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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light [COMPLETE]


Winter can't come soon enough
So, as promised, a little bonus. It may not be holiday-themed, specifically, but since "family" is the focus here, you can consider this the Thanksgiving special. And I'm very thankful for all the support! Whether you're just reading on the side or have left feedback, this has certainly been a lot of fun so far.

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.
That's actually good, in light of the ending. That intro was supposed to show two things. One being the lack of illusions, and the other being that the fake Zoroark was using her arms and legs to run. In the following chapter, she appears "injured." But given that she could run perfectly fine at the start, that was meant to show that something's off with Zoroark.

It still seems a little unclear to me why Latias involved them instead of getting the looplet herself, though ... 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.
My apologies. It wasn't a case of you missing something, but a case of me missing a few paragraphs. Short version is Marshadow did attack her, and Throat Chopped her in a way that left her unable to use attacks. It wasn't originally that way, of course, because Throat Chop is now a Move Tutor option for Marshadow. I think what happened was I deleted the paragraphs with the intention of rewriting them based on the fact Marshadow can learn Throat Chop now. And then I forgot to put them back in. I'm really sorry for the confusion! ;~;

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.
Aww, thanks. I'm pretty sure I was mainly using the cold opening from Die Another Day as inspiration, hence the title. Though I think "Dive Another Day," is a level name in Rayman Legends, too? In any event, I had the film's score in the background while drafting it.

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.
Fair point. I was really just going for a generic mook fight where the good guys clearly have the upper hand, even with a handicap. It's a pretty common part of a lot of the action movies I've seen. Admittedly, putting it right before chapter 19 was probably a bad idea.

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.
Again, it makes me glad to hear. I know chapter 18 may have been a bit of a misstep, but I'm trying to make good on my promise to shake things up from a stereotypical Pokémon battle. Also, when I lived in Montana I did my fair share of white water rafting, so it was nice to draw on that a bit. ^^

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.
They most certainly will. If I'm doing my job write, you guys may not see the guy in the same light with the next couple of episodes.

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.
Hopefully I can keep that up, especially since the upcoming episodes are the longest ones so far.

That's it from me for now! I look forward to seeing what Shane and Tessa have been up to in your next chapter.
I really enjoyed writing episodes 6 and 7, but I'm very nervous about how you all are going to receive it, as I'd like to think this will be the point where the tone starts to shift quite a bit.


Bonus #4: Family Picnic
Certified, 100%, Grade-A Canon!

~Sunrise Village~

On the outskirts of Horizon's quietest community sat Hillside Park. As its name suggested, it was a small, open field running up a grassy hill. It featured a sandbox in the shape of a Sandygast to keep children entertained. It was into this park that a young Tessa sprinted, turning to look over her shoulder.

"Hurry up, Gallian! Kick the ball," she squealed, turning around to backpedal.

"Okay!" Gallian's squeaky voice echoed through the park. "You better get ready." He wound up with a foreleg and launched a small rubber ball well over Tessa's head. She threw her arms to the side and dashed off after the ball.

"I got it! I got it!" she shouted.

"Not if I get it first!" Gallian shouted, speeding off after her.

"… heh." Incineroar rubbed the bridge of his nose. "She runs just like you do, you know that?"

He looked to his right, where Prisma walked alongside him. She had a basket hanging loosely off her right arm, while her left arm was wrapped around Incineroar's waist, a safe distance above his fiery belt.

"I so don't run like that," Prisma grumbled.

"Are you kidding? You've been running with your arms stuck out like Lati wings since the day I met you," Incineroar said with a chuckle.

Prisma's face flushed. "It hasn't been that obvious since I became a Lucario," she insisted.

"I can still spot it," Incineroar said.

"You know, if you're gonna be like that, there's nothing stopping me from taking the food and waltzing out of here," Prisma pouted.

"Relax, sweetie, I'm just having a little fun," Incineroar said, feigning a hurt expression. "After all, today's my day off. I want to enjoy it to the fullest!"

"Are you sure you're not needed back at the guild for anything?" Prisma asked.

"Of course not. You felt the tremors when you woke up too, right? The Tapus are out reshaping the Mystery Dungeons. Nothing's getting done today. That's why I gave the whole guild the day off!" he said, giving her a thumb's up. "Besides, Braviary and Leafeon are holding down the fort. She said it'd be helpful with preparing him to take over as my assistant."

He shook his head. "Man, never thought I'd end up seeing the day where Leafeon would retire. I'd figure she'd just stay with us forever."

"I think she's earned it," Prisma said. "At the very least, your dad'll appreciate her company." She removed her paw from his waist and rubbed her shoulder. "Err, sorry, I probably shouldn't have said that. He's still having a rough time of things, isn't he?"

Incineroar sighed and shook his head. "You know my old man. He'll never admit that anything's getting to him." He wrapped an arm around Prisma. "But, truthfully? Losing Mom has hit him pretty hard. I can barely get more than a couple of sentences out of him when I go to visit." He looked up to the sky. "We really should take the kids to see him, soon. I think he'd like that a lot."

Prisma frowned. "But, if the Tapus are working on the dungeons, you're going to be flooded with work starting tomorrow. How are you possibly going to find the time?"

Incineroar gave her a reassuring grin. "I'll burn that bridge when I get to it. What's my motto?"

"Always go for seconds at dinner?" Prisma replied.

"Very funny," Incineroar deadpanned. "No, it's 'take things one day at a time.' For now, let's just focus on enjoying our time together as a family." He looked down the hill and watched as Tessa tossed the ball toward Gallian. He lunged in front of the ball and used his body to block it from rolling away.

"Ha! Nice try, sis, but it'll take more than that to get one past me," Gallian boasted. "Now… taste this!" He reared back and clubbed the ball with the flat of his scythe. Tessa started backpedaling, only to trip and fall on her rear. Her parents couldn't help but laugh as her eyes comically widened upon landing on her tail. Gallian snickered. "Ha! That makes in three to nothing. Step up your game, sis!"

"That's not fair. You're bigger and stronger than me!" Tessa protested, rubbing her tail as she got to her feet.

Gallian grinned. "And don't you go forgetting it!" He lowered his scythe, which flickered with pink energy before abruptly fizzling out. "Aww, c'mon. Work, you stupid thing!"

"Kids! Lunchtime," Prisma called, spreading out a picnic blanket. They turned around simultaneously and sprinted toward her.

"I'm gonna get there first," Gallian called.

"But you have four legs," Tessa whined. Her eyes squinted shut and she ducked her head down as Gallian's lead increased on her. Then, surprisingly, she vanished in the blink of an eye. The confident smirk on Gallian's face disappeared and, seconds later, he fell to the ground. Tessa popped up right next to him and stumbled the rest of the way to the picnic blanket.

"W… what just happened?" she gasped.

"Looks like someone's just learned Quick Attack," Incineroar said. He gave Tessa a thumb's up. "That's my girl!"

Tessa's aura feelers twitched. "I… I used an attack?" she gasped. Her expression immediately brightened. "Alright!"

Gallian walked over, blinking stars out of his eyes. "Nnnrrrgh… you cheated," he accused, frowning.

"Nuh-uh! Learning a new move isn't cheating. It's, um, strategy," Tessa declared.

"Settle down, both of you," Prisma said, passing them plates of food. "If you're still this riled up after eating, you can have a practice battle."

Gallian's eyes flickered with interest, while Tessa's face blanched. "Now, now, let's just enjoy lunch," Incineroar said. "So, Gallian, still trying to get Psycho Cut working, huh?"

Gallian scowled. "The psychic energy keeps disappearing before I can shoot it forward. Why can't I go work with Bruxish, dad?"

"Bruxish helps teach moves to guild members," Incineroar explained. "I can't let you use his services if you're not in the guild. Wouldn't want folks thinking I give my family special treatment, right?"

Tessa looked up at him, her mouth full of berry. She swallowed and then said, "Is that why you're not making Mom your new assistant?"

Incineroar and Prisma exchanged looks. "That… has nothing to do with it," Prisma stated. "Your father and I just have a difference of opinions as to how I can best serve the guild."

"Your mom wants to stay out in the field and keep doing missions," Incineroar said. "Who am I to say no to that? Besides…" He leaned over and nestled Tessa's head. "… this way, your mom has time to look after you. And Gallian too, of course."

"Does that mean we can do more, um, 'ower-a' practicing, Mom?" Tessa asked.

"It's 'aura,' Tessa," Prisma corrected. "And, of course it does. But, remember, aura training isn't easy. If you want to work with me, then I need you to be focused."

"Of course! I can focus really good," Tessa said. "Look, here's my focused face." She furrowed her brow and stared intently at the remains of her sandwich. "See? Pretty good, huh?"

"I guess so," Prisma said, rubbing the back of her head.

The rest of the meal went by swiftly. Tessa got to her feet as Incineroar cleaned up their picnic. "Okay, Mom. Let's start that training stuff right now!" She bobbed back and forth on the balls of her feet.

"Actually, Tessa, why don't you go play with Gallian some more?" Incineroar suggested, placing a paw on Prisma's shoulder. "Your mother and I need to have a little chat."

Tessa and Gallian looked at their parents, and then at each other. "Hey, I'll bet that Quick Attack was a fluke," Gallian suddenly declared. "You'll never get it working again."

"Nuh-uh! I can so do it again," Tessa immediately countered.

"Oh, really? Then, catch me if you can!" Gallian said, running off down the hill. Tessa gave chase. When the kids were out of earshot, Incineroar turned to Prisma.

"Sweetie, is there something you're not telling me?"

Prisma frowned. "Uh… no."

"Let me rephrase that," Incineroar said. "I know you're keeping something secret from me." Prisma raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Braviary came up to me about a day after I offered to make him my new assistant. He said that he thinks there's a very specific reason you turned down my offer. Something much bigger than just wanting to be out in the field more."

Prisma shifted about uncomfortably. "And you believe him?"

"He's one of my most trusted friends," Incineroar replied. "I don't think he'd lie to me."

"Maybe he's just seeing smoke when there's no fire," Prisma scoffed. "You know he's never quite been the biggest fan of me."

"Well, maybe that's true," Incineroar said. "But, if there really is something wrong, you know you can always talk to me, right? You're the love of my life, Prisma. I want you to be happy. I want our family to be happy. And if you're not happy, I'll do whatever it takes to fix that."

"I'm quite content, thank you," Prisma tersely replied. "If anything, this line of questioning is making me peeved. So, how about we drop it, okay?"

A worried look crossed Incineroar's face. "It's not me, is it?" He put a paw to his forehead. "Oh gods, I've been too pushy, haven't I? I'm being too overbearing. Saying you'll spend more time with the kids, as if you don't have a choice in the matter. Sylveon's always willing to look after them, so I don't know why I'd say that!"

Prisma leaned over and pecked Incineroar on the cheek. "If I did have a problem, I guarantee it has nothing to do with you. You've been nothing but kind and loving. And, really, I'm honored that you would ask me to replace Leafeon. Honest." She leaned her head on his shoulder. "But, I can't just stay around the Observatory, save for the occasional special assignment. I'd go absolutely stir crazy. I can guarantee it."

Incineroar wrapped an arm around Prisma. "Ah, I really hadn't thought about it that way. I'm sorry. It was pretty selfish of me to thrust that request onto you like that."

"It's fine, sweetie. Don't beat yourself up over it. You and Braviary already work so well together. This is only going to be good for the guild. Trust me," Prisma insisted.

"I always do," Incineroar chuckled, giving her a wink. "Even if you have gotten us into trouble a couple of times."

"Look, if this is about that time your dad caught us kissing in his office, I already–"

Incineroar laughed at this. "Are you kidding? Probably my favorite night I've ever had at the Observatory." Prisma blushed at this. They fell into silence for several seconds, before Incineroar said, "It's about the picture, isn't it?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"The reason you want to keep working in the field is that picture you always have on you, right?" Incineroar asked. Prisma gave him an incredulous look. "Drop the act, baby. I've known about your picture since you were a Riolu. You always keep it under that bandanna of yours."

Prisma subconsciously brought a paw up to fiddle with the bandanna in question. "I… th-that…" she stammered.

"Hey, it's okay," Incineroar coaxed. "I just figured it's related to your lost memories, that's all. If you think exploring will help you get those memories back, you have my blessings. Go explore to your heart's content. But…" He looked over at her. "Promise me that, if something's bothering you, you'll come to talk to me, okay? I'm probably just making a mountain out of a Drilbur hill here. But, the way Braviary talked about you, it sounded like you were keeping some sort of deep, dark secret from me."

"What? That's totally ridiculous." Prisma let out a nervous laugh. "I've got nothing to hide from you." She lay down on the grass, allowing her upper body to rest on Incineroar's thighs. "I know we've got a big day ahead of us at the guild tomorrow. So, let's just rest up for now. Maybe we can have a little alone time after we put the kids to bed?"

Incineroar smiled. "I was just thinking the exact same thing."
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Winter can't come soon enough
And thus, we begin a stretch of episodes that, if all goes right, will shake things up a bit. Let's get started, shall we?


~Dewdrop Woods~

"Stufful, sweetie. Don't run too far! Momma can't see you if you go behind the trees."

A small, pink bear with stubby brown legs skidded to a halt. Stufful turned around to look at a similarly-colored, much larger, two-legged bear. "Sorry, Momma. I thought I saw a berry bush up ahead," he squeaked. "It was just a normal bush, though."

Stufful's mother put a paw up to her mouth and stifled a giggle. "That's quite alright, sweetie. But you've got to be careful if you go poking around the trees and bushes. Sometimes there may be Pikipeks and Trumbeaks lurking in them. And you wouldn't want to make one of them angry, right?"

Stufful shook his head. "No, I don't."

"And that's because…?"

"Because they know attacks that could hurt me very badly," Stufful dutifully recited.

"Right you are, kiddo," his mother said. She knelt down and, to Stufful's delight, tussled the fur on his head.

"Aww, look at that, Umbry. Isn't it just such a pretty widdle sight? Almost makes that Bewear look docile!"

Bewear quickly got to her feet and spread her arms wide. "Who goes there? Show yourself," she growled.

Espeon leaped down from one of the nearby rocks and held her head high. "Ta-daaaaah! Here I am, my lovely little helper."

Bewear's eyes narrowed. "There are no Espeons making their homes here," she said. "What do you want? And what's with the ridiculous rocks all over your head and chest?"

Espeon jutted out her lower lip. "You don't like them? Umbry thinks they're very fashionable. Don't you, Umbry?"

Umbreon casually strolled over to Espeon's side, prompting Bewear to take up a fighting stance and whisper, "Get back, Stufful. I think these two might be trouble."

"Trouble? Oh, no, no, no, no," Espeon said, shaking her head rapidly. "You've got me pegged all wrong, you snuggly-wuggly Bewear. We're the good guys. And we're here to help you, along with all the Pokémon in this forest."

Bewear didn't even have time to react. The diamond embedded in Espeon's forehead crackled and a ray of red-and-black light shot out. It struck Bewear right in the chest, causing her to let out a loud, high-pitched roar and stumble backward. Umbreon stepped forward, the red-crescent moon on his head glowing. He shot forth an identical stream of energy. This second one caused Bewear to fall to her knees.

"Momma! Momma!" Stufful cried.

"S… Stufful. Run. Run away," Bewear said through gritted teeth.

"B-But you said–"

Bewear dropped to her hands and knees, roaring in agony. Above her, a winged heart with demonic horns and a piercing eye in its center flashed brightly and then faded away. Stufful noticed his mother's eyes start to glow bright red. Jagged rows of teeth appeared in her mouth and her arms swelled up to the size of her body.

"Momma!" Stufful shrieked. He immediately turned and ran into the bushes, tears streaming from his eyes. He fell to the ground amidst a tangle of vines and leaves. Blinking the tears from his vision, Stufful saw Espeon and Umbreon cease their attacks. They stood in front of Bewear. Red and black energy continued to crackle across her body, making her arms and torso grow even larger.

Her fur coat started tearing, revealing a chitinous exoskeleton filled to the brim with fluorescent-red fluid. Stufful's heart leaped into his throat. He tried to open his mouth and scream again, but a brief glimpse of Umbreon's fierce, red eyes caused him to swallow the scream in his throat. Instead, he settled for a whimper, digging himself as far into the soil as he could go.

"Almost there. You're doing great!" Espeon chirped encouragingly, but a wicked grin lay on her face.

Bewear fell to her stomach as her ears and legs burst apart, showering the ground with fur. In their places lay a set of horns and four, spear-like, insect legs. The light faded from her body and the newly-infected Bewear staggered to her feet. She raised her comically-swollen arms up and flexed them proudly, belting out a mighty roar. Stufful squealed and backpedaled out of the little hole he had dug for himself. He struck a rock and fell over. Despite landing on his side, he still had a clear view of his mom and her assailants.

"Uhuu huu huu huu! Isn't she beautiful, Umbry? I told you a Bewear would make the perfect Buzzwole specimen," Espeon declared, happily prancing around.

Umbreon's brow furrowed. "Are you kidding? This thing's hideous."


Bewear shouted shrilly as she proceeded to uproot a tree twice her size. She thrust her arms apart and tore the tree in half, showering Espeon and Umbreon in wooden splinters. The sight caused Stufful's eyes to roll back in his head. He promptly passed out from shock.

"Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!" Espeon declared, tail wagging excitedly. She watched Bewear stomp through the forest, picking up more trees. "She'll raze this entire forest to the ground. And then, when Tapu Fini comes crawling out of the woodwork to see what's wrong… bam! The old hag won't know what hit her! Then we can search out the Dawn Hourglass unimpeded. And we'll have one Legendary rubbed off the planet."

Bewear pulled a rock from the ground and hurled it forward, sending a flock of Pikipek fleeing into the air.

"We should go grab some snacks, Umbry. This is going to be so exciting! Uhuu huu huu huu!"


Episode 6: Striking Midnight

Chapter 20: Lousy First Impressions

"N... Nicky?"

"What do you want, Shane?"

"Um... you want to hang out or something? I know you got suspended and stuff, but..."

"Seriously, dude?
That's what you start out with? No 'Hey Nicky, how are you?' or 'You hanging in there, dude?'"

"I... I figured you just wouldn't want to talk about it."

"There shouldn't be anything to talk about, Shane! I'm getting screwed, here! None of this was my fault! It was Rebecca... and those assholes she calls friends!"

"Why did this even happen, anyway? I thought you had that awful stomach bug. You... you lied to me about that, didn't you?"

"Shane, don't–"

"But we were planning to go see that movie for months! How could you just bail on me like that?"

"Rebecca's my girlfriend, dude. Or, at least, I thought she was..."

"But I'm your best friend!"

"Step off it, Shane! You saw the damn photos, didn't you? I'm the laughing stock of the whole school, here. My parents are furious. I... I don't know what I'm gonna do, here. Could you stop thinking about yourself for a moment, here? I'm hurting!"

"None of this would've happened if you'd just gone to the movies with me."

"... unbelievable."


"Shane, we've been over this. My life doesn't revolve around you. I'm allowed to hang out with other people... or go to their parties."

"Not if it means ditching me, Nicky. That wasn't fair."

"Don't you dare talk to me about not fair. What's happening to me?
That's not fair."

"... I get it, Nicky. You hate me... don't you?"

"What? No, I don't hate you, Shane. Will you stop doing that?"

"But you're yelling at me..."

"Because I'm upset, Shane! Can't you see that?!"

"Y... yeah. But maybe if we hang out, you'll feel better."


"Don't you want to get out of your house for a little bit?"

"I'm grounded, Shane. I'm not going anywhere. And I'm not going to feel better if I hang out with you. So, just drop it. I'll see you whenever they let me back into school."

"B... but... I just want to have fun."

"And I'm not up for it. Goodbye, Shane."



~Aeon Observatory~

Shane woke up to find Tessa nudging his shoulder. "Wake up, Vulpix. I've got some good news."

"Huh?" Shane mumbled sitting up on his cushion.

Tessa waved an envelope at him. "Check it out. We have a job offer."

Shane blinked. "Okay. How is that special?"

"Because it's a job offer addressed to us," Tessa chirped.

"Really?" Shane gasped. He jumped to his feet, suddenly full of energy. "That's great! We're already getting recognized!" He smiled at Tessa. "See? I told you good things would happen if you stuck by me." Shane hopped off his cushion and trotted out toward the assembly area, with Tessa following along after him. They other guild members were already there, awaiting the start of morning assembly.

"Good moooooooorning, Team Radiance!" Bruxish called, beckoning Shane and Tessa over with a fin. "You both seem to be in mahvelous spirits."

"Well, why wouldn't we be? Someone specifically requested our team for an assignment." Shane said, beaming. "Can you believe it? We're moving on up in the world."

"Let's not get carried away here, Vulpix," Tessa cautioned. "It's nothing all that major. We're just going to collect some purple nectar for a Pom-Pom Oricorio."

"Now, now, dahling, no need to be so modest," Bruxish chuckled. "After all, getting a personal request is suuuuuuuch a big deal. Even if it's a smaller assignment, it'll stick with you throughout your time here. Why, I still remember my first requested mission like it was yesterday…"

Shane lunged forward and covered up Bruxish's mouth. "Aha ha… that's nice and everything, but I think the morning assembly's starting soon. Maybe we could take a rain check on that little trip down memory lane?"

"Oh, fiiiiiiiiiiiine," Bruxish said. Shane sighed in relief. "I suppose I could always regale you dahlings at dinner tonight." Bruxish turned to Tessa. "So, how goes learning Thunder Punch? Were my lessons yesterday heeeeeeelpful?"

"Yup," Tessa chirped. She raised a clenched fist and yellow electricity crackled around it. A stray bolt jumped off her arm and tickled Shane's chest, frizzling his fur.

"Hey, watch where you're pointing that thing," Shane protested. He ran a forepaw over his chest, only for the remaining sparks to traverse his foreleg, prickling clumps of fur.

All attentions requested, Metagross' robotic voice carried through the assembly area. Everyone turned around to face his office. Shane noticed Lycanroc and Mimikyu standing between Metagross and Braviary.

Fact: we have acquired two temporary members. Fact: they are Lycanroc and Mimikyu, respectively, Metagross explained. Order: treat them with the same courtesy you would extend toward one another. Order: report any issues to me or Braviary. He glanced at Braviary. Continue assembly.

Braviary nodded. "Right. Now, I know most of y'all were with us in Sunset Shoals, so y'know about why Lycanroc's here and all that jazz. But, we've gotta be fair and bring the rest of y'all up to speed."

Shane initially looked over at Tessa and back toward the southern hallway where Null lingered. He also spotted Teams Captivate and Specter hanging out by the stairs. Likewise, Primarina and Vaporeon were over by the pond.

"So, we really didn't get any solid leads about what's messing with the tides," Braviary explained. "Worse than that, it ain't just the ocean that's causing problems no more. The Midnight Sea is rising up toward Circadian Coast."

"Oh, the horror! The torment of it all!
My precious home could very well fall.
We cannot afford to wait too long,
If we're hoping to right such a terrible wrong."

Shane buried his head in his forepaws. 'Ugh, why is this guy still here?' he groaned.

"Err… thanks for that, Primarina. But we done put in a temporary countermeasure," Braviary said.

We installificated some fortified structures and dug out irrigation trenches, Magearna elaborated. By my calculations, they should hold for at least the next two months. After which, we will need to go back and reconstructimalize.

Braviary nodded. "Exactly. Which brings me to the other issue that came up. We had a run in with some… strange Mareanies. Ain't like no Mareanies I've ever laid eyes on, I tell ya what."

"Uh, Braviary, sir?" Shane spoke up. "These Mareanies, they wouldn't have happened to have any strange markings or crystals on their bodies, would they?"

"They sure did. Had some kinda funny heart with an eye and wings," Braviary replied. "So, if'n yer reports are accurate, they're probably connected to the other Pokémon you've encountered with weird markings. Now, I'm sure y'all have heard that Gallian paid this place a visit while we were away."

Tessa looked down guiltily.

"We went through the guild top-to-bottom, Braviary. It doesn't look like Gallian took anything," Milotic reported.

"But he did steal TM's from the Kecleon Shop before skipping town," Serperior reminded her friend. "I gotta admit, that takes serious stones to pull off. Wonder what got into him? No one sees hide or hair of him for six months and then… wham! He shows up, tears this place upside down, and robs Aeon Town's biggest merchant."

"Well, it seems like Gallian might be under the effects of whatever's messing with Pokémon like the Mareanies we found," Braviary said. "Which is where Lycanroc comes in."

Lycanroc flashed a toothy smirk. "G'day, mates. Yeh, I'm pretty sure I can pinpoint the cause of our troubles here. It's these two creeps: Espeon and Umbreon."

Shane and Tessa exchanged nervous looks. "Crap! We totally forgot about them," Shane whispered.

Tessa frowned. "You mean the ones who kept talking about making us their playmates?"

"Yeah. I feel like such an idiot right now!" Shane growled.

"Well, it's been a rough last few days for us," Tessa pointed out. "And, in fairness, I've met them more than once. So, the blame's on me for not bringing them up."

Shane nodded. "You're right. It is your fault." A blue fist connect with his shoulder and he doubled over in pain. "Ow! What was that for?" he hissed in a whisper.

"That was very rude, Vulpix," Tessa growled. "Apologize, now."

Shane wilted under Tessa's scornful look. "I... I'm sorry," he squeaked. 'Stupid big mouth... next time make sure that stuff stays in my head!'

Tessa shook her head disapprovingly. 'The things I'm putting up with so I can be famous like Team Poképals.'

"Hey. Didn't Espeon and Umbreon mention something about wanting to 'infect' Pokémon?" Shane whispered, glancing nervously around the room. "I feel like there was something else, too. It's on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember."

"But there's gotta be more than a few Espeons and Umbreons lurking around Horizon," Growlithe pointed out to Lycanroc. "How are we supposed to know where to look to find these two?"

"That's the thing, kiddo, we don't know where to look," Lycanroc scoffed. "But, I know what I saw." He crossed his arms. "There I was, minding my own business in the Cavernous Depths, when I saw them. Espeon and Umbreon planted this whacko black crystal into one of the cavern's walls."

Lycanroc's glowing red eyes narrowed and he clenched his fist. "The crystal… it made this crazy spinning blades pop up all over the cave! It was total lunacy, mates. Then I saw Espeon take out a card and throw it on the ground. This freaky vortex popped out and the two of them walked right into it! Needless to say, I got outta there quick as I could."

Shane's eyes widened in realization. 'Ah! That was the other bit. They were using Entercards.' His gaze fell toward the ground. 'No. This guy's gotta be lying. I refuse to believe this is all their fault. They're being manipulated or brainwashed. They can't be doing this on purpose!'

"So, that's how you ended up in Circadian Coast?" Trapinch asked.

"Ya got that right. Normally I wouldn't set foot near a place like that. Water just plain sucks, mate," Lycanroc said, shuddering. "But I wanted to get as far from Cosmic Cavern and the Cavernous Depths as possible, ya dig? And, while I was in Circadian Coast, I did a li'l bit of sleuthing. And I figured out where our problem lies."

The various guild members exchanged hushed whispers.

"Espeon and Umbreon ain't Horizon natives, mates! They're here to muck up our continent!" Lycanroc bellowed.

"Hey now. How can youse be so certain about dat?" Yungoos asked. "Sunrise Village and Aeon Town have plenty of Eeveelutions."

Lycanroc smirked once again. "It's them freaky cards. I found a book about 'em. Entercards, they're called. But that ain't the juicy part." He licked up saliva from his lips. "That book said that there are only three Pokémon in the whole world who actually work with Entercards. I've never laid eyes on Keldeo, but I know for a fact I saw the other two: Espeon and Umbreon! And they live in the Mist Continent. Not Horizon."

Tessa tensed up at this. "Now that I think about it, they did use a card to get away from us the last time we met them." She looked over at Shane, only to see him shaking his head rapidly.

"That's not true… that's not true…" he whispered.

"Vulpix, are you okay?" Tessa asked.

"Don't you realize what this means? Those two gits are mucking around on our continent for their precious little experiments!" Lycanroc barked. "They're messing with forces the gods don't want us tampering with and now we're paying the price for it! The rising tide and the crazy Pokémon are all their faults. If we don't stop those dills, who knows what sort of havoc they'll wreck?"

"That's not true!"

Shane felt everyone's attentions fall onto him. He met Lycanroc's glare, only to immediately look down. "Espeon and Umbreon are good Pokémon! They… they're nice a-and… kind… and… they played a part stopping the Bittercold. There's no way they'd be out causing problems intentionally. Someone or, more likely, something is controlling them. And we need to figure out what that is so we can save them!"

"Is that a fact, Snowy? And how would a bloke like you know about them, huh?" Lycanroc asked. "Word on the street is that ya ain't been here too long, mate."

"I… I've… y'know… read the stories and stuff," Shane muttered. He shot a pleading glance at Tessa, but she returned his look with one of confusion.

"Listen, Snowy," Lycanroc growled. Shane tried to suppress a shiver. "Good on ya for trying to get up to speed on things. But some of us here were alive for that trite. And while none of it affected Horizon, we heard stuff. It sounds to me like Espeon and Umbreon were a bit too obsessed with them Entercards. And that ain't natural."

"Err, no offense meant dahling, but this isn't exactly a subject you're well-versed in," Bruxish said to Shane. "I think you'd best leave this to Braviary and the Guildmaster."

Shane frowned. "But my gut's telling me–"

"Your gut? Aww, ain't that cute," Lycanroc chuckled. "Are you trying to tell me your gut feeling is better than what I saw with my own two eyes, mate?"

Shane's stance slumped and he coughed out a weak, "No."

Lycanroc smirked and crossed his arms. "Thought so."

Braviary rubbed the back of his head. "Well then... if'n that's the truth, and them two are from the Mist Continent, odds are they're registered in the Pokémon Nexus, right?" He turned toward Magearna. "Mags, any chance you can hit up our contact in the Expedition Society and see if she can look into them two varmints' whereabouts?"

Magearna's mechanical eyes whirred in their sockets. It has been a little while since I've contacted her, but I can certainly try. Togedemaru, I may need your Zing-Zap to help boost the Gear-Com's signal.

Togedemaru smirked. "Of course you do. Because I'm just awesome like that."

"Good. In the meanwhile, I'll do a flyover across the continent and see if'n there are any other weird crystals like what Lycanroc saw," Braviary stated. "Yungoos, I want you flyin' with me. You've got a good nose on ya."

Yungoos stood at attention. "Youse got it, boss-man."

"As fer the rest of ya, go about business as normal. If'n we need to take any additional measures, the Guildmaster will contact y'all." Braviary looked at Metagross, who nodded in approval. "Alright, y'all are dismissed. Get some work done today."

As the assembly started breaking up, Shane made a beeline towards Braviary. "Vulpix?" Tessa called. "We need to get going to Twilight Forest. What are you doing?"

"… leave him be. He's… clearly troubled…"

Tessa flinched at the rasping sounds of Null's voice. "Hi… Null. Did you, um, want to come with us again today?"

"… I might…" the chimera replied. "But… I heard you were… working on some new moves." He shook out his scaly, furry body. "I haven't… had a good practice battle… in a while. Maybe… you could help?"

Tessa stole a glance back at Shane, who was pushing past Growlithe and Yungoos. "I suppose I could spare a few minutes," she muttered and followed Null toward the staircase.

"Ugh, lemme through. I need to talk to Braviary," Shane growled, not noticing his partner's departure.

"Hey now. Where's the fire, Snowy?" Lycanroc chuckled. "If it's that important, just come out and say it."

"No, I need to speak to him alone," Shane insisted. He waved a forepaw in Braviary's direction. "Please, Braviary. I just need a few minutes."

Braviary furrowed his brow and walked over to Shane. "Son, I've got something rather important to attend to. What's getting ya hot and bothered, huh?"

"I can't say it out here. Can't we find someplace private?" Shane pleaded.

Braviary's brow furrowed. "… fine." He pointed a wing toward Metagross' chambers and Shane hesitantly walked inside.

"But I asked for somewhere private," Shane muttered, glancing over at the Guildmaster. Metagross stared at his tapestry, seemingly lost in thought.

"Anything ya can say to me ya can say to the Guildmaster too, hoss," Braviary said. "Now, go on. Out with it."

Shane's gaze fell to the ground. "You… you shouldn't trust Lycanroc. He's not a good Pokémon."

"Is that a fact? And what, pray tell, gives ya that impression?"

"He's calling me Snowy," Shane explained.

Braviary rolled his eyes. "So? Shoot, Midnight Lycanrocs love teasing other Pokémon. Especially fellow canines."

Shane gritted his teeth. "You didn't let me finish, sir. Someone else has called me Snowy: Sneasel. He's an outlaw who says he's part of a group called Team Fang. Has a scar running down the little feather in his head." He looked up at Braviary. "It's plain as day, to me. Lycanroc's probably Team Fang's leader. You led an outlaw right into the guild!"

Braviary's eyes narrowed at this. "Son, are you saying you don't trust my judgment? You don't trust the Guildmaster's judgment?"

Metagross turned around at this. Fact: I detected no hostile intent. Order: treat Lycanroc with respect. Order: do not make unjust, unsubstantiated allegations.

"But what about him accusing Espeon and Umbreon! You have no way of proving they're the research duo from the Mist Continent," Shane whimpered.

Braviary put a wing on Shane's shoulder. "Listen, hoss, I understand you had a rough time of things while we were gone. But that don't give you no right to act nasty toward other Pokémon, guild members or not. Talk things out with yer partner if you need to. But don't be picking no fights because yer upset." Braviary stood up and made for the door. "I suggest you adjust yer attitude, pardner, else I can give you something to really complain about."

Shane slumped over in defeat. "Yes, sir."

"Good. Now, run along. Don't want to keep Riolu waiting, do you?"


~Twilight Forest~

"I'm telling you, Riolu, Lycanroc's a dirty liar! He's totally making up everything! He's gotta be part of Team Fang. I just know it."

Tessa walked forward, resting her arms against her head. Shane trailed behind her, glaring at the ground. "And you're just basing that off the fact that he called you Snowy?" she asked.

"Yes! Weren't you the one who told me that everyone just goes by their species name here?" Shane growled.

"Yes, but there are some Pokémon that like to mess around with others," Tessa said. "My dad always told me that Incineroars, Zoruas, Zoroarks, and Midnight Lycanrocs are prone to making fun of other Pokémon. But they usually don't mean any harm by it."

"But there was definitely malice in his voice," Shane insisted. "Metagross said he 'didn't sense anything' but how could he? Lycanroc's totally a dark-type. The Guildmaster's psychic powers are useless on him."

Tessa laughed. "Guess you're not as well read up on things as you claim to be. Both versions of Lycanroc are rock-types. It's in the name, doofus."

Shane froze mid-step. "I… I knew that," he squeaked. "I meant to say his secondary type was dark."

"Which is, again, wrong. Both Lycanroc forms are pure rock-type."

"Wait. What do you mean both forms? Don't tell me that jerk can transform," Shane groaned.

"No. Lycanroc can either be in midday or midnight form depending on the time of day that they evolved," Tessa explained. "Actually, I think I remember hearing something about a third form, but I can't recall the details."

Shane frowned. "You seem to know an awful lot about these Lycanroc characters. Is there something you're not telling me?"

Tessa turned around and gave Shane a stink eye. "Yes. It just so happens my grandpa, gods rest his soul, was a Midday Lycanroc. So, what? Are you gonna tell me he was a no-good, two-faced liar too?"

Shane's body went rigid. "Of course not!" He scampered forward after his partner. "I'm not saying all Lycanrocs are bad. Just that one. C'mon, don't tell me your little aura feelers didn't sense any hostility. If I were a Riolu, mine would probably twitch like crazy!"

"Good for you. That makes you paranoid," Tessa said. 'C'mon, Riolu. Deep breaths, here.'

"But, I was on the money about the thefts in Aeon Town, wasn't I? Don't you think I could be right about this?" Shane pleaded.

"Well, no. Because you found evidence Gallian was stealing stuff. This time around all you've got is a gut feeling," Tessa pointed out.

"I do have evidence. He called me Snowy, just like Sneasel did!"

Tessa shook her head. "Look, I know you love racing to conclusions, but I think this time around you're off the mark. Sorry." She turned away from him and resumed walking. "Just give the guy a chance, okay? And maybe just try keeping your mouth shut around him? At least until you have a better idea of the kind of Pokémon he is."

"Sure, fine, whatever," Shane grumbled. "Thanks for the talk, Mom."

"You're not helping your case by acting like a little kid," Tessa said.

"Forget it," Shane sighed. "So, how much further until we reach the nectar fields?"

Tessa pulled the Wonder Map from the team's pouch. She started to unfold it when Shane dashed in front of her. He opened his mouth and shot a stream of frosty air forward. The Rufflet swooping toward them fell toward the ground, groaning in defeat.

"And here I thought we wouldn't be encountering any wild Pokémon," Tessa said. "Thanks for the save. Looks like you've got Frost Breath working."

Shane looked down at the Rufflet. "No strange markings anywhere on him. So, I guess Parasect was the only infected Pokémon in the forest."

"We don't know that for a fact. But let's keep our voices down just to be safe," Tessa suggested. "The nectar fields should be just a little further ahead." She picked her head up and sniffed the air. "Smell that? The air's getting sweeter."

Shane mimicked his partner. "Huh, how about that. There's a kind of fruity smell to it." He smiled. "Man, this Vulpix nose is totally amazing! Way better than my human one." He trotted down the forest path. "Of course, it probably makes nasty smells even worse. But I haven't had to deal with that, yet. And hopefully never will."

Tessa facepalmed. "You do realize you just tempted fate by saying that, don't you?"

Shane rubbed the bridge of his snout. "Heh. I'm a human in a world of Pokémon. If that's not messing around with fate, I don't know what is."

'I see he rebounded from his funk pretty quickly,' Tessa thought. 'Ah well, I'd rather have him do this than complain about Lycanroc.'

"I guess that's one way to look at things," Tessa said. She followed Shane into a bright clearing in the forest. The dirt and tree roots gave way to an open grassy field filled to the brim with flowers.

"Wow!" Shane marveled. "Check out the bright colors. Red, yellow, pink, and purple. What sort of flowers do you think these are?"

"Uh, nectar flowers?" Tessa said, shrugging. "They're definitely what we're looking for. Let's pick one and head back."

"Well, this turned out to be extremely uneventful," Shane chuckled. He walked up toward one of the purple flowers, ignoring the wide-eyed look Tessa gave him.


Shane's tails stuck straight up and he froze. "Uh, Riolu. Was that your stomach?"

"What do you think?" Tessa growled. "Honestly, Vulpix, I can't believe you jinxed us. And after you gave me such a hard time for doing that the last time we were here. That's not cool!"

"Hey now. There are no problems here. I've got the flower. Let's activate the Escape Orb and get out of dodge before anything goes wrong," Shane said. "See, I am learning."

Tessa fumbled about for the Escape Orb. The moment she pulled it out of her explorer's pouch, a chorus of angry squawking drew her attention. Out of the cover of some of the trees appeared a quartet of Pikipek. But along with them were two larger birds, with longer, multicolored beaks.

The Pikipek spotted Shane and Tessa and cawed excitedly. Their bigger counterparts nodded and then dive-bombed the two canines. Tessa yelped and fell to the ground. The Escape Orb tumbled from her grasp.

"Ack! Grab the orb, Vulpix!" Tessa barked. Shane sprinted forward, only to skid to a halt as the Pikipek surrounded him, cawing angrily.

"Hey! What's the big idea?" Shane hissed, gathering cold air in his mouth.

"Noise! Noise! Bad noise!" the Pikipek chanted in unison.

"Oh, for god's sake. We didn't make any noises!" Shane said. "We're just picking up some nectar."

"No! No! No nectar for noise-makers!" the Pikipek chanted.

Team Radiance quickly went on the defensive. They easily fended off the flock. Tessa got the two Trumbeaks to crash into each other and then fried them with swings of her electrified fists, while Shane caught a lucky break and had the Pikipeks get their beaks stuck in the ground when they couldn't hit him. He swiftly dispelled them with a single frosty cloud.

"In the words of a terrible movie villain: 'Stay cool, bird boy,'" Shane taunted, using a thick accent.

"Are you about done making a fool of yourself?" Tessa groaned. "Seriously, what were you doing with your voice? You sounded like someone was holding your head underwater."

"It's not your concern, Riolu," Shane chuckled. "Just grab the Escape Orb so we can get the heck out of here before something else goes wrong."

"Okaaaaaay. Ignoring your blatantly obvious attempts to jinx us here, I need you to grab another flower first. I accidentally stepped on the one you picked up before," Tessa said. Shane nodded and went to scoop up a new flower. Tessa grabbed the Escape Orb. It released a rainbow light that swallowed up both members of Team Radiance.


~Aeon Town~

Team Radiance departed the port and made their way toward the town square. "Oricorio should be waiting by the fountain," Tessa said.

"What are we looking for, exactly?" Shane asked. "I've never heard of an Oreo-coro, but it sounds like these delicious cookies we have back in the human world."

"Or-i-core-io," Tessa corrected. "And it should be a yellow bird with large balls of feathers on the ends of her wings."

Shane froze in the middle of the pathway. "Uh, Riolu?"

Tessa looked up from the piece of parchment containing Oricorio's original request. "What?"

Shane pointed a forepaw forward. "I see a bird. But it's definitely not yellow."

Tessa looked forward, only to frown at the sight of a purple-feathered bird. Instead of big, round puffs of feathers, this bird had flat, fan-shaped extensions on her wings. She also had a small crest on her head, with two feathers protruding from each side. Curiously, she wore a rainbow shawl around her shoulders.

Shane narrowed his eyes. "And look who's beside the bird," he growled, drawing the attentions of both the bird and Lycanroc, who stood next to it.

"What up, Snowy?" Lycanroc fixed his glowing red eyes on Shane. "You seem a bit peeved, mate. Just having a friendly chat with one of the locals. Trying to get up to speed with things around town."

"Oricorio, is that you?" Tessa asked, looking between the bird and the paper in her hand.

"Oh. Oh dear. You must be Team Radiance, huh? This is kinda awkward, isn't it?" Oricorio pressed one of the fanned edges of her wing to her beak.

"Puh-lease don't tell me we went to all that trouble and got the wrong nectar," Shane groaned. "I can't read that chicken scratch and you said she wanted purple nectar."

"That's not a mistake. I did want some purple nectar," Oricorio confirmed. "It's just that Lycanroc here happened to show up and had nectar flowers with him. And, well, I heard that Twilight Forest has become a bit perilous as of late, so I kind of jumped at the chance to take the nectar."

Shane narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Is that a fact? You just so happened to have some flowers that are utterly useless to you?"

Lycanroc bared his fangs at Shane. "Are you calling me out, Snowy? Matter of fact, I like the smell of nectar flowers. Yeah, I get it. It's not terribly manly. But it's soothing. Way better than all the dust I breath in back home. I found some flowers growing in Circadian Coast, so I kept them. Didn't mind giving one to Oricorio. I've still got a few more." He produced a quartet of different-colored nectar flowers from his scruffy mane.

"I'm still willing to pay you guys, since you went through the trouble of finding one," Oricorio said. She reached into her bag and produced a nice stack of coins and some seeds. Tessa accepted the payment, keeping some of it in her paws to give to Braviary upon return to the guild.

Shane continued giving Lycanroc a stink eye. "Aww, c'mon, Snowy. Just an honest misunderstanding here. Didn't mean to chafe your tails, mate." He turned back to Oricorio, ignoring Shane's cross expression. "Anyway, it was nice talking to ya, sheila. Safe travels back home."

Oricorio bowed gracefully. "Thank you very much, sir. You have a good night, as well." And with that, she turned and fluttered her way into the air. Lycanroc turned to head back toward the guild.

"Guess we should head back, too. Sun's starting to set," Tessa said.

"Hold up a moment." Shane blocked off Tessa's path. "You aren't seriously telling me you believe that drivel, are you? He 'had some flowers on him already.' That's total baloney. I'll bet he tailed us and snagged some flowers while we were occupied with those birds."

"Vulpix, I think the summer heat's getting to you," Tessa scoffed. "What would Lycanroc have to gain by doing that? Especially when he's here to investigate Pokémon going crazy."

"The guild's trust. Duh!" Shane said. "He's weaseling into their good graces." Tessa gave him a look of disbelief. "Look, there was a loud howl before we got attacked, remember?" Shane asked, prompting Tessa to nod. "So, that was totally a werewolf howl."

"A what?"

"Werewolves! They're creepy, two-legged wolves in the human world that are triggered by full moons and tend to give off these loud, creepy howls," he explained. Shane craned his neck skyward and belted out an, "Arrrrrroooooooooooo! … kinda like that."

"Oy! Keep it down, you mangy pup!"

A rotten berry hurtled out from a building window and splattered across Shane's left hip. He stumbled forward, grimacing at the sight of purple splotches in his fur. "Oh, come on! It wasn't even that loud!" he protested.

Tessa crossed her arms. "Where are you going with this, exactly? Lycanrocs aren't werewolves. They're Lycanrocs."

"But they look exactly like werewolves in my world. It had to have been him," Shane said. "Lycanroc followed us, howled to anger the wild Pokémon there, and grabbed flowers while we were preoccupied."

"Don't you think we would've seen him if that had happened?"

"No, because we were busy trying not to get pecked to death," Shane said.

Tessa shook her head. "I'm sorry, Vulpix. But to me, that just seems like an even stranger coincidence than Lycanroc finding some nectar flowers on his own and picking them." She walked past him. "Let's go to the guild. I'm getting hungry and I really don't have the patience to listen to more of your ranting."

Shane kicked at the ground with a forepaw. "I'm not ranting! It's the truth, dang it!" He turned and ran after her. "Don't walk away from me. We're not done with this subject yet!"


~Aeon Observatory~

"It's so quiet in here. Where is everyone?" Shane looked around the assembly area and found it empty. The lone exception was Null, who had curled up into an awkward ball, sleeping next to the pond. 'That might be cute if I wasn't looking at this world's equivalent of Frankenstein's monster,' Shane thought.

"Shhhhh!" Togedemaru appeared out of the northern hallway. "Will you keep your voice down, Vulpix? Comfey's trying to concentrate back here!"

"Did someone get hurt?" Tessa asked.

"… I think so. I'm really not sure how to describe it. You're better off looking for yourselves," Togedemaru said, and then led the duo back to the nursing station. They found Magearna, Growlithe, Braviary, Metagross, Mimikyu, and Lycanroc gathered around one of the beds. And on that bed lay a Pokémon that looked like a larger Yungoos, with a thicker head of hair. However, this Pokémon's body was just various shades of gray.

Hypothesis: Aromatherapy use may allow Floral Healing to work, Metagross stated.

"Whoa, what happened here?" Shane asked, trying to push his way through the group.

"Hey now, Snowy. Stay back a bit. Give the lady some room to work," Lycanroc scolded, drawing an annoyed glare from Shane.

"I'm sorry, Guildmaster," Comfey squeaked. "I can't seem to do anything to Gumshoos here. Nothing's working. I… I think he might be…"

I do not detect any energy signatures from Gumshoos, Magearna confirmed. Surely you would agree with that observationary, Guildmaster?

Metagross stepped back. Affirmative. Fact: this Pokémon was drained of its life force and spiritual energy. Fact: this is not a Gumshoos anymore. Merely an empty shell.

Shane noticed Tessa grimace at this. "Uh, Tessa and I have seen this happen before," Shane declared.

"And we saw it with those wild Mareanies in Sunset Shoals," Growlithe added.

"Well, yeah. I did find this feller along the Clayback River," Braviary recalled. "He was screeching and flailing his arms around like he was on fire."

"Did ya notice anything else, mate?" Lycanroc asked. "Maybe some dark black crystals somewhere in the ground?"

"Sorry, Lycanroc. I didn't see nothing like that," Braviary replied.

'Of course he didn't. Because Lycanroc's making all that stuff up. How can I be the only one who sees that?' he thought.

"Espeon and Umbreon must've gotten to this poor bloke," Lycanroc growled, shaking his head. "The nerve of them creeps, I tell ya. If I get my paws on them…"

Order: do not do anything rash. Reminder: you are under our roof and will follow my directions, Metagross stated.

"Ain't nothing we can do about this feller fer now," Braviary said. "But what should we do with him, Guildmaster? I reckon it ain't safe to keep him 'round these parts."

Affirmative. Order: return him to Clayback River, Metagross said and departed the room. The other guild members started to disperse, save for Lycanroc and Braviary, who continued inspecting Gumshoos.

"So, ya think the crystals ya saw in the Cavernous Depths are causing this?" Braviary asked.

Lycanroc nodded. "I'll bet Espeon and Umbreon made 'em with corrupted Entercard energy or something."

Shane stomped a forepaw on the ground. "Vulpix, don't–" Tessa started but Shane stormed past her.

"You're lying, Lycanroc!" Shane accused. "Just like you lied about 'conveniently' having nectar flowers on you. You totally stalked my teammate and I during our mission!"

Braviary raised a brow. "Now what's all this hullabaloo?"

"Ah, don't pay Snowy any mind." Lycanroc said, waving dismissively. "His tails are all twisted up cause I gave some purple nectar to an Oricorio who asked him to find some. It was just a coincidence." He craned his head to the side. "By the way, you've uh, got a little something on yer side there, mate." He brushed a paw along his hip.

"Ha! You wish it was a coincidence." Shane turned to Braviary. "In Twilight Forest, we heard a Pokémon howl loudly and then we were attacked by birds. It was obviously this guy who did it."

"Why would I do that? I ain't got no reason to go to Twilight Forest. It'd be a waste of time," Lycanroc scoffed.

"Because you're here to mooch off the guild's generosity," Shane declared, snorting out tufts of frosty air. "You made up some story about a pair of famous Pokémon turning evil and attacking this place. That's completely ridiculous!" He turned to Braviary. "And it's more ridiculous that you're actually buying into this."

Tessa's eyes widened and she stepped back toward the hallway. "Oh no. Tell me he didn't just snap at Braviary like that," she squeaked.

"Well I could, but I'd be lying."

"Gah!" Tessa jumped. She looked beside her to see Togedemaru standing there. "W-What are you doing here? I thought you left."

"I heard Vulpix shouting and came back. I do so love seeing rookies get chewed out by Braviary," she giggled.

"Listen up, hoss," Braviary said, narrowing his eyes at Shane. "There are Electrikes and Houndours in Twilight Forest. Ya just heard one of them. Now, I could understand if'n ya were a bit nervous around a Midnight Lycanroc. Most smaller 'mons are. But going around and calling him a no-good scoundrel when he ain't done nothing is where I draw the line. Not to mention, the Guildmaster already told you he ain't sensed no hostile intent."

Braviary shook his head. "Apparently, that didn't get through that thick skull of yers. So, maybe a day on sentry duty will adjust yer attitude?"

"Oh, come on!" Shane hissed. "I'm being serious!"

Lycanroc licked his lips. "I'm real sorry ya ain't a fan of me, Snowy. But this is just who I am." He shrugged. "I don't want our continent becoming some dumping ground for dark magic crystals, that's all."

"And that sentry assignment goes fer yer pardner, too," Braviary said, glancing at Tessa.

Tessa's eyes widened. "What? Don't lump me in with him! We couldn't disagree more on this issue!"

Togedemaru fell onto her back laughing. "Aha ha! You sure found a real winner of a teammate, there. Wonder what the powers that be were thinking when they brought this guy over from the human world." She stumbled back down the hallway. "Oh, wait'll Serperior hears about this. What a hoot!"

Shane's tails drooped. "But–"

"If yer gonna keep on yapping, I can extend your sentry duty punishment," Braviary declared. "Well, go on. Still got something to say?"

Shane hung his head and shook it.

"Good." Braviary turned to Lycanroc. "Let's get ya some food. Ya must be starved."

"Actually, no need." Lycanroc pulled a small bag out from his mane. "I bought something from that café over in town. Because I don't want to – oh, how did Snowy phrase it? – 'mooch off the guild's generosity.'"

Shane's eyes widened. 'Oh, come on! He probably stole money from someone to get that,' he thought, but a death glare from Tessa kept his mouth shut.

"Suit yerself, pardner," Braviary said. "Yer still welcome to join us in the dining area." He pointed a wing forward guided Lycanroc to the hallway. Lycanroc turned and gave Shane a cocky smirk as he walked by.

Shane gritted his teeth, but waited until Lycanroc and Braviary disappeared from his view before turning to Tessa and saying, "Did you see that look he gave me? He knows he's getting away with thi–"


Tessa struck Shane in the gut with a glowing palm. Shane crumpled to the ground like a destroyed stack of cards.

"Here's a little suggestion, partner. When I tell you to ignore Lycanroc, listen to me! He's trying to get a rise out of you and you're making it too easy for him. I'm sure he'll be gone before you know it," she hissed, and then stormed off down the hallway, shaking her head disapprovingly.

Comfey floated down toward Shane. "Oh dear," she sighed. "I hate it when teams have infighting."

Shane staggered to his feet. 'I don't get it. I know I'm right here. Why isn't anyone believing me?'


Next time: Shane does his best Admiral Ackbar impression. It's not what it sounds like, trust me!
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JX Valentine

Welp! This is gonna be different from my norm, but I figure since you’ve done an awesome job at reviewing others, I’d give your style a crack. ;)

also omg i have so much to catch up on

And here we go!

There’s something nostalgic about starting off with the traditional PMD starter, to be honest. I mean, first off, being all like “gdi this is not what I wanted LEMME RESTART”? #relatable. But more importantly, it’s always cute to see a glimpse of what the token human’s life was like before the shenanigans happened. It’s a little like starting off a trainer fic and reading the chapter in which the main character gets their first pokémon. Some seasoned vets will write essays about why that beginning has been done to death and is therefore Not Recommended, but at the same time, there’s this air of quaintness about it, a kind of je ne sais quoi that just kinda reminds you of older fics in a good way. Like how the “professor’s lab” chapter might call to mind old fics on Angelfire or what-have-you.

Babbling aside, also, it’s always hilarious to see the loser’s roots before he becomes the hero to save them all, lmao. And Shane hella fits that description. I mean, prior to being dragged to the PMD-verse, his biggest conflict was the fact that he would much rather play video games than be out in the rain, working.

I think, honestly, there are two things that I thought were a bit iffy about this part:

1. Not to be super-nitpicky, but “young-adult male” is an … odd way to describe someone. It’s usually better to gun for visuals when describing a person because young adult could mean a number of things. Some young adults look like they’re twelve. Others look like they’re thirty-two. While you can definitely say that someone’s young (of course), “young adult” implies something pretty specific—like you’re nailing down their age, basically.

(On that note, “brown-haired male” was definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s the “male” part that was a bit iffy, imo. Usually, you don’t see people describe themselves/other people as “male” or “female” unless they were really emphasizing gender norms, yanno?)

2. I admit I’m not completely sure what to make of the disembodied voice that kept Shane company as he was dragged kicking and screaming out of his world. I mean, I suppose eventually, that bit will make sense, but there’s just something over-the-top about it, especially given that it’s sandwiched between hella serious bits o’ prophecy.

Chapter 1:
Tessa is adorable. Just sayin’. (Although again, not to be nitpicky, but I find it odd that her mom’s not nicknamed. Like, I get that in the PMD universe, you only really nickname your own characters while NPCs go by their species, but it’s still odd that Lucario would name her daughter, considering the fact that names are apparently rare in her world.


"Okay!" Eevee nodded. "Maybe if I run fast enough… I'll learn Quick Attack!"

Eevee is also adorable.

I have to admit I do like what you’ve done with Shane in this chapter. It would’ve been so easy to: A) give him amnesia, B) have him freak out, or C) generally take this seriously, but it’s so nice to see him assume this all is a dream. Largely because that sets him up for being taken down so hard later, which gives the reader hope that they’re gonna see some hilarious, hilarious character breakage.

(Also, his reaction to being a vulpix is A+. Shane has his priorities straight, and it’s great.)

I do wonder why the entire gang that jumped Tessa was so eager to identify themselves. I mean, I know Team Rocket does it all the time, but if you throw around your names for the good guys to pick up on and track you with, you’ve probably gotta be pretty sure of yourself. Which, okay, maybe they are, but still. Point is, idk, that whole bit seems a little less mysterious now that we know already who’s behind it, yanno?

Chapter 2:
Shane quickly discovered that his bravado came with a fatal flaw.


"No, we can't give up yet," Shane insisted. "I died on the first Goomba in World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. the first time I played it, but I sure didn't throw that game away."

To be fair, Shane, Goombas look like mushroom-shaped friends until you learn that they aren’t.

"You dope. They don't make clothing out of gems," Sneasel barked. "That'd be mad uncomfortable."

Lady Gaga would beg to differ.


He cleared his throat. "Surrender… you fiends! Return the scarf at once."

“That oughta do it. Thanks very much, Shane.”

And I could go on, but I know I have a character limit to deal with here. So I’ll just say that this entire battle was delightful. Like … Shane learning what happens when you don’t bother keeping up with canon that he’s an ice-type in the most painful way possible. Shane running away from Jangmo-o’s Bide while screaming like a little girl. Shane just failing hard yet somehow still succeeding … it’s just great.

And then you have Shane falling right back into the most hilarious tropes ever with the whole “aren’t you going to offer me the other half of the scarf” business. Poor kid is gonna get schooled so hard by this adventure.

Chapter 3:
Tessa took a deep breath and stared at the ground. 'C'mon, Tessa. You can't let that guy get under your fur. No more beating around the bush, here. Just… close your eyes if you have to.'

lmao Tessa, you poor, sweet summer child.

"Like, what if we run into other Riolus? How am I supposed to know who's who? Heck, how do any of you even talk to each other when you're in groups?"

You got a point there, buddy.

Nah, but forreal, I like how you handled that thing I wasn’t too sure about way back in chapter 1. I mean, it raises a couple more questions (Where did Lucario get the name “Tessa”? Do all pokémon have nicknames or just this one? What does it meeeeean?), but at the very least, you actually do address that it’s a bit unusual/unique to this particular riolu, which is to say I stand corrected about my earlier statement. :V

"We all have subtle differences between one another," Tessa continued. "I for one, have extra tufts of fur on top of my ears compared to other Riolu."

Just imagine what would happen if Shane encountered an Officer Jenny or a Nurse Joy in the wild.

And forreal, for a first excursion, the entirety of Dewdrop Woods was a delight. I mean, first off, Shane running off on his own, only to be jumped in a way that requires Tessa to save him—that was gold, especially since it involved the usage of Chekhov’s Rocks. But then, despite being jumped and dumped, it’s just adorable to see Shane so unflappable and upbeat and so very him. (Making fun of Tessa’s grammar, for example. And making fun of Yungoos’s hair, for another. And taunting the tree Yungoos, for another.)

He’s a great hero, in other words. :D

Chapter 4:
Idk why you’re so underconfident with your battles. Everything you see here in the first half of the chapter is exactly what you should be doing. The description is clear enough to give us a fantastic mental image of what’s going on, the pacing’s great, and the choreography is perfect. You even make sure it’s not just Pokémon A uses Move B on Pokémon C. Like for example, that part where Tessa bit Trapinch and proceeded to pin him to the ground? Sure, there was obviously a move being used there (what with the blackened fangs and all), but you improvised and added a little more to it to make it feel like we’re watching an action scene, rather than a turn-based RPG battle.

(I also adore how Shane was basically useless for a good chunk of the battle, lmao. That’s right, Tessa. Get ‘em, girl. Show them you don’t need a man to stand up for you!)

Speaking of things I love, I love Yungoos after the battle/revealing himself (and Trapinch) to be guild members. The mental image of Yungoos mimicking Metagross with a thick Brooklyn accent is priceless.

"Now hang on, Vulpix. Don't you think you should at least read this over fir–?"

Shane grabbed Tessa's paw, dipping it into the ink, and stamped it down next to his pawprint. She gave him a look of utter disbelief. "You… you… you…" She started gnashing her teeth together.

The world is definitely in good hands with Team Radiance. *sage nod*

Magearna is adorable. Just … “begging cycle.” She has a begging cycle. AND DISAPPOINTMENT LEVELS.

Bonus #1:
No one here is allowed to be cuter than me.
I love it when main characters are self-aware.

Whoever's creating this adventure is clearly a hack of an individual with immense levels of bias and apparently no sense of shame.
So in other words, he’s a fanfiction writer. :D *ba-da-da-da-da-dum!*

Iiiin short, I loved this extra. It’s not that easy to get humor right, especially self-deprecating humor, but somehow, this works. Probably because of that note of self-deprecating humor. Like, I dig an author who’s humble enough to realize he’s got a few flaws in his work and is willing to joke about that. ;D

Chapter 5:
Aww, it’s our old friend, Disembodied Voice! How I’ve missed you.

But honestly, the best part is Shane criticizing the voice. He’s so genre savvy it’s amazing. With just the right amount of dork (what with the dancing around at the idea of being a hero and all) to make him fun.

Also, Tessa is my girl. She is just. So strong. To put up with the **** she does. Namely Shane. :’)

Hey, anything related to Ho-Oh is bound to stay in my brain.

You have excellent taste, Shane. (Also, I know he just doesn’t know what an Alolan vulpix is, but could this love of Ho-oh also play a part in why he’s so salty he’s not a fire-type?)

He… he actually thought this through?
It’s the biggest twist in the story so far! :V

One of these days yer gonna mouth off to the wrong feller and end up tied to a branch by them fussy little tails of yers.
I love probable foreshadowing! 8)

But maaaan, this chapter ended on a Serious Note. Not that that’s a bad thing. It was actually hella poignant. Tessa isn’t one to trust too easily, and here she is, begging Shane to promise her that he’ll help her. And just when the reader thinks Shane’s relenting or that he’s taking her seriously, he turns around and says that bit about saving the world from evil. It says so much about not only Tessa but also Shane and the story itself—like, the story thus far is only goofy because Shane is a hella goofy character. But that’s what’s great: the fact that he doesn’t realize that he’s surrounded by actually serious, very real things and that his actions have consequences beyond slapstick.

And honestly, Tessa’s relationship with him is so refreshing because of this. It’s like … they’re not okay. They won’t be okay unless they work hard on their issues, but that won’t happen until Shane grows up. The story just does a great job at laying out the fact that, yeah, Shane has a lot of character growth ahead of him, which in turn is a great way to hook a reader and keep them reading. Of course I want to see Shane either grow as a character or **** up so badly it bites him in the ***. Either way, it would just be so satisfying to watch, just because you’ve done wonders at setting up either scenario.

Chapter 6:
Speaking from experience, some Pokémon get taken in by the excitement of exploring and don't really consider any of the repercussions.

This. This is exactly what I’m talking about—the idea that every other character takes exploring seriously except Shane, and while he’s a newcomer to this world, it’s still an amazingly stark difference in mindset and adds a layer of depth to your fic that imo not a lot of PMD runs touch.

But aww, watching those two take on their first outlaw. I mean, they were actually a right mess, and I still feel sorry for Tessa because despite how hard she tries, Shane’s inability to listen (or aim) will literally be the death of her someday, but! That part at the end where it turned out the voices were allies? I legit breathed a sigh of relief. Like, I was half expecting them to be their own group of thieves or even in leagues with Tsareena, and let’s face it, Team Radiance is nowhere near ready to take on two pretty big battles in a row. Besides, Team Specter is adorable.

Chapter 7:
I like how your story has an obligatory beach episode. *shot!*

And I love Magearna.

Aww, it’s not a beach episode. :(

Realtalk, tho, I love how the problems in this chapter are a direct result of Shane’s … well, incompetence, for lack of a better word. Sure, you would think making conflicts that are directly because the character did something horrendously stupid would be a given for writing, but weirdly enough, it’s often rather rare to see it done—or to see it done as well as what happens here. Like, clearly, the fact that Shane didn’t think to close the door is so simple, and it blends so seamlessly with what went down here. You can basically look at it and go, “Yeah. Yeah, Shane done ****ed up.”

(Same thing could be said for Shane getting in the way instead of doing what he’s told. It’s so much fun to watch him get served so hard!)

And! It’s also delightful to see him try to deflect blame and make excuses. Idk, Shane is just a wonderfully unlikable character. As in, he’s got so many problems that make it easy to see why other characters might not like him, but these are the sorts of problems that clearly point to character growth in his future. Braviary points out that the “honest mistake” that Shane made here is an easily avoidable one, and in the same fashion, a lot of, shall we say, honest mistakes in Shane’s general personality are things that can easily be fixed down the road. It’s what makes your story so fascinating so far, imo. It’s just so much fun to wonder when he’s going to grow because when he does, it’s going to be so satisfying to look backwards and see how far he’s come.

"No, that isn't it!" she barked, stomping a foot on the ground. "Because you keep promising that you'll be more careful. But that hasn't happened yet! You haven't really made any effort to do that."
yaaaassss queen, drag him

Tessa pivoted and watched Espy shake her head.
As my first point of criticism in ages, be careful about bits of narration like this in the middle of a quote. At first glance, a reader will parse it as indication that Tessa (the subject here) is the speaker, rather than Espy.

Also, word to Sike’s theory that Solgaleo is responsible for Shane being here, but it’s def Dawn Wings Necrozma who’s infecting pokémon. Calling it now, halfway through my rush to catch up.

"I… I told you not to come after me," she whispered.

"I know, I know," Shane sighed, lowering his head guiltily. "But I felt bad… like, really bad. I went to Braviary and he offered to fly me over to find you. And then we saw what was happening and, well, leaped into action."

Tessa wanted to ask what Growlithe was doing with them, but she noticed Shane poking at the grass with a forepaw. "Um, are you, y'know, mad that I… didn't listen to you again?" he stammered.

Her muzzle stiffened. This was definitely the most vulnerable she'd seen Shane since they met. And she was the one who had gotten attacked.

Aww, he’s learning!

Chapter 8:
"I just want to do things differently here. To be better than my human self," Shane sighed. "This may come as a surprise to you, but I'm not exactly well-liked over in my human life."

'Gee… I wonder why,' Tessa mentally sneered. Guilt immediately bubbled up inside her for such a thought. She bit her lower lip.

"It's not that I'm a bad person. At least… I don't think I am," Shane started rambling. "And it's not like my life sucks or anything like that. I have a place to live, food to eat, and a job that pays enough to keep me comfortable. I can't complain about that stuff. It's just…" He hung his head shamefully. "… I, uh, don't really have any friends in the human world."
On the one hand, yeah, that sounds about right for Shane’s kinda character. On the other … hoo.

You know, though, even though I’ve heard this kind of justification for shitty behavior in a fic before, in Shane’s case, it’s actually a lot more heart-wrenching and believable. It doesn’t exactly make him likable, of course, but it’s like … of course a dude who had a mediocre, lonely life in his own world would want a chance to be the hero and lead an exciting life in a new one. And then you have that moment in the last couple of chapters where Tessa accuses Shane of panicking over the idea that maybe he was brought there accidentally, rather than because he’s special...

Idk. It’s painful to go through a good chunk of your life, being told that you aren’t going to amount to much and that you aren’t worth it, and the moment you think have an opportunity to be something special—something people can look up to and like—you overdo it, only to be told that, no, that opportunity wasn’t meant for you … that can definitely break a person. So it just makes so much sense that Shane basically did a 180 in terms of personality, going from this happy-go-lucky, impulsive, overconfident bundle of energy to someone far less enthusiastic about his whole situation.

‘Course, it’s still kinda shitty that he nearly got Tessa hurt on multiple occasions and treats the guild like his own personal hero story, but still.

"But why shouldn't I be? The human world… it's not a very nice place. So many terrible things happen there. Humans aren't like Pokémon, you know."

On the one hand, at the time you wrote this, this is true, but still...

But I can attempt to explainolate the key points,

Exposition mode has loaded.

I love Magearna.

(By the by, don’t think I skipped over the bit about Null. His backstory is fascinating, and I have no doubt he is somehow connected to Shane. And in any case, it’s true that Null could be amnesiac and a human-turned-pokémon, so it’ll be interesting to see where his story goes from here.

Of course, he was already going to be interesting because of why Type:Null was created in the first place according to canon, but then again, canon backstories don’t often hold up in PMD-verse, so idk.)

Aaaand of course that exposition. Lemme guess: Magearna’s not entirely accurate when she said no exploration team has reached Celestial Island, is she? 8)

Chapter 9:
aaaaah, that conversation with tessa and her mom


His eyes widened. "–Oh god, I'm totally turning into girl!"
I’m looking forward to the standard Shane beatdown of the chapter. 8)

"Um, but Vulpixes are cool," Tessa pointed out. "They're ice-types, after all."
The most shocking revelation of all: Tessa has a sense of humor.

"Aww, but Shane, your Extrasensory is perfect for knocking them free of that super-tall tree," Tessa exclaimed. "Can't you just help us out a little bit?"
Oh, Tessa, honey.

"No way. I can read the stars, and they're telling me I'm gonna end up buried under a pile of apples."
“The stars are not in position for this tribute these apples.”

Hoo, the infected munchlax are creepy af. Just … seeing them come out of nowhere and drone on about infecting Team Radiance is like something out of a big ol’ zombie horror.

One point of crit, tho:

Each critter had a pair of black arms extending out from their stomachs. The arms ended with mouth-like pincers. Their actual arms were much shorter by comparison and ended with sharp, yellow claws. Each of the Pokémon's ears were covered in jagged, black cubes. All of the cubes bore red, crescent-moon insignias on them.

The paragraph above it already kinda goes into detail about what these things look like, so when you hit this, the reader is actually expecting them to do something. That, combined with the fact that a lot of these sentences begin very similarly to one another, kinda makes the paragraph a bit awkward. Perhaps it might be better to integrate this into the paragraph above it and weave a few actions in for good measure?

"Look at the Munchlaxes," Steenee gasped, pointing a hand forward. The trio watched in horror as the black squares covering the Munchlaxes' ears faded into a thick black mist. It swirled around each of their bodies, spiraling down toward the dirt. As the mist sank into the earth, all of the color seemed to drain from the Munchlaxes' bodies.

"They're disintegrating," Shane hollered, his legs quivering. He saw the irises and pupils on one of the Muchlax's faces dissolve off its body, following the black mist into the ground.
Welp. This just got more interesting.

And aww, Null is kinda sorta joining up with them. ;_; Yes, young one. Join the shenanigans.

Chapter 10:
omfg young!braviary is adorable

(Also, I love how the three of them are so confident they call themselves MIB before they’ve fully evolved. They’re just adorable.)

Also also, I just love the fact that you’re letting Braviary narrate this time around, just because his way of speaking adds just the right sort of color to the story. His dialect is definitely there in things like “didn’t have no time” and “wished he kept his yap shut,” but it’s still readable (in that you didn’t murder your prose with apostrophes), which makes this whole shebang charming and fun.

"No, cap'n," Prisma barked. "But these blokes were tearin' up the jungle and I weren't about to let 'em destroy our cover. I was attacking from the bushes and I took this here Rufflet as a hostage so those lubbers wouldn't try to keelhaul me."

I felt a cloud of icy mist brush along my feathers. "For the love of– how many times do I have to tell you, runt? Ditch the stupid voice. We're scavengers, but we're not savages. No need to speak like you jumped out of a hatchling's story."
oh my god

Chapter 11:
Ooh. Damp caves full of monsters? Pirate riddles? Treasures? Now this is an adventure.

"There's a drink in old man Crabominable's place that's only for top-ranked exploration teams: the Armored Brew!" Torracat explained. "My dad told me all about it: 'One part spicy, two parts sweet, to make the best adventurers feel the heat. Add a pinch of bitter, and a half part dry, and now this hardy brew is ready for you to try!' That must be how we can solve this riddle."
Ngl, this sounds delicious.

Spike it with rum, and you’ve got yourself a deal. Unless these are fermented berries, anyway.

But realtalk, I loved the puzzle. It was so hella clever, especially the part at the end where the “dry” rock was split in two.

Lol, kinda amazed that Team MIB didn’t put two and two together regarding the Armored Adventurer’s species back when they saw wimpod scuttle about, but then again, that is very, very, painfully true to PMD fashion, amirite?

But! The battle itself was a delight, complete with a puzzle of its own. It would have been so easy to just have Team MIB smack the Armored Adventurer around, but forcing them to break the crystals first and establishing a nice sense of danger with Metang getting one-shotted almost immediately were both nice touches.

Chapter 12:
Why did it take me this long to realize Prisma is a younger Lucario?

"Hey, cap'n!" Prisma croaked, trying to scramble away from Torracat. "Can't ye give me one of them berries? I be feeling a touch weak."

Feraligatr turned and glared at her. "Didn't I already tell you you've lost ration privileges? Stop complaining and deal with the cat or you'll be facing limited rations for far longer."
Poor Prisma. ;_;

"You fools just don't understand," she hissed, "I owe my life to Feraligatr and his crew. I can't turn my back on them. Things don't work that way with us scavengers. A life debt takes a lifetime to repay, and walking out on that debt isn't an option."
Poor Prisma. ;_;

(Also, Torracat is Tessa’s dad, isn’t he?)

I have deployed the flare to request Sharpedo transportation back to Azure Cape. We can walk to the guild from there. Metang announced.

I know this is a bit late to mention, but as a heads up, the “Metang announced” is a dialogue tag. As such, you’d punctuate what he says in the same way you’d punctuate anything in quotation marks. Same goes for a lot of similarly structured stuff throughout Rufflet/Braviary’s chapters.

"Look, I don't know how I ended up under Feraligatr's care, okay?" she growled. "All I can remember is suddenly waking up on Feraligatr's ship. He said he'd found me passed out and half-buried in the sand on some beach.

"I have a name, you know," Prisma said. "It's Prisma. Feraligatr laughed when I said that to him. Are you going to act the same way?"

Torracat and I exchanged confused looks. "A… name?" Torracat parroted. "I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand."

Prisma looked dumbfounded. "Did I hit you in the head too hard? How can you not know what a name is? It's what you call yourself."
Welp, I stand corrected about that thing concerning names I’d mentioned chapters and chapters ago.

Bonus #2:
"It just smells so goooooooood," Shane whined. "Hurry up and break me off a piece. You're the only one here with hands."
It’s so nice to see Shane being Shane again.

"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."
It’s so nice to see Shane being Shane again. 8)

"SILENCE, WELP!" Zekrom roared. 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."

Honestly, the best part of this chapter is 100% imagining Tessa narrating this story. Like, I know this is supposed to be pulled out of the present to form a quasi flashback (meaning, the audience is meant to envision what’s going on as it happens, not Tessa actually speaking these lines), but it’s just more entertaining to imagine that Tessa is straight-up saying these lines, word-for-word, perhaps with a bit of pantomime on the side. (It’s the lack of transition between the story and the frame, tbqh. Not that that’s a bad thing because, as I’ve said, this mental image is golden.)

The other golden thing about this scene is the fact that Tapu Koko speaks like the Wyld Stallyns.

(Yep. Ghostbusters, The Road to El Dorado, and Bill & Ted. I’m referencing all the excellent stuff in this review.)

"Didn't you think it was great? I really liked your Zekrom voice."
oh my god

"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."
It’s so nice to see Shane being Shane again. (ʘ‿ʘ✿)

Chapter 13:
The rag had a face scribbled on it with crayon, along with a set of pointed ears. Even weirder, the rag had a separate strip of gray cloth attached to its back, forming a lightning-bolt shaped tail.

It had an oversized, circular head that was purple at its base and pink at the top. There was a small, rounded protrusion on its forehead. Similar protrusions extended from each side of its head, but these were topped by needle-like pins. A third pin stuck out the top of its head. Its tiny body had four, nub-tipped, purple limbs and a slender purple tail.
As I’ve mentioned for an earlier chapter, it can be a bit dangerous to have standalone descriptions like this. The reason why is because you’re basically stopping the narration—and thus, the flow of the story—in order to give the reader details, so it feels like the reader is being pulled aside, rather than further immersed in the story. You can see that effect especially with the second description, as the conversation between Absol and Sticky is put on hold temporarily (and the shock of seeing Sticky in the first place is lessened because you’re putting the action of the scene on pause).

In short, what you’ll probably want to do is try to integrate action into your description so the reader feels as if the scene is moving forward, even if you’re stopping to describe a character. For example, rather than simply say that Sticky had an oversized, circular head and nub-tipped, purple limbs, you could say something like, “It bobbed its oversized, circular head as it glided slowly towards Absol. One of its nub-tipped limbs tapped against its lips in thought.” Only probably something smoother, but point is, if you can avoid stopping the narration to describe a character, then your scene will be much stronger. Don’t worry about getting all the details down, either; so long as your reader can still picture what’s going on, it’ll be fine.

(As a side note, there are times when you can stop the narration and describe as many details as possible, but these are moments when a character is particularly focused on an object/person, so you’re trying to make it feel like the action is stopping.)

Finally … not so sure how I feel about the whole “even weirder” bit. Weird is a bit subjective, especially when it comes to pokémon. (Also, that’s a stick. :( )


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

I’d say “welcome back, Shane” to the bit about how he’s figured out what his purpose in this world is, but … I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me really hoping Shane has finally turned over a new leaf, but his explanation sounds different somehow—like he’s taking things a bit more seriously at last. In any case, it kinda sounds like he’s actually concerned about the world, rather than about himself (even though he’s still talking about being The Hero).

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

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

"I think… I swallowed… a leaf!" Shane wheezed.

"What? Who's harshing the mellow in this place?"
I just love Shane, ngl.

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!"
Now that is dynamic description. 8) Notice how the story doesn’t stop to describe what’s going on but rather integrates the description into what you’re doing, so the impact of what this thing looks like is all the more shocking? That. That is exactly the kind of effect you want.

Also, I just love this particular infected ‘mon. Idk, just the idea of this wobbly, mutant jellyfish sitting on top of a parasect just feels like the right kind of creepy—because, like, I’m more imagining that the mushroom that’s normally there just rotted into this jellyfish-like blob, and the tentacles are just the mycelium or something. Idk, either way, it’s gross and perfect for a battle in some creepy woods. (Sorry, but these woods are creepy. Like, it’s the atmosphere: how the place turned from this peaceful, almost idyllic space to this too-quiet, too-empty, dark forest.)

What kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show nonsense is this?
God I hope it’s not Rocky Horror Picture Show nonsense. Slime is somebody’s fetish, yanno. :V

'… that Parasect totally beat us!'
Priorities, Shane!

But forreal, this battle was good. Like, it’s always a delight to see a hero utterly fail, but that, combined with the zombie apocalypse vibes I was getting with the parasect turned this whole battle into one giant adrenaline-pumping fight for survival. In short, it just felt like watching a classic zombie film, only instead of escaping, the plucky heroes are just surrounded by a zombie mob seconds before the calvary finally rolls in.

It should be interesting to see how Shane and the others luck their wounds after this, ngl.[/spoil]

JX Valentine

[spoil]Chapter 14:

Rounding out the first scene, Shane has a bit of a point, albeit it’s a slightly misguided one. It’s all well and good that Team Captivate helped Radiance finish their mission, but what about the parasect? What would happen if someone needed more luminous moss? Or more importantly, what about the fact that the forest next to a town full of nice pokémon is now infested with giant zombie crabs that have the ability to melt into the ground and reform wherever they want? It’s a little weird that no one seems to be concerned about that (for the moment, anyway).

"Nothing. Everything's fine!" Shane lied.
Except for the giant zombie crabs that kicked your tails, amirite, Shane?

Ooh, I like how you’ve even made Aeon Observatory look creepy, with passed out sentries and its all-too-quiet space.

Ngl, I’m getting Gladion vibes from Gallian. He’s rough-around-the-edges, willing to beat people up to get what he needs (needs, not wants), and thoroughly mistrusts the slightly shady organization we’ve been led to believe is good thus far.

(Also, I’m a teeny bit curious about how Tessa’s brother is an absol, but yay, promise for tragic backstories, right?)

Furthermore, nice to see Solgaleo finally spelling things out for Shane. Not only is it good for the reader, but maybe Shane will stop doing stupid stuff in an attempt to prove that he’s the hero. 8) 8) 8)

(Lmao, what am I saying? Of course he won’t.)

And finally for this chapter, it’s so nice to see Tessa and Shane work things out and finally lay all their cards on the table. It’s clear that they both have a lot going on, and a lot of that has only held them back for literally chapters upon chapters. So now that Shane knows about Gallian and Tessa’s insecurities and Tessa knows about Solgaleo and Shane’s tendency to be extremely hard on himself, maybe they can understand one another and finally work towards helping each other out on their respective goals, like real teams should.

Chapter 15:
It is interesting to see that Shane and Tessa are actively trying to cover up what happened in Twilight Forest. Or, well, just the fact that they encountered parasect that were most definitely Not Right. While, sure, Shane is supposed to be the hero, chosen by Solgaleo, one of the main points the PMD games he’s so taken by tried to make is that the chosen one isn’t just one. They’re a focal point for shenanigans, sure, but they’re also one part of a team, and saving the world is an impossible task without the help they find along the way. So by that extent, it would make more sense for them to tell someone about the parasect, even if that someone is, well, a pop star.

(Yet Shane’s cool with telling everyone he’s a human. That’s … odd, ngl.)

"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?"

"Now, now." Shane pet Tessa on the head. "It's not a hard job. I just need you to walk around with a notepad and a pen and jot down all my brilliant thoughts as I deduce the identity of our criminal."
Welp, looks like I spoke too soon … on everything I said regarding the last chapter, lmao.

On the positive side, though, I’m a huge sucker for a well-written detective piece, and Shane’s Sherlocking scratched just the itch, complete with fast-paced analysis and a neat hunt for clues (and a couple of Lestrades trying to distract him). Of course, it’s also a fascinating explanation for what Gallian was doing, and it should be interesting to see how that malasada recipe plays into the fate of the world.

Also, I hope Mimikyu ends up being another team member. That mimikyu is adorable, and I’m not just saying that because eff yeah mimikyu. 8D Nah, but forreal, when he went on about how Gallian’s the only one who paid attention to him lately, I just kinda was like… ;_; Poor little guy. He needs a team.

Shane raised a curious eyebrow. "Did… did we just inadvertently recruit this Mimikyu guy?"

Tessa shrugged.
yeeeesssssss 8)

"It's not his fault, sir," Tessa insisted. "He's under the control of some sort of weird energy. It effected the Meowth that got inside the guild, the Munchlax duo we fought with Steenee, and the Parasect we encountered in Twilight Forest. Something is definitely wrong here."
It’s about time Tessa and/or Shane told someone about this.

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!'
It’s so nice to see Shane’s team filling up with only the best, totally-not-rag-taggiest pokémon.

Chapter 16:
Prologue aside, I love how this special arc starts off with an author’s note explaining that the next few chapters will be focusing on the team that saved Shane and company from a parasect-infused death, and then it launches directly into:
"A little lower… a little lower… a little lo– oh baby, that's the spot right there!"

On another note (but still related to the sentiment):

"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.
Yanno, I realize they’re a bunch of ghosts, but it feels like everyone in Specter is a right creeper. Except Misdreavus, of course.

So I admit I don’t read review responses (or reviews) all that much when attempting to read a longer work, so I will say that finding out this is a “prequel” of sorts to the last episode was a nice surprise. I had a lot of questions about Team Captivate’s appearance right in the nick of time (one of which was, of course, what was their job?), so it’ll be nice to see each of those questions get answered, one by one.

Hey, girls. Um, not to be a downer or anything, but are you sure we should trust this Zoroark?
And that is another question.

Bonus #3:
"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.
You know, when Haunter described Giratina in the chapter before this, I had ideas of what the dreaded ghost-dragon was like.

This … this wasn’t among them, no.

(Not that I’m objecting because this is adorable.)

"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!"
I admit that although he’s adorable, he’s still got that delightful streak of violence about him. Like, he’s so eager for destruction that it’s just incredible.

"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.
oh my god

I mean, every part of this is fantastic, but there’s just something about Mew and Giratina essentially double-teaming the murdercat (and the murdercat being Not a Morning Person who absolutely needs to drink coffee out of a mug that reads “World’s Greatest Pokémon” on it to be remotely personable in the mornings) is just priceless.

"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.
oh my god to all of this, including code by-3.

"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 to see this."
Yanno, I was wondering how this would tie back into our intrepid heroes, and I’m glad that it apparently did so in the most delightful way possible.

Chapter 17:
Zoroark's shoulders sagged. "Because… it's professional courtesy among explorers, wouldn't you say?" Zoroark stepped back and a soft-blue light overtook her body, only to quickly fade. Team Captivate gasped as they noticed Zoroark's mane was whole once more. But beyond that, she had several welts running along her form. Her mane was disheveled and her left eye swollen. Lastly, her right arm lay in a makeshift splint. She winced as she pivoted to showcase the satchel at her waist.
You know, I’m actually a little relieved that this didn’t turn out to be a trap. Like, it would’ve been so easy to go the usual, predictable route and have Zoroark turn out to be one of the enemies, but doing things like this draw out the suspense of what her actual request is and highlights its potential importance to the plot. I mean, whatever she has to say, it’s obviously bad to get her that beaten up. That and if she’s traveling alone, one has to wonder where her team is … or how bad this task is if she’s strong/important enough to not have one but still got beaten up in her first attempt at getting the job done.

I also noticed that little bit of hesitation she displayed when Team Captivate described the parasect. It almost sounds like some higher-ups would take the whole mutated pokémon running around thing seriously, and that … honestly is a relief too, ngl.

Also, I love the description of the traps in the catacombs. The way they work definitely lend the whole shebang an “ancient temple, Indiana Jones-style” kind of feel to them.

Marshadow is definitely an interesting character, although I’m not sure whether or not one should 100% trust him. Sure, he’s been pretty open about emeras (meaning I buy his “I’m just making educated guesses and skipping right past stuff I don’t actually know” claim), but on the other hand, there’s only one pokémon that could’ve assaulted Zoroark the way she described, and he’s looking right at a bunch of strange, magic crystals at the end here.

Chapter 18:
If, by some chance, you have discovered this message and find the large crystal behind you is broken, then our 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 we forcibly melded to the experiment is meant to subdue its aggression, there's no guarantee it won't display hostility.

Well then.


But before she could complete the handoff a massive black shadow overtook her, causing her to let out a terrified screech.
Welp. Called that one.

In a good way, of course! See, you built up the tension to this point well. The reader knows it’s coming, but they don’t know when. And it’s interesting because what Marshadow actually says seems pretty legit, so there’s still that shadow of a doubt (NO PUN INTENDED) as to whether or not the reader is right in anticipating an attack.

Besides, there’s still no clear reason why he would do this kind of thing, especially since he’s clearly been in the catacombs long enough to know how to navigate them (not to mention he leaves by himself easily enough). So it’ll be interesting to see how this plays into everything.

I do have to admit that the idea of a battle while half the participants are literally tied together was a delightful touch. I was worried a little bit about the choreography due to the limited mobility (blocking a battle isn’t easy to do, even if your characters have free range of their movements), but you pulled it off quite nicely, with effective pacing and creative use of techniques.

And now to see how effective Milotic’s plan for escape is, despite that limited mobility, lmao.

Chapter 19:
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."
I legit smiled at this part because I love that extra touch of suspense here. Like, it wasn’t enough to just tie them together and make them scramble to get out. You had to add in a nice, neat little explosion on top of everything else.

Plus raft riding out of the dangerous cave like this is that one part of Aladdin.

And a boss battle with an enemy that can basically teleport.

Zoroark stood on the rock pathway and continued to look at 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 and let out a relieved sigh. "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. In their place emerged a floating, airplane-shaped figure. It had large red wings protruding from a rounded torso of red feathers. In the center of its belly lay a blue triangle. The red on its 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!"
Welp. Definitely didn’t see that one coming. Ngl, I think you execute your twists incredibly well. While I’ve mentioned that before with Marshadow turning on Team Captivate, here, it’s delightful because it’s impossible to have seen this one coming. One thinks the twists are basically over with Zoroark revealing that the whole pearl thing was a ruse, so to have Zoroark come out and reveal herself as Latias practically blindsides a reader in a good way. Yet it also fits because even when Zoroark “came clean,” there was still that uncertainty as to whether or not she was being 100% open and honest because, well, she just revealed that her first job was not a job at all.

In short, this was satisfying, forreal.

She heard an audible sigh. "Oh, Latias… I told you not to drag anyone from the Horizon Guild into this. Because it could whip them up into a panic if they learn there's a Pokémon designed to destroy Legendaries wandering around."
Especially when it led to this nice tidbit about Null. (I mean, sure, Null was canonically created to destroy the UBs, but it’s interesting to see his backstory expanded to be a destroyer of the whole pantheon of legendaries. It definitely begs the question of who created him and just how trustworthy the legendaries are to warrant this.)

Bonus #4:
"Hurry up, Gallian! Kick the ball," she squealed, turning around to backpedal.
Hold on. Lemme get my tissue box because I know this won’t end well.

prisma naruto runs. i love it

Also, can I just say that I like your explanation for how mystery dungeons work? I mean, I know that the whole point is that they’re mystery dungeons and thus unexplainable spaces of constantly morphing terrain, but the idea that the tapus reshape it not only factor in their lore (which is a nice touch) but also just makes complete sense. Of course the land is at the mercy of the whims of what essentially are Hawaiian-themed fae.

But aww, this bonus was quiet, but it gave us plenty of insight into who Prisma was before she left. Whenever she’d pop up in previous chapters, I’d always have a sense that she was this ever-serious, strong-willed guardian-type, but here, you see her teasing Incineroar, awkwardly hiding her intent on going out on a journey, and generally be this figure of raw determination. She’s a hero, but she’s far more relatable of one now that we’ve gotten a good look at her, to be honest. It’s kinda hard not to root for her on her journey to get her memories back, but at the same time, I’m a teeny bit worried because this feels like the kind of story where there aren’t just random occurrences. As in, I’m a teeny bit worried that Prisma’s gonna get dragged kicking and screaming into the main storyline, and when it happens, it’s not going to be fun.

Chapter 20:
And we go directly from that sweet, quiet little scene to maiming a mother in front of her child. 8D Glorious.

In any case, it sounds like the shenanigans are ramping up, not only with Umbry basically revealing why these attacks are happening (although, granted, yes, Solgaleo had already mentioned that someone is trying to kill him—it’s just that I’m a little suspicious about the fact that Umbry’s group is actively trying to kill legendaries, which calls into question whether he means that includes Lunala or if Lunala actually wants to slaughter every other legendary in existence), not to mention the tidbit about mareanie. And of course, Braviary’s story about Espeon and Umbreon (and the black crystal).

Meanwhile, ngl, watching Shane and Tessa hunt around the woods for that flower was … actually kinda nice. It almost felt like their first mission: easy (compared to their later ones, anyway), with only the perfectly normal resident pokémon around to harass Shane for being an impulsive, overconfident moron.

That’s not gonna last long, amirite?

Affirmative, Metagross stepped back. Fact: this Pokémon was drained of its life force and spiritual energy. Fact: this is not a Gumshoos anymore. Merely an empty shell.

Well, that’s creepy.

(Side note! I’ve been backing off on correcting grammar and whatnot because I’m covering a buttload of chapters, but remember what I said about Metagross/Metang’s dialogue earlier? Well! While “Metang announced” is a dialogue tag, “Metagross stepped back” is not. Here’s an easy way to tell the difference: notice how one of those can stand on its own as its own sentence, while the other doesn’t make sense when taken out of context? Dialogue tags are the ones that don’t make sense; they need their dialogue because they’re essentially modifying/describing how it’s said. That’s why you lead into/out of them with commas where appropriate. On the other hand, if you have a full sentence, then you don’t actually need a comma because you’re breaking off one thought and leading into a completely different one.)

In any case, back to the story! Because man, you’d think Shane would learn from having accused Null of shenanigans, only to have that blow up in his face. Like, granted, he’s probably right when it comes to Lycanroc not being all that legit, but still.[/spoil]

So … yes! I have to admit, while I’m chill with PMD authors, it’s very rare for me to really get into PMD fics. (Idk, they’re just not my cuppa most of the time.) But this? This was actually a lot of fun from start to current finish. Shane is a fascinating protagonist that teeters between being an unlikable moron to being a hella sympathetic character, Tessa is unlike any PMD partner I’ve read, and the mysteries surrounding them both (regarding Tessa’s mom and the darkness invading this world) are fun to explore. And hey, it was definitely fun to come across a bunch of questions where I was like, “Hey, so this doesn’t make sense,” only to stand corrected a few chapters later, so definite kudos on that. Plus, we’re getting to a point where it’s difficult to tell whether or not a character is exactly who they say they are (good or evil, Zoroark or Latias, and so on and so forth), and that kind of guessing game just adds to the fun of the fic.

In short, this is a rollercoaster, and I am here for it.


Winter can't come soon enough
Goodness gracious. Let's take a crack at this one, shall we?

JX Valentine
Let me start by saying I'm honored/humbled/some other synonym I can't think of that you'd follow this along and go in-depth on it to boot. This is my first real crack at a chapter fic and I've mostly just been experimenting, so it really made me overjoyed (and gave me goosebumps) to see the stuff you had to say. Naturally, I know this is nothing brilliant. I've been writing it for fun (and I have been having fun, don't you worry), with the hopes that it would entertain whoever opted to give it a glance. Sounds like you've been enjoying it, which makes me abundantly happy. ^^

Welp! This is gonna be different from my norm, but I figure since you’ve done an awesome job at reviewing others, I’d give your style a crack.
Oh god, my breed of crazy is spreading. This wasn't supposed to happen. XD

There’s something nostalgic about starting off with the traditional PMD starter, to be honest. I mean, first off, being all like “gdi this is not what I wanted LEMME RESTART”? #relatable.
It was actually back-and-forth whether to make Shane one of the Gen VII starters or an Alolan form. Since Vulpix is one of the "atypical playable characters" from the early games (and its Alolan Form is practically competing with Rockruff for Gen VII mascot), and I wanted to really hammer home the "this humans' got all his game knowledge but comes from a pre-Gen VII life" breed of wrong genre savvy, the decision was kinda made for me.

But more importantly, it’s always cute to see a glimpse of what the token human’s life was like before the shenanigans happened. It’s a little like starting off a trainer fic and reading the chapter in which the main character gets their first pokémon.
I did at least want a glimpse into Shane's human's life to start things off, rather than just the personality quiz schtick. It's totally got nothing to do with me hating the personality quiz because I never got the Pokémon I wanted.

Babbling aside, also, it’s always hilarious to see the loser’s roots before he becomes the hero to save them all, lmao. And Shane hella fits that description. I mean, prior to being dragged to the PMD-verse, his biggest conflict was the fact that he would much rather play video games than be out in the rain, working.
I don't necessarily know I was going for straight-up loser, but definitely dorky.

I think, honestly, there are two things that I thought were a bit iffy about this part...
Yeah. Describing humans is an honest-to-god weakness. It extends beyond writing. If someone asks me to describe a person to them, I usually draw a blank. Might have something to do with choosing an all-Pokémon fic to start with. But I did switch that sterile bit out for something else. As to the voice, I'm staying silent. It's supposed to come out of left field. But I hope later on it'll connect a bit.

Tessa is adorable. Just sayin’. Eevee is also adorable.
Had to play up these balls of fluff to the fullest. Admittedly a limit of the actual games is sprite work/3D models require time, so there's a limit to the squee factor they can provide. No such issue with written stuff.

I have to admit I do like what you’ve done with Shane in this chapter. It would’ve been so easy to: A) give him amnesia, B) have him freak out, or C) generally take this seriously, but it’s so nice to see him assume this all is a dream.
Bait-and-switch was the goal there, indeed.

Largely because that sets him up for being taken down so hard later, which gives the reader hope that they’re gonna see some hilarious, hilarious character breakage.

(Also, his reaction to being a vulpix is A+. Shane has his priorities straight, and it’s great.)
Yup, the intention was wholly to get folks to root for his comeuppance. And it's coming much sooner than you'd think. But hilarious is far from the word I'd use to describe it. If I did my job right, you might just eat those words.

I do wonder why the entire gang that jumped Tessa was so eager to identify themselves... Point is, idk, that whole bit seems a little less mysterious now that we know already who’s behind it, yanno?
Team Fang's a pair of clowns who really don't think things through.

Heh. I did kind of want to sprinkle in bits of pieces of Shane's human brain not quite syncing up its current body (and some of the instincts that come with it). I love the PMD game stories, but you're telling me humans just magically adjust to having four legs with no problems whatsoever?

And I could go on, but I know I have a character limit to deal with here. So I’ll just say that this entire battle was delightful... And then you have Shane falling right back into the most hilarious tropes ever with the whole “aren’t you going to offer me the other half of the scarf” business. Poor kid is gonna get schooled so hard by this adventure.
Yes, this was intended to be the big dose of "Gen VII ensues." I know I don't state it explicitly but Shane was taken from a time where Gen VII didn't even have trailers yet. Hence, he has no idea what any of the 'mons/mechanics are supposed to be.

Nah, but forreal, I like how you handled that thing I wasn’t too sure about way back in chapter 1. I mean, it raises a couple more questions (Where did Lucario get the name “Tessa”?)
I'm guessing you're on to the reasoning why Tessa has her name. But even the name choice has a reason in-universe. We just haven't gotten that far yet.

And forreal, for a first excursion, the entirety of Dewdrop Woods was a delight. I mean, first off, Shane running off on his own, only to be jumped in a way that requires Tessa to save him—that was gold, especially since it involved the usage of Chekhov’s Rocks.
I was going for a fun little romp to get things started. And what better way than to poke fun at the, "Oh, we know the right way to go? Let's go the other way and see if we get something cool," tactic.

But then, despite being jumped and dumped, it’s just adorable to see Shane so unflappable and upbeat and so very him. (Making fun of Tessa’s grammar, for example. And making fun of Yungoos’s hair, for another. And taunting the tree Yungoos, for another.)

He’s a great hero, in other words. :D
The words "inner monologue" didn't quite it make it from human!Shane to Vulpix!Shane

Idk why you’re so underconfident with your battles. Everything you see here in the first half of the chapter is exactly what you should be doing.
Glad to hear it. The reason that I said that was quite simply b/c when I wrote CYOAs, my battles were literally "X did Y to Z." They were turn-based, Paper Mario-like battles with everyone having HP/MP meters and everything. So, making the jump to battles more in the style of the Pokémon anime was going to be a big leap.

(I also adore how Shane was basically useless for a good chunk of the battle, lmao. That’s right, Tessa. Get ‘em, girl. Show them you don’t need a man to stand up for you!)

Speaking of things I love, I love Yungoos after the battle/revealing himself (and Trapinch) to be guild members. The mental image of Yungoos mimicking Metagross with a thick Brooklyn accent is priceless.
I don't think I totally intended to make him useless. But, I'll take it! And, yeah, part of the fun of writing Yungoos is reading his lines out loud during revising.

Magearna is adorable. Just … “begging cycle.” She has a begging cycle. AND DISAPPOINTMENT LEVELS.
I wanted to just have fun with Magearna. Like, she's a creature made of magitek in a world that operates on a lot of magitek logic. Also, I think part of my efforts into writing her was disappointment in the Rotom Dex during SM (which has now changed to outright frustration thanks to USUM). I strove for a fun exposition fairy(-type).

Iiiin short, I loved this extra... Like, I dig an author who’s humble enough to realize he’s got a few flaws in his work and is willing to joke about that. ;D
A few flaws? You're being generous! *blush*

You have excellent taste, Shane. (Also, I know he just doesn’t know what an Alolan vulpix is, but could this love of Ho-oh also play a part in why he’s so salty he’s not a fire-type?)
Not really. Ho-oh just happens to be a Legendary that Shane really likes. He'll be properly fangasming at a couple of them eventually. I couldn't not do something like that

But maaaan, this chapter ended on a Serious Note. Not that that’s a bad thing. It was actually hella poignant. Tessa isn’t one to trust too easily, and here she is, begging Shane to promise her that he’ll help her. And just when the reader thinks Shane’s relenting or that he’s taking her seriously, he turns around and says that bit about saving the world from evil.
I'd like to think I'm trying really hard to create a scenario wherein, if Team Radiance's members do become friends, it's because of the tribulations that got them to that point. As opposed to the games' way of going about it. "Stranger with amnesia in the middle of nowhere? They're my BFF! <3 <3"

It says so much about not only Tessa but also Shane and the story itself—like, the story thus far is only goofy because Shane is a hella goofy character. But that’s what’s great: the fact that he doesn’t realize that he’s surrounded by actually serious, very real things and that his actions have consequences beyond slapstick.
Honestly, I think the credit there really deserves to go to some of the initial reviews from Cutlerine, Negrek, and Chibi. Had they not pointed out how they were interested in Shane's oddball/selfish behavior, I think those aspects would've ended up severely downplayed and things like this may have fallen flat (or not existed period).

The story just does a great job at laying out the fact that, yeah, Shane has a lot of character growth ahead of him, which in turn is a great way to hook a reader and keep them reading. Of course I want to see Shane either grow as a character or **** up so badly it bites him in the ***. Either way, it would just be so satisfying to watch, just because you’ve done wonders at setting up either scenario.
Agggh, it warms my heart to hear that. But it makes me so, so nervous I've drafted a lot of what you're getting at. And I hope beyond all hopes you all find what I've come up with enjoyable and satisfying. I'm terrified it's all going to fall flat when the time comes. ;~;

This. This is exactly what I’m talking about—the idea that every other character takes exploring seriously except Shane, and while he’s a newcomer to this world, it’s still an amazingly stark difference in mindset and adds a layer of depth to your fic that imo not a lot of PMD runs touch.
And that's what I was trying to get at. Most people play games to have fun. Now what that is exactly differs from person to person. But the hope is to see that Shane's definition of fun stands at odds with what the Pokémon around him are hoping to accomplish.

That part at the end where it turned out the voices were allies? I legit breathed a sigh of relief. Like, I was half expecting them to be their own group of thieves or even in leagues with Tsareena, and let’s face it, Team Radiance is nowhere near ready to take on two pretty big battles in a row. Besides, Team Specter is adorable.
Oh, wow, I didn't even consider that Specter's shenanigans could be interpreted as entirely different outlaws trying to outmaneuver Solrock. But, yeah, I don't know why I prefer to make my ghost-types cutesy and fun, but I do.

Realtalk, tho, I love how the problems in this chapter are a direct result of Shane’s … well, incompetence, for lack of a better word... Idk, Shane is just a wonderfully unlikable character. As in, he’s got so many problems that make it easy to see why other characters might not like him, but these are the sorts of problems that clearly point to character growth in his future... It’s just so much fun to wonder when he’s going to grow because when he does, it’s going to be so satisfying to look backwards and see how far he’s come.
Again, the hope is that there are several spots where he'll grow and I'm hoping the first big moment is well-received, because I had so much fun writing it. And thanks for the narration error heads-up. It's been fixed to directly say Espy's speaking.

Also, word to Sike’s theory that Solgaleo is responsible for Shane being here, but it’s def Dawn Wings Necrozma who’s infecting pokémon. Calling it now, halfway through my rush to catch up.
And if you're right, you're more than welcome to join Sike in a riveting round of I told you so-ing.

You know, though, even though I’ve heard this kind of justification for shitty behavior in a fic before, in Shane’s case, it’s actually a lot more heart-wrenching and believable... ‘Course, it’s still kinda shitty that he nearly got Tessa hurt on multiple occasions and treats the guild like his own personal hero story, but still.
When "using games as a means of escape" becomes a bit too literal, you get Shane's situation. At least, that was the logic in my head as I wrote it out. As you can see, on a logic scale of Unikitty to Miles Edgeworth, I'm about a Sticks the Badger from Sonic Boom. XD

(By the by, don’t think I skipped over the bit about Null. His backstory is fascinating, and I have no doubt he is somehow connected to Shane. And in any case, it’s true that Null could be amnesiac and a human-turned-pokémon, so it’ll be interesting to see where his story goes from here.
Null's an interesting case of "evolving with the outline revisions," because a lot of his depth was not in the original outline at all.

Aaaand of course that exposition. Lemme guess: Magearna’s not entirely accurate when she said no exploration team has reached Celestial Island, is she? 8)
Magearna's exposition mode is always executed 100% flawlessly. Whether the Pokémon who programmed her had enough information is another subject entirely. :p

Hoo, the infected munchlax are creepy af. Just … seeing them come out of nowhere and drone on about infecting Team Radiance is like something out of a big ol’ zombie horror.
Zombies are admittedly not what were in my mind initially with the Prism Virus (that would be the Shroobs, from Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, and the Chimera from Insomniac's Resistance trilogy). I would be lying, however, if I didn't say one of the officially unofficial Prism Virus boss themes is this track from a zombie-related game which is composed by Resistance 2&3's composer, funnily enough. As to the Ultra Munchlax descriptions, I just split that paragraph up in revisions. It was one paragraph but I thought splitting it would be better than one big block of text. Of course, it turned out not be that big as one paragraph. My bad.

Also also, I just love the fact that you’re letting Braviary narrate this time around, just because his way of speaking adds just the right sort of color to the story.
Yeah, I just wanted to experiment with that one. It was a lot of fun, but I don't think I'm putting anything that crazy in there again.

But realtalk, I loved the puzzle. It was so hella clever, especially the part at the end where the “dry” rock was split in two

But! The battle itself was a delight, complete with a puzzle of its own.
Glad you liked it. Both of these were based off bits from the pirate-themed Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty. I had a lot of fun adapting them. And I couldn't put in a Golisopod and NOT have it use its signature First Impression. Metang got OHKO'd for the greater good! XD

Why did it take me this long to realize Prisma is a younger Lucario?
(Also, Torracat is Tessa’s dad, isn’t he?)
Feraligatr calling her "Runt" all the time probably didn't help. And yes, Torracat/Incineroar is Tessa's dad. That's how she knows Bite (Egg Move from breeding a Lucario with Incineroar). And good catch on the dialogue identifier. Thought I fixed all of those, but guess not.

Welp, I stand corrected about that thing concerning names I’d mentioned chapters and chapters ago.
IT ALL COMES TOGETH– *cease and desist from TPCi'd*

Honestly, the best part of this chapter is 100% imagining Tessa narrating this story.
She could always become a travelling storyteller if exploring doesn't work out. Shane's given her plenty of material to work with, after all. :V

The other golden thing about this scene is the fact that Tapu Koko speaks like the Wyld Stallyns.
Someone actually picked up on that? EXCELLENT! *air guitar riff*

Also, Sticky's introductory description is clearly bad, even with cleanup. I think I shot myself in the foot by being too overeager with putting him in before even knowing his species name (which is hilarious). I took your advice and slipped some descriptors into his initial dialogue and axed that paragraph. Hopefully it's better now.

In any case, it kinda sounds like he’s actually concerned about the world, rather than about himself (even though he’s still talking about being The Hero).
As you can see, he's not quite there yet. He still needs a big push!

Now that is dynamic description. 8) Notice how the story doesn’t stop to describe what’s going on but rather integrates the description into what you’re doing, so the impact of what this thing looks like is all the more shocking? That. That is exactly the kind of effect you want.
Yes, I think I'll need to stick with a similar type of approach to future infected Pokémon.

Also, I just love this particular infected ‘mon... But forreal, this battle was good.
I think I can safely say I'm glad I made the decision to swap Lurantis out for Ultra Parasect.

Rounding out the first scene, Shane has a bit of a point, albeit it’s a slightly misguided one.
Uhh.. skewed priorities? Or the author didn't even think to address that because he's a bit clueless and it didn't occur to him. :V

Ngl, I’m getting Gladion vibes from Gallian.
Not intentional. I realized after revising this chapter that people might see Gladion in him (even the names). But his actual inspiration is a different rival character entirely: Copen from Azure Striker Gunvolt. Also, it is said later in the chapter that Tessa's parents found his egg abandoned in the Invern Mountains.

And finally for this chapter, it’s so nice to see Tessa and Shane work things out and finally lay all their cards on the table.
It's a start, but as Chapter 20 shows, they're not quite at that point yet. There's still a few things Shane doesn't quite know about Tessa, and they're the biggest things.

It is interesting to see that Shane and Tessa are actively trying to cover up what happened in Twilight Forest.
It's really just pride on Shane's part. He doesn't want to confess they were nearly done in.

On the positive side, though, I’m a huge sucker for a well-written detective piece, and Shane’s Sherlocking scratched just the itch, complete with fast-paced analysis and a neat hunt for clues (and a couple of Lestrades trying to distract him).
Glad you liked it. Before I switched chapters around, this was meant to be a breather before Episode 6.

Also, I hope Mimikyu ends up being another team member. That mimikyu is adorable, and I’m not just saying that because eff yeah mimikyu.
He's not going away, at the very least.

Yanno, I realize they’re a bunch of ghosts, but it feels like everyone in Specter is a right creeper. Except Misdreavus, of course.
It's entirely possible they may not know where to draw the line with mischief-making.

So I admit I don’t read review responses (or reviews) all that much when attempting to read a longer work, so I will say that finding out this is a “prequel” of sorts to the last episode was a nice surprise.
And that, besides tone/pacing reasons, played a role in my decision to swap chapter orders. Looks like it was a good call.

You know, when Haunter described Giratina in the chapter before this, I had ideas of what the dreaded ghost-dragon was like.

This … this wasn’t among them, no.

(Not that I’m objecting because this is adorable.)
Ever since XY and Pokémon Amie, I have headcanoned Giratina as a snuggly guy who just wants hugs (and friends).

I mean, every part of this is fantastic, but there’s just something about Mew and Giratina essentially double-teaming the murdercat (and the murdercat being Not a Morning Person who absolutely needs to drink coffee out of a mug that reads “World’s Greatest Pokémon” on it to be remotely personable in the mornings) is just priceless.
Mewtwo's got a love-hate relationship with Mew.

You know, I’m actually a little relieved that this didn’t turn out to be a trap. Like, it would’ve been so easy to go the usual, predictable route and have Zoroark turn out to be one of the enemies, but doing things like this draw out the suspense of what her actual request is and highlights its potential importance to the plot.
I see you were of a similar mindset as Serperior. ;P

Also, I love the description of the traps in the catacombs. The way they work definitely lend the whole shebang an “ancient temple, Indiana Jones-style” kind of feel to them.
I'm glad you like it. I was a bit iffy on whether I really wanted to put traps in this story at all.

Marshadow is definitely an interesting character, although I’m not sure whether or not one should 100% trust him.
Marshadow was fun, both because I've always wanted to write a "lovable rogue" type, and I based him off Loki from Bayonetta 2, who was just an utterly hilarious character who made the game's cutscenes super entertaining.

I do have to admit that the idea of a battle while half the participants are literally tied together was a delightful touch.
I feel like the inspiration for this came from a Discord conversation. I mentioned having a team of serpents, and someone said "you should totally tie them up into a knot at one point for laughs." And thus, it happened!

I legit smiled at this part because I love that extra touch of suspense here. Like, it wasn’t enough to just tie them together and make them scramble to get out. You had to add in a nice, neat little explosion on top of everything else.

Plus raft riding out of the dangerous cave like this is that one part of Aladdin.

And a boss battle with an enemy that can basically teleport.
It wouldn't be a spy thriller without EXPLOSIONS! And the closest I could get to a car chase/parkour sequence in a PMD world. ^^;

Welp. Definitely didn’t see that one coming. Ngl, I think you execute your twists incredibly well.
That's delightful to hear. Because that's really how I wanted people reacting to it (including being very skeptical of Zoroark even when she puts her cards on the table).

Especially when it led to this nice tidbit about Null. (I mean, sure, Null was canonically created to destroy the UBs, but it’s interesting to see his backstory expanded to be a destroyer of the whole pantheon of legendaries. It definitely begs the question of who created him and just how trustworthy the legendaries are to warrant this.)
I was nervous about this, but now that dataminers have confirmed that Game Freak classifies UB's (and Null/Silvally) as Legendaries, I don't feel so bad about it! But, yeah, I had to make that distinction because, technically speaking, while this PMD world has seen otherworldly entities, most of its citizens have never faced an Ultra Beast. So making a Beast Killer wouldn't make sense without having witnessed UB's to begin with.

prisma naruto runs. i love it
What makes this even better is a recent Dragon Ball Super episode had Goku and Vegeta do Naruto runs. And since Lucario is basically Goku... they now run like Goku, can go Super Saiyan, and have Kamehamehas! (too bad Necrozma stole the Spirit Bomb for their Z-Move)

Also, can I just say that I like your explanation for how mystery dungeons work?
I also thought it fit with the "mischievous nature" of the Tapus. But there's more to it that you don't know about yet! ^^

But aww, this bonus was quiet, but it gave us plenty of insight into who Prisma was before she left. Whenever she’d pop up in previous chapters, I’d always have a sense that she was this ever-serious, strong-willed guardian-type, but here, you see her teasing Incineroar, awkwardly hiding her intent on going out on a journey, and generally be this figure of raw determination.
That's more-or-less what I was going for. Ideally, it'll work to the story's benefit down the road.

In any case, it sounds like the shenanigans are ramping up
Yes. I did say we're reaching a turning point of sorts. And I don't want this fic taking 5 years, so stuff's gotta start going down. And there's scheming abound. Remember, Prisma told Tessa she's protecting Lunala, for what it's worth.

Meanwhile, ngl, watching Shane and Tessa hunt around the woods for that flower was … actually kinda nice.
Needed a backdrop for Shane to go on an angry tirade. Dungeon crawling served that benefit well!

And whoops, that dialogue attribution error was totally a typo that I didn't catch. Thanks for that! ^^

man, you’d think Shane would learn from having accused Null of shenanigans, only to have that blow up in his face. Like, granted, he’s probably right when it comes to Lycanroc not being all that legit, but still.
You would think that, but remember Shane has played the games and is definitely thinking of a certain chapter from one of the games right now, which is why he thinks he has the right to be so confident in his assertion.

So … yes! I have to admit, while I’m chill with PMD authors, it’s very rare for me to really get into PMD fics. (Idk, they’re just not my cuppa most of the time.) But this? This was actually a lot of fun from start to current finish.
It really does humble me that you'd say something like that. I'm not worthy! ;~;

Shane is a fascinating protagonist that teeters between being an unlikable moron to being a hella sympathetic character, Tessa is unlike any PMD partner I’ve read, and the mysteries surrounding them both (regarding Tessa’s mom and the darkness invading this world) are fun to explore.
Glad to hear it, because they're fun to write and build up on.

And hey, it was definitely fun to come across a bunch of questions where I was like, “Hey, so this doesn’t make sense,” only to stand corrected a few chapters later, so definite kudos on that. Plus, we’re getting to a point where it’s difficult to tell whether or not a character is exactly who they say they are (good or evil, Zoroark or Latias, and so on and so forth), and that kind of guessing game just adds to the fun of the fic.
Very good. Because I won't lie. I intentionally wrote some characters to serve as red herrings... kinda. Another thing I'm hoping to do is to try and make things pretty morally gray. I love the PMD stories, but the heroes and villains (for the most part) are very black and white in their motivations and characterizations (or don't even have motivations other than "I'm evil"). And that's even regressed a bit with Gates and Super leaning heavily on brainwashing, possibly to justify Wigglytuff's, "truly evil Pokémon don't really exist bit," or, more likely, because they're kids games. But I'm not bound by those constraints! ^^

In short, this is a rollercoaster, and I am here for it.
And I truly hope I can continue to craft a story that you'll continue to enjoy. Thank you very much for such a thorough review. Warms my heart to a degree that worms can't properly express. <3 <3
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Gone. Not coming back.
I quite like that bonus chapter! It's rather good; builds on some of the backstory you've shown us before and helps round out the image of Tessa we've got so far, as well as giving us a nice look at pre-angst Gallian. And it's quite sweet, too.

My only point of criticism is kinda minor, really – I think having Prisma saying something as blunt as “He's still coming to grips with losing his mate, isn't he?” is maybe a bit too on the nose; it sounds very much like exposition rather than natural dialogue. Maybe a more natural way of saying it would be something like “You know. After [name], and all.” I suppose I might say the same of Incineroar's response, really. This strikes me as a very weird moment in time for him to suddenly spring the fact that he thinks his dad is at death's door on her, especially since he more or less immediately cuts off any response she might make by laughing it off. It makes the whole exchange feel very much contrived only to insert these pieces of information.

"Are you kidding? You've been running with your arms stuck out like Lati wings since the day I met you," Incineroar said with a chuckle.

God, just look at all these Naruto-running dorks. It's just wonderful.

"Does that mean we can do more, um, 'awer-a' practicing, Mom?" Tessa asked.

Interesting. Seems like there's a substantial difference in the way people pronounce the word aura between where I live and you live; I've only ever heard it pronounced with the first syllable to rhyme with awe, like Tessa says it here. How is Prisma pronouncing it, out of curiosity?

She lay down on the grass, allowing her upper body to rest in Incineroar's lap.

That seems like the worst part of an incineroar to rest on, especially if you have long trailing antennae and a weakness to fire! D:

Onto the next real chapter, then! And it's definitely quite an opening. I do think that maybe Stufful gets written out of that first scene a bit quickly, especially given that our viewpoint is kinda aligned with his for part of the scene, which leads you to expect maybe a bit more time spent on his escape than just a single brief sentence. But otherwise, well. It's interesting to have it confirmed at last that infection does indeed convert pokémon to ultra beasts; there were sort of guzzlord overtones with the munchlax earlier, but this is, I think, the first time you've said explicitly that this is what's happening.

“Comical exaggerated Australian” is such a good accent for Lycanroc. Like, I think midnight lycanroc is a fantastic design, it's exactly the right blend of goofy and cool that a werewolf pokémon would have to be in order to be interesting (a blend that midday lycanroc lacks, I think, because it tries to be cool and ends up just being a large, mostly characterless dog), and somehow an overblown Australian accent really captures that in my mind.

He shook out his scaly, fury body.

You've got 'fury' for 'furry' here.

"Did ya notice anything else, mate?" Lycanroc asked. "Make some dark black crystals somewhere in the ground?"

I think that you might mean “maybe” here instead of “make”? It's difficult to be sure, but that seems to make more sense than “make” to me.

oh, how did Sonwy phrase it?

Good old Sonwy! You've got a typo there.

All in all, things really are getting interesting now. I've played most of the PMD games, but I'm pretty much completely unfamiliar with Gates to Infinity, which is, I gather, what you're referencing in this chapter. It's cool to come to the realisation of who these people are so long after they were introduced. And having realised that, it made me go on to reflect on how far your writing skills have developed since that first introduction – because those first few chapters really are much rougher around the edges than what you're producing now. The story has really found its feet at this point; your prose has got way more fluid and your characters more lively with remarkable speed, given how quickly you've put all this stuff out. It's just really great to see, and I look forward to seeing what your writing is like in another twenty chapters' time.


Winter can't come soon enough
Update schedule's going to be a little wonky this month. Simply because my Fridays will probably be busy. But that means more stuff for you guys. And trust me, we're at the parts where you don't want to be waiting too long between updates.

I quite like that bonus chapter! It's rather good; builds on some of the backstory you've shown us before and helps round out the image of Tessa we've got so far, as well as giving us a nice look at pre-angst Gallian. And it's quite sweet, too.
Glad to hear it. Sweet was what I was going for, although it was less meant to flesh Tessa out individually and more flesh her out by association to her family.

My only point of criticism is kinda minor, really – I think having Prisma saying something as blunt as “He's still coming to grips with losing his mate, isn't he?” is maybe a bit too on the nose
I don't see it as being all that minor. More another well-made point, so I removed it and replaced it with something I hope comes across as more natural. See, Jax, there are plenty of flaws to be found here. :V

God, just look at all these Naruto-running dorks. It's just wonderful.
See, I know you have your misgivings about the Riolu line. And I'm a fan of them. But I know they're overrated and that particular characteristic is something I'll never defend and will always make fun of when given the opportunity. Especially since Greninja is a thing now, so there's no reason for it. XP

Interesting. Seems like there's a substantial difference in the way people pronounce the word aura between where I live and you live; I've only ever heard it pronounced with the first syllable to rhyme with awe, like Tessa says it here. How is Prisma pronouncing it, out of curiosity?
No, she's pronouncing it "awe-ruh." I bungled up Tessa's line by using the wrong vowel. So, thanks for pointing that out. XP

That seems like the worst part of an incineroar to rest on, especially if you have long trailing antennae and a weakness to fire! D:
It's actually the secret to how Prisma can be such a hothead at times.

Onto the next real chapter, then! And it's definitely quite an opening. I do think that maybe Stufful gets written out of that first scene a bit quickly, especially given that our viewpoint is kinda aligned with his for part of the scene, which leads you to expect maybe a bit more time spent on his escape than just a single brief sentence.
Ah, that was my bad. The point is that he's not actually supposed to escape, so I've added some bits about him getting stressed out to the point of fainting at the sight of Ultra Bewear (or Buzzwear or whatever you want to call it). But I'm glad folks are enjoying the cold openings, because most of them are being added in during revisions.

But otherwise, well. It's interesting to have it confirmed at last that infection does indeed convert pokémon to ultra beasts; there were sort of guzzlord overtones with the munchlax earlier, but this is, I think, the first time you've said explicitly that this is what's happening.
Correct. Both the Guzzlord bits in Munchlax and the Nihilego in Parasect were merely implied. But each infected Pokémon has a little bio in my outline.

“Comical exaggerated Australian” is such a good accent for Lycanroc. Like, I think midnight lycanroc is a fantastic design, it's exactly the right blend of goofy and cool that a werewolf pokémon would have to be in order to be interesting (a blend that midday lycanroc lacks, I think, because it tries to be cool and ends up just being a large, mostly characterless dog), and somehow an overblown Australian accent really captures that in my mind.
I think we're on similar wavelengths here. I was actually a bit worried some folks (Brits or Australians) might get angry, especially since I think I tried to slip some Aussie slang into Lycanroc's lines. But I kept it on the minimal side. Really, the inspiration there goes to, of all things, Skylanders. It has a werewolf character with a noticeable Australian accent.

All in all, things really are getting interesting now. I've played most of the PMD games, but I'm pretty much completely unfamiliar with Gates to Infinity, which is, I gather, what you're referencing in this chapter. It's cool to come to the realisation of who these people are so long after they were introduced.
Yup, they are indeed two of the supplemental cast members from Gates. And, like Latias, they are recruitable in Super too, which is where the Pokémon Nexus bit in the previous chapter came from. However, it is definitely not the only chapter that I'm referencing. I'm not giving the other one away until later in the episode, but I'm sure your Mystery Dungeon vets and experts know what I'm talking about, which is why Shane's behavior isn't all that surprising.

And having realised that, it made me go on to reflect on how far your writing skills have developed since that first introduction – because those first few chapters really are much rougher around the edges than what you're producing now. The story has really found its feet at this point; your prose has got way more fluid and your characters more lively with remarkable speed, given how quickly you've put all this stuff out. It's just really great to see, and I look forward to seeing what your writing is like in another twenty chapters' time.
Honestly, it hasn't felt all that different for me, other than the fact that I'm now posting chapters I had a lot more fun drafting that I did earlier. If there's been improvement, it's really a result of feedback that you all have given me. Because I am trying to learn from all the pointers I'm being offered here. I'm not sure how good a job I'm doing, but I'm genuinely thankful for the support, because I do think it's made things more enjoyable for me to write. :)


Chapter 21: The Peak of Reckless Abandon

Shane's eyes fluttered open and he yawned loudly. However, he immediately buried his head in his forelegs, shielding his eyes from a familiar bright-orange expanse.

"Gah!" Shane shouted. He slowly stood up, blinking his eyes rapidly. "Okay, that never fails to startle me. At least this is pretty convenient timing." He took a step toward the orange water lapping up at the shore's surface. "Yo, Solgaleo! Get your booming voice out here. Your chosen one needs a bit of spiritual guidance."

The sun-shaped silhouette from his previous dreams flickered into view on the water's surface. "What the matter, human? Did I not make you purpose clear last time?" he growled.

"You totally did," Shane said. "Be the chosen one, protect day and night, save the world, yadda yadda… look, I got that. But I've run into an issue. And I really need your sagely wisdom. See, there's this Midnight Lycanroc running around the guild and I think he's up to no good. He claims he knows what's causing Pokémon to go berserk, right? And I'm pretty sure it's connected to the whole day-night issue, but I think he's lying!"


The booming roar knocked Shane off his feet and he tumbled across the sand. "Hack! Plebth! Okay. Easy on the yelling," Shane groaned, coughing up some sand.

"Absol is the problem," he said. "You don't have time to waste on Lycanroc."

"What if he's in league with Absol?"

"My powers are stretched thin enough already, chosen one," Solgaleo retorted. "I do not have the strength to see how virtuous Lycanroc is. You're on your own."

Shane frowned. "Darn. So much for that idea." He scratched his ear. "But wait a second. If you said that Absol's the problem, then that means Espeon and Umbreon
aren't the problem. And that means Lycanroc's totally lying. Which means I'm one hundred percent right and Tessa, Braviary, and the whole guild can suck it!" He narrowed his eyes. "I knew that mangy mutt was trouble the moment I laid eyes on him!"

He looked up at the silhouette on the water. "Thanks a ton, buddy! This was actually very helpful."

"Then I expect no more stupid questions," Solgaleo growled. "Do not dawdle, human. You must start restoring the balance between night and day before it's too late!"

His vision went completely white.


Shane picked his head up off his cushion. "Nnnnrrgh. Talk about a rude awakening," he whined, rubbing his temple. "The sun's barely even risen. It's not time to get up." He rested his head back on his pillow. Unfortunately, his ears twitched and swiveled in the door's direction. "Hmm?" He picked his head up, ears twitching again.

"Curse these sensitive Vulpix ears," Shane mumbled. "When I was a human I was such a deep sleeper. Now I can wake up at the drop of a pin." He slowly stood up and arced his back. His spine produced several satisfying cricks. "Might as well investigate whatever that thumping noise is." He proceeded out of his room and into the hall.

Shane didn't need to go far to identify the problem. The moment he stepped into the assembly area, he gave a frightened yip and scrambled to his right. Seconds later, Null's large frame skidded past him. Null shook his head about, giving a deep, rasping cough, and charged forward.

'Okay… definitely awake now,' Shane realized, his heart thumping against his chest. He picked his head up and saw Tessa standing in the center of the room. Null continued his charge, bringing a foreleg up as blades of energy sheathed around his talons. He swiped down at Tessa, but she thrust her left palm forward.

The force from the two limbs meeting caused both Pokémon to buckle. Null's larger frame easily absorbed the blow, while Tessa trembled and fell off balance. Null brought his head down and his helmet and feathered crest hardened into steel. He thrust his upper body forward and struck Tessa in the face with a resounding claaaaaaaaang!

Tessa collapsed onto her back. Null bore down on her, raising a foreleg while air gathered in between his talons. "You got me," Tessa squeaked, holding up her paws in surrender. Null lowered his foreleg and extended it to Tessa. She grabbed hold and Null hoisted her to her feet. He then turned away and shook his body. His helmet rattled around on his head, making Shane's fur stand on end.

"… your left side… is weak…" Null wheezed. "… that last attack… you wouldn't have been so vulnerable… if you'd used your right paw…"

Tessa wiped sweat from her brow. "It was really that noticeable, huh?" she sighed. "I guess I've got to work on that."

"… yeah… you do…"

"Still, thanks for waking up to do this with me at this hour," Tessa said. "This was a good release." She stretched her arms up toward the ceiling.

"… wasn't getting much sleep anyway. The headaches… keep getting worse..." Null groaned. He tensed up and clawed at his helmet with a foreleg.

Tessa shrank back, unsure how to approach Null. "Um, are you okay?" She cautiously reached a paw toward him, but Null swerved his head away with a hiss. Tessa quickly brought her paw back to her side.

"Hey!" Shane finally decided to make his presence known. "Are you two trying to wake everyone up? Because it's working."

Tessa caught Shane's gaze and frowned. "I needed to blow off some steam and this is the only real practice area the guild has. It's too chilly outside this early in the morning."

"Blow off steam?" Shane parroted. "What for? I thought we had a pretty good day yesterday, save for Lycan–"

"Don't you dare start with that nonsense again!" Tessa snapped, balling her paws into fists. "It was your big mouth that got us stuck on sentry duty and so help me if you extend it beyond today, I'll… I'll…"

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. You already got your licks in with that Force Palm yesterday," Shane reminded her. "Thanks for that, by the way. My chest is nice and sore now."

"You deserved it," Tessa growled. Null immediately stepped in front of her, blocking the duo's view of each other.

"… don't escalate things. Just walk away…" he said. Tessa nodded and followed Null down toward the dining area.

"Hey, where do you think you're going?" Shane called. "Don't I at least get some sort of apology?"

His answer came in the form of a blue tail wrapping around his snout, clamping it shut. Shane's eyes widened. He turned in the direction of the tail to see Dragonair looking right at him. She wasn't glaring. Rather, she had a calm, almost detached appearance about her. Dragonair unwound her tail.

"What's the big idea?" Shane growled.

"We need to talk, Vulpix," she said. Dragonair turned around and beckoned him forward with her tail. "Walk with me."

"Uh, you don't walk. You slither."

"I could knock you out in one Extreme Speed if you don't feel like cooperating," Dragonair threatened, her voice still calm and measured. Shane's tails stiffened and he immediately trudged along after her. She led him up the stairs toward the entrance, pausing at the top to look at the starry mural painted across the ceiling.

"… I'm concerned about you and Tessa," she finally said after a long silence.

"You know we're supposed to call her Riolu, right?" Shane said. "I'm totally telling her you're not listening."

"In case you haven't noticed, she's not here," Dragonair countered, showing no signs of impatience toward Shane. "Stop trying to deflect. I want you to listen to me."

"Pssssht. Riolu and I are fine. She's just a bit mad about sentry duty, that's all," Shane dismissed. "I know I'm right about Lycanroc and soon you guys will realize that, too."

Dragonair sighed. "This goes beyond Lycanroc. Every time it seems like the two of you are making some solid progress as partners, something happens to set you back. And, generally speaking, it's your fault," she accused, jabbing Shane's torso with her tail.

Shane frowned. "Maybe we're not a perfect team, but we're getting better. You just saw us at our low point back with Parasect. We've improved since th–"

Dragonair abruptly cut him off, wrapping her tail around his snout once again. Shane's eyes narrowed and he let out a puff of frigid air.

"If you really intend to do right by Riolu as her partner, then you need to start respecting her boundaries," Dragonair lectured. "She's been through a lot. More than you could possibly know."

Shane raised an eyebrow. "Mmmmmffffrrrghhhh," he grunted, Dragonair's tail muffling his voice. She rolled her eyes and withdrew her tail. Shane exhaled forcefully. "Sheesh, no need to muzzle me."

"I have found it's the most effective technique for dealing with your moody, childish rambles," Dragonair said. "Now, what were you saying?"

"I was just asking if you meant her family? Because I'm already perfectly well-versed in that subject. Sure, the thing with her brother's a bit weird, but at least she knows her family's somewhere here," Shane said. "How do you think I feel? I've already been here a month. Who knows how much time has passed in the human world? What about my family, huh?" The lie made Shane's stomach churn, but he kept a straight face.

To his relief, Dragonair closed her eyes and said, "That's a fair point. I'll give you that much. However, I do not believe Riolu has given you the full story about what's happened with her family."

Shane pursed his muzzle. "What? You mean there's more to it than just 'my parents are exploring the Grass Continent and I don't know when they'll be back?'"

Dragonair nodded. "Yes. But it's not my place to tell you. That would violate Riolu's trust."

"Aww, c'mon. I can keep a secret. And I'm her partner, so it's important that I know," Shane said.

"If she doesn't trust you enough to tell you the truth, what makes you think I will?" Dragonair scoffed. "If you want to win her over, then do as I suggested. Respect her boundaries."

Shane's face scrunched up. "But what does that even mean? I've been perfectly nice to her lately!"

"That's something the two of you need to talk out," Dragonair said. "Preferably, without any shouting."

"Well, great. Now I'm tired and confused. Thanks," Shane grumbled. "Can I go now? I've got sentry duty to attend to."

Dragonair slithered away from the stairs. "Be my guest," she said. Shane shot her an annoyed look and descended back to the main level.

'What could Tessa not be telling me about her family?' Shane thought, making his way toward the sentry station. 'This is all so weird. What happened to my partner being a cheerful, energetic little Pokémon with tons of spunk? Tessa's like the exact opposite of that!'

He stopped to look up at the ceiling. 'Is this some sort of secret character test? Is Tessa under some sort of spell that I can break her out of with love, kindness, or the power of friendship? Bah… that's so pathetically sappy!' His brow furrowed. "Yo, Arceus, if you're really up there doing whatever, how about a sign?"

"… hurry up, human…"

Shane flinched at the sound of Null's rasping voice. He quickened his pace and entered the room. Tessa sat on a cushion, clutching the guild's entry log. Null stood up from beside the Pokénector. He turned to Tessa and said, "… if he… bothers you at all… call for me…"

"Hey! There's no need for that," Shane whined. "I'm not looking for any trouble, okay."

Null fixed his tired, gray eyes on Shane. "… actions speak louder than words… human…" He exited the room, eyeing Shane as he went.

"Cripes. Could you be any creepier?" Shane scoffed. "You've been hanging around with him quite a bit lately. Is there, uh, something going on between you two I should know about?"

Tessa crossed her arms and looked away. "No. I just appreciate his company. He's soft-spoken, unlike a certain ice-type, who shall remain nameless. Besides, it's none of your business how I choose to spend my free time."

'Besides, even if he looks strange, I don't feel as lonely when I'm around Null,' Tessa thought. 'If I can't forge a good relationship with Vulpix, then at least I have Null to lean on for support until we figure out what's happening to the world and how to a put a stop to it.'

Shane prepared to retort, but his conversation with Dragonair flashed into his mind. His ears drooped and he slinked toward the unoccupied cushion. 'I don't believe this,' he thought. 'Why is my own partner starting to trust that freak with the headgear more than me? Why can't she just see things my way for once?'

He pawed at the ground. "Um, listen. About yesterday…"

"I said not to bring that up," Tessa growled, spinning away from him.

"Oh." Shane lowered his head. "Right… sorry."

Sentry duty proceeded in silence for the duo, with the exception of the occasional Pokémon arriving and Tessa announcing said arrival. All the while, Shane's thoughts continued to fester. He soon found himself gnashing his teeth together. 'I can't just stay quiet. I don't want friction between us. If Tessa's refusing to speak up, it's up to me to put this issue to rest!'

"Are you at least willing to hear an apology?" he asked. Tessa raised her head at this. "See, I…" Shane started, but cut himself off when his ears twitched. He lifted his head and glanced down the hallway.

"You what?"

"Uh, hang on a second." Shane got to his feet. "I think I hear someone out in the assembly area."

"So? We're on sentry duty, not eavesdropping duty," Tessa scoffed.

"Hallway conversations aren't private," Shane countered. "I'll be right back. I just want to investigate." He got to his feet and padded his way toward the assembly area. As he did, he could make out a familiar voice. His brow immediately furrowed.

"… exactly why I wanted to find ya, sheilas," Lycanroc's voice carried around the corner. "From what I heard, you're the strongest team around these parts. I'd try asking Braviary or the Guildmaster, but they seem busy."

"Hold on," Milotic said. "What makes you so sure something's happening in Dewdrop Woods, anyway?"

"Right. I was on my way through town and I saw this right banged-up Araquanid and Volcarona duo trudging through the place."

"That's Team Buzz-Buzz!" Serperior gasped. "Are they okay? What the heck happened?"

"They said they got throttled in Dewdrop Woods. Something about a Bewear losing its mind," Lycanroc explained. "And, yeah, they're resting on up with Comfey. Them suckers had some nasty blows."

Shane's muzzle pursed. 'What the heck's he talking about? Beware losing your mind? That doesn't make any sense.' He narrowed his eyes. 'I'll bet this is a set up! Lycanroc's trying to dupe Team Captivate.'

"Look, I'd go investigate myself, but I ain't got any ideas how to navigate that forest. And I'd be beyond useless against the likes of a Bewear. Plus, there's three of you and one of me," Lycanroc pointed out.

'I'll bet he's gonna try and steal their stuff,' Shane concluded. 'No, wait. What if he's telling the truth and leading them right into a trap?'

"I don't know, it sounds a little vague," Serperior said, to Shane's relief.

"But if we don't do anything, it could start rampaging through the town," Lycanroc pointed out. "Now, I'm sure you fine sheilas don't want that on your tails, right?"

'Come on, don't listen to him. Dragonair, you're stupidly logical. Say something!' Shane thought.

"Hmm. Well, we wouldn't want something like that happening. Pokémon could get hurt that way," Milotic agreed. "Besides, we were planning to visit Dewdrop Woods anyway. C'mon girls, let's get going."

Shane's eyes widened and he smacked his forehead. He stiffened at the sound of footsteps. Shane quickly turned away as Lycanroc popped up in front of the south hallway.

"Oy. Ain't you supposed to be somewhere, Snowy?" Lycanroc asked.

"Yeah. I'm just, uh, taking a short break!" Shane lied. "Y'know, stretching out my legs so I don't, uh, get any muscle cramps." He leaned down in a stretch and then jogged in place. "It can get a bit stuffy sitting in the sentry room, see. Aha ha… ha…"

Lycanroc smirked. "I'll take your word for it, mate. Later." He strolled off toward the living quarters, whistling a jaunty tune.

'Grrrrrrr. Why that no-good, sleazy dirtbag! He's setting Team Captivate up for… something.' Shane started jogging down the hallway. 'I'd better report this to Tess–'

He promptly skidded to a halt. "Wait, what am I saying? She's just going to say I'm lying again and run off to complain to Null or Braviary." He turned back toward the assembly area. "But I can't just go after Team Captivate myself. I've gotta find someone to help me out…"

Shane backpedaled toward the assembly area. "Okay, living quarters are no good. Lycanroc's there, remember? Maybe I'll have some luck upstairs." He sprinted up the stairway and smiled at the sight of Yungoos, Trapinch, and Growlithe. "Oh, thank heavens," he chirped. "You're just the Pokémon I need right now."

"Uh, ain't youse supposed to be doing sentry duty?" Yungoos pointed out.

"Forget that! Listen, did you see Team Captivate pass through here?" Shane asked. The three apprentices nodded in unison. "Crud! I wasn't fast enough."

"Where's the fire, Vulpix?" Growlithe asked. "And why didn't you let me light it?"

"Listen, I just overhead Lycanroc begging Team Captivate to go investigate Dewdrop Woods," Shane explained.

"Oh brother, not this song and dance routine again," Trapinch sighed.

"I'm serious! He said something about 'Bewear losing its mind,' or some nonsense like that," Shane insisted. At that, the apprentices' eyes widened.

Trapinch gulped. "Did… did you just say Bewear?"

Shane rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Why? It doesn't make any sense, right?"

Yungoos gave Shane an unamused look. "Rookie, youse do realize Bewear is a Pokémon, right?"

Shane's jaw slackened. "Huhwha–?"

"Hmm. How can we describe it to you?" Growlithe wondered. "Oh! It's like an even more terrifying Ursaring. It's got huge arms like this." He reared up on his hind legs and spread his forelegs out, trying to flex them. "It can snap a tree in half just by hugging it. Great for gathering firewood, if you ask me."

Shane's tails shot straight up. "Are you serious? If that's the case, Team Captivate's in serious danger!"

"What do you mean? They're the strongest team in the guild," Trapinch said. "They can handle anything."

"But Lycanroc's leading them into a trap! An ambush!" Shane darted toward them. "We have to do something. We need to catch up to them and get them out of that forest!" The apprentices all exchanged nervous looks. "Ugh… look. I'm telling the truth, I swear." He turned to Trapinch. "Can you just check Team Captivate's room and make sure Lycanroc isn't trying to steal anything?"

"Uh, I guess so?" Trapinch muttered. "But why would Lycanroc–?"

"Because he's a no good crook of an outlaw," Shane growled. "And when you're done checking, go take my place at the sentry station."

"But if Braviary finds out youse ditched yer post, you'll–"

Shane held up a forepaw to silence Yungoos. "Uh-uh. This time, the two of you are coming with me so I can prove I'm right. And because if there is trouble I need backup."

Growlithe wagged his tail. "Does this mean I can light stuff on fire? Because I've heard a Bewear's fur is especially combustible." Shane nodded. "Great! I'm in."

"Hang on a minute dere, rookie. Youse can't just come up to us and demand we help youse like dat. We could get in trouble too, y'know," Yungoos said.

"Well… uh…" Shane's eyes lit up. "I know. I'll buy you the Supreme Berry Sorbet from Crabrawler's Café if you help me."

Yungoos' eyes sparkled. "Now dat is what I call a bribe! Okay, I'm in too."

"Great!" Shane ran toward the door. "Then we'd better get a move on. We need to catch up to Team Captivate."

He sprinted through the entrance, with Yungoos and Growlithe following him. The three guys failed to notice a hulking, helmeted form watching them from beside the Observatory entrance.

"… beast… beast… have to... follow. Must get rid of him… get rid of… beast!"

Null moaned and wheezed. He jostled his head around and then plodded toward the town square.


~Dewdrop Woods~

"Anyone see anything suspicious?" Shane asked, swiveling his head about.

"No. Just trees and rocks. Da usual stuff," Yungoos replied. "Does dis mean we can go now?"

"Not if you want that sorbet," Shane replied. "Braviary said you had a nose for sniffing things out, right? How about putting that to use here?"

"Fine." Yungoos walked beside Shane and bent down toward the ground. He sniffed the pathway.

"Wow, amazing," Growlithe chirped. "I'll bet if I tried that I'd inhale the dirt and just end up setting Vulpix on fire with one of my sneezes."

Shane took several steps forward, his tails falling between his legs. 'I could've been a normal, fire-type Vulpix but nooooooo. This universe hates me, apparently, because it put me with a Riolu who isn't even appreciative of being a Riolu!'

"Hey, I got somet'ing!" Yungoos picked his head up and sniffed at the base of a rock. "I smell brine."

Shane raised an eyebrow. "Which is weird because…?"

"Because Milotic always smells like seawater cause of her shampoo. Duh," Yungoos scoffed.

Growlithe looked at his guild mate. "And you know this because…?"

"Because none of youse business, dat's why!" Yungoos growled. "I'll bet Team Captivate took off in dis direction." He pointed a foreleg down a path running east. Yungoos brought his head back toward the ground and resumed sniffing. Shane followed along after him. "Oh yeah, I can definitely still smell 'em," Yungoos muttered.

"How far could they have gotten anyway? I didn't think serpents could slither that fast," Shane muttered.

"Well, they're Team Captivate. They've been doing this for a while," Growlithe chuckled. "I tried to beg Dragonair to teach me Extreme Speed once, but she said it won't work until I evolve. Some Pokémon just have all the luck, huh?"

'Preaching to the choir there, buddy,' Shane sneered, continuing to keep his distance from Growlithe.

Yungoos led them forward, focusing on the ground. They reached a point where the trail started to wrap around a hill, when Shane's ears suddenly twitched. "Hey, I think there's someone coming," he said, turning to face some of the nearby foliage.

Sure enough, the trio soon saw the trees and bushes shaking. They all took a few steps back. The bushes then parted and several Pikipeks and Ledybas fluttered out. "Whoa!" Yungoos gasped, scampering backwards. The cluster of wild Pokémon made no attempt to engage the guild members, however. Instead, they shot worried glances back into the forest and scrambled across the trail. They disappeared into another set of bushes.

"Sheesh. What's got them all riled up?" Shane growled, trying to use his tails to dust off his fur.

"Uh, hello? Weren't youse da one who said dere's a Bewear going crazy in here?" Yungoos pointed out. "What d'ya t'ink dey're running from?"

Shane remembered Growlithe's description and his body stiffened. "Aha ha… right…" He gulped. 'C'mon Shane, show some backbone! This is your time to shine… I think. I hope. Maybe.'

"Should we try going into the trees?" Growlithe wondered. "I could always set them ablaze to draw out whatever's lurking in there!"

"No!" Shane and Yungoos belted out in unison.

"Err, what I meant ta say was dat I'm still picking up Milotic's scent on dis trail," Yungoos said. "It's possible dey ain't run into no trouble yet."

Growlithe's tail drooped in disappointment. "Right."

The trio prepared to start forward again when the ground started rumbling.


"Cripes!" Yungoos jumped up in fright, smacking his head against a low-hanging tree branch. He fell to the ground, eyes swirling about in their sockets.

"What… what was that?" Shane asked. "Is that what a Bewear sounds like? It's pretty high-pitched for a giant bear."

"Yeah, Bewear have deceptively squeaky voices," Growlithe said. "At least, that's what Braviary tells me."

"Uhuu huu huu huu! Aww, look at the adorable tiny tykes brigade. They're so scared, Umbry!"

Shane's eyes widened. 'Oh no. Please not here. Please not now!'

Growlithe's eyes narrowed. "Hey, haven't I heard that voice somewhere before?"

A spark of pink energy danced across the forest path, just in front of the guild members. More sparks followed it, and they started to gather around in a circle. Their coloration shifted from pink to a sinister dark lavender. The image of a winged heart appeared in the circle, with arced horns and a piercing eye in its center. A red and-purple vortex rose up from the circle.

"W… what in da blazes?" Yungoos gasped, staggering backwards.

"Hey, that's my line," Growlithe griped.

Shane's tails darted between his legs as he watched Espeon ascend from the vortex, head held high and sunlight distorting around her due to the black armor on her torso. A smile creeped across her face and she opened her mouth…

"Solgaleo, provider of daylight…
Great Lunala, defender of the night…
Working hard for the sake of harmony!"

Espeon put a paw to her snout and giggled. "Uhuu huu huu! That's surprisingly catchy. Now I see why that Primarina fellow loves singing it so much." She turned back toward the vortex. "How did I sound, Umbry? Better than that stuffy, soggy sea dog, I hope."

Umbreon appeared beside Espeon from the vortex. It quickly shut behind the duo, receding into a small, red-and-black card that vanished in a flash of light.

"… bah! Don't waste my time with your little games, Espy," he huffed. "We're here for a reason."

Espeon pouted. "Aww. But we're supposed to be having fun!"

"We can have fun once we've infected Vulpix," Umbreon stated. "Besides, he seems like a good playmate for you. He has a wonderfully big mouth you can clamp shut for endless amusement."

Shane's eyes widened. 'That's me they're talking about. And I so do not have a big mouth!' He briefly went cross-eyed, attempting to inspect his snout.

"Infect?" Yungoos raised an eyebrow. "Hey, didn't da weird Mareanie we run into at Sunset Shoals keep saying stuff 'bout infecting?" he asked Growlithe.

"I think so," Growlithe replied. "And have you forgotten what Lycanroc told us yesterday?" He narrowed his eyes. "These two are the ones responsible for all of it."

Espeon jumped up and down excitedly. "Oh, yaaaaaay! You guys saw our handiwork." She then frowned. "But you cost me a bunch of adorable little playmates! And you two aren't nearly squishy enough to make up for it."

"I ain't got no plans to play wit no one," Yungoos said. "Especially not a couple of crazy tourists bringin' trouble. Youse scoot on back to yer own continent and leave Horizon alone."

Shane suddenly jumped in front of his guildmates. "Espeon! Umbreon! Snap out of it!" he barked. "This… this isn't like you! You're both nice Pokémon who want to help others."

Espeon tilted her head to the side. "Oh? Do you know us from somewhere? Because I'm not intimately familiar with any white-furred Vulpixes. How about you, Umbry?"

"… no. They're unique to this continent," Umbreon replied. "Either he has us confused with someone else or he's trying to throw us off to make an escape." Umbreon's eyes glowed an even brighter red. "In which case, you're not putting on a very convincing act."

"But Umbry, he's a human, remember?" Espeon giggled. "He shouldn't know any Espeons or Umbreons at all!"

"I know you!" Shane insisted. "You're a kindly research pair from the Mist Continent. You're trying to master Entercards to help benefit Pokémon around the world. And… and you deeply care for one another. You're not troublemakers and you never have been! You have to fight back against… whatever it is making you act like this!"

"Uhuu huu huu huu!" Espeon cackled, fixing her bright blue eyes on Shane. "Well, well, someone's done their homework, haven't they? Umbry and I care about each other lots, but I must say," she sauntered up toward Shane, "I'm not really into stalkers."

Her eyes flashed white and next thing Shane knew, he lay well behind his guild mates, knocked flat onto his back. Growlithe and Yungoos shouted in fright. Shane scrambled to his feet, only to freeze when he saw faint blue auras around his teammates' bodies. Espeon's eyes crackled with pink bolts of energy.

"And you were a bit off base, kid," Umbreon sneered. "We are interested in Entercards. But not for the sake of research." The red rings across his body flickered. "Because with the energy we've gotten from the Prism Virus, we're close to achieving something no Pokémon could ever dream of cooking up on their own: Ultra Entercards! With them, we'll have absolute control over ley lines. Meaning we can circumvent the chaotic energies forming Mystery Dungeons…"

"… and spread our wonderful Prism Virus to every corner of the planet!" Espeon cheered. "And once we do, we'll have everything we need to make the world of endless night our beautiful new reality! Uhuu huu huu!"

"W… world of… endless night?" Shane practically choked on his words. 'Oh no. The threat to the balance between day and night! This had to have been what Solgaleo was talking about!'

"Yup! Where Legendaries are nothing but distant memories and every Pokémon can live out a worry-free life," Espeon continued, her grin broadening.

"No more conflicts. No more battling. No more obnoxious Mystery Dungeons. The world will finally… finally achieve peace and prosperity," Umbreon declared. "And it starts with using our Ultra Entercards to bypass the magic keeping each and every Legendary holed up in their Mystery Dungeons. Then, we infect them with the Prism Virus, and get rid of them... permanently."

Shane's eyes widened in horror. "What are you saying? You can't do that! We need those Pokémon or the world's gonna fall apart. Besides, you're not helping anyone. You're poisoning the environment and hurting other Pokémon," he growled. "Now, you'd better let those two go right now or… or…"

Umbreon took a step forward, his red eyes glowing. "Or what… you're going to stop both of us? Don't make Espy laugh!"

"Too late! I've already done plenty of that," Espeon giggled. "But, I have something in mind that's way more fun. We're going to play a little game… the five of us! It's called 'hostage negotiation.'"

Shane went rigid. "D-Don't…" he whimpered.

"The rules are super-duper simple," Espeon said. "You give us that girlie scarf around your neck and then we get to infect you! In return, your so-called friends here will get their freedom." Her eyes narrowed. "… for now."

"My… scarf?" he looked down at the rainbow scarf. 'But, they said they're going to infect me if I give this up. That means they're going to make me into one of those crazy monsters like Parasect and the Munchlaxes. I can't end up like that. I'm this world's best chance against whatever's controlling these two! And besides,' his gaze fell to the ground, 'Tessa entrusted me with this. I'm not going to give it up so easily!"

"No deal," Shane said.

Umbreon's eyes flashed with rage. "Big mistake. Now we do things my way…"

Shane crouched into a fighting stance, waiting for Umbreon to charge him. But he didn't. Instead, both he and Espeon froze as the ground trembled yet again.


"Espy?" Umbreon turned around. "I thought you said you had sent Bewear to the northern part of the woods?"

Espeon frowned. "Yeah, uh, about that." She grinned sheepishly. "I might've told a teensy-weensy white lie."


"Hey, c'mon, it's not like we were planning to be around here long," Espeon scoffed. "Besides, this presents a convenient scenario. Let's have Bewear deal with these three. Our paws stay clean and we can focus on other things in the meantime!"

Umbreon's eyes narrowed. "I'm not leaving this up to chance. Vulpix is coming back with us!"

The ground shook once again. Shane, Espeon, and Umbreon nearly fell from the force of the tremors.


Umbreon frowned. "Okay, on second thought, not becoming food for an out-of-control Ultra Bewear is a much better idea."

Espeon released Yungoos and Growlithe. Shane noticed her levitating up another red and black card.

"Wait… wait!" Shane cried, but the duo deployed their Entercard. A new vortex formed up and they disappeared into it. Espeon paused in the center of it. She turned and blew a kiss in Shane's direction.

"Until we meet again, my lovely stalker! Wait, you're heading for the great Bewear-yond, aren't you? Oh well. It was nice knowing you. Uhuu huu huu huu!" She disappeared into the vortex and it faded behind her.

"No!" Shane lunged toward the Entercard, only for it to vanish in a burst of bright pink light. Another tremor struck, this one far stronger than any of the others. Shane toppled over into Yungoos and Growlithe.

"Oof! Get offa me you clod," Yungoos hollered. "What were youse t'inking back dere? You nearly got us all killed!"

"Wait." Growlithe turned to Shane. "Do you not have an Escape Orb?"

Shane pawed at the ground. "Aha ha… see… funny story. Riolu's sorta the one in charge of the items and I, uh, didn't grab anything before we left. I assumed one of you had one."

Yungoos and Growlithe glared daggers at Shane. But before they could scold him, a beam of ice split through some of the trees. It immediately froze patches of leaves and shattered them. The guild members backed up cautiously. Seconds later, Milotic hurtled out from behind the trees.

"Auuuugh!" she hollered, striking a boulder across the forest path and dropping to the ground, writhing in pain.

"Milotic? Milotic!" Growlithe dashed over to her. "It's Growlithe. Are you okay? What happened?"

"B-Bewear… crazy… not…" Milotic mumbled, but her eyes fluttered closed and her head slumped against the ground.

"Um… guys?" Yungoos whimpered.

Shane and Growlithe turned around. Their jaws dropped at the sight before them.

"That's a Bewear?" Shane gasped. "That's no Ursaring lookalike."

"Dat… dat ain't what dey usually look like."

"Really? They don't all have four legs and massive red arms with veins bulging out of them?" Shane panicked. "It's called leg day, you big brute! And you never skip it!"

Bewear heard the taunt and turned her attention toward the guild members. She raised her arms high up and then swung them down toward her massive, rippling chest. Bewear flexed her oversized pectorals and uttered a loud, "Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!"

Shane's legs quivered.

'Oh god. This is it. I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die! What was I thinking? This isn't like the games…'

Bewear whirled around, karate-chopping one of the trees beside her in half.

'… this is a literal waking nightmare!'


Next time: the moment that many of you have hoped for finally arrives.
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Winter can't come soon enough
Not much to say here. The chapter title does all the talking for me. Enjoy!


Chapter 22: Breaking the Ice-Type

Bewear roared and flexed her arms skyward. A dark black aura encased both of them and she immediately slammed her fists to the ground. None of the guild members had any time to react. A black shockwave rippled across the ground, spearing Yungoos and Growlithe. Shane, being farthest away, was left best off, but still hollered from the attack rattling his bones.

"What the–? What sort of attack was that?" Shane gasped, forepaw placed on his chest.

"Br… Brutal Swing," Growlithe whimpered. "It catches you off guard, cause you think if you dodge the Pokémon's arms you're fine. But then the shockwave hits…"

Bewear gave the group no time to commiserate further. She stomped forward with her four, pointed legs. She raised her arms and flexed once again. This time each of her arms hardened into gigantic, bright-red hammers.

"Get back!" Shane hollered. Bewear thrust her arms downward once again. Yungoos rolled back along the ground, barely skirting Bewear's strikes. Growlithe had already gotten back to his feet, so he easily dodged the attack. He positioned himself behind Bewear and shot a stream of red-hot flames directly at her.

Fire washed across Bewear's back. Shane's eyes widened as the flames spread across Bewear's fur. Or, more specifically, what was left of her fur, as several patches along her body seemed to have been replaced with a tough, fibrous exoskeleton to match her legs.

"Oh, praise the gods! This sucker's still got Fluffy," Growlithe cheered. The victory was short lived, however. Growlithe recoiled in horror as Bewear spun her head and torso around without the use of her legs.

"Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!" she shrieked. Bewear brought her arms, still encased in chitinous hammers, to her sides, and started to rotate her torso rapidly. Growlithe immediately backpedaled.

"This is bad. That's not supposed to be physically possible!" he panicked. Bewear roared and stomped forward. Her upper body whirled about; a living, towering top looking to pummel Growlithe into oblivion.

"We've got to draw him away!" Shane hollered.

"I ain't getting near dat t'ing," Yungoos said. "Youse can hit it from a distance, so do something!"

Shane nodded and opened his mouth. Chilled air raced forward, but the combination of residual flames from Growlithe's attack and Bewear's rapid spinning created a wall of heat that vaporized the attack before it could so much as tickle Bewear's massive paws.

Growlithe was now several yards away from his teammates, running along the trail and silently praying for Bewear to get dizzy. Yungoos and Shane slowly jogged forward, both of them too bewildered to properly think up anything to do.

"Wait, what the heck is Bewear's typing anyway?" Shane asked. "With arms like that it's gotta be fighting-type, right?"

"No duh, rookie!" Yungoos spat. "What'cha gonna tell me next? Da sky is blue? Dat yer face is ugly?"

Shane ignored that jab and tensed up his body, trying to call forth psychic energy from the deeper recesses of his mind. His eyes glowed pink and a set of familiar pink ripples raced ahead of him. The spinning Bewear had no defense against the psionic waves. They ensnared her and exploded. The force wasn't strong enough to knock Bewear to the ground, but the attack successfully disoriented her.

"Now! Go, go, go!" Shane hollered, sprinting forward. He didn't dare to look back at his enemy for fear of snapping her out of her stupor. Yungoos whizzed past him, making it to Growlithe first.

"Thanks for the save, guys," Growlithe said. "So, anyone have any ideas?"

"Yes!" Shane said.

"Absolutely not! Anyt'ing youse try to offer is gonna get us murdalized," Yungoos spat.

"Now's not the time for jokes or Magearna impressions. This is serious!" Shane hissed. He took a deep breath. 'Okay, Shane. Time to draw out your inner Pokémon trainer here. Strategize… strategize…'

Bewear snapped out of her confusion. She flexed her arms in front of her chest and unleashed another ear-splitting, "Kiiiiiiiiiiiiii!"

"Okay, Yungoos, you need to blind Bewear with Sand Attack," Shane ordered. "Growlithe, you and I stay together and hit Bewear. Use Flamethrower first to make its fur catch on fire. Then I'll use Extrasensory. If we're lucky, it'll turn your Flamethrower into a giant fireball that erupts on top of Bewear!"

Yungoos started to protest, but noticed Bewear raise up her arms once again. Black tendrils of energy encased her hands and she slammed them to the ground. The trio found themselves leaping up, barely dodging the shockwave that rippled out from Bewear's arms.

"Ah, forget it! We're already hosed! What've I godda lose here?" Yungoos groaned. He jumped forward and kicked at the ground repeatedly. Multiple plumes of dirt shot out, smearing across Bewear's face. Bewear hissed and staggered back. She kept switching between flexing and trying to wipe the dirt from her eyes.

"Now, Growlithe!" Shane ordered. Growlithe stepped forward and unleashed his fire breath. The flames struck Bewear's chest and quickly started to spread around her body. The dirt pockets on her face heated up, creating a loud sizzling sound that made Shane shiver.

"My turn," Shane said. He stood next to Growlithe and sent a quartet of psychic ripples forward. They trapped Bewear and burst around her. Only, instead of a small pink flash, this time a brilliant orange fireball swallowed up Bewear's hulking form. The guild members shielded their eyes from the rush of heat.

"Okay, if we weren't fighting for our lives, you'd have to admit that that is pretty cool," Growlithe chuckled.

"Actually, it's the exact opposite of cool," Shane quipped. "But it looks like it did the trick. Great work, you two! I knew we could pull this o–"


The triumphant look on Shane's face deflated. His ears and tail drooped. Not only was Bewear not down for the count, but that last combo seemed to have disposed of the remaining fur patches on her body. Her arms and torso were now a fully chitinous exoskeleton. A white, winged heart sat seared in her chest, with vicious horns point up toward her vein-filled neck. Strange luminescent fluid ran through the veins bulging out of Bewear's arms and neck.

"No! It's got that symbol that Espeon and Umbreon had," Shane gasped. "And look at that crystal sticking out of the center of the heart!"

"That's a black crystal. Just like what Lycanroc said Espeon and Umbreon were planting. But how did it even get in there?" Growlithe wondered.

"Nice going, gang! We just succeeded in making it mad!" Yungoos groaned.

"But… but we hit it with two super-effective attacks in tandem. That should've seriously weakened it," Shane squeaked. 'Just what does this Prism Virus thing do to these Pokémon?'

"Okay, don't panic too much guys," Shane said. "We just need to do the exact same thing and that oughta– oh my god!" His eyes widened at the sight of Bewear turning and scooping Milotic's unconscious body up off the ground.

"Hey, you put her down right now!" Growlithe barked. Bewear shrieked in rage and flexed with her free arm. The arm gripping Milotic reared back and swung forward.

"Duck!" Yungoos shouted, sprawling out on his belly. Growlithe dove toward the bushes. But Shane wasn't fast enough on the uptake. Milotic's cream-colored face collided with his head and neck.


White-hot pain flared up on every square inch of Shane's body. His legs buckled and he crumpled to the ground.

"What… what just hit me?" Shane whimpered. He tried to blink the stars from his vision, but to little avail.

"It… uh… whipped you… with Milotic," Growlithe said in disbelief.

Bewear roared and brought her Milotic-wielding arm back. It whipped Milotic forward yet again. Still disoriented, Shane had no proper means of self-defense. Milotic's limp form hammered him across his back.


A fresh wave of excruciating pain gripped Shane. Invisible needles stabbed him repeatedly from all over. Shane wailed in agony and his spotty vision quickly turned to nothing but bright light.

"Ahh… ahh…" Shane lay there, desperately gasping for air.

"He's gotten da wind knocked outta him! He's useless to us right now!" Yungoos hissed. "But how are we supposed to hit Bewear wit'out hitting Milotic?" Yungoos scampered forward. Bewear snarled viciously and lashed out with Milotic. Yungoos barely managed to skirt the strike, and continued running forward. He didn't even try to attack. "Now, Growlithe! While its back is turned!"

Growlithe recognized his opening. He curled up into a ball and doused his body in flames. Then he ran forward, his jaws igniting with wicks of fire. He bit down on one of Bewear's rear legs. Startled by the blow, she gasped and dropped Milotic to the ground. Growlithe quickly headbutted Milotic. She went rolling down the hill, safely away from Bewear.

However, Growlithe lacked the time to properly escape Bewear's reach. Her arms turned midnight-black and came thundering down right onto Growlithe. Bewear's fists pummeled him into the ground with far greater intensity than the shockwave he'd experienced previously. Growlithe's pained howl echoed through the forest.

Yungoos whirled around in a panic. Bewear raised her arms high and flexed triumphantly. Yungoos could just barely make out Growlithe between Bewear's legs. His fur stood on end as he noticed Growlithe's left hind leg bent at an angle it very clearly should not go at.

Shane got his second wind at the exact same time, only for his gut to squirm at the sight of his unconscious teammate. Worse yet, the black crystal embedded in Bewear's chest started crackling with black electricity.

"No! Get away from him!" Shane shouted. Even though every facet of his body screamed in protest, Shane called up his psychic powers. More psionic waves shot forward from his head, going straight for the crystal in Bewear's chest. The waves exploded in a flash of pink. The crystal rattled about in Bewear's chest. She screeched and flexed her arms back behind her in surprise.

Unlike the previous attacks, this one tripped Bewear up. Her hind legs gave out, sending her hulking form toppling over. "Aiiiyyyyyeeeeee!" Yungoos yelped as Bewear's form fell toward him. He scrambled backward, only to gasp in pain. Bewear's head struck his tail, pinning him down to the ground.

"Agh! No, no, no, no, no!" Yungoos panicked, desperately yanking his tail. It refused to budge from under Bewear's massive head. "C'mon, stupid tail. Is youse trying to get us both snapped like Growlithe's leg?"

Shane tried to go forward and attack again, but his legs seized up when he took a step forward. Burning pain shot down his back. He froze. 'Ow… owww! Why does this hurt so much? Did Bewear damage my spine?' His eyes widened at the thought.

Bewear started getting back up. Yungoos felt the pressure subside from his tail and scrambled forward. He managed about half a dozen steps before a burly, black arm shot forward and grabbed him by the tail. "Ahhhhh! No! Put me down! I don't taste good or nuttin'!" Yungoos hollered, flailing his limbs about. He found himself looking right into Bewear's glowing-red eyes.

"Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!" Bewear roared.

"Rookie!" Yungoos sobbed, thrashing about even faster. "Don't just stand there... do somethiiiiiiing! I don't wanna diiiiiiiiie!"

Bewear flexed her free arm. Yungoos watched it form up into a gigantic, glowing hammer. Bewear then released her grip and, before Yungoos could properly fall to the ground, spiked him down from on high with her solidified arm. The force propelled him into the ground, leaving an impact crater twice his size, with cracks reverberating all around the ground.

Shane seized up in pain yet again as he tried cry our for his guild mate. 'No... this is a disaster! We're all gonna die out here! It's not fair!'

Bewear rotated her torso to lock eyes with Shane. The life drained out of his face. The pain in his spine refused to subside. His legs remained locked in place, even as his brain desperately screamed for him to turn tail and run.

"Kiiiiiiiiiiiii!" Bewear shrieked. She rotated to the side, leaned down, and hefted up a rock three times Shane's size. Bewear hoisted the rock up and turned to face Shane. His heart hammered in his chest. Shane tried to take a step back, but his hind legs wouldn't move. The excruciating pain continued spilling out from his back. Shane's vision turned watery.

'This is it. I'm done for! And it's all because of stupid Lycanroc! All because nobody would listen to me! How could this go so spectacularly wrong? I'm trying to do the right thing. This shouldn't be happening!' Shane thought. 'All that work Solgaleo did to bring me here… it's all gonna be for nothing!'

Shane couldn't even close his eyes. He could only watch through his tearful vision as Bewear's arms started to move forward, preparing to hurl the boulder and crush every bone in his body.


The boulder exploded into hundreds of rocky fragments. Bewear's arms thrust apart. She flexed them as she looked up in surprise to see Null land directly on her head. Bewear hissed in protest and reached toward her face.

'Null!' Shane gasped, unable to open his mouth and speak properly. The chimera leaped off Bewear, spun around, and sent a blades of air forward. They speared Bewear's chest crystal. She staggered backward, clutching at the crystal with one hand and flexing her free arm.

Null fell to the ground and worked quickly. He scooped Yungoos out of his crater and tossed him in Milotic's direction. Bewear roared her disapproval. Null ignored her and ran toward Growlithe. However, the bulky helmet clearly slowed him down. Bewear raised her arms high, transforming them into gigantic hammers yet again.

Shane tried opening his mouth to shout, but all that escaped was a dry cough. More pain shot across his back and, at last, his legs had had enough. He collapsed on the ground, body trembling in agony. He teared up again, so he failed to see Null barely dodge a pair of wild swings from Bewear's arms.

Null reached Growlithe and tossed him over by the other unconscious battlers. He turned and thrust his left foreleg at Bewear. Air crescents hurtled forward. They struck Bewear's left-front leg. The sharp air currents made her leg buckle. Bewear lost her balance and tumbled to the ground. In desperation, she reached out toward a tree to steady herself, but merely shattered the tree into splinters.

Bewear struck the ground with an audible thud. Null saw Shane lying on his side and approached. He shook his head about, letting out a raspy hiss. Null's talons scratched at the ground.

"… he's down…" Null whispered. "We can… dispose of him. We can… eliminate both of them." Null shook his head and staggered backward at this, hissing loudly.

"No! He's… part of... the guild. I don't…"

Null thrust his head to the side, roaring. "Do it! Destroy him! He's... a Beast! We must... kill all Beasts! It's why... we were made!" he suddenly shouted. He lumbered forward, gathering white energy in his talons. He raised his foreleg high…

… and struck his own helmet. Null stumbled to the side, lapsing into a coughing fit. He took a deep breath to calm himself and produced an oran berry from the pouch around his torso.

Shane didn't move, still whimpering in pain. Null stepped forward and planted a foreleg on Shane. Null rolled Shane onto his back, drawing a pained grimace, and shoved the berry into his open mouth. Shane's eyes widened, but the berry appeared to do the trick. He slowly rolled onto his stomach, coughing up a storm.

Bewear finally returned to her feet. She roar furiously and turned her attention on one of the forest's trees. Null heard the roar and immediately started clawing at this helmet.

"Null… what… how did you… get here?" Shane wheezed. He took a few shaky steps forward and gave a relieved sigh. A dull, throbbing ache still ran across his back, but at least he could move now.

Null only growled loudly in response. It echoed against his helmet, making Shane's skin crawl. He decided it best not to question the good turn of fortune. Instead, he turned back to Bewear, only for his heart to immediately start racing again. With another shriek, Bewear successfully uprooted an entire tree. A pair of Pikipek flew out from the branches, squawking in terror.

Bewear hefted the tree over her head, glaring at Shane and Null.

"It's… it's gonna throw that tree at us!" Shane realized, tails sticking straight up in panic. "What do we do?"

"… combine attacks…" Null hissed. Shane glanced at him and could see a sharp air current encasing his right foreleg.

'Right! Just like I did with Growlithe's Flamethrower,' he recalled. 'But can I really pull off an attack now? I couldn't even move before Null showed up.'

Bewear hurled the tree forward, giving Shane no further time for thought. He saw Null whip his foreleg around, shooting air blades forward. Shane grit his teeth and tensed every muscle in his body. He thrust his head forward and smiled as pink waves shot ahead of him.

They reached the tree seconds after Null's wind blades and exploded. Bursts of psychically-bolstered air currents exploded out in all directions. The tree shattered into harmless little splinters. But there was no time for celebration. Bewear lurched toward the duo with her four legs. She flexed her arms in front of her chest and they transformed into hammers once again.

Without even thinking, Shane opened his mouth, exhaling with all the force he could muster. A torrent of ice-cold frost raced forward. Aside from hitting Bewear, it made the ground slick. One of Bewear's forelegs planted down, only to kick up. Bewear hollered in surprise. Her arms' transformations faded and she toppled backward.

Null stepped forward and again gathered fragments of concentrated air in his right foreleg. He hurled the air crescents at the fallen Bewear. The blades struck Bewear's chest crystal. This time, the crystal shattered, scattering glassy, black fragments in all directions.

"KIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiii…" Bewear's shriek gradually diminished in volume. She reached a trembling arm up and gave one final flex before the arm collapsed to her side. Null and Shane looked on as light encased Bewear's body. She shrank down, her arms losing most of their ridiculous muscle mass. When the light faded, the exoskeleton was gone, replaced with black fur around her body and pink fur around her head.

Shane took a step toward Bewear, only to recoil as wisps of black electricity started racing around her body. "No!" Shane cried, realizing what was happening. The tendrils retreated toward the ground. And as they did, Bewear's colors melted away and spilled out on the ground around her.

Null thrashed his head about again, hissing loudly and clawing at his helmet. Shane switched between watching him and watching Bewear's colors evaporate into the air. When the multicolored steam faded, Bewear lay motionless on the ground.

"It's… it's gone…" Shane whispered. He glanced at Null, who was now scratching his helmet up against a tree. Shane's adrenaline rush, meanwhile, was fading fast. His vision grew fuzzy fuzzy. Something weighed down his limbs. 'This… this doesn't feel like a victory at all,' he thought, whimpering.

"… momma?"

A tiny squeak drew Shane's attention. Null didn't seem to notice. He remained next to the tree while Shane proceeded forward. He only made it a few steps before stopping. Stufful had walked out from behind Bewear. He sniffed at her torso.

"Momma?" Stufful squeaked again. He nudged Bewear's limp form with his muzzle. Bewear failed to move.

'No. C'mon, little guy, go away!' Shane thought. 'You shouldn't be looking at this.'

"Momma? Momma?" Stufful tried to shove Bewear with his forelegs, but to no avail. His eyes teared up. "Mommaaaaaaaaaa!" Stufful rubbed his face against Bewear's hide.

Shane's head throbbed. His vision flickered. 'This isn't right. I'm just supposed to fight upset wild Pokémon and move on. I can't deal with things like this. That Bewear was a mother! And now… now her kid… is all alone.'

"M-Momma…" Stufful lay down against her shoulder.

Shane took a step forward. "Hey, kid… you shouldn't stay out here. It's not safe for you."

Stufful got to his feet. He spun around, growling at Shane. "Get away! You… you and your friends hurt momma! You're… you're a bad person!"

"No, you don't understand. Your mom… she…" Shane started, but his voice trailed off. His legs started to shake. His head pounded. His vision failed him. The combination of mental and physical exhaustion proved too much for Shane to take. Overwhelmed by everything that had happened, Shane's eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed to the ground.

Null managed to snap out of his stupor and saw Shane passed out in front of Stufful. He walked over toward Shane, but it wasn't long before Stufful spotted him. Stufful leaped in front of his mother, his legs trembling.

"Get away, you monster! I won't let you hurt my momma!" Stufful squealed.

Null coughed and shook his head. "I don't... want to hurt her. I just... want to help you. You can't stay out here... by yourself..."

"I'm... I'm not by myself. Momma's here with me, see?" Stufful whimpered.

"Kid... your mother's gone. You need to come... with me. I'm with the guild. We can keep you safe," Null said, but his rasping voice made Stufful's fur bristle. He glared tearfully at Null.

"No, I won't leave my momma! You... you go away! Or else!" he warned. Null sighed and scooped Shane off the ground.

"Suit yourself... kid."


~Aeon Observatory~

Tessa sprinted out from the sentry hallway. Trapinch scampered after her. "Wait up, Riolu!" he squeaked. "I can't run that fast!" She wasn't running for much longer, however. The second he entered the main assembly area, Trapinch skidded to a halt by Tessa's side. They both watched Metagross stomp toward the nursing wing. He levitated multiple Pokémon around him.

"Null!" Tessa called and ran over to him. She slowed her pace, noticing Yungoos and Growlithe draped over his back. "Wh… what happened?"

"… infected Bewear… tearing up Dewdrop Woods…" Null rasped. He turned away from Tessa and trudged along after Metagross.

"Oh man, Vulpix was right?" Trapinch gasped.

Tessa whirled on Trapinch. "Wait. Vulpix hasn't been in the nursing wing this whole time? You told me he got overheated and fainted!"

Trapinch's face blanched. "Aha ha… ha… did I say that? Oops. I must've gotten my wires crossed with another guild member."

Tessa clenched her fists. "What did that crazy idiot do this time?" Trapinch looked around nervously. "C'mon, Trapinch, spit it out!"

"Okay, okay!" Trapinch squeaked. "Vulpix came up to us saying he overhead Lycanroc tell Team Captivate to go to Dewdrop Woods and investigate reports of a Bewear going crazy. He thought Lycanroc was leading them into a trap. He convinced Growlithe and Yungoos to go with him and I covered his sentry spot." Trapinch flinched and looked away. "Please don't get mad at me. I just wanted to help."

Tessa relaxed her arms and paws. "Ugh, what was he thinking?" She stormed off toward the nursing wing. But the place was packed. She couldn't even get a glimpse of who was in there, because Lycanroc and Braviary filled up the entrance.

"… well, yeah, I did ask Team Captivate to go check the place out. Actually, Volcarona and Araquanid are the ones who reported Bewear to me. But I ain't got a clue what Snowy and the others were doing in the forest, mate. You'll have to ask one of them."

"I can't exactly do that right now, can I?" Braviary stated. "They're all totally out of it. Null, how'd ya even manage to get 'em all back here?"

"… Team Captivate… had Escape Orbs. Found their item pouch… and used one…" Null muttered.

"Mighty quick thinking on yer part, hoss," Braviary complimented. "Comfey, how are they looking over there?"

"Excuse me, Braviary, can I just get through to see my partner?" Tessa asked.

"Huh? Oh, sure." Braviary lifted a wing to let Tessa through. She stepped into the infirmary and found all of Team Captivate positioned on separate beds. Beside them lay Shane, Yungoos, Growlithe, and two large bugs Tessa didn't recognize. She assumed they were the Volcarona and Araquanid that Lycanroc had mentioned. Comfey floated between all of the beds.

"Well, Team Captivate's all healed up. Their injuries were fairly routine, all things considered," Comfey reported. "But these three are going to be a problem. I think I can heal Yungoos up with one round of Floral Healing. Let's see…" She floated down to Yungoos and draped her string of flowers across his body. A glow overtook them, bathing Yungoos in soft, pink light.

Yungoos' eyes fluttered opened. "Eh… huh?" He picked his head up. "Ayy, I ain't dead! Oh, t'ank da Tapus, I ain't dead!"

"Shhh!" Comfey released a cloud of light pink vapor around Yungoos. He breathed in the gas and sank back onto the bed. "You need to rest, and I need you to keep your voice down, okay?" Yungoos nodded slowly, letting out a yawn. "Good. Now then." Comfey turned to Growlithe. "That broken leg needs to be reset before I can try anything. Guildmaster, if I could borrow you for a moment?"

Affirmative. Metagross stepped forward. Comfey floated over to Growlithe's head. She started releasing a pink cloud around his face. Metagross' eyes flashed blue and Growlithe's leg abruptly snapped back in the proper direction. Growlithe's entire body tensed up and a whine escaped his muzzle. But he then breathed in the vapors and fell back to sleep.

Comfey floated down toward his hind leg and pointed a stubby arm at it. A set of small, glowing, green vines shot out and wrapped the limb up. "And there's a Synthesis cast for good measure. He'll need to stay off his leg for the next few days, but I think it'll heal properly."

"Good to hear," Braviary acknowledged. "What about Vulpix?"

Shane had woken up of his own accord, but he couldn't bring himself to meet anyone's gaze. He just stared transfixed at his pillow. Comfey floated over and inspected his spine with a furrowed brow.

"Vulpix, you have a massive bruise running down your back," she observed. "What happened?" Shane said nothing. He attempted to curl up into a ball, only to wince in pain. "Hey now, don't you move a muscle, mister," Comfey scolded. "You've clearly damaged your spine and any unnecessary movement could make it impossible for me to fix it properly."

"… he was… on his feet… when I found him…" Null rasped. "Used… an attack… too…"

Comfey's eyes went wide. "Good heavens!" she gasped. "I'd better get working right away." She floated over Shane and draped her flowers along his back. Tessa walked up toward his bed but Shane buried his face into the pillow. The soft glow of Comfey's Floral Healing spread out across his back. When it faded, only faint traces of the massive bruise remained.

"Now, I'll ask again. What happened?" Comfey said. "I need to know to determine my next move."

Shane glanced Tessa's stoic expression from the corner of his eyes. "Bewear… hit me in the back… with Milotic."

Everyone's attentions turned toward Milotic, who recoiled in shock. "I… I don't remember anything like that," she said.

"Because you were out cold. Bewear picked you up and wielded you like a whip," Shane reported. Milotic's eyes widened and her face flushed. Serperior's jaw hung open.

"Oh… oh my…" Milotic flummoxed. "I… I'm so sorry. This is really humiliating."

Tessa frowned and stepped back from Shane's bed. He turned to look at her. Tessa's aura feelers stood upright. 'That's odd. Vulpix's aura is way different than before.' She quickly moved out of the way to allow Comfey to circle Shane's bed.

"I'm overlaying your back with bands of Synthesis," she explained. "Their healing energies should be able to safely reach your spine. I don't want to risk any other treatment options. So, I'm going to need you to lie like that for at least the next day. Possibly more depending on how your body reacts to the treatment."

"… whatever. I deserve it," Shane whimpered. A knot tied up in Tessa's stomach.

'Vulpix fell into a pretty bad funk the last time we fought an infected Pokémon,' she recalled. 'But this seems even worse.' Her face then scrunched up. 'Wait, what am I thinking? He's right. None of this would've happened if he hadn't chosen to run off and try to play the hero again. Dang it, Vulpix! Why couldn't you just listen to me and not eavesdrop on Lycanroc? You're supposed to be my ticket to success and happiness, but that all goes out the window if you go out and get yourself killed!'

Her aura feelers tensed again. She stared down at the floor in an attempt to ignore them.

"Well, this turned into a right mess, eh?" Lycanroc sighed. "I'm sorry, sheilas. If I had really known what Bewear was like, I'd have never asked ya to get involved."

A growl drew the room's attention. Tessa briefly looked up from the floor to see Shane staring Lycanroc down. 'Oh no,' she thought. 'He can't seriously still be on Lycanroc's case, right? Even after all of this? Keep your mouth shut, Vulpix. Please! Things are bad enough already. You're going to make everything worse.'

But her mental prayers failed to reach Shane. "You… you planned this," he croaked. "You knew what Bewear was capable of, but you told Team Captivate to go to the woods anyway."

"It was an honest mistake, mate," Lycanroc growled. "And that don't explain how you ended up in the woods."

"You did it on purpose," Shane accused. "You told them about Bewear in the middle of the guild… so I would hear. You knew I had sentry duty. You… you set me up!"

"Funny," Braviary said, scratching his beak. "So, yer admitting you done abandoned yer station after I assigned you sentry duty as a punishment?"

Shane winced. "I… I had to! I only meant to go warn Team Captivate that they were heading into a trap. I didn't expect to actually run into Bewear. Everything got out of control, okay. And I'm sorry, but I needed to do it. Because… because Lycanroc's…"

This time Lycanroc growled. His crimson eyes narrowed and the usual smirk on his face turned into scornful frown. "What about me, mate? I already apologized. Yeah, I mucked things up real good, but I ain't about to stand here and let you drag my name through the mud. What makes you think yer so high and mighty, huh? Is it the human tidbit? Because if all this is an indication, yer more of a hindrance than a help to this place!"

Tessa tensed up, tucking her chin against her chest. Lycanroc's words sent a chill down her spine. 'That's… that's what I really think of Vulpix right now, isn't it? No... that's what I've always thought of him, isn't it?' She involuntarily flinch. She saw a Lucario stare back up at her from the floor, a disapproving look in its eyes.

'I latched onto the idea that Vulpix was a chosen one... and would elevate me if I stayed with him,'
Tessa realized. 'No... no! You stupid, stupid idiot. You weren't supposed to get your hopes about all of this, remember? Look at what's happening! You were right... Vulpix is a total fluke! He's not special. He's nothing like my heroes. He's... he's a total failure.' Tessa's ears and aura feelers drooped. 'And that means... I'm not going to be special, either.'

Shane gnashed his teeth together, jolting Tessa upright. "I know you're a problem," he claimed, leering at Lycanroc. "I… I figured it out. In a dream."

Lycanroc's muzzle pulled back into a smirk. Everyone's eyes fell on him. Tessa buried her face in her paws. 'Oh, gods. Why, Vulpix? Out of all the ridiculous things you could possibly say, why that?'

"Hoss, do ya realize how absurd yer sounding right now?" Braviary scoffed. "Comfey, ya might wanna check his noggin'."

"I'm not crazy," Shane said. "It's the truth. I've… I've had visions in my dreams where Solgaleo talks to me. I think he's the reason that I'm here. Guildmaster, you can read my mind, right? Tell 'em!"

Fact: dreams are fabrications of your subconscious. Fact: excluding Legendaries, only Pokémon with access to Dream Mist can view the dreams of another Pokémon. Conclusion: I cannot validate your statements, Metagross declared.

Shane noticed the bewildered looks from his guild mates. "Don't look at me like that. I'm sure other humans brought to this world have experienced stuff like this. The story where Temporal Tower got saved? That human had visions in it. Dimensional Screams… that's what they were called, right?"

That is correct. But I still find the odds of your statement being true infinitesimally smallimal. Approximately sixty-four thousand to one, with generous rounding, Magearna stated. An incarnation of Solgaleo and Lunala have not been witnessified anywhere throughout the world in over two centuries. And my lieification sensors are detecting a 72.5 percent fluctuation in your vocal pitchitude, suggesting uncertainty with your own statements.

"Oh, come on. You totally just made that up. Pokémon don't have built in lie detectors," Shane hissed.

Your deflectifying of the issue only serves to further my point, Magearna countered.

"I'm not lying!" Shane whimpered. "He's contacted me several nights since I've gotten here. He told me that someone or something is trying to upset the world's balance between day and night. And he also told me…" Shane glanced at Tessa, who wore a big frown on her face, "that Tessa's brother, Gallian, is the Pokémon behind it." Shane hastily looked away.

Tessa took a step backwards, her paws balling up into fists and her arms trembling. 'No. How could he say something like that? That... that... that asshole!' The tremors intensified. 'He... he promised me a chance at fame and admiration. But all he's doing is earning me the exact opposite of that! I didn't need people looking down on me more than they already did. What have I done?' Tears welled up in her eyes. 'I... I never should have come here. This was a mistake. A huge mistake that's spiraling into the disastrous failure I feared it would be!'

"Don't you see? Lycanroc came in here insisting Espeon and Umbreon are to blame for everything. But they're not! They could be under Gallian's control, or maybe someone else's, but no one's doing any favors listening to Lycanroc," Shane stated, unaware of Tessa's growing restlessness. "He's here to drive wedges between everyone in the guild. And it's working."

Lycanroc's face contorted into a snarl again. "But, rookie," Yungoos muttered. "We did run into Espeon and Umbreon in the forest."

"Is that so? And what did they tell y'all?" Braviary asked.

"Lots! Namely, most of da stuff Lycanroc told us. Dey're usin' Entercards for evil. Dey wanna spread somet'ing called da Prism Virus and use it to kill all da Legendaries and make a world of endless night," Yungoos said.

Shane's ears drooped. "They… they must've been brainwashed into saying that…"

"Like dey was brainwashed into restraining Growlithe and me to get to youse?" Yungoos snarled.

Braviary narrowed his eyes at Shane, who abruptly tensed up. "Ya mind repeating that one?"

"Yeh," Yungoos growled. "Espeon and Umbreon were after him! Dey want Vulpix. And dey was willin' to hold Growlithe and me in a psychic bind to get him to give up dat dopey scarf and turn himself over to dem!"

Metagross' eyes flashed blue. Fact: Yungoos' statement is true, he announced. Murmurs rose up amongst the other guild members.

Shane squirmed about in his bed. "W-Wait… wait! You, uh, don't have all the context behind that!"

"Oh, is dat so? By all means, rookie, jump in if I'm leavin' somet'ing out," Yungoos spat.

Vrrrriiiiiiiiiing! Vrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiing!

If I may interrupt your argumenticating for a moment? I appear to be receiving a call, Magearna announced. Origin signal is… Lively Town.

A hush fell over the room. Shane sat up, only to hiss in pain. Comfey floated down and pressed him back into a lying position. "Honestly, were you even paying attention to me?" she groaned.

"Well, best be giving 'em an answer, Mags," Braviary said.

Magearna nodded. Her stomach compartment opened up and a somewhat larger version of her Gear-Com appeared. She retracted one of her arms and out popped a small satellite dish.

Horizon Guild. Magearna speaking.

"Oh, uh, hi, Magearna," a very squeaky voice projected from the Gear-Com. "This is Dedenne. You're the one who called Latias, right?"

Shane's eyes widened. He opened his mouth to say something but received glares from several guild members, forcing him to hold his tongue.

Yes, that is correct, Magearna replied.

"Right. Latias has been a bit tied up. We've been running her and her brother ragged lately," Dedenne explained. "I don't know if any of you have noticed, but something's up with the moon. And it's been messing with a lot of the Mystery Dungeons around here. Latias has been out with Team Gaia investigating things."

Tessa's heart skipped the beat. 'Oh gods, is that true? I thought the moon seemed off the last time I ran into Espeon and Umbreon. Is there really something wrong with it?'

"Howdy, Dedenne. Braviary here," Braviary spoke up. "Any chance you could elaborate a smidge?"

"Oh, sure. Although Jirachi might be a better option for that one. Hold on…" Her voice trailed off and the faint sound of footsteps echoed through the speakers. It didn't take long for Dedenne to return. "He's asleep. And trust me, you don't want me waking him up. I can still do my best, though!" she said. "See, a couple of weeks back the moon went from being quarter-full to completely full in only a couple of nights. And it hasn't waned since."

"S-See?" Shane groaned. "What did I tell you? Balance between day and night is in trouble. Now do you believe me?"

"Pipe down, son," Braviary ordered. "Well, that is mighty concerning to hear, Dedenne. Matter of fact, we've been having some strange tidings here in Horizon, too."

Yes. Some odd weather-related phenomenon are occuspiring throughout the continent. I have been engaged in multiple confusion cycles trying to figure out a cause. Admittedly, the moon did not occur to me as a possibility, Magearna added.

"Yeah, it's been shining really bright too," Dedenne said. "Some of us are even having trouble sleeping at the Expedition Society. But, oh, I'm straying off subject, aren't I? Silly me! I'm supposed to be following up on that request you called us with."

Magearna's eyes whirred in their sockets. Were you able to look into the Pokémon Nexus, then?

"You know it," Dedenne replied. "And, um, I'm afraid I've got bad news."

Lycanroc's smirk reappeared. "Is that so?"

"We're familiar with Espeon and Umbreon. In fact, they've tagged along with Team Gaia on occasion to conduct their research," Dedenne explained. "They're honorary Expedition Society members, so they're registered in the Pokémon Nexus for sure. But we can't get a lock on their signal. Like… at all."

Shane felt Lycanroc's crimson gaze fall onto him. He squirmed in his bed, only for Comfey to throw a hand on him. He abruptly stopped and resumed staring at the floor.

"Latias said she can't sense any traces of their energies around here," Dedenne continued. "She went to Post Town and spoke with Virizon, Keldeo, and Emolga. Apparently, no one's seen them around town in weeks. And Keldeo told her that some sort of outside force has blocked his ability to synthesize Entercards."

I see. Well, thank you for the informatelligence, Magearna said. Sorry to have bothered you.

"It's no trouble at all," Dedenne chirped. "We're always happy to help out our friends across the ocean. Just give us a ring if you need anything."

Static erupted from Magearna's speaker and it withdrew into her stomach. "Well, I think we can all agree what's going on 'round here, mates," Lycanroc declared. "Espeon and Umbreon are using their Entercards to throw day and night out of whack. And they're messing up our continent as a result!"

Another chorus of murmurs erupted throughout the room.

"But what exactly is a Prism Virus?" Trapinch wondered. "I mean, I know a prism's a kind of shape."

"Yeah, but I've never heard of viruses," Serperior muttered. "Yo, Guildmaster. That ring any bells for you?"

Negative, Metagross responded. Fact: the human is familiar with that term.

Though he was still looking at the floor, Shane sensed everyone eyes falling on him again. "What, you can't tell me you guys really don't know what viruses are? C'mon, haven't you ever gotten sick?"

"You mean like a tummy ache?" Trapinch asked.

Shane glanced at Comfey. "I treat Pokémon for illnesses, but they're caused by things like getting poisoned or spending too much time in the heat or cold."

Shane sighed. "Okay then. A virus is a type of disease. From the human world… I guess." He tapped a paw against a chin. "How can I explain it? Viruses are, like, these little invisible enemies that can make you really sick. They invade your body and start using it to make more copies of themselves. And they, uh, well, if you can't cure them then they usually kill their hosts and move on to infect someone else."

"What?" "You're kidding!" "Is that what happened to those Mareanie?"

"But don't you see what this means? It's not Espeon's and Umbreon's faults!" Shane looked at Lycanroc. "If they're infected by a virus, then that's what's got control of them."

"And what if they're the ones responsible for making it, huh?" Lycanroc growled.

"How could they be?" Shane said. "You guys just said that you don't know what viruses are. So how would they, huh?"

Lycanroc rolled his eyes. "Seriously, mate? You answered that one already. Didn't you say something about them two helping stop the Bittercold?" Shane's muzzle stiffened while Lycanroc's faze fiercened. "That means those two have met a human before…"

"But the human had lost its memories," Shane pointed out.

"So? Espeon's a psychic. She could probably read the human's mind. Including its lost memories," Lycanroc scoffed.

"Why are you determined to tear the two of them down? If we can free them from the Prism Virus' control, then they could help us!" Shane insisted.

"And why are you so intent on putting them on a pedestal, mate?" Lycanroc growled. "Wait…" A smirk appeared on his muzzle. "Oh. Aha ha ha! I think I see what's going on here now." He crossed his arms. "Yer crushing on Espeon. Or maybe Umbreon. Hey, I ain't judging."

Shane's eyes widened. "What? Need I remind you I'm human?!"

"But you look like a Vulpix. So, you've got Vulpix instincts, mate," Lycanroc chuckled. "Look, hey, maybe we got off on the wrong foot here. I'm willing to live and let live if you just fess up and say you spat on my pride because you've got the hots for one of them." His smirk widened. "Or both of them."

"I do not," Shane snarled. "I'm mad at you. Because you're a nasty, awful, mean-spirited Pokémon. It's not my fault no one here wants to believe me!"



Metagross slammed a foreleg on the ground, silencing both of them. He turned to Shane.

Fact: you abandoned your post on impulse. Fact: appropriate action was to contact a high-ranking guild member about Bewear, Metagross stated. Fact: your actions served to place guild members in harm's way. Conclusion: when you are healed, you and your teammate will report to my office for proper disciplinary action.

Tessa went stiff as a board. "What?! I didn't even do anything this time!"

Fact: a team is held accountable for its collective actions. Fact: Braviary has repeatedly informed you of this, Metagross elaborated. He turned toward the rest of the guild members. Order: disband immediately and go about your business. Lycanroc, you are free to do as you wish.

"Thank you, mate," Lycanroc said. "Think I'll grab something to eat in town." He turned and strolled out of the room. The guild members followed shortly after him.

"R-Riolu…" Shane rasped, but Tessa turned around and stomped up to him.

"I cannot believe you!" she snarled. "You ignore me. You run off and nearly get yourself killed. And, when you were lucky enough to escape a Bewear by the skin of your teeth, you have the audacity to not only humiliate me in front of the whole guild, but to try and accuse my brother of masterminding everything?" Tears were in her eyes.

"I… I…"

"No! No more excuses! No more fake apologies! I'm done listening to you! The only thing I want to see or hear whenever I'm around you is complete and utter silence! Are we clear?"

Shane's lower lip trembled.

"Do I make myself clear?!"

Shane opened his mouth, but couldn't form up a response. Tessa turned and stormed out of the infirmary, howling in anger.

Comfey sighed and shook her head disapprovingly. She floated up and drew curtains in front of Shane's bed to give him some measure of privacy from the other Pokémon in the infirmary. Just before the curtains closed up, he saw Tessa burry her face in Null's left foreleg.

Shane pressed his face into his pillow. 'I don't understand. I've been trying to do the right thing since I got here. It worked for the other humans, didn't it? Why is everything going so wrong for me? No one in the guild trusts me. I can barely hold my own against enemies. And my partner…'

Shane sniffled. '… Tessa hates me now. She'd rather be around a walking jigsaw puzzle in a hideous mask. And Null's not even nice. Everything he does makes him look like a creep.' Tears pooled in his eyes. 'Who am I kidding? I don't have what it takes to be a chosen one. What was Solgaleo thinking bringing someone as useless as me here? Maybe Tessa was right… maybe I am here by mistake. In which case…'

His pillow grew damp. 'I'm never going to be a human again, am I? I'm gonna be stuck here… trapped in a Vulpix's body… in a place where everyone hates me!'

Shane lay there, letting those thoughts roll around in his head. His body's aches and pains eventually won out. He fell into a restless sleep.


Yup, that just happened. I am very curious about your thoughts. And I would also appreciate any feedback about the battle/injury descriptions. Because, as I revised this, I was starting to wonder whether or not it's okay to keep this at its current rating. I don't personally see anything offensive, but I'm still new to this and would greatly appreciate some insight.

Next time: in an attempt to clear her mind of the day's events, Tessa makes some unsettling discoveries.
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Winter can't come soon enough
So, I have a pair of bonuses lined up for this month. Here's the first one. Enjoy!


Bonus #5: Stargazing
I can't believe it's really canon!

~Celestial Island~

"That should just about do it for the Horizon Continent."

Atop a sparkling, multicolored rock sat a large white lion. He shut his eyes and arced his neck back, turning his face toward the mosaic of stars twinkling above him. His neck joints popped satisfyingly, prompting him to flop down onto his stomach.

"Sunrise in the Grass Continent won't be for a little while. I think I've earned myself a nice break until then," he declared, yawning. He rested his head against his forepaws and started to drift off to sleep. But a strange sensation tickled his mind's eye and he stuck his head back up. He lumbered to his feet and jumped off the rock, landing atop luminescent, multicolored grass.

"Lunala, is that you?" he called, plodding forward. He passed several more rocks and trees, all of which gave off the same wide spectrum of colors as the rock he previously lounged on.

"I wasn't calling you, Solgaleo," a soft, female voice muttered. "Go back to sleeping or eating or whatever you were doing."

Solgaleo turned to his right and squeezed past a set of palm trees. He found himself near the edge of the floating island, looking out toward the endless purple expanse beneath it. But his gaze quickly shifted to Lunala, who lay on her stomach. Her head rested against a small rock, and she was lazily moving a pebble around with the digits on her wing.

"I'm on break," Solgaleo said. "Besides, you seem a bit upset."

"What gave that away?" Lunala snorted.

"Your aura, actually," Solgaleo replied matter-of-factly.

"I thought we agreed to keep our aura sights off on the island," Lunala growled.

"Sorry, I was dozing off. Couldn't really help it," Solgaleo said. He walked up to Lunala and lay down next to her. "So, what's on your mind? Aside from that rock, of course."

Lunala rolled her eyes. "It's not your problem."

"Maybe not. But that doesn't mean I can't lend an ear or two, right?" Solgaleo offered, giving his counterpart a big grin.

"Believe me, you're the last Pokémon that can help me right now," Lunala said. She turned her head over to look away from Solgaleo, only to suddenly jump as the lion popped into existence on her right. "Hey, knock it off! We promised Ho-Oh only to teleport for work-related reasons."

"But it is work-related," Solgaleo exclaimed. "My partner's feeling blue and I've got to cheer her up so she can keep doing an awesome job." He gave her another big grin.

"I already told you, you can't help me," Lunala huffed.

"Then tell me who can help you, so I can reach out to them," Solgaleo said.

"Nobody," Lunala hissed, squeezing her eyes shut. "I just want to be alone right now."

"Suit yourself."

The ground shook under Lunala's belly. She poked an eye open to see that Solgaleo had rolled onto his back and was now staring up at the sky. "The stars are really pretty right now, wouldn't you say?" he hummed.

"I'm ignoring you," Lunala grumbled. She turned so her head toward her left once again.

"Where do you suppose all these stars came from, huh?" Solgaleo continued. "Like, they couldn't have just poofed into existence when Arceus shaped the universe."

"Well, they're in space. Palkia probably made them," Lunala figured.

"Maybe. But what kind of purpose do you think they serve? Because I doubt Palkia would waste a ton of energy creating all these stars just to make the sky look pretty. The moon already does a great job of that."

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

"I'm serious, though," Solgaleo said. "The way you shine moonlight down from the heavens is breathtaking! It always makes looking at the stars such a treat. Look! That cluster over there kinda looks like a Pyukumuku, don't you think?"

"I think you're just saying that," Lunala dismissed.

Solgaleo frowned. "Why would you think something like that?"

Lunala finally picked her head up. "Because nobody cares about nighttime!" she blurted out, only to realize what she had said and promptly look away, face bright red.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Don't play dumb with me," Lunala growled. "Just look at the Pokémon down there. Everyone's so lively and awake when you bring them daylight. They go about their lives… laughing and playing with friends... helping each other through Mystery Dungeons." She drew her lips back in a snarl. "But nighttime? Nobody likes nighttime. Kids hate it because their parents send them off to bed. Townsfolk hate it because that's when strange things pop up from Mystery Dungeons and attack. Wild Pokémon in Horizon despise it because that's when their homes may get changed around on them. And when do most outlaws like to carry out their crimes? That's right… at night!"

"O-Oh…" Solgaleo muttered. "I didn't think…"

"Of course you didn't," Lunala cut in. "I told you that you couldn't help me out. You don't understand what it's like to be so unappreciated just for doing your job." Her head sank to the ground. "Why couldn't Ho-Oh have told me what it would be like? I'd have chosen to be a Solgaleo and made you evolve into a Lunala."

Sweat drops formed on Solgaleo's head. "I, uh, I don't think it works like that."

Lunala shot him a look that said it could work that way if she wanted it to.

"Well, um, I'm sorry you feel that way," Solgaleo said. "But I think you're wrong."

Lunala rolled her eyes. "I don't want to hear it, buster," she harrumphed. "Everyone loooooves the sunlight guy."

Solgaleo shook his head. "You're exaggerating, Lunala. Sure, it's true that a lot more happens on the surface during the day. But," he glanced up toward the sky, "I can't do anything nearly this impressive with sunlight. It's too bright." He scooted closer to his partner. "I know you think everyone's singing my praises, but the fact of the matter is no one's ever going to marvel at the sun. It would blind them."

"Sure, Pokémon like blue skies, but they also like majestic, starry vistas," Solgaleo continued. "The way you blanket the continents in moonlight, and let them gaze upon the stars, it's magnificent. It shows the Pokémon down there how grand the world really is. It's not something that I can do. Heck, I'll never do it."

He glanced at Lunala, whose lip quivered. "I… I don't really believe that," she muttered.

"Let's consider it from another angle, then," Solgaleo proposed. He traced a paw through the dirt, drawing out a couple of Pikachu. "Yeah, it's true that Pokémon sleep through the night." He waved his paw across his drawings' faces. "But that sleep is important. It's just as critical for all of them as eating or breathing. If they didn't get sleep, they wouldn't be able to recover their energy."

He drew frowning faces on the Pikachu. "Then they wouldn't have the strength needed to get up and go about living their lives." He picked his foreleg up and swept it across the edge of the island. "Now, imagine that happening on a global scale. The world would grind to a halt. And, before long, there wouldn't even be any Pokémon left for us to give day and night to."

Lunala pursed her lips. "I hadn't considered that," she whispered, looking downward.

"But, thanks to you, the Pokémon down on the surface have a chance to sleep. To recover all their strength," Solgaleo continued, erasing the frowny faces on the Pikachu and replacing them with smiles. "And they wake up the next morning and go about contributing to a lively, thriving world." He turned to Lunala and gave him a grin. "So, yeah. If you ask me, Pokémon owe you quite a bit."

"Okay, I get it," Lunala said, giving a melancholy chuckle. "You can climb off your precious pedestal now."

"Are you feeling any better?" Solgaleo asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," Lunala muttered. "I'm sorry. I don't really know what got into me."

Solgaleo leaned over and nestled his partner's neck. Lunala pushed him away, fighting off a blush. "It sounds to me like you're going a bit stir crazy up here. When was the last time you went down to the surface, anyway?"

"I… I don't remember," Lunala admitted.

"Then take a day or two to go explore," Solgaleo insisted, giving her head a playful shove. "Just put some excess energy into the moondial before you go. That way, you're covered."

"Are you sure about this? I wouldn't want you to be up here all alone," Lunala worried. Solgaleo turned and gave her a lick on her cheek. Lunala immediately turned away, fighting to hide a blush. "S-Stop it. You know I hate it when you do that," she griped.

"Sorry, you had a little smudge," Solgaleo lied. "And I'll be fine. Maybe I'll invite Cresselia over for a bit. She said she could do with some time off from Team Poképals."

"Okay." Lunala took a deep breath. "Then I'm going to leave just as soon as you raise the sun for the Grass Continent."

"Great! Have fun," Solgaleo said. Lunala nodded and slowly rolled onto her back.

"You're right. The stars do look beautiful right now."


~Azure Cape~

About 160,000 feet below Solgaleo's and Lunala's conversation, a different pair of Pokémon sat underneath the starry sky. A small campfire flickered about between them, and above it hovered a pair of marshmallows.

"Careful, Tessa. You're putting yours too close to the fire. You want to make it golden-brown or it won't taste good."

Tessa stuck her arms up above her head. The stick holding her marshmallow followed. But her arms started shaking as soon as she did this. "G-Gallian, this kinda hurts," she squeaked. "How long do I have to do this for?"

"Just keep it up for ten more seconds," Gallian said. His own roasting stick sat in his mouth, muffling his voice slightly. "Almost there… almost there… okay!" He yanked his head back and pivoted his body. He spread the marshmallow against a graham cracker with a piece of chocolate sitting atop it. Tessa watched him and then tried to mimic his actions, only to end up with marshmallow smeared across her paws.

Gallian placed a second graham cracker atop the marshmallow and smirked. "Heh." He rubbed the bridge of his snout with a forepaw. "A perfect s'more, as per usual."

"Um, Gallian? Did I do this right?"

Gallian looked over his shoulder to see his sister's paws were a mess of melted marshmallow and chocolate. Some of it had splattered onto her lap.

"Err… not quite," Gallian muttered, holding back a laugh as Tessa tried to fling the goop off her fur.

"Aww, it's all sticky!" she whined. "This is never gonna come out of my fur. Mom's going to make me take a bath now, isn't she?"

"Throw some sand on it. That oughta help it rub out," Gallian proposed. Tessa threw her paws into the sand and started furiously rubbing the granules across her lap. Gallian fought off snickers at her antics.

"Hey. Don't laugh at me, Gallian. I'm gonna tell Mom on you, and then she won't let you join the guild tomorrow," Tessa threatened. Gallian rolled his eyes and got up. He walked around the fire and took up a spot lying down next to Tessa.

"Here, why don't I make a s'more for you, okay?" he offered. Tessa passed him her roasting stick and the bag of marshmallows. Gallian speared one of the marshmallows and turned his head to hold it over the fire.

"Gallian? C… can I ask you a question?"

She noticed him smirk despite the stick in his mouth. "That's technically a question, you know."

"R-Right," Tessa squeaked and looked away. "Sorry."

"Relax, I'm only yanking your tail," Gallian chuckled. "What is it?"

"Are you, y'know, nervous… about tomorrow?" Tessa asked. She gripped her ears and pulled them against her head. "Ohhhh, that was a stupid question, wasn't it? You've been doing all that training with Dad. I'm sure you'll be fi–"

"Yeah, I'm nervous."

Tessa's muzzle stiffened at this. "O-Oh. I'm sorry. I–"

"It's fine, Tessa," Gallian dismissed. "I'm just a bit worried about what this entrance test is going to be like. Dad made it sound pretty serious." He twisted his head to adjust the angle of the marshmallow. "Then again, Dad teases us quite a bit. So, he might be pulling a fast one on me."

"Doesn't Dad try to pull pranks on some of the guild members? Remember how Serperior showed up to our Winter Solstice party painted bright pink?" Tessa recalled.

"Oh yeah, that was a riot," Gallian said. His expression immediately fell, however. "It's just, even if I get through the entrance bit no problem, I'm just worried about how other Pokémon are gonna treat me."

Tessa's eyes widened. "But you're awesome, Gallian. You're the best big brother ever!"

Gallian smirked. "Aw, thanks, squirt," he chirped.

"Hey! I'm not that much shorter than you," Tessa pouted, crossing her arms and scowling.

"You're still the shortest in the family," Gallian teased.

"Only until I evolve. Then I'll be calling you 'shorty,'" Tessa declared, putting her hands on her hips matter-of-factly.

Gallian pulled his head away from the fire and finished assembling Tessa's s'more. "Y'know, I could just eat this myself if you're going to tease me."

Tessa's eyes widened in horror. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Please don't eat it," she begged, batting her eyelids at him. Gallian smirked and slid the s'more over to his sister. Tessa eagerly grabbed it and swallowed the whole thing in one bite.

"Jeez. I see you got Dad's bottomless appetite," Gallian mused. "But Mom'll kill me if I give you too much sugar. So, I think we should call it there."

Tessa jutted out her lower lip. "Aww, c'mon. Can't I have another?"

Gallian shook his head.

"Pweeeeeeeeeeeeease?" Tessa begged, leaning over and brushing her head against Gallian.

"Well… when you put it that way…"

Gallian grabbed the marshmallow bag and slid it back into his satchel.

"… no."

Tessa fell off the log, landing on her back. "Aww, you're no fair!" she whined, crossing her arms over her chest. Gallian smirked and slid off the log, laying down next to his sister.

"I'd rather be unfair than a victim of Mom's nagging," Gallian said. He then leaned over and whispered, "She didn't say anything about what you can't eat for breakfast, though."

Tessa's expression brightened at this. She rolled over and gave her brother a hug. "See? No one in the guild's gonna hate you. You're the best big brother ever!"

"Ha ha… I hope they see it that way," Gallian said. "Well, except for the brother part. That'd just be weird."

"Right," Tessa said. She craned her head up to the sky. "Um, Gallian?"


"You're, um, you're going to come home and visit, right?"

"C'mon, Tessa. What kind of question is that? Our house is right near the Observatory," Gallian replied.

"I… I know. But sometimes when Mom and Dad get super busy, it can be weeks before we see them again," Tessa muttered, fidgeting with her paws. "I mean, I love getting to play with Eevee, but… I really miss them when they're gone." She glanced at her brother. "And now you're going to be off adventuring just like them." Her eyes watered. "What if you guys all forget about me?"

"Pssssshaw! That's never gonna happen," Gallian said, playfully shoving Tessa. "And I'll tell you why. Because, we're meant to take the guild by storm… together!"

Tessa's ears twitch at this. "Huh?"

"Come on, don't play coy with me," Gallian said, nudging his sister again. "Dad took over running the guild from Grandpa Lycanroc, right? So, that means one day… we're going to run the guild when he gets too old!" Tessa's eyes widened in acknowledgement at this.

"But, but I don't know when I'm going to be strong enough to join the guild," she said. "You'll probably be an amazing explorer by then. You're not going to want to waste your time with your little sister."

"I can wait."

Tessa blinked in surprise. "Huh?"

"You're my little sis, Tessa," Gallian said. "If it helps you out, I'll hold up moving up the ranks. I'll stay an apprentice until you join. That way, you've got a familiar face to show you the ropes when you're ready to join." He tilted his head and gave her a wink.

"B-But… Mom says I'm not doing very well in my aura training. What if it, y'know, takes a bit of time?"

"Then I'll wait," Gallian said matter-of-factly. "Or better yet, I can help train you! Maybe we don't know the same moves, but I can help you with speed and evasion. Those are my specialties, after all!" He gave her a confident smirk. "I know it's hard to see right now, but the two of us? We're gonna be the best Guildmasters the Horizon Guild's ever seen! I'm talking Wigglytuff-levels of amazing! I'll bet we'll impress everyone so much, they'll let us go overseas and meet the world-saving heroes from all the stories!"

"You... you mean like Team Poképals? And Team Go-Getters?" Tessa gasped, her eyes sparkling.

"Not just them. Teams Paradise and Gaia, too," Gallian said, beaming. "We'll meet them all. And they'll be super-impressed with us. I'm sure of it!

Tessa smiled at this. "Okay! I'll train super-duper hard, then!"

"That's great. But why don't you wait until tomorrow to start that?" Gallian said, yawning. "Let's just rest for now. I've got a big day ahead of me, after all."

Tessa nodded. She snuggled up to her brother and rested her head on his chest. "Hey, can you point shapes out to me in the stars?" she asked.

"Of course," Gallian replied. "Let me just see what I can find…"


~Celestial Island, Present Day~

"Aww, phooey!"

Espeon kicked up a clump of clammy, gray grass, sending it tumbling over the abyss and into a spiraling, red-and-black void.

"My beautiful Bewear got thrashed, Umbry," she huffed. "I can't believe that little fuzzball lucked out again."

Umbreon glared at her. "We should've taken care of him ourselves."

"C'mon, you have to admit using Bewear was a good idea! How could I have known that the masked weirdo would show up to bail the human out?" Espeon huffed.

"Well, well, well, looks like you have yet another failure to add to your growing list, Espeon."


Espeon's fur stood on end and she jumped back, arching her back like a frightened kitten. "G-Go away, Lunala! We didn't ask for your creepy hide to butt in."

A swarm of shadows pooled out from a dead, gray tree lying in the grass. A pair of bright, sky-blue wings spread apart from them.

"And I don't like wasting my time bringing messages to you. But Mistress Zero… heeheeheehee… she is looking for you. She is quite upset with this new development. I don't blame her."

The color drained out of Espeon's face. Her ears and tail fell against her body. "T-Tell her she's gonna have to leave a message, then," she whimpered.

Lunala tilted his crescent-moon head. "Do it yourself. I'm tired. Every little move wastes more and more of what little light I have." He tilted his head skyward. "What are you still doing here? Go away!" he barked, his red eyes flashing ominously.

Espeon's tail shot between her legs. She hastily fled into a Magnagate. Umbreon shuddered and followed along after her.

"Heeheehee. The stars," he muttered, looking up to the sky. The swirling vortex of dark energy over his head parted, offering him a small glimpse out outer space. "So beautiful. So full of light. My light. The light that was stolen from me... by these contemptable gods."

The black armor on Lunala's forehead sparkled. A glowing red eye appeared on its brimmed. It flashed brightly and the vortex again swallowed up the sky.

"Each and every one of you stars... I'll put you back where you belong... inside of me!"
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Gone. Not coming back.
Oh, Shane. It's always one step forward, two steps back with you, huh? Every time you manage to scrape together a little bit of common decency, you trip over your own ego and drop it all over the floor again. He can't even commit to an apology; the second he hears anything else at all he's right back out of the room and into something that's only going to make the situation with Tessa even worse. It's not even a good plan; he's literally taking a team of not fully evolved pokémon along to try and rescue the toughest team in the guild from an opponent that only they actually stand a chance of defeating.

And I do really like that it goes exactly as well as you would expect given that that's what he's doing, you know? He has a bad plan and it goes badly; he and his ill-equipped comrades end up just getting stomped on by Espeon and Umbreon. It's a great scene, though I don't really see what the point of the bold text is, other than maybe to simulate the coloured text that indicates an Important Word in the games. If that's what it is, I'm not sure I'm totally convinced by it; I find it a bit distracting, honestly.

I also like that apparently Dragonair either used to be one of those special dratini from the old dragon dude or is descended from one of them. I think that's the only way the dratini line can learn extreme speed, anyway. That observation isn't related to anything else I had to say, I just wanted to point it out.

I don't think Shane's little “This must be what Bewear evolves from” line is well timed; the relationship between Bewear and Stufful has been made clear enough at this point that that I think we can safely assume even Shane has worked it out. As it stands, the line reads as so out of place it's almost funny, which gives the passage a weird tonal dissonance. Actually, on the topic of Stufful -- he sort of disappears after that battle scene ends, unless I've missed something. It would be nice to hear what happened to him, maybe? It feels like the kind of thing the guild ought to take an interest in, since it's the organisation responsible for dealing with situations like this one.

Given that the team now consists of three members, is there a reason why Metagross didn't call in Null for disciplinary action as well as Tessa? Like, if a team is held accountable for its actions as a unit, and Null is part of the team, the rules would seem to indicate that he ought to be held accountable too.

As for the bonus – the first part, with Solgaleo and Lunala, is unobjectionable, but it's honestly a little hard to care; these aren't characters I'm invested in at all, especially given that the way their troubles are presented and resolved seems a little bit trite for my tastes. The second half, with Tessa and Gallian, is way more interesting, although I have questions about whether or not this world has the infrastructure to manufacture chocolate and marshmallows on a scale sufficient to make them readily available for ordinary citizens. The third part is also interesting in its own way, but I think it's the second that comes across strongest. It's just nice to see more of baby Tessa and Gallian, really.

'No. C'mon, little guy, go away!'

Broken tag there.

"Please don't get mad at me. I just wanted to help"

Missing a full stop here.

'That's… that's what I really think of Vulpix right now, isn't it?'

And another broken tag there.

a dead, grayscale tree

'Grayscale' is a weird way of describing anything that isn't actually an image, and specifically a digital one; it reads oddly when applied to a real object, like here.

As for the concerns about rating – we don't tend to use particular rating systems here so much as warn for what specifically the fic in question contains, so as long as you've given proper forewarning for the level of violence and character death in the introduction itself, I wouldn't worry about it.

Which leaves me all caught up, I think! So there we are. Things are certainly heating up now, and I'll be waiting for next Friday with even more interest than usual.
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Winter can't come soon enough
And here's the next chapter. Enjoy!

Oh, Shane. It's always one step forward, two steps back with you, huh? ... It's not even a good plan; he's literally taking a team of not fully evolved pokémon along to try and rescue the toughest team in the guild from an opponent that only they actually stand a chance of defeating.
Yup. This was meant to be the screw up to end all screw ups for him. Hence the rather vitriolic reaction he gets this time around. Unlike his previous screw ups, my intention this time around is to have there be some pretty significant fallout. If I did my job right, it's going to spill over in the next several chapters.

And I do really like that it goes exactly as well as you would expect given that that's what he's doing, you know? He has a bad plan and it goes badly; he and his ill-equipped comrades end up just getting stomped on by Espeon and Umbreon.
I'm happy you felt that way. I really did want to make it seem like Bewear was the most frightening Prism Virus Pokémon so far. Especially because of its bizarre comic relief role in the Sun & Moon anime.

It's a great scene, though I don't really see what the point of the bold text is,
Honestly it was just meant to indicate they were placing really heavy emphasis on those words, but I see what you mean about them being an eyesore. So, they're gone.

I also like that apparently Dragonair either used to be one of those special dratini from the old dragon dude or is descended from one of them. I think that's the only way the dratini line can learn extreme speed, anyway. That observation isn't related to anything else I had to say, I just wanted to point it out.
No, no, it's quite alright! Lord knows all my reviews point out random, nonsensical tidbits (I'd think you'd probably know that by now, ha ha). And, yes, it was an intentional reference. Much like Shane getting Extrasensory (a Vulpix egg move) early on, there are going to be some instances of Pokémon having access to their rarer moves.

I don't think Shane's little “This must be what Bewear evolves from” line is well timed ... Actually, on the topic of Stufful -- he sort of disappears after that battle scene ends, unless I've missed something.
You're not missing anything. I guess that was just an omission on my part. Null was the only person conscious at the end of that scene, so a shellshocked Stufful was not about to leave the forest to go off with him. So I added in a few paragraphs to reflect that.

Given that the team now consists of three members, is there a reason why Metagross didn't call in Null for disciplinary action as well as Tessa? Like, if a team is held accountable for its actions as a unit, and Null is part of the team, the rules would seem to indicate that he ought to be held accountable too.
The answer there is that, technically speaking, Null is not part of Team Radiance. He's done one mission with them. And he turned down Tessa's request to formally join the team back in chapter 9:

"… and you want to join up with our exploration team?" Tessa beamed.

"… no," Null bluntly replied, causing Tessa to stumble. Shane let out a sigh of relief. "… but… I think I may… go with you… for a few missions… here and there…"
Also, he never signed the team contract that Shane and Tessa made when they first joined. Which is important and will factor into upcoming chapters.

As for the bonus – the first part, with Solgaleo and Lunala, is unobjectionable, but it's honestly a little hard to care; these aren't characters I'm invested in at all, especially given that the way their troubles are presented and resolved seems a little bit trite for my tastes.
That's okay. It was really more to establish the two of them for some things to come. It's put into a bonus because it's not really necessary for the main story. They're little things I couldn't figure out how to fit into the story proper, but had enough fun writing up in the outline that I didn't want to cut it out.

The second half, with Tessa and Gallian, is way more interesting, although I have questions about whether or not this world has the infrastructure to manufacture chocolate and marshmallows on a scale sufficient to make them readily available for ordinary citizens.
Probably not. But who's to say they didn't buy some chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers from the Kecleon Shop? (Or some nondescript Aeon Town shop the author's too lazy to come up with :V )

The third part is also interesting in its own way, but I think it's the second that comes across strongest. It's just nice to see more of baby Tessa and Gallian, really.
Fair enough. Though they're not quite as young in this one. ^^;

As for the concerns about rating – we don't tend to use particular rating systems here so much as warn for what specifically the fic in question contains, so as long as you've given proper forewarning for the level of violence and character death in the introduction itself, I wouldn't worry about it.
Ah, okay. I think I misread that part of the rules. I'll probably just update the warnings at the start to be on the safe side, then. Thanks! And thanks for pointing out the bad tags, too.

Things are certainly heating up now, and I'll be waiting for next Friday with even more interest than usual.
It really does mean a lot hearing that from you. It makes me extremely happy to hear this is entertaining folks. That was the goal with writing this, after all. :)


Chapter 23: Baring Your Fangs

Null staggered along the Observatory's northern hallway, his head slowly bobbing up and down. He had just about made it to the main assembly area when something fuzzy brushed against the scales and chitin on his foreleg. Null flinched, groaning hoarsely.

"Oh, Null. I'm so sorry!" Tessa squeaked. "Are… are you hurt? Nobody even thought to let Comfey take a look at you. Here, I'll bring you back."

Null exhaled forcefully and tapped the base of his helmet against his chest. "… I'm fine."

"You don't seem fine."

"… just more headaches. I'm used to them," Null muttered. He brushed the corner of his helmet against his right shoulder, huffing loudly. "… if anything… I should ask… how you're doing."

"M-Me?" Tessa fidgeted with her scarf. "I'm… I'm fine. Really!"

"… you don't seem fine. Is it… the human again?"

Tessa flinched and looked away. "It's not something you need to concern yourself with." She placed a paw against his foreleg and her aura feelers stiffened. She fixed her gaze on the side of Null's helmet. "What were you thinking going after Vulpix like that? From the sound of things, that Bewear could've really hurt you!"

"… everything was fine," Null rasped. "… our guildmates… had already weakened her. She was… completely focused on the human. I snuck up on her easily…" He shook his head again, huffing quietly. "I tried… to tell someone. Couldn't find the Guildmaster… or Braviary…"

That was a lie, of course, but it completely fooled Tessa, since it prompted her to bite her lip. "So, you thought the best alternative was to run after them? Ooh, do you have any idea how lucky you are? If… if something would've happened to you, I…"

Null turned away from her. "… please. We don't… know each other well. You don't need… to be nice to me… out of courtesy. You can just… ignore me… like everyone else."

Tessa winced at this. 'But I don't want to ignore you,' she thought. "Will you at least answer one thing for me?"

"… haven't I answered enough?" Null grumbled. "… I'm tired." Tessa looked at him with pleading, puppy-dog eyes. "… tch. Fine."

"Why did you go rescue Vulpix?" Tessa asked. "He's done nothing but make fun of you. Nobody would've blamed you if you didn't do anything."

Null looked down at the ground. "… I don't know."

Tessa frowned. "What do you mean you don't know? Surely you were thinking something."

Null hissed and shook his head about, striking the nearby wall. Tessa took a cautious step back. Null turned his cold, gray eyes on her, making her heart race. "… I just don't know… okay? I saw him… the human… he ran off. And then…" He touched a claw to his helmet. "… there were voices. Hundreds of them… yelling at me. 'Follow him!' they screamed."

Null leaned his helmet against the wall. "They got so loud… I couldn't block them out. Eventually… I just went to the forest… without even thinking. That's when… I saw the Bewear… and leaped into action…"

Tessa glanced one of her aura feelers out of the corner of her eyes. It twitched, as if acknowledging Null's statement. "I… I don't understand," she muttered.

"… you don't have to. It's not your problem…"

Tessa frowned. "But if there's a problem, you shouldn't have to face it alone. We're guild mates! I even offered to let you be my teammate."

"… and I already said... I'm not committing to that. Look at me. I'm not… the type of Pokémon… a sweet little girl… should be around," Null muttered. "Assuming I even am a Pokémon to begin with. No one… has any idea what I'm supposed to be. Not Magearna… not Braviary. The Guildmaster says… he can't even read my mind. They just… called me Null… because they literally couldn't think of anything…"

"I'm sorry," Tessa whispered.

"… why? You didn't… do anything wrong…" Null wheezed.

"Even still, I'm not going to turn my back on you based on appearances," Tessa said. "Look at Vulpix. He thinks Lycanroc's a bad guy because of the way he acts. I don't want to stoop to that level. I want to help you. Because you've been helping me cope with my stress. It's only fair."

Null let out a long sigh. "… you really… want to know… what's wrong?" Tessa nodded. "These voices… they're always popping up. I can't… block them out. This… this thing…" He rattled his helmet. "… it hurts. It always hurts. I can feel it… weighing on my head… weighing on my shoulders…"

He staggered forward. "But sometimes… the headaches get bad. My head… it starts to pound. Then I hear them. Voices… echoing around… in my head. Too many… to make out… what they're really saying." He shook his helmet about again. "I can… kinda make them be quiet… when I do this. But it… barely helps."

"Have you gone to see Comfey about it?"

"… what do you think?" Null growled. Tessa shrank back, fidgeting nervously again. "… sorry. That was… uncalled for…" He exhaled loudly. "I couldn't… feel anything… that Comfey did. Magearna thinks… this helmet… is the problem. Says it... emits its own aura. One that masks… everything around it. She said the aura… is unnatural…"

Tessa brought a paw up to rub one of her aura feelers. 'Is that why these guys can't stop twitching around you?' she thought.

"But I can't... break it," he growled. "I've tried… but that just makes the headaches worse…" He coughed three times.

"Are you okay?" Tessa worried. "That doesn't sound good."

"I just... need rest," Null wheezed. He walked toward the residential quarters. "… please don't follow me…" he muttered.

"Wait." Tessa ran up to Null's side. "Listen, um, Vulpix is kind of out of commission for a bit. Would you, y'know, be willing to do some assignments tomorrow… together?"

Null turned to look at Tessa with his heavyset eyes. "… I'll sleep on it…" And then he walked away.

Tessa sighed. Her shoulders slumped. 'Some week this is turning into,' she thought. 'Vulpix's totally gone off the deep end and he's going to drag me down with him.' Tessa winced. 'It's the aura training fiasco all over again. The longer this goes on... the worse it's making me feel.' She glanced down the empty hallway. 'I know I haven't known him long, but if I could just get Null to agree to partner with me... maybe I could stay here. Maybe I wouldn't feel like I've been backed up into a corner.'

A shudder ran down her spine. 'Mom, what would you think of all this if you were here? Would you offer me a shoulder to lean on? Or would you tell me this is all my fault? That I wasn't focused or disciplined enough... and I deserve all this crap Vulpix is putting me through?"

She bit her lip. 'Ooooh… I've been so wrapped up letting Vulpix drag me places. I'm not any closer to figuring anything out where Mom went. I mean, sure, she's keeping a Pokémon safe. But if what Vulpix said about viruses is true, can she really do it on her own?' Shivering, Tessa brought her paws up to her shoulders. 'If Mom's out there alone, then the Prism Virus could get her. Just like it might've gotten to Gallian. I can't lose her like that… right?'

The slow beating of wings snapped Tessa out of her thoughts. She turned around and a lightbulb went off in her head. "Oh, Volcarona!" she called. "Are you heading to the veterans' quarters?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Comfey wants me to rest up," Volcarona replied. "Why, do you need something?"

"Um… I don't suppose I could come downstairs with you and see my mom's room, could I?" Tessa requested.

"Am I going have to watch you if you do?" Volcarona asked.

"It's, uh, part of the rules isn't it?"

"… eh, I guess it can't hurt too much," Volcarona sighed. "But I'm just warning you… I may conk out on you." She turned and flew toward the stairs. Tessa followed after her, descending into the dimly-lit veterans' quarters. The dark blue hallways gave way to the occasional opening leading into a room. Volcarona rounded the corner and flew over toward a glowing orb. She hovered next to it while Tessa proceeded in through the doorway.

The last time Tessa went in her mom's room was when she asked to speak to Milotic in private. She didn't pay any mind to the room's condition. This time, however, she stiffened upon entering. 'This doesn't look right,' she thought. 'This place is totally torn up! Papers… books… everything's strewn about so carelessly. It's not like Mom at all.' She took a cautious step forward, over a book that lay face down on the floor. 'Milotic said nobody has touched her room since she left. Could Mom really have left it like this?'

Her brow furrowed. 'Hang on. Gallian did show up here a few days ago. Maybe he did this? No, Serperior said Gallian hadn't done anything.' She shuffled forward, stopping at a pile of papers scattered across a rainbow carpet. Tessa knelt down and picked the papers up, only to frown. Most of them had doodles drawn on them.

'Are these… feathers?' she wondered, flipping through the pages. As she did, the doodles steadily transformed from feathers, to a large, bright-red bird with a golden outline. Tessa squinted. 'There's some stuff written here? 'Rainbow Wing… summon her… use the scarf…' Huh?'

She flipped to the last drawing, which just consisted of massive amounts of black scribbling with the words "Save him," and "It's not too late. Get the ash," repeatedly scrawled on the page. Tessa reflexively brought a paw toward her scarf. Images flashed through her mind, showcasing the numerous times she had seen one of her parents wearing the scarf back when it was in one piece. Tessa frowned and dropped the papers back to the floor. She wandered over toward the desk. The light was much darker in this part of the room.

"Um, hey, Volcarona? Think you could detach that luminous orb and bring it over here?"

"Zzznnrkk… hrrrkkk… huh?" Volcarona sputtered, jolting to attention. "Oh. Sure." She detached the orb and flew it over to Tessa, who accepted it and placed it on the corner of the desk. A frown immediately returned to her face. The first thing she noticed was giant blotches of spilled ink. The stains had dried up, so her attempts to rub them away proved futile. She lifted the orb up and hovered it over the desk.

A cursory examination revealed a map of the Horizon Continent. Her gaze went toward the top-left corner and settled on a large X. Tessa noted the phrase "temple?" scrawled underneath it. Before she could question the sight, she spotted an identical mark at the bottom of the map. 'I wonder what these are for?' she thought.

Her gaze drifted toward the right side of her mom's desk, where more papers lay strewn about. It was another set of doodles. This time, however, Tessa couldn't tell what they depicted. She lifted one of them up and rotated it. All she could see was a thick blue circle, with some bits of white in the center. She immediately recalled the bedtime stories her dad told her about magic portals. A deep pang of sadness tugged at her heart from the thought, prompting her to set the drawing down.

Tessa flipped through the pages. The same doodle was sprawled out repeatedly. Only each subsequent drawing had more jagged lines. The "eye" in the center became steadily more difficult to discern. Eventually, Tessa discovered rough patches in the pages, as if someone had scratched at them with nails or claws. At this point, large red splotches showed up in the drawings.

'Did Mom start bashing her pen against the paper?' Tessa wondered. 'And what are these lines around her drawing?' She squinted, trying to follow the different connections between the lines. 'It kind of looks like the Unown language Dad showed me pictures of… but it's not the same. There are no eyes.'

Tessa reached the bottom of the drawings and froze. She found herself looking at a picture that Magearna had taken. 'I remember this. This is after Gallian got promoted to apprentice rank,' she recalled.

Gallian sat dead center in the picture, a silver guild badge nestled in his chest plume. A slightly-younger Tessa hugged his side. Their mother stood behind them, a slight smile tugging at her lips. And next to her was Incineroar. The rainbow scarf around his neck sparkled in the picture, as did the platinum guild badge pinned to it. He gave a thumb's up toward Tessa.

… or at least, that's what she imagined he was doing. Because his right arm was obscured by a massive blot of red ink, just like some of the doodles she held in her hand. She and Gallian had similar red spots covering parts of their bodies. And a trio of claw marks ran across the picture.

Tessa grit her teeth. 'But if Gallian didn't do this, then…' She pressed the photo to her chest. 'Mom. What's happened to you? I can't even imagine what you're dealing with right now.'

"… I think you oughta get a move on there, pardner."

Tessa stiffened at the sound of Braviary's voice. It was much graver than his usual tone. He walked into Prisma's room, examining the papers and books scattered about the floor.

"Ain't no good coming from poking around here, hoss," he said. "Nothing but memories left, I reckon."

Tessa winced and looked down at the floor. 'Hadn't Vulpix said something about finding Braviary suspicious? No, don't think like that. He's totally nuts. He thinks half the guild's out to get him.'

"I just… I just want to know what happened to Mom," Tessa muttered. "I miss her… I want her to be here with me." She looked up at Braviary. "Did you see her when she left?" He nodded slowly. "Did she tell you anything? Anything at all?"


"Don't call me that!" Tessa snapped, before throwing her paws over her mouth. "Oh… s-sorry… I didn't…"

"Look, I don't think it's best for you to dwell on the subject," Braviary said. "Lucario was mighty steamed about something the night she left. I reckon it was the angriest I ever done saw her since the day the two of us met."

'What… Mom was angry? But, she seemed so relaxed when she brought me to Sylveon's house,' Tessa thought. 'That doesn't make any sense…'

"And she done said something about going away fer awhile and not to bother looking fer her," Braviary said, scratching his head. "I don't exactly remember the specifics."

Tessa frowned. 'But Mom told me she was doing a quick assignment!' She pursed her muzzle. 'I mean, that turned out to be a lie. But why would she say something different to Braviary? Or… is Braviary lying to me right now?'

Braviary tried to give Tessa a reassuring smile, but all it did was make her fur stand on end. "Why don't ya head on back upstairs? It's been a heck of a week. Ya need yer rest, pardner." He gestured toward the doorway. Tessa slumped over in defeat and trudged out, passing by a sleeping Volcarona. She ascended the stairs and returned to the main level.

Tessa paused in the middle of the assembly area. 'That's odd.' She glanced toward the wing leading to the dining area and found light streaming out of it. Tessa walked over to the east hallway. As she did, her aura feelers twitched, followed by her ears.

"… I mean, can you believe that little runt? He gets clobbered by a crazed wild Pokémon and he's got the stones to blame me! If all humans are like him, then they're a bunch of dills."

'That sounds like Lycanroc! But who's he talking to?' Tessa crept forward until she approached the cusp of the wall of light spilling out from the dining area.

"Kweh heh heh! That sure sounds like the Snowy we know, don't it?"

"Yeah, the guy's nothing but a grade-A loser. If it weren't for that prissy Riolu following him around he'd be lying at the bottom of Clayback River right about now."

Tessa's aura feelers shot up. 'Team Fang? What are they doing in here? Oh, gods, did Lycanroc let them in? Was Shane actually telling the truth?' Her eyes narrowed. 'And what did Jangmo-o just call me?'

"Hey now, don't be hating on the poor sheila like that, mate," Lycanroc said. "After all, she must've pissed off the Tapus pretty badly to get shackled to a guy like Snowy. I feel bad for her."

"Seriously?" Sneasel scoffed. "I didn't have you pegged as a softie."

"I ain't soft, mate," Lycanroc growled. "I'm letting you two dipsticks take all these berries, ain't I? That's sticking my neck out a ways considering Snowy's got a vendetta against me."

"And we totally appreciate it, dude. We haven't had a decent meal in ages," Jangmo-o chirped. "These berries are berrytacular!"


"What have I told you about making up words like that?" Sneasel hissed. "It ain't cute and it makes you look like a wimp."

"S-Sorry, Sneasel," Jangmo-o muttered.

Tessa grit her teeth. 'He let them in so they could steal our food? But why would he do that? No one in the guild thinks he's bad except for Vulpix. Does this mean he was actually right?'

"You mates are a riot," Lycanroc said. "Like I said before, I don't really care. You can trash the place, for what it's worth. Serves these dumb blokes right for letting a cur like Snowy walk around like he owns the place. I don't want our continent going down the drain, but I ain't working with that mangy Vulpix. Espeon and Umbreon can tear this place apart. I'll just lay low and be the top dog in whatever's left of the world."

"Kweh heh heh heh! I like your thinking. You oughta join up with us. We'd make a great team," Sneasel cackled.

Tessa started to turn around. 'I'd better find Braviary again… quickly!'

"Forget it, mate. I work alone. Where do you think the whole 'lone Lycanroc' expression comes from, anyway?" Lycanroc scoffed. "I'm gonna knock Snowy down a peg for spitting on my pride, and then go after the rest of those lousy enabling guild 'mons. Starting with the creep in the helmet."

Tessa froze with one of her paws resting on the wall.

"There's a Shelmet in this guild?" Jangmo-o gasped.

"No, no, no," Lycanroc said. "There's this... this thing that walks around with a giant stone helmet over its face. I mean… I don't blame it. If some god had hit me with an ugly stick that bad, I'd want to hide my face from everyone, too. But I ain't got a clue what kind of Pokémon it is. I just know it makes a Muk look like an attractive mate!"

"Kweh heh heh heh! Sounds like one sorry 'mon," Sneasel cackled. "You oughta let us take a crack at it. We could use a bit of a morale boost."

"Ha! My pleasure, mates. Why not make a little sport out of it?" Lycanroc said. "First one to knock that ugly bitzer's lights out gets first cracks at Snowy."

Tessa had balled her paws into fists, gnashing her teeth. 'Grrr… how dare those jerks!'

"Riolu, are you okay?"

Tessa ignored Steenee's tired mumbling and stomped forward, her eyes burning. "Hey!" she barked, raising up her fists. "What do you crooks think you're doing!"

"Meep!" Jangmo-o dropped the berry sitting in his mouth. "S-Sneasel… it's Miss Prissy-Pants!"

Lycanroc held up a paw. "Easy there, sheila. Ain't looking for no trouble here. I found these two passed out from exhaustion. Figured they could do with a little food, that's all. Ain't that what you guild 'mons are all about... helping folks out and all that jazz?"

"Don't lie to me. If you really found them passed out, you should've brought them to Officer Magnezone. Because they're a couple of outlaws!" Tessa spat. "And I heard what you said about us! I can't believe you'd act like this after we let you in here out of the goodness of– agggggh!"

Tessa yelped in pain as a series of rocks pelted her body, knocking her to the ground. Lycanroc's crimson eyes glowed and he shook out his mane. "You've got things backwards there, sheila. I wanted to try and do good by you folks. But your dumb friend Snowy went and drove a stake right through my pride. And I never forget a slight... no matter how small! Anyone who crosses me gets roughed up! That's how I roll!"

He glanced over his shoulder at Team Fang. "Good news, mates. I think I'm taking you up on your offer. How's about we christen the occasion by kicking the daylights out of this sheila here?"

"Kweh heh heh! Why that sounds positively wonderful," Sneasel cackled. He rubbed his claws together and they hardened into steel. Just as he was about to run Tessa down, however, a stream of glistening, multicolored leaves funneled out from the hallway. Sneasel threw his claws up and slashed them to ribbons.

"Eh? So, you brought backup," Sneasel growled. "Figures you don't have the spine to stand up to us on your own."

Steenee appeared and helped Tessa out from the rock pile. "Are you okay, Riolu?"

"Fine, but we've gotta stop these guys," she growled. "They raided our food supply."

Lycanroc rolled his eyes. "Please. You mates don't need all them berries. And dills like Snowy don't deserve 'em." He planted his paws on the ground and scooped them upward. More rocks appeared in front of him and arced toward Tessa. Steenee stepped forward and whipped the petals on her head around, sending out another volley of glowing leaves. The leaves sliced through the rocks effortlessly.

But Senasel and Jangmo-o took advantage of the opening Lycanroc made. Jangmo-o charged down Steenee while Sneasel disappeared into the shadows. Tessa hollered seconds later, as Sneasel barreled into her from behind. Steenee turned around in surprise, only to end up on the ground next to Tessa, the result of Jangmo-o swinging his glowing-blue tail around and clobbering her in the gut.

"Owww! Unnngh," Steenee groaned.

"Heh, how do ya like them apples? We've picked up a few new tricks since our last scrap, runt," Sneasel cackled.

"Yeah?" Tessa's eyes narrowed and she rolled to her feet. She charged down Sneasel, raising a glowing fist. "Well, you're not the only one, tough guy," she barked, whirling her arm around…

… only for Lycanroc to step in at the last moment and take the blow right in his plume of chest fur. He stumbled back with a grunt, only to flash Tessa a fang-filled grin. Both of his paws glowed brightly and he brought them crashing down onto the top of Tessa's skull. A loud gasp of air escaped her. Tessa crumpled to the ground, gripping her head in agony.

"Sorry, didn't quite catch that? Was that supposed to hurt or something?" Lycanroc taunted, rubbing his chest plume with a paw.

"C-Counter?" Tessa whimpered, stars fluttering around her vision and a harsh ringing filling her ears. "But how–?"

"What can I say? I'm a 'mon of many talents!" Lycanroc said with a laugh. He looked over to see Steenee steering Jangmo-o away with a stream of razor-sharp leaves.

But she didn't stay up for long. Sneasel positioned himself behind Steenee and unleashed a gust of frigid wind. Steenee squealed in pain and stumbled forward. Jangmo-o skidded to a halt. His tail brimmed with blue dragon energy and he once again brought it around, socking Steenee in the side. This knocked her into a nearby stack of crates. They collapsed on top of her. Jangmo-o waited for a second, but the pile didn't stir. He turned to Lycanroc, a grin plastered on his face.

"Nice try, sheilas, but you're outnumbered and outmuscled," Lycanroc sneered. He turned, hocked up a large loogie, and spat it onto Tessa's back. "C'mon, mates. Let's blow this lame little outfit."

"… hey!"

Team Fang turned around and Lycanroc's smirk widened at the sight of a Vulpix standing in front of them on shaky legs. "I was wondering when you were gonna show, Snowy."

"Kweh heh heh heh! You don't look so good, Snowy," Sneasel cackled.

"Yeah, look at his eyes, boss. They're all red and puffy!" Jangmo-o teased. "Is widdle cwybaby Vuwpix sad we hurt his special fwiend?"

Shane drew his lips back into a snarl. "I was right! You are a thug," he said, but his voice cracked while making the accusation. Shane looked right down at the ground, his face going red with embarrassment.

"V… Vulpix!"

Shane spotted Tessa crumpled up on the ground. "Don't be an idiot! Go get help!" she begged.

Lycanroc snarled and whirled around, flinging up several more rocks to bury Tessa. She rolled to her right, wincing as the room spun about. The rocks struck the ground next to her and shattered harmlessly.

"Run, Vulpix!" Tessa shouted. She staggered to her feet, trying her best not to hurl, and lunged at the bewildered Lycanroc. Blue energy encased her paw and she smacked him right in the chest, knocking him back into Sneasel.

"Rrrrrrrgh! Don't let him run off!" Lycanroc roared, falling to the ground. Tessa quickly backed off, fearing another Counter. She glanced at the knocked-over crates and her heart soared at the sight of some oran berries. Tessa scampered toward the crates, scooped up two oran berries, and downed one. Her vertigo quickly subsided and her strength returned to her.

"Help! Help! Thieves in the guild!"

Shane sounded off like a squeaky claxon. Seconds later, a howl of pain sounded. Tessa's eyes widened.

"Yeah. How does that feel, loser?" Jangmo-o's voice resonated through the hall. Tessa tried to run in Shane's direction but Sneasel's form blurred into her from the shadows, knocking her to the floor.

"Oh no you don't," he hissed, icy air gathering around his face. "Consider this payback for those swimming lessons at Clayback Riv– mmmrrrrrrrrrrgh!"

Sneasel's eyes bulged out as Tessa forcefully clamped his mouth shut. He was forced to swallow the ice that he had gathered up. His eyes watered from the frigid air constricting his larynx. Tessa's right paw flared up with blue energy and she backhanded Sneasel across the face.

"Idiot!" Lycanroc snarled, flinging a rock barrage at Tessa. "Taunt after you've gotten your licks in! That's battling 101, mate!"

Panicking, Tessa curled up in a ball around her other oran berry. The rocks peppered her back, drawing a pained squeal. She ate her other oran berry and immediately got to her feet. Lycanroc brought up his fists, ready to face her down. Tessa took a step forward, only to disappear in a blur of motion. Lycanroc swung his paws in her direction, but ended up only hitting air.

"What the–?" He swung his head back and forth, only for his eyes to widen. "Oy!" He lunged at Sneasel and hurled him to his feet. "She bailed on us with Quick Attack! Don't just stand there… get her!" He shoved Sneasel forward and lumbered after him.

No sooner did Sneasel and Lycanroc reach the end of the hallway then a resounding clang echo throughout it. Lycanroc found himself tumbling back down the hallway. He ended up sprawled out on the floor.

Sneasel looked up, his jaw hanging open. "Wh... what are you supposed to be?"

"… Null."

A masked, metal-coated head slammed into Sneasel. Sneasel careened backwards. His momentum came to an abrupt stop when he crashed into Lycanroc. Null turned around slightly. Togedemaru and Trapinch had Jangmo-o pinned to the ground. The former was sitting atop him, digging her spikes into his scales.

"Owie! Owie! Stop! Uncle! Uncle! I give in!" Jangmo-o squealed, his eyes tearing up.

"Yeah, Togedemaru's got some personal space issues," Trapinch muttered. "Good luck getting her off you."

"Ahem?" Togedemaru's cheeks sparked with electricity. Jangmo-o yelped as the current ran down his body. "You want to come here and say that to my face?"

"Please don't! Please don't! I can't take any more of this," Jangmo-o whimpered, only to squawk like a bird as Togedemaru nuzzled him with her spikes again.

"Quiet, you crook," she hissed. "Hey, human. Any luck getting the Guildmaster?"

"I'm trying!" Shane whimpered. "Wake up! Wake up! Can't you tell we're under attack out here?!"

Null turned back around to see a barrage of frost-coated rocks flying right at him. He narrowed his eyes and again hardened his helmet into steel. He ran forward, bursting through a few of the rocks. But he couldn't keep up his charge. The metal dissolved off his mask and the remaining rocks struck his head and torso. Null staggered backward, hissing in pain.

"You made a big mistake taking us on two-on-one, ugly!" Sneasel spat. "Only thing those beady eyes of yours are gonna see are stars. Kweh heh heh!"

Tessa jumped out from behind Null, her paws brimming with bright blue energy. "You leave him alone!" she roared, speeding down the hall. Lycanroc stepped forward, a grin appearing on his face, and braced himself. But Tessa suddenly banked toward the side, leaving Lycanroc staring down Null's frost-coated helmet.

Null conjured up air around his right foreleg and shot an air spear at Lycanroc. While it didn't really hurt him, it made his attempts to Counter dissipate. This allowed Tessa to strike Lycanroc's chest with an open palm, knocking him back into Sneasel. The two ended up atop one another. Tessa and Null ran forward, the former's paws alighting blue once again. Lycanroc groaned and picked his head up, only to blanch in the face of the charging duo.

Lycanroc reached back and grabbed hold of Sneasel. "Huh? H-Hey… what d'ya think you're doing? Put me dooooooooooooooown!"

Sneasel found himself sailing through the air, limbs flailing about in all directions.

Tessa screeched to a halt, falling on her rear. The base of her tail struck the floor, sending a jolt of pain up her spine that made her eyes water. Sneasel beaned her in the head, knocking her flat on her back. He continued his trajectory forward, but Null was ready for him. Null raised a glowing foreleg up and batted Sneasel aside with his claws. Sneasel smacked into the wall and slid to the floor on his belly.

"Kweeeeeeegh… pr-pretty birdies…" he muttered, drool seeping out of his mouth.

"Rrrrrgggh, you two are a couple of useless blokes," Lycanroc growled, glaring at Sneasel. "Doesn't matter. I can take you one-on-one, freak. You ain't so tough!"

That is sufficientary, Null. I can take things from here.

With a wheeze, Null stepped to the side, revealing Magearna. She had one arm pointed at Sneasel and the other at Lycanroc.

"Oy, yer the science sheila, ain't ya? Ha… I'd just like to see ya try getting yer licks in on m–"

Two beams shot forward. One of swirling metallic gray that struck Sneasel in his gut, knocking him out. The other being a steady stream of ice that washed across Lycanroc's body, freezing him solid where he stood. Tessa staggered to her feet, fighting to hide a smirk at the sight of Lycanroc's widened eyes darting about in his icy prison. Null walked over to Sneasel and pinned his down with a foreleg.

"Did you just use Flash Cannon and Ice Beam at the same time?" Tessa gasped.

Correct, Magearna replied. Awhile back I ran a diagnosticary on my processors. I found out that I could overclock my motherboard to one hundred and fifty percent efficacy, allowing for dualmentary attack implementifying.

"In laymon's terms, she reprogrammed herself to use two attacks at once," Togedemaru mused, shoving Jangmo-o's equally-frozen form into the hallway.

You know, it sounds one hundred percent more scientific the way I say it, Magearna grumbled.

Shane staggered into the room. His face was so flushed, one could mistake it for that of a fire-type Vulpix. "Couldn't… get the Guildmaster… up," he muttered. Tessa frowned at him. "What? I did what you guys wanted me to do this time. It's not my fault the Guildmaster could sleep through the end of the world."

Negative. Fact: I am an automaton. Fact: I do not sleep, I recharge my circuits.

Heavy, metallic footsteps echoed off the stone floor. The arranged guild members all backed up against the walls. Metagross walked forward, flanked by a trio of floating magnets.

"Officer Magnezone?" Trapinch gasped. "Wait… Guildmaster, did you already know this was happening?"

KZZRRT… Metagross brought to my attention that the guild was being robbed, Magnezone announced. I take it these are the perpetrators? He pointed to the immobilized trio of Team Fang.

"Yes, sir. I found them raiding our pantry. Who knows how many berries they ate," Tessa exclaimed.

Very well. Magnezone turned to two Magneton deputies. Break the ice and immobilize the culprits with Thunder Wave, please.

"Um, is that really such a good id–?" Shane started to ask, only to watch the ice around Lycanroc and Jangmo-o shatter. Seconds later, electricity crackled across their bodies, rendering them stiff as boards. Magnezone and his deputies then hefted Team Fang into the air using their electromagnetism.

"What the–? Lemme go!" Lycanroc snarled, his body twitching from the paralysis. "This is all Snowy's fault! He's the bad egg here!"

That is a distortion of the facts, Metagross declared, stomping over to Team Fang.

"Hey, don't make me out to be the bad guy here. You guys were caught red-handed," Shane growled. His statement came out as a hoarse squeak, eliciting giggles from Togedemaru and Trapinch.

Fact: after I stopped the human's argument with Lycanroc, I sensed a change in his thought patterns, Metagross announced. Fact: careful analysis led me to conclude Lycanroc would bring trouble into the guild. Fact: Lycanroc intended to foist the blame onto the human and get him expelled from the guild. Fact: Midnight Lycanrocs are confrontational in nature. Fact: they hold irrational grudges. Metagross glanced at Shane. Fact: the human drew Lycanroc's ire with his comments.

Shane tensed up. "Wait… what?"

Warning: do not interrupt my explanation, Metagross growled, eyes flashing blue. Shane whimpered loudly, tails drooping. Fact: I established a mental link with Lycanroc's mind to spy on him. Fact: I discovered him meeting with these outlaws in Aeon Town. Fact: they discussed raiding our food stock. Conclusion: inform the authorities and use the opportunity to test you apprentices.

"Wait, this whole thing was a set up?" Togedemaru gasped.

"What?! You told us this place was easy pickings!" Sneasel snarled, trying to work through his paralysis and glare at Lycanroc.

"I… I didn't… but that don't make a lick of sense!" Lycanroc growled.

Hypothesis: there will become a time when you apprentices have to face difficult odds without a true leader present. Conclusion: use the outlaws as a test run of your abilities to work as a team under pressure, Metagross elaborated. Either you would subdue the outlaws or Magnezone would arrive with backup to defeat them. Based on the results, I calculate my plan was a success.

"And what would have happened if we ran into problems and Magenzone couldn't get here fast enough, huh?" Togedemaru asked.

Fact: the berries that Team Fang ate had rotted. Fact: they should begin to experience symptoms of food poisoning in thirty seconds.

Jangmo-o's eyes widened. "You're kidding! Those berries tasted perfectly scrumptious."

"That's… because… the Guildmaster… had me use Sweet Scent… on them…"

Everyone turned and watched Steenee stagger back into the hallway, gripping her side in pain.

"You were in on this?" Tessa gasped. "But look at how banged up you got!"

"Heh… I was supposed to… discover everything… and wake you guys. But… you kinda beat me to the punch there," Steenee explained, chuckling weakly.

"Owwwwwiiiieeee!" Jangmo-o suddenly groaned. "Sneasel... my tummy… it don't feel too good."

"Rrrrggghh… sh-shut up… Jangmo-o," Sneasel moaned. "Nobody… cares…"

Lycanroc's face turned pale. "This… this is an outrage. Do you hear me!"

Save it for your fellow inmates, criminals, Magnezone stated. Let's move out, troops. He turned and carried off Team Fang. Lycanroc locked eyes with Shane.

"I hope you're happy, Snowy! You got what you wanted. Whoop-de-doo," he snarled. "Savor it for now. Because I swear… I'm gonna break out of yer stupid jail. And then… I won't rest until I've strung you up by your fat, ugly tails!"

Lycanroc managed to fight through the paralysis and spit right on Shane's face. Shane hissed and rubbed his face against his shoulder.

"You ain't no hero, Snowy! Ya got that?" Lycanroc shouted as Magnezone's squad carried him toward the stairs. "Yer just a stupid kid with a big ol' mouth! Yer gonna get what's coming to ya, Snowy! No one crosses me and gets away with it! Do you hear me? No one!"

Enough talking, prisoner.

A spark of electricity flashed along the stairwell, followed by a loud howl from Lycanroc. An awkward silence fell over the guild members.

"Well… uh… I guess we oughta clean things up a bit?" Trapinch suggested.

"Can't it wait until morning?" Togedemaru groaned, yawning.. "I need my beauty sleep! And I'm a bit mad at the Guildmaster, quite frankly."

I had my reasons for acting as I did. Order: I will handle the cleanup of this wing. You are to all return to bed, Metagross said. And you, human, should expect a tongue-lashing from Comfey for leaving your bed.

"Oh, he's going to get more than a tongue-lashing…"

Shane's tails jolted stiff and he looked up to see a very unamused Comfey floating in front of him. "What did I tell you? Twenty four hour bed rest at a minimum! And here you are, running into a battle when your spine isn't even fully healed." Her eyes narrowed at the sight of fresh bruises on Shane's back. "And you got hit in the back again!"

She shook her head. A psychic force hefted a yelping Shane into the air. "Well, you'd best start crossing your digits and praying you didn't do any permanent damage," Comfey declared.

"Wait!" Shane pleaded. He froze in midair. "I just… I just want to know one thing." He turned to look at Tessa and Metagross. "Was… was Lycanroc telling the truth?"

Tessa's snout stiffened. She shut her eyes and nodded. "Yes, Vulpix. He really wanted to help us with this Prism Virus situation… until you insulted him. I told you that Lycanrocs can hold grudges, but I guess you weren't listening... as usual. Your big mouth turned him against us. So, congrats. You were right in the end. I hope you're happy."

Fact: in insisting that Lycanroc was an outlaw you created a self-fulfilling prophecy, Metagross stated. Fact: I will address this with you in your disciplinary session once you have properly healed. He turned his back to Shane. Assuming you can even be healed at all.

Comfey levitated Shane out of the room. His whines grew progressively softer until no one could hear them. Following Shane's exit, the rest of the guild members started to make their ways back to their lodgings.

"… that was… pretty harsh back there…"

Tessa froze in the middle of the assembly area and glanced back and Null. "Don't tell me you're actually defending him. He's been a total jerk to you!" she said.

Null looked down. "… yeah. I just… don't think… he means bad. He's just… frightened of me. Just like… he was frightened… of Lycanroc."

Tessa bit her lip. "But… he sure didn't sound frightened. He sounded… more like a know-it-all. And he doesn't have a reason to be scared of you. You're a nice Pokémon! You're…"

"… Riolu… I appreciate it. But… look at me…" Null walked forward, giving Tessa full view of his patchwork hide, emphasizing the mosaic of fur and scales. "… I don't… give off… a very inviting… first impression."

"So? Mom always told me not to judge another Pokémon by its looks… or even its aura," Tessa said.

"… okay…" Null muttered. "But Shane… wasn't raised that way. He… certainly wasn't raised… as a Pokémon." Tessa stiffened and her gaze fell to the ground. "He's just reacting… to the sight… of something… bigger and scarier… than him."

"If… you want him to change… you need to provide him… with a good example… of what he should do," Null continued. "… be his… role model… or something…"

Tessa bit her lip. "For Vulpix? I…" She shook her head. "Sorry… no. That's asking too much of me. I can't be a role model."

Null sighed. "… tell you what. Why don't… we talk it over more… during some assignments… tomorrow?"

Tessa's expression brightened up. "You mean it?"

"… you could do… with a good distraction. G'night," Null said. He shuffled toward his room, wheezing loudly.

Tessa ran forward and embraced Null's right hind leg. He cringed from the contact. "Thanks, Null," Tessa whispered.

"… whatever…" Null muttered, and then walked back toward his room.

Tessa yawned and retreated to her room. She flopped down on her pillow and rolled onto her back. Her muscles began to ache. Tessa's eyelids fluttered closed. Her head lolled to the right. She glanced a portion of the full moon shining through a crack in her window.

'Wait… since when does the moon glow purple?'


And now that this chapter's up, I can give a bit of trivia. So, even with revisions to the story outline, this episode was always intended to be an inversion of, coincidentally enough, the 6th chapter of the Explorers games (Team Skull). While both involved shady characters linking up with the guild, in this instance Lycanroc was a good guy, until Shane got involved. In contrast to Explorers, where guild members rally to support the player and partner, in this instance Shane's actions turned a number of guild members against him.

I swear, I didn't intend the numbers to actually line up like that. Happy accident. But, yes, this was a bait-and-switch. Probably not the most clever one, but I had fun with it. And I hope you did too. The episode's not quite done, though.

Next time: after the day's events, our heroes find themselves with one question on their minds: where do we go from here?
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Winter can't come soon enough
Let's wrap this episode up, shall we?


Chapter 24: Rocky Road to Recovery

Tessa poked at the grass with a digit. "… and then, even though he almost got himself killed, Vulpix flew off the handle at Lycanroc. That set Lycanroc off, Mom. Next time I ran into him, he had let these outlaws called Team Fang into the guild. I heard them badmouthing us and when I tried to stop them, they attacked me!"

From her position beside her daughter on the clifftop, Prisma scowled. "Well, I'm sorry you had to go through that, Tessa. But I
did warn you, didn't I? Vulpix is nothing but bad news."

"I know, Mom," Tessa sighed. "It's just… you always taught me never to turn my back on someone." She looked up at her mom. "That, as an aura Pokémon, I need to try my best to help others."

Prisma rolled her eyes. "Well, it's nice to see at least
something I taught you sank in," she declared stoically. "But you're forgetting my very first lesson: your own safety comes first. You're still young, Tessa... an woefully inexperienced. If you keeping sticking your neck out like that, something bad will happen."

"You mean… like what happened to Dad?" Tessa muttered. Her eyes widened and she threw her paws up over her muzzle. "I… I'm sorry, Mom," she squeaked.

Prisma's eyes flickered dark red and she balled her right paw into a fist. "It's fine, Tessa." She took a deep breath. "I know I'm not in Horizon right now, but that's no excuse to develop a reckless streak." She leaned over and rubbed Tessa's head with her snout. "You're my pup. I have an obligation to look out for you."

Tessa nodded slowly. "Uh-huh. I'm just… not really sure what to do about all of this."

"That's a decision you ultimately have to make on your own. All I can tell you is what I know from the Pokémon I'm helping," Prisma said.

Tessa pursed her lips and took a deep breath. "Mom… are you protecting Lunala?"

If Tessa had managed to catch Prisma off guard, she didn't show it. "What would give you that idea?" Prisma asked.

"A few things that happened today, actually," Tessa admitted. "When Vulpix called Lycanroc a crook, he said that he's having visions in his dreams where Solgaleo speaks to him."

Prisma clenched her jaw. "He… he said that?" She glanced around the area for a few seconds, drawing a concerned look from Tessa. Prisma's calm demeanor then returned. "I suppose that's actually a good thing. It must mean that Solgaleo is safe as well."

"From the Prism Virus?" Tessa asked. "That's what you're protecting Lunala from, isn't it?"

"Prism Virus? Where did you hear that?" Prisma asked, her brow furrowed.

"From an Espeon and Umbreon that are causing trouble in Horizon," Tessa replied. "I've met them a few times, actually. They keep trying to take my scarf. They say it's so they can 'infect me.'" She looked down and fidgeted with the scarf. "Vulpix says that a virus is a deadly sickness from the human world."

Prisma turned away from her daughter. "Tessa, don't listen to that. For all you know, he could've been lying to you."

Tessa shook her head. "I don't think he was. I felt ripples of his aura, Mom," Tessa said, rubbing her aura feelers. "I'm getting a bit better at it, actually." Prisma raised a skeptical eyebrow at this. "He seems very worried and agitated about this," Tessa continued.

Prisma's gaze sharpened. "What else did Vulpix tell you?"

"Solgaleo warned him that an unknown force is trying to upset the balance between day and night," Tessa said. "It might be this Prism Virus thing that Espeon and Umbreon are trying to spread. That's what got Vulpix very mad at Lycanroc. He thinks that someone's controlling Espeon and Umbreon." She picked at some grass on the clifftop. "He… he said Solgaleo told him Gallian is behind all of this."

Prisma tensed up. "And you honestly believe him? You really think
Gallian is capable of something like that? Are you even listening to yourself right now?" she scoffed.

Tessa whined softly. "Mom. Gallian might be infected." She looked over, but saw no surprise on her mother's face. "I ran into him recently. He looked a bit like the other infected Pokémon I've seen."

"I... I see," Prisma whispered. "It seems... that things have gone quite downhill since I left." She rubbed the bridge of her snout. "Nevertheless, I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about it."

"Because you have to protect Lunala, right?" Tessa squeaked.

Prisma stiffened again. "Well… um…."

"Mom, we also got a call from the Expedition Society," Tessa said. "They think there's something wrong with the weather. And they said the moon's been full for an unusually long time." She poked at the grass again. "I noticed it too. The moon went from quarter-full to completely full too quickly. And just before I fell asleep, I saw it glowing purple." She leaned over to rest her head on her mother's shoulder. "It's because of Lunala that you're gone, isn't it?"

Prisma gave a defeated sigh. "You ought to give yourself more credit," she said. "I'm surprised you were able to pick up on that. Clearly, your father rubbed off on you more than you think."

Tessa's face flushed at this. "It's nothing," she mumbled.

"In any event, you're right," Prisma said. "I was called away to help tend to Lunala. She managed to reach out to me through a dream. Pretty much like what I'm doing now. When I found her, she said that some sort of otherworldly creature had attacked Celestial Island, ranting and raving about 'taking back the light that's rightfully mine.' She and Solgaleo had to flee, but ended up getting separated in the ensuing chaos. The escape left her on the verge of death. She's been in the process of recovering ever since. While she does, I'm supposed to keep her safe."

"So, you've really been hiding with her for seven months?" Tessa asked. "That's… a very long time."

Prisma's brow furrowed. "I know. That's because she's having difficulty recovering. Lunala thinks something is feeding off the cosmic energy she keeps trying to gather." Prisma crossed her arms. "But I haven't been able to sense anything with my aura sight. Perhaps it's the Prism Virus? I wouldn't exactly know how to sense energy that's not of this world."

"What's going to happen to Lunala, then?" Tessa asked.

"Well, none of us are giving up yet. Especially not Lunala," Prisma said. "We're trying to figure out a way to stop the Prism Virus from siphoning Lunala's energy. If we can at least stall it, Lunala might be able to return to full strength."

"And what about Solgaleo?"

Prisma shrugged. "No idea. If Vulpix is telling the truth, he probably knows what happened to Solgaleo. But…" Her eyes narrowed. "As I said before, I think it's in your best interest to avoid him."

"Yeah," Tessa whispered.

"I mean, look at what's happened, Tessa. He keeps running into the Prism Virus. For all we know, it could've been the force that brought Vulpix here from the human world," Prisma pointed out. "I know that your father and I have dealt with more than our fair shares of trouble, but I need you to promise me you'll try to stay clear of this."

"But," Tessa poked her index digits together, "Null told me I should try being a role model for Vulpix."


"He's, um, a friend I made," Tessa mumbled, earning a confused look from Prisma. "He joined the guild after you left. It's, uh, kind of tricky to explain."

"Well, if he's your friend, couldn't you just team up with him instead of Vulpix?" Prisma proposed. "I'm just trying to keep an eye out for you."

Tessa squeaked as her mother leaned over and embraced her. "I… I'll try, mom." She gave a yawn and lay down on Prisma's lap. It wasn't long before her eyelids closed and the dream melted away around her.


~Aeon Observatory~

Tessa arced her back as she walked out toward the main assembly area. It cricked several times, causing her to flinch. "Oof. Boy, am I sore." She froze and looked around. "Huh, where is everyone? Isn't it assembly time?"

"Braviary cancelled it after all the hullabaloo yesterday," Togedemaru answered. Tessa turned toward the northern hallway, where Togedemaru sat on top of a large box. "And yes," Togedemaru said, "he specifically used the word, 'hullabaloo.' And now Magearna won't stop talking about it." She hopped off the box and rolled toward Tessa. "Word around the Observatory is you and Null were thinking of taking on assignments today."

"And, what, you want in or something?" Tessa asked.

"You're darn tootin' I do!" Togedemaru declared. She froze upon completion of that sentence. "Oh, for pity's sake." She smacked her forehead. "Now Braviary's got me talking like a wastelander, too."

"Tessa! Tessa! Tessa! Tessa!"

Tessa turned around in time for a speeding brown ball to barrel into her, knocking her to the ground. When the stars faded from her vision, she found Eevee's beaming face staring down at her. A wicker basket dangled from his snout.

"Hiya, Eevee," Tessa mumbled. She sat up and rubbed the back of her head. "I see you're… getting pretty quick on your feet. Where's the fire?"

"Did someone say fire?" an excited voice barked from the infirmary wing.

"Hey! I told you to stay in bed, Growlithe. Don't make me immobilize you," Comfey's exasperated voice called.

Trapinch scrambled down the stairs, looking about in a panic. "Oh, there you are. You can't just go running down into the guild like that, you know." He walked over toward Eevee and Tessa. "Are you okay, Riolu?"

"Peachy," Tessa muttered. "Eevee was just telling me what brings him to the guild this morning."

"Itch a speciuhl dewivewy," Eevee chirped, his basket muffling his speech. He set it down and took the cloth off the top of it. "We're a little late, but Mommy and I wanted to give you something to congratulate you on one month in the guild. Ta-daaaaah!"

Tessa leaned over to look at the basket. She found a set of smiley-faces staring back at her. "They're cookies!" Eevee squeed. "Mommy baked them… and I did the razz berry frosting. Aren't they great?"

Togedemaru looked at the basket. Drool dripped down her mouth. "I'll say! And they smell amazing." She walked toward the basket.

"Hey! Hey!" Eevee stepped in the way and swished his tail in Togedemaru's face. "They're for Tessa. If you want some, buy them from the Kecleon Shop. Mommy just brought some over."

Togedemaru's eyes widened. "She did?" She pivoted to Tessa. "Don't go leaving for any missions without me. I'll be back lickety split!" She curled into a ball and rolled off toward the stairs, yelling, "Dang it, there I go again! Get out of my head, Braviary!"

Tessa shook her head and picked up the basket. "Well, thank you very much for these, Eevee. I'm sure I'll enjoy them after a busy day of exploring."

Eevee pouted. "Aww, you're not gonna eat them now?"

"Sorry, Eevee. Mom may not be here, but I still promised her no sweets in the morning," Tessa said. "Now, go on. Tell Sylveon I said hi."

"Okay!" Eevee chirped and sped back off up the stairs.

"Hey, wait. I'm supposed to escort you out!" Trapinch groaned, and then scurried off after Eevee.

"… he a friend… of yours?"

Tessa's fur bristled and she spun around. "N-Null!" she squeaked. "Morning. You… you really shouldn't sneak up on folks like that."

Null shook his helmet about. "… can't you… sense auras?"

"Not when I'm not paying attention," Tessa said. "But that's neither here nor there. Are you okay with Togedemaru joining us today?"

Null stretched his neck out. "… I'd rather… she didn't. She talks… too fast…" He finally managed to focus his gaze on Tessa. "But you were... being rhetorical… right?"

Tessa raised her paws innocently. "You got me there. Let me just drop these cookies off at my room and we can take a look at the mission board, okay?"

"… sure."


Shane grimaced, his face scrunching up in pain. Whimpering, he tried to stretch out his lower legs, but they spasmed uselessly. The curtain in front of his bed swished open. Unable to lift his head, Shane could barely glance Comfey floating in front of him.

"Goodness, you're an absolute mess," Comfey gasped. Shane's fur was disheveled, his tails edges' were frayed, the tuft of fur on his head was knotted up, his eyes were bloodshot, and the welt across his back had blackened. Sweat had pooled around his body overnight, leaving a damp stain across the bedsheet.

Shane paid Comfey no mind. With a groan, his head twitched against his pillow. Comfey spotted the flushing under Shane's eyelids and frowned. She floated over toward him and gently placed a hand on his head. Startled, Shane barked loudly. Comfey quickly pulled her hand back.

"Yup, your forehead's on fire," she said, waving her hand about to cool it off. "You're running a terrible fever." She gave Shane a disapproving look. "I told you not to run around after I put Synthesis bulbs on your back. Instead of going to heal your back, they went to uninjured parts of your body and made you sick." She let out a long sigh. "Which I means I can't try using more Synthesis bulbs on your back. This just complicated things considerably. What do you have to say for yourself, mister?"

Shane didn't respond. In fact, he didn't even meet her stern gaze. He stared blankly at the wall. With a whimper, Shane tried to stretch a foreleg, only for it to tremble.

"Can you hear me?" Comfey asked. She leaned in toward Shane, but froze at the sound of Shane weakly gasping for air.

"Help… me…"

"Vulpix, are you alright?"

Shane met her gaze with a dazed look in his bloodshot eyes. "Car… crushing… me…" he wheezed. "Hurts… everything huuuuuuurts…"

Comfey frowned. "What's a 'ca-hurr?' Oh, dear. I think the fever's made you delirious."

"So… much… pain…" Shane whimpered. A shiver ran along his body. He again tried stretching out a foreleg but it twitched unresponsively. Shane started to hyperventilate.

Worry flashed across Comfey's face. "Hey, human, calm down. I can't heal you if you're acting like this," she said. She floated over by Shane's face and waved an arm in front of it. Shane continued grimacing in pain.

"Um, is Vulpix gonna be okay?"

Comfey looked behind her and noticed Araquanid standing in the center of the infirmary, looking about in confused. "I'll be with you in a minute," Comfey said, before mumbling under her breath, "… or five." She exhaled and released a small cloud of pink gas that encased Shane's body. His breathing progressively slowed and his widened eyes narrowed. Comfey again floated in front of him and noted his pinprick pupils darting about the room.

"Wh… wha–?" he blinked several times. "Where… how did…?"

"Vulpix? It's Comfey. You're in the infirmary, remember?" she said, waving her hand in front of his face for good measure.

Shane's breathing continued to slow and his eyes fluttered shut. "Oh, right," he rasped. "I must've had a nightmare or something. Is it morning already?"

"Yes, and it looks like you have a fever," Comfey exclaimed. "I'm going to have to take care of that before I can even attempt to fix your back. Assuming I can fix it at this stage."

"… what does it matter? If I got a fever… I deserve it. Just leave me here and go deal with everyone else," Shane muttered. He tried to roll over in his bed, only to hiss in pain as his back seized up.

Comfey's cheeks puffed up. "Oh no you don't, mister." She gave him an unamused look. "You're in my infirmary and that makes you my patient. My treatments aren't going to be effective with that kind of attitude. So, take your self-pity and stuff it into whatever clump of brain you pulled it out of."

"It's not self-pity if it's true," Shane said. "Didn't you hear them last night? All of this is my fault."

"I see," Comfey said. Her body glowed with a soft blue aura and, next thing Shane knew, there was a Stufful floating next to Comfey.

"Uwaaaaagh! I don't want to see that little guy," Shane hollered, trying to bury his face in his pillow but finding himself unable to move. "He thinks I killed his mom."

"What, this?" Comfey looked at the Stufful. "This is a doll I made. He's Mr. Bluey. When you're feeling sad, you hug him and then you feel a little better." She set the toy down next to Shane, who eyed it with a look of disbelief.

"How's that supposed to make me feel better?" Shane said.

"Well, it would help if you could actually hug it," Comfey admitted. Shane gave her a scathing look. "But, as it stands, it's a reasonable distraction for me to do… this!"

A flash of light blinded Shane. He needed a good minute to get his vision back in order. When he did, he found Comfey floating in front of him. "Just what was that all about?" he groaned.

"I needed to discombobulate you a little bit so I could apply my special fever cream to your forehead," Comfey said.

"Magearna taught you that word, didn't she?" Shane groaned.

"Actually, it was Metagross, but that's beside the point," Comfey chuckled. "Now, I'll need you to lie perfectly still for the next few hours while the cream takes effect. Not that you can really move, from what it looks like. Oh, you might feel faint and the cream may cause some chills. But you're an ice-type, so it won't be that bad compared to when I use it on normal Pokémon. However, there is the matter of cooling you off."

"Cooling me off?" Shane parroted. He repeatedly flexed his brow, now aware of the cream's presence in his fur.

"Yes. Your body temperature is supposed to be pretty low, after all," Comfey said. "Look at all the sweat you're generating. Odds are you're teetering dangerously close to getting dehydrated. And that's very bad for an ice-type. In my medical opinion, the best way to get you back to normal would be an ice bath."

Shane's eyes widened. "What? You can't make me do that. I chickened out of three polar plunges back in the human world, you know."

"It's either that or you stay bedridden for gods only know how long," Comfey said. She turned and floated over toward Araquanid, leaving Shane lying there with a dumfounded expression.


~Clayback River~

Tessa shuffled backward, her left leg dipping into a pile of clay. "That's a lot of Wingulls," she said.

In front of her, a flock of Wingulls hovered around a pile of golden coins, repeatedly squawking, "Our treasure! Finders keepers!"

Null grimaced. "… I don't… have any… effective way… to hit them…"

Togedemaru stepped forward and puffed out her chest. "Then isn't it a good thing you've got me here? Behold… my brilliant strategic plan." She pivoted to glance at Tessa. "You learned Thunder Punch, right? Quick, sock me right in the back and launch me toward those Wingull."

"Are you nuts?" Tessa said. "Better yet, did Vulpix put you up to this?"

"Pfbt, please. There's a difference between science and stupidity. It's just hard to tell when you're not trained to appreciate said differences," Togedemaru scoffed.

Sweat drops ran down Tessa's head. 'I think that was supposed to be an insult.' Nevertheless, she stepped forward, allowing electricity to encase her fist. When her foot was free of the sticky mud puddle, she lunged at Togedemaru. She swung her fist in an upward arc. In contacted Togedemaru's back. Much to her surprise, the electricity rushed inside Togedemaru's body. The force of the punch shot her into the air.

"Now, time to light this flock up," Togedemaru declared. "Behold, my patent-pending Super Ultra Hyper Lightning Rod-Boosted Discharge Attack! Hyaaaaaaaaah!" Electricity crackled around her cheeks and, seconds later, a swarm of lightning bolts rained down on the Wingull flock.

The Wingulls gave squawks of pain and spasmed about in the air. Togedemaru cut off the attack and landed in front of the coin pile. The Wingulls fell to the ground, forming a sparking heap of comically-charred, unconscious bodies. "Ta-daaaaaaaaaaaaah!" she declared, turning back to her guild mates. "Now, let's grab these coins for Nosepass, so we can get going."

Tessa gave Null a confused look. "Did you see what was scientific about that attack?" she asked.

Null shook his head.

"… tch. Amateurs. I used Lightning Rod to raise the intensity of my attack. Combining that with the angle at which the Discharge struck the Wingulls ensured it was a one-hit KO on all of them. It's a matter of basic physics, duh," Togedemaru explained.

"Oh, okay, that makes it much clearer," Tessa said, her voice filled to the brim with sarcasm. "Give me a second to shift some things around in my pouch so I can fit all these coins."

"Mind the clay pile in front of you," Togedemaru warned. "It can't support your–"



"–weight." Togedemaru facepalmed. Null looked beside him and noticed that Tessa had somehow disappeared. He started looking around in confusion. "Stick your left foreleg down, buddy," Togedemaru said. Null did as instructed and felt something grabbing his insectoid exoskeleton. He hoisted his foreleg up, flinging a mud-covered Tessa toward Togedemaru's feet.

Tessa squirmed about. "Ugggh… this is totally disgusting!"

"Are you kidding? It's absolutely hilarious," Togedemaru mused. "The only way it'd be funnier is if it was Vulpix there instead!"


~Aeon Observatory~


Shane sneezed, spitting out a mouthful of water that Comfey had tried giving him. "Good gracious. What was that all about?" she gasped.

"Dunno," Shane mumbled. "I've just got this strange feeling someone's making fun of me right now."


~Clayback River~

"Look at it this way, there are tons of minerals in that silt. When you wash this stuff off, your coat's gonna have a healthy sheen that oughta make Solgaleo blush," Togedemaru chuckled.

"Gee, that makes it so much better," Tessa groaned. She tried brushing silt off her torso, but it just ended up clinging to her paws. "And my pouch is totally ruined, too."

"You can always clean it off back at the guild," Togedemaru said. "I'll just use mine."

"Wait, you've had it the whole time? Then what was the point of making me walk over here?" Tessa seethed.

"It just slipped my mind, that's all," Togedemaru giggled.

Tessa fell backwards in disbelief, landing in the same pile of muddy clay with an unceremonious splash. Null's shoulders sagged and he stepped back to dig Tessa out of the silt once again. She wore an annoyed expression. "I so did not need this happening today," she griped.

"Are you okay?" Null muttered.

"Do I look okay?" Tessa growled, thrashing about and flinging clay onto Null's helmet and body.

Null huffed and released his grip on Tessa. "You wanna… talk about it… or something?"

"There's nothing to say," Tessa sighed. "It's obvious. The powers that be are telling me I can't ditch Vulpix, even though I want to. I'm just going to be stuck with him forever!"

"Hmm? So that's… still bothering you?" Null asked.

"Yes," Tessa said. "I… well… that is…" She poked her muddy digits together. "I'd really rather not say."

"Oooooooooh, but saying that just makes me all the more curious," Togedemaru said, appearing by Tessa's side.

"This doesn't concern you," Tessa huffed.

"Well, maybe I can help you work through your issues from a scientific angle," Togedemaru offered, though her eager grin didn't sell her sincerity.

Tessa slumped over. "No point in hiding it, I guess. You know how yesterday Vulpix said he's been communicating with Solgaleo in his dreams?"

Togedemaru nodded. "Wait, are you saying you actually believe the guy?"

"Yes," Tessa said. "Because the same thing is happening to me."

Null stiffened. "… you're sure?"

Tessa nodded. "I wanted to tell you earlier, Null. But, well, a part of me just thought I was just crazy. Look at how everyone reacted to hearing Vulpix say he's had visions in his dreams. I figured you guys would just laugh at me." Her shoulders sagged. "But it's really happening. Honest. The thing is, I'm not seeing Solgaleo. I'm seeing my mom."

"… you mean Lucario?"

"Wait? Lucario's talking to you? What's going on? Is she okay? Where did she take off to?" Togedemaru asked. Tessa shrank back at her rapid-fire question assault.

"It's… complicated. I don't really feel like explaining it," Tessa said. "The biggest part is that she keeps telling me to leave Vulpix. She said Vulpix will keep attracting trouble and if I stay on his team, I'm just going to get dragged into it. And after everything's that's happened lately, I just don't think I can handle it. Plus, it's my mom. I… I'm always supposed to listen to her, right?"

"You're just now realizing Vulpix is a troublemaker?" Togedemaru scoffed. "Please, I could've told you that day one."

"… you're just… upset… at him… and holding a grudge…" Null muttered.

"Of course I am. He called me a Pikachu!" Togedemaru spat. "Stupid, skinny, overrated little posers..."

Tessa ignored her. "It's just, y'know, I remember what we talked about last night, Null," Tessa said. "About me trying to be a role model and stuff. But I can't just go against my mom's wishes like that. Besides, I can't explore on my own." Her aura feelers drooped. "I'm just not good enough. I'll never be as good as Mom."

"Just ditch Vulpix, then," Togedemaru scoffed. "You and him obviously don't mesh. He'll understand."

Null stepped in front of Togedemaru. "I just… want you to be happy. That's what… friends want… right?"

Tessa smiled, though no one could tell with the mud dripping down her snout. "So, would you be okay if we teamed up, Null?"

"… if it's for you… I can live with it…" Null said, letting out a few rasping coughs.


~Aeon Observatory~

Shane hovered in midair, barking up a storm. His legs dangled under him unresponsively. "No, please don't make me do this! I don't wanna!" he whined. "It's gonna be painful!"

"For the last time, you're an ice-type. This'll be fine," Comfey sighed. "Now, on the count of three. One… two…"

"W-Wait, wait, wait, wait!" Shane hollered. "I, uh, got Trapinch to sneak me a berry five minutes ago. You can't put me in the ice bath, because I have to wait thirty minutes after a meal to swim."

Comfey gave him an unamused look. "You didn't get any berries. You've spit up everything I've tried feeding you today. That's why we're doing this. You're so dehydrated you won't take in food or fluids. This is for your own good. Stop trying to wriggle out of it." This only made Shane bark even louder. "Oh, for pity's sake. I can't even use Sweet Scent on you right now. I'll need to resort to something else." She tapped her chin. "I think I've got an idea."

She floated back toward her desk and started rummaging through it. "Hey, Vulpix. I've got a picture of Espeon and Umbreon right here. Lycanroc said you've got a crush on one of them, right?"

"What? No! He's lying. I don't have a crush on any–" Shane started, only to freeze at the sight of an old tabloid magazine. A blush overtook his face.

"Pefect," Comfey said. She released her psychic grip on Shane, dropping him into the ice bath with a holler. Frigid water splashed in all directions. Comfey floated up toward the edge and peered down. A circle of bubbles formed in the center of the bath.

"Don't you think that's a bit mean of you?" Dragonair wondered, slithering away from one of the infirmary beds.

"It was the best thing I could think of in the moment," Comfey said. "Unfortunately, it looks like it didn't shock his legs into working again." Dragonair shook her head and slithered out of the room while Comfey levitated Shane out of the ice bath. His head trembled and his teeth chattered. "Oh, don't be so melodramatic," Comfey dismissed. "You're perfectly fine."

"N-N-N-N-No I'm n-n-n-not. I'm f-f-f-f-f-freezing!" Shane squealed. Water streamed down his soggy fur, splatting against the surface of the bath. "G-G-G-G-Gimme a t-t-t-t-towel."

"Hmm, I'm not really sure how to explain that one," Comfey said.

It is entirely possible that Vulpix's human brain is overriding the instinctual desires his species has for colder body temperatertures, Magearna exclaimed. She walked into the room with a towel draped over one of her arms. I soaked this towel in cheri berry as you requestified. She set the towel down and exited the room.

"Excellent," Comfey said. She set her trembling patient down at the edge of the large water trough. "Don't worry Vulpix, this ought to help get some sensation back into your legs."

"Fffffffffforget that. I just… want a b… b… blanket," Shane stammered. "And a parka, a space heater, my Pikachu onesie… and a bathtub full of chicken noodle soup!"


Metagross lay in the middle of his office, eyes closed.

Clang! Clang! Clang!

Metagross' eyes opened and he hoisted his body off the ground. Enter, he stated. The metal door slid open, allowing Braviary and Tessa to walk in.

"Err, Guildmaster. Riolu here has something–"


Metagross' eyes flashed blue. Tessa's aura feelers stood on end. She had no doubt the Guildmaster had opted to read her mind instead of hear her out. Fact: you are requesting Team Radiance's termination. Fact: you wish to form a new team with Null. Request: one moment while I consider this proposal.

Tessa didn't have the chance to respond, as Metagross immediately closed his eyes. One second later, they opened back up. Proposal considered, Metagross announced. Fact: the timing of this request directly coincides with the human's delinquent behavior. Fact: terminating your team would absolve you of any consequences you would face as his teammate. Hypothesis: guild members will view this as a means to escape discipline in the future.

Tessa's face scrunched up. 'Oh, great. He's going to shoot me down.'

Fact: this issue is causing you significant distress, Metagross stated, prompting Tessa to grit her teeth. Conclusion: I will accept your proposal–

"You will? Oh, thank you, Guildmaster!"

Order: let me finish, Metagross warned, glaring at Tessa. She scooted closer to Braviary. I will accept your proposal and dissolve Team Radiance… provided you make it through my disciplinary assignment successfully.

Tessa stiffened. "Huh?"

Fact: I will explain when the human reports for disciplinary action following his recovery, Metagross said. He turned away from his door. … assuming he recovers at all. Order: you are dismissed.


Dismissed, Metagross stated. Braviary then shooed Tessa out of the office.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear things ain't going well with yer pardner," Braviary said. "I don't suppose there's something I could do fer y'all, is there?"

Tessa shook her head. "I'm sorry, Braviary. My mind's made up on this matter. In fact, I'm going to go tell him right now."

"If you're going to see Vulpix, then I'm afraid you won't be having much of a conversation," Comfey said, floating by the duo with a pair of berries. "The ice bath and cheri berry combination didn't work. I'm afraid I had no other options but to administer a special serum to try and reverse the damage to his spine. I had to put him into a very deep sleep for his own safety. He won't be waking up until its effects wear off."

Braviary gave her shocked look. "Shoot. Was it really that bad?"

"All my attempts to correct the damage in his spine have failed so far," Comfey reported. "This is my last-resort option. I have to keep him asleep, otherwise I risk putting him in a tremendous deal of pain. I wish it hadn't come to this. Vulpix was too out of it to even consent. I just assumed he'd want the treatment..."

"What if this thing don't work?" Braviary asked.

"Then I fear he'll never walk again."

Tessa bit her lower lip. "Um, in that case, can you have someone tell me when he's awake? I need to talk to him," she whispered.

"It could very well be a week before he's up, Riolu. Maybe even more than one week," Comfey warned. "But, I'm sure I can arrange that." She floated away.

Tessa adjusted her scarf. "Well, I'm going off to bed. Sorry, Braviary." She walked off toward the living quarters.

Braviary sighed. "G'night, Riolu." He looked back at the door to the Guildmaster's office. "I sure hope you know what yer doing in there, Mets. Them two basically need a miracle right now."


~Mellath Bog~

"Tch! How disgusting!"

A pair of sky-blue wings spread apart. Their owner doubled over in a fit of coughing. Espeon turned around, only to flinch and look away from the sight. "We didn't ask you to come, you know. Why didn't you just stay back at Celestial Island?"

Behind her, Lunala rubbed his mouth with a black, crystallized arm. Said arm then spasmed, smacking against his chest. "You told me you were going to infect a dungeon. How could I not miss the opportunity to suck the life out of this worthless swamp's inhabitants? I'm hungry... I want more light." His mouth twitched, and then opened wide. His tongue lolled out to the side. "Even dank, murky light is better than nothing. Even if it tastes like moldy cheese lathered in Garbodor sheddings. It sends the pain away... and that's good enough."

Espeon put a paw up to her muzzle, and then forcibly swallowed the load of bile she stopped herself from spitting up. "Yeah, thanks for that wonderful mental image, buddy."

"What is the point in this, anyway? This is hardly the type of place you're going to get Tapu Fini to come to. Heeheeheehee… it's as depressing as your boyfriend over there," Lunala mused. His jaw tightened. "You two think you're so clever, don't you? You think you won Mistress Zero over by putting your heads together... but you won't fool me that easily. Your relationship is a farce. It's coming apart at the seems. In fact, I think it'll be your undoing. I mean... I'm not surprised. Umbreon just can't seem to put up with you anymore, can he? Look at him. He has an attitude that only the most devout sister could love." His arms twitched and he pulled them against his chest.

"Shut it, batface!" Espeon hissed, the diamond on her forehead sparking. She turned around, only to see her colleague had vanished.

"Oh, did I strike a nerve? Good. Because the two of you disgust me. Just as much as this swamp. You are using my light... power you never deserved. Mistress Zero is wasting my core's energy on you fools," Lunala whispered. From the shadows, he enveloped Espeon with his wings. She stood there, petrified, as his black arms twitched erratically against her fur.

"K-Knock it off, Lunala! You're not funny!" she shrieked, leaping forward and spinning around to face him.

"Really? Because I think I'm hilarious. You're just thin-skinned," Lunala crooned. "Perhaps your precious Umbry is rubbing off on you more than you'd care to admit." He paused, and then a grin spread across his lips. "Then again, he's always rubbed off on you, hasn't he?" Lunala added. "See what I did there... with the double entendre? I told you I'm hilarious!"

A flicker of yellow light caught Lunala's attention. His head pivoted and his red eyes flickered with interest. "Oh-ho! What have we here?" He disappeared into the shadows. Espeon raised a confused eyebrow.

Seconds later, a terrified pair of screams echoed through the swampland. Espeon jumped up onto a tree branch and spotted Lunala floating over a murky pond. He clutched two Lanturns in his metallic limbs. "Finally... some wildlife. A pair of Lanturns whose spirits I can devour. Look at these light balls… bobbing off of their heads. It's not much, but every little drop of light fills that gaping hole in my spirit. I'm so tired of feeling empty. That's why I want your life forces inside of me." He flapped the captive fish up and down, making their antennae bounce around.

"Put them down. Umbry and I call the infection shots, not you."

A red eye appeared inside the black, triangular armor on Lunala's forehead. "Oh? Are you telling me I can't take their light for myself? They live in this Mystery Dungeon. A Mystery Dungeon filled with stardust. Filled with light that was stripped from me. Their life energy is mine. I want this pain gone. I want my full spirit back." He hoisted the Lanturns up so they were at eye level with him. "Are you going to stop me, Espeon? Because I don't care how much Mistress Zero likes you. If you don't let me take their light, then I'm going to rip that tail off your round little behind and strangle you with it!"

Espeon's eyes widened in horror. She stepped back, looking away from Lunala and saying nothing.

"Silence. Good. I'm glad you know where you stand."

"L-Let us go!" one of the Lanturn shrieked. Bright green energy gathered at the tip of her antennae.

But before any attack could fire, the red eye atop Lunala's forehead brightened. Both Lanturn abruptly stopped screaming and seized up in Lunala's arms. Espeon wore a neutral expression as the colors spilled off the Lanturns' bodies. They swirled around Lunala's head before flying into his open mouth. His entire body convulsed, causing him to drop the two colorless Lanturns. They struck the ground and, in an instant, black crystals covered every square inch of their lifeless bodies. Lunala's three red eyes flashed and the crystals shattered. Their remnants dissolved into fine black mist.

"It wasn't much, but at least it took some of the edge off," Lunala said. Espeon turned away, only to jump backwards and give a startled yelp as Lunala teleported right in front of her. "You and Umbreon, on the other hand? You would be quite filling! Your spirits are strong. And they are filled to the brim with Z-Power from my core. The fact that you haven't felled the human yet is a testament to how you have stolen what belongs to me."

He leaned in and saliva dripped onto the ground in front of Espeon. "I want your spirit. I want Umbreon's, too," he said. "Oh yes… I imagine your life energy must taste so sweet... like cotton candy! But Mistress Zero would rather give power that isn't hers to worthless mortals like you. Which is why I can't wait for you two to crash and burn. I'll swoop in and take my light back. And you can spend eternity with your precious Umbry."

Espeon shrank backwards, tail shooting between her legs. "U-Umbry!" she shouted. "You need to hurry up... now!"

Umbreon jumped up onto a nearby rock. "It's finished. All we need to do is wait for the crystals to corrupt the dungeon. That ought to drive Tapu Fini out of hiding." Espeon joined her partner on his perch and looked out across the swamp. Ahead of her, a cluster of black crystals sent out shockwaves of dark energy. As they raced across the swamp, they transformed the murky water into bubbling, fluorescent-purple ooze.

Lunala teleported over to the slime and examined it. He yanked his head back seconds before a particularly large bubble burst. "What an absolute waste! All of this Z-Power getting poured into to twisting this landscape, when it should all be working toward giving me back my real body!" He floated up and glared at Umbreon.

Umbreon's brow furrowed. "Take it up with Mistress Zero. She approved our changes to this dungeon. We're leaving. The less time we have to spend around you, the better." Espeon produced an Entercard and opened up a Magnagate behind her. She and Umbreon trotted inside the portal, which then shut behind them.

Lunala wrapped his wings around his torso. "Yes, go ahead. Walk away," he taunted. "Just like the gods. Just like everyone who called themselves a friend. I cannot wait for you to fail once more. Heeheeheehee. Yes, and then I'll take your spirits. Because all light in this world belongs to me… to Necrozma!"

His red eyes flashed and a blue portal opened up in front of him. Necrozma unfurled his wings and flew off into it.

End of Episode 6


Unlike Shane's previous screw ups, this one is not getting swept aside. I wanted to do something a little bit experimental with this chapter, in that while it's got a lot of the zany antics of some of the earlier chapters, there are very somber overtones to everything that's happening. That will continue into the next chapter.

And, of course, after getting teased in the bonus, here he is. Dawn Wings Necrozma. You can all do your "I told you so," dances now. As you can see, he is a far cry from your usual breed of Mystery Dungeon villains. Someone might want to get him a Philips head for those loose screws. ^^

Next episode: sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom in order to realize things need to change.
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Gone. Not coming back.
It's nice to have a bit of a Tessa chapter for once; we see a lot more from Shane's perspective than we do from hers. I feel like she's got a case of that thing where characters narrate their lives for the benefit of the reader, though – she keeps talking about everything she sees in Prisma's room, rather than just observing and thinking. I don't think you necessarily need to break things up with speech all the time; it's okay to have sections of just straight narration. Her thoughts are less intrusive than her spoken dialogue, but there's still a lot more of them than I think the passage needs.

I think it's unintentional, but like it's kind of hilarious that the way Tessa frames her final decision that Lycanroc can't be trusted is with the line “They're stealing our food!” I mean, it seems so trivial compared to what this revelation actually means; putting the two together sort of cheapens the latter with the former, I think.

Also, I'm not sure the whole “it was all a set-up!” thing really works for me. Like, as much as it's fun to see Shane getting taken down a peg or two, it feels (a) kind of unlikely that Metagross could predict exactly what sort of trouble that Lycanroc was going to bring based on the available evidence and (b) kind of unethical that this was how the Guild decided to deal with it. I mean I guess, since they're pokémon and beating each other up is a deep-rooted cornerstone of their culture, that kind of makes it a little less unsavoury, but even then, I'm not sure I'm completely on board.

What I do really like, though, is the way that it was Shane's comments that turned Lycanroc against everyone. That's an excellent choice, and it gives the episode overall a nice shape and structure.

The subsequent chapter is a little slow at first – much of the stuff with Shane in the infirmary, for instance, feels kinda unnecessary except to tighten the thumbscrews on Shane a bit more – but it definitely picks up later on! I love that this is what it's come to – that Tessa's actually gone and made a concerted effort to ditch Shane, and, better yet, not just because he's kind of a jerk; it's also because her mother (with what I have to say comes across as slightly weird, though perhaps not unfounded, insistence) told her to, and that's what catalyses the decision in her head. That says a lot about both Tessa and Prisma in a rather subtle kind of way, and I like it a lot.

Obviously, Necrozma is also confirmed to be involved here, although given the concerns of the story it doesn't come as that much of a surprise. What is a twist is that voice – a voice which of course we've encountered several times before. It looks like things are going to get worse before they get better, which obviously is something I'm looking forward to.

That was the kind of deduction only someone with exploring experience could make."

That seems like a weird way to describe it. I think you'd get the point across if Prisma was just impressed that Tessa was able to work it out, without necessarily having to state it so baldly.

… assuming he recovers at all. Order: you are dismissed.

Broken tag there.

A pair of sky-blue wings thrusted apart

The past tense of “thrust” is also “thrust”.

Plenty of interesting plot happening here. Things are really picking up now, and I'm sure this is just where they get started. By the time I get around to my next review, I have a feeling there's going to be a whole bunch of even more interesting stuff for me to comment on, and I'm definitely looking forward to that.


Winter can't come soon enough
It's nice to have a bit of a Tessa chapter for once; we see a lot more from Shane's perspective than we do from hers.
Yeah, I just thought that, with the way the episode had gone so far, this chapter was better-suited in centering on Tessa. Namely, having her get swept up in the repercussions of Shane's actions beyond the promise of a future meeting with Metagross.

I feel like she's got a case of that thing where characters narrate their lives for the benefit of the reader, though
Ah, yeah. I think I can see what you mean. I think I took the whole "don't bog things down with descriptions, make it more dynamic" too far in the wrong direction. I made some adjustments to strip away the parts where she's just describing what she's looking at (whether in thought or dialogue) and just left her own, personal thoughts in there.

I think it's unintentional, but like it's kind of hilarious that the way Tessa frames her final decision that Lycanroc can't be trusted is with the line “They're stealing our food!”
Good point. For what it's worth, I rewrote that little bit to try and make it flow a bit better.

Also, I'm not sure the whole “it was all a set-up!” thing really works for me.
That's a fair complaint. I don't think I really did a good enough job selling it as it's written, so I did make some changes. Namely, to incorporate Metagross' abilities a bit more into it. The guy has four brains. He's clearly a powerful enough psychic to read Lycanroc's mind at a distance and, essentially, spy on him to figure out exactly what he intends to do. As to the whole unethical part, well, that's how you're supposed to feel. It's definitely not the best way to address it. I did change the scene slightly to have Togedemaru call him out on it. But, that was entirely intentional.

What I do really like, though, is the way that it was Shane's comments that turned Lycanroc against everyone. That's an excellent choice, and it gives the episode overall a nice shape and structure.
Thank you. I'm happy to hear it. ^_^ As I said at the end of that chapter, that really was my own attempt to invert the Explorers games. Since the heroes' guild mates are swayed by their words on Team Skull, I wanted to do the opposite.

The subsequent chapter is a little slow at first – much of the stuff with Shane in the infirmary, for instance, feels kinda unnecessary except to tighten the thumbscrews on Shane a bit more
I understand. There is admittedly some of that in the next chapter too. They had, at one point, been one chapter, and both this episode and the upcoming one were one episode. But it ended up being much larger than I anticipated, so I split things up. This was an instance of me having a bit of fun. However, I know it seems unnecessary, but I considered it setup for Shane's behavior next episode.

but it definitely picks up later on! I love that this is what it's come to – that Tessa's actually gone and made a concerted effort to ditch Shane, and, better yet, not just because he's kind of a jerk; it's also because her mother (with what I have to say comes across as slightly weird, though perhaps not unfounded, insistence) told her to, and that's what catalyses the decision in her head. That says a lot about both Tessa and Prisma in a rather subtle kind of way, and I like it a lot.
It really does make me happy to hear that. I was very nervous that this idea wouldn't be received all that well. I understand how important friendship is as a theme in Mystery Dungeon stories, but I really wanted to have this schism form.

Obviously, Necrozma is also confirmed to be involved here, although given the concerns of the story it doesn't come as that much of a surprise. What is a twist is that voice – a voice which of course we've encountered several times before. It looks like things are going to get worse before they get better, which obviously is something I'm looking forward to.
Yup. I think I may have said this before, but I'm not exactly trying to be subtle about the presence of certain characters. No, the exciting bits are supposed to be some of the stuff these characters are engaged in. And of course things are going to get worse. Didn't you see the "Next episode" teaser? I kid, I kid. :V

Plenty of interesting plot happening here. Things are really picking up now, and I'm sure this is just where they get started. By the time I get around to my next review, I have a feeling there's going to be a whole bunch of even more interesting stuff for me to comment on, and I'm definitely looking forward to that.
You really do humble me. I'm having a lot of fun with this so far, but there's a strong part of me that's always uncertain if folks are actually enjoying this. Or that they've got expectations that I just can't meet. So, it really means a lot to hear all this feedback from you. Thanks again for the support! ^^


Winter can't come soon enough
I made an update to the content warnings for the story, just to be on the safe side. This episode's largely going to be responsible for that. So, let's dive in, shall we?


~Dewdrop Woods~

"I'm sorry, Captain. I was unable to locate the source of the ultra aura traces you sensed."

Sticky emerged from behind a set of trees. A gray visor sat over his eyes, but it quickly dematerialized by dissolving into purple streams that faded into the harness on his chest.

"… tch. So, this was a waste of time, then?" Gallian growled, seated atop an overturned rock. He rolled onto his back and let his head droop down. He had an upside-down view of the blue-pawed dog Sticky addressed. "I thought Houndooms were supposed to be clever."

Sticky's eyes widened. "F-Forgive him, Captain Luxeira. He–"

The Houndoom raised a blue forepaw. "It's fine, Sticky," she said, adjusting her white, full-body jumpsuit as she got to her feet. "Truthfully, I didn't have a lot of hope, given how weak the signals were. It looks like we were too slow on the draw."

"Yeah… you seem to have a rather nasty habit of that," Gallian sneered.

"Well, perhaps if the terrestrial with the self-professed 'disaster sense' could offer up a little more support, this wouldn't be happening," Luxeira countered, her expression unreadable behind her helmeted visor. "Our partnership was born out of circumstance, but I seem to recall you saying that you 'owed us big time.' Perhaps it's time to you started living up to that promise. Or are the inhabitants of this world the type to renege on their vows so easily?"

"… tch. My disaster sense doesn't give specifics, Captain," Gallian growled. "And it's not going to work unless I'm close to the disaster, literally or figuratively speaking."

"Easy now, you two," Sticky coaxed, floating in between them. "There's no need for petty squabbles. We are here for reconnaissance work, after all. And, even without a source for the ultra aura, it's pretty evident that something transpired in this… this…" He tapped his forehead. "Oh, what do you terrestrials call this location, again?"

"A Mystery Dungeon?" Gallian said.

"Yes, yes. Quite an odd designation. I do not see any apparatuses associated with highly-fortified terrestrial prisons," Sticky mused. "But that's beside the point. What could have torn the landscape asunder like this?"

Gallian sat back up on his rock and rubbed his temples. "First off, enough with the big words. You sound like an uptight stiff. Second, I've got a hunch as to what's responsible."

"Oh? Do tell, rookie," Luxeira ordered.

"It was probably a Bewear," Gallian said, "or five."

Sticky titled his head in confusion. "Captain, are you familiar with that Pokémon? I am afraid I have not encountered it in the past."

"They're really big. And strong. Like, they can snap trees in half just by hugging them. It's the only Pokémon I can think of capable of doing something like this that lives around here," Gallian explained. "I guess the group that did this ran off."

Luxeira got to her feet. "Then it would appear it's time for us to move o–" She froze. Gallian tensed up, digging his claws into the rock. Luxeira's visor flashed. "Sticky! Get a load of this. I'm picking up substantial ultra aura readings."

Sticky pressed the jewel at the center of his harness. His visor rematerialized over his eyes. He placed a stubby hand on his temple and frowned. "I concur, Captain. Off to the southwest. A noticeable surge… and it doesn't appear to be subsiding, either."

"Rookie, what lies to the southwest of this dungeon?" Luxeira asked.

"Uh… that'd be Tethys Tunnel. It leads to an underground swamp," Gallian exclaimed.

"Alright. Sticky, I want you to do some careful observation on this 'Tethys Tunnel' and report back to me posthaste," Luxeira ordered.

Gallian's eyes flashed purple. "No way. Nuh-uh. You're not letting him get anywhere near that place."

"Because, let me guess, 'disaster awaits us if he does?'" Luxeira scoffed.

Gallian glared daggers at her. "Yeah. Pretty much," he seethed.

"Rookie, Team Paradox's first and foremost responsibility is to investigate anomalies that we suspect have ties to Ultra Space," Luxeira declared. "Even without a home, we're not about to abandon that principle."

Gallian pointed his scythe toward Luxeira. "Yeah, and how much have you accomplished here, honestly? Lemme answer that… nothing. Pinhead's not going to Tethys Tunnel, period."

Luxeira stormed over to Gallian's location and grabbed his scythe. The energy forming on it quickly dissipated. "I am your captain. And, as such, I'm ordering my subordinate to investigate Tethys Tunnel."

Gallian's forehead diamond sparked. "Then I'm going with him. Things probably won't end as badly if I'm around."

"Absolutely not," Luxeira said. "Your violent temperament will not do Sticky any good."

"But he's going to run into trouble. I'm sure of it," Gallian hissed.

"Then he will do his best to remove himself from that situation," Luxeira declared, giving Sticky a nod.

"Seriously?" Gallian gave her an exasperated look. "I went to a lot of trouble to get you two TM's so that you could actually defend yourselves out in these Mystery Dungeons. And you're telling me that you're just going to let that go to waste?"

Luxeira flicked her tail. "All members of an Ultra Recon Squad surveillance unit are expected to adhere to a strict nonaggression policy. We observe, but we don't attack unless there are no other options."

"Yeah, fat lot of good that policy did your home, huh?" Gallian muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" Luxeira growled.

"Nothing," Gallian dismissed, turning his snout skyward. "You want to find Tethys Tunnel? Fine. Follow me." Gallian turned and led Luxeira and Sticky back along the forest trail.


Episode 7: The Great Divide

Chapter 25: Fading Radiance



So loud was Solgaleo's roar that it made the tiny dreamscape island quake. Shane tumbled down the sand and landed in the orange water with an unceremonious splash. Only, to his horror, he realized what soaked him was far more viscous than water. It was more like orange slime. When he managed to trudge back onto the beach, he resembled a normal, fire-type Vulpix.

"I explicitly gave you one direction. Do not disclose our conversations!" Solgaleo bellowed. "And now you've gone and done just that. Do you have brain damage? Because it's not like my instructions were hard to follow."

Shane writhed about, trying to clear some of the ooze off his body, but to little avail. "I… I didn't have a choice. I was backed into a corner there. And besides, I needed to prove a point. It helped out, didn't it?"

"What sort of answer is that? You are the worst chosen one ever!" Solgaleo shouted. "Proving a point is far less important than saving the world, don't you think?"

Shane flinched at this.

"Well? What do you have to say for yourself, human?"

Shane drew his lips back into a snarl. "I get it okay. Tessa, Null, the rest of the guild, and now you, too. You all hate me. Think I'm some sort of screw up, don't you? Well, why'd you bring me here, then? Why did you think that I'd actually be the one who could save your sorry butts, huh? You've given me no sense of direction, extremely cryptic clues, and not a single power boost to help me. How do you expect me to do this when nobody wants to help?"


Shane jumped. He glared off toward the horizon, where a sun-shaped silhouette sat. "Well, which is it? You want an explanation or you want me to keep my mouth shut? I'm getting very mixed messages here, bub."

"I do not have the strength to bring forth another human," Solgaleo declared.

"And why not?" Shane huffed. "You didn't answer my first question, either. Why me, huh? What makes me special?"

"I said… silence! If I'm to be stuck with you, I need to make the best of a bad situation."

"Gee, thanks for the ringing endorsement," Shane sneered. "Real words of encouragement from a Pokémon that's supposedly worshiped around these parts. You're supposed to be making me feel better. Picking me up in my moment of need! Instead, you're just putting me down."

"Idiot! I am not here to give you belly rubs and tell you that you're the very best like no one ever was," Solgaleo roared. "This isn't some happy-go-lucky fairy tale where everyone holds hands and skips around in circles belting out songs about friendship and joy. This is a real, dangerous situation. Lives are on the line!"

"Yes, I think that's been made abundantly clear to me at this point," Shane said. "So, what am I supposed to do now?"

"Isn't it obvious? Rally your stupid friend, Riolu, and go after Absol like I told you to!" Solgaleo ordered. "And this time, no more excuses."

"Yeah, uh, and just
how do you expect me to do that, big guy? According to Comfey, I broke my spine," Shane admitted.

"So? You are a Pokémon. You should heal up quickly," Solgaleo said.

"Look, I don't exactly know how healing works here. But where I come from, a broken spine is
not something you just bounce back from and resume going about your business like nothing happened," Shane elaborated. "Heck, the whole reason I'm asleep right now is that Comfey's trying to use a serum to get my legs working. And if it fails… I don't think I'm ever going to walk again."

His head and ears drooped. "Besides, it's not like Tessa's going to be all that cooperative with me. She totally hates me now. She'd rather run around doing missions with Null. And that guy's the walking definition of creepy." He looked out toward horizon. "So, again, are you sure you've got the right guy? Tessa told me Null just randomly appeared with no memory several months back. And he's much stronger than me. Maybe he's the human you actually brought here? And I'm… just a mistake."

"Null? I know of no Nulls!" Solgaleo responded. "You are the human I summoned. Quit acting like a crybaby and get to work!"

Before Shane could offer a rebuttal, his entire field of vision went white.


~Aeon Observatory~

Shane's eyes shot open. He blinked rapidly, trying to adjust to the lack of light. 'Great. Not only did that go terribly, I woke up in the middle of the night,' he groaned. 'Things just keep getting better and better in Shane's horrible new reality.' He rubbed his head against his pillow and cringed at the feeling of moisture. 'Looks like I've got night sweats, too,' he sighed.

He squeezed his eyes shut, desperately hoping he could will himself back to sleep. Unfortunately, his brain didn't get the memo, so he continued to lie there, staring up at the ceiling. 'Maybe this is some form of punishment?' he thought. 'Like, I spent all that time playing Pokémon games and doing things online related to Pokémon when I could've, I don't know, volunteered in the community, or whatever. And now, as some sort of twisted karmic retribution, I'm trapped here in what should be a dream come true, only everything's trying to kill me and I haven't made a single friend.'

Shane shuddered. 'No, I can't think like that. I'm not a bad person. I might not be perfect, but that's why the phrase "I'm only human" exists in the first place, right? There are way more malicious folks out there. I need to keep my head up.'

He looked down at his hind legs and tails. 'Come on,' he thought. 'Come on, Shane. You can do this. Move those legs… move them. Come on… come on…' His brow furrowed, he grit his teeth, and held his breath as he tried to bend his knees. Much to his surprise, he saw his legs move ever so slightly toward his thighs.

His expression brightened immediately. 'Did Comfey's treatment work? Can I use these legs again?' With a forceful breath in, he flicked his foreleg back and hit one of his hind legs. The leg in question tensed up from the contact. 'I actually felt that!' he cheered. 'Oh, thank god, it worked. I'm healed!' He let himself fall back against his pillow, panting from exhaustion. Somehow, that brief bit of exertion had managed to drain him of his energy. He quickly fell back asleep.

Several hours later, light funneled in through the curtain, causing Shane to wake up. He stretched out his neck and, with considerable effort, managed to sit himself up. 'Maybe this means I can finally get out of bed without being levitated around,' he hoped.

"U-Um, h-hello? A-Are you a-awake in there, Mr. Vulpix?"

Mimikyu's squeaky voice came from the other side of the curtain. "Come in," Shane said. A ghostly hand drew back the curtain and Mimikyu zigzagged into the room. "What do you want?" Shane asked.

"O-oh… n-no…" Mimkyu looked down. "Are you not supposed to have visitors? I didn't get that memo. Please don't rat me out!"

"Relax, it's fine," Shane dismissed. "Did someone send you over here?"

Mimikyu shook his head. "No. I just, y'know, wanted to see how you were holding up." The little eye slots in his disguise started tearing up. "You've been asleep for a week now and–"

Shane's eyes widened. "A week?!" he gawked.

"Agh! Sorry! S-Sorry! I thought... y'know... someone had already told you," Mimikyu mumbled. "Comfey was supposed to break that news. Oooooh, she's going to be so mad at me."

Shane sat there in stunned silence. Mimikyu stared at him, and then looked down dejectedly. Just as it looked like he was about to leave, Shane snapped out of his stupor. "Wait. You clearly came here for something. What did you want?" he asked.

"R-Right. Sorry. Anyway, you've been asleep all this time, and I don't think a single Pokémon has come to visit you. I thought that maybe you'd appreciate a little company… but then I saw you move behind the curtain. So, I figured you must be awake. Aha ha… ha…" The head of his disguise flopped over, obscuring his eyes.

Shane frowned. "Yeah, I'm not exactly the most popular guild member right now. Thanks for the reminder."

Mimikyu's disguise stiffened. "O-Oh no! Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to make you feel bad! I was only trying to cheer you up." He scuttled toward the bed. "For what it's worth, I thought Lycanroc was very scary too."

"Uh, thanks, I guess," Shane muttered, but in the back of his mind, he thought, 'Great. It's like I'm back in my high school cafeteria. No one's letting me sit with them, so I have to slink over to that one table where the kid with hideous braces always sits.'

"Um…" Mimikyu shifted about, sensing the awkward silence. "I, uh, thought you might be hungry. So, I brought you a treat." His spectral arm appeared from underneath his disguise, carrying a small plate. "It's a 'Get Well Soon' Muffin. I made it myself!"

Shane looked at the "muffin," which actually appeared to be several brown lumps held together by a red paste. "I know it doesn't look that good," Mimikyu admitted, "but Steenee tried one and liked it." He set the plate down next to Shane's head.

'Yeah, but how much Sweet Scent did she douse it in?' Shane wondered. 'Well, I am hungry. May as well eat this.' He picked up the muffin and took a tiny, cautious bite of the largest lump. His eyebrows raised. "Huh, you're right. It's not bad." He scarfed the rest of the muffin down.

"I could get some more from the cafeteria if you want," Mimikyu offered. He looked down dejectedly. "Nobody else ate any."

Shane felt a pang of guilt. Clearly, he wasn't the only one failing to fit in. "You know what, that sounds good. Why don't you grab me three or four?"

The head of Mimikyu's disguise perked up. "Okay!" He turned to leave, only to see Comfey floating in front of him. Mimikyu tensed up. "Err, hi Miss Comfey. I, um, was just visiting Mr. Vulpix. Hope you don't, y'know, mind."

"It's quite alright, Mimikyu. But I'll need you to run along. Vulpix and I have work to do," Comfey said. Mimikyu saluted the healer with his shadowy arm and scurried back down the hall.

"Well, so much for breakfast," Shane muttered.

"I don't want you gorging yourself on carbs, mister," Comfey chided. "Not when we need to start rehabilitating those legs of yours."

Shane raised a brow. "Eh? How did you know I can feel my legs again?"

Comfey smiled. "Because you just told me."

Shane flopped back against his pillow. "Looks like I walked right into that one." An unseen force grabbed hold of him and lifted him off the bed. Shane's paws make contact with the floor. Comfey released her psychic grip and Shane collapsed onto his belly. "Ooooooooogh," he groaned. "Warn me before you do that."

"Sorry. In any case, we should get started. I find that most limbed Pokémon need a lot of time to get up and walking again. But since you're a human, maybe things will be different for you," Comfey said.

What followed was several hours of strenuous work for Shane. The net result being that he could shakily get to his feet. However, as he tried to shuffle forward, his hind paws slipped out from under him. Comfey grabbed him with her telekinesis before he could wipe out, and then give him a gentle nudge along. Still, his frustration was clearly mounting.

"Okay… I officially take back… every time I ever… laughed at those cheesy rehab scenes… in inspirational movies." he wheezed.

"Let me get you some water. You're sweating enough to fill up the town fountain," Comfey mused.

Shane dropped to his stomach, sides heaving. "Isn't there a better way… to do this?"

Comfey frowned. "This is the way I always rehabilitate my patients," she exclaimed. "I suppose if you're that desperate there's one other thing I could attempt. But the last Pokémon I tried this on lost all the fur on her legs."

Shane craned his neck back and brushed his sweaty coat with his snout. "Look… I'm desperate here. I'll try anything."

Comfey sighed. "Fine. If it's really bothering you that much, I suppose I can let you try my special healing potion." She floated over to a cabinet and pushed it aside with her telekinesis, revealing a safe. "It's actually a liquid soap. You pour it into a bath and soak yourself in it. It's supposed to seep through your skin and repair damage to any bones and muscles, but, as you heard, it's had mixed results."

"Wait, how am I supposed to use it, then?" Shane wondered. "There are only showers in the lodging area."

The safe opened, revealing a small, corked bottle filled with fizzy pink liquid. Comfey levitated it onto her desk. "We have baths in the veterans' quarters. I'll have to go ask the Guildmaster if it's okay for you to use one. Wait here." Comfey left the infirmary. When she disappeared from Shane's view, he heard her say, "Oh, hi, Riolu. Do you need something?"

"I'm good Comfey. I just need to speak to Vulpix."

Shane's ears folded against his head. 'It's Tessa. And she doesn't sound very happy.' He buried his head in his forelegs, so he couldn't see her enter the room. Much to his surprise, he didn't hear her say anything. Instead, Tessa draped a piece of paper over Shane's back. His head shot up with a startled yip. He craned his neck around and managed to grab the paper with his snout.

"What'd ya do that for?" Shane whimpered. "And what's this?"

Tessa crossed her arms. "It's a teammate dissolution notice. I'm done putting up with you."

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Shane expected something like this could happen. But the shock of hearing her say it overwhelmed him anyway. All he could do was repeat in his head over and over one single thought.

'She really does hate me.'

The silenced lingered, with Shane staring blankly at the piece of paper. He kept opening and closing his mouth repeatedly, but only succeeded in letting out short rasps. "Well? Say something, already," Tessa growled, tapping a foot on the ground.

Shane looked Tessa in the eye. "Why?" he croaked.

"You know exactly why. You're an insufferable jerk," Tessa explained. "I don't want to be around you anymore."

A whine escaped Shane's muzzle. His mind raced to try and form up something to say that could change her mind, even though the look in her eyes said she would never budge on this issue. "Please," he croaked. "I… I see now that I screwed up… badly. Just give me another chance. I'm begging you. You have no idea how awful this whole affair has been. I can honestly say this is the worst I've ever felt in my whole life. Both the Pokémon and human parts. Please don't make it any worse."

"Don't pull that crap with me. I've given you several chances," Tessa growled. "I'm sick of the constant danger. I'm sick of getting looked down on because I teamed up with you. And I especially don't want the Prism Virus chasing me around when it's really after you." Shane winced with each and every gripe Tessa rifled off. She turned away from him. "The Guildmaster's making us stay together for whatever punishment you got us. After that, I'm creating a new team with Null. I'll never have to deal with you again."

Shane's brow furrowed. "You're really just going to leave me like that? What am I supposed to do, then? I… I can't handle the Prism Virus by myself. It's a danger to everyone, including you."

"Haven't you been calling yourself a chosen one? Well, now you've got your chance to prove it," Tessa responded stoically. "Or, better yet, why not let the experienced Pokémon take over and stay on the sidelines for once? You'd be doing us all a favor." She turned and stormed out of the room.

"… that's it then," Shane whispered. "I'm all alone." He bowed his head solemnly.

'This isn't fair. I'm just trying to help everyone. Why can't Tessa see that?' he thought. 'Why doesn't she appreciate it? She should be defending me, not joining everyone else in getting mad at me. I'm doing the best I can here.' His muzzle stiffened. 'She really doesn't expect me to just sit and wait while the Prism Virus runs amok, does she? How can she even think that? She's just as wrapped up in this as I am!'

Before he could feel any sorrier for himself, a psychic force grabbed him and levitated him out of the room. He floated beside Comfey as she guided him to the stairs. "So, good news. I got you permission to use a bath in the veterans' quarters." The bottle of soap also floated next to Shane. "I just need to mix this into the water and have you stay in there for, let's say, an hour or so."

"An hour?" Shane sputtered. "I'll shrivel up!"

"The serum needs time to seep in through your skin," Comfey said. Shane noticed that they had passed the dimly-lit veterans' rooms and descended to an even-darker sublevel in the Observatory. Only a pair of small, orange Luminous Orbs provided light in the hallway. "Apologies with how dark it is down here," Comfey continued. "I've found that the lower lighting helps make the baths more relaxing. I can turn them up if you'd like."

"It's fine," Shane whispered. Comfey levitated him through one of the doors, revealing a small, purple, circular room shrouded in steam. He hovered in the doorway while Comfey proceeded to pour the bottle's contents into the water. Within seconds, mountains of lavender soap bubbles formed up.

"Alright, off you go," Comfey exclaimed, lowering Shane toward the pool.

"Wait, wait, wait!" Shane gasped, limbs flailing about. "You're not actually about to just plop me in here and watch me bathe, are you?"

Comfey raised an eyebrow. "What's the problem? Even if the fur covering your sensitive areas gets brushed aside, they'll be under water. I won't be able to see anything sultry and I need to make sure nothing happens to you."

Shane's face scrunched up. "Look, I don't know how Pokémon do things, but humans bathe alone. So, leave me be."

Comfey gave Shane an unamused look. "Oh, for pity's sake. You're the most difficult patient I've had in all my time here." She turned toward the doorway and her eyes flashed. Shane watched a blur whiz past his face and land in the bath.

"A rubber Ducklett? I'm not a little kid, you know."

"It's got a two-way communicator in it, so I can check in on you," Comfey explained. "I'm not about to float in that hallway for an hour."

"Fine. Whatever. I'll call you if I need you," Shane said. He watched Comfey float out of the room. The second the door shut behind her, the levitation ceased. Shane fell into the bath, splattering water around the rim. Luckily, he landed in the shallower part and easily surfaced, spitting up soapy water. "That wasn't very kind or caring," he muttered.

Shane managed to pull himself up to the rim of the bath. He rested his back against the wall and allowed the shallow floor to support his legs. Gradually, he slid down under the surface. Shane used his forepaws to pull some of the soap piles over toward him, washing away the grime and sweat in his fur from last week's events.

"Well, now what, Shane?" he sighed. "You finally have an inkling of an idea about what's going wrong with this world, only now the enemies are too tough for you to beat. Your partner's being unreasonable. The Guildmaster and Braviary think you're incompetent and now you're gonna get seriously punished. How do we fix this, huh?"

"There's only one thing you can do in this situation."

Shane blinked a few times and looked to his right. Above his shoulder floated a black shadow with a wisp of white smoke coming out of its head. Shane blinked several times. "This... this is just a trick, right?"

"... hmph, I do not waste my time with idle tricks," the specter sneered, crossing his arms.

Shane reached up and pulled his ears against his forehead. "Oh god... this is it... I'm totally losing my mind, here! And I didn't even have the common sense to hallucinate something really evil like Giratina or Yveltal!"

"Hrmph. I'm positively insulted!" the specter said, shaking his head. "You know that I've done far worse than either of those two rubes."

"Okay... fair point, Darkrai," Shane said, sighing. "Given the world I'm in, you're the perfect candidate to drive me crazy."

"Glad to see my reputation precedes me," Darkrai chuckled. "Then, I suppose we can cut to the chase."

"Hold up. Isn't there supposed to be another figment of my imagination here? Doesn't my conscience get a say in this?"

"Bah! The way I see it, you're so inept your conscience doesn't even want to try and sway you," Darkrai scoffed.

"That's not true!"

A flash of pink encased Shane's left shoulder. From it appeared a blue, swan-like creature. "Gee… a Cresselia. How predictable," Shane deadpanned. He glanced at Cresselia. "By the way, you owe me, like, a thousand Reviver Seeds. Dumb, stupid escort mission… I wasted hours saving your sorry butt."

"You do realize I'm a figment of your imagination, right?" Cresselia squeaked.

"If that's the case, what took you so long?" Shane sneered.

"This jerk Dark Voided me," Cresselia growled.

Darkrai shrugged. "You made it all too easy."

"Right. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Except for the part where it doesn't," Shane hissed. "Well, thanks, but you both wasted a trip. I'm trying to do some thinking for myself. So, unless you two plan on offering up some much-needed advice, buzz off!"

"Oh, I've got advice," Darkrai declared. "It's quite simple. Ditch these inconsiderate bullies and join the winning side."

"You mean… I should let the Prism Virus get me?"

"Yes. More specifically, that Espeon you have your eyes on," Darkrai mused. "Or, is it the Umbreon? I'm inside your brain and frankly even I'm not sure what to make of it."

Shane's face went beet red. "S… stop assuming things!" he hissed.

Darkrai flicked a hand dismissively. "Whatever. The point is, they're hunting you down. Why not simply join them voluntarily? Y'know, get with the more powerful side? If you haven't been able to beat their flunkies, I hardly think you stand a chance against Espeon and Umbreon."

"Don't listen to him!" Cresselia cried. "I know things may seem bad, but the night is always darkest just before dawn. And, if you've really hit rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up."

"Seriously?" Shane said, cocking an eyebrow. "Motivational taglines? That's your best defense?"

Cresselia looked down. "They sounded good when I was rehearsing them in front of my mirror."

Shane didn't even want to try and imagine how that would work.

"You see?" Darkrai let out a laugh. "Your conscience can't even put up a reasonable counterargument. And that's because I'm right." He floated up next to Shane and flicked his snout. "You tried doing the whole hero routine. Look where it got you. You've been humiliated, thoroughly beaten, and then repeatedly kicked while you were down."

"The vaunted 'partner' who's supposed to turn into your best friend prefers the company of a freak of nature that doesn't even qualify as a real Pokémon. That's how bad at this you are." Darkrai began sarcastically slow-clapping. "I must give you kudos. What you managed to do on your own ranks up there with some of the best nightmares I've ever made."

Shane scowled. "That's not me. This whole place is a nightmare and I just got plopped into it without any say in the matter. I'm trying to do the best I can here, but I'm not getting any help."

"That's exactly why you have to fight on!" Cresselia declared. "Solgaleo brought you here. Tell me, how many hundreds of millions of humans could he have picked from? He clearly sees something in you. Sure, it's something that none of us are aware of at the moment, but with a little time and some focus, I'm sure you could become stronger and turn the tide of this situation."

"Aha ha ha ha ha! Don't be ridiculous! Him?" Darkrai gestured at Shane. "Give me a break! It's obvious Solgaleo went cross-eyed and brought him here by mistake." He leaned against Shane's snout. "I mean, did you really expect to accomplish anything here? The only reason you got through any of the games back home is because you cheated!"

Shane's annoyance disappeared and he sank down on the ledge. "Well, yeah. Because they're long… and tedious… and boring… and they're really dang hard, okay! I don't want to spend, like, ten hours grinding up because I can't beat one stupid boss. That's obnoxious."

Darkrai chuckled once more. "Exactly. There are no cheat codes or Action Replays here to bail you out. If you want to get stronger then you have to do it the old-fashioned way. And are you really up to that? Especially when you have no one to turn to for help?"

Shane started opening his mouth but Darkrai held up a hand. "Let me answer that. No, you're not. Which is why you will join this Prism Virus. You can get all the strength and power you'd ever want as a Pokémon with no effort required whatsoever." He crossed his arms. "Not to mention the added perks. Like getting to show up all these guild Pokémon who've made fun of you from day one. And, of course, the company of the lovely Esp–"

Shane flicked Darkrai away with a forepaw. "How many times do I have to say it? I don't feel anything about anyone here and if I do it's this stupid Vulpix body and its stupider Vulpix instincts!" He slapped the surface of the water with a forepaw.

"... hmph. How utterly childish," Darkrai sneered. "If you were working with the Prism Virus, you'd have no need for petulant tantrums."

"Shane," Cresselia whispered, "I know it might sound tempting, but it won't end the way you want it to. You've seen what's happened to all the infected Pokémon you've encountered."

"But none of them joined willingly," Darkrai countered.

"And who's to say he wouldn't just meet with the same fate if he joined willingly, huh?" Cresselia huffed. "Shane, you're hurting. I get that. It's stopping you from thinking straight. Please, realize that you have everything to lose and nothing to gain from listening to Darkrai. Think of what you'll be turning your back on. A way back home… your family…"

"Things he's barely even given a passing thought to since he arrived," Darkrai scoffed. "For all Shane knows, the Prism Virus could give him a way back home instantly."

"Yeah, but it would be as someone his family would never recognize," Cresselia countered. "You said it yourself earlier. You are not an inherently evil person. Don't give into dark temptations simply because things aren't going your way right now. That just means it's time to make a change. Just get through Metagross' punishment and you can start fresh. Maybe try making a new team with Mimikyu? He seems to like you."

Darkrai visibly fought to hold back his laughter. Cresselia glared at him. "Look, you said you wanted to be a hero and save this world, right? Well, that means you have to take the bad with the good. But the victory will be all the more satisfying if you struggle and work for it. I guarantee it," she proclaimed.

Shane lowered his head. "Enough, alright?" he sighed. "I just… I guess I'll see what this punishment is, and go from there."

Darkrai's lone visible eye flashed ominously. "Fine. But when you go out there and get yourself killed, don't say I didn't warn you." He then vanished in a swirl of black shadows. Likewise, Cresselia disappeared in a flash of pink light. Shane let out a yawn and felt himself drifting off to sleep…

"Vulpix, do you copy? It's Comfey. You've been in there for ninety minutes already! Is there a problem?"

"Guuzack… sssnrggt… huhwha–?" Shane rapidly blinked his eyes and looked over at the rubber Ducklett. He grabbed it and found the little speaker on one of its wings. "I'm okay. Must've dozed off." He tossed the toy out of the tub and, without really thinking about it, climbed out. Shane stood on all fours and shook about to try and dry himself.

"Man, where do they keep towels around here?" he muttered, walking about the room. Shane eventually found one in the corner. No sooner did he grab it with his snout then he realized something. "H-Hey! I'm walking!" he gasped. Shane sprinted over toward the rubber Ducklett. "That didn't hurt either," he chirped. "Comfey, I think your serum worked! No more pain or tingling. I'm walking just fine."

"Glad to hear it. Head on up to the infirmary, then. I should be able to discharge you after a quick check up," Comfey declared. Shane ran for the door and bounded up the steps, overjoyed to finally be over his horrible injury. He made it up to the veterans' quarters when he noticed a shadow passing through the hallway. Shane skidded to a stop and peered out from the staircase.

"I just can't help but feel sorry for her, y'know?"

'That sounds like Serperior,' Shane realized. He glanced around the hallway and then cautiously crept forward, following the sounds of conversation.

"What makes you say that?" Milotic's voice carried over to Shane.

"She got played by that human. I don't know what Vulpix did to convince her to work with him, but she's clearly miserable," Serperior scoffed.

"I must concur. The entire time she's been here, she hasn't seemed like her usual, perky self," Dragonair muttered. "But do you think that's Vulpix's fault?"

"Yes," Serperior replied. Shane's stance slouched. "And all of this is happening with her hatch day tomorrow, to boot."

Shane stiffened. 'Wait. They actually do birthdays here?' It was admittedly an aspect of Pokémon that Shane had never considered. 'And Tessa's is tomorrow? But why wouldn't she say anything?'

"Maybe you're better off not bringing that up," Milotic suggested. Shane found himself slowly creeping even closer to Team Captivate's room. "She hasn't exactly advertised it to the guild, you know."

"Can you blame her? Her teammate's an attention whore and in the span of a year her entire family's disappeared on her," Serperior said. "She's probably too heartbroken, since none of them will be here."

Shane's ears flattened against his head. 'But Tessa told me her parents were exploring in the Grass Continent. Did she lie to me? Why would she do that?'

"Maybe we should throw her a surprise party. Y'know, to cheer her up?" Serperior proposed.

"Normally, I'd agree with you, but I think it's equally likely we could just end up making her really sad," Dragonair exclaimed. "Plus, she has to do that disciplinary assignment from the Guildmaster. I'll bet he made it so that it will run through her hatch day."

"We could always do a belated party, then," Serperior said.

"I just think it's too much of a headache at this point," Milotic sighed. "She clearly doesn't want anyone acknowledging it, so I say we respect her wishes. Even if we don't agree with them."

Shane found himself shuffling backwards. 'I don't believe this,' he thought. 'No wonder Tessa's furious with me.' He lowered his head guiltily. 'Why couldn't she have just told me what was going on?' He glanced over his shoulder and noticed that, in the process of sneaking around, he had ended up in front of another room. His eyes widened at the site of a large map of the Horizon Continent.

'This is Tessa's mom's room,' he realized. Shane took a step inside and examined the map in greater detail. Charcoal and ink markings dotted the map. Upon closer examination, Shane realized that most of the markings centered around continent's northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwestern corners. 'That's odd,' he thought. 'It seems like Tessa's mom was looking really hard for something. A treasure, perhaps?'

He crept into the room and started looking around. There were papers everywhere. 'Tessa must have got her tidiness from her dad, because this place is a total pigsty.' His forepaw struck a piece of paper. A crinkling noise filled up the room and Shane immediately tensed up.

"Well now. Yer looking mighty fit fer someone who'd been put to sleep to get his legs working again."

Shane slowly turned around and looked into Braviary's eyes. His fierce gaze was fixed directly on Shane, making Shane's heart race. "Uh… uh…" He looked around rapidly. "Whoa! How did I end up here? I guess that special healing soap Comfey gave me must've made me space out."

"Nice try, son," Braviary harrumphed. "But we both know that's a lie. This is the second time I've done caught you wandering these halls unsupervised. And that's on top of the trouble yer already in, to boot. What d'ya gotta say fer yerself, pardner?"

Shane had meekly lowered to the floor. "I'm… sorry?" he squeaked.

"Save it fer the Guildmaster," Braviary exclaimed. "Since yer clearly feelin' better, I think it's high time you and yer pardner had yer disciplinary hearing."

Shane's eyes widened. "N-No, wait! Please! Comfey said I'm supposed to get checked out by her first." Braviary unfurled his wings, causing Shane to yelp. Braviary darted over to Shane and plucked him off the ground with his talons. He then flew out of the room, making for the stairs.

"Haunter! I know yer hiding 'round here. Make yerself useful and go wrassle up Riolu fer me," Braviary ordered. Shane looked to his right and saw a pair of eyes materialize in the wall.

"Aww, but it was just getting to the good part!" Haunter whined. His eyes vanished into the wall.

Shane shut his eyes tight. 'Is it just me, or did Braviary find me awfully quickly given I wasn't making any noise? And he seems really steamed about this.' His snout stiffened. 'Is there something about Tessa's mom he doesn't want me figuring out?' He briefly looked up at Braviary, only to squeak and look back down as Braviary met his gaze with an annoyed look.

'No, Shane. You can't make the same mistake you did with Lycanroc,' he thought. 'He's mad because you broke the rules when you're already in trouble.' He gulped. 'Which I'm sure is going to make Tessa even angrier.'

Shane yipped as Braviary dropped him to the ground. He scrambled to his feet, doing his best to avoid Braviary's gaze. Braviary gave three sharp raps on Metagross' metal door with his beak. He then shoved Shane forward as the door opened.

"Well, go on. Guildmaster's waiting fer ya."

Shane peered into the dimly lit room and felt his tails droop between his legs.


Next time: what do you get when you mix red and blue and say it in a funny accent?
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Winter can't come soon enough
Merry Christmas to you all. Here's the winter holiday special. It's... a far cry from the Halloween one. Have a look for yourselves!


Bonus #6: Snowfall
Happy holidays, this one's actually canon!


"Looks like you're down to your last dude, Nicky."

A young boy leaned forward, looking over the screen of his Game Boy Color. He flashed a smile at his friend, who lay on the floor, looking at his own device.

"Heeheehee... don't think you've won yet, Shane. This one's my best guy," Nicky declared, pushing brown hair out of his eyes. "You ready for this? Go, Lugia!"

Shane watched the colored pixels flash across his screen. "Ha, big whoop! My Dragonite can totally deal with th–"

"Eat this... Psychic!" Nicky squealed, jostling his Game Boy in excitement. In the process, the Pikachu plushy in his lap dropped to the floor. Shane's enthusiastic expression quickly vanished as he watched Dragonite's sprite fall off of his screen.

"No way. You were faster than me?" Shane gasped.

"Now you're down to your last dude, Shane," Nicky taunted.

Shane's grin reappeared. "Ah, but I saved the best for last, too. Go, Ho-Oh!" The other Legendary bird popped up on his Game Boy's screen. He eagerly went to select a move to use. "Alright, it's time for me to win the bat–"

"Heeheeheehee! Nice try, but it won't help. Hydro Pump to the face, dude," Nicky said with a victorious laugh.

"What? It gets Hydro Pump?" Shane gasped. He watched the HP of his Ho-Oh trickle down to zero and Ho-Oh's sprite vanished from the screen. "No way. You totally cheated!"

"Of course Lugia gets Hydro Pump," Nicky scoffed. He grabbed his stuffed Pikachu and dusted off the rainbow ribbon pinned to its chest. "Don't you remember the Lugia movie? It lives underwater, dude." He disconnected the Link Cable tethering their Game Boys. "Better luck next time."

Shane hung his head in defeat. "Ugh, fiiiiine."


"Nicholas, your mother's here!"

Nicky frowned. "Aww man. Already?"

"You can come back tomorrow, can't you?" Shane asked.

Nicky shook his head. "No. Tomorrow I'm going on a trip."

"Oh." Shane slowly got to his feet. "But we can play more when you get back, right?"

"Totally!" Nicky promised. The two of them ran down the staircase, where a pair of women stood by the door. One had on a black, puffy winter jacket.

"Nicholas, what do you say to Shane and his mom?" Nicky's mom asked, rubbing fog off her glasses.

"Right." He turned back to Shane. "Thanks for letting me come over."


Nicky gave his mom a confused look. She rolled her eyes and said, "And Merry Christmas to you both."

"Oh, right! Merry Christmas, Shane. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Shane's Mom!" Nicky chirped, causing the two women to giggle.

"Okay. Let's get going before the snow gets really bad on the roads," Nicky's mom exclaimed. The two exited the house. Shane ran up to the window beside the door and gave Nicky a wave goodbye.

"I'll see you soon, dude!" he called as the car pulled out of the driveway.


~14 Years Later~

A young man removed the white coat he was wearing and draped it over his right arm. He paused at a corner and poked his head around the wall. "Dr. Sinclair?" he called.

"I know what I said, Rory, and I'm sorry. I got held up at work. I'm waiting on some labs for a patient."

He spotted a woman seated in front of a computer with her back to him. She had a cell phone pressed against her right ear, while her left hand twirled a lock of blonde hair. "Prisma?" he said, knocking on the wall.

"Hang on, Rory," Prisma sighed and pulled the phone away. She spun around in her office chair. "What are you still doing here, Sanders? I thought I told you to go drop by the holiday party before it closes down."

Sanders laughed nervously. "Aha ha… right. I was planning on doing that, but the Ardsley kids' parents yanked me aside and started asking me questions about his procedure tomorrow. Before I knew it…"

"Sanders, Sanders, Sanders," Prisma sighed, shaking her head. "How many times do I have to tell you? Do not indulge helicopter parents. You'll never be able to shake them off. Give them brief answers and tell them you'll check in on their kid shortly. Then get your butt out of that room." She lifted her phone up. "Now, is there anything else? I'm a bit busy here."

"I, uh, just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. You're, um, not stuck working this year, are you?" Sanders asked.

"Ha! Good one, Sanders," Prisma laughed. "That's what we've got you residents for."

Sanders eyes widened. "B-But I thought I had Christmas off," he muttered.

Prisma rolled her eyes. "You do. Learn to take a joke, Sanders. It'll go a long way in this field. Now, get a move on before I change my mind and make you do blood draws with the nurses."

"R-Right," Sanders muttered. "Merry Christmas, boss."

"And a happy new year," Prisma replied, waving her subordinate off. She spun back around in her chair and took her hand of the phone's speaker. "Sorry about that, sweetie. One of the kids had a question." A pause followed. "Yes, I was talking about a resident. You know how Sanders gets sometimes. Poor guy's too polite for his own good."

A notification popped up on Prisma's computer. "Oh… oh!" She leaned in toward the screen and started moving the mouse around. "Looks like I shouldn't be out too much longer, Rory. I just got the test results I needed. I'm going to wrap things up with my patient. With any luck, I'll be home in an hour."

She went silent and nodded slowly. "I'm aware it's already after sundown. Can't she just wait until I'm home?" Prisma sighed and rubbed her temples. "Okay, tell you what. She can open one of her birthday presents now. But she'll need to wait until I'm home to open the rest. And don't let the kids get at the cake yet, either."

Another pause followed. "Love you too, sweetie. I'll be home before you know it." She ended the call and tucked the phone into the pocket of her white coat. Prisma took a deep breath and clasped her hands together. "Come on, baby. Prisma needs a Christmas miracle here." She pulled up a page of lab results and immediately started scanning them. Her eyes lit up. "Oh, thank heavens. This is fantastic!"

Prisma typed into the keyboard and the printer beside her whirred to life. The lab values printed out and she grabbed the page. Prisma fast-walked down the hallway, approaching a bedroom in the corner. She stopped at the door and gave a knock. "Evening, Mr. and Mrs. Miller," she greeted. Then she turned toward the bed, where a young girl lay heavily wrapped in blankets. "And hello to you too, Izzy. How are we feeling tonight, huh?"

"Kinda tired," Izzy mumbled. She pulled the stuffed Lapras doll in her arms up against her face.

"She just woke up from a nap," Mrs. Miller explained. "We know that the floor's holiday movie night is happening soon." She shot her husband a concerned look. "But you said you weren't sure if she'd be allowed to leave the room and go."

"Well, I have some good news for you all, then," Prisma exclaimed, passing the page she printed to the Millers. "Her white count's showing marked improvements. No inflammatory markers, either."

Mr. Miller examined the page in confusion. "What does that mean, doctor?"

"It looks like the bone marrow transplant is taking," Prisma elaborated. "She's responding well to it. No signs of rejection in her labs." She stepped to the side, allowing a nurse to enter the room. "So, I'm happy to say that she's got my permission to take part in the floor's Christmas activities." Her smile widened. "And that includes movie night, of course."

Izzy sat up at this. "Really?" she squeaked. "Can Cissy come with me, too?" She held up the Lapras doll.

Prisma nodded. "I think that would be okay," she exclaimed. Izzy cheered and hugged the plush while the nurse helped her out of the bed and into a wheelchair. Prisma gave her a wave as the nurse wheeled her toward the exit. "You have a Merry Christmas, okay Izzy? I'll be back soon to check up on you."

"Okay. Merry Christmas, Dr. Prisma," Izzy bid her farewell.

Prisma waited until the wheelchair was out of view, and then turned to her parents and said, "You'll want to sanitize and wash that doll tonight. Her immune system's improving, but it's far from perfect."

"Of course, doctor," Mr. Miller said. "We can't thank you enough for all your help." He wrapped an arm around his wife's shoulders. "We were so worried she was going to be cooped up in this room for all of Christmas."

"It's my pleasure. I'm here to help," Prisma replied. "Now, I should let you know that I'll be out of the hospital on vacation with my family next week." She pulled out a business card from the chest pocket of her coat. "My partner, Dr. Bezdow, will be covering my patients, along with my residents. I'm sure you both remember Dr. Sanders."

"The mousy fellow, right?" Mrs. Miller asked.

Prisma fought back a laugh at that. "Yes, well he'll be off for Christmas, but he's here the rest of the month. I've given him special instructions to keep an eye on Izzy. So, don't you worry. She's in great hands." She winked at the Millers. "I'm afraid I must get going, now. It's my daughter's birthday, you see, and I'm already in hot water with my husband for staying here too late."

The Millers chuckled at this. "Well, don't let us hold you up any further," Mr. Miller declared. "Merry Christmas, Dr. Sinclair."

"Same to you both," Prisma replied. She turned and departed the room, taking off her white coat in the process. She made a quick stop at her office to shut down her computer, and then snaked her way through the hospital to get to her white SUV. As she pulled out from the parking garage she frowned at the sight of snowflakes cascading down in front of her car's headlights.

"Ah, crud," she muttered. She reached down and switched the radio on.

"… that'll conclude the traffic report. For the weather, here's meteorologist Chuck Donohue," a man's voice crackled through the speakers.

"Thanks, Mac. The words for the night are snowing and blowing, folks," Chuck exclaimed. "We've got a high-pressure system moving in from Lake Ontario. And jets of warm air to the south and southeast of us look to be slowing the storm system down. So, expect the snow to linger over the county from tonight, through tomorrow, and into Christmas Day. If your kids were hankering for a white Christmas, then they won't be disappointed."

Prisma sighed and switched the stations. She flipped on her high-beam lights and slowly drove through the deserted city. She remained focused on the road, only the music and whirring of her windshield wipers to keep her company. After thirty minutes of driving, she pulled up to a snow-covered driveway. She glanced out the window.

'I think I can make it,' she figured. 'C'mon, old girl. Let's put that horsepower of yours to good work.' She spun the wheel to the left and slammed down on the accelerator. Her truck surged forward, digging through the snow and shooting its way along her driveway. She pulled into an open garage door and shut it behind her.

Prisma managed to just make it through the door when a pair of eager voices sounded through the house.



Prisma hastily dropped her bag onto the floor and opened her arms up to embrace her two kids. "Hi!" she chirped. "Aren't you two positively bursting with energy?" She looked up and noticed her husband walking forward, hands tucked into the pockets of his black jeans. "You didn't let them get at the cake, did you?"

"What kind of sorry soul do you take me for, huh?" Rory asked, rubbing the back of his bald head. "Kids, tell your mother we've been waiting for her to get dinner started."

"We've been waiting and we're sooooooo hungry," they declared in unison.

"Well, you won't have to be hungry any longer," Prisma declared. She took off her winter coat, hung it up, and proceeded into the kitchen. "Oh, wow. Smell that? Looks like someone's got her favorite dish waiting for her, huh?"

Prisma's daughter nodded enthusiastically and sprinted toward her seat at the table, black hair fluttering. The rest of the family joined her. Rory brought over a large strainer filled with spaghetti and offered up helpings to everyone. "Okay, dig in," he declared, setting down the strainer to take his seat. Both of the kids immediately reached for the jar of sauce.

"Hey. Let go, Gallian. I wanna use the sauce first!"

"And let you take all of it? Little sister, please," Gallian scoffed, shoving her smaller hand aside.

Prisma rolled her eyes and gently lifted her son's hand off the jar. "Come on, Gallian. It's Tessa's birthday. Let her have first dibs just this once, okay?"

Gallian sat back in his chair and scowled while Tessa accepted the jar with a delighted grin. "… tch. Have some pasta with your sauce," he heckled, blowing a tuft of brown hair out of his eyes.

"Hey now, tomato sauce can be good for you," Rory said, looking over toward Prisma. "Isn't that right, doc?"

"How the heck should I know? I'm not that kind of doctor," Prisma scoffed. "Last I checked, tomato sauce isn't causing cancer, so Tessa's free to have as much as she wants."

"Yeah, sure. Maybe you'll turn into a tomato if you keep eating that much," Gallian said, pouring sauce on his pasta. "Then I can tell everyone in school that my sister's taken being a vegetarian one step too far."

"Mom!" Tessa whined.

"Don't tease your sister, Gallian," Prisma scolded. "Especially with all the junky snacks you like to eat. Don't think I don't know that you're taking coins from the family coin jar to use on the vending machines at school, because I do."

"Meh." Gallian shrugged. "Dad shaysh I have a shuper metabolishm jusht like him."

"How many times do I have to tell you not to talk with your mouth full?" Prisma sighed.

Gallian slurped up the spaghetti dangling from his mouth. "I can eat whatever I want and I'll never get fat."

"I never said anything like that," Rory insisted, raising his hands innocently.

"Good. Because I'd hate to have to replace all the snacks in the pantry with vegetables," Prisma teased. Gallian's eyes widened and he promptly looked down at his dinner, pouting. "So, Tessa," she said, turning to her daughter, "I understand you got a bit overeager with opening your presents. What'd you get?"

Tessa's eyes sparkled. "Oh! Oh! Wait here, I'll go get it." She launched off her chair and sprinted out of the room.

"Nice airplane arms you've got there, ya dork," Gallian heckled.

"As I recall, you used to run like that when you were her age," Rory mused, stroking his goatee. Gallian looked away, blushing.

Tessa returned, brandishing a small game case in her right hand. "Here it is, here it is!" she chirped, slapping the case on the table. Prisma briefly glanced the bright-blue background on the cover art.

"Oh, yeah. This is the game you had asked for, right? It's not as new, so your father and I weren't sure if we'd be able to find it." Prisma said. Tessa nodded enthusiastically

"Yup! I'm gonna play as the Oshawott, cause he's the cutest," Tessa squealed, picking the case up and hugging it.

Gallian rolled his eyes. "Oh, brother. We both know you're going to give up at the first boss and come running to me, begging me to beat it for you."

"I will not," Tessa huffed. "My friend Stacey told me this one's much easier than the last one."

"How would you know? I seem to recall I played through that entire game for you," Gallian scoffed. "And it would've been so much easier if you'd just let me do the personality quiz. Vulpix and Riolu are a terrible combination."

"Hey! I like Riolu," Tessa said, her cheeks puffing up. "And Vulpix."

"Gallian, what did I tell you? Quit teasing your sister," Prisma scolded. "My, how easily you seem to have forgotten that you used to always come to your father and I for help with your games."

"Here, here," Rory agreed, raising his glass. "Who could forget trying to solo Blue with an overleveled Pikachu?"

Gallian's face flushed and he started poking dejectedly at his spaghetti. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, why don't you?" he grumbled.

"Besides, I seem to recall you enjoy playing games with your sister," Prisma declared.

Gallian shoved a forkful of spaghetti into his mouth. "I guess. Just don't tell the other moms in your parent group or whatever."

"Deal," Prisma promised, winking. They finished off dinner and then proceeded into the living room, where the rest of Tessa's presents sat. She gleefully tore through the wrapping paper. The first box contained a new dress, courtesy of her parents. Then there were assorted posters for her bedroom and some DVDs.

"… heh. Saving mine for last, I see," Gallian declared. "You better like it. I spent good allowance money on it."

"Allowance money that we gave you," Rory muttered under his breath, before Prisma elbowed him in the gut.

Tessa raised an eyebrow. "This is just a package," she said, staring at a brown postal box.

"Relax, sis. Take a look inside," Gallian said, nodding at the present.

Tessa carefully used scissors to cut along the tape and spread the box open. A big grin appeared on her face and she dipped her arms into the box. She pulled out two stuffed toys: an Absol and a Vulpix. "Aww, they're so cuuuuuuuuute!" she squealed in delight, wrapping the plushies up in a big hug. "Thanks, Gallian!"

"No problem, sis," Gallian said, before leaning in and whispering, "and if you liked those, just wait until Christmas." A broad grin appeared on Tessa's face and she looked down at the toys.

"Wow, I can't wait," she chirped. "I got you something really good, too. But Mom said I can't spoil the surprise." She stepped back, tightening her grip on her toys. "Come on, you two. We've got a game to start playing."

"Hey now, what about cleaning up all this wrapping–"

"Thanks for the presents," Tessa called as she ran past her parents and toward the stairs. Gallian chuckled and slowly followed along after her.

"–paper?" Rory leaned over and sighed.

"Easy there, honey. This barely qualifies as a mess. I'll just throw this stuff in the kitchen garbage," Prisma declared. She hastily cleaned all the wrapping paper and brought it toward the large garbage bin in the kitchen. "Hey, Rory, did you get the mail today? I don't see it here."

"Ah, nuts," Rory said, snapping his fingers. "I knew I was forgetting something. Do you want me to head out and grab it?"

"No, no, it's fine. I'm still dressed. I'll just throw on my boots and jacket and go get it," Prisma exclaimed. She geared up for the cold and then proceeded out her house's back door. A blast of cold air awaited her and she quickly pulled up her coat hood. Snow was still falling down. Her first steps saw her sinking into the white, powdery ground. The snow reached halfway up her lower legs.

"Hoo boy. I sure hope the plows can make it here overnight," she said, rubbing her gloved hands together. Slowly, she stomped forward, making her way through snowstorm. She pulled a flashlight out from her pocket and shined it ahead of her. It unveiled the mailbox, barely sticking out from the snowdrift pile that had gathered around it. Prisma reached it and opened it up, taking out its contents. She tucked the mail under her arm and started returning toward her house.

Prisma had made it halfway up her driveway when she brought a hand up to her temple. 'Unngggh… w-what–?' Her vision flickered and she blinked rapidly. 'Where's that ringing coming from?' She cupped her free hand over her ear, but the ringing only grew louder. Her vision flickered once again, before everything went white.

"R-Rory!" Prisma shouted. She tried to reach her hand into pocket and grab her phone, but her arm stiffened. Her other arm followed suit. The mail fell to the ground. "Rory!" she shouted even louder. "Help! Call 9-1-1! I think I'm having a–"

She felt the ground disappear beneath her legs. The air rushed out of her lungs and she immediately lost consciousness.


~Aeon Observatory~

"… Lucario? Hey, Lucario? You feeling alright, pardner?"

Prisma snapped to attention, blinking her eyes rapidly. "B-Braviary!" she gasped, a blush coming on. "What are you doing in my room?"

"Yer room? Hoss, yer in the hallway in the veterans' quarters." He stepped back and lifted a wing to showcase the hallway.

"O-Oh…" Prisma fidgeted with the bandanna around her neck. "Whoops, silly me." She laughed nervously. "I must've gotten, y'know, taken in by the snow." Prisma glanced out the window, watching snow gently drift down onto the ground. Braviary stepped up next to her.

"Ain't nothing special about this, really," Braviary thought aloud. "You've seen yer fair share of snowstorms hitting Aeon Town, ain't ya?"

"Of course I have," Prisma replied hastily. "But... I dunno. I guess it's just nice to see it falling again."

Braviary gave her a skeptical look. "Uh-huh. How long ya planning on staring, exactly? It's almost sundown, you know."

Prisma's aura feelers stood on end. "I-It is?" she squeaked.

"Course it is. Ol' Incineroar's been counting the minutes. You know how much he looks forward to his Winter Solstice party. Feller wouldn't stop yapping about it all day," Braviary said with a laugh. "He took off to get the kids an hour ago. I reckoned you were already home."

"Oh gods, I forgot about the party," Prisma groaned, smacking her face with a paw.

"Well then, I'd shake a tailfeather if I was you," Braviary chuckled, turning to walk toward the staircase. "Yer family's waiting for ya, after all." He hovered in the stairway and waved a wing at her. "Happy Winter Solstice, Lucario."

Prisma raised her paw and slowly waved it. As soon as he was gone, she turned back toward the window. Her grip on her bandanna tightened. "My family's… waiting for me," she whispered.

Her paw slowly slid underneath the bandanna and pulled out a small piece of paper. She unfolded it and stared at a photo of her, Rory, and their human kids in front of a large fountain. Everyone wore big, enthusiastic smiles. Her free paw clenched into a fist and she grit her teeth.

"My… family…"

Her eyes watered and red energy crackled across her fist.


Yup, that all just happened. I'm pretty sure this is not what you were expecting in your Christmas special, am I right? ^^
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Winter can't come soon enough
Chapter 26: A Sticky Situation

Shane slinked into Guildmaster Metagross' office. He barely made it through the door when Metagross locked eyes with him. Shane abruptly stopped. His gaze fell to the ground and stayed there until he heard the sound of footsteps. He looked up and confirmed that Tessa had entered the room.

"So, you're all healed up, huh?" she said, her tone completely neutral.

"Y-Yeah," Shane said.

Order: attention on me, human, Metagross bellowed, causing Shane to jolt upright and stare straight ahead. Fact: I have considered your transgressions. Observation: You continue to display a disregard for your fellow Pokémon, sometimes due to ignorance but mostly out of selfishness.

Tessa nodded in agreement, while Shane winced and looked straight down.

Conclusion: your punishment must make clear that exploring is something to be taken seriously, Metagross exclaimed.

"Then why do I have to be here? I've understood that from the get-go," Tessa growled.

Order: no comments or questions until I have finished, Metagross replied. Fact: you've made no attempts to reach out to anyone to help you and your partner settle your differences. Fact: you cannot go through life picking and choosing the Pokémon you work with. Conclusion: this punishment will also force you to work cooperatively with the human.

Tessa's face blanched. "But… that's," she meekly whispered before her gaze fell to the floor. Shane glanced her out of the corner of his eyes and she immediately glared back.

Fact: your punishment is an exploration assignment, Metagross said, to the duo's surprise. Fact: you will guide Oranguru to Sunflower Meadows.

"An escort mission? Are you kidding me?" Shane groaned.

Silence, Metagross thundered, sending Team Radiance shrinking back. Tessa gave Shane a scathing look. Fact: this is not up for negotiation. Fact: if you fail this assignment, you will both be expelled.

Now it was Tessa's turn to interrupt. "Wait, what? Why? That's not fair!" she protested.

Fact: your continued behavior is having a negative effect on other members. Fact: my responsibility is to run the guild and keep it in order. Conclusion: caustic individuals must be removed, Metagross explained. Counteroffer: if you succeed this assignment, you will both obtain apprentice rank.

"So, our places here are dependent on escorting some random Pokémon? That's just great," Shane said. He turned to Tessa and said, "We're going to Dhelmise Depot and dropping off every single item we've got. I don't want this Oranguru fellow dipping into our stock. And, trust me, he will. These things always go badly."

Fact: Oranguru will provide his own supplies. Fact: this is no mere random Pokémon. He is a close acquaintance. I will tolerate no slander of his character, Metagross said. Order: you two are to be on your best behavior. Fact: if you act out, I will know and you will fail the assignment.

Shane's jaw slackened. Likewise, the color seemed to drain from Tessa's whole body. "So, uh, how are we supposed to find this Oranguru guy? Is he in Aeon Town?" Shane asked.

Negative, Metagross responded. Order: you will meet him in Moonrise Marsh. Fact: it is a subterranean swampland at the end of Tethys Tunnel.

"But, that's a Mystery Dungeon, isn't it?" Tessa asked, having pulled out her Wonder Map. "Couldn't we just go straight to the Marsh?"

"Didn't you hear him? It's underground. So, unless the Sharpedo have learned how to dig tunnels outside the water, we have to go through it," Shane said, frowning.

"Okay, I get it. You don't have to be a jerk about it," Tessa growled.

Shane's brow furrowed. "I wouldn't expect you to understand. You've never done an escort mission. They always suck."

"And you would know this... how?" Tessa asked, her tone growing angrier. "Oh, let me guess, it's another one of those stupid game things you've mentioned countless ti–"


I demand order, Metagross declared, his eyes glowing blue. Shane and Tessa reflexively curled up into balls. This is precisely the kind of negative behavior that has put the two of you in this situation. Reconcile your differences or I can guarantee that you will fail this assignment.

A shiver rad down Shane's spine. 'Okay, is it just me or is this guy a lot scarier when he starts speaking like a normal person?'

Metagross turned away from them. Order: proceed to Moonrise Marsh. Meet up with Oranguru. Escort him to Sunflower Meadows by traversing Mellath Bog.

"Are you kidding me? We have to go through two dungeons in succession? How is that possibly fair?" Shane said, stamping a forepaw down. "If we run into any Prism Virus Pokémon, we're so unbelievably screwed." He narrowed his eyes at Metagross. "I'll bet you're setting us up for failure! Tell me, did you come up with this or is this all Braviary's idea?"

Warning: continued combative backtalk will result in your immediate expulsion, Metagross replied.

"Oh, no, by all means, keep flapping your gums," Tessa sneered. "You could make this a lot easier for both of us."

Shane lifted his head up and his left eye twitched. "Yeah, you'd like that wouldn't you?" he muttered.

Metagross' door opened up behind them. Exit. I have finished conferring instructions. Oranguru is waiting. He pointed a hind leg toward the door and Team Radiance walked out. They both refused to meet each other's gazes.

"So, uh, are we going to Dhelmise Depot?" Shane finally asked.

"Yeah, we're definitely going there," Tessa responded. She turned around and clutched the straps of the item pouch. "But it's so that I can deposit my items so that you don't use them up in these dungeons!"

Shane narrowed his eyes at Tessa. "Hey, we're still a team for this. That means those items belong to both of us!"

"But you're the irresponsible one who's going to get hurt and burn through our reserve," Tessa said, leaning in toward him. "So, I want to put as much stuff away as possible so I still have a decent inventory to use once this stupid mission is done and the team's dissolved."

Shane drew back his lips and bared his fangs. "Where did this nasty attitude of yours come from? I already said I'm sorry! You're making me out to be some sort of villain. I'm not out to blow this mission, you know."

Tessa raised her fists and they crackled with electricity. "That's because the only reason we're in this do-or-die situation is because of you! I'm stuck doing this ridiculously difficult mission with a reckless jerk because he managed to delude himself into thinking a random stranger was pure evil. No amount of 'I'm sorry's' can make up for that!"

"I've learned my lesson!" Shane snarled back. "I feel terrible, okay? And you're just making it worse. So, can we please just put this issue aside already?"

"I will not just put it aside," Tessa barked. "Because every time you've apologized and said you were going to try and do better, you've lied. If you want me to shut up, then listen to what I have to say for once. Otherwise, you can bet your sorry ass that I'll keep reminding you of all the boneheaded decisions you've made up to this point."

Shane's left eye twitched. "That's totally uncalled for!" he protested. "Besides, weren't you the one who said you at least appreciated some of my 'boneheaded decisions,' because they pushed you into doing things you weren't comfortable with?"

"I only said that because I thought you were turning over a new leaf. But in the short time since then you've somehow managed to become worse than when we first met," Tessa replied. "You stressed me out to the point where I can't think straight!"

"How do you think I feel? I've been in a coma the past week with a deathly fever and a broken spine. Or did you just happen to forget that?" Shane hissed.

"Oh, you want pity? Too bad! It's your stupidity that got you hurt," Tessa countered. "And if it wasn't for Null, that Bewear probably would've killed you. Have you even thanked him for saving your life yet? Let me answer that. No, you haven't. Because you only think of one person and that's yourself!"

"Do you have idea how childish you're sounding right now?" Shane sneered.

"No, you're the one sounding childish!" Tessa fired back.

A loud thump and harsh hissing noise abruptly jolted the duo out of their argument. They looked over toward the south hallway and spotted Null staggering about. He thrashed his head from side to side, groaning loudly.

"Whoa, whoa, take it easy, Null," Trapinch called, running over to him. "Is your head hurting again? Maybe you should go see Comfey?"

Trapinch was forced to duck back as Null whirled around and bashed his head against the wall several times. "Wow. I can't believe that's what you want to ditch me for," Shane scoffed. Null turned around to face Shane, who stiffened. He stared right at Shane, letting out heavy, echoing wheezes. Null stomped toward him, continuing to shake his head about.

"Null!" Tessa shouted, walking into his path. "Are you okay? You don't look so good."

Much to Shane's surprise, Null stopped dead in his tracks. His tired, gray eyes blinked repeatedly. "… sorry about that," he wheezed.

Tessa leaned in close and whispered, "The voices again?"

"… yeah," Null replied. "They're… getting worse…"

"Why don't you come with us, then?" Tessa suggested. "I think we could really use the extra help for this one."

"What? No, no, no, no! You are not dragging that thing along with us!" Shane cut in. "Did you see the way he was looking at me? Besides, we could get in trouble for that. You were the one yelling at me for making bad decisions. What do you call what you're doing right now, huh?"

Tessa turned and glared at him. "Bettering our odds. You said you just wanted to get this mission done with minimal conversation? Null's a perfect way to do that. I can talk to him and ignore you the entire time. And did it ever occur to you that he's giving you nasty looks because you're being mean to him?"

Shane looked down and pawed at the ground. "But the Guildmaster," he whispered.

"Didn't say we couldn't bring Null with us," Tessa said. "The way I see it, it's perfectly fine."

Shane snorted out clouds of frosty air. "He better stay as far away from me as possible."


~Tethys Tunnel~

Team Radiance proceeded into the cavernous dungeon in silence. It didn't take them very long to lose all light from the surface. The tunnel alternated between flat areas and downward slopes taking them deeper underground. As the sunlight faded, patches of green Luminous Moss appeared along the floor, walls, and ceiling of the cavern. The moss overlay rocks littered with clammy, gray plants.

"This is so strange," Tessa whispered. "Null, do you see these purple threads running through the walls? It almost looks like there's some kind of liquid flowing through them."

Shane glanced at the opposite wall and noticed purple fluid with twinges of red rushing through a network of crystalline veins embedded in the wall. "You're the most knowledgeable about Horizon, Tessa. Can't you explain what these things are?" Tessa ignored him. "Hey, I asked you a question," Shane growled.

"No, you didn't," Tessa said flatly. "I'm Riolu."

Shane gritted his teeth. "Fine. Riolu, do you know what these things are?"

"Nope," Tessa responded, making a vein bulge out of Shane's head. "I don't remember hearing about anything like this. My dad always said Tethys Tunnel was boring. Just a lot of gray inside it. So, these bits must be a recent addition."

"Brilliant deduction there, professor," Shane sarcastically declared. "And not in the slightest bit help– gah!"

Shane suddenly found himself sinking. He looked down and saw that his legs had been sucked up by the ground. "What the–? Hey! Help! I'm sinking!"

His teammates looked over at him. Tessa rolled her eyes. "Ha, ha, very funny. C'mon Vulpix, you're holding us up."

"No, I'm serious here," Shane grunted. He struggled about, but that only made him sink deeper, to the point where his belly brushed against the dirt.

"… is that… quicksand?" Null wondered.

"In a cave? I find that hard to believe," Tessa said. "But I guess we've got to help him out. Stop struggling, Vulpix. You'll just make yourself sink faster."

"Then get me out of here!" Shane hollered. Null stepped forward and stuck his foreleg out. "And just what am I supposed to do with that, huh?" Shane growled.

"… bite down on my leg. I'll pull you… to safety," Null offered. Shane looked skeptically at Null's talons, but also felt the quicksand steadily rising along his torso. He clamped his jaw on one of Null's talons. Null's exoskeleton-coated claw tasted horrible, to the point where Shane thought he was going to hurl. Null gave a hearty tug and his massive weight and foreleg strength resulted in Shane getting flung out of the quicksand pit.

Shane landed in a heap in front of Tessa. His entire lower body was covered in coarse sand. "Huh, guess it really is quicksand," Tessa said. "But what would quicksand pits be doing in a cave like this? There isn't even supposed to be sand here."

"How should I know?" Shane growled, trying to brush sand off his coat to little avail. "Maybe your stupid Tapu thingies can magically teleport quicksand into dungeons to screw with innocent Pokémon?"


Shane quickly found himself sprawled out on his belly, with Tessa standing over him. "You do not badmouth the Tapus!" she barked. "They're the continent's protectors. That makes them noble, not stupid. Understand?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, Mom," Shane muttered, glaring at Tessa as he got back up. "The fact remains that there's quicksand in a place where there shouldn't be and we can't explain it. I guess we can just ignore it for now and tell Braviary when we're done."

"You do that if it bothers you so much," Tessa growled and stomped forward in the cavern.

Null stepped beside Shane and cleared his throat. This made Shane jump. "Cripes! Don't sneak up on me like that. You're already frightening enough as it is."

"… Lycanroc said something… about seeing weird stuff… in the environment," Null muttered. "Espeon and Umbreon… planted strange crystals… in the ground. And they… messed with the environment. Perhaps that's what... we're seeing here?"

Shane's muzzle stiffened. "But they're not the bad guys!" Null looked right at him. "I… I mean…" Shane winced and slumped down in defeat.

"Hey! Are you guys coming or what?" Tessa asked from farther down the cave. Her teammates looked away from one another and proceeded forward in silence. Their trek then grew a bit more cumbersome. After the first patch, the team encountered several quicksand areas scattered around the tunnel floor. To make matters worse, the Luminous Moss faded, leaving the mysterious crystal veins as the dungeon's only light source.

This was also when the team encountered traps and wild Pokémon. It was nothing they couldn't handle, but the quicksand pits limited their maneuverability considerably. Not helping things at all was Shane's insistence on staying in the back of the group, for fear of walking into another quicksand pit.

"Quit being such a baby and get up here! I need your help with these wild Pokémon," Tessa ordered.

"No way! There are Tirtuoga over there. And I have no intention of getting smacked around with rocks," Shane whined. "You have the fighting-type moves, you do something."

"Then can you at least take care of the Wimpods? They're only Wimpods, for pity's sake," Tessa growled. A frosty gale rushed past her, nearly causing her to fall into a quicksand pit on her right. "Hey, watch where you're aiming!"

"I thought you wanted my help," Shane taunted.

"Move it along," Null growled. "Neither of you are doing us any favors."

They continued through the tunnel, dipping into their supply of apples and each taking an oran berry to refresh themselves. "Ungh, how much further do we have to go? The air's musty down here," Shane said.

"If you don't like it, take the Escape Orb," Tessa said. "I'll happily report your disappearance to the Guildmaster when we return."

Shane gnashed his teeth together. "Are you going to just take a dig at me every time I open my mouth? Because that's beyond obnoxious!"

"You brought it on yourself," Tessa said, her voice caustic. "It's not fun when people say things that make you feel bad, huh?"

Shane frowned. "If you're trying to tell me that this is how Lycanroc felt, then you're doing a lousy job of it. You're only making yourself look like a spoiled puppy throwing a temper tantr– oomph!"

He walked into Null's hindleg and staggered backward, muttering angrily under his breath. Null turned back to give him a disapproving look. "… perhaps it's best… if you keep quiet…"

"Ha!" Tessa taunted.

"… that goes for you too," Null growled, eliciting a frown. He walked beside Tessa and whispered, "… I thought I had told you… that the best way to get him to change… is to be a good role model. He's right… you're acting foolish."

"That went right out the window the second his stupidity got me in a situation where I could get kicked out of the guild," Tessa said, and then walked forward. Null hung his head, sighing. He trudged forward after his teammate, while Shane followed him, boring visual holes into the ground.

As they walked down another incline, Tessa's aura feelers twitched. "Hold up," she whispered, "I think someone else is here."

"Well, yeah, we've seen tons of wild Pokémon," Shane scoffed.

"No, I mean someone a bit stronger."

"This is preposterous. I'm getting the same signal everywhere. There's no way for me to localize this energy pattern with so much interference."

Shane frowned. "That's one strange voice," he said. "But he doesn't sound all that threatening. Let's just move along and ignore whoever he is."

"Maybe we ought to wait and see if he leaves?" Tessa proposed.

"Oh no, I'm not sitting around in this musty cave," Shane growled. He walked forward, hip-checking Tessa in the process. "If you're not going to lead anymore, then move aside." He descended down the rest of the incline and entered a flattened area.

Bwoop! Bwoop! Bwoop!

A beeping alarm made Shane tense up. He turned to the right side of the room and found Sticky floating by the wall. "And just what are you supposed to be?" Shane asked. "If you're a Pokémon in distress, then I can help. But you've got to shut off that awful alarm. You'll wake up all the wild Pokémon here!"

"My sincerest apologies."

Sticky turned around to face Shane. "I am referred to as Sticky, however I understand the inhabitants here refer to one another by species name. So, my species designation is Poipole."

Shane cocked his head in confusion. "Your species name is just a color? What a joke!" He then noticed the alarm was coming from the harness on Sticky's chest. "Hey!" Shane narrowed his eyes at Sticky. "That's just like the thing Gallian had on. What's going on here? Are you working for the Prism Virus?"

That statement drew not only a panicked expression from Sticky, but footsteps from behind Shane. His teammates hastily caught up to him. "You know Gallian? Where is he? Please tell us," Tessa called out.

"Drat," Sticky muttered, fidgeting his nubby hands. "This is precisely the type of predicament Gallian warned the captain about. He will undoubtedly be incensed at this development." Sticky raised up his arms. "Attention, terrestrials. I am doing routine reconnaissance of this subterranean habitat. I mean you no harm. Please, continue about your business."

"Fat chance of that," Shane growled. "If you're in league with Gallian, then you're working for the Prism Virus and that makes you the enemy."

"Prism Virus?" Sticky gasped. He looked away from Shane and whispered, "It must be further encroaching on these terrestrials." He cleared his throat. "I am afraid that such a term does not register any…" His voice trailed off as he turned to face Null. Sticky's jaw dropped.

"Hey, don't ignore me," Shane said. "Riolu, what's this stupid Pokémon's deal?"

"Pokémon?" Tessa cocked an eyebrow. "I've never seen a Pokémon like that before."

Shane's brows raised. "So, what, is it an alien then? Oh, that's just great. The Prism Virus is an alien virus. Because this wasn't messed up enough, already." He snorted out frost. "Well, I'm not about to let this jerk get away."

"Get away? You should be the ones attempting evacuation!" Sticky yelped, hovering back from the group. "Do you not realize you are in the company of a dangerous monstrosity?"

Null's muscles tightened up and he let loose a low growl. Tessa stood in front of him and thrust her arms to the side. "You leave Null alone! He's part of our team."

Sticky's eyes widened. "I am afraid that that is an unacceptable response, terrestrial," he declared. "This failed experiment is a threat to those of us with ultra auras. Though my team adheres to our Ultra Recon Squad's nonaggression policy, I'm sure my captain would overlook it in this instance. Your friend must be immediately neutralized. Please surrender him to me."

Null's head fell toward the ground. "… experiment?" he rasped.

"So, he is a total freak, then? I knew it!" Shane scoffed. He shook his head at Tessa. "And you actually want to be his friend. You're really something, you know that?"

"I am quite surprised that this experiment has not already attempted to eviscerate you," Sticky said, looking directly at Shane. "Your presence triggered my scanner. You display a perplexingly substantial ultra aura for one of such minuscule stature."

Shane's smirk faded to a look of confusion. "Ultra… aura?" He looked at Tessa. "You're the aura reader. What's this freak talking about?"

"I don't know," Tessa said. "It just sounds like an ultra-powerful aura, to me."

"Gee, thanks, Brock. Never would've guessed that on my own," Shane deadpanned.

"What did you just call me?" Tessa growled.

"Ultra auras are energy signatures displayed by anyone who has been exposed to a particular type of radiation as a result of traversing Ultra Space," Sticky explained.

"Okay, that's it. I know when I'm being messed with, and I've had enough of it," Shane said, eyes narrowing in anger. "I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt because you also thought Null's a freak show, but you're clearly just as obnoxious as Gallian is."

"Your hostility is unnecessary," Sticky said. "Simply surrender the experiment and I will leave you both in peace."

"I'm not about to let you take Null," Tessa responded.

"Very well. Though my combat skills are lacking, it behooves me to utilize force. Gallian said I should be able to do an adequate job defending myself," Sticky exclaimed. He raised his nubby arms, and blobs of purple toxins formed up in them.

"Oh, come on! Another poison-type? I'm getting sick of this nonsense. Literally and figuratively," Shane hissed. He released the icy energy gathering in his mouth, trying to bathe Sticky in it. Sticky easily hovered over it and launched the poisonous globules downward. One of them smacked Shane directly in the face, causing him to stagger back with an agonized howl. Tessa jumped out of the way out of the second one.

Null gathered air around his foreleg and sent a wind blade up in Sticky's direction. Sticky once again skirted the attack, gathering more poisonous sludge in the sacs on his head. "Riolu," Shane said, coughing, "gimme a pecha berry. This jerk's slinging Toxics around!"

Purple splotches now coated Shane's fur. Tessa glowered at Shane. "I just knew you were gonna end up dipping into my item reserves," she said. Null appeared by her side and flicked a foreleg skyward, shooting an air blade in Sticky's direction. Sticky held his ground and allowed the attack to strike. He fought through the pain and pointed his head in Shane's direction.

"… look out… human!" Null called. Shane looked over his shoulder in time to see streams of purple ooze raining down on him from Sticky's location. He dove forward, sliding across the cave floor on his belly.

"Pity, I missed," Sticky declared stoically. "I should not have tried withstanding that attack. It clearly impacted my aim."

"Pecha berry, now!" Shane ordered, glaring at Tessa. "If I get Venoshocked while I'm poisoned, we're gonna start dipping into our Reviver Seed supply."

Tessa rolled her eyes and produced the berry in question. Sticky's eyes gleamed at the sight of the fruit and he pressed the central gemstone on his harness.


Just as Tessa tossed the pecha berry to Shane, she stepped on a glass tile, breaking it. She looked up and watched the berry expand outward, taking on the form of a bulky Carracosta. It completely flattened Shane, who could only squeal in fright at the turn of events.

"What the... he turned the berry into a Carracosta? How?" Tessa said, recoiling in shock. Null looked up in time to see Sticky pressing the gem on his harness again. Null looked around the room and noticed several flashes of purple on the ground. Glass tiles appeared for a split second, before vanishing. When Sticky finished, Null thrust a foreleg forward to shoot air blades at him. Sticky descended toward the ground and gathered more toxic blobs in his nubby hands.

"Nrrrgggh! Somebody… help… me!" Shane wheezed, thrashing about beneath Carracosta. The newly-summoned enemy seemed to get over its momentary confusion and stand up. It turned around, formed a rock between its flippers, and shot it into Shane from point-blank range. Shane howled in pain as the attack buried him underground.

"Riolu… go help… Vulpix," Null ordered from across the cave. He and Tessa managed to jump back from the toxic blobs that Sticky threw at them.

"Me? Why do I have to help him? He's the one who escalated things, as usual," Tessa growled.

"Just do it!" Null roared, to Tessa's surprise. "I'm… the one… this guy's after. Don't… get yourself hurt… protecting me."


Null shook his head about, hissing loudly. Tessa quickly got the message and ran in Shane's direction. Sticky anticipated this, however. The gemstone in his harness opened up and produced a small seed that he hurtled at Tessa. She wasn't prepared for the projectile, so it struck her in the head. Pink gas washed across her body. Tessa flopped onto her belly, snoring loudly.

Sticky nodded in satisfaction, only for his smile to disappear when he saw Null charging him down, claws glowing bright white. He quickly pointed his head at Null and blasted purple streams at him. Null managed to sidestep the attack. But in the process, he stepped on one of the glass tiles Sticky had summoned. Sickly-purple spikes popped up around him and dug into his foreleg. With a groan, Null staggered forward. Purple splotches appeared along his hide.

However, much to Sticky's surprise, the splotches immediately vanished and Null resumed his charge. He lunged at Sticky and swiped at him. Null's claws hammered Sticky into the ground. Null prepared to follow that attack up, but Sticky blasted him in the helmet with a stream of purple venom, forcing him backwards.

"So, you armed yourself with an anti-poison apparatus," Sticky said. He looked down and saw the looplet around Null's foreleg. "Ah, yes. The device you terrestrials use to bolster your abilities when exploring. I should have expected something like this."

"Heeeeeeey! Where's my pecha berry?" Shane whined, sprawling out on his belly to dodge a set of rocks Carracosta shot at him. "What's the hold up, Tessa?" He poked his head up and his eyes flashed pink. Psychic waves burst forth from Shane's body, knocking Carracosta onto its back. It landed directly on a purple tile, scattering toxic spikes all around it. Carracosta flailed its limbs about, desperately trying to right itself.

Shane staggered to his feet and scrambled over to Tessa, doing his best to skirt the purple tiles Sticky had scattered. Sticky spotted Shane and again opened the gemstone in his harness. But before he could grab the item he wanted, Null slammed into him, sending black energy through Sticky's torso. Sticky petered backward and pulled an oran berry out of his harness. He quickly ingested it, restoring some of his vitality.

Over at the other side of the cavern, Carracosta still struggled to right itself and now had poisonous blotches across its body. Shane repeatedly smacked Tessa's snout until her eyes fluttered open. "Hey! What's the big idea?" she hissed.

"You let yourself get put to sleep, doofus!" Shane snarled. "Give me my pecha berry, now. I feel like I could collapse any second."

Null realized Sticky could attempt to interrupt the item exchange again, so he charged Sticky down. Sticky's eyes widened and he quickly ascended. He gathered a ball of orange acid between his hands and chucked it down at Null, who evaded the attack. In the process, Null ran past Sticky, whose head tilted in confusion. Null's helmet then gained a metal sheen. He ran directly into the cave wall. The shockwave from his collision raced up above him.

Sticky yelped as shards of rock rained down on him from the ceiling, sending him crashing into the ground. Across the cave, Shane had managed to heal up, but Carracosta had righted itself. Furious, Carracosta surged forward on a jet of water. Tessa just barely managed to evade the attack but Shane was smacked in his side. The water drenched him and knocked him to his belly.

Tessa managed to get behind Carracosta. Her palm lit up with aura and she hammered Carracosta in its shell. Howling, Carracosta lumbered forward, giving a weary Shane the opportunity to engulf it in psychic waves. They exploded around Carracosta, upending itonce again. Unfortunately, Shane neglected to account for Tessa's positioning. Tessa yipped in fright and dove to the ground to dodge the falling Carracosta.

It struck the ground and disappeared in a puff of smoke. At the same time, Tessa hit one of the remaining glass tiles. Toxic spikes appeared all around her. They pricked her arms and legs, drawing a pained whimper. Sticky noticed the development and ascended to dodge a swipe of Null's talons. He pointed his head sideways and sent purple bursts racing toward Tessa.

Shane leaped out in front of her and blew out a large cloud of frost. He froze the poisonous streams solid and they dropped to the ground, where they shattered harmlessly. "You can thank me later," he said.

"Thank you?" Tessa hissed, scrambling to pull out a pecha berry. "This was all your fault! How could you not know I was behind Carracosta? Were you trying to crush me?"

"I didn't know, okay!" Shane barked. "Unlike a certain someone, who's really starting to twist my tails, I don't have awesome aura-sensing powers."

"It's called depth perception, loser!" Tessa snarled, shoving Shane's shoulders.

Shane's left eye twitched and he snorted ice tufts at Tessa. "Don't you dare shove me like that. I'm not the one you're supposed to be fighting," Shane growled.

"Well, I was hoping we wouldn't have to fight anyone. But you got that creepy purple guy all hot and bothered. Because you can't seem to open your mouth without making someone mad," Tessa hissed.

Shane glowered. "You certainly didn't help things! We don't need to protect Null. Didn't you hear the alien? He's some sort of failed experiment. In other words, a waste of our time and energy!"

Null skidded to a halt in front of them just as Shane finished that statement. He whirled on Shane, an enraged look in his eyes. "Oh, don't give me that," Shane said. "You know it's tr–"

A multicolored blast struck both Shane and Tessa, rendering them as stiff as statues. Null looked up in time to see a metal rod evaporate from Sticky's hands. "There, that ought to quiet you two down," Sticky said. "Now I do not need to split my focus anymore." Null didn't like this new development. He whipped a foreleg forward. An air blade raced toward Sticky, smacking him in the side.

Sticky hovered backward and produced another oran berry. He quickly devoured it and dusted himself off. "Even with your abilities inhibited, your strength is frightening," Sticky said. "Perhaps I can synthesize a trap to hinder you further?" The gemstone on his harness glowed and Sticky prepared to press it.

"… what do you mean… abilities inhibited?" Null wheezed. "And… why are… you calling me… a failed experiment?"

Sticky produced a glimmering tile and hurled it at Null. He wasn't expecting the projectile and it smacked his helmet, shattering on impact. A chilling sensation ran down Null's foreleg. He lifted it up, only to see his looplet had turned to stone. The emeras within it were drained of their colors. Null hissed angrily and charged down Sticky.

However, Sticky was much faster, and moved to his right. He gathered blobs of poison in his hands and tossed them right at Null, who managed to pivot and run toward the poison. Null's helmet turned to solid steel. He lowered his head and the toxins harmlessly splashed against his helmet. Sticky's face blanched and, seconds later, Null charged into him. This finally knocked the alien out of the air and down to the ground.

Null lumbered toward Sticky. "Do you… know who I am?" he panted. "Tell me… why do I… hear all these voices? Why can't… I make them… go away?"

Sticky rolled backward and resumed hovering. "Hmm, so your creators tampered with your memories, did they?" He rubbed his forehead. "Yet, your aggression levels have clearly spiked at the sight of me. Which means, on some subconscious level, you still acknowledge ultra auras."

Null roared in frustration and slung a line of air crescents at Sticky. Sticky turned and fired poisonous beams from the pins on his head. They struck the wind blades and resulted in a stalemate that splattered toxins in all directions. Null backpedalled, allowing Sticky to reach into his harness and produce a small seed. He hurled it at Null and a large explosion ensued, blasting Null across the cave.

This had the unintended side effect of causing Null to strike the petrified Tessa. She dropped to the ground, clutching her knee in pain. Sticky didn't notice this development and instead proceeded toward Null. "Well then, I believe we should wrap this up before you manage to do any significant damage," Sticky said.

Hearing that gave Tessa a second wind. Ignoring Shane, she rolled to her feet and sprinted forward, electricity gathering in her fists. She jumped onto a small rock and leaped at Sticky. He didn't realize his mistake until Tessa connected with his right temple. Sticky careened into a wall, leaving a sizable imprint, and slumped down toward the ground. Electric bolts crackled across his body, signifying Tessa paralyzed him.

Tessa ran over and helped Null to his feet. Null looked silently at Sticky. His gray eyes had glazed over. Tessa picked up on this and stomped over toward Sticky. "You do not threaten my friend like that," she said. "Now you can look forward to a nice, long talk with Officer Magnezone."

"I have… made a grave miscalculation," Sticky muttered. He shakily reached a hand toward his harness and produced an Escape Orb. Tessa's eyes widened and she lunged for Sticky. But her efforts were in vain. The second he pulled the orb out, a multicolored aura encased him, then he disappeared in flash of light. Tessa wound up striking the wall. She fell back on her rear, clutching her face in pain.

"Oww!" she whined. "Okay, that didn't go over very well, but at least we fended that little creep off, right?" She looked over at Null, expecting a response. Null continued to stare emptily ahead of him. "N-Null?" Tessa squeaked, getting to her feet. She approached him, reaching out a paw. "Are you okay? Do you need a healing item?"

Null suddenly banged the side of his head against the cave wall, keening despondently. He dropped to the ground, clawing at his helmet with his talons. "Make them stop! Make them stop!" he cried, jerking his head in different directions.

Tessa bit her lower lip and ran up to her friend. But before she could get up close, one of his forelegs swiped at her. She barely jumped back in time to dodge. "Null, you have to calm down. I can't help you when you're all riled up like this," Tessa said.

"N… no… get away," Null muttered.

"But you need help," Tessa pleaded.

"Get away!" Null roared. He lumbered to his feet and sprinted further into the tunnel. His loud stomps echoed through the cavern, until they gradually faded out. Tessa's eyes widened and she quickly tried to run after him, only for a muffled scream to cause her to skid to a halt.

"Oh… right… Vulpix," she whispered, looking back at Shane's motionless body. Tessa approached him and kicked him in the chest. Shane abruptly regained his movement, in time for the air to rush out of him. He dropped to his belly, eyes watering in pain.

"What… the… heck?" he snarled, breathing rapidly. "You were just going to leave me there!" he accused.

"No, I wasn't," Tessa insisted. 'As tempting as it sounds.'

"Don't lie to me! You were ready to book it after that freak," Shane spat. "And thanks for breaking me out of petrification when you were freed, by the way. You're a real class act. A wonderful teammate. I'm such a lucky Vulpix."

"We have bigger things to concern ourselves with, you selfish jerk," Tessa growled. "Null needs our help. That little alien totally spooked him."

"Really? Are you sure that isn't what Null's normally like?" Shane sneered. "Need I remind you that the alien is in league with your brother? If he thinks Null's a threat, then what do you imagine the big guy would do to us?"

Tessa crossed her arms defiantly. "You're thinking backwards to suit your own desires," she said. "If that alien is evil, and he's afraid of Null, then that means Null's on our side. Which means we should do everything in our power to help him."

Shane opened his mouth to respond, but couldn't think up a counterargument. He settled for snorting out tufts of frost and storming off into the next tunnel. Tessa followed him, grinning triumphantly. They proceeded down the darkest inclined path they had encountered yet.

"I don't see any sign of him," Shane growled. "And I don't hear anything eith– yaaaaaaaah!"

Shane suddenly slid away from Tessa. She took another step forward and found out the hard way that the dirt along the cave floor had given way to water, which swept Tessa up and carried her down the tunnel. All the while, she let out a scream matching Shane's.


Next time: someone on Team Radiance finally reaches their breaking point.
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Winter can't come soon enough
The holiday update train continues. Enjoy!


Chapter 27: Shattered Psyches

~Moonrise Marsh~

Shane and Tessa hollered in fright as they slid through what could only be described as a natural water slide. It zigzagged past several large rocks, before taking a sharp drop off a small ledge. They careened out of the tunnel and fell onto a very large, rubbery lily pad. They bounced about multiple times before coming to a stop.

"Urrrrrgh… my aching everything," Shane groaned.

Tessa slowly got to her feet. "I think we made it to the marsh," she announced, surveying her surroundings. Several floating wooden planks extended in different directions from the lily pad. They either led to other lily pads or some small wooden shacks sitting on large rafts made of bark. Above them, a dense fog obscured any signs of how far underground they were. Tessa could barely make out a few trees up ahead. Some had luminous orbs hanging from their branches.

Shane wobbled about on the lily pad. He looked around at the bubbling, dark-gray swamp water spreading out across the marsh and grimaced. "Blech. Looks like Pacifidlog got visited by a Garbodor horde." His snout wrinkled and he threw up a forepaw. "And everything smells moldy and mildew-ridden like my grandma's house." He glanced at the nearest tree. "It's gotta be these trees. Are those mold spores growing on them instead of leaves?"

"If I'm remembering correctly, it's a fungus that grows in damp environments," Tessa said. "But who cares about that? We have to find Null." She approached the edge of the lily pad and stared down into the swamp. "You don't think he sank down when he landed down here, do you?"

"Well, he's pretty dang heavy, so I wouldn't be surprised," Shane said. "Let's just find Oranguru first."

"Vulpix! We're not ditching our teammate like that," Tessa growled, glaring defiantly at Shane.

Shane rolled his eyes. "Glad to you see you've got so much concern for him but are willing to leave me petrified in the middle of a cave."

"I had a brain fart, okay?" Tessa harrumphed. "It happens."

"Please, we both know it was intentional," Shane scoffed. "Whatever. Look, from what you told me, Oranguru's a psychic-type, right? So, he could probably help us find Null. We're not going to get anywhere by ourselves. Especially with this fog."

"Okay then." Tessa stepped onto one of the planks, arms crossed. "Where should we look for Oranguru? Do tell."

Shane stepped off after her, shoving her to the side and nearly sending her into the swamp. "Isn't it obvious? Try knocking on all the shacks and see who answers," he said, ignoring the scowl Tessa gave him. Shane continued along the planks toward the closest dock. He approached the nearby house and rapped the door with his forepaw. "Hello, anyone home? We need some help."

The door opened up, revealing a shabby-looking fin. "Hiya, Relicanth," Shane greeted as the door opened a bit wider. "I'm with the Horizon Guild. My teammate and I are looking for Oranguru. Do you know where to find him?"

Relicanth yawned loudly. "His shack's in the center of the marsh." He shifted his position a bit, allowing Shane to notice a gaping hole in his house giving way to the swampy water beneath it. Relicanth backed into the swamp and disappeared underwater. Shane started to proceed forward, when he heard splashing behind him. He looked around and saw Relicanth was now bobbing in the water next to the dock.

"Go along those planks over there," Relicanth said, pointing a fin forward. "It's the second dock you encounter."

"Thanks," Shane chirped, before flashing Tessa a cocky grin.

"Don't mention it. But I oughta warn you, whatever you need Oranguru for, you're probably not going to get anything out of him," Relicanth said. "He rarely leaves his hut for anything. I swear, it's been months since I last saw him."

Tessa's jaw stiffened. 'That doesn't sound good. The Guildmaster wouldn't just send us for no reason, right?' Her brow furrowed. 'Unless this is a test of some sort. Oh gods, please let it not be a test.'

Relicanth disappeared into the swamp and Shane hopped onto the planks. "You coming or not?" he called, walking off into the fog. Tessa jogged forward to catch up with him, but had to slow down in order to avoid slipping off the planks. This was one of the few times she found herself wishing she had extra legs for greater traction.

After a few minutes, the duo arrived at the dock Relicanth directed them to. They found another small shack. This one had an odd structural combination of mud and wooden planks. In fact, the roof looked like it could fall right off the place. "Jeez, how could anyone stand to live here?" Tessa wondered.

"Different strokes for different folks, I guess," Shane said, drawing a confused look from Tessa. "It's a human expression." He walked up to the door and knocked on it. "Oranguru? It's Team Radiance. We're here to take you to Sunflower Meadows," he called.

Shane stepped back from the door, expecting it to swing open. Nothing happened, however. Shane knocked on the door a bit harder. "Yoo-hoo, Oranguru! Your friend at the Horizon Guild sent us. Come on and open the door," he declared, his tone growing a bit more impatient.

The door suddenly swung inward, causing Shane to fall through the doorway onto his side. "Oof!" he grunted. Shane grimaced from soggy wood brushing against his chest. He looked up and found himself staring at a big, white orangutan. He had a lot of gray patches in his fur, and heavy bags under his eyes. Oranguru appeared to be wearing a purple shawl over his shoulders, but on closer inspection Shane realized it was actually part of his fur.

"Hello," Oranguru whispered. "Please, come inside. You must be tired."

"Um, actually, sir, we were wondering if we could ask a favor of you," Tessa said as she stepped inside the hut. Shane had already walked over and sat down on a small, raggedy carpet. "See, our teammate–"

Steam rose up from the other side of the room. "I just finished boiling some sitrus and mago berry tea. Would you care for a taste?" Oranguru said.

"We really don't have the time to–"

"Sure, why not?" Shane chirped, giving Tessa the smarmiest grin he could muster. She glared at Shane in response.

"Ah, an excellent choice," Oranguru said. "My mate and I do so enjoy picking out berries from Mellath Bog. You would think that murky wetlands would be awful spots for berries. But, surprisingly, the trees there seem to produce these ripe, firm babies." Oranguru sighed and held up a swollen oran berry. Shane started drooling.

"Though, I must admit, my beloved mate and I haven't been up for venturing into the bog as of late," Oranguru continued, while Tessa tapped her foot on the ground impatiently. "Something seems off about the place. It's probably those doggone kids causing trouble with the wild Pokémon again. Why, back in my heyday, we would go about leaving treats for them in dungeon spaces. I even had a pen pal in Twilight Forest, if you can believe that."

Shane flashed his pearly whites at Tessa. "Having fun yet?"

"Stop sounding so smug," she seethed.

"Whoa, nice alliteration there, wordsmith. Bravo," Shane said, voice dripping with sarcasm. He turned away from her at the sound of footsteps. Oranguru approached them with a tray holding three clay bowls. He set the tray down on a log serving as a knee-high table.

"Oranguru, please, I just need to talk to you about my partner Nu–"

"Go on, try the tea," Oranguru suggested, pushing the tray toward Tessa.

"Yeah, come on, Riolu. We're this guy's guests after all. Wouldn't want to be impolite, would we?" Shane added. He leaned over and lapped up some tea, ignoring Tessa's exasperated expression. "Hmm, it's very sweet, but it's got a bit of a kick to it."

"Yes, yes, of course," Oranguru said, nodding slowly. "That was actually my lovely mate's idea." He raised up a hand and started pantomiming with it. "Just a single drop of tamato berry will make the tea invigorating," he said in a high-pitched voice. "Of course, the first time I tried it she had actually spiked the tea with quite a lot of tamato berry. I could barely feel my mouth for the next week." He shook his head. "Never did think of a way to pay her back for that little trick."

"That's all well and good, sir, but there's a matter that I could really use your help with," Tessa said, fidgeting nervously with her paws.

Oranguru slowly sat back in his wicker chair. "You seem rather tense, child. Go on, try the tea. It should help."

Tessa bit her lower lip. 'Good grief. Just how dense is this old fella?' she wondered. 'Easy now, Riolu. You're supposed to treat your elders with respect, remember? And you don't want to give Vulpix the satisfaction of seeing you annoyed.' She reached out grabbed the last remaining bowl from the tray. Tessa sat cross-legged on the floor and proceeded to drink the tea.

"It's pretty good," she said.

Oranguru smiled. "I'm sure that will make my darling mate quite happy," he said. "Now that we have partaken in some tea, please, tell me what troubles you, child."

Tessa's eyes lit up and it was now Shane's turn to look annoyed. "Oh, you don't need to worry about her. She's perfectly fine," Shane said.

"Actually, we're missing one of our teammates," Tessa said. "He ran off while we were still in Tethys Tunnel."

"Ah, yes." Oranguru stroked his beard. "Never a wise decision. Why, I remember the first time I was in Tethys Tunnel and made the foolhardy decision to run along part of the path. I hit the brook leading to Moonrise Marsh and tumbled right on down. Sprained my ankle pretty badly. But, oh, my wonderful mate nursed me back to health." He shook his head. "If only the Tapus didn't constantly rearrange the tunnel's layout. We wouldn't have problems with you youngsters having accidents."

"Right," Tessa mumbled. "Anyway, we think he's somewhere in the marsh but the fog outside is really thick. We're not sure how to look for him. So, we were wondering if maybe you could use your psychic abilities to sense his aura for us?"

Oranguru nodded slowly. "Well, it's been a little while since I've given the ol' brain a workout like that. Mostly I just do these old sliding box puzzles I bought from a traveling Greninja merchant. Now that is quite the tale–"

"And we would totally love to hear it once we're travelling through the bog," Tessa cut in. "But right now, we really need help finding our teammate."

Shane shook his head in disbelief. 'How could Guildmaster Metagross possibly be friends with this guy? He's the very embodiment of wasting time. Maybe he's gotten slow with old age?'

"Very well," Oranguru said. "So, what kind of Pokémon is your friend?"

Tessa's expression immediately blanched. A grin wove its way onto Shane's lips. "Um… err… well…" She poked her index digits together.

"We don't know because the guy's some sort of messed up experiment," Shane said, earning a frown from Tessa.

"You do not know?" Oranguru parroted. "Hmm, that is rather interesting. I vividly recall my youthful days when I encountered a Pokémon species for the first time. There was always this sense of mystery and intrigue. Let me tell you about the time I first encountered a Decidueye…"

"Maybe later," Tessa interjected. "Isn't there anything you can do to help us?"

Oranguru sipped more of his tea. "Well, do you know his typing?"

Tessa's gaze fell to the ground. "N… no," she squeaked.

"The guy's a total freak of nature," Shane said. "Canine body like mine. But his front two legs are like an insect's mixed with a bird's. He's got a fish's tail and this massive stone helmet covering his head and neck. Frankly, I'm not even sure he's a real Pokémon."

"Shut up, Vulpix. You're not helping," Tessa seethed.

"Now, now. No need for harsh words," Oranguru said, waving both hands. "We can solve this problem together. Why, my lovely mate and I are quite the problem solvers. Just the other day, we had an issue with the door falling off its hinges. They had rusted over, you see. So, we took some metal coils we had lying around and used them to anchor the door to the inside wall. Quite the solution, eh?"

"Would you be willing to help us search for our friend, then?" Tessa asked. "I know we're supposed to be helping you out, and you don't like to leave your home, but I'd really appreciate it."

"Well, I suppose it would get the old heart pumping a bit before we set out into the bog," Oranguru said, knees popping loudly as he got to his feet. "Chances are, if your friend just wandered through here without any sense of direction, he ended up on one of the small patches of wetlands we have here." He started shuffling toward the door. "They're a bit deeper into the marsh."

Tessa jumped to her feet. "Great! C'mon, Vulpix, we'd better get moving."

Shane huffed out some frost. "I said I'd take you to Oranguru so he could help. I didn't say anything about scouring this place in search of Null."

An exasperated expression overtook Tessa's face. "Seriously, Vulpix? We're supposed to be doing this as a team."

"Yeah, then take it up with Null. He's the one who ran off," Shane harrumphed. He then yipped in fright as a small psychic force brought him up to his feet.

"It is not polite to argue with a nice, young lady like Riolu, here," Oranguru chided. "Come along, child."

Shane scowled and trudged along after Tessa. "She's not my friend," he muttered. They exited onto the dock and it bobbed in the water, sending Tessa stumbling forwards.

"The wetlands are due north of my house," Oranguru said. "But there's also a patch to the northeast." He beckoned Team Radiance toward him, where two sets of floating logs led off in different directions. "How would you prefer to split this up?"

Shane stomped off toward the rightmost path. "I'll go this way," he said. "You two can go north."

"Oh no you don't," Tessa growled. "You should take Oranguru with you."

"Why? I can handle myself," Shane said, eyes narrowing.

"Because I don't trust you to actually look for Null," Tessa said, crossing her arms.

Shane rolled his eyes. "Well, bully for you. I'm still going by myself." He turned and walked away. Tessa quickly lost sight of him in the fog.

"It would seem you and your friend are at odds," Oranguru observed. "Did you consider talking out your differences? That's what always helped my mate and me when conversations got a bit heated."

"I'm pretty sure that's what led to our current situation," Tessa said, rubbing the bridge of her brow. "Come on, let's start looking for Null."


'Man, if I had a fire-type move like a real Vulpix, I could get this stupid fog out of the way,' Shane thought, cautiously proceeding along the path of floating planks. He could barely make out a small patch of light ahead of him, but the fog obscured his view. 'This is such a waste of time. Obviously Null doesn't want to be found. Why can't Tessa just take the hint and move on? What, has she got a crush on that thing?'

Shane shuddered at the thought. In the process, one of his hind paws came down on the edge of the wood and slipped backward. Shane slid onto his belly, yipping in surprise. His hind leg partially dropped into the swamp, causing him to grimace. "Ugh, gross!" he whined, hoisting himself back to his feet. He looked over and inspected the leg. A thin layer of gray slime covered his fur.

Groaning, Shane continued along the plank. The ball of light grew closer, until Shane could make out a luminous orb hanging from a large wooden stake that someone had planted in the ground. The orb illuminated a small island littered with crabby gray grass and patches of damp, equally-gray sod.

"How could anyone stand to live in such a dank, depressing place?" he wondered. "Actually, it's kind of the perfect place to go if you don't want to be bothered." His snout wrinkled. "If only it didn't smell like a pair of used bowling shoes." He approached the end of the dock and stepped off it. The ground squelched under his paws. Soft, sticky mud surrounded Shane's paws, making him grimace.

"Yo, Null! You out here?" Shane shouted, looking around. "C'mon, you big loon. Riolu's worried about you. Stop messing around. We've got Oranguru and we want to leave this place sooner rather than later." He swiveled his head about the wetlands. All he heard was swamp water lapping up against nearby wooden planks. His ears folded against his face. "Great. We're never going to get out of this stupid swamp at this rate. I should've taken Oranguru with me. Then I could've just ditched Riolu and finished this mission on my own."

He walked further into the wetlands. His gaze fell to the ground as he tried to stick to the patches of grass. Of course, they were just as soggy as the dirt. So, every one of Shane's steps created a splashing noise louder than the creaking of the docks. "Null! Where are you?" he shouted. "Man, this is useless. I'm going to shout myself hoarse at this rate."

A rasping, wheezing cough sounded. Shane jolted to attention. "Th… that you, Null?" he stammered. "Come on. Quit hiding and get out here already." Loud squelching footsteps sounded, and then a bulky outline appeared in the fog in front of Shane. "There you are. Jeez, what got you so riled up that you just took off like that?" Shane said, frowning. "Whatever, I don't care. Riolu's waiting for us. Let's go and try to meet up with her."

Shane got no response. Instead, the squelching noises got faster. The outline in the fog rapidly thickened. "Um, Null? You okay, dude?" Shane said, stepping back hesitantly.

A loud roar answered Shane, sending a shiver racing across his body. Shane had no time to process what was happening. Out of the fog appeared Null, helmet glowing with a metallic sheen. He charged headfirst into Shane, knocking him across the wetlands. Dirt and swamp water caked Shane's body.

"Agh! W-What the… Null?" Shane croaked, looking up. Null fixed his beady gray eyes on Shane and hissed angrily. Shane's eyes widened. "What is your problem? It's me… it's Shane!"

Null charged toward Shane. "You… beast!" he snarled. Shane scrambled to his left, squealing in fright. He dodged a swipe of Null's glowing talons. Null struck the ground instead, splattering dirty water against his chest.

"Oh, come on!" Shane hissed. "Who put you up to this, huh? Tessa? Braviary? Why does everyone have such a problem with me? I haven't done anything wrong this whole mission!" He opened his mouth and shot a blast of frosty air forward. It hit Null, who staggered backwards, hissing.

Null thrashed his head about, rattling his helmet in the process. "Beasts… must be… destroyed! Do it… do it! Destroy them!" Null shouted. Next thing Shane knew, a sharp blade of wind grazed his side. Shane gasped and hopped backward, wincing in pain. Null's helmet once again hardened into metal and he began charging Shane down.

"Stop it, you crazy freak!" Shane cried, turning and running away. His smaller stature easily allowed him to stay clear of Null. "Help! Help! I'm being attacked by a raving lunatic!" Shane screamed. But in looking back at Null, Shane misjudged his stride. His forepaw struck a patch of mud and slipped out from under him. Shane ended up sprawled out on his belly.

Shane's eyes widened in fear as Null shouted, "Get rid… of the beasts! That's why… we're here. It's what… we must do!" Shane turned around and shrieked as loud as he could. The sound waves missed Null, however. Null collided with Shane moments later. The force from the blow sent Shane reeling across the wetlands.

The ground slipped out from underneath the lower half of Shane's body. Shane started sliding into the water. He desperately tried to dig his forepaws into the wetlands to pull himself back up. But he failed to get a proper grip. In a matter of seconds, the remainder of his body slid into the water with a small splash.

His entire world went dark. Shane jammed his eyes shut and puffed out his cheeks, struggling to hold his breath. Slimy reeds suddenly brushed up against his backside. Shane couldn't help but gasp in surprise. Swamp water rushed into his mouth. Shane started to thrash about, utterly uncertain how to use his four limbs to propel himself up. This proved a poor decision. His struggling only succeeded in getting reeds ensnared between his tails.

Shane forced himself to swallow the swamp water and tucked his head into his chest. He felt himself sinking deeper into the swamp. 'I've only got one shot at this!' he thought. Shane tried to push the sensation of the slimy water and reeds out of his mind. He concentrated as hard as he could and then released a burst of psychic energy directly below him. The lack of traction underwater resulted in the attack rocketing Shane upwards.

He broke the surface of the water and took in a huge gulp of air. Unfortunately, he couldn't get close enough to the wetlands to pull himself ashore. 'Come on, Shane. Doggie paddle! Doggie paddle like your life depended on it… because it totally does!'

Shane started sweeping his legs forward and back. Much to his delight, the movement managed to propel him forward. However, he didn't make a lot of progress with the swamp reeds getting in the way. He craned his neck up and took in another deep breath.

A blade of air whizzed past him, slicing the tops off several reeds. Shane rapidly blinked swamp water from his vision. He could just make out Null's blurry outline positioned on the surface of the wetlands. Null paced back and forth, shaking his head and snorting. He quickly gathered more air around his foreleg and launched crescents right at Shane, who yelped and ducked underneath the surface. The wind blades grazed Shane's mane, taking locks of wet fur with them.

Shane resurfaced and immediately started swimming to his right. 'There's got to be some other patch of land I can climb onto. I have to get away from this guy!'

"What… are you waiting for? Get him!" Null snarled.

He threw his head to the left. "But… but he's my teammate. I don't… want to… hurt him."

Null then thrust his head back to the right. "He's… one of them. We exist… to eliminate them. He made fun… of us. This… should be child's play!"

Null groaned in frustration. More air gathered around his foreleg and he slung it toward Shane. Shane took in a big breath and submerged himself. All the while, he continued paddling forward. The surface of the water rippled from the explosive air. Shane's breath quickly escaped him as a stream of bubbles. He resurfaced, tilting his neck up to try and see in front of him.

Shane heard a loud hiss and the sound of creaking wooden planks. He didn't dare try to look at Null, for fear of leaving himself open to an attack. Null was clearly trying to follow him. Sure enough, another blade of air rushed past Shane, nicking the back of his neck.

'Gotta hurry… gotta hurry!' he thought. Shane's heart hammered in his chest and his legs ached from opposing the weight of his soaking-wet fur. He maneuvered himself into a set of reeds. Seconds later, several of the reeds behind him fell apart. A ripple spread through the water. Null roared loudly.

'Is he getting closer? Maybe I should turn around?' Shane thought. 'No… everything hurts. I can't keep this up much longer. I've got to get back on land… even if it's right where Null is.' He peered through the reeds, praying for some sign of approaching land. Shane's heart fluttered at the sight of a luminous orb dangling from the branch of a rotting tree. It illuminated another patch of wetlands.

'Oh, thank god! I'm almost there. I'm going to get through this,' Shane cheered. He took a deep breath and forced himself to paddle harder. A groan escaped his muzzle, nearly causing him to swallow a mouthful of swamp water.

"I don't… want to… keep chasing… him!" Shane heard Null yell. "Make this stop!" Null groaned.

Seconds later, Null shouted, "He's exhausted… this is our chance to strike." Shane redoubled his swimming efforts, and the edge of the wetlands soon came into view for him. He spotted what looked like a drier patch of land and steered himself toward it.

Shane glanced to his left and noticed that Null had slipped out of his view. He couldn't see any nearby floating planks, either. 'I should be in the clear,' Shane thought. He approached the wetlands and, with considerable effort, scissor-kicked with his hind legs. This drove him upward. Shane refused to take any chances. He opened his mouth wide and sank his fangs into the ground.

Grass and mud filled his mouth, making his eyes water as he tried to fight the urge to gag. But it provided him with the traction needed to hoist the lower half of his body out of the swamp. Shane released his grip and staggered forward, before collapsing on his side, panting heavily. Every muscle in his body burned.

"There… you are!"

Null's furious roar sent Shane racing to his feet. Shane looked to his left and spotted Null racing out of the fog. His helmet had turned to steel once again. Shane turned tail and ran in the opposite direction, ignoring the intense pain shooting through his legs.

"Tessa, get over here! I'm being attack by Null!" Shane cried. He tried to focus on where he was running, but the fog made it difficult to see a path forward. Shane's eyes widened and he had to skid to a halt as he realized he was approaching the edge of the wetlands.

'No, no, no! There's got to be a plank or a dock around here somewhere,' he thought, looking about in a panic. But the clanging of Null's metallic helmet grew steadily louder. Shane turned to cut to his left, but Null had already anticipated this. Shane found himself on a direct collision course with Null. He turned to his left and opened his mouth. But in his fatigued state, all he could manage to do was cough up a couple of clouds of frosty air.

Shane screamed in terror as Null's mask bashed against his head. The blow upended him, immediately knocking him out. His unconscious form slid back across the ground, picking up mud, until Shane's head and neck dangled over the surface of the swamp. Null raised a foreleg, gathering air between his talons.

"One more blow… and he's gone forever," Null muttered.

"Null! What are you doing?"

Null heard Tessa's cry too late. He thrust his foreleg forward and an air crescent rifled toward Shane.


The blast struck Shane and knocked him back into the swamp. Tessa sprinted toward Null, a look of confusion spread across her face. Null turned to face her just as she threw a small seed at him. Next thing he knew, a smoky-pink cloud enveloped him. Null wobbled about before collapsing onto his side, snoring loudly.

Tessa looked over to see Oranguru lifting Shane out of the swamp and lowering him onto the ground. He knelt down and placed a paw on Shane's side. It flashed pink, sending waves of psychic energy pulsating across Shane's body. Moments later, Shane coughed up a mouthful of swamp water.

"It seems we got here just in time," Oranguru said. "Yes, this is just like the close shaves my lovely mate and I ran into back when we lived near Glyphic Falls."

"Uunnnnnggh," Shane groaned. His eyes slowly creaked open. "W… what happened?" He looked up at Oranguru. "Are we… in Sunflower Meadows?" Shane sat up, blinking rapidly. "Wait..." His gaze fell on Null's slumbering form. Tessa knelt beside Null, rubbing his side with a paw.

"Are you serious?" Shane growled. "You're paying attention to him? That psycho just tried to kill me!"

Tessa flinched and looked up at him. "Vulpix, it's not his fault."

"Oh, of course. How silly of me," Shane said, narrowing his eyes at Tessa. "You're absolutely right. Null's perfectly fine. I just decided to go for a nice, refreshing dip in this nasty-ass swamp!"

"Actually, the swamp water really isn't that bad if you know where to swim," Oranguru mused.

"Shut it, gramps!" Shane barked. He whirled back on Tessa. "Alright, fess up! Someone put the two of you up to this, didn't they? Who wants me snuffed out? Braviary? The Guildmaster? Lycanroc?"

"You don't understand," Tessa said. "Null… he can't help it. He hears voices."

Shane bared his fangs. "Are you kidding me? That's your big explanation? Well, I'm not buying it. Pokémon aren't schizophrenics. The guy's just a dangerous freak!" He glared at Null. "For all we know, he could've picked up the Prism Virus!"

"He's not infected," Tessa said, stepping defensively in front of Null. "I know you don't like to think about other people's problems, but Null told me that when he gets his headaches he starts hearing a bunch of voices. The same thing happened with Bewear in Dewdrop Woods. The only reason he followed you was because these voices yelled at him until they overwhelmed him."

"Shut up!" Shane screeched, smacking the ground with a foreleg. He grinded his teeth together. "You don't get to defend him. Not after what he just did to me! He deserves to stay here and rot with these moldy trees. He's not a Pokémon… he's a freak of nature!"

"You shut up!" Tessa snarled, balling her paws into fists. "Maybe if you had taken the time to actually be nice to him, none of this would've happened." She looked back at Null. "I was talking to him after Lycanroc got arrested, you know. He said he doesn't blame you for the way you act around him. Why can't you just do the same thing?"

"Because I nearly drowned thanks to him!" Shane thundered, snorting out water droplets. "A little teasing will never measure up to that."

"And I nearly drowned because of you on our very first assignment!" Tessa shouted, her fists flashing blue.

Shane's left eye twitched and a vein bulged out of his forehead. "Are you saying this is my fault?"

Tessa crossed her arms. "Well, you certainly haven't done anything to help the situation."

Shane's left eye twitched again. "Alright, that tears it!" he bellowed. Shane sprinted toward Tessa, face contorted in rage. Tessa's eyes widened, but she backed up right into Null. A stream of slush washed in front of her. Tessa slipped and fell onto her belly. Seconds later, Shane barreled into her. The two canines tumbled across the ground. Their momentum carried them to a mud pit, which they fell into with a large splash.

Shane got the upper hand and pinned Tessa against the ground. Tessa thrashed about underneath him, but Shane had pressed his forepaws down on her arms, preventing her escape. "Let… me… go!" she screeched.

Shane responded by pushing Tessa's head into the mud with his neck. He leaned down and sank his fangs into her ear. The taste of iron filled up his mouth as Tessa wailed in pain. Shane let go of her ear and pushed harder against her.

"You don't get to tell me what to do anymore! I'm through listening to you!" he hissed, spitting a mouthful of blood onto Tessa's neck. Shane pulled his head back and smacked Tessa across the cheek. He opened his mouth wide and coated Tessa in chilled air from head to toe. Tessa cried out in frustration and struggled even harder. But her energy quickly faded as Shane's attack encased her in a thick layer of ice.

Once he was certain he'd frozen Tessa solid, Shane lumbered to his feet, howling angrily. For good measure, he doused the mud puddle surrounding Tessa in snowflakes, freezing it over. Shane walked over and scooped up Tessa's item pouch. "I'm taking this," he declared, "and I'm going to bring Oranguru to Sunflower Fields myself. When I'm done, you can bet I'm telling the Guildmaster all of this. And then the two of you will get kicked to the curb where you belong."

He reached into the pouch and produced a sparkling orb. "Here. Unlike your stupid friend, I'm actually generous. When you thaw out, you can use this to buzz off." He rolled the orb over to Null's sleeping form.

Shane turned and stomped over toward Oranguru. "C'mon, we're leaving."

"Are you sure about that? Don't you want to wait for your friends to recover?" Oranguru asked. "It is not wise to rush into Mellath Bog by your lonesome. I remember the first time I made that mistake…"

"Don't care," Shane said. He pointed his snout forward. "Get walking. Now!" Oranguru looked back at Tessa and Null. Shane shoved him with his snout. "I said get moving!"

Oranguru lumbered forward, sighing. Shane gave his former teammates one last scornful look before storming off after Oranguru, shaking bits of mud off his pelt.


Next time: Mellath Bog, featuring a certain infamous Totem Pokémon.
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Lost but Seeking
Uuugh, wow. I had no idea how very behind on this story I was. I definitely read substantially farther than the last review I gave, soooo I guess I was just being lazy and not leaving any comments? =/ Let's fix that.

Episode Two

This episode is one you expect to see in pretty much any PMD 'fic: the main characters need to join the guild, and often they have to clear some dungeon-related mission in order to prove them. This episode was a solid execution of the idea and introduced us to a lot of interesting characters that I'm sure will be important later on. Null is probably the most interesting to me thus far; he really sticks out amidst a lot of generally cheerful, happy-go-lucky people, and of course his backstory suggests that he's going to have larger significance later on. I also like Guildmaster Metagross a lot. His continual deadpan and mind-reading abilities strike me as having a lot of fun potential.

It is always cool to see how writers adapt game mechanics to their stories, and you've obviously put a lot of thought into how the guild functions in this world, but I felt like the second chapter got a bit mechanics-heavy. In particular, I don't know that info about how looplets/emerias work or who helps pokémon is all that important to include--it's the kind of thing I think could be brought up when relevant, rather than introduced ahead of time. Individually the descriptions of various guild functions weren't long, but there were a lot of them and I think they added up to quite a bit of exposition.

I did like that you addressed the pokémon naming convention thing, although it did seem off to me that Shane was so skeptical of pokémon looking different from each other. He's a gamer, surely he's aware that the sprites/models all look the same because it would be hugely resource intensive to program in/make assets for a bunch of different variations? (On the other hand, the bit at the beginning of the dungeon where he wanted to take the "wrong" path because there might be treasure is SUCH a gamer thing, it made me smile.)

One last peeve... This is something that might have improved in later chapters but which stuck out a lot to me here are dialogue tags that are redundant with the dialogue themselves. Things like, "Hello," he greeted. I find them particularly distracting because often the tag isn't a commonly-used dialogue tag to begin with, and the dialogue, by definition, already gets across whatever the tag is conveying. I picked out some of the ones I found most jarring... generally, I would suggest avoiding these kinds of constructions:

"Absolutely not. I spent good money on those berries," Tessa shot him down.

"Oh, relax, I was just having a little fun," Shane dismissed.

"Just loosening you up," Shane explained.

"Fair enough," Shane acknowledged.

"Not bad," he complimented.

"Bruxish, say hello to Team Radiance, our newest recruits. This here's Shane and this is Tes– ah, I mean Riolu," Braviary introduced.

This episode is only two chapters long, but quite a lot went on! A lot of exposition, but I expect things to pick up more in following episodes now that Shane and Tessa are in the guild and we've laid some ground rules for how things work here. It'll be fun watching the two of them struggle through their early missions, because as Yungoos pointed out, yeah, their teamwork kinda sucks.

Episode Three

A bit less going on in this episode. There's foreshadowing both in Shane's dream sequence at the beginning and Tessa's conversation with Milotic, but the actual mission-related stuff in the middle didn't feel like it was really building towards anything larger than itself. It was nice to see Shane seeing some consequences for his actions, particularly with regard to Tessa. It's great to see her stand up for himself and not take Shane's nonsense. The development in their relationship is something valuable that I think went on in this episode, although I think you might have been able to integrate it with some more plot-relevant stuff than the missions showcased here. (Although I could of course turn out to be totally wrong, and Lunatone/Solrock/the pearls may end up being super important later on!)

I have to say I really enjoy the celestial theme you've kept up throughout the story, with the guild also being an observatory, all the sun/moon-themed livery, solrock and lunatone appearing in this episode (seriously, why were they not in SuMo), the Solgaleo and Lunala-themed music on the jukebox... It gives Horizon a strong sense of identity, and those sorts of heavenly-body-related references give things give me a mystical, high fantasy kind of vibe that I enjoy.

I also like Team Captivate. Snaaaake teeeeeam~

One thing you might want to look out for are transition scenes that don't really do anything but move the characters from one place to another. For example, in Chapter 5 you have the bit where they meet Sharpedo, and then in 6 where they decide to go to Crabrawler Café. Both those little scenes are very short, and I don't think you need them; for example, I think you could have simply started Chapter 6 with Tessa and Shane in the café without losing anything.

Episode Four

Ahh, now this is a more meaty episode. Lots of interesting things going on in this section, plot-wise, character-wise, and lore-wise, too. I really appreciated Chapter 8 in particular; while, yeah, it was basically all exposition with a bit of character development, I thought it was all interesting stuff, and with the amount of chaos that's been going on in the surrounding chapters I found it to be a nice breather. In particular I liked the additional insight into Shane's character--that he's kind of a mopey, negative-nancy type in the human world, and the upbeat, arrogant attitude he projects in the pokémon world is overcompensation in an attempt to get people to like him more. This makes him a lot more of an interesting character to me... He has more to work on than just needing to be less self-centered and relying genre-savviness to carry him through.

The lore development in that chapter was also good, I think. I don't mind reworking some canon events to fit with the story if the result hangs together well enough, and nothing really seemed off about what Magearna said. Then again, I've never played Super and don't know PMD lore that well, so it may just be my ignorance talking there. I thought the delivery was fine, too. Sure, it was just several paragraphs of exposition, but I don't know how you could have avoided that. Sometimes you just have to let characters talk for a while! And it was interesting stuff and relevant to both the characters' and the readers' interests... not like you'd stopped things for several paragraphs while you went over the mechanics of berry farming in Horizon or something. All in all I thought it was presented well.

I also appreciated more focus on Null. He clearly has some larger plot signinficance, and I also think he makes a great contrast to Shane and Tessa. I also liked that he didn't immediately go "friendship yay!" and take Tessa up on her offer of joining the team. I think it'll be fun to watch how his relationship with Tessa and Shane develops in the future and learn more about him as time goes on.

I was also frustrated by how vague Tessa's mother was being about what she was up to. "I can't tell you because it would be too risky" does make some degree of sense, but is also one of the most overused excuses for why characters can't talk to each other, so it still grated a bit for me. Based on what Tessa saw at the end of the dream, it looks like her mother is working with Lunala. Given the red moons on the various "infected" pokémon we've seen, I wonder whether Lunala is actually infected with the prism virus (which presumably something-something Necrozma) and so might be an antagonist in the story, making Tessa's mom presumably an antagonist as well. Would also explain why she doesn't want Tessa hanging out with Solgaleo's chosen. On the other hand, if Tessa's mom is working for an infected Lunala, presumably she'd be infected herself, but she seems a lot more lucid than the other infected characters we've met so far.

Speaking of, I'm not sure whether you intend for the infected pokémon we've seen so far to be intimidating, but thus far I haven't really been feeling it. Espy and Umbry (you mentioned that only four mons have names, but don't these two?) in particlar seem more hammy villains of the cackle-cackle-I'll-get-you-my-pretties type than legitimately scary threats. I loved that Shane had basically the same reaction to hearing them talk about Entercards that I did, though. If they are, presumably, the Espeon/Umbreon from Gates, they've clearly gone through something pretty drastic since that plot wrapped up...

Likewise, I wasn't getting the real visceral sense of horror from the infected munchlax. The concept of them being sort of fused with Guzzlord was creepy, but they reminded me of Daleks more than anything (with the whole "Infect! Infect!" thing). While Daleks can be pretty scary, I think there's also a pretty large humor element to them, and I felt the same thing about these munchlax. If you wanted them to be seriously frightening, they didn't come across as such to me.

I'll also touch briefly on the bonus chapter here, since I think it fits in more with this episode than it does with the next. It was interesting to see Tapu Koko featured here--the land spirits have been mentioned a few times before, but they haven't really gotten much focus compared to Solgaleo and Lunala. I'd kind of expect them to be relevant, given that canonically they're concerned with the ultra beasts, and those appear to have something to do with the prism virus. But this has been the only time, I think, that one has even been mentioned by name, so perhaps not. The legend itself works well enough as an origin story for a particular mystery dungeon, but I have to say that Zekrom and Tapu Koko's personalities seemed a bit too over-the-top exaggerated for my taste and seemed sort of out of place in what would presumably be a story passed down across generations, where I wouldn't expect things like dialogue quirks to get passed down.

But, overall, this is probably my favorite episode yet. Like I said, there's a lot going on here, and it all points towards interesting conflicts and plot developments in the future. Definitely getting out of the set-up portion and into the real plot with this episode!

Special Episode One

Kind of funny that, while this is framed as an episode focused on Braviary, to me it feels like the real meat of this part is giving some more backstory on Tessa's family. Which is perfectly fine, it just struck me as a little funny. So now we have a more complete picture of her whole family situation: her father the incineroar is dead, and both her mother and her (adoptive) brother have faffed off for unclear reasons. And the whole "name" thing seems to be restricted to the Prisma clan, plus Shane. Prisma's backstory appears to strongly imply that she's also human, and that would make sense, if nicknames (despite what Tessa told Shane earlier) really aren't a thing for pokémon, or are so rare that Rufflet's never encountered anyone else with one. Tessa presumably isn't somehow human, but her mother carried the naming tradition on with her... Which leaves Gallian. The fact that Braviary says Prisma and Incineroar took him in and raised him as one of their own suggests that he could have a very similar "washed up on a beach" story and also be human. In that case perhaps he also struck out from the guild because his own special destiny is also coming into play, and he's important in whatever conflict is brewing behind the scenes. I mean, presumably he's important or there wouldn't be so much speculation spent on what's up with him, heh. Perhaps Shane is Solgaleo's chosen, Prisma is Lunala's, and Gallian is Necrozma's? Which raises uncomfortable questions about what's in store for Tessa, if those three are in conflict. Or perhaps Gallian's name is just a red herring. But there's clearly something interesting going on there.

Anyway, the episode itself. I actually didn't mind the extended use of Braviary's accent here, although I am known to be a lot more tolerant of odd speech patterns than other people, heh. I think you pulled the first person narration off just fine overall; in particular I liked how frustrated Rufflet was with Torracat's interest in Prisma the whole time. That sort of thing is a good indicator that you're using the POV correctly, letting the narration reflect the character's opinion, even if that opinion is out of step with the other characters in the scene or what might "objectively" be the right opinion (since we're clearly supposed to find Prisma sympathetic and hope the team helps her get out of her situation).

You maybe went a bit heavy-handed with how terrible Feraligatr was to Prisma the entire time, though. I get that she thought she was trapped and didn't know where she would go without her "crew," Feraligatr being 100% blatantly terrible to her all the time felt a little too much like you wanted to make sure everybody was clear on what a bad guy he was, rather than being true to how most abusive people really act. A bit cartoonish, maybe.

A small random thing, I enjoyed how Rufflet was uncomfortable being buried under jewels. I mean, most of them aren't technically rocks, but close enough that I can see how Rufflet would be uncomfortable with them. An unexpected observation, but one that struck me as cute and spot-on.

One thing that stood out to me in this section was how battle-heavy this 'fic can be at times. There was a major battle in every one of these three chapters, and tbh not a lot went on besides fighting, aside from the puzzle sequence and intro/outro. You did a fine job of incorporating character and plot elements into the fights, e.g. we learn about Prisma's backstory and some adventuring lore through them, but to me it still felt like a bit much. The big puzzle scene and fight with Golisopod would make a nice set-piece boss battle, for example, but given that it's surrounded on both sides by other fairly extensive fights, I think it doesn't stand out as much. And probably there would be a big fight over the treasure either way, but at least the initial meeting between the scavengers and Team MIB didn't need to get quite as contentions/involved? It's tricky, because given the nature of a PMD 'fic there's probably going to be plenty of battles, but maybe look at ways to scale back or summarize the less important ones so the really important ones have more of an impact? Your action scenes aren't bad, but they take up a lot of space and I find it a little exhausting to have one pretty much every chapter.

Episode Five

I'm liking the developments with Gallian here. Again I have to wonder whether he's working for Necrozma (while apparently Necrozma-aligned, he doesn't seem infected) and potentially against his mom. I wonder if his freaking out about Tessa not joining the guild was his way of trying to prevent Tessa from coming into contact with Shane, or if it's something else entirely. It is pretty frustrating to see him being just as vague as Tessa's mom about what he's up to/what's going on, though. Some justification that he may not fully understand himself/his visions don't really cover that, but Tessa's family issues are starting to feel like one of those situations that could be resolved if the people involved would just sit down and talk to each other, which is annoying.

I also liked Shane really starting to feel the impact of his (I will admit that I totally missed the moment where Shane flashed back(?) to the human world until you mentioned it in a review response; I was thinking dimensional scream or something going on there.) It did kind of feel like he snapped right back to his usual self as soon as the Crabrawler's Café thing happened, though, which was a bit disappointing. I assume we'll get more exploration of his conflicting personalities and coming to grips with not being the awesome chosen one he was thinking of later on in the story.

Some other small things:

"And I won't stop until I've inspected every suspicious-looking nook and cranny."
This and no stepladder reference? For shame.

"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."
I just wanted to take a moment to convey that SHANE, THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS! Confirmation bias is bad!

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.
I also really enjoyed this moment of game mechanic savvy coming through. Kecleon being super-powerful terror creatures will never cease to amuse me.

To me this episode did feel fairly transitional; definitely quieter than the last one. But like I said, it was nice to get to meet Gallian, and it still feels like things are moving forward. It'll be interesting to see what the next episode brings.

Special Episode Two

I like this SE better than the last one. For one thing, I think you definitely did a better job of balancing the action with elements of the story, and as a result I found it more interesting to read the battles that actually were there. That was the big thing, really; having fewer action pieces (kind of ironic, given what genre you were going for here) gave the rest more room to breathe and for us to spend more time with the characters.

And more backstory on Null! As soon as there was talk about waterfalls, I had a feeling that was where things were headed. His backstory here works quite nicely; pretty close to his canon backstory, but modified to work in this different world. It'll definitely be interesting to see how the team's discovery affects things going forward. Whenever I think of a "special episode" I think of something that's unnecessary to the larger plot, even though I recognize that's what the bonuses are, but it's obvious that what went on here is going to have repercussions down the line. And presumably this suggests the Expedition Society may play a larger role in the story later on? Seeing as they have Null's memories now, figuratively speaking, and I imagine that's going to have to come up again later on. I also noticed earlier how two members of Team Radiance's little group are happiness evolutions... Will we bet getting a couple Big Damn Evolutions at pivotal moments of self-actualization and character development? You could definitely get some Crowning Moments of Awesome/Heartwarming going on with that if you play your cards right.

You also definitely did a good job of setting Team Captivate up as more seasoned explorers than Tessa and Shane. They clearly have a better idea of what they're doing and, in general, think things through a lot more completely and coherently than the other two. And, of course, they have much better teamwork, despite their minor squabbles. I did think that you kind of undermined that at times by having the characters overexplain... Like, when Milotic was leading Marshadow on, and you have Dragonair literally explaining to Serperior what's going on, it feels like that bit is in there mostly to reassure the audience that you know what you're doing and haven't forgotten what happend earlier in the episode. I think you would have been fine leaving out Dragonair's asides and just having it come out naturally what Milotic was planning to do (like, later on, she could simply say something like, "Ha! I knew a hotheaded fighting-type like you wouldn't be able to resist a good taunt!")... that to me seems like it would be more space-efficient and in-character. You also have as-you-know-Bob-ing going on with Mawile telling Latias why she had earlier told her not to involve the Horizon guild; just generally a bit of overexplaining in this section, I'd say.

I'm also not sure that you needed to devote as much space as you did to Chapter 16. It was cool seeing where Team Captivate crossed over with the "main plotline," but other than that a lot of the chapter was kind of administrative stuff in terms of getting them to the right place and hearing Zoroark's side of the story, plus the mission that ended up being a red herring anyway. To me this was definitely the least interesting of the chapters and where I might look to cut down on things a bit.

I was also slightly confused about the dungeon mechanics here. Zoroark left marks indicating how to get to the catacombs, but in an ordinary mystery dungeon story we'd expect those to be meaningless, because the layout would have changed by the time Team Captivate got there. But clearly it hasn't. Is that the difference between "wild" and "managed" mystery dungeons in the story? Like the tapus occasionally rearrange things, but otherwise keep the dungeon layouts static, whereas ones outside their control do much more of the mysterious rearrangement?

But like I said, overall I think this episode works pretty well... It's entertaining as well as clearly being plot-relevant, and it's nice to step back and see things from other perspectives now and again. And I think you did get the secret agent/action movie feel down right!

Episode Six

A great follow-on to Episode Five, another one of those jam-packed episodes that I love. There's a ton going on here, and it's been great watching it unfold. More than anything we have a lot of great consequences here, and it feels like even extremely stubborn, change resistant characters like Shane are really starting to feel the impact of what's been happening and are kind of wavering towards maybe kind of actually not snapping back to the way they were before.

I definitely saw the parallels between Lycanroc and the "Team Skull joins the guild" bit from Sky, but I love how you made it so that Shane had been wrong all along, and only his heckling of Lycanroc eventually made the guy get so frustrated that he acted out just to spite him. It's a lot more interesting than a binary "Shane was right all along" or "Shane was wrong all along" outcome would have been. I will admit that it struck me as strange how utterly committed Shane was to Lycanroc being a bad guy right from the get-go, though, as well as how deeply in denial he was about the nature of Espy/Umbry. Like, he does know from the games that they are (were once) solid pokémon, but he even floats himself the idea that they've been controlled, in which case... They still have to be stopped, don't they? And what does it matter that It felt like he had a real personal investment in their characters that in turn informed how he behaved towards Lycanroc, but I didn't really understand where that deep investment had come from or why he was so committed to it.

What I said earlier about the infected pokémon being a little more hammy than intimidating continues to hold true with the bewear fight in this episode. I definitely like the fight itself; I thought there was a real sense of danger, and the feeling of overwhelming odds against Shane and his crew. However, at times I did think that the more comical aspects of the bewear sort of undermined its scariness and felt a little out of place with the tone of the fight. Like the constant flexing. Or yungoos getting hammered into a yungoos-shaped hole, cartoon-style. Buzzwole is IMO the silliest of the ultra beasts, design-wise, so the flexing kind of writes itself, but it's probably not something you want to focus on when you're aiming for a real tense, fingernail-chewing sort of battle. (That or using Milotic as a whip... Happens more often than you might expect with serpent pokémon! But again, it's a little more on the humorous side of things.)

I also do really love that this fight has serious consequences. The magic healing available in the various pokémon canons is kind of taken for granted most of the time, so it's an interesting twist to have a character actually suffer through injuries for any length of time. It also facilitates other aspects of the plot/characters, since it gives Tessa that opportunity to try out doing a mission alone(...ish) with Null and evidently reawakens some of Shane's human memories, which I imagine are going to need to be dealt with down the line as well.

I was a bit thrown by this bit, though:

He has to stay asleep because the ingredients need to dissolve into his spine unimpeded. If he's awake, his body's immune system could fight them off.
On the one hand, that's not how the immune system works, but on the other hand apparently pokémon don't know what viruses are? And healing is pretty much limited to status effects and battle-related injuries? If that's the case, how does comfey even know how to deal with a fever? How could she know what an "immune system" even is?

I have to admit that I'd completely forgotten about Shane's rainbow scarf until Espy brought it up in the bewear chapter. Assuming it's going to work out important to the plot, maybe make a point of mentioning it every now and again to remind readers it exists?

In a similar vein, this bit felt a little forced to me:

Shane and Tessa exchanged nervous looks. "Crap! We totally forgot about them," Shane whispered.
It seems very strange that they did. Shane even had his revelation about them potentially being the espeon/umbreon he was familiar with from Gates earlier, iirc. It's true that a lot of stuff has happened in the interim, so they haven't really had the time to discuss anything to do with those two, but just having completely forgotten about them seemed a little off to me. But then again, that may be because I read through the story fairly rapidly, so their last encounter was fresh in my mind. Someone following update by update might indeed have forgotten about them by this point.

But enough of that. Let's talk about some of the neat stuff that went on in this episode. There are a lot of plot elements, in particular, that look interesting. What on earth happened in Lucario's study is definitely one of them. Did she really pop back in there for a frenzy of research, or was it someone else going through her stuff, trying to piece things together? Whoever did it wasn't exactly subtle and/or very good at covering their tracks (and why wouldn't they have taken the stuff with them? Presumably they're going to need those diagrams etc. later?), but it's nicely ambiguous as to what's really going on there. And what that research was about... definitely Ho-Oh related, of course, and Incineroar is the most obvious candidate for the "he" that could get brought back with the sacred ash, though I wouldn't rule it out being somebody else, perhaps Ho-Oh himself. If it *is* Incineroar, it more strongly suggests it was either Lucario or Gallian who was messing around in there... Although Braviary or perhaps even Metagross are also potential suspects!

And Tessa is honestly thinking about dissolving the team and joining up with Null instead! It's been a long time coming, and tbh I was kind of surprised that Tessa didn't take her mom's warning earlier as the perfect excuse to get the hell away from Shane, but it's great to see it finally happening and knowing that even if Tessa ends up changing her mind in the end, there's a big shake-up down the line for her relationship with Shane. That was something that really needed to change (as Dragonair was so kind as to point out, lol), so it's gratifying to see things moving in that direction.

Finally, there's probably the biggest reveal of this episode, that being of Dawn Wings Necrozma. Unfortunately my ignorance of the mechanics of USUM is going to make it harder for me to say what's going on here... do you need to actually combine a Necrozma with a Solgaleo/Lunala to get the Dawn/Dusk forms? Or does Necrozma just need to consume some energy from Solgaleo/Lunala to transform? If the latter then Solgaleo/Lunala might still be uncorrupted, and perhaps Prisma really is working for Lunala, and Lunala's a "good guy." Otherwise, there might be multiple Solgaleo/Lunala, or else it seems pretty clear that Lunala's not someone to be protected anymore! And Ultra Necrozma's speech pattern strongly suggests that the Solgaleo Shane's been talking to is Necrozmafied... Since in the bonus Solgaleo and Lunala speak quite normally, it would seem that that pattern would have to come from Necrozma, rather than vice versa, with Necrozma absorbing speech patterns from the other two along with their energy. It doesn't look good, whatever's going on there! And apparently there's some "mistress" who's actually directing Necrozma and company? Mysterious and even less good!

It was interesting to see Espy/Umbry's take on Necrozma's plan, too. From the way they interact with Necrozma it seems like they're mostly going along with the guy out of fear of what will happen to the other if one of them resists, but the description of the dark world "where everyone will be equal" is also intriguing. It makes about as much sense as most conquer-the-world end goals, but it does gives some clues as to the philosophy of whoever's running the show...

So, yeah, definitely a lot of cool developments here. For what it's worth, I didn't think that your descriptions of the battle were too intense or anything... Generally the violence still feels more cartoony than visceral, and as long as you don't getting real detailed about the gore and organs don't start getting displaced and so on, you don't need to worry about warning for graphic violence or anything. There definitely has been a shift towards a more serious tone, though, and I look forward to seeing how that develops over time... I imagine things are going to get more dark before they start to lighten up again!

Episode Seven

Getting to the end here! We only have the first two chapters of this episode to go on thus far, but it definitely looks like it's going interesting places, including the possibility of another confrontation between Gallian and Tessa's team. Or "team," since obviously that's kind of in flux at the moment. I love how much more vitriolic Shane and Tessa are towards each other here. You really get the sense that they're just totally done with each other at this point, and any friendliness there might have been between them has been completely eclipsed by resentment and disgust. Love it. tbh I don't even know that I'm really rooting for them to decide to stick together... I think they might benefit from some time to themselves to kind of sort out their own stuff, and then maybe they can try again at a friendship or team-ship that's maybe built on more solid principles than Shane deciding Tessa must be his partner because she found him washed up on a beach and that's how these things work.

I also like the more depth we've gotten for Shane for the past couple episodes and how you go deeper with it here. The revelation that he's actually kind of bad at the Pokémon games he loves so much and generally has to cheat to win is spectacular and was totally unexpected for me. Here he's going around spouting off like he's God's gift to the Pokémon world (which I guess he kind of is, but, you know) and is going to save the day, when he can't even save the day in his safe, carefully balancecd video games. It really underlines how hard Shane's clinging to this "chosen one" thing to give himself some hope of changing from the miserable, friendless person he was in the human world. It's been fun watching him start to abandon that recently; maybe in some ways it was better than how he acted as a human, but it obviously has its own problems, and pretending to be somebody else ultimately isn't going to help him move forward with his life. I definitely started out preferring Tessa, but Shane has gotten considerably more interesting in recent chapters where we've gotten to see other aspects of his personality shining through instead of just the obnoxious put-on he was keeping up. Not that his more humanish personality is all that much more pleasant...

'Like, I spent all that time playing Pokémon games and doing things online related to Pokémon when I could've, I don't know, volunteered in the community, or whatever. And now, as some sort of twisted karmic retribution, I'm trapped here in what should be a dream come true. Instead, everything's trying to kill me and I haven't made a single friend.'
I also really like this bit. Don't honestly know why, for some reason the idea of getting sent to the PMD world being karmic retribution for wasting time on video games as a human really tickles me.

I feel so bad for Null in the most recent chapter. He's trying so hard not to give in to the voices and rip Shane to shreds, and meanwhile Shane is standing there insulting him to his face and making digs at him whenever he thinks he can get away with it. Null keeps getting drawn into the squabbling between him and Tessa despite the fact that he has soooo many bigger issues to worry about. He keeps having people tell him he's a freak, he shouldn't exist, small children are terrified of him... All while he's in near-constant discomfort as a result of his helmet. Like, damn, son. And people say I'm mean to my characters. XD

I think you maybe go a little too hard on people being immediately repulsed by him, though. I mean, Type: Null is pretty weird-looking, but really, a lot of pokémon are somewhere in the range of "pretty weird-looking" to "seriously creepy." Like, is Null really any more repulsive than a weezing, a blobby sacs of toxic fumes with rather morose faces? Perhaps the reality of him in three dimensions is much more unsettling than what he looks like in the official art, but in general I would think pokémon would be a little more open-minded than the average about people's appearances. And it's not like there aren't other aspects of Null that would probably make people avoid him even if they weren't immediately turned off by him: his snarling and tendency to bash his head against the wall and general sullen/surly demeanor probably wouldn't make him tremendously popular even if he were more, uh, conventionally attractive. I think it makes sense that Null is out of place and doesn't have any real friends, but I think maybe the extent to which people have been going "ugh what is that hideous monster" immediately upon meeting him is a little over the top.

In any case, now that Null's been made aware of his experimental nature, I have a feeling we're going to be seeing some repercussions. The poor guy can't end up feeling good about that, and I doubt he's going to be happy when it eventually comes out that Team Captivate at least got some idea of what his deal was and then totally failed to tell him... because they're afraid of him, naturally. At least Tessa likes him! The introduction of the Ultra Recon Squad is also an interesting wrinkle... presumably this is an all-mon version of the one seen in the games. I... still haven't played USUM, so I have no real idea what this might mean for the story, other than it prooobably suggests that Gallian is indeed on the "good guy" side, to whatever extent that might exist in this 'fic.

So we've only just gotten started with this episode, but it definitely shows promise. It'll be great fun seeing how the dreaded escort mission goes, which will no doubt be "terribly" (I also loved Shane's absolute horror upon learning what Metagross wanted them to do and Tessa having no clue why he was freaking out, heh). I'm also expecting Null to be pretty shaken up after this, which should be fun.

And then, since you updated AGAIN after I'd finished this section, some quick natter about 27: this chapter actually brings up something I'd been wondering about constantly with Bruxish: how are fish pokémon getting around in this 'fic? Like, is relicanth swimming through the air to get to the door? Is he wriggling across the floor? Bruxish appears to be quite mobile throughout the guild, but I can't tell whether that's because they can drift wherever they like or whether they're flopping around or have some other means of transport entirely.

So this is where Null finally stops being able to resist his killer side and goes after Shane. :( Definitely a big Gollum vibe going on here, with Null's audible arguing with himself and obviously not really wanting to do this. And then Tessa and Shane actually turn on each other for real! Things really do keep getting worse for them... I can't see how this mission is going to end with anything but the two of them going their separate ways (and one or both of them getting kicked from the guild, holy ****) unless something truly dramatic happens on this mission. At this point Shane in particular obviously cares more about getting back at Tessa than successfully completing Metagross' assignment, and in turn his position in the guild.

I'm eager to see what happens with Oranguru. Is he really that much of an oblivious, crotchety old man, or is he totally trolling the team? Is he going to wander off and get murdered two floors into the dungeon because oh my GOD escort missions? Things could go a lot of different ways here, and I'm eager to see what happens.

A quick word in here on the most recent extras: the one with Tessa's family was very cute, and I enjoyed getting to see Prisma and Incineroar's relationship in particular. I was also very amused by the mention of the sandygast sandbox, because that sounds like the fridge-creepiest sandbox shape possible, heh. (Enjoy your souls while you still have them, kids!) Bonuses five and six felt a little scattered, although I generally liked the individual scenes. Like, there didn't seem to be much linking the scenes in five, aside from the fact that it was nighttime in all of them, I think? The scene with Tessa and Gallian seemed like the main focus here, and it was cute, it just didn't really seem to go together with the others. This is where we get to see very clearly that Solgaleo doesn't talk like "Solgaleo" in Shane's dreams, but DWN does, uh oh.

Likewise, I thought the Shane scene at the beginning of six was out of place. We get to see that little Shane had a friend (!) and is bad at Pokémon (lol), but it doesn't really fit with Prisma's scene aside from being a human memory, and feels rather short and extraneous. On the other hand Prisma's scene is very interesting. So Gallian definitely isn't a former human, he just has a human name because Prisma has been trying to recreate her human family in the Pokémon world holy **** Prisma that is so ****ed up. I, uh, at least hope you were going for the "****ed up" angle rather than "cute" with her naming her kids after her human children, heh. In any case, that's some interesting information and makes me even more curious about her ultimate role in the story.

Now, the story overall. I definitely think you've improved a lot since you started writing this. In my opinion, the story kind of came into its own around the fifth episode, and it's been roaring along since then. In particular I think you've gotten better at using battle scenes than at the beginning, when they happened a lot, and also making appropriate use of tropes/meta humor. I think you had a greater tendency to go over the top with the references early on, but you've toned it down a little in recent chapters, I think. Which is appropriate, because things are seriousing up, and meta humor tends not to be very serious in tone.

But there are some elements that still seem a bit over-the-top hammy for the more complex, morally-gray tale you say you're going for, and the elephant in the room there is definitely Necrozma. Thus far it really seems like a cackling conquer-the-world villain whose evil motivation is mostly that it has a few screws use. I understand that even in USUM Necrozma has some complexity to it, and you've pulled some big reversals in the story so far, so I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lot more going on there than has been indicated so far. But, as of right now, I don't find it to be a very interesting antagonist or easy to take seriously, given the really siiiiillllly speech pattern.

The general subversions of the PMD genre you've been doing have been really great, though. Starting right from the second chapter, where you have the Sky opening almost beat-for-beat, only for the human-turned-Pokémon who washed up on the beach to turn out to be, well, Shane, you've been drifting farther and farther from standard PMD fare, and it's great. In particular you've gone in a very different direction with the partner relationship than in most stories... Quite often there'll be some degree of fighting between the partners, and they may even split up for a time, but it's usually over some misunderstanding that's resolved pretty quickly. In this case it feels like there's a much more fundamental disconnect between Shane and Tessa, that this relationship is going to take a lot more than an apology and hugging it out to fix, and it's great.

Null continues to be my favorite character, although as I said, Shane's grown on me quite a bit. Characters are another area where I think you may get a little silly at times, with the very pronounced speech quirks and all, but all the important players are solid in terms of their complexity. I also continue to like the guildmaster, even though I strongly disagree with some of its leadership decisions (I don't care what it says, punishing somebody's partner for them being a ****up is bullshiiiiiit).

I haven't been talking about the prose much since this is a more bird's-eye-view kind of review. It's generally pretty solid, but you do end up with some awkward turns of phrase, and that dialogue tag thing I mentioned way back at the beginning of the review, while it's gotten less prominent, still isn't gone. There are also some words and phrases that you consistently misues. "Shirk" is a big one: you don't "shirk" back or away from something, you "shrink" away from them. Shirking is blowing something off.

Generic congratulatory statement for keeping up with the updates and making it this far into the story! I'll try not to fall so horribly far behind again.


Gone. Not coming back.
Ah! Chapter 25 is certainly an interesting one with regard to what it says about Gallian, isn't it? I think I was semi-expecting some kind of twist like that, half because it felt like the kind of thing that would happen and half because this seems like the sort of story where the first impression you get of every character isn't who they really are. It definitely adds to the sense that the main plot is starting to gather itself on the horizon; you get the sense that our heroes are living in interesting times. With all that that entails.

I do like the extended treatment of Shane's convalescence; it helps to solidify the edge you've slowly been adding to the world as the story continues. I can see why you wanted more on Shane in the infirmary in the previous chapters now – although if I'm honest, I think this section would stand alone perfectly well without those; they were kind of comedy asides, whereas this, while leavened with jokes, is definitely serious. Tonally, they feel quite separate, and this doesn't necessarily need all of the groundwork you laid previously.

Speaking of tone – I feel like Tessa's interaction with Shane was treated a bit too quickly and glibly for it to have the weight it needed. I like that Tessa kept it brief – that feels real – but, possibly because we see very little of Shane's thoughts here, and because he moves on so quickly to bantering with Comfey instead of brooding on it at all, it doesn't have as much impact as it might otherwise do. I think the fact that the ensuing debate with himself is framed in comic terms also takes away from it – which is not to say that I think you should change that, necessarily, but like, Shane seems to be in fine snarky form and not like someone who's just been told something really serious that he didn't quite believe would actually happen.

The Christmas special is interesting, too. Feels familiar too, in a lot of ways; I've been in that particular hospital room, with a version of Izzy and her parents, and you certainly nailed the atmosphere: that relief, that quiet reminder at the end that by the way, everything is still there even if you get to leave for a while. And then of course there's the dubious behaviour Prisma has been engaging in, creating a copy of her old family in her new world. I like that you present it without commentary; it's much more effective that way. It'll be interesting to find out what happened in between her arrival in the pokémon world and the events of the first special episode; she seemed much older and more competent back in the human world than in her first appearance as one of Braviary's opponents, and I wonder if even memory loss would do that to someone – and even if it did, I wonder what it was that brought her memories back, and made her back into the person she used to be by the time of the story's present.

The developments with Sticky in the next chapter put me on edge in that way that miscommunication plots do (that okay but if you guys would just talk to each other feeling), but it's to your credit that it wasn't too unbearable; the miscommunication arises as a result of the characters involved, rather than being imposed on them by the plot, and that makes it much more palatable.

Which is something that continues into the next chapter, in fact; just after I thought that, Tessa ended up pretty much explicitly saying it herself, if in reference to something else. The options are there, always. And Shane keeps refusing to take them. I'm not entirely sure, at this point, how many chances he can reject and how much further he can descend before he starts to lose what sympathy the reader still has for him – but, having said that I'm also not sure that this isn't what you had planned. It might even be what Metagross had planned; the picture we have of him is emerging more clearly now, and he's definitely a much sketchier presence than he initially seemed. Maybe the sort of person who substitutes his immense cleverness for kindness, even, though he does a good job of concealing it. At any rate, watching Shane slowly burn his life down is compelling in a way. I don't know how far you plan to take it, but at this point I think the story will most certainly work either way. I very much look forward to seeing what path exactly you take this down from here on out.

Finally, a few little bits and pieces:

"But do you think that's Vulipx's fault?"

You've got 'Vulipx' for 'Vulpix' here.

The two of them ran down the staircase, where a pair of women about twice their heights stood by the door.

This note about relative heights seems a weird way of letting us know that these are small children – something that I think your writing conveyed perfectly well without this aside, in fact.

"and if you liked those, just wait'll Christmas."

I've never come across 'wait until' being contracted to 'wait'll' before – it might be clearer and more natural to write it as 'wait till', which is pronounced exactly the same way but which would be easier to read.

You've never done an escort mission. They always suck."

Oh come on, Shane, they're sometimes okay. Resident Evil 4[/quote] did a superb job with escorting Ashley Graham. That … that's actually the only good escort mission I can think of. Okay, maybe he kind of has a point.

I'm stuck doing this ridiculously-difficult mission

That doesn't need to be hyphenated.

"Pity, I missed," Sticky stoically declared.

Something you do fairly often is put the adverb before the verb like this – and that's not incorrect, but it reads more awkwardly than putting it afterwards. I think it helps the flow to go from the subject to the verb and then to the modifier. Or maybe I'm making that up because I'm trying to rationalise what is in fact just an instinctive feeling, but like I do think it would flow better the other way around.