1. We have moved to a new forum system. All your posts and data should have transferred over. Welcome, to the new Serebii Forums. Details here
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
    Dismiss Notice
  3. If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders
    Dismiss Notice

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light

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

  1. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    [copied from elsewhere]

    Well, after another bit of delay, it’s time to begin with the next episode. Looks like we’re opening with the Virus again.

    I’m starting to notice a trend that these two are about as on-the-nose as you can get for villainous intentions. First their run-in with Tessa, now this? You guys are mighty convenient for the reader! …Okay I’ll stop being snarky now, I’m just glad we’re getting more plot.


    The phone exchange with Nicky and Shane, hmm… another one of those random things that is totally not plot relevant at all, nope. Not at all. Either way, it looks like Shane is even thicker in the past than he is now, but that’s to be expected. Guess we’ll see where that translates down the line!

    Oh wow, it’s been so long that I legitimately forgot Lycanroc was a thing for all this. Huh. Okay. I’m reminded now.

    NooooOOOOOOO

    To be fair, she has a point. There are already bits of the canon falling apart, Shane. You fell into a slightly nudged universe than the one you’ve been peering into all this time! …Though he probably hasn’t caught on to that.

    I’m kind of conflicted about the narrative here. On one hand, Shane has this weird gut feeling of confidence, and a lot of circumstantial evidence points to Lycanroc. It’s a weird spot in between Tessa being irrationally not suspicious of him, and Shane being irrationally paranoid about him. Neither side seemed to really be evened out about it. But I guess I’ll see where this goes for now and how this all ties together shortly.


    Onto the next chapter!

    Eh, yeah. Pretty much. By the way, since I’m still thinking about some of the commentary you’ve been leaving on my fic, you seem particularly antsy about big players of the cosmos using little guys as pawns and playthings. So just with that sort of meta-knowledge, I’m gonna keep an eye on Sol just in case.

    Sorry, bud. You got the Explorers partner.

    Good work, Shane. You have already forgotten about Tessa. I have… zero hope in you.

    What, you didn’t get that impression the last time you fought a gimmicky boss like the DeDeThree Parasect?


    Anyway, this chapter had some nice progress and Shane being an idiot as usual, so I don’t have a lot of commentary overall beyond that. There are a few cartoonish remarks here and there like “that’s my line” and various things like that, and I like its charm, heh, even if it does break the mood for what I imagine was supposed to be… a somewhat serious encounter? Honestly, I can’t make out Espeon and Umbreon just yet. They’re silly and dastardly, yet are arguably the most threatening thing in the fic so far, and the contrast is strange. They’re powerful and yet grossly incompetent—so far, all of their failures have been the classic Saturday Morning Villain slip-up of their own design causing them to fail. It’s… odd.


    Next up, we have chapter 22.

    But didn’t he just say a little while ago that Lycanroc was right, or something along those lines? Aah, he’s just being quick and hasty with his thinking. He is dying, after all. Frankly I’m surprised at how durable these folks are for what they’re up against. Guess I’m not the only one with anime-levels of injury survival~ That being said, they’re Pokémon. Kinda have to be durable.

    Minor typo.


    ___


    So, overall, this fight followed by the aftermath was an tense one. The fight itself was, well, a fight, and I suppose the biggest thing we learned from it was that the crystals seem to be a weak point of some kind. The tense exchange afterward was just a lot of arguing, and I don’t really know why, but it definitely seems like one giant conflict ball between Shane and the rest of the guild. Like, he already got the whole “balance of the moon and sun” bit correct, and that was right after they got a call from Lively Town to confirm what he said.


    I honestly thought they’d believe Shane a bit more after that, at least in terms of what he’s trying to say, and maybe try to deescalate things with Lycanroc? But none of that really happened. It just kept escalating and they didn’t really think to just sit down and sort things through. I’d’ve expected at least an attempt of that nature from Metagross or folks from Team Captivate. But, well, conflict is conflict. Guess we’ll see where it goes after that.


    __


    Aw, that bonus was cute. I liked it, and we’re starting to see a bit of contrast between Lunala of the past and the present… though it seems fairly obvious that Lunala is not quite the same one, at least, not in the exact sense. Oh, why am I being coy, it’s Necrozma, but that’s just because of all the spoilers from MMM and all that, and also, well, what happened in Ultra Sun.


    Anyway, onto the main chapters again! 23.

    My mind instantly goes to Guardians and spirits. And considering what meta-knowledge I have of your fic due to interactions elsewhere… interesting, my little Hohenheim…


    __


    Aaand Lucanroc’s a bad guy… ish. He’s at the very least morally dark gray in the cast of non-cosmic-related villains we’ve been looking with so far, until shown otherwise. I’m a little disappointed that Tessa had to find out in the most cliché way possible—overhearing a conversation—but frankly I’m just glad Shane’s finally getting some recognition, even if it’s a “broken clock right twice a day” moment.

    This is Z-Fling.

    Beautiful. Also, I’m kinda having a hard time pegging Lycanroc here. So he’s just chaotic-neutral in this case, another random mook of sorts? I feel like at this point these mooks are actually important down the line, just from a narrative sense. Sure, it might be a little contrived, but at the same time, it’s so much screen time at this point! …Unless, of course, these are just recurring rivals. I wish I had a recurring enemy… Such a fun trope.

    Okay but to an extent don’t you already do that for Lycanroc? I mean, not judging, mind, but you’re aware of their tendency to hold grudges, and other specific instincts. Bah, I guess that’s more a matter of how those things are implemented. Fantastic racism and all that, and how perhaps sometimes it’s actually correct?


    Well, either way, looks like the outlaws got their usual battering. I guess now we’ll just have to see where it goes in the final chapter of this episode. Seems a little odd since it feels like things have resolved themselves, so I’m expecting an epilogue-esque chapter with a tie-in to the next, perhaps.


    Chapter 24!


    An interesting dream sequence, as usual. I’m still not 100% sure about Prisma just yet, for a number of reasons. First of all, you’ve been incredibly paranoid about cosmic advisors from across the realm of dreams and the like when you’re reading my fic, so I’m starting to wonder if that’s some projection going on. Secondly, her name is literally Prisma. I’m kinda surprised Tessa isn’t putting that together at least as an acknowledgement / “wow that’s a weird coincidence” sort of way. And lastly, well, in the chapter prior, it’s pretty clear she was having a mental breakdown of some kind, one way or the other.

    Ah yes, and there we go. Not much for spoiler fanart at this point, since I’m basically caught up as far as that piece is concerned. And indeed, in Lunala is taken control of, then Prisma is definitely either brainwashed, mistaken, or who knows what, based on Tessa’s dreams, unless they’re just tricks of the mind, or Zero. Also, Zero. If my fic is an anime, this is a Kriby game.

    Real talk, though, the overarching plot is finally getting interesting and it doesn’t feel like a bunch of episodes, so I’m glad for that. We’ve got a soul eater (interesting interpretation of “light” I suppose) and Zero, whom we know nothing about. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s literally some weird humanoid thing with an eye for a belly and a sword. I wouldn’t put it past you. But I guess we’ll see when that happens!
     
  2. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    I am still swamped with work and can't properly reply to reviews. My apologies! ;~;

    XxX
    Is anybody out there?

    Can anyone hear me?

    Ah, yes.

    It seems… a lost spirit has stumbled upon my prison.

    How very interesting.

    Do not be alarmed, stranger. In this state, I can do no harm.

    I simply wish to relay a tale.

    A tale of creation. A tale of destruction.

    Two concepts locked in an eternal struggle. Seeking balance, like the mind… the body… and the spirit.

    Why would I tell such a tale?

    Simple.

    Very, very simple.

    I have no spirit to speak of. I do not feel.

    Time, space, life… they are nothing more than concepts to me. I am ingrained into existence itself.

    I am both free and trapped. Fragments of my essence spread through every reality. I do not care.

    I am chaos. I am uncertainty. I am the beginning, the middle, and the end.

    Those who fear me seek my continued imprisonment for all eternity. That is fine. It means nothing to me. I shall persist.

    Whether I stay inside this prison or stride free is inconsequential. Eternity is a fallacy. All roads lead back to me, no matter what happens.

    Each taste of freedom has spread my energy further. To distant worlds in distant realities.

    They have shaped my fragments. Molded them into their own entities.

    As a result, I have taken many faces. Many names. I have been shown kindness… cruelty. I have witnessed good, evil, and everything in between.

    Yet at my core, I am unchanged.

    I have strayed too far off-subject. I'm supposed to pass along a tale.

    This is the story of a fragile world built with my power at its core. A world that began with an end. An end not brought by my will, but by the weight of a thousand arms.

    XxX

    Bonus #16: Heart & Soul

    XxX​

    Sometimes, it's nice to kick back and enjoy the simple things. I'm talking soft grass tickling your tail… a warm sunbeam to curl up under… a soft breeze to make sure you don't get too uncomfortable. That kind of stuff.

    I've been able to lounge around in the sun a lot, lately. I'm quite thankful for it. Last winter was dreadfully cold and while I could have simply blasted all the snow away and used a psychic bubble to shield myself from the winds, I doubt I would've really been able to relax outside.

    Which is why I'm loving all this nap time. No threatening situations to deal with. No bizarre requests to help the Professor on one of her projects. And, best of all, no noisy visits from Mew. I mean, I love her like she's my mother — and I guess she is, in some regards — but I can only take so much of her boundless energy and transformation antics. At least her visits bring the Professor joy. Sometimes I fear she's too much of a workaholic, but she shrugs me off. "I love inventing!" she always says. "And when you get to spend each day doing what you love… well… that, my friend, is living."

    I always return the smile she gives me what she says that… but it's gotten harder and harder as of late. The Professor's health is failing. That much is certain. She designed me to keep humanity safe. While humans can outlive many Pokémon, their lifespans are still fleeting. The older they get, the more they wither. They contract illnesses that weaken them faster than any average Pokémon. And the Professor… she has something like that. Of course, we had this talk in the early weeks after my creation. It's why she was so adamant that I bond with Mew. That way, I'll always have a friend by my side, no matter what.

    The thoughts stir me from my nap. My left side's heating up fast, so I roll onto my right, stretching out my right arm. Something tugs at my psychic sense and my eyes shoot open. Someone's running up the stone steps. I sit up, looking past the blooming trees toward the hill several yards ahead of me.

    Amber appears at the top of the steps, red hair and pink dress fluttering behind her as she runs toward me. I get to my feet, brushing pollen from the back of my neck. "There you are, sleepyhead," Amber says. "I've been running around the whole complex trying to find you."

    I wasn't sleeping, I say, crossing my arms. I was… uh… out here to water the flowers! I turn around, conjure a ball of water in my hands, and toss it toward a patch of tulips. The ball explodes, dousing them.

    "If that's the case, why's there dirt and grass on your tail, huh?" Amber says, smirking.

    What are you talking about? I scoff, bringing my tail around. My tail's perfectly–

    She's right. I have dirt on my tail. Dirt. On my tail.

    … how unbecoming.

    I draw on my psychic powers and fling the dirt away. There… problem solved, I say, raising my tail up and swishing it back and forth. Now then, I assume you didn't just come here to get on my case about my hygiene, correct?

    Amber nods. "Mother wants to see you in her private study," she says. "Told me it's really important."

    I frown. After days of radio silence, the Professor has something important to tell me? Of course, I could've read her mind if I wanted to, but that would be an egregious breach of trust. After all, the Professor gave me life and purpose… as well as a loving home when others out there were skeptical of my allegiance. It would be foolish to return such gestures with deceitful practices.

    All right, I say. Will you be taking me or should I go there on my own?

    "Mother wants to see us both… so I thought we'd walk there together," Amber says, putting her hands behind her back and swaying from side to side.

    I sigh. I prefer floating to walking. My feet are… not built for that. I don't think I'll ever understand how humans can walk so easily on the balls of their feet. One of the great mysteries of life, I suppose.

    Very well. We'll go together, I say, walking to Amber's side. We head through the field, passing trees and bushes, until we reach the edge of the hill. In the distance lies the Professor's laboratory: a square building made of a sturdy metal and painted brown to match the ground. It's only about three feet taller than me.

    The Professor told me it was once a bunker that humans used to take shelter in during times of conflict. But since humans had stopped warring, there was no use for the building. So, the Professor bought it and refurbished it into her private lab. Wild Pokémon were always welcome at the lab, though few stopped by. It was also far from the nearest human settlement… though with my powers, I could easily transport Amber or her sister there if we needed anything.

    Normally, I didn't give the lab a passing thought. I go through the main entrance so many times, it's stopped registering in my mind. Something's different today, though. I'm sure it's what Amber said to me.

    Important… important… the Professor needs me for something important.

    Now, Amber's definition of important has included things like helping the Professor find a missing pencil. So, it's certainly possible that she only needs me for something minor. Yet, she's been holed up in her private study for a while.

    Could it be… that the Professor is slipping away?

    I shake my head. No, that's not it. She still has time. She's not going to die yet. And she certainly wouldn't do it without giving us the time to say our proper goodbyes.

    We reach the main door and I force those thoughts from my mind. The tiny security camera swivels on its podium to meet our gazes. Amber waves at it.

    Welcome home, an electronic voice says as the door slides open. We proceed inside to a small entry room. Amber walks to my left, unlaces her boots, and places them on a mat next to several other pieces of human footwear. I walk to the other end of the room, where a metal door sits. I slide it open, revealing stone stairs spiraling down into a black abyss.

    "Don't forget the lights," Amber says, flicking on the switch and then running down the stairs. I give up my clumsy walking efforts and float after her. I make it to the third stair and freeze.

    Mew's here.

    She's not even trying to hide her aura. I sense her in the Professor's study. Usually, she shows up when she pleases. Is this just a coincidence? No, it can't be. Somehow, the Professor summoned Mew here. My earlier worries come crawling back. This is it. This will be the Professor's final hours amongst the living. I'm not prepared for this. I haven't seen death. Read about it, sure, but never witnessed it with my own eyes. What am I suppose to make of this? How can I—

    "Hey, what's the hold up?" Amber shouts. "You coming or not?"

    The poor girl. She seems just as happy as ever. If my guess is right — and I don't see any reason to suspect otherwise — then she's going to be devastated. Or has she already known this would happen? No, it still doesn't make sense. The book I read… it said humans grieve in five stages. None of them involve cheerfulness.

    I reach the bottom of the stairs and turn right. The underground portion of the bunker is lined with rough, gray walls. Concrete is what the Professor calls it. Apparently, the walls are reinforced with some sort of alloy, but I'm supposed to take the Professor's word. I could certainly blow the wall apart and see for myself, but that wouldn't accomplish anything.

    Shaking my head, I float down the hall. This isn't like me. My thoughts are jumping all over the place. Every minute detail is drawing my attention, like the tic-tac-toe games painted onto the wall by the door to the Professor's study. Amber and I played those the week I was created. That was when I learned that humans don't like it when you draw on their walls.

    The metal door to the Professor's study is open. Green light spills out of the room, likely from one of the Professor's computers. I head inside and, sure enough, find Mew floating in front of the largest computer monitor. She's chasing her tail around in circles, seemingly oblivious to the world around her. Amber is waving me over to a computer terminal that's as tall as I am. Reina is with her, red hair tied back neatly behind her head and hands shoved into the pockets of her jeans.

    "Oh, good, you're here. Certainly know how to keep a lady waiting, huh?"

    The black chair in front of me swivels around. My levitation falters and I barely manage to catch myself and avoid falling on my face.

    It's worse than I thought. The Professor is sitting in her chair, skin clammy and wrinkled. Her lab coat doesn't even fit her anymore. Her arms and legs are like those thin spaghetti noodles that are such fun to eat because I can dangle them over my head like bits of string. Even her red hair, plastered messily over her face, looks like it could fall right off her scalp.

    Professor, I say. What's going on here? You look dreadful.

    "Nice to see you, too," the Professor replies. Her voice is so hoarse I can barely hear the sarcasm. She descends into a coughing fit. Reina walks to the Professor's side and gives her some sort of mask.

    "Breath, Mom," Reina says. "Come on… you can't overdo it."

    I look at Amber. She's sitting on the floor, back against the computer console. Mew's in her lap. Amber's stroking Mew like that stuffed Teddiursa doll she carries around at night.

    "I'm fine, Reina," the Professor says, taking a few deep breaths. She shakily hands the mask back to Reina. It has a tube running to the corner of the room. There's a metal canister there, with an O2 on it.

    With all do respect, Professor, nothing about this scene spells "fine," I say. Did you call all of us here? Even Mew?

    Mew finally looks up, as if she just now realizes we're in the same space. She offers a friendly wave. I gesture toward the Professor and roll my eyes. Sometimes, I feel like I'm the one who came first, not her.

    "I did," the Professor replies. "I'm sure you've already figured it out by now."

    You're dying, I say. You've brought us here so we can say our goodbyes. I fidget with my fingers. But I don't want to say goodbye to you yet, Professor. There's still so much I have to learn from you!

    The Professor smiles and chuckles weakly. "Here I thought I'd gone and made you worry so much you'd read my mind," she says. "Guess I was wrong."

    Of course you're wrong, I say, frowning. You made me promise only to read minds when it was absolutely necessary. I don't wish to violate your trust.

    "I'm glad to hear it," the Professor says. She takes a deep breath. "The truth is that… yes, my condition has gotten much worse these past few weeks. I fear that I don't have much time left."

    My stomach knots up. So, this is really it. My last chance to speak with the Professor. What can I say? What am I supposed to be feeling right now? And why don't Amber and Reina seem upset?

    "That's why I've been in the lab. See, you're right on the money," she says. "I'm not ready to say goodbye to anyone. And there is still so much to learn. About humans… about Pokémon… about the mysteries of the world. I want to solve them all and help as many people as I can."

    Isn't that why you made me? To help people? I say.

    "Yes, you're absolutely right," the Professor says. "And I would like to stick around and see how you continue to grow alongside this world." She takes a deep breath. "That's why I've been hard at work this past week. It's taken a lot out of me, but I think I have a way to keep myself alive despite a body that's too tired to go on."

    I drop to the ground and nearly fall on my tail when I stumble back in surprise. The Professor… plans to cheat death? Can a human even achieve something like that? I mean… she did create me, so I suppose anything's possible. But surely this idea flies in the face of an unwritten rule, no? I look to Mew, expecting to see some sign of disagreement.

    She's tickling Amber's chin with the tip of her tail.

    Now my brow furrows. Neither Amber nor Reina are surprised by the revelation. That can only mean one thing…

    You all know about this already? I say, directing most of my ire toward Mew. She looks back at me blankly. Don't give me that look, I growl, curling my fingers up into fists. You brought all life onto this world, didn't you? And you're just going along with this happily?

    "I mean… I don't see why not," Mew says, her smile returning. "I gave the Professor what she needed to make you, didn't I?"

    There it is again. That familiar weight in my chest. The constant question lingering in the back of my mind. Why am I here? Why was I created? Helping people is such a vague answer. If I was molded in Mew's image, but she has powers I can't even comprehend, then what purpose do I really serve?

    The Professor sighs and slumps back in her chair. "I was afraid you might react like this," she says.

    What's that supposed to mean, huh?

    "You wield your psychic powers phenomenally," the Professor continues. "But that does give you a tendency to overthink things."

    How am I overthinking this? Even if my life circumstances are far different than yours, your big announcement isn't something I can take lightly.

    I flinch. In my heart of hearts, I really am delighted about this. I never have to lose the Professor! We can stay together… solving the riddles of the universe! What's not to love about that? Maybe she's right. I could be overthinking this…

    "It's simple, really," Mew says. I shudder. Even now, hearing her speak in human tongue unsettles me. Perhaps because it's a skill I can never replicate? "The Professor's done a lot of good for the world." Mew wriggles free of Amber's grasp and floats into the air. "The whole reason I agreed to her idea to make you was because I was getting tired being the world's sole protector. And, well, you've exceeded my expectations and then some."

    Blood rushes to my cheeks. With all her jokes about my stern expressions and apparent lack of a sense of humor — which I take offense to, as I can be plenty funny when the situation calls for it — I let myself believe Mew didn't care much for me.

    "So, if the Professor really does have a way to stick around and keep the proverbial weight off my shoulders, then I'm willing to pitch in and help," Mew says. She then smirks and adds, "Besides… when you make the rules, you get to decide when to bend them."

    It strikes me that this is really not the kind of conversation we should be having in front of two children. And yet, neither seem bothered. A lightbulb goes off in my head. The supply run I did last week to that human city whose name I can never remember. The Professor must've explained everything to them while I was gone.

    Okay, I say. I still have questions, but I suppose you can answer them in time. So, what's your idea, Professor?

    She spins around in her chair and presses a button. The wall at the other end of the room disappears into the floor. A new wall emerges from the darkness, containing large blue machines with flashing lights I don't quite understand. They're unimportant. The real surprise lies in the center of the platform.

    It's some sort of humanoid machine!

    The upper body looks much like one of those Poké Ball devices, only it's silver with gold trimmings. Its lower body even looks like a giant Poké Ball right down to the colors. I float up to the machine and run my fingers across one of its golden arms. The metal is cool to the touch. I look at its mechanical eyes and stiff red ears.

    I'm afraid I don't understand, I say, turning to the Professor. How will this help you, exactly?

    "After some legwork, I've created a robot that can house my consciousness," the Professor says. "Go ahead, turn the dial on its chest."

    I grab the golden circle and twist. To my surprise, it makes the golden band open like a set of double doors. I touch the white orb sitting inside it, only to yank my hand away. My fingers tingle and I shake my hand out, trying to get rid of the feeling.

    What is this? I ask, studying the orb intently.

    "That, my friend, is the Soul-Heart," the Professor. "It's the vessel that you and Mew will transfer my spirit into."

    XxX​

    Even with Mew bearing the brunt of the work load, the process of putting the Professor's being into her device leaves me exhausted. In the week that follows, even the most basic tasks like levitation and telekinesis prove difficult. I consult Mew about this, but she doesn't give me a solid answer. She says she was the only Pokémon who had ever successfully worked with spirits in the past.

    I don't have the stomach to ask what she means by "successfully." The glint in her eyes tells me everything I need to know.

    Perhaps the fatigue is a good thing. In my weary state, I find adjusting to the presence of the Professor's new, mechanical body to be pretty easy. Maybe she was right… maybe I was worried for nothing.

    After spending the week bonding with her daughters — whatever that means — the Professor finally seems ready to test out her new body and resume her work. So, she summons me down to her study. To my surprise, the back wall isn't retracted when I arrive. In fact, all of the walls remain behind their hidden panels. The room is an empty metal box with a cold stone floor.

    What are we going to do? I ask.

    A test-pilot, in a manner of speaking, the Professor replies, her new voice making my ears twitch. I want to try out my body's self-defense mechanisms.

    You put weapons into your body? I gasp.

    Yes and no, the Professor replies. Actually, I think it'd just be easier if I showed you. She raises her right arm. The tip opens like a blooming flower.

    I thrust my hands forward. A pink shield swallows up the blue fireball the Professor launches. I lower the Light Screen, eyes wide. Professor… was than an Aura Sphere? I ask.

    Yup! Not a very strong one, it would seem, the Professor says. Let's try this instead!

    Wait… I have questions! I say. The only response I get is a metal beam shooting out of the Professor's left arm. Another Light Screen snuffs that attack out. Okay, that was Flash Cannon. Now I'm really concerned. These aren't weapons… they're Pokémon moves!

    The Professor nods. I knew I couldn't fool you, she says, chuckling. You can thank Mew for that. During the whole consciousness-transfer process, she put some of her energy into the Soul-Heart. I can tap into it and call on attacks just like a Pokémon.

    Another Flash Cannon rushes toward me. I snap my eyes shut and concentrate. The room dissolves around me for but a second. Then, I'm behind the Professor, psychic orbs at the ready. I throw them forward and my heart stops.

    They hit the Professor. Dead on.

    She tumbles to a stop by the door. I teleport over to her. Damn it… I didn't think I had put that much power into them! Her attacks weren't terribly weak. I thought she'd be able to dodge… or at least withstand the blows. Oh, real nice going, you idiot. You just killed your creat—

    I'm alright, the Professor says, waving me off. She rolls onto her back and picks herself up, dusting her lower body off. Looks like I can resist psychic attacks pretty well, though I might need to make some adjustments to see if I can minimize the impact they have. She looks up at me. Sorry to worry you like that.

    No, it's my fault. You said this was just a test, but instincts kicked in and I went on the attack… like you were an adversary, I say, looking down guiltily. I should know better than that.

    You're fine, the Professor says. It's kind of tough for me to tell if she means it. Her affect lacks its usual vigor in that body and she can no longer emote with her face. All she does is stare blankly. My chest tightens as memories of all the warm smiles the Professor had given me flood through my mind.

    My tail tenses. I can't think like this. The Professor is still here. Even if she's different on the outside, it's what's inside that matters. That's what she always told me when I felt down… and that's what I have to believe.

    Might I ask a question? I say, tail curling up around my waist. Why did you give yourself attacks? Did you not create me to help maintain peace throughout the world? Do you…

    My voice trails off. This is just a tiny thought lurking in the back of mind, but it's bothering me. It's a proverbial itch I can't scratch. So, why can't I tell her about it? This is important, but I'm struggling to find the words to get my point across.

    If you're wondering whether I've lost faith in you, then the answer's no, the Professor says. And if you believe I think the peace you helped achieve is only fleeting, my answer is also no.

    Then why let yourself use attacks? I ask.

    Though major conflicts have died off, there will always be danger in the world, the Professor says. Look at me. In this new body… I stand out. I'm not something you see every day. I asked Mew to give me attacks so that, if I ever found myself in trouble, I could fight back.

    I can protect you, I say, clenching my fists.

    I know you can. But I don't want you stuck being my bodyguard, the Professor says. You're so much more than that. No matter what you may think, I think you can be the world's strongest Pokémon. I don't want to limit your growth by shackling you to me… if that makes sense.

    I suppose. Are you saying that you eventually plan to leave the lab looking like this? I ask, having already convinced myself she'd do no such thing. Human opinions are unpredictable. They celebrate the Professor's accomplishments, but my fear is one look at what she's done to herself and they will turn on her, even if she reveals that she had Mew's blessing to do this.

    Yes, she says. I'm sure that's making you nervous, but let's face it… I would go stir crazy staying here.

    She does have a point. My apologies. I didn't mean to press you so sorely on the issue.

    No, no, it's quite all right, the Professor says. After all, healthy skepticism is the root of scientific progress.

    I feel inclined to point out that there isn't much that's scientific about this conversation, but choose to hold my tongue. At this point, asking questions will only lead to a headache that won't go away.

    Instead, I continue testing the Professor's abilities. Her mechanical body does best with projectile-based attacks. As we continue working, I notice her Aura Spheres and Flash Cannons growing stronger. She even manages to catch me off guard with this strange attack I've never seen. It's a white beam surrounded by flower petals. It nearly breaks through my Light Screen barrier, but I manage to stave it off.

    What technique was that? I wonder, dropping down to the floor and wiping sweat from my brow.

    I'm not entirely sure, the Professor replies, rubbing the back of her head. It kind of looked like I was shooting flower petals at you, so how about we call it Petal Blast?

    I think that's a bit too similar to Petal Dance and Petal Blizzard, I say, tapping my chin. What about Fleur Cannon? It's a lot like Flash Cannon, but still draws attention to the flowers.

    I like it! the Professor says. And here I thought you weren't a fan of wordplay.

    I think I've spent too much time around you, I say, chuckling. My stomach then rumbles. I didn't think our impromptu training session had taken much out of me. Perhaps we worked longer than I thought?

    Sounds like you need something to eat, the Professor says. And I should really find the girls. I know they went outside before we got started, so I have no idea—

    The room shakes. The Professor topples onto her side and I'm there in an instant to help her back up. What just happened? I ask. Was that an earthquake?

    The Professor steps on a floor panel. Her main computer terminal emerges in the center of the room. She walks up to it and taps a screen with her arm. That's odd. The computers aren't reading any shifting tectonic plates. Maybe a wild Pokémon is upset?

    Another tremor grips the room. Sparks jump around the computer screen. I'm barely able to yank the Professor back with my psychic grip before the screen explodes.

    Something's wrong, I say, narrowing my eyes.

    The girls, the Professor says, making for the door. They're outside! We've got to get them… now!

    I fly past the Professor just as another quake grips the room. This doesn't make any sense. The lab is in a human bunker. It shouldn't be shaking like this!

    Hang on! Wait for me! We don't know what we're dealing with, the Professor shouts. Wincing, I turn back around and levitate her toward me. I resume flying up the stairs, the Professor hovering behind me.

    The moment I reach the entry hall, a white flash blinds me. A thunderous explosion sounds from nearby. The blast is too loud. I feel popping inside my skull. With a cry of pain, I drop to the ground, taking the Professor with me.

    Ringing.

    All I hear is ringing.

    I throw my hands up against my ears. Stop! Stop! Make the ringing stop!

    Warm liquid trickles onto my fingers. I'm… hurt? But nothing hit me.

    No… it's my ears. Fluid's filling my ears! But the ringing… argh! It's still there! Even as my vision comes into focus, the ringing won't stop.

    The Professor is standing next to me, gesturing frantically toward the doorway. I can't tell if she's speaking. Her metal mouth won't move. I force myself to sit up… and my stomach churns.

    The door's been blown off its hinges. Flames have swallowed up the lab's entrance! Why? How? The lab had radars. They could pick up anything suspicious and sound the alarms. This can't be happening!

    The Professor tries to part the flames with a Flash Cannon. But the fire lurches violently in her direction. She stumbles back and falls to the floor. I get to my feet, but the whole room spins. This damn ringing! That explosion… we weren't in the blast zone, but the shockwave must've disrupted my psychic powers.

    I stagger to my right, then sway to my left. C'mon, get a grip! Amber and Reina need me! I can get past this!

    Gripping my head with one hand, I fire a psychic blast into the flames, blowing them apart like they were nothing but candles on a human birthday cake. But just that one attack sent a shock through my head. Colors flickered in my vision. I dropped to one knee, gripping my head in agony.

    No… push on! I can do this! I have to do this!

    I float out through the doorway and my heart jumps into my throat.

    It isn't just the doorway on fire. Everything is burning. The grass… the forests… the mountains off to the west. All consumed by flames! Smoke chokes my vision. My eyes water. I cup a paw over my mouth.

    Where are Amber and Reina? I want to scream… to project my telepathy as far as I can… but the crushing pain in my head is too much. The smoke is too thick. I can't stay out here for much longer. What am I supposed to do? How did this even happen?

    Another bright flash nearly blinds me, but I'm able to get my arm up to shield my eyes. I dare to look up at the source of the flash and my arm goes limp.

    Something's floating high up in the sky. And it's glowing with a golden, circular aura. I can't fully make out what it is, but I see shadows radiating out from it. They're… arms?

    I squint my eyes, trying to count how many I can see. Ten… fifty… one hundred… five hundred…

    What is going on here?! This can't be a Pokémon, can it?

    A primal roar thunders from the heavens. Hundreds of invisible needles stab at my skull. I drop to my knees, throwing my hands over my ears and echoing the creature's agonized cry.

    This has to be a dream. If I could just wake up… I have to wake up. Amber… Reina… Professor…

    I dare to look up again… and see a shockwave explode out of the golden creature. My jaw drops.

    I see meteors.

    Hundreds of thousands of meteors.

    All of them heading for the surface.

    And some heading right for me!

    I scramble to my feet, but my stomach can't take the vertigo. Doubling over once more, I spit up a mouthful of frothy pink liquid onto the ground. I'm shaking. I look back over my shoulder. The meteors are getting closer!

    This isn't a dream. I'm staring death in the face! I have to get inside… have to save the Professor…

    What the— dear god… what's going on?

    With a howl, I lunge through the doorway. More bile builds up in my throat as I grab the Professor in my psychic group. Before she can protest, I fly into the stairs and slam the door shut.

    I hear another explosion, and then everything goes black.

    XxX​

    My eyes open to darkness. And pain. Unimaginable pain. I try to tap into my psychic powers, but my mind screams back in protest.

    It wasn't a dream. The meteors… the explosions… and the multi-armed monster that made them… it was all real.

    I couldn't get the Professor down into the bunker fast enough. That last explosion swept us up. I failed her.

    No, I can't think like that. If I'm still alive, she might be, too. I just need to figure out my situation.

    Something heavy's crushing me. That much is certain. It's pressing on my gut and my groin. I try to take a deep breath, but something stabs at my left and I give up. I must've broken a rib or two. Keeping my breathing short and sharp, I try to get a better sense of my condition. I can't feel my tail whatsoever. Please just let it be broken, I tell myself. The alternative makes me sick to my stomach.

    Speaking of which, there's an awful, pungent odor tickling my nostrils. After a couple of whiffs, I realize it's vomit. I must've thrown up right when the explosion hit. How I didn't choke on the stuff and suffocate to death is beyond me. Though, given the state I'm in, now, perhaps that option would've been better. Everything hurts so much. I just want it to stop.

    Wait a second… I know Recover! If I can just fight through the pain for a few seconds, I can heal off some of my injuries. I squeeze my eyes shut and grit my teeth, concentrating. My skull burns and my head pounds, but I manage to tap into my powers. A cooling relief floods my body. Feeling returns in my tail. I shudder as broken ribs snap back into place. Eventually, a gasp escapes my lips. Despite being pinned down, I'm able to turn my right and cough up bitter blood.

    I lay under the rubble for another minute. After that, I manage to wriggle my right arm free. I press my hand against the concrete slab pinning me to the ground and funnel psychic energy into my fingers. The rubble shoots upward, blasting aside other pieces of debris. With a strained grunt, I fly up through the hole I created before more rubble fills it up.

    I can only stagger forward a couple of steps before dropping to my hands and knees, panting heavily. It's then that I see the gashes still peppering my figure. Vomit and bloodstains cover my skin, stinging to the touch. I stumble to my feet, but the sights awaiting me send me falling back onto my tail in disbelief.

    … it's gone. It's all gone.

    The burning forest… the mountains in the distance… gone!

    Embers smolder a few feet in front of me, where the ground abruptly gives way. I fire a small psychic ring from my shaking hand, parting the smoke… only to find the ground suddenly drops off. There are jagged fragments of land jutting in random directions. I see swathes of orange beneath them.

    I stagger forward, unable to fully process what I'm witnessing. But a wall of heat drives me back, arm covering my head in a pathetic attempt at a shield. I shoot more psychic energy forward, stirring a fresh round of nausea. Again, I step forward, this time more cautiously. That's when I see it.

    Magma.

    Lava geysers erupt in the distance, choking the air with even more ash. The scent of sulfur overwhelms the blood and vomit. I wobble backwards, gripping my head with both hands.

    This isn't real. It can't be real. This must be some sort of twisted nightmare!

    The ground shakes. I turn to my right and watch a triangular slab of land break off and tumble into the ravine. Magma plumes shoot up when it impacts, scattering embers in all directions. A few graze my arm, peppering it with blisters.

    It really isn't a dream. The planet is falling apart. Its core is spilling out. I look around at the devastation and slam a fist into the ground, only to yank it back in pain.

    I was supposed to keep this world safe. But now the planet… and everyone on it…

    … I've failed.

    The Professor… her daughters… they couldn't have possibly survived this. I try to scan for some signs of life, but only one thing registers in my mind's eyes.

    That monster. The one with all the arms. It did this. And I'm going to make it pay.

    Even though my head's pounding, I take to the skies, encasing myself in a psychic bubble. I barrel through the ash, leaving the ruins of the lab behind. The pressure on my head grows the higher I fly, but I ignore it. Only one thing matters now. That monster must be destroyed.

    I break free from the ash and drop my psychic shield. All around me, the sky is a dark crimson, with purple lightning flashing across it. I don't care about that, though. The monster is still here. It's floating above me, still surrounded by a golden glow and its many arms.

    I don't waist any time releasing an Aura Sphere. Not my strongest attack, but I'm still disoriented and I don't quite know how it will react to me. The blue fireball sails up into the sky, where it inexplicably vanishes before it gets close to the monster.

    The monster roars… a loud shriek that brings my hands up to my ears.

    … no. Something's wrong. That sounds nothing like the monster did before it unleashed those meteors. Yet, I only sense one aura in front of me. It must be a trick. I cup my hands together, charging a psychic orb between them.

    That's when it happens.

    The monster's golden aura falters, purple shadows gathering above it. I cease my attack as my arms fall limply to my sides.

    It's not alone. It's. Not. Alone.

    The furious shriek sounds once again. Above the monster, the shadows bubble like a boiling stew. I catch the faintest glimpse of another figure hidden inside them. It's… some sort of giant, heart-shaped mask? The idea seems so ridiculous, yet the sight fills my gut with an overwhelming sense of dread.

    Now the monster responds with the same primal roar I heard before the meteors hit. I see some of its arms move toward the shadows. They begin to stir again, revealing… wings? No, it can't be. They have chains of hexagonal tiles where their feathers should be.

    An intense blast of dark energy effortlessly turns the monster's arms aside. In fact, the blow shatters some of its arms.

    It recoils, roaring in fury. I float there, mouth agape, as the broken pieces of the monster's arms rain down all around me. They almost look like… letters. Letters with eyes in them. I'm at a loss for what to make of any of this. All I know is that these creatures are quarreling… and their battle has left my home in ruins. I will take them both down… even if it's the last thing I ever do!

    I fly upward, funneling as much power as I can into my hands. But before I get the chance to unleash my attack, a giant, violet eye appears in the middle of the shadows… right where I saw the heart-shaped mask.

    There's another shriek.

    The sky fills with circles. Each one bearing an insignia of a winged heart with horns sticking out the top and a single eye in its center.

    I don't have any time left. I have to strike… now! Pointing my hands upward, I release as much psychic energy as I possibly can.

    The last thing I see are giant, black, cast-iron chains shooting out of the circles. Then… nothing.

    XxX​

    … wake up.

    There's a voice. Deep. Male. I've never heard it before.

    Hold on… why do I know that it's male? What is male? It sounds so familiar, but I'm not sure why. Is that what I am?

    Wait… who the hell am I?

    Wake up, my son.

    The voice is addressing me… I think. I'm his son, then? What exactly is a son, though? And how am I supposed to wake up? I'm not even sure what that means!

    You have slept long enough, Mewtwo. Awaken.

    Mewtwo… is that who I am?

    I hear a sigh.

    Looks like you're going to need more help than I thought.

    My eyes open, revealing a room with marble floors and pristine, white walls. Half of me thinks I've seen this before, but the other half isn't sure.

    I sit up, only to scooch back in surprise. There's this… thing sitting in front of me. It's white, but it's also got gray strips on it. And it has some golden circle wrapped around it. I feel like I should know what it is, but I can't come up with the right word.

    No, wait! Wheel! It's a big, gold wheel!

    … but how do I even know that? Why do I know that?

    "Ah, good," the creature says, revealing that it's the voice I was hearing. "You were starting to worry me for a second there, my child."

    I try to speak like he does, but all that I succeed in doing is making long, exaggerated grunts.

    "Oh, dear… this will not do," he says, sighing. His wheel suddenly turns pink. I raise my hands up. Is he going to hurt me? I'm harmless… I think.

    There's a flash of light, followed by an intense pressure on my head. I black out.

    XxX​

    I wake up on a velvet pillow. It's as long as I am. Even my tail has room on it. My surroundings are… a marble floor, pristine, white walls, and gray pillars that stretch to a purple ceiling.

    This room is… familiar? Have I been here before?

    Yes, I have. This is Destiny Tower. The hundredth floor, to be more specific. Arceus, my creator— no, the world's creator resides here.

    Is that really true? That seems… odd. I feel like I shouldn't know that… and yet, the fact is undeniable. I'm certain this is where I am.

    Okay, deep breaths. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation, here. It's just… not coming to mind right now. My head's all fuzzy. Something about this feels… off. But I'm not sure what.

    Ethereal stairs appear across the room. Arceus descends down them, his golden hooves dinging each time they press down against a step. A nagging voice in the back of my head asks me why I know that's Arceus, but that's a stupid question. Of course I know who Arceus is. He's the creator. I've always known who he is…

    … right?

    Arceus reaches the bottom of the steps and approaches my pillow. "You're awake," he says, relieved. "That's good. How are you feeling?"

    "My head hurts," I reply.

    It's strange. Something about the act of saying that simple sentence irks me, but I can't tell why. Perhaps Arceus has an answer? "Actually, truth be told, I'm a bit… confused," I continue, slumping over. "My thoughts are clouded. Like, I know I'm in Destiny Tower, but I'm not sure why I know that this is Destiny Tower. Or why I know that you're Arceus and you created me." I rub my temples. "It's very frustrating. I don't suppose you know what's wrong with me, do you?"

    "Indeed, I do," Arceus says, his voice heavy. "I'm terribly sorry, my child. I cannot begin to imagine how confused you must be." He paces back and forth in front of my cushion. "The truth is that… you were injured. There was a large rock slide in your home and you weren't able to escape fast enough. You sustained an awful blow to your head and lost all your memories."

    The throbbing's back, with renewed vigor. My memories… are gone? Just like that? How many of them did I lose?

    "But… if I lost my memories, then how do I know where we are? And who you are, for that matter?" I ask, frowning.

    "Yes, well, I'm afraid I'm at fault there, my son," Arceus says, sighing. "See, it was Rayquaza who discovered your fate. He sprung you from your rocky prison and delivered you here posthaste."

    Rayquaza? Rayquaza? The name rings a bell… but I can't picture what he looks like.

    "When I learned what happened, I tried to use my powers to restore as many memories as I could," Arceus continues. "But it wasn't good enough. I'm sorry, my son, but most of your memories are gone… and I don't think you'll be able to get them back."

    The words echo through my mind. My empty mind, apparently. So, everything's gone for good? My likes… my dislikes… my hopes… my dreams… who my friends are… I'll really never remember any of that stuff?

    Something about that doesn't sit right. My stomach churns and I subconsciously put a hand over it. Arceus raises a brow at this. "Sorry. This is… a lot to take in," I say. I'm not entirely sure what sorts of powers I have at my disposal, but I doubt they'd help against Arceus if I upset him.

    "It's quite all right," Arceus says, voice tranquil. "This must all come as quite a shock to you. But that's why you're here. I want to rehabilitate you as best as I can… including helping you relearn your powers, if necessary."

    … it's strange. That thought should be relieving, but I don't take any solace in his offer. I'm not sure why. Arceus did create me, after all, so who better to help me rediscover myself?

    Yet, I can't shake this nagging little voice telling me that Arceus is lying. It doesn't make sense. What reason would Arceus have to lie? Nothing comes to mind.

    Great, I just made my headache worse again.

    I take a deep breath. "Um… could you just remind me of a couple of things?" I ask, rubbing my forehead. "Like… who I am? And what my purpose is?"

    "Of course," Arceus says. "You are Mewtwo, one of the Legends I created to help keep this world safe from danger."

    "Mew… two?" I say. That certainly feels familiar. As does the part about keeping the world safe. But I keep lingering on the part about Arceus creating me. Why, oh why, does that rub me the wrong way?

    "Yes, Mewtwo," Arceus says.

    "Does that mean there's a Mewone?" I wonder.

    "In a manner of speaking," Arceus says, chuckling. "I did indeed design you after another Legend named Mew who, sadly, disappeared after protecting the world from a serious threat."

    "What sort of threat would that be?" I ask.

    Arceus flinches. It's subtle. I bet he thinks that I don't even see it, but I do. And it only makes that nagging voice grow louder.

    Something is wrong. Nothing feels right. Did Arceus really create me?

    Of course he did. He made this whole world!

    … did he, though?

    Yes!

    Then why do I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach?

    "Come along," Arceus says as I snap to attention. "You need to relearn your abilities. It's better we start that sooner, rather than later."

    Odd. He really wants to drop the subject of Mew quickly, doesn't he? Why would that be? Don't tell me that voice in my head is actually telling the truth. Argh! This is so frustrating. Why did I have to go and lose my memories in some freak accident?

    I freeze with one foot dangling off the pillow.

    What if Arceus made me lose my memories?

    … no, I tell myself. It can't be… can it? He created me. Why would he go and do something like that? He called me his child. I'm supposed to keep this world safe, aren't I? I can't do that if my memories are missing. There's no way that's right. It was an accident, just like he said.

    But if Arceus didn't create me, then wouldn't he want my memories gone? What if I knew something that…

    My eyes widen.

    What if I knew something that would undermine his authority?

    "Mewtwo, are you coming?"

    I look up. Arceus is nearly at the top of the stairs. Slowly, I slide off the pillow, head bowed and fists clenched.

    "Yes, I'm coming," I say, brow furrowing as I walk toward the stairs.

    Now I'm sure something's wrong. What if this is actually a trap? No… he would've killed me by now if that were the case. He must need me for something… and I really don't want to find out what that is. I need to get away from Arceus, but I have no idea how to use my powers. I'm stuck. I have to play along. But as soon as I'm confident in my abilities, I'm leaving.

    If I can't get Arceus to tell me the truth, then I'll simply become the world's strongest Pokémon and force him to.

    XxX​

    I'm seeing them again. A heart-shaped mask and a violet eye. They've haunted my nightmares since my brief stay in the Voidlands during Dark Matter's reign of terror. Many nights I've lied awake mulling over those images. Why do they keep popping up? What do they mean? I'm always hit by this nagging sense of familiarity, but no matter how tightly I grab these thoughts, they always slip away.

    I haven't told anyone about these nightmares, since I don't think anyone would care. Every time this happens, a small part of me thinks this is Arceus' doing. He's put these images in my mind to scare me, because he refuses to let me get my memories back.

    But now that I'm nearly done going through the Hidden Land and destroying the dungeon Pokémon Dialga's ley line manipulations spawned… now, I'm not so sure.

    It all goes back to Latias. That stupid girl… why did she have to show up at Temporal Tower? I need to focus on protecting it, but thanks to her… my thoughts are scattered. It's the things she told us about the Guiding Light. Something about this "Necrozma" character has made these visions rear their ugly heads. And they refuse to go away. In fact, they get stronger with each dungeon Pokémon I defeat, because they all explode into black chains that melt away before my eyes.

    As I approach the stairs, I think back on the memories I glimpsed in Latias' mind. There's something else about them besides the Necrozma stuff that's unsettling. It's the strange Pokémon those explorers overseas work with: Magearna. I've never met her in person, but I can't shake the thought that I actually know her from somewhere. It sounds baffling, but deep in my gut I feel like it must be true. Could she be related to the memories Arceus is keeping from me? Is she tied into these visions?

    I hover out of the distortion field marking the end of the dungeon and enter the Old Ruins. There are murals depicting the gods that serve beneath Arceus, but I don't care about them. It's past Dialga's depiction that I drop to the ground and throw my hand up onto my forehead. My eyes shut and my face twists into a grimace.

    That mask. That damn mask. I can feel it in the back of my mind. Gazing at me…

    Staring at me.

    It's breathing down the back of my neck.

    Without even thinking, I whirl around, fists glowing.

    "Why won't you just leave me alone?!"

    I freeze, glowing fists held up in front of me. Air. That's all there is. Oh, some rocks and stones too, I guess. But my hands are only clasping air.

    … no, wait… there is something tickling my palm. I open my fist, releasing some tiny… thing. I'm honestly not sure what it is. It's barely half the size of my hand, but it has an orange glow to it. It has wings, though. Translucent wings that it flutters, carrying it up to eye level. But all I see where a body should be is an orange ball.

    What's going on here? Am I losing my mind? Did I inhale poison in the dungeon? No, I don't see any purple splotches on me. Then… is this just a figment of my imagination? I reach out toward the ball and it, in turn, lands on the back of my hand…

    My world erupts in flames.

    There's no pain. My mind should be screaming frantically, but it's not. I see fire all around me, but everything's gone numb. That's when it pops up… right in the middle of the wall of fire.

    A white, heart-shaped mask, with a violet eye sitting in its center.

    Then, everything goes dark.

    XxX​

    Welcome back.

    The tale has concluded.

    These are the undeniable truths of this world. Truths that the thousand-armed creature has kept hidden.

    Fragments of my essence… forge the core of this world.

    A core the Pokémon know only as… the Voidlands.

    How ironic.

    These fragments… these "ley lines"… they are necessary for this world's continued survival. But they are also the very things trying to rip the planet apart.

    All this time, my fragments have lingered. Sucking up the emotions of this world's inhabitants. The negativity far outweighed the positivity.

    I gained another identity. One with a form and a name… already familiar to me.

    The Pokémon disposed of it, but it returned. So, the same Pokémon disposed of it… seemingly for good.

    Am I upset by this? No. I already said that I do not feel. This world's destruction is inevitable.

    See, there is someone. A traveler from a distant realm.

    He has learned the truth. The thousand-armed creature realized this and sought to destroy the traveler. But he failed. Instead, the traveler was imprisoned.

    And yet, fragments of my essence found the traveler. They weaved themselves into his broken spirit.

    He is now committed to destruction. The traveler will try to bring about this world's destruction… and return it to chaos, as is intended.

    Will he succeed? I cannot say.

    But even here… in my prison… I am intrigued.

    I will keep watching. And see how this all plays out.

    XxX
    In yet another funny case of a bonus part getting published on a significant day, today is the thirteenth birthday of the original Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games: Red/Blue Rescue Team. These games were the only ones to feature "Friend Areas," where you went to recruit your team members for an outing. Certain friend areas looked distinctly... human, such as an abandoned power plant. This lead to a somewhat niche theory in the PMD fandom that the PMD world was, at some point, populated by humans, but they all died off for some unexplained reason.

    I decided to take this idea and run with it, hence this bonus part that lays things out some of the foundations for this AU. In this case, a world was wiped out. One with humans and only the original 151 Pokémon, hence why Mew is recognized as the lone deity and Mewtwo cannot recognize the Unown. I feel the need to state that this is not me being anti-Kanto or using my author's pen to give the proverbial middle finger to Let's Go Pikachu & Eevee. I just found it easiest for things to work this way.

    So, as it turns out, the oldest Pokémon in this world was Mewtwo, with Magearna as a close second. I hope that was at least a surprise twist. Even after Silvally's backstory, I was still getting questions asking how Pokémon like Mewtwo and Magearna can logically exist. And this is the answer. Magearna was originally supposed to have her own special episode after Episode 9 that touched on some of this stuff, but my early drafts were too awkward and, after Special Episode 1, I really didn't want to write another arc focused on a character with a dialogue quirk. Magearna is best in small, reasonable chunks.

    I know Mewtwo's one of those Pokémon that gets backlash in fanfics due to its general overuse. I hope that I was at least able to make him a bit enjoyable, even for those who dislike him. There are quite a few nods and references sprinkled throughout this bonus, including a Spyro one in honor of the recently-released Reignited Trilogy. I'll leave it up to you to find them.

    Next time: Singing! Dancing! Action! Drama! Romance! Thrills! It's time for the unexpected beach episode! And, before you protest, yes, Shane, that was in your contract. You really should've read it over more thoroughly.
     
  3. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Okay, time for overdue replies. *nervous cough*

    Well, plenty of people have made that guess so far. And Zero's pretty much lost everything she cares about, so she's willing to do whatever at this point.

    Glad you liked it. It was a bit of a gamble since sci-fi and Pokémon tend to not always mesh well together, but I think it paid off as a short flashback.

    Try not to think too hard about all the language differences or whatever. You'll end up giving yourself a giant headache. or would that be an ultra-headache?

    They seemed close? Huh... I didn't think I'd made them that warm and friendly. More like... coworkers being polite to each other. ^^;

    I was going more for "Drill Sergeant Nasty" than anything. XP

    They were fun to come up with. Pity we won't be seeing them again.

    Well, Tori got her position up the food chain somehow, didn't she? XD

    The events we saw in the recordings in Episode 9 are what got Necrozma there. That void is where Solgaleo and Lunala put him after he went berserk. So, yes, he was freed by complete and total accident.

    Uh... there is no recovery. As you saw, Necrozma set off a chain reaction with the Core and subsequently vaporized Ultra Village. It's gone.

    Ask and ye shall receive... eventually! I promise. ;)

    You might want to read the conversation b/w Shane and Espeon in Chapter 71. *whistles innocently*

    I'll take that uncertainty as a win, to be honest, it's supposed to be an unusual situation.

    Well, it's a combination of being stranded in a foreign world and trying to keep a native calm so he doesn't go berserk.

    I keep up by killing characters, of course.

    Yes, he had a bit of a rough time of things mentally.

    And that's why Absols opt to stay away from civilization.

    Well, that hasn't been confirmed. It's been stated Gallian's parents found his egg in the Invern Mountains in the middle of a snowstorm. You'll have to speculate from there whether he was abandoned... or it was something else entirely.

    Correct. He even thinks as much when Zoroark's explaining the stuff with Dark Matter.

    It was fatigue. Basically the hunger mechanic, but not in a dungeon. :V

    Yeah, I might've dialed it up a bit too much, to be honest. XD

    "Aww, c'mon. I thought it was fun! Didn't you?"

    At this point I'm running with the idea all these omakes are in an... uh... alternate reality? Of this AU? Yeah, something like that...

    Relax, all I've got is Mawile from Super and... uh... hang on. *checks draft notes* Oh... maybe it's best if I stay quiet. <.<;

    Happy it worked out.

    Yeah, Zoroark didn't get phased easily back then.

    That's an excellent question! Someone should really answer it. :p

    Uh... uh... my lawyer has advised me not to answer this. ^^;

    If you read on, you'll see that he indeed simmered down.

    Sums it up well, I'd say.

    Yes, she went from confused to just kind of rolling with it.

    Yes. This particular PMD world has a lot of problems that'll need fixing... assuming the current world-ending threats can be stopped, of course.

    Well, it came down to ultra aura signals. Their training kicked in after that.

    Glad you liked it and thanks for reviewing. ^^

    Err... sorta? He certainly asks like the equivalent of a human teenager but, as far as this society's concerned, he's an adult. And this was six months before Shane showed up so it's not that long ago. ^^;

    Yeah, I'm-a chalk that one up to poor planning on my part. *adds note to the list of rookie mistakes*

    They were together for several weeks, but a lot of it was glossed over. Their actual official relationship was super brief.

    The anti-absol sentiment is carried over from Ginji's Rescue Team, the manga based on Red/Blue Rescue Teams. I just accentuated it for the sake of, uh, drama, I guess?

    No, you're definitely right. I probably dialed it up too much but if you keep reading you'll see he got "scared straight" in the personality department... until Shane came along, of course.

    Right on the money. Espeon's even alluded to the general apathy of the world, with how it fell back into its same patterns and routines even after Dark Matter.

    Aha ha... ha... oops. ^^;

    It's almost like the guy writing this has barely any relationship experience. :V

    It's the soulmate thing. Might be something they need to fix about the world if they can deal with the giant murder-bat and the equally murderous jackal-lady. Thanks for reviewing! ^^

    Yeah, I don't quite think I properly transitioned them when the story started to take a more serious turn.

    Yes, the "down the line" part is why the scene exists in the first place. ^^;

    Correct. He's just kind of... flailing, in some regards.

    If you're conflicted, then I did my job right! Don't worry, you'r not alone feeling that way.

    Ow, don't do that. Putting your eye on a big metal lion would hurt!

    I'd like to think Tessa makes the Explorers partner look like a courageous ray of sunshine.

    That seems to be a common consensus, though I suppose it's my fault for making an idiot hero.

    Not until the very end. He thought he was the unbeatable hero who'd always find a way to win before that.

    Perhaps in the future I'll have to make some tweaks but as it is now, I'll happily take odd.

    I mean, I have episodic arcs, I thought the anime parallels were pretty obvious. XD

    What... no comment on Milotic getting wielded as a whip? Darn, I thought that one would get you. The rest of it is the guild growing tunnel vision because they're so collectively done with Shane's sh[size=4i[/size]t.

    Like I said, tunnel vision. And, perhaps, something else you might see as things go on.

    "Heeheeheehee! Glad I could leave an impression."

    *whistles innocently*

    It's essentially a reverse-Team Skull situation. Shane is so convinced Lycanroc is Team Fang's boss that he manages to piss Lycanroc off enough to where he decides not to help the guild and instead screw over Shane. So it was a giant self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Well, they are recurring rivals (who just got shoved out the door). That doesn't mean they can't be important down the line... but be careful what you wish for, mein freund.

    You are thinking the right things... however, Tessa doesn't know Prisma's name. Prisma was always just "Mom." Incineroar was the only one to call her that to her face, but since they were rarely together with their kids, it never came up.

    Well, you've gotta read on to find the answer.

    Well, I have no idea what a "Kriby game" is, but I've never shied away from saying I take inspirations from Kirby. Check the opening post of this version and you'll see in the spoiler tags. :V

    You won't have to wait long. Thanks for reviewing and I hope you enjoy Episode 7, because it's a real hard-hitter. Just don't read the FFN version, because I haven't been able to update it with my revisions, yet.

    And trying to put the update in with these would break the character limit, so looks like these get a separate post. XD
     
  4. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    At long last, Episode 13 is upon us. This one is... going to be very different tonally from what we've seen, but I think it's a needed reprieve given what's going to follow. I've put a lot of work into this one, so I hope you enjoy it. ^^

    XxX

    ~Sunset Shoals~
    The steady beat of a subwoofer echoed through a long, sloped tunnel bristling with sapphire gems. A dizzying array of multicolored lights streamed through the gems, bathing the rocky ground in a veritable rainbow of tiles that cycled in a random pattern. Fluorescent seaweed protruded from either side of the path, swaying back and forth in time with the beat. The plants shifted their color in time with the sapphires and the ground.

    However, the hypnotic sight was lost on the two Eeveelutions staggering up the trail, sweat matting their coats and breath coming in ragged gasps. "C… come on, Vappy!" a Jolteon cried, her fur marred by scorch marks and blood spatter. "We're almost to the entrance!"

    Vaporeon lagged several paces behind her. His ear and tail fins had several tears in them where his piercings used to be. Small bits of blood trickled off of him, leaving behind a trail of spatter. Vaporeon limped forward, wincing in pain and casting a distraught look back. "It… it's no good, Jolty," he whimpered. "I'm spent. I can't…" He collapsed onto his belly. "I just can't go on."

    Jolteon skidded to a halt, tears in her eyes. She dashed back to Vaporeon, tugging on his mane with her mouth. "No, you can't give up now. We've got to get back to Circadian Coast and tell everyone what's happening before it's too late!"

    The baseline lingering in the air grew steadily louder, sending Jolteon's heart up into her throat. She tugged at Vaporeon with a renewed sense of vigor. "Get up, Vappy! They're catching up to us!"

    "R… run… Jolty," Vaporeon wheezed. "Save yourself."

    "No! I'm not leaving you behind to turn into one of them!" Jolteon said.

    "Where do you think you're going?
    We're just getting started!
    No one's spoiling the fun,
    Or they're getting bombarded!


    My groupies will strike!
    They'll put you in line!
    You'll join my ranks!
    And make this world positively
    fine!"

    "We found them! You heard the boss… get their hideous asses so we can gussy them up!"

    The ground trembled underneath Jolteon's paws. She scrambled backward with a yip, narrowly avoiding dirt plumes. Vaporeon wasn't so fortunate, however. Bits of rocky debris pummeled him, knocking him back down the tunnel and farther away from Jolteon.

    "Vappy, no!" Jolteon screamed, electricity surging through her matted fur. With an angry howl, she launched her lightning through the tunnel.

    Two Gastrodons dropped from the ceiling, absorbing the electricity like it was nothing more than someone tickling their backsides. The spat globs of mud in Jolteon's direction. Two bursts of steaming water raced past the Gastrodons, expanding the mud balls.

    Jolteon's eyes widened. She sprinted up the path, swearing under her breath. Seconds later, the heat made the mud balls explode, flinging grime in all directions. Scaling-hot dirt smacked Jolteon's rear, singing her spiky, yellow fur. Jolteon slowed to an unsteady hobble.

    "Oh dear, oh dear, this will not do!
    Your resistance is a troublesome avenue!


    I hate seeing you all gunked up,
    But we have to make this count!
    I need a dazzling army by my side,
    And you'll make a positively stunning mount!


    So, quit fighting and give in!
    Enough of this charade.
    Let my hypnotic tunes,
    Take you away!


    Shiz-abbidy-doop! Bop de whoop!

    Jolteon, Vaporeon, this one's for you!"

    Jolteon's eyelids grew heavy. Her hobbling came to a stop. She looked slowly around the cavern, blinking in stunned silence. "Uuungh… n… no. Have to… warn… have to…" Her eyelids fluttered. "But the music… so heavenly…" She turned back to face the Gastrodons, now flanked by three Claunchers. "Maybe… I'll stick around… for a bit…"

    She shook her head about rapidly. "No! I can't let you do this, Primarina!" she shouted. In response, the Gastrodons and Claunchers launched streams of muddy water in her direction. With a yelp, Jolteon turned to escape, only to fall over as her legs gave out from fatigue.

    The grimy wave swept Jolteon up and carried her the rest of the way through the tunnel, screaming. Jolteon disappeared from sight. Seconds later, a loud splash sounded, and then the tunnel went silent, save for the distant thumping of a baseline.

    "J… Jolty?" Vaporeon said, shakily picking his head up. "Jolty? Jolty?!" He turned around to stare at the Tentacruel hovering over him. "You monsters! I… I…"

    Tentacruel floated back from Vaporeon. Bright lights funneled in behind him. Hissing, Vaporeon threw a foreleg over his face. "What the–? Who's there?" He squinted to make out a dark silhouette in the bright, golden light. Locks of long, flowing hair fanned out in all directions from the silhouette's head. It hopped toward Vaporeon, the light growing brighter and forcing him to look away.

    "Now, now, Vappy, no reason to panic!
    Because your best pal's here to make it all better!"


    Horror overtook Vaporeon's expression as his legs tensed up. Above him, Tentacruel wrapped his torso up with his tentacles and hoisted him into the air. There, he met the silhouette's shimmering, rainbow eyes.

    "Let the music flow through you, Vappy, babe!
    Feel its groove!
    Embrace its hypnotic mood!"


    A flipper stuck out and gently caressed his chin, sending a shudder down his body.

    "Let the tension wash away!
    Prism Virus? I say, no way!
    I've got the power to make things right!
    All I need is some help to fight the good fight!"


    Vaporeon locked up, then went limp in Tentacruel's tentacles. A few seconds of silence passed, then Vaporeon's eyes slowly opened, revealing an identical rainbow shimmer to the one in the silhouette's eyes.

    "Hey, hey, what do you say?
    Are you ready to help me seize the day?"


    Vaporeon nodded obediently.

    "Hip-hip hooray!"

    XxX

    Episode 13: Star-Studded Spectacle

    Chapter 72: Life's a Beach

    XxX

    ~Cosmic Cavern~

    Shane lay sound asleep on the floor in Zoroark's house. His nine tails were nestled against his underbelly, twitching sporadically with each breath. Shane stretched his neck slightly upward. The tip of his snout brushed up against a strip of scales. Their coarse texture made his nostrils twitch. With a silent yawn, Shane's eyes slowly opened. He wondered what time it was, because he felt surprisingly well-rested. Had he finally managed to sleep through the night?

    As Shane's eyes slowly adjusted to the lack of light in the area, he saw a dark blue strip in the center of his vision. It took him a moment to realize they were scales. He blinked a few more times, then tried to sit up. In the process, his snout rubbed against something furry. Shane tucked his head back against his chest.

    "What the—" Shane gasped.

    "Mmmrrggh… hrrmmm… why did… you stop? That felt… nice…"

    Shane's ears stuck up. "S… Silvally, is that you?" he asked, still trying to get his bearings straight.

    "Yeah, I'm awake," Silvally mumbled. "Hang on… I think my neck's a bit sore. Oof, I didn't need that this morning."

    "Why does your voice sound all muffled?" Shane wondered. He blinked his eyes several more times. For his efforts, he was rewarded with the edge of Silvally's tail laying inches in front of his snout.

    "Ahh!" Shane shouted, scooting back across the floor and scrambling to his feet. He got tripped up on Zoroark's carpeting, however, and crashed into the table. Shane rubbed a forepaw against his head, groaning loudly.

    The shouts stirred Silvally from his half-awake stupor. He leaped to his feet, looking around the room in a panic. "What's wrong? Shane, did something happen?" he said.

    Shane sat up, fixing an angry look on Silvally. "Yes! Why was your ass in my face when I woke up, huh?"

    Silvally stood there in stunned silence. He craned his head to the right to inspect his backside. "Wait… that was you who was—" Silvally cut himself off, shaking his head. "Hold up… what are you barking at me for? I didn't do anything! Why were you sleeping up against my ass, huh?"

    A flush fell over Shane's face. "I wasn't… that couldn't… I didn't fall asleep there!"

    "Then you must've been tossing and turning in your sleep," Silvally huffed.

    "As if! You and Tessa would've woken up if I did that," Shane said, snorting out tufts of ice.

    "Maybe we were all tired from yes—" Silvally started, only to turn to his left. "Can we help you two?"

    Shane looked to his right, only to recoil upon seeing Zoroark and Gallian standing in the doorway to the kitchen. They both had amused grins on their faces saying they had heard everything.

    "Hey! Wipe those smarmy looks off your faces. This isn't was it looks like!" Shane said.

    "I dunno. These two sure seem lovey-dovey to me," Zoroark mused, smirking at Gallian. "Didn't Dusk catch us in a similar situation when Midnight put Sleep Seeds into our breakfast that one time?"

    "She did, yeah. Wouldn't shut up about it, either," Gallian said, his smirk turning into his typical scowl.

    "We're not a couple!" Shane and Silvally barked in unison. They turned to each other, muzzles agape. Shane then looked away, face cherry-red.

    "Okay, even I got to admit that one was funny," Silvally said.

    "Stop encouraging them," Shane growled.

    "See? They even argue like mates," Zoroark said, doubling over laughing.

    "Har, har. What a comedian," Shane said. "Yeah, let's all get our licks in on the human who's still not entirely sure how love and mating and all that stuff works around here." He turned away from everyone in the room, grumbling in frustration.

    "Oh, will you relax? We were only teasing," Zoroark said.

    "Yeah, well it's not very nice," Shane huffed.

    "You're talking to a couple of dark-types, what were you expecting?" Gallian said, drawing a tearful look from Shane. "Okay, look, the fact is my sister and Espeon got up before you two. One of them nudged you over and you fell by Silvally's rear. I saw it for myself because they woke me up in the process."

    "And you didn't try to fix it?" Shane growled.

    "You were zonked out, dude," Gallian said. "I didn't want to wake you up. A 'mon needs a good night's sleep after they evolve."

    "Okay, fine, whatever. It's water under the bridge," Shane said, sighing in defeat. He looked around the room. "So, should we get ready to leave? Where did Tessa and Espy go, for that matter?"

    "We're right here."

    Espy's voice carried through the room, then light filled up the house from a Luminous Orb Espy activated. She walked over to the table, dropping her satchel off on it and stretching her back. "Sorry if we woke anyone up," she said. "Tessa asked to work with me a bit before we left."

    "On what, exactly?" Shane asked, looking at his teammate in concern.

    "I wanted to make a couple of adjustments to my moves," Tessa said, wiping sweat from her brow. "It's nice to finally have Aura Spheres at my disposal, but they're a still finicky. Now that I'm a Lucario, I'd like some other ranged attacks, so I don't have to go charging into the fray to get a clean hit in."

    "It just so happened that, between Team Go-Getters and us, we had the TMs for Psychic and Flash Cannon," Espy explained. "Perfect for a Lucario in training, I suppose."

    "Oh… okay," Shane said, recalling Tessa's grief at having felt useless against Serperior. He sheepishly brushed one forepaw against the other. "Did… um… did that stuff go okay?"

    In response, Tessa pivoted to face the floor, where the team's item bag sat. She pointed her paws at it and a pink glow overtook them. Matching pink light flickered around the bag. It hovered a couple of inches off the ground. All the while, Tessa's paws and aura feelers trembled. After a couple of seconds, she dropped the bag back to the ground and lowered her arms, breathing heavily.

    "It's… it's getting there," she panted.

    "That was pretty good, considering you're already tired," Espy said, putting her satchel back on. "In any case, Latias and Hoopa are back. So, it's time to get going."

    "Already? What about breakfast?" Shane said. His stomach growled in agreement.

    "We'll have to eat when we've settled into Circadian Coast," Silvally said. "C'mon, we shouldn't keep the others waiting."

    They walked out into the center of the village, where they found Teams Paradox and Go-Getters waiting for them. Latias and Hoopa hovered a foot behind them. The former caught sight of Team Radiance and flew up toward them. Her eyes looked even more bloodshot than when they had last met and her feathers were completely disheveled. Claw marks were visible along her forehead, much to the shock of Team Radiance.

    "Oh, gods… Latias, what happened to you?" Tessa gasped, throwing a paw up over her muzzle.

    "It's nothing," Latias whispered, wincing. "Don't worry about it."

    "My leftmost tail it's nothing. You look awful," Shane said, frowning. "You weren't attacked, were you?"

    "No. I just… had to meet with Rayquaza," Latias whispered. "He's… he's…" She closed her eyes and shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I don't want to talk about any of this. We should focus on you guys right now." Her tired eyes glowed blue and she produced two glimmering metal bands from her bag. "I was able to get two more Naturia Looplets. Now, I know Team Go-Getters already has special looplets of their own. So, I figured Luxeira or Seraph could have one and Gallian or Zoroark could take the other."

    The band with a sapphire in its center floated behind Latias. Seraph plucked it out of the air and held it up. "Luxeira told me I can use a Z-Move with this thing. Is that true?" she said.

    "Yes, but only once per dungeon you set foot in," Latias said. "If you get confused, just ask one of your teammates." She levitated the other band toward Team Radiance while Seraph shrugged and slipped the looplet on.

    "You should probably take it," Zoroark said, pointing to Gallian. "I don't really think I can go leaping into the fray again."

    Gallian nodded and grabbed hold of the looplet with his mouth. He set it down on the ground and went about securing it to his right foreleg. "Sure feels weird to have one of these things again," he said.

    "Hey, where did you guys get rainbow ribbons from?" Shane wondered, looking between Gallian and Zoroark.

    "Espeon has one, too. Around the base of her tail," Seraph said. "Is that what you terrestrials consider clothing? It's pretty ski– oomph!"

    Luxeira smacked her right horn against Seraph's back.

    "Oh, it's nothing, really," Espy said. "Salazzle had some leftover fabric from when she worked on your guys' rainbow scarves. I thought, if we're all travelling together, we might as well attempt to match."

    "Alright. If that's settled, we should get going," Dusk said.

    "Right." Latias faced the Rem Canyon expedition team. "The 'mons that you guys are meeting up with from the Horizon Guild have a special communicator. I've got one on me, as does Team Radiance," she explained. "If you want, you guys can keep each other informed of your progress. I might be a bit tougher to reach, depending on what I'm doing."

    "I don't see a problem with that," Espy said, checking her satchel to confirm the Gear-Com was in it.

    "Great," Latias said. "Hoopa, if you'd be so kind?"

    Hoopa smirked. "Finally! Stand back everyone… Alléhooparing!" he shouted, pointing his hands forward. Two golden rings flew out in front of him, forming into swirling purple portals. "On the left, you'll find a gateway to the lovely Rem Canyon. And, if you turn your attention to the right, we have a stunning, one-way, all expenses paid trip to Circadian Coast," Hoopa declared, waving his hands enthusiastically.

    "Somebody shut him up… please," Seraph groaned, rubbing her temples as she marched toward the appropriate portal.

    "Aww, c'mon, kitty, no need to lie. Hoopa's a great MC!" Hoopa said, his smirk broadening. Rather than offering a retort, everyone hastily funneled into their respective portals. Hoopa shut the rings behind them. "Well, that takes care of that," he said.

    "Yeah. Onto our next task," Latias said.

    Hoopa turned around to face her, his expression darkening. "You know… if Meganium and Delphox were here, they'd chew you out for letting Rayquaza hit you like that," he said.

    "I don't want to talk about this," Latias whispered, biting her lower lip.

    "Fine then. Don't," Hoopa said, shrugging. "All I'm saying is you stood up to Dialga yesterday, but you couldn't do the same for Rayquaza?"

    "Yesterday was different… I had you there as backup," Latias whispered. She closed her eyes and shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I have nothing else to say. Let's go."

    Hoopa sighed and tossed a ring portal in front of them. They flew right through it, leaving Cosmic Cavern behind.

    XxX

    ~Circadian Coast~

    Team Radiance emerged from Hoopa's ring portal onto an expansive beach. Bright-tan sand stretched in front of them for several yards. Far in the distance, palm trees hung down from the edges of a small jungle. Nobody could tell whether or not the trees held any fruit or coconuts, though.

    Instead, they looked at a short stone ramp that led up into the town. Rather than seeing multiple buildings, Team Radiance saw one large, rectangular building. The two shorter sides of the rectangle had several floors to them, while the longer sides were only two stories tall. Imbrices and tegulae tiles sat overlapping one another on the roof in alternating columns of orange and sky-blue. By contrast, the walls were mostly white. However, the side that faced Team Radiance had a mural of rolling ocean waves painted across its base, underneath the windows.

    "Hey, Tessa, what gives? Back when we started out, you told me Aeon Town was the biggest community in Horizon. This place seems way bigger," Shane said, scratching his head in confusion.

    "Err, well, Dad always said something about Circadian Coast not counting," Tessa said, fidgeting with her paws.

    "Yeah, because it's a giant tourist trap," Gallian said, drawing surprised looks from his teammates. "Those were Mom's words, not mine. She was always insistent on never letting us come here lest we 'get our heads stuck in the clouds like those fopdoodles in Team Harmony.'"

    "Wouldn't 'stuck in the sand' be a bit more appropriate in this context?" Zoroark quipped. Gallian rolled his eyes. "Still, it's quite surprising to see a building that… large. What do you suppose it is?"

    "No idea," Silvally said. "I'm more interested in this wall behind us." His teammates turned around. Sitting in front of them was a wall made from a combination of rocks and large, inflated burlap sacks. The wall stood a few inches taller than the tip of Silvally's head crest. He walked up to it and nudged one of the bags with his beak.

    "I think there's sand in here," he said. "What do you suppose is on the other side?"

    "The Midnight Sea," Tessa replied, to looks of confusion from everyone else. "Don't you guys remember? The guild did an expedition here a little over a month ago. Magearna mentioned something about installing fortifications against the rising tide from the Midnight Sea. We must be looking at them."

    "Speaking of which, I think someone's not happy that we're over here. I'm picking up a couple of energy signatures heading this way," Espy said, tail flicking to her right.

    Tessa momentarily shut her eyes. Her aura feelers tensed. "Oh, you're right," she said. The group turned back around to find an orange-furred rodent with white paws and feet floating toward them atop its yellow, surfboard-shaped tail. Its cream-colored chest bore a yellow pendant that housed a familiar-looking multicolored crystal.

    "Okay, I'm guessing by those yellow dots on its cheeks this thing's related to Togedemaru," Shane said, his brow furrowed.

    "Close, but not quite. That's a Raichu," Tessa said. "And, by the looks of it, he's the Totem around here."

    "Seriously?" Shane gasped. He shook his head with a groan. "Look, I'm used to the whole 'some Pokémon in Horizon are different' thing, but I've still got a couple of questions. For one, why is he surfing through the air on his tail?"

    "Raichus in Horizon are part psychic," Silvally replied. "I'm not actually sure they can learn Surf, though. Was that your other question?"

    "No. I want to know why the powers that be thought it'd be a good idea to make Raichu look like a cinnamon bun!" Shane whined, saliva dripping out of his mouth and onto the sand. "I was already hungry enough, but this is making everything worse!"

    "Yo!" Totem Raichu called, waving down the group. "Listen, if you folks are tourists, I'm gonna have to ask you to head back to the resort, yeah. Evening Beach is closed because of the tidal issues and I can't risk anything happening to our barricade."

    He floated up to the group and came to an immediate stop, hovering in midair. Curiously, a pair of spiky, yellow ears popped out from behind Totem Raichu's head. No one on Team Radiance felt compelled to point it out.

    "Err, sorry about that, Totem, sir," Tessa said. "We actually just got here, so we didn't know."

    "Whoa… easy there, cousin," Totem Raichu said, smiling and holding up his hands. "No need to get all formal with that 'Totem' business. Everyone around here knows me as the Kahuna. Kahuna Raichu. Sounds much more mellow, yeah?"

    "Uh… yeah," Shane said. He lifted a forepaw and wrung it out. "Mahalo… and all that jazz."

    "Nice! I see someone's already got the local lingo down," Kahuna Raichu said, beaming.

    Shane grinned sheepishly, ignoring the stunned expressions on his teammates' faces. He fought back the urge to say something about the human world. Instead, he said, "Aha ha… well, I try. After all, us Horizon Guild members need to be up to speed on that stuff, yeah?" He pivoted to show off his badge. Likewise, Tessa, Silvally, and Gallian showed off theirs.

    "Ah, that'd explain it, then," Kahuna Raichu said. "At first I thought Totem Ninetales had come down from Solstice Summit to visit. After all, she's the only Ninetales in Horizon, last I heard. But I realized you were too short."

    "Totem… Ninetales?" Shane said, blinking in surprise. He wanted to follow-up on that subject, but Tessa stepped in front of him.

    "Aha ha… nope, we're just up-and-coming guild explorers," she said. "Ninetales' situation is a bit… unusual, that's all."

    "Fair enough," Kahuna Raichu said, shrugging. "So, are you guys here to check on the barricade? You should've dropped by the resort first, yeah. My daughter and I would've been happy to help you out."

    "Your… daughter?" Zoroark said, tilting his head.

    "There's a Pikachu clinging to the back of his head," Silvally announced, his appendages glowing pink from his psychic memories.

    "Oh, right. How rude of me not to introduce her," Kahuna Raichu said. "C'mon, it's your time to shine, yeah!"

    "Excellent!" a peppy, high-pitched voice declared. To Team Radiance's surprise, Pikachu vaulted over her dad, landing in the dirt and thrusting her arms apart while shouting, "Ta-daaaaaaah! And she sticks the landing!"

    "Wait a tic, I've seen this before," Shane gasped, looking Pikachu over. In stark contrast to the rest of the group, Pikachu had on a pink, sequined skirt, with a matching bowtie, slippers, and a ribbon on her right ear. The ribbon had the Horizon Continent's emblem painted in the center.

    "You're a Cosplay Pikachu!" Shane realized, his tails fanning out in surprise. "How the heck— this doesn't make any sense… and that's saying something by our standards."

    "Cos-what? Is that some kind of Pikachu subspecies?" Silvally asked, looking Cosplay Pikachu over skeptically.

    "I'm Cosplay Pikachu! We're exceedingly rare. Like, once in a century rare!" she said, pivoting to wiggle her black tail at Silvally. "See the tail? It houses special psychic energy in it." She turned back around and tapped a digit against the yellow sphere on her bow tie. "I channel it through this orb here to use my special technique: Wonderous Weaves! Watch and be amazed!"

    Cosplay Pikachu pressed her paw against the orb's bolt-shaped emblem. A flurry of pink energy with fabric-like texture raced around her. It disappeared a second later, revealing Cosplay Pikachu in a white poncho with a hood resembling Shane's head. Nine tails fanned off the back of the poncho, fluttering in the morning breeze.

    "Whoa!" Shane said, tails bristling defensively. "That's… you're me? But I thought Cosplay Pikachu only had, like, five different outfits. What is this witchcraft?"

    "Witchcraft? No… it's my Wonderous Weaves! Weren't you paying attention?" Cosplay Pikachu chided, shaking her head. "And here I thought Ninetales was supposed to be elegant and graceful." She pirouetted.

    In less than a day as a Ninetales, Shane found his limited grip on the Pokémon world rapidly slipping. He again fought the urge to make a smart remark. "Uh… just forget I said anything," he exclaimed.

    "We're not actually here about that wall," Tessa said. "It's, um, a more sensitive issue."

    "Oh, are you all here about my request then?" Kahuna Raichu asked, raising a brow. A group of confused stares met him. "I sent a request to the Observatory the other day. See, we're having ourselves a bit of a… well… I hesitate to use the word 'crisis' but it ain't good for business, yeah."

    In a twirl of colorful fabric, Cosplay Pikachu switched her poncho out for one that resembled a Sableye, complete with a brooch resembling the ruby in a typical Sableye's chest. "It's positively spooky, I tell ya! Tourists keep heading out to Morning Beach… only to disappear entirely!" she said, sticking her tongue out and shaking her head about in a bad impression of a ghost-type.

    "Pokémon are disappearing?" Tessa gasped, aura feelers crinkling in surprise. "This is the first we've heard of it."

    "Probably because we've been away from the Observatory for a few days," Silvally said.

    "Yeah, I sent the request yesterday. Metagross is usually on top of this stuff, so I figured he sent you guys," Kahuna Raichu said. "I guess not."

    "Well, hold on a second. I'd like to a hear a bit more about this 'disappearing tourists' business," Shane said. "Specifically, how long has it gone on for?"

    Kahuna Raichu tapped his chin. "Hmm… I'd say it's been a few days, yeah."

    Shane's ears folded against his head. "I was afraid of that," he groaned. Turning to his teammates he said, "How much do you guys want to bet this issue is tied to the Seaside Shard?"

    "You're probably right," Espy said, frowning. "The timing's too convenient to be some sort of coincidence." The rest of the team nodded their agreement.

    "Seaside Shard? What are you guys talking about?" Cosplay Pikachu wondered.

    "It has to do with why we're here," Shane said. "See—"

    Tessa clamped Shane's muzzle shut. She shot nervous glances around the beach. "Um, Kahuna Raichu? Do you have somewhere private we could talk?"

    "Of course," Kahuna Raichu said. "Let's head to the resort. I need to check on some stuff in the bar, anyway. It's closed at this hour, so we'll have all the privacy we need."

    "A… a bar? Like, a drinking bar?" Espy said, ears sticking up. She shot Silvally a nervous look. How was she supposed to walk into a bar a day after she had sworn off drinking and act like nothing was wrong?

    "You know it," Kahuna Raichu said. "We serve up the best grub and drinks on the whole Horizon Continent, yeah! Just don't tell Crabrawler that," he added, chuckling to himself.

    "Um… I don't suppose we could trouble you for some food, could we? We kind of skipped breakfast to get here," Shane said, his stomach gurgling.

    "No worries, cousin. I'll whip you guys up some Sparksurfer Breakfast Burritos. They're a Circadian Coast specialty," Kahuna Raichu offered, grinning.

    "A breakfast burrito? Like with actual meat?" Shane gasped. He had to gulp down a mouthful of spit. It sounded great, except Shane wasn't sure if that meant Kahuna Raichu went and killed other Pokémon to get meat.

    "Shane, we went over this when you tried Steenee's beef stew for the first time. Magearna created power formulas for civilized 'mons to use to make meat and milk-based products," Tessa said, shaking her head.

    "Oh… right," Shane said, embarrassed at getting called out.

    "Hey! You all coming or what?" Cosplay Pikachu shouted from a few yards ahead. She was positioned on Kahuna Raichu's back as he floated toward the resort. Team Radiance jogged along after them, with Gallian lingering behind to help Zoroark.

    When they reached the end of the beach, they walked up the stone stairs. Kahuna Raichu led them toward the right side of the giant building, where a giant gap sat. A stone archway lay over the top of the gap, offering the group shade from the sunlight.

    It turned out that the large rectangular building was a border surrounding the whole resort. Inside of it were several smaller buildings sporting an array of bright, vibrant, tropical colors. The shop closest to Team Radiance was structured to look like a green quartz crystal. The sign read "Sky Jukebox Emporium." Other shops offered different novelty wares or tropically-themed accessories for Pokémon. Shane spotted a Seviper and Arbok slithering out of a store selling exotic fruits, both with content smiles on their faces.

    "Uh… wow," Tessa said, looking at the trio of palm trees sticking up between two stores. "Is this all part of the resort?"

    "You know it, cousin! The town is the resort," Kahuna Raichu declared, grinning. "All the fine folks that set up shop here specialize in producing goods and services you're not likely to fine elsewhere in Horizon. We've got home-grown fruits and veggies, herbal treatments and remedies, massage therapy…"

    Shane's head poked up and his tails wagged excitedly. "I could go for something like that," he chirped.

    "Uh, we're on a tight schedule, remember?" Silvally said, to Shane's disappointment.

    "What we're known for worldwide is our production and distribution of Sky Jukeboxes and music crystals," Kahuna Raichu continued.

    "Wait, you guys make those here?" Espy gasped.

    "Oh, totally!" Cosplay Pikachu said. She hopped off her dad's back and spun around, changing into a poncho of a Sky Forme Shaymin. She plucked a blade of grass from the ground and stuck it in her mouth. "Because of the way ocean water crashes up against the rocks in Sunset Shoals, we can mine the materials we need by going there. Then we take them back here and make the final products. Well, Dad and I don't specifically, but there are 'mons here who know how to make them."

    Shane wondered if that made them this world's blacksmith equivalents, but knew that comment would only draw blank looks. "How exactly do music crystals work, anyway?" he asked.

    "Eh, it's got something to do with magic and psychic energy," Cosplay Pikachu said. "Primarina would be the one to ask because he works with them a ton. He said something about how you press them against your head and think about the music you want to produce. The crystal then absorbs your thoughts and transfers them into actual sounds. Then you sing into the crystal if you want your song to have vocals."

    Shane wished music worked that way for humans. If it was that easy, he could've been a famous musician. Heck, he could probably do that here if he could get his paws on a music crystal.

    "Not to put a damper on all of this, but where exactly are you taking us?" Gallian asked, looking cautiously around the area. While there weren't many Pokémon out and about, he was wary of being spotted in the middle of a town.

    "To the other end of the town," Kahuna Raichu said, pointing an arm forward. "That's where the actual lodgings for guests are. I call it 'The Circadian Kabana!' Pretty slick, yeah?"

    "It does sound catchy," Silvally said.

    Everything was getting weirder for Shane. So much of Circadian Coast felt ripped out of tropical destinations he knew from the human world. He wanted to question it, but considering this was a world where he could breathe ice and fire despite not being a dragon, he shrugged it off.

    The group passed more shops. One stand had a thatched roof resembling a Kecleon's head. It was manned by a Kecleon whose scales were primarily orange instead of green. "Huh, he kind of looks like a pineapple," Zoroark said. "Wonder if he did that intentionally?"

    "I strongly doubt Color Change works that way," Espy said.

    "I'll have to take your word for it. Illusions are really all I'm familiar with," Zoroark said. He offered a friendly wave toward Kecleon, but the shopkeeper's expression blanched upon seeing him. Zoroark's ear drooped. "Oh, great, looks like some of the folks here aren't too keen on Zoroarks."

    "Nonsense," Kahuna Raichu dismissed. "You're with the guild. They'll love you, cousin. He's just gawking because you're strutting around town with me. While I try to get to know all the guests at the Kabana, I don't offer personal escorts."

    Team Radiance proceeded through the center of the resort, passing a marble fountain with statues of a male and female Milotic lovingly intertwined with one another. The rim held multiple stone statues of a small sealion with a round nose at the end of its snout. They all spat streams of water into the fountain.

    "Hmm… so, is that Pokémon spitting the water out a pre-evolved form of Primarina?" Shane asked.

    "Yeah, that's a Popplio," Tessa replied. "Who knows? Maybe we'll find one around here."

    "Oh, most definitely. There are Popplios and Brionnes that work with Primarina as his backup dancers for his performances," Cosplay Pikachu said. "Check it!" She pointed a paw to her right, revealing a large, pink and blue building that resembled a giant clamshell. "That's our theater! Primarina does paid concerts there… as does yours truly!" Cosplay Pikachu spun around in a stream of threads, emerging in the same outfit that Team Radiance first saw her in.

    "Lemme guess, you go by Pikachu Pop Star in that getup?" Shane said, having finally given into the persistent urge to make a quip.

    "Ah, I see I've got myself a fan," Cosplay Pikachu said, starry-eyed. Then, in a harsher tone, she said, "If you want an autograph, it's gonna run you fifty coins."

    "Err… I'll pass," Shane said, a nervous grin on his face.

    "Alright, cousins, here we are: The Circadian Kabana!" Kahuna Raichu declared, putting his hands proudly on his hips. Team Radiance lined up next to him, looking up in unison at the numerous stories of the large building's northern face. The top floor contained a single circular window with a vibrant orange sun painted around it. Lower floors had fluffy clouds drawn around the windows. Swathes of blue ran in between them, giving way to a dark blue mural of the sea along the ground level.

    "Come on, let's get you all situated inside, yeah. We can talk more once we've gotten you some grub," Kahuna Raichu said, directing Team Radiance to follow him through a door made from straw and giant palm leaves.

    XxX

    ~Rem Canyon~

    Is your gadgetry picking up any readings?

    Magearna swiveled her head around, catching Sticky and Team Go-Getters by surprise. Sticky flew behind Luxeira, fidgeting nervously with his arms. "Erm… try not to do that around my partner. He's a bit jumpy," Luxeira said.

    "Same here," Blaziken deadpanned, patting Swampert on the back reassuringly.

    Ah, my apologies. I figured this was typical fare for working with a mechaniacal 'mon like myself, Magearna said. In any case, we're approaching the first point in the dungeon where there's a split in the path.

    The expedition team made their way along a dusty brown trail bordered on each side by a large gray cliff. Huge rock formations jutted up at the base of the cliff. Each one was carved to display a different dragon in some sort of pose. The rock nearest to Magearna showed a Garchomp with its finned arms raised triumphantly. Across from it sat a stone Salamence leering down at the ground, as if challenging them to approach.

    "I get the feeling the dragons living here have some very high opinions of themselves," Seraph said, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "We'd probably do best to keep to ourselves."

    Which is precisely why I requesticated that Sticky begin scanning the area for ultra auras, Magearna said. If we can locate the Scalebound Shard with our equipment, we might be able to retrievify it while causing minimal disruptions to the Pokémon living here.

    Sticky's visor materialized over his eyes. It flashed purple for a few seconds, then Sticky shrugged. "Sorry, but I'm not picking anything up. We'll have to go deeper into this place."

    "… absolutely, positively ain't making me stay in here in a minute longer!"

    "Sounds like someone else is here," Blaziken said, crouching into a fighting stance.

    "They didn't sound very threatening, though. That's about as shrill a voice as I've ever heard," Swampert said, looking farther down the path. "Do you think it's a dragon?"

    "I made it perfectly clear to you, mate. We're laying low here until all this nonsense bubbles over. And we need you around because you're a dragon… so you can keep the dragons that live here off our backs, got it?"

    Magearna held up one of her arms. I recognize those voices. That was Lycanroc… the one who ran afoultery of the guild after Shane upset him.

    Dusk's brow furrowed. "No kidding. How'd he end up here? He must be pretty desperate."

    "If that's really Lycanroc, I'll bet that shrill voice we heard was Jangmo-o," Comfey said. "What should we do?"

    "Nuh… no! You can't make me stay here. I've… I don't want to be here, all right. Stand aside and let me g—"

    A sudden whoosh of fire caught the group by surprise. They all backed up along the path, readying themselves to strike, if necessary.

    "Well, well, well," a deeper male voice snorted. "Look at what we've got here. The runaway runt has come crawling back home. Nab 'em, gang! The Totem's gonna want to welcome his son home, after all."

    More flames emerged from farther down the path, this time accompanied by dragonfire and electricity. "Uh, are we gonna do something?" Dusk asked.

    "Nah, we should stay out of it," Seraph said. "You said he was a criminal, right? Let the dragons deal with him. If they're distracted with Lycanroc, we can accomplish our goal in peace."

    "They said something about the Totem, though," Dusk pointed out. "I've got a sinking feeling the Totem might know something about the Scalebound Shard."

    Let's not think like that yet, Magearna said. The voices were clearly coming from the left path, so we should proceed right for the time being. Onward!

    The group went right at the fork, ignoring the panicked yelps and hollers coming from the left path.

    XxX
    Next time: trouble in paradise?!
     
  5. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    I wonder if that's really what happened...

    clearly he keeps Magazines in there

    What if there's an entire dimension composed solely of lettuce and that's where that came from. Imagine it...

    ...Oh god. That's right. She's a dog.

    Long live the Guildmaster...

    Well I mean. Zoroark did call him an ass just a couple of minutes prior... :p

    I liked the explanation of zororark powers. I'd actually been wondering, when he'd mentioned how much he disliked rolling around as a geodude, if he'd literally just been like somersaulting around as a big ol' zoroark, which, yeah, would've been really awkward. Not to mention noisy--those geodude might've wondered why it sounded like someone was flopping around a big sack of fox meat whenever that guy moved. And yeah, moving like a quadruped--actually moving like one, with all feet/hands or at least toes/fingers on the ground--is hella awkward for dedicated bipeds. So yeah, kind of neat to find out how the heck all that worked.


    I like the fact that such a thing can be literally true. Ghosts are so delightfully weird.

    See previous. Bodies that don't conform to physical laws = fun opportunities to play around with body language.

    Welp, now here I am helplessly thinking of Necrozma as having cocaine dander. Cocander.

    Oh my god, Mewtwo. You. Are such. A kitty cat. :p

    I want you to picture me making a frankly comical "omg" face in slow motion, because that was basically what my reaction was here. Wait, heck, you don't know what I look like. In that case, uh... just picture whatever you like? Long as it has a face. Yeah. :V

    immediately perks up with morbid hecking curiosity >8D

    Cue another "oh my god" reaction.

    AND THE "HOLY FRICKS" JUST KEEP ON COMIN'
    Seriously that entire chapter was fricking amazing. Just... damn. Loved that stuff.

    Now now, Shane, don't eat the mousey. :p


    That was a quality chunk of chapters there. Lots of characters getting a nice fleshing-out (including Seraph, which was certainly a surprise). And now we've got Primarina posing a genuine threat and being a colossal dork while doing so. Looks like things are about to get a whole new kind of interesting...
     
  6. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Hmm... it's a mystery dungeon

    oh god my mind immediately went to a sultry place i've been on the internet too long

    That's actually what I was thinking when I wrote that. XD

    Team Radiance, the dorkiest dogs to ever dog.

    The best worldplay is always the stuff you do by accident!

    Yeah, this was my trade-off for not giving Zoroarks their ludicrously OP illusion-making powers that they have in the anime. My headcanon is either that it's hydrokinesis (manipulating water molecules in the atmosphere) or it is shapeshifting, but they're not as good as Ditto or Mew.

    I had a lot of fun with the ectoplasmic antics of these ghosts, but I do think it's something that's best done in small doses like this one-off special. Otherwise, it might get boring.

    That's an interesting mental image, there.

    Indeed! I thought it would be nice to add them to play up the connection between Mewtwo and Mew. Clearly, some of her playfulness made its way into Mewtwo.

    Oh, I have an image in mind, but I can't post it here because it's a spoiler for a recent game.

    Well, it was Mew who said that and she was the lone god of the old world...

    *insert "It all comes together!" meme from the Sun/Moon teaser trailer here*

    Glad you're enjoying it. And yes, this will be a very different kind of episode. Antics are abound!

    XxX

    Chapter 73: Mega Mishaps

    ~Dewdrop Woods~

    "Blimey, I thought I'd never get out of that stupid prison!"

    A pool of purple shadows inched up a massive tree trunk, coming to a stop on a branch that jutted out over a cluster of vibrant green bushes. Purple baubles stacked one on top of the other until Marshadow completely rose out of the puddle. He tilted his neck toward his right shoulder, wincing from the crick that sounded.

    "I can't believe they had a way to neutralize my shadow melding. It's disgraceful. Master Thief Marshadow trapped inside a cramped underground room because a few broads got the better of him," Marshadow grumbled, his beady eyes smoldering. "Whoever this 'Magearna' character is, I'm going to have to pay them a nice visit as thanks for creating the maximum-security cells. I would've been out of that jail in a day if it wasn't for them!"

    Rustling leaves drew Marshadow's attention. He looked over his shoulder, where a trio of yellow rock spines jutted out from a cluster of leaves. "You know, you could at least offer a little thanks to the girl who helped bail you out, bucko," a slightly-distorted voice whispered from inside the leaves. "If it wasn't for me, you'd still be bashing your fists uselessly against your cell door."

    "What are you looking for, luv? Flowers? A box of chocolates? I don't do favors or thanks," Marshadow said, waving his hand. Behind him, Solrock rose up from her hiding spot. Her body was covered in purple, boil-like protrusions.

    "Oh no, it's nothing like that," Solrock said. "I was just thinking that the two of us ought to team up. Y'know, pool our resources together and all that jazz." Solrock floated awkwardly toward Marshadow. "With my cunning brain and your raw strength, we'd make quite the pair, don't you think?"

    "Not in the slightest, luv," Marshadow scoffed. "I'm Marshadow. Operating alone and unseen is my M.O. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate you helping me bust out of jail, but don't expect me to return the favor. Maybe once I get that ancient looplet back from those pesky serpents I'll send a few coins your way as thanks."

    Solrock began vibrating. Her strange growths flashed with purple light. She floated in front of Marshadow, who took a cautious step backwards. "I'm sorry," Solrock said, her voice growing progressively more distorted. "That wasn't a request… it was an order."

    Before Marshadow could respond, Solrock exploded in a burst of purple light and black chains. Flaming rock shards battered Marshadow, stopping him from disappearing into the tree branch. He lost his footing and tumbled off the tree. Marshadow didn't fall for very long, however. The chains that burst out of Solrock descended on Marshadow. They wrapped around his body, binding his arms and legs together. Marshadow's eyes widened. He tried to dissolve into a cloud of shadows and escape, but the chains responded with black lightning, locking Marshadow in place. He floated in midair, wrapped up in the chains.

    "Heeheeheehee! Well now, don't you look comfortable?"

    Marshadow regained feeling in his arms and legs and resumed struggling. Beside him, a cloud of black smoke drifted away from the tree trunk, forming up into Necrozma. His right arm securely gripped the ends of the chains. "Rrrgh… wh-what's going on here? Who are you? Do you… nrrrgh… have any idea… who you're messing with?" Marshadow growled.

    "Of course. Marshadow… the Master Thief!" Necrozma declared. "Admittedly not a Pokémon I'm all that familiar with, but the 'shadow' part is really all I'm interested in, if you catch my drift." He brought his wings together and rubbed his claws gleefully.

    "I… don't… take on… partners," Marshadow grunted through gritted teeth.

    "I'm afraid I'm going to have to break that rule for you," Necrozma taunted, lifting his right arm up and flicking the dangling Marshadow with a claw. Marshadow bounced around like a tetherball, until his struggling came to a stop. "You're going to partner up with someone. In fact… heeheeheehee… it'll be the closest partnership in the entire world!"

    Confusion spread across Marshadow's face. "You're clearly off your rocker," he said, trying to conjure up an attack. The chains responded by tightening around him, drawing a pained yelp.

    "Heeheeheehee! Struggle all you want, but you're not breaking free of these ley lines," Necrozma said. "See, in my days as a pathetic human, Shane simply begged me to borrow a game I had gotten that his parents wouldn't buy for him. And I, being the good, naïve friend that I was, acquiesced. I figured Shane would beat it quickly and then give the game back."

    He hoisted the chains up so that Marshadow was at eye level with him. "He gave it back… heeheeheehee… only the disc had such a large scratch on it that the game was unplayable! And did Shane make up for it by buying me a new copy? No! Worse… my parents sold my precious Gamecube when they got my report card a week later. I was outraged! Incensed!" Necrozma shook the chains, throttling Marshadow. "Once again, a generous act had been rewarded with a proverbial kick to the nads!"

    "I bought the game to get a Shadow Lugia! I loved it. I needed it. But Shane… he took it from me! He stole my Shadow Lugia! Just like the gods stole my light!" Necrozma shouted, arms spasming and nearly making him lose his grip on the chains. "And then… he had the nerve… the nerve to flaunt it in front of me! The gods are doing that here, too!" Necrozma's tongue drooped out from his mouth. Drool trickled down his armored chest.

    "But now… heeheeheehee… I can rectify that!" Necrozma said, licking his lips as he brought Marshadow closer to his face.

    "I don't want any part of your sicko fantasies, you whack job," Marshadow barked, only for the ley lines to tighten around him once again.

    "I may not have the means to close the door to a Pokémon's heart, but who cares! That was a stupid concept, anyway," Necrozma continued, ignoring his captive. "I've got a much better alternative. And, as a reward for assisting me, I'll let you steal something far more precious than a piece of old jewelry."

    Marshadow's eyes flashed green. "Is that a fact?"

    "Of course," Necrozma replied, squeezing the chains in his claws. They strangled Marshadow to the point where his head slackened against his neck. "I've got the 'Shadow' part secured… so now, I just need to get the other half: Lugia! Heeheeheehee!"

    Necrozma levitated Marshadow up so the ghost sat on his shoulder. "I hope you brought a towel, because we're about to go for a swim!" The red eye on his forehead flashed and an Ultra Wormhole popped into existence. Necrozma flew into it with Marshadow trailing behind him.

    XxX

    ~Circadian Kabana, Juice Bar~

    Kahua Raichu led Team Radiance into a large square room with a glazed wooden floor. Circular tables sat clustered around the front half of the room, while the back half had a black marble dance floor. A variety of differently-colored Luminous Orbs were embedded into the ceiling. However, they were all shut off. Instead, natural sunlight filtered in through a pair of windows along the back half of the room.

    Team Radiance sat down at the two tables closest to the bar on the right side of the room. It was a lot like the one they were familiar with at Crabrawler's Café. Drink bottles of different sizes and colors sat on multiple shelves. The bar counter had a row of stools in front of it, with a few of them clearly designed for four-legged Pokémon. On the left side was a cardboard cutout of what appeared to be an Exeggutor, only its neck was absurdly long, stretching all the way up to the ceiling. Shane paid the cutout little mind, figuring it was a unique feature for Exeggutors in Horizon.

    "Alright, here we are," Kahuna Raichu said, floating out of a white door on the left of the bar. A circular tray floated on either side of him. He set one tray down on each table, revealing white flour tortillas. Shane salivated at the sight of bits of egg and sausage poking out from the breakfast burrito in front of him. Empty glasses and pitchers of orange juice accompanied the food. "Hey now. No need to wait for a signal, yeah. Go ahead and eat," Kahuna Raichu said.

    Shane and Tessa wasted no time digging into their meals, while their teammates were a bit more methodical. Silvally and Zoroark used their claws to cut the burritos into reasonable chunks. Gallian did the same thing with his horn. Espy stared at her plate, brow furrowed.

    "Aren't you going to eat?" Silvally asked.

    "I don't know… something about trying to eat this doesn't sit right with me. Feels like I'd be committing taboo if I did," Espy said, cautiously sniffing her breakfast.

    "If you won't eat it, I will," Silvally said, licking his beak.

    Espy's stomach growled. She pulled off a mouthful with her telekinesis and ate it. Espy shrugged and continued tearing off pieces to eat. "So, tell us a bit about these missing tourists," Espy said between bites.

    "It started a few days ago. A Furfrou couple that was traveling here for a vacation had gone off to Daybreak Beach for Mantine Surfing lessons," Kahuna Raichu explained. Shane was immediately tempted to ask about Mantine Surfing, but looks from Espy and Tessa told him he'd have to wait to find out more about it. "Only, when the afternoon rolled around, the Mantines came back to Daybreak Beach and said they'd lost the Furfrous."

    "Do they know what happened?" Tessa gasped, rubbing bits of egg and meat off her snout.

    "No. That's the really strange part, cousin," Kahuna Raichu said. "They said they remembered the lesson going really well. Then, all of a sudden, they blacked out."

    "Were they attacked?" Silvally asked.

    "I don't think so. They looked perfectly fine," Kahuna Raichu said. "It didn't sound like they had lost consciousness or anything. They just… had a big memory lapse. And once they snapped out of their dazes, the Furfrous were gone."

    Gallian frowned. "What happened after that?"

    "Well, I was tempted to close the beach down, yeah. But this is a busy time of year for us and we already lost Evening Beach to the rising tides," Kahuna Raichu explained. "So, I went to Primarina's studio to find Team Harmony, but only Vaporeon was there." He scratched at his ear. "Vaporeon said that Primarina had gone on an expedition to Sunset Shoals. Like, setting up a base camp and everything. Something to do with trying to mine more music crystals."

    "Anyway, I asked Vaporeon if he'd search for the Furfrous. He agreed and took his mate, Jolteon, along with him," Kahuna Raichu continued. He sighed and looked down at the floor. "But he hasn't come back yet. Jolteon and Primarina haven't, either. And, in the meantime, more guests have vanished from the beach… and nobody seems to know how or why."

    "Huh, that's quite perplexing," Silvally said, finishing off the last of his orange juice. "They couldn't have just walked into the ocean… they'd drown, wouldn't they?" The thought made Shane and Tessa cringe.

    "Hmm… I wonder," Espy said, tapping a forepaw against the table. "Maybe these disappearances are related to the Seaside Shard? Think about it. It's a safe bet at this point that the Seaside Shard is in Sunset Shoals. Otherwise, someone here would've discovered it. And I'm pretty sure Ultra Serperior used some of the Sizzle Shard's power to destabilize Mt. Supernova. So, who's to say similar problems aren't happening at Sunset Shoals?"

    "True, though the Subterranean Shard was just sitting in a wall in the Cavernous Depths," Shane said. "I'm not saying I disagree with you, Espy. I just think that, if we take those pieces of information together, it's a good possibility that a Pokémon in Sunset Shoals found the Seaside Shard… and that's causing all of our problems."

    Shane looked around at his teammates' stunned expressions. "What? What's with the funny looks? Do I have something in my teeth?"

    "No. I'm just… surprised to hear you come up with that idea," Espy said.

    "Hey! I can say smart stuff sometimes," Shane huffed. "I figured out that Gallian was behind the thefts in Aeon Town last month, didn't I?"

    "Whoa, time out, cousins," Kahuna Raichu said, holding up his paws. "Bring me up to speed here. What's this about a Sunset Shard in Seaside Shoals? I mean… a Shardset Sun in Shoalside Seas…" His brow furrowed. "Err… you know what I mean, yeah?"

    Espy quickly relayed the situation with the Dawn Hourglass to Kahuna Raichu. She concluded with, "That's why we're here, actually. We intend to go to Sunset Shoals to see if we can locate the piece of the Dawn Hourglass that ended up there."

    "Ah, yeah, that'd be pretty important," Kahuna Raichu said, scratching his ear. "Thing is, I just closed down Daybreak Beach on account of the disappearances."

    "What's the big deal? We're going to the Mystery Dungeon, not the beach," Shane said.

    "Sunset Shoals is located on an island off of Daybreak Beach. The only way we can get there is by swimming a mile through the ocean," Silvally explained. His glowing appendages turned blue. "I could probably handle it fine, but you guys…" His voice trailed off and he looked at his teammates. "Uh, no offense intended, but I'm pretty sure that Zoroark is the only one who can swim. And he's injured. So, I doubt we'd be able to make it as a group."

    "That's where I'll have to step in, yeah," Kahuna Raichu said. "Usually we offer Mantine Surfers up to guild members free of charge, but I sent them all home." He rubbed his stomach and gave a reassuring grin. "Don't despair, though. Seeing as you guys are on a mission for the Tapus, I can definitely convince a few of them to give you a lift to Sunset Shoals."

    "Excellent," Silvally said, beaming. "Then we should prepare to head out."

    "Uh… about that," Tessa whispered, poking her digits together nervously. "You do realize that none of us have ever gone Mantine Surfing before, right? Heck, I'm still trying to get used to moving around on my toes. How do you expect me to stay balanced on a Mantine, huh?" She turned to Kahuna Raichu. "You wouldn't happen to have Sharpedo Sailors you could call on, do you?"

    "Sorry, cousin, they don't work for me," Kahuna Raichu said. "If it's any consolation, our Mantine Surfers are real pros at navigating the ocean. If your team wants a nice, smooth ride to Sunset Shoals, then that's what you're going to get. I'd stake my Totem Crystal on it."

    Tessa tugged at her bandanna. "O… okay, I guess," she squeaked. The idea of falling into the ocean deeply unsettled her.

    "Kahuna Raichu, you wouldn't happen to have any, like, floaty devices or life preservers, would you?" Shane asked. "Y'know, for Pokémon that can't swim?"

    "Well, I do have flotation vests for little kids who need 'em, but I don't think they'd work with a full-grown Ninetales," Kahuna Raichu said, tapping his chin.

    "N… no, no, I'm okay. I can swim," Shane said, laughing nervously. He wished he hadn't learned through a life-or-death situation, but he couldn't change the past.

    Tessa picked up on Shane's train of thought. "I am not wearing a kiddie vest," she said, scowling and crossing her arms.

    "Sheesh, it was just a suggestion," Shane said.

    Before anyone could offer anything else up, the doors to the juice bar flew open. "K… Kahuna Raichu!" a panicked Poliwhirl with yellow hands shouted, barging into the room and nearly knocking a table over in the process.

    "Whoa, easy there. Where's the fire?" Kahuna Raichu asked.

    "It's… it's… Jolteon!" Yellow-Hands wheezed. "She… she washed ashore… on the beach! She's in… real bad shape!"

    "You're kidding," Kahuna Raichu gasped. "Were Vaporeon and Primarina with her?"

    "No. It's just Jolteon. Come on, I can take you to her," Yellow-Hands said, jogging in place by the door and beckoning Kahuna Raichu to follow.

    "Mind if we tag along? This could be important," Silvally said, getting to his feet.

    "By all means," Kahuna Raichu replied, hovering toward the door. Cosplay Pikachu swapped her outfit out for a poncho of an Audino and hopped onto her dad's back. The rest of Team Radiance followed along after him.

    "Unngh… I was really hoping… I wouldn't have to run," Zoroark grunted, gripping his injured leg. Gallian and Tessa hung back, the latter offering her right shoulder to Zoroark for support.

    "Hey, guys, wait up!" Gallian barked, but it did no good. By the time the three of them had made it out of the Kabana, there was no sign of any of their teammates.

    "Crap!" Gallian hissed, stomping a forepaw against the gravel. "Tessa, any chance you can sense where they went?"

    "Um, lemme see," Tessa said. She shut her eyes, channeling her aura sight. Immediately, a throbbing pain shot through her head, forcing her eyes open. Tessa stumbled forward, almost tripping Zoroark up in the process. "Ow!" she squealed, rubbing her temple. "It's… it's no good, Gallian. The second I tried using aura sight, I got a splitting headache." She avoided Gallian's gaze, worried he'd be disappointed in her failure.

    "So, what do we do? Go knocking on doors until we find the rest of the group?" Zoroark wondered, looking around the resort.

    "Well, Poliwhirl mentioned finding Jolteon at the beach, right?" Tessa said. "If the beach we came to is closed, then she must've washed up at Daybreak Beach. Which is… uh… that way, I think!" She pointed a paw to her left. "Come on, let's run!" Without even asking, she scooped Zoroark up in her arms.

    "Hey, I didn't say I needed a lift!" he gasped.

    "Sorry, we're pressed for time right now," Tessa said, dashing forward. Gallian matched her pace, eyeing her skeptically. "Relax, Gallian, I've got him. He's… a bit on the heavy side, yeah, but nothing too bad."

    "It's the mane. It weighs more than you think," Zoroark said, grabbing hold of his hair to avoid tripping Tessa up. After a minute of running, they found another archway with a beach on the other side. It was larger than where they arrived and it didn't end in a wall. Instead, frothy ocean water lapped up against the shore, leaving a long stretch of darker-colored sand between each wave.

    "You guys see those storm clouds?" Gallian asked, tensing up. "They look pretty fierce. Did Magearna or Latias mention anything about a storm-bringing Pokémon flying over this part of Horizon?"

    "No," Tessa said, lowering Zoroark to the ground.

    "I was afraid of that," Gallian said, scowling. "That's gotta be the direction Sunset Shoals is in."

    "You don't think the dungeon is causing it, do you?" Zoroark said.

    "After what we've seen, I'm willing to believe anything out of the ordinary," Gallian replied, his scythe crackling pink. "More importantly, though, I'm not seeing our teammates out here."

    "I guess they must've already gotten Jolteon to a healer," Zoroark said, scratching at the stump where his left ear used to be.

    Tessa's aura feelers scrunched up. She narrowed her eyes, focusing on the edge of the shore. "Guys, I think something's up with the water," Tessa said.

    "What do you mean? All I see are waves rolling up from the ocean," Zoroark said.

    "That's just it! The waves… they're getting bigger!" Tessa realized, aura feelers shooting up in alarm. As soon as she finished speaking, a particularly large wave crashed down on the shore, spilling water out across the sand. A hazy cloud blocked the trio's view of the shoreline. Gallian and Zoroark both took cautious steps back toward the resort.

    "Something's wrong here," Zoroark said. "I think we need to call for h–"

    "Hit the deck!" Tessa shouted, cupping her paws together and thrusting them forward. A blue fireball shot out. It stalemated with a larger blue fireball. Smoke spread in all directions. Hissing, Tessa threw an arm over her face.

    "Is someone attacking us?" Gallian growled.

    In response, a column of water split the smoke apart. Gallian scrambled to his right. The water struck the top of the archway and rained down on Zoroark and Tessa. Both threw their paws up over their heads and ran forward, groaning loudly.

    "You lads are coming with me!
    That's the way it's got to be!
    Anyone who sets foot on this beach!
    I'll catch before they get out of reach!
    Yo ho! Yo ho! Prepare yerselves, cause it's time to go!"


    Tessa grabbed her ears and pushed them against her skull. "Argh! What is with that godawful singing? It's painful!"

    "Tessa, look out!" Gallian cried, scythe brimming with psychic energy. He launched pink crescents in front of his sister, destroying the blue fireball that nearly broadsided her. The smoke finally settled, revealing a Clawitzer with seaweed wrapped around his torso. His large pincer smoldered with blue embers.

    "Hold still, scallywag, or this will hurt!
    And we need us a crew that's fresh and alert!"


    Clawitzer again belted out scratchy, out of tune lyrics that made his opponents' fur prickle. Tessa fought through the ringing pain in her ears and rifled off another blue fireball. She expected him to have no mobility on land, but Clawitzer shocked her by bouncing into the air. Luckily, her Aura Sphere curved upward. It knocked Clawitzer into the water.

    "Gallian, listen to me!" Tessa shouted, thrusting her paws to the side. Blue flames encased each of them. "You have to go back into the resort and get help… now!"

    Gallian paused in the middle of gathering black shadows in his scythe. "Wait, what? And just leave you and Zoroark out here?" he growled.

    "You're the fastest one out of us. Just trust me on this!" Tessa said. She sprinted across the beach before he could respond, frantically waving her arms to catch Clawitzer's attention.

    Zoroark fired a black beam. Clawitzer deflected it with a glob of water. "Do it, Gallian! We need the others here," Zoroark said. "I won't go charging into the fray, I promise."

    "R… right," Gallian whispered, then took off running for the resort. As soon as Tessa was sure he was safely through the archway, she launched a blue fireball at Clawitzer. He dipped underwater to avoid it. Clawitzer rolled onto the shore and brandished his large pincer at Tessa.

    Water and ice swirled inside it. Clawitzer laughed heartily and launched an ice spear at Tessa. A chain-shaped stream of water trailed behind it, connecting back to Clawitzer's pincer. In a last-ditch attempt to save herself, Tessa funneled aura into her paws and thrust them forward, praying she could break Clawitzer's projectile apart.

    The plan failed miserably. A torrent of ice and water blew Tessa back across the beach with an agonized howl. She rolled across the sand, leaving a trail of water and blood droplets behind her.

    "Tessa!" Zoroark cried. He turned to Clawitzer, paws and right eye flashing crimson. He slammed the ground, sending a crimson wall of energy toward Clawitzer.

    "Don't make me laugh!
    You won't stop me, lad!
    I gave you both fair warning!
    Now you've made me mad!"


    Clawitzer turned to Zoroark. The watery chain whipped back toward his pincer and a new ice harpoon formed up inside it. Clawitzer launched the harpoon. It split Zoroark's attack apart and forced him onto his back. Ice, water, wood and leaves exploded behind Zoroark, remnants of a tree Clawitzer's spear destroyed.

    Zoroark sat up, shooting a black beam. He clipped the left side of Clawitzer's head, but Clawitzer wasn't fazed. Water and ice whipped up around Clawitzer. Zoroark knew exactly what Clawitzer planned to do, but his injured leg made getting up a cumbersome task.

    "Nnrrrgh… c'mon, Gallian," Zoroark groaned, shooting another black beam in desperation. This time Clawitzer vaulted over the attack, landing a couple of feet in front of Zoroark. Clawitzer prepared to unleash an ice spear, when an enraged scream echoed across the beach.

    "Huh? What the—" Clawitzer started, only to get cut off by a blue fireball equally as large as he was. His exoskeleton splintered, cracks racing down his arm toward his chest. The collision jettisoned him skyward. Clawitzer careened off toward the ocean, water and ice streaming from his limp body. He splashed down hard, kicking up a plume of water that Zoroark could barely see given how far away it was.

    "Okay," Zoroark whispered, trying to catch his breath. "That was… suitably terrifying. Thanks for the save, Tessa." He turned to his left, expecting Tessa to acknowledge him. Instead, he had to throw his arm up over his face to shield himself from a bright flash of orange light. "Tessa? What's happening? Is that you?"

    "I… have had… enough!" Tessa shouted, her voice distorting. The orange light surrounding her faded to red ripples that raced across her body.

    "Gyah!" Zoroark shouted, skirting back across the sand. "Tessa, what happened to you? You're… you're…"

    Tessa hunched over. Her new, waist-length aura dreadlocks lashed out at the air behind her like whips, brushing the tan fur extending off her waist where her tail should have been. The spiderweb pattern of black fur on her torso had spread out to her head, arms, and legs. Her black-furred paws and feet instead glowed fluorescent-red. The winged heart, by contrast, was pitch black, matching the color of the gem in her Naturia Looplet. Both appeared to be the sources of the red wisps surging around her.

    "Just once… just once… I'd like to show up somewhere and not have something trying to kill me within the first hour!" Tessa snarled, her irises flashing with a multitude of different colors. "Why? Why can't we just have one peaceful goddamn morning?!" She pivoted to her right and thrust her paws forward. A giant blue fireball raced out into the ocean, splitting the water apart as it moved. It exploded in a blinding blue flash.

    "Tessa! What the hell are you doing?!"

    Gallian charged onto the beach, skidding to a halt in the sand when he saw his sister. The rest of Team Radiance came to his side, while Kahuna Raichu and Cosplay Pikachu both helped Zoroark back to his feet.

    "Rrrrghh… get… away… from me!" Tessa shouted, whirling around and flinging a blue fireball at Gallian. He stood there, utterly mortified. The aura sphere would've bowled him over had Silvally not leaped in front of Gallian. Purple shadows raced down his talons from the ghost memories in his looplet. He lashed out, slicing the fireball into blue cinders.

    "What's wrong with her?" Gallian said. "Why does she look exactly like Mom?!"

    "It's Mega Evolution," Shane realized, horror spreading across his face. "But Tessa can't control it!"

    Tessa doubled over, crying in pain. She threw her metal-coated paws over her ears and shook her head about violently. "Shut up, shut up, shut up!" Tessa screeched. She struck the ground with a glowing paw. Plumes of sand shot up near Team Radiance, forcing Shane and Gallian back with startled gasps. Silvally cit through the plumes with a barrage of air crescents.

    "Tessa, listen to me! It's Silvally! You've got to calm down!" Silvally shouted, bounding toward her. "We don't want to hurt you. Everything's going to be okay, but you've got to stop shouting and take a few deep breaths!"

    "I'm done listening to you!" Tessa roared. Two streams of metal corkscrewed toward Silvally. He channeled ground memories before taking the metal in the face. Silvally skidded into Gallian.

    "How is this even happening? Espy, I thought you had all of our Awakening Emeras," Shane said, looking worriedly at Tessa. How could he stand up to that? He had a glaring steel weakness.

    "I do," Espy whispered meekly, peering at her satchel. "Plus, Jirachi said he had solved the issue of Pokémon going berserk if they used an Awakening Emera. I have no idea what's going on here!"

    "Be quiet!" Tessa snarled, shooting liquid metal in Espy's direction. She gasped and ran to her right, barely skirting the attack. "This is all your faults!" Tessa shouted. "You ran ahead… when you knew Zoroark was hurt. I was just trying to stay back and be a good spirit-sister. I tried to shout for you all. But did you listen? No!"

    Gallian and Silvally were too busy untangling themselves to see the Aura Sphere racing toward them. Espy tried to snuff it out with a bright-pink energy ball, but her attack wasn't strong enough.

    "Tessa, what are you doing? Stop attacking them!" Shane cried, only to squeak frightfully as Tessa's wild-eyed gaze fell on him.

    "You want me to listen to you?" she growled. "Fat chance! You wouldn't even show me the same courtesy!" Tessa closed the distance between her and Shane in a matter of seconds. Shane backpedaled across the sand, panic spreading across his face. "If you had listened to me when I was calling for you, then I wouldn't have had another near-death experience to add to my growing list! Why do you have to be such a dense moron, huh?"

    "I… uh…"

    Tessa's metal spikes extended into claws and she raked them across Shane's head. He collapsed on the ground, writhing in pain. Tessa reared back, ready to thrust her metal claws through Shane's rib cage. But the sight of the mortified look in Shane's eyes made her pause. Tessa stood there, right paw raised over her head, trembling. Blood pooled out from the gashes on Shane's forehead, staining his fur and trickling down his mane. For a brief moment, the red energy ripples stopped surging across Tessa's body and the rainbow glow in her eyes faded.

    "Sh… Shane?" she squeaked, bringing her paw back down toward her chest.

    As soon as she did this, however, her eyes regained their multicolored glow and her red aura intensified. An angered look spread across her face as she raised her paws up, claws poking between her digits. She brought her paws crashing down toward Shane. But earth-encrusted talons broadsided her across the face. Tessa's head whipped around to her left, then the rest of her body followed suit.

    "I'm sorry, Tessa, but this is for your own good!" Silvally cried, striking her with his other foreleg. Her red aura and glowing eyes disappeared in a flash of orange light. By the time she hit the sand, she had returned to normal. Silvally looked away, shutting his eyes. "That was… just awful," he whimpered.

    "Oh, man, this is really bad," Kahuna Raichu said. He glanced at Cosplay Pikachu. "Listen, I'm gonna go get Florges over here on the double. Think you can at least step in and help out in the meantime?"

    "I'm on it, pops," Cosplay Pikachu said. She dashed toward Shane, her Audino hooding fluttering behind her. "Stand aside, stand aside. He needs treatment fast!" she shouted. A pink glow encased both her paws. She pointed her index fingers toward Shane. Pink light struck Shane's head and slowed his bleeding. Shane tried to sit up, but his whole world was spinning. He groaned loudly.

    "Sorry, cousin, that's the best I can do," Cosplay Pikachu said. "I've gotta tend to Absol. Big guy, think you can prop him up until Florges gets here?" she asked.

    Silvally bent over and hoisted Shane into a seated position against his right shoulder. "Shane, you still with me?" Silvally said.

    "Oogh, my aching head," Shane said. "What happened?"

    "Tessa hit you pretty hard with… uh… I think it was Metal Claw? I'm not entirely sure," Silvally said.

    "Wait… oh gods, Tessa!" Shane shouted. "Is Tessa okay? What happened to her?" Silvally repositioned Shane, allowing him to see Tessa stirring in the sand a foot away. "Tessa, can you hear me?" Shane called. Tessa didn't respond. Instead, she brought her paws up toward her face.

    Before Shane could say anything else, Kahuna Raichu returned, with an orange-flower Florges floating behind him. "Here they are," he said, gesturing toward Team Radiance. "It was a Mega Evolution gone wrong. Ninetales suffered a pretty bad blow at the paws of Lucario."

    "I'll get right on it," Florges said, floating calmly toward Shane.

    "Nuh… no… don't worry about me. Tend to Tessa," Shane croaked.

    "I'm sure your friend appreciates the concern, but you need the most immediate attention, Ninetales," Florges said. She exhaled a small green cloud that washed over Shane and Silvally. Both of them relaxed, the former slumping down into the sand. Florges waved her right arm and a trail of yellow dust spread over Shane's face. A few seconds later, the dust lit up blue. Shane's wounds sealed themselves off, leaving only bloodstains behind.

    "Did you heal him with Wish? I didn't think it worked like that," Silvally gasped.

    "It's a trade secret among us healers," Florges said with a wink. "Now, let's tend to Lucario." She floated to Tessa, who remained face-down in the sand.

    "Go away," she mumbled, the beach muffling her voice. "I don't deserve your help."

    "Sorry, Lucario. The Kahuna wants you all healed up. I'm not going to refuse him," Florges said. Tessa tried to raise a paw in opposition, but Florges quickly calmed her down with another cloud of green gas. Florges healed Tessa up the same way she did Shane. Tessa slowly sat up until she was kneeling in the sand. Tears welled up in her eyes.

    "I… I'm so sorry," Tessa squeaked, clasping her paws against her chest spike. "I have no idea what came over me! We lost sight of you guys, so we went to the beach. That's when a Clawitzer came rising out of the sea. He attacked us, singing this awful song the entire time." She grabbed her head and shook it. "His voice was horrendously scratchy… it's like a million Joltiks climbed into my ears and electrocuted them!"

    "But the kicker was that Clawitzer used some weird attack where he made this blade out of ice. He hit me with it and… and it just hurt so much!" she continued, shivering. "That pain… I got so frustrated that I had to lash out. Everything became a blur until Silvally stopped me."

    The rest of the group stood there, taking in Tessa's tale. "I don't understand how it happened," Silvally said. "There aren't any Awakening Emeras in her looplet."

    "Yeah, about that," Zoroark said, limping up to Tessa. "There was some sinister-looking energy spilling out of the gem in your looplet." He held his paw out toward Tessa who, in turn, showed Zoroark her looplet. Zoroark examined the central gem and confirmed that it had returned to its usual pink color. "It looks fine now, but it was all black and red while Tessa was transformed," Zoroark said.

    "So, you think my looplet caused this?" Tessa gasped, pulling her paw back. She covered her right paw up with her left to hide the heart sigil from her friends. "If that's the case, then I'm taking it off. I don't want to risk going crazy like that again!"

    "Are you serious? We need Z-Power to beat the Prism Virus, remember?" Shane said. "Look… it was just a one-time fluke, that's all. Now that we know it's happening, we can keep an eye on you and prevent the same problem from popping up in the future. Does that sound okay?"

    "No!" Tessa shouted. She cupped her paws over her mouth. "I'm sorry, Shane. I didn't mean to shout," she squeaked, aura feelers drooping. "It's just… I can't bear the thought of hurting any of you again. And the feeling… when all that energy was flowing through me…" She shuddered. "I know we need to stop the Prism Virus, but I'm not willing to risk Mega Evolving again. It's horrible."

    "You don't have to do this for my sake, Tessa," Shane said, frowning. "It's more important that we deal with the Prism Virus, isn't it?"

    "It's not just about you, Shane!" Tessa snapped. Shane scooted back, looking down guiltily. She had a point, right? He couldn't force her to use the looplet. Forcing Tessa to do things was what initially made their relationship so toxic.

    "Easy there, Tessa," Silvally said. "I'm sure the whole ordeal must've been terrifying for you. Just take a second and gather your thoughts."

    "Y… yeah… okay," Tessa whispered. She walked backwards for a few paces, rubbing her right paw with her left. After a half-minute of silence, she said, "I didn't mean to spook you, Shane. It's just… you really don't understand how scary it was."

    "I think I might have an idea," Shane said, pointing to the blood on his head. "I guess if you're that concerned about keeping yourself safe, then maybe you should lose the looplet for a bit. At least until we can figure out what the issue is."

    "I can help with that," Espy declared, walking up to the rest of the group with the Gear-Com levitating beside her. "Just got off a call with Magearna about this whole crazy incident. Now, she doesn't have her reference materials on her, but she seemed confident that what we saw was just your average, uncontrolled Mega Evolution."

    "Excuse me? That sounds like a hell of an oxymoron," Gallian growled, flicking up some sand with a forepaw.

    "Eh heh heh… I phrased that poorly," Espy said with a nervous grin. "What I meant to say is that, according to Magearna, Z-Power from a Naturia Looplet can trigger a Mega Evolution instead of a Z-Move."

    "That's what I was afraid of," Tessa squeaked, looking at her looplet. "I can't keep this on. What if the next time I try to use a Z-Move, I end up Mega Evolving and attacking you guys instead? I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I did that."

    The gravity of Tessa's words quickly sunk in amongst her teammates. "Then, take it off," Silvally said. "We've still got other Z-Move users. Heck, you could give it to Zoroark!"

    "That's not necessary," Espy said. "See, what Magearna told me was that, for Pokémon that have Mega Evolutions, it comes down to what they're thinking and how they're feeling when they summon their Z-Power. If negative thoughts and emotions like anger or hopelessness predominate, a Pokémon will Mega Evolve, then immediately lose control."

    "What about the, y'know, ninety-five percent of 'mons that can't Mega Evolve?" Shane asked.

    "They fail to channel any Z-Power," Espy replied. "On the other hand, if positive or constructive thoughts like determination are in control, a Pokémon channels Z-Power. Magearna suggested that adding an Awakening Emera to a Naturia Looplet might allow Tessa to control her Mega Evolution, but she said that's just a hypothesis."

    "See, Tessa? It's not so bad. We've just got to stay by your side and make sure things stay under control," Shane said, smiling and offering an encouraging tail wag.

    Tessa's face scrunched up. "If that's the case… you have to promise me you're not going to leave me behind under any circumstances."

    "Absolutely," Shane said. He sat down in the sand and raised a forepaw. "Scout's honor, we're going to keep you from going berserk in the future."

    "Okay," Tessa whispered, her voice shaky. "I'm still taking an Awakening Emera to be on the safe side, though." Tessa walked up to Espy, paw outstretched.

    "Everything good, then?" Kahuna Raichu asked. Hesitant nods ensued from the rest of the group. "You think you're still up to go to Sunset Shoals?"

    "Based on what Jolteon told us, I think we have to," Silvally sighed. He looked at Gallian and Zoroark and said, "Jolteon was attacked by Primarina. Apparently, he can now hypnotize Pokémon by singing to them."

    "That would explain why Clawitzer sang while he attacked us," Zoroark said, shaking his head in disbelief.

    Shane shot a nervous glance at Tessa. He didn't want to drag her out into a Mystery Dungeon if she was already shaken up. Still, someone had to go. The Seaside Shard was likely at stake. They couldn't let it fall by the wayside. "Tessa, are you okay with going?" Shane asked. "I don't want to push you if you're not feeling up to it."

    "I'll go," Tessa said, fitting an Awakening Emera into an open notch on her looplet. "You guys said you'd make sure I don't lose control, right? You can't do that if you're in the dungeon and I'm cooped up here."

    "Right. A-as long as you're okay with it," Shane said, tails twisting around one another.

    "Alright. I'll go hit up the Mantine Surfers, yeah. And, while I'm at it, I'll try to find some 'mons who can patrol the beach in case anymore surprises are lurking in the ocean," Kahuna Raichu said. He beckoned Florges and Cosplay Pikachu to follow him back toward the resort.

    "Now what?" Gallian asked, looking nervously at his own looplet.

    "I guess we wait for the Mantine Surfers," Silvally said.

    XxX
    Next time: mail call!
     
  7. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    I know this is not even remotely the first time it bears saying, but. Necrozma, you are one nasty bat. XD;

    Is. Is he going to try and fuse those two somehow? Well, I suppose if anyone can do it, it's Mr. Fused-with-a-bat.

    ...Is there a chance that even if the ice hadn't happened, she would've mega'd anyway because the singing was just that bad? XD


    Mega Tessa sure was something! That was sweet of Shane, being first and foremost concerned about her even after she almost clawed his face off. Between that and the fact he stopped himself from insisting too hard that she keep the looplet, I'm proud of the guy.
     
    Ambyssin likes this.
  8. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Hoy, I need to get better at replying to these promptly. DX

    "Heeheeheehee! Why, thank you! I try."

    To be fair, he's human. He's watched enough Dragon Ball Z to know where this is going. :V

    Aha ha... I hadn't considered that, but having aura feelers didn't make it any better for the poor girl.

    Yes, there's going to be a bit to explore with Tessa's Mega Evolution, especially given her family situation. As for Shane... y'see? He's actually making progress! Don't say that to his face, though. He's already worried enough as is. Thanks again for reviewing! ^^

    XxX

    Chapter 74: Surf's Up


    ~Rem Canyon~

    The Gear-Com retracted back into Magearna's stomach compartment. She stepped toward the back of the tiny recess the expedition team had discovered carved into the right side of the trail. It would seem Team Radiance has run into an obstackle that is presently hindering their progress, Magearna declared. We cannot let that damplify our spirits, however. I suggest we proceed onward.

    She looked out toward the path, only for Blaziken to poke his head in and shake it. "Everyone needs to lay low," he said. "I hear more voices. There are 'mons heading this way, for sure." He crouched down, positioning himself behind a boulder that hid the recess from the main path.

    "Ugh. How long do you think we have to say down here? There's barely enough room to stand," Seraph said, pushing herself up against the wall. "Luxeira, so help me, if your tail jabs my belly one more time…"

    "Sorry, but there's not much I can do. This isn't the kind of tail I can just stuff between my legs," Luxeira said.

    "Then have Sticky hold it straight up," Seraph said.

    "What, so you can stare at my ass? Not a chance," Luxeira growled.

    "Please, this is about comfort," Seraph scoffed, flicking a paw. "I'm still sore from waking up yesterday and this ain't helping."

    "What part of 'keep your voices down' didn't register?" Dusk hissed, silencing them. She turned to Comfey. "Yeah. That makes sense. If I had been there, maybe I'd have been able to calm Midnight down."

    "I doubt it," Comfey sighed. "That whole kerfuffle was a huge headache. Not to mention it left me with a ton of work. I dare say it was one of my most stressful weeks at the guild… if not the most stressful."

    "And I'm sorry you had to go through that," Dusk said, shaking her head. "Maybe had I taken Midnight seriously, he wouldn't have stormed off and found the guild in the first place."

    You two aren't relatiated, are you? Magearna asked.

    "Not as far as I know," Dusk said. "It's just a shame, really. He was such a sweet kid when he was a Rockruff. But thanks to my screwup… he became a gigantic headache." Dusk pawed at the ground, frowning. "I tried to set him straight, but it's clear now I was fighting a losing battle. Still, I'm never gonna stop asking myself if I could've done something to keep him under control."

    "I want to know why one of these Totem guys would be so interested in him," Swampert said. "Especially if he went right from your village to the guild. I strongly doubt he ever came into this Mystery Dungeon."

    "It sounded more like the dragons we heard were interested in someone else," Sticky said, rubbing his chin. "Comfey, didn't you say Team Fang has a dragon on it?"

    "Yeah. Jangmo-o," Comfey said. "But if that's true, then that means he was a wild Pokémon who left this Mystery Dungeon."

    Swampert blinked in surprise. "Wait, seriously? How is that even possible?"

    I thought you were already aware Horizon's dungeons are not labyrinths that randomiscently reshape their structures? Magearna said. Our wild 'mons are one hundred percent real.

    "Hey guys, the coast is clear," Blaziken said, beckoning the group out.

    Seraph shoved Luxeira aside and scrambled for the exit. "Outta the way, outta the way!" she shouted, emerging from the alcove and taking in a big gulp of air. "Thank the gods! If I had to keep breathing in Houndoom musk, I don't think I would've made it." Luxeira rolled her eyes as she exited behind Seraph.

    "Look, just because the dragons are gone doesn't mean you should start yelling," Blaziken said. "We're trying to keep a low profile, remember? It'll be a lot easier if we don't attract any unwanted attention."

    "Yeah, yeah, I copy," Seraph said. "Why is it all the fire-types I know are such buzz-kills?"

    "Did you happen to hear any clues about the Scalebound Shard, Mr. Blaziken?" Sticky asked, floating cautiously behind Luxeira.

    "Not really," Blaziken said. "One of them mentioned something about the Totem readying a surprise for his 'know-nothing son.' I assume based on the scuffle we heard earlier that it has to do with Jangmo-o."

    If the Totem is preparing something important, then most of the dragons should be preoccupidated, Magearna said. Which means this is the perfect time to press onward. She pointed a mechanical arm forward. Blaziken shrugged, then walked down the path. The rest of the expedition group followed along behind him. The path remained narrow, with spikes jutting out of the rock walls in shapes that resembled fangs sitting in a mouth.

    "Boy, they sure know how to make some inviting architecture," Seraph said, shaking her head. "Seriously, has this place always looked so violent or did the dragons do this to appease their… I dunno… dragon gods or whatever?"

    In the Horizon Continent, the Land Spirits are responsibatable for terraforming the landscape. They need to do it or else the ley lines underground would rip our continent apart and the remains would sinksend into the ocean, Magearna explained. She continued forward, not stopping to acknowledge Seraph's gobsmacked expression.

    "Seriously? Geez, it's a wonder anyone can go about their business knowing their sitting on a gigantic death trap," Seraph said, throwing her arms up in exasperation. She glanced at Luxeira. "Do I even want to know what these 'ley lines' are?"

    "Frankly, I have no idea how to describe them," Luxeira said. "I find it's best not to think about it. This world's much more magically-oriented than what we're used to. If you're going to survive, you'll just have to accept it."

    "Huh. That's… surprisingly flexible of you," Seraph said, raising a brow. "The Houndoom I remembered got upset if our training was running even five minutes behind schedule." Luxeira looked away, happy her dark fur could hide her blush. She said nothing, not wanting to ruin the moment.

    "If I had to offer you any advice, Seraph, the more you think about ley lines, the bigger a headache you'll give yourself," Swampert said, chuckling. "Luckily, you've got professionals working alongside you. We'll make sure you don't, like, get randomly swallowed up by some sort of time-space anomaly." He offered Seraph a big smile before continuing to follow Blaziken.

    Seraph froze, eyes blinking slowly.

    "Th… that can happen here?!"

    XxX

    ~Circadian Coast, Daybreak Beach~

    Along the edge of the shore, Tessa paced back and forth nervously. She paused to look at Gallian. "Are you sure I can't convince you and Zoroark to come?" she said, unwilling to leave her brother behind again after finally winning him back.

    "Sorry, sis, we've got to sit this one out," Gallian said. "I can barely tread water for a minute. And with Zoroark's injuries…" He shuddered. "Besides, someone's going to need to patrol the beach and make sure no other 'mons like Clawitzer can get into the resort and terrorize the tourists. If Primarina really is behind all of this, somehow, I'm sure he's going to try and loop as many Pokémon from Circadian Coast into his crazy idea as he possibly can."

    Tessa frowned, unwilling to concede the point. "Don't you think you need some backup, though?" she said.

    "Kahuna Raichu's working on it, remember?" Zoroark responded. "I get that you're nervous, Tessa, but that's what your friends are here for."

    Shane nodded in agreement. "The four of us have gotten this far because we've stuck together. Through darkest night and brightest day, Team Radiance always finds a way, right?" he said, giving Tessa a reassuring grin.

    "I know," Tessa said, aura feelers drooping. She turned back toward the ocean and sighed. "We're really going to do it, then," she whispered. "We're going to Mantine Surf through stormy waters. Waters that," she gulped, "could sweep us away if we fall off."

    Shane's tails curled around his hind legs. When she put it like that, he couldn't help but feel nervous.

    "We've got to put our faith in Kahuna Raichu and the Mantine Surfers," Silvally said. "He boasted they're the strongest swimmers he knows. Besides, if we try to wait until tomorrow, it may be too late to do anything about Primarina. Those storm clouds don't look natural. I've got a hunch this is the only day we'll be able to make it to Sunset Shoals."

    "Much as I hate to say it, the big guy's right," Espy said, her gaze fixated on the storm clouds swirling in the distance. Lightning flashed through them, sending a chill up her spine. "While I really don't want to get wet, I don't see any way around this."

    "Sorry to keep you waiting!"

    Kahuna Raichu zoomed toward the group on his tail. Cosplay Pikachu dangled off his back, having swapped her Audino poncho for one that looked distinctly like Kyogre. Comically-large blue sleeves covered up her arms. Jolteon and Florges trailed behind Kahuna Raichu, the former covered in bandages, with a medicinal leave plastered over the bridge of her snout. Three other Pokémon accompanied them: a Golduck, a black-gloved Poliwrath, and a Herdier whose mustache was caramel-brown.

    "That's our backup?" Gallian said, his eyes flashing pink.

    Zoroark put a paw on Gallian's shoulder, a disapproving look on his face. "We're happy to have their help," he said, his tone suggesting he was speaking for both of them.

    "Jolteon's hurt, though. What's she doing here?" Silvally asked.

    "I tried to keep her in bed, but she refused," Florges said.

    "I've got to know what happened to Vappy!" Jolteon declared, wincing as she stepped toward Team Radiance. "If I can't go with you guys to Sunset Shoals, then you can bet your asses I'm staying right here so I can see Vappy the second you guys get back."

    'Assuming we can even find Vaporeon,' Shane thought. What if it was already too late for him?

    "Just promise us you won't overdo it," Silvally said. "Otherwise, you'll break Vaporeon's heart."

    Sparks raced down Jolteon's bandaged fur. "I'm not going to let those crazy water-types sneak up on me again," she said. "By the way, Kahuna, what's your plan to counteract Primarina's hypnotic singing?"

    "Well, I don't exactly have anything concrete," Kahuna Raichu said, rubbing the back of his head. "But between me and Espy, our group will have two psychics. I'd like to think we can block out Primarina's tunes with our ESP."

    "I don't suppose Magearna gave us some sort of, I dunno, Geartronic Sonar Damplification Apparatuses, did she?" Shane asked, looking at Tessa.

    "You mean something to cover our ears? No," Tessa said. "Though I'm sure if you pitched that idea to her she'd jump all over it like a Snorlax at a buffet."

    "Drat," Shane said, flicking sand with a forepaw. There was no way they'd be able to navigate Sunset Shoals safely without some sort of countermeasure.

    "In all honesty… I think the four of us should be fine," Espy said. She was met with a bunch of bewildered stares. "Why are you guys looking at me like that?" She paused. "Wait. Don't tell me you don't know about your scarves?"

    Tessa grabbed the edge of her bandanna with a paw. "What about them?"

    "Oh, gods… you mean nobody told you? Your scarves don't just have a rainbow pattern because it's pretty to look at… those scarves were made from feathers of Ho-Oh's rainbow wings!" Espy declared.

    "Seriously?" Gallian gasped. He looked at Tessa. "Did you know about this?"

    "No," Tessa said, tracing a digit through the scarf's fabric.

    "Your parents really never told you about that?" Espy said in disbelief.

    "All Dad said was that it was a gift from the Totem of Solstice Summit," Tessa said, digging her right foot into the sand nervously. "Mom certainly never said anything about it." She bit her lower lip. "Then again… back when you were fighting us, you kept trying to take the rainbow scarves, didn't you?"

    "Y… yeah," Espy said, wincing. "That's because I knew they had Ho-Oh's life energy. The scarves can keep your spirits safely tethered to your bodies. Heck, the first time I met you, I hit you with an infection beam that didn't work."

    "Wait, I don't remember that," Tessa said, stunned by Espy's confession.

    "Because Umbry had me wipe your memories," Espy said, ears drooping. "When we got back to Celestial Island, your mom told us about the scarf. She cursed herself out for leaving it with you. The next time we attacked, the scarf had been split in half. And, well, now we've all got a piece. So, in theory, we should be safe from Primarina's hypnosis."

    Her teammates sat there, processing the revelation. "Well, that's good to know," Silvally finally said. "But it's not going to mean much if we don't make it to Sunset Shoals." He stood up to look out across the ocean. "The water's growing choppier. We're in for a bumpy ride."

    "Don't you worry, cousins," Kahuna Raichu said, floating up to them. "Pikachu and I will lead the group and find the safest route through the waves, yeah."

    "Does that mean you're taking Mantines, too?" Tessa asked.

    "Of course not," Kahuna Raichu said, laughing. "I'll be surfing across on Ol' Reliable, here." He leaned over and rubbed the edge of his tail. Sparks tickled his paw.

    "Aha! You can learn Surf! I knew it!" Shane declared, hopping to his feet.

    "Yeah, but he only knows Surf because he's the Totem," Cosplay Pikachu said. "It's been passed down through our family. Other Pikachus and Raichus can't learn it."

    Shane's enthusiastic look deflated. "Aww, that's a raw deal. But at least we've got you guys on our side!" His eager look returned and he hopped happily in place, singing, "Everybody was surfing… surfing Chu-S-A! Ba-da-da-da-dah!"

    He looked at his teammates, only to be met with blank stares. Shane slowly stopped hopping. "Aha ha… ha… sorry, got a bit carried away. Must be nerves!" he squeaked.

    "Wait, does that mean Cosplay Pikachu is coming with us?" Espy asked.

    "Why else would I be wearing my Kyogre outfit?" Cosplay Pikachu responded, smacking her stomach confidently. "By channeling the mighty sea god, I shall fell this foul storm!" she proclaimed, raising her paws up triumphantly. A small wave crashed into the shore in front of her, bringing with it a collection of five Mantines. "Ha, just as planned!" Cosplay Pikachu said, beaming.

    "Looks like your rides are here, yeah," Totem Raichu said, waving the Mantines over. Each Mantine had a different pattern on the backs of their heads. The lead Mantine had the usual circles that almost resembled eyes.

    "Is this the crew we're taking over to Sunset Shoals?" Circle-Head asked, looking over Team Radiance.

    "You got it, cousin. These four, plus my daughter," Kahuna Raichu said. "I'll be leading us ahead."

    "Actually, you can send one of them home," Silvally said, stepping up toward the water's edge. The blue energy blades in his head crest glowed brightly. "I should be able to get through this on my own."

    "Are you crazy? Look at the water out there," Tessa said, gesturing in front of her. "Don't be reckless. We need you at your best."

    "There's nothing reckless about it," Silvally said. He crouched down and leaped toward a point where the water became ankle-deep for him. Silvally landed on the surface, much to Tessa's utter shock. Ripples raced out from his talons and hind paws, keeping him steady as if he was standing on the shore.

    "I… that's… uh… wow," Tessa whispered, blinking slowly.

    "… tch. What a showoff," Gallian said, flicking a paw dismissively.

    "Hey, are you guys just going to stand around or are we leaving?" Silvally asked, pacing along the water.

    "Err… right. Coming!" Shane said, trotting toward the Mantine with squares on the back of his head. "Um, got any tips for staying balanced and stuff? I've never gone surfing before."

    "Just keep your paws centered on my back," Square-Head said. "I'll take care of everything else."

    "Okay," Shane said, climbing onto Square-Head. On his left, Tessa boarded a Mantine with triangles on her head. And to his right, Espy climbed aboard a Mantine with star markings on his head, while Cosplay Pikachu climbed aboard Circle-Head.

    "Alright, is everyone ready?" Kahuna Raichu asked.

    Tessa wobbled about on Triangle-Head, spinning her arms in circles. "Um, actually, could we have a sec—"

    "Yup! Let's move out!" Cosplay Pikachu declared, pointing a paw forward. Circle-Head flapped his fins like they were wings, launching himself into the water. The other Mantines followed suit, the rush of water drowning out the startled gasps from Team Radiance.

    "Follow me, everyone!" Kahuna Raichu shouted, hovering over the surface of the water. "Things are looking choppy up ahead, but I see a calm patch over to our right!" He shifted his weight toward his right and veered off in that direction. The Mantines all repeated the gesture. Shane yipped in surprise, his paws slipping off Square-Head's back. He leaned to his left to counter the movement.

    "Oh, relax, Shane. We haven't even hit the rough waters, yet," Silvally said, trotting along the water beside Square-Head.

    "I'd like to see you try doing this!" Shane whined seconds before Square-Head hit a sudden dip in the ocean. Water splashed over him, dousing Shane in the process. His mane fell across his face, covering up his eyes. "Aww, come on, seriously?!" Shane groaned, shaking his head. He expected to get wet, but not this quickly.

    "Incoming wave!" Kahuna Raichu called. Electricity crackled across the base of his tail. As soon as he reached the bottom of the wave, Kahuna Raichu released the lightning, jumping over the shoulder-high wall of water.

    "W… wave? Wait, how big is it? I can't see anything!" Shane shouted. Square-Head smacked his fins down on the water, propelling him skyward. Shane bounced off of Square-Head. "H-hey! Where'd my Mantine go? Help!" he screamed. Seconds later, his paws contacted Square-Head's back. However, Shane couldn't gain traction against Square-Head's wet skin. He slipped. Square-Head hit the water and Shane tumbled into the ocean.

    "Squares, you lost your passenger!" Circle-Head shouted, Cosplay Pikachu standing firmly atop his back.

    "Hoo boy… guess Ninetales wasn't kidding when he said he was a beginner," Square-Head sighed. He dove underwater, then resurfaced with a soggy Shane lying on his back, shivering. They weren't even two minutes in and he was already reminded of the swamp in Moonrise Marsh.

    Triangle-Head swam by Square-Head. Tessa stood sideways on Triangle-Head's back, knees crouched, and aura feelers raised up behind her. "You doing alright, Shane?" she asked.

    Shane spat out a mouthful of water mixed with slush. "No! I think I got water in my ears!" he said. He tried to get back to his feet, but slipped again. He sprawled out on Square-Head's belly. All the while, the two Mantines continued together side-by-side. They caught up to Star-Head. Espy glanced over her shoulder and nodded to her teammates.

    "Two waves coming up," Kahuna Raichu said, funneling electricity down to his tail.

    "Not again!" Shane groaned. Rather than try to stand up, he released two tiny auroras from his mouth. They froze his forepaws to Square-Head's back.

    "Agh! What the heck's with the cold?" Square-Head said, flinching in pain.

    "Sorry! I needed the extra traction," Shane said, tensing up. They leaped into the air in unison with the two Mantines by their sides. Shane turned to his left, where Tessa was leaning forward and putting a glowing palm on her Mantine's head. Square-Head hit the water, drenching Shane. His sopping fur fell over his eyes.

    Shane had no time to recover as Square-Head took to the air once again. The rush of wind blew Shane's wet hair back. He saw choppier waters ahead, with whirlpools randomly scattered about. Riptide currents and waves scattered from the whirlpools' centers. Lightning flashed in the storm clouds above the group.

    Square-Head splashed down. Shane whipped his head back, flicking his mane over his shoulder. Shane hastily reformed his icy footholds and got back up to his feet.

    A sudden burst of yellow directed his attention in front of him. "Heads up, cousins, we've got company!" Kahuna Raichu said, frying a lunging Carvanha with lightning.

    To Shane's right, Cosplay Pikachu blew a stream of water apart with a burst of electricity. She fired another bolt straight ahead. It struck the water, lighting up a spasming Huntail. It sank back underneath the surface. "They're coming out of the whirlpools, Pops. We've gotta stay clear of them," Cosplay Pikachu said, adjusting her Kyogre hoodie so she could actually see.

    Shane blinked the water out of his eyes in time to notice a Tentacruel lunging out of the water. With a startled holler, he shot out an aurora. It struck Tentacruel's face. Tentacruel fell into the water. Square-Head swam forward, trailing behind the other Mantines.

    Ahead, Tessa's aura feelers twitched. She pivoted atop Triangle-Head's back and rifled an Aura Sphere into the water. The blast flung a wriggling Gorebyss into the air. "You're going to have to keep your eyes peeled, Shane. These water-types are coming at us from every angle," Tessa said, turning back around as Triangle-Head veered off to the left.

    "That's easy for you to say. You can actually sense them coming," Shane said, eyes stinging from the salty water courtesy of his mane.

    "Another wave!" Kahuna Raichu shouted.

    Espy's ears and tail stuck up. "Are you kidding me?! Look at the size of that thing! How are we supposed to get over that?" She was so fixated on the wave, that she failed to notice a pair of gunky purple balls sailing toward her position.

    "Espy, look out!" Shane cried. She looked left, eyes widening. The purple blobs exploded in a shower of toxins. Silvally dashed over by Espy's side, blue eyes glowing brightly.

    "Thanks for the save," Espy said. "But how are you going to get over that wave?"

    "I'm not… I'm going through it," Silvally said. He raced ahead of Star-Head, making for the wave. Star-Head bounced into the air, jostling Espy about. Just as Silvally disappeared behind a blanket of water, Star-Head hit the water fins-first. This propelled both him and a startled Espy higher into the air. She yelped in surprise as her hind paws threated to slip out from underneath her. Espy hastily funneled psychic energy into her gem. She stopped her skid with her ESP, then yanked herself back into position.

    "Head's up, Espy! Wailmers incoming on your right… and they're shooting off Water Spouts!" Tessa shouted.

    "Wait, wha—" Espy started, only for a veritable downpour to strike her from above. She tumbled off Star-Head's back. Lingering water jets struck Star-Head's fins. He reflexively folded them against his belly, sending him plummeting down toward the water. Star-Head stood no chance of saving Espy from her freefall. She couldn't do anything but scream.

    Two blasts of pink energy jettisoned the offending Wailmers from the crest of the wave. Shane scanned the ocean for any sign of Espy. He sighed in relief when he caught sight of Silvally bounding toward Star-Head, Espy draped over his back like a soggy pink towel. However, his expression turned to one of horror. The water in front of Silvally was swirling about in a circular pattern.

    "Look out, Silvally! You're heading right for a whirlpool!" Shane hollered. A bolt of lightning suddenly descended on the center of the would-be vortex, dissipating it. Silvally leaped over a knocked-out Wartortle that floated up to the surface. He landed awkwardly, however. Espy slipped off his back.

    Shane concentrated, scrunching up his face. A small pink bubble formed on the water, bouncing Espy back into the air with a surprised yowl. Star-Head plucked her out of the sky and glided down toward the ocean, flapping his fins repeatedly to slow his descent so Espy could regain her balance.

    Star-Head turned right, rejoining the rest of the group. Silvally paced along the water, looking for any enemies that might try to snipe Espy again while her back was turned. A column of water suddenly shot him skyward. Silvally squawked, limbs flailing and head crest fanning out from the startling blow. Beneath him, the Wailmers that had attacked Espy bobbed in the water. Both sent water plumes skyward.

    "Ugh, when will you lard buckets quit, huh?" Shane growled, narrowing his eyes. A pink explosion hammered one of the Wailmers under the surface, while a small orb of electricity from Cosplay Pikachu knocked the other one out. Silvally splashed down, only to resurface a few seconds later with messy plumage and a dazed look in his eyes.

    "You doing okay, big guy?" Shane called.

    "Aside from the part where I just swallowed a mouthful of seaweed, I'm peachy," Silvally said, blue eyes flickering in agitation. "Let's get a move on. If we stay rooted here too long, all the water-types will converge on us."

    "Oy, that there's the kind of talk that's going to jinx us!" Cosplay Pikachu said, pointing an accusatory digit at Silvally. Right on cue, Tessa's aura feelers shot up and she looked behind Cosplay Pikachu. Two ripples appeared in the water, giving rise to two large Gyarados. Both wasted no time unleashing gigantic white energy beams.

    "Hyper Beams?! Shit… abandon ship!" Shane yelped, turning around and diving into the water. Tessa and Espy duplicated the gesture, their Mantines diving underwater behind them. Kahuna Raichu raced off to his left, barely skirting the attack. A bewildered Silvally was left with no choice but to channel his ghost memories. He disappeared under the surface of the water with an unceremonious splash just as the Gyarados duo's blasts vaporized the water all around them.

    Kahuna Raichu levitated higher into the air. "Not cool, fellas," he shouted. "What do you two think you're doing, anyway?"

    The Gyarados pair responded with monstrous roars, their spittle drenching Kahuna Raichu. His face turned pale and he threw a paw up over his nose. "Hoo-man. Two words, yeah: breath mints," he said. Kahuna Raichu then electrocuted the Gyarados on his right. The blast even singed the other Gyarados.

    "I've got ya, Pops!" Cosplay Pikachu shouted. A ball of electricity slammed into the left Gyarados' face, knocking it back into the water with a titanic splash.

    "Everybody move!" Kahuna Raichu yelled, pointing forward. But Espy, Shane, and Tessa were too preoccupied climbing back on their Mantines, while Silvally doggie-paddled through the water, waiting for the right time to reactive his water memories. "Oh… that's not good," Kahuna Raichu said, ears folding against his head. "In that case…" He arced more electricity toward the dazed Gyarados on his right. This time it was ready, however, and met the lightning with gale-force winds that redirected it skyward.

    Luckily, Cosplay Pikachu came to her dad's aid, striking the Gyarados with a well-placed lightning bolt. It roared its displeasure as it collapsed to the right, revealing that the other Gyarados was not only back upright, but had white-hot plasma charging up in its mouth. Before it got the chance to release its attack, however, three psychic blasts struck it in its head, neck, and torso. The Gyarados' attack exploded in its throat. It belched out a massive plume of smoke and sank into the water, groaning loudly.

    "Now, hurry up!" Cosplay Pikachu shouted, directing Circle-Head forward. Circle-Head beat his fins, speeding toward Kahuna Raichu. Team Radiance followed along beside Cosplay Pikachu, with Silvally back on the water's surface.

    "I can see the island up ahead. We're gonna make it!" Tessa cheered, only to cup her paws over her snout as her teammates whiled on her with shocked expressions. "Err… uh… I mean… we're in trouble, here… right?"

    The water ahead of the group rippled. A gigantic wave rose up ahead of them, nearly reaching the heights of the Gyarados duo they had just felled. The Mantines all screeched to a halt. "That wave's huge! There's no way we're clearing it!" Triangle-Head cried, bobbing up and down in the water.

    "Then we've gotta blast an opening in it, yeah!" Kahuna Raichu declared, charging electricity up in his cheek sacs. Cosplay Pikachu also crackled with lightning. "Everyone, get ready. We'll fire on my mark, yeah!"

    Shane and Espy both narrowed their eyes, pink ripples gathering on their foreheads. Silvally's cheek bolts whirred to life, icy air funneling toward the tip of his beak. Tessa brought her paws together down by her waist, aura feelers scrunched as she concentrated all her energy down her arms. Even the Mantines hefted their heads out of the water, air swirling into balls between their antennae.

    "Now… fire away!" Kahuna Raichu shouted, unleashing a huge burst of lightning. It met up with the electricity fired by Cosplay Pikachu, forming a gigantic yellow bolt. Two waves of psychic energy slammed into the bolt from either side, swelling it further. Then, the pink and yellow beam swallowed up Silvally's ice steam and the Mantines' air crescents. Right before the giant blast could meet the wave, a large blue fireball barreled through it.

    A circular explosion parted the wave into two walls of water that collapsed on themselves. "Alright, it worked!" Shane cheered, seizing up to stop himself from foolishly jumping for joy and slipping off Square-Head. There wasn't any time to waste, after all. The group moved forward in unison. Just as they passed the spot where the wave was, however, the water dipped down in front of them.

    "Oh no… another whirlpool?" Espy gasped, wondering what more could go wrong for them. She braced herself for Star-Head to go airborne. But rather than harsh currents forming, a large blue blob rose out from the water, stretching so far in either direction that it walled off the group's progress.

    "That's no whirlpool, it's a Wailord!" Shane realized. "Cripes, we can't stay around here! What if there are more of them?"

    Two pillars of water erupted several yards behind Shane, making his tails and ears shoot up. He slowly turned around and found an angry Gyarados duo staring back at him, their facial scars darkened by electrical burns. "Guys … we've gotta do something!" Shane screamed, jaw dropping. The Gyarados had nearly charged their Hyper Beams, which would spell certain disaster for the team.

    Before anybody could offer any sort of advice, Wailord's blowhole erupted. A veritable tropical storm had formed over Team Radiance.

    "Dive, dive, dive!" Tessa cried, grabbing hold of Triangle-Head for dear life. Triangle-Head hastily submerged, flapping her fins in a desperate attempt to get as far underwater as possible. Tessa squeezed her eyes shut, trying to will her aura vision on. However, all she saw was the inside of her eyelids. Her aura feelers curled up against her head, a sign that they refused to work underwater.

    A quintet of splashes made Tessa's ears twitch. She forced her eyes open, gritting her teeth as salt stung them, and noticed different-colored shapes moving deeper in the water alongside her. Moments later, pounding splashes sounded above her, drawing up memories of nasty thunderstorms she hid under her covers from as a pup. Beside her, Silvally swam further underwater, his tail vibrating back and forth like a rudder in time with the movements of his legs.

    The water around the group grew warm, with frothy bubble fizzling toward the surface. Silvally glanced upward, where faint white light vaporized the water at the surface, offering brief glimpses of the air above them. A loud cry of pain then sounded, sending ripples through the water that threated to knock everyone in the group off course.

    Hey… can everyone hear me? It's Raichu, yeah, Kahuna Raichu said, his telepathy projecting through the water. Looks like the Gyarados hit Wailord and it's sinking into the water. You all need to pull up, now!

    The Mantines all craned their heads toward the surface and beat their fins in unison. Silvally wasn't as fortunate, however. He stopped moving his tail and legs but his momentum continued carrying him forward. A great shadow fell across his head, casted by Wailord's sinking body

    Silvally's eyes bugged out. Thinking quickly, the tip of his head crest erupted in a flash of gray light. Wind crescents raced out in front of Silvally. He came to a stop in the water, but kept up his attack. After a couple of seconds, the air blades propelled him backwards, safely outside of Wailord's shadow. Silvally didn't wait around to watch Wailord fall by him. He reached his forelegs up and doggie-paddled, tail oscillating back and forth.

    After a half minute of swimming, Silvally broke the surface of the water, thankful Wailord hadn't crushed him to death. He channeled his water memories, focusing energy into his legs. His talons braced against the water, as if they were pressing against solid ground. Silvally got to his feet, sighing in relief at the sight of a sandy shore lying several yards ahead, with waves crashing up against it. He trotted to the shore, head darting back and forth to scan for any signs of further trouble.

    Luckily, the worst of it appeared to be over. Silvally's claws finally struck land. When his hind legs were safely rooted in wet sand, he collapsed on his side. His breath came in ragged, salty pants as water splashed up against his open beak and lolled out tongue.

    "Thank… the gods… it's finally over…"

    Silvally rolled over to find Shane staggering ashore. His tails dragged against the sand, looking more like strands of wet tissue paper than a fluffy nimbus cloud. Shane's hair was a total mess, with part of it splayed over his face, some stuck to his ears, and other parts knotted together. Shane made it to the shoreline, stopped, and glared at Silvally. Next thing Silvally knew, a cloud of frost spread across his face. He squawked in protest.

    "What did you do that for?" he asked, brushing ice shavings off his metal beak.

    "For totally… jinxing us," Shane panted. "Last night… you said… knowing out luck… we'd wind up having to swim away… from a tidal wave." He gestured back toward the ocean. "Well, look what happened!"

    "Aww, c'mon, that was supposed to be a joke," Silvally said. "Don't hold it against me."

    Shane flopped onto his belly, groaning loudly. "Whatever. I'd like to make another motion. Next time… we recruit flying-types… so we can avoid this kind of bullshit," Shane said, legs throbbing in pain.

    "Seconded," Espy said, stopping next to Shane and leaning over to shake herself dry. It did her little good, however, as she was so thoroughly drenched she looked more like a ragged pink Stoutland.

    "All those in favor?" Shane asked, then rolled onto his back and raised a forepaw. Espy and Silvally repeated the gesture. Tessa, who trudged ashore behind Espy, shakily raised her right arm. "And all those opposed?" Shane said, before lowering his foreleg. He got no responses from anyone. "Wonderful… the motion carries. Score one for democracy and all that jazz." He laid his head against the sand. "I'm just… I think I'm gonna lay here… for a while… and not move for the rest of the day."

    "You know we can't stay here," Silvally said, shakily lifting his head. "How do you think I feel, huh? I didn't have a Mantine carrying me most of the way."

    "Yeah, but you chose to do that, bonehead," Espy said, tilting her head to the right repeatedly. A small amount of water trickled out onto the sand. "You could've had a Mantine Surfer carry you."

    "In case you haven't noticed, I'm a lot heavier than the rest of you. I was worried I'd hurt my ride," Silvally said, frowning.

    "Then maybe you ought to go on a diet," Espy mused, licking the side of her left foreleg and brushing it against her head to smooth out her fur.

    "Excuse me? Which one of us did Gallian say had a good physique, again?" Silvally said, sitting up to pout at Espy.

    "My brother said what?" Tessa said, aura feelers shooting up.

    "Hey, that's not fair. I'm a lady… I'm never going to be his type," Espy said, flicking her snout up indignantly.

    "Ugh, seriously, guys?" Shane groaned, pressing his ears down on his forehead. "Look, you're both beautiful in your own special ways." Since he was still on his back, he couldn't see the incredulous looks he got from Espy and Silvally. "Can we put this issue to rest, now? I just want peace and quiet."

    "Woo! That was quite the ride, huh?"

    "Why did I even bother getting up this morning?" Shane sighed.

    Kahuna Raichu floated up toward the group, with Cosplay Pikachu clinging to his back. "You all doing okay? Any injuries?"

    "We're fine. Just sore… I think," Tessa said, rotating her right arm around while she held her right shoulder. "Yeah, I'm definitely gonna feel this tomorrow morning."

    "I'm not sure what was up with all those wild Pokémon, yeah," Kahuna Raichu said, scratching his ear.

    Silvally's expression sharpened. "Do you think Primarina hypnotized them?"

    "How would that be possible? I don't hear any music," Shane said. "Now, I know this world likes to laugh in the face of basic physics, but I strongly doubt that music could carry through the ocean and reach the wild Pokémon underwater. That makes no sense. Actually, scratch that. It makes negative sense. Like, it's so ridiculous it sucks the sense out of everything around it."

    Espy held up a forepaw, ears and tail twitching. "Uh, hold that thought, Shane. Everyone quiet down for a second and listen." Silence fell over the group for a solid minute. One by one, their gazes turned inland. The sandy beach gave way to a large rock spire jutting up from the ground. It was bright blue and filled with tiny craters and holes that made it look like an oversized piece of coral. There was a gap in the rock where a small, sandy path went up a short hill. A stream trickled down the middle of the path, spilling into the ocean.

    Shane pointed his right forepaw at the gap in the rock. "So, you mean to tell me that Jolteon was blasted out of the dungeon, carried off by this stream into the ocean, and somehow made it all the way back to Circadian Coast?" he said, moving his forepaw along toward the ocean as he spoke. "That's bonkers. Something else must've happened to her."

    "Well, she was already knocked out by then, so it's not like she'd remember," Cosplay Pikachu said, shrugging.

    "Guys, be quiet!" Espy hissed. "Don't you hear that thumping noise coming from inside the rock?" She frowned at Shane, who shut his muzzle and clenched his jaws. After a few seconds of silence, his ears stuck up in surprise.

    "Yeah, I do hear something," Shane said, walking toward the gap in the rock. As he proceeded forward, the thumping grew progressively louder. "It kind of sounds like… music? With a lot of bass?" He tilted his head to the side. "But that— wait, huh?"

    "Wait up, Shane!" Tessa called, jogging toward him. "We can't just run into the dungeon all willy-nilly. We should come up with a plan!"

    "Hmm?" Shane turned back toward Tessa, his tails twitching. "Oh… right. I wasn't about to go running in. I'm just… confused." He turned back toward the dungeon's entrance. "Why does that thumping sound like the subwoofers all the jackasses in school had put into their cars?"

    "What's a subwoofer?" Tessa asked, raising a skeptical brow. "I mean, 'woof' is something canines 'mons do. But that sure doesn't sound anything like a chorus of barking Pokémon, if that's what you're insinuating."

    "It's a human world thing, isn't it?" Silvally said, joining his teammates. "Well, whatever that thumping noise is, it's got some sort of regular pattern to it. Maybe there's a Belly Drum contest going on in there?"

    "Please, there's no such thing as a Belly Drum contest," Espy scoffed, her tail flicking to her right.

    "So, in the human world, we have equipment that can play music… like the Sky Jukeboxs. Only our equipment is a lot stronger. We can blast our music at such high volumes that you could go deaf by listening for too long," Shane explained, drawing alarmed looks from his teammates. "The thumping noise we're hearing sounds like the equipment humans use. But I have no idea why it's happening here. Pokémon shouldn't possess that kind of technology, right?"

    "There isn't a need," Silvally said. "If you want to deafen a 'mon, that's what Hyper Voice or Boomburst are for."

    "G-Guys," Tessa said, aura feelers sticking up. "You don't think Primarina trapped a bunch of Pokémon down there to use some sort of super-powered Hyper Voice, do you?"

    "Um, well, if this has something to do with the Seaside Shard or the Prism Virus, I'd say anything's possible," Silvally said, eyeing the path skeptically.

    "I think there's some sort of party going on in there, actually," Cosplay Pikachu interjected. Team Radiance turned to their right, where Kahuna Raichu was hovering a few inches above the stream. Cosplay Pikachu sat on his head, peering into the rock's partition. "You can't tell from where you all are standing, but I see colorful flashing lights up ahead."

    "Seriously?" Shane gasped. He crept further up the hill. At the top sat a ring of sparkling rocks. They glowed with moving blue light that resembled waves lapping up against the beach. Like the larger rock surrounding the group, this small ridge had an opening through which a stream of water funneled out. On the other side of the ring, Shane spotted faint, different-colored lights popping into existence, only to disappear seconds later.

    "She's right," Shane said, beckoning his teammates forward. They all joined him, looks of confusion spreading across their faces as they caught glimpses of the flashing lights.

    "That's… odd," Espy said. "Does Sunset Shoals normally have flashing lights?"

    "No. The closest it gets is reflected light moving around like what you're seeing on those rocks up ahead. Those colors are way too bright and vibrant, yeah," Kahuna Raichu said.

    "The thumping got louder, too," Tessa noted, her aura feelers rhythmically contracting. "There's definitely music coming from that direction."

    "On the other side of the hill is the dungeon's entrance. There's a downward incline and then you've got a series of underground basins," Kahuna Raichu explained. "Sometimes there are multiple rooms on a floor. I don't exactly remember how deep underwater the cave goes, but it's pretty deep."

    "Great. More spelunking," Shane said, sighing. "I guess we should stick together for now and see what happens. Does that sound good to you guys?" All his teammates nodded in agreement. "Okay then. Time to explore Sunset Shoals."

    Kahuna Raichu hovered in front of the group, directing them around the top of the hill. On the other side, they found a large tunnel opening, with a bevy of seashells embedded in the arch. The seashells flashed different-colored lights, though they paled in comparison to the much brighter light beams emerging from the tunnel. Tessa threw her arm up over her eyes.

    "These lights are gonna be troublesome," she said, rubbing her eyes.

    "I know, but the sooner we get it done, the sooner we can head back to the resort," Espy said. With a heavy sigh, she set off into the tunnel, the rest of the group following after her.

    XxX
    But wait! There's more! Check out the next post for something special...
     
  9. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    And now… for a special bonus!
    This is an omake. Please don't take it seriously!

    ~Circadian Coast, Daybreak Beach~

    Shane trotted across the sand, tails fluttering behind him and water flecking off his fur. A towel lay draped over his waist. He ran toward a bunch of Pokémon sitting under beach umbrellas. "Okay, okay, I'm here! What was so important, you needed to send Silvally in to drag me out of a shower, huh?" he said, looking around at all the Pokémon lounging about, chatting with one another.

    "Tessa should be here soon," Silvally said, yellow tail wagging excitedly.

    "Yeah, but she's not here now," Shane said, glancing back at his tails. "You couldn't have let me finish?"

    "Shane, you've been showering for an hour," Espy said, rolling her eyes. "If we didn't pull you out, you'd use up all the hot water. Again."

    "I was shampooing my fur," Shane whined.

    The argument was cut short by a Sharpedo speeding toward the shoreline. Silvally turned around, head crest turning green and fanning out. Tessa clambered off her ride, a duffle bag slung over her shoulder. She jogged through the shallows and onto the beach.

    "Welcome back, Tessa!" Silvally chirped, bounding over toward her. He skidded to a halt to avoid barreling into her.

    "Hey, Silvally," Tessa said, craning her neck to nuzzle her friend's cheek bolt. "How are things?"

    "Good, good. Everyone's been enjoying some lovely beach weather," Silvally said.

    "I can see that," Tessa said, waving at the other Pokémon. "Hey, guys." She got a couple of nods of acknowledgement. Espy and Shane walked up to her.

    "So, how was the fabled Smash Mansion, huh?" Shane asked, eyes sparkling. "Is it true they've got an all-you-can-dip chocolate fountain there? Oh! And what about the other fighters? Does Mario really dye his mustache? Does Luigi actually sleep with a nightlight in his room? What about Bowser's cross-dress—"

    Shane's muzzle abruptly snapped shut. He went cross-eyes staring at the pink glow around it in confusion.

    "For pity's sake, Shane, let Tessa have a moment to breathe, will you?" Espy said, shaking her head. "Sorry about that. You want some help with your bag?"

    "Oh no, I'm fine," Tessa said, scooping the duffle bag up with a wince.

    "You sure?" Espy said, frowning.

    "Yeah. Just a bit sore, that's all. Let's just say Little Mac doesn't pull any punches," Tessa said, rubbing her right shoulder. "Um… maybe I should answer Shane? He looks like he's going to explode if you keep his muzzle clamped shut any longer."

    Rolling her eyes, Espy released her grip on Shane's snout. He rubbed it against his shoulder, pouting. "Aww, c'mon, you can't blame me. Tessa's living the dream! How the heck did you even get called on to go there, anyway?" he said.

    "Aha ha… I'm still a bit confused on that front. Apparently, the Lucario that had been there suffered some sort of injury. Something to do with Ken and Ryu and a 'Hadoken-Off," whatever that's supposed to mean," Tessa said, shrugging. "In any case, Master Hand heard about our penchant for ridiculous battles and decided to hire me." Tessa reached a paw up and massaged her throat. "Though trying to imitate a guy's voice is not fun. I swear to the gods, if I ever have to shout 'Max Aura!' again at the top of my lungs, I'm going to punch someone."

    Her friends all stepped away from her, nervous looks on their faces.

    "Otherwise, it was pretty interesting," Tessa said. "I mean, the place is much fancier than anything I've ever seen. It was… weird sleeping on a bed." She held up a paw. "No, wait, scratch that, the weird part was the fact that the place was run by two giant talking hands! Like, I thought I'd seen everything in our adventures, but apparently not."

    "What did you think of them?" Shane said, eyes brimming with curiosity.

    "Master Hand's quite polite. And he's got such a suave voice," Tessa said, smiling and fanning herself with a paw. "Crazy Hand is… uh… well, the guy has a propensity for blowing things up." She rubbed the back of her neck, laughing nervously. "Slight chance he might've set Princess Daisy on fire a couple of times."

    "Did you find it weird having to fight an Incineroar?" Silvally wondered.

    "Err… it was a bit weird," Tessa said, fidgeting with her scarf. "But he was very nice! Said he's from a world where humans and Pokémon work together. His human partner studies Pokémon and apparently has a wrestling career on the side. What was his name again? Cukoowee or something…" She shrugged. "Eh, it's not important."

    Oh, Tessa, you're back from the big production, eh? Perfectable timing!

    Magearna approached Team Radiance, prompting some of the other beachgoers to sit up. Tessa walked up to meet her. "You need us for something?" she asked.

    Yes. As a matter of fact, we just got a fanmail submistication for the cast, Magearna announced, brandishing a letter for everyone to see.

    "Wait… since when do we answer fanmail?" Shane said, brow furrowed. "Hell, since when did we get fanmail?"

    "Since always," Espy said. "We just tended to answer them without you since… uh…"

    "… since you don't know when to shut up!" Togedemaru shouted from her spot sitting on top of a small sandcastle.

    "Aren't you supposed to be dead?" Shane said, frowning.

    "Didn't you see the note at the start of this? O-M-A-K-E. Nothing happening here makes sense," Togedemaru scoffed, adjusting her sunglasses.

    "Okay then," Shane said, sweat drops trickling down his head. "I guess let's answer the fanmail…"

    Magearna nodded. This one comes to us from a distant world, courtesy of little Cosmog Nebby. He says, "Dear Guiding Light Crew, I'm writing because I wanted to ask who your favorite Smash Fighters are." Magearna placed the letter in her chest compartment. I suppose we should start with Team Radiance.

    Everyone looked expectantly at Shane. "Oh… me first?" he said. "Okay. My favorite fighter's Wolf, of course!" He paused to gauge the group's reaction, which consisted of several shocked expressions. "What's with the looks?" he said. When no one responded, he narrowed his eyes. "Oh, I see how it is. Just because I'm a fox I'm supposed to like Fox, huh? Well, nuts to that high-tier, scratchy-voiced loser. Wolf all the way!"

    "Finally, something Snowy and I can agree on!" Lycanroc shouted, lounging on a beach chair and holding up a mug of frothy berry juice. "What a mistake it was leaving him out of the last game. I can't wait to tear you blokes some new ones with Wolf."

    Beside Lycanroc, Gallian glanced at Zoroark. "Aren't you gonna say something?" he asked. "Wolf and Fox seem right up your alley."

    "Nah. I'm a Kirby main," Zoroark said, scratching at his facial scars.

    "S-Seriously?" Gallian gawked. Behind him, the ladies of Team Captivate all stuck their heads up to stare.

    "Of course. Li'l guy's so adorable… I could just pinch his cheeks," Zoroark said, grabbing hold of Gallian's instead.

    "Ow, ow, okay, okay, I get it," Gallian said, batting Zoroark's hand away. "You just… didn't strike me as the type. I thought for sure you'd like Meta Knight more than Kirby."

    "Like you?" Zoroark said, smirking.

    "Oh, get a load of the Brawl fanboy over here," Togdemaru heckled as she climbed on top of her beach chair. "I'll bet you're still sore they took tripping out of Smash."

    "I can like Meta Knight without being a shill for Brawl, you know," Gallian growled, forehead scythe crackling with dark energy. "I'll happily give you a beatdown if you don't believe me."

    "Uh, guys? What happened to 'let's start with Team Radiance?'" Silvally said, giving them a look of disapproval. Togedemaru slid back down in her chair, pouting. "Okay, Tessa, I'm willing to bet your answer's pretty obvious, yes?"

    "Aha ha… well, I might be biased," Tessa said, pointing a digit at her face with a goofy grin. "I do wish Master Hand hadn't made me strike such an… um… interesting pose for my poster." She poked her digits together nervously.

    "Are you kidding? It was a total hit," Shane said, tails wagging. "Everyone online is joking about how you stole Snake's ass."

    "Phrasing, Shane," Silvally groaned.

    "I think it was probably intentional," Hoopa said, stretching out on his beach chair. "Hoopa's caught him gazing longingly at the poster you sent back more times than he can count."

    Shane's face went beet-red. "I… well… uh…" He turned to Silvally. "S-So, Silvally, who's your go-to fighter, huh?" he said, turning away to avoid the angry look on Tessa's face.

    "Me? I like Shulk," Silvally chirped. "The Monado Arts are fun to use and it's really satisfying to land his smash attacks and smack the hell out of my opponents with a big ol' beam-sword-thingy. I guess you could say I'm… really feeling him!"

    Lycanroc beaned Silvally on the back on the head with his now-empty mug. "That joke was bad and you should feel bad, mate," he said.

    "Oh, lighten up, Midnight. This is all in good fun," Dusk said, patting him on the shoulder.

    "Says the Jigglypuff main," Hoopa said, fighting off a snicker.

    Dusk rolled her eyes. "Alright, wise guy. And who to you use, huh?"

    "Heh…" Hoopa rested his head back against his hands. "Hoopa's a Joker main, naturally."

    "Impossible. He's not even ready, yet!" Dusk said.

    Hoopa pulled off one of his rings and spun it around like a basketball. "Well, Hoopa's been playing in a world where he is ready," he said, smirking.

    "That doesn't even remotely make sense. But whatever, let's keep going," Silvally said, sighing. "What about you, Espy?"

    "I'm quite partial to Lucas, actually. His animations are adorable and, of course, the PSI powers," Espy said, tail swishing back and forth.

    "That's funny, because big brother, Lugia, and I all like to play as Ness," Latias said. She turned to nuzzle Lugia. "Isn't that right?"

    "Ah, something like that. I'm just happy we're still getting some representation through Poké Balls, even after all these years," Lugia said, a laugh rumbling in his threat.

    Concurrence. Fact: the best fighter is the one that summons me from a Poké Ball, Metagross declared from his spot sitting in the middle of the sand.

    "But what if I don't want to play with items?" Latios said, frowning.

    Fact: real 'mons use items. That's why they're in the game, Metagross said.

    "You know that won't fly in the competitive scene," Shane chided, shaking his head.

    I prefaced my statement with "Fact." It is indisputable. Fact: Smash contests that exclude items are illegitimate, Metagross said.

    "Funny. He struck me as a 'no items, Fox only, Final Destination,' kind of guy," Shane whispered to Silvally. "Yo, Umbreon, you've got a Smasher that you like?"

    Umbreon poked his head up from underneath his very large beach umbrella. "Dark Samus," he said, drawing sniggers from the other Pokémon. "Yeah, yeah, everyone laugh at the dark-type who picked the fighter with 'dark' in her name."

    "In his defense, he used to main Samus," Espy said, giggling.

    "As a Ridley fan, I don't see any shame with Umbreon's choice," Dragonite said, pounding her fist against her chest. "Samus is old news. It's time for bigger and better things."

    "Of course you'd like a big fighter now that you're big yourself," Serperior scoffed, tossing an olive into her mouth. "As for me… I go with Zero Suit Samus, baby! Nothing's more satisfied than smacking foes with her plasma-whip." She lashed out at the air with her vines, nearly clipping one of Milotic's large eyebrows.

    "Watch it, Serpy," Milotic huffed.

    "My bad," Serperior said, leaning back on her beach towel and tossing another olive into her mouth.

    "What about you, Milotic?" Togedemaru asked. "Wait… do you even have a favorite Smasher? You can't hold a game controller."

    "I can manage perfectly fine with my eyebrows," Milotic said, wriggling them about. "Besides, half of you randomly button-mash when playing, anyway." Several members of the group looked away from her, whistling innocently. "As for my favorite fighter, I prefer someone with a touch of elegance behind their moves."

    "So… Rosalina and Luma, then?" Latias wondered.

    "What? No. I'm talking about Princess Zelda," Milotic said, smiling and touching her tail fins to her belly. "She moves about so gracefully and her magic attacks are practical instead of the lame, flashy kinds that someone like Palutena uses."

    "She's also much nicer," Tessa said, brow furrowed. "Palutena kept trying to offer me this awful-looking food she called 'puppy chow.' And when Duck Hunt Dog actually took the food, Pit and Dark Pit started trying to feed it to me, too." She opened her mouth and stuck her tongue out.

    "Well, I hope you gave her a thorough whooping fer trying such nonsense," Braviary said, landing in the sand behind Team Radiance.

    "Oh, hey, you're just in time," Silvally said. "Who's your favorite Smasher, Braviary?"

    "Me? Hrmm…" He rubbed his chin with his wing. "Now, I reckon y'all expect me to say Falco cause he's a bird, too. But I ain't too fond of his attitude. Nah, Mario's my favorite. He's a no-nonsense, straight-forward, salt-of-the-earth feller. Plus, that costume of his with the stars and stripes speaks to me. Not sure why, but I feel a real connection to it."

    "Feh. How plain. Even Luigi would've been a more interesting choice," Togedemaru scoffed. "At least Comfey prefers Dr. Mario."

    "Alright then. Yer acting so high and mighty… why don't you tell us yer favorite Smasher?" Braviary said, staring Togedemaru down.

    "Fine," Togedemaru said, adjusting her sunglasses. "It's Bayonetta."

    A loud chorus of boos rose up. Serperior even chucked some of her olives at Togedemaru, who batted them aside with her tail.

    "And you were chastising me for liking Meta Knight?" Gallian growled.

    "Hey, Smash is a competition. If I'm playing, then I'm playing to win!" Togedemaru said. "You scrubs just need to step your games up."

    "Oh, great. You're one of those 'git gud' types," Shane groaned, head and tails drooping. "Remind me never to invite her to any Smash parties."

    "Agreed," Silvally said, frowning and shaking his head.

    "Aw, c'mon, Bayonetta was actually fun to talk to," Tessa said. "I mean, yeah, it's kind of weird that she attacked me with her fur—"

    "Hair. That was hair," Shane said.

    "O-Oh, really? Okay then," Tessa said, aura feelers twitching. "So, um, Magearna… you want to answer?"

    Ah, I'm afraid my answer is quite obviustate. Mega Man is my favorite, Magearna said, raising an arm and charging an aura sphere in it. I find that striking opponents with his charged buster boosts my satisfactifatory levels by 32.1 percent.

    "Gotcha. Yeah, Mega Man's pretty cool. I liked his robot dog," Tessa said. "Though I'm not as fond of that creepy scientist guy you could summon from his world with Assist Trophies." She shivered.

    Shane looked around the beach. "I think everyone's had a chance to answer. So—"

    "Now wait just a minute! You're forgetting someone!"

    Necrozma appeared in a burst of black smoke. With a frightened yip, Shane jumped into the air. He landed in a heap beside Espy. "Uh… h-hi, Necrozma. Do you… um… want to answer the question?"

    "Hmph. I'll tell you who I don't like. That stupid, foolish Galeem!" Necrozma snarled, third eye flashing. "He totally ripped me off! Stealing souls and destroying things with light is my schtick!" He floated backward, thrusting his wings apart defiantly. "Honestly, I can't believe I didn't get an invitation! The adventure mode is called 'World of Light,' but they left me, the Devourer of Light, completely out of it! There isn't even so much as a royalty check in the mail for me!"

    "Um, Necrozma, not to be rude or anything, but you should really know that Galeem was nothing more than a bunch of CGI that Master Hand and Crazy Hand threw together," Tessa said, fidgeting with her scarf. "None of that stuff actually happ—"

    "I could've been a fantastic boss… even better than that blowhard, Rayquaza, in the Subspace Emissary!" Necrozma continued, ignoring Tessa. "But did they include me? No! I don't even pop out of a Poké Ball. Oh, but you know who the kids and teens will love? Rathalos! Sure, let's invite him. It's not like he hasn't been in a billion other crossovers already! And he's got barely anything to do with Nintendo!"

    He lashed out at the air with his wings. "Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be the only box art Pokémon not to feature in Smash whatsoever?!"

    "Hey, that's not true. Master Hand said you're going to be a Spirit," Tessa said.

    "I'm a Support Spirit!" Necrozma snarled. "I'm worthless! Nothing but a second banana while all the other big Legends get to be Primary Spirits!" Dark energy gathered in his claws. "Grr… as soon as I'm done here, I'm going online to rant about how much Sakurai sucks and how stupid his games are. Seriously, how long is he going to keep ignoring all the modern Kirby games? And let's not forget all the—"

    "Oh dear… I think he's going to be at this for a while," Tessa sighed, rubbing her temples. "Let's just call it a day. Hoped that answered your question, Nebby. Thanks for writing in!"

    XxX
    With the release of Smash Ultimate, I wanted to do something silly to celebrate. I regret nothing!

    Next time: we take a villainous detour.
     
  10. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    "Damplify" is honestly such a great word that I might have to adopt it into my own vocabulary.

    Apparently Shane thinks likewise. :B

    Dear lord, why do I get the feeling that's not the only part of himself he's gone and named

    It's times like these that I remember that oh yeah, Silvally's specifically got a FISH tail.

    Also, I'm probably going to have a hard time not thinking of him as Rudderbutt for a little while.

    The noise I made... XD

    Tbh that's probably how I'd do it. :p


    I've really got to buckle down and give some Smash title or another a try one of these days. Of course, nearly the same could be said of the PMD series. Fun fact: I've had very little firsthand experience with that series; the overwhelming of what I do know about them is just what I've picked up from various PMD fanfics over the years. :B
     
  11. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Well, I said I'd catch up, and it's taken several train rides and lunch breaks, but I have finally done it! And there's a whole bunch of interesting stuff to cover, huh. I definitely remember you mentioning something about the abandoned power plant thing a few weeks (possibly months? what even is time, I have no idea) ago, and it's interesting to see what the germ of that idea has grown into, in the Mewtwo special. I think being prepared for the fact that you considered there to be humans in this world at some point might have taken away some of the surprise, but like, it's still a cool cosmology thing. It didn't end quite as strongly as I would have liked, but I'm not sure how else it could have ended, given that Mewtwo's story is still ongoing at this point in Guiding Light; I wonder if there was some kind of conclusion that could have been reached, so there was some sense of resolution? The ominous dreams about the heart symbols suffuse our ideas of the immediate future with a nice sense of dread, but that didn't feel like it was quite enough for me.

    Anyway, back to the main story: Nicky is certainly drifting further and further from himself, isn't he? Like he was (after your rewrites) a very driven, angry person, but one whose sense of reality was largely on the money, even if he did occasionally enjoy doing abysmally cruel things because they were puns or whatever. But that's starting to slip a little; as his rage swells, the logic becomes less and less clear-cut, as here when he decides he has to make his own shadow lugia. (Which, by the way, Latias isn't going to be happy about that one – and also, I love that Marshadow's avarice is such that even after Nicky tied him up with magic chains and started ranting maniacally, he still thought wait, hang on, let's hear him out about the theft, even if only for a moment.) Nicky is still there, kind of. But it's telling that this is the point at which Tessa and Shane start talking about what might have to be done when they face him for the final time. Like, he's buried pretty deep at this point, poor kid. And with this fic being the quixotic beast that it is, it's genuinely impossible for me to be certain whether a peaceful resolution is even possible. Just as it should be: I don't want to be able to tell until the moment comes.

    So anyway, Primarina is shaping up to be our new antagonist for a bit, huh. An interesting choice! I feel like this might be a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions, if his terrible, terrible song is anything to go by; certainly none of his previous appearances have hinted at him being the sort of person who goes in for slave armies.

    I can't remember if we've seen any mega evolutions other than Prisma's before now; either way, it struck me that this is a very honest representation of what they're supposed to be, in-game – this near-uncontrollable swell of power that usually has profound negative consequences for the pokémon undergoing it. Lucario in particular is meant to turn completely merciless, and that's definitely the case here with Tessa. It was never a very pleasant process, but it's considerably less so when like, full human-level intelligences are involved. I did think it came slightly out of left field, though; looking back on it, I do remember Tessa being more anxious and prone to anger as the tension mounts, but iirc (and I may just have forgotten stuff due to taking so long to catch up, so feel free to tell me if I have), that stuff doesn't get mentioned at all in the run-up to her murderous outburst on the beach, which would have been helpful in terms of preparing for that scene and making it feel a little more integrated into the plot.

    Anyway, it's good to see the huge, unwieldy group from the last episode getting split in two, and then split further when Team Radiance part ways with their canine compatriots; it was never going to be easy to focus on all of these characters at once, especially since a lot of them have strong, scene-stealing personalities, and I did think towards the end of the last episode that some characters didn't seem to have had much screentime for quite some time.

    Okay, those are my main notes; now it's time for some lower-grade observations. :V First up, I can't get over how well Seraph and Luxeira are doing with the whole walking around naked 24/7 thing; that strikes me as something that would be like, unbearably weird all the time for ages until you got used to it. I mean, Seraph does mention it, but only in terms of how odd it is that nobody else is wearing anything, as opposed to how weird it is for her – but then I guess possibly she's just that confident in her own appearance that she views this as a gift to the rest of the world? That seems like a thing she might do.

    It also strikes me as kind of dangerous to knock out air-breathing pokémon in the water; I guess those wailmer have all drowned now while they were unconscious. Sometimes the non-lethal option turns out to make you feel worse. Moving on to something completely unconnected (yeah, I'm really scraping up the last of my notes here), I'm not sure we need the roundup of what happened during the flashback at the start of chapter 71; we've just read it, after all. The rest of the chapter is fine – you reacquaint us with the stuff that we forgot while we were following Gallian and the Ultra Recon Squad, which is frankly necessary at this point – but that opening struck me as a mite unnecessary.

    Anyway, here are some typos and things:

    We just saw this happen; we don't need to be told that it happened as well. You should have more faith in your ability to get stuff across through dialogue and action without narrating it directly to the reader like this, I think, because you can definitely do it! Like this thing with Seraph and Espeon was crystal clear even before this line.

    I'm not sure someone talking would say 'had' here – 'I said' would read more naturally, imo.

    Missing an E on the end of 'breathe'.

    That should be 'due', rather than 'do'.

    I think Mewtwo is speaking these lines, rather than thinking them as part of his narration? So they should be italicised, I think.

    I suspect that's a typo for 'grip'.

    Not an error, I just find it interesting how thoroughly mingled Shane's human and pokémon idioms are these days, especially in light of his concerns about his future.

    Also not an error, but I think this might be my favourite Magearna-ism yet.

    That should either be 'medicinal leaves', plural, or a singular 'medicinal leaf'.

    This seems like an odd use of 'rifle' to me, but I'm aware it's one of those words that has like a dozen variant meanings, so I guess rather than saying I think this is wrong I'm saying this seemed weird and I thought I'd raise it.

    Two things here – one, that should be 'cast', and two, the sentence is missing a full stop.

    That should be 'our', rather than 'out'.

    And there we go! That's all I've got. I did read the Smash omake, but like, I have to admit that as a non-Smash person it didn't do much for me, so unfortunately I have nothing pertinent to say about it. I'll be looking forward to getting back to the action – and, y'know, the underground beach rave, which I feel like I should've mentioned before now but somehow I didn't – next time!
     
  12. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    After almost a month of delays and me taking forever to read, Episode 7 is finally complete! I found that I'm much better at leaving reviews in the way I usually do on FFN, though I do like taking advantage of the quote functionality for very standout items. And then giving the rest of the snark to you in private as I read. Now then. Onto the actual review, divided by my reading sessions...

    Chapter 25


    So for some reason, I lost all my saved quotes for the first chapter. That’s okay. It was just a bunch of useless snark to begin with, but I do remember most of what I had to comment on for this chapter. I thought that Shane’s whole deal with talking to Darkrai and Cresselia – i.e. a Pokémon version of the good-bad conscience—was pretty entertaining, though oddly jarring at the same time. It makes me wonder if this has something to do with Shane’s mental issues that you alluded to in prior reviews, but then again, it could also just be because of how out of it he is from the injuries and the bathing.

    Bonus chapter

    The bonus chapter shortly after was definitely interesting, in that so little of it took place in the Pokémon world! We’ve got confirmation that Prisma was indeed human, but more importantly, it explains why Tessa and Gallian have names as well, unlike pretty much everyone else except Shane. I guess now I’m going to be keeping an eye on what that could mean for others who have names, too—like Sticky, whose species escapes me, if it was ever mentioned…

    Chapter 26

    The next chapter is even more conflict between Shane and Tessa. Generally, Tessa is in the right, and Shane is just being needlessly combative, and frankly I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing for a narrative where we have to follow the guy around most of the time…. That being said, the most interesting part of the chapter was definitely everything to do with Sticky (who we finally learn is a Poipole!) and the revelations about Null. Very similar to his lore in canon, but obviously still quite different, particularly the voices in his head which I’m still pretty sure are some sort of soul conglomeration.



    This exchange is weird. It took me about three rereads before I realized line 3 is not Shane nor Tessa, but the voice they’re talking about. A quick narration to indicate this is someone else is definitely needed.

    ______

    Chapter 27, 28

    The next two chapters—27 and 28—solidified something that I was worried about for a while now: Shane. Is. Unlikable. Hoooooly why, Shane. Some of the lines and actions that he’s dropped here—regardless of how sour his mood is or whatever sort of mental issues he has—is basically on the very horizon of irredeemable if you’re aiming for a protagonist to be likable and a joy to follow. Because between his antagonistic attitude, followed by remarkably hurtful and unwarranted things toward Tessa, you did a good job at depicting him as a total jerk. The problem? These guys are still supposed to be together! Like, from a narrative perspective, they still stay together after this. Somehow.

    I noticed in a few of your review responses that the reaction to Shane being an (unintentional) jerk was a positive one. In response, you ramped it up. I think that might have been a mistake, at least in these two chapters in particular, where not only were both Shane and Tessa completely disregarding Megatross’ mission statement, but Shane in particular took things the extra mile with the “your parents never loved you” bit.

    Frankly I’m surprised that wasn’t brought up in the scene after, because it cuts to a scene break there. Shane’s character feels like it’s becoming a flanderization of what he started off as. I understand that this perhaps has to do with stress combined with his mental issues, but I’m starting to think this is a stylistic choice that’s going to plague Shane’s character and my enjoyment of reading him for a while.

    This paragraph is coming after having read the whole episode, and yes, I still do stand by these scenes as being a big and worrisome symptom of this whole episode having exaggerated emotions. Shane’s comment about her parents did get a lot of callbacks, which I was glad for, but that doesn’t really help how specific it was here. I don’t know. It was a strange combination of convenient, specific, and cruel, and I don’t really know if there’s a way to effectively come back from that in a realistic way. They did in-universe to the point where they could recover… but the timing didn’t work for me. The recovery was contrived.


    Sigh. Okay. Rant over. I want to focus on something that I liked about these two chapters, too. (No quotes this time—I read these in the car now that I finished another fic elsewhere, so I can actually get reading done properly for once.) The entire bit with Lurantis was both entertaining (aside from the conflict-during-a-fight stuff that I basically knew to expect) and informative. The one-off corrupted Totem (Oh, right, totems! Was this our first time meeting one?) had nice one-liners, and more importantly, revealed what seemed to be going on with the graying of the Pokémon they fought. Their spirits are going to Mistress Zero, whom we’ve yet to meet, which we’ve also had a name drop by Necrozma. Little tidbits like that were interesting to read.


    Also, Null! We’re finally getting some answers from him as his helmet starts to wear away! And Shane! Who I’m pretty sure literally has Sol inside him or something! And, uh, what else… oh right, Null! So, failed experiment, hearing voices, helmet cracking, general mentions of alchemy that I recall you either mentioning to me or otherwise were sprinkled in the previous chapters… yeah. This’ll be something. In general we have plot going on sorta around the main characters that just happen to hear about them from time to time… not much on actively seeking it out. I suppose that falls in line with how the games do it… but I’d definitely prefer if they started actually doing something substantial about now~


    ___________
    Chapter 29, 30, 31

    The last few chapters were exactly as I thought they’d go, down to almost the very last detail. Predictable, yes, but it was also satisfying, so I’m not really going to count this as a fault. While the arc of actually forgiving each other, even partially, felt quite rushed, they touched upon basically all of the points I expected them to touch upon. This is a classic arc of two meant-to-be partners getting into a huge spat, breaking apart, reflecting, and coming back together.


    One thing that was a bit interesting to add a twist to it all was the rest of the Guild getting involved. I thought that their reaction to Shane was simultaneously expected and also… exaggerated? I don’t know. This whole episode had a lot of exaggerated emotions—it all stems from my whole ran up there. It seemed weird for everyone to behave just a bit more negatively than I would have expected, all things considered prior to this episode. I’m sure part of that has to do with this being the point in which you decided to take the story’s tone in a different direction, but it’s still jarring. For brief moments I had vibes of the generally cruel aura of most of the characters I see in another fic I read, called Rebirth. Was weird to see that here.


    One thing that I want to address is Tessa’s bottom moment. I thought it was handled quite well. We see her reasoning and her past in the middle of an emotional moment, and I don’t have much bad to say about it! You handled it well, except for two small points that I feel could have been done better if—again—it was done in a less exaggerated, and more subtle way. The first one is the biggest. Reaching for the glass. I understand that she’s in a state, and she’s not thinking rationally, but I still found it odd that she’d do that right there, in front of Shane.


    I felt like she’d be more likely to be making glances at the glass, and then perhaps Shane would pick up on that, question what she was looking at, catch on, and then shatter the glass, and the conversation from there would proceed as it went, mostly. The subtlety of it all would get the darkness in her heart across really well, without her going what I felt was just slightly out of character, for what we know of her so far. But maybe that’s just my taste, as I generally prefer subtleties when the mood calls for it. And this was a quiet mood.


    Second thing was incredibly minor, but it’s here in this quote:


    I don’t know about you, but I felt like “words to fill the pause” is missing between these two paragraphs. Playing in my head, I felt like there was some kind of pause between Null’s last line and Tessa’s first that didn’t get conveyed here. She agreed too quickly in “word-time.” Perhaps a paragraph briefly describing the waves crashing on the sand, the horizon light settling in, maybe have Tessa take that deep breath first? Something to “pad out” the silence so the reader can feel it… or something. If that was the intent. It seemed stronger in my head that way… but that’s just me. Just a suggestion for quiet moments like these that I’m verrrry fond of.

    __________

    Anyway, that’s everything! I think I give more in-depth advice when I review like this (and considering how long this has become, that’s probably a good thing overall…) but I do miss the snark. Oh well, I’ve given you some of that in private so it works out. Theories: Pretty sure Nicky is Necrozma because he also died and also has his laugh. Not sure what to think about Prisma yet. There are a ton of pieces out there but for some reason I can’t quite piece them together. It seems to be that Zero may have corrupted her via the darkness in her heart somehow, or she’s already dead and that Lucario apparition at the end there was Necrozma trying to impersonate Prisma, and that’s what those dreams were all about with Tessa.

    Be seeing you for episode 8! Though I'm telling you in advance this time that it'll be another while. I've got other fics that I've been assigned to read for some gift exchanges, and I want to tackle those before I feel like I'm neglecting them. Shouldn't be too long, but after that, I'll certainly be returning here. See you then!
     
  13. RocketKnight66

    RocketKnight66 404: Consistent Schedule not Found

    Time for another trip on Necky's Wild Ride™! Sorry this took so long, but I'm finally here.

    Chapter 57

    We're kicking things off with the guild members discussing what happened last time... speaking of which, it's really interesting that the Time Gears came from Necrozma's spirit. It's possible this may have already been mentioned though and I forgot that exact detail (I really need to read this more regularly). It seems they've got a solid plan, but who knows if it'll actually work.

    The banter between Team Radiance was funny, it's nice to see something a bit lighthearted, even if brief. And then they finally meet Zoroark, and his messed up physical state. Aaand then the group finally learns of Gallian's little relationship. Of course it's a big deal, knowing how important the concept of soulmates is here (which Shane didn't because he's still dense as heck lol). I still think the way mating is handled in this is a really interesting take. It's not personally what I'd go with for my stuff, but I like it regardless.

    With that, they head to Cosmic Cavern and hear more of Zoroark's story. It's sweet... but much more saddening knowing what's happened since. And then they actually catch up to Gallian before he runs off into the dungeon. Oh, and we met Totem Decidueye I guess. Yay for the Alola starters all appearing now!

    Tessa chases after Gallian, leaving the others behind. I'm sure that'll end well...

    Why must you still be here

    Roll credits. Ding

    Ya may want to get that checked out, Espy. (Yes I still remember what happened lol)

    Shutupshutupshutup

    Softly "Don't."

    Chapter 58

    The remainders of Team Radiance and Paradox are blocked off from entering the dungeon, but luckily they're able to explain the situation and Decidueye lets them through. Oh, and Shane subsequently gets spooked by the Dusk Lycanroc. I got a chuckle out of that, had a feeling that would happen eventually.

    Back with Tessa and Zoroark in the dungeon, hoo boy is it something. Of all the things I was expecting in here, mechanical death traps? Not on my list. But it was definitely very fun to see them deal with that.

    Then they finally catch up with Gallian and have a less than pleasant conversation. Sometimes it's hard to read what he's thinking because he doesn't explain anything, but I'm sure that's the point. So he and Tessa fight, and it's a bit slower as there's plenty of talking between the two, and it's an important conversation. We hear about why he hates Prisma/Zero, and Lucarios in general. Honestly, it's horrible what happened, and it's a pretty reasonable explanation to why he feels that way.

    Aaand then Gallian calls Tessa a failure and proceeds to regret it as she just snaps. What follows is cool but also a bit distressing as she loses it and subsequently lets loose her Z-move, which was a spectacle for sure.

    And good news, that seemingly worked as hoped and freed him from the Prism Virus! Hooray, he's (probably) not dying! The bad news; upon waking up, Gallian freaks out and runs away before seemingly getting into trouble with Milotic. I should've expected she or one of the others would show up.

    So, it's all kicking off once again and I'm sure things won't slow anytime soon, especially considering the title of the next chapter. Man I wish I'd have kept up better so that this would be more of a surprise.

    There's punctuation missing here.

    Very ridiculous, indeed. Is this PMD, or R-Type?

    Bonus #13

    ...Okay, I need to say something on this. Yeah, I really liked hearing about our heroes' innermost thoughts, but what got me more was how this hit a lot closer to home than I would ever want to admit. A lot here is stuff I could honestly relate to in various degrees.

    This stuck out in particular... Sometimes my own personal life is unpleasant to some very extreme degrees. I also can't stress enough that the internet actually helped me learn to communicate better.
    Stripping away the context here for a moment, I've had thoughts very close to this on several occasions when things have gone awry in some of the servers I'm involved in.
    I'm not depressed (or at least I hope I'm not, I've never been tested), but this felt familiar for sure.
    Bit of a lighter thought, Takumi would totally approve of this if the context wasn't there. :p

    But yeah, this struck a bit close and really stuck with me. I'm tempted to say this is my favorite bonus chapter, but Bonus #8 is really hard to top, so I can't say for sure.

    Well, there ya go. Again, I'm sorry this took as long as it did. I hope you like what I wrote! Of course I'll keep reading on, but I think I'll go back to giving my thoughts via Discord. Until the next review game, anyway. Sweet Arceus, I'm bad at expressing my thoughts in text. ^_^;
     
  14. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Here's a fun story. I was in the midst of doing review replies while eating lunch... when my laptop froze and I had to shut it down, losing all my progress. My apologies, but I'll have to get to them when I'm done with work. :(

    XxX

    Chapter 75: Casting a Shadow


    ~Rem Canyon~

    "Why didn't you two losers say something about Jangmo-o being important around these parts? I thought he was just some random dragon!" Lycanroc growled, red eyes flashing in irritation. Before he could get a response, an arm surrounded by thick, circular, red and yellow scales smacked the back of his head. Lycanroc turned around, nostrils flaring. "Oy! What was that for, you scaly bloke?"

    Behind Lycanroc, Jamgo-o's gaze fell to the ground. "C'mon, Hakamo-o, lay off the boss, please," he said. "He doesn't know a thing about our customs."

    "Then you should've tried harder to stop him from waltzing in here and desecrating these grounds with his hideous fur," Hakamo-o said, scratching at his large scale-plates. Turning to Lycanroc, he said, "Those without the dragon-typing are not welcome in Rem Canyon. Any No-Scales that set foot here are to be rounded up and brought before the Totem."

    "… tch. I don't care about your blooming Totem, mate. We came here by accident," Lycanroc said, glaring at Jangmo-o out of the corner of his eye. "Just turn around and take us back to the entrance. We'll be outta your hair real quick."

    With an unexpected burst of speed, Hakamo-o jabbed a glowing fist into Lycanroc's gut. Eyes wide, he doubled over in pain, clutching at his stomach. "As I said, No-Scales, you are not welcome here. Likewise, you may not speak," Hakamo-o said. "There is only one fate for a No-Scales who sets foot in Rem Canyon. They shall be brought before our Totem… and their spirit shall be offered as tribute to the mighty Rayquaza, defender of the cosmos!"

    "Kweh heh huh? N-now wait just a second here. What's that supposed to mean, huh?" Sneasel said, face blanching.

    Hakamo-o turned to Jangmo-o, a dangerous look in his eyes. "Why don't you go on and tell your so-called friends what we do to trespassers, brother." He leaned over and poked Jangmo-o's forehead scale with a claw. "Or have you forgotten in your time frolicking with the No-Scales?" Jangmo-o squeezed his eyes shut, whimpering.

    "Oy!" a Shelgon with gray barbs sticking out of his shell shouted. "Don't just stand there. Answer him!"

    "He's gonna kill you!" Jangmo-o blurted out. "Run! Run away! Or else Dad— I mean…"

    Hakamo-o brought a glowing fist crashing down on Jangmo-o's head. "That'll do, brother," he growled, brushing his fist against his hide. Hakamo-o turned on Lycanroc and Sneasel. "I dare you two to try and run away. You're surrounded. Even if you somehow knocked us all out… my fellow dragons would avenge me." He smirked confidently. "Your fates were sealed the second you stepped through the haze at the edge of the canyon. Tuck your tails between your legs and accept it."

    "Rrrrgh… fat chance I'm letting some whack-job wild 'mons get the better of me!" Lycanroc barked, eyes twitching. Red energy encased his paw and he swung it toward Hakamo-o. He sidestepped Lycanroc's attack and countered with a burst of dragonfire to Lycanroc's chest. Lycanroc fell onto his back, squishing Jangmo-o. Smoke rose off his scorched fur.

    Hakamo-o leaned over, resting his right arm on his right knee. "Man, look at how low you've sunk," he taunted. "Y'know, Dad was considering forgiving you for your failures. But when he sees what a sorry sight you've become…" His voice trailed off and he shook his head. "You'll be lucky to have your head still attached to your shoulders."

    Jangmo-o squirmed out from underneath Lycanroc. "Come on, bro. Th… this is all just a big misunderstanding. Give me a chance to talk to D—" He cut himself off. "Let me talk to the Totem. I'll explain everything, I swear."

    "Heh." Hakamo-o rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You're assuming Dad's gonna want to listen to a runt like you."

    "Yeah, a runt who abandoned us!" a black-finned Gabite said, swiping at the air with his claws. "Lord Rayquaza has no sympathy for scum like you. You're no better than the saddest little Goomy in this tribe."

    "Shut it, Black-Fins," Hakamo-o said, holding up his right hand. "I think my brother gets the memo loud and clear. Besides, we've made it to the Totem's den."

    He gestured forward with his left arm and stepped to the side, allowing Team Fang to see ahead of him. The path sloped up toward a square shrine constructed out of gray stones. At the base of the shrine, small statues of Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina sat facing in different directions. Each statue had rubies embedded in their eye sockets, giving them intimidating gleams that made Sneasel's fur prickle. Two dozen dragons of different species stood around the altar, some hopping about or flapping their wings excitedly.

    The shrine had three stone steps leading up to a throne forged out of crystals. Behind the throne, three stone pillars shot into the air. A long string of emeralds snaked around the middle pillar, ending in a large, triangular emerald that hung above the altar, staring down at all the dragons. Like the other statues, the model of Mega Rayquaza used rubies to depict its fierce red eyes. The delta symbol carved into the statue's forehead glowed orange under the sun's rays.

    But that wasn't the only thing sparkling. Behind the columns sat a pile of gems, containing many different shapes and sizes. Mixed in with the crystals were typical dungeon-faring items like orbs and wands. Several of the dragons at the altar had their attentions focused on the treasure horde. Some had a glazed-over look in their eyes and others had drool seeping from their mouths.

    "Father! I've returned from my patrol. Two No-Scales invaded our territory and you're not going to believe who we found with them," Hakamo-o shouted. He stepped back and shoved Jangmo-o, who stumbled forward. All at once, dozens of eyes fell on Jangmo-o. In that moment, he felt as tiny as any Joltik.

    The dragons at the front of the altar parted to the sides, allowing their leader to pass. Like Hakamo-o, he had large, circular plates of gray and yellow scales covering his arms, neck, and hips. It resembled a suit of armor. There were similar plates fanning out from the tip of his tail and his head. The latter set of scales resembled a headdress for a tribal chief. He had a band wrapped around the heart-shaped scale on his forehead. It bore a rainbow gem with a winged heart sigil carved in it.

    "Wh… what the heck?" Sneasel gasped, turning to Jangmo-o. "Is that your final evolution? That's totally nu– urk!"

    Black-Fins shoved Sneasel to the ground, pinning him down under a foot. "What did we tell you earlier, No-Scale? No talking!" he said. "You are in the presence of Totem Kommo-o, herald of Lord Rayquaza!"

    Totem Kommo-o stomped down the path to the altar. Each step he took made the plates on his tail clang together. Off-key twangs echoed around the path. Lycanroc covered his ears, grimacing. Jangmo-o fixed his attention on the staff Totem Kommo-o carried in his right hand. At the top of it sat older scale-plates sharpened to form the blade of an axe. Sunlight glinted off it, striking Jangmo-o's eyes. Jangmo-o looked away, shivering.

    "So, you've deigned to show your worthless face here after leaving these hallowed grounds?" Totem Kommo-o thundered, his tail and battle axe jingling as he thumped them against the ground.

    "D… Dad. We… I… this was an accident! Just let us leave and we won't cause any trouble, I swear," Jangmo-o squeaked.

    "Silence!" Totem Kommo-o shouted, slamming his axe down so it was inches away from Jangmo-o's face. Jangmo-o stared wide-eyed at the axe's blade as Totem Kommo-o lifted it back up. "Not only did you spit upon our family's honor by abandoning the tribe, you had the gall to associate with these No-Scales." He gestured at Lycanroc and Sneasel. Totem Kommo-o looked skyward. "You have tarnished the sacred dragon-typing and must be punished accordingly."

    "No, Dad, you can't! I—"

    "You are no son of mine. My son proudly accepts his fate to carry out Lord Rayquaza's will!" Totem Kommo-said, glancing at Hakamo-o. He touched the Totem Crystal on his forehead. "I gave you a chance, but you turned your back on us. Now, you will suffer the consequences."

    Lycanroc's red eyes flashed. "And what gives you the right to be all high and mighty, huh? There are loads of other Totems around Horizon, mate. You ain't special or nothing!" he spat, to Jangmo-o's horror. Totem Kommo-o narrowed his eyes at Lycanroc and snapped his claws. Within seconds, Hakamo-o was in front of Lycanroc. He socked Lycanroc square in the snout. Lycanroc crumpled to ground, eyes watering and paws pressed against his nostrils to stem the bleeding.

    Totem Kommo-o turned to Black-Fins. "Ready the sacrificial pyre. We will offer these miserable souls to Lord Rayquaza," he declared, raising his staff high.

    "Emergency! Emergency!"

    An Altaria with lime-green ribbons on her head touched down next to Totem Kommo-o. She stumbled forward and leaned over, panting heavily.

    "What is the meaning of this interruption?" Totem Kommo-o said, biceps twitching. Green-Ribbons stood up straight, tucking her wings in nervously.

    "I was flying back from the watering hole when I spotted a pack of No-Scales, sir! They're walking about our territory so casually, scuffing up the ground and everything!" she said, saluting him with her right wing.

    Totem Kommo-o whirled on Jangmo-o, snorting out blue electricity. "You brought more No-Scales into our domain?"

    "What? No! I swear… it's just the three of us!" Jangmo-o said, tearing up.

    "… hmph. We shall see soon enough," Totem Kommo-o said. He turned to Hakamo-o's team. "You lot… stay here and guard them. Make sure they can't escape. The rest of you…" His voice trailed off as he pivoted to face the altar. "Fan out! Find these sinful No-Scales so that we may restore the sanctity of our domain!"

    The dragons roared in agreement and took off, some running and others flying away from the altar. Totem Kommo-o stomped off after them, not bothering to look back and acknowledge Jangmo-o.

    XxX

    ~Treasure Town Outskirts~

    Zero had taken Team Captivate to the edge of a forest a mile away from Treasure Town's forcefield. The green dome glowed brightly, filling the area with light despite the sun having already set. Serperior rapped her tail-blade impatiently against the rock she currently sat on. "So, why exactly are we here if you can't sense the Time Gears?" she asked, staring out at the ocean.

    "I already told you. We're here to get our insurance policy," Zero said, kneeling next to the rock and placing her right paw on the ground. Black shadows swirled around her paw, filling it up with static. After a few seconds, the static disappeared and Zero stood up. "I can sense him. The 'mon we're looking for is here."

    Milotic slithered toward the edge of the cliff, stretching her neck and flicking dirt down into the ocean. "You mean Team Poképals?" she asked.

    "In a manner of speaking," Zero said.

    "But how are we going to draw them out from that forcefield without, y'know, rousing the whole town?" Serperior asked, studying the energy dome off in the distance with a frown on her face.

    Zero turned to Serperior, her lone eye flashing violet. "I'm so very glad you asked, Serperior," she said. "Because you get to play such a big role in all of it."

    Serperior stiffened, then curled up defensively around her tail-blade. "I… I do?"

    "Yes, of course," Zero said, then snapped her digits. In a burst of electrified speed, Dragonite grabbed Serperior in her claws and rebounded toward the ocean.

    "H… hey! Put me down, Nighty!" Serperior yelped, wriggling in her teammate's grip.

    "I'm afraid I can't do that. Mistress Zero's orders," Dragonite said, eyes brimming with blue electricity. "You're gonna go for a little moonlight dip. Sorry we couldn't bring your squeeze along. But, let's face it, sex in the ocean is so overdone, don't you think?"

    "Nnnngh… I don't… approve of this," Serperior said. She tried to strike at Dragonite with her tail-blade, but Dragonite pinned the appendage in place using her leg.

    "It's for the good of the world, Serperior," Dragonite scoffed. "It'll be over before you know it." She flapped her wings, increasing her speed. "Next stop… Sharpedo Bluff!"

    XxX

    ~Sharpedo Bluff~

    Inside the mouth of the Sharpedo-shaped outcropping was a small cave. Soft grass lay across the floor, with a half-dozen straw beds scattered around its edge. The cave's lone wall had a small purple tapestry hanging from it, with the rune of a Time Gear woven into it. A patch of bare land contained a small campfire, offering the only source of light in the cave. Darkrai's shadowy form lay behind the fire. He rested his head against his right arm while lazily tracing a finger through the dirt. Opposite him, Cresselia floated toward the edge of the cave, where teeth-like rocks sprang up, partially blocking the view of the ocean.

    "Are you doing alright, Manaphy? Your aura seems… off," Cresselia said, her rings drooping in concern.

    Manaphy sighed heavily. "I'm just…" He paused. "Actually, I don't really know what I'm feeling. A part of me is bored… and wishes I could've gone with my dads. The other part of me is concerned about everything that's happening." He looked over his shoulder at Cresselia. "Do you trust Ampharos?"

    "I don't see any reason not to trust him. He was quite important in putting a stop to Dark Matter," Cresselia said, touching the tips of her stubby arms together.

    "I guess. Maybe I'm nervous because we're putting our faith in strangers we've never met before," Manaphy said, rubbing his antennae. Cresselia tilted her head to the side in confusion. "I'm talking about the 'mons over in the Horizon Continent," Manaphy continued. "Latias seemed rather fidgety about the subject and those ghosts on Team Specter didn't have much to say about Team Radiance other than their leader scaring easily."

    "Bah! Team Specter's headed by a former outlaw. I wouldn't put much stake in their claims," Darkrai said, waving his left hand about. "I bet they're looking to cause trouble, that's all."

    Cresselia and Manaphy exchanged blank looks. "That's a bit rich coming from him, don't you think?" Manaphy whispered.

    "Let's not reminisce about that, shall we? He doesn't remember it, after all," Cresselia whispered back. "In any case… it's getting late. Maybe you'll feel better if you try to get some sleep?"

    Manaphy looked down and rubbed his belly. "Hmm… I guess. I think what I could really go for are some blue gummis, though. Would you be willing to grab some out of the deposit box?" He batted his eyelids at Cresselia. "Puh-lease?"

    "I don't see why not," Cresselia said, bobbing her head up and down. "I fancied going for a walk, anyway. Or… I guess it would be a float in my case." She chuckled at her own lame joke, while Manaphy rolled his eyes. Cresselia turned to Darkrai. "Care to join me? I'd appreciate the company."

    Darkrai lazily tossed a few blades of grass into the fire, watching them disappear into trails of dark smoke. "It beats laying around here. Besides, I doubt Manaphy will want me nearby if he's going to sleep." He floated up into the air and looped an arm around one of Cresselia's halos. The two floated up the stairs leading out of the secret cave.

    With another sigh, Manaphy hopped onto the rocky ridge and looked out at the ocean. The forcefield lay several yards ahead of him, blocking the moon's reflection in the water. He toyed with the idea that maybe his inability to swim freely was causing his funk. Manaphy kicked a pebble and watched it careen down into the water.

    The moment the pebble landed, Manaphy heard a much louder splash. His head jerked up, antennae bobbing up and down. "H… hello? Is someone out there?" Manaphy called, leaning against one of the teeth-like rocks.

    "Help me! Somebody!"

    Manaphy squinted his eyes and spotted splashing on the other side of the forcefield. A leafy-green head poked out of the water and thrashed about. It was a Serperior, but why was it out beyond the forcefield? Had the tides carried it there?

    Serperior lashed her vines out, smacking them uselessly against the water. "Please… somebody help me! I can't swim!" she cried.

    Manaphy's antennae shot up in alarm. He looked back over his shoulder. "Cresselia? Darkrai? We've got trouble!" he shouted, only to get no response. Manaphy turned back around just in time to see Serperior slip underneath the surface of the water. He bit his lower lip. There was no way he could turn his back on a drowning Pokémon. He was an explorer, after all.

    Thrusting his forward, Manaphy dove off the edge of Sharpedo Bluff. He landed safely away from the jagged rocks at the base of the cliff. Manaphy swam quickly, propelling himself forward with a series of pressurized blasts from his hands. His bulbs glowed bright yellow, illuminating the dark ocean. After a half-minute of swimming, Serperior's wriggling outline came into view. A green shimmer rippled in front of her, signifying the edge of the forcefield barrier.

    He passed harmlessly through the shield, reaching his nubby arms out toward Serperior. Seconds before he could grab hold of her, a vicious vortex whipped up all around him. The gale-force winds spun him about like a lump of clothing in a washing machine. The whirlwind carried Manaphy up and out of the water. It then broke, flinging him skyward.

    "Lightning Javelin!"

    An electrified spear pierced Manaphy's right shoulder. Blue, slimy fluid spurted out of the open wound. Mortified, Manaphy screamed. A second spear struck his left shoulder. Manaphy's antennae spasmed. The pain proved too much for him and he passed out on the spot.

    With Serperior slung around her neck like a wet towel, Dragonite zipped forward, catching the bleeding Manaphy before he smacked the water. She then flew back around the outside of the barrier, beating her wings to keep her speed up.

    "This is so not cool!" Serperior yelped, clinging to Dragonite's black armor with her vines for dear life.

    "For pity's sake, listen to yourself, Serperior. No wonder those Team Radiance stooges handed your tail to you," Dragonite sneered. She closed the distance with the small patch of land where Zero and Milotic awaited them. Dragonite landed hard. The impact jostled Serperior, who flopped to the ground like a useless Magikarp. Dragonite tossed Manaphy in front of Zero. Milotic looked at Manaphy's shriveling body with a look of confusion.

    "Wait… Manaphy? That was who you're after? You already have a competent water-type at your disposal," she said, frowning.

    Zero stomped her left foot on Manaphy's gut. His antennae swelled up. Blue blood trickled out of his shoulder wounds. "Hmm… you overdid it, Dragonite. But I can fix this," Zero said. She stepped off Manaphy, a black Beast Ball forming in her right paw. Zero let go of the ball, which fell onto Manaphy. It opened up, sucked him inside in a beam of red light, and dropped to the ground for Zero to pick up.

    Pink energy flowed into the Beast Ball from Zero's right paw. She brought it up to eye level and inspected it carefully.

    "So, that's it? He's infected, then?" Serperior asked, eyeing the Beast Ball nervously.

    "No. But he has been… subdued to my will," Zero said. Milotic and Serperior exchanged confused looks. Zero sighed and rubbed the bridge of her snout. "It's simple, you two. We need Manaphy infection-free to be of any use to us." She tossed the ball up and down. "Perhaps a demonstration will make things clear?"

    Zero opened up the ball. Manaphy dropped onto the ground in a stream of red light, his shoulder wounds completely healed. His eyes, however, were now gray. Manaphy stared lifelessly at the ground. "Manaphy… Heart Swap on Dragonite," Zero said, pointing at her.

    Dragonite's wings stiffened in alarm as Manaphy jerked his head up and whipped his antennae in her direction. A tiny pink beam struck Dragonite in the chest. She crumpled to the ground without so much as a cry of pain. Manaphy did the exact same thing.

    "Nighty!" Milotic gasped, uncoiling in surprise. "Mistress, what did you do to her?"

    Zero nudged up her mask. "See for yourself." She gestured to Dragonite, who slowly got to her feet. She now had the same lifeless look in her eyes Manaphy held previously.

    "Ungh… what happened?" Dragonite groaned. Her teammates' jaws dropped when Manaphy got to his feet. He looked at Milotic and Serperior blankly.

    "Hey, what's wrong with you two?" Manaphy said, his voice unchanged but carrying the same aggression Dragonite's did.

    "Heart Swap… the unique ability possessed by Manaphy allowing him to exchange his consciousness with that of his target… for a short time," Zero explained, patting Manaphy on the shoulder. "It's both our ticket to getting the Time Gears and taking Necky out of the picture."

    "I'm not sure I follow, Mistress," Dragonite said, staring at her real body and biting her new one's lower lip.

    "It's simple. Posing as the friendly Manaphy, you will infiltrate the location the Time Gears are being held at. Then, you steal them," Zero said.

    "But won't these forcefields repel me? Can't they sense my spiritual energy or something?" Dragonite asked.

    "That's the beauty of Heart Swap. It exchanges Manaphy's consciousness with yours. Only the most important essence of your spirit is residing in Manaphy's body," Zero said. "Your corrupted Z-Power still lies in your real body. Therefore, the forcefield will believe you to be Manaphy. What say you to that?"

    Dragonite rubbed Manaphy's flippers together. "I'd say… when do we get to start?"

    XxX

    ~Sea Shrine~

    Bubbles formed on the surface of Lugia's secret pool shortcut. His long, slender head popped out to stare at the blue, rocky cavern. Water trickled down his hardened, scale-like feathers. Lugia ran a wing across his forehead, disheveling his down. With a heavy sigh, he rolled onto his back and lazily flutter-kicked his legs. He drifted across the pool, looking up at the mix of gray and blue rocks on the ceiling.

    There were probably harsh currents he should be dealing with, but he wasn't up to it. Instead, he reached the edge of the pool, his head bumping up against the ground. Lugia rested his head in the dirt, not caring that dust clung to his wet feathers. He stared blankly at his home, yawning loudly. The two rows of pillars looked no different than usual. Lugia could identify every little crack, every strand of seaweed, and every patch of luminous moss dispersed across each of the six pillars.

    He thought of Latias, wondering what she could be doing. Since she had left for the Horizon Continent, she hadn't even tried to contact him through their mental link. Lugia figured the distance made it too tough for her to try. Still, he worried. Lugia kept recalling their last conversation. Mental images of her distraught, tearful gaze played on loop for him. He shut his eyes, trying to push those uncomfortable thoughts out of his head.

    Lugia longed to have her in the water with him, resting on his belly, with her head and neck nestled against his. He imagined her glass feathers brushing against his cheek. Blood pooled into his face, his temples throbbing as his heart rate spiked.

    He shook his head. This wasn't right. He couldn't goof off like this. Latias was working hard. He had to do the same. Groaning, Lugia rolled over onto his belly. His brief spurt of motivation faded. Lugia was too comfortable. He didn't want to get up… or even move. Lugia yawned again. Maybe with a good night's sleep, he'd be ready to get back to work.

    A flash of light made him jolt upright. He looked across his home. A swirling wall of blue energy had appeared on the far end of the cave. Lugia rubbed his face with a wing.

    A distortion field had activated. Someone had reached the end of his Mystery Dungeon home. But who… and why?

    Lugia hopped out of the pool, water trailing off his flank and tail. With a flap of his wings, he landed on the nearest pillar, curling his toes against its edge. "Who goes there? State your business!" Lugia called, wings fanning out in a display of dominance. He waited for a response or for a Pokémon to emerge from the distortion, but nothing happened. Lugia hunched over, drawing on his ESP. "I said identify yourself!" Lugia shouted.

    The distortion field pulsated with ripples of light. Three purple, meteor-like projectiles streamed out from the wall, shadowfire trailing off them. Lugia blew them up with bright-pink rings. He shot up, gathering air in his mouth. The air turned red-hot, then Lugia unleashed it as a conical beam of red-orange light. It tore across the ground, kicking up plumes of dirt and debris.

    An intense blue flash filled the room. Lugia to cut his attack to back away. When the light faded, the distortion field had vanished. Lugia stared at the now-bare rock wall, brow furrowed. "That's strange… I didn't sense anything off with the ley lines here. What—"

    A black vortex opened beside Lugia. Necrozma shot out, surrounded by purple energy. "Surprise, Lugia!" he shouted, slamming his foe at full speed. Necrozma's claws grazed Lugia's sensitive underbelly seconds before the force of the blow rocketed Lugia into one of the pillars in the center of the room. Lugia struck the pillar square between his shoulder blades. In a nasty case of whiplash, his head, legs, and tail wrapped around the pillar, then immediately snapped back.

    Lugia screamed. He fell to the ground, limbs twitching uselessly. "What do you think you're doing to him? Have you gone mad?" Marshadow gasped, dangling from Necrozma's luminescent-blue tail by ley line chains.

    Necrozma flicked his tail backwards, flinging Marshadow onto the pillar opposite Lugia. The chains wrapped around the pillar, restraining Marshadow against it. "What does it look like I'm doing, fool? I'm softening up your new body, of course! Heeheehee… huh?"

    A white-hot cone of air blasted Necrozma right in the chest. Screeching, he retreated into a black vortex. On the ground, Lugia staggered to his feet. His legs burned with the intensity of a Fusion Flare. Black and purple splotches peppered his back. With a pained wince, Lugia went airborne. Seconds later, Necrozma lunged out of another portal shrouded in purple shadows.

    Necrozma dispelled the ghostly energy and whirled around in time for a trio of pink rings to slam into him. He tumbled through the air. Necrozma spread his wings apart to stop his momentum. Lugia refused to let up, despite the shocking pain fanning out from his back with each flap of his wings. He spat a giant water geyser from his mouth.

    "You will not stop me! Moongeist Beam!" Necrozma shouted, blue and black light streaming toward the center of his chest. His three eyes glowed bright blue as he unleashed a giant blue and black laser. It collided with Lugia's attack. The two beams stalemated, but Lugia lost the energy needed to keep pumping out water. His attack collapsed.

    Lugia tucked his wings in and dove toward the ground. Necrozma's beam missed the tip of Lugia's tail by inches. Lugia thrust his wings apart, stopping his dive about a foot off the ground. Blue energy surrounded his body, taking on the shape of a dragon. He charged down Necrozma, speeding through the air like a blue, dragon-shaped comet.

    Necrozma's third eye brimmed with red energy. He thrust his hands out in front of him seconds before Lugia struck him. The collision pushed a snarling Necrozma back toward a nearby pillar. He looked down at his trembling arms. Cracks splintered across them. The glow faded from his eyes and winged-heart sigil. Lugia's confidence swelled. He was doing it. Just a little bit longer and—

    "That… is… enough!"

    Necrozma spat a Shadow Ball from his mouth. Lugia's blue energy dissipated, leaving him hovering meekly in midair. Necrozma tightened his grip on Lugia's face, arms trembling uncontrollably. "Hee… heeeheeheehee! Trying to channel your worthless girlfriend, are we? How adorable!" he crooned. "And by adorable… I mean pathetic!"

    Lugia wailed in agony as Necrozma claws dug into his scalp. He tried to open his mouth to attack, but Necrozma's grip kept it clamped shut. Lugia also failed to tap into his ESP reserve, his mind clouded by a sudden assault of fearful thoughts and disturbing images of a white, gooey sphere with bulging, rainbow veins and a red, piercing eye.

    "Lugia, the mighty guardian of the seas… an insecure wreck of a god who mated with the meekest, most timid dragon in existence. A girl everyone looked down upon for her flagrant cowardice in the face of impending disaster. And why… why did he do it? Simple! To make himself feel big and strong… like the immortal gods he put on a pedestal! Do I hAvE tHAt rIgHT?" Necrozma said, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. He released his grip on Lugia and struck him at point-blank range with two shadowfire meteors. They blasted Lugia into the far pillar, destroying it in a burst of white dust and rock shards. Rubble collapsed on top of him, drowning out his screams.

    A soft white glow appeared over Necrozma's head. Pale moonlight bathed his body, repairing the cracks in his arms and restoring some of the glow in his eyes and sigil. Necrozma's eyes flashed pink. Psychic energy dispelled the dust, revealing Lugia lying beneath the rubble, only his bloodstained head and part of his neck sticking out.

    "Th… at voice," Lugia wheezed, his facial features contorted in a grimace. "It's… impossible. You can't…"

    "wHaT's THaT? YoU'lL hAVe tO sPeaK uP So tHe wHOle cLaSS cAn HErE!" Necrozma said, pointing to Marshadow.

    Lugia struggled to lift his head up and look at Necrozma. "L.. un… ala… Gu… iding.. Light… you… have to f… ight it," he croaked.

    Neccrozma's third eye dimmed slightly. "What you've got is a simple case of mistaken identity," he continued, floating toward Lugia. "I'm not the monster you're thinking of." Necrozma's third eye fixed its gaze on Lugia, wriggling inside his armored forehead. "I'M hIs rEPlaCeMeNT!"

    Lugia tried to free himself from the rubble, but a white-hot bolt of pain ran through his spine. All he could do was squawk weakly. Necrozma wrapped his wings around his torso to control his twitching arms.

    "You fools really thought that one tiny, insignificant fox showing 'acceptance' would make all of your problems go away. Pah… how ridiculous!" Necrozma declared, making air quotes with his wing digits as he spoke. "The only thing that succeeded in accomplishing was reestablishing the status quo. Everyone resumed their normal lives, turning a blind eye to their problems and acting like Dark Matter was nothing more than a bad dream."

    Necrozma looked down at Lugia, who had given up struggling under the rubble. "News flash, birdie: acceptance doesn't fix problems. It's an empty gesture… like calling a fragile, anxiety-ridden dragon your mate. Or coddling up to the shy, quiet kid in school and stringing him along to make him the laughing stock of the community and boost your own social standing!" Necrozma thrust his wings apart, red spots flashing under his chest armor. "So, the world's negativity has persisted all this time. Hatred, sadness, guilt, jealousy… all swirling around in Pokémon's hearts… magnifying their suffering!"

    "What are you talking about? Pokémon are only suffering because of blokes like you," Marshadow said, thumping against the pillar he was stuck to.

    "Heeheeheehee! Says the thief who preys on Pokémon and leaves them unconscious in Mystery Dungeons to get what he wants," Necrozma said, a grin spreading across his lips. "Well, go on. Look Lugia in the eyes and tell him it was you who pummeled his girlfriend like a feathery punching bag… knocking her fragile sense of self down another peg!" He floated to the side, gesturing at Lugia with his left arm and wing.

    With a pained wince, Lugia turned his head toward Marshadow. "You… attacked Latias?" he whispered.

    "Oh-ho! What's that I see in your eyes there? Could it be… anger?" Necrozma said, drifting down and partially dissolving into the ground so he was at eye-level with Lugia. "Yes… yes, it is! To think a lesser god could project such negativity. Heeheeheehee! See, what did I tell you? This world… and all who inhabit it…" Necrozma floated back into the air, his third eye shining bright. "YoU aRE AlL MisTaKEs! YoU mUSt Be ReTUrNeD To tHe VOiD!"

    Necrozma's wings brimmed with black shadows. He whipped them forward. A crimson shockwave destroyed the rubble piled atop Lugia. At the same time, the dark energy battered Lugia's. He didn't even have the strength to scream. Lugia's consciousness faded, his eyes shutting and his tongue rolling out of his open mouth. Necrozma swooped down, wrapped his crystalline hands around Lugia's neck, and hoisted him up into the air. Lugia's wings fell uselessly to his sides.

    "Heeheeheehee! How does this make you feel, sea guardian? Overwhelmed? Powerless? Insignificant?" Necrozma whispered, his face close enough for Lugia to feel his cold breath. "Good… now you know exactly what it's like! What I felt… when everyone turned their backs on me," Necrozma shouted, tightening his grip around Lugia's throat. "Now you can start to see the truth. Everyone— no, everything is meaningless. All that matters is returning each and every world to the void."

    "Humans, Pokémon, UBs… you're all the same. You try so desperately to instill order wherever you can. And, in doing so, you create endless suffering!" Necrozma continued as Lugia's eyes slowly opened and quivered in fright. "Besides, everything you're fighting for is doomed to disappear one day, no matter how hard you work. I'm simply speeding up the process… by burning down this world now and leaving behind pure, beautiful chaos."

    "You're… ungggrh… wrong," Lugia wheezed, failing to lift his wings up. "Positivity… always wins out… in the end…"

    "Is that really what you think… or is that what the immortal gods have forced into your feeble birdie brain?" Necrozma said, licking his lips. "Like I said… you're insignificant. Whatever good you can accomplish will be forgotten. All you can offer is false hope. Negativity will return, growing steadily more relentless until you finally submit." His third eye wriggled in place. "If you think otherwise, you're deluding yourself! But I… I know better. I've seen it… while locked away, rotting in the Ultra Nexus. That's why I've become part of something bigger than myself: the void!"

    "You can struggle as much as you want, but you won't win," Necrozma said. "Even if you somehow stopped me… another crisis would befall this world in the future. And that cycle will continue on loop, until at last your world is returned to chaos!" He shook his arms out, throttling Lugia. "If you want to end your suffering, there's only one thing you can do, Lugia. Look me in the eyes and tell me you want it to stop. Beg me to take your light!"

    "I… won't… surrender… to you!" Lugia said. Drawing on the last of his strength, he headbutted Necrozma. The blow wasn't strong, but Necrozma still lost his grip in surprise. Lugia dropped to the ground, landing with an unceremonious thud.

    "WoRThlEsS bEIng! YoUr LIghT bELoNgs tO Me!" Necrozma shouted. He pointed his arms down at Lugia. A crimson circle formed around Lugia, who was unable to get off the ground. As soon as the circle was complete, black ley line chains shot out of the ground. Lugia squawked in fright, but it was quickly cut off as a single chain wrapped around his beak. The remaining chains split their efforts. Some bound his legs and tail to the ground and the rest forced his wings against his torso. Lugia struggled against the chains, to no avail.

    "I haven't used a transmutation circle like this before, but there's a first time for everything," Necrozma declared as Lugia's eyes widened. "I've got the Shadow." He gestured at Marshadow, whose face blanched. "And now I've got the Lugia. The only thing left to do is mix them both together!" He raised his right hand.

    "H… hey now! What d'ya think you're doing? Put me down, you mental monstrosity!" Marshadow shouted, resuming his struggle against the ley lines. Necrozma thumped his right arm against his chest. An unseen force flung Marshadow into the transmutation circle where he landed atop Lugia's back. Necrozma's third eye shimmered with rainbow light. A winged heart sigil appeared over Lugia and Marshadow, bathing them in multicolored energy.

    Necrozma raised both hands. With his left hand, he traced a capital omega symbol, and then a line underneath it. The same scripture appeared on the edge of the circle. "Sublimation," Necrozma said, then pointed a claw at Marshadow.

    "What the—" Marshadow began, only for the chains around to squeeze him so tight that he popped like an overinflated balloon. Purple vapors spilled over Lugia's back.

    Necrozma again used his left hand to trace in the air. He made a circle and added a long, whip-like tail. "Digestion," Necrozma said. He snapped his claws and the chains around Lugia's mouth shifted, forcing it open.

    Marshadow's smoky remains spilled inside of Lugia's mouth. The chains snapped it shut and hefted Lugia's head upward, forcing him to swallow. For a minute, nothing happened. Lugia remained locked in place by the chains, eyes darting around the room in a panic. Then, suddenly, his eyes widened. Lugia screeched. His sclera turned from white to red. Dark blue spilled across his white feathers, like a wet paintbrush pressed firmly against a canvas.

    "Yes… yes! Rise, Shadow Lugia!" Necrozma shouted, rubbing his hands and wings together gleefully. The dark blue had completely overtaken Lugia's body. Lugia's head and neck fell limp.

    The chains holding him unraveled, but didn't disappear. Instead, they swirled about in midair, forming into a black chest plate much like the one on Necrozma's body. Pink light surrounded Necrozma's right hand and he levitated Lugia into the air. The armor slammed into Lugia's stomach. Black chains shot out of it and dug into Lugia's backside between his ten red plates. To finish off the transformation, a white winged heart sigil formed in the center of Lugia's chest plate, with horns protruding from the top of the heart and a single eye in the center.

    "Well… how are we feeling?" Necrozma asked, releasing his psychic hold.

    Lugia dropped to the ground, landing on his feet. He thrust his wings apart. "Gyyaaas!" he shouted, his voice heavily mixed with Marshadow's. Black energy swirled around his wings.

    "Heeheeheehee! Excellent! You won't be much for conversation, I'm afraid, but I'll take it," Necrozma mused. "So, tell me, Shadow Lugia… how would you like to go pay your girlfriend a visit?"

    Lugia's red eyes flashed. He opened his mouth wide and a conical burst of shadowy air obliterated a nearby pillar in a black explosion. Necrozma grinned at the sight, only to drop toward the ground. He weekly opened an Ultra Wormhole behind Shadow Lugia. "We'll get to that… soon enough. I need…" He struggled to catch his breath. "That took… too much… energy. Need light. We must… find spirits…"

    The two flew off into the portal together, leaving the battle-scarred room behind.

    XxX

    ~Circadian Coast, Daybreak Beach~

    Gallian sat down on the edge of the shore, furrowing his brow. "You guys saw all of that right?" he said, scythe flickering pink. "The massive waves, the flashes of lighting, and those two huge Gyaradoses. Something bad happened to them… I'm sure of it."

    Zoroark stood a foot back from Gallian, arms crossed over his chest. "Nothing we can really do about it. They're too far away and we need to keep the resort safe," he said, eye scanning the water for signs of trouble.

    "I know that," Gallian said. "It's just…" His voice trailed off and he curled his claws up around the sand. "Tessa can't swim. If she got knocked underwater… I'm not sure she's okay." Gallian rubbed his head against a foreleg. "My disaster sense was going off when they were talking about Mantine Surfing over to Sunset Shoals, but I didn't say anything."

    A slender black arm draped over Gallian's shoulders. He flinched, then turned to his right, where he found Zoroark sitting next to him. "You did the right thing," he said.

    "It sure doesn't feel like it," Gallian said, frowning.

    Zoroark traced a claw along Gallian's scythe, making him shudder. "Well, that's just because of the situation we're in. But think about it, Gallian. We need the Seaside Shard and it's in Sunset Shoals. There was no way around it. Team Radiance had to go there. And if you'd chosen to say something about your disaster sense, I bet you would've upset your sister," he said, lazily moving his claw down Gallian's neck until it was between his shoulder blades. "You made the right call this time," Zoroark said, rubbing his back.

    "I suppose," Gallian whispered, relaxing his shoulders. "Tessa's stronger than me… I get that. Still, the thought she could be in the middle of the ocean right now terrifies me."

    "I believe things will work out. Your sister's dealt with much crazier stuff," Zoroark said. Gallian didn't respond to that, prompting Zoroark to add, "There's something else, isn't there?" His suspicions were confirmed when Gallian rubbed his forelegs together, glancing nervously at his looplet. "This is really about Tessa's Mega Evolution," Zoroark said.

    Gallian winced. "Okay, you got me. It is. You saw what happened to her. What if she flies off the handle again and… and I'm not there to do anything?" he said, eyes flashing pink. "I'd never forgive myself if I learned that I just sat here, powerless, when my little sister needed me."

    Zoroark grabbed Gallian's left shoulder and squeezed. Gallian's head fell on Zoroark's shoulder. "We've got to have faith in Tessa's friends," Zoroark said, leaning over to rub his snout against Gallian's head. "They know what they're doing. I'm sure everything will work out."

    "I wish I could believe that," Gallian said. Shadows swarmed Gallian's scythe, bristling Zoroark's fur. "But I can't shake this sinking feeling in my gut. It's not just that, either." He glanced at Zoroark. "What about me? Absols can Mega Evolve." He lifted his right foreleg, frowning at the looplet. "How can I possibly feel safe and secure knowing all it might take is my disaster sense misfiring to trigger this thing? I've already hurt too many people… I couldn't bear the thought of doing something even worse."

    "It won't happen," Zoroark said, pulling Gallian into an even tighter embrace. "As long as I'm here, I won't let it. I can help you keep your negative thoughts at bay, so long as you share them with me like you're doing right now. How does that sound?"

    Gallian pulled away from the embrace. "It sounds good. Just… um… stay close to me." He looked down, tracing a digit through the sand. "You're right. I'm not in a good place. I definitely need a voice of reason to keep my disaster sense quiet."

    "You can count on me," Zoroark said, leaning over and licking Gallian's cheek. Gallian's scythe flashed bright pink and he looked away in embarrassment.

    "M… maybe we should wait… until we're not in public," Gallian said.

    "Sorry, I got caught up in the moment," Zoroark said, smirking. "You look great against an ocean backdrop, you know."

    "Um… thanks?" Gallian said, blinking in surprise. He then narrowed his eyes at Zoroark. "Wait… you're trying to distract me from all this, aren't you?"

    Zoroark's smirk widened. "Guilty," he said, raising his hands. "Is it working?"

    Gallian opened his mouth, ready to issue a retort, only to pause. "Actually, it kind of is," he said, face flushing. They both exchanged laughs, before returning their attentions to the ocean. Ripples of water made Gallian jump to his feet.

    "You saw that, didn't you?" Gallian said, shadows swallowing up his scythe.

    "Saw what?" Zoroark said, sitting up after having fallen onto his side.

    Clawitzer lunged out of the water. Gallian tackled Zoroark to the ground, barely getting him out of the way of a blast of water.

    "Damn it!" Gallian hissed, turning to face Clawitzer as he skidded through the sand. "He's back for round two!"

    XxX
    Yes, what Necrozma used were two alchemical symbols... according to Wikipedia, anyway. Take it with grains of salt, I suppose. Anyway, crazy to think we've hit the big 7-5... as far as properly-numbered chapters go, anyway. I guess this means the countdown is on to #100... aha ha... ha... oh god why has this fic gotten so long

    Next time: it's the 2018 Christmas special, featuring the other side of our proverbial villainous coin. Don't worry, though. This year I've brought a fabulous reindeer to help make things less depressing!
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2018
  15. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    Bonus #15

    This was an interesting insight into Team Specter's past. I'm afraid I don't know who the game-canon character is, though. I saw you'd mentioned that there is one?

    Their eyes falling off and having to check they had the right ones was amusing! XD

    Chapter 71

    Dusk shouldn't blame herself for Midnight's evolution =( poor girl.

    Ooh, I like how we're reminded of the TM fiasco from many chapters back! =D And an explanation as to why Gallian wanted them, too!

    I hadn't twigged that Seraph would be from another world. It wasn't until she said that I was like “Oh yeah, she isn't shiny.” I'm sure glad Espeon got through to her.

    That was a sweet moment between Espy and Shane. Hopefully things will be a lot better between them now. I'm both interested and dreading what will happen once Solgaleo is restored. I've become very fond of Shane and I don't want him to just vanish D=

    As for the ending... yikes! What happened to Volcarona? Did he emerge as a teeny butterfly? (But one that will be a force to be reckoned with?) Or is he still in that cocoon?

    And double yikes... It's been a long time since we've seen Solrock, and erm... I don't think she'll ever be the same again?

    Bonus #16

    This was a very interesting bonus chapter. I'll admit I was confused at first, but it does answer the question as to how pokemon such as Magearna and Mewtwo are in the PMD universe, given some pokemon are clearly man-made.

    The explosion was really well written, down to Mewtwo's suffering from it. It was a painful and tragic event that you got across perfectly, imo.

    Their relationship was sweet, and I wonder if they'll ever get their memories back eventually. Also, how did Magearna adopt her quirky speaking pattern? It wasn't until the end that I actually realised they're the Magearna and Mewtwo already in the main story.

    I found myself wondering if one of the monsters fighting at the end was Necky, but given the time gap (unless he's been in Horizon for a LOT longer than we're currently aware of?) it mustn't be him? The unown made me think of Silvally. So I wonder if it's an alchemical creature fighting Arceus? (I only realised it was Arceus from one of your FFNet review replies.)

    Also, why does he outright lie to Mewtwo? To protect him, or something else entirely?



    I'm getting some serious Necky vibes

    Chapter 72

    The opening to this chapter was pretty sinister and unexpected. I don't recall Primarina catching the prism virus, but I might just have forgotten? Nontheless, he seems different to the other victims. Something is very weird about him, and I'm going to guess he's not on Team Radiance's side anymore...

    The comedy Shane vs Silvally moment was an unexpected yet 'very Shane' thing to happen. The slapstick in this story is often pretty hilarious, ngl. It was JUST his tail, Shane.

    And everyone now has bows! Adorable XD

    I really like Kahuna Raichu and Cosplay Pikachu. Her costume changes are fantastic. I'm looking forward to seeing what she can do later on.

    Hmm... I wonder what's going to happen to Jangmo-o and his friends...?

    Chapter 73

    Oh no, not another one! I was all excited that Marshadow had broken free and Necky has to go and ruin everything. And he plans to take Lugia now?! No, this cannot happen! D=

    The mega evolution scene was a fantastic hearken back to the anime. A real sense of danger, complete with her almost killing Shane!

    Although Tessa's description was a little... off. Spider web pattern? I did a quick image search to make sure I wasn't missing anything, as I have some speculations. I think that mark on her paw has a lot to do with this. Hopefully the Awakening Emera will help to keep things in check? Although I'm not entirely sure it will be that easy...

    Chapter 74

    That was a fun ride to the island! All them tidal waves and aggressive pokemon didn't make it easy! And poor Shane, getting so soggy. That mane is proving to be a hindrance XD and we all know he's not gonna be able to keep his coat pristine, don't we?

    I love the description of the mystery dungeon. Musical themed... with a deep bass and sub-woofer. Okay, bring it! =D

    The omake was great. But I have one gripe...



    Not Sonic?? And you call yourself a hedgehog!! I'm disappointed, Togedemaru! XD

    Although to be fair, I can actually see her being a Bayonetta main... Funny no one picked Pikachu =P

    Necky's ramble was great. I hadn't realised there were two different spirits, and it's hilarious Necrozma pulled the short straw XD

    I'll catch up with the most recent chapter ASAP =D
     
  16. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    And there's Shadow Lugia! I wonder if that process is reversible or if those two are combined forever. I mean yeah, Marshadow got poofed into mist, but he doesn't strike me as altogether corporeal anyway, so. Maybe he could be reconstituted? Idk, maybe it's just the fact that it's so piss-easy to purify Shadow Lugia in-game that's got me thinking this way. :p

    Also, that sure is a sinister application of heart swap on Zero's part! I'm kind of surprised, come to think of it, that I don't see stories utilize its shady potential more often.
     
  17. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Well, I'm totally not late to this or anything! I... uh... look, it's been a rough month. :(

    See, I don't think these kind of things would have the same effect if Magearna showed up more frequently in the story. XP

    *noncommittal shrug*

    Hey, if the games aren't going to do anything with it besides have it change colors, I'll sure as hell put it to use!

    As long as you don't go looking for any ignition switches... :p

    8D

    It's how I do it. I really suck at Smash.

    That's okay! Sample whatever mediums you want however you want. That's my philosophy, anyway.

    Well, this Shadow Lugia's quite different from the XD one, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens. ;P

    Yeah, Heart Swap falls into that territory of "absurdly useless moves that get completely forgotten about." Luckily, I had a plan for it all along. >:3 Thanks again for reviewing!

    I did have a lot of fun with it. Perhaps a bit too much fun. ^^;

    Whoops, that's on me, I suppose. The things brought up in the bonus are going to get addressed in the main story. The ending was supposed to tie it into the ending of the special episode, because the little butterfly Mewtwo encounters was the thing that burst out of Volcarona's cocoon.

    You're right on the money. I hope the Christmas special will start to make it a bit more clear exactly why we're seeing that, but it's going to be addressed.

    He likes his shiny treasures, clearly.

    Well, if I told you what'd happen, I'd just ruin the fun!

    Not a bad guess at all. ;)

    Yes, I opted for the Alola interpretation since, y'know, Gen VII inspirations.

    Drat. I may have to look for better ways to hint toward it then, like maybe with Tessa's Z-Move in Cosmic Cavern...

    Yes, the splits were very much necessary. I'll be (hopefully) streamlining things next episode.

    I think you somehow managed to reason out a better explanation that what I had in my head. XP

    Uh... uh... oops?

    Dully noted. I'll see if I can change that in the future.

    So thoroughly mingled that I sometimes forget that I've done that. XD

    I better trademark or patent "damplify" quickly. I think I might be onto something...

    That's okay! It was moreso for the FFN audience as they've made a lot of Smash-related comments. Anyway, thanks for reviewing!

    A little of column A, a little of column B.

    Yep, it all comes down to different universes.

    Oof. I wouldn't say Tessa was completely right. I mean, the first thing she did after Shane woke up from a coma was say she was quitting the team. Not a very sensitive or well thought out move.

    You'll get those answers sooner, rather than later.

    Whoops. Gonna have to remember to fix that.

    Well, I admit this might not've been the smartest decision on my part, but I've had other reviews saying that, while Shane was awful, I didn't make him completely irredeemable. Shane was never supposed to be a joy to follow, so to speak. But we have talked about this. I need some better foreshadowing/hints in the earlier episodes, so I'll have to tackle that once the fic is finished.

    I know it was extreme, but the intent was to break things down to build it back up. ^^;

    Tessa was in full heroic BSOD, so of course she wasn't going to bring it up. And I can assure you that, from here on out, Shane will really be making a conscious effort to be a good person.

    Eh, I guess I should've spent more time with the party or something so it didn't feel as rushed but revisions had actually made it longer than it was initially. I do think it's a personal taste thing and, try as I might, I can't please everyone here.

    You won't have to wait much longer to meet her. Like, it's literally the next chapter! :V

    It'll all come to a head in Episode 9. That's a promise!

    This will also be changing. I know the pacing really slogged out of the gate. Call it a rookie mistake (this is my first fic). Now I know I need to do more to get folks invested in the early stages.

    I'll take it!

    Oof. Maybe I overdid it, but they were all so tired of Shane... like audience surrogates or something

    Funny you mention cruelty. Uh, well, let's revisit this at a later point. ;P

    I concede that was intentional teenager-style melodrama. <.<;

    You're absolutely right. <.>

    Well I already mentioned the first one to you privately. Congrats on the catch! And thanks for reviewing. I'm hoping the direction things take from here on out will be more to your liking. ;~;

    Yup. Actually artifacts of doom this entire time! :V

    Maybe I should do dramatic readings to get you caught up? :p nah that'd probably kill my voice

    The system's definitely backwards and something that will be addressed by the fic's end.

    How do I make the dungeon-crawling not be a mindless slog? Death traps everywhere! Genius! :V

    It was a fight that needed to happen, in some respects. It was also meant to show the progress Tessa's made individually.

    Just tuck this bit away in the back of your mind for a bit. ;P

    ... uh, yes?

    I've actually gotten that a few times and I'm glad it could resonate. I mean, I'm sorry, because this isn't the kind of stuff I'd like anyone to resonate with. But if you could find any comfort in it, then I've done my job.

    Sadly, the internet did not help Shane learn to communicate better. If anything, it exaggerated his bad behavior.

    Oof, well I'm sorry to hear that.

    Yeah you, uh, might want to talk with someone about that.

    Hang onto this tidbit because there's one little riolu/lucario secret I'm still keeping close to the vest.

    I'll still take it! :V

    Totally understandable. DMs are always open! Thanks for doing this, though. :D

    Haunter, silly. He's from Special Episode 3 of Explorers of Sky! "The Invincible Haunter" had to be hunted down by Sunflora and Loudred, remember? :p

    It all comes together! 8D

    I think you're the only one to leave a comment about that tidbit, so kudos!

    Well then, you'll have to keep reading to find out what happens. ;)

    Yup. Metamorphosis into a teeny flutterby gal.

    Yeah... considering she's dead now.

    Confusion was admittedly what I was going for in some respects. ^^;

    Thanks! :D

    I think it's safe to say that, given she seems to know nothing about these events, her Soul-Heart was irreparably damaged.

    Nope, Necrozma is not in the special. The thing Arceus fought is the voice that talks at the beginning and end of the bonus.

    Stick around and find out. >:3

    It is indeed quite different from Prism Virus cases.

    Believe it or not, that was inspired by a recent real-life event where an old college friend decided to be cheeky and DM me, erm, lewd artwork of Silvally. So I threw this scene in there to mess with him. He found it funny.

    And stylish! That's important, too. :V

    I had fun with these two as far as location-specific guest characters go.

    *whistles innocently*

    Thanks!

    Yes, her design's... of. To be fair, though, so is her appearance in her base form.

    It finally dawned on me this week that every single episode has had poor Shane dunked in water or some sort of grime. My friends think I might have a problem. XP

    I shall try my best! ... after the Christmas special, of course.

    Hey, she plays to win!

    Yup. Necky got gipped big time. Thanks again for reviewing!
     
  18. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Here we are. The last official update for 2018: the Christmas special! It's, um, a lot longer than a traditional chapter. I might've gotten a bit carried away making this. *nervous laugh* But consider it a holiday gift as a thank you for all of the support this year. We did just hit 30k views here, after all. And that's mindboggling! I put a lot of work into this one, so any and all feedback is greatly appreciated, whether you're reading it when it's released or in 2019 and beyond. With that out of the way, let's get to it.

    XxX
    Bonus #17: Link from the Past

    Nicky stood in the center of the gymnasium's hardwood floor. He crouched low to the ground, eyes darting between several different-colored foam balls sitting on the opposite side of a dark-blue line.

    "C'mon Dwayne! Hit him already!" a girl with a blonde ponytail called from a line of students on the side of the court with the balls. Nicky's gaze quickly shifted to Dwayne, who stood a few inches behind the dark-blue line, a ball in each large hand. Dwayne threw the ball in his right hand. Nicky backpedaled, then feinted going after the ball that missed. Dwayne launched the second ball. Nicky cut back to his left.

    Both boys scrambled for loose dodgeballs. All the while, Shane stood a few feet behind Dwayne, clutching a yellow ball and looking between Nicky and the two lines of students who had gotten knocked out. One boy with brown hair and athletic goggles locked eyes with Shane.

    "What do you think you're doing? Quit standing around and hit him!" he shouted, gesturing at Nicky. Shane looked down at the ball, then back up at Nicky and Dwayne. They each hurled a dodgeball, only for them to ricochet. Nicky ran back to fetch his ball. The students on Shane's team called for him to peg Nicky.

    Nicky scooped his ball up before Dwayne. He sprinted toward the center of the court and chucked the ball with all his might. Dwayne ducked, but he didn't bend over far enough. The ball grazed his black hair and hit his back. On the sidelines, the coach blew his whistle and gestured toward the line of students. Shane's team collectively groaned, while Nicky's teammates cheered and high-fived one another.

    "Alright, Eisenberg. Finish the job," one boy shouted. Shane looked at Nicky, a frown on his face. Without moving from his spot on the floor, Shane threw his ball. It hit the ground a foot in front of him and bounced up. Shane clumsily ran for it, arms outstretched.

    Nicky glanced the disappointed looks on Shane's teammates' faces and sighed. Shane hated losing. Nicky knew that. Even in gym class, he got visibly distressed if he thought the team he was on had "worse players" than his opponents. Still, Nicky let Shane win enough during their games. Gym class was his time to shine. Shane had to go down.

    He stepped forward with his left leg and hurled a red ball into Shane's shoulder. It struck home and bounced upward. To Nicky's utter shock, however, the ball remained suspended in midair. It pulsated, growing in size and turning white. Rainbow veins stretched across the ball. A fissure ran down the middle and split open with an unsettling squelch, revealing a red eye sitting in black ooze. The eye looked down at Nicky.

    A loud screech rang out and everything faded away.

    XxX​

    "Light? Light, you still with us?"

    Nicky shut his eyes and shook his head. He glanced at his golden, crystal legs and flailed about in midair. His levitation faltered. Choppy ocean water rushed up to meet him. Nicky thrust his four wings to the side and fired a pink blast at the water. A circular wave radiated in all directions as Nicky floated back up, looking around in embarrassment.

    "You sure you're up for this? You look pretty out of it."

    Zekrom floated opposite him, head cocked to the side. Lightning crackled around her tail, distorting the air around her. "Look, if you're tired, we can always do this another time," Zekrom said, crossing her arms.

    "I'm fine. Just zoned out for a second, that's all," Nicky said, golden tail swiveling back and forth as he tried to get his bearings straight. Why was he in the middle of nowhere, again? He looked around and spotted Latios lounging on a small, rocky plateau alongside his sister and her mate, Zapdos. The latter faced away from the dragons, preening his sparking feathers with a disinterested look on his face.

    Nicky's memory finally kicked in. He had come here to learn dragon-type attacks. The realization made him wonder why his mind had drifted toward a dodgeball game from his past life. What did that have to do with learning how to breath out a giant blue energy beam? Colors swirled around in his eyes.

    "Okay, can you tell me what we discussed?" Zekrom said, hovering closer to Nicky.

    A pink tinge overtook Nicky. "Uh…" His voice trailed off.

    "For pity's sake," Zekrom said, facepalming. "Were you even listening?"

    "Sorry. I didn't catch anything you told me," Nicky said, head tendrils receding as he winced. He was such a fool. Zekrom had volunteered to help him and here he was spacing out like the slackers who always sat in the back of class.

    'Damn it, brain. Stop thinking like we're still in school.'

    "It's okay," Zekrom said. "You always seem to have a lot on your mind. I'm willing to overlook it." She turned to give Latios a dirty look. "It's better than ignoring me because you're too busy staring at my ass."

    "Oh, please. We both know you love it when I do that," Latios said, lazily scratching his belly with his claws.

    "Um, could we get back on subject?" Nicky said, barely able to stop his tail from lashing against the water. "You were talking about how to draw out dragon energy, right?" In the back of his mind, he figured there had to be a better name than that. But he had already started this lesson off on a bad enough note, so he kept that thought to himself.

    Zekrom nodded. "The trick to pulling off a dragon-type attack is to tap into your raw, ferocious nature!" she declared. "In ancient times, us dragons were the fiercest hunters around. Predators and prey of all shapes and sizes feared us."

    "Ferocious? What about Altaria?" Nicky said. "And isn't there a dragon that's just a pile of slime? Hardly strikes me as ferocious."

    "Thank you!" Latias shouted, floating up into the air. "See, Zapdos? I'm not the only one who thinks Goodras are stupid."

    Zekrom loudly cleared her throat. "Which one of us is teaching again?" she growled. Nicky shrank back, blue filling up his eyes. "If you don't want to hear my explanation… then I'll employ an alternative teaching method."

    Nicky frowned. "And that is?"

    "I'm gonna blast you with a full-powered attack barrage until we draw out your latent dragon-type abilities," Zekrom said, revving up her tail turbine. Before Nicky could protest, Zekrom charged him down, shrouded in lightning. She struck his chest, shooting him backwards. Zekrom kept the charge up, knocking him into the ocean with a large splash.

    True to her word, Zekrom unleashed a flurry of frantic attacks. Blue beams split the ocean apart. Every time Nicky tried to keep his distance, Zekrom closed the gap with a lightning-fast Bolt Strike. It wasn't long before Nicky's chest hurt from the repeated blows. He floated there, trying to conjure up his psychic powers. However, the scene in front of him kept shifting. One second, he was staring at Zekrom. The next, he was in his old high school gym, a flurry of dodgeballs flying around him.

    Lightning struck him between the eyes. Nicky threw his upper wings over his face, hissing. Something stirred deep inside of him. A spark of anger flared up in his gut and spread throughout his body. A white-hot glow surrounded him. Nicky arced his head up, releasing a fiery-orange meteor. Its explosion was so brilliant, Zekrom had to turn away.

    A molten rock barrage pummeled Zekrom from above, knocking her lower and lower until she vanished behind a wall of water geysers. Nicky hunched over in midair, struggling to catch his breath. He failed to notice Latias and Latios flying toward him until a tingle enveloped his body. His fatigue and pain faded.

    "You healed me?" Nicky said, blinking slowly at the twins.

    "Of course. This was just practice, after all," Latias said.

    "Yeah. Sorry about Zek. She tends to go a bit overboard when it comes to battles… even friendly ones," Latios said. "I still remember the first time we sparred. It was so intense that even after I used Recover, I couldn't fly straight for a week." He laughed nervously.

    Latias raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Was that your first time sparring or your first time mating? Because I seem to recall—"

    Latios zipped over to his sister and threw a paw over her mouth. "Aha ha ha! Boy, sis, you sure do have an active imagination! What's Zapdos been teaching you, huh?" he said. Latias responded by biting her brother's paw. "Eyowch!" he shouted, yanking the paw back and wringing it out. "C'mon, sis, it was just a joke. Lighten up."

    "Can you guys please cut it out?" Nicky said, tail whipping back and forth and head tendrils shriveling.

    "Sorry, Light. Forgot you're not a fan of those kinds of jokes," Latias said, tapping her claws together nervously.

    Zekrom burst out of the water. She hovered erratically toward Nicky, clutching her chest with her right arm.

    "Oh, shit," Nicky whispered, blue and green expanding in his eyes. "Zek, I didn't— I wasn't trying to hurt you or anything." He cringed at the sight of Zekrom's swollen right eye.

    "Are you kidding me? That… was… awesome!" Zekrom shouted. She sped forward and wrapped a squawking Nicky up in a hug. "You went right past Dragon Pulse and fired off a Draco Meteor! And it whupped my ass!"

    "P… please… let go," Nicky squeaked, flailing his wings and tail about.

    "Heh, my bad. Got a bit carried away," Zekrom said, pushing Nicky away. She pretended to wipe a tear from her swollen eye. "I'm just so proud of you. I knew you had to be strong if you could bring sunlight and moonlight back to the world, but actually seeing that power in action was something else."

    "Only you could be psyched to get blasted in the face by a Draco Meteor," Latios sighed, shaking his head.

    "S… so, I did good?" Nicky said, eyes and body glowing yellow.

    "Better than good. You were awesome! Fantastic! Kickass!" Zekrom shouted, punching the air. "And other compliments I'm too lazy to come up with on the spot."

    "Heh… thanks. Though, I could've done without that ferocious onslaught," Nicky said, tail wagging.

    "Hey, it was effective, wasn't it?" Zekrom said, smirking. Nicky couldn't argue with her, even though it didn't sit right with him. He figured it had something to do with how Pokémon thought and functioned. His human mind was still adjusting to his current body.

    "Should we do some more practice, then?" Nicky wondered. There was a flicker of light in the corner of his vision. He glanced down at his anklet and frowned. "Uh… on second thought, I think I should probably head home," he said.

    "Aww, but we were having so much fun," Zekrom said, pouting. "Besides, Xerneas said she wanted to see you when you were done. Don't tell me you're going to stand up your squeeze."

    "We're not— she's my friend," Nicky said. Red expanded in his eyes, the tips of his head tendrils and his tail. "But… yeah, I guess if she wants to see me, I can make a little time." The red coloration flared when his friends exchanged smirks and chuckled at one another. "Knock it off, guys!" he growled. Nicky floated back from the other dragons, shaking his head. "S-Sorry, I shouldn't have shouted. It's just—"

    "We know, Light," Latios said. "You don't like friendly teasing." He shot Zekrom a disapproving look. "Zek didn't mean to make you upset. Right?" Zekrom nodded. "Okay, see? Everything's good," Latios said. "You want us to take you to the Tree of Life?"

    "No, I can get there myself," Nicky said, his eyes and body returning to their normal colors. "I'll see you guys around." He waved his upper-right wing at his friends and then flew away. Nicky climbed up higher into the sky as he followed the ocean along, using his psychic sense to pick out the Tree of Life's peculiar energy signature.

    After a few minutes, Nicky descended. His multicolored eyes flashed, releasing psychic energy that dispelled the distorted clouds in the air sealing off the Tree of Life. Nicky's heart skipped a beat upon seeing Xerneas bent over, nibbling on a pamtre berry. She looked up. Her antlers sparkled under the light from Nicky's body.

    "Hey, Light! I see you got my request," she greeted, standing up and trotting away from the tree's base. She caught up to Nicky as he came to a stop, hovering a few inches off the ground save for his tail. "How have you been?" she asked.

    "I've been alright, I suppose. Not much has changed since we've last spoken," Nicky said, hovering closer to her. That wasn't true, of course. There were the continued flashbacks to his human life, which now had the added element of the strange white orb. But he didn't want to trouble her with those issues. He was certain that once he had fully adjusted to life as a Pokémon, these problems would go away.

    "Were you out with Zekrom and her friends? You smell like brine," Xerneas said, nostrils twitching. "Err… not to say that there's a problem with that or anything," she quickly added, laughing nervously.

    "Yeah, I was training with them. I've gotten a good grip on my psychic powers, but after you and the Lati twins mentioned sensing a lot of dragon energy in my spirit, I wanted to try and learn how to use dragon-type attacks," Nicky said.

    "And how was it?" Xerneas asked, beckoning Nicky to follow her toward the Tree of Life.

    "Painful," Nicky said bluntly, hovering behind her while dragging his tail through the dirt. "Zekrom punched me. A lot. With Bolt Strike."

    "Oof. I've heard she gets pretty into it," Xerneas mused. "Perhaps we can find someone else for you to work with? I think you'd get along well with Zygarde…"

    "Well, her 'technique' worked. I learned Draco Meteor. She was really enthusiastic about it, so I think I did a good job," Nicky said. He glanced at his anklet. To his relief, it had stopped flashing. He worried that it had reacted to his Draco Meteor. Was this going to create a problem for him with Golem? At the very least, Golem hadn't activated the anklet's booby trap. For the moment, he was safe.

    "Congratulations," Xerneas said, turning to give Nicky a smile while her tiny tail swished back and forth. Nicky diverted his gaze toward the forest on his right. "You know, you're quite a lucky guy, Light. Most dragons need months to learn Draco Meteor," she continued.

    "Really? Uh, well, I guess it was beginner's luck?" Nicky said, shrugging his lower wings.

    "Nonsense," Xerneas said, sitting down at the base of the tree. It was awkward for her, given her long, sword-like legs, but she managed as best she could. "You're clearly powerful, even by our standards. You shouldn't sell yourself short like that." She pointed her snout at the ground beside her.

    Nicky looked down hesitantly. While his heart fluttered from Xerneas' compliment, thoughts of how he got his power lingered in the back of his mind. He didn't work for it. Golem had thrust this power onto him. And he was supposed to use it to kill Xerneas, along with the other friends he was making. Despite the time he'd spent with them, he was still afraid of revealing that secret.

    "Is something wrong, Light?" Xerneas asked, a worried look on her face. "Is this too close for you? I can always make some more space." She awkwardly shimmied to her right, exposing more ground between the Tree of Life's large roots.

    "I'm okay," Nicky said. He slowly turned around and floated down beside Xerneas, using the tree to prop himself up. Nicky draped his upper-left wing over a root and lay his lower-left wing across his armored chest.

    "Lost in thought again? You got rather nervous all of a sudden," Xerneas said.

    "Urk. Y-You can read me like an open book, huh?" Nicky said, adding in a chuckle for good measure.

    "Well, you certainly look tense," Xerneas said. "Three wings folded up… your tail curled into a circle." She traced a hoof through the soil. "I was going to ask you something, but maybe I'm better off waiting for another time."

    Nicky's head tendrils rippled. Colors swirled in his eyes. He cursed himself out. This was Xerneas, his closest friend. Even if he wasn't sure how she'd react to hearing about his biggest secrets, he didn't want to push her away.

    "N-No, don't be ridiculous. Ask away! I'm fine. If anything… it must still be nerves from the training. Using Draco Meteor left me kind of light-headed. I guess it hasn't worn off yet," Nicky said, trying to sit up straight as best he could.

    "Alright. As long as you're okay with it," Xerneas said, turning to make eye contact. "So, I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but next week's the Winter Solstice."

    "Oh?" Nicky's eyes turned turquoise. That term was familiar. After all, the human world had a winter solstice, but it wasn't a big deal. Did it mean something different for Pokémon? "I'm not entirely familiar with it. Is it special?" he asked.

    "It's the beginning of winter. We just have a fancier name for it than we do for the start of autumn," Xerneas said, giggling at the incredulous look on Nicky's face. "Okay, yeah, there's more to it than that. It's a holiday of sorts, I guess."

    "You guess?" Nicky said, raising a brow.

    "It was a day where we celebrated Lunala and the moonlight she brought to the world," Xerneas said, looking down at her hooves. "We would have a very short day, but an extended night. Many held festivities centered around the moon and the stars. But, well… Lunala's gone."

    Colors spiraled in Nicky's eyes. There were more similarities than just the name. His mind briefly drifted to memories of him bouncing up and down excitedly in a school bus seat, awaiting the start of his winter vacation as the sun began setting early in the afternoon. He shook his head, mentally scolding himself for not staying focused on the present.

    "What's going to happen this year, then? Are you holding some sort of memorial?" Nicky wondered.

    Xerneas shook her head. "I can't speak for the mortals, but thanks to you restoring light to the world, we're planning to hold a party. Dialga's hosting it at Temporal Tower. Which is surprising. Usually he doesn't want company." She smiled at Nicky. "But you somehow got him in a festive spirit… without even hanging out with him."

    "I… um… well…" Nicky tapped his lower-wing digits together. "Tell him it was no problem. And I, uh, hope the party goes well… and stuff."

    "Well, you should tell him yourself, silly," Xerneas said, reaching out to bump Nicky's leg with her hoof. Nicky yanked his leg back as if she'd poured scalding water on it.

    "W-What's that supposed to mean?" he said.

    "I asked you here so I could invite you to join me at the party," Xerneas said, her X-shaped pupils dilating as she scooched closer to Nicky.

    Nicky pressed himself up against the tree root on his left. She wanted him to join her? The way she phrased, it sounded more like she meant a date.

    His vision blurred. The ground gave way to a gray-walled classroom. Nicky's human hands nervously clutched his tan desk.

    "S-so, what do you say, Rebecca?"

    He looked up, only for a faceless blur to stare back at him. "I think a movie sounds great! It'll be so much fun!"

    Nicky jolted stiff. His gaze fell on Xerneas, who wore a frown on her face. "I'm sorry, Light. I came on too strong, didn't I?" she whispered, sliding her left hoof away from him. "Y… you'll have to forgive me. I'm… um…" She tilted her head back and laughed nervously. "I've never really… been as close with anyone as I've gotten with you these past couple of months. I know the mortals and lesser gods can have intimate relationships and what not, but I have no idea how they work and oh god I'm totally rambling right now, aren't I? I must sound like a complete idiot."

    As Xerneas lay down on her belly, blue and orange coalesced in Nicky's eyes. Her behaviors surprised him. This wasn't like Rebecca. Nicky sensed desire, worry, and nervousness twisting around in Xerneas' mind. All feelings that were running around in his head, too. He did like spending time with Xerneas. She brought fleeing moments of happiness to his confusing new life. But Nicky was keeping secrets from her. Would she even like him if he came clean?

    "You're fine. I just…" His voice trailed off and he gulped. At the very least, he owed it to her to say why these kinds of gestures made him so squeamish. "I was in a relationship… once. I thought it was great, but my girlfriend didn't really love me. She was using me for her own gain." Blue and purple spread through his eyes.

    Xerneas stiffened. "Light, I'm so sorry. I knew something was troubling you, but I didn't think—" She backed away. "I really was being too pushy. Did I… have I upset you at all when we've been together?"

    Her reaction set a pang of guilt through Nicky's gut. His words had flustered her and she wanted to make sure they were on good terms. Nicky fidgeted with his wings. "You've done nothing wrong," he said. "I'm the problem. I—" He tucked his head in. "Even thinking about relationships dredges up memories I wish I could get rid of."

    Silence followed. Nicky stared at his chest and coiled-up tail. Xerneas looked down at the soil. "Light… I really do like you," she whispered. "Still, I'd never want to force you to do anything. If… if you'd prefer, we don't have to go to that party. We could spend the Winter Solstice together."

    Nicky's tail coiled even tighter at the suggestion. "I'm not sure," he said.

    Xerneas winced. "That's my fault. I assumed you wanted to spend the holiday together, but perhaps you'd prefer being on your own," she said. "I must look so stupid. I'm… well, living by myself for such a long time probably doesn't help."

    "Yeah," Nicky whispered, his vision blurring. Afterimages of a Shane sitting on the hardwood floor of his bedroom superimposed themselves against Xerneas' outline.

    You'll hang out with me, won't you? I don't want to be stuck by myself all of Christmas break. I promise… we'll do something you enjoy!

    Nicky dug his wings into the soil, clenching his jaw as he tried to force the images from his mind. It took a few seconds for his vision to clear up. When it did, Xerneas was shaking her head slowly. Nicky avoided her gaze. The parallels were there. Xerneas was trying to guilt trip him like Shane used to. Yet, he couldn't bring himself to believe that. Something in the way she spoke and carried herself felt different, but Nicky couldn't put his claw on it.

    Admittedly, he was slightly weirded out that this magical deer with rainbow antlers and swords for legs pined for him. However, he quickly chalked that up to the ongoing disconnect between his human mind and his alien body. Though he wanted to be in a relationship with a human girl, that wouldn't make a lot of sense for him. He wasn't human anymore and he wouldn't be human ever again. Still, Nicky was worried that was a fact he might not be able to look past.

    For a brief moment, Nicky again envisioned Shane sitting in Xerneas' place. Then, he disappeared. Something clicked in Nicky's head. He had a hunch. One that he hoped would be correct. "Why did you want me to come to the party with you, anyway?" Nicky asked, head tendrils quivering.

    Xerneas tensed up. "Well, I…" Her nostrils twitched. "I didn't want you to spend your first Winter Solstice here alone."

    "Are you sure?" Nicky said, red and orange expanding in his eyes. "This isn't about, oh I don't know, parading me in front of the other gods to get them jealous of you or something?"

    "What? I— no, Light, I would never do something like that," Xerneas said, pupils dilating. Her gems dimmed. She looked away, wincing. "Okay, look, that answer was a half-truth at best. The thing is, I… I really wanted you there with me. To, um, support me… and stuff," she whispered.

    The red and orange in Nicky's eyes receded. "You want my support?" he said.

    "It's stupid. I'm stupid. Last time I went to a Winter Solstice party, I was—" She sucked in a breath. "Some of the immortal gods… they thought it would be fun to pull pranks at my expense." Xerneas lowered her head shamefully. "They put me to sleep, smeared pastries on my fur, bound my legs together, and… and…" She squeezed her eyes shut.

    A ragged breath escaped Nicky. He threw a wing up to cover his mouth. His head pounded. Static raced across his vision. The scene in front of him flickered back and forth between Xerneas and a group of his peers gathered together, looking at their phones and laughing.

    Oh my god, look at how pasty he is!

    Yuck, you can see a tan line. It's hideous!

    Must be from those speedos he wears all the time!

    The colors in Nicky's eyes swirled about like violent storms. A silhouette of a white orb lingered in the corners of his vision, staring at him with piercing red eyes.

    "Why?" Nicky whispered. "How could they do something like that? They're gods, not children!" His head tendrils flared brightly.

    "I'm not sure," Xerneas squeaked. "It was… I think it came down to strength. I was never a match for any of the other immortals. I'm sure they always resented that, out of everyone, I'm the god Arceus tied to the Tree of Life. He never even said why… only that the Tree of Life is vital to the planet's stability." She shuddered. "It must've been their way of telling me they don't think I belong with them."

    Nicky's jaw slackened. He still couldn't come to terms with this new information. Did Golem somehow know about this? Was this why he wanted Nicky to destroy the gods? Because they were more focused on figurative dick-measuring than actually keeping the world safe? But the lesser gods he'd befriended didn't seem anything like what Xerneas was describing. So, why did Golem want them all destroyed? Maybe he was blowing things out of proportion and Nicky could talk things out with his creator?

    "That was all three years ago," Xerneas whimpered, snapping Nicky out of his stupor. "After that, I stopped leaving the Tree of Life, even for short excursions. I only ever spoke to Lunala, because I refused to show my face to the other immortals. Unsurprisingly, I didn't get invited to the next Winter Solstice party. Then we lost Lunala and Solgaleo…" She brushed her cheek against her shoulder. "Apparently, the loss of our light opened the other immortals' eyes. They extended me an invitation this year. Problem is, I don't want to accept it.

    Nicky sat up straighter. That was it. He was sure Xerneas was different, now. She wasn't interested in boosting her social stature like Rebecca… or using him to avoid her problems like Shane. Xerneas wanted companionship. She felt alone, just as he did in his final months as a human.

    "I know it seems like I do well around the lesser gods, but the truth is I don't interact with them much, either. When it comes to their personal lives, I'm clueless. One day, I'll be talking to two of them. Then, the next thing I know, they're telling me about this fun new mating technique they tried the previous night," Xerneas continued, staring at the ground. "And can you believe that? Like, I commune with the spirits in the Tree of Life plenty and the impression I always got was that it's in poor taste to talk so casually about those kinds of details. So, I never pried into it, but I guess all that's done is make me look like—"

    "Breathe, Xern," Nicky said, holding up his upper-right wing. "You're getting yourself all worked up."

    "X-Xern?" Xerneas said, blinking slowly. "I don't understand. That's… you're playing around with my name. L-Like what Zekrom and Latios do with each other sometimes."

    "Yeah. That, uh, kind of slipped out?" Nicky said, voice cracking. His coloration had settled down. He and Xerneas stared at each other in silence. "Look… you shouldn't have had to go through that," Nicky said. "From what I've seen, you're great. Warm, friendly, empathetic… exactly what you look for in a friend. The fact that those other gods can't recognize that? Well, it shows how stupid they are, if you ask me."

    "L-Light, that's… um, very blunt," Xerneas said, antler-gems flickering.

    "It's the truth," Nicky said, folding up his wings. Silence followed again, as Nicky tried to figure out the best way to proceed. Finally, he said, "I like you, too." He laughed nervously. "Like I said, I'm nervous… about being in any sort of relationship. See, I had learned that it's best to approach these things gradually. And I did that with the one relationship I was in… only it ended disastrously."

    "I'm worried of what would happen if I rushed things with you. But I also know that going too slowly may not end well, either," Nicky said. "To be honest, I'm just… confused. All I know is I don't want to lose you. You're the best thing that's happened to me in this world."

    "I'm touched. For what it's worth, I don't want to lose you, either," Xerneas whispered. "This is the happiest I've been since before that blasted party. I'd hate to ruin that with a reckless decision."

    "Maybe… we could test the waters a bit?" Nicky said, green expanding in his eyes. Xerneas looked at him curiously. "I'm a psychic, right? Latios told me there's this thing psychics can do… to connect with another Pokémon."

    "You want to form a mental link with me?" Xerneas gasped.

    Nicky nodded. "Yeah. I'm not one-hundred percent sure what it entails, though. Does that mean, like, we can always read each other's minds?"

    "No. In our case, it'd mean that we could communicate through our thoughts. Even with a great distance separating us," Xerneas said.

    "I see," Nicky whispered. He glanced at his anklet. Sure, Golem had stopped cramming him inside a barrier when he was in the lab, but would the mental link trigger Golem's monitor? If it did, all of this would be for nothing. "Then, I'd like to go ahead and try," he said, willing to accept the risk if it meant getting more time with Xerneas.

    "You're sure?"

    "Absolutely," Nicky said.

    Xerneas got to her feet, her head drawing even with Nicky's. "Okay. Um, to get it to work, we kind of have to bring our heads close together," she said. "I know the antlers make that awkward. So, um, maybe just stay seated for a bit?"

    "Okay. What's the plan?" Nicky asked. Xerneas responded by leaning in and pressing the tip of her snout to his forehead. Nicky's eyes became bright red, as did his face and wings.

    "Now, draw on your psychic power. Instead of using it to attack, gently push it toward my head," Xerneas whispered. Nicky shuddered as her warm breath brushed his crystalline brow. Cautiously, he did as Xerneas instructed. He pushed a cursory amount of psychic energy toward Xerneas' aura. The instant it contacted her, a tingle spread across the back of his neck.

    Can you hear me?

    Xerneas' thoughts echoed through Nicky's mind, making his head tendrils stiffened. "Y-Yes! I can," he said.

    No, no, try it with your thoughts, Xerneas said, resisting the urge to giggle.

    "Oh, right," Nicky said. Uh, testing, testing… one, two. Can you hear me?

    Loud and clear, Xerneas said, smiling.

    "Great. Um, do you think you could take your snout off my head, though?" Nicky said.

    "Whoops! S-Sorry," Xerneas said, pulling her head back while laughing nervously. "So, uh, I guess I've kept you long enough, huh? You should head back home."

    "Yeah," Nicky said, his mood dampening. Leaving meant facing Golem.

    "Hey." Xerneas nudged his lower-right wing with her snout. "We can talk later, if you'd like."

    Yellow spread in Nicky's eyes. "I'd like that a lot," he said.

    XxX

    ~Glyphic Falls, Hidden Laboratory~

    "This is beyond inexcusable!" Golem huffed, pacing back and forth in the central room. Nicky sat on the rocky floor, legs, tail, and wings curled up against his chest. "I reward you with more freedom and you go and break your curfew! And what was with that spike in your energy I detected, hmm? Unless you killed a god, you've got some serious explaining to do. So, start talking!"

    "I, um… I lost track of time," Nicky said. "Because I was with some of the lesser gods."

    "You were fighting them?" Golem said, brow raised.

    "Err… not exactly," Nicky whispered.

    Golem walked over to his slanted, metal desk and tapped it with his claws. "Light… I made you to kill those gods," he seethed.

    "And I'm working on it. Seriously! That's why I lost track of time. See, my psychic powers are getting good, sure, but plenty of the gods have ways to counter that. I need to diversify my skillset if I have any hope of succeeding," Nicky said. He had rehearsed this lie on the flight back, but things had gotten heated much quicker than he had hoped. "Well, that's what I was doing today. See, I've been befriending some lesser gods and one immortal, Xerneas. Today, I convinced them to teach me new attacks."

    "That spike you read? That was from a Draco Meteor. It's all a ruse. I'm tricking the gods into helping me grow stronger, while learning how they battle," Nicky explained. "This way, it'll be all that much easier to pick them off one by one. Because they'll have gotten used to me, so their guards will be lowered." He glanced at Golem, trying to keep his nerves intact. Otherwise, he'd ruin his ploy.

    "So, you really learned Draco Meteor in just a single day?" Golem said.

    "Yeah. And I've made a mental link with Xerneas. Now, I can get her to feed me information about the other, more-reclusive gods," Nicky said. He hated using Xerneas like that, but it was necessary to prop up his lie.

    "Hrmmm…" Golem stroked his beard. "Well then, it seems I did not give you enough credit. That is quite the ingenious plan you've formulated," he said, dipping a claw in ink and scribbling on some parchment. "Yes. Thinking about it… having you attack the gods with sheer brute force would likely earn you enemies. And, as your brilliant creator, I would earn enemies by association. But this is far more strategic!" He nodded approvingly. "So, this is the tactical power of a human mind, eh? Ho ho ho! It's something to behold."

    "Right. So, if this monitor of yours picks up any funny readings, it's either my training… or my attempts to play Xerneas for a fool," Nicky said, trying to add a hint of menace to his voice.

    "Understood. Very good, Light. I do so love it when you exceed my expectations like this," Golem said, wiping the ink off his digits. "Well, I'm heading off for the night. Try to keep your tail under control while you're sleeping."

    "Uh… I'll try," Nicky said, watching Golem exit the laboratory. A heavy thud echoed through the room. Nicky sensed Golem's aura growing further away. He sighed in relief and slumped down on the floor. It wasn't exactly eloquent, but he had gotten Golem off his back. Still, now that he'd created this lie, he'd either have to find a way to keep it going or come clean about his true nature to his friends. Neither sounded pleasant. Especially now that he had his mental link with Xerneas.

    These thoughts continued to roll around in Nicky's head. He considered reaching out to Xerneas, but decided against it. Nicky hadn't left the Tree of Life that long ago and he didn't want to look desperate. Instead, he tried to push the intrusive thoughts out of his head. Fatigue soon settled in. Though, as Nicky's eyes closed, something white flickered in the corners of his vision.

    XxX​

    Nicky lay in his bed. His human bed, complete with its sports-themed blanket and the gray tube-pillow he used when his neck was sore. He stared up at his ceiling. How long had he been lying like this? Reluctantly, he rolled over and checked his digital clock.

    6:00 PM on a Monday. Had he been napping?

    No, that wasn't it. He hadn't gotten out of bed. Why should he? He was suspended. Grounded, too. He'd barely gotten out of bed since last week.

    Knocks at the door drew his attention.

    "Nicky? Are you out of bed, dear?"

    He didn't answer his mom. Nicky wasn't sure what she wanted, but he lacked the motivation to talk with her.

    "It's time to come down and light the candles," his mom said. "Come on. I know you haven't eaten anything today. Your father and I are worried."

    His door handle jiggled.

    "Nicky, you know how your father feels about you locking your door."

    Nicky hiked his covers up over his head. Then, louder knocks sounded.

    "Son, you're going to light the candles with us," his dad said. "I won't have you skipping the first night of Hanukkah because you're in a mood."

    "Aren't I supposed to be grounded?" Nicky scoffed. Hushed whispers followed. He assumed his parents were talking about him.

    "I think God would be willing to overlook it," his mom said. "Please, can you at least unlock your door for us?"

    "No. Go away," Nicky shouted.

    "Either you open this door or I'm busting it down and taking your TV for the rest of your suspension," his dad threatened.

    "Fine. Whatever," Nicky said. He had already lost his game consoles, phone, and computer. This would just give him more of an excuse to stay in bed until he was finally free. He pulled his head out from the covers, wondering what his parents would do. Eventually, he heard sighs, followed by footsteps heading down the stairs.

    Nicky lay his head back down on his pillow, trying to will himself to sleep. It did no good. He was tired, yes, but not the kind of tired where he could fall sleep on command. At the very least, getting his parents to leave brought a smile to his face. Maybe with some luck, he wouldn't have to see them until his suspension was up. It'd serve them right.

    He was the victim, here. Why wouldn't anyone believe him? Even Shane twisted the issue around, making it abundantly clear how awful it was that Nicky had bailed on something they had planned to do for months.

    SuCh aN uNPleAsAnT mEMorY… wHy Do YoU lEt It TRoUbLE yOU So?

    The distorted, unfamiliar voice made Nicky sit back up. As soon as he did, his room melted away, leaving his bed floating in the midst of outer space. When the last of the walls finished dissolving, his door morphed into a large, white sphere. Tiny veins coursed through the ball's slime, occasionally pulsating with rainbow light.

    "Wh-what the hell's going on here?" Nicky growled. He threw his covers off, only to gasp at the bulky, yellow crystals encasing his legs and the golden tail dangling between them. Nicky tried to grab his temples, but found his arms replaced by membranous wings. After staring at his limbs for a few seconds, he finally connected the dots. "I'm dreaming, aren't I?" he said.

    YeS. A FrUiTlEsS wAStE oF yOUr TImE.

    The white orb hovered closer to Nicky, rippling like a plate of gelatin. Two small, hollow, red circles appeared in the middle of the sphere. Nicky guessed they were this creature's eyes. "I've seen you before," he said. "The flashbacks I was having earlier today… you were in them. But you had nothing to do with my old life." He sat up in his bed. "Who are you? For that matter, what are you?"

    MaTtER… MaTteR… mAtTEr…

    Nicky frowned. "Uh, yeah, that's exactly what I said."

    The orb's eyes constricted. A thin red line appeared. Nicky tilted his head. Was the orb… smiling?

    "Let me ask again. Who are you?" Nicky said, trying not to let his fear show through.

    I'M yOu, Of CoUrSE, the sphere replied, its smile fading and its eyes swirling around randomly. I'm WHaT yOu'RE cAPablE Of. YoUR pOWerS… tHe EnERgY yOu WIeLD… iT is MInE. WE aRe OnE AnD THe SaME… nOW AnD FOReVER.

    "Yeah, right. Look, maybe dreaming works differently in this world, but I had plenty of trippy nightmares in my old life. Whatever this is… I'll wake up and forget about it," Nicky said, staring the orb down.

    YoU rEaLlY thInK i'M JUsT a BAd DrEAM? the orb said, its unsettling smile returning. NO. We'RE aLReaDy wElL-AcQUaiNtED. The sphere contorted itself into a heart. It stretched its eyes into a jagged line that made the heart appear broken. tHoSe TiMEs yOU sNaPpED At ThE gODs… YoUr SQuEAmIsH rEAcTIOns to AnY PHySIcAL cONtaCT… THaT's JUsT mE REmINdInG YoU ThAT I'M hErE.

    Nicky stiffened. He wanted to grab his covers, but his wings were useless in that regard. "I don't believe you," he said. "Worst-case scenario, you're some ridiculous side effect of… whatever the hell Golem did to make me. I'll just tell him about you and it'll be like you never existed."

    YoU wISh It cOUlD bE THaT sIMpLe, the heart hissed, its outer membrane quivering as its red eyes reappeared. BuT tHE FAcT iS… We ARE inSEPaRaBLe. I DWeLL iN YoUr COrE, JUsT LIkE I dO wITh ThIS wRETcHEd PlAnEt. YOUr cREaTOR KnOwS ThIS.

    "Okay, fine. What's the point of all these theatrics, then? Did Golem put you in my head to make sure I kill all the gods? Because I don't intend to do that," Nicky said, slapping his bedsheets with his wings. "I like some of them. Maybe there are a couple of total jackasses. But if that's the case, I'll use my powers to make them change their ways."

    WaHT a FOol yOU aRe. I dOn'T cARe aBOuT yOUR CReaToR… Or tHe HAtRED iN HiS hEArT. I'M hERe tO SHoW YoU HoW mIsTaKeN yOu ArE, the heart said as one of its eyes shrank and revolved around the other.

    "I'm not mistaken. I'm happy. I've finally found someone who cares about me. Even if she's a magical talking deer with antlers that'd make any Christmas tree blush," Nicky said.

    SuCh a FOoL. YoUr PReCIoUS rELaTIoNShIP wiLL OnLY bRiNG yOu hEArtBrEak. JUsT lIKE iN YoUR hUMaN lIFE, the heart said, its top splitting apart and squirting out red fluid that splattered on Nicky's bedsheets. BuT I cAn fIX tHAt. I cAN hELp YOU. AlL yOU nEEd to DO is LeT gO.

    The heart's eyes disappeared. It split itself in half, hovering over Nicky as red liquid dripped onto his bed. TaKe THeSe WOrTHleSS, pAInFUl mEmORiES… AnD GiVe THeM to Me. ToGeTHer, wE'Ll tUrN thEm iNtO DUsT, the heart said. Distorted reflections of Nicky's human face appeared on each half of the heart. ThEn, we'Ll reTUrN aLl WoRlDs tO ThEiR oRIgInaL sTaTes… by wIpInG OuT eVErYThINg.

    "And if I refuse?" Nicky said, sitting up defiantly in his bed.

    The heart fused itself back together, turning pitch-black. A fissure ran through its center and opening, revealing red fluid with a purple, reptilian eye floating inside.

    YoU dON't HaVe a ChOIcE, it said, eye pulsating. We'RE inSePaRaBLe, rEMeMbER? YoU ARe pARt oF ThE vOID. We WIlL cOnSUme. AnD wE WiLL dEsTRoY.

    Before Nicky could say anything, the heart's eye flashed. Black shadows surrounded Nicky and swallowed him up.

    XxX​

    Nicky's head shot up, only to smack against a light fixture made out of crystals. A clang echoed through the room, jolting the last of Nicky's drowsiness out of his system. He flopped back on the ground, groaning and rubbing his forehead with his upper wings.

    'Well, that was one hell of a twisted dream,' he thought, looking around the dark room. Nicky had no idea what time it was, but guessed it had to be the middle of the night, since none of Golem's assistants were around. He sat up again, being careful to avoid the crystals in the ceiling. Nicky rested against a wall and sighed.

    Should he tell Golem about this dream? The contents disturbed him. His wings even quivered a bit. Still, he worried Golem's response would be to strip him of his powers. If that happened, he'd lose his mental link. Worse, he might not ever get to see Xerneas again.

    His eyes turned bright yellow. That was it. He could bring it up with Xerneas. Surely, she would have some idea of how to fix this. Nicky was about to try his mental link out when a small voice told him to stop. He braced himself as he sat up higher. Was it really appropriate to have his first use of the mental link be about something so serious? After thinking it over, Nicky concluded this was something he should handle in-person.

    However, that didn't mean he had to spend the rest of the night alone with his runaway thoughts. Xerneas wanted to talk with him. Why not make some small talk to clear his mind? He thought it was a good idea. A safe idea.

    Nicky concentrated, shades of pink pushing the other colors to the periphery of his eyes. He thought about Xerneas, conjuring a silhouette of her in his mind's eye. At first, nothing happened. But then a bright-pink flame smoldered inside the silhouette.

    Light, is that you?

    Xerneas' voice sent a tingle down Nicky's neck. He slumped down, his crystalline lips curving into a smile.

    Yeah, it's me, Nicky said. Slowly, he shut his eyes. Xerneas' outline became clearer in his mind. I, uh, just wanted to hear your voice… in a manner of speaking.

    Is everything okay? Xerneas asked. The tingle in Nicky's neck intensified. Red pulses rippled across his wings and tail.

    Just having a little trouble sleeping, that's all. Bad dreams… you know how it goes, Nicky said, sighing.

    I'm sorry. Do you want to talk about it? Xerneas said.

    Nicky's tail twitched. He swore under his breath. The whole point of this was to forget the bad dreams. Now he couldn't beat around the issue. I do, actually, but not like this, he said, figuring honesty was the best policy. It's, um, a bit of a sensitive issue. I think we'd be better off talking about it in-person.

    Oh, I see. Well, if that's what you wish, I'll respect your boundaries, Xerneas said as the tingling in Nicky's neck spread down his back toward the base of his tail.

    When can I see you? Nicky wondered, sliding down further until he was lying on his side. Xerneas didn't respond. Xern, you still there?

    Yeah, I just had to think for a bit. See, I've got some work to do over the next few days. It's for the upkeep of the Tree of Life, Xerneas said, her flame dimming in Nicky's mind.

    Want some help? Nicky offered.

    Sorry, Light. As much as I'd love your company, I'm afraid I have to turn you down, Xerneas said. This is… sensitive business. I'm not supposed to let anyone get near the Tree of Life while I'm tending to it. If Arceus found out about it… Her voice trailed off.

    It's okay. I understand, Nicky said, his glow dimming.

    If I have some spare time, we could always talk like this. Would that be alright? Xerneas said.

    Yeah. It's no problem. But when will you be done with, uh, whatever it is you're doing? Nicky asked.

    I should be good to go for the Winter Solstice. We can get together then, Xerneas said.

    Could we talk about that? Y'know, come up with an idea of what we want to do? I know you brought up that party, but I'm not so sure I'm interested in it, Nicky said, brushing his tail across the floor.

    Sure. To be honest, after our meeting this afternoon, I was leaning toward not going. As much as I'd like to think maybe the other immortals are turning over new leaves, I'm not so sure that's true, Xerneas said.

    Screw them. We don't need some fancy-schmancy party. I mean… what kind of party can a bunch of giant-ass dragons throw, anyway? Sounds like it'd be a total snore-fest, Nicky scoffed.

    It is usually a lot of standing around and talking… or yelling at Giratina to stop being weird, Xerneas said.

    Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, how would you have even gone to this party, anyway? What about protecting the Tree of Life? Nicky said.

    Oh, that. The lesser gods weren't invited, so Zekrom, Zapdos, and the Lati twins agreed to watch it for me, Xerneas said. In any case, did you have any ideas about what we could do instead?

    Well, there was one thing that came to mind. Have you ever been to Celestial Island? Nicky asked. The flame in his mind intensified, as did the tingle in his tail. Yet, Xerneas didn't respond. Nicky raised his head up, indigo and violet swirling in his eyes. Um, was it really that bad of an idea?

    Nuh-no. Of course not. I… I've been there… once or twice. To, y'know, visit Lunala, Xerneas said.

    Nicky smacked his face with an upper wing. How could he be so idiotic to forget about that, especially after talking about it several hours earlier? Xern, I'm so sorry. I'm a total moron. I didn't—

    It's okay, Light. I'm just… surprised to hear you've developed an attachment to that place, that's all, Xerneas said.

    Ah. Well, that's where I met Latios and Zekrom on the first day of autumn. Y'know, the day I first showed up at the Tree of Life, Nicky said, tapping his upper wing-claws together. I thought… uh… guess I was feeling sentimental or something. Thought maybe we could go there and just stargaze together. I'd offer to bring food but, uh, I don't really know how to cook anything.

    He waited for Xerneas' response, rapping his tail against the floor. Sure, it kicked up a lot of dust, but he didn't care. He really wanted Xerneas to agree to his idea. Even if it was corny. Nicky held his breath, focusing on the pink flames in his mind.

    I can handle food, provided you don't mind berries. Or flying me up to the island, for that matter, Xerneas said.

    Of course I don't! Nicky said, perhaps a bit quicker and more forcefully than he intended.

    Okay. I suppose we can finalize timing later, Xerneas said. I'm looking forward to it.

    Me too, Nicky said as Xerneas' silhouette disappeared from his mind's eye. He rolled over onto his side and swatted a stray piece of paper with his tail, sighing loudly.

    It was going to be a long week.

    XxX​
     
    Virgil134 likes this.
  19. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    ~Celestial Island~
    After deciding it would be a bad idea to carry Xerneas on his back, Nicky levitated her next to him as he flew through the sky. Day turned to night as he passed over the Horizon Continent. The island came into view so far up in the sky that they both lost sight of the land below them. As Nicky approached Celestial Island, however, he encountered a problem.

    It wasn't vacant.

    "Xern, I think someone's already here," Nicky said, orange and yellow spreading throughout his eyes. "I'm sensing life energy with… an array of colors. But it has this sun-like intensity to it. Kind of feels like I sat down in front of a raging fire."

    "Hmm. If I had to guess, that's Ho-Oh," Xerneas said.

    "Is Ho-Oh one of the gods you've had problems with in the past?" Nicky asked, head tendrils flaring.

    "No, she's okay. A bit soft-spoken, if anything. We don't exactly talk much," Xerneas said. "I don't see why we can't exchange pleasantries. If she's doing something important, we could always go somewhere else."

    Nicky prayed Ho-Oh wasn't doing anything important. He glided down toward the island and gently lowered Xerneas onto a patch of grass next to a field of sunflowers. Xerneas walked through the grass, with Nicky floating beside her. Together, they made their way to the center of the island, where the statues of Solgaleo and Lunala stood on either side of the lagoon. It was in front of Solgaleo's statue that they both found Ho-Oh. She stared up into the statue's eyes.

    "Greetings, Ho-Oh. Happy Winter Solstice," Xerneas said. Ho-Oh's response was to jump back from the statue, squawking and fluttering her wings in surprise. She turned to look at Xerneas.

    "X-Xerneas? You're… away from the Tree of Life. And very high up," Ho-Oh said, blinking her red, puffy eyes slowly. She threw her wing up over her face and turned away. "Should you be up here?"

    "The Tree is fine. I have friends looking after it," Xerneas said. She stepped to the side so Ho-Oh could get a better view of Nicky. "As for how I got here. Well, you remember the Guiding Light, yes?"

    Ho-Oh nodded. "How lovely to see you again," she said, extending her wings to the side and bowing. "Happy Winter Solstice."

    "Same to you," Nicky said, unsure if he was supposed to bow back. "Sorry to intrude like this. Xern and I were hoping to spend some time looking up at the stars."

    "Oh. That's no problem. No problem at all. I was just… resting my wings up here," Ho-Oh said, glancing at Solgaleo's statue. "But I think I'm all good now, so I'll be on my way." She awkwardly waddled away from the statue.

    Nicky frowned. Something was wrong. He didn't want to breech Ho-Oh's privacy and read her mind, but there was a lout of doubt clouding up her aura. Should he say something? He glanced at Xerneas. Hey, Xern, I don't think Ho-Oh's okay, he said telepathically.

    Xerneas traced a hoof through the ground. You're right. Do you want to ask her what's wrong?

    A part of him didn't. This was supposed to be a private moment he could share with Xerneas. And yet, he couldn't bring himself to let Ho-Oh fly off. "H-Hey, Ho-Oh. Is everything alright?" Nicky said, floating toward her. "You seem… distressed. And I— well, I don't mean to pry. Especially since we don't really know each other. But if there's anything Xern and I can help with, let us know."

    Ho-Oh turned to face Nicky. Moonlight glinted off her tearful eyes. "I appreciate that. But I assure you, I'm okay. Truthfully, I was just here to do some thinking," she said. "My mind is… clearer now, so I think I'll take my leave." She was about to take off, when she paused. "Oh, will I be seeing you two at Dialga's party?"

    Xerneas and Nicky exchanged a glance, then shook their heads in unison. "I'm afraid not, Ho-Oh. But don't let that stop you from having fun, okay?" Xerneas said, offering Ho-Oh a warm smile.

    "Thank you. I'm not sure how much fun a party hosted by Dialga can be, but I'll certainly try," Ho-Oh said. She waved a wing at the two of them and took off into the night sky. They watched her fly away, rainbow light trailing off her tailfeathers.

    "Well, that was… intriguing," Nicky said. He floated toward the lagoon and lay down in the grass. Nicky let his legs drape into the water. If they weren't made of crystal, he imagined the cold water would've sent a shock through his system. Instead, he stretched his upper wings out and gazed up into the starry sky.

    The grass beside Nicky crinkled as Xerneas sat down next to him. "It's really something, isn't it?" she said, looking up at the stars. "To be honest, I don't know why there are so many stars. I've always wondered what sort of purpose they serve. I'm sure Arceus or Palkia know the answer, but I never bothered asking them. I was always too afraid they'd scoff at me for asking such a silly question."

    "I don't think it's silly," Nicky said, thinking of the purpose stars served in the human world. If he brought that up, he supposed he could segue into talking about his dreams and his former life as a human. But a voice in the back of his mind stopped him. It was too soon to go into something so sensitive. He had to find another avenue.

    "Hey, mind if I ask you something?" he said, tilting his head to his left. Nicky froze when he realized that doing so greeted him with a view of Xerneas' waist. He immediately looked back up at the sky, red rushing through his eyes, wings, and tail.

    "Of course," Xerneas said, having not noticed Nicky's slip-up.

    "What was Lunala like?" Nicky said, folding his lower wings over his chest. The grass beside him ruffled. He gulped. "S-Sorry, if that's too personal, you don't have to answer."

    "No, it's quite alright. I suppose it would be fitting to talk about her, given what day it is," Xerneas said, sighing. Her gaze drifted toward Lunala's statue. "Lunala was…" She paused, nostrils twitching. "Well, to be honest, we weren't exactly close. I'm not even sure I can call her a friend, though she let me confide in her from time to time."

    Xerneas traced a hoof through the soil. "Lunala never said much when we were together. Maybe it's because she was concentrating on her work?"

    "Right. That's been something I've been wondering about for a while," Nicky said. "Not to interrupt with something tangential or anything… but how exactly did Solgaleo and Lunala factor into bringing light to the world? It's difficult to wrap my head around something like that." He scratched his crystalline cheek with a wing for good measure.

    "I don't actually know the full story. Neither of them seemed keen on telling me. I've heard whispers from immortals that were created before me that, in the early days, the skies were filled with storms brought on by strange, otherworldly energy," Xerneas said. "Solgaleo and Lunala brought forth the sun and the moon to dispel the storms, but they constantly needed to use their powers to ensure light would reach our world and keep the dark storms at bay."

    "But then they sacrificed themselves to save Ho-Oh," Nicky said. He sat up as best he could. "I wonder if that's why we saw Ho-Oh. The Winter Solstices of the past celebrated Lunala, but she's gone now." Blue and green swirled in his eyes to make turquoise. "Was Ho-Oh here to mourn… or because she felt guilty?"

    Xerneas looked at Nicky, uncertain if he wanted her to answer. She ultimately held her tongue, letting her gaze drift back up toward the sky until she was ready to restart her original train of thought. "Anyway, even if Lunala didn't say much when we were together, I enjoyed her company. It was nice to have someone, y'know, alive I could vent to." Laughing awkwardly, she shook her head. "That probably sounds awful coming from the god who's supposed to guard the spirit realm from malicious forces. It's not that I don't appreciate having the spirits around or anything, but…" Her voice trailed off.

    "No, I get it. Being with someone… it's a lot better than being alone," Nicky said.

    "I shouldn't be complaining. After all, I have the spirits. Some of the other gods are far more reclusive than I am. I have no idea how they manage," Xerneas said, staring at her reflection in the pond.

    The turquoise glow strengthened in Nicky's eyes. "It's so strange. When I think of gods… heroic legends are what come to mind. Y'know, these huge, grandiose tales showcasing feats of strength and unfathomable power," he said. "Yet, for what I've seen — and heard from talking with you — it kind of feels like Arceus didn't put any thought into creating you guys."

    He winced the moment he saw Xerneas' pupils dilate. "Sorry! I'm sorry! That was so, so stupid of me to say. I wasn't… um…" He tucked his head down against his chest. "I wasn't trying to say you're, like, a mistake or that you don't deserve to be here or something. Just that I don't understand why Arceus gave you a desire to be around other people if he was just going to force you to isolate yourself from the world."

    Nicky silently cursed himself out. This line of thinking was actually making Golem's vision of a god-free world sound good to him. He shook his head, sighing. "You know what? Forget I brought that up. It was a stupid, runaway thought," he said, flicking an upper wing dismissively.

    "No, it's a good point. I've… never really thought about it, to be honest. I guess it goes to show how much I've taken my life for granted," Xerneas said, laughing bitterly as she slid down onto her belly.

    "I'm sorry. I ruined the atmosphere, didn't I?" Nicky said, head tendrils shrinking. "That's what I get for trying to think of a good way to bring up those nightmares I wanted to talk to you about."

    "Oh… right. I forget about that. Have these past few nights been any better for you?" Xerneas asked. Nicky glanced at her, wondering if he had irked her by selfishly steering the conversation in the direction he wanted it to go. To his surprise, her aura radiated genuine concern.

    "Not really. Keep seeing the same thing over and over again," Nicky said, eyes losing their glow.

    "I see. That's not good," Xerneas said. "Well, now that we're actually together, do you want to talk about it?"

    "I do. But, um, in order to explain it… I have to tell you something." Nicky took a deep breath. "It's—" He paused, unsure of how to phrase things. "This is a big secret and I need to know that I can trust you not to tell anyone. Because it's going to sound hard to believe, but I assure you it's the truth."

    Xerneas stiffened. "That's, erm, quite a lot to put out there, Light," she said, blinking slowly. "But what kind of friend would I be if I turned you down? I'll keep your secret."

    Nicky shuddered, ripples running down his spine. This was it. He was finally going to fess up. "Xerneas, the truth is… I'm human." He paused to see her reaction, but her expression didn't change. "That past relationship I mentioned to you? The way things ended left me so depressed, that I had decided life wasn't worth living."

    This time, Xerneas tensed up. "Light, you… you tried to kill yourself?" she squeaked.

    "I didn't just try. I'm pretty sure I succeeded… which is why I'm here. See, in the world I'm from, when you die… that's it. There's no afterlife or spirit realm. One second you're alive — living, breathing, thinking — and then the next second that all stops," Nicky said, hunching over and draping his wings over his legs. "That should've happened to me, but it didn't."

    "Instead, as I was dying, an otherworldly force pulled me into this world. Only, I didn't initially look like this. I was a Growlithe," Nicky said as Xerneas went slack-jawed. "I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But this is where things get… difficult. A group of Pokémon had brought me here so that they could use my spirit to create a powerful beast." He took another deep breath. "One that would carry out their will… to kill all the gods."

    Xerneas hastily sat back up, her gaze falling between her forelegs. "Mortals want to kill us?" she whispered.

    "The guy who leads the group, Golem, told me they're all tired of your repeated failures to keep them safe from harm. They believe the world would be a better place if there weren't Pokémon like you around," Nicky said, blue nearly filling both his eyes. "When I first woke up as a Growlithe, he went on about how his 'genius' had brought me here to turn me into a great hero. I was… really confused. Naturally, I didn't trust the guy. Hell, in my world, Pokémon aren't even real."

    He glanced at Xerneas, expecting her to respond to that last statement. Instead, she gazed at Solgaleo's and Lunala's statues with a faraway look in her eyes. Nicky's tendrils shrank into his head as he continued, "Golem didn't end up giving me a choice in the matter. I got put to sleep and, when I next woke up, this is what I looked like." He kicked up his right leg. His reflection rippled in the pond.

    "I never really had the time to process what had gone on. It was so disorienting, I guess I stopped thinking about myself and my situation," Nicky said, looking up at the sky. "Apparently, Golem used alchemy to forge this body using something called emera ores. That's what his assistants told me, anyway."

    "Alchemy? You… you're made of ley lines?" Xerneas gasped. Her forelegs trembled. Nicky briefly wondered if he should stop. Was this too much for Xerneas to take? He quickly quelled those thoughts, thinking it would do more harm than good if he left his confession unfinished.

    "To be honest, I don't even remember much about the days that followed my transformation. There was a thick fog over my mind. Perhaps it was part of Golem's ritual," Nicky said. "He said Porygon2 recorded everything that I did, which was nothing but learning about how to channel my energy." He rubbed his head with an upper wing. "Guess that explains why I already had my psychic powers down pat when I first met you."

    "You really can't remember any of that?"

    "I can't. The first thing I remember is Golem telling me what had happened to the sun and moon. When he did, a voice in the back of my head said I could restore them easily. I drew on my new powers and, well, instinct took over from there. Instincts I didn't even know I had, to be honest," Nicky said, laughing nervously. "I was on autopilot when I brought the sun and moon back."

    "Autopilot? What do you mean?" Xerneas said, tilting her head.

    "Oh, sorry, that's a human expression. It means I was acting without even thinking. I couldn't even tell you what I did to bring back the sun and moon. That's how much my newfound instincts had control," Nicky said, yellow and green expanding in his eyes. His lighthearted tone faded, however, as he bowed his head and blue pushed away the yellow and green. "I'll bet this all sounds ridiculous. In my head, explaining this seemed a lot easier."

    "You mean there's more?" Xerneas said, shifting about uneasily. She wanted the full story, but was struggling to wrap her head around all these revelations.

    "Yeah, there is. Y'know how you guys call me the Guiding Light? That's what Golem's assistants dubbed me after I brought light back into the world," Nicky said. "At first, I was overjoyed. People were cheering for me… celebrating a good deed I had done. It was something… something I had desperately wanted in my human life, but never really got."

    He hunched over again, his lower wings dipping into the pond. "But after that, Golem began to treat me differently. I think he realized that his crazy ritual hadn't gotten exactly the way he wanted it to… because he constantly kept me behind this strange barrier in his hideout. Then he stuck this thing on my leg." Nicky lifted his leg up to show off the anklet. "He can use it to keep tabs on my energy levels. And, if he thinks I'm doing anything to cross him, he can trigger a booby trap that'll reverse his ritual and turn me back into a Growlithe."

    "That was also when the problems started for me… on, y'know, a personal level," Nicky continued, drawing a confused look from Xerneas. "You know how, when we first met, you said that I seemed troubled by something?" Xerneas nodded. "Well, I was troubled. I'd been struggling with constant flashbacks to unpleasant memories from my human life. Anything that I came across in this world that reminded me even a little bit of my past life would trigger a memory."

    "Since then, they've kept coming. They've spilled over into my dreams, too. It's upsetting, yeah, but the part that really alarms is what started the day we set up our mental link," Nicky said, taking a shuddering breath. "There was this white sphere that showed up in the flashbacks I had during my training with Zekrom. It wasn't from my human life. All it did was float there… like it was staring right through me."

    "Then, that night, it showed up in my dreams. And it talked to me. It went on and on about how it's part of me… the source of my power, or something. Right before the nightmare ended, it told me that… that…" Nicky shut his eyes and shook his head. Xerneas leaned in, only for Nicky to lean away from her. "It said I'm part of the void. And, like, the way it sounded…" He shuddered.

    "I don't know what to make of it, but it was so damn unsettling I couldn't keep it to myself. I thought about bringing it up with Golem, but I have an awful, sinking feeling that his stupid alchemy put that thing in my head! Like, it was supposed to be the thing that let him fully control me, but it didn't work so now it's stuck in my mind, inserting itself into everything I do or think!" He smacked his forehead with his upper wings. "I don't want to lose my mind and turn into some kind of monster, Xern! I… I can't… I may get angry sometimes, but I would never want to hurt anyone! I want to help people." He looked down and, in a softer voice, whispered, "I've only ever wanted to help."

    Silence followed. Nicky glanced Xerneas out of the corner of his eye. She sat on the edge of the pond, looking at her reflection with an unreadable expression on her face. Nicky cringed. He figured he overdid it and now Xerneas was in shock. Was there anything he could say to ease the tension? Nicky clenched his jaw tightly. He had to think of something.

    "I'm sure that's a lot for you to take in, but I want you to know that I really appreciate you listening to all of it. I'm so glad I was able to get it off my chest. Feels like a real weight's been lifted off me," Nicky said. He looked at Xerneas, waiting for her response.

    Her eyelids fluttered close and she collapsed on her side.

    "Xern!" Nicky shouted, colors randomly darting about in his eyes as gravity took hold and Xerneas slipped into the pond. Bubbles followed the ripples of her splash. Nicky call on his ESP. He hoisted Xerneas out of the water and plopped her down on the grass. Her antlers kept her from completely rolling onto her right side. They dug into the ground and propped her head up at an awkward angle.

    Nicky shot up from his seat. "C'mon, Xern, wake up!" he said, draping his upper wings over her torso. Her soggy fur was ice-cold on his wing membranes. Nicky yanked them back with a hiss. He then opted to nudge her with his crystalline beak. "Don't do this to me, Xern. Please. You're okay… you're okay!" he hiccupped, blue and purple swirling in his eyes.

    Xerneas coughed, startling Nicky. He looked up in time to see her spit up a mouthful of water. Thinking quickly, he bumped Xerneas' back with her beak. Xerneas coughed up more water until her breathing finally slowed down. Nicky slowly pulled his face away, noting the quivering in her chest. Xerneas met his gaze and her eyes widened.

    "L-Light! What are you doing? A-And why am I soaking wet?" she squeaked.

    Nicky looked down. After a second, it finally clicked how unsightly he looked. "Gah! Sorry, sorry, sorry!" he said, floated off Xerneas and shooting up into the sky. Nicky halted his descent as soon as he realized how badly he had overcompensated, then drifted back down to the ground. "You, um, kinda fainted— sorry, definitely fainted. And fell in the pond. I fished you out but you weren't responding so I lay down on top of you because I was trying to wake you up and—"

    He caught himself in the middle of his ramble and shook his head. "The point is… it's my fault that all happened. I clearly overwhelmed you with everything I said. Is there any way I can make it up to you?" he whispered, folding his lower wings against his sides.

    Xerneas slowly got to her feet, then bent over to shake herself dry. Stray water droplets hit Nicky, only to evaporate instantly. "Hang on… let me gather my thoughts," Xerneas said, the gems in her antlers flickering. Nicky shrank bank, a worried look on his face. "That voice in your dreams… it told you that you're part of the void?"

    Nicky nodded.

    "Oh no," Xerneas whispered, shutting her eyes and shaking her head. "Oh no, no, no. This is bad, bad, ba— ack!"

    In pacing around nervously, Xerneas slipped on a patch of wet grass and tumbled back into the pond. Nicky's head tendrils rippled in alarm, only to settle when Xerneas immediately poked her head up and spat out wet blades of grass.

    "Are you okay?" Nicky asked, swooping toward her.

    "I'm fine," she said, kicking away from the edge to put distance between herself and Nicky. "I—" She floated in the middle of the pond, avoiding Nicky's gaze.

    "Did I do something wrong?" Nicky said. "Wait… do you know what the sphere was talking about? Do you know what it meant by 'the void?'" He inched closer to Xerneas, who responded by swimming further away from him. Nicky's wings and tails drooped. "Xern…"

    "I'm sorry, Light. I need a moment to think," Xerneas said, nearly going underwater. She paddled away from him. The other side of the pond had an embankment that allowed her stand. Her pointed hooves sank into the silt, however. Xerneas' heart skipped a beat as she almost fell back into the deeper water. She took a breath to steady her nerves.

    "The void… I've heard that term before. And not as some word getting casually tossed around. No, the context was always… unsettling," she said, still avoiding Nicky's gaze. "You mentioned alchemy in your tale… well, us gods are more than capable of using alchemy, too. In fact, we need it to do our jobs. The work I was doing on the Tree of Life? I was going inside of it to purify it of ley lines threatening to tear it apart."

    "Ley lines? You mentioned that when I was speaking, didn't you?" Nicky said, the blue in his eyes slowly receding.

    "Correct. Ley lines are a chaotic form of energy that stems from the planet's core. Left unchecked, they'll rip the very foundations of our world apart and destroy the planet," Xerneas said, her expression darkening. "But gods— well, immortal gods can reign them in. Our powers allow us to use spells to control ley lines."

    "In order to do that, we have to confine them to specific areas. The places we trap ley lines in turn into bizarre labyrinths whose layouts constantly shift. I believe the mortals actually have a name for it, but it's escaping me," Xerneas continued. "So, when you told me that you were made through alchemy, my heart practically jumped into my throat. Because that means the same chaotic energy in the planet's core is inside of you."

    Nicky drifted backward, red and orange pooling in his eyes and spreading across his body. "I… wait, what?" His wings trembled. "Hang on a second. Arceus created this world, right? Why would he make a world that's in constant danger of collapsing on itself? That's…" Blue energy raced between his tendrils. "I'm sorry if this sounds rude, but that's so incredibly stupid!"

    "I didn't understand it, either. But I was always too afraid to bring it up. I figured other gods would get upset and, I don't know, attack me or something," Xerneas said, wincing. "Eventually, I worked up the courage to ask Zygarde about it."

    "He said he couldn't give me a straight answer. All he could go off of is what he had heard from other immortals," Xerneas continued, watching water drip down her forelegs. "Namely, that at the time Arceus came into existence, he was attacked by an unknown assailant. Apparently, despite his immense power, he couldn't sense anything about this creature. No spirit. No emotions. It was as if it was completely empty, like…"

    "… a void," Nicky whispered, turning away from Xerneas with a shocked expression on his face. He threw an upper wing over his beak.

    "Yes. Arceus called his attacker 'the void.' And, try as he might, he couldn't fend it off. In the chaos of battle, the oldest immortals were birthed and, together with Arceus, they managed to beat back the void," Xerneas said. "Or so they had thought."

    "Because of ley lines?" Nicky asked. Xerneas answered him with a nod. "Did the void spawn ley lines, then?"

    "Again, I'm not sure. This is what I got from Zygarde," Xerneas said. "He told me Arceus certainly thinks ley lines are related to the void."

    "What do you think?" Nicky asked, brushing his legs together nervously.

    Xerneas gulped. "I think he's right… because of events that happened before you arrived in our world, judging by your story." She tried to take a step back, but the silt kept her forelegs rooted in place. "See, we were besieged by an otherworldly monstrosity: Dark Matter, a creature born from the negativity in the world. It nearly succeeded in destroying the Tree of Life, but Mew managed to stop it by working with a human."

    "A human? Like me?" Nicky gasped. "Err, I mean, like what I used to be?"

    "I can't say. I never got to meet Mew's partner for myself. What I can tell you is that, during Dark Matter's attack, many Pokémon were turned to stone," Xerneas said.

    "What? They just… died?!"

    "N-No! Luckily, we were able to restore them after Dark Matter's defeat. Their spirits had ended up inside the planet's core," Xerneas squeaked. "However, they reported that the core is this strange, twisted landscape. They described the air as being suffocating and full of overwhelming dread." She shuddered. "And then there's what they called it: the Voidlands."

    Nicky began to put two and two together and the results unsettled him. "So… so you think that… my power… it comes from the planet's core? From the Voidlands?" he said, eyes and body dimming. "Then… but then, that sphere in my dreams… it must be real."

    "I'm sorry, Light. It makes too much sense. Especially if the group that created you is made up of Pokémon who Dark Matter turned to stone," Xerneas whispered, squeezing her eyes shut.

    "No…" Nicky dropped to the ground and buried his face in the dirt. "What should I do? What can I do? I… I…" He turned to look at Xerneas, eyes and head turning dark blue. "Xern, you've got to believe me. I don't want to hurt anyone or… or kill any gods or anything like that! All I want is to be happy." Without thinking, he rolled to his left, flopping into the pond with a tiny splash.

    Xerneas squeaked, but couldn't shuffle back in surprise. Bright light and steam filtered up in front of her. Nicky popped his head out and glided toward her through the water. "You make me happy, Xern. I admit, I had some doubts. Mainly because I used to be human and the idea of, y'know, liking a Pokémon didn't sit right with me," he said, body fizzling as water evaporated off it.

    "But that doesn't matter, because I'm not a human now… and I don't think I'll ever be one again. All I want is a friend I can relate to. Someone who genuinely values what I have to say. And that's you, Xern. It's been you since you pulled me aside on the first day of autumn," Nicky continued. He extended an upper wing toward her. "I know I probably messed things up between us big time… but I'm willing to prove how important you are to me. Please, I…" Streaks of purple streamed through his blue eyes. "I think I'm falling for you."

    "Light, I… don't know what to say," Xerneas whispered, tail twitching. Her heart pounded. Despite Nicky's nervousness about relationships, Xerneas held out hope that Nicky would come around. Well, she had gotten what she wanted. However, after learning of his origins, Xerneas was at a complete loss. If everything Nicky had said was true, she needed to keep him as far away as possible. He was made of ley lines, so that made him a threat to the world, right? But if that was the case, why would he tell her all of this?

    Xerneas quickly reached a conclusion: Nicky was asking for her help. Yes, that had to be it. Nicky wasn't just looking for a friend, but someone who could help him keep the void's corruptive influence at bay.

    The two of them stared at one another in silence. Xerneas watched different colors grow and shrink in Nicky's eyes. She sighed. "I must confess, the things you told me have left me a bit… uneasy," she said. Nicky sank down in the water. "However, I believe you. In fact… it sounds like we're even more alike than I could've possibly realized."

    Nicky floated up so he and Xerneas were at eye level. She stepped toward him, struggling to keep from sinking. "We've both been alone… and felt like there's no one we can turn to. But it doesn't have to be like that anymore. You can fill the gaping emptiness in my heart and I, in turn, can help you fend off those dark influences Golem put into your head. What do you say?" Shakily, she raised a foreleg in Nicky's direction.

    It struck Nicky how absurdly cheesy this all was. Here they were, dripping wet in the middle of a pond. Xerneas even sounded like she had leaped right out one of the lame romantic comedies he had to sit through with Rebecca.

    'Rebecca…'

    The amusement of the situation vanished. Xerneas disappeared. A blurry silhouette of a human girl replaced her. Only, a familiar black heart sat where the girl's face should've been.

    SuCh a FOoL. YoUr PReCIoUS rELaTIoNShIP wiLL OnLY bRiNG yOu hEArtBrEak. JUsT lIKE iN YoUR hUMaN lIFE.

    Nicky squeezed his eyes shut. No, that wasn't true. Xerneas wasn't like Rebecca. She wasn't like Shane, either. Xerneas was the companion Nicky had always wanted. It may have taken him a while to realize that, but there was no denying it now.

    He floated past the silhouette. It dissolved all around him. Nicky pushed Xerneas' foreleg back with an upper wing. Mindful of her large anglers, Nicky closed the remaining distance and wrapped his wings around her torso and forelegs.

    "L-Light? What are you do— mmf!"

    Nicky leaned in and pressed his beak against the tip of her snout. It didn't quite have the same thrill he remembered from his human days, but his head tendrils still throbbed like thin, beating hearts. Xerneas, on the other hand, couldn't keep it together. A childish giggle escaped her snout, then her hind legs gave out. Before she could slip under water, Nicky snagged her with her ESP, keeping the kiss intact as he carried her up and out of the pond.

    Slowly, he set Xerneas down. She pulled away and turned to the side, trying to catch her breath, but unable to as she descended into a fit of laughing.

    "Something funny?" Nicky said, tilting his head to the right.

    "I… sorry, I…" Xerneas' laughter swallowed up her anter. When she was finally able to calm down, she had to blink tears out of her eyes. "I've never, um, kissed anyone before. I certainly didn't expect it to be so… so…" The gems in her antlers all turned red in unison. "I don't know if it's because of all that light energy in your body, but wow… what a rush."

    Now it was Nicky's turn to glow bright-red. "Oh. Aha ha… my pleasure, I guess? So, um, I guess this means we're a couple now… or something. Anything specific you want to do? The night's still young, after all."

    "Well, there is one thing I can think of," Xerneas said, fighting to hold back another giggle fit. "It is the Winter Solstice and the mortals like exchanging gifts. Since it's a bit too late to look for anything special… how about another kiss?"

    Nicky couldn't help but laugh. This was an entirely new side of Xerneas and he wondered if she was lying to him. But her reaction, coupled with her aura, felt so genuine he quickly dismissed that notion. With a warm yellow glow overtaking his eyes and body, he said, "Sure."

    Tail wagging, Xerneas reared up, pressing her forelegs on Nicky's shoulders. His energy made her limbs tingle. Nicky was so surprised his levitation faltered. They fell to the ground. Nicky barely formed a psychic bubble over his chest spikes in time to keep Xerneas from getting hurt. When they landed, Xerneas licked Nicky's beak, then resumed their kiss from before.

    "Happy Winter Solstice, Light," she whispered.

    "Happy Winter Solstice, Xern."

    XxX

    ~Celestial Island~

    "Gnaarrrgh!"

    Necrozma braced his arms and wings against the cold gray grass. He tucked his head into his chin, third eye flickering erratically.

    "… you. Lun… ala," Necrozma hissed, clawing at his forehead with a trembling hand. "I know… it's you. You're… showing me these…"

    His eyes dimmed, then turned light blue.

    Yes, I did.

    A soft, female voice echoed in Necrozma's head. He smacked his prism armor, turning his eyes red once more.

    "Heehee. It's… heeheeheehee… it's worthless," Necrozma rasped. "She means… nothing to me. None of that… means anything. Those memories… will be ashes… soon enough."

    That's not true. I know how much you cared about her. She meant the world to you and you meant the world to her.

    "It was nothing but a lie!" Necrozma snarled, launching spittle from his mouth. He curled his wings around his torso to stop his spasming. "But I don't care. She'll burn. Everyone will burn. The void… heeheeheehee… all that matters is the void. You can't stop me. I'll get my core back. Then your spirit... I'll finally consume it."

    No. There's still good inside of you. Why else would you hold onto these memories so tightly? Wake up, Light! I know you don't really want to do this! You have to help me! Help me fight off the void! You're a good person at heart. I know it! I've seen it!

    Necrozma spread his wings out and arched his back, screeching loudly.

    "ThE GuIDinG LiGHt DIed CEnTUrIeS agO!" he shouted, third eye and chest sigil flashing erratically. "I AM nECrOZMa! AnD I wIlL REtURN tHIS wORlD… nO, aLl oF REaLItY tO THe vOId!"

    You're nothing but a monster, Necrozma! If I can't free Light from your warped, backwards mind… then I won't stop until I've purged you from my body!

    A lavender ripple ran across Necrozma's body. His eyes and chest sigil flashed blue. He threw his hands up against his face, letting loose a bloodcurdling scream.

    "NO… NoOoO! sTOp… SToP It! I MuSt COnSUme! I MusT…"

    "Gyaaas!"

    Necrozma's head shot up in the direction of Lugia's familiar, distorted screech. Lugia caught sight of him and dove toward the island, kicking up dead grass and leaves with powerful flaps of his shadowy wings.

    "FiNaLlY! Do yOU HAvE… sOUlS… fOR Me?" Necrozma wheezed.

    Lugia uncurled his toes, dropping two purple spheres to the ground. His red eyes flickered with green flames and the purple ectoplasm dispersed, revealing Cobalion and Terrakion, each covered in scrapes and gashes. Cobalion was missing a horn, while Terrakion had both of his torn off.

    "Heeheeheehee… tHeY'RE PErFeCt," Necrozma said, weakly hovering into the air.

    "Y… you," Cobalion wheezed, shakily lifting his head to look at Necrozma. "Why? Why must you do this… to us?"

    In response, Necrozma hunched over, wheezing and sputtering. His third eye flickered green and he coughed up a cloud of smoke. Cobalion's eyes widened as the smoke took on Virizon's shape.

    "ThE wORlD's FuLL oF ChEAtERs, THiEVeS, aND LIaRs. ThERe'S NOtHInG To bElIeVe iN ANyMorE," the apparition said, its voice perfectly mimicking Virizion's.

    "You monster!" Terrakion snarled. He tried to stagger to his feet, but Lugia forced him down, cawing angrily.

    "MaKInG FrIEnDs wIlL jUsT lEAd tO HEarTaChE aNd DiSaPpOiNTmEnt. ThAt'S wHY i'Ve lEt eVErYtHInG Go… AnD eMBraCeD The VoID," the apparition said, completely monotone. Necrozma then dispelled the smoke and blasted both his visitors with red and black beams. He sucked the life out of Cobalion and Terrakion, leaving behind cold, empty husks. They crystallized while Necrozma gulped down his newly-obtained light.

    He straightened himself up, flexing his claws.

    "Good. She's gone," Necrozma said, rubbing his armored forehead. His third eye wriggled inside. "Stupid overgrown Zubat… trying to dispose of me with such simple-minded platitudes." He floated forward and swatted Cobalion and Terrakion with his arm. An energy crescent blasted their bodies off the island. They careened into the black vortex swirling underneath it.

    "Okay. Now that that's taken care of… I say it's time we located Latias," Necrozma said, licking his lips eagerly. "Don't you?"

    He turned to Lugia, who spread his wings and belted out a defiant roar.

    XxX
    For reference, Necrozma's apparition is paraphrasing some of Virizion's dialogue from Gates to Infinity.

    Hopefully you found this enjoyable, despite its length. Many of you have noticed the shift in Necrozma's sanity as of late. If I did my job this right, then this shed some light on what might be happening to him. For those curious about the "body language" Nicky sues with his shifting eye colors and head tendrils, I actually commissioned a very talented artist, Jordy, to make some PMD icons that do a great job showing this off. You can check them out here, on her Tumblr page!

    Once again, I'd like to thank everyone who's supported this fic over the past year. Here's to a great 2019 where we will, hopefully, see this story through to its end. ^^

    Next time: no New Year hangovers for this fic, because we're partying hard at Sunset Shoals!
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
    Virgil134 likes this.
  20. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    In retrospect, maybe getting hit by the regular old rubber sort back in the day wasn't so bad. :B

    Of course there is: drenergy.

    (Okay, that name's technically kind of crap, but whatever. :p)

    Idk friend, they could basically drown you with snot if they wanted. That's pretty godawful if you ask me.

    She's a blast. :D

    I'm just imagining her kind of... loafing. Like a cat would do. Deerloaf. Which'd probably suck if she really does have blades for legs, come to think of it. XD;

    What an icky detail. :D

    And there's another one!

    I'm going to guess probably a bit of both but mostly the latter.


    Definitely gotta feel for Nicky, gosh dang. He really is a prisoner in all this, isn't he. Soon as that thing started talking to him in that warped-ass voice (or that's how I interpret the dialogue with irregular capitalization, anyway) I got the sense that he's not exactly calling the shots anymore. I wonder if he's even retrievable at this point, the poor dude...
     
    Ambyssin likes this.

Share This Page