the door. Null unclipped his badge from the looplet on his right foreleg and pressed it into an indentation in the door. The entire door lit up and then opened up like normal.

Shane stared at the open door.

"… did you really… not think… there'd be another way in?" Null rasped. He shook his head and marched into the guild.

Shane gnashed his teeth together. "Are you sure you're okay? Want me to have Sylveon look you over?" Tessa offered.

"I'm… fine…" Shane seethed, storming inside. He stomped his way down the staircase toward the main level. "All I want to do is take a nice, long shower, grab some dinner, and sleep this o– OOF!"

Shane walked into Null's rear. He recoiled in horror. "What the heck? Don't just stop in the middle of the stairs like th–"

Null turned around and cupped a foreleg over Shane's snout. "… quiet," he hissed. "Something's wrong…"

Shane raised an annoyed eyebrow. Null lowered his foreleg and pointed it ahead of him. Shane looked forward and his eyes narrowed. The three ghost-types of Team Specter lay in a heap in the center of the room.

"Nothing's wrong," Shane sneered. "They're obviously messing with us again." He stood up on his hind paws, only to fall over. "Grrr. Okay, so no sarcastic slow-clapping for me. But still. Ha, ha, very funny, Team Specter. You totally got us. Ghost-types playing dead? How hysterical."

"Um… guys?"

Shane whirled on Tessa. "Don't tell me you think they're not faking it too?"

Tessa wasn't even facing Team Specter. "The Guildmaster's office is open," she said.

"So, what? He must've left Sunset Shoals," Shane scoffed.

"That's not possible. If he were back here, don't you think Magearna or Braviary would have told us?" Tessa pointed out. "Oh, wait, I forgot. You decided to cut that call off because it was making you mad." She crossed her arms.

"The Guildmaster… always keeps his door closed… from what I've seen…" Null said.

"Okay, then it's part of Team Specter's prank," Shane dismissed. "But we're getting nowhere here. So, I'm just going to go in so Team Specter's happy and I can go take my shower in peace!" He turned and walked toward Metagross' room.

Tessa looked at Null. "I'm going after him before he manages to do something stupid," she sighed.

Null shrugged and turned toward the hallway leading to the sentry station.

"Hey! Who are you? This is guild territory!"

A flash of purple light erupted from the Guildmaster's room. Tessa sprinted forward. Null lagged along behind her. As soon as she reached the doorway, she heard Shane grunt loudly. She peered inside only for her eyes to widen in horror.

'No… no! Not him. Not here. Not now!'

"Rrrghhh… put… me… down… you crazy… Absol!" Shane gasped, thrashing about in Gallian's grasp. He had pinned Shane against the wall using one of his forelegs. His forehead scythe hovered in front of Shane's face, glowing dark purple.

"How long have you been in this guild?" Gallian barked. Shane continued thrashing, so Gallian squeezed him harder against the wall. "Answer me!"

"Aggh! A couple of weeks, that's all!" Shane hollered. Gallian released his grip and Shane dropped to the floor, gasping for air.

"Then you're worthless to me," Gallian sneered. He turned around only to freeze at the site of Tessa.

Her mouth went agape. Gallian's fur was terribly matted, with patches of grime smeared across his white coat. His black, serrated forehead scythe stuck out against his dark-blue face. A black, crystalline harness clung to his chest, fastened to some sort of red, circular gemstone. Tessa spotted four smaller gems in the straps.

"You!" The red diamond in Gallian's forehead sparked to life. He glared at Tessa. "What are you doing here? Didn't I tell you to stay away from this place?"

Shane looked up in confusion. "Riolu, you know this nutcase? Look, he's all messed up like those other berserk Pokémon!"

Gallian whirled around and flicked his glowing scythe upward. Shane had to roll to his right to dodge a crescent of distorted purple energy. The attack didn't strike him, but he still felt a shockwave ripple through his system.

"This doesn't concern you. Back off!" Gallian hissed. He whirled back on Tessa. "I asked you a question. Tell me what you're doing here, now!"

Tessa's legs quivered. 'He's even worse off than I remember! That wild look in his eyes… it's gotten even fiercer.'

Null's heavy breathing did not help this situation. "… who… is that?" he muttered.

Gallian took notice of Null's presence. His glare sharpened. "And what are you supposed to be?"

"… Null."

"So, the guild's hiring freak shows now, huh?" Gallian tapped a claw to his scythe. "Pathetic. This place just keeps sinking to new lows with each passing week."

Shane got back up to his feet. "We don't need to take that from a stupid outlaw like you," he spat. "So, either you can take your angsty edgelord routine and head for the exit or Magnezone can drag you out! Your choice, bub. It's three-on-one here."

Tessa shot Shane a wide-eyed look and shook her head rapidly. Gallian quickly picked up on this. "You and this little brat are together, huh?" he sneered. "Don't tell me he's the reason you didn't listen to me."

"Hey, you leave my teammate alone!" Shane declared. Gallian glanced at Shane and his eyes flickered purple. His bared his fangs at Shane. "And… and… we'll protect the guild because… uh…" Shane's voice faltered in the face of Gallian's glare. Gallian whipped his head forward and fired another energy crescent. This one moved too fast for Shane to dodge. He cried in pain as purple electricity crackled through his body.

Null shook his head about and ran forward. He swung a foreleg at Gallian, striking him in the side with his glowing talons. Gallian stood tall against the blow, however, and raised a discolored foreleg. Dark energy gathered around it and he raked his claws against Null's helmet. Null stumbled back, his body racked by tremors.

Tessa stood dumbfounded as Gallian spun about and jumped back, dodging a quick gust of icy air from Shane. "Pathetic!" he snarled, and sent another distorted wave of psychic energy toward Shane. Horror filled his expression and he scrambled to his right. But the attack caused a small explosion when it struck the wall. The explosion caught Shane and flung him to the ground.

"Stop this, Gallian!" Tessa shouted. Gallian momentarily froze, but then sidestepped the charging Null and struck his backside with his shadowy claws. Null collapsed into a heap beside Shane.

"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" Gallian roared. "You don't get to call me that. Not when you're standing here. I warned you. I said I'd strike you down if I ever caught you setting foot in here!" He touched his forepaw to the gem in his head. "You… and your little Vulpix friend. You're both setting us all down a road to disaster!" He glared at Tessa. "Why did you ignore me?"

"You know exactly why!" Tessa blubbered. "It's Mom, Gallian! I want to help Mom."

Gallian lowered his paw and his eyes glowed purple. "Leave her out of this!" he hissed.

"No! It's been six months, Gallian. Six months!" Tessa sobbed. "She left… and then you… you left right after her! I don't want to be alone anymore. I know she's out there. And she's doing something really important. But I think she needs help. And that's why I'm gonna find her!"

Gallian bared his fangs at her. "And you think the guild will help you?"

"Of course! Everyone's been very helpful and respected my boundaries since I got here," Tessa said. '… except for Vulpix, but Gallian doesn't need to know that.'

Gallian jerked his head forward and Tessa had no time to react to the Psycho Cut crescent that flew toward her. She screamed from the pain of the psychic shockwave that rippled through her system. Already exhausted from the day's events, she dropped to her knees. She looked up to see Gallian marching toward her, his scythe crackling with dark energy.

"Please, Gallian… don't go again…" she whimpered.

Gallian glared down at her. He shook his head disapprovingly. "… pathetic. Mom would never have stood for such a sorry sight."

"Why… are you… doing this?"

"Because this guild is rotten to its core," Gallian said. "You don't see it now, but you're just a tool here. As dumb and naïve as the rest of the Pokémon in this dumb place. You're all walking a dangerous path. One that ends badly for all of Horizon." He looked away from her. "I don't need this place to get stronger. And I definitely don't need it to find Mom. I'm getting along just fine on my own."

Tessa collapsed on her belly. Her vision went fuzzy while Gallian walked toward the door. Just before she lost consciousness, she heard him say, "Don't try to find me. If we meet again, I'll make you regret it."


"What do you think you're doing? Get up, human!"

Shane scrambled to his feet and looked around. "Oh, I'm back here again," he muttered, trying to cover his eyes with a foreleg. "Think you could turn down the lights a bit?"

"Fool! Did I not make myself clear before? I am the embodiment of light. I will do no such thing."

Shane slowly opened one of his eyes. Amidst the wall of orange light surrounding him, he could just barely make out a silhouette. A vaguely sun-shaped silhouette.

"Wait." His brow furrowed. "Solgaleo?
You're the reason I'm in the Pokémon world?"

"I already spelled that out for you," Solgaleo's voice boomed. "Get with the program."

"I just wanted the confirmation," Shane said. A smile tugged at his lips. "Wait'll Tessa hears about this. I
knew the world was in jeopardy." He shook his head. "And she thought I was brought here on accident. Ha! I'm a bona fide chosen one."

"SIIIIIIILLLLLEEEEEEEEEEENCE!" Solgaleo roared, jolting Shane to attention. "You have nothing to celebrate, human. Letting yourself get smacked about by Absol. Pathetic!"

Shane's ears drooped. "Oh, right. That," he whispered. "Look, he just caught me off guard, that's all. Next time we'll be ready to–"

"I am not interested in your excuses," Solgaleo said. "I want results. Absol is the enemy here, Chosen One. He is working against me."

"By doing what, exactly?" Shane asked. "You still haven't made it clear what you want my help with."

"I am in danger. There are forces trying to strip me of my power over the sun," Solgaleo explained. "They threaten the balance of day and night."

"And Absol's one of them, huh?" Shane said. "But, if he beat us, then he probably ran off. So, I have no idea where to find him."

"Then get an idea, Chosen One," Solgaleo declared. "My strength is faltering as it is. Reaching out to you is strenuous enough. Track down all the weird-looking Pokémon, figure out what they're planning, and stop them."

"Right." Shane nodded. "You can count on me."

"And don't screw up again, human!"

Shane's eyes widened. What appeared to be a tidal wave of orange water raced forward from the wall of light. He had nowhere to go, and could only curl up into a tiny white ball as the wave crashed onto him.


Shane's eyes shot open and he descended into a raucous coughing fit. He spat up water, and looked at the ground in confusion. "Why am I laying in a puddle?" he groaned.

"Oops, I guess I overdid it on the waterworks there. But at least it was effective, babe."

Shane got up and looked to his right. Sitting in front of him was a blue-and-white sea lion. He had a flowing mane of light blue hair, with what looked like a tiara sitting on his forehead. His snout ended in a small, round, pink nose.

"Who the heck are you?" Shane asked. "You look like you escaped from King Triton's castle and tried to squeeze into a Milotic costume."

"Wow, talk about a bad first impression, babe. And after I went to the trouble of waking you up and everything. How could you not know the amazing Primarina?" He stood up on his tail fins and thrust his arms to the side.

I'm the best of all the fairies!
Cause my tunes are legendarryyyyyyyyyy!"

Primarina clapped his fins together. Shane heard a popping noise and looked up just in time to see a sparkling bubble burst and drench him in water.

"Agggggh!" Shane spat out a mouthful of water. "What was that for?" he snarled, trying to shake his fur dry.

"You had a little schmutz behind your ears, babe. I took care of it," Primarina explained. "Besides, washing up after you wake up is the perfect way to stay freeeeesh and cllleeeeeeeeean!"

"If I wanted a cold shower I'd have asked!" Shane hissed.

"Primarina, I thought we agreed no dousing these guys to wake them up?"

Shane peered around Primarina and spotted a Vaporeon helping Tessa up to her feet. Vaporeon's mane-like crest of fins had sequins sparkling inside them. His tail had a pair of studded piercings. Light bounced off the gems, forcing Tessa to look away as Vaporeon used his tail to help her to her feet.

"Sorry Vappy, but our schedule's tight!
If we dawdle too long, I miss my chance on the mic! Sha-yeeeeeah!"

Tessa blinked in surprise, only to stare wide-eyed at Primarina.

"Holy–! You're… Primarina!" she gasped.

"Finally! Someone around here gives me the recognition I deserve, babe," Primarina cheered. "You must be a newbie, fox-boy. How else would my fabulous presence not leave you speechless like your partner there?"

"Don't mind him," Tessa cut in. "He's not from around here." She ran up to Primarina. "What are you doing at the guild, sir? I thought you lived near Sunset Shoals."

"Oh, I do, babe," Primarina said. "But before I started dazzling on the stage, I dizzity-dazzled the guild with my swee-hee-hee-hee-eeeet exploration abilities." He stood up on his tail again, allowing Tessa and Shane to see the Looplet wrapped around his waist. A gold explorer's badge was buckled to it.

"No way. You're a guild veteran?" Shane gawked.

"Team Harmony at your service. Even though Primarina and I don't live at the guild anymore, we like to drop by from time to time," Vaporeon explained. "And we got a call from Braviary asking us to check in on the place. He said he was worried about some 'new faces.' I take it you're the Pokémon he was referring to?"

Shane's ears drooped. "Uh, yeah," he sighed.

"Well you certainly got yourselves into a bind!
Passed out in the Guildmaster's Office?
What a shibbidy-shocking find!"

"Can we stop with the singing already?" Shane groaned.

"Sorry, babe, but these pipes were born to belt," Primarina said. "Anyway, I don't really know what was going down around here, but when you're ready to fess up, Vappy and I will be at Crabrawler's."

Primarina left the room. Vaporeon gave Shane a nervous smile. "Don't mind him. He's really a great guy, but he doesn't appreciate Pokémon who don't like his singing."

"Oh, I can appreciate it. From a distance. A very long distance," Shane sneered.

"Vulpix!" Tessa scolded. "Be nice to them."

"Whatever. So, how long were we out for, exactly?"

"Well, I don't know. We got here mid-morning and found you guys passed out," Vaporeon explained.

Shane's eyes widened. "We were out all night?" he gasped. "CRUD! Absol's probably well out of town by now."

"Calm down, Vulpix," Tessa said. "There's nothing we can do about it."

"We need to track him down," Shane declared. "You saw it as well as I did. He had this weird set of black crystals around his chest. Parasect had black crystals on his pincers. That makes him the enemy!"

Tessa winced and looked away. "Err, well, how are we supposed to know that for certain? He did talk, unlike Parasect and the Munchlaxes."

Shane gave her a look of disbelief. "Are you trying to defend him?" His brow furrowed. "Wait a minute. Come to think of it, Absol seemed to know you!" He pointed a forepaw forward accusingly. "What's your connection to the guy?"

Tessa crossed her arms and looked away. "Why should I tell you, huh?"

"Because we're partners, duh," Shane said.

"Oh really? I asked you yesterday why you were in a such a foul mood and you refused to answer," Tessa reminded him. "So, this is no different. My personal life is none of your business."

"It's totally my business when it puts us in danger!" Shane barked. "Didn't we have several conversations like this when we were first starting out? Pretty hypocritical of you to call me out on being too dangerous when now you're the one doing the exact same thing!"

Tessa bared her fangs at Shane. "But your sudden shift to a hostile attitude is what provoked Gal–" She cut herself off, "Sorry… what provoked Absol into attacking. So, you fess up!"

Shane shuffled forward, pressing his damp snout against Tessa's. "Not before you do!" he growled. "If you know something about Absol, then it's my business to know too. Because I've learned beyond a shadow of a doubt that the berserk Pokémon are a big threat to the whole continent. And that means we need to do something about it!"

Tessa didn't have the chance to respond. Instead, both canines felt something hard slam into their sides. They both sprawled out on their bellies. Tessa turned to glare at Shane, only for an insectoid foreleg to pin her to the ground. Her eyes went wide. Shane started sticking his tongue out at her, when Null pinned him down using his other foreleg.

"… both of you… shut up!"

Null thrashed his head about, rattling his helmet.

"… I'm tired… of your bickering," he rasped. "I'm… in enough pain… from this… blasted mask. I don't need… your arguments… making my headaches even worse. You're teammates… you made the choice to join… together. Work out your differences… or go your separate ways."

"Talk to her," Shane growled. "She's the one keeping sec– REEEEEK!"

Null pressed down on Shane's torso.

"… you're both… hiding things… if you ask me," Null growled. "I thought… you two… had worked through things… after you failed… sentry duty. Clearly… you didn't…"

He stepped back, releasing his grips on the duo.

"… I'm… going back to the sentry room…" he muttered. "Don't let me… catch you two arguing again." He turned and stomped out of the Guildmaster's room.

Tessa and Shane silently got back to their feet. They both glanced at each other, only to look away.

"Hey, so…" they both started, only to abruptly cut themselves off. "No, no, you first," they continued, only to both facepalm simultaneously.

Tessa raised up her paw. "Okay, I'll go first." She took a deep breath. "That Absol… is my brother, Gallian. And he was– no, is a member of the guild."

Shane's jaw dropped. "Are you serious? Does egg-making work differently in this world, then? Shouldn't your brother be another Riolu or a Lucario?"

"We're not related by blood, if that's what you're implying," Tessa elaborated. "My parents found his egg abandoned in the Invern Mountains before they had conceived me." She hung her head. "He was always so warm and friendly toward others, especially at the guild. And everyone was so nice to him, despite the stereotypes about Absols."

Shane raised an eyebrow. "What, the disaster-bringing stuff? That's just superstition."

"Yeah, but most Pokémon buy into it," Tessa sighed. "Despite that, Gallian loved it here at the guild. Whenever he visited home, he would always relay these exciting stories. And tell me how much he couldn't wait for me to join up with the guild." She fidgeted with her paws. "He was even willing to put off graduating to veteran rank until I joined. That way, we could room together while I got used to this place."

"But he didn't seem nice at all yesterday," Shane muttered.

"I don't know what happened," Tessa said. "One day, after I started staying over at Sylveon's, he shows up and threatens me. He told me he'd strike me down if he ever saw me set foot in the guild. This… this was the first time I'd seen him since then."

Shane's snout stiffened. "I'm, uh, sorry?" he muttered. "It seems to me that he's gone berserk."

"Don't say that!" Tessa yipped. "Please…" She looked down. "I… I don't want to think about that. Because if… if he's berserk… and we beat him…" Her eyes teared up.

Shane frowned. "But, Tessa, didn't I tell you? Those berserk Pokémon… we have to put a stop to them. That's what I'm here for."

Tessa tensed up. "And what makes you so sure of that?"

"I've… I've had a couple of dreams," Shane confessed. "And in them, this voice calls out to me. He says he's Solgaleo. And that he needs me to help preserve the balance between day and night."

"You're kidding me, right?"

Shane's stance slouched. "See, this is why I didn't want to tell you anything. I knew you wouldn't believe me."

"Well, it's, uh, y'know, just kind of hard to believe," Tessa confessed. "And there's no way to prove it."

"It's not a stretch, though. C'mon, think about it. I show up in Horizon... and now these berserk Pokémon are appearing," Shane explained. "I understand that Absol's your brother and you're worried about him, but we can't just ignore him."

Tessa rubbed her shoulder. "I… I…"

Shane's ears drooped. "… I should've known you'd try to brush it off."


Shane rolled his eyes. "Don't give me that. You want to know why I didn't want to talk to you about why I was 'in a foul mood?' Because I wasn't, okay? That was the real Shane. The one I told you about after saving your behind from Espeon and Umbreon. Who tends to be negative all the time and makes people angry because of it."

Tessa looked down guiltily. Shane walked away from her. "Look at what happened yesterday. We blew it! It was a random stroke of luck that saved us from that Parasect and then, to add insult to injury, your brother shows up and effortlessly takes us out." He slapped a forepaw on the ground. "This isn't supposed to happen! I'm a human-turned-Pokémon… a chosen one! Solgaleo told me I was in a dream. I can't be defeated this easily. It's unacceptable!"

"But… I was. Twice. In one day, no less!" He flopped to his belly, burying his head in his forepaws. "Who am I kidding? They chose the wrong human. This world's done for. Those berserk Pokémon are going to overrun the place and something's going to go wrong with day and night and…"

"That's enough, Shane."

Shane poked his head up. "Did… did you just call me–?"

Tessa walked over to him. "Stop talking like this. You're right… I don't like it," she admitted.

"I can't help it. It's just who I am," Shane whispered.

"No, it's not," Tessa shot him down. "You said it yourself. That's who Shane the human was. Shane the Vulpix is an over-confident, overly-enthusiastic braggart…"

"That's supposed to make me feel better?"

"… let me finish," Tessa said. "You're too cocky… but you've also pushed me to do things that, before we met, I'd have never even attempted. The truth is, I spent months trying to work up the courage to join the guild, only to chicken out each time I came to Aeon Town. Yes, most of this has frightened me. A lot. But I don't want to be afraid anymore. I don't want my brother looking down on me. And if he has gone berserk, I don't want to turn tail when he needs my help."

She extended a forepaw forward. "So, Team Radiance may not be perfect. But, we've still got to try our best, right?"

Shane got to his feet. "Heh." He rubbed his eyes with his forepaw. "That's just what I'd expect a Riolu to say…" He let out a weak chuckle. "You aura users make me so jealous."

Tessa's face flushed and she looked away.

"C'mon." Shane stretched out his hind legs. "We'd better find Primarina and Vaporeon so we can explain what happened. Don't want to get into more trouble than we're already in, right?"

Tessa nodded. "Right."

From behind the corner of the nearby hallway, Null watched them emerge from the Guildmaster's office. He nodded to himself and disappeared before either of them could see him.


And thus, the string of six consecutive parts with battles is broken. Hey, it had to end eventually. We have the beginnings of Shane getting knocked down a few pegs. For those of you rooting for that to happen, I hope you enjoy what's to come. We also have Primarina's introduction and, yes, he's supposed to be extremely obnoxious. So, if he annoyed you, I did my job right.

Next time: delicious fried pastries and thievery! A great combination, like chives on ice cream.
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Gone. Not coming back.
It's nice to see more of Null; he's an interesting character, and a really sensible one too, which is something that Team Radiance sorely needs. Possibly Shane's just a bad influence, possibly her youth and naïveté is showing more the more we see of her, but Tessa seems a little less sensible than she came across as at the start. I liked the little interlude with Absol/Gallian, too – and his long-awaited intrusion into the story in chapter fourteen, too – but I thought your description of UB Adhesive was a bit clunky; it felt like a collection of different parts that didn't really come together into a single coherent creature, and I found it difficult to visualise to the point where I didn't even recognise it as Adhesive till you mentioned it explicitly in your notes.

I do like the way you handled the description of the corrupted parasect, though; it's much more elegant than the munchlax – though the bit where Tessa points out the red crescents seems a bit forced. Part of it's that it seems weird that she'd have enough time to say it, and part of it's that it seems an odd detail to pick up on under the circumstances. Like, I know it's very relevant to the corruption thing, but the delivery makes it sound off, somehow. Whatever the exact reason, you mention it again a few paragraphs on, so I think you could just introduce it there instead of having Tessa say it.

I also adore the combination air slash/powder snow! Move combos are such a cool thing, and I wish there was more than a half-hearted attempt to make it work in the games. The oath moves getting a power boost recently went some way to fixing that, but so few pokémon can learn them, and double battles are so uncommon, that it still seems super marginal. Fic, as always, is a great way to address that oversight, and it's cool to see people taking these things into consideration.

I'm also pleased to see the phrase “blue-purple dragonfire” turn up. I feel like that's a phrase that turns up a lot in Pokémon fic (I say, without being able to provide the slightest shred of evidence to back that assertion up), and I really like how we as a community have all, apparently independently, come up with the same phrase to immediately and intuitively suggest the difference between fire- and dragon-type flame attacks.

And then, quite suddenly: plot and character development, by the bucketload. I like that they lose, for once, and I really like that that loss has real and tangible effects on Shane; I also like the intrusion of what I suspect is his human life (or the remnants of it) into this reality, too. Obviously this isn't a coma dream (thankfully, because that's always such a boring cop-out ending for a story, like "hey, here's a fun thing but actually no, because the author is unable to commit to anything interesting"), because there are other humans-turned-pokémon around and also the world is using elements of the pokémon world that Shane wasn't aware of before he arrived, so it'll be interesting to see what you do have in mind with all this.

Plus, of course, hooray for teamwork and working things out! The stuff at the end of chapter fourteen is a really nice and very timely development of what Shane and Tessa have together.

Finally, a couple of little things:

“Breath, Serpy, breath,”

I think that's meant to be 'breathe'.

“How else would my fabulous presence not leave you speechless like your partner there.”

Missing a question mark.

angsty edgelord routine

For once, Shane and I are in agreement. Wow. Never thought I'd see the day.


Winter can't come soon enough
Couple of housekeeping items. First up, the update schedule will be slowing down a little. After mulling it over and making a topic in Author's Café, I've determined updating every 5-6 days is a bit too quick and is intimidating some readers.

Also, I'm in the process of putting this on FanFiction.net. So, those of you who primarily browse on smartphones or tablets can more easily read this in the future.

It's nice to see more of Null; he's an interesting character, and a really sensible one too, which is something that Team Radiance sorely needs. Possibly Shane's just a bad influence, possibly her youth and naïveté is showing more the more we see of her, but Tessa seems a little less sensible than she came across as at the start.
Null's an interesting case that I don't want to expand on at this point for fear of spoilers. As for Tessa and Shane, they're kind of starting to effect each other, now that they've been together a few weeks.

I liked the little interlude with Absol/Gallian, too – and his long-awaited intrusion into the story in chapter fourteen, too – but I thought your description of UB Adhesive was a bit clunky
Gallian's also a very curious case. I wanted to try incorporating a mainline game story element into this, which is how Gallian ended up how he did. As for Sticky, I went back and revised the description. Hopefully it's clearer now. Similarly, the bit where Tessa mentions the moons was removed since I agree it's not necessary.

I also adore the combination air slash/powder snow!
I might not have Pokémon fic experience, but there was no way I was writing this story without including some spur-of-the-moment combos. Same goes for the dragonfire bit. I've seen it pop up so much I just assumed it was the fanon term. Personally, I'm a bit colorblind so I can't really tell if Dragon Breath is blue or purple. ^^;

And then, quite suddenly: plot and character development, by the bucketload. I like that they lose, for once, and I really like that that loss has real and tangible effects on Shane; I also like the intrusion of what I suspect is his human life (or the remnants of it) into this reality, too
Aww man, I'm glad you liked it. At the same time, this makes me really nervous for the upcoming episodes, because their delicate relationship will take central stage. I don't want to let anyone down with them. ;~;

As for the human life intrusion, this is actually the second time this has happened to Shane (first was Chapter 2 when Tessa mentioned him being here "by accident"). This incident was more vivid. As to what exactly it is, the answer's already in the story, if you can read a little bit between the lines of the Prologue and Episode 1. Thanks again for the review and feedback! ^^

Okay, I think that's enough rambling. On to the chapter!


Chapter 15: Investigative Interlude
"Hey... uh... Shane? You there?"

"Of course I am, Nicky. What's the matter? You sound awful."

"Yeah. I've... urgh... been puking up a storm today. Think I got the damn stomach bug going around."

"Seriously? But tonight's the new Thor movie premier. We've been planning to go for months, dude!"

"I know that, Shane! Why do you think I'm so upseeeeeeeecht?"

"Was that a belch, dude? That sounded pretty nasty."

"I told you. I got the stomach bug and I got it bad. I'm miserable here, man. I don't think I can go out tonight."

"Come on! You've gotta be kidding me, here. Can't you just soldier through it? You know Thor's my favorite Avenger. And we already bought the tickets. I don't want them going to waste."

"Look, why don't you just go by yourself? We could always go together next weekend or something, dude."

"But it won't be the same! I'll know everything that happened! And I don't want to go to a premier by myself. People are gonna laugh at me."

"Would you rather catch the bug I've got and be spewing chunks like I am? It's not pleasant, man. My insides

"I... I guess not. It's just–"

"I'm sorry, Shane. I've got to bail. There's no way I can sit through that movie. Just, I dunno, go with your dad or something."

"But Dad hates superhero movies."

"Then I don't know what to tell you man. Sorry."

"... it's whatever, Nicky."



~Aeon Town~

"... Vulpix? Hey, Vulpix!"

Shane jolted to attention. He swiveled his head around, looking at the path leading from the Observatory toward the town square. "Did you say something?" Shane muttered.

"Yes, I did," Tessa growled. "Were you paying attention?"

"I must've spaced out... sorry," Shane muttered, wincing.

Tessa sighed. "It's fine. We just need to get our stories straight for Primarina and Vaporeon. As much as I don't like it, we have to take the 'whole truth' approach and tell them everything that happened yesterday. We went on a mission to Twilight Forest, only to get ambushed by an… uh…" She froze mid-step.

"What's the matter?" Shane asked.

"Well, I can't think of a way to describe that Parasect. 'Berserk' just doesn't seem like that good of a word for what we saw," Tessa explained.

"Hmm." Shane scrunched up his snout. "How about… bizarre?"

"That's pretty open-ended."

Shane rolled his eyes. "Okay then. What about creepy? Sinister? Totally whacko?" Tessa continued to shake her head at each option, making Shane more and more annoyed. "Shoot. I don't know. It looked like something out of one of those creepy sci-fi movies I watched back home, so how about 'alien?'"

Tessa flinched. "Can't you think of anything else?"

Shane shrugged. "Look, it's the best I can come up with. Take it or leave it."

"Fine, alien it is," Tessa said. She resumed walking. "So, as I was saying, an alien Parasect jumped us. It would have done us in if Team Captivate hadn't shown up to save our butts."

"Don't remind me," Shane grumbled. Despite the pep talk Tessa had given him several minutes ago, the defeat still left him with a bitter taste in his mouth.

"Sorry," Tessa mumbled. "Anyway, we returned from that mission, only to find that Team Specter had been knocked out."

"… by your brother," Shane interjected. "Who's also probably possessed by the same alien force that controlled Parasect."

Tessa winced and looked down at the ground.

"Hey, you're the one who wants to tell the whole truth," Shane pointed out. "Don't go backing out on me now. Cause I sure don't want to say we got our butts kicked twice in one day."

"Okay, okay, fine," Tessa said. "It's not like those two knew Gallian all that well anyway. I guess I'll just have to deal with Braviary and Guildmaster Metagross when they get back from the expedition."

Shane and Tessa froze at the outskirts of the town square. Several Pokémon gathered next to Crabrawler's Café. Shane's ears drooped. "Oh brother. Don't tell me Primarina's managed to attract a crowd. I am not about to fess up to anything in front of a bunch of strangers."

"Well, he is kind of famous," Tessa muttered, poking her index digits together. "Maybe we didn't think this through properly?"

"Us? He's the one who sauntered off," Shane scoffed.

"Oh, it's positively dreadful, I tell you! Vappy, keep these folks back, babe. I need-a-leedly-deed some ox-y-heeeeeee-gen!"

Shane started turning around, but Tessa grabbed him by the scruff of his neck. "Oh no you don't. You're not weaseling out of this. It sounds like something's wrong."

"Which is exactly why I want to weasel out of it!" Shane protested, limbs flailing as he fought against Tessa's grip. "That guy's name literally sounds like prima dona. Whatever he's complaining about, I don't want to hear it."

KZZZRT! Everyone stand back. I need space to conduct a proper interview.

Tessa's aura feelers twitched. "That sounds like Officer Magnezone," she said.

Shane stopped struggling. "So, something serious happened?"

"We're not gonna know if we stand here. C'mon!" She dragged Shane forward, but he soon escaped her grasp and jogged toward the group.

"Alright, alright, step aside!" he barked, swishing his scarf around to show off his badge. "Nothing to see here, folks. We're with the Horizon Guild. If you could just… urgh…" He struggled to duck underneath a Butterfree.

Tessa shook her head. "I guess that's one way to make an entrance," she mused. Like her partner, she unclipped her explorer's badge and walked forward. "Err… I'm with him!" she squeaked, using her smaller stature to squeeze between the onlooking Pokémon. Tessa found her way out of the crowd and stumbled to Shane's side. The two of them found Primarina collapsed on the ground and an unamused Vaporeon fanning Primarina out with his tail.

They expected to find Magnezone talking to one of the guild veterans, but instead saw him speaking to Crabrawler. Now, if you could just give me the sequence of events. Slowly, this time, he requested.

Crabrawler nodded, his face ripe with worry. "I went to open up shop this morning. Things were rather slow, so I decided to do some cleaning in my storage room. Perfectly run of the mill, I say. But as I'm sweeping out the room, I pass by my safe and… and…"

Crabrawler started to get choked up. "Oh, dash it all! It's terrible! The safe… wide open! My precious family recipe… gone!" He rubbed an arm across his face. "This is the worst thing to happen to me in all my years running the café. Tourist season is due to start in a matter of days and someone filched my Mythical Malasada recipe."

Shane face planted. "Wait… all this commotion is over a lost recipe?" he said. "How is that a problem? Don't you, like, have it committed to memory or something?"

Crabrawler promptly raised his fists, which startled glowing. Shane's tails jutted up into the air and his fur stood on end. "Rubbish!" Crabrawler bellowed. "The Mythical Malasada's recipe is too complex to simply 'commit to memory!' What kind of simpleton do you take me for, child?"

Tessa hastily threw a paw up over Shane's muzzle. "Aha ha ha. Forgive him, Crabrawler, sir. He's… not from around here." She promptly shot Shane an icy look and released his muzzle.

"Cripes… I didn't realize it was such a sore subject," Shane muttered. "What the heck's a malasada anyway?"

Primarina bolted upright, making Vaporeon yip in surprise. "You mean you don't know?" he gasped.

"It's the treat of the gods!
With a texture so heavenly!
The flavor… the aroma…
It's quite extraordinary!
And the Mythical Malasada…
The greatest of all.
Simply tastiiiiiiing one
Will make you feel thirty feet taaaaaaallll!"

The crowd erupted into applause, while Shane simply cocked his head in confusion. "That… didn't even remotely answer my question," he griped.

"So, the other continents sell sweets like cookies and chocolate. Donuts are a particular favorite spreading from the Mist Continent," Vaporeon explained. "Malasadas are kinda similar. They're fried dough."

"So, they're just fancy donuts?" Shane asked.

"How daaaaare you!" Crabrawler bellowed, lunging for a startled Shane. Magnezone floated in front of him.

KZZZACK! Please restrain yourself. Do not commit assault in front of an officer of the law, Magnezone instructed.

"Can you believe that child? Comparing our continent's lovely malasadas to mere donuts? I say, malasadas are superior in every way!" Crabrawler declared.

"Quite so, Crabrawler," Primarina agreed. "And you call yourself an explorer? Hmph!" He shook his head disapprovingly. "Vappy, remind me to have a stern conversation with the Guildmaster about his recruitment standards. They've gone way down, babe."

"Uh, hello?" Shane waved a forepaw at Primarina. "Human-turned-Pokémon? Only been living in Horizon for about a few weeks? Ring any bells?"

The crowd started muttering.

"A human in Horizon? No way!"

"This guy's gotta be joking. He looks like a normal Vulpix."

"Maybe the heat's getting to him? I've never seen a Vulpix walking around outside the Invern Mountains."

"But all the stories say they lose their memories when they become Pokémon."

Shane frowned. Primarina looked at him in surprise. "Wait, that's you, babe?" He scratched his snout. "And here I thought Serperior was just yank-a-tiddly-anking my tailfins. She can be such a gossip sometimes, y'know."

Between Primarina and the crowd's murmurs, Shane had had enough. "Yes, I am a human! And I'll prove it to you all… by using my awesome human brain to find the recipe thief in record time." He puffed his chest out confidently.

It took Tessa a moment to process his statement. "Huhwha–?" She blinked several times. "You're going to do what now?"

"Find the malasada recipe thief, of course," Shane declared. "In fact, I already have a suspect."

The crowd gasped.

"No way! I can't believe this!"

"He's going to accuse someone without any evidence?"

"He hasn't even investigated at all."

"Besides, it's Officer Magnezone's job to investigate robberies. Not the guild's."

"Ugh, it's not any of you," Shane groaned. "Although a clever criminal could try hiding in plain sight if they weren't confident they could escape, I don't think we're dealing with someone like that."

Interesting. I was unaware humans possessed the ability to see the past. Could you impart such wisdom onto me?

"No, because I can't do that. But I have a very strong hunch who's responsible," Shane declared. "If my assistant and I could just take a look at the, uh, 'crime scene.' We might find some evidence that confirms my suspicions!"

Tessa's jaw dropped. "Excuse me? Your assistant? What happened to teamwork and equal partnership?"

Shane winced. "Err... right... sorry... my bad," he muttered. "Um, what I meant to say was, could my teammate and I take a look?"

"Vulpix, I don't have any experience with this kind of stuff. What do you expect me to do?" Tessa asked.

"Not too much," Shane said. "You can follow me around and jot down all my brilliant thoughts as I deduce the identity of our criminal." He walked toward the entrance, only to stop and look at Crabrawler and Magnezone. "Actually, would either of you happen to have a deerstalker hat and an ornate wooden pipe?"

Crabrawler and Magnezone exchanged confused looks.

"Oh, come on. No need to be shy about it," Shane chuckled. "With your accent, Crabrawler, I'll bet you've got those stored away somewhere, right?"

"Did you inhale a lot of Stun Spores as a pup?" Crabrawler scoffed.

"Shane, quit making a scene," Tessa said. "What's a deerstalker anyway? Is it like a Deerling?"

Shane frowned. "Never mind, it's not important. I guess I can still pull this off even without the right accessories." He turned back toward the café entrance.

"Will you please just explain to me what's going on?" Tessa begged.

"Sorry, no time," Shane declared, trotting toward the door. "Come along, Tessa… the game is afoot!"

She watched him disappear into the entrance with a befuddled expression. "Wait, what game? And whose side are we on? Why won't you tell me what you're doing?" she whined. Tessa shook her head. "If this is his way of bouncing back from being in a mood, I'd rather him go back to moping."


~Crabrawler's Café~

Crabrawler led Magnezone and Team Radiance back into the storage room. It was surprisingly clean, with all of Crabrawler's supplies tucked neatly into ornate wooden shelves on the left side of the room or situated in drawers made of the same wood over in the room's back right corner.

"Wow, Mr. Crabrawler. You even have a ladder in here and everything!" Tessa gasped.

"Um... Tessa... that's a stepladder," Shane said, looking directly at the object in question.

"First off, it's Riolu," Tessa said. "And second off, what's the difference?"

"There's a huge difference!" Shane said. "A ladder is just this flat, measly piece of wood you have to lean against whatever you're climbing up. Hardly supportive or safe! But a stepladder is like two ladders stitched together to form one sturdy fortress of climbing superiority!"

Tessa scratched her head. "But they just do the same thing, don't they? So, we should just call it a 'ladder' because it's shorter and saves us time and energy."

Shane's right eye twitched. "That's... not... how... it works..."

"I don't see a problem with it," Tessa said, shrugging.

"Just forget it, then," Shane sighed, hanging his head. 'Odd... I feel like I've heard all this somewhere before.'

"Come now. If I'm going to let you two children in here, then I expect results!" Crabrawler said. "The safe is over there." He pointed to his right. In the front right corner of the room, a safe sat perched atop a barrel. The door was open wide, showcasing the safe's empty contents. "See, there's absolutely nothing there to go off of. Are we done here?" Crabrawler asked.

"Of course not. We're just beginning, after all," Shane declared. "And I won't stop until I've inspected every suspicious-looking nook and cranny."

"Why not just look at the safe? It's right there," Tessa scoffed.

Shane rolled his eyes. "Oh, silly partner. The obvious location is always the first place to check. Which is precisely why I won't check it first! There could be other clues to be found."

Tessa opened her mouth to retort, but couldn't think of anything to say. Shane instead walked over toward the far wall, where Crabrawler's desk sat. "What do you think you're doing, child?" Crabrawler said. "The thief went right for my safe, obviously."

"Shhhhh!" Shane held up a forepaw. "I'm trying to concentrate here." He walked up to the desk and leaned in toward the drawers, closely inspecting the handles. "Hmm… uh-huuuuuh. I see." He rubbed his chin. "Fascinating!"

Tessa's shoulders slumped. "Would you care to share your findings, detective?"

"There are claw marks on a couple of these handles," Shane announced.

"Of course there are! I have claws, you rube," Crabrawler bellowed, brandishing his large pincers at Shane.

That does not strike me as a very wise deduction, Magnezone added. I will update my information on humans to include their propensity for stating the obvious.

Shane faceplanted into the ground. He quickly stood up, dusting himself off. "Ugh, some people just take the fun out of everything," he grumbled. "Look, you guys didn't let me finish, okay? The claw marks aren't large like you'd expect if Crabrawler opened the drawers."

"Wait, they're not?" Tessa approached the desk and looked in the direction Shane faced.

"Yeah, they're very thin," Shane said. "And furthermore, there are multiple of them. See those thin lines all placed next to each other? They look like claw marks to me."

"I guess so. But, what's that supposed to mean?"

"That depends." Shane turned to Crabrawler. "Do you have any staff or helpers that you let back here?"

"Perish the thought," Crabrawler scoffed. "This café's been family run for generations. When I decide to up and have a kid, I'll pass it on to them."

"Okay." Shane tapped his forehead with a forepaw. "So, the logical conclusion to draw is that a Pokémon bearing claws entered the room and opened up these drawers."

Alternative theory: the thief utilized a fake set of claws to throw everyone off.

"That is unnecessarily overcomplicated," Shane exclaimed. "There's an old human idiom that says, 'when you hear hoofbeats, don't think zebras.'"

Shane got three blank looks.

He rolled his eyes. "Ugh, it just means that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Now then, if the culprit tried the desk, they may have searched other sealed things as well. Anything in here besides these desk drawers?"

"Only the safe," Crabrawler said.

"Okay then. Safe it is." Shane walked over to the safe and barrel, sweeping his head back and forth.

"What exactly are you looking for?" Tessa asked.

"Trace evidence," Shane replied. "A lot of Pokémon have fur, wings, scales, or some sort of slime clinging to them. I guarantee that if our culprit falls into one of those groups, they shed a bit and left something for us to find."

"Shed? I'll have you know this is the same fur I was born with!" Tessa protested.

Shane rolled his eyes. "You're honestly about to stand there and tell me you've never had anyone run a brush through your fur? What about your mom?"

Tessa stiffened and looked away. Memories flashed by of her pup days; sitting on her mother's lap while she tried to brush her knotted fur. "That's…" Tessa took in a sharp breath. "None of your business."

A query, human. How would a trace amount of fur enable you to determine who is responsible? You are not psychic, Magnezone pointed out.

"No, duh. Of course it won't. The point isn't to find out exactly who did it," Shane elaborated, running his snout across the floor. "It's to try and find something that confirms the suspect I have in mind."

That doesn't sound accurate, Mangezone said.

"Well, it worked for all the detectives on TV," Shane quipped.

"And if you don't find what you're looking for?" Crabrawler asked.

"Then I just need to shuffle my thinking," Shane declared. A smile crept onto his muzzle. "But I don't think I need to worry about that. Check it!" He pointed a forepaw toward the base of the barrel.

I do not see anything other than wood, Magnezone said.

"That's because you need to come closer," Shane said. Under his breath he added, "Boy, the police in this place sure leave something to be desired." He guided Magnezone forward and maneuvered the officer's right magnet-hand to hover by the bottom of the barrel. "If you could just gimme a little static electricity here."

I am not supposed to utilize my electrical attacks unless force is required to restrain a criminal, Magnezone reported.

"Just do it," Shane ordered. Magnezone pointed his magnet-arm forward and applied a slight current. Shane leaned in, causing the fur on his chest and face to comically poof up. More importantly however, a small cluster of long, thin, and white fibers stuck to Magnezone's hand.

"Okay, stop. Stop!" Shane ordered. He stepped backward, trying to shake the puffiness out of his fur.

Behind him, Tessa restrained her laughter. "What's the matter, Vulpix? Your brain need a jump start or something?" she heckled.

"Har, har. Hey, maybe if this exploration team gig doesn't work out you can join Primarina's performance ensemble as a stand-up comedian," Shane fired back. He beckoned her forward with a paw. "I'll have you know we got exactly what I was looking for."

Tessa and Crabrawler joined Shane and Magnezone. The officer turned around. I do not understand. Why do you consider these hair strands so important?

Shane smirked. "They're the trace evidence I was referring to! White fur left behind by our culprit while they broke into the safe."

"But you have white fur," Crabrawler pointed out. "Who's to say you didn't shed that fur strutting around my storage room, eh?"

"A fair point. But… heh…" Shane tapped his noggin. "Even without a crime lab to analyze the hair fibers and test their DNA, I'm pretty confident it's not mine. See, my fur is a much brighter shade of white." He walked right up next to Magnezone, allowing Tessa and Crabrawler to compare.

"Huh, I guess you're right," Tessa acknowledged. "But, wait, you're not trying to suggest Sylveon did this, are you? She's the only one who comes to mind with white fur."

Shane gave her an unamused look. "Are you serious right now? This is totally obvious!"

I fail to see the obviousness of this, Magnezone countered.

"Yeah, me too," Tessa agreed. "Why does any of this matter? Who's your suspect?"

"Why, that's elementary, my dear Tessa," Shane declared, a goofy grin sprawled across his face. "Oh man, it felt even better saying that line than I thought it would."

"Oy! Vulpix!" Tessa snapped her digits at him. "Get to the point!"

"Fine, fine." Shane turned around and closed the safe door, revealing a set of jagged claw marks running across the locking mechanism. They had caused the lock to break open, and it now bobbed back and forth from the door by a series of springs.

"Between the claw marks on the desk, the ones on this safe, and the white fur scattered around the barrel, it's clear to me that the culprit is none other than…" Shane took in a deep breath and placed a forepaw against his chest.

Tessa clenched her fists. "C'mon. Just tell us already!"

"I was pausing for dramatic effect," Shane declared, earning a stink eye from Tessa. "Okay, sheesh. Look, the culprit's Absol... or, rather, Gallian. I don't think it could be anyone else."

Tessa's muzzle stiffened. "You… you can't be serious."

That does not compute. Gallian is a registered guild apprentice. For what reason would he want to commit such a crime? Magnezone asked.

"Yes, a capital question, officer. No one's seen hide or hair of the gent in nigh on half a year!" Crabrawler added. "Are you really suggesting he suddenly reappeared just to steal my malasada recipe?"

"Ah, yes, motive. That's easy enough to explain," Shane said. "See, Riolu and I found him in the Observatory yesterday. He ransacked Guildmaster Metagross' office. Or, at least, messed it up as much as you could for a place that has nothing in it."

Shane stared pacing back and forth. "Judging by his ragged condition, he must've been trying to find something valuable to steal and pawn off. So, it's not unreasonable to deduce that, when he came up empty-pawed, he high-tailed it over to the café and stole the most valuable thing he could think of: the recipe!"

Shane paused and looked at one of the cabinets. "The only question is… what would the alien force infecting him want with a donut recipe?"

"Malasada recipe!" Crabrawler protested. "And what are you on about with aliens?" He turned to Magnezone. "I want this charlatan arrested. He's making a mockery of me and my plight."

I cannot simply arrest someone for teasing. That is not a crime. It is just rude.

"I'm not teasing anyone here! What I'm saying is the truth," Shane insisted. "Back me up here, Riolu. Didn't we confront your brother yesterday?"

Tessa tensed up. She looked down at the floor and poked her index digits together.

"Riolu. You said we'd tell the truth, remember?"

Tessa hung her head. "It's true, Officer Magnezone. We caught my brother trying to steal from the guild yesterday. He managed to knock us out and get away. So, it's possible he could've broken in here too."

"Egads!" Crabrawler's jaw dropped. "You mean this crazy human is actually right?"

Shane beamed. "I told you I knew what I was doing."

"But there's a problem, Vulpix," Tessa said. "If that's the truth, and Gallian broke in here last night, he's probably long gone by now. Which means there's no way we're finding that malasada recipe."

The confident look on Shane's face instantly vanished. He slouched over like he was a living balloon that just got deflated. "Oh… yeah. I guess that's true."

"Oh no! The horror! The shame of it all!" Crabrawler sobbed. "He's going to pass along my family's biggest secret. I'm ruined I tell you! Ruiiiiiiiiined!"

I will put out a memo to all shops in Horizon to be on the lookout for an Absol trying to sell a recipe, Magnezone announced.

"Fat lot of good that'll do," Crabrawler hiccupped. "The fiend probably has underground connections. He's part of the guild, after all."

As Shane racked his brain to try and come up with some sort of solution, he noticed a shadow in the sunbeam stretching across the room. He immediately looked up at the small window near the ceiling and spotted the tip of what appeared to be a gray tail.

"Guys! I just saw something!" he gasped. "Someone just moved past that window. We were being watched."

Do not try to distract from this subject, human. We must strategize to attempt to intercept the criminal Absol, Magnezone exclaimed. It appears I must also update my databanks on humans to include their inability to pay attention to something very long.

"I'm serious here," Shane huffed. "Someone was watching us. If we hurry, we can track them down. They might know something about Gallian's whereabouts!" He turned to Tessa. "C'mon, you believe me, don't you?"

Tessa scrunched up her face in thought. 'Well, he did seem pretty on the ball with those deductions of his.' She turned and jogged toward the door. "Sorry to run out on you guys. But if my partner says he thinks he saw something worth pursuing, then I'm gonna agree with him."

A big smile spread its way across Shane's mouth. "Alright! Let's hurry," he said, and scampered along after Tessa.


~Aeon Town~

Shane and Tessa hurried around to the back of Crabrawler's Café. But whatever Shane had seen was already long gone. He looked around and his brow furrowed. "Crud, we weren't quick enough!"

"Now what?" Tessa asked. "I don't suppose you got a good look at this phantom of yours, did you?"

"Not really. I just saw the tip of a gray tail," Shane recalled. "But that doesn't really do much to narrow it down, does it?"

Tessa scratched her head. "At the very least, it's definitely not Gallian. So, doesn't that debunk your 'this snooping Pokémon could know something,' theory?"

"Not if Gallian had an accomplice," Shane said.

Tessa frowned. "You're just making this up as you go along, aren't you?"

"Well, a little bit," Shane admitted, earning a glare from Tessa. "But I told you, I've seen plenty of crime stories. They can take all sorts of surprising twists and turns."

"This isn't a story, though," Tessa groaned.

"Okay, point taken. Still, I'm not giving up here and neither should you. Because we do have a way of telling if someone was here," Shane said. He turned around and looked Tessa right in the eyes.

"What are you staring at me for? This was your idea," Tessa pointed out.

"Uh, because I need you to do your special aura sense stuff, duh," Shane said. "If there was a Pokémon here, they must've left a lingering trace of energy behind, right? That's usually how it works."

Tessa crossed her arms. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were an aura expert. Say, want to teach me Aura Sphere while you're at it? I've heard some Riolus can learn it on their own with enough practice."

Shane frowned. "C'mon, knock it off. Every second you spend being snarky is costing us precious time here."

"Didn't I make it clear to you before? I can't just turn on my aura sense at will. It's not fully developed... and I don't think it ever will be. If I was evolved, then maybe. But there's no way that'll every happen."

"Well, you're a happiness evolution so if you keep that attitude up…" Shane trailed off the moment he noticed Tessa's stink eye. "Look, couldn't you just try? Maybe if you just concentrate really hard or something?"

"… ugh, fine. But you need to stand back. Like, way back. Or I'm only going to sense you," Tessa said, shooing Shane off with a flick of her paws. Shane backed up toward the town square, earning some confused looks from townsfolk enjoying the sunny weather. Satisfied, Tessa turned and approached the base of the café's rear window.

'Okay.' Tessa took a deep breath. 'C'mon, Riolu… you can do this. Relax… deep breaths. Just like Mom taught you. Clear your mind… clear your mind… clear your…'

Suddenly she wasn't standing in back of a building anymore. Instead, she sat atop a rock, overlooking Aeon Town. She heard grass shuffling behind her, and spun around. Her mother weaved her way through the grass field. Prisma's feet glided across the ground, tracing concentric circles. She twisted about, slowly rotating her arms and tracing circles in the air with her paws. The blue energy flickering in her paws danced around with her, creating ribbon-like trails.


"Hey! Did you sense anything?"

Shane's shouts jolted Tessa out of her daydream. "N-No!" she stammered. "And I won't sense squat if you don't back off and let me concentrate." She slammed her eyes shut and clenched her fists.

'Rrrrr… you can do this! Focus! Pay attention. Deep breath in…' She sucked in a large gulp of air and tensed up. For a brief moment, a mosaic of colors spread across her vision, replacing the interior of her eyelids. Though it quickly faded, Tessa's brain was able to process the sensation. Most of what she saw were various shades of browns, greens, and grays. But one thing immediately stuck out to her.

"Vulpix was right," she whispered. "Hey!" She turned around and waved Shane over. "I got something."

Shane smiled. "See, I knew you could do it! What did you find?"

Tessa blushed and looked away, fidgeting with her scarf. "I saw a flicker of wispy energy. If I'm remembering mom's lessons right, ghost-types tend to give those off if they linger somewhere long enough."

Shane nodded. "That makes sense to me. So, based on that information, we're looking for a ghost-type Pokémon with a flat, dark gray tail of sorts." His brow furrowed. "But the only thing that comes to mind is Giratina and we'd definitely know if there was a giant, spoopy ghost-dragon stalking us."

"Spoopy? Is that another human thing?"

"Yup!" Shane chirped. "Now then, if it's not Giratina… then who could it be?"

Tessa's eyes widened in realization. "I think I might know who you're talking about. See, there's this Pokémon called Mimikyu that–"

"Hit the deck!"

Shane dived toward Tessa and fell on top of her. Tessa yipped from hitting the ground. Seconds later, Shane hissed in pain. He peppered Tessa's face with small snowflakes.

"Unngh… get off me," she grunted, shoving Shane aside. "What was that all about?" She looked over and noticed a set of claw marks running across Shane's back. Purple vapor trailed off of him. Tessa turned to her right where a dark, shadowy-purple claw retreated around the street corner.

"Hey!" she barked, running after the ghostly claw. Her shout had given away her position, however, and the arm shot toward her. It slashed in front of her, but she was able to fall back on her heels, narrowly avoiding razor-sharp bits of ectoplasm. She opened her mouth wide, fangs turning black.

Tessa bit down on the ghost-arm. It dissolved into a purple fog, revealing a dull gray cloth that tasted like a dirty rag. Tessa's gag reflex nearly made her heave, but she steeled her will and yanked her head back. A frightened shout echoed from the alleyway. Tessa fell backwards and succeeded in dragging out the offender: Mimikyu. She could just make out a purple void struggling to keep Mimikyu's disguise rooted to the ground.

"Ahh! No! Stop! Please stop! Let go, let go, let go! I'm sorry!" Mimikyu squealed. He wriggled his arm about in Tessa's mouth. She released her grip and swallowed hard, trying not to puke. Tessa raised her fists and glared defiantly at the Mimikyu.

"You were watching us in the café, weren't you?" she accused. "Why did you attack us? Are you the real thief?"

Though she had never met a Mimikyu before, she'd heard about them from her parents. So, she made sure to focus her gaze on the tiny holes in the disguise's chest. There, she could see Mimikyu's eyes tearing up. "Please… please don't hurt me, miss!" he blubbered. "I… I didn't mean to! You… you just startled me, that's all. I don't… I don't want any trouble."

"Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it," Tessa growled.

"Easy there, partner."

Tessa whirled around to see Shane back on his feet. He winced with each step forward; the Shadow Claw had clearly done a number on him. "I can take it from here," he said. "Hi there."

Mimikyu noticed the gaps in Shane's fur and shrank back. "Ack! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to hit you like that. I just panicked and…"

"It's fine, it's okay," Shane coaxed, stepping cautiously toward Mimikyu. "We're not going to hurt you. We just want to get Crabrawler's recipe back. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

Mimikyu nodded his head slowly. "Ah, see, see. That's good. But, y'know, I think it would be better if we were able to talk face to face. So, why don't we take off that Pikachu costume and see who you really are, huh?" Shane said, reaching a paw toward Mimikyu. "Boy, I can't believe I get to do my own Scooby Doo villain unmasking."

Both Mimikyu's and Tessa's eyes widened. "Vulpix, don't–!"

Shane started lifting up Mimikyu's disguise. Purple smog rushed out and surrounded Shane. His entire body stiffened, his eyes rolled back in his skull, and he collapsed onto his side.

"Gaaah! I'm sorry… I'm sorry!" Mimikyu bawled, hopping back. "Th… this is bad. This is very bad!" Tessa noticed Mimikyu's arm appearing again, draped by purple ectoplasm. "No… no… I can't let you report me to Officer Magnezone. I didn't mean to do this… I was just supposed to be the distraction!"

Tessa raised an eyebrow. "What's that supposed to mean? You did steal the recipe?"

"No, no, no, no! I'm innocent… I swear!" Mimikyu pleaded. The shadows faded from his arm and it withdrew into his costume. Seconds later, it reappeared with a piece of parchment. "I have the recipe right here, but I didn't take it! I was just supposed to hold onto it for a little while. Please, you have to believe me… this is all a big mistake!"

Shane started coming to while Tessa accepted the recipe. "Well if you didn't take this, then who gave it to you?" she asked.

"An Absol... with a serrated scythe," Mimikyu replied. "I… I didn't want to do it. But he said he would give me delicious berries! He's… he's…" Mimikyu looked away shamefully. "He's the only Pokémon in town who's bothered to talk with me lately. Even if he was yelling at me. I just… appreciated the attention." His eyes teared up again. "But I'm not a criminal. I swear it! Or may Reshiram strike me down in a ball of Blue Flare."

"Did Absol tell you what he wanted you to hold onto this recipe for?" Tessa asked. Mimikyu rapidly shook his head.

"Wait, so I was right?"

"Not the time, Vulpix," Tessa growled.

"Somebody! Anybody! Heeeeeeeeeelp! I've been robbed!"

Mimikyu's eyes widened. Both Tessa and Shane gave him angry looks. "I… I had nothing to do with that. I've been over here with you two," Mimikyu bawled.

"We'd better take him with us, just to be safe," Tessa exclaimed. Shane nodded his approval. Team Radiance ran in the direction of the shouts, bringing Mimikyu along with them. They didn't need to go far, however. For the second time that day, they found a small crowd gathered in front of a building, with Magnezone right in front. Except this time around, it was the Kecleon Shop.

KZZZZRRRT. Please explain what happened, Magnezone said. Shane and Tessa managed to make their ways forward, shoving Mimikyu through to the front of the crowd. There, they found Kecleon lying on his stomach, clutching it in pain.

"It… it all happened so fast," Kecleon wheezed. "Absol... the one from the guild… he ran into the shop. He… snatched up some TM's and… made for the door. I… lunged after him… but…" Kecleon shuddered and rolled onto his back. The crowd gasped and Team Radiance recoiled. Kecleon's belly had scorch marks crackling with purple electricity.

"I… I've never felt an attack… like this…" Kecleon groaned. "He… hit me. I… tried to call for… support… like I do when… I'm confronted by thieves. But… his attack… it hurt so much! I… I must've passed out. And now… he's gone. And so are the TM's!"

Tessa stomach knotted up. 'No… this can't be right! Gallian, how could you? Why would you do something like this?'

"Um, Officer Magnezone, sir?" Shane spoke up. "I think my teammate and I may know what's going on here."

Oh… it is you. Yes, as I recall, you were offering an explanation before you sprinted out of the room, Magnezone said, to Shane's chagrin. Would you care to continue spouting off your theory?

"Actually, I've got something even better than that," Shane declared. He swiped the malasada recipe from Tessa's paw. "Behold… our missing Mystical Malasada recipe!"

A few Pokémon grunted in surprise as Crabrawler shoved his way through the crowd. "What's this? You say you found my recipe?" He scuttled over to Shane and took the parchment from him. His eyes widened. "I say, this is it! Oh, capital job, Vulpix!"

The crowd muttered in surprise at this.

"Furthermore, we apprehended the recipe from Mimikyu here," Shane continued. Mimikyu's disguise slouched over. "According to his testimony, he was given the recipe to serve 'as a distraction.' And the Pokémon who gave him the recipe to hold? Why… the very same Absol that robbed Kecleon: Gallian!"

A flurry of comments rose up from the crowd.

"Wait… Lucario's son did this?"

"Unbelievable… he was one of the most virtuous members of the guild."

"Where's Lucario? Shouldn't she have a better grasp on her kid?"

"Ha! No one's seen her in half a year."

"Say, isn't Riolu also her kid?"

Tessa looked down at the ground, frowning. "Hey, all of you be quiet!" Shane barked. "I hadn't finished yet." He shook his head. "Where was I? Oh, right. If we put the pieces together, we can make a reasonable sequence of events."

Which is what, exactly? Magnezone asked.

"First, Gallian poked around the Observatory. He didn't find what he was looking for, so he decided to go with a backup plan of stealing TM's from Kecleon," Shane explained. "In order to do that, he created a diversion by stealing the malasada recipe. While we were all occupied with that, he probably went into Kecleon's shop and swiped the TM's." He turned to Kecleon. "Do you have any idea how long you were out for?"

"Uh… I think I had just started to see a crowd forming by the café when Gallian showed up," Kecleon reported.

Shane's brow furrowed. "Drat! He's probably long gone for real, then. I can't believe he managed to outfox us like that!" Shane bit his lower lip. 'This guy got away with stealing from a Kecleon? Okay… this is bad. Really bad! As if it wasn't humiliating enough getting knocked out by him yesterday… now I know that he's totally out of my league. What if I run into him again? How am I supposed to win?'

He turned to Mimikyu. "Did he give you any indication where he was heading?"

"N-No!" Mimikyu squeaked. "I swear I have no idea. This wasn't supposed to happen! I made an honest mistake."

You assisted with criminal activity and held onto a stolen item, Magnezone stated. That is, in and of itself, a crime.

Mimikyu's eyes watered. "Please don't arrest me. I'll do anything to make it up to you guys!"

Magnezone's bolts whirred. Very well. In restitution for your actions, you must assist the Horizon Guild until Guildmaster Metagross says you have made up for your transgressions.

Mimikyu's disguise bobbed back and forth rapidly. "Of course! Of course! Of course! I'll be the bestest, most-amazing helper you've ever seen. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Magnezone turned away from Team Radiance. I must contact your Guildmaster and file the necessary paperwork. Please excuse me.

Shane raised a curious eyebrow. "Did… did we just inadvertently recruit this Mimikyu guy?"

Tessa shrugged.


~Aeon Observatory~

After collecting a handsome reward from Crabrawler – and having Primarina attempt to serenade them despite Shane's vociferous protests – Team Radiance escorted Mimikyu back to the Observatory. They deposited Mimikyu under Null's watch and reported the day's events to Braviary and Magearna.

"So, Gallian's done gone rogue on us? Mighty troubling to hear," Braviary's voice crackled through the Gear-Com.

"It's not his fault, sir," Tessa insisted. "He's under the control of some sort of weird energy. It effected that Meowth, the Munchlax duo we fought with Steenee, and the Parasect we encountered in Twilight Forest. Something is definitely wrong here."

"I concurbulate," Magearna said. "Our investigation into the tidal issues at Sunset Shoals yielded no answers. But we encountered a trio of Mareanie much like you described. Upon defeaticating them, their bodies de-colorized before our eyes. I had wanted to analyze their energy significators, but there was no energy left for me to even detect."

Shane and Tessa exchanged nervous looks.

"It ain't just that either," Braviary jumped in, "The folks in Circadian Coast are starting to build up fortifications cause the waters of the Midnight Sea are spilling into their town."

"What does the Guildmaster think about this?" Shane asked.

"He ain't exactly the sharing type, Vulpix," Braviary replied. "Luckily, we managed to find a feller who claims to know a thing or two about what's happening. We're bringing him back to stay over at the guild temporarily while we look into this stuff in more detail."

"When are you guys coming back, exactly?" Tessa wondered.

"It should be another day or two. We do need to disassemble base camp, after all," Magearna reported. "Is there anything else to reportify?"

"No," Shane said. The two parties bid each other farewell and disconnected the call. Shane sighed and slumped over on his pillow. "Riolu, I think we need to take some time to toughen up a bit," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Y'know, get some training in. Learn some new moves. Take on a handful of missions. Maybe look into TM's and emeras for our looplets," Shane said. "We've collected plenty of stardust, so we can have Magearna make us emeras, right?"

Tessa blinked in surprise. "Wow, Vulpix. That's, uh, a surprisingly good idea coming from you."

"Hey, I have plenty of good ideas," Shane harrumphed. "And they were on full display today. Admit it."

"What, and inflate that head of yours only so it can get popped again? No thanks," Tessa dismissed.

Shane frowned. "Enough joking around, I'm serious here. These past few days have been very rough for us. We need to step up our game! My gut is telling me we're bound to run into Gallian again at some point. We've got to prepare for that so we can actually put up a fight."

Tessa winced. "There's… no way to know that for certain."

"Yeah, okay. It's a gut reaction. But if I had money, I'd bet all of it on that happening," Shane said.

His partner grasped her shoulders and shivered. "Please don't bring it up anymore, Vulpix. I… I don't want to think about that."

"We need to think about it, though. Or our keisters are going to get cooked!" Shane said.

"I said drop it!" Tessa suddenly shouted. Shane's ears folded against his head.

"Geez, what's got your fur bristled?" Shane muttered. "What, do you want me to invite Null to join us, or something?"

Tessa didn't respond. Nevertheless, she didn't put up any resistance when Shane had them spend the next couple of days taking several missions. Most of their assignments hit some snags. But they managed to avoid any serious issues and even kept the arguing to a minimum. Though, that was undoubtedly because Tessa was keeping surprisingly quiet.

Eventually, they returned from a mission in Twilight Forest to find Braviary standing in the guild's entrance. Across from him stood a red-and-white werewolf with a wicked mane and long, noodle-like arms.

"… I can get you situated in yer own room, but it'll be at the very end of the living quarters," Braviary said.

"Doesn't matter to me, mate. The extra walking ought to do me good."

Braviary noticed Team Radiance in the doorway. "Ah, good. Y'all are back. Come over here, there's someone I'd like y'all to meet." The duo approached Braviary. Shane's gaze was fixed firmly on the werewolf. "This here is Lycanroc. He's gonna help us look into this whole berserk Pokémon business."

Lycanroc smirked, showing off gleaming-white fangs. He fixed his glowing red eyes on Shane. "Heard a bit about ya, kid. It's nice ta meet ya, Snowy."

Shane's entire body stiffened upon hearing that nickname.

'Oh no... this guy's not going to help us. He's a criminal!'

End of Episode 5


I fully admit that I think I got a bit carried away with what is definitely a filler chapter. So, if you have any suggestions for parts to truncate, by all means let me know. I'd greatly appreciate it!

Now, as you just read, Special Episode 2 is next. This is because I made the executive decision to switch episode order. Originally, SE2 would be between Episodes 6 and 7. However, Episode 6's initial drafts ended up being far longer than I expected, so I've split it into two separate episodes. I can't keep SE2 in its current spot, because it would mess up the pacing and cause a very bad case of mood whiplash. So, I've moved it up to follow this light-hearted chapter. I hope you all understand.
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Gone. Not coming back.
Ah, I knew that shot of humility couldn't last. The slightest provocation and Shane is shouting about being a human in front of the whole town. Oh well, let's hope some of the buffets and blows of fate knock some sense into him. Eventually. Somehow.

I do like the way Shane uses the fact that Gallian beat Kecleon to determine how tough he is; that's a lovely little PMD joke there. I wonder, though – in the universe of this fic, are kecleon all as bafflingly tough as they are in the games, or is Shane just making assumptions?

I'm not sure I'd characterise this as a filler episode, really; it feels like it picks up the plot threads that you've been developing and pushes them on a bit. Sure, there's a fun detective-y bit, but it's still Gallian, and it makes some of what we've seen before much clearer, like the conversation with Mimikyu and Sticky. If you still want to cut it down, though, I'd probably suggest writing Primarina out of it; he doesn't do anything for the structure of the chapter, just slows it down with some inane babbling and singing. I think cutting any of the investigation itself would do more harm than good; you're making a story in the style of the PMD games, and that kind of implies an almost episodic, picaresque kind of thing where the main story bubbles along in the background. So like, I don't think anyone reading this story will be surprised or disappointed to have a bit of a diversion into detection.

A few bits and pieces that I wasn't entirely sure about, then:

Seems odd that Tessa wouldn't have heard of the word 'alien' – only in the last century or so has it started to refer to beings from other worlds; before then, it just meant someone foreign, as indeed it still does. So, seeing as how her vocabulary does appear to be relatively broad, I'm not sure why she wouldn't know the word.

using her smaller stature to push past the onlooking Pokémon.

That reads a bit oddly to me – how does she use the fact that she's small to push past people? Do you mean maybe that she's slipping between them, rather than pushing?

This is the stickiest wicket I've very well been in since I took ownership of the café.

Ridiculous comedy voices are all well and good, but I think Crabrawler goes a bit far here. Like, Braviary's voice works because although it's exaggerated and funny, it doesn't get in the way of what he's trying to say; here, I think, you don't quite hit the same mark, because the stock phrases and exclamations get so densely packed that they start colliding and making the sentences read oddly. “This is the stickiest wicket I've been in, etc.” would be good; adding in that 'very well' just pushes it over the edge from amusing caricature to somewhat unnatural. And since these vivid, larger-than-life characters are a big part of the charm of this story, that's quite a shame.

Oh… it is you. The human with the propensity for stating the obvious and not paying enough to attention to things,

That feels somewhat unfair after a fairly solid display of abductive reasoning (a pet peeve of mine I won't let myself go off on a tangent about: Conan Doyle's relentlessly incorrect use of the term 'deductive reasoning'), but my real point is that there's an unnecessary 'to' in between 'enough' and 'attention'.

Shane's face blanched.

This is another of those instances where you basically say that Shane went white, which I think works for humans, or other creatures with visible skin, but probably not for something quite liberally coated in very bright white fur. I don't have a hard objection to anthropomorphism – it's sort of par for the course in a PMD fic – but like, it's quite hard to visualise something white going whiter, so my objection is mostly on grounds of clarity. If that makes sense? I hope that makes sense.

Other than that! Like I said, I feel like this helps to explain some things we've seen before and set up for future things -- which is maybe a filler chapter, if you think that only chapters that have Big Things in them are real chapters, or like, it could be a perfectly serviceable regular chapter, if you think that this kind of work is as important to the functioning of a story as the big things are, which I do. So I don't know that I agree with your dismissal of this chapter as filler, is all I'm saying. You're allowed to take pleasure in writing fun things about pokémon doing detective work!
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Winter can't come soon enough
Ah, I knew that shot of humility couldn't last. The slightest provocation and Shane is shouting about being a human in front of the whole town. Oh well, let's hope some of the buffets and blows of fate knock some sense into him. Eventually. Somehow.
I consider the last two chapters an appetizer, with the upcoming episodes being the main course. For whatever that's worth.

I do like the way Shane uses the fact that Gallian beat Kecleon to determine how tough he is; that's a lovely little PMD joke there. I wonder, though – in the universe of this fic, are kecleon all as bafflingly tough as they are in the games, or is Shane just making assumptions?
Yes, since this world's analogous to the PMD one (all the land masses from Super exist, but they're quite far away). There just haven't been any in-dungeon shops yet.

I'm not sure I'd characterise this as a filler episode, really; it feels like it picks up the plot threads that you've been developing and pushes them on a bit. Sure, there's a fun detective-y bit, but it's still Gallian, and it makes some of what we've seen before much clearer, like the conversation with Mimikyu and Sticky.
I think I just instinctively jumped to that because my thought process with the chapter was, "I need a bit of a breather chapter before Episodes 6 and 7." And then, as I was revising it, I got worried that people would think the chapter's a rather deflating, anticlimactic end to the episode.

I'd probably suggest writing Primarina out of it; he doesn't do anything for the structure of the chapter, just slows it down with some inane babbling and singing.
I could definitely do that, but the intention was to make him intrusive. That, and Shane's annoyance at the guy factors into a later episode, so I wanted to make it clear that Shane's not a fan. I guess that happens a bit at the end of the laugh chapter, but I thought that people could interpret it as "Well, Shane's in a bad mood, so of course he'd mouth off to Primarina." His mood's improved here, but he's still annoyed. If that makes any sense. @.@

Seems odd that Tessa wouldn't have heard of the word 'alien' – only in the last century or so has it started to refer to beings from other worlds; before then, it just meant someone foreign, as indeed it still does. So, seeing as how her vocabulary does appear to be relatively broad, I'm not sure why she wouldn't know the word.
No disagreement there. I dropped that particular line.

Do you mean maybe that she's slipping between them, rather than pushing?
Yes. Evidently there was a disconnect between what I was thinking and what I actually wrote. So, again, I appreciate you pointing these out. ^^

Ridiculous comedy voices are all well and good, but I think Crabrawler goes a bit far here.
Yeah, I think I got way too carried away there. So I went back and stripped away most of those tidbits so it flows better and isn't less, well, forced.

This is another of those instances where you basically say that Shane went white
There were a few of those that I thought I'd changed, but I clearly missed one. Whoops!

Other than that! Like I said, I feel like this helps to explain some things we've seen before and set up for future things -- which is maybe a filler chapter, if you think that only chapters that have Big Things in them are real chapters, or like, it could be a perfectly serviceable regular chapter, if you think that this kind of work is as important to the functioning of a story as the big things are, which I do. So I don't know that I agree with your dismissal of this chapter as filler, is all I'm saying. You're allowed to take pleasure in writing fun things about pokémon doing detective work!
Ah, I see what you mean now. I think first-story jitters are playing mind games with me (and may continue to do so because I'm a naturally nervous person). I did have quite a bit of fun with this one as, besides the Sherlock tidbits, there's a fair number of references to a certain Ace Attorney character. I hope none of you find it objectionable. :V

Thanks again for the review! ^^


Winter can't come soon enough
Hoy, small fries! It's time for Special Episode 2. Enjoy!


~Aeon Town~

The sun had just started to peek out from the east, painting Aeon Town in swathes of yellow and orange. Long shadows stretched out from each building. It was from these shadows that a blur raced forward. It sprinted up the hill leading out of the town square, pausing only to dip into cover behind the occasional tree.

A Zoroark's pointed, dark-gray snout poked out from one of the trees, followed by her sharp, angled face with pointed ears and a large crimson mane. She reached up and plucked an envelope from her mane, cradling it in her red claws.

"Good, no one's around. Just go and make the drop nice and quick, Zoroark. Hurry, before people start waking up," she whispered. Deep breaths followed, with Zoroark placing the envelope in her mouth. She got down on all fours and sprinted forward, using her upper limbs to help propel her the rest of the way to the Aeon Observatory.

Zoroark scanned the building's exterior until her eyes fell on a mail slot positioned to the right of the entrance. A sign neatly displaying, "Place job requests here," hung over the slot. Zoroark sped toward the chute and skidded to a halt. As she spun around, she grabbed the envelope from her mouth and thrusted it into the mail slot. She pressed her face against the wall and heard a soft fwump from the other side. She sighed in relief.

"Now I just got to hope my request gets to the right team."

Zoroark backed away from the Observatory, and then sprinted toward the edge of the hill. She stole one more glance at the building to make sure there was no one watching, and then leaped off, disappearing behind the steep drop-off.


Once upon a time,
There were three feisty little young'uns.
Dreams of exploring brimming in their eyes.
I saw that there potential,
And decided to take 'em under my wing.

Now, they've grown up,
Into three lovely ladies.
With thrill-seeking spirits and eyes fer adventure.
They're serpents, they all know Captivate, and they work for the guild.
They are…

Special Episode 2: Horizon's Angels

Chapter 16: From Lively Town with Love

This special episode focuses on Team Captivate completing a top-secret assignment. It takes place concurrently with the events of Episode 5.


~Aeon Observatory~

"A little lower… a little lower… a little lo– oh baby, that's the spot right there!"

Serperior gave a content sigh and slumped down in her chair. She stared blankly in front of her, watching steam rise up from the base of her tail. Beside her, Dragonair sat next to a tray of small stones, all of which gave off steam like the one positioned on Serperior's body.

"You know, most Pokémon opt to use all the stones so they hit their pressure points," Dragonair muttered. "Using only one kinda defeats the purpose."

"Hey now, I can only tolerate so much heat at once, Airy," Serperior said. "And I am very much tolerating this right now." She sank back into her seat and let her head loll off to the side.

"You could have at least told me you only planned on using one stone," Dragonair sighed. "It takes time to heat these up properly, you know. Hey, Milotic, do you want to use any of these as long as I've got them heated up?"

Dragonair glanced over at a pink, heart-shaped bed in the corner of the room. A loud snore flared up from that location.

"… guess not," Dragonair said.

"Why don't you just use them on yourself, Airy?" Serperior giggled. "Come on, I can squeeze over a little bit to make room."

"Hot stone therapy isn't something you do to yourself, Serperior," Dragonair chided. "We've been over this before."

"Oh! Oh! I'll take the hot rocks if you don't want them, missy."

Dragonair pivoted around, expecting to find someone in the room's doorway. Nobody was there.

"… no, no, no. Over here. On your left," the voice instructed. Dragonair turned to her left, only to see a column helping hold up the ceiling. "Perfect!"

"Uh, I'm not giving my stones to a piece of the wall," Dragonair said.

"Why not? I've been feeling kinda low on minerals, lately," the column whined.

"These are not for eating," Dragonair said.

"Oh, for pity's sake, Airy. How long are you gonna indulge him?" Serprerior groaned. She turned to look at the column. "Get outta there, Haunter. We told you to stop creeping around our room."

A set of large eyes and a big grin appeared on the column. "Aww, come on. Don't be like that, Serperior. I happen to think this vantage point really rocks. Mwee hee hee hee he– AUUGH!"

A jet of steaming water suddenly spilled across the column from the far side of the room. The eyes and mouth disappeared and Haunter's shadowy body melted out of the column. Milotic slithered over, rubbing sleep out of her eyes.

"Uuurrrghhh…" Haunter gurgled. "Waaah! You girls are such killjoys."

"Excuse me? Which one of us is spying on another team's private time?" Milotic scoffed. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't report this little peeping incident to Braviary, huh?"

"Oh! Oh! Here's a perfect reason: he's not here. Mwee hee hee hee hee!"

"He'll be back, you know," Milotic countered.

"But not for a few days. The big expedition started and everyone's already left," Haunter said, floating back into the air. He pulled his eyeballs out of his ethereal head and started juggling them. "I just wanted to have a little fun since we've got the run of the guild."

"Then why not go mess with the rookies? I would think that Vulpix would be good for a laugh riot or two," Serperior said, stretching out her tail.

"Now, see, I totally thought of that, but Null is already up and prowling around the main level like he's stalking prey," Haunter said, poking his index fingers together. "Just between the four of us, that guy is S-C-A-R-Y scary!"

"You're a ghost, Haunter," Milotic pointed out. "I thought you were better than that."

"Ghosts can't get scared? I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was speaking to Giratina, lord of spookiness." He bowed before Milotic. "Oh, thank you ever-so-much for gracing our dusty halls with your overwhelming terror, sir. You're looking rather… fabulous compared to the legends though. Mwee hee hee hee!"

Milotic gave Haunter a glare that suggested he was five seconds away from another Scald to the face.

"W-Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait." Haunter threw his hands up and waved them about. "I… I have a reason for being here. I'm just doing Braviary's job in his absence, I swear!"

Milotic raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?"

"Yes, really!" Haunter snapped his fingers. "Show 'em, Drifloon."

Drifloon materialized from the flower pot next to the stone column. Milotic's face immediately went bright red and she adjusted her position. "Y… you let him in here with you?" she hissed.

"Heh heh… hiya, gorgeous. You're such a pretty sleeper," Drifloon greeted, shades of red popping up underneath his eyes. "Anyway, you guys got a personal request." He held up an envelope. "This one's apparently really high priority." He tossed the envelope toward Dragonair, allowing her to glance the top of it.

"This envelope's got a seal from the Water Continent," she gasped. "What do they want with us?"

"Dunno. It had your team name on it. And the instructions on the front specifically said this stuff was, 'For your eyes only,'" Drifloon mused. "I assume that meant you fine femme fatales knew about this." He brought one of his strings up toward his face and blew a kiss at Milotic. She shuddered and looked away.

"Get out before I freeze you," Milotic growled.

"Whatever you say, gorgeous." Drifloon winked and floated out of the room. Haunter followed along after him.

Milotic shook her head. "You use Captivate on a guy one time and he won't stop leaving you alone."

"To be fair, you had, like, three different emeras bolstering it," Serperior said, giggling. "Anyway, what's in the mail? Is it an assignment?"

"Let's find out. Airy, if you please." Milotic held up the envelope and Dragonair sliced it open with a small blade of wind. A single piece of paper spilled out onto the floor. Milotic scooped up the letter.

"Team Captivate, I address this to you in the hopes of acquiring your help with something incredibly important. I'm afraid I can't go into details about it in this letter. The information is very sensitive and I need to relay it to you in person. If you receive this message, please meet me at the Treetop Motel in Terrace Village. Sincerely… Zoroark?"

Milotic blinked and looked down at the letter again. "I… I don't believe this. It's really signed Zoroark!"

Serperior rolled her eyes. "Oh, great. I'll bet Haunter's set up one of his overly-elaborate pranks. When I get my tail on that guy, I swear…"

"It does seem rather fishy," Dragonair muttered. "Zoroarks value their secrecy above anything else. That one would try to accost us without the guise of an illusion is quite perplexing. It seems like a unnecessarily risky endeavor for one of their kind. What do you think, Milotic?"

Milotic tapped her chin. "Well, the way I see it, either Serperior's right and we'd be walking into some sort of prank, or this is genuine. If this Zoroark is dropping any illusion pretenses, they might really be in trouble."

"That, and an official Water Continent postal seal is not something you can just pull out of thin air," Dragonair pointed out. "I'm inclined to believe it's genuine. In which case, we should really get going."

Serperior wrinkled her snout. "Hmph. Fine. But I'm keeping at the back of the group. And when you two get doused in paint or mud or whatever Haunter's set up, I'll be right there to do my patented 'I was right and you were wrong dance.'"

"At which point I'll happily give you a nice, big hug and lather you in whatever slop I get covered with," Milotic sang.

Serperior shrank back at this. "Nnnngh… never mind. Forget I said anything."


~Terrace Village~

Team Captivate made their way up to the hilltop village. Sunlight bristled across the smattering of log cabins. In the distance, a mosaic of purple hues drifted up from the tree line of nearby Twilight Forest.

"Ah, I never get tired of that sight," Milotic chirped. "Really makes you appreciate what the Tapus have given us here in Horizon, huh?"

"Hey now, we're not here for sightseeing," Serperior said. "There's the Treetop Motel. Let's head inside and see if we can find Zoroark. Assuming they even exist in the first place." Serperior pointed her tail forward. Milotic gave her unamused look. "What? I said I was gonna hang back. And I meant it."

Milotic rolled her eyes and slithered forward. Dragonair tailed her while Serperior brought up the rear. Milotic opened the doorway and Serperior flinched, expecting to see something grimy spill out in front of her. To her surprise, Milotic entered completely undisturbed.

"It's okay, the lobby's clear," she announced.

Serperior's snout stiffened. "… hmph. That's just what Haunter wants us to think." She followed her teammates inside. The Treetop Motel's lobby was a small room, consisting of a trio of chairs in front of a stone fireplace and a wooden desk with cubby holes behind it. Said desk was currently staffed by a small Ledyba.

"Good morning. Welcome to the Treetop Motel. I'm Ledyba. What can I do for you?"

"Hi there. We're Team Captivate, with the Horizon Exploration Guild," Milotic introduced. She swung her neck around to show off her gold explorer's badge.

Ledyba's eyes lit up in recognition. "Oh! One of our patrons asked me to keep an eye out for you three. Give me one moment." She turned and fluttered on up the stairs.

Milotic turned to Serperior with a knowing smirk. "And you thought this was a prank."

"I'm still skeptical," Serperior muttered. "Remember that time Team Specter got us to go all the way out to the Solaris Wastelands just to lead us into a sand geyser? I was cleaning my leaves for a week. A week."

"Excuse me… miss?"

The team turned to see Ledyba's head poking out from the staircase. "If you would just follow me upstairs, please." She beckoned them up.

"Be on your guard, girls," Serperior whispered as they slithered forward. Ledyba guided them to a door at the end of the hall and knocked on it.

"Come in!" a muffled voice called from the other side. Ledyba opened the door and gestured for Team Captivate to enter. Milotic went inside, followed by Dragonair and Serperior. The latter shut the door behind her and turned around to find a Zoroark sitting on a wooden stool.

"You're Team Captivate?" Zoroark asked, studying the serpent trio.

"That's us," Milotic replied. "I'm Milotic, and these are my teammates, Dragonair and Serperior."

A warm smile appeared on Zoroark's face. "Oh, thank goodness. I was so worried my request wasn't going to reach you ladies." Zoroark got to her feet and walked over, fidgeting with her claws. "I really appreciate you coming out here like this. Sorry for the hush-hush letter."

"I just want to know what was so important you couldn't tell us in your request," Serperior said.

Zoroark looked down and her face flushed. Serperior raised a curious eyebrow. "It's… kind of embarrassing, really," Zoroark muttered. "I need you all to promise you won't speak a word about this to anyone back at your guild. Not even as part of some friendly coworker chitchat."

"Seriously? Okay, that just makes me all the more suspic–" Serperior started, only for Dragonair to cut her off by wrapping her tail around Serperior's snout. She gave Dragonair an annoyed look.

"Forgive my friend," Milotic hastily said. "Team Captivate treats each and every one of its assignments with poise and tact." She turned to Serperior. "Don't we?"

Serperior silently nodded, prompting Dragonair to release her mouth. She let out a gasp of air and started rubbing her mouth with her tail.

"So, what do you need us for, Zoroark?" Dragonair asked.

"Well, I'm actually visiting Horizon, see," Zoroark explained. "My village heard about the nectar that grows in Twilight Forest. Even though they warned that it would be a long trip, I volunteered to come collect some. I thought everything was going just fine. But then, out of nowhere, I got jumped!" Zoroark raised her arms up. "This deranged-looking Parasect ran at me, screeching like an agitated Sableye."

"Goodness. That must've been quite the shock," Dragonair said. "Are you alright?"

Zoroark frowned and shook her head. "No, that's why I called you here. Because of this…" Zoroark pivoted to her side and swished her mane forward.

"Uh, I don't get it," Serperior muttered.

"Look! Parasect cut off the base of my mane… pearl and all," Zoroark whimpered, prompting Team Captivate to gasp. "I tried to grab it, but in the chaos Parasect knocked it away toward a cave. I was already hurt and didn't want to chance anything, so I deployed my Escape Orb and I've been holed up in my room ever since."

Serperior pursed her lips. "Lemme get this straight. Your big, secretive mission is to rescue your hair? Won't it just grow back eventually?"

Dragonair lightly slapped Serperior behind the head. "Show her some respect," she scolded. "This is obviously very troubling for poor Zoroark."

"You don't understand! Parasect cut off my pearl," Zoroark blubbered. "The pearl in my mane is a fulcrum to help me channel my illusion-making powers. Without mine, I'm completely useless! I can't return home like this. I'll be an outcast in the village. Everyone's going to laugh me into exile! A Zoroark without illusions is like a wingless Dragonite or… or a Milotic without their radiant scales!"

Milotic shuddered at the thought. Zoroark fell back onto her bed, burying her head in her lap. "If I just had the pearl back, I could get it fixed. There's a mage back home who can use a spell to fix it. But… but I can't stand up to Parasect. Especially without my illusions!"

"Good gracious. I'm very sorry to hear about that. I promise, we'll do everything in our power to get your hair back," Milotic vowed. "Right, girls?"

"Absolutely," Dragonair agreed.

"I guess so," Serperior said.

"Really?" Zoroark's expression brightened up. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!" She bolted up and wrapped Milotic up in a big hug. The serpent's eyes nearly bulged out of her head and she appeared a bit woozy when Zoroark backed off. "I can compensate you three very well for your help. I swear it!"

"I'll believe it when I see it," Serperior muttered under her breath. Dragonair gave her another scathing look.

"Now then, you said you thought you saw the pearl roll off into a cave?" Milotic asked. Zoroark nodded. "And were you in the nectar fields?" Zoroark nodded again. "Okay, it sounds to me like your cut-off mane ended up in Nectar Cave," Milotic concluded, turning back to her teammates. "Dragonair, pull out our Wonder Map and find the fastest route through Twilight Forest based on its current condition."

"As you wish."

"And Serperior, grab us poison guard emeras from the bag," Milotic instructed. "We don't want any funny business in the forest. Ready the petrify wand too, in case we get jumped. Twilight Forest is supposed to be peaceful, but if Zoroark got attacked, then someone could be making trouble."

Serperior fished a trio of small, raindrop-like crystals out of the item pouch. "Got 'em, chief," she said, tossing one emera to each of her teammates. Milotic fastened hers into the looplet around her torso.

"I've got our route, Milotic," Dragonair declared. "There's a northeast path that leads directly to the meadow with the nectar. But, the cavern is a fair distance down a long hill from that meadow. It would be faster if we proceeded north and then cut across a trail at the first junction we see."

"Excellent work," Milotic praised. She turned back to Zoroark. "Sit tight. Team Captivate's on the case. Let's move out, girls!" They raised their tails in unison and touched the tips together, then proceeded to exit the motel. The instant they emerged outside, they caught sight of a Riolu and a snow-white Vulpix.

"Milotic?" Tessa gasped. "What are you doing here?"

Milotic met the Riolu's gaze. "Riri! She smiled and blew a kiss in Tessa's direction. "What a surprise to see your team here. Most novices never go east of Clayback River."

"There was an assignment and you know as well as I do the guild's short Pokémon right now," Tessa explained.

"How brave," Serperior chuckled. "I see you even managed to drag Mr. Personality out of the sentry station." She glanced at Null. "I'm surprised you didn't, like, melt in the sunlight."

Null lowered his head, fixing his sharp gaze on Serperior.

"Now, now, Serperior. We shouldn't tease our fellow guild members," Dragonair scolded.

"I invited him to join Team Radiance, for the record," Tessa declared. "He, uh, didn't exactly say yes, but he's going to give us some help from time to time."

"Well, aren't you the little risk-taker," Serperior giggled. "Quite the feisty little girl, ain't ya? Just like your mother. I'll bet she would've done the same thing if she were–"

"Leave them alone, Serpy," Milotic said. "Besides, we have work to do."

"What are you girls doing here, anyway?" Shane asked.

"Sorry, Snowball, that's on a need to know basis. And you're not part of that need," Serperior replied. "But we'll totally try to snag a souvenir or something for ya from where we're heading. C'mon, girls!" Serperior winked flirtatiously at Shane, and then Team Captivate slithered off in the direction of the forest.

Milotic gave Serperior a curious look. "You're not really flirting with that human, are you?"

"Of course I am! Did you see the look on his face? Absolutely priceless," Serperior giggled.

Milotic rolled her eyes at this.


~Twilight Forest~

The trek through the forest proved uneventful for Team Captivate. Save for the occasional passing Pikipek and a group of Morelull hopping through the bushes, the trio didn't encounter a single soul.

Serperior looked around the forest. "Hey, girls. Um, not to be a downer or anything, but are you sure we should trust this Zoroark? No offense, but losing a piece of hair? That doesn't really seem like a feasible reason to call for help from an exploration team."

"Well, I don't really know that much about how Zoroark illusions work," Milotic conceded. "Still, you know our team policy."

"We tackle any personal requests, no questions asked," Serperior recited. "It's just… don't you think that maybe Zoroark could be making up the missing mane tidbit? She could have been showing us an illusion of her missing mane to lead us into some sort of trap."

"I personally think that's a bit of a convoluted way to bait us into some sort of trap," Milotic replied. "What, do you think this Zoroark is working with Haunter or something?"

"I wouldn't put it past the guy," Serperior huffed. "I just… I don't know. It's something in her eyes, Milotic. We haven't encountered a lick of trouble and I can see the meadow up ahead. It makes me suspicious. And we certainly didn't get to our current position by taking everything we see and hear for granted."

"Ordinarily, I'd say healthy skepticism is a good thing," Dragonair chimed in. "But it sounds to me like you're playing up the classic Zoroark stereotype. Namely, that they're shifty tricksters who you should never trust. Our client certainly sounded sincere."

"Yeah, c'mon, Serperior. You know better than to fall into stereotypes," Milotic said. "If we played down to those, you'd be a smug, pompous jerk and I'd be an airhead that's just on the team for eye candy."

Serperior pouted. "Hey now! I'm just as pretty as you are. Besides, who's the only one on the team in any sort of committed relationship here?" She pointed her tail toward her head. "Me, that's who!"

Dragonair and Milotic exchanged looks. "Is that what's got you all hot and bothered?" Dragonair wondered. "I don't recall getting word that Team Harmony planned to drop by the Observatory."

Serperior's face flushed. "Uh… well… that's… y'know…" She tapped her tail on the ground. "I might've called up Primarina on the Gear-Com and told him that there was an expedition coming up and the guild would be dead-quiet if he wanted to drop by."

"That would explain the attitude then," Milotic chuckled. "We're keeping you from your 'mon, aren't we?"

"We can't say that for sure, Milotic. For all we know, Team Harmony could be helping with the expedition," Dragonair pointed out. "After all, if Primarina comes to Aeon Town, he'll have to deal with all his adoring fans."

Serperior puffed up her cheeks. "He is so gonna come! But now we've been pulled off on this silly assignment. I'll bet he's there already and I'm wasting time playing hair-gatherer."

"Don't you think he'd call the team's Gear-Com if he was there but you weren't?" Dragonair asked.

Serperior's face blanched. "I hadn't thought of that."

"Huh, maybe Serpy's the pretty one around for eye candy," Milotic giggled.

Serperior didn't seem bothered by the taunt. Instead, she smirked. "Aww, is Millie jealous that I'm stealing her thunder? Don't worry. At least you've got a winning personality. And it's what's inside that counts, right? Isn't that what you always used to say when you were a Feebas?"

"Yeah, it totally is," Milotic conceded. The three girls broke into laughter.

"I see Nectar Cave down there," Dragonair announced. "Let's move in, ladies."

"Right. Dragonair, take the left. Serperior, the right. I'll go from the middle," Milotic ordered. Her teammates slithered into position beside her and they shot off down the hill. Their heads swiveled back and forth as they approached the cave.

"Hmm… sunlight's not very good in here, chief. I can barely make out a thing," Serperior recorded.

"Hold back, then," Milotic instructed. "Airy, we've got a Luminous Orb, right?"

"Yup," Dragonair fished it out of the pouch.

"Okay. Let's deploy it into the cave," Milotic said. "Give that petrify wand to Serpy in case we startle any wild Pokémon." Dragonair did as instructed and Milotic peered into the cave. "If we see anyone try to pounce, hit 'em with the wand. Airy and I will cover your six, and use Thunder Waves to immobilize any other Pokémon the wand doesn't hit."

"Sounds good to me. Let's do this thing!" Serperior hollered. Dragonair hurled the Luminous Orb forward. It shattered into fragments which emitted dazzling streams of light. The cave glowed as bright at the meadow outside it.

"Bwaaaargh! B… bright light!"

A deep, scratchy voice echoed through the cave. Serperior looked forward and spotted a single, crab-like set of rocks lumbering back and forth in a daze. "Boldore dead ahead, chief," Serperior reported. She kept her grip on the petrify wand and instead raised her tail, rotating it about in a circle. A whirlwind of green, leaf-shaped fragments of energy funneled out from her tail. The tornado smacked into Boldore and blew them back into the depths of the cave.

"Right side's clear," Dragonair said.

"So's the left," Milotic added. "Looks like we came at a quiet point. Fan out and search for that hair. It should be black and fade to red at the tip."

"Okay," her teammates replied in unison. Serperior made her way toward the far part of the cave entrance, while Dragonair stuck to the right and Milotic took up the left. The three scanned the rocky grounds, looking for any red swathes laying atop the rock.

Milotic passed by a trio of small, rounded stalagmites. She stopped and coiled her body around the rocks, examining every angle of the crevice between the rocky structures. Her eyes fell on the center of the gap, where a bit of red stood out in the shadows of the Luminous Orb. "Girls, over here! I've got it."

"You're kidding," Serperior gasped, making her way toward Milotic. Her jaw slackened when Milotic lifted up a clump of black and red fluff. She swung her tail around to show the dusty, teal orb stuck in the middle of the fur. Serperior shook her head and chuckled, "To paraphrase Braviary, 'Well, I'll be a Simisage's uncle.' I guess that trickster was telling the truth after all."

"And you doubted her," Milotic teased.

"Oh, come on. You've got to admit, this was painfully easy," Serperior said. "I'll bet even that human blowhard could've done this with no problems. Why did Zoroark specifically ask for us?"

The thought lingered in Team Captivate's minds as they exited the cave and returned to the forest trail. "Maybe it was the embarrassment factor?" Milotic mused. "She was completely flustered about it, remember? An issue like that requires 'mons who can understand her sensitivity. The guys in the guild would probably just laugh her request off."

"Yeah," Serperior said. "Maybe she heard someone around here mention our team name? I mean, we are pretty awesome. None of us can help it if some townsfolk decide to gossip about us."

"Well, there is the issue of that crazy Parasect that she brought up," Dragonair reminded her teammates. "Do you think we should do a sweep of the forest perimeter, just in case?"

"No!" Serperior blurted out. "Uh, I mean, we got what we came here for. No reason to risk losing it over one wild Pokémon acting odd."

Dragonair and Milotic exchanged smirks. "It sounds more like someone's itching to get back to the Observatory."

Serperior's face reddened. "Of course I am! Primarina's probably gonna show up there any second."

"At least she's being honest this time," Dragonair giggled.

"Hey, there's nothing wrong with wanting some alone time with my boyfriend," Serperior growled. "Honestly, it's like I can't do a thing with him without half the guild judging me. Did Lucario and Guildmaster Incineroar have it this bad when they were together?"

Milotic frowned. "Maybe that's a subject better left unexplored."

Serperior clicked her tongue. "Why? It's not like Riolu is around to hear us. She's running about with that bigmouthed human, remember?"


Team Captivate's heads all popped up simultaneously. "Did you girls hear that?" Milotic asked. Her teammates nodded immediately.

"It was bigmo– I mean, the human," Serperior replied. "Sounds like they're close by."

"But there's five of them now. How are we supposed to take them all down by ourselves?"

Milotic's eyes widened. "Sounds like Team Radiance might be in trouble. Airy, any chance you can tell where they are?"

The tiny wings on Dragonair's head bristled. She titled her head toward the south. "They're on another trail, I think. We can head them off if we cut through the trees here."

"Then let's get moving," Milotic whispered. She rushed into the foliage, her teammates tailing her. Over the rustling of the trees, Milotic could just barely hear a hiss sound out from across the forest. She tucked in her head and quickened her pace.

"Hold up, boss. We should have a plan of attack, right?" Serperior asked.

"Yeah, but I need to see what we're up against," Milotic replied. Seconds later, a clearing came into a view. Milotic quickly banked to her left, pressing herself up against a tree. Serperior and Dragonair veered behind her. Milotic poked her head out from their hiding spot.

"See anything?" Serperior asked.

"You bet I do," Milotic gasped. "It's Team Radiance. And they're surrounded by… uh…" She narrowed her eyes. "They look like Parasects. But something's way off about them."

Serperior poked her head out. "Whoa, you're right. They're totally messed up. Is that what Zoroark ran into?"

"Riri's knocked out. And Null and the human are paralyzed. We need a plan of action, now," Milotic said. "Here's what we'll do. I'll hit the trio by the human with an Ice Beam. Airy, use your Dragon Breath on that lone Parasect by Null. Serpy, you'll be with me."

The trio heard the Parasects screech, "Infect! Infect! Infect! Infect!"

"Okay, it's go time," Milotic said. She opened her mouth and shot a stream of ice forward. It hit the three Parasects in front of Shane. They melted into puddles of goop.

"What the heck?" Serperior gasped, only for Milotic to silence her with a flick of her tail.

"Now, Airy," Milotic ordered. Her teammate poked her head forward and a stream of blue-purple dragonfire rushed out into the clearing. The dragonfire washed over the other Parasect, melting it into a fourth goop puddle.

"What the–?" Shane stammered.

"Phew… looks like we made it in time. Nice navigation work, Airy!"

Shane's ears twitched. "Milotic?" he squeaked.

Team Captivate sprang out from their hiding spot. Serperior and Milotic opened their mouths. A stream of ice and a crackling, pulsating bolt of blue dragon energy shot forward. The attacks combined to shower the puddles of ooze with bolts and ice shards. Each puddle started bubbling. Dragonair likewise shot two dragonfire streams at the puddles around Null. They also started bubbling.

"When there's danger to be seen," Milotic declared, blowing a kiss toward a dumbfounded Shane. "Team Captivate is on the scene!"

The puddles of ooze slowly inched toward one another. Dragonair noticed Shane's fur bristle at the sight. "Milotic, look." She pointed her tail forward. "What do you think they're doing?"

"Surround them, ladies! We'll strike in unison, if necessary," Milotic ordered. The three serpents slithered into a triangular formation just as the puddles had recombined into one. They watched as a single Parasect emerged from the puddle, his body perfectly still.

"Hold up." Serperior raised her tail. "I think he's out cold."

Shane turned toward Team Captivate. "Watch out. He could be faking or–"

The crescent moons in Parasect's eyes shattered. Red light encased his entire body, only to start melting off of it into the ground.

"Eww! That's totally disgusting!" Serperior cried, shirking back. Null had managed to lumber to his feet just in time to see last of the red light dissolve into the ground, leaving Parasect's form lying there. His mushroom head had returned, but not a spot of color remained on his body. His mouth hung open.

Dragonair's eyes widened. "Is… is he–?"

"Nobody touch him," Milotic instructed, dangling her tail over Parasect's limp body. "He could still have some trace of something." The trio quickly backed away from Parasect and redirected their attentions toward Team Radiance.

Milotic bit her lower lip. 'Sure, we managed to finish our mission no sweat. But, something about Parasect really bothers me. How could Zoroark brush something like that off so casually?'

For Team Captivate's leader, one thing was certain.

'I think we need to have a little chat with our client before returning her mane.'


Yeah, so if it's not abundantly clear, we're parodying spy movies! Except, crazy spy gadgets don't really exist in the PMD world, so I'm using items to compensate. My intention here is to portray the trio as much more competent and focused than our main heroes, so let me know what you thought.

Next time: deception! Trickery! Illusions! A conspiracy? What has Team Captivate gotten themselves into?
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Right, catchup time. Let's do this chapter-by-chapter. I'm finding that approach fun. :D

Chapter 12:

I feel for ya, Braviary. I don't exactly want to get buried by a bunch of dang rocks, no matter how pretty they are. X3

Interesting use of aerial ace there; somehow using it to boost a jump/takeoff would've never occurred to me. Flying's actually a pretty frickin' cool type when it all comes down to it, isn't it.

Feraligatr is a real b-hole of a boss. Glad I don't work for him. :p

Speaking of whom, lol. Maybe he'll learn (or, I guess, have learned since) a thing or two about mouthing off in the presence of a telekinetic. :B

Or maybe he's too busy beign a long-since decomposed spread of gator powder under a bunch of rocks. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It is a mystery.

Prisma evolving out of sheer hecking joy might seem a little silly if one didn't know that that's exactly how riolu evolve. But as it happens, I do know, and I thought it was a cute touch. :D

Suspecting meanwhile that maaaaaaaaaaaybe Prisma wasn't always a riolu? It might explain how she wound up on that beach with no memory of how she did. Granted, that's not the only thing that could explain it, but I'm gonna hold on to that theory for now, because why the heck not. X3

Bonus #2:

I wonder how Sylveon made the bread without hands. My top guesses are 1.) prehensile ribbons or 2.) fairy stuff.

Zekrom, or at least Tessa's characterization thereof, is a massive DORK and it'd be very hard to convicne me otherwise. :B

Chapter 13:

A mimikyu! We're off to a nice start. :D Mimikyu's a mimikyutie. :B And it looks like he's got a jerkwad boss, too. The poor dear. Maybe he and Prisma ought to commiserate over tea or something sometime. :p

I'm drawing a blank at the moment with regards to what Sticky is, exactly. I'm sure I'll figure it out soon enough, though. It'll probably be really obvious in hindsight, heh.

...wait. Wait. Is this that one USUM UB?

~A quick googling later...~

Fits the description, all right! Cool beans; I like that thing. Tis cute. :3

Well, well, well. Looks like Gallian just became a known quantity again. (Known to us, at least. :p) His backstory intrigues me--what might he have done to get stricken from the guild's records, I wonder?

...Somehow I suspect Shane and co. aren't going to find Twilight Forest as delightful as the ghosts seem to. XD

Omg Serperior, give Null a break. He gets enough of that stuff from Shane. :p

Meanwhile oh snap, nihilsect. :eek: Even freakier than the guzzlax somehow. I wonder if we'll be seeing even more horrible mutant UB hybrids as time rolls on. I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope so. :D

There is something weirdly adorable about Null saying "crud".

I wonder just how small the nihilsect can get. What if microscopic ones that can get in someone like a virus and wreak havoc from the inside. Now there's a creepy thought asjdhs...

Chapter 14:

Yes, Shane, something hit you--just not in the here and now. I wonder how he'd react to figuring out exactly what and when it was.

Meanwhile I may or may not have legit snrked at him calling Gallian an edgelord. :p

Reading Solgaleo's lines out loud, with the indicated emphases and everything, is entirely too amusing. X3 I ought to have given that a try sooner.

Null is relatable as heck. I'm not a particularly big fan of bickering, either. Seeing as I'm not a big awesome chimera, all I can do about it is sit there being all ashen about it. (...Maybe that's for the best. XD; )

Chapter 15:

I'm beginning to read Primarina's lines in Dr. Rockso's voice. Send help. XD

Detective Shane is almost a Zekrom-tier dork. XD And yet he does seem to be getting the job done. Gotta give him credit for that much!

I'd wondered what Gallian could possibly want with a malasada recipe of all things. In hindsight I probably should have guessed the answer was technically nothing. :p

Chapter 16:

...Okay now I HAVE to wonder just what all else Haunter's masqueraded as. What other fixtures and appliances and what not. Has he ever pulled a horrible bathroom prank, is what I'm getting at.

I'm trying to picture Serperior's "I was right and you were wrong" dance. For some reason all that's coming to mind is the flailing about of a startled worm. My imagination has forsaken me. XP

Speaking of Serperior: she is such a b-hole, pfffff. XD Oh gosh, and she and Primarina are an item. Somehow those two deserve one another. XP

Anyway, it was neat to get to see the nihilsect battle from another angle!


Winter can't come soon enough
Right, catchup time. Let's do this chapter-by-chapter. I'm finding that approach fun. :D
I agree! T'is very fun. ^^

I feel for ya, Braviary. I don't exactly want to get buried by a bunch of dang rocks, no matter how pretty they are. X3
You should have seen the first time Torracat tried to offer him shaved ice. It didn't go well.

Interesting use of aerial ace there; somehow using it to boost a jump/takeoff would've never occurred to me. Flying's actually a pretty frickin' cool type when it all comes down to it, isn't it.
I do feel like the Pokémon of the PMD world would use their abilities for mundane stuff, on top of battling. At least, I know I would if I was them.

Feraligatr is a real b-hole of a boss. Glad I don't work for him. :p Speaking of whom, lol. Maybe he'll learn (or, I guess, have learned since) a thing or two about mouthing off in the presence of a telekinetic. Or maybe he's too busy beign a long-since decomposed spread of gator powder under a bunch of rocks. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It is a mystery.
He took life debts a bit too seriously, that one. And he's definitely smooshed for all eternity and not coming back. Sometimes piracy can have its down sides.

Prisma evolving out of sheer hecking joy might seem a little silly if one didn't know that that's exactly how riolu evolve. But as it happens, I do know, and I thought it was a cute touch. :D
Braviary did not know this as a Rufflet. He's learned a thing or two since then about happiness evolutions.

Suspecting meanwhile that maaaaaaaaaaaybe Prisma wasn't always a riolu? It might explain how she wound up on that beach with no memory of how she did. Granted, that's not the only thing that could explain it, but I'm gonna hold on to that theory for now, because why the heck not. X3
And that way, you can do your own "I was right," dance if it just so happens to true. But this is the last we'll see of her as a Riolu, I'm afraid.

I wonder how Sylveon made the bread without hands. My top guesses are 1.) prehensile ribbons or 2.) fairy stuff.
Ribbons. Everything's better with ribbons, right? Which is why I don't have any. Just because I swam competitively for 15 years doesn't mean I ever won. XD

Zekrom, or at least Tessa's characterization thereof, is a massive DORK and it'd be very hard to convicne me otherwise. :B
Fair enough. The intention was to make him EXCEEDINGLY MANLY (except using bold face instead of CAPS, because it's less of an eyesore), because everything about Zekrom's design screams "Rawr, masculinity! Testosterone!" Also, there may have been a Garland reference snuck into his dialogue, because I'm the dork writing this.

A mimikyu! We're off to a nice start. :D Mimikyu's a mimikyutie. :B And it looks like he's got a jerkwad boss, too. The poor dear. Maybe he and Prisma ought to commiserate over tea or something sometime. :p
Well, you already read chapter 15, so you know Mimikyu just kind of agreed to help because Gallian actually talked to him. It's hard to interact with others when you're a Mimikyu.

I'm drawing a blank at the moment with regards to what Sticky is, exactly. I'm sure I'll figure it out soon enough, though. It'll probably be really obvious in hindsight, heh.

...wait. Wait. Is this that one USUM UB?

~A quick googling later...~

Fits the description, all right! Cool beans; I like that thing. Tis cute. :3
Sounds like I did an okay job revising Sticky's description, then. And yes, Sticky is cute to counteract Gallian's (literal) edgelord routine. Sadly, he won't be make a battling debut until after USUM is out, given the way the chapters have been re-sequenced.

Well, well, well. Looks like Gallian just became a known quantity again. (Known to us, at least. :p) His backstory intrigues me--what might he have done to get stricken from the guild's records, I wonder?
I'm pretty I've spelled it out, but he actually walked out on them. So, the question is, what made him do that? And you'll get an answer, later on, of course.

...Somehow I suspect Shane and co. aren't going to find Twilight Forest as delightful as the ghosts seem to. XD
What do you know? You were right! ^^

Omg Serperior, give Null a break. He gets enough of that stuff from Shane. :p
Don't worry. He's got Battle Armor. Words can't crit him!

Meanwhile oh snap, nihilsect. :eek: Even freakier than the guzzlax somehow. I wonder if we'll be seeing even more horrible mutant UB hybrids as time rolls on. I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope so. :D
As you say this, I've just finished writing one of those battles. So, I can confirm they'll still be here.

There is something weirdly adorable about Null saying "crud".
Yeah his limited vocabulary makes for... interesting lines.

I wonder just how small the nihilsect can get. What if microscopic ones that can get in someone like a virus and wreak havoc from the inside. Now there's a creepy thought asjdhs...
Uh, well, the bases for Ultra Parasect were actually Phantamanta and Dedede Clone. So, they'd probably reach about the quarter of Tessa's height before being defeated.

Yes, Shane, something hit you--just not in the here and now. I wonder how he'd react to figuring out exactly what and when it was.
It sounds like you've made the connection I'm going for. But he won't get the answer until pretty late into the 3rd act.

Meanwhile I may or may not have legit snrked at him calling Gallian an edgelord. :p
"You angsty edgelord routine..." line for Most Memorable Quote a the Fanfic Awards. We're starting the campaign now, people! XD

Reading Solgaleo's lines out loud, with the indicated emphases and everything, is entirely too amusing. X3 I ought to have given that a try sooner.
I fully admit that I do that as I type Solagleo's lines. I have a very specific voice in mind, and they're written as an Expy of a certain character.

Null is relatable as heck. I'm not a particularly big fan of bickering, either. Seeing as I'm not a big awesome chimera, all I can do about it is sit there being all ashen about it. (...Maybe that's for the best. XD; )
Aww man, everyone's liking Null. Makes me nervous. Please don't hate me when Episodes 6 and 7 come about, guys. @.@

I'm beginning to read Primarina's lines in Dr. Rockso's voice. Send help. XD
Detective Shane is almost a Zekrom-tier dork. XD And yet he does seem to be getting the job done. Gotta give him credit for that much!
Ha, that's a pretty good choice for him. I myself have imagine him as Scaramouche the Merciless, except he's actually a good guy.
I'd wondered what Gallian could possibly want with a malasada recipe of all things. In hindsight I probably should have guessed the answer was technically nothing. :p
Hey, for all you know, this was Aeon Town's equivalent to the Krabby Patty Secret Formula!

...Okay now I HAVE to wonder just what all else Haunter's masqueraded as. What other fixtures and appliances and what not. Has he ever pulled a horrible bathroom prank, is what I'm getting at.
Seems like I may have to considering doing this for a bonus. XD

I'm trying to picture Serperior's "I was right and you were wrong" dance. For some reason all that's coming to mind is the flailing about of a startled worm. My imagination has forsaken me. XP
Thin the snake dancing that a snake charmer can create, only with wavy vines flowing around.

Speaking of Serperior: she is such a b-hole, pfffff. XD Oh gosh, and she and Primarina are an item. Somehow those two deserve one another. XP
They both have very high opinions of themselves but try not to let it get in the way of being a team-player.

Anyway, it was neat to get to see the nihilsect battle from another angle!
Yeah, that's part of why I switched this order up. Since SE2 happened at the exact same time as this Ultra Parasect business.

Thanks for reviewing! ^^
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Winter can't come soon enough
Disclaimer: this is a holiday special. No knowledge of the main story proper is required to read. Enjoy!

Hey, so this topic passed 2,500 views! Whether you're a human or a spambot, I'm honored either way. So much so, you get the Halloween special early. It's totally not because I'll be stuck at the doctor's the next two days. Nope, that's definitely not it.


Bonus #3: Unwanted Renegade Rambunctiousness
This is an omake. Please don't take it seriously!

~Temporal Tower~

"Here I come, Infernape! HYAAAAAAAARGH!"

A Feraligatr thrust his arms to the side, blue-purple dragon energy forming razor-sharp talons. He sped forward, winding up to slash the fiery monkey standing across form him. Infernape crouched low to the ground and swept his leg around. Feraligatr hollered as the attack tripped him up, causing him to faceplant and skid to a halt in front of Inernape. He victoriously rested his foot on Feraligatr's head.

"Ooooooogh… you just got lucky… that's all…" Feraligatr groaned. Infernape extended a hand toward Feraligatr and helped him to his feet. He crossed his arms and gave Feraligatr an unamused look. "Hmm, what? What's the problem?" Feraligatr wondered.

Infernape tapped the bridge of his nose. "Why didn't I use Hydro Pump?" Feraligatr asked. Infernape nodded. "Aha ha… that's a good question!" Feraligatr said. Sweat droplets formed along Infernape's face. "Truth be told, it's kinda dusty up here," Feraligatr admitted, rubbing the bridge of his snout. "I'm a bit worried that if I spit out any water from my mouth, I'm gonna inhale some dust and sneeze out a massive Hydro Pump you won't be able to dodge."

Feraligatr waddled up toward the edge of the tower. "It's kind of a long drop, wouldn't you say?" He scratched the back of his head. "Yo, Dialga, you ever think of giving this place a thorough dusting?"

He looked up toward the altar at the far side of roof, where the massive, metal-plated dragon lounged about. Dialga pawed absentmindedly at a piece of rock, and his tail dangled off the altar, lazily drifting back and forth across the ground.

"What do you think I called you two here for?" he scoffed. "I don't trust any other souls to clean this place up."

Both Infernape's and Feraligatr's jaws dropped. "But, the memo you sent to Treasure Town said you urgently needed our help!"

Dialga yawned. "And I do. It's very urgent. Look at all this dust. There's enough here to fill up one of those small lakes you mortals like swimming in. What do you call those again?"

"How could you not know what a pond is?" Feraligatr groaned.

"Because that's Kyogre's job. Do you see any water around here?" Dialga asked, gesturing out toward the cloud line spreading out across the Hidden Land.

"You really ought to get out more," Feraligatr mused. "We've offered to let you go on missions, but every time it's…"

"We've been over this before. I am not leaving this spot," Dialga declared, awkwardly rolling over so he lay on his back. "Much as I would love to busy myself doing something that isn't lying around, the last time I did that I quite literally lost my sanity. Not making that mistake again."

Feraligatr recoiled in surprise. "You mean you really haven't left this spot this entire time?" he gawked. "How are you still alive? Don't you need to eat?"

"Ha ha ha ha ha!" Dialga smacked the ground with a foreleg, causing the rooftop to rumble. Infernape looked about in a panic. "Needing to eat? What a silly, mortal concept. I am time incarnate. Hunger and satiety mean nothing to me."

"Still, you could at least clean the roof," Feraligatr proposed.

Dialga sat up, glaring at Feraligatr. He squeaked frightfully and ducked behind Infernape, who rolled his eyes. "Look at me! I'm a gigantic, all-powerful dragon god. If I try to sweep away some dust, I'll take half the roof off and there goes the flow of time for a fraction of the Grass Continent!" He sat back down, shaking his head. "Dust this place off myself… bah! I am the guardian of time… not a cleaning service."

Feraligatr and Infernape exchanged tired looks.

"Well? Hurry up. This place won't dust itself off," Dialga declared, rolling back onto his belly.

Feraligatr slouched over and trudged toward a dust pile. "You ever feel like we get taken for granted sometimes?"

'The fact that Dialga rings us up to come to Temporal Tower kind of blows that idea out of the water,' Infernape thought. He shrugged and walked over toward the other side of the roof. Feraligatr sighed loudly, brushing dust off the roof. As he cleared off the pile, he found himself looking not at the roof, but at some sort of swirling, purple vortex.

"Eh?" Feraligatr's eyes widened and he quickly backpedaled. "Guys? Guys! There's something weird here!"

Infernape looked over and his face blanched at the portal's appearance. 'That doesn't look right!'

Dialga was over by Feraligatr in the blink of an eye, staring down into the portal. "What did you do?" he barked.

Feraligatr flinched. "N-Nothing, I swear! I was just cleaning!"

Dialga leaned over to examine the portal in greater detail, when a wide, oval-shaped, golden head with small, beady, red eyes popped out.

"Big Brother!"

Seconds later, Giratina's massive frame leaped out of the portal. He wrapped his black, ectoplasmic wings around Dialga's torso. "I'm so happy to see you!" Giratina chirped. "Aren't you happy to see me?" He immediately picked his head up and looked around. "And I looooooove what you did with Temporal Tower. All this dust makes it look very rustic. Just like the World Abyss! Did someone tell you I was coming to visit?"

Dialga raised a foreleg, smacked Giratina upside the head, and then pinned him to the ground. "Giratina, you dunce!" he roared. "How many times do I have to tell you? Don't show up here unannounced!"

"You've told me 1,378,413 times and counting!" Giratina replied, his tail thumping excitedly on the ground. "But I just absolutely, positively had to come see my favoritest brother!" He dissolved into a shadow and phased through Dialga's foreleg. Giratina reappeared next to Dialga and nuzzled his neck, much to the latter's abject horror.

"Get off of me!" Dialga growled, shoving Giratina back. "What could possibly be so important that you couldn't just send me a letter?"

"I learned a new trick with antimatter," Giratina said, beaming with pride. "Well, actually, I discovered it by accident with Hoopa. But then I taught myself how to do the trick and I thought, 'I've gotta show this to Dialga. He'll think it's sooooooo cool!'"

Dialga's right eye twitched. "You want… to play with antimatter… on Temporal Tower?!"

Infernape and Feraligatr watched Dialga's eyes glow dark red. They both scrambled for cover behind a nearby column.

"Yeah! Where else am I going to do it? I need bright light to make the trick work," Giratina said. "Besides, you've got your helper-buddies over there, right? So, they can just fix whatever I break!"

Dialga took in a deep breath and calmly exhaled. "… Giratina?"

"Yes, most wonderful brother?"

"Go bother somebody else!"

Dialga's roar distorted the air around Giratina. Silver quantum particles phased into existence in front of Dialga. Giratina moved in reverse right before everyone's eyes. It ended with Giratina flying backwards into the portal that he emerged out of, leaving an angry Dialga standing there, panting heavily.

Feraligatr blinked in confusion.

"… what just happened?"


~Spacial Rift~

"... no!"

Giratina's eyes comically teared up. "Aww, c'mon, Palkia. I just want to show you this trick. It's totally amazing! I take a small bit of antimatter and concentrate it into a singularity. Then… fwabooom! Like the most brilliant explosion you could ever see. It'll be totally epic! I promise!"

"Absolutely not! I forbid it!" Palkia thundered, clamping Giratina's mouth shut. "This is my domain. No one is allowed to distort space without my say so!" A beat followed. "Actually, scratch that. No one is allowed to distort space, period."

"Buh fwoo huffnt feen ma pwick!"

"What? I do not understand your inane babbling. Speak like a normal Pokémon!" Palkia bellowed. He then looked down at his paws and sheepishly pulled them off Giratina's mouth.

"You haven't seen my trick though. It's not going to do any distorting. It's going to make a big ol' boom!" He looked around excitedly. "Since we're in a cave-thingy, I imagine the whole roof will come tumbling down!"

Palkia's eyes blazed in anger.

"So, what do you say? Want to see my awesome trick, oh wonderous, amazing brother of mine?"


~Sky Tower~

"Ah, that sun feels divine on my back. Thanks a ton for inviting me over, Ray. I've had a real headache of a time dealing with this nasty current Kyogre accidentally whipped up."

"The pleasure is mine, Lugia," Rayquaza replied, glancing over to see the giant sea bird reclining against a pair of stone slabs he had pushed together. "You're always a pleasant guest to have around. Everyone else just asks me to summon wind storms or vaporize something in the stratosphere. Makes a guy feel unappreciated, you know?"

"Oh, totally!" Lugia agreed. "You're talking about Blaziken and Swampert, right?" Rayquaza nodded. "Well, at least Team Go-Getters is nice enough to bring food. I can't even go back to the Sea Shrine because this annoying Delphox and Meganium duo keep dropping by and begging me to join their foofy little Expedition Society. They say, 'If the Lati twins did it, why can't you?' Can you believe that?"

Rayquaza smirked. "What's this? Are you changing your tune on Latias? I thought you two had sealed the deal awhile ago." He shook his head disapprovingly. "Honestly, you could've done a lot better than that miserable excuse for a dragon."

"I love Latias from the bottom of my heart," Lugia said. "That doesn't mean I agree with every decision she makes. It makes her happy... so I'm happy. I just wish it didn't come with territory of Pokémon trying to recruit me into a guild." Lugia nonchalantly flicked a wing. "Honestly, what was Cresselia thinking joining the Wigglytuff Guild? Now everyone and their brother thinks they can go out and recruit a Legendary."

"You're not alone, my friend. They've done it to me, too. It's unbelievable. Did it ever occur to these foolish mortals that we choose to live in places like this because we don't want to be disturbed?" Rayquaza mused. "I swear, if I had ten coins for every recruitment request I've gotten since the Dark Matter fiasco I could buy myself a delicious ice cream sundae and still have enough left over for a basket of oran berries."

A sparkling glow washed over the air above the two Legendaries. They immediately looked up and their eyes widened as the sky tore itself open, revealing a multicolored void. Palkia popped out of the void, Giratina firmly tucked underneath his arm.

"W-What the–?" Rayquaza's eyes widened. "You've got some nerve showing up here!"

"Special delivery!" Palkia shouted, before unceremoniously dropping Giratina to the ground. Giratina landed on his head, making his eyes comically tear up. "No givesies-backsies!" Palkia immediately disappeared back into the rift he'd opened, which promptly shut behind him.

Lugia and Rayquaza exchanged confused looks, only to frown as Giratina popped up. "Saaaaaaaaay, there's two of you here. I could have twice the audience for my stupenderific trick! Wanna see it? It'll blow your minds." He tapped a wing to his chin. "Well, actually, it won't. But it will make a gigantic blast in the sky. I'll bet they'll even be able to see it way over in Horizon."

He jumped toward Rayquaza. "C'mon, Ray-Ray. You like blowing stuff up, don't you? Help a fellow dragon out, will ya?"

Rayquaza shot Lugia a pleading look. "Don't look at me. You're the one who can Mega Evolve. You fix this," Lugia scoffed. He promptly got to his feet and flew off.

"W-Wait, wait!" Giratina cried, lumbering after Lugia. "If you run away now, you'll miss all the fun!"

Rayquaza promptly rubbed his temples, groaning loudly.

"Hatchlings… I'm surrounded by hatchlings!"


~Island of Isolation~

"Heeeeeey, Two-y! You up yet? I'm making pancakes!"

A groggy Mewtwo floated out of a cavern, rubbing his eyes. In one hand, he clutched a coffee mug that had "World's Greatest Pokémon" drawn onto it with charcoal. He looked over at the other side of the cave and blinked sleep out of his eyes.

I didn't say you could come over, Mew.

"You also didn't say I couldn't come over. So, here I am!" Mew chirped, spinning around with a frying pan levitating in front of him. "Sheesh, you'd think you'd be a bit happier, considering you're getting free pancakes out of the deal."

Mewtwo's brow furrowed. I don't own any cooking supplies. How are you doing this?

"It's maaaaaaaaaaagic!" Mew sang, giving Mewtwo enthusiastic jazz hands.

Mewtwo sipped his coffee. His nostrils twitched. Hang on… is that razz berry I smell?

"Sure is! I'm baking razz berries into the pancakes. It's a Mystery Jungle specialty, I'll have you know," Mew boasted, flipping the pancake in his frying pan.

It was at that point that Mewtwo caught notice of the sheer number of pancakes stacked on plate beside Mew. For heaven's sake, how many of those do you plan to make? And where did you get the money to buy so much batter?

"From Team Gaia, duh," Mew scoffed. "As for the pancakes, they're for our special guest, of course!"

Mewtwo raised a brow, only for his psychic sense to go off. His mug fell to the ground and shattered as he turned to look at Giratina, seated patiently in the back of the cavern. A large napkin hung from his neck.

"Yup! I'm going to need all my strength before I blow you guys away with my fantastic trick!" he cheered.

A vein bulged out of Mewtwo's head. He sped forward and grabbed one of Giratina's wings. The two disappeared in a flicker of light. Moments later, Mewtwo reappeared, arms crossed and a glare on his face. What were you thinking? We had an agreement. No late-night parties. No singing cheerful musical numbers. No ironic slapstick. And most importantly… no Giratina!

"Whoopsies, guess it must've slipped my mind," Mew giggled. "Aww, come on, don't give me that look." He levitated the frying pan over to Mewtwo. "Pancake?"

Mewtwo glared at the frying pan, and then grabbed the pancake with his telekinesis. He floated away, nibbling at it. Mewtwo flinched.

How are you so good at making these?!




A stack of papers smacked a wall and fluttered down harmlessly. An ink well then struck the same wall, leaving a large splatter. Opposite the ink stain, a black crystal slumped down against a table.

"'Do sudoku, Necrozma,' they said. 'It'll make you stop thinking about your headaches,' they said. Bah!" Necrozma shouted. "These puzzles are detestable! They've only made my headaches worse. I hope whatever Pokémon invented these awful things gets tossed into a Guzzlord-infested Ultra Space pocket and eaten alive!"

She looked over her shoulder and noticed Giratina sitting uncomfortably close to her. "Can I help you? I don't want any magazine subscriptions… or cookies… or whatever you're selling."

Giratina's eyes sparkled. "Wanna see a magic trick?"

Necrozma pointed an arm toward an Ultra Wormhole. "Get out."


"Get. Out."

Giratina trudged into the Ultra Wormhole, whimpering loudly. Necrozma groaned and rubbed her head. "Where did I put that Soothe Bell?"


~Post Town~

"I fancy a trip over to the Water Continent, Emolga. Would you care to join me?"

"Heh… d'ya need to ask? Of course, Virizion. I'm always up for an adventure with you."

Virizion looked over her shoulder and smiled at Emolga, who was seated on her back. "That's the spirit! What do you think we should do while we're over there? I've heard there are some rather nice locales to venture through."

"Oh, well, I really wouldn't know. But you always manage to come up with something interesting, so I'm going to defer to you," Emolga said. Virizion's face flushed at this.

"S-Stop it. You're embarrassing me," she whispered.


"You complete idiot!"

Virizion gasped and jumped backward as a massive, V-shaped stream of fire erupted out of one of the buildings. Moments later, Giratina scrambled out of the building. He took a sharp left and bounded past Virizion and Emolga. "But… but I didn't even get to do the trick yet!" he whined.

Seconds later, a large ball of fire floated out of the building. "… Victini? Are… are you okay?" Virizion gasped. She immediately backpedaled as a massive stream of fire shot past her. It seared Giratina's backside, causing him squeal and run even faster.

"Trash my V-Wheeeeeeeel, will you?" Victini thundered. "Do you have any idea how long I spent working on that? You're gonna be a smoldering pile of ashes when I'm through with you!"

Victini's fiery aura flared up even brighter and he shot forward, racing after Giratina. Emolga peered out from behind Virizion's head. "Is… is it safe to come out now?" he whimpered.

"Yes, I think they're gone," Virizion sighed in relief. "Maybe it's best if we postpone any excursions abroad. Otherwise, there may not be a town left standing when we get back."

"Agreed," Emolga said.


~Expedition Society Headquarters~

"So, that's another 'no' from Zapdos. I guess we'll just try asking him again next week. What do you think, Meganium?"

Meganium looked over at her Delphox teammate and shook her head. "Yeah, I agree. Probably a bit too pushy. Maybe we ought to try for Articuno instead? She seems much more level-headed. And if we show up with her in tow, Zapdos will surely accept our recruitment offer."

'Easier said than done, I'm afraid,' Meganium sighed.

"You look like you've got a good idea. Mind looping me in?" Delphox asked.


The entire room rumbled. "Jinkies!" Delphox hollered. "That sounded like it was coming from upstairs!" Meganium was already up on her feet and sprinting over toward the stairs. They both scrambled up to the top floor, only to freeze. "Good gracious. Jirachi, what happened in here?"

Jirachi turned from the smoking pile of metal in the back of the room. "I'm not sure, actually. I had this very vivid dream. Giratina popped in and wanted to show me some sort of trick. Then I got mad and hit him so hard, it sent him into orbit," he explained. "After that, I woke up."

"And you broke the Pokémon Nexus again?" Delphox groaned.

"It was like that when I woke up," Jirachi harrumphed. "It's not broken. It's just ardently begging my genius for a tune-up, that's all!"

Delphox and Meganium faceplanted in disbelief.


~Tree of Life~

A set of dainty, sword-like legs strode forward toward a set of stumps. "Tea's ready, Celebi!"

Celebi buzzed over and sat on one of the stumps. "What kind of blend did you use today, Xerneas?"

Xerneas set a tray down on the largest of the stumps. "It's a new blend, actually. Meganium suggested it to me. See, you–"

A massive fireball exploded out from the nearby forest, startling both Pokémon. They immediately exchanged nervous looks. Xerneas leaped forward, her multicolored antlers glowing brightly as she prepared to strike.

"… halt! Identify yourself, whatever you are!" she bellowed.

Her attack faded, however, when she noticed a charred, smoking Giratina stumble out of the forest. He looked up into Xerneas' eyes and smiled. "Hey, want to see me blow something up? That tree looks like a pretty good target for my incredible trick!"

Xerneas' eyes flashed with anger. She calmly exhaled. "… Celebi?"


"We have a code G-487," Xerneas announced. "We need to execute response plan BY-3."

"Knock him out and send him somewhere else?" Celebi sighed.

"You read my mind."


~Aeon Observatory~

Tessa rubbed her eyes, yawning. "Okay, no more high-sugar berry sorbet before bed," she muttered. "Ugh, my aching head." She stumbled out of her room. "Vulpix, where are you? Sorry I overslept. Are we going to do any missions today or not?"


Tessa turned to her left and immediately hit the deck. A fireball soared over her and struck the wall at the end of the hallway, generating a small explosion. She threw a paw up over her snout and started coughing raucously, waving smoke out of the way. "Ungh. W-What the heck's going on around here? Are we under attack?" she wheezed.

When the smoke cleared, she noticed a smoldering-black ball lying on the floor in the middle of the shower area. She looked up and saw a Vulpix-shaped imprint in the wall. Her aura feelers immediately shot up. "V-Vulpix?" She sprinted toward him. "Ohmygosh, what happened to you?" She noticed Growlithe had emerged from his room and was studying Shane's blackened body intently.

Growlithe whistled. "Whoa… that is one thoroughly cooked Vulpix. I didn't know you could roast 'em well-done like this!"

Tessa shot him a look and ran up to him. She rolled him onto his back. "Vulpix? Vulpix! Speak to me! Don't you dare die on me!" She shook him.

"Uuuurgh… I… hate… those… ghosts…" Shane rasped, coughing up a plume of smoke. His tongue lolled out of his mouth and he fell unconscious. Tessa turned around and marched down the hallway toward the assembly room.

"All right, what's going on in he– eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!"

Tessa froze in place. Her eyes drifted up to look at Giratina, who towered above her. Giratina hopped around the room happily, each landing making the ground shake. "Yay! Yay! It worked! It worked! I blew up a Vulpix! Did you guys see it? It was great, right? I can't believe the other Legendaries didn't want me to do this."

"Golly, it sure was quite the sight," Misdreavus said.

"Yup. Absolutely wild!" Drifloon agreed.

Haunter noticed Tessa and his grin widened. "Well, what do you think of Team Specter's newest recruit? He's… a real blast! Mwee hee hee hee hee!"

All of the color promptly drained from Tessa's body. She put a paw up to her forehead and fainted.

"Whoa," Giratina gasped, "Did my trick take Vulpix's colors and give them to Riolu? That's even more stupendous than I was expecting!" He resumed jumping up and down excitedly. "I can't wait to go back and show this to Dialga. He'll be so amazed!"

"… will you… cut out… that infernal racket?"

Giratina look over and spotted Null standing in the southern hallway, brushing his helmet against the wall. He lumbered over to Null. "Hey, cool helmet!" Giratina chirped. "Did you make that yourself?"

Null looked up at the Legendary and gave a heavy sigh. "I don't know."

Giratina tilted his head to the side. "You know, it kind of looks like that thingy daddy wears around his tummy! Can I have one, too?"

"… what?"

"Oh, you don't know my daddy? He created the universe!" Giratina chirped. "I bet he'd be super impressed if I brought him that helmet. Can I take it?"

"… no. It won't… come off…"

"Well, that seems like a serious design flaw," Giratina said. "In that case, I'll just have to sculpt my own helmet out of clay!" He draped a spectral wing over Null. Before Null could protest, he found himself getting hoisted into the air. "C'mon, new best friend. It's arts and crafts time!"

He turned around and dashed off toward the eastern hallway.

"Hooo-wheee, that guy's quite the excitable ghost, huh?" Misdreavus said.

"You bet!" Haunter said. "All the better for a ridiculous Halloween special, wouldn't you say? Happy Halloween, everyone!"

"Oh! Oh!" Giratina's head phased through the wall behind Haunter. "Are we breaking the fourth wall? I want to do that too! What should I say? Um… stay in school. No, no, that's totally lame. How about, 'AH'LL BE BACK?' Ugh, no, that's totally awful. C'mon, dummy this is your big chance, don't blow it. Wait! I've got it! The identity of the Prism Virus is actually–"


"N-No, wait! I didn't even get to spoil the ending for everyone. Ugh, this is the worst Halloween ever!"


Legendaries are overgrown babies, and you cannot convince me otherwise.

Incidentally, today is apparently National Feline Day in the US, so I added the Mew/Mewtwo scene in during my revision. You're welcome, cat-lovers. ^^
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Winter can't come soon enough
Happy November. To those of you forgoing shaving, I salute you! And to those who gorged on Halloween candy and got cavities, uh, I'm sorry?


Chapter 17: A View to a Thrill

~Terrace Village~

"Yo, Millie. You really think it was a good idea to just send Team Radiance off like that?" Serperior wondered. "You saw that human totally freak out. I think that Parasect rattled his cage."

"I'm aware of that," Milotic acknowledged. "But he has Riri and Null with him. He'll be fine. Besides, we've got some unfinished business to take care of." She turned her gaze toward the motel. "Namely, I think our 'client' was holding out on us with Parasect."

"Eh?" Serperior raised an eyebrow.

"It was clearly more than just 'some crazy wild Parasect,'" Milotic explained. "There's no way Zoroark could encounter it and just forget about how weird it looked. So, I want to know why she withheld that information from us."

A smirk wound its way onto Serperior's face. "So, you're saying you don't trust our client anymore?"

"Wipe that smug look off your face," Milotic scolded. "She was telling the truth about her mane, after all."

Team Captivate entered the motel and proceeded up to Zoroark's room. Milotic rapped the door with her tail and Zoroark called out, "Come in." The serpents entered the room. Milotic shifted her tail forward to reveal the missing part of Zoroark's mane. Zoroark's eyes immediately sparkled. "Ah, that's it! You actually found it! Oh, thank heavens," Zoroark cheered. She shakily got to her feet and lumbered over. "I just knew you were the right team for the job."

"Hold on there," Milotic brought the mane close to her torso. "I need you to answer something for me first. Namely, why didn't you tell us more about Parasect?"

"Eh?" Zoroark bit her lower lip. "Um, because it's just a wild Pokémon?"

"I disagree," Milotic said. "In fact, we ran into Parasect on the way back."

Zoroark's face paled. "Y… you did?"

"Yeah, and it was hardly your run-of-the-mill wild Pokémon," Serperior harrumphed. "Parasect could split into multiple copies!"

"So, like Double Team? How is that out of the ordinary?" Zoroark wondered.

"Because it wasn't Double Team. It literally split itself in half. And it was made out of this disgusting black slime!" Serperior said, grimacing.

"We found Parasect attacking some of our fellow guild members," Dragonair added. "We came to their assistance. And when we defeated the Parasect copies, they recombined. But, stranger than that, the life and color drained out of Parasect after we beat them. They're now a colorless husk lying in the middle of the forest."

Zoroark's eyes widened. "Th… that can't be right," she muttered.

"Are you saying you were attacked by a different Parasect?" Milotic asked.

"Err, y-yeah! That's definitely it. I was attacked by an agitated, but normal, Parasect," Zoroark said.

"The stammering and hesitation in your voice suggest you're lying," Dragonair accused.

Zoroark bit her lip. "Well, that's just because, um, y'know, my memory's a bit messed up on account of…" Her voice trailed off and her shoulders sagged. "… okay. You got me."

Milotic frowned. "So, you were lying to us."

"Yeah. That whole getting attacked by a Parasect thing? Never happened. I made it up," Zoroark said. "I just picked a Pokémon at random that I knew lived in the woods. I never would have thought you'd actually run into a Parasect. Especially a super messed-up one like you described."

Serperior narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "And just why would you go about doing something so ridiculous?"

"Because the request I had you girls do was fake," Zoroark reported. She swiped the piece of her mane out of Milotic's grasp. Then she held it up by the bead and squeezed. It shattered, spreading glass fragments along the ground.

"A-ha! I knew this whole thing was a set up," Serperior boasted. She whirled on her teammates with the smuggest look of self-satisfaction she could muster. "And you girls actually thought you could trust a Zoroark."

"Hey, I'm standing right here, you know," Zoroark hissed. "Look, I'm sorry I tricked you. But I needed to test you girls to make surely you knew what you were doing. Because what I really need you for is something much more perilous."

"And why should we help you out when all you've done so far is lie to us?" Milotic asked.

Zoroark slumped over. "Because… it's professional courtesy among explorers, wouldn't you say?" Zoroark stepped back and a soft-blue light rippled across her body. Team Captivate gasped, seeing that Zoroark's mane was whole once more. But beyond that, she had several welts on her form. Her mane was disheveled, her left eye swollen, and her right arm lay in a makeshift splint. Zoroark winced as she pivoted to showcase the satchel at her waist.

Serperior looked at the golden brooch keeping the satchel shut. "Ah! That's a badge from the Expedition Society."

"So, that's what you meant by professional courtesy," Dragonair muttered. "But, look at you. You're in absolutely terrible shape."

"I know," Zoroark said, coughing weakly. She sat back down on her bed. "And that's where the problem comes in."

Team Captivate slithered closer to Zoroark's bed. "I think it's high time you gave us the truth here, Zoroark. Or do we need to have our guild ring up your HQ and tell them you're causing trouble over in Horizon?" Milotic said.

Zoroark's eyes widened. "Wait, please don't do that!" she begged. "Team Gaia and Ampharos don't know I'm here. You can't just tell them. All my planning will have gone to waste."

"Then you'd better start talking," Serperior huffed. "What's your role in the Expedition Society? Why are you over in Horizon if your head honcho didn't authorize it? I doubt you're just taking in the sights."

Zoroark nodded slowly. "Okay, I owe you girls that much, at least. I'm one of Team Gaia's recruits. I'm a… a…" She looked down and rubbed the shoulder of her injured arm.

"Go on," Serperior said.

"… a sleuth," Zoroark muttered. The girls exchanged confused looks. "I travel around to different places and use illusions to blend in with the locals. That way, I can get the lowdown on anything out of the ordinary and report it back to the Expedition Society. After the whole Dark Matter fiasco, Ampharos thought they needed to be more on top of things, see."

"That sounds like a rather dubious way of keeping the peace," Milotic said, expression darkening. "I always thought your guild mates were a rather cheerful bunch."

"It was Team Gaia's idea, actually. Their leader, Delphox, recruited me," Zoroark said. "But I'm getting off-topic. I'm in Horizon because I'm chasing down a lead on an artifact that the Society's archaeologist has taken a vested interest in."

The girls exchanged unconvinced looks. "I'm telling the truth… I swear!" Zoroark said, desperation in her eyes. "Look, you can check in my satchel. It has copies of the notes Mawile had taken on the thing she sent me here after. She picked me because I'm good at blending in with my surroundings. It's that simple."

"Tch, that's so like a Zoroark to say," Serperior scoffed. "Well, you clearly didn't do a good job if you ended up like that."

"Quiet, Serpy," Milotic chided. "And what exactly was so important to Mawile that she didn't want to loop in the Horizon Guild?"

Zoroark winced as she rummaged through her satchel and produced some papers. "Mawile's spent the past several years digging up records on Dark Matter to study. In the process, she claims she found evidence of some sort of anti-Legendary Pokémon plot from ancient times."

"Like a conspiracy?" Serperior wondered. "Just how dense do you think we are, anyway?"

"It's not a joke," Zoroark said, foisting the papers onto Milotic. "She found some notes suggesting that, after Dark Matter's first attack in ancient times, a group of Pokémon strongly believed they could no longer trust Legendaries to look out for them. So, they wanted to set out to create a Pokémon that could protect them from any kind of threat."

"That's completely ridiculous," Serperior snorted. "If you want to make a Pokémon, all you need to do is find a compatible mate, take 'em somewhere romantic, and wait for the sparks to fl– MMPH!"

Dragonair wrapped her tail around Serperior's mouth.

"I'm not talking about mating or conceiving an egg. I'm talking about literally building a Pokémon. Like, out of parts, or something. That way, it could always be controlled by someone else," Zoroark elaborated. "According to Mawile's notes, this group carried out their experiments in Horizon. But something seemed to have gone wrong during the whole thing. There are mentions of things getting buried underground."

Milotic scrunched up her snout. "Buried underground, huh? There is an underground labyrinth in Horizon. It's most prominent underneath Glyphic Falls."

"Yeah, the Nocturnus Catacombs. It's one of the few areas where the landscape isn't reshaped by the Tapus' powers," Serperior recalled. "Wait, don't tell me you actually tried going there? That place is a nightmare if you're not properly prepared."

"I didn't just go there. I made my way pretty far into its depths," Zoroark exclaimed. "But then I got jumped." She looked at her injured arm and winced. "Something attacked me from the shadows and pummeled me like crazy. I'd never felt so many punches and kicks striking me at once. It was like getting hit by ten Close Combats in unison! I just barely managed to grab my Escape Orb and flee back up to the surface before passing out. If I didn't have a Reviver Seed, I might not be here right now. And, well, those things are only so helpful..."

"So, you were ambushed by an unknown assailant," Milotic summarized. "Do you need us to retrieve something of yours, then?"

Zoroark nodded. "Yes. Whoever attacked me stole the one official record Mawile let me take. It had a picture of the artifact I was trying to find. Don't you see? I skipped town to come here. Didn't even tell Ampharos or Team Gaia. If I come back empty-pawed and having lost the record that Mawile found…" She shuddered. "Please. I need you to go into the Catacombs and try to find the Pokémon who stole the page."

"That's a pretty tall order," Dragonair said. "The Catacombs are not very small. We could spend weeks looking and turn up nothing."

"What if I show you the entrance I took to the cavern?" Zoroark offered. "Surely that's a place to start, right?"

Dragonair frowned. "It still doesn't help all that much. You didn't see the Pokémon that attacked you and it's not like there's any way to track the page that was stolen. Apologies, but given you've already lied to us, it's tough to agree to such an unreasonable request."

Zoroark frowned. "I've got 30,000 coin for you if you can provide any help."

Serperior doubled over in a coughing fit. "Well," Milotic muttered, "Our policy is to take all jobs, no questions asked. So, I guess we'll help you out. But you'd better not be tricking us this time."

Zoroark raised her good hand. "I swear, this is really what I need you for."


~Glyphic Falls~

The roaring of waterfalls and riverbeds echoed through the canyon. Zoroark limped along the base of the waterfall closest to the entrance. A thick haze lay over the area from water smacking the river. Luckily, Dragonair stood beside Zoroark. She continuously spun her tail about, whipping up short whirlwinds to dispel the haze.

"So, you went right up to this waterfall, then?" Milotic asked.

"Yeah. Like you said, I'm not exactly familiar with this place," Zoroark said. "I wanted to take the closest entrance to these tunnels I could."

"Hang on. We've gone through this place a few times and we've never spotted a Catacombs entrance here," Serperior said.

"That's because we were never looking for any entrances," Milotic said. "We just went in, got what we needed for our missions, and left."

"No, duh. Because nobody wants to spend any longer in this place than they have to," Serperior scoffed. As if to emphasize that point, a rocky outcropping beside her erupted with a burst of steam. Serperior yelped and quickened her pace, stealing glances back at the hidden geyser. "Ugh, like I said," she grumbled.

"It's right this way," Zoroark said, approaching a part of the cavernous pathway that seemed to spiral up through the waterfall's interior. She braced herself with her good arm and leaned against the rock wall.

"Do you have any idea how far into the Catacombs you made it?" Milotic asked. "Or, for that matter, where you ended up going while you were down there?"

Zoroark paused to produce a piece of parchment from her mane. "Here, I wrote down each way I went at the different forks down there. Of course, I pulled it from memory. But I'd like to think my memory's pretty reliable."

Serperior gave Milotic an unconvinced look and mouthed, "It's a trap."

Milotic flicked her rainbow tail dismissively. "Is there anything else?"

"Well, yes," Zoroark said. "I did try to mark my way through the Catacombs with my claws." She raised her good arm. "I used x-shaped swipes to signify my trail."

"But it's entirely possible her attacker took steps to remove that tracking," Dragonair pointed out. "In which case, we'd be out of luck."

"Hmm." Milotic twitched her snout. "I suppose we could do some temporary split-ups and scout ahead if we end up uncertain of how to proceed." She turned back to Zoroark. "Again, do you think you remember how far you made it into the Catacombs?"

Zoroark scratched her ear. "Hoo boy, that one might be a bit tougher to answer. It's not like I had any way of really keeping track of time down there. Lemme see…" She squinted her eyes shut and rubbed the bridge of her snout. "Okay, the sun was just about halfway toward its apex when I went down. And after I escaped, it was almost halfway toward setting." She turned back to Milotic. "So, maybe five or six hours?"

Serperior's eyes widened. "Millie, it's already late afternoon. If we head down now, we're going to be there late into the night."

"So? It's not like the time of day really makes a difference down there," Milotic pointed out.

"But I don't want to be stuck down there all night," Serperior groaned.

"Don't we have one of Magearna's timekeepers?" Milotic asked, looking toward Dragonair. To Milotic's delight, Dragonair and pulled a small, cylindrical contraption out of her bag. "Great, so let's set it for six hours. If we can't find anything in that time, then we'll just have to call it quits." She turned back to Zoroark. "Is that okay with you?"

"I suppose so," Zoroark said. She stopped in the middle of the pathway and started running her claws against the wall. "I think the entrance is over here somewhere. Aha!" Her paw glided across an indentation and she pressed down against it. The rocky area trembled and a portion of the wall beside Zoroark folded down.

Milotic slithered beside her and gazed through the opening. "It's a staircase. I guess this must be our route to the Catacombs."

"Yup, it's what I used," Zoroark said. "I really do wish there was more I could do to help, but, well…" she looked down at her injured body.

"We'll take it from here," Milotic said. "You just get back to Terrace Village safely, okay? We'll drop by the motel when we're done."

Zoroark nodded. "Okay then. Good luck, girls." She stepped away from the entrance, allowing Serperior and Dragonair to join their leader. The trio descended the stairs and the dim glow of the caverns quickly faded.

"Now what?" Serperior said.

"We proceed forward," Milotic said. "There should be something lighting up the Catacombs, if the rumors are true."

"And if they aren't?" Serperior huffed.

"Then we'll need to employ some creative liberties," Milotic said. "In the meantime, say on your metaphorical toes. Serperior I want you beside me. Dragonair, you'll be behind us and facing backwards. We'll move as a singular unit through the cavern until we reach any forks."

"Understood," Dragonair said. She shuffled backward to allow Serperior to slither beside Milotic.

"Okay, girls. Slow and steady wins the race here," Milotic said.


~Nocturnus Catacombs, Southeastern Quadrant~

Their downward trek went faster than expected. Though the girls found themselves fumbling in the dark as the path zig-zagged and a few sharp rocks jutted out to impede their progress. Eventually, however, a soft, purple glow started to filter up the stairs. Milotic's radiant scales once again began sparkling in the dim light.

"Great, looks like we've got a light source," Serperior sighed in relief. "Except your scales turn us into walking targets for any wild Pokémon that happen to linger around the area."

"How about we make an entrance with our Tri-Captivate Technique?" Milotic proposed. "If there are any baddies lingering about, we'll totally catch them by surprise and then we can give them the business. Sound good?"

"I guess so," Serperior said.

"Right, then on my signal." Milotic crouched down. "One, two, three… go!" She sprang forward, with her teammates moving in sync behind her. They sailed down the remainder of the stairs and landed in the middle of a tunnel. All three serpents faced out in separate directions. They proceeded to bat their lashes and radiate small, heart-shaped bits of energy. The energy sailed harmlessly around the cave and struck various walls.

"Area's clear, Milotic," Dragonair reported. Her teammates both relaxed at this, leaving them time to take in their surroundings. The catacomb tunnel was circular in nature. Jagged rocks lined the area, occasionally jutting out into the path. Clusters of crystals also suck out along the tunnel. They came out from the floor, walls, and ceiling. The clusters varied in size and, thus, intensity of the light they gave off.

"Odd," Milotic whispered. "These don't look like any light crystals or Luminous Orbs I've ever seen."

"Could they be ancient light sources?" Dragonair wondered.

"Don't you think they'd have deactivated by now?" Serperior scoffed. "Yo, Millie, which way are we going here?"

"In our direction," Milotic replied, jerking her head down the path. Dragonair, you okay moving backwards? If you get tired, you can switch with one of us."

"I'm good for now," Dragonair reported. She turned around and slithered along backwards while her teammates led her forward through the cavern. "Keep your eyes peeled for any gaps in the lights the crystals make, chief. I think those might be some good hiding spots for wild Pokémon."

"Roger that," Milotic said. "There aren't any real areas of darkness up ahead, but there are certainly dimmer spots."


Milotic felt herself pass over a switch in the rocks. Serperior and Dragonair bolted away from her. She craned her head up and steaming-hot water gushed out of her mouth. The attack blew the shards of rock that had dislodged from the ceiling into bits. Milotic held her tail up to shield her face from the shower of debris and water droplets.

"A Stealth Rock trap," Milotic muttered. "Looks like we're in for a rough trek, ladies."

"I'm surprised Zoroark didn't trigger it. It's right in the middle of the path," Dragonair mused. "We have three see-trap orbs. I'm not sure how far into this tunnel the effects of one will carry. But it couldn't hurt to try deploying an orb, right?"

"Let's hold off on that until we're deeper into the cavern," Milotic said. "The paths may get more convoluted and trap-riddled, for all we kn–"


"Are you kidding me? Come on!" Milotic groaned, before the ground around her spewed a mud geyser. Dragonair and Serperior shielded their eyes until they were certain it was safe to turn back. Milotic still stood in place, only now her body was caked in a layer of damp, brown mud.

"Well, now you certainly look the part of the grizzled explorer," Serperior giggled.

"Wipe that smirk off your face before I do it for you," Milotic growled, rubbing mud from her eyes with her tail. "That was just a stroke of bad luck, that's all."

"Or maybe it's bad karma for dragging me out here like this when I said I didn't want to come?" Serperior proposed, her smirk growing. Milotic responded to this by running her tail across her body and flinging a stream of mud at Serperior. "Augh! Hey!" Serperior groaned, raising her tail to shield her face. "Lighten up, Millie. I was just messing with you."

"Ladies, settle down," Dragonair chided. "We've got bigger problems to concern ourselves with than a little grime."

"Does this look like a little grime?" Milotic hissed. "Ugh, I can feel it under my scales!"

"Easy there, chief. Deep breaths. You can always clean yourself off after the mission," Dragonair coaxed. Milotic's face was probably beet red with anger, but there was no way to tell with all the mud in the way. "Instead, can we focus on the mud trap you triggered? Or, rather, what's left of it?" She scooped up a piece of the broken trap and held it up. "Check it out. This trap is brand new. Someone lay it here quite recently."

Serperior squinted her eyes. "How can you even tell?"

"There's absolutely no wear and tear on any of these pieces of debris," Dragonair explained. "And barely any dust or sediment. A trap that's been here awhile would have plenty of dirt sinking into it."

"I guess that means someone's trying to deter visitors," Serperior concluded. "I told you two that Zoroark was bad news. She probably set these traps to either do us in or soften us up for whatever outlaws she convinced to hide down here and lie in wait for us. This whole thing reeks of a set-up."

"You think she's faking those injuries of hers, too? Those seemed pretty real to me," Milotic countered.

"That's just because you're a softie," Serperior scoffed. "I've been suspicious of this mission from the get-go. All of this is just confirming my thoughts."

"Okay then. Suppose you are right about this whole thing being a giant trap," Milotic exclaimed. "Then aren't you just the slightest bit curious about what the heck Zoroark is up to down here?"

"Do you think she's related to that anti-Legendary conspiracy she mentioned? Say, perhaps, a distant descendant of one of the Pokémon involved?" Dragonair proposed.

"But then why would she go through the trouble to bring us here? It's not like we know anything about it," Serperior argued. "She'd have dragged us into this for no good reason."

"Exactly," Milotic cut in. "An outlaw wouldn't try to trick a veteran explorer team for 'no good reason.' So, whether this is a trap or not, Zoroark must have something in mind for us. And I intend to find out just what that is."

"Lead the way then, chief," Serperior offered. "At least I can get a kick out of seeing you trigger all these tra– HEY!"

Several globs of mud pelted Serperior's body.

"That's enough of that talk," Milotic harrumphed. "Dragonair, do we have a trap proof emera in our possession?"

"Um, let me take a look," Dragonair said, fumbling through the item pouch. "Oh, hey, we do have an unused one. I'm guessing you want this?" She produced the teardrop-shaped gem and handed it to Milotic. Milotic rubbed the base of her tail off to expose her looplet and placed the emera inside the only open slot. It shimmered to life and made her looplet momentarily flash green.

"Excellent," Milotic said. "Let's switch the formation to a line. I'll lead and you two can switch places behind me as needed."

"No objections here," Serperior said.

Milotic led Team Captivate along the tunnel. She used her long, serpentine body to help guide her teammates forward. They followed her path perfectly, so as not to trigger any wayward traps. Milotic ended up running into several more traps, but the emera's effects caused them to fizzle out harmlessly. Dragonair inspected several of them and, each time, confirmed they were freshly-placed.

Along the way, the team even encountered some of the claw markings Zoroark had told them about. "Okay, so she wasn't lying about that part. But I still think she's rotten," Serperior said while the team approached a marking telling them to turn right and proceed down a new corridor.

They weaved their way along the path Zoroark dictated. All the while, Magearna's timer continued to tick away. The team paused for a couple of breaks to restore their bellies with their supply of apples. But despite their long trek, not a single wild Pokémon appeared to challenge them. In fact, they heard no signs of any wild Pokémon along their path.

"Don't you girls find it suspicious there are no wild Pokémon around here?" Serperior asked. "From the way Braviary and the Guildmaster talked about this place, I was expecting a Monster House every thirty paces or so."

"Are you trying to jinx us, Serpy?" Milotic groaned.

"Hey, we're all thinking it," Serperior said. "I was just the one to actually bring it up."

"I wonder if the lighting has something to do with it?" Dragonair thought.

"What d'ya mean, Airy?" Serperior asked.

Dragonair paused next to one of the clusters of light crystals. "Well, we all thought these seemed like a strange light source. And to make matters weirder, these crystal clusters have somehow grown larger the farther we've progressed into the Catacombs. I would've expected our light sources to get smaller. We are pretty far underground by now."

"I can't think of any sort of explanation for this," Serperior said, eyeing one of the crystal clusters. "I guess it's just one of those 'the Tapus work in strange, mysterious ways,' moments."

"Perhaps," Dragonair said. "Or, maybe, these aren't a natural light source." Her teammates stiffened at this. "These crystals could have been planted down here and cultivated."

"… you certainly have quite the head on your shoulders there, luv. Working that tidbit out with naught but a hunch to go off of."

Serperior whirled around. "Who said that? Show yourself!"

"Ease up, there. I'm not looking for trouble," the soft, male voice replied. Serperior turned around and fired a spiraling tornado of leaves behind her. They sailed harmlessly along the tunnel, pinging off the light crystals.

"Whoa-ho-ho. You're quite the hothead. I've heard of sweeping a gent off his feet, but that takes it to a new level."

Milotic gasped and slithered back from a cluster of purple, ectoplasmic wisps gathering into a puddle in front of her. The wisps extended upward, taking the form of a small, gray, blob-like Pokémon. He had two arms, two legs, a puffy, cloud-like collar around its neck, a helmet-like cranium bearing a trio of horns, and red eyes with beady, yellow pupils.

Dragonair appeared by Milotic's side, the team's petrify wand curled up in her tail. She kept it hidden behind Milotic, ready to strike. "And just who or what are you supposed to be?" Milotic asked.

"Oh my. Where are my manners? Ever so sorry, luv. The name's Marshadow." Marshadow extended his right arm and slowly bowed. "Charmed to make your acquaintances."

"And what would a 'mon like you be doing crawling around a place like this?" Serperior barked from the back of the group.

"I could ask you the same question, luv," Marshadow chuckled. "The pouch around Dragonair suggests you're not Catacomb-dwellers." Dragonair reflexively swiveled her bag back to hide it. "Not to mention I'd recognize a Horizon Exploration Badge anywhere."

Milotic raised her tail to block off her badge and looplet. "Are you a guild associate? If not, then we have nothing to say to the likes of you."

"In a manner of speaking, I am," Marshadow replied.

"Fat chance!" Serperior spat. "I've never heard of any Marshadow before."

Marshadow smirked. "I should hope not. I'm one of a kind, after all. And I've got a certain reputation to uphold. Wouldn't do me much good if folks knew exactly what I looked like."

"You're not doing much to sell yourself as trustworthy there, buddy," Milotic muttered.

"Touché, luv. But then, neither are you. Here I thought you guild folk were all friendly types," Marshadow mused. "Then again, word around the shadows is there's been one heck of a regime-change lately. Shame to hear Incineroar bit the big one. He was a such a kind soul. Maybe a bit too kind."

Marshadow suddenly jolted stiff. His face scrunched up and his legs smacked together. Dragonair unfurled her tail, revealing the activated petrify wand. "What should we do with him, chief?"

"We've got to take him with us, I think," Milotic said. "If he can melt into and out of the ground he might be able to catch up to us pretty quickly."

"Um, you know I can still hear you, luv. And talk, for that matter," Marshadow muttered. Sweat droplets popped up on Team Captivate's heads. "Listen. Maybe we didn't exactly get off on the right foot, here. You're quite clearly the no-nonsense types. A gent of my caliber can appreciate that kind of professionalism when it comes to exploring."

"So, you're an explorer then?" Milotic asked. "Who are you affiliated with?"

"No one," Marshadow replied. "I'm what you might call a 'private contractor.'" Team Captivate narrowed their eyes at Marshadow. "Oh, come now. No need for the suspicious glares. I'm just not much of a team player. Plus, I can keep one hundred percent of the profits from every job I pull. Can't blame a gent for wanting a bit of independence, eh?"

Team Captivate encircled Marshadow. "Look, cut me a bit of slack, luvs. Let's just say I tend to take sketchier jobs that an established group turns down. When Pokémon are really desperate, they turn to me." Marshadow shakily got to his feet, dusting himself off. "It's not noble and I'm hardly proud of it. But a gent needs to make a living."

"… fine," Milotic said. She smacked him with her tail, freeing him from the petrify wand's effects. "Now tell us what brings you down here."

"Uh, uh, uh," Marshadow wagged a finger. "Information doesn't come cheap, luv. How's about a little mutual exchange first?"

Milotic rolled her eyes. "I'm Milotic. These are my teammates, Serperior and Dragonair. We're a veteran-rank exploration team with the Horizon Guild here on an assignment we personally received."

"What's your team name, then?" Marshadow asked.

Milotic's lips pursed. A gesture that no one caught with mud still coating her face. "We're Team Charm," Milotic lied. Dragonair and Serperior didn't question the lie in any way.

"A fitting name for a trio of beautiful faces," Marshadow exclaimed.

"Answer my question," Milotic instructed.

"Wow, there's just no fazing you, eh?" Marshadow let out a laugh. "Very well then. Personal reasons brought me here. Heard rumors that there's something peculiar lying around this quadrant of the Catacombs. Some sort of remnant of a sinister plot from ancient times. Pokémon trying to play Creator and all that jazz." Marshadow stretched out his back. "But it's been slow going what with all the traps some brute laid out. I keep shadow-melding to try and skirt them but that eats up my strength pretty quickly. Hence how you three caught up to me."

'So, other Pokémon know about this conspiracy too,' Milotic thought. "Well, I'm afraid our reason's not quite so intriguing. But maybe we can help each other out. You look like you know your way around here pretty well. I've got a trap proof emera equipped right now. I can clear traps out of the way if you're willing to provide us with a little extra muscle while we search for our objective."

"Hmm, I'd rather not stray too far from my own mission, luv," Marshadow said.

"But we're already heading in the same direction," Milotic pointed out.

Marshadow crossed his arms and tapped a foot. "Just try not to slow me down. Time is money, after all."

"Ha! Same to you, buddy," Milotic laughed as she slithered past Marshadow. Dragonair and Serperior hung back.

"You go first, Airy," Serperior said. "I don't like that guy and I want to stay as far away from him as possible." And with that, the trio resumed their trek with Marshadow in tow.

Milotic glanced back at Marshadow. 'Best way to make sure he doesn't try any funny business is to keep him talking,' she figured. "So, Marshadow, what did you mean earlier when you said Dragonair was on the right track about these crystals?"

"Oh, just that they're not natural," Marshadow said. "I've got a hunch that they're actually emera ores."

"These massive things are emeras?" Serperior gawked. She glanced down at her looplet and shook her head. "You've got to be joking."

"I did say it was a hunch, luv," Marshadow chuckled. "No way for me to say for certain. And if they are, they're certainly not like the emeras we know of. You make those little trinkets by gathering up stardust, yes?"

"Yeah," Milotic said. "What, so there are different origins for emeras or something?"

"That's where the mystery comes in," Marshadow said. "And there's no sense of wonder to be had if I just tell you. It'll be more fun if you find out for your– woomf!"

Dragonair smacked Marshadow's back with a glowing tail. He stumbled forward.

"Okay, okay, you made your point, luv," Marshadow grumbled. "I've heard rumors that back in ancient times, emera ores were a source of energy used to power all manner of things. Simple as that."

"It sounds to me like you're leaving out details," Milotic huffed. "For starters, where did these things even come from? Giant energy crystals don't just magically pop out of the ground."

"You're sharp as a spike trap," Marshadow chuckled. "But all I have to go on are educated guesses."

"Well, if they're from ancient times, could they be related to the battles between the three Super-Ancient Pokémon?" Dragonair wondered.

"That was my thought, luv," Marshadow said. "After all, they were venting off massive amounts of energy. Some of it must've gotten trapped and crystallized. And thus, we have emera ores."

Milotic pursed her lips. "I'm not sure I like that idea very much. Using captured primal energy all willy-nilly? That could have disastrous consequences." She looked around. "And there sure are an awful lot of these ores."

Marshadow smirked. "As I said, it's quite the enigma. Why do you think I came down here? It's utterly fascinating. If there was something suspicious going on in ancient times, odds are pretty good these emera ores could've been involved."

"Bah, that sounds like a bunch of superstitious nonsense," Serperior scoffed. "Pokémon always look out for each other. It's been that way as far back as anyone can remember. Why do you think rescue teams and exploration guilds formed up?"

Milotic tensed up. "Um, girls? There's something awfully bright up ahead."

Marshadow whistled. "I'll say. Seems like we've stumbled onto something." He glanced at Milotic. "You gonna check it out, luv? Or is this where I bid you adieu?"

Milotic sped forward, deactivating a trio of traps in the process. The others followed along after her, though Serperior continued to lag back. All the while, the bright light grew steadily closer. Eventually, Milotic froze at a point where the tunnel opened up.

"Tapus preserve us," she whispered. "What is this place?"

Marshadow peered out from behind her. They had found a circular chamber, littered with emeras ores extending up to the ceiling. The rocky ground had given way to smoother patches of stone. Only there were numerous jagged cracks running through them.

But Marshadow's attention immediately snapped to the other side of the room. There, in the shadow of two large emera ores, sat a giant, crystal lattice structure. Unlike the emera ores, it was dull-gray in color. Not only that, it had been shattered. Crystal shards lay strewn across the stone floor, twinkling in the purple light. At the top of the lattice's remnants, the group could barely make out a strange symbol: a winged heart, with demonic horns sticking out of the top and a piercing eye sitting in the center.

"This," Marshadow said, "is exactly what I was looking for."


Next time: the conspiracy becomes crystal clear.

EDIT (11/4/2017): Just a quick announcement. As of today, this fic is now up-to-date on Fanfiction.net, and will be updated about a day after the chapter gets posted here. So, if you prefer to read things through that site (say, because you're a mobile user), then that option's now available.
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Gone. Not coming back.
The Team Captivate episode is a nice change of pace! It's quite something to have an enemy pokémon pop up and then just get blasted straight back into the depths of the cave, before it even has a chance to say 'hello, I live here, please don't'. Like, Shane and Tessa are always just about getting by, and it's interesting to see a team at a different stage in their guild career.

I do think that the fact that Zoroark was lying makes the beginning of chapter sixteen make less sense, though: she didn't need to do the skulking around thing at all, except to throw off the reader, because it's not like Team Captivate was actually watching. I wonder if there's a way to reword it so that you can be ambiguous about whether or not she's using illusions or not – or even cutting that segment entirely and beginning with the Team Captivate part, since I don't know if it does any work for the story that the later segments don't also do. Probably rewording it to be ambiguous would be more satisfying for a reader who gets to the twist about her lying and then goes back to have a look at the beginning of that chapter to see if there were clues there, but it might be a bit trickier to pull off.

I'm also not completely sure why she sent them on the wild goose chase to begin with, particularly. Like, there's a transaction to be made, she needs something from Team Captivate and she is willing to give information in exchange – really juicy information, by the way; I like the introduction of the Super PMD elements, which makes the world feel a little bigger and more connected – so there's not really much point to her making up the story about the lost pearl. Especially since all it does is damage their trust in her, so that she has to buy it back. Maybe this is something that will get addressed in later chapters, I don't know. But I thought I'd point it out anyway.

As for the Halloween special, it's probably not really my thing, but like, I can see what you're doing with it, and I think it does everything you want it to, even if it's not particularly to my taste.

Other things, then:

There's a mage back home who can use a hex to fix it.

It's interesting the way magic works in your world. It's definitely there, and it definitely has real and substantial effects on the world, but it only seems to happen elsewhere in the world, like with the pirate's burial chamber, or mages who live far away. I suppose it leaves me wondering why it doesn't seem to impinge on the daily life of the people in the guild or town, if there are people knocking about who can be relied on for useful everyday magic. Unless of course this is another lie, but given that three experienced explorers apparently believe Zoroark about this, that seemed unlikely to me.

Also, minor nitpick: a hex is specifically a malicious spell, and this one seems pretty beneficial to me.

The sun had just started to peak out from the east

You've got 'peak' for 'peek' here.

It's from these shadows that a blur raced forward.

Something about this feels a little off – maybe expanding 'It's' to 'It was' would help, because as it is I think it reads like it's present tense, which of course it isn't, but like that's where my brain goes as a reader when I see 'it's'.

No need for the suspicious glares, luvs.

Not sure anyone actually says luvs, plural. Obviously Marshadow is a caricature, but you know, I thought I'd mention it as a thing that jolted me out of the illusion for a moment.

"Wow, there's just no phasing you, eh?"

You've got 'phasing' for 'fazing' here.

"This," Marshadow said, "Is exactly what I was looking for."

'Is' shouldn't be capitalised here.

And with that, I think I'm finally caught up! I definitely think this is much stronger overall than the last special episode. It's a really different take on things to your standard chapters, and that's a real strength. As always, you leave me looking forward to what you've got next.
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Winter can't come soon enough
The Team Captivate episode is a nice change of pace! It's quite something to have an enemy pokémon pop up and then just get blasted straight back into the depths of the cave, before it even has a chance to say 'hello, I live here, please don't'. Like, Shane and Tessa are always just about getting by, and it's interesting to see a team at a different stage in their guild career.
I'm glad that's coming across. It was what I was hoping to go for, both for the sake of making things different and because it will factor into some of the upcoming main-story episodes.

I do think that the fact that Zoroark was lying makes the beginning of chapter sixteen make less sense, though: she didn't need to do the skulking around thing at all, except to throw off the reader, because it's not like Team Captivate was actually watching.
I don't want to say too much for spoilery reasons, but it was written with the intention of throwing you off. The end of this episode should hopefully make it clear just how off it is.

I wonder if there's a way to reword it so that you can be ambiguous about whether or not she's using illusions or not – or even cutting that segment entirely and beginning with the Team Captivate part, since I don't know if it does any work for the story that the later segments don't also do.
So, I'd like to think I am being ambiguous, but I don't want to tell you why because it'd spoil the episode ending. When the episode ends, if you still think it's way too awkward, let me know. At that point I'll consider altering or removing it.

I'm also not completely sure why she sent them on the wild goose chase to begin with, particularly. Like, there's a transaction to be made, she needs something from Team Captivate and she is willing to give information in exchange
Hmm, maybe I didn't write that scene strongly enough, but the implication is that she was essentially interrogated, and only spilled the beans after Milotic threatened to report her actions to Ampharos.

really juicy information, by the way; I like the introduction of the Super PMD elements, which makes the world feel a little bigger and more connected
That makes me happy to hear. I know integrating canon elements into this is a bit of a risk (and possibly an alienating presence to some), but one of the things I'm hoping to make clear as the story progresses is that various folks are trying their best not to let this world get to the point of near-annihilation that Dark Matter brought it to.

so there's not really much point to her making up the story about the lost pearl. Especially since all it does is damage their trust in her, so that she has to buy it back. Maybe this is something that will get addressed in later chapters, I don't know. But I thought I'd point it out anyway.
Again, it's something I plan to address at the end of the episode. But if you still hold this opinion then, I'll definitely need to make some changes.

As for the Halloween special, it's probably not really my thing, but like, I can see what you're doing with it, and I think it does everything you want it to, even if it's not particularly to my taste.
Yeah, it was just a silly thing I wrote for fun. Probably not the best of updates, and I think I'll attempt to make any future holiday-related stuff more grounded, and about the dynamics between certain characters.

It's interesting the way magic works in your world. It's definitely there, and it definitely has real and substantial effects on the world, but it only seems to happen elsewhere in the world, like with the pirate's burial chamber, or mages who live far away. I suppose it leaves me wondering why it doesn't seem to impinge on the daily life of the people in the guild or town, if there are people knocking about who can be relied on for useful everyday magic.
It's really only gotten a few pop-ups here and there. I do plan to expand on it for the later chapters. The short answer for the guild is that they have Magearna on their side. I hope that'll become more apparent in the future.

And thanks for the typo/word swap/grammar notices. Always nice to get those fixed up.

And with that, I think I'm finally caught up! I definitely think this is much stronger overall than the last special episode. It's a really different take on things to your standard chapters, and that's a real strength. As always, you leave me looking forward to what you've got next.
D'aww, you have no idea how much that means, considering how much of an exemplary writer you are. Thanks for continuing to read! :)


Winter can't come soon enough
As you can see, this chapter's been posted ahead of its Friday/Saturday release. Also, the next chapter will be posted early next week. This is entirely because Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are releasing next Friday. I wouldn't expect anyone to want to read a new update with new main series games out.


Chapter 18: Crystals Are Forever

Milotic slowly slithered into the room, craning her neck up. Unlike the tunnels, the ceiling in this room was so high she couldn't properly see it. Emera ores stretched up to the point where they became purple spots in the distance.

"Do you suppose this was some sort of emera reserve?" Milotic wondered.

"Wouldn't know, luv," Marshadow replied, striding toward the shattered crystal on the far side of the room. "Frankly, I'm amazed this many could gather in one location."

"Maybe that's the big conspiracy you're chasing after," Milotic thought aloud. "A group of Pokémon started stockpiling emera ores. Or perhaps they learned how to grow their own ores instead? And other Pokémon didn't like that, so they attacked and somehow the stockpile ended up underground."

Over by the entrance, Serperior and Dragonair exchanged looks that showed they'd reached the same conclusion: Milotic was playing dumb to keep Marshadow from getting suspicious. After all, they didn't need him suddenly turning on them.

"Don't you want to look inside?" Dragonair asked.

"Nah, I'm good here," Serperior answered. She remained in the entrance while Dragonair slithered toward one of the nearby ores to get a better look at it. She glanced over at the ground and managed to find a pebble. Wrapping it up in her tail, she gently tossed it against the giant gemstone. A bright flash of purple light burst forth from the ore, sending Dragonair into a hasty retreat.

"Okay, that was a bad idea," she concluded.

"I'll say it was, luv. You trying to get us blasted to bits?" Marshadow sneered. "These puppies are stuff with massive amounts of energy. Set one off, you could very well start a chain reaction that could make this part of the Catacombs crumble."

Dragonair gulped. "I hadn't considered that." She coiled herself up, bringing her tail close to her body.

Satisfied her teammate was safe, Milotic turned back to Marshadow. He had knelt beside the gray crystal and was currently examining one of the shards. "This is quite interesting," he muttered. "I've never felt anything quite like this."

Her curiosity aroused, Milotic reached out and ran her tail across a nearby crystal shard. She raised a brow. "This is so weird. It's almost like I'm touching water. But the crystal's completely solid." She picked up the shard and brought it up toward her face. "I can't explain how something like this might happen."

"An ice-type move getting used on a body of water?" Serperior heckled from across the room.

"Does this look like a glacier to you?" Marshadow scoffed. "If it was, we'd be freezing our faces off." Milotic gave him an annoyed look. "What? It's pretty much the only thing we've got in common," he said, throwing in a laugh for good measure.

Milotic rolled her eyes. "So, if this isn't a glacier, maybe it's some kind of remnant from an attack?" she proposed, approaching the remains of the large crystal. It was tough to look at the lattice squarely with all the purple light bouncing off it. Milotic instead stuck her tail up. The rainbow light flickered onto the walls.

"Now's not the time for shadow puppets," Marshadow criticized.

"I'm not goofing off," Milotic said, running her tail across the crystal. "I'm examining this thing. And there's a pretty sizeable impression in the middle of it."

Marshadow crosses his arms. "I should think so, luv. It did break, after all."

"No, that's…" Milotic cut herself off. "Ugh, how do I explain this? I think this crystal was hollow on the inside. It has a rounded basin."

Dragonair looked over in surprise. "You're kidding. All these emera ores are completely solid. So, why the difference?"

Marshadow walked up beside Milotic and put a hand inside of the crystal. "I think you're right, luv. This is far too smooth to have come from this thing breaking." He traced his hand along the outline. It didn't follow the edges of the crystal. Rather, his hand initially curved outward, only to move back toward the center. At which point, he moved his hand up toward the top of the crystal.

"I may be off the mark, here," Milotic said, "but I think something was inside this crystal."

"That's an amateur opinion. It wasn't a something, it was a someone," Marshadow claimed.

"You know what I meant," Milotic huffed. "But then, does that mean this big conspiracy you're investigating involves some sort of Pokémon?"

"Sorry, luv, that's a piece of information I'm keeping a tight hold on," Marshadow said.

'Which means it totally does. So, did Zoroark tell this guy about the conspiracy? Or did he find out on his own?' Milotic thought. But she put on a frown in order to maintain her façade. "Aww, you're no fun," she whined.

"I can be plenty fun in the right situations. This just isn't one of them," Marshadow quipped, winking at Milotic.

"Hey, there are a couple of small crystal clusters next to the broken one. They're grayed out too," Dragonair announced, standing in a corner of the room and looking toward her teammate. Milotic stretched her kneck out and found one of the clusters Dragonair referred to.

"These look like emera ores," Milotic observed. "So, I guess they don't have unlimited energy. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing."

"Forget the energy amounts," Marshadow dismissed. "There are a bunch of cords shooting out from the ores to the big crystal." He knelt down and ran his hand across a small, circular band in the floor. "And the cords feel exactly like the broken crystal. I think we can safely conclude these emera ores were powering this big thing."

"And then they ran out of energy and the crystal just shattered?" Milotic said. "How very strange."

"Try looking at it from another angle, luv," Marshadow said. "We think there was someone sealed inside, right? So, when the ores ran out of power, the sealed creature could've woken up and busted its way out."

"But then whoever or whatever was inside would start rampaging around the Catacombs," Serperior stated. "Don't you think we'd have heard about something like that?"

"Who's to say when exactly this all happened?" Marshadow asked, shrugging. "For all we know, it could've been decades ago."

"I think I may have found something that could help us answer that," Dragonair cut in. "Behind this crystal, there's something written on the wall." She beckoned Milotic toward her with her tail. Milotic weaved her way around the crystal and accompany emera ores, with Marshadow tagging along behind her. They found Dragonair looking at a stretch of stone wall.

"Yeah, it sure looks like something was carved in there," Milotic said. "But, I don't think I recognize those symbols. They don't resemble any footprint writing I've ever seen."

"That's because your guess is a bit off the mark there, luv," Marshadow said. "This is the Unown language. I'd recognize it anywhere."

"The Unown language?" Milotic parroted. "Hang on, isn't that just the species of Pokémon with a bunch of different symbols around an ey–" Her eyes widened. "Oooooooooooh, duh. I see what you're getting at."

"I'm afraid none of us know anything about reading Unown," Dragonair said.

"No worries. That's where I can step in," Marshadow offered. "You've helped me piece a bit of this whole mystery together, so it's the least I can do. May I?" Dragonair moved next to Milotic, allowing Marshadow to approach the writing. He knelt down and stared intently at the wall, sweeping his head back and forth.

"Good gracious," he muttered. "This is… very unexpected."

"Hey now, it's not nice to keep a pair of lovely ladies in the dark, you know," Milotic chided. "What's it say?"

Marshadow smirked. "A little patience goes a long way, luv. I just wanted to make sure what I was reading made sense. Listen to this…"

Sealed within this crystal is a terrifying monster that should never be allowed to see the light of day. My team tried to create a Pokémon that could protect us from any manner of danger. We wanted a controllable creature that could adapt to fend off enemies, including Legendary Pokémon. But we have failed. Our creation immediately turned on us, slaughtering my colleagues before I could subdue it. Hence, I have used magic from my emera ore stockpile to form the crystal imprisoning it.

I have tethered as many emera ores as I could manage to the crystal. But I fear the effort may not be enough. This failed experiment must remain sealed. I have left this message here so that the Pokémon who discover this place in the future can connect more emera ores to the crystal and keep our creation imprisoned.

If, by some chance, you have discovered this message and find the large crystal behind you is broken, then my creation has escaped. In which case, you must be on guard for a Pokémon with a large, stone helmet covering its entire face. If you cannot outright destroy the creature, then you must either subdue it or flee before it can attack you. Though the helmet I forcibly melded to the experiment is meant to subdue its aggression, there's no guarantee it won't display hostility.

I imagine reading this will make you angry. Just understand that I was doing what I thought was best for the future of our world. My only regret is that my team made mistakes with this experiment. Hopefully, our second attempt will prove more successful.

"… and there you have it." Marshadow stood up and massaged his throat. "Quite a mouthful, eh, luv? Though, I'm not quite sure what to make of the symbol at the bottom."

"The winged heart?" Milotic asked, following Marshadow's gaze. "Yeah, it's kind of strange. It's got horns poking out of the top and... is that an eye in the middle? It looks rather ominous. Just what do you suppose was going on down here?"

"Can't say for certain, luv," Marshadow replied. He knelt down to continue examining the glyph.

Dragonair and Milotic proceeded to slither a fair distance back from Marshadow. They exchanged panic-stricken looks. "A Pokémon wearing a large, stone helmet over its face? We have one of those in the guild," Milotic whispered.

"Yeah, that Null fellow," Dragonair whispered back. "Didn't Braviary say our guild mates found him in Glyphic Falls?"

Milotic's eyes widened. "If that's the case, then he's probably the Pokémon that's written about here. Which means we've let a monster into the guild!" Her jaw stiffened. "And he's running around with Riri and that Vulpix!"

"Are you okay?" Marshadow called. "You look like you've seen a ghost." He smirked. "Well, you have seen a ghost. But I'm talking a less-handsome, not nearly as dashing ghost as me. Aha ha ha."

"Err… nothing! We're totally fine," Milotic lied. She then spun around and whispered, "We need to do something about this. Those kids could be in danger."

"If our Gear-Com works down here, I could ring up the group in Sunset Shoals and tell them about what we've found," Dragonair suggested. "But if we try using it in front of Marshadow, then we're gonna tip him off that something's wrong."

"Then we just need to excuse ourselves for a little bit. Or maybe have Serperior d–"

"Hey, check it out! What's a looplet doing sitting around down here?"

At once, everyone's heads turned toward the entrance of the room. Serperior stood tucked between several emera ores. A silver band dangled from the tip of her tail. "Ah well, I ain't gonna complain about finding some treasure."

Milotic and Dragonair approached their teammate. The former raised an eyebrow as she got a better view of Serperior's discovery. "Err, that sure doesn't look like any looplet I've ever seen. There aren't any slots for emeras in it. That would make it totally worthless."

Serperior hoisted her tail up. "Huh. You're right. I just saw a band and thought, 'looplet.' Maybe this is, like, an early looplet prototype or something? In which case, this is an important bit of history I just stumbled across."

"Actually, there is a curious part of this band," Dragonair spoke up. "Look here in the center. There's some kind of golden wheel surrounding a gemstone."

Serperior gave the band a closer look. There was a cross-shaped pattern running through the middle of the wheel. Each corner also held tiny gemstones. "Would you look at that?" Serperior whistled, eyes sparkling. "I've obviously scooped up something big!"

Marshadow tensed up. "Golden wheel with a cross-shaped pattern?" He took a cautious step forward. "Mind if I take a look, luv? I think I may have heard about what you're describing."

"Um, I don't think it has anything to do with this room," Milotic declared. "From the looks of it, it must've tumbled in here from the tunnels we passed through."

"Come now. Just a quick glance and then I'll give it back."

Serperior backed away toward the room's entrance. "No way. I'm invoking my self-proclaimed first law of dungeon exploration: 'finders, keepers, losers, weepers.'" She stuck her tongue out at Marshadow.

"I thought your first law of dungeon exploration was 'don't get knocked out, dummy,'" Dragonair mused.

"Eh heh heh, let's not bring that up," Serperior dismissed with a nervous laugh. "Anyhow, are we just about done here? Because we should probably be getting a move on."

Unbeknownst to Team Captivate, the red wisps sitting atop Marshadow's eyes extended in length. "Yeah, I'd say that just about wraps things up here." He took a step back behind the shattered crystal and melted into the ground.

"Great. Here, Dragonair. Why don't you hold onto this until we've exited the dungeon," Serperior suggested, handing her newly-discovered treasure over to her teammate.

But before she could complete the handoff a massive black shadow overtook her, muffling the terrified screech that followed. "Serpy!" Milotic gasped. She opened her mouth and spewed scalding water. However, the shadows had retreated before her attack struck, leaving a dazed and scuffed-up Serperior to get blasted.

"Gluuugh! H-Hey! Watch where you're aiming," Serperior moaned.

Dragonair started scanning the ground, looking for any signs of what hit her teammate. "It has to be Marshadow," she concluded. "I don't see him anywh–"

Another shadow completely enveloped Dragonair, who yowled in surprise. Milotic whirled around only to find herself staring at a pair of large, beady, yellow eyes in the midst of the shadow. Before she could even start to form an attack, the shadows retreated. Milotic lunged toward the ground by her friend, only to find her progress halted. She gasped in surprise.

"What the–? What's pinning me down?" she wondered, turning toward her tail. Her eyes went wide when she saw that her tail had inexplicably gotten tangled up into a knot. And within it, she made out the ends of both of her teammates' tails. "How the heck did this happen?"

A loud sigh echoed through the room. "And here I was hoping we could part on friendly terms, luv."

Milotic turned toward the center of the room as best she could. There, Marshadow rose up from a puddle of ectoplasm. In one hand he clutched the band Serperior found. And in the other, he held Team Captivate's item pouch. Not only that, the wisps on the ends of his helmet-like head and palms had flared to life. They now glowed bright green.

"Hey, what's the big idea attacking us while our backs were turned?" Milotic hissed. "You said you weren't here to collect any treasure."

"Yeah, I lied," Marshadow said with a shrug. "Again, sorry to deceive you. You seem like a fine bunch of ladies. But, well, this band is precisely what I wanted to find down here. And I wasn't about to let you waltz off with it."

"So, he's a no-good thief. I knew it! I knew we couldn't trust him," Serperior declared.

"Save the I told you so routine for another time," Dragonair sighed. "Assuming we even get out of this messy business."

"No-good? Because I lied to you? That's rather hypocritical of you, luv," Marshadow scoffed. "Seriously, Team Charm? That was the best pseudonym you could come up with under duress? You're the worst looking Medicham, Gardevoir, and Lopunny trio I've seen in my lifetime. And I've been around longer than I'd care to admit."

Milotic bit her lip. "Th-There's an actual Team Charm?"

Marshadow smirked. "Of course you wouldn't know about them. Unlike you lot, I'm rather well-travelled. Clients expect nothing less from the elite globe-trotting thief, Marshadow!" He thrust one arm to the side in a pose. "I'm the master of mischief... and the maker of misfortune for exploration teams from Aeon Town to Pokémon Square and beyond! I never fail to make off with my prize!"

"Well, I think I've showed off long enough," he said, chuckling. "I can see you three are a bit tied up at the moment–"

"You rotten little outlaw!" Serperior snarled and lunged for Marshadow. In the process, both Milotic and Dragonair lurched forward. Their faces struck the stone floor and their combined weight stopped Serperior well short of Marshadow. She fell to the ground in front of him. Her mouth opened and crackling blue bolts started to gather up in it.

"Ah, ah, ah," Marshadow taunted, wagging a finger at her. "If you try that, I'll just duck into the shadows. Then your attack will hit an emera ore and, well, that could make things really messy for you lot."

"Keep your temper in check, Serperior," Dragonair said, trying to get back up. She struggled without the balance provided by her tail.

"Your friend's got the right idea, luv," Marshadow laughed. "Besides, you've got much more pressing matters you need to deal with." He rummaged through the team's pouch and tossed two apples and two oran berries onto the floor.

"Hey, those are our items. Stop that!" Serperior hissed.

"If you insist," Marshadow teased. He reached inside his collar and produced a small, square-shaped tile. "I'll give them back to you. They just won't be quite as good as you'd like them to be."

Milotic's eyes widened. "That's a trap tile!" She glared at Marshadow. "So, that was you setting all those up in the Catacombs?"

"Ah, what can I say? You got me there, luv," Marshadow chuckled. He threw the tile to the ground and stepped on it.


The four items Marshadow tossed to the ground started to tremble. Serperior tried shrinking back, only to get tripped up by her teammates. "You… you have a Pokémon trap?" she gasped.

"Correction: I had a Pokémon trap. I'm afraid it's your problem now, luvs," Marshadow chuckled. He started walking toward the room's entrance. "But, since I'm a sporting gent, I'll at least do you girls a favor and activate this wonderful Monster House seal I've got on me. That way, you don't accidentally blow yourselves up. Consider it a parting gift!"

Marshadow turned and touched the wall, revealing a hidden switch. A circular wall of bright, red light surrounded the room, leaving Marshadow standing on the outside. He smirked and blew a kiss toward Team Captivate. "Well now, I must be on my way. It was lovely meeting you three. Take care. Aha ha ha!"

He retreated into the shadows. "Grr… why that little creep," Serperior seethed. "How dare he do that to us!"

"Save the anger, Serpy. We've got bigger problems on our hands here," Milotic declared, poking her head out to look at the trembling items. White light overtook all of them, and the items immediately started expanding in size, forming up into four mineral-filled Pokémon.

Dragonair frowned. "Archeops, Klefki, Carbink, and Probopass. Talk about a rocky match-up."

Serperior glared at her teammate. "And you were harassing me for not acting appropriately? That's about as bad as one of Haunter's jokes," she growled.

The four wild Pokémon immediately became aware of their surroundings. Their eyes fell onto Team Captivate. "Both of you be quiet and listen to me," Milotic hissed in a whisper. "We've got no way out of this situation so we have to make the most of it. Klefki and Archeops could be big problems, so leave them to me. Serperior, you take Carbink. Draw it toward you with Leech Seed. Dragonair, you're gonna have to keep Probopass busy somehow. Waterfall isn't an option, so get creative."

"But how are we gonna move, chief?" Serperior asked.

"We won't. Stand your ground. Spread out so we don't get in each other's ways," Milotic said. "If you lose one of your targets or an attack is veering toward your teammates, then say something. Got it?"

She opened her mouth and sent boiling-hot water gushing toward Archeops. He hovered higher to avoid the attack, screeching angrily. At the same time, Serperior spat a large green seed between Carbink and Klefki. This forced Kelfki closer to Milotic, while Carbink barely skirted the attack. It ended up opposite Serperior.

Dragonair likewise unleashed a stream of blue-purple dragonfire on Probopass. It was not nearly as quick as its fellow wild Pokémon, and the dragonfire washed over it. This gave Dragonair an opening to whip up a sudden twister. It proved just strong enough to grab the levitating Probopass and hurl it in away from the other wild Pokémon.

"Nice work, Airy!" Milotic shouted, inching forward to put more space between her and her teammates. As she did, Klefki floated forward, releasing waves of static electricity in Milotic's direction. Milotic extended her head, letting the electricity strike her. It crackled around her body, making her muscles twitch erratically.

"Millie, are you nuts?" Serperior gasped, ducking a set of fossilized rocks hurled at her by Carbink. "We need you at your fighting best!"

"I know. That's why I'm triggering Marvel Scale now," Milotic said. "I've got far more defense this way. Plus, I can use Recover to make up for items getting stolen." She pivoted, flinching from the paralysis, but managed to send a short burst of ice up toward Archeops. He easily dove under the attack and darted toward her with a sudden burst of speed. Klefki floated behind Archeops and, gathering bright-pink energy in its ring.

Milotic allowed Archeops to barrel into her and unleash a flurry of acrobatic strikes with its beak and talons. She grimaced from the pain and momentarily seized up while Archeops backed away from her. But he was still in close range when Milotic regained her movement. She released a torrent of scalding water that swallowed Archeops up, blowing him back. Archeops smacked into Klefki, who lost concentration and dropped the fairy energy it was gathering onto Archeops' back.

Archeops crashed to the ground, flopping about like a beached Magikarp. Klefki floated about in circles, trying to reorient itself. Milotic smiled when she noticed small flames had gathered on Archeops' pelt. "Yes! Looks like Tapu Fini's given us a bit of good fortune," she cheered.

"Duck, Millie!" Serperior yelped. Her teammate complied and a quartet of brightly-glowing gemstones raced over her. Klefki shrieked and floated upward to dodge Carbink's attack. "Sorry about that. Didn't think this little devil was packing Power Gem."

"Is everythiiiiiiing okay?" Milotic asked, the paralysis cutting in while she spoke.

"I've got Carbink seeded s– whoa!" Serperior cut herself off, spitting a blue beam of raw dragon energy forward to blow apart fossilized rocks summoned by Carbink. The attack continued forward and harmlessly brushed across Carbink. The seeds covering its body flashed brightly, draining energy out from it and back to Serperior. She capitalized on the moment, sending leafy-green energy tendrils forward. They wrapped themselves around Carbink and siphoned even more of its energy, restoring Serperior's health.

However, a sudden burst of electricity struck her back, cutting off the soothing sensation. She fell to her stomach, the wind knocked out of her. Milotic likewise lurched painfully to her right, shrieking.

"Sorry, ladies. I had no idea this guy could use Discharge," Dragonair squeaked. Milotic struggled to right herself. Archeops and Klefki quickly pounced, both charging her at once. Dragonair glanced her teammate's distress. She ignored Probopass as it gathered glowing gemstones of its own and spewed flame breath over Milotic's back. The quicker Klefki floated right into the attack and drifted backward with a yelp.

Archeops crashed into his teammate and they fell to the ground in a tangle of limbs and metal. Archeops squawk painfully as his burn took effect, giving Milotic the necessary time to right herself. Soft light encased her body, gradually restoring her stamina. The sight gave Dragonair a brief moment of relief before Probopass' glowing gems peppered her backside.

The attack struck with enough force to knock her back. Unfortunately, this upended both her teammates in the process. Carbink seized on the opening, gathering a ball of vibrant, pink light over its head. It locked eyes with Dragonair and hurled the fairy energy forward. Serperior shot upward, taking the blow for her teammate.

However, because she went airborne, the force of the blow sent her reeling. And this led her teammates to get dragged across the floor with her. They ended up on the opposite side of the room, right next to Klefki and Archeops. The former released a pink, lip-shaped burst of energy that struck Dragonair, draining her life force as she cried in pain.

This gave Milotic a second wind to fight through her paralysis and down Kelfki with a quick blast of boiling water. "Fan out again, girls," she ordered, awkwardly hopping forward and shooting ice crystals at Archeops. He easily dodged the attack and then doused Milotic in dragonfire. Milotic hissed from both the pain and the paralysis taking hold again.

Serperior noticed her teammate's distress, but was too busy blowing apart a line of fossilized rocks with a blue energy beam. She paused to catch her breath as more stamina returned from the seeds on Carbink. It also tripped up Carbink enough for Serperior to unleash more grassy tendrils. Carbink managed to roll past the first two, but the other three nailed it. The floating gemstone cried in pain before its consciousness faded.

"Carbink's down," Serperior declared. She turned to her right and immediately fired a small green seed at Klefki. It skirted the attack, but Serperior managed to draw Klefki away from Milotic. This let Milotic focus squarely on Archeops. She took in a deep breath, only to seize up from the electricity.

Archeops divebombed her. Milotic again faced the flurry of wing strikes and talon scratches from Archeops, but they didn't feel nearly as painful as they did earlier. She easily held her ground and drenched Archeops in boiling-hot water. He fell to the ground and twitched a few times before going still.

"How you holding up, Airy?" Milotic asked.

"Not good!" Dragonair hollered, sweeping dragonfire in front of her to try and destroy all the gem fragments heading toward her. A crackling-blue bolt cut through the bits of the attack Dragonair couldn't destroy.

"Hey, back off, you big lug," Serperior barked. "You're outnumbered now. Give up or you're gonna end up like your friends over there." She jerked her head behind her, indicating she had knocked Klefki out.

Probopass merely raised its floating limbs in response. Electricity started gathering around it. Before it could discharge the lightning, however, a stream of Scald raced across its side and blasted it back across the room. Probopass managed to get back into the air, however, and released the Discharge.

"Duck and cover," Serperior hollered. Unfortunately, the trio of Team Captivate found themselves lunging in different directions to try and dodge the attack. Their knotted tails created a stalemate that shot them into one another. Electricity then wracked their bodies, hurting Milotic in particular.

"Agh," she gasped. "K… keep him busy, girls. I… I've got to heal up." Her paralysis took hold once again, hindering her movements. Serperior coughed up another seed at Probopass and Dragonair whipped up a small twister to limit its ability to dodge. The seed struck Probopass' giant nose and covered its body in tiny vines. It flinched as the vines sucked out its energy and gave it to Serperior.

Milotic managed to push herself up. Soft, glowing light surrounded her body once again, restoring her vitality. "Alright, let me at that suck–" she started to say, only to look over her shoulder and realize Probopass was already knocked out and the red barrier had dissolved back into the ground.

"Sorry, you're gonna have to take a rain check on that one, chief," Serperior chuckled. "I don't know how we did it, but we managed to get out of that jam."

"Hardly a consolation," Dragonair sighed. "We're still tied together and who knows how far Marshadow's managed to get. With our movements hindered like this, it could take us a whole day to get back to where we entered from."

Serperior frowned. "So that slime ball is gonna get away with this? Unbelievable!" She turned to Milotic. "C'mon, Millie. Isn't there anything your super-strategizing brain can think of for this situation?"

Milotic's brow furrowed and she looked around the room. Her eyes fell upon one of the emera ores jutting out from the wall. "Well, there is one thing that comes to mind. But you're not gonna like it."

"What could possibly be worse than getting tied to your teammates?" Serperior scoffed.

"I have a way out. But it's not forward. It's up." Milotic jerked her head toward the emeras.

"Wait, you're not suggesting we destroy them, right?" Serperior asked.

"No. We're going to climb them," Milotic declared.

Her teammates eyes widened. "Have you gone completely mental?" Serperior gasped. "There's no way we can manage that. And it's a pretty steep climb. If we fall… it's SPLAT! And that's game over."

"It's the fastest way out," Milotic insisted. "You can use Vine Whip to grab hold of the emera ores and keep us from falling. Dragonair can use Waterfall to help us ascend and I can support with a Hydro Pump or two if necessary."

Milotic's teammates exchanged nervous looks. "Hey, it's that or we hop our way through the Catacombs and pray we don't come upon any wild Pokémon," she pointed out.

Serperior extended a green vine from the leaves encasing her torso and tensed it. "This is just turning into one of those miserable days where I wished I hadn't gotten out of bed," she grumbled. "Fine, let's do it. But what happens when we reach the top? There's a big ceiling there."

Milotic's gaze sharpened. "We're gonna have to blow the roof off this joint. Literally."


Yup, that's right, the episodes are officially getting longer.

Next time: daring escapades! River rafting! Be here for Special Episode 2's explosive finale.
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Call me Del
I've been wanting to get around to reading this. I'd have liked to have read more before I posted any feedback, but I'm a little slow with reading, especially when I'm making notes.


I like how you've brought the actual game into the story here. Wondering a bit about the protagonist, as he seems to be very negative. I'm not sure what the italics statements are alluding to. Maybe the build up to his 'death'? Such a dramatic one, too. You've got me wondering who the strange, unseen speaker is.

And then the vulpix seems to be dying? Interesting.

Interested to see where this goes.

Chapter 1

"Today's the day. I'm gonna do it. I'm not gonna chicken out."

Explorers reference! Hi there! =D (I've actually never completed Explorers D= )

I love the contrast in personalities between Tessa and Shane. He's done a 180 with his attitude. Minus his reaction to being a snowy vulpix, however. Wonder how he's gonna react when he realises he's not dreaming?

It's interesting how only Tessa seems to have a name in this world. Everyone else gets called by their species name. I'm gonna guess that's a hat-tip to the games where you can name your partner?

Sylveon's home was a small, rounded, brick building. Its chimney resembled the bow that sat on a Sylveon's head. Pink-colored vines weaved around the building, extending from the chimney to resemble Sylveon's feeler-like ribbons.

This is adorable, and reminds me of the original Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team games! The way your team hut would resemble your player character. So cute!

So he finds out he's not dreaming quite quickly. He doesn't seem that devastated to realise he's been plucked from his own reality and not actually dreaming.

"…Ha! That's how*I*should be feeling, not you." Shane laughed.

At least you're aware of that, Shane.

That random anklet he's wearing... I'm gonna guess it's a Z Ring.

Or something to do with that disembodied voice. The sun and moon on Tessa's scarf make me think it could have been Solgaleo or Lunala. Or maybe another legend. A Tapu, maybe? Argh, speculations!! X3

Oh snap, her scarf gets stolen =(

Running into two sets of bad guys in one night? What kind of town do they live in? So I guess we've been introduced to the main antagonist (or some offshoot of it) and the local goons. Talk about a hefty, informative chapter!

Tessa's frowned. "Okay… I'm starting to doubt your story again."

Small typo. You've got a 's after her name.

"I… I'm sorry." The Riolu clutched her heard.

'her head'?

"There's no way we catch them.

'We can' or 'we'll'?

Interesting so far. You can really feel the influence from Explorers from the beach scene to the partner's special treasure. It's almost like an original retelling.


Winter can't come soon enough
Time to wrap up this Special Episode!


I like how you've brought the actual game into the story here. Wondering a bit about the protagonist, as he seems to be very negative. I'm not sure what the italics statements are alluding to. Maybe the build up to his 'death'? Such a dramatic one, too. You've got me wondering who the strange, unseen speaker is.
You're picking up on what I was hoping folks would pick up on, which makes me happy to hear. The italics statements are my "take" on the usual narrative flavor text accompanying the personality quiz and start of the games. They also allude heavily to certain themes that are sprinkled into the fic.

And then the vulpix seems to be dying? Interesting.
Yeah, he's drowning. But something saves him.

Explorers reference! Hi there! =D (I've actually never completed Explorers D= )

I love the contrast in personalities between Tessa and Shane. He's done a 180 with his attitude. Minus his reaction to being a snowy vulpix, however. Wonder how he's gonna react when he realises he's not dreaming?
Yes, references a plenty. This is, as the first chapter hints, a universe where the events of PMD games have happened.

It's interesting how only Tessa seems to have a name in this world. Everyone else gets called by their species name. I'm gonna guess that's a hat-tip to the games where you can name your partner?
Yes. But it also factors into the story considerably. The concept of names will pop up again.

This is adorable, and reminds me of the original Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team games! The way your team hut would resemble your player character. So cute!
I had to go the cute route for a Sylveon. :3

So he finds out he's not dreaming quite quickly. He doesn't seem that devastated to realise he's been plucked from his own reality and not actually dreaming.
Part of it might be that he has all his memories and, thus, considers himself versed in the way things work here.

That random anklet he's wearing... I'm gonna guess it's a Z Ring.

Or something to do with that disembodied voice. The sun and moon on Tessa's scarf make me think it could have been Solgaleo or Lunala. Or maybe another legend. A Tapu, maybe? Argh, speculations!! X3
You're actually the first person to suggest a Z-Ring. I should warn you that this question is swiftly answered. So, I'll leave you to find out if you're right or not. ;)

Running into two sets of bad guys in one night? What kind of town do they live in? So I guess we've been introduced to the main antagonist (or some offshoot of it) and the local goons. Talk about a hefty, informative chapter!
I wouldn't exactly call Sneasel and Jangmo-o residents of Sunrise Village. I did try to base them off of both Team Skulls (Explorers and Alola), though. Thanks for pointing out those typos too. Good eye!

Interesting so far. You can really feel the influence from Explorers from the beach scene to the partner's special treasure. It's almost like an original retelling.
Yeah. The point was to make it a bait-and-switch of sorts. As in, you think it'll go exactly like Explorers, but then Shane wakes up, memories completely intact, and things go off the rails from there. I did try to take a bit of a "What if we got a Gen VII PMD game?" approach to framing the overall narrative.

Thanks for the review! ^^


Chapter 19: Dive Another Day

"Unnnngggggggggh! C'mon, Airy! I could… use a little… help here!"

Serperior's body dangled high in the air, her outstretched vines wrapped around a large emera ore above her while her teammates hung below her. The stone floor lay dozens of feet below them, making it barely visible. Serperior's vines quivered and her body shook from the strain of holding up her teammates.

"Sorry," Dragonair squeaked. "I thought you were going for the other ore."

"Nnnrrrgh… less apologizing… more Waterfalling!" Serperior grunted. One of her vines started to slip, prompting her to squeal. Dragonair craned her head upward and her eyes flashed blue. A pool of water suddenly formed around her. The pool turned into a wall of rushing water that rocketed her skyward. This sent both Milotic and Serperior flying up along with her. Serperior lashed out with her vines and managed to pull the trio onto an emera ore before the waterfall dissipated.

Serperior struggled to catch her breath. "How… how much further?" she panted. "I don't think… I can take… anymore of this." Her vines fell limp by her sides. "I'm… I'm totally spent. I need… apples. And an elixir."

"Well, we don't have either of those," Milotic reminded her. "And if we can't catch Marshadow, then we won't get any of our supplies back." She looked up and a smile crossed her face. "Good news, ladies. It looks like the end's in sight! There's the ceiling."

Serperior craned her neck upward. "Oh-ho-ho, thank the gods! No more crazy rock-climbing."

"Not to dampen the mood, chief, but how exactly are we going to blow apart the ceiling?" Dragonair wondered. "It looks to be solid rock, just like the walls."

"Let's combine our strongest attacks," Milotic declared. "Hydro Pump for me, Dragon Pulse for you, Serpy, and Flamethrower for you, Airy. If we aim them just right, we might be able to bust a hole through this thing."

"Y'know, I just thought of something," Serperior interjected. "What if we blow through the ceiling and we don't end up on top of one the falls? There could be another cave or some boulders up there, for all we know. And if we break the ceiling, we could cause a cave in."

Milotic frowned. "Okay, admittedly that never crossed my mind. But we're already up here. And the alternative option could end just as badly. So, we've got to try."

"Good thing that paralysis wore off then, huh?" Serperior said. "For the record, if we do cause a cave in and fall to our deaths, I'm going to haunt you throughout the afterlife."

"Love you too, Serpy," Milotic deadpanned. "Now, stop talking and start firing." She pointed her head skyward and opened her mouth. A massive stream of highly-pressurized water gushed outward, hammering the ceiling. Seconds later, a sparking, blue bolt and a stream of fire joined it. The attacks united into a single, concentrated burst. Dragonair's flames superheated Milotic's water, vaporizing it. Serperior's dragon energy then amplified the burst of heat.

Within a few seconds of the attacks combining, cracks formed in the ceiling. They splintered outward until, eventually, the ceiling began to crumble. "Get back!" Milotic hollered and pressed her teammates up against the wall. Large chunks of rock plummeted to the ground, but the group stayed safely out of harm's way. Milotic looked up and noticed only bits of dust sprinkling down. Even better, light filtered down into the cavern.

"Okay, girls. It looks like we're home free."

The sounds of shattering glass echoed from down below. All three serpents immediately tensed up. "M-Millie?" Serperior stammered.


"Tell me that wasn't an emera ore that just shattered."

Milotic glanced down and noticed a brilliant, explosive burst of blue light. It consumed nearby emera ores, setting off a domino effect creating more blasts beneath them.

"Nope, it definitely was. And they're starting a chain reaction," Milotic said. "We've gotta get out of here now!"

Her teammates saw cascades of blue explosions making their ways up every wall in the room. "Oh, brilliant," Serperior hissed. "Why can't we just catch a break? What do we do? There's nothing for me to grab onto up there."

"Then we'll have to blast ourselves up," Milotic declared, taking in a deep breath. "Ready, Airy?"

Dragonair nodded. She formed up a pool of water, which shot up into a midair waterfall. The moment it did, Milotic unleashed super-pressurized water downward. It further propelled the trio upward. Milotic continued pumping water out until brisk evening air brushed against her scales. She suddenly lurched to the right, as Serperior had grabbed a stone slab and managed to pull the group safely away from the cave.

There was little time to celebrate, however, as they heard more emeras exploding inside the Catacombs. The ground trembled beneath them. "We're still not out of the water yet," Dragonair said. "But where do we go? I don't even see a path down."

Milotic turned around and spotted a small outcropping of rock and, next to it, rushing water that spiraled down into dense fog. "We're going to have to ride the falls down."

"What?!" her teammates gawked in unison.


Everyone flinched and spotted crystal fragments flying out of the cavern. Milotic seized on her friends' momentary panic, shooting ice at the base of the rocky outcropping. She lunged forward, dragging her teammates along with her, and struck the frozen rock. It shattered, sending the unfrozen part falling toward the river. Milotic awkwardly hopped onto the rock, turning it into a makeshift raft. The movement of the current swept her teammates along the ground until they were forced to jump on with her.

They all turned back just as the river started turning downward. Blue light exploded outward, encasing the spots they'd just been standing in. Fragments of rock rained down all around them. Some of them struck the river, kicking up waves that threatened to upend their raft.

"Have you totally lost it, Millie? You're gonna get us killed!" Serperior shrieked.

"Stop screaming and help me steer," Milotic hissed. She leaned to her left and the raft tipped with her, skirting one of the falling rocks. "Now, right! Right!" she shouted, leaning to the other side. Dragonair complied and the raft avoided another rock. At that point, the river took a sharp downward turn, speeding the raft up considerably.

"How is this helping us in any way? We're gonna plummet off one of the falls as soon as this river ends!" Serperior yelped. Milotic ignored her, spewing out ice instead. It struck an upcoming rock and froze it solid. The team's raft collided with the ice and shattered it, jostling its passengers in the process.

"Be quiet, Serpy," Milotic repeated her order. "I have a plan, alright?"

"Really? Cause it seems like you're just flying by the end of your tail here," Serperior said. "Rock dead ahead!"

"I'm not blind. I can see it," Milotic exclaimed. She leaned to her left. Her teammates copied her movements and steered the raft to the left. "Now, we've got to hug the wall to follow the rightward curve. Everyone lean right!"

Milotic's teammates followed her command. Their rock moved to the right just as the river curved sharply in the same direction. The rock leaned over, putting the trio in close contact with a cluster of jagged rocks. "Now, grab that last rock, Serpy."

Groaning, Serperior thrust her vines forward. They wrapped around the rock, allowing the raft to safely turn along with the river. As the trio passed the cluster, Serperior withdrew her vines. The river then took another sharp downward turn, nearly causing Dragonair to fall off the raft.

"It's getting faster. We must be getting close to the waterfall," Serperior panicked. "Now would be a really good time to let us in on that plan of yours, Millie."

"Not yet," Milotic said. "Just brace yourselves, okay? Try not to fall off this thi– WHOA!"

Rapids appeared all around them. Their makeshift raft struck one, tossing Team Captivate about and spraying them with salt water. "Hack… plebth… rrrnggh… yeah, real great plan here, chief!" Serperior sputtered. The raft bounced toward another rock, dousing the girls once again. Their momentum made the raft spin around and start moving down the river backwards.

"Dragonair! I need eyes up front," Milotic shouted. "What's happening?"

"The… the river's dropping o– YEEEEK!"

Team Captivate's raft fell down a small set of rocky steps, bouncing the trio about. Serperior shrieked in terror as she struck the raft and started tipping off the side. Milotic and Dragonair quickly leaned to the opposite side, grunting from the strain. Serperior just managed to get herself back on the raft when it passed through another set of rapids. The harsh currents spun the rock around to face forward once again.

Just as the girls got their bearings, a loud roaring noise rose up to the greet them. Milotic looked forward and noticed the river suddenly disappeared in front of them. "This is it!" she shouted. "We're gonna jump on three!"

"That's your big plan?!" Serperior screamed. "We're doomed!"


"We're gonna smack the water and drown!"


"I can't believe I let you drag me into this!"

"Three! Jump!"

The makeshift raft careened over the edge of the falls. Team Captivate leaped off the rock with as much energy as they could muster. They cleared the descending water, falling toward the plunge pool below them, Serperior shrieking in fear. Milotic spun around in the midst of the freefall and opened her mouth. A massive water stream shot out, slamming into the plunge pool. It managed to provide some resistance against gravity, slowing Team Captivate's fall.

Milotic had to release her attack before they splashed down, however. The trio fell the rest of the way and smacked the surface of the water. Bubbles and froth exploded out around the girls. Both Dragonair and Serperior gasped from the impact, letting out big mouthfuls of air bubbles. Milotic got her bearings, shifting to her hidden gills to let her breath underwater. When she did, she noticed she had full range of use of her tail.

'Yes! The rapids must've loosened the knot Marshadow tied our tails in. And the impact knocked us free,' she cheered. She glanced over and noticed Serperior thrashing about in a panic while Dragonair drifted up toward the surface. Milotic swam forward and wrapped herself around her teammate. She carried Serperior up and broke the surface of the water.

Serperior took in a huge gulp of air, coughing and sputtering. "It's okay, Serpy. It's okay. I've got you," Milotic coaxed.

Serperior hacked up seawater. "We're… we're alive?" she gasped.

"Alive and unbounded," Milotic reported.

Serperior's eyes widened in disbelief. "I… I can't believe we pulled that off. I think we just used up a lifetime's worth of good fortune on that one."

"Luck had nothing to do with it," Milotic boasted. She swam toward the side of the plunge pool and helped Serperior onto rocky ground. Serperior collapsed on her belly, breathing heavily. Dragonair slithered out of the water behind them, shaking out her body to dry off.

"Don't lie… Millie," Serperior panted. "You must've… been just as scared… as us."

"Oh, totally," Milotic conceded. "But, like I said, I had a plan. And I do love it when a plan comes together."

"I want… a vacation… when this is all over," Serperior groaned.

"Let's focus on getting Marshadow first," Milotic exclaimed.

Serperior shot upward and her eyes widened. "Are you kidding me? We just got lucky to escape the Catacombs with our lives. Let's accept the loss and tell Zoroark we screwed up."

"Absolutely not," Milotic said. "We just took the fast way out and we're back near the entrance to Glyphic Falls."

"And who's to say he's not just going to run off into one of the neighboring areas, huh?" Serperior said.

"Because there are large, fast-moving rivers surrounding this place, remember?" Milotic retorted with a smirk. "There only one way into and out of the falls. And we're going to head him off before he can get to it."

"Um, forgive my interjection, Milotic, but how exactly do you plan to do that?" Dragonair asked. "Marshadow is much faster than us with that shadow-melding trick of his."

"That may be true," Milotic acknowledged. "But now we have access to something that wasn't down in the Catacombs." She turned around and faced the river trailing off from the plunge pool.

"Oh-ho no, no, no, no, no," Serperior said, shaking her head rapidly. "I've had more than enough of a swim for one day, thank you very much."

Milotic rolled her eyes. "Will you quit being such a baby? You don't have to do any of the work." She turned and pointed her tail a bit down the path. "There's a rotting tree over in that direction. We can knock it into the river. You and Dragonair can sit on it and keep your eyes peeled for anything shifty, while I push the raft forward through the river. Sound good?"

Serperior slouched. "… fine." She slithered over toward the dead tree, muttering, "The things you'll do for a huge payday."

Milotic hopped into the river and swam forward. At the same time, her teammates lashed out at the tree with their tails. The bark shattered, sending it falling into the river with a slight splash. Dragonair and Serperior jumped on and immediately felt the tree bob in and out of the water.

"Are you two situated?" Milotic asked. They nodded. "Good, then here we go!" She straightened out her tail and began ferrying the dead tree . It lurched forward, causing Serperior to gasp, then it sped along the river.

"We need to be Milotic's eyes and ears right now," Dragonair said, scanning the rocky trail running beside the river. "The question is, how far are we from where we entered the Catacombs?"

"Don't know," Serperior said. "We're probably wasting our time anyway. I'd be surprised if the guy hasn't already left the place." She scowled and faced forward, only to raise a confused eyebrow. "Huh. Look over there, Airy." She pointed her tail skyward.

"It's a flock of Murkrow," Dragonair observed. "And they seem pretty riled up."

"And what could frighten a bunch of Murkrow in the dead of night?" Serperior offered.

"An unexpected visitor to whatever part of the falls they were roosting in," Dragonair concluded. "Milotic, there's something causing a ruckus due east of us. It could be Marshadow."

"Do you see any divides in the river?" Milotic asked, barely keeping her head above the water to get that question out.

"Yeah, there's one coming up ahead here," Serperior announced. "We've got to go left." She leaned over to the left, as did Dragonair. Milotic thrashed her tail out to her right. Their combined actions turned the tree ever so slightly to the left, allowing them to pick up the branch off the main river. Milotic hissed loudly as they started heading east. "Everything okay down there?" Serperior asked.

"It's much shallower here," Milotic replied. "I think I just nicked my tail on something sharp."

"Do you need to stop?"

"I'm fine. We have to keep moving," Milotic declared. She pressed her head harder against the tree and swam with even more vigor. The tree sped through the river, passing underneath the flock of Murkrow in the process.

"Well, there goes our directional cue," Serperior sighed. "And these rock faces are way too high up to see anything reliable."

Dragonair tried looking ahead, but this part of the river ran through a small chasm and offered no clear view forward. They hit a downward stretch and sped up even more. When the river flattened out again, the cliff faces parted, giving rise to two trails that spiraled alongside the river.

"See anything?" Milotic asked.

"No," Serperior sighed. "Face it Millie, this is a dead e–"

A glass orb came flying in from the trio's right and conked Serperior in the head. "Eyowch!" she shouted, collapsing on her back. The orb fell in front of Dragonair, who quickly scooped it up.

"This is an Escape Orb," she realized. "But where did this come from? Hey, Milotic, slow down for a second."

Milotic swung her tail in front of her and oscillated it against the river's current. The net effect slowed the tree considerably. "What's happening? What's going on?"

"What's going on?" Serperior growled, rubbing her head. "What's going on is that some jerk chucked a perfectly usable Escape Orb and hit me with it!" She looked over in the direction the orb came flying from and her eyes widened. She opened her mouth up and shot a crackling bolt.

Dragonair's face blanched. "What are you doing?" she gasped. Moments later, a cry of pain echoed out across the area.

Serperior's expression fiercened. "That sounded like Marshadow. Forward, Millie, forward!" she barked, keeping her gaze fixed on the direction she fired her Dragon Pulse in. Milotic pushed the tree forward. Sure enough, a dazed-looking Marshadow came into view at a narrow portion of the trail with a very large rock hanging precariously over it.

"Hey, jerk-face!" Serperior hissed. "Remember us?" A green glow overtook her body and she shot branches of green energy forward. Before Marshadow could realize what was happening, the tendrils struck him and sapped some of his strength.

Milotic poked her head up and saw Marshadow staggering about. "Surround him if you can, girls," she said. Serperior and Dragonair leaped off of the tree, landing on either side of Marshadow. Milotic pushed away from the tree and ducked under water. She swam down, then curved upward in order to leap out of the river. As she did, she opened her mouth wide and spat a stream of scalding water right at Marshadow.

He finally managed to get his bearings however, and retaliated with a ball of crackling ectoplasm, splitting apart the Scald. "Well now, this is quite the surprising development," he exclaimed. "Seems you're better explorers than I pegged you for. Better than that dopey girl I ran into before, anyway."

"So, you're the one who attacked Zoroark in the Catacombs and stole the paper she was carrying," Milotic accused.

Marshadow tilted his head in confusion. "Zoroark? Can't say I know anything about that. And stealing is really such an ugly word, luv. I prefer to think of it as 'borrowing without returning.' Besides," he chuckled as he reached into the puffy ectoplasm around his neck and produced the looplet-like band he'd swiped, "I managed to make off with the real prize in the end, didn't I?"

"And now we've got you surrounded!" Serperior hissed. "So, fork over the band, the paper, and our stuff. And maybe we won't beat the spooky out of you before hauling you off to Officer Magnezone."

Marshadow tapped his chin. "Hmm… tempting. But here's a counteroffer, luv. You're in the night and that's my element. So, stand aside and let me depart or you'll suffer another humiliating defeat at the hands of Master Thief Marshadow!"

As he finished speaking, Marshadow sank into the ground. That's when a giant wave of water crashed out along the rocky trail. Serperior and Dragonair backed away from it, while it harmlessly passed over Milotic and crashed atop Marshadow. He hollered as the waters slammed him into the rock wall on his right.

Marshadow hit the ground, losing his grip on Team Captivate's item pouch in the process. Serperior shot her vines forward without any hesitation and grabbed onto it. "I've got our items, chief!" She reached into the bag and tossed her teammates a set of elixirs and oran berries.

"You seem to have forgotten something, 'Master Thief Marshadow.' There's water here. Which means you're in my element," Milotic boasted, flicking her long, sparkling lashes to the side. "The only one who's going to suffer a humiliating defeat is you."

"Mmm, tough words for a goody-goody, I'd say," Marshadow scoffed, shaking water off his body. "The fact is that I'm faster than all three of you put together and there's nothing you can do about it, luv. Observe!"

Marshadow flash-stepped in Dragonair's direction and punched her in the snout with a shadowy-black fist. Dragonair recoiled in shock, giving Marshadow the opportunity to slip behind her just as Serperior sent green energy branches at him. "Ah, ah, ah," he taunted, grabbing Dragonair by the neck and holding her in front of him. "Wouldn't want to see any friendly fire here, would we?"

Serperior dissolved the branches. Marshadow failed to account for Dragonair's tail, however, and she used it to quickly whip up a twister, blowing Marshadow back up the trail. His smirk reappeared and he melted into the ground. The puddle of shadows that formed immediately blended in with the ground's dark coloration.

"Quick, Serpy. We should still have a Luminous Orb or two!" Milotic said. Serperior fumbled through the item pouch, only for a purple blob with bright-yellow eyes to lunge out from the base of the rock towering over them. Serperior's eyes widened in horror. At the very last second, she managed to coil herself around the item pouch to prevent Marshadow from grabbing hold of it.

Marshadow retreated and formed up out of the shadows, breaking into a run. Serperior righted herself, a weary look in her eyes. "You'll never catch me, luv. No exploration team has! Aha ha ha ha!" he shouted.

"We're chasing him down," Milotic declared. "Serpy, stick to the land. I'm taking my chances with the river. Airy, your choice who to follow." Before either of her teammates could protest, Milotic dove into the river. Dragonair slithered down the rock pathway with Serperior following suit. Both of them could just make out Marshadow up ahead, though he was clearly increasing his lead.

"We'll never catch him at this rate," Serperior groaned.

"I think that's what Milotic's using the water for," Dragonair said. As if on cue, a wave rose out of the river and threatened to crash down on Marshadow. He turned and shot a ball of shadowy energy to his left, splitting open a hole in the wave.

"Ha! Is that the best you go– AGGGH!"

Marshadow's boast was cut off as dragonfire washed across his back. Serperior then launched a blue beam forward, sending Marshadow straight to the ground. Milotic leaped out of the river, frosty air gathering in her mouth.

"Not so fast, luv!" Marshadow snarled and rolled onto his back. Dark energy encased his fist and, before Milotic could unleash her ice, Marshadow shot off the ground and socked her in the snout. Milotic fell to the ground, writhing about and squealing in pain. Marshadow landed on his feet. "Sucker!" he taunted as he ran off. But he didn't count on a diamond-shaped blast of blue energy striking him in the back.

It didn't cause him any pain, but he noticed his running speed drop significantly. "W-What the devil?" he gasped.

"Nice use of slow wand, Serpy," Milotic said, before turning and blasting Marshadow from behind with scalding water. Marshadow gasped and fell forward onto his belly, giving the other members of Team Captivate openings to use their own attacks. Green energy tendrils speared Marshadow's back and dragonfire doused his legs.

"Agh! You… you cretins!" Marshadow hissed. Despite his hindered movements, he managed to slip back into the shadows.

"Brace yourselves, ladies. He could be anywhere," Milotic declared.

"Or he could just be trying to run like a coward!" Serperior accused, slithering forward. "Where's all that bravado and tough talk from before, huh? What's the matter? Afraid of getting your butt whooped by some girls?"

"Um, Serperior, maybe you shouldn't taunt him like tha–"

"Leave her be," Milotic cut Dragonair off with a whisper. "I think Marshadow's part fighting-type and Serpy's picked up on it. She's trying to trigger that reckless fighting-type pride."

Dragonair nodded her acknowledgement. At the same time, an icy fist popped out from the shadows and clobbered Serperior in her right side. She fell to the ground, ice crusting over her torso. Marshadow turned and raised his fists at Milotic and Dragonair.

"C'mon, luv. I can keep this up all night! But I just need to stall until this stupid slow wand wears off," Marshadow exclaimed. Milotic's response to this was to spit up an ice stream. Marshadow couldn't gather any shadowy energy quick enough to dispel the attack. The beam struck him in the chest, covering him in a layer of frost. Dragonair then propelled herself forward with a plume of water, striking Marshadow and bringing him to the ground.

"That's enough out of you. Surrender," she ordered.

"Sorry, luv. Afraid I don't know the meaning of that word," Marshadow grunted. He tensed for a moment, and then phased out from underneath Dragonair. More ice surrounded a fist and Marshadow pummeled Dragonair from behind. He had little time to celebrate, however, as branches of leafy-green energy latched onto his side and sucked out some of his vitality.

Milotic was by Dragonair's side in an instant, bearing down on Marshadow. She flicked her tail and a wave of water washed onto the trail. It swept Marshadow up against a boulder, drowning out his pained hollers. Milotic wasted no time in gathering up ice in her mouth and shooting it forward. Only, instead of aiming for Marshadow, she hit the puddle surrounding him. The water froze up on the spot.

She then swept the ice toward Marshadow. His eyes widened as his body froze before his eyes. He thrashed against his icy prison to no avail. And to his horror, his limbs were tightly bound against his torso, rendering him unable to phase through the ice.

Marshadow's eyes grew heavy and he glared defiantly at Team Captivate. "Well, what are you waiting for? Aren't you going to drop some cheesy one-liners or whatever it is you guild-types do when you catch an outlaw?"

A smirk crossed Milotic's lips. "Ha! I'm afraid your 'refined gentleman' routine is all washed up, you crook."

Serperior slithered up beside her teammate. "Oh, how about this one? We put your 'uncatchable master thief reputation'… on ice!"

Dragonair smacked both her teammates upside the head. "We've gotten banged up enough to last a month. I don't need a headache on top of it."

Marshadow rolled his eyes. "How disgustingly sappy. Knock it off and call your constabulary already. I'll take the slammer over listening to any more of your drivel."


~Glyphic Falls Entrance, One Hour Later~

Kzzzaaaaack! This is incredible! Magnezone gasped, showering Marshadow in electrical waves that paralyzed his ghostly form. Marshadow has topped our outlaw list for well over a decade. And you three have managed to catch him.

"No need to thank us, sir. All in a day's work for Team Captivate," Serperior boasted.

Sir, what about the reward we were offering? a Magneton deputy spoke up.

Serperior's eyes lit up. "What reward?"

Well, given that this particular outlaw has skirted through every continent we know of, there's been a 20,000 Poké reward on his head for quite some time, Magnezone announced. We can transfer the funds to your account at Dhelmise Depot.

Poké signs appeared in Serperior's eyes. "Awesome! That's the kind of money that can get us a year's vacation."

"Frankly, we could really use it," Dragonair sighed.

"Yes, yes, all's well that ends well and all that jazz," Marshadow growled. "Take me away, officer. I've had enough of their disgustingly pretty faces."

Very well. Deputies, remove this outlaw, Magnezone instructed. The three Magnetons utilized electromagnetism to lift the paralyzed Marshadow into the air and carry him off. I will issue payment upon returning to Aeon Town. Thank you once again for your hard work.

"Our pleasure, officer," Serperior chirped. She waved him off with her tail and then turned back toward her teammates. "This is perfect. Now we just find Zoroark and give her the drawing we found. Then we get to keep the band and 30,000 Poké. That's the haul of a hundred lifetimes!"

"Team Captivate? Thank the gods, you're okay! I was getting worried."

The girls looked over and saw Zoroark limp up to them. She was still bandaged up and had a tired look in her eyes. "Zoroark," Milotic gasped, "you didn't have to drag yourself all the way out here for our sakes."

"Sorry. It's just that, it had been much longer than six hours since we had parted ways and I thought something might've happened," Zoroark explained. "I figured I at least owed it to you to come out and look around."

"We appreciate it," Dragonair said.

"Yeah, but we're professionals! We were never in any dang–" Serperior started boasting when Milotic held up her tail.

"Truth is, we did run into trouble," Milotic confessed. "Tell me, did you get attacked by an outlaw called Marshadow?"

"I don't know, remember?" Zoroark responded. "Something sneaked up on me from the shadows."

"That sure sounds like our guy," Serperior scoffed. "Not to mention, Marshadow had this in his possession." She reached into the item pouch and pulled out a scrap of paper. Zoroark's eyes lit up.

"Ah, that's it! That's my reference page," Zoroark cheered. "You actually found it. Thank you so much!" She walked over and accepted the page from Serperior. As she took it, Milotic noticed a picture in the center of the page.

"So, were you here to look for that band?" Milotic asked.

"Yup," Zoroark replied, looking at the page. "Why do you ask?"

Serperior shot her teammate an annoyed look. "Marshadow was apparently looking for it, too. Or, rather, I guess he was looking for it after he stole the drawing from you."

Zoroark frowned. "I see. That's… not good. But he didn't find anything, right?"

"Actually…" Milotic started but her voice trailed off. Zoroark's eyebrows raised.

"Forgive my teammate, Zoroark. She must still be a little disoriented from dealing with Marshadow," Serperior cut in, giving Milotic a stink eye.

Milotic ignored Serperior and continued, "We found a band that matches your drawing. Marshadow tried to steal it but we took it back when we defeated him. It's in our item pouch."

Zoroark's eyes widened. "Y… you're kidding!" she gasped. "You've got to let me have it. Do you have idea how happy it'll make the Expedition Society?"

Serperior pouted. "No way. We're not just going to give this up, are we?"

"Drop it, Serpy," Milotic ordered. "I know you found it, but Zoroark here was actually looking for it to begin with. It's one thing to take treasure that's just randomly left in a dungeon. But this is something someone was on the hunt for. Give it to her. It's the right thing to do."

"… fine," Serperior huffed. She slithered forward and handed the band off to Zoroark. "You're lucky we're such generous ladies. You have no idea how tempting it is to run off with this thing. What's so important about it anyway?"

"Beats me," Zoroark said. "Mawile had an interest in it because she thinks it's tied to that whole anti-Legendary plot. I don't suppose you girls found anything out about that, did you?"

Milotic pursed her lips. "We did find something. It was apparently an old letter… a warning."

"Or so we think. It was written in Unown and Marshadow read it to us," Dragonair said. "I'm not entirely sure if we can trust that guy's interpretation. But if he was telling the truth, then a group of Pokémon banded together to try and construct their own Pokémon from scratch. Apparently, their plan failed and the creature went berserk."

Zoroark's muzzle stiffened. "Goodness. That's… quite the tall tale. I'll relay it to Mawile anyway." She reached into her mane with her good arm and pulled out a very heavy-looking bag. It dropped to the ground in front of Team Captivate with a loud thud.

"This seems like a more than 30,000 Poké," Milotic said, eyeing the bag.

"What can I say? You found the artifact I snuck over here to look for. That deserves a little extra generosity, wouldn't you say?"

Serperior eyed the bag skeptically. She poked it with her tail. "This isn't gonna, like, blow up or do some other trick you Zoroarks like, is it?"

"Serpy," Milotic chided. Her teammate shut up. "We appreciate the reward, Zoroark. And please, give our regards to the Expedition Society."

"I will. So, where are you girls heading now?" Zoroark asked.

"Well, I'd really like to contact our guild's science expert," Milotic exclaimed. "I think there's something we need to discuss with her."

"Not a chance. We might as well wait until she's back from the expedition before saying anything," Serperior said.

Milotic leaned over and whispered. "But what about Null? We have to warn Team Radiance."

"Millie, please. The guy's been here half a year now and nothing's happened. If he was going to attack Team Radiance, he would've done it by now," Serperior said. She turned back to Zoroark. "I don't think we'll be doing much of anything. I'm beat. I need sleep. There's a small base camp just to the west of the entrance. We're crashing there and not getting up for the next couple of days, I'd say."

"Oh, yes. I don't think I could make it back to the Observatory right now," Dragonair agreed.

"Well then, I guess this is where we part ways," Zoroark said. "I've got to contact my ride back to the Water Continent, after all."

"Travel safe," Milotic said. Zoroark watched Team Captivate head off down a small side-path toward the lone cluster of trees in the entire area. She overhead Milotic say, "Hey, am I crazy, or does the moon seem bigger to you girls than usual?"

"Don't know, don't care," Serperior replied. "Sleep now, talk later."

Zoroark stood on the rock pathway and continued to watch Team Captivate until they'd disappeared into the trees. When she was absolutely sure she could see no sign of them, she took a step back, sighing in relief.

"Oh, thank goodness. I can finally ditch this uncomfortable form." She pulled a small bag from her mane and dropped it to the ground. Then she threw off the sling and bandages, crouched down on all fours, and stretched out her back and neck.

A bright-blue glow overtook her entire body. All at once, her four limbs and wild mane disappeared. Two large red wings replaced them, protruding from a rounded torso of red feathers. In the center of her belly lay a blue triangle. The red on her body gave way to a long, slender neck line with a white down. This continued to a pointed, angled head with an upside-down, red triangle covering her face.

"Much better!" she squeaked, opening her hazel eyes and running claws through the feathers on her neck. "Heh… and big brother said I couldn't keep a disguise up for an entire day. Boy, did I prove him wrong in a big way. I'd better call him up and give everyone the good news!"

Her eyes glowed a deep blue and her irises and pupils faded. Hellooooooooooo! Anyone home? she telepathically sang.

Cripes! a male voice responded. Latias, is that you?

Latias put a paw to her mouth and stifled a giggle. Actually, it's your conscience speaking. We really should talk more. Who do you think it is, dummy?

Very funny. What do you want? You know how I feel about you calling me when I'm on supper duty.

Oh, that was this week? Must've slipped my mind. Sorry, Latios! Latias giggled. Is Slurpuff giving you trouble?

Uggggghhh… I don't wanna talk about it, Latios groaned. Just tell me what you need so I can get back to work.

Actually, I need to speak to Mawile. Is she around?

She set out to Noe Town this morning with Team Gaia, Latios replied.

Okay, what about Ampharos?

I'm given to understand he got lost after running an errand in Serene Village, Latios sighed.

Latias lowered her head and shook it, groaning. Jirachi, then?

He's sleeping. I'm not waking him up, Latios responded.

Latias groaned again. Is anyone with any authority actually available?

Nope. Want to leave a message? Latios teased.

"Uh, hello? Latias, is that you?" a calm, female voice suddenly interjected.

Mawile! Great to hear from you. Big brother said you were out on another continent, Latias said.

"What? No, I got back in the early afternoon. He must've been too lazy to look for me," Mawile scoffed. "I take it you have an update about your special assignment?"

Yup. And it's great news, to boot. I've got the Memory Looplet in my possession, she declared. Even better, I think the Pokémon that can make use of this is currently staying with the Horizon Guild. I didn't want to pry too much into that, though. And, uh, that's kind of because I maaaaaaaaay have hired their top exploration team to help me get the looplet.

She heard an audible sigh. "Oh, Latias… I told you not to drag anyone from the Horizon Guild into this," Mawile said. "Because it could whip them up into a panic if they learn there's a Pokémon designed to destroy Legendaries wandering around."

I'm sorry, Mawile, but I needed to take a chance on it. I got jumped while looking for the looplet, Latias confessed. It was some sort of Pokémon that could blend into the shadows so well, I couldn't detect even the faintest trace of his aura. According to the Pokémon I hired, he's a notorious outlaw called Marshadow. I got bombarded with a ton of ghost-type energy. And then, before I could even see the guy, he Throat Chopped me!

You got attacked? Latios gasped. Are you hurt? Do you need any help? Where the heck are you, anyway? I'm not picking up your aura at all!

I'm doing okay, Latias said. I had berries to get my strength back. But that Throat Chop... something was off with it. I haven't been able to get any of my attacks to work since he hit me. I think he might've struck a major pressure point. So, I took a gamble and hired some help. I know it sounds bad. But I didn't feel safe trying to go back and look for the looplet myself.

"Well, the important thing is that you're okay," Mawile declared. A beat followed. "Wait, did you say that the Pokémon is in the Horizon Guild right now? Because if it is, we've got a serious problem on our hands."

I wouldn't worry about it too much, Mawile, Latias exclaimed. The veteran team let slip that Null – that's what they're calling this thing – has been living in their Observatory for six months. And nothing bad's happened so far. So, we still have time to figure out how the Memory Looplet is supposed to work before bringing the Horizon Guild up to speed. Much as I'd love to just head there right now, we really ought to study this thing. Giving the looplet to this Null fellow may cause him to go berserk like it said in those papers you found. I'm not willing to take that risk.

And even though Team Captivate did learn about this whole conspiracy thing, they definitely don't have the full picture. And they seemed very skeptical, she continued. For one, I disguised myself as a Zoroark and submitted a cryptic request directly addressed to them. Then I sent them out on a meaningless task. They became super suspicious of me after that. So, frankly, I'm not entirely sure they believe what they do know. I sensed quite a bit of doubt in all three of their minds. I did use a sizable sum of Poké to pay them, though. I'll make up for it, I swear!

"I suppose that's better than nothing," Mawile declared. "At least your trip to Horizon didn't turn out to be a waste."

Wait… all this time you've been in Horizon? Did you not think to tell me? Latios gasped. Are you sure you're okay? How did you fly all the way over there?

I'm perfectly fine, big brother, Latias insisted. And I'm heading home. I should be there in about three hours or so. Save me a bite to eat, okay?

Ha! You and I both know that's not happening with Slurpuff around, Latios scoffed.

Ugh… fine. I'll pick something up for myself, Latias sighed. The blue glow from her eyes faded. She pointed a paw at her bag and it levitated toward her. She grabbed a set of tricked-out goggles, with the Expedition Society's logo etched into it, and strapped them onto her eyes. Then she took out a looplet and fastened it around her neck.

"Okay, awakening emera, time to work your magic!" she said, rising into the air. Orange beams of energy encircled her entire body.


A loud, supersonic boom echoed through the falls as a purple and white blur sped off to the west, crossing the enlarged, brightly-glowing moon.

End of Special Episode 2


There you have it. It wasn't a Zoroark, it was Latias. Yes, she (and Latios) are the same ones from the PMD Rescue games and, by extension, the ones that got turned to stone in Super. Hopefully this clears up any confusion with the first chapter of the episode. If not, let me know, and I'll see what I can do to change it.

In the meantime, enjoy Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, if you're picking them up. And if not, there'll be another bonus chapter going up to tide you over.

Next episode: it's time to Lycanroc and roll! ... I'll show myself out.
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Gone. Not coming back.
So, I'd like to think I am being ambiguous, but I don't want to tell you why because it'd spoil the episode ending. When the episode ends, if you still think it's way too awkward, let me know. At that point I'll consider altering or removing it.

As it stands, it reads fairly unambiguously (to me) as someone using speed and cover to get around unseen, rather than as someone using illusions. I think it reads that way because it's about a zoroark, and whenever you read about a zoroark skulking, you expect illusions to be involved – so that when you avoid mentioning them as much as you do, the impression that the reader gets is that this is a zoroark who is, for some reason, not doing illusions.

Hmm, maybe I didn't write that scene strongly enough, but the implication is that she was essentially interrogated, and only spilled the beans after Milotic threatened to report her actions to Ampharos.

I suppose my objection was that the plan was complex for complexity's sake, and Zoroark's actions in involving Team Captivate at all didn't seem to make much sense if she didn't want them to do what they ended up doing – but like, part of that was Latias' attempt to deliberately make them suspicious, which does make more sense. It still seems a little unclear to me why Latias involved them instead of getting the looplet herself, though. Everything worked out for her, but not in a way she could have predicted; I feel like this was less a master plan and more blind chance. Was she actually jumped by Marshadow? If so, why not just go after him, since she didn't actually appear to have suffered any harm as a result? I get the feeling that it's not that the plot doesn't make sense, but that I'm missing something that would let me figure it out – either I've missed something (which is very possible) or the circumstances behind Latias' initial decision to do what she did aren't quite made clear enough for me to get straight in my head.

As for this second half of the special episode: I think I'm in two minds about it. On the one hand – you absolutely nailed what you were going for with the climbing/rafting part of the concluding chapter; it was as over-the-top and ridiculous as it should have been, a glorious amalgam of a million different thrillers, and a real pleasure to read. It's just that when I did read it, I ended up sort of wondering what the point of the fight in the previous chapter was. Like, it's a perfectly serviceable fight scene, sure, but we get those all the time anyway, and when the rest of the action elements were so much stronger than it was, it made that one scene feel sort of like padding added in just for the sake of there being a big action-y set piece in chapter 18.

I get that part of it was that they had to fight with their tails knotted, but given that that's a mobility thing more than anything else and that they're strong enough that you know with 100% certainty that they're going to win before they even start, that restriction came across much more strongly when they were faced with challenges that absolutely required them to move – which is to say, in the climbing and rafting segments.

That small objection aside – it is a good twist ending, with the illusionist Zoroark turning out to be herself illusory, and I think that chapter 19 in particular is an excellent action sequence. The obligatory raft segment is my favourite oddly specific action movie trope, I think. Plus, it's very nice to have some more insight into how it was that Type: Null came into existence in a world like this, where there are no humans and by extension no Aether Foundation – especially given how it seems to be paving the way for future developments in the plot. I've probably already said this, but your plotting really is very similar to the structure of the PMD games; maybe I just haven't read enough PMD fics, but I haven't come across any other fics that borrow from them in a structural kind of way, and I think that's pretty cool.

A couple of small things:

He started to trace his hand along the outline. It doesn't follow the edges of the crystal. Rather, his hand initially curves outward, only to move back toward the center. At which point, he starts tracing his hand up toward the top of the crystal.

You go into the present tense here for three sentences, and I'm not sure why. It's quite a jarring change.

draggin her teammates along with her,

Missing a G at the end of 'dragging' there.

That's it from me for now! I look forward to seeing what Shane and Tessa have been up to in your next chapter.