Chapter 99 – Together Again
Owen didn’t know what to do with himself for a while within Hakk and Xypher’s home. He didn’t even know they’d lived together. So much had happened in the past few minutes that he didn’t know where to begin with processing it, so he instead explored his temporary hideout.
The furniture was similar to what he’d had in his room during evaluations, though a few tools and decorations seemed specialized for Hakk or Xypher specifically. Certainly, the gigantic bowls were meant for Xypher, and there seemed to be an abundance of towels. Somehow, Owen figured he would be a messy eater. There was a sharpening post nearby that was probably for Hakk, and Owen wondered if he could use his claws on those if he asked…
“It was this one.”
Owen blinked, glancing at the entrance. Was that Gahi? He sounded far away.
“Guys?” Owen called, but he didn’t speak up enough. He scampered to the doorway, but he was too short to get to the button to unlock the door. This house was discriminating against his stature!
Even when he jumped as high as he could, he couldn’t quite reach the button.
“Hey! You in there?” Gahi called, and Owen heard knocking… on their neighbor’s door.
“I don’t think he’s in there,” Demitri said.
“Shh,” Mispy said.
“Can’t yeh just look fer his aura? C’mon,” Gahi growled.
“Insulated,” Demitri finished.
Owen slammed his fist against the door. “Guys! Wrong house!”
“Idiot,” Mispy grumbled.
“Oops… wrong house.” Demitri’s voice got louder.
“Oi, Owen!” Gahi knocked what might have been his fist, or his head, or maybe his tail, against the door. “Open up!”
“What? Are they keepin’ you imprisoned in there?!”
“No! I, uh, I just… can’t reach the button to open it.”
“Okay, well…” Gahi stumbled over his words, “Demitri, how about you force it open?”
“I—I’m not gonna do that!”
“Well how else’re we gonna get in?”
“…Wait for Hakk,” Mispy deadpanned.
“That’s the smart answer,” Gahi growled. “I ain’t gonna wait that long.”
“But shouldn’t we do the smart answer?” Demitri asked. “The door might be expensive to make, and, um…”
“Maybe there’s a window we can get in through…”
“Too big,” Mispy said. “And you have to break in.”
“Well, mister muscle here ain’t gonna do it!”
Owen was, at this point, repeatedly bumping his forehead against the door.
“Alright, I got an idea,” Gahi said. “Hang on, Owen!”
“What? Gahi, if you’re going to break anything, don’t. Hakk and Xypher are just normal Pokémon here!” He frantically scanned the room for something to reach the button with. “Some of this stuff looks really expensive!”
“Aaah, I ain’t gonna do nothin’ bad!”
This did not bode well.
“There! See? Easy.”
“Gah!” Owen spun around; Gahi was inside the building without ceremony. “What! How did—”
“Teleported hard. Worked before.” Gahi explained, stepping to the door to press the button. Owen had a strong suspicion that Gahi made a fifty-fifty shot at which one was the one to open it, and guessed correctly.
“I thought these buildings had a bunch of insulation to prevent that kind of thing,” Owen said.
“Like I said”—Gahi flicked his tail, pleased that the door opened—“worked before. Guess I’m special.”
“Might be the Psychic Orb that makes you stronger than the insulation,” Owen concluded.
“Feh, ruin my fun.” Gahi paced around the room, familiarizing himself with the new environment.
“Don’t—don’t open anything randomly,” Owen hastily advised. “No touching. We’re guests here, okay?”
“What are you guys doing here, anyway?” Owen asked when Demitri, last to enter, closed the door with another button push. “I’m trying to hide from someone that Alexander sent here, so I don’t think showing up to the building I’m in is a good idea.”
“Well, maybe.” Gahi looked off. “But we wanted ter see yeh anyway. Moral support.”
“Gahi didn’t trust Marshadow,” Mispy translated.
“We followed from away,” Demitri added. “And it was a calculated risk Mispy made as leader while you’re away. If Marshadow sold you out, we’d be here to give you a chance to escape.”
“Well, that’s…” Owen tried to find an objection he hadn’t already raised. Eventually, he smiled and sighed. “Well, that’s good. I guess I was getting bored anyway.”
The other three smiled back, and Owen tried to keep up his grin, but it faltered a little. And his flame was dim, too, once again giving himself away.
Silent expressions said it all, little flashes of concern in their eyes. Then Owen looked away, urging them not to worry. Yet they continued to stare.
“And,” Demitri broke that tense silence, “it’s been a while since we got to just hang around as Team Alloy, y’know?”
“Yeah…” Owen looked down.
The silence returned and he felt their eyes on him.
Gahi, perhaps not knowing what to say, went back to wandering around the house, entering and exiting rooms several times to keep moving.
“Tell us what’s bothering you,” Mispy commanded, her voice soft as ever, but the words instilled an authority that Owen thought he was supposed to have as the technical Alloy leader.
“You don’t mince your words, do you?” Owen mumbled, scaling one of the oversized beanbag seats.
“Pretty hard to when she’s only got a few ter say,” Gahi commented, and then ducked, narrowly dodging a vine jabbing the air where his head had been.
Owen stifled a laugh and curled up on a cushion, fixing his eyes between the three. Mispy was right; she didn’t need to read auras to tell. His flame probably gave it away well enough. All this time, with Demitri, Mispy, and Gahi all part of this fight, this whole Guardian business, the Mystics, and then the Voidlands, and now his recent memories…
“Are you overwhelmed by all this?” Demitri asked softly. “I can’t blame you. If I even had a fraction of all this circling directly around me, I dunno what I’d do. I might just… not do anything.”
The Haxorus settled down next to Owen’s cushion and delicately curled his tail away from it so he didn’t accidentally cut the stuffing out. Mispy slid next to him and rested her head on Owen’s other side, looking at his tail. Owen quickly pulled it toward his chest in an effort to hide it.
Demitri had it wrong. If anything, he was getting used to how much this whole crisis was apparently trying to use him as a key to it all. Between Star, Eon, and now Marshadow, he knew he was being used for everyone’s personal gain one way or another. That was fine. He was used to it. And he knew that it gave him power; he could choose who he wanted to help.
Gone were the days that he’d let others push him around—and, in a way, he appreciated Marshadow being so open. So far, he had no reason to doubt that Marshadow was doing things to help Owen, too, rather than just himself. Perhaps it was for the greater good of the world? To get out of the Voidlands?
No, there was something else bothering him, and they weren’t going to leave him alone unless he spoke up about it. Maybe telling them directly would help, too.
“It’s not that,” Owen said, and by now even Gahi had settled down next to him. While Demitri was on Owen’s left, and Mispy was curled around the back and his right, Gahi sat near the front and left of him, with Owen near the center.
“Yeah, y’know,” Gahi said, “you’ve been acting real different lately. Not as… y’know, cheery. Your eyes ain’t as bright.”
Owen looked at Gahi incredulously. “Not as bright?”
“Yeah. Like, I dunno. You look confused, er somethin’.”
“Confused…” His gaze trailed to the cushion.
“I noticed it a little, too,” Demitri admitted. “Just, emotionally, you… I—I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t try to dissect how you’re feeling; that’s… rude of me. Sorry.”
“You’re just worried,” Owen assuaged.
Mispy tilted her head, looking Owen over. She said nothing but her eyes asked him to go on.
“…I don’t know if I know you anymore.” Owen curled up a little tighter. He couldn’t look at them directly.
“Eh?” Gahi said. “Aw, c’mon, you didn’t lose yer memories again, did yeh?”
“No,” Mispy said for Owen, and her voice had enough understanding that Owen could let her—slowly—do the talking for him. “It’s because… you’re getting them back.”
“Eh?” Gahi said once again, then looked demandingly toward Owen. “What’s that supposed to mean? How can you know us less when you get more memories back?”
Finally, Owen raised his head. “You aren’t in them.”
When nobody said anything, he went on.
“I’m native to Kanto. A world with humans and Pokémon who live side by side. They fight together, in a way. It’s… complicated. And my human partner… was Eon. And… you weren’t there. And I just know, just by the feeling I get when I look at you, think about you, that you won’t show up. You guys… aren’t from Kanto. You weren’t ever my partners there. You’re native to Kilo. I’m…” Owen laughed a little. “I’m not—”
“Stop.” Mispy held a vine to Owen’s shoulder, firmly, practically digging the thorns into his scales. “That’s enough.”
“But I’m not—”
“Enough.” Mispy shook him, then pressed him into the cushions.
“Mispy…” Demitri held her side, and finally Owen got a look at her expression.
Her eyes shined, but Owen couldn’t tell what they shined from. They weren’t tears; she wasn’t crying. Maybe she was holding them back? But there was some concern in them, too. And maybe annoyance.
“I think what Mispy’s try’na say,” Gahi went on, “is, why does that matter?”
“What do you mean?” Owen said. “You three were together before meeting me. That’s something that I…” Owen felt it in his core. He knew, when he said it, that this was true, some locked away memory he’d yet to recover. “I know you three used to be some kind of trio before all this mutant business. And I was just… there. I’m not part of your lives. I—”
“Well, that’s a pretty big leap,” Gahi growled, narrowing his eyes. “How did ya get from ‘We were a trio’ to ‘I don’t belong,’ eh?” He leaned forward, prodding Owen in the chest, and Owen tried to push him away with an annoyed grunt. “Teams get new members, y’know. What’s all that Guardian business? We were getting new folks all the time!”
“I…” When outlined like that, Owen wasn’t sure why he thought of it that way.
“This… this is more than just us as a team, isn’t it?” Demitri asked.
“I don’t know.” Owen slumped over, breathing a small ember in nobody’s direction. “I’ve spent so much time with everyone trying to keep us apart. Specifically, me from you three. To the point where you guys completely forgot about me for lifetimes, and I forgot about you guys. So then when we’re finally together, after everything keeps trying to tear us apart… I start finding out that we were never really together to begin with?”
There it was. Owen could tell because suddenly his chest hurt and his eyes were hot.
“What kind of joke is that?” Owen laughed, but he could only imagine the anguished face he was giving them all. “I was fighting so much for something that ended up being nothing. Everything I’ve been fighting for was just—”
A vine smashed Owen across the face. Vines cut his scales and his head started ringing. A thin trickle of blood ran down his cheek, and his tears stung the new wound. He stared, wide-eyed, at Mispy. Gahi didn’t react; if anything, he’d been thinking the same. Demitri, stunned, looked ready to stop Mispy if she did that a second time.
“Feeling better?” Mispy asked, frowning as she inspected the vine that had struck him. Orange scales decorated part of its side.
Owen ran his hand against his cheek, staring at his bloodied hand. Not much of a wound, all things considered. And the sting was a distraction at most.
Owen brought his hand down, staring emptily downward. “A little,” he finally admitted.
“Good.” Mispy huffed, then wrapped another set of vines around Owen to pull him close.
Gahi stared enviously.
“I—I think what Mispy means,” Demitri said, “is, er, that she wanted to snap you out of it. But, um, Mispy, I think Rhys said we aren’t supposed to be violent like that.”
“He’s like us,” Mispy said simply, pulling him closer. The pressure made it hard to breathe and Owen tried to pull away, but a part of him didn’t want to. “Nobody else is here.”
“I—yes, but,” Demitri started, but couldn’t find his conclusion.
He’s like us. It echoed in Owen’s mind. Mispy always knew just what to say.
“Mispy’s right,” Owen said, laughing. “Hitting someone and making them bleed would just make things worse for anyone but us. We’re… violent little monsters, after all. Built to fight. A-and…” He laughed a little more. “It’s funny. I used to be the same way back then, too. Pokémon in Kanto loved to fight. We healed from wounds so easily; we understood each other through fighting. I wonder… why that happens. Why wild Pokémon are like that, yet Pokémon in Kilo aren’t.”
Mispy relaxed her hold. “Analytical,” she remarked.
Demitri held down a giggle. “She means you’re getting analytical again. It means you’re feeling better.”
Owen stumbled over his words; Gahi laughed, breaking the relative quiet. “Back ter theorizin’ already, huh?”
At this point, Owen was tripping over his words more than Mispy. “Yes, I—I mean, what else would—I know you—that’s—”
The three laughed while Owen tried to find a way to hide behind his hands. Gahi reached over and held Owen from behind.
“Look, I don’t care what yer past was. What matters is now. And now? Yer Team Alloy’s leader. An’ from here on, I’m not gonna let us get separated fer longer than we need to. I’m done with all that.”
“Deal?” Mispy asked, holding a vine forward. “Thousand Hearts?”
“Oh!” Demitri fell in, placing a hand on Mispy’s vine next.
“…What’re you doing?” Gahi asked, but Mispy wrapped another vine around Gahi’s wrist and forced it in. He scowled, but didn’t pull away.
It had only been a few seconds of staring, but he didn’t want that little, simple, silly moment to end. Just the four of them, with nobody to watch their display. It was for the team and no one beyond. For him, to make the trio into a quartet.
The three of them, watching him with eyes pleading, confident, and hopeful, Owen thought for that brief second that it was true. That was all he needed.
The Charmander’s hand was so tiny among their fully evolved forms that he had to really lean forward to get in.
“Alright, team,” Owen said firmly. “I think we should, uh…” No, no, keep up the momentum. “Figure out our next steps.”
“Next steps?” Demitri asked, breaking formation as he crossed his arms. “As in, how to fight Dark Matter?”
“Nah, he means how ter get out,” Gahi said.
“…Fight Aster?” Mispy theorized.
“There’s a lot on our plate,” Owen agreed with all of them. “I think the first thing we need to do is figure out everything we have at our disposal.”
He settled back down. The wind of his original momentum was gone, but now he was carried forward by the need to plan.
They no longer had Rhys to tell them where to go. He didn’t have Amia to guide him forward. They had Marshadow, who was at the whims of a higher authority, and an entire town held hostage. He knew nothing about Aster or Alexander personally, but the way Marshadow behaved, it was clear that his true interest was protecting this town.
So, Marshadow wouldn’t be able to help them escape. As nice as he was, there was a chance that he would cave if, for example, Alexander decided to come to Null Village himself. He did not blame Marshadow for any of this, but on a practical level, they could not trust him.
Owen quietly expressed this to the others, adding, “And even if Marshadow doesn’t turn on us, I don’t want to risk all the villagers here. What if Aster attacks them to smoke me out?”
“Why do they want you, anyway?” Mispy asked.
“No idea—no. I have an idea.” Owen turned to show them his back. “I’m tied to Necrozma. And Necrozma seems to be some huge threat to Dark Matter. I don’t know why Alexander cares, but I bet that has to do with it.”
Mispy blinked, but then wrapped a few vines around Gahi, forcing him to turn his back to the team.
“Hey,” Gahi growled.
Mispy looked at Gahi’s back, just above the base of his wings, and then at Owen’s mark.
“Oh, hey, that’s right…” Owen trailed off. “You have the same birthmark, I think…” He squinted. It was hard to tell, actually.
“Faded,” Mispy confirmed, motioning to Gahi’s. Between the two of them, Owen’s was much more pronounced. Gahi’s, unless they were really looking, could have been mistaken for a trick of the eye.
“…Gahi,” Owen said. “You were the one who used that extremely powerful move that defeated the Dialga-Titan thing, right?”
“Yeah. Eon tried to, too, but he almost passed out.”
“He tried at the same time you did?” Owen asked.
“Yeah, we were right next to each other.”
“Right next to… And how did you feel?”
“Like I was gettin’ stronger. A ton o’ energy was flowin’ into me, felt like.”
The light of realization hit Mispy’s eyes, and Owen nodded toward her. “I think so, Mispy,” Owen said. “I think Gahi drew from Eon’s power, and then channeled it through one of those crystals. They have something to do with Necrozma; maybe he made them? Either way, I think that’s why it resonated so strongly with you. Not sure about why Eon’s power drained into you, though…”
“Well, either way,” Gahi said, “sounds like something ter use against Titans.”
Owen agreed, then looked to Demitri and Mispy. “You two don’t have the mark, do you?”
“We checked,” Demitri said. “We don’t. Just you two, for some reason. Sorry…”
“Don’t be,” Owen said. “You two are still strong fighters. In fact, if I can get to my fully evolved form again, we might be able to fuse together and still draw from your power, too. And until then”—Owen motioned to Gahi—“you can fuse with him and augment his power that way.
“So, that’s our best plan for fighting Titans if we need to. Other Pokémon like Dialga might be in the stronger ones. If we find any, we can take them down and free them. We might even be able to send them back to Null Village to recover while we do the rest of our mission…” Owen furrowed his brow. “Bringing them with us might draw too much attention right now. They’re so big, you know? And if Aster is so strong, he might overpower them. Diagla’s weakened right now.”
“That’s true,” Gahi said, “but at the same time, who else’re we gonna bring? Zena, Trina, Jerry?”
“Jerry? Why him?” Owen asked.
“I dunno. Just listin’ off names we know.”
Owen hummed. “This isn’t like Hot Spot. I don’t know if it’s safer or riskier to gather everyone together. If only there was a way to—Palkia.”
There was a beat of silence, and then Demitri said, “Um, I think you just took… five leaps of logic in your head and didn’t say it out loud.”
“Right, er, sorry. Dialga. We have Dialga. And you guys, you guys somehow found each other, right?”
“Well, yeah, I sorta had this feelin’ where Demitri ‘n Mispy are.”
“I dunno why that happened,” Owen said, “but what if Dialga can get a sense for where Palkia is? He said he had a sense that he tried to escape, too, right? If Dialga came with us, we might find Palkia, and then Palkia—the Spacial Dragon—might be able to warp us around as we need to! We can redevelop Waypoints!”
Demitri brightened. “That means we won’t have to take days to travel around anymore!”
“We should ask,” Mispy said.
“Right.” Owen nodded. “And maybe from there, we can also ask about ways to get out.”
“There’s a way,” Mispy said, earning a quizzical look from Owen.
“Right,” Demitri added. “We didn’t get it at first, but when we first got here, we were in these mountains. But before that, we found this cave, and it took us to… a really high up place, really cold and windy. The wind was making this whistling sound… And it definitely wasn’t the Voidlands. But when we exited the Dungeon, it felt like we were burning up! So, we ran back.”
“Trina had somethin’ similar,” Gahi said. “Except she actually burned, and woke up as a Snivy.”
“Right…” Owen frowned. “Marshadow said that Dungeons were a gateway between the Voidlands and this world, but they were all plugged by Anam, maybe to stop Void Shadows from getting out. But then why would we…”
He shook his head.
“One thing at a time. Let’s talk to Dial—I can’t leave. Um. You guys talk to Dialga, okay? Do you want me to write this down?”
“Please,” Mispy replied.
“What about Jerry and Zena?”
“I don’t know if they should come right now,” Owen said.
Demitri gave him an odd look. “Are you and Zena fighting?”
“Remember last time you said not to bring Zena? She got pretty upset…”
“We’re just friends right now,” Owen said. “Er, uh, ask if she wants to come, then. But tell her the whole plan first; maybe she could help out in town if something happens.”
The door to their house opened just as Owen hopped out of his seat. Hakk stepped in first with several paper bags of groceries piled over him, and with Xypher carrying another bundle under his neck.
“Oh, sure, yeah, break into my place and make yourselves at home,” Hakk growled as he dropped off his bags. “What did you guys break?”
“Nothing! I told them not to touch anything! We were just resting on this bed.”
“Um, sorry if it’s your bed.” Demitri poked his claws together.
“Whatever.” Hakk motioned for Xypher to start putting away all their supplies, then looked back at Owen. “So, what? You guys planning something?”
“Kind of,” Owen said. “If we can get this working, we might have a big boost against Alexander, and—”
“You’re seriously gonna try to take him on? What ever happened with escaping?”
“That, too,” Owen said. “But all of this… has to do with everything else. I don’t think… anything that’s been happening to me or my team has been a coincidence. Someone’s orchestrating it. Maybe Necrozma? He might be trying to guide me into fixing all of this, if I was his disciple.”
“You weren’t his only disciple, you know,” Hakk said. “At least, I don’t think so. Why would he place all his eggs in one Charmander?”
“Don’t… phrase it like that.” Still, Hakk had a point. Others who had the powers of light might also be related, like Anam.
“Either way,” Owen said, “that’s the plan. But right now, our short-term goal is to avoid Aster and find a way to get out, get Palkia, and then set up some connections.”
Hakk seemed mildly interested, but he was more interested in getting his groceries away before they went bad. “Good luck,” he said. “I’m not about to go risking my life for this when I can just live a normal life as a guard here.”
“That’s alright,” Owen said. “Sorry that Marshadow threw me in your place…”
“Whatever, part of the job,” Hakk dismissed. Then, he murmured, “Better get paid for this…”
Owen smiled a little, though Hakk didn’t see it, and gestured for Gahi to leave first. It was time to stagger out their departures and put the plan into motion.
Hakk and Xypher had a guest room. The Sandslash insisted with the politest tone that they go there and only there. And so, after figuring out how to shove Mispy through the corridors, they sat in a room that was large enough for one of them, but a little close-quarters for all three, particularly with Mispy, whose vines, if she wanted to stretch out, took up a large portion of the floor space. Owen navigated around them, occasionally getting a few pricks against his front, until he settled for resting against another one of the beanbags. This one was a bright cyan, and Owen wondered if Hakk had picked it out to match his colors.
There were a few purple ones to match Xypher’s steely feathers, too. The cyan and purple went oddly well together for the internal decorations, though each room tended to only have one color as the dominating one, with the other as bright or dark spots.
Now that Owen had a closer look, the flecks seemed to be roughly the same size as Xypher’s talons and beak…
“This place isn’t so bad,” Demitri said, leaning into Mispy’s side. “I guess eventually one of us will go out next,” he added. “Um, Mispy? You, or me?”
“Mm…” Mispy shrugged. Though, she then glanced at Demitri with concern. “Do you… know the way back?”
“Yeah, I do,” Demitri said. “Memorized the turns.”
“But in reverse.”
Demitri suddenly looked trapped.
Owen giggled. “You know, then again, I don’t think it would be that suspicious if you two went out together. In fact, they might find it more suspicious if you didn’t.”
“That’s also true…” Demitri looked down. “Well, either way, I wanted to relax with you anyway. I don’t want to leave you alone after that talk we just had, y’know?”
“Even Gahi didn’t want to,” Mispy remarked, but something Demitri said seemed to bother her. Her eyes narrowed, and she suddenly looked pensive.
“Groaned the whole way out of the house,” Demitri agreed, not noticing. Then, after some reflection, he sighed and said, “I’m glad he found us so quickly, though. And he managed to keep his Psychic power, too.”
“You guys found that cave outside,” Owen said. “But that place was really rocky and barren, right? How did you survive out there?”
Owen regretted asking; they had seemed peaceful before, but then both their expressions had darkened.
“Never mind,” Owen said. “Sorry, forget I asked. It must’ve been tough out there…”
Mispy curled her vines around herself, and Demitri suddenly seemed uncomfortable leaning against them. “It’s okay,” Mispy said. “It’s… behind us.”
“It really was hard,” Demitri said, taking a deep breath. “But Mispy’s right. It’s behind us. We… You used to go to therapy right? M-maybe we can ask about it or something.” He laughed, waving it off, but Owen wondered if that was a truthful plea.
“For my fighting instinct, mostly,” Owen said. “I’ve got vague memories about my parents trying that for a while, but then it sorta faded out. But maybe it’ll help?” Now Owen’s curiosity was eating at him, but after how uncomfortable they got, he held it back.
He didn’t have to ask, anyway. “There wasn’t any food. That was the worst part. We had each other for company, and we had a goal of going forward, but the only thing we could eat were Void Shadows. And half the time, they disappeared after we attacked them.”
“Oh… That explains why you were so…” No, he wasn’t. He was weakened, but he didn’t look like he’d wasted away.
“Yeah, we… had to find other ways to survive,” Demitri said.
Mispy continued to curl her vines away from Demitri, instead opting to nuzzle him. “It’s okay,” she said gently. She seemed less bothered by it all, which surprised Owen. He always imagined that Mispy would be the one to be the most horrified by a food shortage. In fact, she’d wasted away a lot more than Demitri had.
Now that he thought about it, Mispy seemed to be short by almost half her usual vines, even after the time spent in Null Village. But if all they encountered were a few weak Void Shadows, where did—
Owen failed to hide his realization; Demitri and Mispy both couldn’t look at Owen, let alone each other. Mispy looked like she didn’t know whether to distance herself from Demitri, or go closer. So instead, she was paralyzed, neither close nor far.
Demitri looked sick. His fingers trembled. And the room fell into a cold silence.
“…You guys really were strong together,” Owen finally said. “You did everything you could, and you’re back here now. It’s alright.”
“I know,” Mispy said, but Owen knew she hadn’t. Her eyes seemed a little brighter.
“But was it?” Demitri asked. “I… what if it wasn’t enough, you know? What if—”
“I don’t think either of you would have forgiven yourselves if you let the other die,” Owen said.
“Well, of course—”
“But,” Owen said firmly, “I bet if you were the one who died, you would have forgiven the other, too.”
Owen hopped off of the beanbag and made sure he was getting both their gazes. “And we’re all together now, right? If there’s anybody who should be worrying about the past, it’s me, not you guys.”
At this, Mispy let out a weak laugh, and Demitri winced. “Wow,” he mumbled. “When you put it like that, we seem really petty, don’t we?”
“Er, no,” Owen said. “I think what you went through is anything but petty, just—you know, I get it, thinking about the past trials and stuff. But… you guys got through it, and you’re stronger for it. Um, mentally. You guys should still take it easy for a while physically.”
“Right.” Mispy deflated a little, looking suddenly tired.
That reminded Owen of something from earlier. “By the way, Mispy, a little while ago it looked like you were thinking about something. Anything on your mind?”
The Meganium blinked at that, the little antennae on her head twitching. Then she furrowed her scaly brow, curled her tendrils again, and then the light of recognition flashed in her eyes. “Alone,” she reminded them.
“Should we really… leave you alone?” Mispy glanced behind her, curling her tendrils inward in thought, like she wanted to look smaller and stealthier. Impossible task.
“What do you mean?” Owen asked, lowering his voice in case someone might hear.
“Oh, right.” Demitri interweaved his claws. “The second reason Mispy wanted us to come here with Gahi and all that—it wasn’t just that we didn’t trust Marshadow, but what if that Aster guy found a way here? He could force the information out of Marshadow. Mispy had a feeling. And Aster could read minds, too.”
“A feeling,” Mispy explained. “Just… a feeling.”
Owen had a feeling Mispy was right.
“We can’t leave you alone with two normal Pokémon,” Demitri concluded. “But maybe we can figure out what to do next later.”
“I guess you made Gahi go out before he remembered,” Owen remarked. “He would’ve wanted to pull me out immediately with you guys. That’d make Hakk and Xypher pull up a stink and probably tell Marshadow right away.”
Demitri nodded. “I think when we have a good opportunity, we’ll try to sneak you out in Mispy’s vines.”
“And then what?” Owen asked.
“We’ll use it as a test,” Demitri said. “If Aster found his way to Hakk and Xypher’s place, that means it’s not safe to trust Marshadow, even if he might want to help us.”
“And if it’s safe and Hakk and Xypher get really mad?” Owen frowned, arms crossed.
“Well, uh… We apologize really meaningfully,” Demitri said.
Mispy shrugged. “Better them than Aster.”
He couldn’t argue with that. “Let’s wait a little so they don’t get suspicious. I saw Hakk and Xypher getting a little tired, but not completely. If you say you’re spending the night, I bet they won’t complain.”
“Maybe we actually should,” Demitri mumbled. “It’s been way too stressful. I could use a nap.”
“Same,” Mispy and Owen breathed.
Owen continued, “Let’s do that to pass the time, huh? I want to meditate again and find more memories.”
“You can do that?”
“I mean, that’s been the pattern. Sleeping or meditating.” Owen nodded. “Sometimes it’s mundane like trying to sleep out at night when Tim and I were going camping, and other times it was more important stuff… Those ones stick out the most. I was hoping to get more of that.”
“Oh, okay.” Demitri nodded to Mispy, who did the same. “We won’t bug you.”
“I wonder if we…” Mispy searched for the words. “Memories.”
“Hey, yeah,” Demitri said. “We’ll meditate with you!”
Owen giggled. “Sure. Let’s try it together!”
“Okay, Owen! Use Mimic, now!”
It was surreal. It didn’t make sense to him. Yet intuitively, he reached out—he grasped at what felt like little invisible threads, little thicker parts of the air, and pulled it toward him. And suddenly, in place of this empty part of his mind where Mimic had been, it took on the flavor of crackling electricity.
“Now use it!” Tim shouted.
He knew that Ire resisted this kind of strike, but that was the point of practice. Owen shoved his arms forward, and electricity came rushing through his arms, out of his claws, and then through the air. Ire winced at the sudden bolts, but none of the snapping lines lingered.
“Good! Great job, Owen!” Tim said, and the little praise, routine as it was, made his flame grow.
Something caught his eye to the right, but he ignored it. It seemed to be a Jumpluff, perhaps a curious spectator.
“How long until Mimic wears off and he can copy another one?” Tim asked.
“In the heat of battle, it won’t fade,” said Ayame, opposite to Owen. “But if Owen ever takes the time to relax himself, he might let go of Thunderbolt and be able to acquire a new attack.”
“So, nothing practical in the moment,” Tim said, frowning.
“Perhaps not in a formal battle,” Ayame said, “but if we plan to take on the goons that stole your team, the versatility might be useful. Don’t forget that, alright? This goes beyond formal battles, now.”
“Right…” Tim nodded. “Still, it’s not really…”
Whatever trainer theories they were going on about, Owen wasn’t interested. That Jumpluff was still in his peripherals, this time in another part of the surrounding forest. Now that he thought about it, why was that Pokémon here? They weren’t native to Kanto.
…How did he know that?
“Owen?” Tim called. “Let’s get back to training!”
The Charmeleon spun around, and then glanced at the bushes again, but the Jumpluff was gone.
They went back to training for a while longer, and Owen got to experience for the first time what it felt like to expel beams of ice from his maw instead of fire. It was strange. Cold. A little hydrating, actually.
“You were pretty adaptive back then, too, weren’t you?” Jumpluff asked.
Owen whirled around. “What?” he said, but then chirped and tried to blast an Ice Beam on the ground to scare him away.
Jumpluff leapt to the right and gracefully floated down. “Wait, stop!” he pleaded. “Owen!”
“What—how do you know my human name?” Owen said. “Wait… I…”
“Owen, I have no idea what you’re saying,” Jumpluff said. “You’re speaking wild or something.”
Owen blinked several times, then looked back. Ire and Ayame were staring, looking bewildered, and then he looked to Tim, who seemed just as confused.
“Um, what’s going on?” Tim said. “I thought Owen was dreaming. Ah, wait. Now I’m not real.” And then he disappeared.
Ire and Ayame evaporated next. A gust of wind blew away their colorful dust.
Owen rubbed his eyes, dream and reality scattering around in his mind. “Wait… hang on… something…”
“It’s me, Owen. Klent. Remember.”
“Klent… Klent!” Owen gasped, and suddenly it felt like a switch had been flipped in his mind. His mouth formed words differently, or it felt like it was—he couldn’t tell—and then he stared at the Jumpluff before him. “But you’re… wait, am I—I was in the middle of remembering things in my dreams! How are you—are you real?”
“I hope so,” Klent said. “I certainly feel real. Owen, we’ve been watching you for a while. We’ve been trying to reach you for… days! What in the world is going on?!”
“Uh, I don’t know where to begin.” Owen sat down, crossing his legs. “…You don’t need a recap, right?”
“Voidlands, perpetual darkness, Titans?”
“Alright, you’re caught up.”
Klent nodded solemnly. “I’m… sorry about Amia.”
He wished Klent hadn’t mentioned it, but he knew Klent meant well, so he nodded. “There’s still hope,” Owen said. However small it may have been.
“I don’t know if you’ll be able to hear me or any of the others,” he said, “but if you do, we’re here if you need any advice, okay? Try to reach for us now that you know we’re here.”
“You guys are okay, right?” Owen asked.
“Yes. Well, I believe so. It’s… different. We no longer have a Grass Realm. We are merely… there. Within you, we—ah. It’s as if we are seeing through your eyes, if we wish, or we may sink into a slumber. I do not truly know how else to describe it. I much prefer the Grass Realm, in all honesty… Do try to return us, if you find a way.” The way Klent was smiling suggested it wasn’t an urgent request.
“Sure,” Owen replied, mirroring the smile.
Some calm silence passed, and Klent eventually turned around. “Kanto, hm?”
“Yeah. Home world. Still trying to recover the part that brought me to Kilo, but it’s been nice. I hope Kanto is still around…”
“Oh, I’m sure it is,” Klent said, admiring the buildings that Owen had remembered from so long ago. “I doubt a whole world can be destroyed so easily.”
“Don’t jinx it,” Owen said darkly, sighing. “At this point, I’ll believe anything.”
“Well, do be careful.” He jumped, floating down after several seconds as he spoke. “After all, believing everything ended with you being misled.”
“I guess so.” Owen still wasn’t sure if he’d been misled malevolently, though. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like everyone had a small secret to keep for his sake. Amia kept secrets from him to protect him from Eon and keep him happy. Deca kept his identity a secret so he could just… be with him for a while. Anam kept—
“Why didn’t Anam tell us about Dark Matter?” Owen suddenly mused.
“It seems like such a big secret… and there’s no way Anam wanted this to happen.”
“Well, retaliation, perhaps,” Klent said. “If Anam told anyone, Dark Matter could have struck at any moment.”
“But then why not do that immediately? He had five hundred years. Anam must have been forced into it… Must have been a Divine Promise. But why would Anam have agreed to one?”
“Well, he is naïve,” Klent pointed out.
“Maybe…” But that was too simple. “We should ask him when we find him. Maybe he’s in here, too. The powers he had… I think Anam is also immune to Voiding, like me. So he must still be around.”
“Another task on the list,” Klent remarked.
Owen sighed. Indeed, another task. But at least now he had a defined list instead of a vague item called ‘survive.’
“Would you like to resume your dreams?” Klent asked.
“I think I get the picture.” Owen stood up. “Next time, I’m going to try to focus on… on something else. I want to see if we ever got Duos and the others back.”
“Why do you ask?”
Owen looked skyward. No matter Kilo or Kanto, the sky always looked the same, yet he knew it was not the same one. “Before I confront Eon about all this, I want to know everything about him that I forgot.”
“I see. Evidence against him.”
“Evidence to understand him,” Owen said simply. “I know Eon is a good person. I’m not… doubting that anymore.”
Klent shifted uncomfortably. “I see.”
“But I also know he’s done awful things. To you, to me, to all of Kilo.”
To this, Klent relaxed.
“I don’t want to return to his cause. I don’t want to call myself a Hunter anymore, either, or ever. I’m doing this so I can see how he got to this point. Then, I can find the path to snap him out of it. Otherwise, if we beat Dark Matter and get out of here, we’re just going to be back where we started—a war between Guardians and Hunters. And then what?”
“I… I think I understand,” Klent said warily. “Snap him out of it… Then you believe that everything Eon has done was out of misguided honor and valor?”
“Maybe,” Owen said. “But what if I ended up being the only Pokémon that stayed with him, and everyone else he loved was taken away forever? It’s no wonder he became so obsessed with me.” Owen puffed a small plume of smoke. “Just because what he did was wrong doesn’t mean I can’t see why he did it.”
Every word Owen said seemed to make Klent even more tense. “Then you’re trying to forgive him. After all he did to you. To me.”
This wasn’t a conversation that Owen was expecting to have in the middle of his dreamscape. “It’s not like that,” he said a little too hastily. “I’m not looking to forgive him. I just want to understand so we can put an end to this without having to fight.”
“…Right.” Klent stared, stone-faced. “But don’t forget what he did.”
“I won’t.” And he was annoyed Klent thought he would.
The world dissolved into a haze, and Owen woke up.